When churches struggle to get on mission, what’s the real problem?
Those enthused about mission just want to get people out there. They’ll get fired up when they see results, changed lives, many salvations. Deal with a lack of concern for the lost by showing pictures of starving kids, families mired in poverty. Or tell them that this is their responsibility and they’re not doing what they should be doing as a Christian. Give people a new program to do. That’ll surely do it!
These motivators, however, fall dreadfully short. When looking at the church’s history, what sustained some of the most well-known missionaries? In 1793, William Carey set off to India, launching the modern missions movement. What would lie ahead for Carey was deep darkness and suffering. What sustained William Carey, pioneer of the modern missionary movement, to keep going when his son died from dysentery, his wife had a nervous breakdown, no Indians came to faith for over 7 years despite aggressive evangelism, and fire destroyed all of his work? Not results.
Nor success. Many have not seen the fruits of their labour in their lifetime. Jonathan Edwards (1703-1752), the pastor who was fired after 22 years in one church, has a much greater influence today than he did during his lifetime. His works are more widely read today than at any other time in history.
What sustains mission? Andrew Murray (in Key to the Missionary Problem)said it so well over a hundred years ago: “As we seek to find out why…the real army of God that is fighting the hosts of darkness is so small, the only answer is – lack of heart. The enthusiasm of the kingdom is missing. And that is because there is so little enthusiasm for the King.” Mission, results, changed lives don’t sustain mission. A passion for God must be the fuel of our hearts. Because mission isn’t forever. Worship is.
This picture – worship around the throne – is the one we see in Revelation. People from every language, tribe, tongue, and nation. People exalting the King. People delighting in God. Forever.
So aim to get fiery hot spiritually. Be consumed with Christ, his greatness, his cross, his grace…and the overflow will be a concern for the lost, oppressed, and broken. A low concern for the lost is due to a low passion for God’s glory. It is not overcome with more mission activity – it is overcome with repentance, prayer, and seeking God afresh so that our worship might be white hot. This weekend, we’ll hear from our mission partners and think about what it means to be mission minded. It doesn’t begin with activity. It begins with God. He is a God on mission, sending his missionary Son to us to rescue us from sin and death. His passion is for his name to be made known. And that ought to be ours as well.
So seek God. Get on your knees again and plead for God to meet you anew. And let his holy fire burn deep into your soul so that your confession and cry to him goes deep. And it will burn a passion for his name into your soul.
Longing with you for more of God,