"The spirit of Christ is the spirit of missions. The nearer we get to Him, the more intensely missionary we become." -- Henry Martyn, missionary to India as well as what is modern-day Iran
Do you know anyone who views world missions support or involvement as being only for those who are very passionate about it? I know people who think that way.
"It's their thing," they say dismissively.
If Henry Martyn were still around, he would object. "It is not just their thing," he would protest, "It is Christ's thing and it must therefore be a 'thing' of every Christ follower."
Martyn, an early 19th-century missionary to India and Persia, saw world evangelism as a central passion of God's heart. That means, said Martyn, that the more Christ-like we become, the more we will share Christ's passion for world evangelism. By the "spirit of Christ," Martyn does not mean the Holy Spirit. Rather he means a defining element of Christ's character in the same sense that we talk about "the spirit of a nation."+
Paul's words in Philippians 2:15 call us to "think the way Christ Jesus thought" (Easy to Read Version). Although that exhortation occurs in a passage about Christ's humility, it appears in other contexts. Being Christ-like to the point of thinking like Christ includes embracing His desire expressed in Matthew 28:19-20 and Acts 1:8 that all the world hear the Good News.
Pastors sometimes lament that those in their congregation supporting world missions are often senior citizens. Where that is true -- and sometimes it is -- it may be because those older people who support world evangelism have walked with Christ over a number of years. With the passage of time, as they have grown closer to Him, they have become "intensely missionary." Because Jesus Christ is passionate about world evangelism, it should not surprise us when older, mature believers are passionate about it too.
So, global passion in those older "saints" validates Henry Martyn's words: "The nearer we get to [Christ], the more intensely missionary we become." On the other hand, Martyn's statement does not limit passion for world missions to people who have been believers for decades. He is simply stating something that is clearly a Biblical message: If we get our hearts in tune with Christ's heart, we will become passionate about proclaiming in all the world the Good News that God has come in Christ Jesus to redeem fallen human beings.
The connection between being Christ-like and being passionate about world evangelism is deeply profound. As we grow closer to Christ and align our hearts with His, we begin to share His burning desire for all people to hear the Good News of salvation. Henry Martyn's timeless words challenge the notion that world missions are only for a select few with a particular zeal; rather, he reminds us that it is Christ's mandate for all believers. To "think like Christ" means embracing His heart's longing for all nations to be reached with the message of redemption.
-- Howard Culbertson,
More mini-essays in the Slogans that awakened the Church" series published in Engage, an online missions magazine.