A Plea for Holy Missionaries

by | Jan 25, 2022 | Church Planting, Missions




Arthur Lydiard revolutionized the running world by discovering the secret to running faster–running farther. ((Matt Fitzgerald, 80/20 Running: Run Stronger and Race Faster by Training Slower (New York, NY: Penguin Group, 2014), 31.)) Balance is key! More miles produce endurance; fast miles produce speed; together they enable one to run faster for longer. Scripture advocates balanced training for the missionary as well. “Keep a close watch on yourself,” Paul coached Timothy, “and on the teaching” (1 Tm. 4:16). (( While not identical, this essay assumes a close connection between a pastor and a missionary for reasons that will be clear later.)) Strategy, experience, and technique are not enough, even if biblical. Doctrinal precision–as vital as it is–is not enough. Missionaries must be holy, too! This essay seeks to answer three questions: What is a missionary? What is the missionary’s task? Why is holiness essential to the missionary and his task?


What Is a Missionary?


To properly define a missionary, missions must be defined. An important distinction being made is between mission and missions. Mission speaks of “everything the church is doing that points toward the kingdom of God.” (( Moreau, Corwin, and McGee, Introducing World Missions: A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Survey, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005), 17.)) Jonathan Leeman calls this the broad mission of the church or being disciples. ((Jonathan Leeman, “Soteriological Mission: Focusing in on the Mission of Redemption,” in Four Views on the Church’s Mission, ed. Jason S. Sexton (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2017), 18. Kindle; cf. Eric E. Wright, A Practical Theology of Missions: Dispelling the Mystery; Recovering the Passion (Rylands Road, Leominster: Day One Publications, 2010), 18-19: “The total calling of the church as it reflects the eternal purpose of God. This involves an upward activity–worship, thanksgiving, intercession, fellowship with God. It also involves an inward aspect–the organization of individual believers into local churches, their edification or discipling, their care and comfort, their mutual fellowship and training. Finally, it involves an outward activity–witnessing or evangelism, concern and care for the needs in the community, and particularly missionary outreach, a commitment of the resources necessary to plant churches among the unreached in the community and among all the peoples of the earth.”))  Missions, however, specifically regard making disciples, ((Leeman, Four Views on the Church’s Mission, 18.))  involving church planting. According to Eric E. Wright, “Missions aims to plant viable churches of mature disciples in every unreached area,” which may involve “either cross-cultural church planting or church planting in unreached portions of our own cultural groups.” ((Wright, A Practical Theology of Missions, 19.))  Missions glorifies God through proclaiming His message. (( Andy Johnson, Missions: How the Local Church Goes Global (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2017), 28.))  In order for the mission to happen missions must happen–to be disciples, disciples must be made. Missions is church planting among the unreached for the glory of God.

Some may object that this definition presents a false dichotomy within man’s needs. Mankind needs water and living water (Jn. 4:1-14), bread, and the Bread of Life (Jn. 6:22-59). Economically, psychologically, politically, and soteriologically mankind needs help. But what is man’s most pressing need? One should not work from man’s needs to practice but from God’s word to practice. However, God prioritizes man’s greatest need in His word and commissions His church accordingly (Matt. 28:18-20; cf. Mk. 16:15-18; Lk. 24:45-49; Jn. 20:21-22; Acts 1:8). As churches are planted, they must be involved in the church’s broader mission meeting man’s needs holistically. How much greater impact will a church make in a community, however, than an individual or small group of people on a two-week trip? As churches are planted, they can utilize mission specialists (doctors, lawyers, contractors, etc.) more effectively and biblically under the local church. One also needs to keep in mind the ‘already’ and ‘not yet’ of the gospel. “The real gospel promises some things now and other things later,” Leeman says, “and if the benefits of salvation will arrive in two stages, corresponding to Christ’s first and second comings, shouldn’t the church’s present task list reflect this fact?” ((Leeman, Four Views on the Church’s Mission, 19. Leeman concludes, “We rightly dismiss the secular/sacred divide, but we cannot dismiss the regenerate/unregenerate or Spirit-restored/under-the-curse divide. Only the Spirit can regenerate and remove the effects of the curse. Christians cannot. Unless someone wants to argue that the curse rolls back from creation gradually—and a few people do—churches only sow eschatological and soteriological confusion by talking about “redeeming” creation or “transforming” culture” (32) ))

