Mission and Missions

Posted on March 22, 2012 by Dr. Jerry Rankin in Rankin Connecting

The meaning of “missions,” as with many other topics is contingent on how one chooses to define it. Most Christians would acknowledge being an advocate and supporter of missions. The Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20 is as well known as any verse of Scripture next to John 3:16. But it is interesting how this activity of the church is perceived and practiced.

The issue has been confused even further by the recent emergence of the popular term “missional.” What does it mean to be missional? Obviously it means different things to different people. To most it seems to categorize those things a church may do outside its own programs which serve and minister to its own members. We would readily acknowledge the priority given to worship, teaching, discipleship and ministry which take the form of youth and children’s programs and various other activities, usually in specially designated facilities. But witnessing to the lost, ministering to the needy and serving the community would be missional.

Jesus made it clear that we are to minister to the sick, comfort the oppressed and troubled, give to the poor; we are to reflect the compassion and love that He modeled and demonstrated, but is that missions? We commonly use the word “mission” as being synonymous with an organization’s purpose or objective as in a mission statement to clarify what we exist to do. All of this can distort and dilute the mission of the church–God‘ people.

Missions is the activity of God’s people to serve and fulfill the mission of God. It is not our mission, it is God’s. His mission is to redeem a lost world and to extend the kingdom of God to the ends of the earth. The heart of His mission was sending Christ in the fullness of time to die for the sins of the world. The vision of His mission fulfilled is a multitude which no man can count from every tribe, people, language and nation gathered around the throne of God worshipping the Lamb!

Missions is not the accumulation of good things we do as Christians, nor is it ministry in our local community or around the world for whatever may result. Authentic missions is aligned with the purpose of God, empowered by the Spirit of God, and is directed toward the objective of God. It is not missions if it is not bringing lost people into the kingdom through confronting people with the claims of Christ and redeeming them from sin.

We can do a lot of good with our budgets and manpower, but missions requires more than human energy and ingenuity. In fact, it is the only thing God promises to to empower. We can be His witnesses to the ends of the earth only because we have received the power of the Holy Spirit. The mandate of our Lord to disciple the nations was predicated on the claim that He had all power in heaven and earth and would go with us. The mission of God is a spiritual task that can be fulfilled only by His Spirit. The Apostle Paul claimed to have preached the gospel from Jerusalem to Illyricum, but he acknowledged that it was not him but only what Christ had done through him by the power of God’s Spirit (Romans 15:18-19).

Missions will also reflect progress, however incremental, in moving toward the objective of a redeemed world. It is not just about helping people, growing membership, or baptizing people through local evangelistic efforts. It is focused on the nations and peoples of the world, taking the gospel beyond our community and witnessing cross-culturally to other ethnicities wherever they are found.

No one would deny the tendency of churches to become ingrown and self-centered. Missions is the antidote. But is what we call missions really missions? Is it aligned with the purpose of God, empowered by the Spirit of God and moving toward the objective of God’s mission?

One Comment on “Mission and Missions”

  1. Tim

    Dr. Rankin,

    Your website is a great enouragment to me. Thank you for sharing. This article is a great tool to help us stay focused on what “missions” is really all about.

    IMB M

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