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As we prepare for our next class of students to arrive on campus in just one week, one of the things we look forward to is hearing their testimonies.  We never tire of the various ways God has worked in their lives to bring them to a point of surrender.  When Radius was first starting out there were numerous voices that warned us, “You’ll not find many who will submit to such a training regimen.  It’s too long and too hard.”  That the Lord continues to raise up quality people each year truly boggles my mind, and encourages my heart.

But I digress.  Let me list for you some of the more common motivations and briefly comment on them.  Please keep in mind that frequently there is a mix of reasons behind a person’s move toward foreign missions.

  1. “I want to see the Lord Jesus worshipped among all the nations”, or versions of that. Surely any thoughtful reading of Revelation 5:9 and 7:9 spurs us to hasten that day when our Savior is worshipped by every tongue, tribe and nation. John Piper wrote in ‘Let the Nations Be Glad’… “How can people who are not stunned by the greatness of God be sent with the message, ‘Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods.’” (Ps. 96:4)[1]  Students who come to Radius, to one level or another, have understood that our Father’s worthiness demands a response.
  1. Paul writes in II Cor. 5:14, 15 “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” The awareness that ‘I am not my own, I was bought at a price’ has sunk deep into the hearts and minds of many of our students, and offering themselves for foreign service is part of that response.
  1. There have even been some students motivated by Matt. 24:14, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Theologians have interpreted that verse in a variety of ways and while I do believe there is some legitimacy to that as a motivation, I’m hesitant to put the God of the Universe on a timetable that is dictated by our response to his last command.  
  1. Some motivations that I have, thankfully, yet to see arrive on our campus are ‘I love adventure’, ‘I love to travel’, ‘I want to give missions a try’, ‘I want to get away from my church, family, past life’, or ‘I’m currently out of a job and have nothing else to do’. Why we have been spared such mindsets I’m not completely sure, but obviously any of the above reasons are not a valid basis to move forward with the life of a pioneer missionary. The vetting we do, and the references and phone calls that precede students coming here do play a part, but what we see, by God’s grace year in and year out, are very committed students arriving here.  
  1. And yes, there have been some who sense a deep calling on their lives. Space doesn’t permit me to go into all the versions of ‘the call’ that have been expressed over the years. I will state this, and I’m quoting another founder of Radius as I write, “I’d rather have a committed person than a called person.”  I echo that sentiment; subjective ‘calls’ can get pretty fuzzy when the going is really tough.  Commitment based on the Word of God has proven to be more lasting in the heat of battle
  1. But lastly, and actually the impetus for focusing on ‘motivations’ in this newsletter, is the topic I want to spend the most time on. Obedience. Raw, industrial strength, “I-don’t-want-to-do-this-but-I-must” obedience is an extremely valid motivation.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that if a person lacks a proper understanding of obedience and the role it plays he will soon be on his home from the field.  In the first weeks, as students and staff are getting to know each other and the enormity of what is ahead of them becomes clearer there settles over the campuses a freedom to actually verbalize, “Part of me doesn’t even want to be here, and I’m scared to death.  But I just can’t get around the words of Jesus and his obvious desire to be known among the nations.”  Such honest statements are music to my ears.  

Even now as students are preparing to come, filled with 2nd thoughts and aware of their inadequacies and weaknesses, some will be thinking “I’m probably the only fearful one coming to Radius this year.”  You can imagine the relief when they hear others verbalizing the same concerns.  Mature and committed?  Yes. But superstars, sure-fire winners, slam dunk church planters? Nope. We’ve had none of those show up on our campus, and none of those types have graduated from our program.  (And none of those have been their instructors.) 

In the well-known story of Saul and Samuel going back and forth regarding Saul’s outright disobedience, Samuel finally puts a stop to Saul’s dithering and denials and exclaims clearly to Saul “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifice as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” (I Sam. 15:22)  Unlike many in today’s therapeutic age[2] the gospel worker must understand that the sacrifices ahead of him will go against his grain much of the time.  Be it the consistent grind of language study, the difficult conditions he lives in, the diseases he and his family will endure…without a strong understanding of obedience and an I-stay-with-the-task-even-when-I-want-to-leave mentality there is little point his heading overseas. 

As I said earlier, most folks come here with a wonderful mix of God-honoring motivations. With a bit of fear mixed in and a foundation in obedience that will be critical to their futures.  Pray for these who are coming. All are leaving homes, families, and churches they love.  Living in tight quarters will be new to many of them.  Eating all meals communally will be new to most of them.  Losing much of their privacy, their access to technology, control over their diet…new, new, new. Lots of adjustments are coming! But by God’s great grace they will continue to walk the path that He has shown them. 

 

[1] ‘Let the Nations Be Glad, The Supremacy of God in Missions’ by John Piper, pg. 20

[2] For those who may disagree with that statement a careful read of Carl Truman’s’ book ‘The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self’ will show just how far rational thought has been eclipsed by ‘how does the make me feel’ thinking.

Brad Buser

Brad Buser

Founder of Radius International

Brad and his wife Beth planted a church among the Iterri people in Papua New Guinea. Now he is a sought-after speaker for Perspectives classes around the nation, and the instructor of Church Planting at Radius.