GO and make disciples!

An Introduction to Christian Missions


Roger S. Greenway

P&R Publishing, 1999, 190 pp.

ISBN 0-87552-218-1

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Dr. Greenway is a former missionary, professor of missiology at Calvin Theological Seminary, and author of several books on world missions.  This one is a missions survey in plain language that can be used by individuals for whom English is a second or third language.  It would be useful for many laypeople and church leaders who have not done an academic study of missions.  The book is in three sections:  The World, Biblical Foundations, and Issues.  Each chapter is followed by helpful discussion questions.


“Jesus said, ‘Go and make disciples.’  The word that is translated ‘Go’ in the original Greek language is in a form that expresses great urgency.  Jesus meant to say, ‘Get going!  Do not delay!  Multiply until people of all nations, races, tribes, and languages know and follow me!’”  (Preface)


Part I.  The World

Greenway lists 10 worldwide challenges:  population growth; population movements (growth of urban areas, moving south to north and east to west, refugees, and international students); unexpected open doors; cultural barriers; the strength of non-Christian religions; growth of non-Western missions; Western countries now mission fields; the center of Christianity moving south and east; increasing poverty; children and youth.


God is the great and continual “Sender.”  He sends rain, sunshine, storms, judgments, his Word, his Son, his Spirit, and his servants with salvation.  (from Francis M. DuBose, 11)


“First, the Son of God was sent by the Father, and that makes Jesus the primary, divine Missionary.  Jesus, in turn, sends his disciples, which made them missionaries of the gospel”  “Christ call his followers, ALL of them to be co-missioners and co-workers with him.”  (12)


Greenway says Christ’s messengers must expect to be “co-sufferers” with him.  (15)


He lists a series of “right motives” for missions:

  1. “The desire that God be worshipped and his glory known among all the peoples of the earth.
  2. The desire to obey God out of love and gratitude by carrying out Christ’s commission to ‘go and make disciples of all nations’  (Matthew 28:19)  “The call to missions is not entirely an individual matter.  Christ assigns to his church the task of bringing the gospel to the world (Ephesians 3:10).  This implies that a personal call to missions needs to be recognized and supported by a congregation of believers.  This is also the biblical pattern (Acts 13:2-3; 14:26).”
  3. A burning desire to use every legitimate means to save the lost and win unbelievers to faith in Christ.
  4. Concern that churches grow and multiply, and that the kingdom of Christ be extended by words and deeds that proclaim the compassion and righteousness of Christ to a world of suffering and injustice.


Part II.  Biblical Foundations

“If you want to evangelize Hindus and Buddhists, you must begin with the Old Testament, starting with Genesis 1-3.”  (quoting Richard De Ridder)  “God not only creates the world, but he governs it and holds all his creatures responsible to him.  He wants all nations to worship him alone.”  (29-30)


“The Old Testament shows us that the basic point of difference between the religion of the Bible and all other faiths is a matter of different worldviews.”  (30)


Some worldview questions: (30)

·        Does God exist?  If so, what is the nature of God?

·        How did the world begin, and for what purpose?

·        What are human beings?  Are we merely smart animals, or something more?

·        What causes evil and suffering?

·        Is there an invisible world of spirits, some of them good and others bad?

·        Is there life after death?

·        How can people be saved?


“…Genesis 3 contains the first missionary call in Scripture and the first revelation of the redemptive purpose of God.  Genesis 3:8-9 says that God came looking for our first fallen parents.  God called, ‘Adam, where are you?’”  “We see for the first time that God is a missionary God in Genesis!”  (34)


“Genesis 1-11 deals with the origin and development of the human race as a whole.  This is called a period of ‘universalism.’  God chooses Abraham and his descendants to be the objects of his special grace and revelation, and a blessing to all peoples on earth, in Genesis 12:1-3.  This began the period of ‘particularism,’ in which God worked particularly through one nation, Israel. 


Israel was called to be a ‘missionary nation.’  The people were to be servants of God, his witnesses, priests, and mediators before the nations (Isaiah 42:5-7; 43:10-13).  Israel was to be a living example or ‘showcase’ of the righteous kingdom of God.”  (34-5)


“The Gospels are, as it were, ‘live recordings’ of missionary preaching, and the Epistles…are authentic and actual instruments of mission work.”  (quoting Johannes Verkuyl, 37)


“The role of Jesus during his ministry on earth, according to the Gospels, was to be the Sent One, and to make his people missionary.”  (39)


“The Four Gospels as ‘Missionary Literature’  All four Gospels were written when the church was actively engaged in missions.  They were intended to be read by people who needed to know about Jesus, believe in him, and draw others to him as well.” 


