What do we mean by “missions”?
First of all, it’s important to note that opinions on "missions" in the Church vary widely, which is why the elders at Doxa Church have seen fit to clarify a philosophy of missions in accordance with the Scriptures. Second of all, you’d be hard-pressed to find the word "mission" or "missions" or "missionaries" or "missional" in our translations of the Scriptures. However, that does not imply that these words are not helpful labels in seeking to address the task God has given to the church.
The word ‘mission’ comes from the Latin verb missio, which means ‘to send.’ And herein, we find our connection to the Scriptures. In the Scriptures, we see the verb ‘to send’ used frequently, and in a variety of ways. The mission of God has always been a sending program. A basic theology of "sending" includes Abram who was "sent" to a new land to be the father of a great nation (Gen 12:1-3), Moses who was "sent" to Pharaoh to deliver his people (Ex 3:10), Israel who was "sent" out of Egypt and into the Promised Land (Ex 13-14), the prophets who were ‘sent’ to address Israel’s disobedience, and then in these last days He sent His Son into the world "that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). Jesus was "sent" by God, empowered by the Spirit of God, equipped with the word of God to accomplish the plan of God through His incarnation, death, resurrection, and ascension. Then, the Father and Son "sent" the Holy Spirit (John 14:26). Then, the Spirit was poured out on the church, and the church, built on the foundation of the apostles (apostle means one who is "sent" (Eph 3:20), was sent to complete the ministry of Christ to be Christ’s witnesses "in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the end of the earth" (Acts 1:8). And just as Jesus prayed to the Father, "As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world" (John 17:18).
That work continues today and will continue until Christ returns. But what is the work exactly? What specifically have we been sent to do? The answers, as mentioned, have varied greatly. We believe the answer to this question rightly frames a biblical philosophy of missions.
The Mission of "Missions"
The responsibility of the church is the Great Commission and the goal of the Great Commission is the glory of God in making disciples of all nations.
Matthew 28:16-20: "Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always to the end of the age."
The command in this passage is "make disciples."
What is a disciple?
Simply put, a disciple is a Christian (2 Cor 5:17; John 1:12-13; 3:3; 8:31). Not a Christian by name only or cultural affiliation but a Christian by life and doctrine (1 Tim 4:16). A Christian has been born again (John 3:3), born of the Spirit (John 3:7), ‘not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:13). A Christian is one who is born again through the living and abiding word of God (1 Pet 1:23; James 1:18), evidenced by repentance and faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ (2 Tim 2:25; Eph 2:8), commissioned unto good works (Eph 2:10), and called to a process of progressive sanctification into the image of Christ from one degree of glory to the next (2 Cor 3:18). And all of that ultimately falls under the concept of being a disciple of Jesus. The verb "go", in Matthew 28, is a participle that modifies the main verb which is the imperative "make disciples." While it does have an imperatival force, it is not the command. We understand the clause this way, "as you’re going make disciples of all nations". Thus, as you’re going in your Christian life and growing in your Christian life, the Christian’s mind is on being a disciple who makes disciples for the glory of God.
But how does Jesus instruct us to do that?
There are two "ing" verbs that tell us how to make disciples, baptizing, and teaching. Baptism and teaching are functions of the local church. Therefore, the mission of "missions" is the Great Commission and the mission of the Great Commission is establishing disciple-making local churches committed to baptizing and teaching.
Baptizing- The responsibility for baptizing implies the responsibility to see that lost people are getting saved. And Scripture is clear that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Rom 1:16). So to accomplish the Great Commission requires nothing less than an army of ‘sent ones’ carrying out faithful preaching of the Gospel (Rom 10:5-17; 1 Cor 1:18-2:15), empowered by the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8) for the ultimate purpose of the glory of God in Christ (John 15:8; Rom 11:36). And upon one’s salvation, baptizing he or her in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Teaching- The Great Commission does not stop at conversion but continues through "teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you." It is in the context of the local church that believers are taught and grow into maturity (Eph 4:1-16; Tit 2:1-15), are equipped for the work of ministry (Eph 4:11-12), minister their spiritual gifts (Rom: 12; 1 Cor: 12), fulfill the biblical "one anothers" (John 13:34-35), are held accountable (Heb 10:24, 25), and are spiritually cared for through the shepherding of godly elders (1 Tim 3:1-7; Heb 13:17; 1 Pet 5:1-4). In short, the local church is the environment where believers in Christ pursue an ongoing life of discipleship together.
How far and wide does this mission go?
To the ends of the earth or "all nations"- God has purposed to gather people from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation (Rev 7:9-12). Therefore Great Commission work is to stretch to the ends of the earth (Acts 13:47). The Lord Jesus intends for the witness of His church to be ever-expanding geographically (Acts 1:8), and the Apostle Paul modeled this passion and pursuit (Acts 13-28; Rom 15:19-21). God is passionately committed to His name being spread and exalted among all the nations (Isa 12:4; 49:6; 66:19; Matt 6:9; Ps 67). The teaching from the beginning of Scripture (Gen 12:3) to the end (Rev 5:9) is that God is committed to magnifying His name by redeeming for Himself a people from all the peoples of the world.
Jesus promised that He would build His church (Matt 16:18), which He has purchased with His own blood (Acts 20:28; Eph 5:25). Paul sought to gather believers and establish local churches wherever he went (Acts 14:23; Tit 1:5). Therefore, the full work of missions is seen not only in preaching the Gospel and seeing people come to faith in Christ but in establishing new believers into local churches as organized biblically. And we see this purpose as the same for Christians everywhere. Since the local church belongs to God, it must have the same biblical aim and focus, and pursue faithfulness to all that Christ commands, in whatever cultural context it exists.
