Called to Conquer or Commissioned to Bless?
 Why I Dislike the Term “Missions”

by Rick Love

I recently spoke in a church where a member told me that we need to “conquer” the world for Christ! This kind of language ticks me off. Like the imperialism or colonialism of the past, it betrays the good news we seek to share. We are not called to conquer, but commissioned to bless.

Understanding the nature of our commission to bless is even more crucial in a post 9/11 world. Because of terrorism, stories of violence, hatred, and fear splash across the headlines daily. Diplomacy and the use of force should play an important role in governments’ resistance to terrorism, but it often only escalates the violence. Polarization between Muslims and Christians increases daily.

How should followers of Christ respond? First, let’s do away with military metaphors! All talk of conquering, targeting, or overcoming Islam is not only unbiblical, but it also radically miscommunicates.

But believers in Jesus not only need a change of wording, we need a transformation of our “being.” We need a heart transfusion of love. We are called to bless; we are called to be peacemakers!

The “age of missions” is fading into the past. Old ways and traditional terms no longer fit the 21st century. For example, the term “missions” was first coined by Ignatius Loyola in the 1500s. But the term has sadly come to imply aggressive proselytism and cultural imperialism, rather than describing the peaceable way of Jesus.

How then are followers of Christ to live out our faith in today’s world? Jesus made it clear that his good news of peace with God was intended for all nations. How can we plant the gospel of peace among peoples who have never heard?

Actually, God described His plan beautifully a long time ago. Let’s eavesdrop on God and Abraham …

“The LORD had said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. ‘I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you'” (Genesis 12:1-3 NIV).

This is the first mention in the Bible of God’s plan to bless all peoples on earth. The first mention of the Great Commission in the Bible! God repeats this ancient and amazing promise five times in Genesis (Gen 12:1-3; 18:18; 22:18; 26:4; 28:14). God’s purpose from the beginning is to bless all peoples – there’s no mention of conquering here.

For some people the term “blessing” seems old fashioned.  I am afraid that this massively important term has been drained of its power. Its meaning has been diluted because of superficial familiarity. “Oh Lord, bless us.” That is the kind of thing we might hear a mom pray with her children. It sounds so simple. Cute. And somehow right. Yet, the weight of heavenly power and heart-soothing comfort have been lost.

The Bible refers to blessing about 500 times! You don’t have to be scholar to realize that this is a central theme. Moreover, the quest for blessing (or “baraka” in Arabic) is an almost universal longing among the peoples of the world.

Blessing refers to God’s gracious favour and power bestowed on all humanity (Gen 30: 27; Heb 6:7; cf. Luke 17:12-18), and in its fullest manifestation toward those who respond to him by faith (Eph 1: 3; Gen 15:6; Gal 3:8; Ps 67).

Favor and power?  Who doesn’t want that?

The blessing of God’s favor draws us into relationship with Himself, resulting in peace, well-being, salvation, and good experiences. The blessing of His power impacts the practical realities of life, resulting in good harvests, long life, wealth, children, and miraculous works. Because of God’s grace, non-believers experience the blessing of His power (Matt 5:45) – often through believers (e.g. Jacob, Gen 30:27; 33:11; Joseph, Gen 39:2-6).

Later in the New Testament, the apostle Paul makes a fascinating connection between this global mandate and his gospel message.

The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you” (Gal 3:8).

The Apostle Paul understood the concept of blessing all nations as “good news.” Moreover, this implies that the good news includes both personal experience (blessing for myself) and global mandate (my responsibility to be a blessing to all nations). In his thinking, the message (blessing in Christ) and the mandate (to share this blessing with all nations) have become one.

  • “Blessing” describes God’s plan to bless all nations (Gen 12:1-3, Gal 3:8), so those who follow Jesus believers should reclaim the term with its powerful impact.
  • “Blessing” describes the gospel according to Paul (Gal 3:6-14, Eph 1:3-14),. Anyone concerned about sharing the gospel should recapture this image.
  • “Blessing” is a power term in the Bible, so anyone longing for signs and wonders among their neighbors should retrieve the concept.
  • “Blessing” impacts every dimension of life, so those favoring holistic ministry should repossess the power of its meaning

So no more conquering. No more use of terms that miscommunicate, like “missions.” Those who follow Jesus are called to bless.