A mark of a healthy church is a biblical understanding of, and practice of, missions.
Missions isn’t a biblical word, but it’s a biblical idea. Missions is taking the gospel across boundaries, especially across the boundary of language. And, according to the Bible, this mission is to transform the nature of humanity, and nothing less—to bring us into a reconciled relationship with God, our good Creator and Judge.
Missions Begins at Home
Self-sacrifice and love of God and others is the seed of missions in the church. You could say that missions begins at home with a concern for the conversion of your family.
So teach, befriend, evangelize and disciple your children. Brothers and sisters, have a concern for your friends. Friends share the gospel with friends.
“Don’t underestimate how you handicap missions in a church by making evangelism seem optional in the Christian life.”
But what does it mean for you to be prepared to share the gospel with friends? What does it mean for you to be prepared to share the gospel with someone at work this week? If your church doesn’t equip and encourage you to do this, how will your church ever equip and encourage you to share the gospel elsewhere, in more difficult or challenging situations?
Do you realize that establishing an evangelistic Bible study in the city where you work in is much like establishing an evangelistic Bible study in Buenos Aires, London, or Tokyo? Evangelism is like one of the basic movements in working out at the gym. This is the same thing you’ll be doing, only you’ll do it now in a different context.
You learn the basic movement of missions by evangelizing. So don’t wait to start evangelizing after some international flight. Start now. Learn to share the gospel. Why not find a Muslim friend in your neighborhood and read through the Qur’an with him if he’ll read through the Bible with you?
“You could say that missions begins at home with a concern for the conversion of your family.”
By evangelizing in your local context, you not only share the good news with real people but you prepare yourself to do that anywhere God may call you to go.
As we grow in understanding the Bible’s big picture, I think discipling younger Christians naturally becomes more important to us. So, for example, in our local church in DC, we work for what I would call a “culture” of evangelism and a “culture” of discipling. And that’s really the foundation of a culture of missions.
Evangelism Is Not Optional
Don’t underestimate how you handicap missions in a church by making evangelism seem optional in the Christian life. A concern for our church missions program should be baked into our basic discipling of each other in Scripture and in holiness.
Are you modeling that well for the person you’re meeting up with?
Are you being obedient in sharing the gospel?
Are you showing in the way you care for those who are from other places how you’re trying to participate in the big story of the Bible, as the Creator’s claims go to all of his creation?
In coming to Christ, God moves us from being self-focused to being God-focused. And being focused on God causes us to notice others as spiritual beings and to think long-term—to think of the future of children, and youth, and of others who don’t know the Lord yet, in evangelism. And then ultimately to the whole world, which must include those who’ve never heard.
Missions isn’t something occasional and optional. It’s an essential extension of what God has always been about in the world in order to bring glory to himself through us. So that’s the understanding that our local churches must have if they’re to be healthy and sound. A burden for missions must begin at home.
Mark Dever is pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC. This is an adapted excerpt from his talk on Marks of a Healthy Church recorded by Ligonier Ministries. It is published here with permission.