It is really important that Christians have an accurate understanding of God’s heart for the world and for those who do not know Jesus as their personal Saviour. God was so moved with compassion at the state of humankind that He sent Jesus, His precious Son, as a sacrifice for the wrongdoing of the world. To understand missions is to understand the loving and gracious nature of God.
The Bible portrays the redeeming nature of God and his desire for fellowship with humankind. In the Old Testament we can see a picture of how God plans to bless the nations of the world through Abraham, Gen. 18:18. Jesus was the seed of Abraham and through him God blessed all nations.
Way back in time God had a heart to commune with people from all walks of life and all nationalities. John chapter 3v 16 and 17 states 16"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,[f] that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. God’s heart is not to give the people of the earth over to destruction, but to see them saved for all eternity.
Understanding the love of God for the world is a great place to start in understanding missions. If God could give His only Son for us, we as followers of Christ should love God and be willing to sacrifice for his service. Many Christians would profess they have given their lives to Christ, if this is true we need to be obedient to His call and literally ‘spend’ our lives serving Him.
Jesus commissioned his disciples in Matthew 28:18-20. 18Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Jesus was speaking in Galilee to the eleven remaining disciples after the resurrection.
The commission starts with the comforting words that Jesus has ‘all authority’. Sometimes in our walk with Christ we struggle with a lack of confidence in preaching the gospel. We must realise that Christ has all authority over any power present in the world and as we get involved in the Great Commission we go with the seal of Christ’s authority. Knowing this is one thing and yet living in this knowledge is something else.
Jesus stated that the disciples were to ‘go’ to all nations and make disciples. Jesus commands His followers to baptise and teach new believers to follow the ways of God. Jesus ends with the promise that he would always be with the disciples. These words must have been very comforting especially after the disciples witnessed Jesus’ death and had surely felt disillusioned and disappointed. In the gospel of Mark chapter 16, the writer states Jesus’ words in a simple and straightforward manner, Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.
The scripture in Matthew 28: 18-20 has great importance for followers of Christ today; it is often entitled the ‘Great Commission’. If we are truly seeking to please God in our lives, it is essential that we get involved in the ‘Great Commission’. The disciples took this commandment very seriously and if we are truly following what Christ has said, we too must take this scripture to be applicable to our lives. The early church evangelised, prayed earnestly for the spread of the gospel and gave financially in order that the gospel might be known throughout the nations. We too should have this same attitude.
In Matthew 24, Jesus speaks prophetically about the end times. 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. It is our responsibility to get involved in preaching the ‘gospel of the kingdom’ to all nations. God may call you to talk to your next door neighbour; on the other hand, God may call you to an unreached people group. The point is that all Christ followers are to be involved in preaching the gospel, no matter how small that venture might seem. We all need to get on board with the task of global evangelism and seeing the Kingdom of God come in the world.
Mission in the Power of the Holy Spirit
In Acts 1:8 we read Luke’s account of Jesus’ final words to his disciples before He ascended to heaven. ‘You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth’. Jesus makes the point that the power to witness is given by the Holy Spirit and the extent of that witness is to the ends of the earth.
This scripture outlines the importance of having the infilling of the Holy Spirit to evangelise effectively. When a Christian is full of the power of the Holy Spirit anything is possible. We need to be filled with the Holy Spirit in order to have a supernatural influence in missions. As Christians in the 21st century, we need to have a heart that reaches to the ends of the earth. If we take a careful look at Acts 1:8, the word ‘and’ is used. This speaks to me that the world is our concern, not just our personal Jerusalem or Judea or Samaria or the ends of the earth. No, the Bible uses the word ‘and’. All of the earth should be on our radar. We may not personally be able to reach every nation for Christ, but we can sincerely give of our finances and focus our prayers on world missions.
The Holy Spirit empowers us for evangelism. Evangelist Reinhard Bonnke describes the Holy Spirit and His power in mission.
Sometimes, people have suggested, that the Acts of the Apostles ought to be re-named the Acts of the Holy Spirit. The book describes the Acts of the Apostles, as its title indicates, but it certainly does not give an exhaustive account of all the acts of the Holy Spirit. He did not cease to operate at the end of Chapter 28. The Day of Pentecost is already 2000 years long. The Acts of the Apostles carries on uninterrupted to the acts of the early church and then to the acts of God’s people today. The Book of Acts tells of the day of small things, which paved the way for the acts of today. It is a book that is still being written! I carry on with the work that the apostles began, together with you. We are partners and co-workers, together with Christ, on God’s harvest fields .
