This is the first of a two-part series focusing on missions; what scripture tells us about them and the effect of missions programs to create transformation in those who participate in missions themselves and those who are interacting with missionaries.
As a baseline for our discussion, what is a missions program and what is the difference between missions programs and community outreach/evangelism?
First, not everything we do as Christians to share the gospel is considered missions.
That may or may not be a surprise to you. That does not mean that evangelism and community outreach ministries, for example, are less important. It simply means they may not fall under the umbrella of missions.
Nobody can deny the importance and the impact of our evangelism and community outreach ministries. For example, the far-reaching effects of Vacation Bible School, Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) and our involvement with A. Montoya Elementary School through the Shine program are profound and transforming. Through these programs we are sharing the gospel and demonstrating the love of Jesus Christ with our neighbors and our community.
"While missions, community outreach, and evangelism
are extremely important parts of a vibrant church,
they are not the same thing."
In general, evangelism and community outreach are typically done in your native language, with people that you likely know or have some knowledge of, and who have been exposed to God’s Word but have chosen for one reason of another not to listen or embrace it. While there may be some apprehension or uneasiness in how you approach sharing the gospel, there is little physical danger in what you are doing when you talk to your co-worker, relative, or neighbor about Christ.
In comparison, missions programs are cross-cultural, may require learning a foreign language or use of an interpreter, may require long distance travel to remote and hazardous areas, and may involve some level of temporary or long-term personal danger. Depending on the country, there may even be laws against sharing the gospel, establishing churches, and actively demonstrating your faith in our Lord. And, depending on the location and the people group there may be little or no access to Bibles, other believers, pastors, or even knowledge of the saving grace of Jesus Christ.
While missions, community outreach, and evangelism are extremely important parts of a vibrant church, they are not the same thing.
What does the Bible tell us about missions?
As Christians, we are commanded to spread the gospel to every tribe, nation, and tongue. One of the most well-known verses regarding missions is found in Matthew 28 verses 19-20 where Jesus directs his disciples:
“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”.
But the message of missions, getting the word of God out to the world, carries throughout scripture. When God called Abram (Abraham), He said:
“All peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Gen12:3)
The prophet Isaiah’s song of praise says “Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted. (Is 12:4)
And David wrote “Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples”. (Ps 96:3)
In the new testament the apostles record conversations with Jesus where He is very explicit about what He expects them to do. The words of our Savior leave no doubt that He told His disciples to go throughout the world and share the gospel. Consider the following:
He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Luke 10:2
Again, Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father sent me, so I am sending you.” John 20:21
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8
Scripture is clear. We as a church and as His people are commanded by Him to spread the news of His saving grace for man to the far corners of the world. In practice, we do this through our mission’s programs at MCC. God has commanded we do it and we as a congregation faithfully obey His command by going, sending, and financially and prayerfully supporting our missions programs.
If you have questions about the difference between missions and outreach, we hope you will reach out to one of our mission team members or learn more by reading Denny Spitter and Matthew Ellison's book "When Everything is Missions".