My Theology of Missions My view of missions could really be summed up by two phrases, “The kingdom of God, and “the Kingdom of God restored.” The Kingdom of God is not really mentioned in the Old Testament, yet it is mentioned throughout the New. This is quite common, as many have often said that, “What is concealed in the Old is revealed in the New.” Within the opening pages of the New Testament we find John the Baptist proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.” Jesus then proclaims the same thing after his baptism by John. Jesus tells his followers to seek first the kingdom of God. Jesus teaches his disciples to pray, “thy kingdom come thy will be done, one earth as it is in heave." Jesus gives the kingdom parables. Jesus teaches about the kingdom being taken from one and given to another. Right before Jesus ascends in Acts 1, he is asked by his disciples when he will restore the kingdom to Israel.
The whole story of the Bible is the story of God restoring his kingdom. It is a theme that easily rises out of scripture and also easily explains the whole thrust of its content.1 The best description of the Kingdom of God I have ever heard is: “The kingdom of God involves: (a) God’s people (b) in God’s place (c) under God’s rule.”2 Though the Old Testament does not use the terminology, “Kingdom of God”, the theme is actually everywhere. What was it at the beginning other than God’s people, Adam and Eve, created to live in God’s place, under his rule? Something went amiss, and this is where restoration comes in.
The Bible is the story of redemption. Many times people say, “If God is all powerful and all knowing and he is good, then why is evil in the world?” Ultimately I don’t believe any human being knows for sure. John Frame says, “Is there an answer to the problem of evil? Well, that depends on what you mean by “answer.” What kind of “answer” are you willing to accept? If what you want is a total explanation of where evil came from, how it arose, how it achieves God’s good purposes, well, I cannot supply that. I don’t believe that this kind of answer is available to human beings, and I don’t believe that God is under any obligation to give us such an answer.” Frame goes on to say, “If what you want is encouragement—a motivation to go on trusting God despite unexplained evil—then I think I can help.”3 It is the great theodicy.4 I honestly don't know why a created being, like Lucifer, living in the dwelling place of God would sin. I don't know why Adam who was living in a world that God declared as good, and who he himself was declared as very good5, would choose to sin. It just doesn't make sense to me. Yet, I know that everything God is doing is for his glory, and he loves us.6 How do I know this? Because God has not left us alone, he has entered into our hurt even though he didn’t have to. He has entered into the world he created and has faced evil head on.
From Genesis 3 and forward, the whole Bible is about what God is doing to take care of the problem of evil. “It is the story of a loving, holy, faithful God, working through his people to accomplish his mission.”7 God is on mission and he will be victorious. Consider, for instance, the beginning pages of scripture. God made Adam and Eve in his image and put them in his special place and said “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over.... every living thing that moves on the earth.”8 It is as though God were saying rule this earth, have all that you want, just don’t do one thing. Do not do your own thing. Live under my rule, and all that I have is yours. What did Adam and Eve do? They went their own way. "Their sin was not just the sin of law breaking but also law making.”9 They went the way of the one who deceived them. Instead of subduing Satan, they were subdued by him. The kingdom was overthrown. Adam and Eve’s allegiance was not wholly to God, but to themselves. Then, despite what we might expect, the God who does all things for his own glory, came looking for them bringing both judgement and mercy. He did not treat them as they fully deserved. He brought a promise of salvation at the very same time as he brought judgement. He had told them, “the day that they eat of the tree they would surely die.”10 but they didn't. Instead God brought a promise of restoration. Death certainly came into the world, and with it all the brokenness involving how the world was not supposed to be. In hope, he did this11, like a Father hoping that restoration would come and his children would once again live as his children. How amazing is it that God came looking for them!
God was (and is) a missionary God.12 He comes, “calling them to renew their relationship with him.”13 Telling them, that one day someone, brought forth through their line, will come, and do what they could not do. The implications of what they did redounds throughout all of history. God’s response redounds all the louder. Romans 5:20 says “where sin abounds grace abounds all the more.” God’s plan of grace has been set into motion and will not be stopped. All the rest of the Bible is the story of this good news going forward, until culminating in the promised offspring, Jesus Christ. This is why the New Testament opens the way it does, with the genealogy of Jesus, not just because we all love to read genealogies, but to show us to that what was being promised in the Old is now being fulfilled in the New.
