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New Thoughts on the M Word

Evangelism thought and praxis varies from person to person and place to place. Here, leaders in the fields of evangelism and missions take you deeper in thought as you be the mouth, hands, and feet of Jesus in the world.

New Thoughts on the “M” Word and the Future of World Evangelization

Grant McClungGrant McClung, president of Missions Resource Group >>, is missiological advisor to the World Missions Commission of the Pentecostal World Fellowship. He is also a member of a number of mission-related boards and advisory groups, including the Global Diaspora Network Advisory Board (Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization), the U.S. Lausanne Committee, and the Advisory Committee for Evangelical Missions Quarterly (EMQ), a ministry extension of the Billy Graham Center.

“Missions doesn’t ‘preach!’” a pastor publicly protested on the opening day of the seminary missions class I was teaching. It was obvious to me and to his classmates that he did not want to be in the required course and that he had not spent much time preaching the Great Commission. Thankfully, his mind was radically changed by the end of the semester. Working one’s way through God’s global mission in the Bible has a way of doing that!   

A few years ago, I was asked to fill the Sunday morning pulpit at my local church, in the days when the pastoral staff and guest speaker sat on the platform. One of the members arrived a bit late and appeared shocked when he saw me. Much to his surprise I preached on another topic besides missions (missionaries sometimes do that!). After service he complimented the message but confessed, “When I saw you up there, I thought, ‘Oh no, missions!’” What he probably thought was, “Oh no, another sad story and financial appeal!”

When we hear complaints such as, “missions services are so boring and depressing” or, “enough of this talk of the poor and starving, and people lost for eternity,” it may indicate that compassion fatigue, information overload, and a void in Bible knowledge have taken their toll on the cold-hearted.  It is hard for us who love “missions”—the “M” word—to relate to these sentiments. On the other hand, it is our responsibility to make sure that we are communicating a Biblical, relevant, and culturally meaningful understanding of God’s missional purposes in our world.

Biblical Mission: Whole Gospel, Whole Church, Whole World

The Lausanne Covenant includes the assertion that, “…evangelization requires the whole church to take the whole gospel to the whole world.” I’ll change the order to “Whole Gospel, Whole Church, Whole World” and use it as a three-fold outline to project some major missiological issues in the future of world evangelization.

These larger global themes find their roots in scripture and are highlighted with the following “M” words, italicized throughout this article:

(1) Missio Dei; (2) Missiology; (3) Miracles; (4) Message; (5) Mercy; (6) Mobilization; (7) Meeting with God [intercession]; (8) Monetary [Resources]; (9) Mutuality [cooperation]; (10) Maps; (11) Migration; (12) Mobility; (13) Megacities; (14) Multicultural [societies]; (15) Minors [children]; (16) Militancy; (17) Marginalization; (18) Martyrdom; (19) Master [of the harvest]; (20) Maranatha [The Lord is coming!].

Each of the “M” words is a symbol or descriptive title for much broader and deeper missiological issues and trends that will require ongoing scripture reflection, and strategic projection.  They are only a sample of terms and phrases to discuss traditional “missions” in a new way forward.

Whole Gospel

The “Whole Gospel” is the “gospel of God” (Romans 1.1) and mission is “Missio Dei “the mission of God.” Genesis 1.1 reveals the sovereignty of God as the originator and sustainer of His mission.

Missionary statesman/author J. Herbert Kane said it so profoundly (italics mine):

From first to last the Christian mission is God’s mission, not man’s. It originated in the heart of God. It is based on the love of God. It is determined by the will of God. Its mandate was enunciated by the Son of God. Its rationale is explained in the Word of God. For its ultimate success it is dependent upon the power of God.

As the gospel advances into new territories and among new peoples, we will need a scripturally-centered biblical missiology that critically reflects on missionary practice in the light of God’s word. Due to the rising deterrence from non-Christian religions and lifestyles and the alarming drift toward theological “slippage” on the part of some in the Christian community, there will continue to be a call for the ballast and balance of biblical exegesis and theological scholarship conducted in cooperation with practical input from Pentecostal missionaries and missiologists. Exegesis and evangelization need not, and cannot be mutually exclusive.  

