Top Ten Things the Church Should Know about Missions
Course: Essentials of World Missions
In this final lecture, I want to just briefly summarize, as we bring this to a close, the summary lectures. The course ends by my summarizing what I believe are the top ten things the local church should know about missions in the 21st century. This is largely a recapitulation of many themes that we’ve covered throughout the course, so I want to just cover these very, very quickly just to give you a flavor of that and hopefully it’ll help you in your own thinking as you reflect on this course.
1. The Rise of the Non-western Church
Number one. Every church should be aware of the dramatic rise of the non-Western church. The number of Christians that are now coming forth from the non-Western world—if you happen to read Philip Jenkin’s book, The Next Christendom, you’ll see the statistical analysis, and the tremendous number of non-Western Christians that are rising up today, and this is a huge factor in our missionary thinking.
2. The Urban Context of Missions
Number two is the urban context of missions. I’ve already shared about this, but the number of people who now live in cities outnumbers the people who live in rural areas, and we have to re-tool our thinking regarding urban missions.
3. Access and Viability Criteria
The third of the top ten things a church should know about missions in the 21st century is the call for churches and mission boards to apply the access and viability criteria in order to be effective in establishing their financial priorities, and before they commit money and resource and personnel to the mission field, they should ask, “Does this person in this mission field have access to the gospel?” “Is the church in this field viable?” If there is not sufficient access or the church is not viable, then it is a good priority perhaps to send a missionary. But we need to be more careful about not sending missionaries to where the church is already viable and where there already is sufficient access to the gospel.
4. The Role of Short-Term Missions
The fourth is the role of short term missions, and I talk a lot about the importance of having a smart, short-term missions program that resonates with several things I’ve said throughout the course.
5. The Importance of Strategy
Fifth, I bring out the importance of strategy and really understanding the non-Christian peoples with whom we’re working.
6. Evangelistic and Missionary Mandates
Number six, I really demonstrate the importance of distinguishing between the evangelistic mandate and the missionary mandate. We have to see that difference and how important it is to remind ourselves of the difference between the cross-cultural task and the mono-cultural task. Both are essential tasks, but both are different tasks.
7. Church Planting
The seventh of the ten is that the goal of missions and the goal of the Great Commission is church planting. This is a theme that runs all through the course, the importance of church planting, that today the global evangelistic thrust is moving much faster than the church planting thrust. That means more people are coming to Christ than have sufficient time to be incorporated into the local churches.
This creates a real problem. Cults come in, there begin to be problems with the maturity, and the heresies come in, all kinds of difficulties, because we’re not focusing on incorporating our new believers into churches that can then multiply and be discipled.
8. Growth of Pentecostal Christianity
Number eight of the top ten is the growth—the dramatic growth—of Pentecostal Christianity. This is a very dramatic thing that is changing the face of missions, and we should now recognize that it’s difficult to go almost anywhere today without seeing the impact of Pentecostalism on the worldwide Christian church, including the missionary force and including the indigenous Christians that are coming forth, and so forth. So, churches need to be aware of this and be comfortable with working with the great army of Pentecostal-oriented believers around the world today.
9. The Way Missionaries Are Sent Out
Nine is the importance of recognized that how missionaries are sent out today is changing dramatically. We have missionaries being sent out in a wide variety of ways. We looked at tentmaking, we looked at the importance of the local churches role in sending, and so forth. We looked at the rise of indigenous missions. So all of these are factors in how missionaries are sent out today, some as professional tentmakers, some as full-time church planters, some in various kinds of other activities, gospel-related.
10. Our Mission Kids Have Grown Up
Finally, number ten is the importance of recognizing that our mission kids have grown up. That is to say that the Christians that have come upon the mission field are now—many of them—maturing Christians with churches that are themselves setting out various missionary goals, church planting goals, and we have to increasingly begin to work cooperatively—more cooperatively—with the national churches and with the missions boards that are being set up by the national churches, so we can effectively work together for the sake of the Christian gospel.
I want to close with this great assurance we have from our Lord Jesus Christ. Because our Lord Jesus Christ said in Matthew 24:14, that before the end of time, this would happen. He said, “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end shall come.” This is the great promise we have, and we can look back and see that our Lord Jesus Christ has set this vision for the church in keeping with the Abrahamic promises, in keeping with the whole heart of God in the Missio Dei: Christ gave us the Great Commission, Christ sent us out into the world.