Jesus taught many parables, and He uses them to revisit certain themes over and over. One of those themes concerns world missions and His desire to see people from every nation, tribe, and tongue turn from their sin and follow Him.
In fact, Jesus talks about world missions – going away from your own people to other cultures and people groups to share the gospel – almost everywhere he went. He talks about reaching the nations in the Sermon on the Mount, in the book of John, and in many other places. Here are 10 statements from Jesus about global missions.
But does he talk about world missions in any parables? There are about 40 parables from Jesus recorded in the gospels.
Today, we’re going to look at three of them that reveal God’s plan to use world missions to win the nations back to Him.
3 Parables from Jesus about World Missions
Some parables are very short, and others are much longer. We’ll start with a short one.
Parable of the Net – Matthew 13:47-48 (NIV)
Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away.
The key term here related to world missions is “all kinds of fish.” Jesus wasn’t just interested in saving people from Israel back in ancient Rome. He wants the whole world.
This is what the kingdom of heaven is like according to Jesus – a net catching a great variety of fish.
How do we catch these fish? One way is through international missions. One of the primary roles of the local church is to send missionaries out to other countries. We must always be about multiplying, growing, spreading, and expanding. And the church can do that through a variety of means.
Other Christians have formed standalone organizations whose sole mission is to reach the nations. iBAM is one such organization, and our focus is on making disciples and spreading the gospel using business entrepreneurship as an anchor, because this strengthens new church plants and disciple-making movements. See how iBAM’s business as mission approach helps multiply disciples.
Other organizations have different emphases, such as reaching college students, fighting human trafficking, running orphanages, administering medical missions, and many other approaches.
But every world missions organization ultimately has the same goal – catch “all kinds of fish,” from every nation.
Parable of the Mustard Seed – Mark 4:30-32 (NIV)
What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.
Here, Jesus describes the effect of the kingdom of heaven as it grows and expands. Though it started small with just 120 people waiting in an upper room in Jerusalem, it would eventually grow into a huge tree.
That tree is so big that birds can sit on the branches. In other words, God’s kingdom is meant to be a refuge for everyone who finds it. This isn’t a tree that gets bound by property barriers, or trimmed down to be confined to a particular size or shape. This tree is meant to grow, flourish, and eventually dominate the garden, towering over all the other plants.
Do you see the imagery here? There are birds nesting. There are other garden plants benefitting. There is shade, enough for anyone to rest under.
This is a picture of why we do world missions. One tree grows bigger and bigger until it is able to meet the spiritual needs of anyone who comes to God for help.
Parable of the Big Dinner – Luke 14:17-24 (NIV)
A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, “Come, for everything is now ready.” But they all alike began to make excuses.
The first said, “I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.” Another said, “I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.” Still another said, “I just got married, so I can’t come.”
The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, “Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.”
“Sir,” the servant said, “What you ordered has been done, but there is still room.” Then the master told his servant, “Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.”
There’s a lot going on here besides the call to world missions. But that call is very clear. Jesus wants people to come to his kingdom. He invites anyone and accepts everyone who knows they need salvation from sin more than anything else in their lives.
When the first group of people invited to this banquet makes excuses for why they can’t come, the owner of the house doesn’t just give up. He invites anyone and everyone who will come.
What matters to God is that His house is full with people who want to be there. And the implication from the parable is that there are people everywhere who will come when they are invited – people from every culture, country, and people group.
But who is inviting them?
That’s the reason we send missionaries out to the nations. Notice the repetition. Go out into the streets and alleys. Go out to the roads and country lanes. Later, in the Great Commission, Jesus tells us to go into all the world.
Are You Called to World Missions, or to Help Send Others?
The servant in the parable is us, followers of Jesus who are already in his household.
As a Christian, you have two ways to respond to Jesus’ command to “go.” You can go yourself, or you can help send others. Both roles are essential, and the Bible has a lot to say about giving to support world missions. Even Jesus received financial support. See Luke 8:1-3.
If you think God may be calling you to world missions, here are 5 steps you can take to test the waters and move in that direction.
If you think you’re better suited to support other international missionaries, you can do so through your local church, a world missions organization like iBAM, or directly to individual missionaries you may know.
Here’s a guide to figure out which world missions organization to give to, [link to blog 17] if that’s the direction you choose to go.