Missionaries spend much time thinking about strategies, opportunities, unreached people groups, unchurched communities, and unevangelized places. The burden of the missions call is overwhelming and the work is unending. Missionaries, as a natural part of their calling, are spending their lives looking at tremendous need and seeking to meet it by God’s help. 

This overwhelming burden is what I love about missionaries and, at the same time, what I fear for them.

The missionary life is as good a place to burn out as any other vocation, calling, or life purpose, but it carries with it an extra danger—an enemy who would seek to take you out. 

Missionary work is also one of the most daunting undertakings I can imagine. If a missionary is to succeed, he or she needs to find a godly and biblical balance in the doing of missions. This balance comes from God Himself and His word. What kind of missionary would God be? Better asked, “What kind of missionary is God?” 

Thankfully, in the Scriptures, we have the answer in the person of the God-man, our Lord and Savior. How can missionaries avoid traps and pitfalls that lead to burnout and failure while seeking to do an eternal work for the glory of God? What can we learn from Jesus’ sojourn—His missions career, if you will—on this earth?

Was Jesus really a missionary? If you define a missionary, as many do, as someone who crosses cultural boundaries to take the message of the gospel to those who have not heard, then God, in Jesus Christ, is the consummate missionary. 

What greater cultural boundary or frontier is there beyond that which exists between a perfect heaven and a sinful world? I have often wondered, “How could the Son of God walk through this world of sin—through throngs of lost people bound for hell—and not have been constantly overwhelmed by an unbearable grief and burden and sense of the impossibility of the task? How could He pass face after face and confront person after person, knowing that the majority of them were lost, and not have despaired?” Jesus lived a perfect life and set the perfect example for us—we have much to learn from it! 

Over the next few weeks, we’ll explore several themes we can learn from Jesus’ example as a missionary for us. Stay tuned! 

Anthony Steele

Anthony Steele serves as Training Facilitator for Latin America with Reaching & Teaching International Ministries. He is a graduate of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (M.Div. 1988, D.Miss. 2016) He is married to Beverly and has two children and four grandchildren.

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