The Proper Motivation for Missions

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”

John 20:21 ESV

Missional is an attitude and an approach which recognizes that whether we are home, or away from our resident culture, we need to reach the culture for Christ. A missional mindset recognizes that North America is in the need of the gospel as the deepest, darkest parts of Africa. In short, missional means being a missionary where you are from your church to your culture and in your context.

Joy is that deep, supernatural fulfillment that comes in knowing that we are experiencing and expressing the one who is true satisfaction, Jesus Christ. Joy begins with acknowledging that we are unconditionally loved, graciously forgiven, and eternally kept in Christ. Joy is released in our lives when we cultivate Christ’s conscious, constant presence.

Missional joy is the overflow of the life of God in us. Missions becomes the spontaneous work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts for we have found satisfaction and fulfillment in Christ. We are not compelled to witness, but do so freely because of the joy that we have found in Christ. Our sacred delight was received by a life-changing encounter with the resurrected Christ.

There has been a long tradition which sees the mission of the Church primarily as obedience to a command. It has been customary to speak of “the missionary mandate.” This way of putting the matter is certainly not without justification, and yet it seems to me that it misses the point. It tends to make mission a burden rather than a joy, to make it part of the law rather than part of the gospel.

If one looks at the New Testament evidence one gets another impression. Mission begins with a kind of explosion of joy. The news that the rejected and crucified Jesus is alive is something that cannot possibly be suppressed. It must be told. Who could be silent about such a fact?

The mission of the Church in the pages of the New Testament is more like a fallout which is not lethal but life-giving. One searches in vain through the letters of St. Paul to find any suggestion that he anywhere lays it on the conscience of his reader that they ought to be active in mission. For himself it is inconceivable that he should keep silent. “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16). But nowhere do we find him telling his readers that they have a duty to do so . . . .

At the heart of mission is thanksgiving and praise. . . . When it is true to its nature, it is so to the end. Mission is an acted out doxology. That is its deepest secret. Its purpose is that God may be glorified.

Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989), 116, 127. (special emphasis and paragraphing)

HT: Desiring God