So, what is a missionary? A missionary is one who crosses “cultural boundaries to establish new outreach on behalf of Jesus and plant new bodies of local believers.” ((Moreau, Corwin, and McGee, Introducing World Missions, 18.)) He is a “messenger with a message from God, sent forth by divine authority for the definite purpose of evangelism, church-founding and church edification.” ((George W. Peters, A Biblical Theology of Missions (1972; repr., Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1992), 248.))  He is a called and gifted man. “A missionary,” Wright explains, “is a person called and gifted of God for the specific task of planting churches among unreached peoples.” ((Peters, A Biblical Theology of Missions, 252.)) ((Wright, A Practical Theology of Missions, 19.)) He is a sent man as implied by ‘missionary,’ coming from apostello (Greek) and missio (Latin). “A missionary is not one who has gone out,” says George W. Peters, “but one who has been sent out.” ((A missionary is called by God, confirmed by the church, sent to the unreached, and equipped for church-planting; he brings a message from God, which the Holy Spirit uses to build Christ’s kingdom on earth according to God’s will. These definitions matter tremendously. What a missionary is relates to what he does. The broader one makes terms like missions and missionary, the broader becomes the work, and the less attention is paid to the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20). Wright does cautiously broaden ‘missionary’ to include those who are “not themselves church planters,” qualifying that “they should be involved in some ministry that contributes to church planting.” Wright concludes, “As long as the overarching vision of planting churches in gospel-destitute areas drives them, we can legitimately call them missionaries.” ((Wright, A Practical Theology of Missions, 19.)) The definitions and tasks are inextricably linked. Broadening ‘missionary’ to mean every Christian or every Christian ministering cross-culturally also ruins the term. ((Denny Splitters & Matthew Ellison, When Everything is Missions (Orlando; Albuquerque: Pioneers-USA; Sixteen: Fifteen, 2017), 76: “When we stretch the definition of missions and missionaries too far, missions in any traditional sense is marginalized.”)) With good intentions, some have argued that expanding the definition will promote missional zeal. If every Christian is a missionary, the argument goes, then Christians will be more involved in evangelism. There is simply no evidence supporting this. ((Ibid., 75.)) Expanding the term does not positively impact missional zeal, but it does negatively impact missional efforts by misguiding them. “If we call everyone a missionary,” Denny Splitters says, “a new term is in order for one who fits the traditional definition.” ((Ibid., 70.)) If a new term is created, however, how long will it be before it too must be expanded? It would be better to retain the traditional definition.


What Is the Missionary’s Task?


The nature of the missionary’s task is that it is God’s task of saving sinners, through God’s people, according to His Word, and by the power of His Spirit. First, it is God’s task. God has purposed to save His elect. The Father sent His Son (Jn. 3:34; 4:34; 5:24-37; 6:38-57; 7:16-33; 8:16-42; 9:4; 11:42; 12:44-49; 13:20; 14:24; 15:21; 16:5; 17:8-25; 20:21) to redeem those whom He gave to His Son (Jn. 5:36; 6:39; 10:29; 17:6-7, 9, 24; cf. Gal. 3:13; 4:5; Tit. 2:4; Heb. 9:15), according to the purpose of His will and to the praise of His glorious grace (Eph. 1:3-14; cf. Rom. 9:22-24). The Son made full atonement for His people, purchasing the blessings of the New Covenant (Eph. 1:3; cf. 1 Cor. 1:30). Christ now sits at the right hand of God sovereignly dispensing these blessings as the priest-king of His people (Ps. 110; cf. Matt. 22:42-46; Acts 15:16-17; 1 Cor. 15:25; Col. 3:1-2; Heb. 1:3; 7:25-27; 9:11-28). The Holy Spirit, then, brings these salvific blessings to the elect, causing them to possess such blessings by faith. ((J.H. Bavinck, An Introduction to the Science of Missions (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing Company, 1960), 57-58: “Missions is the great work of Jesus Christ,” says Bavinck, “through which after His complete work as mediator, He draws all people to His salvation and makes them to partake of the gifts which He has obtained for them.”))  In this sense, the missionary’s task is also a spiritual task. (( Peters, A Biblical Theology of Missions, 159.)) The Spirit works through the gospel to bring all of Christ’s purchased blessings to the elect and empowers them to carry the gospel to others. The Holy Spirit works through Spirit-empowered people to carry on His task. God’s people have something to do. (( Bavinck, An Introduction to the Science of Missions, 58: “No matter how unimportant this diakonia (ministry of reconciliation) is when compared to Christ’s work of redemption,” says Bavinck, “from another standpoint this diakonia is so important and such a responsible calling that it must not remain unreported.”)) How can Christians suffer the amazing news that Christ is man’s Savior–setting the captive free from sin and death and reconciling them to God–to go unpublished? ((Ibid.: “Such a neglect might well lead to a relaxing of our vigilance so that we might simply wait to see what Christ will do, without realizing that He would do it through us.”)) Even though missions is God’s task, God’s people have something to do. 

The missionary’s task, therefore, must be defined by God’s word, relevant to man, and driven by faith. First, the missionary’s task must be defined by God’s word. The Son, as God’s Word and final Prophet (Jn. 1:1-18; 15:15; Heb. 1:1-3; 1 Pt. 1:1-12), commissions His church with all authority (Matt. 28:18-20)–missionaries are not permitted to be innovative. The missionary’s message and task must come from Scripture. ((Peters, A Biblical Theology of Missions, 160; cf. 2LBCF (1677/89), 1.1: “the Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience.” This includes Great Commission obedience.))  Secondly, the missionary’s work must be relevant to man–he must take God’s message to man! ((Ibid., 163: “God has chosen human instruments to accomplish His task in human hearts within a human society surrounded by human environment.”)) Lastly, the missionary’s task must be driven by faith. ((Peters, A Biblical Theology of Missions, 161: “Faith is the spiritual eye that beholds God, that perceives in Christ the Savior and Lord, that understands the Bible to be the word of God, that accepts the missionary task as the purpose and will of God, that discovers missions as the natural result of the work of Christ, and that missions is an inherent element of the call unto salvation and the obedient compliance to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Without faith it is impossible to please God; faith is fundamental to all Christian life and endeavor … The Christian life is from beginning to end a life of faith; so also is the missionary task.”)) 

The aim of the missionary’s task is singular: that God would be glorified. God’s glory is the motive and message. ((Tom Wells, A Vision for Missions (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1985), 9: “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.”)) God’s glory is the point of general and special revelation as well as common and saving grace. He created all things “for the manifestation of the glory of His eternal power, wisdom, and goodness.” ((2LBCF (1677/89), 4.1.)) He predestined the salvation of His elect “to the praise of His glorious grace,” and the condemnation of all others “to the praise of His glorious justice.” ((Ibid., 3.3.)) God’s aim in all things is His glory; shouldn’t the aim of missions be His glory, too?  Gisbertus Voetius claims the missionary should aim to see unbelievers converted, churches established, and God’s grace praised, which threefold aim is, according to J.H. Bavinck, “three aspects of a single purpose: the coming and extension of the kingdom of God.” ((Bavinck, Introduction to the Science of Missions, 155.))  Is the missionary’s aim threefold? Or is it the coming and extension of God’s kingdom? Or is it the glory of God? The missionary’s aim is God’s glory through the triumph of His kingdom and destruction of Satan’s; God’s glory through the conversion of the elect and just retribution of the non-elect; God’s glory through the establishment of churches. In other words, whether the missionary eats or drinks or whatever he does, he is to do it to God’s glory (1 Cor. 10:31). The missionary’s aim is to live Coram Deo and proclaim a God who needs nothing, rules absolutely, knows all things, is righteous, gracious, and faithful, and who came to sinners with a message of peace (Lk. 1:67-80; 2:14; cf. Is. 9:2-7). “The glory of God is best seen in the person and work of Jesus Christ,” ((Wells, A Vision for Missions, 100.)) says Tom Wells. “Him we proclaim” (Col. 1:28).

Building on the nature and aim of missions, the particulars of the missionary’s task must now be considered. The task of missions is to herald God’s message across His world. The missionary’s task is to proclaim a message, which will sidetrack without clarity concerning the twofold mandate. (( Peters, A Biblical Theology of Missions, 166: “This twofold mandate is given at the beginning of each Testament and each to humanity,” Peters says, “the humanity in the first Adam, and the humanity in the second Adam, Christ.”)) The first mandate deals with mankind in general and says, “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28). The second mandate was given to the church and says, “go … make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19). The first mandate deals with natural birth and human culture; the second mandate deals with supernatural birth and redeemed humanity, the church. ((Ibid., 167: “The second mandate is carried forward by evangelization, discipleship training, church-planting, church care, and benevolent ministries”)) A missionary is a member of both the human and redeemed race, having responsibilities to each mandate. In fact, both are needed to reach the whole man. ((Ibid., 168.)) It is important to remember, however, that the emphasis falls on man’s eternal spiritual needs rather than his temporal physical needs. One also has to recognize the limitations of each mandate. Having children, protesting injustice, and changing the laws of the land will not advance the kingdom of God one iota, only proclaiming the gospel will do that. This is why Paul, one of the greatest missionaries in Christian history, was single and seemingly uninterested in transforming the Roman Empire. Paul desired spiritual children (Rom. 9:7-8; 1 Cor. 4:14; 2 Cor. 6:13; 12:14; Gal. 4:19, 24-31; Eph. 5:1, 8; Phil. 2:15; 1 Thess. 2:7; 5:5; Heb. 2:13-14; 12:8) and their transformation from one degree of glory to the next (2 Cor. 3:18). This is not to deny the benefits a family brings to a missions context ((Wright, A Practical Theology of Missions, 342-343.))  but to keep the first mandate in its proper lane. (( Peters, A Biblical Theology of Missions, 170: “I do not find anywhere in the Bible that the first mandate comes under the biblical category of missions. It is man’s assignment as man and is to be fulfilled on the human level. It is not implied in the Great Commission of our Lord to His disciples, nor do any of the spiritual gifts as presented in the Scriptures relate to it. It is therefore unscriptural to confuse these two mandates and speak of them on equal terms as missions and church ministries. Only the second mandate is considered missions in the strict biblical sense. The first mandate is philanthropic and humanitarian service rendered by man to man on the human level and as from members of the same “family” (Gal. 6:10; Lk. 10:25-37). It should not be downgraded as unworthy or secular service, though it is not missionary service” )) If missions concern the second mandate, so does the missionary’s task. The missionary’s task, therefore, is to “go … make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19)–it is to herald God’s message all over God’s world. 

