The language that dominates the theology of mission today features a hierarchy or an order of status describing its very essence. All the terms are derived from the Latin word missio (roughly translated “sent”) and are used to convey the concept rooted in the biblica l Greek term apostello. At the top is Missio Dei. This is followed by mission and missional in the middle. At the bottom, and considered by some to be a relic from the past, is missions.
This reality raises a couple of questions: “Are all these terms really needed? Are there distinctions to be communicated by the different terms?”
As to the distinctions they convey, Missio Dei literally means “mission of God,” and includes everything that God is doing in the world to achieve His purposes. He is sovereign over all and all that He does in the world, either directly or through His agents, is apart of Missio Dei.
The part of the Missio Dei that is undertaken by the Church in all of its variety is reflected in the word mission—the mission of the Church, and all it is to do in the world. Missional is a much more recent adaptation of the term to distinguish the outward or other-focus of the Church’s mission from all that the Church does to teach, care for, and minister to its own.
While some may see it as a vestige of the colonial past, or a “From the West to the Rest” approach to mission, missions is actually about that part of the mission of the Church that seeks to cross cultural, religious, and ethnic boundaries to introduce and further the work of the gospel.
In addition, establishing churches among those people groups and communities where Christ is least known has been distinguished over the last several decades as what frontier missions is all about.
As to whether all these terms are really needed, each one has a particularly important emphasis, even though each overlaps or encompasses at least some of what the others convey. So they are all interrelated, but, to the extent that they are properly understood, each term serves a useful purpose. The problems arise when the terms are used in exclusive ways for which they aren’t adequate.
To say, for example, either that the Missio Dei and the mission of the Church are synonymous, or that the mission of the Church is all that one needs to focus on or be concerned about, runs the risk of defining everything as mission.
As historian Stephen Neill once pointed out, “If everything is missions, nothing is missions.”
Neill might have been even more correct had he said, “If everything is missions, cross-cultural missions is not far from extinction.” The reason is that squeaky wheels receive all the attention, but even squeaky wheels that are far away are rarely heard.
Human nature is very predictable when it comes to setting priorities. The things that affect us most intimately—the welfare of our family and friends and the welfare of our community and country—are always going to receive first dibs on our attention. It takes a major adjustment to our mental and spiritual orientation for us to add a focus on geographically or culturally-distant people living and dying without the gospel.
If people(s) and places are outside our orbit of first-hand relationships, then it takes a lot of information and inspiration to get us to really care. And if a missions emphasis focusing on those outside of our own language or culture is not a significant part of the burden and teaching of local churches and their members, it will almost always be ignored. Without an intentional emphasis, the needs across the street will tend to crowd out the needs across the world.
So rather than limiting ourselves to one or two generalized terms related to mission, or using generalized substitutes words like ‘outreach’, it really is important to be precise in what we are talking about.
Missio Dei is about all that God does in the world. Mission is about all that the Church/churches do in the world. Missional is about what the Church/churches do to reach out beyond themselves. And missions is about crossing cultural and language boundaries with the gospel to minister to those with limited/least access to it. Without a special emphasis on missions, the unreached and the least-reached will likely stay that way far longer than they should.
Do you know what the ten truths in missions are? The ten things that without, things begin to go astray? Each of the ten truths is important; none should be forgotten or ignored. Take a look to see if you and your church have remembered all 10 in your missions strategy.
1. God has an end goal for humanity, that all peoples, tongues, tribes, and nations worship Him
John Piper states in his book, “Let the Nations be Glad” that missions is not the ultimate goal of the church; worship is. “Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more.”
2. This goal is a major theme of Scripture (Gen 3 – Rev 22)
It is an often neglected or ignored theme though. If I were to ask you to complete this verse, ‘Be still and know…’ most would be able to say ‘…that I am God.’ But that is only 1/3 of the verse. The complete verse, from Psalm 46:10 is, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” The point of much of the Old Testament is to showcase God’s marvelous deeds in order that His name would be made great among the nations.
3. The Great Commission – the Evangelization and Discipleship of All Nations (Matthew 28:19-20)
The Great Commission is the means to the goal. Only those who are born again (John 3:3) may enter the kingdom of God and participate in the worship of the Lamb that we see in Revelation 7:9-10), which is the ultimate goal for humanity. Therefore, it is through the proclamation of the gospel in the completing of the Great Commission that we accomplish this goal (Romans 10:14-15).
