The question assumes that a sincere person may find grace by calling out to God in faith, even if he has not heard the message of the gospel. But how many do?
Consider some similar questions. If a person can be saved without my prayers, why should I pray for him? If a person has heard the gospel, why should we talk to him again? If a person can be saved without the church, why have churches? The obvious answer is, “Even if it is possible, it is much less likely.” Missionaries find almost nobody who was saved before hearing the gospel. Nothing can justify our neglect of the ordinary means God has designed for saving people. In general, those who do not hear the gospel will be lost.
Though we might describe the possibility of someone being saved without hearing the gospel, the probability of such conversion is remote. Forgiveness of sin is, after all, a primary component of salvation, and since the Bible says that “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23), one must somehow find God’s grace and mercy in pardon.
We believe that sinners without the gospel will be judged according to conscience (Romans 2:15b) – but how many people obey their consciences consistently? And can conscience forgive past sins? Another yardstick of judgment may be one’s own standard of righteousness (Romans 2:1) – but how many live up to their own benchmark of goodness? And can obedience produce pardon for past sins?
Very few would ignore peer pressure, walk in increasing divine light, forsake their sins, and find forgiveness. Therefore, missionaries go. Taking the message of the gospel and pointing people to Jesus greatly enhances their possibility of salvation.
We send missionaries because the gospel message is best communicated relationally. The gospel truth is not a set of impersonal facts about God or religious belief boxes to be checked; it is embodied in the person of Jesus Christ. Missionaries are ambassadors for Christ, His message, and His ministry of reconciliation (II Cor. 5:20).
Missionaries are needed because without direct, relational communication of the gospel message, most will be lost. We don’t want to believe that people are being lost because of our inaction, but Romans 10:13-15 is clear: “...how shall they hear without a preacher?” The sad truth is, they won’t hear. Sending and supporting missionaries is imperative in reaching lost people. God has given us the Great Commission, and we send missionaries in response to God’s grace in faith that God is at work throughout His world drawing all people to His Great Heart.
Even if God may reach some apart from missionaries, there are three reasons we must support missions:
1) Obedience (Matt 28:19). Jesus commanded us to make disciples. It is not up to an army private to decide military strategy; his duty is to obey the commander. It is not up to disciples to decide if God should use a ‘better’ evangelistic tactic; our job is to obey Him.
2) Reward (1 Cor 3:12-15). Imagine saying, “God, I know you called me to make disciples, but I had a better plan.” When our life’s work is measured, we want to bring fruit that counts for eternity.
3) Love (Mark 12:31). Is it possible to say, “I love my neighbor, but not enough to take the gospel to him?” Impossible! If we love our neighbor, we will go and/or support those who are called to go.
Sending missionaries is not an option. Yes, there is some possibility for people to be saved without them. However, that is the exception and not the rule. The rule is GO … and it is God’s rule at that!
By normal modes, the missionary is included in the scene of things. He/she is part of the way things move ahead. Thus, the missionary is the primary catalyst and the way in which things move forward!
Even when we read of Muslims who have had dreams of Jesus or who say that Jesus appeared to them and that they accepted Him as savior, we also find that there is follow-up by people who give them Bibles or disciple them. Often there has been some kind of Christian witness that has raised questions, causing them to seek answers. There is almost always human involvement in the winning and discipling of new believers!