'The Difference between Evangelism and Mission' by Paul Adams
There is a significant difference between evangelism and mission. They must work together, or they do not work at all: but they are not the same!
Evangelism relates to the ‘evangel’: (Latin evangelium, from Greek euangelion = good news) ... the covenant message
Mission is derived from Latin missio, from missus, past participle of mittere = to send off ... the commissioned messenger
The idea of mission is like a missile being sent off into space carrying the payload of a satellite which will remain in orbit doing its work. Mission is not our bright idea. It can only happen when God commands a believer to go with the gospel, as a missile is ‘sent’. The gospel is the message; God’s effective agent for bringing salvation: it is carried by the person who is sent, and released into the orbit of this world to do its work.
Thus, mission is the commissioned call of God to proclaim the gospel, which will continue to do its work once placed in the right orbit! Evangelism is the placement of the gospel wherever God’s people are commanded/authorised to take it, anywhere in the world.
Although 'mission' is used in many secular contexts, Jesus only had 'gospel mission' in mind when he commissioned the Apostles. Despite 'gospel' being used by some Christians to mean both the message and its practical outworking, the only Biblical understanding of the term is a proclaimed message of good news in which Jesus is the Saviour King.
But what about all the ‘good works’ of the kingdom? Those who embrace the gospel become children of the King and citizens of the Kingdom. Their responsibility is to 'live and work to His praise and glory'. That will include many acts of mercy, compassion, righteousness and integrity which will glorify the King, attract the lost and give a desire to know the One who has been kind to them. These acts of love demonstrate the blessings flowing from the gospel but they cannot define the gospel. It requires the gospel message, for people to be born again of the Spirit of God and become children of the King. .
If a missionary is a ‘sent one’, what is the difference between a person bearing the gospel to work-colleagues in Tooting or in Timbuktu? None! Everyone who knows God's commission, is authorised and sent, is a missionary whatever the location. Therefore there is no difference between the ex-pat worker in Mali and the African church member; or the African missionary in South London and local Christian shopkeeper. They are all missionaries.
Such an understanding might resolve a lot of confusion about the 'so-called' mission field. Going miles away from home does not turn a believer into a missionary! A true understanding of mission will see the location as ‘glocal’, both global and local. Willing to go anywhere on the globe if God sends, and also willing to be sent into the community around the local UK church, wherever that may be. It is God’s commission which creates missionaries, not airline tickets! Likewise, returning missionaries do not hand in their commission, they are simply relocated.
So, mission is God’s initiative to send His people, equipped with the gospel message for the work of evangelism. As they do the work of the Kingdom and proclaim the gospel message, the lost will receive the kindness, mercy and grace of God; and learn how to become children of the King.
That is why mission is wherever the church may be, and wherever God’s people may be sent!
Paul Adams is Senior Pastor of Banstead Baptist Church, Chair of BeaconLight Trust and author of Word@Work (www.wordatwork.org.uk), the daily expository devotional for people in the workplace and mission with over 28,000 subscribers from 193 countries. He is also Vice Chair of Global Connections.
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