What is Missions?
The words “mission”, “missions”, and “missionary” in English come from the Latin form of “to send” (missio), and also where we get English words such as “missile” and “missive” from. The Greek form of this word is apostelo = αποστελω (to send) and “apostle” – a sent one. We agree that the New Testament office of Apostle (with an upper case “A” as a title) has ceased with the 12 Apostles and the Apostle Paul. But, in an application sense, the gifting of an apostolic missionary (with a lower case “a” as a function) can be seen in those qualified men who are approved by a local church and sent out to do evangelism, discipleship, and church planting in another culture.
“Missions”, in Christian understanding, is evangelism and church planting that involves
going (Matthew 28:19; John 15:16) and crossing into another culture and learning that culture and language of a people group that is different from the one going, in order to preach the gospel to them, make disciples and teach them the Bible. This is distinguished from evangelism, which is preaching the gospel to anyone, people who are in our own culture and already speak our language. Since we know from the Bible (see Rev. 5 and Rev 7) that at the end of redemptive history there will be people who are redeemed by the blood of the lamb “out from every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9), this points to the importance of seeing the gospel take root in all cultures. The Greek word “nation” is ethne – εθνη – where we get out modern English word for “ethnic” and “ethnicity”; it denotes a culture and language and people group. It does not mean “political boundary” or “country”.
Therefore, another aspect of “going” in missions is going to be language and culture learning and being with people. One cannot communicate to another culture that does not speak our language unless we humble ourselves and go to them and learn their language and culture and “hang out” with them in order to model Christ’s character and love and pray for opportunities to witness as we learn their culture and language.
Missions involves not only “going” – Matthew 28:19, John 15:16, but
sending. A local church must send out every missionary, and evangelist, and church planter. Even Paul and Barnabas first served in the local church in Antioch (Acts 11:26) and were confirmed and appointed and
sent out by a local church. (see Acts 13:1-4) There is no place for “God is leading me to be a missionary” without local church confirmation and testing.
Jesus said, “As the Father sent me, so
I am sending you.” John 20:21
The church at Antioch
sent out Paul and Barnabas for the work of evangelism and missions. The Holy Spirit sent them out also. When the church sends, the Holy Spirit sends. See
For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach
unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
Why should I care?
You should care about missions because God cares; the subject is important to God; because God’s own glory is important; and He being concerned for His own glory is the overall theme of the Bible.
Genesis 1-2 – creation
The whole Bible is about God’s glory and the way He gets glory is by
Saving sinners from all the nations throughout all of history. (Revelation 5:9; 7:9; 2 Peter 3:8-15 – the reason why Christ has not returned yet is because He still wants to save people out from sin.
Purifying His bride, His people, in all nations – the church among all the nations – to be growing in deeper levels of holiness and shining the light. See Ephesians chapters 3, 4, & 5 and Revelation chapters 4-5 and 19-22. “to Him be the glory in the church in all generations”, ie, “throughout all history” – Ephesians 3:20-21 All of history is about God getting glory for Himself as the church is spread and the kingdom of God is extended among all the nations / peoples.
And God also gets glory by executing His justice against sinners who never repented or trusted Christ in hell, after they die. John 3:18 – they are already condemned. Acts 4:12 – there is only one name under heaven by which we must be saved. Romans 9:20-23; Revelation 19-20; Revelation 14:10; Matthew 25; Matthew 5:21-30; Mark 9:48 Hell is real and it is God’s justice – His wrath. Either one trusts in the one who took the wrath and justice on the cross ( Romans 3:25-26; Hebrews 2:17; 1 John 2:2; 1 John 4:10) or they will have to take the justice on themselves. “kiss the Son, lest He be angry and you perish in the way; blessed are all those who take refuge in Him.” (Psalm 2:12)
You should care about missions because Christ commanded it – Matthew 28:18-20; John 20:21; predicted it, and grounded it the OT Scriptures – “thus it is written” – Luke 24:46-47 (that the Messiah should be preached is also written in the law, the prophets, and the Psalms); and He sent the Holy Spirit to empower missions – Acts 1:8
You should care about missions because God rebuked Jonah for his lack of care and that Jonah knew God was compassionate and loving and merciful and wanted him to reach out and preach to the Ninevites/ Assyrians, but Jonah tried to run away from God’s purpose for him and then even after God saved many of them, Jonah was still angry and full of self-pity that God saved them.
You should care about missions because the story of redemption is the structure of the entire Bible story.
Genesis 3 – the fall of man into sin
Genesis 3:15 – the promise to send a champion who will crush the serpent’s head. (The Messiah who would be born of the seed of the woman)
Genesis 6:5 – “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man upon the earth was great, and that every thought of the imaginations of his heart was only evil continually.” The great problem of sin all over the world, deep in the human heart (Mark 7:20-23); and the only remedy is Christ Himself.
Genesis 10-11 – The Tower of Babel, Tower of Pride – ungodly unity and one language and culture; and the resulting creation of nations and cultures and languages.
Genesis 11 – God deliberately created the different languages and cultures so that there would be difference, disunity and so that we would have to work hard to overcome our natural prejudices and by crossing into another culture, we love them and share the gopsel – the unbelieving world marvels when we love other cultures and reach out to them.
Genesis 12:1-3 – God chooses one of those nations to be His missionary people in order to bless all the other nations / families of the earth.
This purpose of the covenant is repeated in Genesis 18:18; 22:18; 26:4; 28:14 – to Abraham twice more, to Isaac, and to Jacob. The purpose of Israel’s election is not elitism – the purpose was that they would in turn be a blessing to the pagan and unbelieving nations.
Genesis 49:10 – to Judah belongs the obedience of the peoples.
Exodus 19:5-6 – the purpose of the covenant of the law was so that when God’s people would walk with Him and obey Him, they would be a kingdom of priests in the midst of the nations and then spread the message to the pagan nations and be a model and light. They were suppossed to live holy and be a model and light; but they were not.
Psalm 96:3 – tell of His glory among the nations
Psalm 87 – God registers the peoples and has elect people even within the enemies of Israel such as Babylon, Rahab (Canaan and Egypt), the Philistines and Sudan and Ethiopia. Some of those peoples will be born in Zion, the city of God. Paul uses the feminine of the Hebrew, “this one was born in her” in Galatians 4:26 – “but the Jerusalem that is above, she is our mother”
Psalm 67 – a prayer based on the same promise of the Abrahamic covenant: “O God, bless us and shine your face upon us, so that You ways may be known on the earth, among all the peoples. “let the people’s praise You, O God; Let all the peoples praise You!”
Isaiah 49:6 – “It is too small a thing that you should bring back the tribes of Jacob; I will also make you a light to the nations.” Paul and Barnabas understood that was a commission for them as Jews in Acts 13:46-47 – “for thus the Lord commanded US . . . ”
Isaiah 52:13-15 – the mission of the suffering servant – the Messiah in Isaiah 53 – is not complete until those that have not heard shall see and those who have not understood will hear the message. Paul quotes this in Romans 15:20-21 as the Biblical basis text for his ambition to go where Christ is not yet named and worshiped as Lord.
Matthew 28:18-20 – Because all authority and sovereignty belongs to Christ, which He proved by His resurrection from the dead, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all that nations . . . ” We can go based on His power and authority to get the task of missions done.
