During the first missionary journey of Paul, he traveled to Asia Minor, which moved him into territory he could reach on foot. You could call that an obvious endeavor. You don't get into a boat until you have first tried the folks in walking distance. This relates to the concentric paradigm laid out in Acts 1:8: Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, uttermost parts of the earth.
At the same time, sometimes the mission stops when people say 'you can't come here' or 'we don't want to hear it,' If you read Luke 9:52 and following, you see Jesus come to a Samaritan city, that doesn't want to have Him, and He moves on to the next city. That's what you do. In a smaller way, you move on to the next door.
Did you notice that Jesus didn't pray that God's power would overcome the Samaritan city? If anyone could pray for power to overcome people, Jesus could do it. If anyone had irresistible grace, it would be Jesus, one might think, or at least have the greatest availability of it through the Holy Spirit, and yet He just moved to the next town. You don't have to talk to people who don't want to hear it. It's not God's will to talk to people who don't want to hear it.
On the second missionary journey, Paul goes into the same territory in Acts 16 and there he meets up with Timothy, what one would call a wonderful find, a tremendous result that wasn't a direct connection to something Paul had done. It was worth coming back there just to run into him.
In Acts 16:7, Paul and his companions were forbidden to preach in Asia. As they moved ahead, they continued to get the thumbs down from the Holy Spirit. In v. 9, Paul gets a vision from God from Macedonia. The Lord called Paul and his cohorts to preach the gospel in Macedonia.
Someone today might study that passage and then decide that he should look for a call to a field like Paul got there. Reader, Paul was an apostle. That is a big deal, a huge, huge deal that he mentions at the start of most of his epistles. He defends his apostleship in 2 Corinthians and Galatians, it's so big, so important. Paul got direct revelation from God, because He was an apostle. The era of the apostle is over, so God isn't speaking to us any more.
God today speaks through His Word, the Bible, which is completed revelation. You may say, "Then how do we know where to go?" I'd like to talk about that in the future, but as for right this moment, it isn't through direct revelation, a still small voice, a voice in the head, an intuition, an impression, a cloud formation, window shutters that move back and forth with the wind, the blowing of the Holy Spirit, or unusual circumstances. There is no laying out of the fleece or anything like that.
As I write the above to you, reader, I know that I hear this from a majority of independent Baptists. It is a common question for missionaries: "Have you been called?" I've never been asked that, but I know men who have. What's the answer to that? I would wonder what this call comes in the form of. How do you know it's God talking? What is the basis for believing it is God?
I'm saying this "call" is making the Macedonian call in Acts normative. It isn't normative. It was unique to Paul. It was unique to that day and age before the completion of the Word of God. I don't believe people who say they've gotten a call. They think they got something, because they are expecting to get something. They are supposed to get something, so they want it, very much like someone who wants to speak in tongues, and then he "does," because he expects it and wants it. He really doesn't, but he says he does and others authenticate it. People do the same thing with this call thing. They just take it as true, and if you questioned it, you're unloving, like someone who questions tongues.
For many Baptists, this call thing is the most important thing for a missionary. If he goes to the field, and he hasn't been called, then he may doubt that he should be there and then take off. If he has been called, then he stays there until he gets another call. It's very convenient to wait for a voice in your head, telling you that you need to go and do something. It can't be questioned. For these who see it with such great importance, this is what causes someone to serve with determination. If you've been called, even if people don't want to hear, you've got to stay too, and that's what keeps you from "quitting."
I'm telling you that I never had a call like that to come to California. I had principles, that I'll talk about perhaps in some future post, but I came because I wanted to. I had the liberty to come to California. If my church wants me to go, I can leave. My church could send me somewhere else. My church could also say, no. A lot of men think this call supersedes a church, that is, if God tells one of these men to do something, the church should just listen. The truth is opposite. Men should listen to the church, which is to endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit.
The Macedonian call to a mission field is not all that I hear from Baptists. This is not why I'm writing this post, but I got something in an email, very close to another email I received about a week before, which was like another one a week before that. I had already deleted it, and if I knew I was going to write this, I would have cut and pasted the contents. The email came from someone who said that he knew that God had told us what to preach. He was sure of that. The Lord telling you what to preach is another way God speaks to men. As you know, it even goes to the extent of the content of the sermon too, but telling you that this is what you are supposed to preach. I've heard many sermons through the years from various ones to whom God gave the message, and it was not scriptural. Not. God couldn't have given it to a person, because it contradicted scripture.
I'm happy about the Macedonian call. It sent the gospel further West. I have it today partly because of that movement. I'm glad. It didn't make sense at that time, because not all of Asia Minor had been hit. This was part of the movement that God wanted. He told Paul. Paul could get that call as an apostle. We can't. That doesn't mean God isn't speaking. He is sufficiently speaking in the Word of God. We should spend our time knowing what that is saying and then applying it, all of it. Stop waiting for special extra-scriptural messages. Dig into scripture. Stay there.