If you take a look at any ministry which reaches to the multitudes for Christ you will find a common thread that the leaders of the ministry have a reverence and deep understanding of the importance of the Holy Spirit’s empowerment for missions.
The Gifts of the Holy Spirit in Mission
The younger generation today have a fascination with the supernatural. Observe every major newspaper and magazine, you will find a horoscope page and many classified adverts offering spiritual guidance and assistance. Such ways of accessing the supernatural are damaging and demonic.
As Christians we have the truth and God can enable us to speak prophetically into situations. We can pray for people to be healed and also, through the Spirit of God, we can give accurate words of knowledge to non Christians with amazing results. I love the account of Jesus speaking with the woman at the well (John 1: 4-30). He not only goes beyond cultural barriers to speak with a Samaritan woman, but he confronts her moral failings with a heart of love. The accuracy with which Jesus speaks to her about things she had hidden in her heart is possible for us to achieve in our evangelism when we ask God for the gift of prophetic insight and words of knowledge. The woman’s response to the accuracy of Jesus’ knowledge was to tell the people in the town "Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?" (John 1:29). I believe that if Christians would use the gifts of the Spirit more in a missions context, the results of our missions work would explode. The very people we witness to would become an advert for Christ.
I was once in a supermarket in my home town of Eastwood Nottingham. I was in the quewe waiting to have my items scanned. All of a sudden I got an urgency to tell the woman behind the till that there was hope in her future. I was arguing with God a bit because I didn’t want to appear a crazy, but I knew I had to tell the woman. So I waited for my turn, she scanned my items and I paid, after paying I said to her ‘I’m not psychic, I’m a Christian and I just feel to tell you that there is hope for you in your future’.
I don’t know what the outcome of that situation was but I will never forget the look on the woman’s face. She was shocked. In our quest to take our place in the Great Commission, we need to be bold and ask God to give us words for people that will build them up and point them in the way of Christ. Wisdom is needed in this area, as with everything we do in missions, but the risk is worth taking and who knows, we could affect someone’s eternal destiny.
The Importance of Loving the Nations
There is no place for racial hatred or prejudice within the heart of a Christian. We need to realise that all people groups are precious to God. We may not always understand different cultures and there are positive and negative aspects within every culture, however we must love people, no matter what colour, creed or language group they belong to.
In the book of Revelation, John talks about a multicultural heaven. 9After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. (Rev. 7:9) This scripture points out that people from all languages in the world will be in heaven. It is an awesome responsibility that Christ has placed on his followers; we need to love and evangelise the entire world.
The Joshua Project, a ministry for the U.S centre for world mission, states that there are 6.7 billion people on the planet and 2.74 billion are not yet reached with the gospel. This is 40.9% of the world’s population that need to hear about Jesus. They state that 70% of unreached people groups are in the 10/40 window. The 10/40 window stretches from 10 degrees to 40 degrees north of the equator. It stretches from North Africa, right across to China. It incorporates the Middle East, India and some parts of South East Asia. According to WEC, only 2.5% of Christian missionaries are working in unreached areas. These unreached areas desperately need missionaries. Many of the countries in the 10/40 window are not only spiritually desolate, but they are desperately poor and needy. The task may seem too great to comprehend but this is not an excuse for Christians to sit back and relax. It is our responsibility to give and pray into such areas. For some, God may even call us to go.
Is Mission Social Action, Evangelism or both?
It was the worst place in the world that I had ever been. The sickly stench of the rubbish dump filled my lungs and toxic mud splashed on my leg as I made my way down a narrow alley to a hut made from rubbish where a Philippino lady lived with her family. Craig, a long standing missionary in Manila took us to the Municipal rubbish dump on the edge of the city to witness some of the most appalling scenes I have ever come across. There were children working on the rubbish dump and other smaller children living on the edge of the dump covered in rags and without shoes. Many hundreds made their living from the dump, which was like a huge mountain containing all the rubbish, including medical waste, of Manila city.
I used to think that if you preached the gospel you had fulfilled the Great Commission. Of course preaching the gospel is essential as people are eternal beings who need a saviour for their soul. Being a Christian and doing the Great Commission correctly involves helping the poor and caring for the needy.
In order for Christians to preach and bring the Kingdom of God to individuals and nations we need to look into how this can be done. In the Bible the importance of preaching the gospel and being concerned with the social and physical needs of people is very clear.
The book of James speaks clearly about showing our faith through practically helping the poor with food and clothing. James talks about faith being dead unless it is accompanied by action. He also mentions that we must not favour the rich over the poor as God has ‘chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith’.