In the days to come in the Global Missions with Kids series, we’re going to talk about global missions with children and teenagers, like how to help them love the nations and practical ways to serve. But today I want to talk about our beliefs as adults to set the foundation for what we pass on to our children regarding global missions.
Re-Reading Scripture through a “Missions” Lens
A few years ago I realized that somehow I had missed one of the main points of my favorite Bible stories and Scripture verses, like:
- Moses and the parting of the Red Sea
- David and Goliath
- Psalm 46: “Be still and know that I am God.”
- the Christmas story
- Jesus’ miracles
- the story of Paul
You see, I understood many of these stories as being all about me and my own faith:
- I looked at Abraham and saw a hero of faith for my own life, a great example of following God no matter His orders.
- I read the story of Joseph and his colorful coat and aimed to trust God even when circumstances seemed dire, just like Joseph trusted God when he was sold into slavery and later thrown in prison.
- I imagined the 10 plagues and the parting of the Red Sea, grateful for a God who saves His chosen people, and who saves me too.
- I heard the story of David and Goliath and learned that God fights for the underdog, and I don’t have to worry about being strong and mighty to serve Him.
- I repeated “be still and know that I am God” from Psalm 46:10 in stressful times, finding peace and comfort from those words.
- I celebrated the joy of Christmas each December, glad that Jesus came as a gift to save His chosen people – including me!
- I examined stories of Jesus’ miracles and appreciated how He saved and healed His chosen people.
- I learned about the apostle Paul, transformed by God from horrible persecutor to faithful apostle, who wrote much of the New Testament.
Are all those lessons true? Certainly.
But we know the Bible is a miraculous book, full of meaning and able to studied over and over again, with the Holy Spirit granting us new insight each time.
Through some Bible classes and the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, I discovered something else about these stories and passages.
Did you know that each of these stories is also about global missions, or God’s redemption of the nations? In these stories, and many others throughout the Bible, God is making His name known among the nations and drawing all people to Him.
In fact, I believe in most cases, the purpose of God’s action in these miracles and people’s lives is even more about loving the nations than about me feeling peace and comfort.
Did you know…
- that Abraham is the father of a nation intended to be a blessing to all the nations? (Genesis 12:1-3)
- that Joseph’s story is a demonstration of God moving His people into position to bless Pharaoh and declare His name in Egypt, which was one of the most important civilizations in the world in ancient times?
- that the 10 plagues and the parting of the Red Sea were not just to deliver His people, but were intended to show His glory among Egypt and the surrounding nations… and it worked? Non-Israelites went with them out of Egypt, and forty years later, people in pagan nations in Canaan were still talking about the power of God at the Red Sea.
- that David served to show the whole world that there is a God in Israel?
- that “be still and know that I am God” is not the complete text of Psalm 46:10? It continues, “I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
- that the Christmas story shows Jesus’ birth proclaimed as a blessing for all people? And He was later welcomed with gifts from several wise men, visiting from far away nations.
- that Jesus’ miracles healed and saved not only His chosen people of Israel, but Gentiles too? (Mark 7:24-29, Luke 7:1-10, Luke 8:29-31).
- that the apostle Paul was transformed by God not only to write much of the New Testament, but to bring salvation to those from people groups beyond the people of Israel?
Perhaps you knew all these things already, but I certainly didn’t.
In fact, I wrote a lengthy paper on short-term missions in college and struggled to find examples of missions in the Old Testament. I wondered whether missions didn’t exist until the Great Commission of Matthew 28.
Yet as I dug deeper and participated in some great Bible classes, I saw the examples above. Through these classes, my eyes were opened to His heart for the world as demonstrated in Scripture.
I learned that God never meant to save only His chosen people of Israel.
It was never God’s intent to limit salvation to an elite few. He always intended for Israel to be a blessing to all nations.
From the very beginning, His heart has been beating for all nations. One of His primary purposes for our very existence here on earth is to make His name known to every nation, tribe, people, and language.