God’s message is a comprehensive one. ((Wright, A Practical Theology of Missions, 140: “The apostles far from reducing the gospel to barest essentials, strove to expose their hearers to as broad a spectrum of content as possible. They knew that breadth of content would lead to balance and spiritual maturity”; cf. William Metzger, Tell the Truth: The Whole Gospel Wholly by Grace Communicated Truthfully and Lovingly, 3rd ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002), 33.)) Paul calls this message the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27), “the pattern of the sound words” (1 Tm. 6:3; 2 Tm. 1:13), “the faith” (Acts 6:7; 14:22; 16:5; 1 Cor. 6:13; 2 Cor. 3:5; Gal. 1:23; Eph. 4:13; Col. 1:23; 2:7; 1 Tm. 1:2; 3:9, 13; 4:1, 6; 5:8; 6:10, 12, 21; 2 Tm. 4:7; Tit. 1:4, 13; 3:15; Jude 3, 20), “sound doctrine” (1 Tm. 1:10-11; Tit. 1:9; 2:1), etc. God’s message is centered on Christ. Whatever loci of theology, Christ is front and center. Of bibliology, Christ is the Word (Jn. 1:1-18; Heb. 1:1-3); of theology proper, Christ is the image of the invisible God (2 Cor. 4:4; cf. Phil. 2:6; Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3); of soteriology, Christ is the only mediator between God and man (1 Tm. 2:5; cf. 14:6); of ecclesiology, Christ is the head of His church (Eph. 1:22-23; 5:23); of eschatology, Christ will return to judge the living and the dead (Eccl. 12:14; Matt. 25:31-46; Acts 17:31; Jn. 5:22-29; 2 Cor. 5:10). God’s message is everything He has said in His word centered on Christ–so is the missionary’s message.

The missionary takes this message to the world through preaching, discipling, gathering, and teaching. (( Ibid., 111-112. According to Wright, preaching is “the authoritative declaration of a message revealed from God himself.” Discipling involves exhorting believers to “adopt a lifestyle in which they follow Christ in everything they do.” Gathering deals with organizing believers into “churches where the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper can be celebrated.” Teaching continues “helping people to understand and obey the instruction of Christ” (emphasis mine). )) The missionary’s task is to declare the message of Christ so that hearers develop a lifestyle of submission to Christ, are organized as the body of Christ, and continue to receive instruction from Christ; it is God’s task carried out by God’s people for God’s glory. “Go, carry to the poor Heathen the good news of pardon, peace, and eternal life.” Samuel Worcester charged at Adoniram Judson’s ordination, “Tell them of the God whom we adore; of the Savior in whom we trust; of the glorious immortality for which we hope.” ((Courtney Anderson, To the Golden Shore: The Life of Adoniram Judson (King of Prussia, PA: Judson Press, 1987), 112.)) 

What is a missionary? A missionary is one who is called by God, confirmed by the church, sent to the unreached, and equipped for church planting; he brings a message from God, which the Holy Spirit uses to build Christ’s kingdom on earth according to God’s will. What is a missionary’s task? A missionary’s task is to declare the message of Christ, so that hearers develop a lifestyle of submission to Christ, are organized as the body of Christ, and continue to receive instruction from Christ; it is God’s task carried out by God’s people for God’s glory. With these definitions in place, holiness is essential to the missionary and his task. 


Why Is Holiness Essential to the Missionary and His Task?


A missionary is more but certainly not less than called by God and equipped for church planting. A missionary, then, must be first effectually called to Christ. “A graceless pastor,” Charles Spurgeon warns, “is a blind man elected to a professorship of optics.” ((C. H. Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students: A Selection from Addresses Delivered to the Students of the Pastors’ College, Metropolitan Tabernacle, vol. 1 (London: Passmore and Alabaster, 1875), 4.)) If the missionary must make disciples, he must be a disciple himself and not a new one (1 Tm. 3:6), or he might guide “travelers along a road which he has never trodden.” ((Ibid., 5.)) Holiness is not the cause of God’s effectual call but its effect, ((2 LBCF (1677/89), 10.1 says those who are effectually called are called “out of that state of sin and death … to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ.” Effectual calling is God’s calling one out of the state of sin into the state of grace. This paragraph also affirms that in the state of grace man’s mind, heart, and will are renewed.)) so the missionary must make his calling and election sure (2 Pt. 1:10). Biblical assurance fuels evangelistic zeal needed for missions. ((Joel R. Beeke, Knowing and Growing in Assurance of Faith (2017; repr., Gleanies House: Christian Focus Publications, 2017), 145.)) Secondly, the missionary must be inwardly called to ministry. The inward call corresponds to the word of God requiring biblical decision-making, which is a matter of holiness as well. (( Wright, A Practical Theology of Missions, 193: “The steps to confirm or deny a ‘missionary call can be equated with the steps any obedient Christian should take in the course of his or her normal Christian walk.” Wright lists seven steps: obedience to the Great Commission, complete submission to Christ’s lordship, universal obedience, discovery and strengthening of gifts, and growth in knowledge, prayer, and faith. Notice how many of these steps are related to holiness (193-196).)) “Whatever ‘call’ a man may pretend to have, if he has not been called to holiness, he certainly has not been called to the ministry.” ((Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students, 3)) Lastly, holiness is essential to the external call of a missionary. 1 Timothy 3:1-7 lists the qualifications for an overseer, (( He must be above reproach, faithful to his wife, a good father, level-headed, not given to passions, respectable, hospitable, gentle, mature, and content.)) which a church must see in a man before they call him as a missionary. Giftedness (i.e. “able to teach”) is essential as well, but holiness tops the list! 

