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How to Keep the Gospel at the Center of Missions

If our missionary effort does not revolve around gospel advancement, we are laboring in vain.
The very act of becoming a missionary can be so complicated—full of so many details, logistics, and relationships—that it’s easy to lose sight of the core purpose of missions.

While most missionaries are deeply convicted of the necessity of the gospel for meaningful missions work, we must often remind ourselves of the gospel-centrality not only of the missionary call but of our mission itself.

Jesus said to his disciples that the “gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations” (Matt. 24:14). God’s plan for the nations involves more than general healing, peace, or wholeness. God’s plan for the nations is gospel.

Let us consider three ways to keep the gospel at the heart of our missionary activity.

1. Remember that Conversion is God’s Work

The Great Commission, by its very nature, is something that we can’t completely finish on our own. Human beings can’t spiritually raise other human beings from the dead. We can’t plant faith into the hearts of our hearers. We need God to fulfill his sovereign purpose.

Unbelievers see the gospel as inherently foolish, and there is nothing we can do besides faithfully preaching the gospel as the power of God. “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18).

2. Aim to Remain Unashamed

It’s very easy to slip into pragmatism on in any ministry. We can hide our embarrassment about the gospel in the name of our “playing the long game” strategy. But we are called in everything we do on the missions field to proclaim the gospel, not only in deed but in word. The Apostle Paul writes: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Rom. 1:16).

We must diligently examine our hearts in the day-to-day of ministry so that as we encourage others, perform the hidden tasks of ministry, engage in social action, and build loving relationships, we do all with the goal of gospel advancement.

3. Regularly Renew Your Zeal for Evangelism

The call of the missionary is to extend the local church across cultural, linguistic, and geographic boundaries. If you’re a missionary in a pioneering setting, evangelism is an indispensible component of your task. Consider Paul’s words:

“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Rom. 10:14-15)

Paul’s logic is airtight—people must proclaim the gospel. No matter how you frame your method of evangelism—relational evangelism, disciple-making, Bible storying, etc.—you must still “preach” the gospel or else there will be no spiritual fruit. Without such fruit, there will be no extension of the local church to the global scope that God desires to reach.

Conclusion

The gospel is at the heart of every missionary’s labor. Evangelism is the catalyst of meaningful missionary work. By remembering that conversion is God’s work, remaining unashamed of the gospel, and regularly renewing your zeal for evangelism, we must ground our hope in the power of God, realizing that our labors are in vain apart from the gospel message.

About the Author

P.C. Maxwell is a writer and theologian. He holds a Ph.D. in systematic theology from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, M.Div. from Westminster Theological Seminary, and a Bachelor’s in biblical languages from Moody Bible Institute. He resides in the Chicago area with his wife and contributes regularly to ABWE’s blog and communications strategy.

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