The Spiritual Engine That Drives Ministry
More than a few mission supporters overestimate the spirituality of the missionaries they support. In the minds of some, missionaries are the super-elite frontline troops in the advance of the Kingdom of God on earth. They have a laser-like focus on God and His purposes and a devotional life that nearly equals that of Jesus Himself.
Except when they don’t.
Missionaries get tired. They get discouraged. They get cynical. They become indifferent. They try to give themselves pep talks to get through the next ministry task. And somehow they make it through. That’s not all, or perhaps even the majority, of missionaries, but it does happen. And when missionaries, like pastors, are not doing well, they are really good at hiding it because all their years of Bible reading, theological training, and ministry experience makes them highly capable of going through the motions of ministry even when motivation and spiritual zeal is lagging. And that is a dangerous place to be. What is the solution?
I was once talking with a mission leader about the inordinate number of missionaries who had left the field recently. Without naming any names, this leader confided the disturbing fact that at least one of these missionaries had stopped reading their Bible entirely. Didn’t even open it.
How could life and ministry be so bad that you don’t even have the faith to try to hear from God? Yet, apparently, it happens. That is the most dangerous place to be because the very lowest times in life are the times that we need most to hear from God. And the Bible is where He speaks to us, encourages us, chastens us, rebukes us, and comforts us. Even when we doubt whether God has “anything” for us in the Word today, we still need to open it and try. When everything seems doom and gloom, that is the time to call out to God and turn our ear to him, not to turn away from him.
Missionaries can do ministry for an amazingly long time while running on empty, pushing through their duties by relying on the fumes of their spiritual life of days gone by. But to survive and thrive in life and ministry, those daily disciplines of humbling oneself before our God and Saviour in His Word and in prayer are the spiritual engine that drives us forward and keeps us on the road.
There is no survival in ministry without regularly seeking the Lord. Even when we don’t want to, it is necessary. If a missionary misses a day of Bible reading here or there, or doesn’t pray as much as they’d like, that doesn’t mean there is something seriously wrong. But a pattern of neglecting the Scriptures and prayer is a warning light that sooner or later you’re going end up broken down on the side of the road.
When you pray for your missionaries (and the national Christian leaders they work with!), pray for this. Pray that they will regularly be drinking from the wellspring of the Word of God, drawing joy and spiritual vitality from the great promises of God. As they do this, they will experience God’s blessing and will be a blessing to those around them.