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Missions at Midwestern

Missions at Midwestern: Why For the Church Means For the Nations

Joe M. Allen III

Version 03.09.2023

Missions at Midwestern

At Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, our vision is “for the church.” Midwestern’s commitment to the church, far from diminishing our stewardship to global missions, directs and strengthens our dedication to the Great Commission. We place a high priority on establishing worshipping communities of growing disciples around the world. The aim of this document is to unpack our understanding of the connection between the church, theological education, and missions.

The Mission of God

Mission is all about God. At Midwestern, we emphasize the study of who God is (theology) and what God does (mission). Good theology is crucial to missiology because the mission begins and ends with God. The one true God has one unified mission, and each person of the Triune God distinctively carries out this mission as it unfolds in history. God the Father is the author, planning and initiating the mission. God the Son is the agent, executing and fulfilling the mission. The Holy Spirit is the administrator, applying and empowering the mission. The object and ultimate end of the mission is God’s own glory.

God’s perfection, holiness, and glory far surpass all human conceptions. Because God’s eternal nature is self-revealing, communicative, and loving, He put into motion a plan to manifest His glory to the whole universe. Theologians call this cosmic plan and action of God the missio Dei, the mission of God. Mission is not primarily about human efforts, but God’s own work in history to glorify Himself. God invites us—and yes, commands us—to participate in His mission.

The God of the Mission

A vibrant missiology begins with an accurate and grand vision of God as revealed in the Bible. The God of the Bible is not a weak, needy, or changing deity. Nor is God an isolated, abstract, absolute monad. Instead, the Bible presents God as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, three divine persons who are united as one divine being. The doctrine of the Trinity bears directly on missiology in that it reveals God as more awesome and glorious (and more mysterious) than humans can imagine, and therefore infinitely worthy of worldwide worship. As John Piper says, “Worship is the fuel and goal of missions.”

Love and the Mission

Love sits at the heart of God’s mission. The doctrine of the Trinity helps explain the words “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16). In a few scattered verses, Scripture gives a tantalizing glimpse into what God was doing for all eternity, quite apart from time and space. One of those verses is John 17:24, which is part of a prayer that Jesus addressed to God the Father. Jesus said, “You loved Me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24). This verse indicates that God the Father has been forever loving the Son. God has eternally existed in perfect love between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Meditating on the mystery of the Trinity, Augustine of Hippo suggested that God the Father is the lover, God the Son is the beloved, and the Holy Spirit is the love that exists between them. Similarly, Thomas Aquinas writes, “The Father and the Son love each other and love us by the Holy Spirit.”

The missionary enterprise starts with the eternal love of God and then moves toward humanity through the gospel. “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). Thus, through the gospel, believers experience God’s love, which provokes in them a response of love for God. “We love, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Then, as believers receive the love of God, it bubbles up and spills out on others. The Apostle Paul expressed his love for the believers in Thessalonica this way: “We had a fond affection for you and were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us” (1 Thess 2:8; cf. 2 Cor 5:14–15; Rom 10:1).

The two Great Commandments, to love God and to love others, mutually reinforce each other. As Ray Ortlund says, “The kind of God we really believe in is revealed in how we treat one another.” The Apostle John puts the matter bluntly, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20). The Great Commandments should arouse a great commitment to the Great Commission, and the church’s obedience to the Great Commandments will determine the church’s effectiveness at fulfilling the Great Commission.

While the mission of God refers to God’s broad purposes to glorify Himself in all that He does, the Great Commission specifies the mission of the church and missionaries, namely, to go, and make disciples of all the nations, to baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and to teach them to follow all that Jesus commanded (Matt 28:19–20). Disciple-making, and its precursor evangelism, are the chief occupation of missionaries because these activities glorify God by proclaiming the gospel and impelling those far from Him to see and savor His majesty.

Love motivates missionaries. The gospel does not rely on a sense of guilt, fear, or duty to propel missionaries across geographic, cultural, or linguistic boundaries. No, a sense of love drives them—first, a love for God and then a love for those who have never heard the gospel. The awareness that millions of people have no access to the love, joy, and peace that comes through the gospel should weigh heavily on the heart of believers, pushing them out of their comfort zone and toward involvement in God’s mission.