Luke 24:44-49 – “Thus it is written: that the Messiah should suffer, rise again from the dead, and repentance for forgiveness of sins must be preached in His name to all the nations . . .
John 20:21 – as the Father has sent Me, so I am sending you.
Acts 1:8 – the Holy Spirit and power to witness and power to live holy
Romans 10:13-15 – how shall they hear without a preacher?
Romans 15:20-21 – a godly ambition to preach the gospel
Romans 16:25-27 – Paul ends his great theological letter with praise to the only wise God who is spreading His gospel among all the nations.
Revelation 5:9 – some from all nations have been redeemed by the blood of the lamb
Revelation 7:9 – a great multitude which no one could count from every nation and people and language
Revelation 21:3 – “they shall be His peoples” (λαοι = laoi = plural)
Not everyone will serve God specifically in missions overseas or in another culture, but every true Christian should own the vision and ambition that Paul has to preach the gospel not where Christ is named as Lord, so as to spread His gospel and glorify God. Those that don’t go, own the ambition and vision by praying and giving and supporting and encouraging missionaries (those that do go).
Robertson McQuilkin’s book, The Great Omission is the best concise introductory book on missions there is: A great way to build your vision and cultivate caring.
The Great Omission: A Biblical Basis for World Evangelism
John Piper’s Don’t Waste Your Life is another study that can greatly help your cultivate your vision for misisons, God’s glory, walking with him, growing in Him, and serving Him.
Don’t Waste Your Life (Group Study Edition)
Another excellent book is John Piper’s – Let the Nations Be Glad! –
This is where he makes some of his famous statements that many have found to be profound: “Missions is not the ultimate thing; Worship is; God’s glory is ultimate; but since people are not worshiping or glorifying God, then missions exists because worship does not.”
Chapter 1 on the Biblical basis and God’s glory and chapter 4 that proves that everyone must hear the message and have Christ as their conscience focus in order to be saved, along with the chapters on prayer and suffering – are very convicting and meaty.
Let the Nations Be Glad!
What is the goal?
God’s goal is His own glory. (see Revelation chapters 4, 5, 19-22)
What is “the glory of God” or “God’s glory” ?
The glory of God is basically “the manifestation of the Holiness and character of God” (see Isaiah chapter 6 – “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God Almighty, the whole earth is full of His glory” – when His worth is shone forth or praised or manifested or announced. God’s glory is about when His character is honored and praised. It means the publishing of “the intrinsic worth and character of God”, or “His weightiness”, which is based on the Hebrew word for glory, “Kavod” or כבד – which points to “weight”, “influence”, “impact”, “honor”. The context of God’s glory seems to described in the Bible of trying to describe the brightness and shining of blinding light of a vision someone who is sitting on a throne high, and lifted up, in exaltation. (Isaiah chapter 6, Ezekiel chapter 1, Revelation chapters 4-5.)
See also: Hebrews 1:3; John 1:14, 18; 2 Corinthians 4:6 are communicating the truth that Jesus Christ explains (exegetes – “to lead out”, “to explain”, “to expound” – John 1:18 – a word we use to explain the process of understanding the text and explaining the text of Scripture.) God Himself in the flesh.
The glory of God is not only about describing God’s character, and His impact; but it is also the response that is the proper response to God – to give Him glory and honor; to praise and worship Him.
God’s goal of being glorified is expressed in 2 ways:
1. God’s justice and holiness in judging sin and sinners who don’t repent. (Matthew 25:31-46; Revelation 20:10-15)
2. God’s love in saving sinners from all nations, all people groups. (Revelation 5:9; Matthew 28:19)
Everything in the Bible and History is for the glory of God and history is moving toward the ultimate end of the glory of God in all things. (Ephesians 1:11, with verse 6, 12, and 14 where the phrase “to the praise of His glory” is repeated three times) Even when God judges sinners in hell or the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10-15; Mark 9:47-48; 2 Thessalonians chapter 1) that is God’s justice and holiness expressed by His just wrath on sinners for eternity, and God gets glory for that. (see the vessels of wrath, compared with the vessels of mercy in Romans 9:22-24)
God also gets glory from showing His perfect love in saving sinners in all nations from sin and hell; and part of the preaching of the good news presupposes that we need a savior from sin, because our sin has condemned us before a holy God and so we humans must repent and turn to Christ in faith.
“God is now declaring to everyone everywhere that they must repent . . . ” Acts 17:30)
Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30-31)
God’s justice and holiness and wrath against sin is the reason why He calls for repentance from us. We are to preach repentance from sin and faith in Christ alone for salvation from sin. (Mark 1:15)
Israel was commanded to tell the nations about the true God and His glory:
“Tell of His glory among the nations,
His wonderful deeds among all the peoples” (Psalm 96:3)
The New Testament also shows us that our preaching ultimately involves communicating the glory of God, and the glory of Jesus Christ, who is God the eternal Son. As John Piper has written an entire book on this, that God is the gospel, ultimately, because it is about His perfect and holy character.
“And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:4-6)
Missions is the means or the way, of how God spreads His glory among all nations in history. When there is a group of redeemed people in a nation that is worshiping the true God, then God is fulfilling His goal of glorifying Himself among all the nations. (see Revelation 5:9; 7:9; 21:3)
Let the Nations Be Glad!
A Vision for Missions
How do we know this?
We know that God’s goal is to be glorified among all nations by spreading His glory among all nations because it is taught so much in the Bible.
1. It is commanded – Psalm 96:3 – tell of His glory among the nations!
2. It is the structure of the redemptive drama of the Bible in saving people from all nations, a great multitude (see Revelation 7:9), and then judging alll who do not repent and trust Christ; and God gets glory from showing His love to repentant sinners and pouring out His just wrath on unrepentant sinners.
Structure of Redemptive History of the Bible:
Introduction: God’s Promise Fulfillment:
Genesis 1-11 Genesis 12:1-3 Rev. 5:9
Creation I will bless you . . . so that you will be a blessing to all the nations
Fall Genesis 22:18
Flood Psalm 67
Nations Isaiah 49:6
Matthew 28:19 Rev. 5:9; 7:9; 21:3
Aren't missions just side issues in the Bible?
By now, if you have read the previous articles
“What is missions?” and
“Why Should I care?” and
“What is God’s goal?” and
“How do I know that?”, and if you take the time to look up all the verses, you should begin to see that God’s glory and His mission to glorify Himself is the very structure of the redemptive drama and story-line of the Bible. And you would see the great theme of the Bible is that God wants to save some from every people, nation, tribe, and language. (Rev. 5:9; 7:9)
Seeing the structure of the Abrahamic Covenant and God’s Promise and His purpose to make Abraham and his children a blessing to the other nations of the earth – Genesis 12:1-3; 18:18; 22:18; 26:4; 28:14; 49:10 – and the commands to Israel to be a blessing and to tell of His glory to the other nations – Psalm 67; 96:3.
Also, the Bible says that Israel was to be a missionary people, a kingdom of priests (Exodus 19:5-6), and a holy nation (Exodus 19:5-6), a light to the nations, Isaiah 49:6, and even says that it is too small a thing to only bring back and restore the tribes of Israel; seeing this structure and the way Galatians 3:6-8 and 3:16 understand the Abrahamic covenant, and that the “seed of Abraham” was the one Messiah; and the fulfillment of that (the Abrahamic covenant) in Revelation 5:9 should make us motivated to evangelize and cause us to see that missions is much more central to the whole redemptive story line of the Bible.
