At Village, missions support makes up approximately 25% of our church's budget. Why do we invest a full quarter of all that we receive from the people in this church into work that is fully outside of this church? Why should we care about missions at all?
#1. The Glory and Goodness of God
The first and central reason must be the glory of God. If we treasure God in worship, then it follows we will eagerly seek to participate the spread of the knowledge of his glory. Think of what we see in Romans 15:8ff:
For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God's truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, "Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name." And again it is said, "Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people." And again, "Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples extol him." And again Isaiah says, "The root of Jesse will come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in him will the Gentiles hope." (Rom. 15:8-12, ESV)
Missions is born out of a desire to participate in the spread of God’s glory throughout this world. The missions impulse is formed when we share in the Psalmist’s longing that the nations praise God.
Now, this impulse is not foreign to us. We are naturally motivated to share the beauty we experience. We try our darndest to capture sunsets with our little phones. We instagram our favorite meals. We tell stories about our children. We are driven by this irrepressible impulse to share what we experience as good. It is the overflow of our experience.
As Christians, this pattern takes on a truly universal form. Why? Because we have been confronted with the glory and goodness of the living God. We are not simply enthralled with values and virtues, but rather have been transformed by our reconciliation with the triune God and His infinite goodness, truth, beauty and glory. We have tasted and seen God’s grace and kindness. We have experienced His love.
In short, the impulse which moves us to tell others about our personal experience with an incredible movie, going to see our favorite band or tell stories of our breathtaking vacation is the same impulse that motivates us into global missions. Recognizing that there are many, many places in our world that have neither seen nor heard of the goodness of God, we are drawn into those spaces to share what we have seen.
#2. The Chain of Proclamation
This brings us to our second reason. This desire to share experiences of goodness is satisfied only when we communicate it to others. If we never actually tell anyone about the goodness we’ve received, then we’ve stifled this impulse, and left others without the experience of the good we want them to know.
Paul, in Romans 10, develops this line of thought most clearly. Beginning in v. 9, he writes,
...if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, "Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame." For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." (Romans 10:9-13)
Keep in mind that the goodness and glory of God is wholly inaccessible to a person, unless the sin which separates her from God is dealt with, and she experiences His pardon. And so here lies the true glory we seek to share: simply by falling in faith upon Jesus who stands as our great substitute (and therefore Savior), we experience the full gift of salvation.
And yet, if faith is a believing and relying upon Jesus, then it follows that one must know that there is a Jesus to trust. So Paul continues:
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!" (Rom. 10:14-15, ESV)
Make no mistake, God has done His part in sending. But what happens to this footpath to faith if proclamation never happens? It is impossible to hear of Christ. And if the news of Jesus never lands on the ears of a people, then how can they believe? And if they never believe, then they will never experience the justification, the forgiveness, the reconciliation and all the goodness and glory which flows out of the gospel.
In short, the chain of proclamation is entrusted, in a humbling and sobering way, to followers of Jesus. There is a kind of stark logic presented here, which reminds us that if we do not herald the good news into the dark spaces, they will remain dark.
And this becomes abundantly clear when we consider that our world is full of people who are sheltered from the light of the good news, whether through oppressive governments, cultural traditions or simple isolation to the rest of the world. We engage in global missions because there is a very practical cross-cultural gulf to be crossed in order that they may hear, and in hearing, believe.
#3. Love and Compassion
The third reason builds on the second. For if we take the chain of proclamation seriously, then we come face-to-face with the reality of what may not be. The gospel is good news that demands proclamation from the rooftops. But it is good precisely because of what it delivers from. And here we must take a sober second to allow the just wrath of God to have its full weight.
Our sin deserves damnation. And if any human being is left alone with her sin when brought before the judgment seat of God, there can only be wrath. God will not permit the guilty to go unpunished (Exo. 34:7). And the judgment for defying the infinite goodness of God is eternal in scope.
But now consider our previous point: if we do not provide the vital link of gospel proclamation, on which faith inherently depends, then the experience of judgment is inevitable.
And yet, if I possess the knowledge of how mercy might be obtained for the sinner facing a just God, what does love require? Should it not compel me toward those who live in darkness, without hope, since I have just that: hope?
Now, I place this reason last because it possesses potential to be utilized as a bludgeon formed out of intolerable guilt. That is, many have spurred Christians on to missions work by placing upon them the burden of the world’s damnation. But we must retain this perspective: we were not created to bear the burden of the entire world. And because of this, we cannot finally be motivated to mission simply out of this burden. We must keep in mind that it is always God who brings about His glory (see Ps. 46). It is God Himself who forged the good news, who sends the preacher, and ultimately who opens the eyes of the spiritually blind.
At the same time, we must consider that a vision of men and women faced with God’s wholly just (yet terrifying) wrath which does not move us to tears – or at the least tender compassion – signifies a callousness in our own hearts. Indeed, it risks identifying us with the Levite and priest who passed by the beaten and bloodied man on the side of the road.
Love, therefore, stirs us to leave the comfort of our country to enter into a different culture, learn a new language and give our lives to a people not our own, all so those without the good news might hear it and see the glory we’ve seen. Love also stirs us to leave the comfort of our own resources and sacrificially support those who are called to go.
There is so much more we could (and should) say, but these reasons are three which stand at the forefront of our impulse to engage in missions.