Indispensables for Missionary Service

In his book, A Biblical Theology of Missions, George W. Peters outlines seven characteristics which he describes as “indispensables” for every Christian missionary or worker…

  1. An abiding disciple of Jesus Christ
  2. A sense of calling to the ministry of the Word (or as a related “helper”)
  3. A settled conviction of the relevance, sufficiency, and uniqueness of the Gospel message as the vital answer to man’s eternal destiny
  4. An attitude of true servanthood
  5. Healthy, uplifting relationships with his missionary team who constantly accompanied him, learned from him, served with him, and prayed for him.
  6. Pure and deep motivation tested by honest self-evaluation
  7. A high view and deep loyalty to the church of Jesus Christ

Concerning the fourth indispensable, Peters points to the example of Jesus Christ, who humbled himself, made himself of no reputation, and embraced his identity as a servant by becoming obedient to the point of dying on a cruel Roman cross. Paul is also held up as an example of servanthood, quoting the Apostle’s confession in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23. I particularly like the New Living Translation on this passage:

This means I am not bound to obey people just because they pay me, yet I have become a servant of everyone so that I can bring them to Christ. When I am with the Jews, I become one of them so that I can bring them to Christ. When I am with those who follow the Jewish laws, I do the same, even though I am not subject to the law, so that I can bring them to Christ. When I am with the Gentiles who do not have the Jewish law, I fit in with them as much as I can. In this way, I gain their confidence and bring them to Christ. But I do not discard the law of God; I obey the law of Christ. When I am with those who are oppressed, I share their oppression so that I might bring them to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone so that I might bring them to Christ. I do all this to spread the Good News, and in doing so I enjoy its blessings.

Paul was committed to a lifestyle of servanthood. As he grew in his faith, it seemed that this amazing missional leader took an increasingly lower position in his own estimation. Many have pointed to Paul’s initial confession of being “the least of the Apostles,” (1 Cor. 15:9) which later became “the least of all God’s people” (Eph. 3:8) and toward the end of his ministry he claimed that, among sinners, “I am the worst” (1 Tim. 1:15). So what does servanthood look like in the life of a missionary? I hope you don’t mind me letting George Peters speak once again:

The missionary must be ready to be flexible, adaptable and sacrificial, to receive no credit but be willing to give credit, and even to be discredited, to be debased, to suffer and yet steadily and unwaveringly—without murmur and doubt—seek identification with other people in their experienced needs and demands in order to find points of contact and departure. He must seek ways and means to create within them a consciously felt spiritual need for the purpose of relating them to Christ who alone can meet their hearts’ desire, forgive their sins, bestow eternal life, and give true and satisfying meaning to their lives. Only the mind of true servanthood can lead us to such relationships, identification and ministry. [pp. 295-6]

I hope to explore what this statement means, from my perspective on the mission field of Great Britain, in a forthcoming blog article. _uacct = “UA-715588-1″; urchinTracker();