Don’t Waste Your Life (Group Study Edition)
What is the place of missions in my life?
If you claim to be a Christian, you are one of Christ’s sheep (John 10:10-18; 27-30) and you will hear His voice in the Scriptures as you abide in Christ (John 15:1-16) and grow in the word, prayer, and local church life and ministry. You are not necessarily called to be a missionary oversees, but you will at least love the Scriptures and love God’s glory and His purpose in missions and by seeing it so emphasized in the Bible, you will share that vision and passion and be praying for missionaries and missions efforts, praying for lost people, praying for unreached nations, involved in personal evangelism as God gives you opportunity, and giving financially to your local church and to missions, and encouraging the missions vision because Jesus Himself says He has other sheep out there in other nations and He must bring them also into the fold. (John 10:16) Even though you may not be a missionary oversees or in another culture, you should own the missionary vision and passion that the apostle Paul communicated in Romans 15:20-21, and support that vision by praying for and financially supporting those involved in missions ministry.
Come back to this page for future additions of comments, links, and downloadable resources.
Key to the Missionary Problem
What is the place of missions in my church?
The apostle Paul and Barnabas were commissioned and sent out by a local church. (Acts 13:1-4) Before they were approved of and sent out, they were serving in the local church. (Acts 11:26) Paul exhorted the church at Rome that they are also called to Christ, (Romans 1:5 – “you also are the called” – as Paul says, “we were called to be apostles”, 1:1-4) In Romans 10:13-15 and 15:20-21 and 16:25-27 ; these are all basically exhortations to the local church at Rome to share and own the vision and passion that the apostle Paul has. A church cannot do everything or support every good missionary, and some churches have more or less capacity to be involved depending on the resources and giftings that God has sovereignly appointed for them. Every local church should have a vision for some kind of outreach, both in local evangelism and missions. (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8; Luke 24:44-49) And the leaders / elders/ pastors should be praying and seeking for opportunities to support Biblical missionaries and to encourage young qualified believers to explore missionary service.
When a local church does support some missionaries, there should be regular times of prayer, information sharing (emails, letters, photos, etc.) and teaching times, and allowing the missionaries to share/ teach/preach/report when they are home.
What is the place of missions in God's purpose?
By now, this question is obvious, if you have read all the preceding articles and taken the time to look up all the verses in the Scriptures. Missions is the means by which God gets more glory. As John Piper has written, “Missions is not the ultimate purpose of God, God’s glory is. Many nations / people groups still don’t worship the true God, nor give Him glory. Missions exists, because worship of the true God does not exist still in many unreached nations. Missions exists because worship does not. ” (John Piper’s thought, in chapter 1 of his book, Let the Nations Be Glad, (see below) with my own additional emphasis and exposition.)
God’s purpose is for His own glory to be made known in all the earth among all the nations. Missions is the means by which that is accomplished, and that includes language and culture learning, going, evangelism, baptizing new converts, teaching, discipleship, church-planting, worship, leadership training. (Matthew 28:19; Acts 14:21-23; Titus 1:5-7)
Let the Nations Be Glad
The Great Omission: A Biblical Basis for World Evangelism
What is the task of missions?
The task of missions includes going and crossing into another culture, learning language and culture, evangelism, discipleship, teaching, encouraging, counseling, training, and raising up and appointing elders, which are all parts of what is known as “church-planting”; or establishing indigenous local churches within another culture that has its own national elders in leadership.
Seeing disciples growing in local indigenous churches in their own culture with their own leadership is what the great commission (Matthew 28:18-20) points to.
Jesus commanded His disciples as a group to “go and make disciples of all nations”. The command is to the whole group who would later be the church. (Matthew 16:16-20; 18:15-20; Acts chapter 2)
So, today, the church as a whole has the responsibility to the great commission of making disciples of all nations, but not every indivdiual believer will be called to be a pioneer missionary church-planter. But every member of a Biblical church should own the vision of the great commission and be involved by praying, giving, encouraging, teaching on missions, and some will be the goers.
Our responsibility in missions is to apply Matthew 28:18-20. “Make Disciples of all nations” or “disciple all nations” points to seeing churches planted in each nation or people group.
Let’s look at Matthew 28:18-20 and Acts 14:21-23 a little closer.
First, Matthew 28:18-20
A. The Sovereignty of the Commander (v. 18) – He has authority and sovereignty over every atom, every event, every circumstance, even sin and tragedy is not outside of His sovereign purposes.
B. The Strategy of the Command (v. 19)
1. Go and make Disciples of all the nations.
The main verb is “make disciples”, but it cannot be separated from the “going”, because one cannot disciple another nation without going. Going includes moving and crossing over into their territory and living among them and learning their language and culture and eating their food and experiencing their conditions in order to communicate and live out the gospel among them. See this article, which links also to work done by Dan Philips on the Greek construction of “go and make disciples”. It is not meant to be understood as “as you go” then make disciples. It is not passive. The going carries command force becasue it is connected to the verb and only makes sense because of the the direct object of “nations”. “Nations” cannot be reached without the going.
2. by baptizing (the doctrine of the Trinity is important to know and understand and teach to new disciples. One cannot be baptized into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit who does not accept the doctrine of the Trinity as Biblical and true.)
3. by teaching – Jesus said to teach them everything He commanded them, and He also said in John 16:12-14 that there are other things He has to reveal to them later. The rest of the New Testament is the “other things” that completed revelation. We are to teach the whole counsel of God as “all Scritpure is God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and to ‘contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints”. (Jude, verse 3)
C. The Spiritual Presence of the Lord to accomplish the command. (v. 20)
He is with us to accomplish the goal of discipling the nations! His presence is with us by the indwelling and power of the Holy Spirit. (John 14, 16) Jesus said the same thing in different words in Acts 1:8 – the Holy Spirit will give you power and ability to witness and evangelize with boldness, clarity, holiness, and love.
Acts 14:21-23 shows us how the disciples/apostles understood the great commission of Matthew 28:19
The verb “to disciple” or “make disciples” is used and Acts 14:21 is the only time after Matthew 28:19 that this verb is used again, and so that is instructive as to how the Great Commission is to be carried out.
a. they preached the gospel – Evangelism
b. they made many disciples
c. they encouraged them and taught them about persevering and suffering
d. they appointed elders for every church
So, this shows that the goal is not complete if we only preach the gospel alone. God is the one who causes conversion, and when some are converted, we are to disciple them, and teach them about suffering and perseverance and God’s character and then we are to appoint those who are spiritually mature to be the elders/leaders/pastors of that church that is gathering together in that particular culture and language. See also Titus 1:5.
We see God’s goal in Revelation 5:9 becasue He has already purchased and redeemed by the blood of the lamb (see also verses 5-6, about the lamb who is slain) some people from every tribe, and language, and people group or ethnicity. Our responsibility is to seek to do what we can in preaching, teaching, establishing churches, and appointing elders for each church, in each nation or people group, so that they can then preach the gospel and disciple others. But those that are going to believe in the future (the elect) cannot be saved without hearing the message. The apostle Paul said,
For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain thesalvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory. (2 Timothy 2:10)
Come back to this page for future additions of comments, links, and downloadable resources.
Let the Nations Be Glad!
What is the status of missions today?
