Mission briefing: Motivation

By Howard Culbertson
Monday, January 8, 2018

What is the best way to generate support for world evangelism? What makes people to burn with passion to pray, to give, to mobilize others, or even to go themselves?

Would describing the spiritual lostness of millions of people be powerful enough in and of itself? Unfortunately, over time, people tune out frequent talking about almost any subject, even the tragedy of people dying without ever hearing the Gospel. Sometimes, believers even negatively push back against repeated pleas to get involved in reaching the unreached.

Some are motivated to action by opportunities to respond to physical needs and social injustices around the world including human trafficking, extreme poverty, malnutrition, voids in health care, and even the lack of educational opportunities. Sadly, appealing to physical and material needs often turns out to be somewhat like promoting a “flavor of the month.” By that, I mean that missions passion sparked solely by physical needs runs hot or cold depending on how the particular need being promoted piques people’s emotions.

So, if thinking about lost people and hearing about pressing human needs both can fall short as motivators, what about simply calling people to be obedient? After all, clear commands about world evangelism appear in Scripture, with Jesus’ Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20 being the most well-known. Quite frankly, it is our duty to “make disciples in the nations.” Unfortunately, missions passion built solely on a call to obey can diminish over time, and people eventually support world evangelism half-heartedly, only because they know they are supposed to. Or worse, the reminder of obedience may morph into a lament of look-how-much-I-am-doing-and-how-little-the-rest-of-you-are-doing.

Could it be that the best way to spark an unquenchable passion to reach the lost around the world is to help people allow God to bring their hearts in tune with His? God doesn’t ask His people to proclaim the Good News far and wide to simply keep us occupied. Doesn’t He do it it because He loves every single person on earth?

People frequently profess to love God “with all our hearts.” If a person is truly, madly in love with God, wouldn't that person’s passion for ends-of-the-earth evangelism line up with the burning desire God has for it?

Henry Matryn, missionary to India and Persia, captured this concept when he wrote, “The spirit of Christ is the spirit of missions. The nearer we get to Him, the more intensely missionary we become."

To be sure, thinking about humanity’s lost condition or hearing about staggering human needs or being reminded that world evangelism is every Christian’s duty may set some hearts on fire.  Individually, however, the urgency created by each of those three motivators can be easily snuffed out.  If we want to foster lasting world evangelism passion, a call to get our hearts in tune with God’s heart will likely be the most powerful and long-lasting foundation on which to make appeals for involvement in supporting ends-of-the-earth outreach.