common myths about missions


Have you seen the TV show on Discovery Channel Mythbusters? It is an interesting show about two quirky—but quite intelligent—guys who make it their goal to see if common myths are truth or busts like: Can chatting on a cell phone while pumping gas cause the pump to blow up? Just how hard is it to find a needle in a haystack? Many of the myths we think are facts are actually false, but many are absolutely true. Likewise, in the church today there are long held beliefs we think are truth, but when tested and tried they appear to be a man-made myths. When it comes to missions or the mission of the church there a lot of common myths.

Missions is about foreign countries.

It is true that a lot missions takes place in foreign countries, but not all. In fact, most of missions happen where you are. Missions really happens near your home. The Bible is clear that followers of Christ are to think globally, but act locally. Missions is about where you are.

A sincere man asked me, “Why do we need to go way over there where it costs so much to go and the fruit is sometimes so little and we have people here who need to hear?” That is a good question. I fear it is a question that is easy to hide behind. Many people say they aren’t called to foreign missions because God has given them a burden for America. Yet for some reason, the vast majority of the people who say this do nothing for the people around them. They aren’t engaged in fervent evangelism in their neighborhoods. But if the concern is a sincere one, then we will be well served to turn to William Carey for a response:

That there are thousands in our own land as far from God as possible, I readily grant, and that this ought to excite us to ten-fold diligence in our work, and in attempts to spread divine knowledge amongst them is a certain fact; but that it ought to supersede all attempts to spread the gospel in foreign parts seems to want proof. Our own countrymen have the means of grace, and may attend on the word preached if they choose it. They have the means of knowing the truth, and faithful ministers are placed in almost every part of the land, whose spheres of action might be much extended if their congregations were but more healthy and active in the cause; but with them the case is widely different, who have no Bible, no written language (which many of them have not), no ministers, no good civil government, nor any of those advantages which we have. Pity therefore, humanity, and much more Christianity call loudly for every profitable exertion to introduce the gospel amongst them.[1]

Surely your home country can spare a few to go spread the fame of Christ’s name to the other 95% of the world.

Missions is about orphans, feeding the poor, and starting Bible Seminaries.

Many think of missions as relief ministry, advocating justice, feeding the hungry, stopping human trafficking, providing education, or digging water wells. I have heard someone say, “Healthy in hell doesn’t count for much in eternity.” Humanitarian efforts aid the gospel, but they are not an end in themselves.

Certainly you ought to be doing ministries of mercy, as Jesus taught and demonstrated compassion, care for widows and orphans, ministry to the poor, healing the sick, and visiting the prisoners. He even applauded the Pharisees for their diligent giving, but admonished their neglect of more important things. Missions is the activity of God’s people to fulfill God’s mission. And God’s mission from before the foundation of the world has been to redeem a lost world.

Missions is measured by the commitment of money I give.

Missions is not about cutting a check so someone else can go in your place. It is not about a certain percentage of a church budget. With that said, it is a bit starting that the average American church goer gives less than .50 cents a week to the mission. You can be the richest Christian monetarily, but weakest one spiritually. Missions is less about money, and more about your time and life. Jesus doesn’t need your money He wants you!

Missions is for anyone who wants to go.

In order to be called on the mission you need to be involved within the mission. Before you go there are you doing it here? Paul was given the Macedonian call to preach the gospel to the unreached Macedonians because he was faithfully preaching the gospel to the regions around Macedonia. Simply put, “God calls people elsewhere to what they are doing here”

Missionaries are a special class of people.

I use to think missionaries were like MacGyver. Some think of missionaries as dare devils, danger seekers, or linguistic nerds. Others think of missionaries as men and women who could not find a better job. That’s just silly. Missionaries have special skills, but skills can be learned. I can barely change my oil, I struggled as a student in school listening to lectures, and I sometimes tell corny jokes or stick my foot in my mouth. Missionaries are not super spiritual or invisible to struggles, sins, doubts, or spiritual warfare. I have known many missionaries who have stepped off the field because of depression, conflict with teammates, and serious heartache within their families.

Missionaries need special training.

Some of the best missionaries I know have little training in a Bible College or Seminary. They love God and His Word, but they were engineers, carpenters, farmers, schoolteachers, moms, grandparents, and retirees who were passionate about the mission of Christ. Just read about Jesus’ followers in the New Testament. They were ordinary men and women that held ordinary jobs [fishermen, doctor, taxman, Lydia’s clothing shop], but they tenaciously told everybody about their extraordinary God.[2]

Missions is not about me.

This is a favored myth. No matter how strong you are encouraged to consider the possibility of mission work, you can always rest upon this myth, “I’m not called to that!” The beauty of this myth is that nobody would dare to argue with the calling of God on your life. But there are two problems with this. First, it ignores the fact that missions is the primary purpose of the church; and if you’re called to be a part of the church, then you’re also called to missions. You can’t be an employee of Taco Bell without selling tacos, and you can’t be a part of the church without doing missions. It’s that simple.

Second, it often misunderstands the idea of God’s calling upon one’s life. Contrary to popular belief, God does not implant within each of us a nugget of information that we can autonomously refer to as our “calling.” The Scriptures portray vocational calling to ministry as a function of the local church, not as the autonomous decision of the individual.

Now that we’ve discussed some of the common myths about missions, next you will hear from the Word of Truth Himself. Jesus has some words for you about your mission.

[Come back for Part 2 soon]


[2] COMMON EXCUSES THE BIBLE DEBUNKS: I am not smart enough (1 Corinthians 1:20-21, 26-27). I am not strong enough (2 Corinthians 4:7; 12:9-10). I am not a good speaker (1 Corinthians 1:17; Exodus 4:10-12). I am afraid (1 Peter 5:8-10). I wont have an impact (Mark 4:26-29). There is plenty to do here (Romans 15:19-24). I am not married (Proverbs 31:10). I might be taking a risk (Ecclesiastes 11:4)

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