Holiness is a missionary’s chief equipment. The missionary’s chief gifts are preaching, evangelism, shepherding, teaching, and leadership. (( Wright, A Practical Theology of Missions, 175-180. )) But how can one preach in “powerful and relevant ways” (( Ibid., 176. )) if he has not been powerfully affected himself? How can one evangelize with “concern for lost men and women” ((Ibid., 177.)) if he is not concerned for the welfare of his own soul? As a shepherd, how can one display “spiritual sensitivity” to “spiritual needs” in order to “develop vigorous spiritual health,” (( Ibid., 179. ))  if he is not in tune with his own spiritual needs and health? How can one teach God’s word in such a way that affects “lasting changes in understanding, attitude, will, and behavior” (( Ibid. )) if there is not holy thinking, feeling, willing, and doing in the missionary? How can one administrate according to God’s word if he cannot bring his own life under God’s word? “Holiness is the glory of every perfection in the Godhead,” says Stephen Charnock, and the “honour of the creature.” (( Stephen Charnock, The Complete Works of Stephen Charnock, vol. 2 (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; W. Robertson; G. Herbert, 1864–1866), 192-193.)) Holiness, similarly, is the glory and beauty of a missionary, putting shine in his duty (Matt. 5:14-16)–it is his chief equipment.

Holiness is also essential to the missionary’s task, including preaching God’s message and shepherding God’s people. Preaching requires much holiness. ((Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students, 14-15. Holiness is the preacher’s “chief necessity and goodliest ornament.” It requires his “his tongue, and his heart, and his hand” to agree.)) Modeling submission and progressive growth under Christ’s word often gives a “deeper impression than what is heard from the lips.” ((Patrick Fairbairn, Pastoral Theology: A Treatise on the Office and Duties of the Christian Pastor (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1875), 81.)) Moreover, true success depends entirely upon the Holy Spirit, who typically blesses the labors of holy preachers. (( Ibid., 86. ))   The missionary errs, therefore, when he strives to “preach exactly,” but gives little effort to “live exactly.” (( Ibid., 85. “He who has himself known only the small drops of divine grace and power,” says Fairbairn, “will hardly be in a condition to expect or even earnestly to pray for, the richer showers of blessing on the field of his labours” (89).)) The missionary is one called out of darkness into marvelous light, who calls others out of darkness into marvelous light (1 Pt. 2:9). He must walk as a child of the light (Eph. 5:8; Phil. 2:15; 1 Thess. 5:5) in order to win others to Christ. (( Hercules Collins, An Orthodox Catechism: Being the Sum of Christian Religion, Contained in the Law and Gospel, ed. Michael A.G. Haykin and G. Stephen Weaver, Jr. (Palmdale, CA: RBAP, 2014), Q.91: “… that by our good conversation we may win others to Christ.”)) If nothing else, the missionary’s chief end is to glorify God in his preaching. This requires basking in and living to God’s glory, which requires holiness. Contextualized preaching (vital at some level) can be taken too far. Scripture names this worldliness (1 Jn 2:15-16). Jerry Bridges defines worldliness as, “being attached to, engrossed in, or preoccupied with the things of this temporal life.” (( Jerry Bridges, Respectable Sins (Carol Stream, IL: NavPress & Tyndale House Publishers, 2007), 162. )) While preaching must be adapted to each culture, a missionary must never budge on sin or become “attached to, engrossed in, or preoccupied with” cultural studies. 