This gospel-shaped love is active, always seeking to express itself in concrete ways, such as meeting physical needs, speaking truth, being a good listener, or giving hugs. However, the most loving thing a believer can do for another person is to give them the gospel. Charitable deeds adorn the gospel, but they are not the gospel (Titus 2:10). 

The gospel, according to the Apostle Paul, is the life-giving message “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared …” (1 Cor 15:3–5). Through faith in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit unites believers to Him, who brings them into fellowship with God the Father. The gospel alone meets humanity’s greatest problem (alienation from God) and allows them to experience the greatest of all blessings (union with God). 

God’s Mission in Creation and Redemption

God’s act of creation is one aspect of God’s mission to manifest His glory and to put His character on display (Ps 19:16; Rom 1:20). Because God is love in Himself, God did not create humans because He needed someone to love Him, fulfill a deficiency, or to satisfy loneliness. Instead, God created out of the generous overflow of His love—the eternal love that God has always expressed, known, and enjoyed among the Trinity. 

The plan of redemption reveals another aspect of the missio Dei. Like creation, the plan of redemption comes from the overflow of God’s gracious and merciful love. When God’s image bearers, Adam and Eve, rebelled against Him, God’s mission did not change. God’s mission to manifest His glory remained constant, but accomplishing that mission now involved redeeming people from every tribe, nation, people group, and tongue (Rev 5:9; 7:9). Noted New Testament scholar Andreas Köstenberger writes, “God’s saving plan for the whole world forms a grand frame around the entire story of Scripture. The missio Dei is bound up with his salvation, which is like a colorful rainbow that spans from creation to new creation. Its focus is on God’s gracious movement to save a desperately needy world that is in rebellion against him and stands under his righteous judgement.”

The Scope of God’s Mission

God’s glory is of such magnificence and worth that He deserves nothing less than global worship. God’s glory is not like localized pagan deities, worthy of little more than the worship of a small band of devotees. Indeed, to say the scope of God’s mission is merely global is inadequate; His mission is cosmic. 

Paul writes that God’s plan involves making known the “manifold wisdom of God … through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places” (Eph 3:10). The church is God’s vehicle for putting His glory on display, not only to the nations, but also to “rulers and authorities in the heavenly places,” a heavenly audience beyond the terrestrial sphere.

The Biblical Language of Missions

The word “mission” comes from the Latin word translated “to send.” Theologians use the phrase missio Dei primarily in reference to God’s sending of the Son and the Spirit. As God the Son and God the Holy Spirit fulfill their mission to glorify God the Father in history, they reveal God’s Triune nature. While mission (singular) usually refers to God’s plan to make Himself known among the nations, missions (plural) generally refers to human participation in God’s plan (in a limited way and with respect to only some aspects of God’s broader mission). At Midwestern, we believe the Bible theologically grounds missions in God’s own mission, His eternal purpose to manifest His glory.

Mission is a major theme that unites the entire biblical storyline. Many biblical doctrines are true, even when the Bible does not use the exact term, but the word mission does appear in the New Testament, although it is sometimes obscured in many English translations. Eckhard Schnabel points out, “The Latin verb mittere corresponds to the Greek verb apostellein, which occurs 136 times in the New Testament (97 times in the Gospels, used both for Jesus having been ‘sent’ by God and for the Twelve being ‘sent’ by Jesus).” 

The concept of mission permeates the Scripture. Biblical missiology emerges from five interlocking themes. Attention to these themes can sensitize readers to the prevalence of mission in the Bible.

