Convictions that Drive Missions

Conviction #13—Our Aim Is Not to Persuade Everyone to Become a Missionary, But to Help Everyone Become a World Christian.

As we said earlier, there are only three kinds of people: goers, senders, and the disobedient. It’s not God’s will for everyone to be a “goer.” Only some are called to go out for the sake of the name to a foreign culture (e.g., Mark 5:18-19).

Those who are not called to go out for the sake of the name are called to stay for the sake of the name, to be salt and light right where God has placed them, and to join others in sending those who are called to be cross-cultural missionaries.

In God’s eyes, both the goers and the senders are crucial. There are no first- and second-class Christians in God’s hierarchy of values. Together, the goers and the senders are “fellow-workers with the truth.” (3 John 8“>3 John 8)

So whether you are a goer or a sender is a secondary issue. That your heart beats with God’s in his pursuit of worshipers from every tribe and tongue and people and nation is the primary issue. This is what it means to be a World Christian.

Conviction #14—God Is Most Glorified in Us When We Are Most Satisfied in Him; And Our Satisfaction in Him Is Greatest When It Expands to Embrace Others—Even When This Involves Suffering.

It is amazing how those who have suffered most in the missionary cause speak in the most lavish terms of the blessing and the joy of it all.

Start with Jesus: “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” (Mark 8:34-35)

We save our lives by giving them away in the cause of the gospel. This is what Paul meant when he said, “This slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” (2 Corinthians 4:17)

According to Paul suffering, “completes what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ.” (Colossians 1:24) This is the way that the Great Commission will be completed. To suffer in this way means that our labors for the love of his name will include a personal presentation of his sufferings through our sufferings to those for whom he died.

Samuel Zwemer—after 50 years of missions labor (including the loss of two young children in North Africa)—said, “The sheer joy of it all comes back. Gladly would I do it all over again.” And both Hudson Taylor and David Livingstone, after lives of extraordinary hardship and loss, said, “I never made a sacrifice.”

When people who have suffered much speak like this, their God is magnified. If God can so satisfy their souls that even their sufferings are experienced as steps into deeper joy with him, then he must be far more wonderful than all that the earth has to offer. Psalm 63:3 must really be true: “The steadfast love of the Lord is better than life.”

A while back, we had the opportunity to hear J. Oswald Sanders speak. His message touched deeply on suffering. He was 89 years old at the time and still traveling and speaking around the world. He had written a book a year since he turned 70! We mention that only to exult in the utter dedication of a life poured out for the gospel without thought of coasting in self-indulgence from 65 to the grave.

He told the story of an indigenous missionary who walked barefoot from village to village preaching the gospel in India. His hardships were many. After a long day of many miles and much discouragement, he came to a certain village and tried to speak the gospel but was driven out of town and rejected. So he went to the edge of the village dejected and lay down under a tree and slept from exhaustion.

When he awoke, people were hovering over him, and the whole town was gathered around to hear him speak. The head man of the village explained that they came to look him over while he was sleeping. When they saw his blistered feet, they concluded that he must be a holy man, and that they had been evil to reject him. They were sorry and wanted to hear the message that he was willing to suffer so much to bring them.

So the evangelist filled up the afflictions of Jesus with his beautiful blistered feet.

*        *        *

These are our driving missions convictions at Bethlehem. If God opens your heart, you will see that there is no better way to live than in the wartime lifestyle that maximizes all you are and all you have for the sake of finishing the Great Commission. Because in this way God is magnified, we are satisfied, and the nations are loved.

When it comes to world missions, there are only three kinds of Christians: zealous goers, zealous senders, and disobedient. Which will you be? Please join us in “spreading a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples.”   

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John Piper is the Pastor for Preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. John is the author of more than 30 books and more than 25 years of his preaching and teaching is available free at © Desiring God.