How do we and our churches awaken to the vision of God’s global mission to save people from every nation, tribe, and people? It starts with being a disciple of Jesus, with our heart beating in step with his compassion for people and his passion for seeing God’s glory restored on the earth as it is in heaven.
A lot of people believe that global missions is only about evangelism, but to be effective evangelists, we are to be devoted disciples first. A fully devoted disciple will naturally be an evangelist from the overflow of their hearts and souls as they are grounded in the Word and attuned to the Spirit of God. We are to ignite a deeply rooted passion into people to reach out to their neighbors, communities, and to the ends of the earth.
Churches can study and learn from the example of Paul. In 1 Corinthians 9:19-22 Paul explains how his desire is to win others to Christ which will ultimately save them. We read five times he says that his aim is to win people:
- “that I might win as many as possible” (19)
- “that I might win the Jews” (20)
- “that I might win those under the law” (20)
- “that I might win those who are without law” (21)
- “that I might win the weak” (22).
In verse 22 Paul says his goal is to save “all men,” regardless of race, religion or status. “I have become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some” (my emphasis added). He became all things to save people. He adapted his methods to ensure that the gospel was shared to all people.
“He adapted his methods to ensure that the gospel was shared to all people.”
The message didn’t change but the methodology adapted to where he was and whom he was talking to. Why was Paul willing to be all things to all people? He knew the power of the gospel. It had transformed him, and he wanted others to hear and know the truth. He wanted to save them. Paul says in 2 Cor. 4:5, “For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord.”
Paul’s goal in preaching was to bring all people to Jesus. He wasn’t willing to compromise the truth for anything, and his desire was to preach Christ.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16)
Every disciple must embrace the gospel, enjoy his grace, and extend his glory daily. We are all Christ’s witnesses.
Connecting Our Vision with His Mission
As Scripture tells us, when there is no vision, the people perish (Prov. 29:18). This is true in the business world, and this is extremely true in the church. Each church should take time to clearly define their vision and strategy for what their missions or outreach ministry will look like. By creating clarification, it will enhance the unification for what missions is and how it is lived out in the local church.
As a church develops its mission’s vision, it should be clearly communicated for each member in the church to understand what it is and how they are to be involved. Jesus has commanded each of us to be involved in His mission; therefore a church’s overall mission must be rooted in it. In 2 Corinthians 5, we see God’s mission: reconciling the world to Himself. God sent his Son to rescue us from our sinful state (Rom. 5:8) because he loves the world, you and me, so much he did everything he could to redeem and restore us in Him (John 3:16-17).
“God’s mission: reconciling the world to Himself.”
Jesus gave the church its marching orders to make disciples and rescue people from an eternity in hell. Every church should look for ways ways to make this the purpose of all that they do. Jesus left his bride specific instructions saying each of them would be his sent witnesses both locally and globally to declare the truth of God’s love.
Because of this, missions is to be front and center of the church with a passionate and compelling vision that propels people into living out Christ’s commands. The church needs to preach it, share it, teach it, model it, and equip each member to achieve this vision with their lives. To have an effective mission, it must be a biblically-based vision and written-down strategy.
We want to reiterate the importance of making missions gospel-focused, gospel-centered, and gospel-driven. There are many needs in the world today, but the greatest need is for people to come into a relationship with Jesus Christ. It is easy for churches to become more focused on meeting physical and social needs while failing to address the greatest need that man has: their spiritual need. The need for a Savior.
It is important that the gospel is the foundation that any mission is founded upon. Fighting against social injustices, serving those living in abject poverty, and meeting the physical needs of people are vital as we demonstrate or flesh out God’s mission of restoration, but not at the expense of sharing the gospel. To serve the physical needs of the people is a worthy cause, but we do it a disservice when we do not intentionally share the gospel, which is essential in winning lost souls.
“To serve the physical needs of the people is a worthy cause, but we do it a disservice when we do not intentionally share the gospel.”
Missions is to be focused on the commands that Jesus gave us to make disciples. The emphasis in Matthew 28 is the making of disciples, which is an ongoing role, baptizing and teaching, building converts up in the faith and knowledge of the Lord to become devoted followers. There is a need to see churches planted with a foundation of sound doctrine and an ability to take up the role of discipleship themselves.
Churches should understand that their mission is to have a focus of reaching the unreached parts of the world. The devil is more than happy when we continue to send our people, resources, and money to those who already are reached while we turn a deaf ear to the unreached around us. The gospel is to be proclaimed to all peoples, tribes, and languages. The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Rome,
“It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known” (Romans 15:20).
Our personal ambition and the vision of our churches should be the same, to take the gospel to the 3 billion who are deemed unreached, to those with little or no access to the gospel. Our churches must not sit idly but should seek ways to step up and get in the game.
“The devil is more than happy when we continue to send our people, resources, and money to those who already are reached while we turn a deaf ear to the unreached around us.”
Awakening to His Vision
As we fulfill the Great Commission, we would do well to keep in mind the picture painted in Revelation 4:9; 5:9; and 7:9 where we see people from all tribes and nations worshiping together. Even as we engage at home and abroad, we need to consider those who have yet to hear the gospel.
At the time of this writing, I (Chris) am in a small Kentucky town, on a 14-mile stretch of road that has over 30 churches, while my team in Spain is surrounded by 26 towns within the same 14-mile distance which has no church! A blended, well-balanced missions program looks at both mission and missions, while recognizing that when it comes to missions, it’s important to remember the least of these, those countries who are considered unreached as being especially important when it comes to missions focus.
Excerpted from Andrew J and Chris Irwin, Missions in Focus: 10 Essential Conversations for Effective Sending (Joplin: College Press, 2020). Used by permission.