A version of this article was originally published in Spanish at TGC: Coalición
Throughout the Scripture, God reveals his desire to make himself known among the nations and to redeem a people for himself (Ps 96:3; Titus 2:14). To accomplish this he has invited his people to join him on mission. Still, many believers remain uncommitted to the missionary task. Admittedly, not everyone is called to be a missionary, but to be obedient to the Great Commission every Christian must be involved in missions. To that end, I offer these six motives to encourage your participation in Christian missions.
A passion for the glory of God.
This is the first and most important motive for missions. The glory of God is the ultimate reason for missions, because his glory is the purpose of all things (1 Cor 10:31). The intent of global redemption is the exaltation of God and God alone: “My glory I will not give to another” (Isa 48:11).
What is the glory of God? It is the manifestation of his infinite greatness, splendor, holiness, and worth. Today God’s glory is revealed through Jesus who is “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Heb 1:3). Those who have glimpsed the greatness of God in Christ are characterized by a healthy obsession to make him known. They are compelled to invite others to experience his glory in joy-filled worship (1 Cor 9:16). As a result, missional Christians will not rest until God receives the glory he is due from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation (Ps 96:1-9).
Compassion for the lost.
Disciples captivated by the glory of God practically display their affection for him in their love for others (Matt 22:39). In love, Jesus obediently sacrificed himself on the cross for our salvation and the glory of God (Phil 2:6-11; 1 John 3:16). As followers of Jesus we desire to love as Christ loved and serve as Christ served. Therefore, we must love sacrificially and labor to see others reconciled to God through Christ. This is the penultimate motive of missions: a love for the lost and a desire for their redemption. When transformed by the gospel, we are motivated to use every legitimate means to see sinners come to enjoy fellowship with Christ (1 Cor 9:19-22). A disciple of Jesus without a heart for the lost is an anomaly.
Confidence, in particular atonement.
Particular atonement may seem like a strange addition to an article about motives for missions. Some may argue it is a deterrent to missions, but in fact, it stimulates global missions.
Definite atonement guarantees the success of our gospel proclamation. All for whom the atonement was intended will be ransomed. Jesus assures us that his sheep will hear his voice and join the flock (John 10:16). Missionaries can cross cultural boundaries and confidently call sinners to repentance, knowing that all who have been appointed unto eternal life will believe (Acts 13:48). Jesus did not die that people from every nation might get saved. Jesus died to secure the salvation of every individual chosen by the Father before the foundation of the world. I cannot think of anything that gives a missionary greater confidence to participate in missions.
Definite atonement purifies our gospel proclamation. Suppose our primary motivation for participating in missions is to get as many decisions for Christ as possible. In that case, we might be tempted to manipulate the message to make it more attractive to sinful listeners. However, we can confidently preach Christ and Christ crucified, knowing it is the power of God for salvation (Rom 1:16; 1 Cor 2:2).
Definite atonement ensures dependence on the Holy Spirit. In the death of Christ, God achieved the redemption of every person chosen by the Father in eternity past and today applies that redemption by the Holy Spirit. The means by which the Holy Spirit accomplishes this is through the proclamation of the Gospel. We are merely the stewards of the message who depend solely on the Holy Spirit to guide and effectuate our evangelism (John 6:63). As stewards, we eagerly participate in missions as God’s instruments of grace.
Obedience to the word of God.
Every Christian in history came to faith through the gospel, the word of truth. God has ordained his word to be the instrument used to convert, to sanctify, and to produce fruit in our lives (Col 1:3-6). In other words, whenever the word of God is received by faith, empowered by the Spirit, it bears fruit. The gospel so transforms our lives that obedience to the mandates of Scripture is inevitable and natural.
An authentic encounter with Jesus produces radical obedience. It is the evidence of our conversion (1 John 2:3). Included in that obedience is our calling to live as salt and light shining in the world, eliciting praise to God (Matt 5:13-16). As God’s people, our responsibility and privilege is to proclaim God’s mercies and excellences to the nations by conducting ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel (1 Pet 2:12). We are called to pray for the strategic advancement of the gospel (Col 4:2-3). Motivated by gratitude for the grace we have received in Christ; every believer should experience an undeniable conviction to participate with God in global evangelism.
Commitment to the local church.
There is no healthy involvement in missions without commitment to the local church. Each local church is the bride of Christ, and she is the beginning and end of every missional endeavor (Eph 5:25-33).
Occasionally people are tempted to be involved in missions because of the adventure and perceived grandeur of foreign lands. However, participation in global missions starts by being a faithful and fruitful member of a local church in your culture. From that context, God will set some apart to go to the nations (Acts 13:2). We must learn to make disciples of our neighbors who share our language and culture before we are sent into cross-cultural missions.
Once our home church commissions us to the field, we must dedicate our attention to the maturation of local churches. Jesus promised to build his church, and in collaboration with him, we must be involved in establishing churches (Mt. 16:18). Meaning, that missions does not end with evangelism and discipleship but with the planting of local churches. This is the most effective way to advance the gospel. A commitment to planting local churches on the mission field ensures the continued spread of the gospel as new churches embrace their responsibility to reach their communities (1 Thes 1:6-10). Not every missionary or mission trip will be directly involved in church planting, but their ministry should complement the work of church planting. A desire to engage in missions without a desire to see the multiplication of new local churches is unbiblical.
Our joy and the joy of others.
I recognize this may appear to be a selfish motive. But I submit that there is no greater joy than making others joyful in Jesus (3 John 4). We have experienced the reality that in his presence there is fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore (Ps 16:11). As a result, our joy in Jesus motivates us to herald to our neighbors and nations, “magnify the Lord with me… taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps 34:3; 8). As Jesus satisfies our affections, we are compelled to invite others into the all-satisfying relationship that exists in communion with him.