What is missions?
Mission can be defined as an organized effort to send out individuals across boundaries, most commonly geographical boundaries to carry out evangelism and other activities in order to spread Christianity. The Greek word for missions, means to “send out.” Jesus said in Matthew 28:19, “Go therefore into all the world and make disciples of all nations…”
Why is missions important?
1. It is because the fields are already ripe unto harvest. There are many people ready to receive Jesus as Lord and respond to the gospel. Jesus said in John 4:35 “Do not say there are yet four months and then the harvest, but I say to you, lift up your eyes, the fields are already ripe for the harvest.” This especially applies to places in the world where there are great needs, such as those who are sick and hopeless. Jesus said in Matthew 11:5: “The poor have the gospel preached to them.” Furthermore, God the Holy Spirit has already opened the hearts of many to receive the gospel. We have the example of Lydia (Acts 16:14). It says, “Whose heart God had already opened.”
2. It is because the laborers are few. Matthew 9:37 “The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.” One of the reasons why the laborers are few is because many workers are focusing on the people who have already heard about Jesus. Much money and effort is being spent on people who have already accepted Christ. Only a small percentage of the income of many churches is spent on bringing sinners to Christ. It is estimated that 90% of all Christian workers are preaching to only about 10% of the world’s population, many of whom have already heard the gospel and have received Jesus, while the other 10% who are trying to reach the other 90% of the world’s population!
3. It is the purpose for which Holy Spirit was given. Jesus said in Acts 1.8: “For you shall receive power, after the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and unto the ends of the earth.” The main purpose why God sent the Holy Spirit is to gather people to Christ.
4. The end will not come until the gospel has been preached to every nation. We read in Matthew 24.14: “This gospel of the kingdom must be preached in all the world as a witness to all nations and then the end shall come.” The word “nation” comes from the Greek word ‘ethnos’ which means tribe and not a political nation. There are about 24 000 tribes in the world. Jesus will not return until every tribe has had the opportunity to hear the gospel of the kingdom. If we believe that the return of Jesus is near, then the preaching of the gospel to those who have never heard must be the highest priority on God’s agenda. In 2 Peter 3:12 it says in the Passion Translation that we can help to speed up the coming of Jesus. We do so by preaching the Gospel to those who have never heard of Jesus.
5. Jesus commanded us to do so. In Matthew 28:18-19 we have the great commission. Great Commission: “All authority (ability and power) has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations…” I have expanded Mark 16:15 “And He said to them, go (travel) into all the world (In the original language this implies to all inhabitants, in an orderly way. This implies that we need to make plans and have a strategy!), and preach (Speak it out loudly. Publish it or use every means such as handing out literature) the gospel (good news, focus on the good things that God wants to do for them. Give them hope, heal them and bless them) to every (Do not exclude anyone!) creature. (People and groups of people)
6. The purpose why Jesus came to the earth was to save the lost: We read in Luke 19:10 “The Son of man came to seek and save those who are lost.” 1 Timothy 1:15 says, “Jesus came into this world to save sinners.” This was the main purpose why God the Father sent Jesus to the earth. Jesus then said to His disciples: “As the Father has sent Me, I send you.” (John 20:21). Therefore, what was important to Jesus should be important to us!
We need to ask ourselves 3 important questions:
Question 1: “Are all those who have never had an opportunity to receive Jesus as Lord and Savior lost?”
If we say the answer is “no” then we put all sinners at risk of going to hell if we tell them about Jesus. In other words, if they have not had an opportunity to be saved they would automatically all go to heaven. But let us look what the Bible says.
John 3:36: “He that believes on the Son has everlasting life: and he that does not believe on the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abides on him.” John 14:6: “Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by me.” Acts 4:12: “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Acts 17:30-31 “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now He commands all men everywhere to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he has ordained…”
The answer is that allwho have never received Jesus as Lord and Savior are lost and going to hell! The only opportunity that some people will ever have to receive Jesus is through us and if we do not tell them about Jesus, then who will do so? If we do not do it now, then when will we do so?
Second question: Is it God’s will for everyone to be saved?
Let us look at some scriptures: 1Timothy 2:4: “(God) who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” 2 Peter 3:9: “The Lord is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” The answer is “yes”, it is the will of God for everyone to receive Jesus.
Third question: Will everyone be saved?
The answer is obviously “no”. God has given all men a free will. Most people will probably not receive Christ but they should have an opportunity to say ‘yes or no’ to Jesus. We are called to evangelize the world and not to Christianize it. We should not waste too much time with those who refuse to receive Jesus over and over. Jesus is our example, He preached the good news, and not everyone received it. We have the same example in the life of Paul when he was in Athens. He preached to a large group of people, but only a few responded.
There are five stages to missions.
Stage 1: Presence: This is when we influence people through our lifestyle. Through our Christian example they respond to the gospel. Although this is important, the Bible says that “faith comes by hearing and not by observing. We are commanded to preach the gospel. That takes us to the next stage.
Stage 2: Preaching and witnessing: We must tell people about Jesus. But this is not good enough! People can hear the gospel and still not respond to the gospel. We must go to the next stage:
Stage 3: Challenge people to receive Jesus: We must give people an opportunity to receive Jesus. It is no use just telling people about salvation through Christ, without giving them an opportunity to respond. We read what Jesus said in Luke 14:23: “Go … and compel them to come in.”
