December 16, 2017

Are We Truly Missions-Minded?

Thomas B. Alvis Jr.

Where there is no vision, the people perish (Prov. 29:18).

Andrew Murray in 1901 wondered “why, with millions of Christians in the world, the army of missionaries fighting the hosts of darkness is so small.” His answer is—lack of heart. “The enthusiasm of the kingdom is missing because there is so little enthusiasm for the King” (Key to the Missionary Problem, p. 7). Honesty demands that we acknowledge the steady decline of interest and involvement in missions within our local churches over the past twenty-to-thirty years. In recent conversations with several veteran missionary friends, terms such as dead, dying, calcifying, trifling, pathetic, waning, sickening, and frustrating were used to describe missions within Fundamental Baptist churches. None of us enjoys criticism, but unless we are willing to stop making excuses and to consider what is being said, “the missionary program of today and tomorrow will, to put it soberly, fizzle out like a wet firecracker instead of being the mighty missile that Christ intends and requires” (Ibid, p. 8).

No vision on the part of a pastor results in no vision within the congregation. No vision within the congregation results in selfish disobedience to the Great Commission by the church. No vision will make the people perish, eventually causing the death of that church as well as the eternal condemnation of those it could have reached. Webster defines vision as “a mode of seeing or conceiving, unusual discernment or foresight.” In the context of missions, vision is missions-mindedness.

A Google search of “missions-minded” and “missions-mindedness” verifies the ready availability of material that would help us evaluate, stimulate, and build missions- mindedness within our churches. But is that happening? Are we actually fulfilling our God-given responsibility to make disciples? How many of us are personally and regularly involved in sharing the gospel of Christ? How many missionaries have been sent to foreign fields from our own congregations? How many souls did they personally win that remained behind to support them? Undoubtedly, most Fundamental Baptists would claim to be truly missions-minded. We give to missions; we pray for missionaries; we hold Missions Conferences and send teams on short-term mission trips. These actions may reflect a sincere missions-minded attitude, but do we really understand what that means? What would a truly missions-minded congregation look like? How would it behave? Would it be different from what we see in our churches today? Fundamental Baptists pastors are taking a hard look at missions and asking tough questions. That is encouraging. We need to have our thinking challenged, and to “rethink missions” without treating the subject like a “sacred cow.” The burden of my heart is to participate in Christ-honoring discussion of true missions-mindedness by proposing a definition, portraying a description, and presenting suggestions for the practical development of a truly missions-minded ministry.

Missions-Mindedness: A Definition

“Minded” means “to be inclined or disposed; to have a mind concerned with a specified thing . . . usually used in combination, i.e., narrow-minded, health-minded.” To be missions-minded is, therefore, to think missions, to talk missions, not only giving to missions, but actually living missions. It is to realize that missions is not an add-on program but that it is the dynamic, driving force of a healthy local church (Matt. 28:19, 20; Mark 16:15, 16; Luke 24:45–48; John 20:21; Acts 1:8). The missions-minded church has missions as its clearly focused goal for glorifying Christ.

Missions-Mindedness: A Description

A man who loves sports, a businessman driven with an entrepreneurial spirit, a housewife committed to order and cleanliness, a young lady preparing for marriage—all have in common a passion for the things on their hearts. That passion determines the subject of their conversations, their attraction to certain friends, and the use of their time and resources. When a Christian is passionate about the thing that Christ is passionate about, that Christian will be truly missions-minded.

When veteran missionary friends were asked why they used the strong terms mentioned above, they gave the following reasons:

  • Missions conferences have been shortened and are poorly attended.
  • There is less emphasis on missions in our schools, churches, and fellowships.
  • There are fewer young people surrendering to serve the Lord in full-time Christian service.
  • A smaller percentage of our church’s financial resources are being directed toward missions.
  • Missionary candidates are taking longer to raise support, and many are not staying on the field.
  • When veteran pastors were asked about the current state of affairs in missions and what their greatest concerns are, they offered strong indictments:
  • Missionaries expect more accountability from supporting churches than they are willing to give in return.
  • There is an attitude that if it is called “church planting,” supporters cannot question the wisdom or legitimacy of a missionary’s work.
  • Missionaries are often disengaged from actual missions work for years of deputation, and when they get to the field they spend nearly all of their time and energy homeschooling their children.
  • Missionaries do not go to the field until they are fully supported, then appeal to sacrificial supporters for funds for every repair or unfunded inconvenience that arises.
  • Missionaries come home at great expense for family responsibilities, optional medical procedures, and personal matters far more frequently than in the past.

