The secret to long-term focus for millenial missionares

In the old days, people went to the field, and were pretty much locked in for life. They took 3-month boat journeys over the seas, and sometimes took their coffin with them. Communication was sparse, and all they had in front of them was the tough hard ground to be sown. They were locked and committed, whether they liked it or not. They were pretty much forced to stay on task, even if their motivation grew cold or their family went crazy. For better or for worse, they were stuck there.

Times have changed.

These days, it’s much easier to come and go. We can easily hop in and out of countries with affordable plane tickets. Once we’re in a foreign land, we have a myriad of different connections to the world back home. We have Facebook, WhatsApp, and Skype conversations. There are a million things that can pull our affections and efforts in all kinds of different directions. Every day, we face a hundred choices about whether we will focus on the things in front of us, or back home, or somewhere else.

It’s also a lot easier to give up and go home. People can be easily pulled off the field, or drawn into another area of ministry. John Christ nailed it this hilarious video.

So what keeps us on track and focused?

It takes years of dedicated time and patience to learn a language, tell the good news to hundreds of people, and make a disciple or two in a foreign culture. And this can all feel so much slower and trying than all the other things or opportunities that vie for our attention.

Awareness of the distractions, discipline, and planning does help. You might need to delete Facebook. (I did). You might need to set limits on your interactions with other foreigners. Or you might need to avoid buying mobile data for your phone. All these practical things can help, but ultimately, they’re not the solution.

I really believe that the only thing that can really keep us on track is the Holy Spirit-given desires and emotions of Jesus. And for this we need a life of prayer and honest interaction with Him.

“Those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.” (Romans 8:5)

Only knowing and interacting with him can keep us on track. Only having our hearts full of his concerns and priorities can keep us going and focused for years and years. When we actually see and hear Him, we find that his voice is louder and sweeter than all the other distractions.

Language learning takes humility because you have to pull away from lots of other things you could be doing well, and spend endless hours patiently learning and making a fool of yourself. Spirit-led evangelism takes a God-given compassion for the lost and a living friendship with the Lord. And discipleship requires a real life of obedience and trust in the Lord. All of these things are given to us by the Lord, as we relate to him.

“May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.” (2 Thessalonians 3:5)

Yes, our age is an age of massive distraction. But in all of this we have an awesome opportunity. There may not be many circumstances that force us into a kind of legalistic, white-knuckled, grin-and-bear-it-while-crushing-ourselves-and-everyone-around-us pertinacity.

In this day and age, we can only be kept on track by the real, Holy Spirit-given motivation and desires of Jesus. And that’s pretty awesome.

“It’s God who works in you to will and to act according to his good pleasure.” (Phil 2:13)

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