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“Evangelism is God’s idea, hatched in the loving heart of the Father. And he is the greatest evangelist” ~ David Strain

God is the ultimate missionary, and our missionary zeal is an outgrowth of God’s prior passion to have a people for himself. A careful reading of Scripture, I believe, leads one to this conclusion. Consider, for example, the missionary language found in the Bible.

Not only does John 3:16 disclose the Father’s “initiative behind the work of Christ,” verse 17 makes plain that the Father “did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that it might be saved through him” (emphasis mine).[1] Furthermore, Jesus himself stated that he came to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10 [note how Jesus understands his mission]); he “came down from heaven” (John 3:13; 6:38) to “give eternal life to all whom [the Father had] given him” (John 17:2). What is this eternal life? Jesus put the matter succinctly: “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (v. 3, emphasis mine).

Additionally, in the Upper Room Discourse (John14-17), Jesus said that his Father would send the Comforter—the Spirit of God (14:25). Nevertheless, in chapter 15 Jesus announces that he will send the Spirit (15:26). During his sermon on the day of Pentecost, the Apostle Peter linked Jesus’ ascension with his “pouring out” of the Spirit (Acts 2:33). Can you see how all three Persons of the Godhead are involved in the mission? (See also Eph. 1:3-14.)

But there’s more: We must also place God’s written Word in this category. Scripture, John Webster reminds us, is “an element in the drama of God’s redeeming and communicative self-giving, an element of the missio dei [mission of God].[2] Hence, we have a canon (the sixty-six books in our Bible) because we have a God who communicates, and this God who communicates desires to commune with his image bearers.[3] Imagine: The sovereign God “who dwells in unapproachable light” (1 Tim. 6:16) speaks. He’s determined to be known by creatures. And he’s an “effective communicator,” because he’s “committed to personal relationships.”[4]

What all this means, therefore, is that the gospel has eternal roots in the life of the Triune God, and the sending of his Son and Spirit to accomplish our redemption manifests his desire to share the bliss of his Triune life with rebellious sinners.[5]

This may sound like flowery theological language, but that’s not the point; the point is God desires to have a people for himself. And that’s where you and I come in: In God’s infinite wisdom, he’s designed that you and I—his redeemed people—have a part to play in his saving enterprise. We know this because Paul tells us that our reconciling God has given us the “message of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:19), and that God is “making his appeal through us” (v. 21). But what does this look like? What shape does this take? The shape is missional, incarnational, and ecclesiological.

We’ll look at each of these points in turn:

Missional – Someone once stated that two-thirds of God is Go.[6] Given this reality, what kind of life does this call forth from us? The answer is: A missional life. As best I can remember, about a decade ago, “missional” became something of a buzzword. The idea behind it is that all believers—whether officially set apart for missionary work or not—are called to live on mission for God. Regardless of your vocation—from stay-at-home moms and dads, to physicians, to factory workers—every believer is to view himself or herself as a missionary. Why? Because that’s why we’re here on this earth. The problem is we make this more complicated than it needs to be. “Evangelism is more than a task or method,” Jon D. Payne writes, “it is a lifestyle.”[7] Rather than trying to work ourselves up into some kind of spiritual frenzy, view missional engagement as a normal part of your everyday life.

Incarnational – Again, another buzzword. You’ve probably heard the word “incarnation” around Christmastime—a word that speaks to God coming in human form. Jesus is God incarnate—God in human flesh. With this in mind, our missional engagement must be incarnational, that is, it must be relational. This means engaging with people, taking an interest in their lives, showing genuine concern for our friends and neighbors. It means getting messy because peoples’ lives are messy. Are you ready for that? I’m not, so let’s pray together about this. (If you’re interested in how this might look in everyday life, I recommend studying the life of Francis Schaeffer, and his ministry at L’Abri. See the fascinating book by Barry Hankins, Francis Schaeffer and the Shaping of Evangelical America.)

Ecclesiological – By this I mean that our missional outlook must include the church—and this by God’s design. He’s created us in such a way that change comes through redemptive relationships. By “redemptive relationships” I am referring broadly to the role of the church, as well as small groups or accountability groups. We must involve ourselves in others’ lives. We can’t remain isolated from other believers and expect to experience the fullness of all that God has for us.

While we aren’t equipped to do this work in our own strength, as we prayerfully and expectantly wait on the Lord, we can be assured that God will use us in a way to bring him glory. I’ll ask one more time: Are you ready?



[1] David Strain, “God: The Winner of Souls,” Tabletalk 41:9 (September 2017): 7.

[2] John Webster, Holy Scripture: A Dogmatic Sketch (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 42.

[3] Graham A. Cole, “Why a Book? Why This Book? Why the Particular Order within This Book? Some Theological Reflections on the Canon,” in The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures, ed. D. A. Carson (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2016), 456-476.

[4] Mark D. Thompson, A Clear and Present Word: The Clarity of Scripture, New Studies in Biblical Theology 21 (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2006), 63.

[5] Michael Allen, “Knowledge of God,” in Christian Dogmatics: Reformed Theology for the Church Catholic, eds. Michael Allen and Scott R. Swain (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2016), 20.

[6] Stephen Seamands, Ministry in the Image of God: The Trinitarian Shape of Christian Service (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2005), 160.

[7] Jon D. Payne, “Winning the Souls of Unbelievers,” Tabletalk 41:9 (September 2017): 17.