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Theological Basis for Missions
Missions work is the reason for the global presence of Christianity. Without missions, Christian believers in the 1st century A.D. had no compelling reason to venture out the beyond the boundaries of Israel. Before going any further, it is important to clarify the meaning of missions. This particular concept is a Christian jargon that has gone through various interpretations. Thus, the said term can be used in different ways. It must be made clear that missions work is not the same as medical missions and other related activities. A missionary is not someone who sets up a foundation to help the less fortunate. Global missionaries are not ordinary Christian workers. The primary goal of global missions is to reach out to a group of people characterized by a difference in language and culture.1 It also makes sure that every nationality, tribe, and clan are represented in heaven. Missionaries work in partnership with the Lord, so that the whole world learns how to worship the one true God.
Evidence from the Old Testament
Abraham is known as the Father of faith. It can be argued that Abraham had to play a major role in God’s plan to save mankind. Abraham was the grandfather of Jacob, and Jacob was the father of the twelve tribes of Israel. Therefore, God’s words regarding Abraham’s destiny plays an important part in the preaching of the Gospel. Take a closer look at the first major encounter between God and Abraham, and carefully scrutinize the words that were spoken that day.
In the context of missions work, the key phrase is the following: “And in you all the families of the Earth shall be blessed.”2 There are two insights that leads to the assertion that “global missions” is not just about preaching the Gospel to neighbors and countrymen. God’s words to Abraham clarifies the claim, that missionaries are supposed to reach out to people that are different from them in terms of language and culture.
The first key insight is the use of the word nations or families. The concept of a geopolitical nation is a new invention. Before the concept of geopolitical countries was invented, people were identified under the authority of a king, feudal lord, and tribal leader. Thus, the word “nation” must be interpreted in a different way. It must be interpreted as God’s desire to reach out to different ethnic groups, tribes, or clans. This is the reason why in other versions the word “nation” was replaced with the word family.
The second key insight is the use of a global reference. God told Abraham that all the families of the Earth must receive the blessing from the Almighty. The blessing that God was referring to was the blessing that he gave to Abraham. In other words, Abraham’s descendants are not only expected to talk about God, they were expected to help other people experience the same type of blessing that they received from God.
Evidence from the New Testament
In the Gospel according to Matthew, one can find the following: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and the of the Holy Spirit.”3 In the Book of Acts one can read the following command: “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the Earth.”4 When these verses were examined using the framework discussed above, these verses provided the New Testament and Old Testament basis for global missions.
The Nature of God
There are two aspects of God’s nature that is related to world missions. The first one is the concept of love. God is love.5 The second concept is justice. The Lord is a God of justice.6 The Lord will do everything right, and it is not right to judge people without giving them a chance to rectify the errors they have made. The concept of justice is not enough to explain the necessity of global missions. People are without excuse, according to St. Paul’s letter to the Romans. He wrote: “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”7 Love justifies the need to send missionaries.
Trinity and Ecclesiology
The Triune God initiates global missions. Without the unique attributes of the Trinity, global missions is an impossible goal. God the Father initiates the process. His major contribution was made evident when he shared his vision to Abraham. The life of Abraham was a prophetic picture of God’s fatherhood to all nations.8
The Son of God was the manifestation of God’s love for all mankind. Jesus’ actions revealed the hidden mysteries of God. It is impossible to understand global missions without a role model who will explain using human terms the intricacies of God’s plan. The Son of God became flesh, and he demonstrated how to communicate God’s love to other people. The intricacies of global missions was clarified when Jesus interacted with a Samaritan woman and the foreigners in Galilee. They were separated from the blessings of God because of the difference in language and culture. However, Jesus narrowed the gap.
The Holy Spirit plays a critical role in global missions. Without the Holy Spirit it is hard to imagine how frail men and women are able to bring the Gospel to the ends of the Earth. The Holy Spirit is the assurance that there is no physical barrier that can stop the penetration of the message. This means that God’s work is sustainable, even if missionaries are unable to align their activities with the will of God. For example, the Holy Spirit can help prepare the hearts and minds of a remote tribe even if missionaries are still making preparations to enter that region.
When it comes to the Body of Christ, it has to behave like Jesus, and it must become the holy vessel for the Holy Spirit. As a result, the Church becomes the Body of Christ on Earth.9 In the context of ecclesiology, the Body of Christ is not statistic, but moving forward as it heeds the call of the Father. Like the Son of God, the Church must work with the Father. The Church must rely on the Holy Spirit for power and guidance.