There are still unreached nations/peoples to be reached, that need the gospel in their own language communicated, so that some may be saved, churches planted and worship of the true God can take place.
This recent statistic is very encouraging. Notice Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab Muslim countries and other restricted access countries . . . that’s pretty amazing. (I don’t know much about the person or organization or church that is affiliated with this web-site, but it looks like an Evangelical organization and church.)
The Perspectives on the World Christian Movement course and books gives excellent articles and materials of what is going on in the world today.
The Perspectives course has an effective big picture way of understanding large blocks of unreached humanity based on their worldview/religion/philosophy. They came up with five major blocks of unreached people groups. There are many people groups/nations within each of the blocks, based on other issues that make a nation a nation – common culture and language. Not trying to leave out some smaller groups, but this is just an easy way to see the 7-8 major “blocks” of humanity to give you a big picture of the status of missions.
1. The Muslim World – from Morocco to Indonesia and Mindinao in the Philippines, other parts of Sub-Sahara Africa, and growing because of immigration into Europe and the western nations.
2. The Hindu World – mostly India and Nepal
3. The Buddhists
4. The Chinese
5. The Tribal peoples
Those are where the most totally unreached people groups exist, but others pointed out the other blocks of humanity that there exists cultures that were once Christian, but now are either nominally “Christian” or totally atheistic-secularistic-materialistic-Darwian-Evolutionary and humanism in world view.
6. The Western/secular world
7. The “Christian” world – that overlaps with the western/secular world – consisting of Protestantism, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodoxy – in nominal cultural ways and the part of Protestantism that is Evangelicalism.
8. Latin America – Roman Catholic and nominal Roman Catholicism with secular-western tendencies. In recent years, Evangelicalism has been growing in Latin American countries and peoples who are disillusioned with Roman Catholicism.
Many missions emphasis in recent years is on those people groups that are totally without any gospel witness or churches and are in those blocks where it is poltically and culturally difficult to even go and be a witness and preach the gospel to the people, because of government restrictions. Those are known as “pioneer” or “frontier” areas or peoples.
Romans 15:20 – I have as my ambition to preach the gospel not where Christ is already named and worshiped and known as Lord.
Missions also includes evangelism and teachng and training in other areas, where the gospel has gone and there has been more success for the gospel. (like Sub-Sahara Africa and South Korea, for example.)
One of the most exciting new trends in the last 30 years, is that other nations and countries that used to be the mission fields are now sending out missionaries to other unreached peoples.
This is especially true of South Koreans and Latin American missionaries from countries such as Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela, and Argentina. Many South Koreans and Latino missionaries can go into countries that do not allow US Citizens to go, especially in the Muslim World.
Another issue that relates to the status of missions today is that there are many challenges that are grievous, such as the exporting of false doctrines and heresies through some “missions” efforts, such as the “Word of Faith” Movement or “Name it-claim it” prosperity teachings or Health and Wealth “gospel”, which is not really the gospel in any Biblical sense.
These false teachings are causing shame and the name of Christ is blasphemed because of them. (The Trinity Broadcasting Network – TBN – Paul and Jan Crouch, the late Kenneth Hagin’s teachings and books, Kenneth and Gloria Copeland, Joel Osteen, Benny Hinn, Creflo Dollar, Joyce Meyer, Paula White, Jesse DuPlantis, Fredrick Price, to name a few.)
How should we meaure missions?
This is a very good question! Ultimately only God knows how He is measuring when a people group or nation is “reached”; and when “the full-ness of the nations” has come in. (Romans 11:25)
Every culture still has lost people in them, even those that are considered “reached”, that have a substantial among of believers and churches.
One way to see the world is the reached vs. the unreached. Another way is too divide up the world into the categories outlined in one of the previous articles. (see here)
Is a previously unreached people group reached after they have one convert?
What if a country or people has a few disciples, but they are scattered, persecuted, and don’t really have any churches yet?
What if an unreached people group has a few house churches, but cannot really do much yet by way of influencing their culture and society for the gospel?
Some mission organizations said that a people group is reached when they have the resources in their own local churches and leadership to reach out to their own people without foreign missionaries doing the work. That’s a good practical definiton.
Another problem is that some missions statistics see the western world and countries that were previously “Christian” in culture, and so, they are considered “already reached”, but that is not accurate, either.
Every generation is responsible for the Great Commission.
We cannot say that Turkey has already been reached, just because in the past that land had the gospel. The people of the days in the New Testament and first 800 years that lived there were not Turks. They were Byzantine Greeks, Galatians, Phyrgians, Armenians, Romans, Cappodiacians. The Turks started coming there in the 900s AD and defeated the Byzantine Empire at the battle of Manzikurt, near Van in 1071 AD (in the east near the border with Iran today). The Arabs had converted the Turks to Islam in the 900s and they became the military force for the Muslim world soon after that. The Turks originally were from Central Asia, areas today known as Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhistan, and Kirgistan.
Some zealous evangelicals emphasized just evangelism into pioneer areas too much, (the gospel of the kingdom must be preached as a testimony in all nations” – Matthew 24:14) without sound teaching, and taught things that seemed as if they were saying, if one person gets saved in an unreached people group, then that group is “reached”. That doesn’t seem right. Also, some people emphasize evangelism over discipleship and teaching and that is not right either. The nations must be discipled and taught well. (Matthew 28:19) The Greek of Matthew 28:19 does not mean, “disciple a few people in each nation”, rather it means “disciple all the nations” – each nation is to be discipled with sound evangelism and teaching.
Some groups and churches invoke Matthew 24:14 as if we can, by our missions efforts, actually bring about the second coming of Jesus. I don’t think that is right either, since God is sovereign and only He knows when all the elect will be saved; but it is proper to show that the reason why Christ has not returned yet is because there are still many people out there in all nations who have yet to repent, and who will repent when the gospel is preached to them. (2 Peter 3:8-15)
What can I do to advance the cause of mssions?
1. Be informed about what the Bible says about missions. (start with those articles before this article)
2. Read good books on the Biblical theology of missions.
John Piper’s Let the Nations Be Glad
Tom Wells “A Vision for Missions”
Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, by Ralph Winter and Steve Hawthorne
3. Read good missionary biographies.
From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya by Ruth Tucker – a great overview of the most well-known that were recorded missionaries in history.
Shadow of the Almighty by Elizabeth Elliot
Peace Child by Don Richardson
Eternity in their Hearts by Don Richardson
Brutchko by Bruce Olsen
Faithful Witness: The life and ministry of William Carey – by Timothy George
The Challenge of Islam by Charles Marsh
4. Make Matthew 9:37-38 a more regular part of your prayer life.
“Lord ! send forth more laborers/workers/missionaries to . . . . a certain country, or a certain people group”.”
And with that prayer, a proper attitude of availability and service is “and Lord, I am willing to go!”
5. Get the book, Operation World and really use it –
and pray for countries and people groups and look up (google!) what is going on in different counties and people groups.
6. Pray for specific missionaries in your church.
7. Get a world map and learn about the world and pray for different countries when you hear about them in the news.
8. Give financial gifts to biblical missionaries and missions through your local church and beyond, if your church does not support missionaries yet.
How can I help my church get more involved in missions?
Be an example of godliness and humility first. Don’t go overboard in zeal in trying to get everybody to be a missionary or condemn people because they don’t have the same intensity and zeal for missions that you do yet. Being too intense or putting a guilt trip on people is not the way to go; it turns people away.
