With our generation being bombarded by so much slick marketing and social media driven causes, it seems as if we may be drifting away from the core of what missions is.
Missions is losing its moorings, its definition, and is adrift.
Matthew 28:18-20 is the core of verse of cross cultural missions work. It is the reason we go. The last will and testament from the Lord Jesus Christ to the church of all generations.
Into all the world.
What should we do?
Preach the Gospel (so that it is clearly understood within that person’s own cultural context and language. Shouting in the streets unintelligibly and simply quoting something to yourself like “God’s word won’t return to him void!” doesn’t count.)
What is the Gospel?
It is the Good News of Jesus’ death for sin and His resurrection; which is the defeat of sin, death, and Satan for all who believe and turn from the things that got us here there in the first place.
Baptize those who believe in the name and authority of God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.)
What is our confidence?
The Lord Jesus himself promises, “I will be with you always, even unto the end of the age.”
Yet, with the simplicity of this one command being lost, it is being replaced with Christian “causes.”
I have no problem with causes per say, especially if they are in and from the Spirit of Christ. I do have a problem when those causes pull people away from the main purpose of missions which is stated above by Jesus Himself.
I am concerned that our generation is getting sidetracked. We no longer carry a burden for “souls” who are perishing apart from Christ. We are concerned with their human issues more than their eternal souls.
Don’t get me wrong, we must care for their bodies and bring justice to the oppressed. This is also a part of the Gospel. We should try in every way to put a tangible sign of God’s love for them in their hands.
But if we do that without our primary purpose being to bring them to Christ so that he can save them, deliver them, and heal them, at the very least we are missing the mark.
The Apostle’s Mission Given by Jesus Himself.
In Acts 9:3-17 we see that when the Lord Jesus appeared to Saul, who later became known as the Apostle Paul, on the road to Damascus he called him into the ministry through a powerful personal encounter. It is not until later in the book of Acts that we learn from Paul himself the expansion of what Jesus said to him when he commissioned him to go.
In Acts 26:16-20, the Lord Jesus told him that his main reason for going was “to turn them from darkness to light, from the power (and grip) of Satan to the power (and grip) of God.” Paul then went about actually telling people to “repent” and to “perform deeds appropriate to repentance.” I love that. It is so clear to me.
This was his method for obeying the command of Jesus. Nothing complex, just “repent” based on the reality of what Christ has done for you, then show that you have really repented by your actions, by your changed lifestyle and deeds. This was his method in direct obedience to the commandment of Jesus.
We can see later that it really worked.
Of course it did. It wisdom of the Lord Jesus fleshed out by the main Apostolic leader and model of the New Testament church. In Corinth there were people who used to be sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, prostitutes, thieves, greedy people, drunks, foul mouths, and con artists. This is what they WERE.
Change took place on a radical level. God loved them too much to let them stay where they were. He demanded action based on the preaching of the cross then he demanded that their lives be changed in reflection of their faith in Jesus. No one was allowed to stay in that place labeled for what they used to be and do. This is the eternal wisdom of God, appropriate for all ages and contexts. It is the sword that divides even as it comes to us full of “grace and truth.” Many people I see doing Christian “causes” don’t seem to take this seriously, yet these are the words of Jesus Christ himself.
They are concerned with those who oppress from the outside but don’t seem to be concerned as concerned with the oppression that is on the inside of every human being on this planet.
To me this is the crux of all “justice” problems in the world.
If the human heart is not challenged and changed, justice will never flow “like a mighty river” to the oppressed. We may feel good about what the work we are doing, but we will not be contributing to the long term solution. Some may even be making it worse
The risen Jesus goes on to say, “in order that they might receive forgiveness of sins and place among (or inheritance) among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” This speaks of purpose.
Forgiveness is the greatest need of anyone God sends us to work among.
If we feed their bellies but don’t give them the spiritual nourishment they so desperately need, we lose everything. If we work on an emotional level but don’t eventually address their real spiritual need by calling them to radical obedience to the Gospel’s claims with deeds showing true repentance then we are missing the mark at best.
There is coming a day when the quality of every person’s work will be tested to see what sort or quality it is. Many “works” will be burned up in that day because they were not complete. What makes the work complete? Bringing a clear presentation of the Jesus you are representing by your actions, telling people of the cross on which he suffered for them, and calling them to faith as well as true repentance of lifestyle, thought, and actions based on the high price that was paid for them.
To me, this is missions 101.
I will wrap this up by pointing out the fact that some who are involved in missions work overseas do not address the need for personal salvation at all when they are doing good works in Jesus name. They are are waiting and hoping for their actions to somehow lead a person to Christ without their words. Some are as bold to say that “the name of Jesus is an option” not a requirement when speaking about our motivation for our compassion and concern for people.
They quote St. Francis of Assisi (a Catholic priest) who says “Preach the Gospel at all times, use words when necessary.”
I understand the sentiment, but I would say that words are always necessary to the preaching of the Gospel.
We should do both, and never be ashamed of it. We who know Christ personally as sons and daughters of the Kingdom of God hold the words of eternal life inside of us! What good are they if we don’t push them out through our vocal cords bathed in the love and Spirit of God?
This last verse is one that bears memorizing, Romans 10:14-17.
“How?” is the question that the Apostle asks.
“How” shall they call on, believe in, and hear about”? The answer today is still “a preacher.” “Preacher”-such a nasty word to our generation, right? And in some ways I believe rightly so. Many in the West of misused and abused the calling. Yet, we do not through the baby out with the bath water. The “preacher”, with the right heart, set apart, called, and sent, is still God’s chosen instrument to bring about his purposes in the Earth.
Preaching Christ crucified for our sin, risen in victory, ascended as King; both in word and in deed;
I think this is the core of what missionary life is all about.
But if all we did was preach because we had nothing to hand out, I believe it would still be enough. The Apostles of Jesus went out spreading the word everywhere they could. The Word of God was their richest commodity. If they had something to give, they gave it…but we see in the New Testament that it went mainly to take care of the needs of own first. (ie; the large offering taken up for the struggling and persecuted believers at Jerusalem. selah)
The Apostle brings it all to a head when he says, “How can they preach unless they are sent”? This is the crux of missions work among the unreached today.
Where do we need to go first and foremost? To those who have never heard.
Who should go?
I ask, “Where are these apostolic frontier preachers today”? Where are those from our generation?
Where is the disconnect? Over two thousand years later and there is still much work to be done!
How will they go?
They will be sent.
Who will send them?…
That is a question that our generation and the churches of our home countries must wrestle with.
They may choose to be content with their “causes” and pet projects, but the burning question is
“Will Jesus be content with it”?