The call to missions in the church in Africa
My aim in writing this article is to encourage the church in Africa at large to get involved with missions among unreached people groups. We are accustomed to the work of frontier missions as primarily not ours. It is for our western brothers and sisters. It is normal to see our brothers and sisters from the west leaving behind their kin to go to a hard place for the sake of the gospel. We praise the Lord for the modern pioneering work of missions our western brothers and sisters have been able to accomplish. God indeed has worked immensely through their efforts to take the gospel far and beyond their boundaries. My aim is not to compare the church in Africa to the church in the west, neither is my aim to guilt-trip the church in Africa towards missions. Neither I’m I ignorant of the efforts in the African Church towards missions –both local and global. I hope though to contribute in a little way towards more conversations about frontier missions within the Church in Africa. It is the work of the church, whether in Africa, Asia, or the West to take the gospel to the ends of the earth.
God’s People, God’s Place
The church consists of the people of God, gathered in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. From the beginning, God has had a people for Himself, and His purpose for them is that they would love Him in response to His love for them. We see this clearly in Genesis 1 & 2, God not only creates a place, but He also creates a people to dwell in His place. He provides for them all they need and most importantly provides them His very own presence. God dwells with them. He loves them deeply by giving Himself to them. In Genesis 3 the fall occurs, and the most important part of man’s existence, primarily his relationship with God is interfered by sin. Not only is man kicked out from the place of God, but his relationship with God is also strained and ruined. But the story doesn’t end there! It only begins! The rest of the Bible is an unfolding of God’s purposes and plan of recreating and reconciling a people for Himself, drawing them to Himself so that they could have fellowship with God. God is about redeeming a people who will love Him in response to His great love, which is demonstrated in Him redeeming them. In fact, the Bible ends with a picture of multitudes of peoples in the presence of God doing what they were created to do —worship the one who is worthy of all worship (Revelation 7:9-10). The primary message of the story of the nation of Israel in the Old Testament is God’s redemptive plan. God will redeem a people, who will be His people, whose heartbeat will be the glory of God, beating to the love of God, for all eternity. The New Testament fully realizes this plan in the person and work of Christ.
In the Old Testament, we see the God who plans to save, in the New Testament we see that plan fully revealed, accomplished, and applied. The primary way in which God will have a people for Himself will be through their salvation! This salvation is revealed in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
God’s Plan Accomplished and Applied
The Book of Matthew not only begins with a genealogy of Jesus, which attests to the fulfillment of God’s eternal plan for the salvation of mankind, but it also gives us the purpose for which Jesus came. The angel of the Lord talking to Joseph concerning Mary says, “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21 (ESV); “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).” – Matthew 1:23 (ESV). Matthew helps us with two things. First, Jesus was coming to save His people from their sins, and secondly, He would reconcile or restore the broken relationship between God and man, He was God in the flesh –God condescended in the person of Christ, a perfect mediator between man and God, being fully man and fully God. The heart of the gospel message is the person and work of Christ! The gospel is a person, it is Christ in whom salvation and reconciliation with our triune God is accomplished. God took on flesh and dwelt amongst those He came to save. Here we find the heart for missions! God is the pioneer! He came, He dwelt amongst His people, and accomplished our salvation. In Christ, therefore, the church takes the cue for missions. Jesus embodies the true people of God. After His death and resurrection, as He ascends into heaven, with all authority in heaven and on earth put under Him, He instructs His own to be about His mission –going out into the world and making disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that He has commanded. He promises them His presence, that He will be with them till the end. (Matthew 28:18-20)
God’s Mission Advanced
Here’s my argument, missions is a work that is birthed from, and motivated by a deep love that comes from understanding the grace of God as revealed in the gospel. In the person and work of Christ, God demonstrates for us a great love with which He has loved His people, and in response to this love, His people consequently are all about God’s mission. If we are not captured by the grace of God in Christ Jesus, there is no way we will give ourselves away to the cause of taking the gospel to the ends of the world. If we do not see how God has demonstrated His love progressively in the Scriptures, and see the culmination of His love in the person and work of Jesus Christ, it will be impossible for us to respond appropriately to this love. God has graciously and lovingly worked out our salvation! The church is made up of a people who have known this great salvation, who have experienced this deep love, who continue to abound within the abounding grace of God in Christ Jesus. The church also knows for certain that God is not yet done saving His people. In Matthew 24:14, Jesus reassures His disciples that the end shall not come until the gospel of the kingdom has been proclaimed as a witness to all the earth. Until Christ returns, the gospel must be proclaimed to the ends of the earth.
Because of this then, my plea is for us as a church, especially in Africa, to awaken to the task of taking the gospel to the ends of the earth. May God help us!