Mission, evangelism, conversion


Mission means being sent with a purpose. Jesus taught that he had been sent to this world by God, his Father: ‘I am not here on my own. The one who sent me is true ... I know him because I come from him, and he sent me' (John 7:28-29). In his own home synagogue, Jesus gave his ‘mission statement', quoting the prophet Isaiah:

‘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 favour' (Luke 4:16-21).

As Jesus died, crucified on the Cross, he cried out, ‘It is finished', meaning ‘Mission accomplished'. After the resurrection, Jesus told his disciples, ‘As the Father sent me, I am sending you.' Hence, those first disciples (also known as apostles) became the first missionaries, spreading the message about Jesus throughout the known world in obedience to his command, ‘Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation' (Mark 16:15). (See Big ideas: Cross, crucifixion; Death and resurrection; Redemption, salvation.)


Evangelism means sharing good news. It derives from a Greek word, ‘evangelion', for which the first translators of the Bible into English used the Old English word gospel. In the New Testament, the four gospel writers, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, tell the ‘good news' of the coming of Jesus to save the human race from the consequences of sin. Jesus taught that people had only to ‘repent and believe the good news (gospel)' to receive this salvation (Mark 1:15; see also John 3:16). Jesus' disciples were among the first to believe in him and, before the ascension, when Jesus left the earth to ascend to be with his Father in heaven, he commanded them to continue his mission. See Big ideas: Christians; Penitence, repentance, penance; Redemption, salvation; Sin.


The Conversion of Saul by MichelangeloConversion means turning round or changing direction, and is used to describe a person's positive response to the gospel or ‘good news'. The most dramatic conversion described in the New Testament is that of Saul of Tarsus, who as a consequence of his conversion to Christianity took the name Paul. The story is first told in the Book of Acts, and recounted by Paul himself in Acts 26:12-18,

I was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth … In my obsession against them (Christians), I even went to foreign cities to persecute them. On one of these journeys I was going to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests … As I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions. We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins.'

This story has given rise to the expression ‘a Damascus road experience', to describe not only a conversion to Christianity, but any life-changing experience. (See Big ideas: Christians; Community, the Church, the Body of Christ; Forgiveness, mercy and grace)

Related topics

Big ideas: Christians; Community, the Church, the Body of Christ; Cross, crucifixion; Death and resurrection; Forgiveness, mercy and grace; Penitence, repentance, penance; Redemption, salvation; Sin

Other cultural ideas

The Mission, dir. Roland Joffe

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