The Gospel of Christ Vs. The Gospel of Mission

good-newsDuring my ten years of Bible study in UBF, I was taught many wonderful truths. Some of those truths led me into a personal relationship with my Lord Jesus, helped me to accept His forgiveness, and become a new creation in Him. However, mixed in with those wonderful, timeless truths, there were elements that I’d call “the gospel of mission.” See how the “gospel of mission” as I understood it compares and contrasts with the gospel as I’m learning about it now:

The gospel of Jesus Christ

The gospel of mission

The character of God: My daddy (Abba, Father) My commander-in-chief
Man’s original state: Created for loving fellowship with the Triune God and with other men Created as servants and “care-takers” of God’s world.
Man’s sin: Rejection of God’s loving authority Disobedience towards God’s command
Consequences of sin: Eternal estrangement from God;  damnation to eternal hell Loss of purpose and meaning in life; suffering meaninglessness and despair.
The way of salvation: Accomplished by Jesus Christ once and for all through the cross Accomplished by Jesus Christ, but requires the continuing obedience of the saved
Forgiveness: All sins—past, present and future—are forgiven once and for all in the cross. Repentance and public confession is required to be forgiven.
Redemption: Salvation from eternal hell and entrance into eternal heaven. Restoration of my purpose and meaning in life
Justification: God’s declaration of “not guilty” because of the propitiation of Christ God’s declaration of “not guilty” because of the sinner’s acceptance of Christ’s call
Sanctification: The continuing work of the Holy Spirit within those who are in Christ The continuing struggle to be filled with the Holy Spirit (see “Holy Spirit”).
Glorification: We will be like Christ and with Christ in glory We will be rewarded for our labors in glory
Repentance: Ongoing conformance to the leading of the Holy Spirit Ongoing personal struggle to overcome sin
Atonement: Restored relationship with God through the mediation of Christ Restored calling to serve God following the example of Christ
The gospel message: Good news for the salvation of those who believe A command to preach to a lost world (“gospel spirit”)
God’s providence: The irrevocable decree of God for the salvation of the elect. The irrevocable call of God to a particular mission or ministry
The Church: Those who declare Jesus Christ as Lord Those who share the same mission
Holy Spirit: The third person of the Trinity; the Spirit of Jesus Christ given to those who in Christ A “force” or “energy” that enables us to accomplish God’s work. Those who are full of energy towards God’s work are “full of spirit;” those who are not have “lost the spirit” and require recharging.
Marriage and the family: God’s creation for the blessing of man; a shadow of the divine relationship with God; a building-block of human society and government. God’s creation for the sake of  accomplishing His mission in the world;  subordinate to the “spiritual family”—that is, members of the same mission.
  • Can certain aspects of the “gospel of mission” be good? Why or why not?
  • How has the “gospel of mission” influenced your Christian walk? Your church?


  1. Thanks, Joshua. I generally love tables and contrasts. My spontaneous thought is that mission (what we do) is NEVER a part of the gospel proclamation (what was done), but simply the RESULT of the gospel being announced.

    Thus, the mission you heard along with the gospel likely became a LAW to you (which can never save you or me, and likely only crushed and burdened you).

    Personally, I have abandoned teaching or emphasizing mission, because I have seen it crush and burden and wear out so many people in church. Mission has made people lose their joy and become quite ungracious. I realized this one day when I looked in the mirror!

    When I have emphasized the gospel over the last few years, I found that my relationships with others in the church improved. Also, I stopped judging and evaluating people, and am generally delighted to meet others. Remarkably, others seem a lot happier and much more gracious. The end result, I believe, is that our mission for Christ became a lot stronger and more authentic. This is nothing but the fruit of the gospel of God’s grace, and not the work or effort of any human being!

  2. Hi Ben, is there a way of improving the appearance of the article? It doesn’t seem to line up in columns quite as nicely as it could. Does WordPress not support tabular formatting?

