All authority has been given
to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching
them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to
the end of the age.
Matthew 28:18-20, the classic Great Commission passage, is a command
to be obeyed. The key here is obedience. (Cross-reference Mark 16:15 & Luke
24:47). We must be obedient to God if we love him (John 5:3).
What are our responsibilities before God?
edify believers, and
God has given us resources, and he has also given us responsibilities
in each of these three areas. Psalm 67 shows how God’s blessings enable us to
fulfill our responsibility to evangelize non-believers:
God be gracious to
us and bless us,
And cause His face to shine upon us –
That Thy way may be known on the earth,
Thy salvation among all nations…
This twofold emphasis of God's blessings and our responsibilities
in world evangelization are found throughout the Bible. See Genesis 12:3,
Matthew 28:18, and 2 Corinthians 5:17-20.
Another facet of the Resource/Responsibility model is
understanding our responsibility before other people. We have heard the gospel,
and yet there are more than two billion people who have never heard it! We have
the great blessing of salvation, but with it, the great responsibility of
telling other people about it too (Romans 10:13-15).
Those who have never heard the gospel are still held responsible
before God through general revelation (Romans 1:18-21) and through their conscience
(Romans 2:11-16), and if they do not fear God, they will be judged to a Christless
eternity. When Jesus says that no one comes to the Father but through him, he
means it (John 14:6). Because of our sin and rebellion against God, we all
deserve the same judgment (Romans 3:9-12). Notice that it is not our fault that
they are doomed to hell; the unevangelized deserve to go to hell just as much
as we do. But we can be motivated to mission work because of the simple fact
that we know the gospel and others do not, and that we are therefore responsible
to tell them.
C. COMPASSION MODEL
Throughout the gospels, we see Jesus’ compassion for physically
and spiritually needy people:
And seeing the multitudes, He
felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and downcast like sheep
without a shepherd. (Matthew 9:36; see also 14:14, 15:32, 20:34)
When we are at
school or work, when we are in the shopping mall or in the inner city, when we
go to people’s homes, or see people through the window of our car, are we moved
with compassion? How can we NOT be moved when we see people in need? Physical
needs (1 John 3:17) should ignite our compassion as well as spiritual needs
(Jude 22 & 23), and we should seek to minister to both. Usually the meeting
of a physical “felt” need can lead to opportunities to minister to a person's
D. HISTORICAL MODEL
history, God has used his people in growing his kingdom. God was involved in the lives of Adam and Eve and faithful descendants who passed the fear of God on to Noah and from him to Abraham (Genesis 31:53).
After creating the 70 family/nations at the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11), God's next act was to call Abram and give him a covenant:
I will bless you ... and so you shall be a blessing
... and in you, all the families of the earth will be blessed
God chose to
bless Abraham and use him to bless all the family/nations separated at the
Tower of Babel! Paul confirms this meaning in Gal. 3:8 & 29. God repeats
this covenant to Abraham (Genesis 18:18, 22:16-18), Isaac (26:4), and Jacob
(28:14). Abraham carried the knowledge of God to Egypt (Genesis 20). Before
Israel entered Caanan, word had already gotten around to the nations about
their God (Joshua 2:8-11)!
Jews knew that God desired his people to tell all families/nations/ethnic
groups about him:
ADavid entered combat with Goliath in order
that all the world would know of Israel’s God (1 Samuel 17:46).
AIsaiah 49:6 (Anticipates the ends of the
AJeremiah 4:2 (If Israel obeys, the nations
AEzekiel 36:22-23 (God's purposes are for all
AHabakuk 2:14 (How completely does God want
the world evangelized?)
ADaniel 3-6 (The exile carried the Truth to
Syria, Babylon, Persia, and Media!)
the Jews that their blessing was for all nations. His kingdom was intended for
all peoples (Matthew 8:11; Mark 11:17). After Jesus' resurrection, he taught
the disciples from the Old Testament (the New Testament hadn't been written
yet) that “repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name
to all nations” (Luke 24:45-47).
at Pentecost understood that mission is an extension of God's covenant to
Abraham (Acts 3:25), and they spread the gospel all over the Roman empire (Acts
Tallying up to
this point, the gospel had been proclaimed in the entire Middle East as well as
North Africa and parts of Europe and Asia! Faithful missionaries evangelized
Europe and more of Asia in the Middle Ages, and later, in the 1600's, overseas
missions and colonization began in earnest (Columbus, William Carey), covering
much of the coastland of the world. In the 1800's, missionaries began to push
inland (Hudson Taylor, Interior Missions). Let us join this glorious march of history!