  1. When the Bible speaks of God’s purposeful action in history, He is fulfilling His mission.
  2. When God reveals or communicates His glory, He is accomplishing the goal of His mission. 
  3. When the Bible uses the language of sending, it is usually talking about God sending agents of His mission. Whether God the Father is sending prophets, the Son and the Spirit, or members of His Church, God is fulfilling His mission.
  4. When the Bible speaks of the nations or Gentiles, as it does throughout the Old and New Testaments, it is speaking about the scope and sphere of God’s mission.
  5. The plan of salvation occupies a central place in God’s mission. First John 4:14 says, “The Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.” In this one, simple, gospel verse, three major poles of theology converge: Trinitarianism, soteriology, and missiology. This short verse is Trinitarian because it speaks of the Father and Son (and the preceding verse mentions the Holy Spirit). It is soteriological because it refers to Jesus as the Savior. It is also missiological because it mentions the Father sending the Son, and because it talks about the world. 

To summarize, the themes of purpose, communication, sending, nations, and salvation all point to God’s mission. As someone said, “If you take mission out of the Bible, all you’re left with is a front cover and back cover.” Truly, the whole Bible is a missionary document.

Theology, Worship, and Missions

The missionary imperative springs from the recognition that God’s glory is of such beauty and grandeur that all the nations of the world must know and worship Him. On the one hand, good theology undergirds the gospel and feeds authentic worship, which drives missions. On the other hand, bad theology and false teaching misrepresent God, distort the gospel, twist evangelistic motivations, and destroy authentic worship, all of which choke out the missionary impulse.

Missionary-theologian Lessie Newbigin writes, “Mission is an acted-out doxology. That is its deepest secret. Its purpose is that God may be glorified.” Therefore, theology directly influences missiology because missions should be the overflow of worshipping God. In other words, theology leads to doxology, which drives missiology, and missiology should result in doxology. 

Theology is extremely practical for missionaries. Missionaries bear the responsibility of representing God and communicating the gospel to people who have never heard it. They lay the foundation of the church in new places. As D. Jeffrey Bingham (Research Professor of Historical Theology; Jesse Hendley Chair of Biblical Theology; Director, Center for Early Christian Studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) says, “Evangelists are frontline theologians.” That is why seminary training is so crucial. Midwestern seeks to train ministers of the gospel in sound theology because we take the worship of God seriously. Midwestern’s motto, “for the church,” expresses a commitment to equip men and women with the tools they need to establish radiant, theologically rich, worshipping churches worldwide. 

The Academic Life, the Contemplative Life, and the Missional Life

Another way of describing the interplay between theology, worship, and missions is to think in terms of the academic life, the contemplative life, and the missional life. At Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, the professors in every department design their curricula to give their students a world-class education. Professors assign readings that engage with the top scholars in every field as they develop students into theologians. But no professor at Midwestern would be content with producing mere academics. Each one believes the life of the mind should feed the life of the soul. The professors at Midwestern want to cultivate worshippers. We long for our students to really know God, to see His beauty, and to stand in awe of Him. Professors would be grieved if their students stopped with the academic life and failed to move on to the contemplative life. 

Yet even the contemplative life is stunted unless it overflows into a missional life, a life of active love for others. Matthew Barrett, Associate Professor of Christian Theology at Midwestern, writes, “Gazing at the beauty of the Lord is the premier ambition of the theologian, but the theologian’s task is incomplete if his heavenly gaze is for himself alone.” Contemplation of God should lead to definite steps to invite more people to encounter the majesty of God. In short, the contemplative life should inspire the missional life. 

Newbigin, with characteristic incisiveness, says, “All true vitality in the work of missions depends in the last analysis upon the secret springs of supernatural life which they know who give time to communion with God. All true witness to Christ is the overflowing of a reality too great to be contained. It has its source in a life of adoration and intercession.” This dynamic can be diagramed as follows:

God’s Mission through Agents in History

From the beginning of history, God has worked through agents to carry out His mission. Schreiner writes, “[God] enacts His mission and furthers His mission specifically through His people.” First, God created Adam and Eve as His image bearers on earth. God blessed them and commissioned them “to reflect, resemble, and represent his greatness and glory on a global scale.” Later, God chose Abraham, sent him from his own country, and promised to bless the nations through him (Gen 12:1–3; 17:4–5; 22:18). The Old Testament records how God deputized and sent many other emissaries on His behalf, people like Moses, David, and Elijah. In fact, God sent the entire people of Israel to fulfill His plan. 