Pray for your church leadership. (Pastor, Elders, deasons, staff) Share small bits of information in an encouraging way. Study the previous articles in this series and the other ones, and what the Scriptures say, and read some books recommended here. If you share the vision for missions with the leadership in a godly way, be prepared to be the one who will lead the charge when an elder or pastor says, “You know, you are right; why don’t you do ______________ ?
Do what? Things like
a. start a prayer group for missions. See practical suggestions here.
b. Start a bible study or Sunday School class on the Biblical basis for missions, using
John Piper’s Let the Nations Be Glad! or Robertson McQuilkin’s The Great Omission or the Perspectives course.
c. lead a short-term missions group
d. Start a missions conference
e. Report on a missionary biography in a Sunday School class.
f. investigate some career missionaries that are like-minded in doctrine that your local church would be open to supporting.
g. Get advice from other like-minded churches that have a missions program or support missionaries.
h. Ask Propempo to help you with questions you may have. See the contact info for David Meade. David has counseled many churches, pastors, and leadership of local churches in starting to get some kind of a missions program started.
How much does missions cost?
1. Time – whether praying, or sending or going – all three take time
2. Treasure = money – those that stay home and support missions, it cost them in sacrificial and regular giving, but true believers want to worship the Lord through giving and want to grow in their giving to spread the kingdom of God. (see 2 Corinthians chapters 8-9)
3. For those who go – it can take a toll on health; there is suffering; there is the cost of being mis-understood by our own culture and thought “weird” (missionaries are different, let’s face it); and it costs the toll it takes on our children and them growing up in different cultures, etc. and family and for some, God calls them to martrydom – like John Wycliff in getting the Bible into English in the late 1300s and Jim Elliot and Raymond Lull, who were stoned by Muslims in North Africa in the middle ages.
It could cost you your life – Luke 9:23; Luke 14:26-33
Read and meditate on this on what Jesus said about discipleship and following Him – and this is not to be a missionary – this is to just be a follower of Jesus – a disciple! The big issue is not “missions”, but if more church goers were true disciples, more disciples would be going to the mission field and supporting missions, because they would be surrendered to whatever the Lord wants in their life.
Discipleship means that all other relationships are secondary to Jesus
26 “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.
Discipleship means I surrender my own rights to run my own life:
27 Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.
28 For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down andconsider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand?32 Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.
Discipleship means surrendering up all our possessions to the Lordship of Jesus:
33 So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.
4. But normally, the cost of sending a missionary couple or single or team to another culture will depend on the economy and situation of that specific culture and country. Right now, Japan and Western Europe are probably the most expensive places to live, but Africa and other parts of Asia and Latin America are less expensive, generally.
What is the history of missions?
The history of missions is the history of how the gospel spread and how churches were established into new cultures and countries and people groups and the set-backs and defeats and victories and the struggle of seeing the gospel take root in other cultures.
Also, see my other article at Ken’s Blog on “Why is church history important to missions?”
There are different ways of looking at the history of missions, or categorizing periods and movements and chronological events.
Ralph Winter has a very effective way of understanding a basic outline of the history of missions in how the gospel went into new large “cultural basins” or in some cases, how it did not advance. (in the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement text and course)
Winning the Romans (30-400 AD) – the church grew under persecution until 312 AD, Constantine’s Edict of toleration. Theodosius (380-392 AD) was the emperor who made Christianty the official state religion. Also, the Armenian people accepted Christianity as their religion in the year 303 AD by the decree of a king. But it takes individual witnessing and faith for true conversion to take place. There is a vibrant Armenian Evangelical community today in Armenia and Turkey and Iran, although most Armenians today are very nominal.
Winning the European Tribes (400-800 AD) (commonly called the era of the Barbarian Invasions of the Roman Empire like the Goths, Franks, Visi-Goths, Vandals, Britons, Scots, Irish, Angels and Saxons and other Germanic and European Tribes. They invaded the Roman Empire and missionaries were also sent out and these European tribes became Christian in culture. This laid a foundation for the basic Christian culture of most of Europe. Some of the missionaries, like Ulfilas, who went to the Barbarain Goths, were Arian in there theology, and they needed to be discipled in correct doctrine. (Arian means, they followed the theology of Arius, who was a heretic condemned at the Council of Nicea in 325 AD. Arius taught that Christ was not the eternal Son, but the first creature that God the Father created. Arius said, “there was a time in the past that the Son did not exist.” The Council of Nicea condemned him as a heretic and Athanasius, Ambrose, Augustine, Hillary, Jerome, the Cappadocian fathers, all wrote and taught against this ancient heresy. Today, the Jehovah’s Witnesses have a similar theology as the ancient heretic Arius.
Islam invaded and conquered the Middle East Byzantium Empire, North Africa, Spain, and the Persian Empire. (634 – 722 AD; and into the 800s) The Church as a whole had “left its first love” (see Revelation 2:4-5) and did not reach out and allowed false doctrines to eclipse the gospel; so God allowed Islam to conquer many areas that were thriving Christian centers and cities in the earlier centuries.
Winning the Vikings (800-1200 AD) – Scandanavian peoples invade Europe and come into contact with Christianity, at minimun in a cultural encounter and with a middle ages Roman Catholic theology. Many Vikings killed the men and took women as their wives, and many women spread Christianity into the Vikings cultures through a quiet and submissive character and faithful witness when the men became curious to their godly behavior. (as in 1 Peter 3:1-6)
The Crusades (1095-1299 AD) – was obviously NOT a missionary strategy but because the church was unified with the European governments and military force, the Muslims got the impression that the Church of that day was trying to convert them to Christianity. The bitter results of the Crusades still lingers in the Muslim world today. The Crusades was a mixture of the “just war theory” and Roman Catholic theology of relics and pilgrimmage visiting and penance and gaining forgiveness through the indulgence system and getting people out of purgatory -theology, by fighting the Muslims. It was not a good testimony at all, though from a “just war” theory or self -defense perspective, some aspects of it were understandable, as the Muslims did start the process in their Jihad conquests in 634-722.
Winning the Muslims? (1200-1600) is not really accurate, (hence the ?), because there really was not any outreach to Muslims, except for 2 famous people – Francis of Assissi and Raymond Lull. But this 400 year period reflects the last century of the Crusades (1200-1300) and the Suljuk and Ottoman Turks who attacked Constantinople and eventually conquered the city in 1453, renaming it Istanbul.
The Ends of the Earth – (1600- today ) – this reflects the Protestant Reformation and the great Century of Revival movements and missions efforts of 1792-1900s
Coastlands – 1792-1900s– establishing gospel outreach in coastal cities – for example, William Carey in Calcutta, India and Adoniram Judson in Burma were great pioneers
Inlands -1800s – 1900s – going deeper into the countries beyond the coastal ports and cities – for example, Hudson Taylor in China, Lottie Moon in China, David Livingstone in Africa; Early 1920s to 1960s – William Miller in Iran, and Samuel Zwemer in Arabia, Iraq, Bahrain, Egypt.