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
4.The Church is God’s primary agent to carry out the Great Commission in this age
We know that the Great Commission given to the disciples was actually given more broadly to the church because of the promise that completes the commission in Matthew 28:20 “…and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” The age has not yet ended; therefore the commission is still in force on those of us who have followed. And the means of doing this is through the proclamation of the gospel (Romans 10:14-15) and the making of disciples (Matthew 28:19).
5. The Great Commission is the primary mission of every church
Apart from the church’s imperative to worship God, it must be all about the business of making disciples. Whatever else a church may do, if it is not making disciples, it is failing in its obedience to its master and his commission.
6. This mission belongs to the whole church
There is no basis upon which a congregation may claim exclusion from obedience to the Great Commission.
7. The Great Commission includes three kinds of people
People like us nearby
People unlike us nearby
People unlike us far away
This is one way of understanding the final words of Jesus to his followers in Acts 1:8, “…and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” There are those in our neighbourhoods who look like we do, who speak the same language as we do and who have a similar cultural paradigm. These are those like us nearby, our Jerusalem. Then there are those unlike us nearby, the immigrants in our communities, perhaps refugees who have settled, or the foreign students on a college or university campus. They do not look like you, do not share the same language or cultural paradigm. These will require a significant investment of time and effort to cross those boundaries of difference in order to make a Gospel connection. And lastly there are those people groups who are unlike us and who live far away. These are the ones typically targeted by missionaries.
8. The congregation is responsible to reach the people they can reach
The endless near-neighbour evangelism is the responsibility of each congregation that is not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are to be salt and light in our community (Matthew 5:13-16).
9. Missions is primarily the church’s efforts to help fulfill the Great Commission among people beyond the reach of the local congregation
The “s” on the end of missions is important because it helps to differentiate the evangelistic efforts directed toward those unlike us far away. It is primarily this activity that moves us closer to the completion of the Great Commission, which we believe to be explained by Jesus in Matthew 24:14. “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.”
10. The church’s missions team has two arenas of responsibility: external (deployment) and internal (mobilization)
Typically, when a congregation thinks in terms of it’s responsibility in missions, it involves the sending of funds for support of a missionary who may or may not have come from within the congregation. That is the external deployment of resources whether personnel or finances. But there is a neglected aspect of the missions team’s responsibility and that is the development and mobilization of those resources.
Specifically, it means developing the source of the funds that are sent in support of missionaries. Whether it is through a discipleship of generosity or through fundraising events, the funds must be gathered. The more intentional the missions committee can be about this responsibility, the easier it will be to follow through on commitments.
There is also the responsibility to develop and mobilize new missionaries. A significant element of the discipleship process should be the consideration of how one may be obedient to the Great Commission and whether a period of time spent serving cross-culturally is an option. Romans 10:14-15 asks,”…and how shall they preach unless they are sent?”
So how are you doing? Each of these 10 truths highlight an important area of missions work. The extent to which we are hitting each of the 10 truths indicates how well we are doing at missions. If you would like help in thinking through the process of examining your church’s missions strategy in order to be more efficient and focused, contact us. We would love to begin a discussion with you.
If you were to ask the people in your church, how many of them would be able to tell you what the Great Commission is? Not where you find it in the Bible, or what the verse is, but the actual meaning and importance of it? We tend to forget to teach that part. The Great Commission is more than a verse in the Bible; it is the church’s job, our job, to help people understand what it is and what it means.
What Is It?
What Does It Mean?
Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age,” Matthew 28:19-20, the famous Great Commission. But what does it mean?
To get a good understanding of what the Great Commission means it is best to break it down into 5 parts.
1. “Therefore, go”
We are called to go, to get up and do something! But it means more than to get up and go somewhere. It means to leave your comfort zone. God doesn’t expect everyone to do the actual going, He doesn’t call everyone to do that. Sometimes God calls us to be the ones that support the actual goers. This may require us to get out of our comfort zone by praying for someone or supporting them financially. Even Paul in Romans 15:23-33 asks for material and prayer support, and he was known as one of the great missionaries.
