A Philosophy of Missions
- Missions is the Duty of the Church
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:19-20). That this command extends beyond the first disciples/apostles of Christ is proven by the fact that 1) its promise of divine assistance extends “to the end of the age,” and 2) its completion - disciples made “of all the nations” – was not achieved during the apostolic era. It is the express duty of the church to labor in this endeavor until it is completed.
- There are only three options for members of the body of Christ: 1) be a zealous goer; 2) be a zealous sender; 3) be disobedient
- This duty must be hailed as one of the very purposes of the church, not merely one of its programs.
- The use of resources should reflect the necessity and primary importance of this endeavor
- Missions exist because worship does not.
Worship is the motivation for and the goal of missions. The primary motivation for the missionary endeavor is not that of easing the world’s sufferings, rescuing souls from the fires of hell, or adding to the membership rolls of a church. The greatest motivation for missions is a passion to see people “from every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Rev 5:9) falling and declaring, “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power” (Rev 4:11) The psalmist cried, “Let the peoples praise You, O God; Let all the peoples praise You” (Psa 67:3). He saw the greater goal in the conversion of the nations- worship. Likewise, Paul saw the Gentiles who had been converted through his ministry as an offering to God (Rom 15:6). The motivating factor in missions is an earnest desire to see more souls added to the number of those who worship God. Hence, the Son is worshipped because He purchased “for God
” men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation to be a kingdom of priests “to our God
” (Rev 5:9-10).
- Missions must be God-centered, not man centered.
- Our own passion for worship will determine the extent to which we as a church are zealous for the missionary endeavor.
- Efforts focused merely on humanitarian aid or benevolence without the goal of adding to the number of those who worship God are not rightly categorized as missions.
- Missions have always been in the mind of God.
God’s desire for His name to be exalted among the nations did not begin with the inception of the church at Pentecost (Acts 2). Mankind was originally created as His image bearer (Gen. 1:26-28) to live for His glory. When that image was marred by the Fall (Gen 3), God immediately hinted at a provision He would make for man’s restoration (3:15), and acted to show His desire for mankind to be restored (3:21). When God later made a covenant with Abraham He showed His special love for him as the father of a nation (Israel), but in blessing that nation, His intention was to bring a blessing to all the nations – “In you all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Gen. 12:3) Hence Isaiah 56:7: “My house will be called a house of prayer for all the people”- “
turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth;
for I am God, and there is no other” (45:22). What God was doing in choosing and redeeming Israel had a greater purpose: “To show you My power to proclaim My name through all the earth”
(Exod. 9:16). Solomon prayed that “all the peoples
of the earth” might know the LORD’s name (2 Chron 6:33) because he knew the greater vision of God reflected by the psalmist: “Let the peoples praise You, O God; Let all the peoples
praise you” (psalm67:3)
- Missions must always be in the mind of God’s people.
- Our efforts in the missionary endeavor should reflect the “all peoples” aim of God. We should aim far beyond the boundaries of our own people group.
- Missions will succeed as a means towards God’s decreed end.
“Worthy are You to take to the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9). It doesn’t say that Christ purchased all men
with His blood, but that He did purchase at Calvary people from every representative people group in the world. This is a blood
issue. The sacrifice of Christ did “purchase” exactly that for which it was given. Men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation will be saved
. The missionary endeavor will succeed, but not without the means God has ordained (Rom 10:12-17; Matt 18:19-20; Acts 1:8). The church is that means as it makes every effort to take the gospel message to every people group
of the earth, knowing that it will succeed according to God’s decree – “This gospel of the kingdom will be preached
in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matt 24:14) – “I will build My church;
and the gates of Hades will not overpower it” (Matt 16:18)
- The church can approach missions with great confidence, knowing that the Lord of the harvest will bring the harvest.
- The church must participate in missions, knowing that it is the ordained means toward God’s end.
- Missions must work strategically, to accomplish God’s intended end.
Scripture does not teach universalism. Many people will go to hell (Matt 7:13-14, 21-23). The church must therefore seek to strategically accomplish an attainable goal – planting the church among all people groups, not winning all people to Christ. in other words, it goes beyond seeking to save as many people as possible or getting the message into as many geographic locations as possible (countries). “When the church has been planted in all the people groups of the earth, and the elect have been gathered in from all the “tribes and tongues and nations,’ then the Great Commission will be complete. Missions will be over” (Piper)
Timothy left Lystra, his hometown (Acts 16:1), and became a church worker (a Timothy – type missionary) in a foreign place, Ephesus (1 Timothy 1:3) which had its own elders (Acts 20:17) and outreach (Acts 19:10). This is the model of a Timothy- type missionary: going far away to do Christian work where the church is fairly well established. It has a biblical precedent and it is a good thing to do, if God calls you.
