In the early years of my missionary work, I sometimes dealt with loneliness and wondered, “Does anyone else care about the salvation of my people?” Sometimes, when frustrated, I asked God, “Will there ever be a vibrant church in my city?” Invariably, what gave me comfort that my work wasn’t in vain and what filled me with confidence that there would be future results was the Word of God.
Through his Word, the Lord reminded me that work done for God’s glory is not in vain (1 Cor. 15:58) and that all the nations he made will glorify his name (Ps. 86:9). Whether we’re sharing the gospel with our neighbors or with people in a cross-cultural situation, our doctrine of Scripture informs and grounds that work in several ways.
Scripture Motivates the Church for Missions
The Baptist Faith and Message (BF&M) reminds us that Scripture is “God’s revelation of Himself to man.” In Scripture, we learn God’s story, that he created the world and everything in it, and he has been at work throughout history to accomplish his salvation plan. He called Abraham and his descendants, and through Moses redeemed them from the yoke of slavery. He established a covenant with them and in grace gave them the law.
In the fullness of time (Gal. 4:4, ESV), he sent his Son, who gave his life as a ransom for all people (1 Tim. 2:6). In Scripture, we also learn about God’s heart. Not surprisingly, we learn that God loves his creation and desires to have a relationship with all the nations he created (Ps. 86:9; Isa. 66:18).
“Motivation for the difficult work of taking the gospel across cultural barriers can’t be sustained long-term by statistics about lostness.”
Motivation for the difficult work of taking the gospel across cultural barriers can’t be sustained long-term by statistics about lostness and lists of peoples. Motivation that sustains us flows out of the truths of Scripture.
It is the specific revelation in Scripture that teaches us who God is, what he has done, and what he desires of all people and of the church. It is Scripture that communicates God’s heart to us. And it is in Scripture that God commands us to go to the nations for the sake of his glory.
Scripture Gives the Church the Authority for Missions
We live in a day when truth is seen as relative. Many contemporary thinkers—and even some Christians—say that it’s arrogant to proclaim an exclusive gospel message and wrong to evangelize. But proclaiming this message is exactly what the Bible tells us to do (Acts 1:8; Col. 4:5–6; 1 Pet. 2:9). The BF&M explains that Scripture is “the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried.”
Even though the world may not appreciate or welcome the proclamation of the gospel, missions nonetheless exists because Christ commands it. It exists because the Lord of the church has all authority in heaven and on earth. He has sent the church to the nations to proclaim his rightful, sovereign rule (Matt 28:18–20).
Scripture Is the Message of Missions
The BF&M explains that the Bible is “a perfect treasure of divine instruction.” The phrase calls to mind Psalm 19 and the teaching that the Word revives the soul, makes wise the simple, rejoices the heart, and enlightens the eyes (Psa 19:7-8, ESV). This is the message the nations need.
Thus, as the church sends missionaries to the nations, their primary task is the proclamation of the biblical story culminating in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Since the Bible is God’s revelation of himself to all humanity, the church should labor to communicate God’s Word to the nations. Missionaries must make it their aim to know Scripture well enough so they can teach and explain it to others like Ezra did (Ezra 7:10).
Scripture Provides the Goals and Methods of Missions
The Word makes it clear that God’s desire is for all the nations of the earth to know and worship him. Scripture goes on to confirm the certainty of God accomplishing this end. The entire story of Scripture points us forward to the goal of missions as it gives us the vision in Revelation 7:9–10 of people from every tribe and nation standing before the throne of God.
In the same way, Scripture provides the model for missions. In the New Testament, we see the church going to the nations to declare the gospel message, disciple believers, plant churches, and raise up leaders. Scripture also gives instruction about the way the church should go about this work. We should not tamper with God’s Word (2 Cor. 4:2) but should attempt to lay a strong foundation that will stand the final judgment (1 Cor. 3:10–15).
In the end, the success of missions isn’t measured by statistics or lists but by the Word of God.
Throughout this process, God uses his Word to speak to the church. He speaks through his Word to direct the sending process (Acts 13:1–3). After missionaries are sent out, God speaks through his Word to encourage them to stay faithful in that task, much like he encouraged Paul in Acts 18:9–10. At times, God uses his Word to correct and rebuke his children of sin (2Tim 3:16-17, Heb. 12:5–13). He also uses his Word to help them understand why certain things happen and to remind them that he is in control.
Scripture Is the Standard by which We Judge the Success of Missions
In the end, the success of missions isn’t measured by statistics or lists but by the Word of God. Scripture commands all believers, including missionaries, to be faithful stewards (1 Cor. 4:1), who constantly make it their aim to please the Lord in all they do. They must balance the longing to see fruit borne by the proclamation of the gospel with the recognition that ultimate results don’t hinge upon their efforts (1 Cor. 3:6) but upon God who grants repentance (2 Tim. 2:25), creates spiritual life (John 6:53; Eph. 2:1–5) and gives growth (1 Cor. 3:7).
Jonathan Martyn is a theological education specialist who teaches at several seminaries in East Asia. He has over fourteen years of experience in pastoral ministry, church planting, and theological training ministries. Currently, Jonathan focuses on developing strategies for training effective church leaders.