Missions, Marriage, and Combating Moral Failure

We don’t talk about this very often, but being a missionary and moving to the toughest places on planet earth often brings intense attacks from Satan. I’m a missionary, and I’m not saying that to garner your sympathy.

All Christians have struggles. But it seems like the Enemy loves to bring dishonor to Christ in a way that causes the most damage and discouragement. Bringing down a missionary can certainly do that.

For the sake of Christ’s name, sending churches partnering with missionaries
can do four things to encourage them
in personal holiness.

The Constant Need to Stay on High Alert

Scripture is clear that the adversary, Satan, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Pet. 5:8 ESV). And our sent ones who serve globally are certainly not exempt from his attacks. He would love nothing more than to ruin their lives and destroy their families. Those broken relationships do incalculable harm to the kingdom of God.

For the sake of Christ’s name, for the good of missionaries, and for all those who need to hear the gospel, sending churches partnering with missionaries can do four things to encourage them in personal holiness, especially as it pertains to marriage and family.

1. Pray for Missionary Teams to Be Consistently on Guard

Several years ago among unreached peoples, three moral failures occurred within a set of missionary teams over a six-month period. Marriages were destroyed, families were torn apart, and the small, struggling group of believers was shattered. These workers were vital partners in the ministry there.

In the face of such a tidal wave of immorality, brokenhearted leaders fell on their faces before God and led a concert of focused prayer that spanned six months. We prayed that married couples and singles serving with us would minister through holiness before unengaged and unreached peoples. God heard honest prayers from our broken hearts. For the next three years, there were no additional moral failures. The witness of the workers in that area soared as flesh and heart embraced purity that now spans decades.

2. Pray for Missionaries to Help Each Other Avoid Evil

For many years, high-security risks demanded that my husband travel alone as I served at home with the children. Despite his job requirement, my husband made sure I experienced each trip as if I were with him. He kept copious notes daily, and after returning home we would take these notes and stay up most of the night as he shared with me intimate details from every trip. There are places I have never visited, but through my husband’s love and eyes, I can recount every detail as if I had been there.

Many of our sent ones who frequently travel to hard places receive calls from the hotel receptionists offering to send up “a girl.” As wives, team members, and faithful church families, we can—and must—help such families avoid every appearance of evil. Pray for husbands and wives to acknowledge and discuss and prepare to fight against these opportunities for immorality before the temptation presents itself.

As simple as it may seem, awareness and advance preparation is a huge aid to holiness. In Genesis 39, Joseph was prepared ahead of time for Potiphar’s wife’s attempts to lure him into her bed. He paid a huge price for his purity, but the impact of his righteousness is still known today.

3. Destroy the Pedestal

Cross-cultural missionaries are often placed on a pedestal and made out to be something they are not—elevating them “higher” than normal believers, fueling their own personal pride. This gives Satan a clear shot to tempt them and bring them down. We know that our Savior was the only one who never sinned, but we sometimes forget that fact when it comes to our view of missionaries. Sending churches help their sent ones stay humble before the Father by not elevating them to unhealthy places of honor and expectation.

Sending churches help their sent ones stay humble before the Father by not elevating them to unhealthy places of honor and expectation.

Placing missionaries on a pedestal also isolates them. That separation not only makes them feel alone but also makes them more vulnerable to attack—just as a lion on the hunt pounces on prey that’s isolated from the herd. By retiring the pedestal mentality, sending churches can draw missionaries more closely into their circle of care.

4. Intercede in Specific Ways for Missionaries You Know

  • Pray for strong, joyful marriages that model Christ’s love for the church.
  • Pray for singles to live with moral purity and contentment.
  • Pray for missionary teams to display humility and the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
  • Pray for supernaturally pure lives that show the world a clear contrast to the abusive, selfish, demeaning, and disrespectful world around them.

Faithfully Intercede for Missionaries

In a broken world where marriage is denigrated and temptation is rampant, followers of Jesus can make an enormous difference by living out the beauty of God’s design as male and female in Christ. As sending churches, may we faithfully partner with our sent ones and intercede for them that they would demonstrate “utter faithfulness, so that they may adorn the teaching of God our Savior in everything” (Titus 2:10 HCSB).

Ruth Ripken and her husband, Nik, are mission veterans of thirty years with the International Mission Board, having served in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East and currently serving as global missiologists. They’ve extensively researched believers living in the midst of persecution in over seventy countries and shared their findings in numerous articles and two books, The Insanity of God: A True Story of Faith Resurrected and The Insanity of Obedience: Walking With Jesus in Tough Places. You can find Ruth on Facebook here.