dr. alfonse javed

What Is the Difference Between Mission and Missions?

Several years ago, I was commissioned by the board of elders in my church to direct all of our short-term missions at our church. I found that many in the leadership and congregation used the term mission to describe the short-term missions. In one of our meetings, my former senior pastor said that we are spending over thirty percent of our budget on mission, which comes to one million dollars. He used the term mission to identify our outreach efforts through sending and supporting missionaries overseas, nationwide and regular outreach activities in New York City. I believe he should have used the term missions because we are spending 100% on mission.  So, I had to explain the difference between mission and missions.

  • Mission is “everything the church is doing that points toward the kingdom of God.”[1]
  • Missions is “to the specific task of reaching people for Christ by crossing cultural boundaries.”[2]

I like what John R. W. Stott said in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: A Reader:

It is essential, therefore, for Christians to understand the ground on which the Christian mission rests. Only then shall we be able to persevere in the missionary task, with courage and humility, in spite of the world’s misunderstanding and opposition[3]

Unless Christians are able to understand the difference between mission and missions, they will never understand that we all are involved in mission–the mission of God. As Christians, we are called to be His witnesses to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8). A disciple of Jesus Christ “understands that love is the hallmark of followers of Christ. Love for God, love for neighbor, and love for other disciples is a very important part of the value system of a disciple.” [4] This is the major change that takes place at the time of conversion; that we transform into a new being who lives for God, and for others, and demonstrates His love. We love because God loved us first (1 John 4:19). Then out of that love we are willing to reach out to others so that they may have life and may have it more abundantly (John 10:10).

This was the love of the triune God for each other and for us that was demonstrated on the cross in the person of God the Son who was made into man to die for the whole world (John 3:16). Since the beginning of time, God has been on the mission of redeeming and reconciling mankind back to Him. Even since man fell from grace and into sin and it broke the fellowship between himself and God, God’s divine love came pouring outward to save humanity and bring us back to Him (2 Corinthians 5:19). Clearly, God is a missionary God, and His mission was and is to proclaim His Kingdom on earth and in heaven. His Kingdom on earth means to proclaim the gospel and meet the needs of the poor and needy (Luke 4:17-19; Matthew 5:3).

Therefore, the mission of God is carried out through missions in:

  • The proclamation of the Gospel
  • Meeting the needs of the poor and needy

Arthur F. Glasser writes:

The Great Commission includes the obligation to teach converts “to observe all things” that Jesus had taught his disciples. This means that the demonstration of Kingdom values and concerns comes with in the circle of the mission obligation, for this was the central theme of Jesus’ ministry. [5]

I served as a missionary for twelve years before accepting a pastoral position at an evangelical church in midtown Manhattan, where I have served for 11 years as of March 2021. I have served in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Greece and finally in New York City. Even though right now I serve as a pastor, I continue to do my missionary work among Muslim communities in New York City, where they are increasing by the day (about one million Muslims in the metro area as of 2021). I believe that God is bringing them to our doorstep so that we can preach, and they can hear the Gospel without a threat on their lives. My heart for the mission of God informs my understanding of missions. As a pastor, I am happy to report that currently, we are supporting 64 missionaries in over thirty countries, with the majority in the 10/40 window. Also, I believe now our STM program is growing and moving in the right direction. So, I think understanding the difference between mission and missions is helping us to formulate a proper philosophy of missions at our church.

 

[1] Scott A. Moreau, et al. Introducing World Missions: A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Survey. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2004) 17.

[2] Ibid.

[3] John R. W. Stott Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: A Reader, ed. Winter, Ralph D., and Steven C. Hawthorne, 4th ed. Pasadena, California: William Carey Library, 2009.

[4] Dave Early and Rod Dempsey, Disciple Making is…How to Live the Great Commission with Passion and Confidence (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group. 2013), 27.

[5] Arthur F. Glasser, The Story of God’s Mission in the Bible: Announcing the Kingdom (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003), 247.