We will also need a “missiology of pulpit and pew” as the local church gathers around God’s word for a fresh, twenty-first century rediscovery of the missio Dei. Predictably, this will precipitate a renewal of anointed biblical preaching as a launching pad for new missional movements. 

This happened at the dawn of the modern missionary movement, launched with a sermon preached in England by William Carey on May 30, 1792. Carey’s famous watchword in the sermon was, “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.” His preaching, his writings, and his tireless promotion resulted in the formation of a new missionary society and set in motion the formation of 12 new missions organizations over the next 32 years. He spent 40 unbroken years of service in India and was acclaimed as “The Father of Modern Missions.” 

It happened again with Adoniram Judson, the leader of the first American missionary effort in 1812. As a seminary student, Judson was strongly influenced by the writings of William Carey and was caught up in the enthusiasm for missions which was developing in New England. He was especially moved, as were others of his time, through the famous missions sermon, “The Star in the East,” by Claudius Buchanan from Scotland. Buchanan initially preached the message on a visit to England in 1809 and it soon had wide circulation and influence across the Atlantic.  New missions societies from the United States emerged partly because of the sermon’s influence and it was a major factor in the decision of Judson to become a missionary.

A powerful sermon recruited the visionary founder of one of today’s largest missions movements. When he was only 13 years old, he sat spell bound as an anointed preacher delivered a message in a youth revival in a little Pentecostal church in Springdale, Arkansas. He went to the altar where, before his eyes, written in bold letters were the words, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16.15). “The impact of this vision,” he later testified, “is so imbedded in my memory; I can still see those big bold letters right now as I recall the occasion. It was something God was really driving home to me in a lasting way.”

So is the testimony of a man touched by the power of the preached word. His name is Loren Cunningham, who went on to preach the gospel around the world and establish a movement—Youth With a Mission—that would eventually spread to more than 200 nations with thousands of full-time staff and annual short-term workers.

Prayer Points: Let us pray: (1) for missionary trainers and those developing a Pentecostal missiology; (2) for pastors as they develop and preach God’s mission from scripture; (3) for those who develop missions preaching resources and curriculum for pastors and local church Christian educators (Sunday School and Bible study leaders, etc.). 

The “whole gospel” will continue to be the Spirit-empowered “full gospel” accompanied by miracles, signs and wonders, powerful demonstrations of, “…the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following” (Mark 16.20). This was, without apology, central to the message of the early church who understood that Biblical evangelism is supernatural evangelism (Rom. 15.19; 1 Cor. 2.1-5).

Missional Pentecostalism also mandates a whole gospel of message (word) and mercy (deed) with a Biblical balance of evangelism and social action. It practices a “public Pentecostalism” in the political arena, advocates peace, justice, human rights, and addresses the care of creation and the environment. Pentecostals, while proclaiming the evangelistic message, are also actively involved in such ministries and movements as The Pentecostal/Charismatic Peace Fellowship, the Evangelical Environmental Network, and Evangelicals for Social Action.

Prayer Points: Let us pray (1) for Pentecostal lay witnesses and full-time evangelists as they proclaim the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit, with signs and wonders following; (2) for Pentecostal peace and social activists in their ministry of benevolence and positive social change; (3) for Pentecostals in governmental leadership in the public arena.

Whole Church

Biblical mission also calls for mobilization of the whole church (Acts 1.8; 8.4), a Pentecostal “democratization of Christianity” without age, gender, or racial barriers.  Biblical mission urges meeting with God [intercession] to pray for nations and kingdom workers. It commissions the evangelizing emancipation of all the people of God for missional witness in every sector of society and requires the support of monetary and human resources. 

Whole church mission revisits the Pentecostal heritage of an “ecumenism of the Spirit” with fellow Great Commission believers in all Christian families and is lived out in the global church through the mutuality of cooperation, interdependence, and partnership. These themes are highlighted in the essays of a forthcoming book on cooperation in mission from the World Missions Commission of the Pentecostal World Fellowship.