The kingdom was lost, but is now being restored. God is doing this through his one and only son because he loves his creation so much14. The creation that is even now “groaning together in the pains of childbirth.”15 Colossians 1:19-20 says, “For in him (Jesus) all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” We are not quite there yet, all things are not reconciled yet, but will it not be a glorious day. Better than even the ending of The Chronicles of Narnia, The Last Battle.16 This is the mission of God. Where things are headed will even be better than when they first began. Revelation 21 & 22 will be better than Genesis 1 & 2. Why? Because the Serpent will be subdued, the last enemy will be destroyed, and so will be no more sorrow or sin, nor any worry of ever being such things again.
Plan for missions involvement Everyone's involvement with missions starts with knowing and understanding the Mission of God. If our mission and our plan to be involved in missions is different or not in line with what the mission of God is, then there is something wrong. We are on mission with God, for God, being sent by God because God has a mission. God’s plan to defeat Satan was through the cross of Christ. But God’s plan of gathering his people together, and restoring his kingdom is through the preaching of the cross of Christ. Jesus told his disciples in the context of preparing them for his departure greater works would be done.17 Then the very first day the promised Holy Spirit came, three thousand souls were saved.18 So we have work to do. What is that work? To publish the news far and wide that Jesus died as a propitiation for sinners. Pleading for sinners to come and receive his salvation through repentance and faith. “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”19 Here we must stop, though, because there is more than just telling people of the good news, there is also growing people in the good news. Jesus did not tell us to go out into the world and get people to make decisions, he told us to go out into the world and make disciples. Missions Professor Davids Sills once said, “The tragedy of the world is not that it is unreached but that it is un-discipled.”20
If I were to paraphrase the message of Matthew 28:18—2021 and Acts 1:1-822 it would come out something like this: "Wait in Jerusalem until you receive the promise of God, and when you do, be my witnesses everywhere, baptizing and making disciples out of all who come to faith.”
Out of the above sentence is where I draw my plan for missions involvement in my local church. I know it’s not original, but it is not my goal to be original, it is my goal to be as faithful as possible to the one who loved me and gave himself for me23. God desires to have a discipled people from every tribe, tongue, and nation and established churches and establishing churches are his plan for that to happen.24 God is going to have a people from out of every people, and God commands us to make disciples. Put that together with Jesus saying that he would build his church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it”, and it is easy to see we are not just going for converts but rather discipled groups (churches) of people from every, tribe, tongue and nation.
The church is at the center of what Jesus is doing in gathering his people. In fact the church is Christ’s gathered people and the church (Christ’s gathered people) is also who goes out and does the gathering.25 The church is partly the goal of God’s restoration plan and also the means to God’s restoration plan. Ultimately the goal is God’s people worshipping God forever26. For now though, we gather, our worship services being beautiful foretaste of heaven, spurring us on to keep going and gathering Christ sheep who have not believed yet. Therefore my plan for being involved in missions is through my local church. The local church is the New Testament model. We could evangelize and make disciples other ways but why would we, it wouldn’t make much sense to do it a different way than the way the Bible prescribes, describes and shows us. Obviously the Apostles knew what Jesus was talking about when they received his command to make disciples. What did the Apostles do after the Holy Spirit came, and brought to remembrance, all that Jesus had taught them? They went out and planted churches. Gailyn Van Rheenen says, “Developing a strong movement of God .... requires the accomplishment of three essential task. First, the initial evangelism must lead to planting new churches. Second, Christians must be nurtured to maturity within these churches. Third, leaders must be trained to evangelize and to plant other churches, to pastor and shepherd the community of believers, and to train still other leaders.”27 I very much agree. Why did the Apostles do this very thing after they received the Holy Spirit? Because it is what Jesus told them to do. How is it that Jesus told them to go and evangelize, nurture those they evangelized within a congregation and then send them out to go and replicate? Because it is the very thing that Jesus did with them. He evangelized them, He spent three years with them and then he sent them out. Primarily me implementing this, will involve intimate Scripture saturated time, both alone and within the community of believers God has gathered around me.28 It will involve us reaching out to the community we live in and the whole world29 with the message of God’s salvation found in the Scriptures. While doing this I will seek by prayer, the study of Gods word, and counsel how I can be used of God to raise up other churches in the world.30 It seems Jesus has captured me in such a way that I am ruined for anything else. In fact the more I keep this before me, the more joy I experience. It’s only when I wander and start living on my own mission apart from God’s mission that I begin to feel destitute. May it be that I would stay in God’s will. I do not believe there is a more important thing in the world than a healthy Bible believing church. So if we could have many more Bible believing churches all over the world that would be an answer to prayer. I believe this is my calling, to advance and build up the Church through the tangible, hands on, real people focused ministry of the local church. However I am involved in making this happen, I want to be just that, involved. Whether I follow this calling overseas or in the United States, makes no difference to me, only that I am in the will of God. I also believe the great commission is more of a marathon than a sprint, so it is my plan to be in this for the long haul.
