A couple of days ago, a friend and former student of mine asked me for my understanding of missions. He acknowledged that the question was a bit vague, but it was his intent to leave the question in broad terms.
When I considered the question, I realized that it was probably best to respond with broad principles rather than get into specifics. I base my understanding of missions on Matthew 28:19-20, which is commonly referred to as “The Great Commission”. While I believe the passage has been somewhat misunderstood (with too much emphasis on the word “go”), I do believe it summarizes the purpose of the Church (i.e. to “make disciples” through “baptizing” and “teaching”).
Here is my response to my friend:
– The mission of the Church (i.e. all believers) is to baptize (i.e. evangelize) and teach (i.e. disciple) – Matthew 28:19-20.
– I do not believe that missions is supposed to be done solely by “professional” missionaries, but every believer as he/she lives their daily life. We should all be witnessing to those around us in word and deed every day.
– Missions is not just about evangelizing the lost, but also discipling new believers to Christian maturity.
– Biblical mission is not concerned with sending people somewhere else to testify about Christ, but about having the people of God testify right where they are.
– I believe that mission is more inclusive than only being concerned with the souls of people. We are to care for the entire person – physical needs, emotional needs, spiritual needs. As we do this, we demonstrate Christ’s love in action and gain an opportunity to tell of Christ’s love in word.
I admit that my responses are not exactly thorough, but when you ask a vague question you have to expect a vague answer! My greatest concern is that we talk a great deal about missions in our churches today, but we seem to talk about it as something that others do and that we support through financial gifts or periodic “mission trips”. Do we think of missions as the heart of what every church and every individual believer is supposed to be doing? How does your local church think of missions? How do you think of your role?
Does your church have a mission strategy that includes care for the entire person or is it only concerned with the spiritual?