Mission from the whole church involves a global conversation of the assembly (local church), the agency (parachurch agencies), the academy (missiologists/missions trainers), and the agora (laity in the marketplace). The laity in the marketplace are taking an active lead in enterprising and creative world missions ventures through the “Business as Mission” (BAM) movement.

There are more than 300 “Great Commission companies” worldwide. Those in such BAM ventures are business-for-profit leaders who see their business presence in another country as missions outreach. For example, in a country left unnamed, Christian workers run a factory that produces fishing equipment. They provide jobs for local villagers, many of whom become followers of Jesus. The factory building also doubles as a Bible school for discipleship training.

In another setting, businessman Tom Sudyk (a leader in the BAM movement), owns and operates a software development company in India. He provides capital investment, job opportunities, and a bridge for employees to hear the gospel.

In addition, there are untold millions of “world traveling Christian laity,” expatriates in countries outside their homelands, who are bearing witness for Christ through their professional skills. Philip Fujii is one of those emissaries for Christ. He attends the Tokyo Lighthouse Church of God in Tokyo, Japan where I recently encouraged this progressive and growing congregation to commit themselves to wider outreach in their world. 

At the close of the service I spoke with Philip, a business attorney who spends much of his time on a plane between Tokyo and London. I asked him about the number of Japanese expatriates, most of them business professionals, in the United Kingdom. He estimated that some 40,000 Japanese citizens were in the U.K. and testified through his tears how he and his wife had such a burden to reach his expatriate countrymen for Christ.

Prayer Points: Let us pray (1) for those involved in missionary mobilization and information; (2) that God would raise up a powerful movement of global intercessory prayer; (3)for creative and biblical approaches in missions fund-raising and marketplace ventures such as Business as Mission); (4) for a broader cooperation in mission.

Whole World

The whole gospel must be lived out by the whole church in the whole world. Mission in our world is not only defined by maps (geography) but by the significant missiological opportunities of migration and global mobility in a borderless world in which more than 200 million people are living outside their countries of origin. The late missions visionary/missiologist Ralph Winter wrote that, “Diaspora missiology may well be the most important undigested reality in missions thinking today. We simply have not caught up with the fact that most of the world’s people can no longer be defined geographically.”

It is a world now demographically defined by mega-cities and multicultural societies. The urban challenge is massive but the outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit is amazing. Pentecostal/Charismatic churches are found by the thousands in 80% of the world’s largest 3,300 cities. Multicultural, international, English-language churches are being planted exponentially in mega-cities around the world. Typically, these congregations represent dozens of nationalities and are filled with refugees, diaspora immigrants, international students, expatriate business people, and bi-lingual nationals.

According to Dan Brewster of Compassion International, the whole world challenge must also include minors [children], an oft-forgotten “M” opportunity.  Brewster is a leading global advocate for children. He joins missions strategist Luis Bush in championing the cause for the “4/14 Window,” a strategic push to disciple children in the ages of 4-14, most of whom are growing up outside of a Christian influence and away from access to the gospel.   

The whole world is a hostile and violent one in which believers are threatened with militancy, marginalization, and martyrdom. God’s global people are facing persecution, dangers, and challenges unprecedented in the history of the worldwide expansion of the church.

Prayer Points: Let us pray for (1) kingdom workers in the diaspora and those developing the new field of “diaspora missiology;” (2) urban church planters and leaders of international churches in major cities; (3) children’s workers and advocates; (4) the persecuted church and families of Christian martyrs.

A historical anecdote is told about a Roman centurion and his men who were hopelessly lost somewhere in the northern corner of what we now call “the U.K.” (United Kingdom). No doubt he was far beyond the familiar “Hadrian’s Wall” or other Roman-built geographical markers.  With a dispatch back to Rome, he sent his plea to his commander: “Send new orders. We’ve marched off the map!” As we obey Christ’s commission in world evangelization, we will be “marching off the map” into unfamiliar, new places and challenges. Our Master, however, is the sovereign Lord of the Harvest (Matthew 9.38) and has assured us that He is working with us -- even to the ends of the earth and until the end of the age (Mark 16.20; Matthew 28.20).

He promised that, “…this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24.14).  Until He comes, our motto is the final “M” in world evangelization: “Maranatha” - “the Lord is coming!”