Motivation is important. It is what makes you do things and is made up from a variety of sources. Some of our motivation comes from things outside us, for example seeing the horror of the migrant ‘Jungle’ in Calais, motivates us to do things to reduce suffering. Some of our motivation comes from inside us, for example my desire to remain healthy means I take my medication. But what is our motivation for mission?
Jesus is about to send the 72 out on a mission when he gives them a short pep talk, telling them the fields are ripe for harvest. (Luke 10:2-3) It hasn’t been seen as one of the great motivational speeches of history, and I guess the call to go because we are sent out like lambs in the midst of wolves isn’t the sort of call you’d give a football team before sending them out on the field. However, it is worth pondering.
Too much mission motivation seems based on guilt. We are told that there are billions who have not heard the gospel, 2 billion who have little or no access to the gospel and that the priority is the 10/40 window or that your £5 a month will stop poverty and so on. This may all be true (though I’ve taken a vow not to give any money to a charity that advertises on TV with one of those emotion driven ads) but in essence they are trying to persuade you to do something you don’t feel like doing.
By contrast Jesus doesn’t try to motivate by guilt. He invites his listeners to see from God’s perspective; to perceive that the harvest is ready. He invites his listeners to pray for people to join in with what God wants to do. And only then does he send them to join in. Ultimately we are only motivated to join in if we see the situation from God’s perspective and the insight to see what God is doing / or wanting to do. Furthermore our motivation only survives the struggles of rejection and hardship when we understand that we are not alone we are joining in with something bigger than us.
In a little ebook Sending Capacity not Seating Capacity J D Greear uses the illustration of a balloon to talk about motivation for mission. If you take a normal balloon and blow it up with your breath you need to keep smacking it upward to keep it off the ground. But if you fill the balloon with helium, it will float all on its own. In motivating people for mission we can keep smacking them with needs, statistics, emotional videos and adverts but these things are short lived. The feelings generated wear off unless we smack them again. However an enduring motivation for mission comes from a sense of gratitude for what God has done for you and a bigger vision of what God is up to.
Obviously these things are not neat categories (how to people gain a vision of what God is up to without people sharing stories, examples and data) but the real motivation form mission comes from having a bigger vision of God and what God is doing in the world. From seeing the fields and saying ‘I’ll help’.