Two Words That Are Key to Being a Successful Missionary

You won’t like my answer. Here it is anyway. Endure hardness.

There are no shortcuts to becoming a successful missionary. There’s no quick, alternative route to imitate Barnabas, Brainerd, and Borden. Paul told Timothy: “Endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2Tm. 2:3). Timothy must share in the suffering of Jesus.

Just as soldiers endure rough treatment in war, so Christians must suffer as they follow their Master. Contra the Prosperity Gospel, it is “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Ac. 14:22).

Carey’s Enquiry

In William Carey’s pamphlet that launched the modern missionary movement, he hammered this point constantly. In Section 4 of his book An Enquiry into the Obligation of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens, he addresses five of the most common obstacles to worldwide missions. The first was distance, the second was their savage manner of living, the third was the danger, the fourth was poverty, and the fifth was language acquisition.

Carey dismantled each argument. He showed how none of those five objections could stand up against biblical and logical scrutiny. Even an average person can learn a language in a couple years. Many of the savages are dangerous only in self-defense. It’s not nearly as difficult to travel around the world as it used to be (said Carey in 1791, pre cars and jets!).

But the umbrella argument that protected each of the five points from common objections were these two words: endure hardness. Yes, missions is hard, Carey said. What’s your point? Enduring hardness is the life of the Christian.

“Missionaries must be of great piety, prudence, courage, and forbearance; of undoubted orthodoxy in their sentiments, and must enter with all their hearts into the spirit of their mission; they must be willing to leave all the comforts of life behind them, And to encounter all the hardships of a torrid, or a frigid climate, an uncomfortable manner of living, and every other inconvenience that can attend this undertaking.” – William Carey, An Enquiry

Three Practical Ways

If these two words are key to successful missions, then what can parents and pastors do to prepare the next generation for missions? This question is difficult to answer because the West is such a comfortable place to live. Convincing Moses to live on the backside of the desert is hard enough. When he’s highly educated and accustomed to the riches of Egypt, it’s virtually impossible.

I’d recommend you start with these three things. First, actively create in youth a loathing for worldliness. We can and must enjoy the blessings God has given to this earth, but always with a loose grip that will let goods and kindred go. Teach your children that Christians do not prize what the world prizes.

Second, stop coddling your children. Stop despising their youth (1Tm. 4:12) by prolonging their adolescence. Urge your 15-year-old to live and act like a 22-year-old, which is about how a 15-year-old would have lived and acted about a hundred years ago. Give him responsibility. How much? More than you think he can handle. We expect too little these days.

Third, suffer well. Our children watch the way we endure your own trials. If you hasten on like Christ in your homeland, it will improve their chances of enduring hardship overseas.

Conclusion: Enduring hardness is one of the keys to missions. William Carey modeled this. Pastors and parents must be proactive in promoting this among today’s youth.

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