This article is about the motives for missionaries and missions.

Source: The Outlook, 1992. 3 pages.

Why Missionaries?

When things get tough, missionar­ies are bound to ask, What are we doing here? Why did we come? What can we accomplish by staying? The answers ei­ther rekindle zeal and determination to stay on, or send the missionaries home.

When we present the missionary challenge through speaking and writ­ing it is important to be clear about the motives of missionary endeavor. Biblical answers must be given to such questions as, Why are missionaries needed? By whose authority, and to what end, do missionaries work? Are there wrong motives as well as right motives for becoming missionaries?

Antimissionary Attitudes🔗

In society at large missionary mo­tives are always suspicioned and criti­cized. There is a certain amount of antimissionary spirit in the church as well. Missionaries are accused of be­ing religious bigots, trouble makers, cultural aggressors, ecclesiastical colonialists and spiritual imperialists. For everyone that idolizes missionar­ies there are ten others vilifying them.

It is particularly sad to see certain newer organizations that in their fund­raising subtly try to discredit mission­aries. These organizations promote the kind of overseas ministries that make extensive use of nationals, which is good. But they discredit missionar­ies and paint a false image of their work. By advertising a "more eco­nomical" approach to missions these organizations try to shift financial sup­port to their own programs.

Motives are Never Perfect🔗

Admittedly, no missionary has ever gone out with utterly pure motives. Some missionaries return home ear­lier than planned because they come to realize that their reasons for going were wrong and their missionary vo­cation misconceived.

Even when their motives are cor­rect, missionaries make mistakes. Pure motives do not insure good judg­ment or prevent problems from ris­ing. The most common problem is maintaining harmonious relations with fellow workers. Even people with similar motives can be difficult to get along with.

But some motives are definitely wrong. Among the wrong motives for becoming missionaries are such things as seeking honor for them­selves, pursuing selfish "fulfillment," escaping problems back home, work­ing off feelings of guilt by trying to earn God's favor, desiring to domi­nate other people, and bringing glory to a particular church or denomina­tion.

Critics relish pointing out mission­ary shortcomings. In an effort to dis­credit missionaries, every perceived flaw is investigated and exaggerated to the limit. The secular media portrays missionaries as intolerant fools and their work at best as nonsense. No matter how carefully missionary goals and motivation are explained, critics are never silenced. Because as the Scripture says, some things can only be spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:14) and people that are spiritually dead cannot appreciate them.

Motives that are Right🔗

Right motives for becoming mission­aries are motives taught or implied in the Word of God. Right motives and the missionary "call" are closely related. Missionary vocation involves a deep sense of compulsion to spread the gos­pel, a recognition that God has sup­plied the necessary gifts and abilities, and a basic understanding of what the Bible teaches are the proper motives of missionary endeavor.

Biblical motives are universal, ap­plying just as much to missionaries going out from Asia, Africa and Latin America as to those going from North America or Europe.

1. To Glorify God🔗

The final and highest goal of missions is to glorify God. God's glory is every­thing revealed about God, His name, His holiness, His sover­eign power, His saving love, mercy, grace and righteousness. Missionaries yearn to fill every corner of the world with the knowl­edge and worship of God and His glory.

The chief end of all human exist­ence, says the Westminster Cat­echism, is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. But more than three billion people in today's world do not do this, and that thought stirs missionaries to action. Christians on whom God lays His hand cringe at the thought that God's name is dishonored and His glory denied by people worshiping idols. They are compelled to spread the gospel, their high­est motivation being that God's glory will shine when knees bow and tongues confess Jesus as Savior and Lord (Philippians 2:11).

2. To Obey God, Out of Love and Gratitude🔗

This motive naturally follows the first. "If you love me," said Jesus, "you will obey what I command" (John 14:15). Genu­ine love for God translates into a life of obedience, witness, and fruitful service. Nothing is plainer than Christ's command to go and make disciples of all nations and peoples.

Missionaries sense in their hearts that the particular form of grate­ful obedience God wants from them involves going out with the gospel to the unsaved, unchurched and uncared-for. In my own life, I became personally aware of God's call to missions on a September evening in 1954. I was a college student heading for seminary, and in the back of my mind to a comfortable pas­torate. But unexpectedly the thought burst on my mind that Christ who gave His life for me wanted the whole world to know the gospel, and if I really wanted to live for Christ, I had to be part of the missionary endeavor.

3. To Win the Lost🔗

Listen to Paul describe his missionary motiva­tion: "Though I am free and be­long to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law ... so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law ... so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some (1 Corinthians 9:19-22).

Likewise, missionaries are moved to go near and far, searching for the lost, winning as many as pos­sible, and using every possible means to "save some" from Satan's snare and eternal damnation.

4. To Plant Churches and Extend the Kingdom🔗

"Thy Kingdom come," which is the second peti­tion of the Lord's Prayer, conveys missionary motivation. God's Kingdom comes wherever people are ruled by God's Word and Spirit and the devil's works are de­stroyed (Heid. Cat., A. 123).

Churches are assemblies of people who live by God's grace and are directed by His Spirit and Word to lives filled with good works. In a sinful, troubled world, faithful churches are lighthouses of God's Kingdom of truth, love and righteousness. They oppose Satan's bondages of whatever sort, and set prisoners free.

Missionaries are motivated to ac­tions of many kinds both by the eschatological vision of God's great Kingdom and the strategic importance of faithful, fruitful churches planted among all na­tions and peoples.

A Persistent Sense of Urgency🔗

Missionaries as a class are a rest­less people, always on the go, study­ing maps, investigating unevangelized areas and unreached people, discuss­ing plans and strategies, and telling stories of changed lives and terrible misery that make you want to drop everything and join them, or run away fast.

Missionaries simply refuse to leave sluggish churches and complacent Christians as they are, but persist in challenging them to more prayer, wider outreach, more giving, and additional workers. Always there is that sense of urgency with missionaries, as though precious time were slip­ping away and eternity begins today. It springs, I think, from the issues at stake and the urging of the Spirit who rests not until all God's elect have heard, believed, and are gathered in.

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