The mission of the church is set by the words of Jesus shortly before he ascended into heaven: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) Our mission, then, is to witness to Jesus:
- in our neighborhoods (“Jerusalem”)
- in our regions (“Judea and Samaria”)
- in our world (“to the end of the earth”)
We have been sent to the world, so we go (John 17). But we do not go empty-handed, like poor nomads with little to offer but friendship. We are ambassadors and we have a message. Simply stated, the message is the gospel—the good news of the life, death, resurrection, ascension, and glory of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. This gospel is not abstract truth. Jesus Christ died for sinners—all of us—that we might be forgiven by God and reconciled to God on the basis of Jesus’ substitutionary, atoning death. 
This indescribably profound truth is the ultimate basis for missions.
There is no point in “going” if we do not carry and clearly articulate the gospel. Charles Spurgeon set the gospel in its proper theological context: “Do you not know...what God’s estimate of the gospel is? Do you not know that it has been the chief subject of his thoughts and acts from all eternity? He looks on it as the grandest of all his works.”
When we take the gospel to the world, we proclaim “the grandest of all his works,” the single message God desires all nations to hear. Without the gospel as the heart, goal, and message, there is no biblical missiology. This one element separates missions from religious social work and proselytizing. Many human agencies are effective at meeting temporal needs; only the gospel addresses people in their eternal state before God. Many religions seek converts; only one has the truth that creates new hearts. The gospel is the base of our missiological structure because it is the foundation upon which all missions is built. It is the only message that matters in an ultimate way.
The gospel is also the power behind missions. The apostle Paul was supremely conﬁdent in the power of the gospel for salvation across cultural boundaries. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew ﬁrst and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16). “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).
In his letter to the Colossian church, Paul arms the power of the gospel coming to them, “as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing” (Colossians 1:6, emphasis added). The gospel is not simply a set of pithy points enhanced through attractive literature. It is a dynamic, unstoppable force which God has unleashed in creation through the cross.
As Leon Morris so memorably stated, “[The gospel] is not simply good advice, telling us what we should do. Nor is it information about God’s power. It is God’s power.”
Any missions commitment must begin with and be sustained by a resolute conﬁdence in the truth of the gospel message and the power of its proclamation. Where this is lacking, the locus of our conﬁdence shifts from God to methods. Missiology must never start with technology or territorial spirits. It must begin with our conﬁdence in the explosive gospel message we carry.
Moreover, we want to proclaim a gospel that does not cease working in life-changing power when conversion is accomplished. For the gospel to be the foundation of a fully biblical missiology it must be the foundation of our lives, with fruit that witnesses not merely to salvation, but to ongoing transformation. Such a testimony gives integrity to our proclamation and undergirds the message of the cross. At Sojourn network, our mission statement is, “Helping pastors plant, grow and multiply healthy churches that last”. Those last two words in our statement, “that last,” require us to connect the gospel not only to our proclamation, but to our parenting, our vocations, our friendships, our trials—to all areas of our lives.
This draws our gaze beyond our own communities, regions and nations. We are drawn to look further afield, past the immediate purview of our particular church plant(s) or beyond our current situation. Our vision for planting churches in the cities and regions closest to us must not neglect a bigger, grander vision — one that includes partnering with others to plant churches that witness to Jesus, even “to the ends of the earth.”
A gospel-centered missiology will include lives that testify to a gospel-centered motivation for the gospel to all nations. May God help us enter the mission ﬁeld with the gospel, and with a conﬁdence in what the gospel alone can accomplish from the innermost parts of our heart to the uttermost ends of the world.
- For deeper study on the glory of the gospel, check out Redemption Accomplished and Applied (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1984), by John Murray; The Gospel for Real Life (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2002) by Jerry Bridges; Apostles Doctrine of the Atonement, George Smeaton.
Charles Spurgeon, quoted in John H. Armstrong, “In Search of Spiritual Power,” Power Religion: The Selling Out of the Evangelical Church?, ed. Michael Scott Horton (Chicago, IL: Moody, 1992) p 85.
Paraphrasing Joseph Fitzmyer, quoted in Robert L. Plummer, “A Theological Basis for the Church’s Mission in Paul,” Westminster Theological Journal, Vol 64, No 2, Fall 2002, p 258, fn 20.
Leon Morris, The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians: An Introduction and Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1985) p 44.