Before the Lord Jesus ascended into heaven He entrusted the church with the task to preach, teach and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19,20). Each church has a missionary task. In this chapter we will reflect on this task and how we are fulfilling it.
The Form for the Ordination (or Installation) of Missionaries gives a good overview of the Scriptural basis for the missionary task of the church and lists many proof texts.
The Bible from the beginning till the end speaks about missions. The LORD created the earth and everything in it. This whole world is under His domain. Thus after we fell into sin, His word of redemption is for the whole world as well. He wants all nations to come to know the gospel of redemption. It is true that under the Old Testament this gospel was connected to one family and one nation, but not to the exclusion of the other nations. The LORD uses this one nation to preserve the gospel so it can reach all the nations. The LORD said to Abraham that in him all nations would be blessed.
Moses reminded the LORD of what the nations would think of His deeds with Israel.
Exodus 32:11-14; Numbers 14:15,16
The LORD gave foreigners a place in Israel.
There are two well known examples of foreigners who received a place in Israel, Rahab and Ruth. Both received a place upon their confession of faith.
Joshua 2:8-11; Joshua 6:22-24; Ruth 1:16-17; Ruth 4:13-17
In the Psalms Israel is to praise the LORD as the God who rules the nations, and the nations are called the praise the LORD who rules in Zion.
Psalm 47:1-4; Psalm 99:1-3
In the prophets we hear of a wonderful future that includes all the nations.
Isaiah 2:1-4; Isaiah 19:23-25; Joel 2:28-32
The coming of Christ shows God love for this world.
The Lord Jesus reminds the people of this as well. They should not think that the gospel is only for Jews. In fact, the Lord will take it away from them and give it to others.
When Israel reject the Messiah, the Lord appoints twelve apostles to be the foundation of the church and charges them with the duty to be witnesses of God’s grace in this world.
Matthew 28:16-20; Acts 1:6-8
The outpouring of the Holy Spirit marks the point where the church has to go and preach also to the Gentiles. It took some convincing. Peter had to receive a vision in order to understand it.
The Holy Spirit also had to instruct the Church to sent out missionaries.
Paul then begins his missionary journeys. Often he would first go to the Jews, but when they reject it work among the Gentiles.
In his letters Paul speaks about the purpose of the preaching for all people.
Romans 1:16-17; Romans. 10:12-17; 2Corinthians 5:17-21; Ephesians. 2:11-22
Through faith in the Word preached by the apostles, also Gentiles may have communion with Christ and in Christ with God.
The Bible ends with the prospect of a multitude of many nations which surrounds the throne of God.
The Belgic Confession does not mention the task of the church to send out missionaries, but this duty is implied in the confession that the church is build on the apostolic preaching and finds its unity in the Word of God.
This Church has existed from the beginning of the world and will be to the end, for Christ is an eternal King who cannot be without subjects.
Moreover, this holy Church is not confined or limited to one particular place or to certain persons, but is spread and dispersed throughout the entire world. However, it is joined and united with heart and will, in one and the same Spirit, by the power of faith.
The petition Thy Kingdom come has implications for the work of mission.
Q/A 123: What is the second petition?
Thy kingdom come. That is: So rule us by Thy Word and Spirit that more and more we submit to Thee. Preserve and increase Thy church. Destroy the works of the devil, every power that raises itself against Thee, and every conspiracy against Thy holy Word. Do all this until the fullness of Thy kingdom comes, wherein Thou shalt be all in all.
In the Canons of Dort, the churches confess that the doctrine of election does not make preaching superfluous. On the contrary, it is through the preaching that the Lord realizes His decree of election (see chapter 3/4, art. 17)
Chapter 1, Article 3 The Preaching of the Gospel:
So that men may be brought to faith, God mercifully sends heralds of this most joyful message to whom He will and when He wills. By their ministry men are called to repentance and to faith in Christ crucified. For how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher? And how can men preach unless they are sent?
