"The Bible is not the basis of missions; missions is the basis of the Bible" -- Ralph Winter, missiologist
Most believers know that the Bible contains some statements about world evangelism. For missiologist Ralph Winter, saying that the Bible says something about world evangelism is putting the cart before the horse. Winter saw the Biblical call to world evangelism as far more than one command among many in the Bible. Rather, said Winter, world evangelism is actually the reason the Bible wound up being written. World evangelism is, Winter said, "the basis of the Bible."
Think about it: Doesn't what the Bible says about Yahweh portray Him as a seeking and sending God? Isn't the idea of the Father sending the Son a central theme of Scripture? Doesn't the Bible describe God going to great lengths to seek lost people, all the while encouraging His people to join Him in that quest?
Hasn't the book of Jonah been called "the missionary book of the Old Testament"? Didn't Mark and John and possibly Luke write their gospels to spread the Good News across cultural boundaries? Isn't much of Acts about the Church expanding across geographic and ethnic boundaries? Don't Paul's letters spring from his missionary travels and cross-cultural church-planting activity?
"Yes" answers to those questions confirm what Ralph Winter said about missions being the basis of the Bible. It is indeed backwards to say that global missionary activity is founded on the Bible. In reality, it is missions that was the basis of the Bible.
To be sure, scores and scores of Bible passages do speak to the subject of world evangelism. However, the importance of world evangelism grows out of more than just the number of biblical references to it. The mandate for global missionary outreach springs from the fact that God's passion for world evangelism is what drove the writing of sacred scripture in the first place!
-- Howard Culbertson
More mini-essays in the "Slogans that awakened the Church" series
World missions history resources: Black Americans involvement in world missions World missions history crossword puzzle Historic world missions slogans Missionaries that exemplified important characteristics Brief overview of world missions history Monastic missionary strategy Nazarene Missions International history PowrPoint: Epochs of world mission history World missions outreach from 1600 to the present Mission history syllabus Yeay-by-year timeline of world missions outreach What happened in world missions on this day in history Evangelizing the Vikings William Borden's story