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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!