Stages 1 – 3 are what we call evangelism. But this is not enough. It is like a woman giving birth to a baby and leaving the baby on the street to die, we must go to the fourth stage.
Stage 4: Planting: After people have received Jesus as Lord we need to plant them in a church or a house group where they can grow spiritually. There needs to be a follow up plan! However, if we stop at this stage, the church will not grow. We therefore need to go beyond planting and go to the fifth stage.
Stage 5: Reproduction: We need to train the new converts to bring others to Christ. This is called missions. Missions are not only bringing sinners to repentance but it means that we plant new churches. If we do not plant churches, then our missionary efforts are wasted. When we do all 5 of steps, we are then making disciples (Matthew 28:19)
What is a strategy: A strategy is an overall approach, plan or way to achieve a goal or solving a problem. Its concern is not with the small details. For example: Paul’s ultimate goal was to preach Christ where there were no communities of Christians. His day to day plans would differ but his overall strategy remained the same. A goal is the final target, but a strategy is the means by which we get to a goal. For example, Paul’s goal was to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. But his strategy was to go to a major city, preach in the synagogue to the Jews first and then preach in the market place where the Gentiles gathered. He would then start house groups, return later, appoint leaders and establish the churches.
Jesus’ strategy: Jesus goal in His earthly ministry was to reach Israel with the Gospel. His strategy was to take His disciples with Him and demonstrate to them how to do it. He then sent them out to do the same. His ultimate goal was to bring salvation to the whole world. His strategy was to reproduce Himself by the Holy Spirit in the lives of His disciples so that they would go out and accomplish His goal. He said, “As the Father sent me I send you.” We are all part of that big strategy!
Two extremes we must avoid:
God in a box strategy: Have a fixed strategy to how we should do things and use it in every situation. The problem is that God has the habit of jumping out of the box from time to time; He is bigger than our box.
In the way strategy: This comes from the example of Abram’s servant. “God led me in the way.” In other words we don’t plan or form a strategy but just depend on the Holy Spirit to work things out as we move. The problem here is that is that we are not always in tune with the Holy Spirit and we can make some mistakes.
The balanced strategy: We must use our common sense and God given wisdom, make our plans but be open to the Holy Spirit to change our plans. (Example of Paul going to Macedonia)
In order to penetrate certain communities, cities and towns we need to ask the following questions:
Is there a value in the people group that we can use to bring the gospel to them? For example: Reading is very important to Russians, therefore, if we can put good quality reading material in their hands, it may be a very effective way to bring the gospel to them. CBN television realized that TV was a common way of communication in the former Soviet Union and broadcasted the gospel on TV. As a result, 11 million people accepted Christ in a few years from the TV broadcasts from Kiev. In Africa, people are very open to the spirit world through ancestral and spirit worship. So the most effective strategy in Africa is to proclaim the gospel through signs, wonders and miracles. Power evangelism is a key in Africa but not necessarily the key in France where people are more open to an intellectual approach.
Is there a key in their tradition that we can use? In Acts 17, Paul came across, the altar to the “Unknown God.” He studied this tradition and used it as a strategy to preach the gospel to them. We have the example of how Don Richardson a missionary who worked in Papua New Guinea. He found a tradition where tribes offered up a “peace child” to bring peace between warring factions. He used this tradition and explained to them how God offered up His “Peace Child” Jesus to reconcile man to God. They understood this concept and received the Gospel.
Will our method of missions fit in with their lifestyle? For example, it is no use trying to get a building for people which wander around on camels! We must put a church on the back of the camel! If people live in apartments, the most effective way to reach them is through other people in apartments. That is why the cell church is working so well in many places in the world today. If the young people like a certain style of music, then use the same style of music to reach them.
What are some of the strongholds keeping these people from God? This will enable us to pray effectively for them. For example many mission efforts were used to reach the people in the Solomon Islands, but with no success. When the missionaries identified the demonic strongholds and bound them, many received Jesus.
Are there perhaps key people that we could target: By targeting a witch doctor or a pagan priest, we may be able to open opportunities for many others to be converted. We have the example in the book of Acts where Crispus the leader of the synagogue received Jesus and as a result, many others received Christ. (Acts 18:8)
Telling others about Jesus is often the first step to find God’s plan for our lives. Jesus said in John 15:16: “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit and that your fruit shall remain.” He did not choose us to sit but to go! Often as we simply just start witnessing and telling others about Jesus, God will often reveal to us His greater plan for our lives.
God works with us when we tell others about Jesus: We work with God and not only for Him. He said “Go into all the World!” We do not always need to have clear instructions! As we go, He will lead! We have the example in Mark 16:20: “And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word with signs following.” They decided to go and preach, as they did so, God began to work with them. We also have the example of Paul going to Asia in Acts chapter 16. As he went, God directed him to go to Macedonia. God will often direct us as we just begin to move and preach the gospel. Jesus said in Matthew 28:18-19: “Go into all the world … and I will be with you, even to the end of the age.”
Finally, we read in John 4:36: “And he who reaps receives wages that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice.” Some will sow the gospel and tell others about Jesus. Others will reap, and lead sinners to Christ. Both are employed by God and be richly rewarded, not only in eternity, but also right here on earth. Amen