Digging wells in Uganda, taking care of orphans in Tanzania, teaching English to Japanese people, and witnessing to and discipling assorted people occasionally are all ministries that honor God and genuinely help people. However, all of these ministries, if conducted as ends rather than means, fall short of the Bible’s understanding of missions.

In the New Testament we see Jesus’ followers living out what they understood Jesus’ final commands (Mt. 28.18-20, Acts 1.8) to mean. City churches sent out missionaries (cf. Acts 13.13) to travel cross-culturally to plant churches that in turn planted more churches. Along the way they did deeds of mercy that improved people’s lives. But the ultimate goal of the early church’s missionaries was to plant the church and move on. Paul’s longest stay in any city lasted about two years (Ephesus).

“Doing good things” is honorable, but if you want to impact whole people groups for the long haul, your activity on the field will be ultimately tied to planting reproducing churches.