D. TASK MODEL
Now we are beginning to see closure as missionaries concentrate on
reaching the last people groups who were overlooked in history and have not yet
heard the gospel. Jesus wouldn't have given us the Great Commission (Matthew
28:18ff) unless he intended us to actually complete the task. Preaching the
gospel to every group of people must occur before the end:
And this gospel of the kingdom
shall be preached in the world world for a witness to all the nations, and then
the end shall come. (Matthew 24:14)
The end of the task is in sight! It is estimated that there are now only seven non-Christians per believer in the world. Fewer than 10,000 cultures have no Church or Bible! These “unreached peoples” are the final frontier of missions, and there is a great need for thousands of new missionaries to reach them. We have the resources to complete the missionary task in our generation – if every evangelical church were to focus on one of these unreached peoples, we could finish the task five times over!
We can end this model by looking at the fulfillment of the task of
world evangelization at the end of time. God gave such a glimpse into the
future to John in Revelation 5:9:
Worthy art Thou to take the book, and to break its seals; for Thou wast slain, and didst purchase for God with Thy blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.
E. PARTNERSHIP MODEL
As members of the body of Christ, God has uniquely gifted us to
play an important role in the work of the Church (1 Corinthians 12-14). Our
giftings and activities should contribute to the fulfillment of the
responsibilities of the church. Perhaps 1% of the people in the Church have
gifting and calling to cross-cultural church planting, but the spiritual gifts
of the other 99% still have as much bearing on missions as they have on worship
and edification at home! For instance:
If you are gifted in helping other people, you can help not only friends
and fellow believers but also non-believers and missionaries.
All kinds of
regular jobs are open all over the world – you could work in another
country and also help plant a new church!
Are you an
encourager? Missionaries need you to write them encouraging letters!
quite helpful on the mission field and in motivating other Christians to a
commitment to missions.
Do you have a
knack for making money? Consider financing missionaries to take the gospel
to new groups of people (1 Corinthians 9:14).
Are you a
teacher? Part of teaching and edifying the body of Christ is to equip them
for spreading the knowledge of God to others (2 Timothy 2:2).
Do you have
the resource of time? Budget that time to get serious about regular prayer
for missionaries and people in need of Christ (Colossians 4:2-4; 1 Timothy
Do you see the big picture? All these gifts work together in the
body of Christ to extend the kingdom of Christ together. Consider your own
spiritual gifting and calling; how can you work in partnership with the body of
Christ to participate in world evangelization?
F. WORSHIP MODEL
All nations whom Thou hast
made shall come and worship before Thee, O Lord; and they shall glorify Thy
name. (Psalm 86:9)
God created and saved people in order to receive glory from them
(Ephesians 1:4-6). He intends to be worshipped by representatives from every
nation (Malachi 1:11, Mark 11:17)! God is jealous about his glory and will
punish those who don’t honor him (Isaiah 48:11, Acts 12:23), but his glory
grows as more people adore him from every different culture. Missions is the
means to God’s greater glory.
Those of us who love God naturally want to bring other people to
worship him too (Psalm 96, Isaiah 12:4-5), and in fact, we are commanded throughout
the New Testament to bring glory to him (Matthew 15:16, 1 Corinthians 10:31).
When we see how valuable Jesus is, we will not only worship him ourselves, but
we will also desire for him to receive honor from every creature in heaven and
earth (Revelation 5:12-13).
Worship is both the fuel and the destination of missions. One day
missions will cease and there will be nothing but worship for the rest of
For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:36)
Compiled by Nate Wilson, Caleb Project Church Mobilization
Specialist. Thanks to the many people who contributed ideas to this overview,
including, but not limited to: Frank Barker, Ken Wilson, Paul Stein, Ralph
Winter, Don Richardson, Bob Sjogren, Jim Camomile, Ted Elder, Steve Hawthorne,
and John Piper. Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible.