Missions and evangelism are important subjects in Ecclesiology – the study of the Christian Church, its origins, roles, and relationship with God.
Acts chapter two described the beginning of the Church, which was marked by the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles on the day of Pentecost. The Apostles then started preaching to the Jews from many other nations who had gathered in Jerusalem at that time.
In the subsequent chapters of Acts we read of the Apostles – Peter, John, Paul, Barnabas, Silas, and Mark – journeying to many different places to preach the Gospel, especially Paul who made three missionary journeys by land and sea to preach to the Gentiles, opening the way for the Gospel to reach the West.
In Methodism, the purpose of the Church’s missionary work is to make disciples of Christ of all nations. Making disciples is more than saving souls. It is to have persons become Christ-like after knowing Jesus, and live in community manifesting His qualities in their lives, qualities such as kindness, righteousness, humility, love, holiness, and forgiveness.
Methodism holds that God uses our Church to save persons, heal relationships, transform social structures, and spread scriptural holiness, thereby changing the world.
Our missionary goal, therefore, is not merely to draw people to believe in Jesus and receive eternal life – the salvation plan that God has prepared for mankind and the Gospel we are to preach. It is more than that.
We are to make them disciples of Christ so that they will live a disciple’s life of goodness and kindness.
When Christ instructed His disciples to spread the Gospel to all nations, He told them earnestly to “[teach] them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20, NIV). It is clear that preaching the Gospel is more than telling people to “believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). It should also include all that Jesus has taught His disciples about the characteristics of a disciple.
The role of missionaries, therefore, is to exemplify the Gospel in their lives and not simply to preach with their mouths. As they live and work among the communities in their missionary district, their life testimonies should demonstrate the essence of the Gospel and allow people to see Jesus in their lives.
A distinguishing feature of Methodist ministry, simply put, is that we view the world as our parish and we strive to preach the Gospel in nations and cities.
At the same time the Methodist Church also fulfils its social obligations through its social welfare ministry “because of its desire to be obedient to Christ in bringing the whole of life with its activities, possession, relationships and environment into conformity with the will of God”, as stated in its Social Principles, under ¶81 of The Book of Discipline.
Our missionary ministry therefore, must not be solely concerned with preaching the Gospel while ignoring the holistic rebuilding of lives.
It is thus necessary for the missionary work of local churches to be closely linked with the Methodist Missions Society at General Conference level, and for resources to be shared at the Annual Conference and local church levels, so that the entire missions and evangelism ministry of the Methodist Church will be able to function effectively.
Bishop Dr Chong Chin Chung –
was elected Bishop of The Methodist Church in Singapore in 2016. He served as President of the Chinese Annual Conference for two quadrennia from 2008 to 2016.