The Motivation Of Mission

Throughout this year, I’ve been working my way through a devotional book by Tim Keller on the Psalms. One of the Psalms, Psalm 67, includes this passage:

May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face to shine upon us, Selah
that your way may be known on earth,
your saving power among all nations.
Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you!

Here, the Psalmist requests blessings from God, but the request is made so that the ways of God may be known among the peoples of the earth, and that they might praise him.

Of this, Keller notes, “true enjoyment of God must lead naturally to mission.”

We typically think of mission work as having the core purpose of teaching people the path to salvation; that is, the purpose is to teach them the gospel and make disciples according to Christ’s Great Commission. This is absolutely true! Making disciples is the core purpose of mission work. However, perhaps another important questions tends to get overlooked: what is the core cause of mission work? What motivates us to want to tell the people of earth about the gospel? What motivates us to make disciples, teaching them about Jesus and his commandments?

There are many motivations, of course – obedience, concern for the lost, and so on – but one cause should certainly be personal enjoyment of God. In the context of Psalm 67, that enjoyment is a response to the many blessings he has given us. In Christ, God has been infinitely gracious to us, forgiving our trespasses against his commands, and giving us the free gift of eternal life. He has given us enumerable spiritual blessings (Eph. 1:3), and so many material blessings as well. Life, family, food, and much else besides are all material gifts from the hand of God. He has also allowed us to have a relationship with him, shining on us (Eph. 5:14) and allowing us intimate fellowship with him through Christ (Heb. 10:19-22). When we think of all these blessings, and when we see every great thing God has given to us, should this not motivate us to want to tell others about him? We want others to rejoice in him as well! We have tasted and seen that the Lord is good, and so we invite others to taste and see it for themselves. (Ps. 34:8)

But the Psalmist tells us something more – not only should these realities motivate mission, but that desire for mission should even motivate our requests to God. There’s a mutual relationship between these two points. We have experienced blessing, so we want to tell others about what God has done. And because we want to tell others about what God has done, we ask God to do more so we can continue to tell it. “You have blessed us! Please keep blessing us, so that we may continue to proclaim your blessings to the world!”

The core purpose of mission is to make disciples, but we need to ask what motivates our mission as well. If joy in the Lord is part of what motivates us, that will resonate within our mission. We won’t plan our mission as simply a program of proselytism, but as a work of joy – a program of proclamation of God’s blessing. We will call out to those around us to see what God has done, to see what God is doing, and invite them to drink it in for themselves so they, too, can be filled with the Spirit which produces a heart of singing and thanksgiving to God. (Eph. 5:17-21)

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