What is the deal with missions?
Jesus undoubtedly ascended into Heaven with missions in mind. But who exactly should be doing missions? Is it explicitly the work of missionaries, or for all in the body of Christ? I’d like to tackle this issue with a 5 W’s approach in understanding missions as a whole – who, what, when, where, and why.
First, it is important to understand the “who” of missions. For this purpose, I am going to talk about who should be doing missions. Missions were not exclusive to the New Testament. As God speaks to Abram, He declares the Abramic covenant, promising to “make of you [Abram] a great nation and will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I [the Lord] will bless those who bless you … and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed (Gen. 12:1-3, ESV, emphasis added). All the families will be blessed through the Messiah, which came from Abram’s lineage. Jesus also quotes Isaiah 56:7 in Mark 11:7, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations?’” God was in the mission business from the beginning, using Israel as His go-to “A-Team” of elect individuals to reach the nations, and to be set-apart.
Now, missions are in the hands of the body of Christ. Jesus specifically calls His people to preach the Gospel in all the world, and to all of creation (Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8, Mat. 28:19; Luke 24:46-49). The body of Christ is also to be the salt and light of the world (Mat. 5:13-16). Missions are mandated by Christ, therefore, the entire body is to participate in them.
Second, the “what.” What exactly should the body of Christ be doing during missions? Easy … spreading the Gospel message. Traditional evangelism techniques for spreading the Gospel could be something like the Romans Road. By using the book of Romans the believer would explain to the unbeliever the following: (1) “All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory” (3:23), (2) “There is none righteous” (3:10), (3) “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (5:12, NKJV), (4)” For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord “(6:23), (5) “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (5:8), (6) Confess with your mouth and believe with your heart that Jesus is Lord and God raised Him from the dead (10:9, author interpretation), (7) “For ‘whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved’” (10:13), (8) and finally, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (10:17).1
In summary up, the “what” of the Gospel message is man is marred in sin, impending eternal punishment. Jesus died and resurrected taking said punishment, thereby saving man’s soul from hell, and sealing them in God’s Kingdom. Though this is not comprehensive by any means of what the Gospel should entail, it encompasses the basic theme of salvation.
Acts 1:8 is a great understanding of “when” the Great Commission began, the third aspect of missions. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth,” exhorts Jesus (NASB, emphasis added). The disciples were told to hang out in hostile Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit came, and He did, like a roaring wind (Acts 2:2). That was then, what about now? If you believe in Jesus, then you have the Holy Spirit in you. He dwells inside of you (Rom. 8:9), your body is a temple for Him (1 Cor. 6:19), you received baptism in Him the day of conversion (1 Cor. 12:13), He glorifies the Son (Jn. 16:14), and produces a plethora of fruit-producing, Godly attributes (Gal. 5:22-23). If you are in Christ, then the Holy Spirit is in you. The when of missions starts at conversion.
Fourth, the location, or “where.” In Matthew 28:19, Jesus says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (NASB, emphasis added). In Greek, all nations are referred to as panta ta ethne (panta is “all,” ta is “the,” and ethne is “nations”).2 This phrase is used roughly 100 times in the Greek Old Testament and always implies people groups outside of Israel.3 It is obvious that Jesus was not limiting missionary work to the Jews only (though they were to receive it first). Rather, the Messiah was implying that the disciples were to carry the Good News to all nations – later revealed on the Day of Pentecost when they spoke in coherent languages of visiting Jews (see Acts 2).
Lastly, the “why.” Simply put, because Jesus said so. The aforementioned principles of missions encompass the why. However, if you need a reason: “He [Jesus] said to him [Pharisee], “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mat. 22:37-39, HCSB). Missions are done out of a love for the Gospel. Compassion for the lost should guide the believer into missionary work.
This is a brief, non-exhaustive look at missions/evangelism. All in Christ should be a part of advancing the Gospel. Nowadays, with technology and ease of travel, it should not be an issue. So, all should do missions. Biblically, Jesus commanded it.
- Gathered from: Jonathan Peterson, “Evangelism: The Roman Road to Salvation,” (2016), https://www.biblegateway.com/blog/2016/09/evangelism-the-romans-road-to-salvation/
- John Piper, “Discipling All the Peoples,” in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, ed. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne (Pasadena, California: William Carey Library, 2009).