Israel’s God-given mission was to be a kingdom of priests and a light to the nations (Ex 19:6; Is 49:6). Their mission was to display the joy and peace of living in obedience to God, and in the process, draw the nations to worship the true and living God. Jason DeRouchie, Research Professor of Old Testament and Biblical Theology at Midwestern, writes that Israel’s mission “to the nations was centripetal,” which involved “calling others to ‘come and see.’” While Israel did not have a commission to “go” to the nations in the same way that the church has the Great Commission, the most fervent lovers of God in the Old Testament repeatedly expressed their dissatisfaction with provincially limited praise and, therefore, longed for all nations to glorify God. For example, Psalm 67:3–4 says, “Let the peoples praise You, O God; Let all the peoples praise You. Let the nations be glad and sing for joy.…” God affirms that He will fulfill their longing. In Psalm 46:10, God promises, “I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” And yet, for generations, the people of Israel turned away from God and failed to fulfill their intended mission. 

When the fullness of time came, God sent His Son and Spirit as the ultimate agents of mission. Köstenberger writes, “The Lord of the Scriptures is a missionary God who not only reached out and gathers the lost but also sends His servants, and particularly His beloved Son, to achieve His gracious saving purposes.” The incarnation, life, death, resurrection, ascension, and enthronement of Jesus and the arrival of the Spirit form the centerpiece of history and mark the climactic events in God’s mission.

Where other agents failed to perfectly reflect, resemble, and represent God, Jesus succeeded. Jesus fulfilled His mission by perfectly glorifying His heavenly Father through His words and works (John 17:4–5). In the greatest display of love in history, Jesus voluntarily sacrificed His life on the cross, securing redemption for all who trust in Him. Then God raised Him up from the dead and exalted Him (Acts 2:32–33; Rom 1:4).

After His resurrection and before His ascension, Jesus said to His disciples, “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you” (John 20:21). Jesus commissioned His disciples to be agents of His mission. Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to follow all that I commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age (Matt 28:18–20).


Yet Jesus instructed His disciples to wait for the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “I am sending the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). Jesus said that when the Holy Spirit comes, “He will glorify Me” (John 16:14). Just as Jesus’s mission was to exalt the Father, the Holy Spirit’s mission is to exalt Jesus. 

Ten days after Christ’s ascension, God sent the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1–4). Immediately, the Spirit went to work. He empowered the small band of believers in Jerusalem to testify to the death and resurrection of Jesus to people from all over the world (Acts 2:5–36). As this band of believers quickly grew in numbers, they faced persecution. The believers started to spread out from Jerusalem as agents of mission, filled with the Spirit of mission, and began to “turn the world upside down” (Acts 17:6 KJV). 

The Spirit first saves people, then gathers His people, and then sends His people. To this day, the Spirit is choosing a people for His own possession and empowering them to proclaim the excellencies of Christ (1 Pet 2:9). Those whom the Spirit unites to the eternal Son through faith, the Father adopts as His children. The three Persons of God are involved in salvation because it is a Trinitarian phenomenon. God fills His children with the Holy Spirit of Jesus, who empowers them to cry out, “Abba, Father” (Rom 8:15). The Spirit unites the children of God to one another as brothers and sisters. The family of God, the church, is a new community in the Spirit. 

The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 defines church in Section IV, which says, “A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel; observing the two ordinances of Christ, governed by His laws, exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by His Word, and seeking to extend the gospel to the ends of the earth.” It is significant that this definition includes extending the gospel to the ends of the earth as one of the church’s primary duties.

Today, the church is God’s agent of mission in the world. The Spirit leads the church to continue His mission of exalting Christ. According to the pattern in Acts 13:2–4, the Holy Spirit, in response to the prayers of the church, sets apart and sends out missionaries. The church prays for them, ordains them, and dispatches them. Missionaries remain connected to their sending church, but they serve as envoys where no church exists. 