As far as how this looks for me right now, I am not completely sure. I am content, as well as yearning for more.31 I am a member of Salem Baptist Church in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. I have only been there about a year. I want to most of all be a good member, continue spending time getting to know people, and keep seeing where I fit in. I also want to finish school. Currently I teach Sunday school for the teenagers on Sunday morning, attend a small group, and am praying to be able to free up more time to be involved in more ways. We also just started planning a visit to one of our missionary families in a remote Brazilian area, who have been laboring to plant a church. Before I came to Salem I had been involved with missions work in an indigenous area of Guatemala for about 14 years. I want to keep staying involved there in Guatemala as it has been a long term relationship, so am trying to discern the best way to do that.
One difficulty my family has when it comes to living overseas is our daughter who is disabled. The last few years we have spent a lot of time trying to take care of her by obtaining different medications, treatments and surgeries. My wife and I would love to be sent off to do cross cultural missions, we even believe it is our calling. We also know that at the same time that God has given us our daughter to steward and love. So in the mean time we will do our best to support the great commission through our local church in whatever possible way we can.
Quoted Sources 1 Vaughan Roberts, God's Big Picture: Tracing the storyline of the Bible (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press 2002), 20-21.“Any unifying theme that is used to help us to see how the Bible fits together must arise out of Scripture itself, rather than being imposed upon it; and it must be broad enough to allow each part to make its own distinct contribution. The theme of the kingdom of God satisfies both requirements.” 2 Graeme Goldsworthy, The Gospel & Kingdom, Paternoster (March 25, 2012) pg. 54 3.John Frame, The Bible On the Problem of Evil https://frame-poythress.org/the-bible-on-the-problem-of-evil/ 4 What is theodicy? http://reformedanswers.org/answer.asp/file/45592 5 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. (Genesis 1:31) 6 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:33) 7 Gailyn Van Rheenen Missions: Biblical Foundations and Contemporary Strategies Zondervan; Second edition (July 22, 2014) pg. 22 8 Genesis 1:289 Paraphrase of Vaughn Roberts from pg. 39 10 Genesis 2:17 11 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope. (Romans 8:20) 12 Missions, Gailyn Van Rheenen pg. 22 13 Missions, Gailyn Van Rheenen pg. 24 14 John 3:16 15 Romans 8:2216 16 “And as He spoke, He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.” Randy Alcorn, In Light of Eternity: Perspectives on Heaven, WaterBrook; 1 edition (December 1, 1999) pg. 81 17 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12) 18 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. (Acts 2:41) 19 Romans 10:1520 David Sills, Changing World, Unchanging Mission: Responding to Global Challenges IVP Books (2015) pg. 1521 20 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” 22 In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 23 Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. (I Corinthians 4:2) 24 I get this from Revelation 5:9, Matthew 28:19-20, and Matthew 16:1825 Slide 3 of week 1 Missions class “The church as “sent” in this world...” • ...as a pilgrim, stranger, witness, prophet, servant • ...as salt and light 26 “Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more. Worship, therefore, is the fuel and goal of missions.” John Piper, Let the Nations Be Glad!: The Supremacy of God in Missions, Baker Academic; 3 edition (2010) pg. 27 Gailyn Van Rheenen Missions pg. 32328 28 Praying the word, singing the word, reading the word, studying the word, mediating on the word, speaking the word, and sitting under thepreaching of the word. 29 We will serve in soup kitchens, homeless shelters, nursing homes, jails, in grocery store check out lines, to our neighbors etc., and to those same types of places all overs the world, while carrying the message of the gospel. 30 Whether it is me being sent out to lead in starting a new work somewhere. Or if it is me assisting or helping in any way I will do that. 31 This for me is one of the great tensions of the Christian life. We are taught to be content (Philippians 4:11) while also being taught to yearn and strive for more (Philippians 1:8-9, Romans 9:3, Hebrews 12:14).