  • Matthew was written for Jews, to teach them about Jesus and make them support missions to Gentiles.
  • Mark was a missionary ‘tract’ for Gentiles who needed a brief account of the life and teachings of Jesus.
  • Luke, a gentile convert to faith in Jesus, wrote for Gentiles like himself who needed to know that Jesus wanted Gentiles as well as Jews in his kingdom.
  • John openly declared his missionary purpose: ‘that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name’ (John 20:31)”  (39)


Compassion could be seen in his entire mission.  Jesus cared deeply for the sick, the hungry, and people who mourned.”  “His ministry was mainly to preach and teach the message of the kingdom.”  (40)


“The heart of all the commission texts is Make people everywhere followers of me.  Following Jesus means (1) believing in him alone as your Savior; (2) obeying him as your Lord and king of your life; and, (3) carrying out his missionary command to make disciples of all peoples.”(43)


“The New Testament says nothing about many things that are common today.  One example is the church building.  No special church buildings were used for the first two hundred years.  There was a great deal of preaching, but no mention of formal ‘sermons’ or pulpits.”  (51) 


“Prayer was a primary instrument in the early missions.”  “Along with prayer, the Scriptures were the apostles’ second basic instrument.” (51)


Key Methods that Paul Used

  1. “Paul confronted people with the saviorhood and lordship of Christ and urged them to submit their hearts and lives to him.
  2. Paul focused on families and households in both evangelism and outreach into society.
  3. Paul stressed the importance of planting and nurturing churches and communities of faith, worship, fellowship, and service.
  4. Paul concentrated on developing local leaders in the churches and placing them in charge as soon as possible.
  5. Paul used the natural ‘bridges’ of family relatives, friends, and other contacts in spreading the gospel.
  6. Paul started ‘house churches’ everywhere he went.
  7. Paul taught believers to promote justice, truth, and mercy in society and to care for the Lord’s earth.” (62-67)


The only way to be certain of the right attitude toward other religions is to study what the Bible says about them.  (70)


The covenant lay at the center of Israel’s life.  The covenant was monotheistic, according to the book, based on the grace of God, exclusive, and a light to the nations.   Other religions are most clearly treated in Romans chapter one.  The essence of all other religions is that they substitute other gods for the only true and living God.  (70-3)


“Consider the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-10).  Hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  No prayer is more missionary than this prayer.”  (89)


Part III.  Issues in Missions

“One of the weakest points in Western missions may be the failure to deal adequately with questions relating to sickness, healing, and demon possession.  This failure has opened the door to extreme positions on both sides of the issue.”  (98)


“Missions today needs a fresh awareness of three things: (1) divine power, which is available to the servants of God through the Holy Spirit, (2) the importance of worldviews, that is, the central beliefs and ideas that govern the thoughts and actions of individuals and communities; and, (3) the theology of the kingdom, that is, the lordship of Jesus Christ over all areas of life, which is a basic theme of Scripture.”  (99-100)


Churches are growing so rapidly in some parts of the world that pastors cannot serve them effectively.”  The early missionaries trained local church leaders (vs. professionally trained pastors).  A key issue in missions is how to develop a sufficient number of effective leaders for the churches that are started.  Churches seldom become stronger than the people who lead them.”  (105-7)


Special qualities of spiritual leaders:  vision, tenacity, integrity, excellence, servanthood.  (109)


“Biblical leaders develop other leaders who in turn produce still more leaders, with the result that churches grow and multiply.”  (111)


“The migration of more than a billion people to the cities in the last two decades is the largest population movement in history.”  “Cities are the greatest challenge for Christian missions.”  (113)  “Some of the worst suffering is found among people that have recently arrived in cities.”  “People who have recently relocated and are experiencing major changes in their lives generally are more open to the gospel than they were before.”  (116-17)


“…the massive migration to the cities around the world may be, in the providence of God, a key to world evangelization.”  (117)


“Preaching the gospel (‘word’) and helping the poor and oppressed (‘deed’) were done together throughout most of Christian history.”  “A ‘holistic’ way to do missions recognizes that both the spiritual needs and the material needs of human beings are real and important.  It is not biblical to ignore one or the other.”  (124-5)


Some practical advice re holistic ministry:

  • Do everything possible to avoid long-term dependence on money and help from outside.  “Dependency causes serious injury to churches and institutions when they ought to be standing on their own feet.”
  • The planting and development of churches that preach the Word and demonstrate compassion for the poor must be a goal of all mission programs.
  • Missionaries working among the poor should be careful not to appear to be taking advantage of their poverty in order to win them to the Christian religion.
  • In cases of emergencies caused by war or natural disaster, ‘relief’ work is appropriate.  For long-term assistance, however, ‘development’ is the best form of ministry to people in need.  “Relief services do little to change long-term problems, and they often create a dependency on help from the outside.  Development ministries on the other hand have as their goal enabling people who were poor to earn a respectable living on their own.”  (128-9)


One hundred years ago John R. Mott “argued that in many cases the weak spot in missions is in the local churches and without the help of pastors the problem cannot be solved.  Pastors set the direction that their congregations follow.  The fire of missions and evangelism will be kindled throughout the congregations whose pastors are on fire with a passion to reach the lost.”  (131)


“Missionaries generally have more expenses than average people.  Their work requires that they travel, and travel by bus, car, boat, airplane, or motorcycle costs money.  They must buy their food and pay for lodging when they are away from home.  Missionaries need money not only to sustain themselves but also for Bibles, literature, and other means they use to proclaim the gospel wherever they work.”  (139)


“Remember that the final goal of missions is that Christ will be known and worshipped everywhere.”  (145)


“We offer people the only hope they can have of knowing God, receiving his forgiveness, and enjoying peace with him.”  (153)