Missionaries are not merely concerned with evangelizing lost people, but also bringing the gospel to and discipling unreached and unengaged people groups. The difference between “lost” and “unreached” is a matter of access to the gospel. Paul embodies the heart of a missionary when he says, “My aim is to preach the gospel where Christ has not been named” (Rom 15:20). The core missionary task is to enter new contexts, preach the gospel, make disciples, establish churches, train leaders, and entrust the church to the local believers. In this way, God blesses the nations with the gospel through the church.

For the Church and the Nations

Midwestern exists “for the church,” and, as Christopher Wright says, “The church was made for God’s mission.” The church gathers for worship and scatters for witness. That witness then creates new worshippers who gather as the church and testify to the reality of the gospel both in their local vicinity and “to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). 

As a seminary community, we are committed to biblically educating God-called men and women to be and to make disciples of Jesus Christ. Midwestern’s president, Jason Allen, explains the global scope of this commitment and makes the connection between the church and missions when he says, “To be for the Church means to be for the nations. Our objective is to see the gospel preached and churches planted around the four corners of the earth.”

From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible reveals that God’s heart is for the nations. So, when the Holy Spirit of God dwells in a person’s heart by faith, they find their heart drawn to the nations. As Charles Spurgeon said, “If Jesus is precious to you, you will not be able to keep the good news to yourself.” Those who have experienced the love of God through the gospel should respond with love, both love for God and love for those whom God loves. 

What is true on an individual level is also true on a corporate level: churches are only healthy to the degree they are the involved in the Great Commission, sending and supporting missionaries. At Midwestern, we help students and churches align with God’s heart and participate in God’s mission.

Midwestern and the International Mission Board

Midwestern is a Southern Baptist seminary that intentionally partners with the International Mission Board (IMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). While Midwestern helps churches prepare missionaries, the IMB helps churches send missionaries. While we gladly partner with other ministries and missions agencies, we have designed our degree programs, specifically the Fusion Masters program, to prepare graduates to meet the IMB’s application requirements.

Both Midwestern and the IMB are theologically aligned and affirm the same doctrinal statement, The Baptist Faith and Message 2000. Missiologically, Midwestern is aligned with the IMB’s Foundations document, which describes the IMB’s self-understanding and purpose. The Foundations document seeks to define and describe critical missiological convictions about methodological and strategic topics such as the missionary task, twelve characteristics of a healthy church, and principles of contextualization. 

The Missions Department’s Goals and Objectives

At Midwestern, we aim to inform, inspire, and equip students to fulfill the Great Commission. This goal involves engaging students intellectually through rigorous academic studies, engaging their hearts through fueling their passion for the gospel and the lost, and preparing them to practically apply cutting-edge ministry strategies. 

Upon graduation, we want students to be utterly and unshakably convinced of the following truths:

  • God is perfect, powerful, and personal—infinitely worth living and dying for! The God of the Bible is superior to any other god in any other religious system (Ps 96:5; Exod 18:11; Rev 9:20). 
  • The Bible is completely true and reliable and provides a rock-solid hope for life with God. It is the ultimate authority for life and godliness. It alone contains the message of salvation, without which humans are doomed (2 Tim 3:14–17; Deut 17:19; Ps 19:7–10; Rom 15:4; 2 Pet 1:19–21).
  • Lostness is a real and urgent problem because separation from God in hell is eternal and horrible (Matt 18:8–9; Luke 16:19–26; 2 Pet 3:7; Rev 20:11–15).
  • The gospel is the best news in the whole world. God’s grace, secured by Jesus’s death on the cross, makes the gospel so, so good. God’s love expressed in the gospel is real and life-changing (Luke 4:18; Acts 4:12; Rom 1:16–17; 10:14–17).
  • Jesus is alive. He really came back to life and conquered sin, death, and Satan. He now rules from heaven and will return someday soon (Luke 24; Acts 1:6–10; 7:55–56; 1 Cor 15). 
  • Every believer can be a part of the missio Dei, God’s plan to rescue, redeem, and recreate the world. While not every believer should be commissioned as a cross-cultural missionary, every believer should intentionally play his or her role in fulfilling the Great Commission (Acts 6:1–6; 13:1–3; 1 Cor 12; Eph 4:11–12). 
  • Missionaries must practice patience and gospel faithfulness, which involves, in part, learning the local language and culture, and resisting sub-biblical pragmatism and revivalistic strategies.
  • The gospel is worth enduring embarrassment, scorn, discomfort, and even persecution and martyrdom (Matt 5:10–11; John 15:18–25; 21:19; Acts 5:40–42; 7:59–60).  
  • The promises of God are real and sure, and the rewards God offers far outweigh temporal suffering. The highest reward for faithful service to God is an increased capacity to glorify God for all eternity (Matt 19:27–29; Mark 9:41; Phil 3:13–5; Rom 8:18; Jas 1:12).