But that’s not what Paul was called to do. His passion was to make God’s name known in all the unreached peoples of the world. He said that he made it his ambition “to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named” (Romans 15:20). One of the most stunning things Paul ever said is in Romans 15:19, 23 “From Jerusalem and as far round as Illyricum I have fulfilled the gospel of Christ…I no longer have any room for work in these regions.” This stunned me, when I finally saw its implications.
No room for work between Jerusalem and Northern Greece! His work there is done in spite of all the unbelievers that remain! He is now moving on to Spain. How could he say this? The answer is that he was a frontier missionary, not just a cross-cultural missionary. He was called to reach the unreached peoples, where there is no church to evangelize its own people.
What most Christians don’t know today is that there are probably ten times more Timothy-type missionaries in the world that there are Paul-type missionaries. And yet there are still thousands of people groups – especially Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and tribal people – who have no access to a gospel – preaching church in their own culture. Patrick Johnstone and others published in late 1996 a book entitled The Unreached People
(Seattle: YWAM publishing, 1996). In it the 2000 least reached people groups are listed in pages 102-111. This gives you an idea of the remaining urgent need for missionaries who are willing to cross language and culture for the fame of Christ and the Salvation of the perishing.
Therefore, our prayer for Bethlehem [Baptist Church] is that we put a very high priority on raising up and sending frontier missionaries – Paul-type missionaries. Not that we diminish the sacrifice and preciousness of the Timothy -type missionaries, but that we realize what the utterly critical, uniquely missionary need is in the world, namely, there are thousands of people groups with no access to the saving knowledge of Jesus. Only Paul-type missionaries can reach them. That must be a huge priority for us. Without the gospel everything is in vain. A crucial role that the Timothy-type missionaries play is to raise up Paul-type missionaries among the peoples with whom they are working
6)Missions must be intimately connected to the local church
I. The local church must be actively involved in missionary prayer
- We should strategically target un-reached groups rather than merely aiming at any people (numerically) or any country (geographically)
- The support of frontier missionaries should be a priority in the use of our resources.
- The goal of our frontier missionaries should be the establishment of domestic ministries – i.e. self-governing, self-sustaining, and self-propagating churches within the new cultural context.
A. For the supply of missionaries
“Seeing the people, he felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. 37
Then He said to the disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. 38
“Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send our workers into His harvest” (Matt 9:36-38).
B. For the Success of the missionary message
“Finally, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified, just as it did
also with you” (2 Thess. 3:1; cf. Eph 6:19-20; Col. 4:3-4).
C. For the safety of the missionaries
“…and that we will be rescued from perverse and evil men; for not all have faith” (2 Thess 3:2) –“…That I may be rescued from those who are disobedient in Judea” (Rom 15:31).
II. The local church is responsible for sending out missionaries
- Our corporate prayer as a church should regularly include prayer for the missionary endeavor.
- Our people should be informed and up to date on the needs of our missionaries
- God is the supreme Agent in sending out missionaries
It was the Holy Spirit who made it clear that Paul and Barnabas were to be set apart as missionaries (Acts 13:2). Their departure for that work was described as “being sent out by the Holy Spirit” (v.4).
- We should pray for God to “set apart” such gifted men in our midst.
- We should examine those whom we would support in the missionary endeavor to determine whether they have been set apart by God for his work. Is this a desire in the individual to be a world traveler or is he driven by God’s call on his life?
- The local church is the mediating agent in sending out missionaries.
While Holy Spirit was the ultimate Agent in sending out Paul and Barnabas, the church at Antioch was instrumental: “When they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away” (Acts 13:3). The laying on of hands was the means by which the leaders in the Antioch church, as representative of the whole congregation, recognized that God had set Paul and Barnabas apart for the ministry endeavor
II. The local church is responsible for the supervision of missionaries.
- The church is the only human institution recognized in Scripture as a sending agency
- We should see missions boards as implementing agencies, not sending agencies. They exist to serve the local church and cannot replace the work of the local church in appointing and sending missionaries.
- If we consider supporting a missionary who is not set apart from our assembly and sent out from our church, we should: 1) Ascertain whether he has a sending church; 2) Contact that sending church to see if the elders of that church have affirmed God’s calling and gifting of the individual.
- With sending comes the responsibility of discernment. The prayer and fasting in Acts 13:3 are indicative of carefully seeking to move forward according the God’s will. Such discernment (especially if we are not the sending home church) should include:1) careful examination of the missionary’s doctrine, life, calling, character, goals, and priorities; 2) similar examination of the missions agency with which he is associated. If, for example we believe that there are fundamental problems with the “church growth” or “seeker sensitive” movements, then we do not want to participate in the sending of a missionary who will attempt to implement those principles in another context. “If any man is preaching to you a different gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed” (Gal 1:9)!
