By Paul Borthwick
Paul is a leading mission speaker and senior consultant for Development Associates International. He is also a leader in the SVM2 network.
What motivates evangelism and outreach? What stirs us to engage the world with the Gospel message? Why do churches and individuals participate in world missions? I think about these questions a lot because I spend large amounts of time trying to influence people and churches to be more involved in cross-cultural missions and outreach.
Do we get involved simply because of needs? Are we interested in global missions because of the “global village” in which we live? Is our evangelism simply obedience to the specific “Great Commission” of Matthew 28:18-20?
My wife and I were discussing these questions one night after dinner, and she offered the most succinct response. She said, “It’s simple. We’re involved to reflect the character of God. Missions is God’s heart.”
NOT REASON ENOUGH
We live in a Global Village. Satellites, the Internet, Facebook, Twitter, jet travel, and multi-national corporations have dramatically reduced our perception of the size of the earth, even as the world population approaches 7 billion souls.
But the Global Village reality is not reason enough to mobilize us for evangelism and global outreach.
We live in a world of economic “haves” and “have-nots.” The vast majority (“Two-Thirds” or more) live as have-nots, struggling to survive, impoverished, and without choices.
The remainder lives lives of excess, consuming vast amounts of resources on themselves – often at the expense of the have-nots. But the needs and inequities of the world are not reason enough to mobilize us for local or global ministry.
Experts tell us that the Christian church moves closer daily to “completing the task” of presenting the message of God’s love through Jesus Christ to every ethnic group on earth – to the end of establishing self-sustaining churches in those ethnic groups.
But even “completing the task” is not reason enough to mobilize us for evangelism and world outreach.
At the foundation of our desire to mobilize the local church for global outreach stands the character of God. As followers of Christ, we supremely desire that our lives and our churches reflect God’s character to the world.
Which leads to these questions:
• How do we know God’s character?
• How do we discover the heart of God?
• And where we are challenged to make sure that our hearts beat with His, and that our lifestyle reflect His character to the world?
The most obvious answer is through studying the life and ministry of Jesus – God made flesh – so that we can see what God’s heart and character look like in action.
But beyond the Living Word, Jesus, we discover the heart and character of God by studying His written Word, the Bible.
David Howard, former missionary to Colombia and later director of the Urbana Student Missionary Convention, points to the need to understand the Word of God thoroughly:
“The missionary enterprise of the church is not a pyramid built upside down with its point on one isolated text in the New Testament out of which we have built a huge structure known as ‘missions.’ Rather, the missionary enterprise of the church is a great pyramid built right side up with its base running from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22. All of Scripture forms the foundation for the outreach of the gospel to the whole world (emphasis mine).”