What principles serve as guidance for missions? People describe the church’s purpose for engagement in a wide range of definitions. A review of Scripture helps us discover foundational principles for missions. It reveals three ways Christian mission differs from random acts of kindness.
Last week’s post highlighted the first principle: We serve to glorify God. Our goal is to honor the Lord in all we say and do. This article moves to Part Two of the three-part series on biblical principles of missions.
The second reason for missions is obedience to the calling Jesus gave to all believers.
We Serve to Obey
Throughout His incarnate ministry, Jesus prepared His followers for the work that would come after His death and resurrection. He taught them to proclaim the realities of the kingdom through both physical acts and vocal description of the kingdom. “Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave to all. For even the Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:43-45).
Jesus commissioned and sent His first missionary with the simple instructions: Go. Tell. In authority and power, Jesus had healed the man. No longer was he diseased and demon-possessed. The man had a story to share. He was passionate about this Jesus who delivered him from a captive life. So, indeed, “the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him” (Luke 8:39b). He faithfully obeyed Jesus’ command to serve.
This call is repeated throughout the gospels, and the book of Acts, as a mandate for all Christ-followers, present and future. Couch sitting has never been an option. In obedience, we go and make disciples.
Matthew 28:18-19 “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
Mark 16:15-16 “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”
Luke 24:46-49 “The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
John 20:21-22 “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
In the authority and power of the Holy Spirit, we serve as witnesses of the gospel message throughout the earth. Although we often point to the Matthew 28 verses as the guiding passage for missions, notice how all the gospel writers included the command. This great commissioning is repeated over and over. Tremendous responsibility and expectation accompany it.
Where and How to Obey
Jesus’ call included the broadest of geographic mandates: All nations, all peoples. We find no distinction for political borders or physical boundaries in the Scripture. The early church preached the good news within their own community and then moved out to neighboring nations and beyond. God’s people went wherever he called them: to their city, their nation, and to new places reached by foot and by boat.
Today we add cars, trains, and planes as means to go. Technology further expands our ability to share the gospel. With radio and internet capabilities, the number of places unavailable to the gospel are shrinking. But too many places have yet to hear the gospel. Therefore: Go. Tell. Teach.
The Holy Spirit inspired writers to capture the lessons to be taught among the nations. Jesus’ words as recorded by the gospel writers – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – along with His precepts in the other New Testament books, provide guidelines and commands for kingdom life. Ultimately, discipleship centers on drawing people into personal obedience to Jesus Christ as Lord. The greatest commandments of all, Jesus summarized, are to love God and love one another (Matthew 22:39; Luke 10:25).
Our obedience emerges out of a loving willingness to prioritize the Lord’s calling on our daily activities. It’s not legalism – which we are prone to do – it’s an emphasis on a loving obedience to Jesus’ commands. Jesus himself lived into the calling of generous love and mercy throughout his earthly journey. The same mandate rests upon us as we travel a Christ-centered journey in this life.
The third of the three biblical principles for missions is to serve others.
Posted by Sharon R Hoover