Keeping the "s" in Missions
Towards a Missions Philosophy (Part 1)
“If ten men are carrying a log-nine of them on the little end and one at heavy end-and you want to help, which end will you lift on?” -William Borden, as a missionary candidate to China, when reflecting upon the numbers of Christian workers in the U.S. as compared to those among the unreached peoples in China
How should we think about missions, missionaries, and missions support in our church?
That’s what I want to begin to answer in this first, in a series of articles, especially written for our EBBC family, to assist us in forming or re-affirming a Biblical philosophy of missions.
At its most domestic meaning, philosophy can be defined as “why we do what we do.”
It is the why behind the what.
Churches should have a why behind whatever they do in ministry, including missions.
One of the challenges of late is with the words we use. The word missions used to mean something more than a believer giving the gospel to someone else and certainly more than painting a building or assisting at a soup kitchen. But now, there has been a conflation of the idea of every Christian “being on mission” with “missions” and “missionaries.”
The problem is “if everything is missions, nothing is missions.”
I suggest that the word missions should continue to be used, as it has been historically, to refer to a person leaving their homeland to make disciples and plant churches in a different geo-linguistic area. Another way of saying the same thing is to say: “mission is usually local and missions are generally global.”
Certainly, there are missionaries who are part of para-church ministries or who are planting churches here at home who could be accurately called missionaries, doing missions.
But I would argue, those are outliers to the general understanding of missions we have historically had.
Missions is not a Biblical word. Instead, the Scriptures use words like sent, send, or apostle (“sent one”) rather than missions. However, the concept of missions is described throughout the Word of God. Missions in the Bible describes someone being sent with a message from God (the gospel) that results in that person leaving their homeland to go and give that message.
Missions in the Bible describes someone being sent with a message from God (the gospel) that results in that person leaving their homeland to go and give that message.
This pattern is throughout the Scriptures, isn’t it?
Abraham leaves Ur of the Chaldees (modern-day Iraq) to go to the Promised Land. (Genesis 12)
Moses leaves the deserts of Midian to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt. (Exodus 3:7)
Nehemiah leaves the palace of the sixth Medio/Persian king, King Artaxerxes, to rebuild the wall in Jerusalem. (Nehemiah 1)
Jesus left the perfections of Heaven to come to Earth to redeem His people. (Galatians 4:4)
The apostles were sent out, two-by-two, to speak the good news. (John 20:21-23)
And consider Paul and Barnabas being sent out:
“Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger,[a] Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. 4 So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus.”
And look at the reverse engineering Paul does in Romans 10-
“14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?[c] And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
So, what philosophical missions principles could we gather from these verses?
-We could evaluate what % of our EBBC missions support goes towards this understanding of missions.
-We could seek to prioritize our mission’s budget for those that have left their homeland to preach the gospel and plant churches, especially among unreached people groups.
-We could ask the Lord if He wants us to go from "being on mission" locally to perhaps being sent into missions globally.
"Some wish to live within the sound of a chapel bell; I wish to run a rescue mission within a yard of hell." -C.T. Studd