    Anyways, thanks for your comments. I should state that I’m not saying either/or or black/white but what has been emphasized more. Analog, not digital. Certainly, there is some truth articulated in the right column, but if it is emphasized primarily or exclusively, I think risks getting unbalanced.

    • Yes, the right column is surely true. This statement revolutionized my Christian life: “The imperatives are based on the indicatives and the order is not reversible.”

      It would be similar to saying, “Mission is based on the gospel and the order is not reversible.” Thus, (over)emphasizing mission waylays the gospel; it is like putting the cart before the horse.

  3. When I look at the comparison for some parts, it looks like man’s work vs God’s work. Kind of reminds me of arminianism vs calvinism.

  4. Thanks Joshua.

    Can certain aspects of the “gospel of mission” be good? Why or why not?

    Yes. For me the teaching of mission is important and also valuable. It is natural to have an inner drive, force or desire to share with others such a tremendous experience in God. This can only come from within as a result of Jesus on the cross for each of us. The trouble in UBF becomes that of supervision and judgment. Why is there reporting on numbers for ministry activities? I know in the earlier days accounting for ones time was even worse. But this betrays the gospel of Jesus Christ. The works of men can only go so far. Yes, we need to exercise or even maintain a certain level of activity. But, why must anyone become legalistic about it?

    Frankly, if we have come to Christ and we can accept mission in any context then it would only make sense that we voluntarily share our joy in Christ with others. UBF (has always been/has become) business minded. I have only experienced such a promotion environment at work for which I get paid. How many of us actually like our bosses or believe we are being treated fairly? The measure of works defines a believer in how UBF carries out the gospel of mission. Moreover, the value of tenure is simply from men.

    Should it be this way? I don’t think so. I believe we can effectively apply mission in our lives. However, leadership must let the Holy Spirit work. Who performs well in their job when their boss is breathing down their neck? I believe no one. In UBF leaders should step back and let the Holy Spirit lead, guide and work through people instead of demanding and rebuking. There may be visible absenses in minisrty, but that doesn’t mean there are absenses in God.

    For Joshua’s – Character of God: My commander-in-chief
    Even if this is not how we are explicity taught to understand God it becomes the way we understand relationships between shepherd and sheep. It is wrong, wrong, wrong. I would say most of the descending points fail as a result of this first point. In principle the gospel of mission can be beneficial, but in its present usage it is deformed and corrupt. Who wants to proudly stand and introduce themselves as a Sunday Christian or a Christmas Christian? Now, I am not suggesting that laziness is a good thing, but all believers stand at varying points of faith and maturity. God is patient where people have the “Hurry, hurry” attitude. (Why don’t I just say LTE warp – olleh!!)

    How has the “gospel of mission” influenced your Christian walk? Your church?

    After being in UBF for many years I would be a liar if I said there was no influence. Of course there has been! I would emphasize that the gospel of mission has been good to prevent a lackadaisical attitude for the mature in mind and spirit. I kick against the imperative and human hierarchy for its whiff of brown nosing and elitism. Besides that, I am who I am in Jesus. If I am struggling for men what’s the point? One good influence I can attest to is my dynamic and open mind for new settings and environment. I used to be someone who liked to know when, where and how to be sure of all things. Now, I am free and accept my mission in God’s time, place and way.

    Sorry Joshua if I have deliberately ignored some points of context you were addressing, but I am speaking honestly as I am and how I have carried out behaviour in UBF. For me it is all in keeping at least.

  5. @gc: thanks for your comments.

    “I would say most of the descending points fail as a result of this first point.” – See more at:

    I think you’re right. Our view of God really drives our daily living, just as our view of our spouse drives our daily interactions with him or her. When I lived under the “gospel of mission”, I was sure that I needed to please God through my efforts and works, and without doing all kinds of works, he would be very displeased. Was I taught this explicitly? Not in so many words, but the actions and expectations placed on me certainly communicated as much.

    I think that actually it is the first and second points together that generate the descending points; that is, an incomplete understanding of both who God is and who I am. The right column emphasizes position and command, the left column emphasizes relationship and connectivity. We need the left and the right columns. Together they are like the melody and the harmony; alone they may be incomplete.

