I begin this Journal on a plane. World missions is on my mind—always on the mind of God!
The Church by the thousands over the centuries has traveled throughout the world evangelizing with the Gospel. Some have had “easy” assignments as far as location, language, culture, environment, and climate are concerned. There are those who have not had to experience much change from the standard of living in their own country. Other missionaries, on the other hand, from both the East and West, have endured incredible hardships in the ministry. Some have paid the ultimate price of death in making Christ known. For some, to make Christ known involves staying “at home”—in the market place, at school, in the local church, in their city, or a myriad of other venues where the message of God is shared with the spiritually needy. Others leave home and family to evangelize the world, no matter the price.
What is the motivation to make Christ known? What is what I call the “irreducible essence of world missions?” What is the bottom line? Is it to keep people from going to hell? A worthy goal, absolutely! Is it that our world would be a better place to live? Another worthy goal. To restore marriages? Change lives? There are hosts of other reasons that may be worthy goals. But what is the highest motivation for world missions? What motivates and gives joy to the many that share Christ and endure related hardships?
Many go to the remotest places driven by a sense of duty or obedience. The command in Matthew 28 has been preached in many missions classes and conventions. The message is very clear—God’s call to the Church is to the world. Surely, one should not fault obedience to the clear teaching of the Scriptures. Is duty a bad motivation? No, but there is something higher!
Matthew 28:18-20 is probably one of the texts most used by missionaries:
18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. (NKJV)
The appeal is to motivate the Church’s participation in the missions endeavor. The word “go” is often emphasized in the text. However, the word “go” in the text is a participle verb, not an imperative. It is not a command! The verse should read more accurately, “As you are going … disciple (make disciples) of all nations.” The command of this verse is “disciple”, not “go”!
How does one fulfill this command? First, in order to “make disciples”, one must evangelize the lost—the natural precedent to “baptizing them”. The joy of “going” and bringing God’s glory to the nations is well rewarded.1 Second, Jesus commanded the Church to “teach them (the baptized ones) to observe all things”. God expects a Spirit-filled Church or individual to be going. It is the overflow of a passionate intimacy with God by the power of the Spirit. This may or may not involve a geographical change. Mostly, it involves a vision of the Cross with all of its implications.
Fear and guilt drive others. “To be disobedient to the command to evangelize is to bring about God’s retribution. Someone may be doomed to hell because of a disobedient messenger.” Still others go because of guilt. “How can we have so much while the rest of the world has so little? This is true especially when comparing with the materially and economically deprived of the world. Surely, we must share the Gospel and bring some help and hope to the depressed of the world.”
Well-documented videos of Third World countries are often shown to the church. They depict the utter poverty, the destitution, and the horror of sin in the most despicable of conditions. Also shown are vivid scenes from the Western world—the skid rows and the hollowed-out inner cities and urban centers. Compassion for those who need the “cup of cold water”, for the “naked”, and for those “in prison” compels and validates a call into “missions”. This is commendable. But if the physical human need is all that compels one to missions, what will compel a call to the sophisticated and wealthy? What of those in positions of power and authority in “high places”?
Others may go overseas because of the lure of new geography, culture, and peoples. The “call” becomes a glorified and “spiritualized” vacation with some Gospel work to validate the trip—either for a short-term or long-term assignment.
The benefits of an overseas experience for the family are invaluable. Overseas schooling and exposure to other cultures are surely invaluable experiences with lifelong benefits for any child. We know this first-hand!
For others, living overseas has financial benefits.
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All of these (and maybe others) have varying degrees of value. However, we need to ask ourselves: What, Biblically speaking, is the highest motivation for praying, going and giving of our resources to the cause of world missions?
The Irreducible Essence of World Missions: the Glory of God!
One cannot find the highest motivation for world missions in Matthew 28, Mark 16, or in Acts 2. It is not primarily in getting people out of hell, restoring marriages, changing lives, bettering societies, or growing churches—as worthy as these goals are. It is not man-centered!
The irreducible essence and motivation for world missions is not missions but worship! It is the glory of God in the worship of the Lamb!2 There is no higher motivation: the bottomless, gushing well of God’s Glory … the brightness and splendor of God and His majesty … the perfections and the immutability of His character … His super-abounding perfections and the magnificent Person of God.
When a passion for God is maintained—in spite of the trials, the persecutions, and even the ultimate price of death—the motivation is not lost! The sustaining of the soul, especially in difficult times, is how God can get glory in our lives. When Isaiah saw God’s glory, He was motivated for world missions!3
The Cross is God’s testimony to us of His love and commitment to His own glory.4 It is God’s glory, not the enhancement of one’s image, that is the issue here. The passion of God’s heart is a passion for His own glory. One enters into the pleasures of God—for His own glory!
In his book Desiring God, John Piper states, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” I would add that we are most satisfied in ourselves when we are fully satisfied with Him. Joy equals God—”unspeakable and full of glory”!5
It is Augustine who said that “the chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.” However, I would make a correction to that statement and change “and” to “by”—so that “the chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever.”
To delight in God and His passions makes delight a much higher motivation than duty. Pleasure in God’s glory is the highest, unsurpassed, effervescent motivation, with His joy and ours being fulfilled! It was Jesus’ mission on earth to glorify the Father.6 So, the Church is to do the same.7
Nearly forty years ago, an Episcopalian priest told me that the mission of the Church is “to make Christ present in our world”—Christ and His past and present work. We as His Church are to glorify him in our lives and ministry.
Serving God with joy for His glory alone,
Reuben & Carmen Sequeira