Becoming intensely missionary

A slogan to awaken the Church

A saying about world evangelism to stir hearts and move people to action

"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.

Discussion questions

  1. What is your reaction to the idea that there is a strong connection between becoming more Christ-like and being passionate about world evangelism?
  2. In what ways does being Christ-like extend beyond just personal piety and into a passion for spreading the Gospel to the ends of the earth?
  3. How do Henry Martyn's words -- "The nearer we get to Him, the more intensely missionary we become" -- challenge the idea that world missions support is only for a select few who are passionate about it?
  4. Some pastors have observed that those who support world missions tend to be older members of the congregation. Would you agree with this observation? If so, why do you think this is true?
  5. Can you describe what it means to "think like Christ"? What connection would this have to the idea of embracing His desire for all the world to hear the Good News?

    -- Howard Culbertson,

More mini-essays in the Slogans that awakened the Church" series published in Engage, an online missions magazine.

The Connection Between Christ-likeness and Passion for Global Evangelism

The connection between being Christ-like and being passionate about world evangelism should be evident. As we grow closer to Christ and align our hearts with His, shouldn't we begin to share His expressed 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.

Henry Martyn is best remembered as a pioneering missionary, linguist, and scholar whose dedication to his missionary call made a lasting impact on Christian missionary work in the 19th century and beyond.

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