Theology of Missions
The Bible chronicles mans fall from what God created him to be, and God’s desire to restore a sinful man unto Himself through missions.
Even though man was originally made perfectly in the image of God, man would eventually succumb to his free will and his own selfish desires. Once man allowed evil into his heart, fellowship with God was broken, along with His heart. Through His sovereign grace and mercy, God seeks to restore order to His earthly kingdom. We find God’s plan and outline in the pages of His word as He makes a way for man to be redeemed from the chains of sin. The awesomeness of the situation is that God allows us to be part of the mission to reach out and share the Gospel to a lost and dying world. Ultimately, the mission of God finds its fulfillment in man’s worship and service to God in His kingdom. In order to understand the scope and goal of missions, it must first be defined.
Moreau, Corwin, and McGee, introduce “missions” as “the word used for the specific task of making disciples of all nations. It is seen through the work of mission agencies, churches, and missionaries around the world. Missions could be looked at as the broad action reflected from its root, mission. The word mission then, “refers to everything the church does that points toward the kingdom of God. ” George Peters explains the mission as the, “biblical assignment of the church that encompass the upward, inward and outward ministries of the church. It is the church as sent in this world. ” The church accomplishes the mission by sending representative messengers known as missionaries “with a message from God, sent forth by divine authority for the definite purpose of evangelism, church-founding, and church edification.
In an attempt at reaching the world and spreading the Gospel, today’s church uses missionaries to personally touch lives in a way that the church as a body cannot. The foundation for missions has been laid by God Himself and is strengthened by His constant desire for man to accept His offering of His Son as a means to be reborn. Jesus was sent as a missionary to the world and gave a heavenly touch to a sinful man, as only a King could do. The Holy Spirit would also come and be the agent of change that confirmed the teachings of Jesus. Missions rely on the Holy Spirit to “pave the way for evangelistic fruit by means of his invisible work in the hearts of people around the world. It is the Spirit who guides the church in all truth and in its missionary labors. He works inside the human heart, empowering Christians for witness, motivating them to witness and giving them words to say.
” The fact that God has gone to such great lengths to give man the opportunity to restore our relationship with Him, proves the need to go and tell others that we do not have to be doomed to eternity in hell. God’s nature and will are revealed through the scriptures and we will attempt to touch on just a portion of His revelation in order to understand the theology of missions. Missions reflected in the Old Testament As mentioned before, the Old Testament begins with God’s perfect creation and the fall of man into a sinful state. With the defeat of Satan behind Him, God moved toward restoring His earthly kingdom through man. Quite some time would pass before God called out Abram in (Genesis 12:1-3). The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse, and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you. ” With this calling, it was evident that God was calling and raising up a people to carry his plan of redemption and restoration to the world. The blessings that God placed on Abram and his descendants meant that “they were to be missionaries and channels of the truth from the very beginning. While Abram and his family experienced personal blessings, they also had blessings to take a share with the gentiles. Abram would soon come to be known as the father of a multitude and his name was changed to Abraham. Thanks to a miracle that only God could do, Abraham had a son named Isaac. Isaac went on to father a son named Jacob whose name would be changed to Israel, for prince of God.
The passages of Exodus reveal God’s desire and plan for missions as He declares that the nation of Israel was to be a holy nation and a kingdom of priests. Upon His deliverance of Israel, God would require that they worship Him by being His hands and feet to the world. Israel’s actions and reflections of Abraham’s blessing would become its mission of continuation. The Old Testament carries the torch of missions mainly through God’s design for Israel as evidenced by the prophet Isaiah, “I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth” (Isa 49. 6). The blessings upon Israel were to be a sign to all nations to be saved as God’s chosen people were set apart to be a testimony of His longing for redemption and restoration.
Christian Weiss writes, “It is declared in the Old Testament that this boundless, wondrous love of God extends to all humanity. It reaches far beyond the boundaries of the people of Israel and embraces all the children of Adam’s race. ” Missions reflected in the New Testament With the introduction of the New Testament, God would soon reveal His desire to use the church to fulfill His mission. Because of Israel’s disobedience toward God, it was necessary for Him to raise up a church from Jews and Gentiles as a witness to the world. The day of Pentecost in Acts would be the day that the Holy Spirit would breathe life into the church in order for it evangelize the world. The mission of the church had now been defined. As Jesus ministered abroad with His disciples, He commanded that they go into the world and make disciples of all nations.
This command is recorded throughout five books of the New Testament (Matt 28:16-20; Mark 16:14-18; Luke 24:46-48; John 20:21; Acts 1:8). This task of making disciples is the church’s work of missions. Now that the role of Israel has been passed on to the New Testament believer, we are all missionaries to the world. By carrying the label of ambassadors for Christ we are to carry the Gospel to the world and encourage them to “be reconciled to God” (2 Cor 5:20). “This is God’s decreed method and plan of salvation: His Son was sent to be the world’s sin-bearer, and His servants are sent to tell the world the story. He has no other agency, no other means for world evangelization, except human instruments- men, women, and children who have themselves been redeemed through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. ” Paul’s missionary journeys showed the urgency of getting the Gospel out and how the church aided in this process.