  6. Joshua:

    I’m not sure how to begin sharing my thoughts on this, but your comment here helps me: “The right column emphasizes position and command, the left column emphasizes relationship and connectivity.”

    Yes I agree. One of the many changes that occured in me after leaving ubf is that I dropped my dichotomy thinking. I’m really turned off by either/or propositions. So in my mind a third column is needed, a column that emphasizes existence and emotion. Loosely speaking, your first column might be labeled orthodoxy and your second column as an attempt at orthopraxy.

    In my observation your first column captures orthodoxy very well. The second column falls short of orthopraxy, which maybe is your point? I would add an orthopathy column the expresses our need for “purpose of existence” and “emotional encounters”.

    One thing I really respected about the now mostly defunct “Well” conference is the word “encounter”. That word opens the third column. We are human beings who crave not just position, not just relationship but an encounter, both with God and with others.

    I think the Calvin/Arminius split is unfair to both sides, and I don’t see such division as helpful at all. I think we need most of Calvanism combined with some Armeniunism and much of entire third set of thoughts (perhaps Pentacostal?).

    One final thought that occured when I read this article: Why label the columns as the gospel? The first column goes way beyond the gospel. And I don’t see any evidence of a “gospel of mission” in Scripture. Mission is there of course, but I don’t see “mision” ever presented as “the gospel”. The gospel may indeed invoke a mission, but the mission itself isn’t the gospel in my understanding. I remember hearing many times in ubf “the mission is the grace.” But now I reject that statment because it is saying “work=grace” which can’t be true.

  7. First Column; Second Column; (Third Column)
    Gospel; Mission; (Feeling)
    Orthodoxy; Orthopraxy; Orthopathy
    Calvinism; Arminianism; Contemplative Spirituality
    Love God; Love others; Pure love
    Head; Will; Heart
    Cognition; Volition; Emotion
    King; Prophet; Priest
    Father; Son; Spirit

    The three sub-categories are surely indistinct and that there is surely overlap between them. In fact all three categories must be One. Perhaps this in the mystery of the Trinity.

  8. @Brian:

    Very interesting thoughts. I also don’t like the Calvinism/Arminianism dichotomy. My church is Wesleyan, so they lean more towards the latter. UBF has reformed roots, so it may lean more towards the former. But I agree with you, Brian; there is richness in both, and we need to keep a proper balance. Perhaps it is similar to the “golden mean” idea, although I’m sure you won’t like the confucian undertones of that philosophy :).

    “Why label the columns as the gospel?”

    I meant that when I was taught the gospel, it leaned more heavily towards mission and me, and so I label it “the gospel of mission,” while more recently, my understanding of the gospel and theology leans more heavily toward Jesus, so I label it “the gospel of Jesus.” Perhaps the labels are not the best, and I mean them as identifiers, not definers.


    +1. I really like this small incursion into trying to articulate our wonder and amazement at the deep and marvelous truth of God. I hope we can do so more and more!

  9. Thanks for the further clarifications Joshua. No, I’m not a fan of the “golden mean” at all. I find that thinking to be flawed and even perhaps a fallacy. But I heard a TED talk about the “golden circle“. I am a huge fan of the “godlen circle” concept.

  10. Just some random thoughts on “golden mean”. I find this to be a fallacy and even harmful on a personal level. I think on an individual level, we should not be concerned with balancing all aspects of our character, life activities, etc. Such thinking leads to a personal entrapment or some sort of “conformance jail”.

    However, on a community level, or team level, or group level, the golden mean has much merit. So if we take a group of unbalanced individuals, and connect them in proper ways, they can form a balanced team.

    (just some initial random thoughts…)

  11. @Joshua, a few years ago when I began to read about Calvinism and Arminianism, I concluded that UBF is an Armenian/Wesleyan church.

    I concluded this because at the risk of oversimplification “predestination” defines Calvinism, while “free will” defines Armenianism.