“From there they sailed to Antioch, from which they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had accomplished. 27
When they had arrived and gathered the church together, they began to report all things that God had done with them and how He had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. 28
And they spend a long time with the disciples” (Acts 14:26-28)
Since they had been initially set apart by the church in Antioch, it was to that church that they gave an account of their missionary endeavor.
IV. The local church is responsible for the support of missionaries.
- We should be intentional in holding our missionaries accountable. Those who are sent from our assembly should be viewed as still under the care and authority of our elders (Heb 13:17)
- If we support a missionary not as the sending church, but as secondarily in cooperation with it, we should nevertheless be adequately informed of his daily life and ministry so as to know whether he is doing the work for which he was set apart.
3 John 1:5-8 is a key text for this connection:
Beloved, you are acting faithfully in whatever you accomplish for the brethren, and especially when they are strangers; 6
and they have testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. 7
For they went out for the sake of the Name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. 8
Therefore we ought to support such men, so that we may be fellow workers with the truth.
- “In a manner worthy of God”
There is only one right way to send out a missionary – in a manner worthy of the One they represent.
- Because they “went out for the sake of the Name.”
They are not engaged in private business pursuits, but men who give their lives for the furtherance of the “The Name”- the propagation of reputation and glory of Jesus Christ.
- Because they accept “nothing from the Gentiles”
Going out for the glory of Christ and to bear witness to Him means that missionaries do not make themselves dependent (initially) upon their target audience (“Gentiles,” pagans,
or those apart from Christ in this context). “A Christian congregation supporting its minster is one thing; missionaries begging money from unbelievers is another.”
- “So that we may be fellow workers with the truth”
The point of sending
missionaries is so that those who must stay behind can still participate in and be obedient to the command to “make disciples of all the nations
” (Matt. 28:19). Those who remain behind should be faithful among their own people, but they can reach the nations through those whom they send (cf. Phil 1:5; 4:15-16).
- Because they go out for the sake of Christ, our missionaries should be abundantly supplied. “In a manner worthy of God” doesn’t mean that we throw our old hand-me-downs and give our worn-out cars to our missionaries. It doesn’t mean that we drop a few quarters in the “Brown Barrel.” It means that we generously meet their material needs. And beyond that, it means that we lovingly and warmly under gird them with regular encouragement and earnest prayer support, and that we are always with them in spirit.
- Our Desire to be “fellow workers” in the missionary endeavor around the world will reflect in the amount of resources we channel in that direction. The wealth of biblical teaching on the use of our money and resources to be “rich toward God” (Luke 12:21) and to store up “treasures in heaven” (Matt 6:20), should be reflected in our church budget.
A well-known statement of John Piper
John Piper and Tome Steller, “Driving Convictions behind Foreign Missions at Bethlehem Baptist Church” (©Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org
Much of the following comes from David Doran, For the Sake of His Name: Challenging a New Generation for World Missions
(Allen Park, Mich.:Student Global Impact, 2002), 155-169
Speaking of Romans 10:14-15, Jo Ronald Blue says, “The apostle was about to uncover the key word for missions. With but one more penetrating question; he revealed the benchmark and it was not ‘go.’ ‘AND HOW SHALL THEY PREACH UNLESS THEY ARE SENT?’ (Rom 10:15). The word is not ‘go.’ The key word is ‘send.’ World missions, and in a sense, the entire ministry of accomplishing God’s purpose in this age, revolves around the simple word ‘send.’ The old familiar word echoed in mission conferences across the country is likewise dependent upon this more foundational ingredient as well. There is no ‘going’ without ‘sending’” – “Go, Missions,” in Vital Missions Issues,
ed. Roy B. Zuck (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publication, 1998),247.
John Stott, The Letters of John
(Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmand Publishing Company, 1998), 226
“By the laying on of hands [Acts 13:1-4], the church and the individual missionary become bound in a bond of common purpose and mutual responsibility…It is my solid conviction that the proper exercise of this biblical principle by the churches would do more to boost the morale of our missionaries and the flow of missionary candidates that many other factors combined. Should our people realize that not only does ‘my church go with me but my church goes in my person, stands with me, prays with me, sacrifices with me and underwrites my support,’ the challenge would become inescapable. Here is the church’s real opportunity, responsibility and challenge to herself and to the people”- George Peters, A Biblical Theology of Missions
(Chicago, Ill.: Moody Press, 1972) in loc.