What Is “Missions?”
The word “mission” is from the Latin word missio, which means “sending.” It is used to describe many different activities of the church, and this can cause some confusion as to what we mean when we say “missions.”
In understanding and defining missions, we want to be faithful to what the Scriptures teach. Biblically, missions is:
God, through his church, sending his servants into the world as witnesses of the gospel, to proclaim and demonstrate the person and work of Jesus Christ, making disciples who will obey all that Jesus has commanded (Matthew 9:35-38; 24:14; 28:19-20; Luke 10:25-27; 24:45-47; John 20:21; Romans 15:20-21).
When Did Missions Start?
It is common to think of missions as something that started with Jesus’ incarnation, or with the early church, or even with William Carey and the modern missionary movement. Biblically, however, missions has always been at the heart of God’s redemptive plan. When God called Abraham, and promised to make him into a great nation, he did so that Abraham would be a blessing to the world, saying, “…in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:1-3). Israel was commanded in the Law to love the foreigners who were among them (Deuteronomy 10:19), and Solomon prayed at the dedication of the Temple that God would answer the prayer of the foreigner who came so that “all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you” (2 Chronicles 6:32-33). In Psalm 67, the psalmist prayed that God would be gracious and bless Israel, “that your name may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations” (Psalm 67:1-2). From the beginning, missions has been central to God’s purposes.
What Is the End Goal of Missions?
Missions accomplishes many good things, including the spread of the gospel, the planting of churches, care for the poor, and justice for the oppressed. Ultimately, however, missions end goal is God’s glory – that he might be made famous among all peoples, that there might be worshippers from among all nations! (Psalm 67; Isaiah 43:6-7; Habakkuk 2:14; Matthew 5:16; 1 Peter 4:11; Revelation 5:9-14; 7:9-10)
The God-centered goal of missions should propel us to greater sacrifice and motivation in our global endeavors. Since man is not our end goal, we can go anywhere and do anything, even if rejection is the outcome. Our success is not based on if we or our message are accepted or rejected. Rather, our success in missions is judged by our faithfulness to his end goal: Do we make him look glorious? Do we proclaim him as he has revealed himself? Do we love friend and foe with the compassion of Jesus? Do we give ourselves away to the nations for his credit, and not ours?
Missions at The Well
Our mission is to make disciples and plant churches. As we seek to do this, there are two principals at the heart of all that we do globally:
- The work of church planting through the spread of the gospel is the sovereign work of God. He does not need our help or assistance. Yet, despite our brokenness, God has chosen us to participate with him. While this demands all of our energies and efforts, he alone is the reason anything is accomplished.
- We believe that the singular message of missions is the gospel. Our desire is to see this message proclaimed free from political, denominational or cultural biases. Simply stated, the gospel is this: We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, because of the person and work of Christ alone.
Our Church Planting Missiology
1. Scripturally Based – The strategies and methods we adhere to should not be from our own invention, but from the authority of Scripture. We want to incarnate the timeless truth of the early church into the cultural realities of our day. Therefore, our methods will be founded upon the Bible, yet formed to fit the uniqueness of the people groups to which we are called.
2. Culturally Indigenous – We believe that a community of believers should reflect the culture in which they exist in a way that is true to Scripture and relevant to the surrounding community. For example, the music, teaching style, place of meeting and organizational structure should mirror local ways of doing things.
3. Self-Sustaining – As part of indigenous church planting, we seek to help plant churches that are “sustainable.” In other words, ministry staff, finances for local church pastors, and ministry training should be primarily developed “in-country” rather than from abroad. When church plants are dependent on foreign finances and personnel, oftentimes unhealthy dependence occurs, local initiative is stifled, and subsidized believers are viewed with suspicion by their own community.
4. An Emphasis on the Unreached – Thanks to the efforts of countless believers through the centuries, much of the world has ready access to the gospel. Locally led churches are growing, Christian books and music are available, and the Bible is available in local languages. While we feel compelled to work in all countries, our preeminent desire is to work where there is little or no witness of the gospel. These places in our world are commonly referred to as “unreached.” Generally, this includes North Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
5. Working Holistically – We believe that a life in Christ includes the totality of who we are as people both individually and collectively. Therefore, we do not consider some parts of our lives as sacred, while other parts secular. Rather, the whole of our lives is an offering to God in worship and an instrument for his redemptive work.
This has a profound effect on our approach to church planting. There is no vocation, skill, hobby or passion that is not useful in the work of church planting. This holistic approach relies on a diversity of backgrounds, skills and experiences in the many different facets of church planting. These include evangelism, discipleship, administration, social work and business.