The church I attended in Nashville took a group on a short term missions trip to Brazil this past November. In discussing the topic of ‘Missions’ I was trying to think about the biblical precedent for ‘missions’ work as we consider it. I wrote this post on the church forum…
The oft referenced verse for Christian mission work is this:
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
We have called this the ‘Great Commission’, though neither Jesus, nor anyone else in scripture, ever gives it that title. Since it’s the last instruction Jesus gives before he departs we feel it deserves the weight of ‘great’ and I’d agree, except that it should also be seen in light of the entire life and teachings of Jesus as well.
The other important thing to note is that Jesus gives this command to the 12 disciples. We tend to think of it as a blanket calling to anyone who is a Christian, but it is possible Jesus was specifically commissioning his 12 disciples to ‘go’.
We see further precedent for this specific commissioning in the early church stories in the book of Acts.
Acts 13:3 So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.
Acts 22:21 “Then the Lord said to me, ‘Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’ “
Acts 9:15 “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings.”
Gal. 2:7-9 On the contrary, they saw that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been to the Jews. For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles. James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews.
If anything, I think we see clearly that there is a precedent for the commissioning and sending out of specific full-time missionaries.
What I also see in the stories of the early church, is a precedent for the role of home churches as supporters and commissioners of missionaries.
you are acting faithfully in whatever you accomplish for the brethren, and especially when they are strangers; and they have testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. 3 John 5-6
And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news! Romans 10:15
There are also plenty of passages in Paul’s letters, too big and out of context to quote, that acknowledge the support from the churches he’s writing to.
I am advocating that not everyone is called to a life of full-time ‘mission’ work. (I am also implying that Short term missions might not be so biblical either, though that’s a discussion for another topic thread). However, I am not advocating that, if you are not ‘called,’ you have permission to sit back and live a lavish ‘American’ lifestyle, feeling guilt free by sending your small missionary support check out each
EVERY Christian is called to follow the teachings of Christ. We ‘Christians’ in the United States should be living radical lives, shedding materialism, and supporting our Christians brothers and sisters globally.
As I mentioned I wrote the above post on our church forum. It created a tiny bit of dialog, but I think was mostly seen as divisive. What I’ve been trying to do is look at scripture through an unbiased lens regarding what we typically call ‘missions.’ I feel like every time I’ve gone on short term missions trips (three in high school and then a YWAM outreach), there was almost no discussion regarding the Biblical basis for the missions work. We all just memorize and repeat that we are to ‘Go and make disciples of all nations.’ I think what I’ve begun to see in scripture as that we as the Body of Christ are called to make disciples of ALL nations, however, I think that should probably look different than our multi-billion dollar short term missions business that we currently run.