Evangelism Vs. Missions: Your Role in Each

“Your mission field is in your own backyard”. How many times have you heard that? While the intentions behind these types of sayings are not wrong, they neglect crucial aspects of what missions really is. 

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I have read and heard countless speakers teach on Acts 1:8 about how the disciples were to witness in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth. Many people compare these 4 locations to mean that we are to focus our mission starting in our own neighborhoods, then to the areas surrounding that, then to the world. The question this always causes me to think about is, “Aren’t the disciples from Galilee?” If Jerusalem isn’t there home town, does this teaching even make any sense….?

Now, I am not saying that we shouldn’t share the Gospel with all the people we interact with on any given day in our home town. The point I am trying to make is that I believe that there is a difference between evangelism and missions.

Looking at the words linguistically, evangelism comes from the Greek word euangelion, which means “good news” or “gospel”. The word mission comes from the Latin word missio, which comes down to meaning something along the lines of “send away” (I studied Greek, not Latin, haha). So while an evangelist can be anyone who shares the gospel, a missionary is someone who is specifically sent out from one place to another to do it.

food for thought: can you be a missionary in your own home country by intentionally sharing the Gospel with people of different cultures there (e.g. refugees, foreign-exchange students, etc.)?

John Piper says, “Evangelism is speaking to anyone anywhere the gospel. Missions is doing that by crossing a culture. It usually involves learning a language, learning new cultural things where… they don't have any access to the gospel. So evangelism is speaking the gospel to everyone, especially those in your culture. Missions is realizing there are cultures and linguistic groups that don't have anybody in them to do that.”

So obviously we can all take part in evangelism, but how can everyone be a part of global missions? I don’t expect everyone to be able to go overseas (nonetheless move to another country), so maybe there is more than just one role in missions.

Romans 10:14-15 says, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?”  So there are those who GO to preach the good news in unreached, cross-cultural places and those who SEND them. That’s where you come in!

unreached people group: a people group without enough indigenous Christians to evangelize to the rest of their nation. They have less than 2% evangelical Christians and less than 5% professing Christians. The Japanese are an unreached people group!

John Piper often talks about the importance of missions for ALL Christians, and here is a short blurb of one of the videos we like. To warn you, this video can come across as a bit in-your-face, but if you are open to being challenged, then please watch!

We do have organizations that are helping to sending us such as TEAM and The GO Fund, but they both emphasize that it is truly the church that should be the one to send their missionaries. One of the best examples can be found in Acts 13. While worshipping in the church of Antioch, the Spirit told the men there to set aside Paul and Barnabas for a certain work He called them to. So after fasting and praying, the men laid their hands on Paul and Barnabas and sent them off! Other instances of individuals and churches that supported Paul’s missions can be found in the New Testament as well, and we are encouraged by them because we have found support in our churches and relationships as well.

So while you may not be able to commit to going on foreign missions, you can still be a part of it by being a supporter. After all, we can’t go unless we are sent! Giving support can come in various forms (see previous post on giving), so if you are not called to go to missions, find your way of sending people out!

Willing in Weakness

When we first realized the fact that we were going to have to fund-raise (which our minds translated as “beg for money”), we were sure that we would dread the process.  To my surprise (Erin speaking here), I’ve actually been quite enjoying the process, and that isn’t the only surprise that has come from this point in our journey of being missionaries.  It is rather exciting to see how and who God works through, and it often leaves me bewildered because God often works through the ways we least expect.

Taking myself as an example, I am not a great speaker.  I’m usually not even a very outgoing person, so being in this stage of life where I am constantly having to engage with people to share about myself is quite odd.   Nonetheless, this whole concept has become more comfortable as I’ve learned that support raising is not so much us asking for money but is more giving others the chance to serve God’s purpose.  It also doesn’t hurt that we’ve been mostly meeting with small groups and individuals. However, the time finally came for us to speak in front of a mass of people.

This last week we went to Arizona to visit a couple of our supporting churches.  One of those churches was the one Nick and I attended as a married couple in Phoenix.  Although we were there for two years, we hardly got to know anyone because we were usually antisocial.  We were part of our young adult small group, and that was enough for us!  But going back this time around, we obviously made it a point to get to know more people since we will be investing in each other as partners of the mission God has called us to!  So apart from meeting a bunch of familiar faces for the first time, we had to speak in front of the two congregations combined, which was about 150-200 people.  Not only that, but we got the entire service time to speak.  Obviously I was a bit nervous because I knew that I was no good at public speaking, but before we got up there, I was reminded by some encouraging words.

Before sharing at this church in Phoenix, we went to another church in Payson for their annual missions banquet.  There was an awesome guest speaker from Dallas Theological Seminary who shared about his time on the mission field.  While in some Spanish speaking country, he didn’t know the language at all. Thus, he made it a point to learn a short Gospel presentation in Spanish.  Though that was all he knew, he boldly shared the Good News to a couple of gentlemen he was working with.  Despite the message being presented in broken Spanish, the two men accepted the Gospel.  The speaker pointed out how it wasn’t his speaking ability or any other skill that caused the men to accept Jesus, but it was God using His mighty word through him because he was willing to speak up.  He then challenged us to stand if we wanted to show that we are willing to do whatever God asks of us.

Another Word that brought encouragement to me was the example of Paul in 2 Corinthians 10-11.  Throughout these passages, Paul repeats several times how he was “timid” when face to face and was an “untrained” speaker.  However, we all know that despite the fact that Paul may indeed have been a poor speaker, he was obviously quite influential through his ministry!  That must be a testimony to how God works through our limitations, for His Word and will is more powerful than anything we can produce on our own.  Paul ends chapter 11 and begins chapter 12 with boasting in his weaknesses.  “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 

While Paul may have been lacking in speech when he was in person, he made sure to minister through his actions (10:11).  We can’t let our weaknesses be an excuse to do nothing.  I still went up on stage and spoke that Sunday morning in front of the congregations because I made a stand and told God, “I am willing.”  I take that phrase to be the first half of my action.  The second half would be to follow through with obedience to His call.  Did I speak with complete gusto and clarity that Sunday morning?  Probably not.  Did people still come up to us afterward to connect with us?  Yes they did.  I was willing to let God use me however He wished, and I let Him worry about moving in the hearts of the people if it was His will for them.

Though this may not be a new message for you or even for myself, I hope it is an encouraging reminder that we can go forth boldly in whatever He is calling us to do because we have the power of the Holy Spirit in us.  “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Just be willing.