This weekend we had our church’s foreign missions banquet. We call it “world outreach” these days. But whatever we call it, it is important to remember why we do it.
We don’t just do missions because it is cool. Now, contrary to what many people think, I do believe mission is cool. You learn about lots of countries and cultures. You are reminded of the power of the gospel. You hear lots of interesting stories about how God is at work in the world today. In all these ways missions is cool and refreshing. But there are better reasons why we “do” missions. Here are some that come to mind.
1 We do missions, first of all, because God models it. God is a missionary God. He not only made the world, but sent his one and only Son—Jesus — into the world on a mission. Our mission comes from his mission. Jesus said in John 17.18 as he prayed to his Father, “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.”
2 Second, we do missions because Jesus commanded it. The “Great Commission” appears like a drum beat at the beginning of the New Testament—Matthew 2818, Mark 16.15, Luke 24.47, John 20.21 and Acts 1.8.. The church goes because we were commissioned by Jesus himself.
3 Third, we do missions because, according to Scripture, people’s eternal destiny hangs upon it. Jesus said in John 14.6, “no one comes to the father but by me.” Acts 4.12 echoes this with the words–“there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” It is the “whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” of verses like John 3.16 that compels us.
4 Fourth, we do missions because the future requires it. Passages like Revelation 5.9 and 10 gives us a picture of heaven where multitudes are gathered around the throne and sing to the Lamb—“you are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” This picture of the future reminds us that we are to make disciples of ALL nations.
5 Finally, we do missions because people’s joy and right worship depends on it. We know that everyone worships something. It’s just that they often worship the wrong things. They pursue dead ends that never satisfy. As John Piper says, “missions exists because worship (i.e. true worship) doesn’t.” We do missions for the joy of all peoples. We echo the prayer of the psalmist—“may the nations be glad and sing for joy.” True joy is found in him alone.
I find that exposure to missionaries and missions events has a lot of positive effects on me and our church. Showing hospitality to missionaries opens the world up to our families. It exposes our children to the nations. Short term missions trips expose us to the blessings that come from serving with brothers and sisters from other lands. Their faith sharpens our faith. Time with missionaries gives us a reality check by exposing us to the sacrifices they make in their daily lives. We see what it really means to “seek first the kingdom of God.”
Even a simple missions banquet can be like a trip around the world in an evening. It’s a kind of “good news tour” exposing us to the stories of God’s work in many cultures. We hear “the rest of the story,” the news behind the news. This week we travelled to Ecuador, Central Asia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Germany, and Congo, all in one night.
I often tell our congregation that when we give an offering on Sunday, that gift acts like a kind of mutual fund; it scatters in many directions. A significant portion of it is dispersed to mission projects and missionaries all around the world.
This past year our church hit two missions milestones for which I am grateful. In our short life we have given over ten million dollars to the cause of world missions. As a church we have given more money to missions than we have spent on building buildings! The buildings that we have have been a conduit to missions giving and activity. We praise God for this!
Remember this. In a world with 6.8 billion people, only 2.27 billion identify themselves as Christians (33%). And of those we can assume that there are many nominal Christians (Christians in name only) who do not truly know Christ as savior. That means of course that there are about 4.6 billion people that are not Christian in any sense of the world. Something like one in four of the peoples of the earth believe that Mohammed is Lord. Along with that, of the approximately 16,302 people groups of the world, there remains some 6,649 people groups that do not have any church of Christian witness (figures come from the Joshua Project)
All of which is to say that there is still an immense missionary task before the church. While we have more opportunity for cross cultural mission partnerships than ever before, there is still a need for missionaries—especially to the unreached peoples of the earth.
It is my belief that as long as we are faithful in supporting the cause of Christ around the world, God will keep us vibrant as a local church for the glory of his name.