A team from my faith family, First Baptist Church East Bernstadt, left earlier today on a two-week short-term mission trip to Ghana, Africa. Our church has partnered with full-time missionaries in Ghana over the past few years. We have sent multiple teams to Ghana and have helped plant a church. With the team leaving today, I have been thinking about the importance of missions and have provided some reflections on the Christian’s role in the global mission of God.
Our Gloriously Global-Minded God
The God of the universe displays his glorious grace in the salvation of sinners through the propitiatory work of his Son. Glimpses of this mission can even be seen all the way back in the Garden following Adam’s sin with the question, “Where are you?” The salvation that this God gives is global. We are given a vision into the global glory of God’s grace in Revelation.
Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom of priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth (Rev. 5:9-10).
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (Rev. 7:9)!
John is given this vision of God’s glory and in the presence of God is a great multitude from every tribe and tongue who all have been ransomed by the Lamb. This great multitude of cultural diversity has one thing in common–the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, who ransomed them for God. The overarching themes of the Bible shows us that God is pointedly God-centered and global-minded. What I mean here is that God does not only pursue certain sinners to pursue, as in certain races or cultures. God pursues sinners and saves sinners according to his infinite wisdom and sovereign grace. And no one determines this but God himself. It is this truth that pushes us into uncharted lands with the gospel of Jesus.
The Global Mandate of our Global God
These passages are the fulfillment of Matthew 24:14. In Matthew 24:14, Jesus promises, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” The gospel of God’s glorious grace is global. This means that God has a global people, he is on a global mission, and his people have a global mandate.
This mandate is given by the living Lamb and Lord himself: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in 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” (Matt. 28:19-20). This is not an optional and subjective call for some. Rather, it is an authoritative command that demands obedience from all believers. If you are a believer, the mission of God to redeem sinners extended to you through the proclamation of the gospel, in one way or another. This same mission will extend to the ends of the earth and God has chosen to use his church for this. He has chosen to use you.
In this vein, John Piper reminds us that there are three responses to the Great Commission: “Go, send, or disobey.” The gospel compels us to go to the nations on short-term, mid-term, and/or long-term trips. The gospel also compels us to give to the nations by sending missionaries and mission teams. When we are faced with the extraordinary grace of God in the gospel the last thing we can do is nothing. When we are confronted with the radical command of Jesus to “Follow me” (Matt. 4:19) and make disciples of “all nations” (28:19), we are faced with simple, yet radical commands that are nevertheless coupled with the empowering grace to obey.
Will we extend this grace to all nations by going and sending? Or, out of fear, apathy, or disregard, will we ignore the nations? Is the cause of Christ worth our lives, our money, our families? These are the questions that we must ask ourselves. And these are the questions we must answer.
The mandate is great. The Man is greater.
The Great Hope of Global Missions
For those who grasp this biblical mandate to go to the nations and/or send to the nations, missions becomes a great eschatological (last things) hope. Going to Africa to proclaim the gospel of Christ goes far beyond a right now joy. Proclaiming the gospel to unreached peoples in Africa carries eternal implications. A future day of glorifying the Lamb that was slain is in view when the gospel is proclaimed and Jesus is trusted in Africa. I pray that God continues to kindle the flame of desire for the unreached that my wife and I have. We love Jesus and we know that he is worthy of global worship and for his name’s sake we will continue to go and send. Missions is a display of God’s grace and love. And it is a testament to the worth of the gospel when men and women risk their lives for its spread to the ends of the earth.
The End is Certain
Finally, missions is not the end. Missions is the means. We go and we send with a definite eschatological and present purpose. That purpose is worship. We go and we send knowing that God as Shepherd has sheep that are not yet in the fold that he brings in with the call of the gospel (see John 10). We go and we send because worship of God does not exist among the unreached and unengaged. Piper has famously written, “Missions exists because worship doesn’t.” This means that we do not go to Africa or Southeast Asia to spread the gospel for the sake of adventure or to feel better about ourselves. We go to the nations with the gospel for the sake of the knowledge and praise of God’s name. We risk by going and we risk by sending because Jesus is supremely worthy of global worship. There is nothing frivilous or silly about missions. It is serious. And it is joyful. This is why we go. This is why we send. For the global worship of our great and glorious God.
We were created to glorify God. The debilitating effects of sin inhibit us from doing so. Jesus came to reverse the curse, to restore the image of God, and to recreate through the Spirit a people of worshipers to fellowship with for eternity. One day the earth will be filled with the glory of the Lord radiating from all that is in it, including his people (Hab. 2:14).
As mentioned above, the end of missions is certain. “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matt. 24:14). The implication is obvious: Go with confidence. Send with confidence.
I am proud that our church has been capturing this vision and continues to demonstrate obedience to the Great Commission by going and sending to the nations for the glory of God and the joy of all peoples. I am praying for my pastor and the rest of the team as they go to proclaim the gospel in Ghana. And I pray that more sheep would be drawn into the flock to enjoy the eternal pleasure that is found in Jesus. I long for the day when I can join together in that great heavenly throng of believers from all time and all peoples with brothers and sisters from West Africa as we glorify the God who sought us and bought us with the blood of his Son.