Unreached people groups – 1930s to today – Donald McGavran was a pioneer of the concept of the ethnic people groups (The Biblical meaning of the word “nation” (ethne – as in “ethnic”) that are within political boundries/countries and spread over several political boundries that needed the Scriptures in their own language and churches in their own cultures. Cameron Townsend founded Wycliff Bible Translators and set the foundation for translating the Bible into many more languages that needed them so that the gospel could spread in those cultures as they heard the word preached and taught when the Bible was in their language. Romans 10:13-15 – “how shall they hear and believe without a preacher?”
This basic outline is derived from Ralph Winter’s articles in the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement course.
The Planting and Development of Missionary Churches
How can I learn more about missionaries of the past?
See the previous blog articles on reading good missionary books, and see the recommended reading section of Propempo’s website.
Read good missionary biographies.
One of the best overviews of missions history that is based on short articles of real life missionaries is From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya, by Ruth Tucker.
Shadow of the Almighty: The Life and Testament of Jim Elliot (Lives of Faith)
Filling up the Afflictions of Christ, by John Piper : The Cost of Bringing the Gospel to the Nations in the lives of William Tyndale, Adoniram Judson, and John Paton.
About William Tyndale and the risks and sufferings he endured to get the Bible translated into English (he was executed by those who submitted to the Roman Catholic Church at that time); and about Adoniram Judson taking the gospel to Burma, and about John Patton taking the gospel to cannibals on the New Hebrides Islands.
How can I learn more about present-day missionaries?
There are two basic kinds of missionaries in the world today:
1. Those that serve in the areas of the world that are open about their activities and those countries do not mind them being in their country, and give their permission to be there under a missionary visa.
It is easy to find out about these kinds of missionaries, if you know of them and how to get information about them – find a like-minded local church that supports missionaries, and search on the links below.
2. Those that serve in areas of the world that are “closed” or “restricted access”, meaning the government does not allow missionary visas, so they have to find creative ways of getting legally into those countries, by teaching, setting up a business, operating on a tourist visa for a while, etc.
This includes the Muslim World, the communist world (N. Korea, China, Cuba), the Hindu World, and most of the Buddhist world. Other areas are at various levels of restrictions and / or openness.
There are other Evangelical churches that support both kinds of missonaries. Search and find a like minded / doctrinally sound local church in your area or city or state that supports missionaries.
3. Contact some good Evangelical sending missionary agencies for information: Most missions have very informative websites and allow you to sign up for free newsletters and periodicals. Here are just a few with think are worthy of your consideration. Many more can be found through Missio Nexus.
International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention
TEAM (The Evangelical Alliance Mission)
Biblical Ministies Worldwide
Mission to the World
Individual missionaries at F.I.R.E = Fellowship of Independent Reformed Evangelicals
How can I begin to get involved?
At the beginning of the inquirer path, you probably started this inquiry because you have a subjective heart desire or burden or vision for missions; and are wanting to explore how you can be involved.
Along the way in this Inquirer path, God is either confirming your desires and vision, or causing your desire or interest to lessen. This desire in the heart or burden or vision talk is highly subjective, so it is important to have more than just a deep desire or zeal or burden or vision for missions.
The way God leads His people is usually by taking more objective small steps along the way, and the Lord will usually guide through means of you walking with the Lord in prayer, the Word, and the counsel of your local church elders/ pastor/ leaders, and circumstances as you take deeper steps of obedience. This is basic Christian guidance. “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path . . . (Proverbs 3:5-6)
You would not be reading all of this material if you were not interested in the subject. So, it is important for you to take some objective steps of obedience in the context of your local church with counsel from your elders / leaders / pastor as you grow. God usually guides us further as we take steps of obedience. Just as a boat or canoe cannot turn to the right or left unless it starts moving, the Lord doesn’t guide people today unless we are walking with Him and obeying Him and reaching out where we are now. You cannot suddenly become an oversees missionary in another culture if you have not been witnessing to people in your own culture first.
1. The easiest and most basic thing to start with is praying and forming a prayer group for missions.
2. Make Matthew 9:37-38 a regular prayer. Be willing to be the answer to that prayer for the Lord of the harvest to sovereignly raise up and send out more workers into His harvest.
3. Find out who your local church supports as missionaries and seek to get their prayer and news letters and find out thier needs and burdens and pray for them. Get their photo prayer card and prayer for them around the breakfast or dinner table with your family.
4. Get the book, Operation World; There is also link here, Operation World , but you have to click on “World Evangelization” to the right; and use it in your prayer meetings.
5. Google unreached peoples and countries and learn more about them and pray for them.
6. Pray for urgent and critical areas of the world that are in the news. Such as right now (July of 2013) – pray for Syria and Egypt and the upheavals there – civil war in Syria; coup in Egypt. Pray for Iran and the persecuted church in Iran and their threats of nuclear ambitions. Pray for China and their growning economic and political power, that the gospel would penetrate even more into their culture. Praise the Lord for the many underground and house churches there that God has given fruit to. Pray for their spiritual growth. Pray for Turkey and the recent protests and struggle with secularlists vs. Islamists. Pray for Tunisia and the struggle between secular forces and Islamists types there also. Pray for North Korea. You can google all of these areas and begin to learn about the people that live there and their culture and history.
7. Ask and inquire about short-term vision trips and what all is involved in that. See the list of missionary organizations and missionaries in the previous articles.
8. Share your vision and desire with your pastor and / or elders – ask them to pray for you and your vision.
9. Use your gifts in the local church you are a member of – be a servant. Even the apostle Paul and Barnabas served and taught in the local church in Antioch for over a year (Acts 11:26) before they were called and confirmed and sent out as missionaries. (Acts 13:1-4)
What options are out there?
By now, if you have worked through all the previous articles, read books, studied Scripture, and are praying regularly for the Lord’s guidance, and explored issues with other missionaries and mission agencies, and shared your desire to be involved in missions with your pastor/elders/church leaders, then as you pray and abide in the Lord and His word, and are sharing your faith in your own culture, some options will probably present themselves to you, based on your life situation, God’s sovereignty, your local church, and where you are in your walk with the Lord.
Different mission agencies and missionaries that you have gotten to know may be surfacing in your heart and mind that you could explore. (see previous articles)
A certain people group or lanugage or country or area or general focus of a burden for people of a certain religion (like Muslims or Hindus or Buddhists; or secular atheists in Europe and Russia) may be surfacing in your heart and mind that you could explore, with your local church and pastoral leadership. (See Acts 13:1-4)
If you have not talked to your elders/pastor/local church leaders, that is the place to start now.
If you are not a member of a local and Biblically sound church, you need to be a member of a local church first. the local church is God’s method on this earth in history of sending out missionaries and being salt and light in this world. (Matthew 16:16-20; 18:15-20; John 20:21-23; Revelation 3:7-8; 1 Peter 2:1-10; Romans 12; Matthew 28:18-20)
How do I relate to my church?
See the previous article. (How can I begin to get involved?)
See also this earlier article. (How do I help my church get more involved in missions?)
What does it take to go to the mission field?
Walking with the Lord, abiding in the vine – John 15:1-16; abiding in His word (John 15:7; John 8:31-32 – being a disciple; living a holy life, evangelizing where you are.)
Holiness – see Hebrews 12:14 – “without holiness, no one will see the Lord”
If you are not sharing your faith in your culture, what makes you think that will change when you get on a plane and go to another culture and have to learn another language, etc.?
Local church counsel and confirmation and sending out. (Acts 13:1-4)
Raising support. (money & more prayer partners and most likely a team of several churches that are committed to you.)
