When we consider the reason behind missions, often we first think of the Great Commission, and we should. When Jesus gives us a direct command, we listen and obey. Otherwise, according to him, we are foolish and cannot count ourselves among his followers (Matt 7). Therefore, the words which we have in Matthew 28 ought to be quite clear in our minds:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (ESV)
But there are other reasons why. As Piper points out in his book Let the Nations Be Glad, “Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man.“ We participate in missions as a form of worship and to point others to the One worthy of worship.
There are many such reasons why we ought to participate in missions, but I would like to outline three others. These are not the primary reasons. These are not forgotten reasons. These are not the three reasons which will forever transform your future. They are just three more which I can forget if I don’t take time to consider them periodically. And really, these are three lessons I have learned from our overly generous support team (and that is not hyperbole).
Here they are, in no particularly theological order.
– We are investing in our future. The answers to tomorrows theological questions will most likely come from Africa or Asia, not from North America. Not all of them, but many of them probably will. Most likely your children or grandchildren’s future will be shaped by the ideas from those continents.
Consider history. The most influential theologians of all history have not come from North America, but from all over the world. This is for several reasons, one of which that there was very little writing going on in North America in the early years of the Church, no matter what the LDS try to say. But also because Church History teaches us that there has not been one continent, nation, or cultural group which has provided a consistent witness to Scripture. I don’t know all the reasons, but it appears to me that there is a natural growth from acceptance of God’s revelation, transformation of individuals, then the culture, a time of prosperity, a falling away from God and embracing other gods, and then a return to an apathy or outright rebellion. That was the path of the Israelites, and that is a simplified version of the path we have seen worked out over the past two thousands years.
So investing in missions is participating in our own spiritual future. We are recognizing that God’s family is multi-colored and we are part of that. We need what our brothers and sisters in Christ can teach us about Him. So we invest our time, our money, our Christian workers, and our own energy into taking the Gospel to places that today seem spiritual dark, but in time might be where the light is brightest.
– We are investing in our hearts. When you are part of what is going on around the world, you will see it and that will change your heart. In the financial world we call it diversifying. Give time, prayer, money, encouragement to those who are ministering in other places and you will be blessed. That is what the Philippians learned from Paul (Phil 4). When things are going really well in your local church, your foreign workers rejoice and are encouraged, especially so when they are going through a discouraging time in their sphere of ministry. And when the churches around the world are flourishing and people are coming to know Christ, you will be encouraged and be able to praise God, even if you feel like things have stalled back home.
– We are investing in our souls. Giving is a form of unshackling my soul from the love of money. Whether locally or globally, I need to regularly give out more than what is comfortable in order to keep my soul from feeling the effects of “filthy lucre”. Some days it feels like I spend my time just trying to unravel that constricting serpent from my soul, and an effective way to do that is to grit my teeth and give. And an odd thing happens, what starts as a sheer act of the will turns into a blessing (Acts 20).