No higher joy exists than living in daily fellowship and dependence on God to accomplish the good works He has prepared for His children. Newbigin says, “I think that the deepest motive for mission is simply the desire to be with Jesus where he is, on the frontier between the reign of God and the usurped dominion of the devil.” Joy exists in being near to God, which means following Him to the nations.


God is accomplishing His mission with divine perfection. He who created us, sustains us, and redeems us, also calls us to be coworkers in His mission. The missio Dei is to display His glory to all creation. God put His glory on display in a unique way in the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, the eternal Son of God. At the heart of God’s mission is the gospel, the life-changing story of Jesus Christ. Individuals glorify God by responding in faith and embracing the gospel. The church glorifies God by taking the gospel to the world.

At Midwestern, we draw a close connection between theology, ecclesiology, and missiology. Theological education serves the church, which serves the nations, which crescendos in the glory of God. Being “for the church” is intimately tied and interconnected with being “for the nations.” We pray that all our efforts ultimately result in resounding doxology.


1 Zane Pratt, Vice President of Assessment/Deployment and Training, International Mission Board, SBC, writes, “The doctrine of God affects every aspect of our understanding of missions. Because God is infinitely glorious, absolute in his Being, creator of everything, and transcendent over all he has made, the mission of his people is about him. The glory of God and the advance of his agenda in the world are the focus of the church’s mission. It is not about us, and it is not ultimately about the lost among the nations. Because God is who he is, he is the center of everything, and everything must be done under his direction and for his glory. God’s plan is to fill the earth with the knowledge of his glory as the waters cover the sea. Our mission, under his sovereign rule, must advance the knowledge and worship of God using the means he has prescribed so that both the end and the means glorify him.”

2 Each Person of God participates and coinheres in the mission of the other Persons so that there is only one mission of God. The interlocking of participation by the three Persons of God encompasses the whole mission so that the distinctions neither erase the unity nor does the unity erase the distinctions. 

3 According to Patrick Schreiner, Associate Professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology at Midwestern, “It is the mission of God to confront us with the reality of Himself (His glory).” Patrick Schreiner, The Mission of the Triune God (Wheaton: Crossway, 2022), 154.

4 Paul distinguishes the work of God who causes the growth, from servants who plant or water (1 Cor 3:5–9). God designates His chosen servants as “fellow workers” (ESV) or “co-workers” (NIV). 

5 John Piper, Let the Nations Be Glad!: The Supremacy of God in Missions (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2022), 7.

6 Augustine, The Trinity 9.1. 

7 Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica Ia.37.2

8 Lesslie Newbigin writes, “Anyone who knows Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior must desire ardently that others should share that knowledge and must rejoice when the number of those who do is multiplied.” Lesslie Newbigin, The Open Secret (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978), 142.

