Counting the Cost: Facing Risk in Missions

Participation in the Great Commission comes at great cost. In the gospels, Christ does not hide this fact but instead explicitly tells servants of his kingdom, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matt. 16:24 ESV). Faithfully following Christ means self-denial, the abandonment of comfort, and great risk.

Although this looks unique for each person, every believer’s response to trials should be the same: unwavering trust in Christ’s faithfulness in the midst of suffering. In his letter to the Corinthian church, Paul exhorts believers, “Do not lose heart. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen” (2 Cor. 4:16–18 ESV).

Despite this exhortation to not lose heart, it is easy, and even natural, to fear risk and avoid it. IMB’s Zane Pratt and Scott Logsdon, together with pastors Michael Cloer of Englewood Baptist Church and Ryan Fullerton of Immanuel Baptist Church, discuss the implications of how this fear can affect the church’s response to global missions.

Often, efforts to avoid suffering and trials can limit our view of missions. However, the real danger comes when fear begins to drive the actions of the church. This can result not only in the church not sending missionaries to dangerous locations but in whole congregations refusing to sacrifice personal comfort for the sake of the gospel. The fear of risk blinds people from believing what Christ said in Matthew 28: “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (ESV). When fear of persecution and love of comfort take control, we limit the Great Commission and keep the unreached from hearing the good news of the gospel.

However, even though believers can know with certainty they will face trials in this life, they must also be wise in discerning what risks should be taken and which should be avoided. God does not call his children to run foolishly and needlessly into danger. Therefore, the question should always be, “Will the gospel be advanced by taking this risk?” Faith, not fear, must drive gospel advancement and global missions.

Gardner Davis is a student in the US and currently works as a content editor and social media associate with the IMB.