Missions Misunderstood

Posted November 30th, 2005 by E. Goodman

Missiological passages of scripture that I’m working through:

Matthew 24

v.14 “…And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

This verse has probably been the greatest scriptural influence on the “Unfinished Task” missiology. In other posts, I’ve explained my opinion that verse 14 (as the rest of the context, and Mark 13:10) is meant to be descriptive as opposed to prescriptive. In other words, while there are many passages in which Jesus’ followers are commanded to go, preach, and make disciples, this isn’t one of them. Does it still have implications for missions? Of course. It describes God’s people obedienty doing what their master told them to do while he was away. But to develop a global missions strategy based on this passage seems like a stretch.

Another problem is this idea that Jesus can’t come back until all of the people groups have heard. What about the people groups who are now extinct and never heard the gospel? And how can “the task” be finished with the birth of new people groups all the time?

v.34 “I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.”

A difficult verse for literal translation. There are better treatments of this passage elsewhere. I include it here as context that further prevents me from using v.14 as missiological motivation. If we’re going to say that, based on v.14, Jesus isn’t coming back until we ‘finish the task, why not use this verse to say “Our generation won’t die until ‘the Task’ is complete?”

v.36 “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father…”

v.42 “…Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. “

These verses in this same chapter keep me from playing the guessing game of when the Son will return. They also reminds me that His retunr isn’t up to me, or us, or our missionary success. Obedience should be the motivation for missions; obedience to directive passages of scripture, such as Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15-18, and to the step-by-step guidance on the Holy Spirit.

Filed under:Uncategorized Posted November 26th, 2005 by E. Goodman

Missiological passages of scripture that I’m working through:

Luke 10

This Passage is often used as a template or model for missions. The concept of the “Person of Peace” comes directly from Jesus’ commission of these 72 disciples. The passage is full of wisdom and truth for all believers on mission, but we need to remember that the context of this passage is a specific historical event (mission trip) with a beginning and end.

v.1 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go…”

Unlike us, these disciples went ahead of Jesus. This verse stands in contrast to Matthew 28, where Jesus says, “I am with you always.” I also think it’s important that Jesus sent people to places where He was “about to go.” While I believe that God was in Western Europe before we arrived, we have certainly seen Him work in the lives of the people around us just after our arrival.

v.2 “He told them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’”

For my thoughts on this verse, see my post, Workers.

v.4 “Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.”

I’m not sure how this instruction to “travel light” applies to those of us who feel led to plant our lives in the mission field indefinately. Perhaps just that we shouldn’t ever get too comfortable on this earth?

I also wonder about the second half of this verse. It seems to contrary to the common wisdom that warns us to take every opportunity. What about the person I sit next to on the plane on my way to the field? It goes to stress the fact that we need to depend on the Holy Spirit even for guidance as to with whom we should share the gospel.

v.5-6 “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you.

In our experience, God has been faithful to bring us to the Person of Peace even though we haven’t gone hunting for him/her. I think this verse speaks to the relational context of the good news; a personal connection with an unbeliever is a good sign that God is at work.

v.7-9 “Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house. “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is near you.’”

What constitutes a welcome? As I mentioned above, I think that friendship is the welcome we should be looking for.

v.10-11 “But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God is near.’”

When is it time to leave? In my posts Front Burner and Back Burner, I talk about the idea of relational ministry “dead ends,” and the desire of some to pursue especially (only?) relationships with those people who are responsive to the Good News. I believe that there are people who can drag us down and hinder our ministries, but I think these verses are talking about those times when we have no personal connection with the people to whom we are sent.

v.16 “He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”

I’ve heard lots of missionaries use this verse as an excuse for social rejection by a host culture. Usually, I want to say, “No, they aren’t rejecting you because they are rejecting the Gospel, they are rejecting you because you: a) are a proud, condescending, know-it-all stuck in American culture, b) not sharing the gospel, or c) a big dork.

v.22 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

That pesky predestination keeps coming up…

v.23-24 “Then he turned to his disciples and said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”

Please see my post, Passion.

Filed under:Uncategorized Posted November 13th, 2005 by E. Goodman

Missiological passages of scripture that I’m working through:

Matthew 28

v.18 “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”

Many reasons have been given for why believers should participate in misisons. Some of them are true, some are not. Most of them use guilt as a motivator, but that’s another post. Perhaps you’ve heard a few of these:
“We’ve been blessed, so we need to be a blessing.”
“Jesus will not return until we finish the task.”

“There is such great lostness.”“You may be the only Jesus they ever meet.”

For me, the only motivation for mission obedience. I think it’s important that here, as He gives His final instructions to His disciples, Jesus doesn’t say, “Since there is great need…” or “Because it all depends on you…” Instead, He asserts His

authority. By His authority, He sent the original disciples, and sent me.

v.19 “Therefore go and make disciples…”

It is often overlooked that Jesus gave his disciples some specific direction. As IMB representatives, we are all church planters. But the commission Jesus gives here is to make disciples. It seems clear enough, but why then, do we tend to focus on evangelism and church planting? I don’t mean to say that they are exclusive of one another, but Jesus didn’t say: “Therefore go and reach” anybody.

Another observation is that whil discipleship depends to a large extent on our obedience to God, He is the one who does the saving and the church planting. It’s good that we count things like baptisms and churches started, but let’s not measure our sucess by something God does in His timing. Those things are evidence not of our obedience, but of God working.

