Five Reasons to Be Involved in Global Missions
Biblical Motivations to Go to the Ends of the Earth
By Matthew Ellison, When Everything Is Missions *
It only makes sense to ask: Why should we go through all the effort, trouble and expense of leaving home to preach the gospel all around the world? After all, whether we go ourselves or send others, crossing cultures to serve among the world’s least-reached and forgotten peoples is an enormously complex process that requires an unbelievable amount of work and sacrifice. And then there are the needs of lost people right on our doorstep.
In light of those realities, why missions? A reexamination of our motivations may help us set biblical priorities and stay the course. Let’s look at five of our foundational motives for global ministry.
1. Because God’s heart beats for the nations.
On how many different occasions did Jesus give the Great Commission? The New Testament has five “great commissioning” passages, five reports of what Jesus taught to different audiences and on different occasions: Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15, Luke 24:44-49, John 20:21, and Acts 1:8. The Luke 24 passage suggests that these commands also stand on a biblical foundation that goes back much further. It warrants a closer look.
Luke tells us that Jesus and His disciples were in the upper room when He “opened up their minds to understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:45). Jesus showed them passages about His death and Resurrection and He taught them that repentance and remission of sins must be preached in His Name to all nations.
Though Great Commission thinking pervades the New Testament, God’s missionary heart that beats for the nations didn’t just suddenly appear at that point; it is unmistakably enunciated throughout the Old Testament, too. And then, between the Resurrection and the Ascension, Jesus pulls the threads together and repeats what we might call a Great Commission at least five times.
And the commission is not solely about making disciples wherever we find ourselves; it’s also about taking the gospel to all the world, the whole creation (Matthew 16:15), all nations (Matthew 28:18-20), and even to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).
Why missions? Because God’s heart beats for the nations.
See also: Commissioned: What Jesus Wants You to Know as You Go (book by Marv Newell, summarized by David Mays).
2. Because salvation is only found in Jesus.
If men could be saved by any other means other than through Jesus, then, according to Paul, not only did Jesus die in vain (Galatians 2:21) but we who preach Him preach in vain. And missionaries? If there is another way, they need to find a new line of work.
Yet according to Acts 4:12, salvation is found in Him only: “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
Isn’t that what Jesus said in John 14:6? “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Why missions? Because those who don’t have Christ will never find true peace in this life. Worse yet, if they die apart from Him, they will face an eternity of conscious terrifying torment in hell.
Our lack of commitment to Christ’s marching orders to make disciples of all nations indeed begs the question, do we really believe in the reality and the eternality of hell? The evidence seems to say that we don’t. If we do, then something is horribly wrong, for our doctrine is not being demonstrated in our demeanor.
Why missions? Because salvation is found only in Jesus.
3. Because our churches can’t afford not to do missions.
Australian Archbishop David Penman once said, “I do not believe any local congregation, no matter what its situation, can afford to deprive itself of the encouragement and nourishment that comes by sending missionaries and reading about missionaries beyond their church walls.” Many churches today are lacking in the spiritual vitality that could be theirs. They do not know the joy of being part of the “family business.” God the Father, through Christ, makes us His sons and daughters, and then, wonder of wonders, calls us to join Him in the fulfillment of history’s greatest movement.
I have seen church after church radically adopt God’s heart for the nations by embracing world missions and as a result, be nourished and encouraged by God in ways they had not anticipated. Missions brings life to the nations. Missions bring life to the Church.
Why missions? Because our churches can’t afford not to do missions.
4. Because we are called to know God and make Him known.
In Isaiah 6:1-8 we have what I consider one of the most significant mission passages in all of Scripture. Here we see what it was that ignited a prophet and set him ablaze to know God and to make God known.
If we want to make our lives count for the sake of God’s purposes and for the sake of eternity, then we must have a sharp and stunning encounter with Christ. As John Piper says, worship is both the fuel and goal of missions. Missions begins and ends in worship. And where zeal for worship is weak, zeal for missions will be weak.
If you want to find someone that is alive to the glory of God and is passionately pursuing God’s mission purposes, then find someone that is centered on Christ and passionate about exalting Him.
Why missions? Because, like Isaiah, we are called to know God—to experience His holiness and presence and to know our own brokenness and His mercy for us. We are to know Him and make Him known.
5. Because the Lamb deserves His reward.
Perhaps you’ve heard of Count Nicolas Ludwig Von Zinzendorf. Born in Germany in 1700 to a very wealthy family, he came to Christ while still a young man and eventually founded a Christian community called “Hernhut,” meaning the Lord’s watch. Hernhut eventually became part of the Moravian Church Movement which is best known for its unbridled missionary zeal.
What drove them to be radically committed to making Jesus known among the nations? It was an overwhelming passion for the Savior and corresponding reverence for the blood that He shed to purchase people for God from every tribe, tongue, and nation.
The story is told that when the first two young Moravian missionaries boarded the ship in Copenhagen to sail to the West Indies, perhaps never to return (as 20 out of the first 29 missionaries died in those first years), they lifted their hands and cried out to their friends on shore:
“May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward for His suffering!”
This became the rallying cry of the Moravian missions movement. The Moravians knew that Jesus had purchased with the price of His own blood, souls from every nation, tribe and tongue (Revelation 5:9-10), and it propelled them to action.
Why missions? Remember these five motivations.
- God’s heart beats for the nations.
- Salvation is found only in Jesus.
- Our churches can’t afford not to do missions.
- We are called to know God and make Him known.
- The Lamb deserves His reward.
Do these five foundational motives for missions offer us any clues about what to prioritize and how to pursue our global outreach efforts?
* Excerpted and adapted from When Everything Is Missions, by Denny Spitters and Matthew Ellison. BottomLine Media, 2018. Available from the Pioneers store.
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Matthew Ellison served as a missions pastor at a mega-church for nine years. During this time he realized that there was a growing wave of churches no longer content to only support missions. Instead, they desired active global engagement. This led to the founding of Sixteen: Fifteen, where he serves as President and Church Missions Coach. Since 2004 he has been coaching churches across the United States, helping them to develop missions vision and strategy.
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