10 Defining Characteristics of Missions

Yesterday, we at Alameda celebrated how God is using us to spread His Word through mission work at home and abroad.  By partnering with some amazing missionaries and health organizations, we are taking the grace and gospel of Christ to Bolivia, Uganda, Austria, Ecuador, and New Zealand.  We help support Great Cities Mission and tutor children in our own neighborhood.  In addition to these, many of our members are actively making Jesus known through their own missional efforts.

We anchored our celebration in the text of Luke 1:76-79 which describes the mission work of John the Baptist.  That text says..

(76) And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, (77) to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, (78) because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high (79) to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.

In that passage we find 10 defining characteristics of missions, which can be defined as the church’s efforts “to bring the mercy of God to the world, the most crucial aspect of which is bringing the greatest news the world has ever known, the gospel of Christ, to the ends of the earth for the joy of the church, the salvation of the nations, and the glory of the Triune God” (full article citation).  They are:

  1. The purpose: To make Jesus known (v. 76).
  2. The preparation of “the Way” in missions involves a message and the proclamation of the knowledge of salvation (v. 76-77).
  3. The message: Forgiveness of sins is made possible through God’s Messiah – Jesus Christ – and this forgiveness is the product of repentance, which is a responsive turning to God alone to deal with sin (v. 77).
  4. The task: To give knowledge of salvation to people (v. 77).
  5. The catalyst: God’s mercy (v. 78).
  6. The “star”: Jesus, who is the “sunrise,” which reminds us that missions is all about Jesus and his glory.
  7. The result: Guidance into the way of peace (v. 79).
  8. The need: People sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, desperately needing the light of Christ (v. 79).
  9. The audience: People who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death (v. 79).  But notice that John was sent to Israel – God’s people – emphasizing that “the lost” are not always “out there” but are also in our churches, and even in our own homes.
  10. The question: “Will the people come to their Messiah?”  We Christians can plant and water the seeds of the Gospel; we cannot coerce, control, or force conversion.  Each person has to decide for himself or herself what to do with Jesus.

May God bless our efforts to make Jesus known!

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