9 Ray Ortlund, “‘One Another’s’ I Can’t Find in the New Testament,” The Gospel Coalition, January 4, 2022,

10 Jonathan Edwards writes, “The emanation of God’s glory is in itself worthy and excellent, and so God delights in it; and this delight is implied in His love to His own fullness; because that is the fountain, the sum and comprehension of everything that is excellent.” Jonathan Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, 1.IV.4, Accessed online at The word overflow is a modern way of expressing the ancient Christian idea of God’s fullness, plenitude, bounty, or fecundity. John of Damascus, for example, calls God, “The fountain of being.” John of Damascus, An Exposition of the Orthodox Faith 1.8. John Owen, in his discussion of 1 John 4:8, writes, “[God’s love] is the fountain and prototype of all love, as being eternal and necessary…. All love in the creation was introduced from this fountain, to give a shadow and resemblance of it.” John Owen, Christologia (Grand Rapids: Generic NL Freebook Publisher, 1999), 111–12, eBook. Creation comes as the fruit of divine love, not divine need. God’s eternal love is expressed in creation ex nihilo (out of nothing). Because God is perfect love, His love so abounds that He can call things into existence from nothing. Trinitarian love, then, is not just the source of our redemption, but the source of our very existence and sustainment. British theologian Michael Reeves says, “There is something gratuitous about creation, an unnecessary abundance of beauty, and through its blossoms and pleasures we can revel in the sheer largesse of the Father.” Michael Reeves, Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2012), 57.

11 Andreas Köstenberger, Salvation to the Ends of the Earth: A Biblical Theology of Mission, New Studies in Biblical Theology 53 (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2020), 254.

12 Echkard J. Schnabel, Paul the Missionary: Realities, Strategy and Method (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2008), 27–28.

13 “The Bible is a narrative record of God’s mission in and through his people for the sake of the world. It tells a story in which mission is a central thread—God’s mission, Israel’s mission, Christ’s mission, the Spirit’s mission, the Church’s mission.” Michael Goheen, Introducing Christian Mission Today: Scripture, History, and Issues (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2014), 37.  

14 Adam Dodds argues, “A demise in the belief in and confession of the Triune God will inexorably lead to a partial or faulty understanding of the gospel. Misunderstanding this good news, which contains within itself missional momentum, will result in a corresponding decline in missional consciousness and practice.” Adam Dodds, The Mission of the Triune God: Trinitarian Missiology in the Tradition of Lesslie Newbigin (Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2017), chapter 6. 

15 Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989), 127.

16 Martin Kähler famously declared missions “the mother of theology.” As long as the gospel remained in its original Jewish context, evangelists could assume a high level of shared understanding with their audience. But when the gospel began to cross linguistic, cultural, and geographic boundaries, the need for theologizing grew urgent. Missionaries had to work hard to define key terms to make the gospel intelligible among the nations. These missionary efforts eventually culminated in confessional statements like the Nicene and Chalcedonian Creeds.

Paul, the most important theologian of all time, self-identified as a missionary or “the apostle to the Gentiles” (Rom 11:13). He wrote the letter to the Romans, the most theologically dense work ever written, as a missionary support letter, urging the believers in Rome to assist him as he sought to “bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles (ἔθνεσιν, ethnos) for His name’s sake” (1:5; cf. 16:26). Paul’s theological output flowed from his missionary calling to bring the gospel to the nations.

17 D. Jeffrey Bingham, Systematic Theology II, Class 6, Part 1,, accessed 9 May 2018. 

18 Matthew Barrett, “Classical Theology: A Spiritual Exercise,” Journal of Classical Theology 1 (2022): 5–19.

19 Lesslie Newbigin, “Developments during 1962: An Editorial Survey,” International Review of Mission 100 no. 2 (Nov 2011), 401.

20 Schreiner, The Mission of the Triune God, 154. 

21 Jason DeRouchie, “By the Waters of Babylon: Global Missions from Genesis to Revelation,” Midwestern Journal of Theology 20, no. 2 (Fall 2021): 7.  

22 DeRouchie, “By the Waters of Babylon,” 12.

23 Israel came the closest to fulfilling their mission of being a “come and see” people during the prosperous reign of Solomon. First Kings 10:24 says, “All the earth was seeking the presence of Solomon.” Yet even Solomon turned away from the Lord, failed in his mission, and left a glaring hole that only the true Messiah could fill.

