How does a church get its people to invest in the Great Commission? It’s a question any missions leader or pastor should ask. We are called to take the gospel to the nations. Yet, sometimes it is challenging to get church members motivated about evangelistic work in places far away.
The common assumption seems to be that less-than-ideally invested churches need more excitement about the spiritual results of missions. They need to see how thrilling it is when people step out of the darkness of this world, and into the kingdom of light. Nothing thrills a believer’s heart more than seeing the Spirit bringing a stranger home into the family of God. So why not use whatever means possible to excite churches with those images?
Spiritual Get-Rich-Quick Schemes
We often parade story after story of dramatic conversions and mass movements in front of our people with little celebration of slow, hard slogging that has yet to see fruit. We create spiritual versions of get-rich-quick testimonials. Testifying how through only a little extra giving and prayer, you can see an entire unreached people group saved quickly. My fear is that in our efforts to quickly mobilize churches for missions, we are unintentionally undermining the church’s ability to patiently invest for the long-term.
In other words, we undermine the church’s discipline because we refuse to defer spiritual gratification.
I fear we are training churches to think about missions in such a way that William Carey or Adoniram Judson would’ve been brought home due to their evangelistic inefficiency in their first seven or eight years. The result is not just spiritual immaturity in our churches; we’re also making it harder for the unreached and least-reached peoples of the world to hear the good news of Jesus Christ.
Jesus makes it abundantly clear that we cannot see the effectiveness of sowing the word right away. The parable of the soils shows us that it takes time to see if a conversion is substantial or ephemeral (Matthew 13:1–9, 18–23). Sometimes, “the seed lie under the clods till we lie there, and then spring up.”
We must train ourselves and our congregations to celebrate and prize faithful endurance in our evangelism and ministry as a whole. Seeing the fruits of our labor is a gift from the Lord—one that even the apostle Paul didn’t always receive. We must grow in our confidence. Even if we don’t get to see it in this lifetime, the Word of the Lord will not return empty. It will accomplish the purpose he sent it for (Isaiah 55:11).
Mutual Investment Fund
One of the best ways for a church to grow in this sort of mentality in missions abroad is to devote itself to this mentality in its life and ministry at home. Nothing has given me more confidence in the long-term effectiveness of the Word than seeing it work in the lives of people in my own church. Men who were once chasing after sin who are now pastors and shepherds, marriages that seemed broken but have now healed, angry people who have grown in mercy, selfish people who now love to serve—none of these things happened quickly.
As with the financial market, the most rewarding spiritual investments often take much longer to mature.
The life of the church trains us how to invest for heaven. It teaches churches to be patient, even as they long to hear reports of conversions in outer Mongolia or Iraq or the Amazonian interior. It teaches future missionaries that the work of evangelism takes discipline and patience.
So as your missionaries return home and give reports on the work in the field, encourage them. Tell them they don’t need to have an incredible conversion story in the last year in order to prove they are worth your church’s support. But let them know that they must show determination to labor as a worker worthy of his wages. As well as a willingness to trust the Lord with their labors. They may plant, or water, but only God can give the growth (1 Corinthians 3:7).
 Charles Bridge, The Christianity Ministry, 75.