Accepting God’s sovereignty along the way as you raise support and move forward.
Sharing your vision with other Christians and churches.
Also teaming with others – no one should go alone – the apostle Paul was not alone; he had his team – Barnabas, Timothy, Silas, Luke, Sosthenes, John Mark, others. (and the Bible shows us the reality of missionary team conflicts and changes in the personnel – Paul’s conflict with Barnabas and John Mark – so don’t be surprised.
What should I do next?
If you are confirmed by a local church and leadership and they have officially commissioned to “send you out”, as in Acts 13:1-4, then you can start, depending on where you are at in the issues of deciding on where to go; what people or country, and what mission agency to join.
These are the issues you have to work through.
What people or country or religion ?
What is my role/gifts/desires?
What mission agency to join?
What team to join with? (maybe you will join with other like minded believers who are with another mission agency on the field, and your church and mission agency will have to work out how you will partner with each other.
Maybe you have the vision and gifts to actually start a church planting team and lead one to another culture! – talk to your pastor/elders and church leaders and explore the possibilities.
Can I just start doing things?
This article assumes you have been walking through the previous "Inquirer" on the "Paths in Missions" articles. If you just stumbled on this article without reading the others first, you probably want to read previous articles for context. Check them out!
If you have a desire for involvement in missions, and you don't think your church is doing enough in missions, you don't just "start doing things" to try and get the leadership to "get on board with missions" (except for walking with God, obeying Him, sharing your faith) - rather study and mediate on these passages (and in the previous articles), with a
humble, prayerful attitude for your church leaders, and present your missions desire to your local church leaders; they "keep watch over your souls" - share with your paster, elders, and/or mission leader your vision and desire for missions. Of course a godly pastor is going to agree with what the Bible says about missions and evangelism, but the rest of us have to realize that many times a pastor or elders just don't know what exactly to do; or are already very busy; and if you start offering your ideas in humility - get ready! - they may ask you to start "doing things"! If you are not involved in some kind of service/ministry in the local church, you need to start there with the church's guidance - start serving with a humble attitude. (See Acts 11:26; see also Ephesians chapters 3-4; Romans 12;1 Cor. 12; Galatians 5:13-26; 1 Peter 4:9-11)
Acts 13:1-4 is key:
It was a church. (Acts 13:1)
It was a specific local church - the church at Antioch (Acts 13:1)
The leaders and teachers and prophets (Acts 13:1) (apply to preachers and pastors and elders, who are to be able to teach of today - see 1 Timothy 3 and Titus chapter 1 for qualifications; along with Acts 20:17-28 and 1 Peter 5:1-6)
Paul anf Barnabas were teachers/prophets in the group, and submitted to those teachers and prophets, leaders of the church in Antioch. (13:1)
Paul and Barnabas first served in the local church and waited and prayed and worshiped the Lord regularly with the church, gathered before the Holy Spirit who guided them to be sent out. (See Acts 11:26 and 13:1-4 together)
They were regularly meeting and worshiping the Lord, with prayers and fasting for guidance. (Acts 13:2-3)
The Holy Spirit spoke and guided them as they prayed and served and were under local church leadership. (Acts 13:2)
The church laid hands on them and sent them out. (Acts 13:3)
The Holy Spirit sent them out. (Acts 13:4)
So, we see the Holy Spirit does not send people out unless they are first confirmed and approved of by a local church. (Acts 13:1-4)
What's involved in a personal commitment to missions?
We are considering the issue of someone who has a deep desire and conviction of being a missionary to another culture, and wants to learn their culture and language in order to get the gospel into their culture.
A missions commitment is like a pastor’s or elder’s commitment to becoming a teacher or local church leader – pastor-teacher-elder. It starts with a desire and grows into a conviction and commitment and is confirmed by the external call of a local church ordaining them to start a church in a new area or by a local church calling them to become their pastor.
1 Timothy 3:1 says, “If any man aspires to the office of an overseer, it is a fine work that he desires to do.” An overseer (?????????? = episcopais or “bishop”) is the same office as an elder (Greek: presbuteros – ??????????? ) Each local church should have a plurality or college of elders or council of elders (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5-7), and the Bible teaches that all elders should be able to teach the word. ( 1 Timothy 3:2) and the elders do the work of shepherding/pastoring (Acts 20:17, 28; Titus 1:5-7, 1:9; 1 Peter 5:1-5 – “I exhort the elders . . . shepherd (pastor) the flock of God – shepherding means feeding the sheep spiritual food, praying for them, discipling, counseling, and administering church life and church discipline if necessary. (Matthew 18:15-20; 1 Corinthians 5, Titus 3:10)
A missionary/ evangelist also starts with an internal desire and conviction the same way the pastoral ministry does.
There is a godly ambition to preach the gospel not where Christ is named. (Romans 15:20-21)
It is our conviction at Propempo that the sign-miracle-revelation gifts ceased with the apostolic age, and the closing of the New Testament canon, which happened when the last book of the NT was written, whether it was the book of Revelation or the little book of Jude. Jude 3 says that we are to earnestly contend for and defend “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints”, so that verse may be a hint at the closing of the canon. But that does not mean that God doesn’t do miracles or heal anymore; He certainly does, sometimes; and He uses our prayers. The office of apostle ceased with the death of John, but a “sent one” as a missionary-evangelist-church planter continues. The gift of prophesy also ceased with the closing of the canon of Scripture, but it is possible to see an application of that gifting today as preaching that is powerful and takes the written word and preaches it with conviction, speaking forth the word of God clearly, rebuking sin. The gift of tongues in Acts 2 and I Cor. 14 seem to be real languages in different people groups in the apostolic age.
Could it be that when Paul speaks of “earnestly desiring the greater gifts” in 1 Cor. 12:31 and 14:1, that he is alluding to the teaching gifts of preaching and teaching in extending the gospel into new territories? Since the sign-revelational-miracle gifts have ceased, the teaching and preaching and church planting gifts in evangelism and teaching seem to be the greater gifts that lay foundations in new areas and build up the church. The application for today to be “zealous for the greater gifts”, since apostles and prophets have ceased, is for believers today to honor and be zealous for the written word of God to be read, studied, meditated on, honored, preached, and interpreted properly and lived out in holiness and godliness. The greater gifts are in that context in the list, first apostles, then prophets, then teachers; so they all point to the honoring of the written word and teaching that word with integrity.
At the same time, James 3:1 says, “Let not many of become teachers, for you know that you will incur stricter judgement.” So there is a balancing principle that weeds out people who delude themselves or don’t have the perseverance to stick out the hard work of ministry in missions, evangelism, pastoral work, church planting, and counseling and church discipline. It is very hard work and taxing on the emotions; it is heavy in dealing with spiritual issues and men and women’s souls and eternal issues of heaven and hell.
The inner heart – conviction is a subjective thing. Any one can be deluded to thinking they should be a missionary and “save the world”. So, it needs the external call of the local church to test and confirm the inner calling. (Acts 13:1-4)
Paul said, “Woe is me if I do not preach the gospel” – I Cor. 9:16 Usually, someone who is really “called” by God to be a missionary, will have such a strong conviction and commitment to going that they will do all they can to get there – they will seek the Lord, seek to live holy so as to not become disqualified (1 Cor. 9:27) and be submissive to their local church leadership along the way and persevere in the time it takes to actually get to the mission field.
