The concept of change is a strategic element in the definition and implementation of missions. Missions agencies have historically struggled with the question of whether the goals of change should be personal and spiritual or societal as well. This blog entry seeks to argue that the priority change of missions must be personal and spiritual.
The Apostle Paul placed an emphasis on God’s plan of salvation in the context of prophecy. The prophetic event that Paul concentrated on was “the day of the Lord” (I Thess. 5:2), with its implications for both believers and nonbelievers. The main point for both groups as that a future judgment is inevitable. In light of this coming judgment, believers should not be spiritually indifferent and lethargic. They should maintain a commitment to spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ to nonbelievers. Meanwhile, nonbelievers should not be fooled into a sense of calm just because the coming judgment has not yet occurred. Nonbelievers must deal with the truth that they will not escape judgment unless they trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour. Throughout the history of missions, certain organizations believed that change was to be primarily social and temporal in nature. In the period of Enlightenment, the missionary emphasis was placed on the moral improvement of humanity. This emphasis resulted in the social gospel and its evolutionary optimism.
In the twentieth century the social gospel evolved into liberation theology, which believed that the missionary effort should aim to achieve personal liberation by overthrowing the existing order and oppressive structures. In both periods, evangelical Christians reacted strongly against these humanistic missionary derivatives. Bible-believing Christians strongly embrace the concept that the missionary endeavor must result in change that is personal and eternal in nature. Liberation from sin can be achieved only through the preaching of the good news of the gospel.
Today’s missionary must be convinced that a nonbelieving young couple who are contemplating marriage need to first believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour. Today’s missionary must be convinced that a dying nonbeliever needs the gospel first and foremost. Any individual who comes to the missionary for counseling because he is struggling with severe guilt needs to hear the good news of the gospel. There is absolutely nothing more important for the missionary than to offer the eternal hope of the gospel.