The other week at church, we had a Mission Gift Day. A day to remember our mission partners, pray for them and reflect upon how we can support them both financially and prayerfully. This caused me to think about the question: ‘what is mission?’. Mission has always been one of those words that I’ve heard a lot and always kind of assumed that I understood what it meant. But upon reflection, I had no idea how to put it into words.
So, I did some research, and it really helped me to better understand what mission is, so I wanted to share my findings with you!
What is mission?
Firstly, we can look to Jesus as an example of mission. John 6:57 says:
“Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.”
Jesus was sent to Earth by God the father, in heaven. Earlier, in the same chapter, Jesus also explains that everything he does here on Earth is the father’s will.
“For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.”
– John 6:38-39
We also see other examples in the book of John demonstrating how the words that Jesus spoke, were not his own, but the words of God the Father spoken through him.
“Jesus answered, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from the one who sent me.”
– John 7:16
“I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is trustworthy, and what I have heard from him I tell the world.”
– John 8:26
“For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken.”
– John 12:49
Here, we see Jesus demonstrate three key qualities of mission. Firstly, he was sent by God; secondly, he was here on Earth to perform God’s will; and lastly, he spoke not his own opinions but the truths that had been given to him from God the Father. Obviously, there is a slight difference here in that we Jesus to be one part of the triune God. He himself is God, so his being sent by God will naturally differ from how missionaries today are sent by God.
Next, we can look to Jesus’ 12 disciples as example of mission.
The disciples were also sent out to do mission by God, this time by Jesus. Matthew 10:5-8 says:
“These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.”
Jesus commands the disciples to go out and share the same message that he had previously declared “the kingdom of heaven has come near” with the “lost sheep of Israel”. We can also see this understanding of the disciples speaking God’s words in Luke 10:16:
“Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.”
As well as speaking God’s words, Jesus also tells the disciples that they have been given authority by God to do what they have been sent out to do.
“Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits.”
– Mark 6:7
Next, we look at the instructions given to future generations about mission.
The Great Commission of Matthew 28 is a classic passage, frequently turned to when speaking about mission. It says:
“Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 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.”
– Matthew 28:16-20
Whilst Jesus is still talking to the same disciples, the difference here is that this event occurred after Jesus’ resurrection. Therefore, the message here has changed. Instead of telling people that “the kingdom of God has come near”, the disciples are now to “make disciples of all nations”, baptise them and teach them. They are sharing the story of Jesus.
As we too are living in this post-resurrection world, this passage applies to us too. As before, we are sent by Jesus, and in his authority. We are to baptise “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” and we are to teach the commands that we have been given (for us, this is the Bible). And even better, we have God going with us, in the form of the Holy Spirit, to support us in this mission.
Based on these examples, I believe we can understand mission to be the act of being sent by God, to share a message with a group of people, acting with God’s authority and speaking the words of God.
Why is mission important?
So, we now need to look at the importance of mission: why do we need to do it?
A great passage for understanding this is Romans 10:13-15:
“for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
This shows us that mission is crucial in the salvation of people all round the world. Paul says that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” – if this is the case, it is crucial that everyone hears about God, therefore giving them the opportunity to believe in him and call on his name. How can they call on his name if they never even hear about it?
This isn’t just about sharing a nice story, but about salvation. It can include practical help that shares the love of God, encouragement and teaching upon who Jesus is and the good news of his resurrection.
I hope this post has helped you better understand what mission is, and why it’s important – studying the biblical understanding of mission in this way certainly helped me! What other topics would you love to see studied biblically?