God-centered Mission vs. Man-centered Missions

As we will see in the graph below, mission must be Theo-centric

(God-centered), because God is the source, means, and content of mission.

The mission is God’s mission and not, as we often say, the Church’s mission.


God-centered Mission

Man-centered Missions

The Goal

The chief purpose of the Church’s Mission is to bring glory to God.

Glory is brought to God when every nation, tribe, and tongue find their delight in worshipping God.

The salvation of souls is certainly a goal in mission. When we look at souls, however, we desire not only that they are saved from hell, but saved for heaven.

In man-centered missions’ the salvation of the lost is seen as the main purpose of missions. Men & women are dying without Christ, and so we must bring them the good news.

This is so true, but it shows salvation only as removing the negative.

What drives us?

People deserve to be damned, but Jesus, the suffering Lamb of God, deserves the reward of His suffering." from Let the Nations. p.39

We go out because we love Christ, and we desire that others would love Him too. (Of course we are also to desire that the lost would be saved and that they find true fulfillment in God.)

Man deserves hell. It is often difficult to develop a love for the lost world, as the lost are so unlovely. To love the sinner who hates both God and Christians is very difficult.


Worship of the Triune God is both the fuel and the goal of missions. Mission exists because worship does not. In heaven there will be no need for missions, but we will be worshipping God for eternity. (Rev. 5:8-14)

In man-centered missions, worship is often seen as only a secondary activity, not as important as missions.

Missions? or Mission?

There is only ONE mission of the Church: to bring glory to God by proclaiming the Gospel and reaping the harvest of souls which will worship and delight in God forever.

There are numerous missions’ plural, because there are numerous souls to save.

Bricks or Cathedrals?

The big-picture’ bricklayer constantly envisions the cathedral that he has a privilege to play a part in building. So the God-centered missionary envisions the kingdom of God which he is engaged in building.

The little-picture’ bricklayer only sees the bricks and the mortar. The work becomes drudgery. So it is with the man-centered missionary, who when he is rejected or encounters trials or failures, cannot look beyond to see the hand of God in it all.

Work with or for Christ

We are not working for’ Christ as much as we are working with’ Christ. (Matthew 28:20b)

In this view, we focus on our job, what we can do for’ Christ.

Human worth

Human worth is not diminished by being God-centered. Instead, it is established. That is, when we focus on God who alone has worth in Himself, and we understand that we are created in His image, this brings us great worth.

Man has no worth in and of himself, and being man-centered in one’s approach to anything is ultimately futile.




Though he thanks God for the opportunity to serve Him and desires to accomplish great things for God, the God-centered missionary knows that he is replaceable. He is a tool in God’s hand, and God can choose to discard’ him when God pleases. This brings about humility.

Again, the man-centered missionary is on his own mission or various missions, and without him the venture would fall apart. The tendency is toward a Lone Ranger’ mentality. This fosters pride.


Colossians 4:2-4 Only God can open man’s hearts, so we must ever be in prayer when we are engaged in mission work. Methods are important, but only after you pray and get the message straight.

Man is pursued with any method or technique that will get him to listen, to open his heart’. The problem, only God can open a man’s heart.

Prayer takes a back seat to the methods, and the message is often compromised.


We focus on our faithfulness to the message, allowing God to change hearts. (I Cor 3:5-8) We have no reason to boast for our successes’ except to boast in the Lord. Those who reject the Gospel are not rejecting us, but God.

A side note: though we must allow the Gospel to be offensive (the innocent God-man dying for wretched sinners), we must not add our own offensiveness to the mix.

The focus in on persuasion & results, because anyone’s heart can be opened if we have the right key.’ We are seen as failures if the person doesn’t choose Christ. Successful’ evangelists have reasons to boast, because they persuade people to choose Christ. Method and delivery are exalted above content. Offensive doctrines like eternal judgment’ and total depravity’ are avoided, so as not to drive away seekers.’ (Obviously there is no true gospel where sin & hell aren’t preached).

Success & Failure

Success is guaranteed, because it is God who will build the church.

(I Cor 3:4-6 , Matt. 16:18)

This is not to say that man has no role in God’s mission. Man is used as an instrument in the hands of God.

(Isaiah 18:6, II Corinthians 4:7)

Even our failures are used by God as successes (Gen 50:20, Rom11:33-36)

Success is questionable, since it missions is seen as man’s mission, and humans make mistakes.

With a man-centered viewpoint, when we succeed, we tend to become prideful, and when we fail, we tend to get defeated.

How great a sacrifice?

Though to the world it appears as if you have made a great sacrifice, when we focus on the sacrifice that Christ paid for us and the benefits that He gave to us, our sacrifice is minimal. (See Matt 13:44-46)

With the wrong perspective, the sacrifice becomes unbearable, and when too much rejection, too much hardship comes, the man-centered missionary is more likely to give up.

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