Matthew 28:16-20 states that all three persons of the Trinity are involved in making disciples of all nations (missions). The Father gives the authority for missions to the Son. The Son commissions the apostles (the Church). The Church baptizes new converts in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
The authority given to the Son is “in heaven” and “on earth” and includes the nations being given to Christ as His possession (Psalm 2:8).
(v. 20) The church is to teach them no less than to observe all things that Jesus commanded. Thus, the church is to translate the Old and the New Testament into the languages of the people as needed. Missionaries must teach the whole counsel of God. The Gospel should not to be reduced to its bare minimum.
Mark 16:15-16 clearly states that the Gospel is to be taken into all the world and preached to every creature. The command to “go” is universal in its scope and directed to all peoples.
Christ’s commission includes the children of believers as disciples and recipients of water baptism. They are included in the covenant and should both receive baptism and Christian instruction (Matthew 28:20; Acts 2:37-39).
The preaching of the Gospel is accompanied by the covenantal promise that those who believe will be saved and the curse that those who do not believe will be lost (John 20:23). There is no other way to be saved except through the Son (John 14:6).
Preaching the Gospel results in men being reconciled with God and being “built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:19-22). Being incorporated into the body of Christ, the Church, God’s people become a community in which the Trinity dwells and all things are made new.
The mandate or commission of Christ is accompanied by the power of the Holy Spirit to the end of the age (Acts 1:8; 2; Matthew 28:20). Christ empowers His Church to extend into all nations. The Spirit enables the Church to accomplish her missionary commission. The church relies on God’s empowering and demonstrates her inability through prayer (Luke 10:2; Romans 15:30-33; Ephesians 6:18-20; Acts 1:14; 4:24-31).
1. The commission of discipling the nations (missions) is given to the Church of Jesus Christ. She is the proper and sole agent of missions.
The Bible prescriptively and descriptively sets forth the Church as being responsible for carrying out the work of missions.
2. The Church conducts this work primarily through her commissioned officers and they are held accountable to her.
After Christ commissioned and sent out the first officers (Acts 1:8) we seem to see the same pattern followed (Acts 1:4-25; 13:1-4). The commissioned are accountable to the sending congregations (to Antioch: Acts 14:26-28; 15:30-35; 18:22-23. To Jerusalem Acts 15:1-5; 21:17-19).
3. The tools given the Church for her task are the Word and the Sacraments.
Preaching and the administration of baptism and the Lord’s Supper function as the primary method by which the nations are to be discipled. All other programs and para-church ministries must serve to enable the Church to accomplish her task.
4. The Office of the Believer.
Although the Church is to carry out her mission through her commissioned and sent officers, non-commissioned members are not excluded. The New Testament gives us many examples of “fellow laborers” volunteering their time, gifts and resources (Luke 19:29-34; 22:9-13; 23:50-56; Acts 16:14-15; 19:29; 20:4; Romans 16:3; Philippians 4:2-3). Such “fellow laborers” can serve both here and abroad.
5. The important relationship between “Word” and “Deed.”
The preaching of the Word is often accompanied by deeds of mercy. While there are examples of the preaching of the Word in the New Testament without a record of diaconal deeds of mercy (Acts 2:14-39; 14:1-7), there are no examples of the practice of deeds of mercy independent of the ministry of the Word (Acts 3; 14:8-18). Thus, the Word must have preeminence in the mission of the Church, though never to the exclusion of deeds of mercy.
The Mechanics: Joint Venture Model
While the local church remains the calling, the commissioning, and the primary administrating body for missions, churches in the CREC are encouraged to cooperate in the sending of missionaries. Christ Church has embraced the Joint Venture Model of missions (taken from the URC) to carry out her work of missions (Elder Minutes, November 2003).
In this model, the local church sends out the missionary. A mission committee of the sending church holds the missionary accountable and helps advise them. Sister churches, who have the right to send a representative to the sending church’s mission committee, send funds to the missionary through the missionary’s sending church.
In light of the above, Christ Church’s mission strategy will give priority to the following criteria in choosing what missions work to support:
- Commissioned officers of Christ Church held accountable to their session of elders.
- Commissioned Christ Church officers and members trained up by the Christ Church sent to be involved in activities that directly relate to, or support, the ministry of Word and Sacraments.
- Mission work that is either a CREC church planting effort or connected to one.
- Missions that are connected to other CREC churches.
- Missions that are long-term or mid-term in nature.
- Mission work that is achievable, sustainable (including the oversight of the missionary), and most likely to be self-perpetuating.
- Parachurch organizations that consciously recognize the centrality of the Church and in practice defer to her authority (e.g. through cooperative agreements, etc).
- Members who are working with the elders in exploring their call to missions.
- All other things being equal, priority will be given to taking the Gospel to where it has not yet been preached.