What is Missions?
Matthew 4:18-19; 10: 5-15, 28:19-20; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21
A classic definition for Christian Missions is proclaiming the Gospel message outside of your culture, as in "going to serve at a great distance." It is taking the message of Jesus Christ where He has not been found or has not been preached before as in unreached peoples groups. However, few of us actually do this today. Missions now comprises so much more-such as to empower church planters, train pastors, start schools, urban redevelopment, micro loans, well digging, medical intervention, whatever the need there is, and also taking the Name of Christ and His people and coming alongside others to help them for their benefit and Christ's glory. Thus, missions now mean not only proclaiming Christ for the first time, but also continuing the Gospel. In missions, we are bringing the redemptive activities of the Church inside to the outside where the Church is, reaching the societies where the Church is not found and planting churches where He will be found.
Missions is basically Jesus Calling us to Others
We are not only called just to know Him, but also to make Him known to others. It is a simple mission; we allow Jesus to use us to be fishers of men. This means we willingly use our new life in Him to benefit and share with others. This is clearly stated in Matthew 4:18, where the veracity of the mission of who we are and what we are called to do is summarized in a couple of sentences. Jesus is the Voice, He is the Power, He is the Reason, and we are the receptors to Him; then, comes the physical declaration of His Message. The question is not do we hear the call, for I believe we all do as Christians; rather, it is whether we will obey and follow Him. You may not be called to missions as to an outside culture, but you are called as a Christian to show His Message by your life-and if necessary, use words too.
However we respond, Jesus is still there calling us. The question we need to ask ourselves is, are we responding? If so, how we are responding? Because our family, neighbors and the world needs Christ, God desires to use us to proclaim Him and He wants us to do it right. But, what we tend to do instead is jam His call with all of what we think is important in life, but that ends up being mainly the noise of our own will. We block His call with our ways, ideas, and plans so that what gets done in many of our churches is the work of the flesh and the deeds of our sinful nature while the work and call He gives goes unmet and un-followed. Then, we wonder why our society is lost, our lives are empty, and our churches vacant.
We need to know what Missions is and then make a response. As Christ is the Bridegroom who invites us from our old skins and tattered lives to His feast of eternal life. All we could ever do is hope for a patch for our frayed lives; yet, such a patch would never re-clothe us well. Our wine skins are old, and about to burst; our clothing is in shreds. He gives us the wine of His blood, renews our skins, and clothes us in His righteousness, and He wants us to share it with others (Matthew 9: 14-17).
One of Jesus' prime missions was to teach us missions. The three metaphors used in this Matthew passage nine, those of the bridegroom, the cloth, and the wineskin, testify that there is a time and a place for everything. For us as Christians, there are occasions when fasting is proper, and a needed thing to do. Jesus' timing and place was to teach, model, and build relationships. If Jesus withdrew too fast, meaning drawing His attention to God, and not seeking the attention of others to Him, Jesus could not have won Matthew, or influenced his friends for the Gospel. It would be the same if we acted as some monks do, by total withdrawal from the world. We cannot reach out to others if we are locked in a monastery of our own piety or self pity. Nor can we advertise our personal holiness, as it would be pretentious and meaningless. There is a time to fast, there is a time to grow, and there is a time to do. Each one prepares the way for the other. If there is no faith or piety or gratitude or devotion in your life, you cannot reach out effectively. If all you do is reach out, how can you grow in Christ effectively? We must know when to feast with the bridegroom, where and what to pour our wine into, and how to clothe ourselves in distinction, and with compassion and love. If we sow the wrong thing on our spiritual and ministry walk, all we will accomplish is to tear ourselves away from God's plan, and the opportunities He has for us, and thus missions becomes unmet and undone.
What Jesus Did For Missions
What is the new wine in your life? What are the old wineskins in your life?Jesus was fulfilling His mission by bridging the gap, building relationships, seeking the lost, and inviting them to the real feast to come. Do you think He could have done this effectively by just preaching, then withdrawing from people? Why, or why not? How does this model affect your church's ministry model today?Jesus went to the people, continually ministering to them, and gave us an example of what we are to do. How this is so in you and your church must be singled out and sought. Because, Jesus is more concerned with our attitudes and motivations, not what we do on the inside of our church or the outside of our lives. So, does that mean that what you do is not important? How does this pertain to His call and mission for you?