Finally, shepherding requires holiness. Chief among missionary temptations is selfishness, manifesting itself in time management, ambitions, and expectations. Selfish time management, for instance, can lead a missionary to isolate himself in his study. It can lead to distracting hobbies. ((Missionaries are encouraged to have a hobby, something to refresh them for ministry. Hobbies, however, can easily become obsessions.)) Selfish use of time can lead to procrastination, delaying a hard phone call, visit, or sermon preparation. “We tend to guard our time for our own ends,” ((Ibid., 100)) but a missionary must guard their time for God’s ends. Selfish ambition sets agendas (Phil. 1:17), causes disorder (Jam. 3:16), and is even equated with being false to the truth (Jam. 3:14). It looks like unwillingness to partner with anyone, not heeding advice, leaving without being sent, and it ends in domineering. The only way forward is prayer (Ps. 119:36) and humility (Phil. 2:3). Selfish expectations derail shepherding as well. ((Expecting people to act according to one’s home culture or change unrealistically quick are examples of selfish expectations. The selfishly ambitious missionary may also expect immediate conversion, lacking sensitivity to what it often costs a person to become a Christian in a foreign context.)) Imperialism is unnecessary, ((By “imperialism” I mean selfishly expecting one to mold to the missionary’s home culture. For example, an American missionary might expect a native Thai to be more punctual. It bears mentioning that Western culture has been shaped by Christian influence. Thus, insisting that one conforms to Scripture is not imperialism, even when it correlates to Western culture.)) and sanctification is progressive. Scripture names selfish expectations the sin of impatience. “Impatience,” Jerry Bridges says, is the “strong sense of annoyance at the unintentional faults and failures of others.” ((Ibid., 111.))  Patience, a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22), is not annoyed with these sins or failures but responds in love (1 Cor. 13:4). A missionary must see something greater at work when one refuses Christ, namely, a pitiful creature subject to the “law of sin and death” who only the “Spirit of life” can set free (Rom. 8:1-3). Patience recognizes the Spirit’s work in fellow sheep, too, giving missionaries firm but realistic expectations. ((On the basis that the Spirit’s work is both sure and progressive. ))



Holiness is often overlooked or at least underemphasized in recognizing, calling, and training missionaries, but it is indispensable! It is indispensable to the missionary as a person and to his work. Irreverence toward God and selfishness, worldliness, and impatience toward others destroy missionary endeavors. Missionaries must maintain a biblical, worshipful heart and be selfless and patient in their work. Missionaries must be holy! Scripture, logic, and many godly thinkers support the thesis that holiness is essential to the missionary and his task.



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Wells, Tom. A Vision for Missions. 1985. Reprint, Carlisle: Banner of Truth Trust, 2012. 

Wright, Eric E. A Practical Theology of Missions: Dispelling the Mystery; Recovering the Passion. Rylands Road: Day One Publications, 2010.



Matt Jensen is currently studying for his MDiv at CBTS. He has a lovely wife, Danielle, and three sons, Judah, Gabriel, and Asher (miscarriage). God saved Matt six months before he turned twenty-one. He sensed the call to pastoral ministry and after several years of internship was ordained. Matt is one of the founding elders of Reformation Baptist Church, which is in Dalton, GA. Reformation is sending him, with his family, to Thailand in February 2022 to provide basic theological education to indigenous pastors and also to plant a church among the northern Thai.


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