The “Missionary Mystique” is a wrong perspective of missions that often works against God’s design for His people. It robs them of motivation in their God’s ordained calling. What is the missionary mystique? “Mystique” means a special quality or air that makes somebody or something appear mysterious (special) or elusive. When the average Christian hears “missions” or “missionary,” it often carries a mystique about it. Missions happen in faraway places by a special “missionary” with an unusual call. Because most Christians don’t feel they can participate that way, they don’t feel the same connection to missions.
JESUS DIDN’T SEE IT THAT WAY. BEFORE AND AFTER HE ROSE FROM THE DEAD, HE SENT ALL OF HIS PEOPLE ON HIS MISSION.
- John 17:18 “As You sent Me into the world, I have also sent them into the world.”
- John 20:21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”
God’s design for missions is that everyone participates everywhere they are, all the time. Missions occur both at the ends of the earth and the end of our block. It is in the 1040 Window and 1040 W. Window Ave, in your town. The whole earth is always our mission field, both where you live and far away places.
A couple of extreme errors in this missionary mystique keep people from moving fully in God’s design. One is “ADVENTURISM,” while the other is “APATHETIC RESIGNATION.”
Adventurism is a mentality that sees missions as more about the desire for adventure rather than obeying the will of God. Some people are wired not to be bored. Going to faraway places on an adventure adds spice to life. After all, Christianity and my life should not be boring!
While Christianity isn’t boring, certain aspects require endurance and faithfulness to what is in front of you in your everyday life. Hebrews 12:1-2… let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, (2) fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith. Not everything in the Christian life is high energy. That is why God prizes faithfulness. Most of the great exploits seen in the Bible have a lot of time elapsed between the verses. Excitement-seeking Christians would have a hard time in Abraham or Joseph’s story, which had many years of ups and downs, often with long periods of not much happening.
Excitement-seeking Christians get bored with anything that speaks of mundane, consistent labor. The thought of a consistent witness, building in a local church for the ongoing testimony of God in their area, is too painful. “Surely that can’t be the will of God!” People in this state often fall prey to the foolishness Solomon writes about in Proverbs.
- Proverbs 17:24-25 Wisdom is in the presence of the one who has understanding, But the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth. (MSG The perceptive find wisdom in their own front yard; fools look for it everywhere but right here.)
Going to your workplace on Monday isn’t as exciting as getting on an airplane to another country, but it is just as important in God’s mission.
The other mentality is apathetic resignation. “I only live in a small town and am around the same people all the time; I could never be effective in missions. What’s the use? I will never travel far away from home. I must not be called to missions. I will never be a missionary.” If left unchecked, this mentality will foster a lack of faith and fatalism in God’s missionary call upon all of us.
It is important to remember that Jesus only traveled at the farthest point, about 100 miles from His hometown. Also, the English word “Missions” or “Missionary” is not found in the Bible. The three Greek words used to represent the idea of missions are “Pempo and Apostello” which are used in the verb form and translated as “Send or Sent” 197 times. The third word is used in the noun form “Apostolos” and is translated “Apostle, Apostles” 79 times. “Apostle” simply means “sent one.” We are all sent into the world on God’s apostolic mission, as Jesus indicated in John 17 and 20.
Without proper motivation from God for our everyday mission, people can become content being a pew warmer and spend their lives on their desires instead of His. When Jesus said, “Many are called, but few are chosen,” He meant that many are called, but few rise to the challenge. People with apathetic resignations can develop a “let me first mentality” in Luke 9:59-62. Nothing in their Christian life has sacrifice or bearing the cross in it.
Christianity and Church is a Non-Spectator Sport
We all have a call to missions; the whole world is our mission field (locally or beyond). Christianity is not a spectator sport. There are many different callings, but no one is called to be a spectator. There is no cost or degree of involvement in being a spectator, but higher things are expected of us.
Spectators pay at the gate. They have read their subject until they’re self-declared experts (in their fantasy league). They can always tell the players on the field how they “should have done it.” They clap and cheer. They view the victory celebrations. But there’s seldom sweat on their brow. They know nothing about bruises and aching muscles. They are foreigners to the thrill of personal achievement, the exhilaration of record-breaking performances, and the satisfaction of a job well done. Their greatest accomplishment is to guzzle a drink and stuff down some nachos amid a cheering crowd (without a spill).
The great preacher Charles Spurgeon said, There’s no honor in being swept along by a godless throng; no satisfaction in fleeing at the sight of a challenge; no glory in being dominated by fear or frozen by doubt. Limp-willed, lily-livered pretenders turn God’s stomach (Revelation 3:16). We either walk through the curtain of fear or end up a broken shell of the person we could have been. To choose the soft life is to turn our back on our bleeding Savior and lose ourselves in Satanic deception. It’s those who sow in tears who reap in joy; (Psalm 126:6) and those who endure who win the crown (1 Corinthians 9:24-27; James 1:12; Revelation 2:10; 3:11). Insipid, half-hearted ‘Christianity’ is sickening to God, the world, and the devil.
We need to get out of the pew and into the game of being sent on God’s mission every day. Whether it is across the street, the office, the town, or even the ocean, we need to take some steps of faith, even what seems to be small ones.
We have often been fixated on sins of commission instead of omission in the church. There are two types of regrets: regrets of action and inaction. A regret of action is “wishing I hadn’t done something,” a sin of COMMISSION. A regret of inaction is “wishing you had done something,” which is the sin of OMISSION. May we avoid any omission when living every day on God’s mission. Everyone living every day on His mission is how His kingdom has always expanded thoughout history.
Rodney Stark, theologian and historian, echoed God’s missional experience in the early church.
“The primary means of growth (in the early church) was through united and motivated efforts of the growing numbers of Christian believers, who invited their friends, relatives, and neighbors to share the “good news”… The movement began with perhaps no more than a thousand converts in the year 40; three centuries later more than half of the population of the empire (perhaps as many as 33 million people) had become Christians. THIS RESULT CAN BE ATTRIBUTED TO THE WORK OF MISSIONARIES ONLY IF WE RECOGNIZE A UNIVERSAL MISISON ON THE PART OF ALL BELIEVERS.” – Rodney Stark
Let’s join God’s people throughout history by seeking God for His creativity and the stirring of faith to take small steps into our everyday mission field.