Why in the World do They do it?
I’ve often wondered what would motivate missionaries to transplant their families to dangerous and depressing places in order to establish a gospel beachhead. I marvel at their missionary moxie. They’re my heroes. Why do they do it? Doxology. In plain English, doxological ministry means that our primary goal in evangelism is the glory of God. To quote Acts 15:26 and Romans 1:5 and 3 John 7, missionaries do what they do “for the sake of Christ’s name.”
Missionaries take personal risks for the glory of God. Missionaries don’t play it safe. They serve on the world’s frontlines—sometimes literally, as well as spiritually. Like Paul and Barnabas in Acts 15:26, missionaries “have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” What does that look like? For Paul and Barnabas, it meant facing opposition, imprisonment, and near-martyrdom (Acts 13–14). For a man like my brother Dan, it means persevering in Brazilian church planting despite repeated break-ins, violence that once left him splattered with a neighbor’s brain matter, and persecution that left a missionary friend crippled. What would motivate such audacious risk? A longing for the glory of Christ’s name. It tethers them to the field through suffering. It fortifies them amidst despair. It is the grand cause of their lives.
Missionaries take financial risks for the glory of God. Every missionary I have ever known has been financially dependent on charitable giving. And almost everyone has lived like a pauper. Like those mentioned in 3 John 7, missionaries have cast themselves on the Lord’s people “for the sake of the name.” I’ve seen this kind of gospel gutsiness in my family, as well. My brother Jeff has put his neck out for hundreds of thousands of dollars to train African believers in expository preaching and to outfit them with resources that will help them in that great endeavor. My father, Chuck, has invested a lifetime and a fortune planting several churches and publishing hundreds of thousands of pieces of gospel literature which he distributes throughout the world. Why risk so much? Why spend so much? A longing for the glory of Christ’s name.
The people of God should support missionaries generously for the glory of God. While the dauntless, advance-at-any-cost spirit of missionaries is heroic, the church at home must do a better job of alleviating their burdens. That’s the overall point of 3 John. Verse 5 urges us to be “faithful” in supporting missionaries. Verse 6 commands us to support them “in a manner worthy of God,” showing our love for Him by giving generously to His ambassadors. Verse 7 insists that gospel work be funded by believers. And verse 8 promises that those who support missionaries are reckoned “fellow workers for the truth.” (This “credit-by-association” principle mirrors the “guilt-by-association” principle of 2 John 7–11.) In light of these truths, it’s clear that our missions support system needs reform. We pray for laborers, then watch those who respond to the call spend three to four years raising support. Churches often support too many missionaries for too little. Perhaps it would be better to invest more money, care, and prayer into fewer missionaries whom we support well and know well. Whatever system we utilize, there obviously is a need for more generous investment in eternity through giving to missions. We need to be as radically generous as those we’re sending.
If it sounds like I’m trying to shame you into missions, I’m not. We need to be inspired into missions. We get to be part of a cosmic cause—the turning of rebels into worshipers who will one day bow with us around Jesus’ throne (Ephesians 1:6, 12, 14; 3:20–21). We go and give for Christ’s name.
Let the gospel make you live and give with reckless abandon for Christ’s name.— CHRIS
(Taken from Gospel Meditations for Missions, a 31-day devotional by Chris Anderson, JD Crowley, David Hosaflook, Tim Keesee, and Joe Tyrpak, intended to inform and inspire Christians for the grand cause of world evangelization.)