Training and strengthening churches and church leaders - we will focus our support on activities focused on making disciples, resulting in the establishment and/or strengthening of biblically-ordered local churches. Examples:
1. The Great Commission Collective.
Opportunities include: adopt a TMAI training center, contribute to real-time needs and projects. TMAI provides a return on investment that is unmatched. Consider this: It costs nearly $50,000 to bring one pastor from Africa to the US to study for a year. However, for the same $50,000, TMAI can provide one year of training for thirty students in Africa. There is no question which is the wiser stewardship of the Lord’s resources.
Multiplication- By training one local pastor, we are strengthening an entire church congregation. That body, in turn, will be fully equipped to faithfully preach Christ to its surrounding community. With over 5,000 graduates teaching in thousands of churches, gospel witnesses are multiplied exponentially. An investment into one pastor’s life brings a harvest of many.
Impact - Given the proper training, indigenous church leaders are more effective at planting and pastoring churches than foreign missionaries since they are fluent in the language, have an innate knowledge of their culture, and are intimately connected to the people to whom they minister. Because our graduates face no cultural or language barrier, ministry impact is maximized from day one.
Seed Project: The Seed Project supports Bible translation efforts in order to bring scripture to new languages and, therefore, people groups in need of God's word.
Sending & Reaching:
HeartCry Missionary Society - HeartCry works with indigenous missionaries
whom God has raised up for Himself in some of the most remote places on the earth. It is our goal to provide whatever training and resources are necessary to advance the Gospel through these indigenous missionaries around the world.
Pioneers - Missionary ministry that empowers gospel-driven Christians to go to the ends of the earth together in relentless pursuit of the unreached. Pioneers sees partnership with the local church as essential and works to reach the ends of the earth with the gospel. A ministry like this could be particularly useful in partnership with unreached areas.
Provision - the church will steward its resources to contribute to Great Commission work inside and outside of the context of our local church. A minimum of 12% of our regular giving will be apportioned to these efforts. In light of the priorities above, Doxa Church will look to contribute (locally and globally):
40% of Generosity or 4.8% of the overall budget is for Church Planting
30% of Generosity or 3.6% of the overall budget is for Ministry Partnerships
20% of Generosity or 2.4% of the overall budget is for Mercy Ministries
10% of Generosity or 1.2% of the overall budget is for Benevolence
*Note: these percentages are not permanent but best reflect at this time a faithful stewardship to our priorities and philosophy of missions.
What’s the church’s relationship to parachurch ministries?
The local church is distinguished from a parachurch organization in that a local church is comprised of a clearly identified membership (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet 5:1-3); is overseen and protected by qualified elders (Acts 20:17, 28-31; Tit 1:5-9; 1 Pet 5:1-3); gathers regularly for corporate worship, prayer and the reading and preaching of God’s word (Acts 2:42-47; Heb 10:24-25); the celebration of the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s supper (1 Cor 11:23-26; Matt 28:19) and practices church discipline (Matt 18:15-20; 1 Cor 5:1-5). Parachurch organizations are helpful to the degree that they see themselves, in philosophy and practice, as providing assistance to the local church. Therefore, we’ll evaluate our parachurch partnerships based on their view of the place of the local church.
What about mercy ministry?
While there are examples of preaching without a record of mercy ministry (Acts 2:14-39; 14:1-7), there aren’t any examples of the practice of good works of mercy apart from the good news of mercy (Acts:3; Acts 14:8-18). Thus, the word must have preeminence in the mission of the church, though never to the exclusion of deeds of mercy.
There is no doubt the Scriptures are replete with the responsibility to mercy ministries. We believe mercy ministry is an essential component of being faithful to the Great Commission because it necessarily is the "observing of all that Jesus commanded us." In other words, to care for the poor (Prov 14:31; 19:17; 1 John 3:17-18), the hungry and thirsty (Matt 25:35; James 2:14-18), the needy (James 1:27; Phil 2:4;), and standing up for those who cannot defend themselves (Prov 31:8-9; Ps 146:9) is part of the discipleship process. Moreover, this is a God-ordained part of the process of getting others to see the goodness and glory of God (Matt 5:16), which connects to the "baptizing" part of the Great Commission as well. However, our goal is to meet these needs of compassion in and through the local church. Practically, that means addressing the actual needs that exist in the community and working through the church to care for those needs. This will remain a high priority for us - to support mercy ministries as expansions of local church love for the least and the lost.
Who makes the final call on what we support and what we don’t?
Because the elders are responsible for the doctrine, discipline, and direction of the church, it is their responsibility to ensure that all "mercy ministry" efforts are consistent with Doxa’s theology and philosophy of missions. To help in this effort, the elders may appoint a "deacon of mission partnerships" as necessary to facilitate the administration required. The deacon of missions would serve by facilitating the following: communication with the elders and the development of a team to carry out associated responsibilities.
Church-planting vs. Campuses?
As a general rule, we are committed to planting autonomous, self-sustaining, self-governed local churches. There is some consideration being given to "campuses" as a church plant incubator. What I mean is that a campus, being an extension of Doxa, could provide the space to flesh out leadership and preaching giftings, resources and financial help, and people while getting up to speed before officially launching. It’s a strategy that we believe would help mitigate church planting risks as extensions of self-sustaining churches have a much higher success rate than churches that begin essentially on their own. As for campuses, we don’t see campuses as an alternative to church planting but as an answer to a specific issue namely, the issues that come with seasons of great growth. It can be a useful strategy to address overcrowdedness and an alternative to the potential financial strain of building more buildings.