Motivated To Missions? …Or Not?


Are you self-motivated? Are you the type that wakes up without an alarm clock to go read the Bible and exercise before the day even begins? Are you the type whose just always cleaned the bedroom before mom had to ask? Are you the type who seeks out new job opportunities without waiting for the want ads to show up on the doorstep?  Whatever makes someone self-motivated is actually a mystery to those who need exercise accountability partners, prodding from parents and bosses, and threats of lost privileges or penalties before stepping into action. Figuring out what motivates humans is quite the psychological mystery! Thus, it is no surprise that figuring out what hinders believers from being motivated to missions seems to be a massive riddle that even the best puzzle gurus can’t quite solve.

A recent discussion among some church missions consultants resulted in some of the following hypotheses

1) Maybe we just aren’t telling the story!

Everyone loves stories, right? Well, we don’t just love any story. We love good stories!  Good stories are those that have twists, turns, adventure, and happy endings (or maybe even surprise endings!). Aren’t these the characteristics of stories related to missions? The unsuspecting character suddenly feels called to leave home and set off for adventure in a far-away land, often to see an amazing transformation occur in another’s life, resulting in eternal happiness. Perhaps missions stories have not been presented, or perhaps the stories that have been told seem all too predictable. We might need to ask the stories and tell them near and far so that all will see that the stories are as varied and adventuresome as any good action movie or best-selling novel.  Furthermore, we must believe that we can have our own missions story, without ever leaving home to have it!

2) Maybe we just don’t understand God’s love for ourselves or His love for all people!

How deep the Father’s love for us, and how vast without measure are words written for a song on a page, but whether believers understand how deep this love is may forever remain a mystery. Considering our own plague to never be able to love like He has loved, it is no surprise that we can never quite get into the idea of fully submitting to whatever it is that God has called us to do in the world of missions. We know the Great Commission is a commandment to all, yet once we have been touched by God’s love, it is still a challenge to understand that love enough to be motivated to share. How do we love enough to care about even the most hostile people group that lives too far away from the comforts we experience here?

3) Maybe we don’t know how to do missions!

The average person in the church pew probably believes that missions is a task left to those who are called to go to a far off country. Once it has been determined that is not a personal calling, the average Christian is unsure how to do missions. Is a short-term trip fulfilling the general missions calling? Is it enough to donate a few dollars a month to someone who is really called? It is enough to pray every now and then for those missionaries facing persecution? How in the world can I do missions if I am not called to go? For those who teach, train, and share the newest ideas and best practices in missions, it is hard to believe that there are those who don’t know how to do missions. There is no excuse with the variety of free resources and workshops that we provide, but still, we assume there may still be many who don’t know how. It is hard to be motivated to do something which remains a puzzle on how to get going! Maybe some training is all that is needed to spur on the motivation.

Lots of maybes because even a group of church missions consultants could not solve the mystery of what drives believers to missions, or rather, what hinders the motivation to get going on mission. There aren’t enough self-motivated folks to get the job done, so perhaps the conundrum of what motivates to missions will remain a mystery. However, if any of these hindrances to motivation are indeed hindrances, action can be taken. Stories can be told, a greater understanding of the Father’s love can be gained, and there are many who can show us how to get the job done.  While we won’t all be naturally self-motivated, and we may never know what will truly spurn us to action, MAYBE the true result will be achieved simply by starting here and getting motivated to missions through whatever means necessary!

  Kirsten McClain serves in church missions mobilization for Propempo International and OMF. She has been serving churches and mission agencies for the last 20 years. She has a heart to see the church realize her potential in missions and is driven to be a mobilizer to this end. She lives in Georgia with her husband and three children, and she is ready to direct pastors to the various resources that Propempo and OMF use to come alongside churches and individuals so that they can do missions well.

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