2. “And make disciples of all nations”
This part ties in with the first. We are to Go and make disciples of all nations. This is the section that is the direct command of the commission. We are to make disciples of all nations, and the rest are the means to this commandment; go, baptize and teach. We also need to focus on the last part of this sentence, “of all nations’. This is so important! The Great Commission isn't only about local evangelism; it focuses on all nations! We can’t stay home in our own little community and think that that is enough! We need to cross borders and reach every nation around the world!
3. “Baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”.
This is one of the means to obeying the ultimate command of making disciples. We must baptize new believers. Jesus said in John 3:5-7 that no one can come to know God and enter His kingdom unless they are born again of water and of the Spirit. To be born again is to leave your old life behind and give up yourself and all that you had to follow Jesus. To follow Jesus! To follow Jesus, is to be a disciple, so through baptism we are creating disciples.
Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’
4. “And teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you”
Another means to obeying the ultimate command of making disciples is teaching. Jesus tells us to teach the nations EVERYTHING he has commanded us. Not certain aspects or the good or easy things but everything he has commanded. And not to just teach the command but teach to OBEY the command. It is important to see this difference. To be a disciple of Christ we must obey his commands and not just know them. If we don’t teach the nations to know AND obey Jesus’ commandments we are failing at making true disciples. As Jesus says “If you love me, keep my commands” (John 14:15). We can’t be Jesus’ disciples if we don’t love him, and if we love him we need to obey his commands.
5. “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age”
This is the ending of the Great Commission. It ends off with Jesus reminding us that he is always with us. We can take comfort in this knowing that when we are going, baptizing and teaching we aren’t doing it on our own strength, but with the power of Jesus. “To the very end of the age”, means to the end of time, and the end of time comes when Jesus returns. So this commandment is a commandment that continues for all old and new followers. It wasn't given only for the 12. It needs to be obeyed until Jesus comes back to earth.
We need to do a better job at teaching others about the Great Commission. We can’t pass it off as just another verse to be memorized. We need to explain the meaning of it, what it means for us to actually do what is commanded of us and why we must do it. We need to leave our comfort zones and go. We need to cross borders to all nations. We need to baptize new believers and teach them to know and obey Jesus’s commandments. And we need to realize that this commandment didn’t stop existing when the 12 died. It continues today, and will continue until Jesus returns. We can’t let it end with our generation, we need to teach the importance of it to each generation to come. So what steps will you take to obey this Great Commission?
If you love me, keep my commands."
How many times have you told yourself that you weren’t a good enough person for God to use? How many times have you thought that you were too damaged or broken for anything good to come from you? Well, you aren’t alone with these thoughts! Many Christians today believe the lie that they will never be good enough for God to use. But, that is all it is, a lie. God uses the broken and He can use you!
You are Chosen
We are God’s chosen people. God chose us because he wanted us to do His work. God doesn’t have favourites that He chooses. He chooses all of us. We may think that we will be the last chosen because we are more broken or we sin more but Romans 3:23 says “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. We all have sinned! Before you were even born God planned your path, and he chose you for a specific purpose. You are a chosen child of God; you may be broken but it doesn’t mean you can’t be used. God isn’t done with you yet.
-Jeremiah 29:11, Ephesians 1:3-4, Philippians 1:6
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last."
God Walks with You
We may be broken, but God often uses brokenness for His glory. When God calls us to service, I think we sometimes forget that we aren’t doing it alone. I don’t know about you, but, as a broken person, if I were to try to do anything God asked of me alone and on my own, I would fail. So I am super grateful to know that I am never alone. God doesn’t call us to do His work and then just leave us to do it alone and on our own! He provides us with the strength, the knowledge and the tools to complete our task. In Matthew 28:19-20 we can find the Great Commission where God calls us to go and make disciples, but do you know how it ends? The Great Commission ends with God telling us that He will be with us the entire way!
-Isaiah 41:10, Psalm 118:6, Matthew 28:19-20
God Chooses the Least Likely
You may think God won’t call you to do something because you don’t think you are qualified to do it. That isn’t how God works. God doesn’t necessarily call those that seem the most qualified. God calls anyone and everyone and then He makes them qualified for the job. Don’t believe me? Well, look at a few examples in the Bible. Moses was called to speak in front of Pharaoh, but he wasn’t good at speaking. Elijah was a Prophet; he was also suicidal. And Job, Job went bankrupt but God still used him even after he had no money. These people may never be our first picks to do our work, but they are God’s. Why? Because God can and will use anyone. God wants to use those less qualified because it shows His glory more when He makes them qualified and they succeed at their work.
