Missions: Meaning and Practice


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There is a fact that is tacitly recognized regarding Christian evangelism: It has often come to be spoken of in various terminologies; the most prevalent (that this writer is aware of), from the time of the Protestant Reformation, has been conceived of, organized and communicated as “Missions”.
Not only lately, but at various times in the many-storied history of the church, such terminology has been said to wrongly interpret the focus of evangelism; however, we contend that such is not only wrong, but places an undue emphasis upon “quarrel(ing) about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers” (2 Timothy 2:14).
To expand upon that mentioned immediately above, it should be noted that the word mission merely means certain things, in the secular sense, such as found on Dictionary.com (and we could expand this from other dictionary sources, but find such to be superfluous):

mis·sion  [mish-uhn] noun

Also calledforeign mission ( for defs. 3, 6 ) .
1. A group or committee of personssent to a foreign country to conduct negotiations, establish relations, provide scientific and technical assistance, or the like.
2. The business with which such a group is charged.
3. A permanent diplomatic establishmentabroad; embassy; legation.
4. Military . an operational task, usually assigned by a higher headquarters: a mission to bomb the bridge.
(Definitions 5 and 6 were not relevant to the topic at hand, therefore, we did not include them.)
Obviously, we, as the covenant people of God, are involved in establishing relation, by the Holy Spirit and His Word, with those who do not know God, and that is not only our business, but it is the prime focus of every local community of the covenant people of God, as set forth in the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20; 1 Peter 3:15, etc. Such is not mere business, however, for it is the greatest matter which any who live have to consider, regarding their Creator, our Lord and Savior, who Himself gave us our marching orders, to tie into the military metaphor. It is a permanent establishment abroad, in the sense that, even in our own localities, we are in the world, but not ofthe world (John 15:19; John 17:6; John 17:14-17; 1 Corinthians 5:10; 1 John 3:1); we are diplomats of the Lord Jesus Christ, not that we seek to persuade others of His grace by underhanded and devious methods, as with the secular sense of that term, but that we are indeed ambassadors of God’s great grace in salvation through repentance of sin and faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, and in that, we speak of trusting in Him alone for that salvation which only He can sovereignly grant and hold all who place their trust in Him regarding (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).
Therefore, rather than niggling over such a terminology which incorporates words used to define the substance and focus of evangelism, it is better that we define those terms according to the Biblical record, which brings up another issue (perhaps, a series of issues): Since we spoke of the fact that we are in the world but not of the world, it follows – as we also stated – that the mission field is, first of all, in our own backyard, as it were – what has (at least in recent times) been indentified as domestic missions – that is, the concentration of sharing the message of the free grace of the sovereign God for salvation in Jesus Christ from the penalty and power of those sins confessed and repented of through faith in His name (Romans 3:19-26; Romans 6:23; Romans 10:9-13) – with those, first of all, in our families, among those we were formerly friends with in the lifestyle of the world, our immediate neighbors, extending outward to our communities.
The issue is that such has been so sadly neglected by many local churches who call themselves by the name of the Lord Jesus Christ; again, the issue (or an additional issue) might be further stated that the message of God’s free grace in Jesus Christ has been so grossly misrepresented in modern evangelicalism(which is a term coined to speak of the very misrepresentations of the gospel it holds, and that, by its proponents), that it is not missions, in the Biblical sense of evangelism, at all, but rather, much like the secular counterparts in the dictionary definitions we looked at, promotes and emphasizes the well-being and centrality of man rather than that condition of sin which the Fall placed man into, and his reliance, or trust, needing to be unequivocally placed into the merciful hands of his omnipotent, omniscient, good and holy Creator, because, in his fallen state, man has not the resources to save himself by any means, as the Scriptures cited show clearly.
The centrality of man in sharing various perversions of the gospel is shown in the mixing of the pure, unadulterated wine of God’s truth with the tainted water of man’s desires, thus demoting God to either just one of His attributes, or an unholy mixture of a few of His attributes, making Him the servitor to His creatures, begging them on bended knee to pleaseaccept Him, because He would appreciate it oh so much!
Obviously, this is not the God of the Bible, who must be considered in the harmonious union of all His attributes, which are always summed up in the fact that He is wholly transcendent and sovereign (Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8), yet intersected the creation He made to give salvation by means of His Son’s sacrifice for the sins of all who will place their trusting faith in His power and provision to save alone, for only such salvation as this, which is the only salvation mentioned in the Bible, truly saves eternally (Matthew 1:21; John 6:40; John 10:7-18; John 10:22-29; 2 Timothy 1:8-10; Titus 2:11-14; Hebrews 7:25).
Now, the reason we say perhaps issues is because, firstly, the focus was shifted away from domestic evangelism to foreignevangelism, and secondly, as the focus was taken off God’s sovereign gift of grace in Christ Jesus in domestic missions, so it has been taken off the same in foreign missions; thirdly, there has been an emphasis to alleviate the burdens of mankind on social and economic fronts, while downplaying their need of salvation from their sin, which spawned the social gospel of the 19th Century that continues to spread its poisonous seeds throughout the world to this day, both in our own localities and among the nations; fourthly, these things are done on a short-term basis which does not even meet these temporal needs of mankind in any meaningful relief, while robbing them of the free grace of God’s salvation in Christ Jesus, His Son, and affirming them in their standing of being able to save themselves, if they simply have the proper tools and materials for bettering their social and economic conditions.