    Anyone who hears UBF Bible teaching and preaching knows that “predestination” is mentioned rarely and only in passing as something we don’t have to worry too much about (because it gives us a headache! I personally realize that I don’t mind headaches…as long as it’s not caused by a brain tumor!).

    On the other hand, imperatives and commands (which requires the use of our so-called “free will”) are the primary heavy emphasis of UBF Bible study and messages, likely including the messages at the 2013 ISBC. Even the attractive ISBC graphic is strongly Armenian, with the catchphrase: “Serve the world with God’s love.” (

    I have nothing against this phrase, except that God is not the subject nor the primary emphasis in the phrase, since it falls into Joshua’s second column of “the gospel of mission.”

  12. @Ben, I agree in many aspects. I concluded that UBF is by tradition calvinist but in practice armenian. But its not that simple. Actually, there’s a lot of cognitive dissonance and doublethink going on in UBF about what it believes and what it practices.

    For instance, I attended a lecture on Jonathan Edwards during the European directors conference in Vienna a view years ago. The point of the lecture was contrasting Jonathan Edwards’ view of revival against that of Charles Finney. In overly simple terms, Edwards viewed revival as completely catalyzed by the Holy Spirit, while Finney viewed revival as something that can catalyzed by human involvement by following certain principles. The UBF speaker strongly sided with Edwards and emphasized the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit in revival that is completely independent of human efforts. It was a good talk. But immediately after the talk, the European director gave prayer topics and announcements and insisted that we must go fishing all the more and go to the campus continually in order to bring about revival in Europe. So the doctrine and practice were really opposed to each other.

    My conclusion is similar to Brian’s: UBF doesn’t really seem to adhere to anything in principle beyond whatever is expedient for the perpetuation of the heritage. As Chris has repeatedly pointed out, there’s even a lot of cherry picking when it comes to how Scripture is studied and applied, sometimes leading to contradictory lessons or behaviour one Sunday sermon to the next. This is why I think it is useful to have conversations like these.

    • +1 (I’m getting the hang of doing this +1!)

    • Is there anyway to get a LIKE button instead :-)

    • Hi Ben, I’m checking into “Like” buttons… but we have to be careful not to install a plugin that would mess up our custom theme.

    • And Joshua, you asked somewhere about WordPress and table formatting. That formatting is highly dependent on the WordPress theme. Our custom theme presents tables as you see above. It is possible to make better-looking tables by modifying the CSS, but I’m not inclined to do that right now, mainly because I’m not great at CSS modification and don’t want to mess up our custom theme.

      (really I just want to preserve this theme for the next 50 years because nobody can deny this is the best theme and it is God’s theme :)

    • How about these “like” and “dislike” buttons? Comments? Votes? The style can be modified and labels can be changed.

  13. Ben, you wrote: “I concluded that UBF is an Armenian/Wesleyan church.”

    Joshua, you wrote: “I concluded that UBF is by tradition calvinist but in practice armenian.”

    The reality is that it is impossible to ascribe ubf doctrine to any specific Christian source. What matters to ubf directors is upholding and proving out and refining the ubf heritage. [If you don’t believe me, then read the 50th Anniversary blue book and mission statement.]

    That is because ubf doctrine stems from Korean Confucianism. The directors in ubf came up with a new mission statement at the 50th anniversary. No one seemed bothered by the fact that ubf’s new mission statement for the next 50 years does not even mention the word “Jesus” and is not centered on the gospel of Jesus. One European director proudly proclaimed at a conference that this mission statement is good for the next 100 years!

    The ubf heritage is a bible-proof-texted contextualization of that Korean Confucianism. It is desperately in need of a mass infusion of the Christian gospel, the gospel Jesus preached.

    ubf heritage teaches you that the greatest command from Jesus is at the end of His ministry, the so-called “world mission command”. This focus is the prime example of the Christianized Korean Confucianism that is the backbone of the ubf fabric.

    When we understand the gospel Jesus preached, we clearly see that Jesus’ mission statement is not at the end, but at the beginning. In order to understand Jesus’ last words, we must understand His first words. Jesus’ mission statement is in Luke 4:17-21.

