One Motive for Missions

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“Along with deeper-life teaching, missions and evangelism are the primary purpose of Alliance churches,” says L. L. King. In this article, adapted from a paper published May 10, 1978, King urges The Alliance to recall our foundations and search our motives to ensure we don’t lose our way.

One of the striking facts about organized peoples—whether organized as a government, ethnic group, or social or religious institution—is their ability to assimilate influences that emanate from a new environment.

The Jewish people, however, are a notable exception. They remain intensely and vividly the same anywhere in the world. Although scattered over the entire world, variously situated in the midst of cultural, religious, political, and value systems alien to theirs, they remain an unchanged people. They survive, well-nigh unconvertible as to religion, mores, and culture.

The reason they themselves give for their being nearly impervious to change is the intensity and vividness of the memories of their past—memories of how God has led and chastised and helped.

“A Peculiar People”

Memories are kept active, literally fastened on the past, through the annual, rich Pass­over ceremony and other celebrations, customs, rites, and the ever-retelling of Bible stories. It is this powerful force of memory that has largely shaped Israel as a people, serving to keep her remarkably clear concerning her destiny. It is thus that Israel remains—in the Bible’s concept of the word—“a peculiar people.”

Today’s world is changing with great rapidity. The mood is that of revolt, self-assertion, the abandonment of value systems and programs of the past. This new social, political, and religious climate has influenced some Protestant missions to alter their purpose and program.

“Remembering” Will Preserve Our Purpose

Recently, one respected church historian predicted that after 90 years of history, the C&MA may rapidly change from an evangelistic, missionary, deeper-life movement to a solidified church institution that has lost its way.

We need to look backward, to explore our foundation; inward, to discover our motives; and forward, to settle our positive purpose. The powerful force of memory will be an aid to keep us true to our purpose for being, and certain concerning our destiny.

Along with the Lostness of Man, and the Kingdom of God, memory will motivate The Alliance to missions and evangelism in these ways:

  • It will keep us true to being what God intended us to be.
  • It will keep us safe from assimilating the fatal errors of others.
  • It will keep us steady on our course.


When the C&MA was founded in 1887, reports “The Encyclopedia of Modern Christian Missions,”“The areas the new organization originally sought to enter were blocked by unfriendly governments, hostile people, or impossible living conditions. But undeterred, with unparalleled bravery and an enormous toll by death, Alliance missionaries soon penetrated Congo, India, and China.

“Within five years, work had been started in 12 countries, with 40 stations manned by 180 missionaries, and 23 had died. Further, the cost of accomplishment can be seen in the 45 deaths in India and the Congo between 1893 and 1900 and in the 36 martyrs’ graves in China in 1900. With a fixed policy of not duplicating existing agencies, The Alliance has succeeded in taking the gospel to the most destitute corners of the world.” (1)

Alliance missionaries additionally planted the first churches in the provinces of Hunan and Kwangsi, China.(2) They planted the “first gospel churches in Viet Nam and Cambodia; in Venezuela and Ecuador, they dedicated the first Protestant chapels.(3) Amid continual suffering, privation, war, and tragedy, “the more recent advance into Irian Jaya’s [a remote province in western Indonesia] unexplored interior, is an epic of missionary endeavor and success.”(4)


What main considerations prompted these heroic Alliance men and women through the years to labor and to endanger and sacrifice their lives in distant lands in the missionary cause? What should prompt us to like action and sacrifice?

The motivation can be grouped into two classes—the outward and the inward.

The outward motives concerned the plight of the non-Christian peoples to whom they went. They saw and felt their wretched lot—dire poverty, continuous toil, darkened understandings, and unrelieved physical sufferings. Then, too, the abominable moral conditions insistently called for correction—unmentionable cruelties and crimes, with every form of social corruption promiscuously indulged, freely tolerated, and even promoted.

Reaching the Lost

But the ruling motive was the spiritual condition of the lost. The staggering nature of the non-Christian peoples’ spiritual wickedness; their utter lostness without Christ; their destination, unless saved by Christ, in the “lake which burneth with fire and brimstone” impelled Alliance missionaries to go to the hardest of places.

The darker the blackness that concealed the uttermost parts of the earth, the more determined the light bearers were to carry the glory where the night was thickest.

“All for Jesus”

There were also inward motives that actuated our predecessors. Paramount among these was the deepest desire to be like Jesus, especially in self-denial.

They considered that they were working along the lines of the Saviour’s mission by going to those that were uncared for. They believed that, if any other way but bearing the cross and dying could have redeemed man from his fallen estate, Jesus would have taught it and established it by His example. They therefore took up their cross and followed Him. Only by self-denial could fallen men be saved and restored to God.

Another motive was resignation; that is, divesting themselves of all personal independence; being “all for Jesus.”

Such, our archives disclose, were the outward and inward motives that persuaded Alliance men and women to do exploits in the past. And just such motivation is needed today. In God’s economy, these motives are never obsolete; therefore, let us in our day never assimilate other motives or allow ourselves a lesser consecration. Rather, hold them up as the ideal, teach them as the New Testament pattern, and exemplify them in each missionary’s life and work.


When The Christian and Missionary Alliance was established, missionary endeavor from the United States was still young. Just 75 years had intervened between the commissioning of the first North American foreign missionary and Dr. Simpson sending forth the first missionaries. The existing denominations, however, did not fundamentally structure missions into the church’s life or into the whole structure of their theology.

The C&MA, however, from its inception has been different. It has gone out into the world against the popular isolationist current and against the tides of denominational and cultural patterns.

“The Mission Came First”

A careful study of documents of the past disclose that the C&MA’s very characteristic is that it is “not a mission divorced from the normal activity of a church, but a church which had within it the life and function of a mission. In fact, the mission came first, and the church grew out of the mission. Only in reference to this end for which it was created can it be understood.” (5)

From its inception, the conviction has been maintained that—along with deeper-life teaching—missions and evangelism are the primary purpose of Alliance churches and, therefore, a chief end for which each congregation exists. Whatever else the C&MA is, it is essentially a missionary and evangelistic church.

Let the remembrance of this—out into the future—serve to keep us ever “a peculiar people.”

  • 1 The Encyclopedia of Modern Christian Missions,” ed. Brton L. Goddard (Camden, New Jersey: Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1967), p. 133.
  • 2 Kenneth Scott Latourette, “A History of Christian Missions in China” (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1929), P. 399.
  • 3 Modern Christian Missions, p. 133.
  • 4 lbid., p. 133.
  • 5 Ibid., p. 133.

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