Do you fully realize what Jesus did for you? Christ took this punishment for you; your fears (as in scared to death, not fear as in reverence to Him) have been bared at the cross while the fear and awe of our Lord and Savior helps show what He did for us (Prov. 3:5)! Every time we sin, we incur greater guilt, and we deserve punishment (Gen. 3:1-24; Jer. 17:9; Rom. 2:1-11; 3:10-26; 5:12-19; Titus 1:15; James 1:12-15; I John 1:8-10). But, the incredible miracle here is that we are set free by His work of on the cross (Rom. 5:10; 6:22). By His death and coming resurrection, we are set free; we have salvation by Jesus' sacrificial death (John 19:30). This is what the Gospel message is all about. This is what Missions is all about as we proclaim this to others around us, even those far away. How now will you live your life? The key is gratitude, when you are grateful for His Gospel in your life, then you will want to share it. This is our motivation for missions!
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:17-21
Jesus did not rally people to a cause, nor did He invoke them to political and/or materialistic agendas. He mainly draws Himself to us so we can know Him and make Him known. To be a missionary is first to be His disciple; this means personal, passionate devotion that contains the humbleness needed in order to surrender our will to Him. From this comes the boldness to proclaim Him. This will result with the response of our love and gratitude, glued with the faith to make it real, powered by the Holy Spirit so it is impacting upon you and flowing to others around you (Luke 14:26-27; 33; Rom. 5:5). How are you devoted to our Lord?
The First Mission
In Mathew 10:5-15, Jesus called His twelve Disciples to venture out and put into practice all that He had taught them. This was their first great mission, and the testing ground for learning, growth, and the practicing of their faith. They were going from the classroom to the field, taking a chance by being without the usual necessities and comforts one would normally take on such a journey. Jesus gave them the empowerment, along with some peculiar instructions (from our point of view), such as to stay away from certain people groups, to shake the dust off their feet if the people did not listen, and not to pay for anything. All were contrary to what is normally done during a journey and sojourn. So, what is going on here?
The Disciples were sent out as commissioned representatives of Christ, just as their title, Apostle, means. But, they had to learn first-hand what it meant to be an Apostle, and what it meant to follow Christ. However, the way they followed Him did not mean just picking up and following. They had to put into practice what they had learned, and then do it. Follow? Yes. But, also: do as He, Christ Himself, had instructed.
This passage is about the putting into practice that love of Christ, this passage also gives us the blueprint for missions and evangelism. This mission was in preparation for "The Great Commission" to come, by which His apostles were called to make disciples of all the peoples of the world. The pattern was to present Christ to their own people (Matt. 10:5-15), then to others, and, finally, to the entire world, including rulers and kings (Matt. 10:18; 28:18-20). We do this by making sure people around us know about Christ before we venture off to places like Outer Magnolia. If we can't do it here, we certainly can't do it there! If you are afraid to tell your mother, brother, or shopkeeper about the Lord, how do you propose to tell someone of a different language and culture? If you are not comfortable loving and trusting Christ here, how can you love and trust Him somewhere else?
Let look at the passage
The way refers to the way of the Gentiles, as a specific road to the towns where the Gentiles in Israel lived. The pagans, Greeks, and other Gentiles had their own cities and separate living areas in other towns, just as we see in China town or little India, but much more prominent then. This was due to the Law, and the fact that Jews could not associate or intermarry with them, or even eat what they ate. Thus, the Jews normally avoided these roads. It is interesting to point out that fairly recent archeological evidence shows that Galilee was a much larger city than most had suspected, and was surrounded by several smaller Gentile cities. The area south of Galilee was where the Samaritans lived. This was literally a micro-model of the world. The mission world was literally at the Apostles' door.
Let's look at the lost sheep of Israel: Most people naturally think this refers to the ten lost tribes that seemed to disappear after the captivity. However, this actually means the people who have lost their way, as in sheep that are lost from their master. God is their/our Master, and they have strayed from Him. Here Jesus comes, as the Good Shepherd, to rescue His lost sheep. This is what he does with us and asks us to do with others in His Name.
