Realistic Expectations for the Mission Field

Fear and Trembling


Are you considering whether or not God has called you to foreign missions? Have you analyzed whether or not you may have unrealistic expectations for the way He will use you? Your answer may depend on how you've come to view the place of suffering in the Christian life. According to John Piper, biblical preparation is essential for anyone wishing to succeed in foreign missions. He joins Mark Mellinger to offer some practical advice about effective preparation for the mission field.

Mark Mellinger is the Indiana Public Affairs Director for Bott Radio Network and talk show host for 1090 Today, a radio program that showcases local ministries and encourages Christian living. John Piper is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and Chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary.  


In light of this discussion, can you identify any unrealistic expectations you have about missions? If so, what are they? What makes them unrealistic? If not, what helped form your good perspective?
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Foreign missions can come in a variety of forms and durations. Whether short-term of full-time, participating on the mission field will mean experiences with suffering—either personally or witnessing that of others. John shared that one of the ways North Americans often misunderstand suffering is by viewing it as an intrusion in the life of comfort we falsely believe God intends. 

How do you typically react to suffering in your life? What does your reaction reveal about your expectations for comfort? Do you prize it too highly? If so, what needs to change?
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John noted that we constantly assume life will go well for us, but forget that most of the world does not live with our comforts. Our expectations become unrealistic when we project our comforts on places that don't have them (medicine, police protection, food supply, etc.).

How did John's comments strike you? Can you identify any of your own projected comforts that create unrealistic expectations? If so, what are they? What would it look like to have a balanced perspective on comfort as it relates to being on the mission field?
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Philippians 2:12-13 (ESV)

Lights in the World

12Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,13for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


John described the normal Christian life as one meant to be worked out in fear and trembling—a kind of emotional deepening that makes us serious about the things of God. What does fear and trembling look like in your life? What are some ways that God has matured you emotionally? How are you different today as a result?
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As John noted, there are a variety of forms for engaging in world missions (going, praying, sending, etc.), which is a crucial part of the Christian faith. How are you involved in global missions? In light of this discussion, how could you follow in obedience to God's call?
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Believers everywhere are called to a joyful, serious courage in the cause of missions. To fulfill this call, we need realistic expectations for what we will face in the process of engaging in global missions. We all have the opportunity to participate. Take some time to consider your level of involvement. Ask God to give you direction for where you can engage and trust Him to provide for you along the way. 


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