A Theology of Missions

Jesus commands us to go and make disciples. Why don’t we take Him seriously?

18And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  19″Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,  20teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

This passage, so brief and so full of meaning and power to the followers of Jesus Christ, has changed the world.  The day that Jesus died, probably sometime in the spring of 30 AD, there were about 120 people who followed Him.  That night and the following Sabbath they cowered, despairing at the death of the One they loved so much, bewildered about what they were supposed to do next, and desperately hoping that the authorities were not going to murder them too.  When Sunday came and they found the tomb empty, these emotions mixed with a too-good-to-be-true excitement.  When they finally saw Him and realized that Jesus had really risen from the dead, the worries and questions dissolved into answers.  The One they loved had beaten death, their next task was whatever He directed, and they no longer cared what the authorities did.  If Jesus defeated death, those who loved Him would too.

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World Evangelism

Should we tell others about Jesus? If we don’t, the stones will cry out.

Evangelism, loosely defined as trying to get others to believe and practice a particular religious faith, has received a bad reputation in many circles in the last century. David Livingstone, the famous 19th century explorer-doctor-missionary in Southern Africa, reflected his times in his belief that Civilization, Commerce and Christianity would help Africa and the undeveloped world out of poverty and into relationship with Christ. He did not support European colonialism but others in his era did, and the association of the “3 Cs” with colonialism generated a backlash against missionary work in the post colonial era.

Evangelism also presupposes that the evangelist knows the true religion and the one being evangelized does not. Such a claim to knowledge cuts against the grain of moral relativism (“there is no true religion”) and can suggest that one man is inherently superior to another. It is difficult for any man to preach a belief system without importing his unseen cultural biases into his message, and the inherent conflict in trying to change another’s way of thinking can result in violence.

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What about Those Who Have Never Heard?

Skeptics sometimes say “If Jesus is the only way to heaven, then God is unjust, because some people have never heard of Him.” Between the Scriptures, the oral message, creation, dreams, visions, and the myriad of other ways that God speaks to man, there is probably no one who actually has never heard.

The discussion last Sunday, centered around how someone can be sure of his salvation and focused on Luke 23:32-43, the story of the thief on the cross, engendered some lively discussion. One issue which came up, which always comes up in lessons about salvation, was the question about what God is going to do with people who have never heard the gospel of Jesus.

The Bible teaches that everyone is a child of God, in the sense that we are all created by Him (Genesis 2:7), but some people are His children in the sense that they live in good relationship with Him (Galatians 3:26, 1 John 3:10). It also teaches that every person will live forever, some people with God and some people without Him (Matthew 13:40-43, Matthew 25:31-46, Revelation 20:11-12). In that sense, all religions and even non-religion lead to God because every person will stand before Him in judgment. To use a human analogy, every person is a child of their parents because they were “created” by them but not every person lives in good relations with their parents. Bible believing Christians hold that Jesus is the only way to eternal life; defined as everlasting life in good relations with our Heavenly Father.

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