The work of a Missionary

As my wife and I are preparing to move to Africa as permanent missionaries, I’ve been contemplating the purpose of missions as revealed in the scriptures. The “great” commission: Matt 28:19-20, Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” What I’ve concluded is that much of what has become known in the western world as missions is, in fact, anything but biblical mission work. It’s common to hear people going on missions trips expressing excitement about discovering and new location, seeing new sights, new animals, new experiences and such and those things in and of themselves are no problem but what seems rare is to hear of these same groups being excited about bringing the Gospel message to the people. There seems to be little talk of presenting a people who have never heard of Jesus the truth of the love of God through the life, death, and resurrection of the savior of the world.  I’ve rarely encountered any reference to Matthew 28 at all from short-term mission groups. We’ve become, so aid focused that we will go dig wells, build houses, start businesses, build orphanages, and while all of those are good things, what is often left out is the most important of all, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t do those other things, but they should be a byproduct, not the prime product. I thought that perhaps long term missions would be much better, but unfortunately, it seems as though many long-term missionaries have also become distracted by methods, clever storytelling, and teachings, all centered around the Gospel but not the actual Gospel message itself. Many never even present the plan of salvation or actually preach the Gospel at all. I have to wonder to myself, have we gotten so familiar with the text that it is now just a cliche’ and nothing more? Undoubtedly, Jesus still means for us to be making disciples and teaching them all that Jesus said, baptizing them as a part of our faith. The reality is that Africa, while they may need running water, needs living water even more. We can prolong suffering, we can treat disease provide humanitarian aid, all of which is good, but what good is all of that if we neglect the Gospel message and they suffer eternity in Hell?  I would argue that if our primary concern to people who do not have the Gospel is to share the Gospel with them and if we aren’t going to do that, then we ought to just stay home. Don’t go as a missionary if the Gospel is not the focus the primary objective, instead join a humanitarian group and leave the missionary work to those who will boldly present the Gospel truth. Let us continue doing the good works, but let us never forget that the primary thing is to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ because it is the power unto salvation!