    The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

    What happens if you want to talk about this gospel to ubf directors, the gospel Jesus proclaimed and the gospel Jesus made it His mission to live and die for? What happens when you start talking about gospel words of freedom, recovery, favor, Spirit? I would hope the ubf fabric is changing and some ubf people would rejoice at this gospel instead of saying “yes, but we must go back to the bible…”

  14. This past weekend I began reading the Cape Town Commitment, and I find it highly satisfying to realize some of my thoughts about mission and the gospel match up with this broadly accepted statement of Christian doctrine. If a group claims to be a Christian missionary group, it must seek out and ensure its teachings are inline with the major Christian doctrines and flows from the gospel Jesus proclaimed.

    One correct articulation of the gospel of Jesus is the “gospel of the glory of Christ”. Mission is important, but it is never the gospel for Christians. Here are some highlights that stood out to me:

    “The mission of God flows from the love of God. The mission of God’s people flows from our love for God and for all that God loves. World evangelization is the outflow of God’s love to us and through us. We affirm the primacy of God’s grace and we then respond to that grace by faith, demonstrated through the obedience of love. We love because God first loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

    “The highest of all missionary motives is neither obedience to the Great Commission (important as that is), nor love for sinners who are alienated and perishing (strong as that incentive is, especially when we contemplate the wrath of God) but rather zeal — burning and passionate zeal — for the glory of Jesus Christ. … Before this supreme goal of the Christian mission, all unworthy motives wither and die.” –John Stott

    • @Brian: it’s interesting that the motive for the glory of Jesus Christ is very strongly emphasized in John 17, where Jesus prays for the Father to glorify him with the glory that he had with the Father before the world began. And yet this passage is noticeably absent from the ISBC program, which you pointed out before.

      This glory belongs to Jesus Christ alone. A mission agency cannot honestly glorify any of its own accomplishments as if to purport that Christ is glorified through their glory. This aspect of the world mission reports or conferences was always very uncomfortable for me. I felt dirty when I saw the all-too-common self-glorification and self-congratulation in UBF. I felt that I was stealing glory away from God.

      I suppose that the opposite of the motive for the glory of Christ is the motive for the glory and progress of the missionary movement itself. The slogan of UBF is “Bible [insert country name] and World Campus Mission”. Isn’t that slogan an expression that may place the progress of its own agenda and activities above bringing glory to Christ?

      Thanks for your thoughts!

    • @joshua, you just nailed it! You express the heart of what has been motivating me these past 2+ years. The gospel in ubf is often incorrectly expressed and demanded in an upside-down manner. This speaks to some of the angst we former members feel with a ubf person says we should remember all the good things ubf did for us.

      Indeed, as you and others have pointed out, ubf did do a lot of good things. But I refuse to glorify the mission of ubf at the expense of the glory of Christ.

      I think one way to summarize the former member experience is that of the man in John chapter 9, especially John 9:24.

      Glory and authority belong to our Lord Jesus Christ, and that is our destination in Heaven. I fear for those who demand glory and authority now.

  15. “the motive for the glory of Jesus Christ is very strongly emphasized in John 17, where Jesus prays for the Father to glorify him with the glory that he had with the Father before the world began. And yet this passage is noticeably absent from the ISBC program, which you pointed out before.”

    And yes, I am extremely disheartened, disappointed and saddened by the fact that John 17 was intentionally left out of the “upper room discourse” series at the ISBC. Why leave out the most important, concluding chapter of that series? We all know why: because John 17 removes the glory of ubf and the sacrfice ubf people make, and also strips ubf directors bare of any authority they claim, and places all glory and all authority on Jesus.

    My last memory of a ubf lecture is actually from John 17– the last lecture I heard in ubf. What was the message? The audience was instructed during the lecture to recite the first few verses BUT with replacing the name of Jesus with your own name!.

    The false gospel often found among ubf directors is the “gospel of self-glorification” which is no gospel at all.