Please understand that these men have no ax to grind, nor any selfish agenda. These were the candid statements of men with heavy burdens for the work of God—our churches and missions programs. They are veteran missionaries who have traveled among our churches, men who have spent decades living, breathing, preaching, and teaching missions. They are pastors who have led churches in support of missions, who long to see their young people surrendering to missions. All were thankful for strong missions-minded churches. But all agree that the passion is not up to the Commission.

They were not being cynical when they said, “We need to stop saying missionaries are ‘faithful’ when we really mean they are ‘lazy,’” or, “Most pastors never come to the field to see what is really going on, and some who do act like it is a vacation at the missionary’s expense.” Listening to them describe the changes they are burdened for, I heard them talk of pastors and missionaries who have a mutual passion for missions—men hungry for a revival of soul winning. They don’t care if it’s called “discipleship” or “mentoring,” they just want to get it done. They describe a missions-minded Fundamental Baptist church as one that has genuine passion for souls—the kind where people are not content to pray and give for someone else to do something about it, but where they are driven to do something about it themselves. They see missions-mindedness as “soul winners at home sending soul winners to the mission fields.”

Missions-Mindedness: The Development

A lack of missions-mindedness is due to spiritual immaturity in the church. “To the pastor belongs the privilege and the responsibility of solving the foreign missionary problem” (Key, p. 11). Murray emphasized, “Only spiritual men, and a church in which spiritual men have influence, are capable of rightly carrying out Christ’s commands” (ibid, p. 10). Our pulpit ministries should consistently stir our people to give themselves wholly to God’s kingdom work in their own sphere of influence. We are to equip them “for the work of the ministry” (Eph. 4:12).

Here are four practical initiatives that exercise developing spiritual maturity as it builds missions-mindedness:

  • Evaluation—Honest assessment of every aspect of a church’s involvement in missions. Is missions merely a program, or is it a passion?
  • Articulation—Consistent exposition of the Word and clear communication of vision, philosophy, goals, and strategy.
  • Education—Teaching missions by every Biblical means: preaching missions from the pulpit, posting missions in plain view, publishing missions on paper.
  • Participation—Getting every member involved in missions at home and abroad by every practical means.

Fundamental mission boards offer helpful materials, and other resources are easily found. Read and promote helpful books on missions, such as those referenced below.3 A must read for those who would be missions-minded is the previously referenced Key to the Missionary Problem by Andrew Murray. Passion must include prayer and patience if true missions-mindedness is to come. My prayer is that God will grant us the desire, the wisdom, the fervor, and the commitment to become truly missions-minded. Murray said it so well:

In the previous pages I have frequently spoken of prayer. . . . I feel that all that has been said will profit little unless it leads to prayer. As we look at the extent of the field, and the greatness of the work that still has to be done; at the utterly inadequate force which the Church has at present on the field, we are crushed. . . . We see our absolute impotence to give life either in the Church at home or the work abroad, and our entire dependence upon the power that comes from above in answer to prayer and faith. We are amazed at the love of our Lord to His people and to the perishing, and the promises He waits to fulfill. We feel that our only hope is to apply ourselves to prayer. Prayer, more prayer, much prayer, very special prayer, should first of all be made for the work to be done in our home churches on behalf of foreign missions. That is indeed the one great need of the day. (pp. 147–48)


Thomas B. Alvis Jr. is the pastor of Mount Moriah Baptist Church in Powhatan, Virginia. He may be reached at .

Additional Resources
  • Advancing Churches in Missions Commitment (www.acmc. org). Among its many resources, ACMC offers a very helpful Missions Assessment Profile (MAP) to assist in the evaluation process.
  • Dr. Jerry Kroll, Pastor of Heritage Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia, has a very helpful CD with missions helps and valuable resources (www.heritagebc.net).
  • Operation World (www.operationworld.org).
  • Unpublished Word (www.FirstBible.net).
  • William Carey Library (www.missionbooks.org).
Recommended books:
  • Andrew Murray, Key to the Missionary Problem (Fort Washington, PA: Christian Literature Crusade, 1979, ISBN 87508-401-X).
  • Dave Doran, For the Sake of His Name (Allen Park, MI: Student Global Impact, 2002, ISBN 0-971382905).
  • John Piper, Let the Nations Be Glad (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1993, ISBN 0-8010-7124-0).
  • James M. Weber, Let’s Quit Kidding Ourselves about Missions (Grand Rapids, MI: Moody Press, 1979, ISBN 0802446787).

(Originally published in FrontLine • March/April 2006. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)


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