8. Missions is the basis of the Bible

Slogans to awaken the Church: Sayings about world evangelism that stir hearts and move people to action

500-word mini-essays from Engage magazine

"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 just 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 the God who seeks and sends? 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 of the Gospel across cultural boundaries? Isn't much of Acts about the Church expanding across geographic and ethnic boundaries? Don't the Apostle Paul's letters spring from what we call his missionary journeys in which he did 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 backward to say that global missionary activity is founded on the Bible. In reality, it was missions that formed 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 grows out of God's passion for world evangelism. That is what drove the writing of sacred scripture in the first place!

Discussion questions

  1. What is the difference between seeing world evangelism as just one command among many in the Bible versus seeing it as the reason the Bible was written?
  2. How might the way God is portrayed in the Bible corroborate th the idea that world evangelism is the basis of the Bible?
  3. Why does the importance of world evangelism extend beyond the number of biblical references to it?
  4. In what ways would the statement "missions is the basis of the Bible" challenge conventional views of the Bible's relationship to global missionary activity?
  5. How might viewing missions as the basis of the Bible affect the way believers approach and prioritize world evangelism?

Afterword

Recognizing that world evangelism is the basis of the Bible leads us to see world missionary activity not merely as one command among many in the scriptures, but as the very reason for the Bible's existence. God is portrayed in the Bible as He who seeks and sends. That is why world evangelism is not an isolated directive but rather a central theme woven throughout sacred scripture.

    -- Howard Culbertson,

More mini-essays in the "Slogans that awakened the Church" series

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