-1 Corinthians 1:26-31, Exodus 3-4, 1 Kings 19:1-18, Book of Job
God doesn’t necessarily call those that seem the most qualified. God calls anyone and everyone and then He makes them qualified for the job"
God knows how we humans work. He knows that we relate better to those of the same kind. If you went bankrupt and were struggling, who would you rather talk to about it, someone who has been where you’ve been, or someone who has never known the struggle? God takes what we call weaknesses and He makes them our greatest strengths. You may think that because you’re depressed you have nothing to offer, but you do! You have the ability to talk and help others who also are depressed in a way someone else can’t. He prepares you. Maybe you don’t think you have the money to serve, but if God calls you, He will provide the funds for you to go. He equips you. Look for ways that God may be preparing you for service because God can use you! You’re His chosen child and He has a use for you! Are you ready to let God turn your weaknesses into strengths?
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
Following God’s call to become a Christian missionary is a great way to serve the Lord. Yet, there’s more involved than just declaring that you want to be a missionary. Each mission field, mission agency and mission opportunity will have its own special requirements. You will need to take time to prepare for serving the Lord long-term.
And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” --Isaiah 6:8
A speaker may emotionally move you to go and serve, but this emotion will only sustain you on the field for a short time. A true sense of calling by God is what’s necessary to keep a missionary on the field.
So, how do you know you have been called to mission work? Well, first, there should be an internal compelling desire to serve the Lord in some capacity. You cannot deny that God is leading you, by the Holy Spirit, to perform a task.
The best external indicator of God’s call is your pastor. Your pastor can often see fruit in your life and recognize God’s leading. Of course, they can be wrong, but most pastors will be able to honestly evaluate and either confirm or caution you. It is always a great idea to talk to your pastor before making any life changing decisions.
The Initial Preparation
Once God’s call to be a missionary has been confirmed, you should begin preparing for service. Many decisions must be made in the process including:
The formal preparation for becoming a missionary is schooling and educational training. It may or may not be a Bible degree but many agencies will require that you have a college degree of some sort. This requirement is so they can know that you have the character to complete more training if needed.
Some areas of ministry may require special training beyond your normal schooling. This may be practical training such as on the job experience or formal training in the specific area. For example, if you are looking to be a missionary working as a teacher you may need formal training as a teacher.
Language training may also be required if you are doing cross-cultural missions. It is always beneficial to know the language of the people you will be serving. It is wise to start language training as soon as possible so you can be prepared. Online tools and apps are great ways to get started!
Practical preparation is not necessarily required but it is highly recommended and beneficial. It can include reading, going on a short-term trip first and finding fellowship.
Reading missionary biographies will help the you learn about life on the field. Knowing that others have gone through incredible trials of faith can be encouraging when you learn how God demonstrated his faithfulness.
See the Field
Going on a short-term mission trip before committing to long term missions can be beneficial. The experience can help you see what it is like to be on the mission field. It can also give you a better perspective of what the people need.
Like-minded Fellowship and Counsel
A great idea if you are wanting to become a missionary is to get to know other missionaries. It allows you to build relationships with others who understand what you will experience on the field. You can also receive council and encouragement from veteran missionaries during trying times.
Following God’s call will take time. Rarely does someone hear God’s call on their lives and goes to the field in a matter of weeks. With choosing the right mission opportunity, the training and the extra preparation, it can take years. As a missionary you will also be called to raise prayer and financial support. This involves several months of visiting churches, pastors, friends and family to share about the call God has placed on your heart. But don’t be discouraged. All the preparation is necessary to prepare you for a lifetime of service. God is getting you ready to follow His call. Are you ready to get started? Click here to see the 10 Steps to Becoming a Missionary.
After 10 days of Haiti at a stand-still, paralyzed by high prices, lack of fuel, political tension and mounting fear, this morning began with loud mayhem and the sounds of glass shattering, right in front of the Emmaus gate.