24 Köstenberger, Salvation to the Ends of the Earth, 261.

25 The old canard that claims that the word ‘go’ (poreuthentes) is a participle that should be translated “as you are going” is wrong. This oft-repeated falsehood undercuts the imperatival force for Christians to move across boundaries. Making disciples of all nations simply is not possible unless some people “go” to the nations. Additionally, most Greek and New Testament scholars maintain that the word “go” is a command. For example, Daniel Wallace, author of Greek Grammar beyond the Basics, identifies poreuthentes in this context as a particle of “attendant circumstance,” which means that the participle takes on the mood of the verb. In this case, the word “make disciples” (matheteusate) is a command, which means the participle should also be translated as a command. Daniel Wallace, Greek Grammar beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), 640–45.

26 Patrick Schreiner writes, “The Spirit compels boldness in speaking of Jesus. The Spirit is also always pointing back to the work of Jesus. [His] mission is always to exalt Christ.” Schreiner, The Mission of the Triune God, 152.

27 “The Spirit is about mission, [and] the mission is to save, recreate, and reconcile a new people.” Schreiner, The Mission of the Triune God, 67.

28 Schreiner argues that the book of Acts presents the Spirit from three perspectives, soteriological, ecclesiological, and missiological. Schreiner, The Mission of the Triune God, 67.

29 Adoption as a motif for entrance into God’s family is unique to Paul in the NT (Rom 8:15; 8:23; 9:4; Gal 4:5; Eph 1:4). John emphasizes new birth to describe a believer’s entrance into the family of God (John 1:12; 3:16; 1 John 3:1–4). John marvels at God’s work, saying, “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are” (1 John 3:1).

30 The Baptist Faith and Message 2000, section IV. Available at

31 The Foundations document of the IMB elaborates on the BF&M 2000 by providing guidelines for church planting, leadership training, and statistical reporting. It also discusses 12 characteristics of a healthy church. Foundations, v. 4, IMB, 78–83. Accessed December 1, 2022. Available at*16c7m76*_ga*ODQ2ODcxMi4xNjYwMjU0NTc2*_ga_1RQXXFJB7G*MTY2MDU4MTQwOC40LjEuMTY2MDU4MTQyMy40NQ.

32 For a fuller discussion of the church and mission, see Robin Dale Hadaway, A Survey of World Missions (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2020) 53–54.

33 “We believe God uses the local church to disciple believers, to discern their giftings and callings, to train potential cross-cultural workers in the basics of Christian evangelism and discipleship, to assess their readiness for service, and to send them out to the nations (Ephesians 3:10).” Foundations, 19.

34 The missionary task is a group assignment. The picture of a lone missionary heroically pioneering new regions is unbiblical. Except in rare cases, Paul, the prototypical missionary, did not work alone. In his letters, Paul identifies well over 70 men and women as his ministry associates, and specifically calls many of them “coworkers.”

35 The Foundations document clarifies the concept of unreached. It says, “Unreached peoples and places are those among whom Christ is largely unknown and the church is relatively insufficient to make Christ known in its broader population without outside help.” Foundations, 88.  

36 Christopher J. H. Wright, The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 62.

37 Midwestern’s mission statement. 

38 Charles H. Spurgeon, “A Sermon and a Reminiscence,” Sword and the Trowel (March 1873), as cited on

39 Michael Goheen and Timothy Sheridan write, “If the church is to faithfully be the church of the New Testament, it must be a missionary body. This is not an optional extra or something that might enrich the church. Mission is about the esse (essence or being) of the church, not its bene esse (well-being).” Michael W. Goheen and Timothy M. Sheridan, Becoming a Missionary Church (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2022), 3. Kindle Edition. Of course, missions engagement is only one metric of church health, and active involvement is no guarantee of complete health in the church. Still, a church without missions involvement shows serious symptoms of disfunction. 

40 Foundations, v. 4, IMB. Accessed December 1, 2022. Available at*16c7m76*_ga*ODQ2ODcxMi4xNjYwMjU0NTc2*_ga_1RQXXFJB7G*MTY2MDU4MTQwOC40LjEuMTY2MDU4MTQyMy40NQ. 

41 God’s judgment is never evil, but a display of His perfect righteousness.

42 Lesslie Newbigin, A Word in Season: Perspectives on Christian World Missions (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994), 129. 

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