Many Jews and Christians today believe that the ten lost tribes will be re-gathered at the end of days, or when Jesus returns for the Christians. But, whenever you see "lost tribes," it does not mean they are actually "lost." During the captivity, the Jews stayed together and, for several generations, intermingled with one another's tribes. This served to blur the tribal distinctions, and as they incorporated into one another, became the Jewish population at large, which we have today. Some of those Jews intermingled with other cultures, and traveled as far as to China as well as other places, not as a tribe, but as individuals, fleeing God and their families.
Lost sheep also was a common OT theme, and referred to people as "dumb" sheep that go astray very easily, as a lot of real sheep and people do. Perhaps you have done the same-I know I have (Isa. 53:6; Jer. 50:6; Ezek. 34:5). So Jesus calls His crew to go first to the lost sheep of Israel. This meant the message of God's redemption was to go first to Israel. Israel's responsibility then was to proclaim it to the Gentiles, which they did not do very well (Gen. 12:1-3; Amos 3:2). This is the basics of missions, as the Jews were, as a people and culture, the original quintessential missionaries to which every people group looked. Now, the role and means have been reversed; now we are to go to them. The worship of God has also reversed. Then, the people of God went to the Temple to seek God; now the temple has come to us in the form of Christ, so we become the "temples" on the move (2 Cor. 5:20).
Jesus is not discounting the Gentiles, as He had already responded to them earlier, in Matthew 8:10. Rather, He means that the "heirs to the Kingdom" are to be first. Later, in this passage, Jesus calls His disciples--and us--to reach the Gentiles, as we are to do now, as we go. As you go was a phrase Jesus used to fire up the Apostles (meaning sent ones). They were modeling what Jesus had done Himself, and was now instructing them to do. This mission was from practical to tactical, hands-on learning, seeing it modeled, being told all the "ins and outs," and then being commissioned to do it on their own. Missions, that is to be real authentic effectual missions, is always in the context of Discipleship! If you are not discipling you are not mission-ing… Remember what Christ told us to do in Matthew 28:19-20:
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.
There are others flavors and activities of missions that I call support and provision, such as teaching English in a foreign country or building a house in Mexico or global mapping, or what we do at Into Thy Word, which is to research and provide pastor training curriculum, or what my church in Pasadena is doing with Cambodia, or what we at ITW do in India. Essential and very important; but again, if you are there just to be there and not connecting and desiring someone with whom you are in contact to know and grow in Christ, what good is it? You are on vacation-not on a mission! As Hudson Taylor said, you must love Christ, so you can show that love and that love can be contagious.
The Disciples' mission was within the parameters of what Jesus the Master had instructed. It was not, "See if it works, and let me know." Rather, it was putting faith into real practice, regardless of response, or how one was treated. Our reverence is to be to God, regardless of what others think of us (Phil. 2:12). Allow me to give you a great comfort statement; we are not responsible for the results! We are not responsible for whether or not people accept the message we proclaim; we are only responsible to proclaim God's truth as effectively and as passionately as we can. This takes the "personal responsibility" and "fear-factor of rejection" load off of us. Our only responsibility is the exercise of our faith and obedience in Christ. We need not fear rejection because we are not being rejected; God is the One who is rejected. He is the One to whom people do not want to conform; we are as a missionary or iron worker as a Christian is merely His means and His servant.
We, as Christians, are responsible to proclaim Christ as Lord with whatever means are at our disposal, using our gifts and abilities. Your mission is your work, or school, or your family and friends-all in what is appropriate and in the Fruit of the Spirit. But, we are not responsible for how or why people respond to us. It is not our responsibility that they convert, believe, or act in a certain way. We are only responsible for acting in His character, Fruit, and proclaiming His name truthfully and correctly with love and care (Gal. 1:10).
Missions is Personal
Many times, when Christian missionaries and workers, even after all their training and mobilization, see that people do not respond as expected, they quit almost as soon as they start. Too many give up too soon, thinking no one is listening or even cares or deciding the work is just too tough. Truly, most will not listen or care, but that is not our problem. And yes, the work is tough, but guess Who gives us the strength for it… We must break away from the feelings of personal rejection or our fear of leaving our comfort zone. This will be difficult, but we must do so in order to be effective for the Kingdom.