Also, see the article, “thoughts on the missionary call”.
If you are interested in exploring the issue of the miracle sign gifts controversy and debate between Christians, there are 2 on line debates that are very helpful.
1. One is between a Charismatic (Dr. Michael Brown) and pastor who holds to the ceasationist position, the position that we believe in here, Dr. Sam Waldron.
2. Another is between Dr. Wayne Grudem, a Reformed Continualist vs. Pastor Ian Hamilton.
Both of these debates provide the arguments for both sides of this issue. In our opinion, Dr. Waldon and Pastor Hamilton do an excellent job of articulating the right position on the miracle-sign-revelational gifts.
Who should I tell about my commitment to missions?
Since the teachers and prophets of the local church in Antioch in Acts 13:1-4 were over Paul and Barnabas and they were serving in the local church (Acts 11:26) first, for over a year, and they prayed together, worshiped together, and fasted together there in Acts 13:1-4, you should tell your pastors/elders/church leaders and share your vision with them and seek to get their prayers and counsel about your commitment and convictions for missions.
How does my commitment to missions relate to my family?
If you are married, you have to act and move forward as ‘one unit” / unified / as “one flesh”; and talk about it together, read scripture together, discuss the issues together and take the next steps together as “one unit” or as the Bible says, “one flesh”. (see Genesis 1-2 and Ephesians 5:21-33)
How does my commitment to missions relate to my church?
Certainly, you can become a missions advocate and activist in your church. Perhaps God has stirred your interest in missions, in part, to bring you into a supportive role or get involved in some way. If your church has a missions committee or team or board, find out who they are and how they operate. Maybe you could help with some of the work of the missions team. If your church does not have a functional missions group, the Lord may use you to get one started.
Come back to this page for future additions of comments, links, and downloadable resources.
How can I encourage my friends to commit to missions?
One of the best ways to start is simply to begin with prayer and Bible Study on the subject of missions in the Bible. Initiate a missions prayer focus, once a month. Supply information for a special prayer for missions or missionaries in your Sunday School class, Adult Bible Fellowship, small group, or wherever you are active in meeting with other believers.
You might want to launch an elective class or meeting focused on missions. There are lots of resources, DVDs, books, etc., around which you could form a study group to talk and pray about missions issues.
Take your friends along to hear a missionary speaker or attend a missions conference.
Give simple, well-done materials to your friends to encourage and inform them in missions.
Invite a missionary to give a presentation at your home to a group of your friends and acquaintances.
Come back to this page for future additions of comments, links, and downloadable resources.
What if I want to change my commitment to missions?
God is sovereign! Nothing takes Him by surprise. And, He will accomplish all His purposes.
If you must change or back away from commitments to missions, just be sure your motives are right and you are seeking to please the Lord.
He will use you and your connection with missions in the future. Your interest, involvement, and growth in missions will not go unused.
Come back to this page for future additions of comments, links, and downloadable resources.
How long do I have to commit to missions?
Many people ask this question, but if a person is a true believer, you are a disciple of Jesus Christ and you have surrendered to Him as Lord and you are His slave.
(see John McArthur’s excellent message, and book, “Slave”)
You want to follow Jesus for the rest of your life, whether you are in ministry overseas, or in ministry in your own country/culture, or you are a just an average Christian in a local church who shares in the missionary vision and prays for missions, but has a full-time job and family and cannot spend as much time in missions issues as you might like. Sometimes God changes our circumstances and God’s providence change our status from being overseas to coming back home to the USA or your home country/culture. If you are surrendered to Christ as Lord, don’t worry about the question, “how long do I have to commit to missions?” Don’t even ask the question. Just follow the Lord and abide in Christ, the true vine, every day. (John 15:1-16)
What more can I learn about missions from the Bible?
You can always be growing in your knowledge of missions from the Bible. Start with Scripture and the articles on the Biblical basis for Missions here at Propempo and keep working through them as you read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation.
You could study books along with the Scriptures, such as:
Let the Nations Be Glad, by John Piper
A Vision for Missions, by Tom Wells
The Great Omission, by Robertson McQuilkin
Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, edited by Ralph Winter and Steve Hawthorne
(This book is a text-book of many articles on missions issues and is also a course that runs about 15 weeks, that is offered in local churches all over the world. Visit the Perspectives web-site to find a course near you.
How can I be a better witness?
The most important principle is to first be walking with the Lord in love and holiness and character (Galatians 5:13-26) and be growing in your relationship with Him – abiding in Christ, who is the true vine – John 15:1-16. A holy and godly character gives you credibility when you open your mouth and witness that Jesus Christ is Lord and He is the one who has changed your life. But witnessing is not only in good behavior, you have to open your mouth and testify that it is the Lord who has changed you and give glory to Him. If you never open your mouth, then people will think you are good because of yourself and your own morality and that is not giving glory to God. Rather that is giving glory to self.
How can I pray for missions better?
Learn about the Unreached people groups and pray for them – see here. (The Joshua Project)
Also, the book, Operation World is very helpful.
Look around at the other resources that we recommend, and read and study and apply to how you pray for missions and missionaries.
Add Scripture, especially the Psalms and New Testament passages into your prayers and pray that God will raise up laborers for the different fields and people groups – Matthew 9:36-38.
Pray for the gospel to go forth and spread rapidly and that the Word of God would be honored – 2 Thessalonians 3:1-3, and for protection for the missionary from evil men. We can ask God for protection and boldness and wisdom in dealing with certain people and areas that are extra dangerous (Islamic terrorism areas, war-torn areas – God gives us wisdom on how to be balanced. (name the country or area or people group and missionary that you are praying for. Lift the specific area, people group, and missionary to the Lord in your prayers.)
Get a list of all the missionaries your church supports and pray for them, one a day or every other day, or some kind of regular schedule. You could walk through Colossians 1:9-13 or Ephesians 3;14-21 in your prayers for them.
Pray for missionaries and their boldness and holiness and for their spiritual warfare against demonic forces – Ephesians 6:10-20.
Here is an excellent web-site called “Prayer Cast” that has a synopsis of countries, people groups, religions, and videos of scenes from that particular country or people group or religion, and usually a national believer leads you through praying for that country. You may not agree with some of the side remarks or theology that some of these Christians make, but the point is to gain a heart of praying for different areas and peoples.
How can I pray better for missionaries?
Get on some missionaries prayer/newsletter list and email lists and pray for them and thier requests as they send them to you.
Get one of their family prayer/photo cards and bring it out at dinner or breakfast and lift them up in prayer at meal times.
One can always pray some Scritpure passages for missionaries, using passages like:
2 Thessalonians 3:1-3
What can I do to help missionaries?
This book, Serving as Senders, (click under “Missionary Care” to the right) gives lots of excellent ideas on how to help missionaries.
Pray for them, encourage them in their work; one could give to their ministry; but don’t overwhelm them with too many emails. (smile)
How can I learn more about missions?
Certainly, we would encourage you to read and explore more from the resource section at Propempo.com. There are plenty of excellent resources available. Many have Internet web pages or links to help you discover those resources.
You could also choose a World Religion and do some research on it – like Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Taoism, Shintoism, Communism/Marxism and where the majority of people that follow these religions and do some searches on their countries, cultures, and people groups.
The Planting and Development of Missionary Churches