The church produced missionaries out of its growth and maturity and also served as a support to missionaries already on the field. Much of what is done today to reach the lost has already been done centuries ago by the early church but there is still much to learn from what they sacrificed to reach out to a lost and dying world. A God view of missions Now that we have a small understanding of missions throughout God’s word and His desire to use the saved to carry the Gospel to the world; what drives God to offer restoration to a sinful world.The love of God for His creation can be the only reason that He seeks to share the remedy for sins sickness. Christopher J. H. Wright gives an honest look into the heart of God and His mission when he writes, “It is not only the salvation of human beings but also the redemption of the whole creation.
God is establishing a new creation through the transformation and renewal of creation in a manner analogous to the resurrection of His Son, and as a habitation for the resurrection bodies of his redeemed people. As God’s desire to restore His creation progresses, the church has become the means by which we proclaim the power of salvation and the coming kingdom. One day, those who have accepted His offer will reign with Him and experience the return of the earth to what it was created to be; His kingdom. Mission theology’s common thread When we look across missions and it implications as a river, there is an obvious source and a destination. Even though a river may not take the most direct route, it will however eventually get there. Another characteristic of a river that is interesting is the fact that it’s height and width is ever changing as it makes its way through various terrain. Like a river, missions has a source that comes from God and His desire to restore man.
The living water of Jesus is then motivated downstream by the Holy Spirit and the church toward a lost and dying world. This water may have to endure diversion or being squeezed down to a trickle and perhaps this is where missionaries fill their buckets in order to take this living water to those who are thirsty.We can see this picture throughout other areas of theology as God involves the trinity, the church and man to accomplish His will. The book of Acts gives us great examples of the Holy Spirit and the church and His empowerment towards missions. Three Directives of the Great Commission With the command of the Great Commission the mission is clear. A former pastor echoed a great mission statement for years that really helps to give the Great Commission some modern day traction.Almost every sermon that he preached he would at some point shout, “Reach ‘em and Teach ‘em; then Teach ‘em to Reach ‘em.
” This mindset can pave the way for the three directives of the Great Commission to be accomplished as its goal. 1. Make disciples, a follower of Christ. a. Disciples are those who gladly follow His word. b. A follower of a religious leader.
c. New Testament, a follower of Christ. d. A disciple is a follower who enjoys a peculiar intimate relationship with Christ. e. Takes on mannerisms of Christ. (Christ-like) f.
One who becomes an imitator of Christ. How strong is this tie? To the shedding of blood. The disciple can expect persecution. The world will not love those who love Christ. 2. Baptize those who believe. A public ceremony showing a public profession of what Christ has done for you.
Signified admission into the organized body of believers though the burial of the old self and the resurrecting into new life. 3. Teach them to observe. a. Indicates a definite body of truth or doctrine. The Bible is a book of doctrine, body of truth, New Testament.Believe what it believes and teach what it teaches.
b. The knowledge which together with its application to daily living is essential to a life that is well pleasing to God. You must be taught before you can apply. c. The church is pivotal in the provision of teaching and knowledge. It must seek to aid in daily spiritual growth and maturity through discipleship. Effects on ministries The implications and effects that missions can have on ministries is great.
There is much within missions that could and should already be associated with many ministries of today’s church.No matter the ministry, missions can be injected in some way, shape, or form. Ultimately, if ministries of the church are missions-minded, this will be the goal and the definitive answer to whether it was effective or not. With missions as the mindset, there will be a sense of urgency towards growing disciples to effectively carry out the gift of Jesus Christ to the world. Conclusion If we view the church as in the world, we must see that our purpose is evangelism. This is why our Lord has left us here – to take the message of the Gospel to the world. We are here to be a light and a voice for Christ.
These are the “marching orders” our Lord left us before His ascension (2 Peter 3:9). This is the duty of every Christian individually and of the church collectively – “Go, and make disciples. ” Hence, our individual and collective evangelistic efforts, our support of missionaries, and furtherance of the Gospel.
- Kaiser, Walter C. “Israel’s Missionary Call” in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: A Reader: Pasadena, CA: William Cary Library, 4th Edition, 2009. Moreau, Scott A.; Corwin, Gary R.
- McGee, Gary B. Introducing World Missions: A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Survey. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2004. Peters, George W. A Biblical Theology of Missions. Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1972. Piper, John.
- Let the Nations Be Glad! The Supremacy of God In Missions: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1993. Weiss, G. Christian. The Heart of Missionary Theology. Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1976. Wright, Christopher J. H.
- “Mission and God’s Earth” in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: A Reader: Pasadena, CA: William Cary Library, 4th Edition, 2009.