Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

Our motive for mission

My “blog-friend” Wes (I think this is the equivalent to a pen-friend of forty years ago), wrote a few interesting remarks on his blog about the topic: Who’s on first? Evangelism or Social Ministry. Click on the link to read it.
This got my mind thinking once again about our motive for evangelism or mission. No matter how objective we try to be, most of us have secondary motives why we want to proclaim the gospel of Christ. The mere fact that so many books have been written about this topic (many of which I have read over the past months) is an indication that many Christians are questioning our own motives. Growing up in South Africa where racism has forever been a problem, the motive for mission has very often been that the black people need to be converted so that they will stop stealing from the white farmers.
On a more humourous note: Time and time again I have heard white people make the remark, after something had been stolen from them, that they had “made a donation” towards mission (meaning that a black person had stolen the article from the white person and that the white person therefore considers the stolen item as a donation made towards mission! Some years ago a white farmer had his truck stolen. He also made the remark afterwards that he had donated his truck towards mission. A week or two later the truck was found and I decided to pay the farmer a visit, telling him that I was there to claim my truck back which he had donated towards mission! Needless to say, I never received the truck 😉
While this would obviously be an absurd motive for mission, the question remains why we want to convert people to Christianity. I suspect that for many people it’s about power – proving that our religion is better than their religion. I’m addicted to the Peanuts comic strips and remember, while I was still a student one cartoon strip where Rerun says to Linus: “I would have made a good evangelist. You know that kid that sits behind me at school? I convinced him that my religion is better than his religion.” Linus then asks: “How’d you do that?” And Rerun answers: “I hit him with my lunchbox!”
Obviously I also sometimes dream of how wonderful the world would be if we were all committed Christians. But then, at the same time, I realise how much fighting there had been through the years between Christians and then I also realise that this would also not be the final answer.
Why do I want to see people come to saving faith in Jesus Christ? I’m not sure if I can answer this question clearly. Possibly in my circumstances in Swaziland the answer may be easier than in countries in Europe. Looking at the people I see many who are totally enslaved by the world, living in fear of demons and ancestral powers and witchcraft. I want to see them be set free so that they can truly live life in abundance. But to use that argument with people who are seemingly happy, with a good monthly income, living in harmony with their spouse and children (yes, I know many non-Christians who, measured against the standards God sets in His Word, are living a good life) would probably not be very effective as I would have to convince them that my life is far better than their life.
Why would I want to evangelise such a person? Is it because I truly want that person to receive life everlasting? Is it perhaps because it would be a great help if such a person could become a member of my church? How much personal pride is involved?
I’m not quite sure of the final answer. Perhaps you would like to share your thoughts on the motive for mission and evangelism.


Wednesday, March 12, 2008 - Posted by | Death, Demons, Evangelism, Humour, Mission, Swaziland, Theology


  1. Arnau,

    I’m sorry, but Dougald is our buddy over at Meditations on the Law. I’m Wes. Its an easy mistake, we get it in person too.

    Comment by wlh | Wednesday, March 12, 2008 | Reply

  2. Blush! Thanks. Error has been corrected. Hey, now I’ve got another “blog-friend”!

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Wednesday, March 12, 2008 | Reply

  3. I love your questions. I think the temptation to pride is ever present. “I have convinced the person.” Similarly, “I have not convinced anyone.” The focus in on self. I doubt there can a perfectly altruistic motive at all times, since we all struggle with indwelling sin. But this reminds me of Bosch–“bold humility and humble boldness.” Mission finds its roots in the humble trust on the Holy Spirit, but also the bold proclamation in the face of sin, darkness and injustice. How much of what I just wrote is true of me right now? I am a great sinner.

    Comment by wlh | Wednesday, March 12, 2008 | Reply

  4. Hello,

    I think the primary purpose for our evangelism has to be obedience to God’s commands. Another reason for me would be that I realize how much God has done for me, and I don’t think I could help but tell people about the Gospel. I also certainly care about people’s eternity. Just thinking about hell motivates me to warn people.

    I certainly am a wicked sinner, and maybe selfish motivations work their way in to a certain extent, but I would say my selfishness would generally keep me from witnessing.


    Comment by billphillips | Wednesday, March 12, 2008 | Reply

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