Consequently, what passes as Christianity among the peoples of the world – both locally and in foreign lands – is a gospel that is no gospel at all (Galatians 1:6-11). The gospel which we are to spread to the world, in our own families, among our friends, and among the nations, is not man’s gospel, but God’s, and it is only God’s gospel which saves, for God’s gospel is the only one that is the power of salvation to all peoples of all ethnic groups throughout the world (Romans 1:16).
The further problem of the perverting of God’s gospel – or an additional issue – is that, with the focus on what man desires, instead of speaking of reconciling him to God through trust in God alone for forgiveness of his sins and eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ, the spotlight is taken off the gospel vehicle, which is His church. Evangelism that is no evangelism at all has been fostered by telling people to speak of God’s love without God’s wrath, to the neglect of His holiness and the diminishing of that glory which speaks of all that is good being in Him and coming from Him. Sin is reduced to having one’s material and emotional needs met, instead of being seen as the universal problem of being out of union with God, and to the almost complete neglect of the manner in which He has remedied that problem through the death and resurrection of His Son.
Others have written of the expectations of those peoples in foreign countries who have been recipients of this (and other) type of watered down and perverted gospel – many times, they set their agenda to take advantage of the material needs being met by promoting some that are not even real (not that there are not real material needs to be met), marketing that which will most greatly appeal to the so-called missionary groups sent to help with housing, food, water, and finances by showing a lack in these areas which is only apparent at the time the missionary groups (or rather, the facade of what a true missionary group would be) are scheduled to be in their areas. So far has the meaning and focus of what Christian missions truly is (evangelism of the lost by the proclamation of God’s gospel), that many of these so-called missions groups/organizations are bamboozled into serving material needs that only exist when they visit, and in many cases, the results of what they give and do are used by certain groups to the exclusion and detriment of those who truly do need help, and all this goes on without the proclamation of God’s gospel of free grace in Jesus Christ.
Yet, God still has His true evangelists working, preaching the gospel, and they are those who experience the hatred of the world (for the world will not hate that which caters to its needs, but to those who conform to God’s will in Christ Jesus by His Holy Spirit without perverting the truth of His Word2 Corinthians 4:1-2). These are true missionaries, as has ever been the case, and their work is carried out in the context of being of the covenant people of God, in association with Bible believing, New Testament churches which do not compromise the gospel of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ – therefore, as spoken throughout the Scriptures – some of which we have cited in this article – they are hated by those who hate God; yet, in His sovereign grace and mercy, just as with all men, some of those who hate Him will be saved (Romans 5:8).
To think that true missions can be carried out without the support of one or more of the local assemblies of God’s covenant people is only something one holds by having bought into the gospel of man, for God’s gospel always stresses His covenant community, and those who truly do missions (whether foreign or domestic) do so within that fellowship in the light which is true union with God and one another (1 John 1:5-7). If we look upon any evangelism undertaken in the New Testament, we see it is a joint effort of the local covenant communities comprising the universal church of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that all successful efforts throughout the history of the church have been in such spiritual associations – some more, some less, but always, to some degree, there – with the accompanying material needs of the missionaries being met by these covenant communities of God’s people, the church of the Living God, Jesus Christ.
As in New Testament times, there are varieties of methods: Open Air preaching, person-to-person sharing of the gospel, settling in a community and teaching and preaching to them the good news of God’s grace in Jesus Christ, and preaching and pasturing local flocks of our Great Shepherd. These are all Biblical, and being of God, have stood the test of time and history, as they always will. Such Biblical methods, partaking of that which each part of the body from every local covenant community involved in the efforts received from the Head, cannot be thwarted (Acts 2:38-47; 2 Corinthians 8:1-5; Ephesians 4:11-16; Colossians 1:1-6).
We praise and thank God for His grace in the lives and through the efforts of these who are doing the work of missions both domestically and among other peoples than their own, and pray that He yet again abundantly supply many of His saints to partake in this work, whether in support of those engaged in missions, or as those doing the evangelism and receiving the support. These are those whom our God has appointed and gifted to do the true work of missions, and we know that our Lord Jesus Christ has said that “I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).
SDG – Bill
For those who are interested in supporting some of those who are involved in various aspects of missions
from evangelism to maintenance roles
please consider the two options linked below:
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About lalvin1517

I'm married with two children and pastor McCall Baptist Church in McCall, Idaho.
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