BY JACK CRABTREE
My friend, James, needed to interview a missionary for his missions class at Moody. Here's the first question. More to follow:
James: What motivated you to become a career missionary?
Jack: There’s only one answer to this question that will last and help you live well on the field. It took me a while to figure it out. Sure, many factors can play into someone desiring to be a missionary…some good and some…not so much. Maybe you love to travel and see new places and experience new cultures. Maybe you heard a motivating speaker and you’re ready to go do something now! Maybe you’re sick of the American dream, and you want to make a lasting difference. Maybe you feel guilty that you’ve had God’s word in your language for hundreds of years, while hundreds of languages still don’t have access to it. Maybe missions just sounds like an awesome adventure or the best way to get God to like you more….
That crazy list could go on, but only one motivation will truly sustain you. You must be completely convinced by the missional meta-narrative of Scripture. God is a missional God, who made a missional promise to Abraham in Geneses 12 to one day bless people from every language group on the planet through salvation in Christ. When I saw in Revelation 5:9 and 7:9 that people from every tribe, language, and country would someday be represented around God’s throne in Heaven but knew that hundreds of people groups were still untouched by the Gospel, I had to rethink and surrender my life-plan. Gone were the narcissistic dreams of screenwriting and filmmaking…they seemed so small and pitiful compared to what I was seeing in God’s plan. When I saw that God had counter-intuitively decided to accomplish this incredible mission by working in and through people like me, my worldview shifted.
We love to insert our name into John 3:16, but for some reason we want to scribble someone else’s name into the Great Commission. We want a me-centered Gospel, when everything about the Gospel is others-centered. I saw the command of the great commission was to “make disciples” of Christ and teach them everything Christ had taught, so who better to do that with than those who currently know nothing about Christ?
He commanded the entire church to be involved in some way with seeing disciples made around the world. This mission is beyond us, which is why the entire church needs to work together and also why Christ promised “and I will be with you always,” as he finished speaking. It’s not a solo mission.
Then I read Paul’s theology of ministry in Colossians 1:28-29, and I began to see how life as mission could be possible. Paul said the mystery that has been revealed is that Christ lives in us. The very Creator of our reality lives in us. He is our hope. Then Paul continued, “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.”
Mission is me understanding God’s desire to see mature disciples made, working hard toward that end, while trusting and asking for Christ to work in and through me to accomplish His plan. Paul wasn’t passive; he was “toiling” and “struggling”…with Christ’s energy. Again, Christ is with us through it all.
So from Scripture, I can see that choosing to make myself available to God and His global mission, is to live for a purpose that is much larger than myself. The important thing is that this purpose never changes. Even when my circumstances go south, the mission stays the same. This is only reasonable, because Christ’s promise to never leave us stays the same as well. The mission and Christ’s presence transcend circumstance.
I’m trying to learn the Wantakian language right now, and every day (multiple times a day) I’m thinking/praying, “This is impossible. This is beyond me. Help, Lord!” Some days I feel incredibly discouraged, because I’m focusing on the circumstances. I have to realign my thinking and remember that Christ is in me, and He brought me here. My joy comes from Him…not how good or badly I did in a language session!
In short, all your other reasons for living on mission will eventually disintegrate, and you’ll simply be left holding return tickets. Christ and His Word are the only true constants, so hold on to those