What comes to mind when you hear the word “missions” or “missionary?”
Maybe you imagine a man in khaki shorts trekking through a dense rainforest to bring medical supplies to the natives, or a woman kneeling on the ground feeding bread to several starving children. You’re on the right track, but there’s so much more to the picture!
What Is Biblical Missions?
Missions is more than providing medical help or nourishment. It’s more than healthcare, social reform, and poverty alleviation. So, what exactly is missions and why do Christians do it?
Biblically, missions refers to bringing the good news of Jesus to those who haven’t heard of him.
Mathew 28:18-20 says, “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’” (NIV).
We get the idea of missions from the Bible—from Jesus’ commission right here in Matthew 28 to all his followers. According to Jesus’ instruction, our mission as followers of Jesus is to make disciples by inviting people to be followers of Jesus, baptizing them, and teaching them to be obedient to God’s Word.
Medical help and feeding starving children are both activities God delights in and tells us to take part in. However, if our service isn’t coupled with telling the good news about Jesus, then it isn’t biblical missions—it’s charity.
This may come as a surprise to you since many churches have soup kitchens, clothing and food drives, and disaster relief trips that fall under outreach programs or missions. These are all great things for a church to do. A church should be caring for the orphans, widows, and needy (James 1:27). However, if they do not share Jesus, then what difference does the church’s soup kitchen make compared to any other organization's soup kitchen?
God's commission to us shows us the gravity of our call. People are eternal souls that need God’s forgiveness and deliverance from the judgment due their sin. Therefore, Jesus commanded us to be involved in his mission work—bringing lost souls to know God.
Where Is the Mission Field?
Most people associate missions with leaving for another city, country, or continent. This is because, technically speaking, we refer to those who have crossed cultural, ethnic, or geographic lines in order to share about Jesus as missionaries.
However, mission work includes more than rain forest hikes and transcontinental experiences in faraway places. There is what many call a mission field right on your doorstep. Just because you are not a missionary by occupation, does not mean you don’t live on a mission field. We can fall into the trap of thinking that we aren’t “doing mission work” until we have left our homes and sacrificed comfort, health, security, family, and friends.
The mission field doesn't only exist “in the great unknown,” because the mission field is not a place; it’s people who need to hear the good news of Jesus.
Our greatest need, and the need Jesus came to meet, is to be saved from sin and reconciled to God. The mission field is the geographical location where people need to hear the good news about Jesus—and people need to hear about Jesus everywhere.
The mission field spans the whole planet, from our own homes to the ends of the earth. Surely somebody lives in your town, or on your street, or next door who has not accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior—you’ve got a mission field right there.
However, God may call you or your family to a specific corner of the world to a specific group of people. It may include moving, learning a new language, dressing differently, and even some hiking in khaki shorts! But in the words of my grandfather, “You either have a mission field, or you are one.”
Still, God does have a special call on some people’s lives to take them to new places to spread his name. Consider asking the Lord if he would want you to be a missionary in this way.
Have You Ever Thought About Being a Missionary?
This command of God to share the good news about Jesus is ultimately a pathway to joy. God by nature loves to seek and save those who are lost (Luke 19:10), and now that we who believe in Jesus have a loving relationship with God, he wants us to join in his work (Acts 1:8), to share in the joy of seeing lost people rescued from sin and brought into the love of God (Luke 16:7).
In his love, God uses ordinary people to reach others with his living Word. He gave us what we need to share the good news about him. He gave us the Holy Spirit and the Bible (Mark 13:11; 2 Peter 1:3). We are not the ones who change people’s hearts. But we are the ones God chooses to send to our neighbors, town, country, and world.
Look down your street. Is there somebody who needs to hear the good news about Jesus? You can join Jesus’ mission today by pursuing that person and sharing the gospel with them.
Then, look at the world. Are there people that arouse your compassion? Is there a place where you see a physical need your skillset could meet, where Jesus might want to send you to proclaim his name?
Pray and ask the Lord whether he wants you to go. Commit to praying for those who have gone to other countries for his name. Consider giving financially to missionaries you know to be faithful bearers of God’s Word.
If you love Jesus, even if you’re not a missionary, you have missions work to do and a mission field wherever Christ has called you. Let’s get to work!