A Brief Biblical Basis for and History of Missions

This post was written on the plane en route to Kenya, where I was about to participate in my first Short Term Missions trip. The trip was a very successful one, and much enjoyed by myself, the team and the missionary we went to visit. But as I say it was written on the plane before almost anything had happened. It is a little rough in it form (being juggled between conversation, food being served and all the rest that goes on in a plane), and outlines a few of my personal thoughts, as well as what I was thinking through, namely the biblical and historical basis for missions. I hope you enjoy reading it.


Ok so I’m leaving on my first mission trip and we’re in the air, just outside of South Africa heading to Kenya.

Betty And Launa, origional missionaries into the region we went to

The team is a little stressed, having been the last group to get on the plane both on the connection and now this one. But God is sovereign, He is in control of our circumstances and He wanted us to go, we know this because we’re on our way.

This is my first trip into a foreign mission field, as it is for most of the team, and for me, it is a long term goal finally come to fruition. For most of my Christian life I have had the idea of entering the mission field at some point. Now this trip is not long term, just 10 days, but nevertheless, it is the very first step towards that missionary direction.

Why does Christians do missions? It is an activity that Christians have engaged in ever since the very first disciples received the Holy Spirit and began preaching the Gospel.

The Biblical Basis

The Old Testament

Missions began long before the New Testament era. The first missionary was Jonah. The usual way the Jewish nation evangelized was by being holy, and the nations would come and see what made them different. Not so with Jonah. God commanded Jonah to go to the Ninivahites, something Jonah really did not want to do. And through the events you are familiar with, God got the reluctant prophet to the city of Ninivah where he preached the shortest, toughest and as it turned out, most successful evangelistic message in history. And the whole city repented.

During Christ’s Lifetime

Jesus is of course the founder of missions in the New Testament sense. We are all familiar with the most famous passage on this topic, Matthew 28:19,20 where Jesus calls all His disciples to go, making more disciples  baptizing and preaching the gospel wherever they went. But Jesus didn’t start there. In Luke 10 for example, He sent out 72 of His followers on a short term mission, giving them instruction to only take very little and to rely on the hospitality of one host. He sent them out as lambs amongst wolves. And they came back rejoicing. (Luke 10:1-11).

The New Testament and Church Father Era

After His ascension  the small church, planted by Jesus, grew very rapidly. What began with 120, soon became 3000, then 5000 men, and as persecution started happening, these thousands of Christians were spread abroad. They went out into the Roman empire, firstly around the eastern Mediterranean  then to Rome and further. In fact, after the fall of Roman, it was in remote locations like Ireland that there was a safe haven for many of the copies of scripture that had been made while the dark ages enveloped Europe.

It was the bible that caused the second generation onwards of Christians to go, the command of Jesus in Matthew 28, ringing in their ears. And expansion mostly stopped during the dark ages. Everyone in Roman Catholic Europe was considered a Christian, it was the only possible state they could be. It didn’t cease altogether, but it certainly stagnated.

The Reformation

Then the reformation. Suddenly people could read the scriptures in their own language again, and boy did it make an effect. Not only were people in large scale converted, but their missionary zeal began again in earnest. You have the followers of Luther spreading out across Europe. You have Calvin being forced into Geneva, a city he did not plan to go to. You had the Moravians and the Wesleyians and the Baptists, You have groups like the London missionary society and the China Inland Mission. You have men like David Livingston, who’s chief purpose in exploring Africa, was the conversion of the peoples there. You  have men like William Carey who was the founder of the modern missionary method of sending one or two people, supported by the folks back home.

You had Hudson Taylor in China, and many men like him who did immeasurable work for Christ in these nations. You have men like Jim Elliot, who, along with his companions, was speared to death, while trying to reach a South American tribe. And so the list goes on. And hundreds of others, both known and unknown men and women, who took up their crosses, left home and planed a flag for Christ on a foreign land. Missions exploded post reformation

And then there are the men my Church support, working in both sensitive and free countries, labouring hard for the cause of Christ and the conversion of the lost. Then there is me, going for a short trip, with a few brothers and sisters to support one of those missionaries. For all the littleness of this trip, I pray God uses us, pours us out like water, let every bit of energy be vested into exalting Christ’s name on this trip. See you on the other side.

Just as a side note, He certainly did pour us out, and as I will relay in future posts, in a number of ways we did not expect.