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5 Challenges to Future Missionaries

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Editors’ note: 

CROSS19 is a conference for 18 to 25 year-olds and their leaders that exists to see people from every tribe, tongue, and nation brought into the everlasting joy of knowing and worshiping Jesus. CROSS19 will be held January 2-5 in Louisville, Kentucky. Spots remain, so register now. Prices will increase at midnight on October 4.

Six years ago my family crossed the ocean to plant a church in the Arab world. An Arab ruler had generously granted land for an evangelical church. While there were risks associated with the move, my wife and I reasoned that a door for the gospel had clearly opened. The risks were well worth taking in light of our knowledge of God and his global purposes through the church.

As CROSS19 approaches in January, I’m praying the Lord will use the conference to drive five fundamental convictions deep into hearts and minds.

1. Be Clear about the Gospel

Most any coach will tell you a team never gets past the fundamentals. The same is true with missions. If we begin to think there are matters more urgent than the gospel, we lose the very mission God has given us. Just as the risen Jesus instructed the imprisoned Paul to testify “to the facts about me” (Acts 23:11), our mission is to make the facts about Jesus known to the lost world.

The gospel is an announcement of public facts relevant to and authoritative for every single image-bearer. We need young men and women who will go to the mission field with gospel clarity and gospel urgency—and a commitment to proclaim the facts about Jesus to persuade others to believe.

2. Be Happily and Wholly Committed to the Local Church

The words “happily and wholly” matter. The local church is not an unnecessarily difficult obstacle to overcome in your pursuit of missions. The church is not there to simply sign the approvals you need. The local church is the God-ordained, Jesus-commissioned institution responsible for sending missionaries.

The local church is not an unnecessarily difficult obstacle to overcome in your pursuit of missions.

Even in pioneering contexts where there is no church, healthy missionaries will see their isolation from the church as an aberration, not the norm. We need missionaries who are happily and wholly tethered to the local church, who love the accountability and encouragement she gives, and who are seeking her good through careful, biblical thinking.

At the end of Paul’s first missionary journey, the apostle traveled back through cities where he was persecuted to teach and appoint elders in the churches (Acts 14:24–28). The church sent him (Acts 11:30), and planting churches was his aim. Our mission strategies should prioritize the church as Paul did.

3. Be Willing to Go and Stay

We’ve all heard of one-hit wonders: they have a single hit song and are never heard from again. We desperately need young missionaries committed to going and staying for the long haul. God’s glory and eternal worth is particularly magnified in the lives of his servants who labor for years even when there are difficult trials and little obvious fruit. I’m thankful for the Adoniram Judsons, William Careys, and myriad others who continue to teach us that lasting success cannot be measured by what is immediately visible to the eye.

Lasting success cannot be measured by what is immediately visible to the eye.

The church and the world need people whose ambition is to fall like a grain of wheat into the ground and die, and so bear much fruit (John 12:24). We urgently need some who have a vision for steady faithfulness over the long haul, long after the thrill of a conference is over.

4. Be Willing to Persevere in Taking Risks

If you go, it’ll be risky. There is the initial decision and challenges to overcome in getting there and settling. There are immediate risks of what you leave behind. The missionaries I’ve learned the most from are those who don’t settle and get comfortable, but who keep taking God-glorying, faith-fueled risks for the gospel. The horizon of their lives is set on eternity, not retirement, and they keep risking their lives in light of it.

After three missionary journeys, and many conversions and churches planted, Paul could have settled down. Instead, he kept risking his life to testify to the gospel even as a prisoner of Rome (Acts 21–28). May it please the Lord to raise up missionaries whose confidence is firmly rooted in the sovereign God of Scripture—missionaries willing to take risks that make sense only if God is who says he is and can be trusted to keep his promises.

5. Be Steadfast in Prayer

If the Holy Spirit is not central to your missions strategy, you need a new strategy. Missions will always depend on steady, faithful prayer. Only heaven will reveal how many battles have been won through unseen, difficult, sacrificial prayer. The church needs young men and women willing to make that sacrifice.

If the Holy Spirit is not central to your missions strategy, you need a new strategy.

Acts is clear: The gospel wouldn’t have made it to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8) apart from a rigorous commitment to prayer (Acts 1:24; 4:31–35; 6:6–7; 28:8). I pray the Lord raises up many who will keep fighting in the trenches, willing to pray down heaven until the Lamb who was slain receives the reward of his suffering.

Each new conference brings many new possibilities. As CROSS19 draws nearer, may the Lord of the harvest raise up laborers (Matt. 9:38) who love his gospel and his church, and who commit over the long haul to labor in his ways to accomplish his glorious ends.

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