Have you ever gone out to eat and not had enough money to cover the bill? Have you taken your car to get fixed at the garage and returned to find the bill twice what you expected it to be?
In both cases you were not really ready for what happened because your expectations were wrong. It wasn’t much fun, was it? Getting “caught off guard” is never a pleasant experience!
Many problems in the field develop because of similar reasons. Unrealistic goals and expectations along with faulty motives lie behind many of the difficulties that arise in the field.
Today we will try to honestly confront your goals and motives so that your mission experience can be profitable to you and the people you go to serve.
One thing that is really important is that we set realistic goals. Setting goals that are either too high (false expectations) or too low (no expectations) can cause a lot of frustration and disappointment down the road.
As you think about setting realistic goals, there are several things you can do to help yourself:
1. Interview and talk to as many people as possible from the area you are going to serve. This could include former missionaries (regular and volunteer) as well as nationals from that country.
If possible, you should talk to people who have done the same kind of job you are going to do. What kind of professional goals can you set? Evangelistic goals? Personal enrichment goals? Spiritual growth goals?
2. Read and study all the written materials about your host culture that you can get your hands on—especially realistic stories that deal with life and mission in that place.
3. Be adaptable. Even those who are the best prepared will find surprises. Expect that your goals may have to be adjusted as time goes on. When that happens, adapt and go on. Realize that adaptability is one of the most important virtues of all missionaries.
Now that you have thought a bit about your goals, let us think a bit about your motives. Motives are very important. In fact, they are the driving force behind most of what we do in life.
Examining them and dealing with them honestly are a major factor in our self-understanding and preparation for service.
If we are honest, we will admit that all of us have mixed motives. Non-religious motives contribute to the decision to go on a mission. This is not necessarily bad. It is normal human nature. For example:
- Desire to travel
- Boredom – want some adventure
- A break from school or work
- Curiosity or desire to experience other cultures
- Desire to learn a language
- Career or job considerations
- Family tradition
- Decision or wish of a parent, friend, or spouse
- Recruited/sold on the idea
- Escape from a difficult situation
In addition to these non-religious reasons, however, the Bible does give some directly religious motives for mission.
- Love for Christ—In 2 Corinthians 5:14 Paul says that the love of Christ is what compelled him to go. And when Jesus set His own disciples apart for service, He first called them to Himself (Mark 3:13) after they had come to Him, then He sent them out on their mission.
- Coming to Christ first and being filled with His love becomes our greatest motive for going out in service.
- The need of people – Matthew 9:37, 38 says that “the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” In chapter one we saw that this is still true today, because even today over two billion people in the world can only be reached by the gospel if someone is willing to cross cultural boundaries to teach them. At the same time, less than 15 percent of Christian workers focus on this group of people without Christ. The song is right, “People Need the Lord.”
- The Commands of Jesus – “If you love me, keep my commandments,” Jesus said in John 15:15. When we hear this, many of us think first of all of the Ten Commandments. That’s okay, but are those the only commandments Jesus could have meant? What about the “commandment” to mission in the Great Commission? And what about the “great commandment” to love one another? If we truly love our brothers and sisters around the world, we will want to share the Good News of salvation with them, wont we?
Mission plays a crucial part in saving people – Our going out really does make a difference in people’s lives. “Hearing” helps bring people to salvation (Romans 1:14, 15) as well as giving them a more abundant life” in the here and now (John 10:10). God sometimes saves people without our help, but His basic plan calls for our cooperation.
What are your goals and expectations for being a missionary? What are your motives for getting involved in mission?
Share your thoughts in the comments below.