Are you willing to personally help lost sheep find their way to His Way? As Jesus sent His Disciples on their first mission, the Jews believed that the Law was given freely, so we should also freely give away our knowledge of how to live, because in Christ we have so much more. Jesus was, perhaps, using this Jewish proverb, lost sheep of Israel, to motivate His disciples with a common saying that they used themselves. The instructions were that they were to travel light, and be totally committed to the mission, as Elijah and John the Baptist had been. Are we committed? Is our church? What is in our way of leading others to His Way?
Preach, heal, cleanse, and raise: These key words give us our marching orders, just as the early Disciples were empowered by Christ to perform miracles, as we see in chapters eight through nine. The greater miracle is being used to lead another to Him! And we will see these words, freely give. The Disciples were empowered to freely give the message of the Gospel without any compensation. Why? Because to peddle the Gospel, as to charge money for people to hear it, is a grave insult to God. God will sustain those in His service. This next key word also tells us where our comfort lies. Having one cloak meant to not show off wealth or to put off the peasants to whom they were preaching. The point is, they and we are to trust in God to provide, and not to take comfort in personal possessions. If we become tied down with possessions and worldly concerns, we will get distracted and miss His call for our participation in His mission. Wealth is not wrong in and of itself; when it diverts you from His call, it becomes a hindrance, and sometimes, even evil. Look at this next word, money belt. It refers to a fold in the garment used as a pocket or pouch to hold stuff. It can also refer to a measuring container to measure what you have (Luke 6:38) just as a bag for your journey did not refer to luggage, but rather a means to beg for money. This was not new then, as the Essenes did similar mission campaigns, and went city to city to visit fellow Essenes and minister the Word. So, they did not need to take any provisions, as they provided for one another. The point for us is this: God is our provider and as Christians we are in community and we have a responsibility to help provide and equip His workers. We are also the tools God uses to provide for others and we need one another for this mission task. We have to realize that when we walk in Him and follow His mission, we need not fear or worry, especially when we are one in Him, and in one another.
Hospitality was a cultural mandate throughout the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean peoples. However, it was not always practiced (2 Kings 4:8-11). Thus Jesus gives the instruction to inquire who is worthy and shake off the dust which was also a symbol of contempt and piety. A righteous Jew would not allow himself to be contaminated by pagan dust and dirt. Jesus uses this phrase to demonstrate that one should treat unresponsive and unsupportive people as pagans, and as unworthy (Matt. 7:6; Acts 13:42-46). This is an indication that the Gospel is real, and if you do not receive it you will be shaken off in contempt and judgment (Acts 13:51). Sodom was the symbol of the most horrifying judgment ever seen in response to the sins of man having gone way out of control. Sodom rejected God and His messengers, and this was far less than rejecting Christ and His followers (Gen. 19). We are still to operate in the Fruit of the Spirit, but the point, as I said before, is that we are not responsible for the results, so we can relax. It is about Christ; He is in charge.
These passages in Matthew have very valuable insights for us today. God will not call us where He will not equip us. Therefore, we can go without fear. If He provides, we are doing right. If not, we need to inquire as to why. These passages also prepare us not to be in shock when strangers and even family friends no longer accept us because of Christ. We must be prepared as Jesus prepared His Disciples. We are to go first to the people we know. Then, as we get better, we go to others; and finally to those with whom we may be uncomfortable (Matt. 16:15). If they show no interest, we are to leave them alone while we keep them in prayer for a better time, or allow someone else to sow that seed and for the Spirit to open their hearts. We are not to be nuisances or obtuse to others--even those who are "unworthy." We are just to know Him and make Him known in the best means and abilities and resources at our disposal!
- If you were to go on a short-term mission trip, what fears would you have?
- What have you done in your life that required you to venture out and put into practice all that you have been taught in school, church, or work?
- What holds you back from embracing God's call to you?
- What blocks you from supporting missions, as you may not be called to go but you are certainly called to support as a Christian.
Be comforted with this truth: Jesus comes as the good Shepherd to rescue His lost sheep!