Chapter 2, Article 5 The Universal Proclamation of the Gospel:
The promise of the gospel is that whoever believes in Christ crucified shall not perish but have eternal life. This promise ought to be announced and proclaimed universally and without discrimination to all peoples and to all men to whom God in His good pleasure sends the gospel, together with the command to repent and believe.
Chapter 2, Article 6 Why Some Do Not Believe:
That, however, many who have been called by the gospel neither repent nor believe in Christ but perish in unbelief does not happen because of any defect or insufficiency in the sacrifice of Christ offered on the cross, but through their own fault.
Chapter 2, Article 7 Why Others Do Believe:
But to those who truly believe and are by the death of Christ freed from their sins and saved from perdition, this benefit comes only through God’s grace, given to them from eternity in Christ. God owes this grace to no one.
Chapter 3/4, Article 8 The Earnest Call by The Gospel:
But as many as are called by the gospel are earnestly called, for God earnestly and most sincerely reveals in His Word what is pleasing to Him, namely, that those who are called should come to Him. He also earnestly promises rest of soul and eternal life to all who come to Him and believe.
The Church Order outlines the tasks of missionary, council and churches in regard to the work of missions.
When ministers of the Word are sent out as missionaries, they shall be and remain subject to the Church Order. They shall report and give account of their labours to the church which sent them and shall at all times remain subject to its calling.
It shall be their task, in the specific region assigned to them or chosen by them in consultation with the church that sent them, tom proclaim the Word of God, to administer the sacraments to those who have come to the profession of their faith, teaching them to observe all that Christ has commanded His church, and to ordain elders and deacons when this appears feasible, according to the rules given in the Word of God.
The churches shall endeavour to fulfil their missionary task
When churches cooperate in this matter, they shall, as much as possible, observe the division into classes and regional synods.
The Form for Ordination or Installation of missionaries speaks extensively about the missionary task of the church. The execution of this task is also part of the prayers of the church.
Form for Ordination (or installation) of missionaries:
Prayer # 2:
We pray for the mission among the Jews, Moslems, and heathen, who live without hope and without Thee in the world. Grant Thy blessing upon the propagation of the gospel among those who still call themselves Christians but have deviated from Thy truth in doctrine and life.
Prayer # 11 A Morning Prayer:
Bless Thou the proclamation of Thy divine Word here and in the mission fields, and frustrate all the worlds of the devil.
The Lord calls the church to proclaim the gospel to all the peoples of the earth and so call them to repentance and faith in Christ. The aim of mission to serve the glory of God in the conversion of heathens and the establishing of churches.
Although each church has a missionary task, it is not always possible for each church to have its own missionary. For this reason, we cooperate with other churches. There are sending churches and supporting churches. Appendix 1 contains the Agreement of Cooperation. Our support for the work of mission comes out in praying for the work of mission on a regular basis, supporting it financially and attending meetings organized for the co-operating churches. The sending churches inform the cooperating churches by means of Press Releases which are published in the bulletin, and by means of a monthly Newsletter. The sending churches together publish Mission News and it is distributed among the members as well. Some churches have Mission Committees which deal with delegating to meetings of cooperating churches, other churches do this via the Council. Either way, it is important to keep all the elders and deacons well informed.
The Lord teaches His people to be merciful. Under the Old Testament the sojourner enjoyed the care of the people of Israel. Also today we not only bring the gospel but are also called to help those in need. The connection between mission and material help has seen its changes over the years. Sometimes they were closely connected together, with the danger that the missionaries became too involved in handing out material help. There was also the danger that people would join the church in order to receive such help. On the other hand, work of mercy should not be disconnected from the preaching of the Gospel. The reason for helping is the work of Christ. The members of the churches on the mission field certainly have a calling to help those in need among themselves, but so do we, as we are united by the bond of the true faith.
For the Agreement of Cooperation, see Mandates and Regulations