God’s Purpose for Israel and for the Church Today
God bestowed His love and favor His chosen people, Israel, with the purpose that the whole world would see His power and glory through them.
But they missed it. They made their faith, and their God, all about them… with disastrous results. Over and over and over again, Israel missed their chance. They were blessed to be a blessing, but they skipped over the second part of that agreement.
Of course, our gracious God worked anyways. There are some bright spots in their history, like David and the other stories mentioned above. Israel was also a blessing by virtue of their genealogy – through them, Jesus was brought into the world.
But don’t you think they missed out? Instead of shining a light for God, they disobeyed, turned to other gods, and eventually were scattered among the nations themselves.
I fear the same for us. In our North American Christianity (I can’t speak so authoritatively for the Church outside of this area), we have a tendency to make Christianity all about me.
And when Christianity is all about me, then the Church is all about me, and my life’s purpose is all about me, too.
It’s hard for to fit in missions when all I’m focused on is myself.
And so we reduce missions to just a hobby for a few, rather than a key role of the Church here on earth. Missions is not a hobby, an interest, or one of many programs that the church offers.
Missions is the job of the Church on earth, and it’s a non-negotiable for Christians.
“His purpose for the church was to continue what He began with Israel. God wants to redeem a lost world” (Henry Blackaby, Fresh Encounter, p. 68).
“I define ‘successful’ as fulfilling the Great Commission. Any church that is not obeying the Great Commission is failing its purpose, no matter what else it does” (Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Church, p. 64).
What If I Can’t Move Overseas as a Missionary?
I want to be clear – I am not saying every person needs to move overseas and serve as a missionary. Remember our definition from Global Missions 101: “global missions is sharing the good news of Jesus Christ cross-culturally through words and actions, so that people from all nations will believe and follow Him.”
You can do this wherever you are – something we’ll talk about at length tomorrow.
How God is calling you to do missions is going to look different for each individual.
Over the course of the Global Missions with Kids series, I hope to help guide you through some ideas, and I hope the Lord will speak to you about His calling. Maybe you’ll walk away with a renewed love for the nations. Perhaps you’ll determine a new ministry you want to be involved with, or you’ll be affirmed by the Lord in the work you’re already doing.
In addition, the focus of this series is Global Missions with Kids. Now, if you are someone without children or teenagers in your life, please stick around! I hope you’ll learn something and be inspired for your own life.
But, I’m especially writing for those of you with children or teenagers in your life – whether you’re a parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle, Sunday school teacher, youth ministry volunteer, foster care advocate, or another adult mentor.
I’m hoping you will be inspired not only to serve missionally as an individual, but also to lead your young people in missions, too.
It’s All About Christ
In closing, I want to be sure to say that the Bible is first and foremost the story of Jesus Christ.
In fact, I have a certain wonderful college professor in mind whose life’s message has focused on how the whole Bible points to Jesus, using a bow-tie as an illustration.
So I want you to know that absolutely, without a doubt, the whole Bible points to Jesus. It’s all about Him. If you’ve read The Jesus Storybook Bible with your kids, it illustrates this truth so well!
Alongside and interwoven with this message is the story of Christ’s love for all nations.
If we reduce Him down to merely a personal Savior, sent just to save and comfort me, and maybe the people in my church who look like me… then we’ve missed it.
It’s all about Him: Every word of Scripture. Every minute of our lives. Our greatest passion should not be missions… it ought to be Jesus Christ.
John Piper says that “Missions is not the ultimate goal of the Church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t.”
In other words, if the whole world was already worshipping God, there would be no reason for missions. Missions isn’t the end game… the worship of Jesus Christ is.
We already know the worship of Jesus by all nations is going to happen! Philippians 2:9-11 says…
“Therefore God exalted [Jesus] to the highest place
and gave Him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.”
We never need to doubt God’s mission being fulfilled, because it is already stated as fact in this beautiful picture in Revelation 7:9-10 –
“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
There will be no missions in heaven! Every culture there will know Christ already.
But in the meantime… let’s get to work!