“of all nations,”

The greek scholars will tell you that “all nations” is translated from the greek word “ethnos.” Today, we use the term “people groups.” I like this understanding of the passage, but only in the sense that it helps us recognize that different groups have different cultural contexts. I don’t think Jesus’ use of “all” here means that we should catalogue and classify every people group in the world so that we can have well-defined “to do” list.

“baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,”

It’s funny that there is a controversary amongst baptists concerning baptism. While I believe that baptism is an ordinance of the church, I don’t see biblical support for linking baptism to a local body of believers. The only biblical link between baptism and a local church are the cases of “oikos” church plants, where every member of a household is baptized upon their salvation.

v.20 “…and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.

In church planting, we’ve long asked: “what is the minimum a person needs to know in order to grow in his/her faith?” Not because we want to get by with doing as little as possible, but because we often cross paths with nationals who, though they call themselves believers, aren’t even aware of some important doctrines. I think Jesus speaks to this here, essentially saying, “What they need to know is what I’ve commanded you, and that their part is obedience.” Oddly enough, I can’t seem to find where in the Bible Jesus commands us to abstain from alcohol…

“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, this verse brings me back to the necessity of a right relationship with the Holy Spirit. I think Jesus ends with this as a reminder that because He goes with us, we should follow Him step-by-step to whatever He has for us. This, I think, is where we tend to go wrong; mistaking direction for destination, and getting “ahead” of God by making plans and asking Him to bless them. If He tells us to go to a place that is “reached,” we should go. If He leads us into physical danger, He is with us.

My favorite part about Him going with us is that He gives us the supernatural “upper hand.” When sharing our faith, He knows our audience; what they need, what they think. If we stay in tune with Him, we’ll be led by His strategy. It kind of takes the pressure off of us, don’t you think?

Filed under:Uncategorized Posted November 1st, 2005 by E. Goodman

Some examples of current evangelical missiologies:

From the Vision Statement, International Mission Board
“Our basic task is evangelism through proclamation, discipling, equipping and ministry that results in indigenous Baptist churches.”

The Lausanne Covenant
“A reduction of foreign missionaries and money in an evangelized country may sometimes be necessary to facilitate the national church’s growth in self-reliance and to release resources for unevangelized areas. Missionaries should flow ever more freely from and to all six continents in a spirit of humble service. The goal should be, by all available means and at the earliest possible time, that every person will have the opportunity to hear, understand, and receive the good news.”

John Macarthur, What’s Inside the Trojan Horse?
“Christian missionary work is often riddled with pragmatism and compromise, because too many in missions have evidently concluded that what gets results is more important than what God says.”

John Piper, Missions and the End of History
“And the aim of preaching this “gospel of the kingdom” is that the nations might know King Jesus and admire him and honor him and love him and trust him and follow him and make him shine in their affections. We have come to see that God is passionately committed to upholding and displaying his name – his reputation – in the world.Over and over we read this in the Bible – that God does what he does “so that [his] name may be proclaimed in all the earth” (Romans 9:17). The central command of missions is Isaiah 12:4, “Make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted.

God is passionately committed to his fame. This is his highest priority: that he be known and admired and trusted and enjoyed as an infinitely glorious King. This is the “good news of the kingdom.” This is the goal of missions. As Paul said in Romans 15:9, “that the nations might glorify God for his mercy.”

Jeff Lewis, God’s Heart for the Nations (.pdf)
“Start Pondering … What is God’s ultimate passion? Not His only passion, but what is His chief end? When everything is eliminated but one, what is His central motivation?”

Joshua Project,
“Our Purpose …to spread a passion for the supremacy of God among all unreached peoples. Our Mission … to highlight the people groups of the world that have the least Christian presence in their midst and to encourage pioneer church-planting movements among every ethnic people group.

Our Rationale …”This gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations and then the end will come.” Matt 24:14″

Ralph Winter, U.S. Center for World Mission
“Missionaries do all kinds of good things, but the truly unique task of missions is not “winning more souls.” (We will always have the job of evangelism.) Neither is it social involvement. (Life and culture will always be under attack.) The unique task of missions is to establish a viable growing church movement among every tribe, tongue, people and nation on the earth. Until we are sure there is a strong church movement within every one of the people groups, our task is not finished.”

Luis Bush, International Director of the now-closed AD2000 & Beyond Movement
“More than 4,000 Christian leaders representing 186 countries have committed themselves in writing to the goal of a church for every people and the Gospel for every person by the year 2000. With that common goal in sight, they gathered in May of 1995 for the Global Consultation on World Evangelization (GCOWE ’95) in Seoul, Korea, which Ralph Winter – founder of the U.S. Center for World Mission – said may have been “the most strategic Christian gathering in history.”
It is apparent, then, that many Christian leaders from around the world believe “The Unfinished Task” can, indeed, be finished. They have committed themselves and their resources to the effort, joining hands to seek completion of the task in this century.”

Catalyst Ministries, UK
“He (Jesus) is eager to return but is having to wait until this task has been completed (Matthew 24:14). Jesus cannot return until the Great Commission has been completed. People from every tribe, language, people and nation have to be represented in God’s family (Revelation 5:9). “

Evangelist John R. Rice, on his website, The Gospel Truth
“The gospel has already been preached to all the world in early Christian times, if not in this generation. And if Jesus could not return until the gospel is preached to every tribe again, then His plain commands to watch, that He might come at any time, would seem out of place and misleading, if not actually dishonest.”

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