Kingdom of God and Shalom
In the context of global missions, the Kingdom of God is the seat of operations.10 At the same time, the Kingdom of God is the goal. The Kingdom of God is the seat of operations, therefore, it is the seat of power. Missionaries will have a hard time understanding this concept if they have no personal encounter of God’s supernatural power. The New Testament documents the numerous instances of supernatural healing. Blind men were able to see, and people with various ailments were healed when Jesus laid his hands on them.
It is impossible to understand the healing power that works through the hands of Christian believers, if there is no concept of an invading force that is far superior to the laws of nature. It can be argued, that the blind man in the New Testament account was born blind. He was blind because of the consequences of natural laws. It would have been impossible to restore the blind man’s eyesight if the Kingdom of God has no power to overrule the laws of nature.
The Kingdom of God is invisible, and yet it exists within the realm of men. In other words, those who believed in Jesus, they became citizens of that kingdom. Its power is available to those who are able to enter into the Kingdom of God. One of the main goals of missionaries around the world is to help people enter into God’s government on Earth.
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The Kingdom of God is differentiated from the worldly kingdoms of this planet, because of its approved methods, strategies, and goals. Missionaries are not allowed to coerce people to enter the Kingdom of God. Thus, a major component of global missions is shalom or peace. Missionaries are expected to enter an area, and transform it to show that the Kingdom of God is at work.
Shalom is therefore interpreted as the absence of strife or the administration of justice. However, there is a controversial issue connected to this topic. There are leaders who believed in the idea of secular weapons to administer justice. The United States went through a bloody Civil War to end slavery. It can be argued that war is justified in order to set things right. However, the example of Jesus must prevail, as he shunned violence in order to accomplish his goals. Nevertheless, it is hard to condemn those who took up arms to liberate the oppressed.11
Missionary, Church Leaders; and Lay People
In Tennent’s book entitled Invitation to World Missions, he devoted a significant portion of one chapter to discuss the main reason for the sinking of the Titanic. Tennent said that it was not the weather, or the failure to anticipate the impact of icebergs that caused the demise of the great ship. Tennent revealed that the main reason for the disaster was the use of substandard rivets. Forensic scientists were able to examine at least 14 rivets from the doomed liner, and they discovered the presence of significant amounts of slag inside each rivet.12 The presence of slag indicated impurities. Therefore, the rivets were brittle, and unable to handle the pressure caused by the sudden rush of water inside the flooded compartments. Never underestimate the work of role players.
Church leaders must have a clear theological basis for discipling missionaries. They must possess a clear theological framework for sending missionaries to the mission field. However, the burden of sending missionaries to Asia and Africa must not rest only on the shoulders of church leaders. Lay people are important contributors. Their contribution paves the way for the establishment of a powerful mechanism that will sustain the missionary movement.13
Glasser, Arthur. Announcing the Kingdom: The Story of God’s Mission in the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003.
Moreau, A. Scott, et al. Introducing World Missions: A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Survey. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2004.
Ott, Craig, et al. Encountering Theology of Mission: Biblical Foundations, Historical Developments, and Contemporary Issues. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2010.
Piper, John. Let the Nations Be Glad: The Supremacy of God in Missions. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1993.
Radmacher, Earl, D., ed. The NKJV Study Bible: New King James Version. TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2007.
Tennent, Timothy. Invitation to World Missions: A Trinitarian Missiology for the 21st Century. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 2010.
1. Arthur Glasser, Announcing the Kingdom: The Story of God’s Mission in the Bible (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003), 17.
2.Gen. 12:3 (NKJV)
3. Mat. 28:19 (NKJV)
4. Acts 1:8 (NKJV)
5. 1Jn. 4:8 (NKJV)
6. 1Pe. 4:5 (NKJV)
7. 1Rom. 1:20 (NKJV)
8 World Missions: A Trinitarian Missiology for the 21st Century (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 2010), 492.
9. Tennent, 486.
10. Scott Moreau, et al., Introducing World Missions: A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Survey (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2004), 81.
11. Craig Ott, et al., Encountering Theology of Mission: Biblical Foundations, Historical Developments, and Contemporary Issues (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2010), 127.
12. Tennent, 486.
13. John Piper, Let the Nations Be Glad: The Supremacy of God in Missions (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1993), 262.