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Tom Shetler and the Theology of Missions (part 1)

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Written by BGU

This post was written by Mr. Tom Shetler after he presented the theology of missions in Bethany Chapel.

“Why am I here?” is one of the fundamental questions of our existence.  It speaks to the meaning and purpose of life, and all of us have asked it in one way or another at some point.  Often we respond with something grand such as the Philadelphia catechism, “What is the chief end of man: to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever” or the YWAM motto: “To know God and to make Him known.”

While these answers are valuable and inspirational, they aren’t specific or detailed.  We, of course, were created to glorify God, but how are we to do it?  Yes, we were made to know God and to make Him known, but in what way and by what means?  In other words, how do we answer the purpose question (Why am I here?) with more depth?

As an organization and as people dedicated to missions, this becomes a very relevant question.   “Where there is no vision, the people are scattered” (Proverbs 29:18) . We need to understand the “why question” both personally and corporately in order to focus our efforts and operate as a cohesive unit.  To put it in the vernacular, “we want to be on the same page.”   We also need to know the specific attitudes and skills we must develop in order to accomplish the daunting task of world evangelization.  The more clearly we understand why we are to do something, the better we are at determining what we need to do.  So, why are we here, in specific and biblical terms?

In order to answer the question of why we do missions (which leads inevitably to how we do missions), I want to turn to one of the lesser known versions of the Great Commission. John 20: 21 says, “As the Father has sent Me, so send I you.”  Jesus is telling the Apostles and us that there is a parallel between His mission and our mission.  Thus, to adequately understand our mission, we must understand His.

We begin with the condition of the world after the Fall.  In his science fiction trilogy, C.S. Lewis describes that world as the “silent planet”.   His point is that sin has produced a vast gulf between God and the world.  The result is a profound heavenly silence as men “grope” for God…or what they think God is in a lost and sin-filled world. God, because He cannot endorse sin, must stand apart and at a distance from this sinful planet.  Isaiah 59: 1-2 explains, “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not so short that it cannot save; nor is His ear so dull that He cannot hear.  But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you”.  The Fall produced a dark and broken world, devoid of God’s beneficent and visible presence.

In spite of what some people might think (“Why does God allow terrible things to happen?”), God is more concerned about this separation than we are.  “Now the Lord saw, and it was displeasing in His sight that there was no justice.  And He saw that there was no man, and was astonished that there was no one to intercede; then His own arm brought salvation to Him, and His righteousness upheld Him” (Isaiah 59: 15b-16).  In the chapter (Isaiah 59) that describes the terrible consequences of sin (separation from God, fear, and death), God declares His intention to intervene!  The intervention is described in John 3:16, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

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