When it comes to mobilizing for missions, where do we begin? I mean, what should ultimately drive us to take the gospel to the ends of the earth? Is it that 4.2 billion people are unreached with the gospel or that nearly 200 million have no one taking the gospel to them? Perhaps it is the reality that more than half of the people in the world live on less than $2 each per day, and one billion people are engulfed in extreme poverty, living on less than $1 each per day (The Poverty of Nations, forward by Rick Warren).
In his book, A Vision for Missions, Tom Wells shares of hearing a missionary say, “A need will not keep you on the mission field. People will rebuke and repel you” (7). While often times a need motivates missionaries to go, need alone will not keep them there or even keep them going back in the case of short-term missions in partnership with long-term strategy. Everywhere we look there are tremendous needs, which regularly overwhelm the missionary. Often adding to the frustration of the enormous needs is a lack of response by the people to the missionary’s work. What then, as Wells asks, is left? The answer: God.
God is and must be the ultimate reason for missions. We begin with God. Wells rightly argues that “God is worthy to be known and proclaimed for who He is, and that fact is an important part of the missionary motive and message” (A Vision for Missions, 9). For missions to be at the heart of the church, God must be at the heart of the church. Jesus followers gripped by the greatness of God cannot help but speak about the greatness of God among all nations, not simply because people need to know about Him, but because He is worthy to be known.
My intention is not to minimize the need for the salvation of mankind or the call to be benevolent, but to maximize the worthiness of God to be known for who He is. If we are not careful our primary focus will be upon mankind rather than upon God. As one pastor describes it, you can magnify with a microscope or with a telescope. A microscope magnifies by making tiny things look bigger than they actually are and a telescope magnifies by making gigantic things (like stars and planets), which look tiny to the naked eye, appear more as they really are (John Piper, The Dangerous Duty of Delight, 17). A proper starting place for missions is to function as a telescope for God.
Therefore, we must begin with God and His greatness. Wells asks passionately, “Where are the missionary candidates who are panting to make Christ known for Christ’s sake? Do they exist? They must exist, for these candidates are Christians. And surely a Christian wants his Saviour to be known” (A Vision for Missions, 110).