Is the American Dream Killing Our Passion for Missions?

5 Ways We Can Create Wealth and Still Have a Passion for Missions

Recently the president of the International Mission Board (IMB), David Platt, announced that his organization will soon cut 600-800 missionaries and staff. The IMB is the missionary sending organization for the Southern Baptists.

A study by The Center for the Study of Global Christianity (CSGC) at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary a few years ago made some interesting calculations about not only the missionaries sent by the U.S. but by all countries around the world.

A couple of statistics caught my attention:

  • When the numbers are calculated by the number of missionaries sent per million church members these are the results
    • Palestine – 3014 per million church members followed by Ireland, Malta, and Samoa.
    • South Korea ranked 5th with 1014 missionaries sent per one million church members.
    • United States ranked 9th with 614 missionaries sent per one million church members.
  • The country that received the most missionaries in 2010? The United States, with 32,400 sent from other nations.
*taken from Christianity Today Article.

Could our pursuit of the American Dream have us off-track?

The American Dream. That phrase stirs up different emotions in people. Some think it’s a myth. Others live and die pursuing it. People from all around the world flock to America, because they believe it to exist.

I agree with this definition of the American Dream:

…a set of ideals in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, and an upward social mobility for the family and children, achieved through hard work in a society with few barriers.Wikipedia

Christian Dilemma 

What is a Christian to do about the pursuit of the American Dream? Is it best to not create prosperity and success so that one isn’t tempted by the world? Or should a Christian embrace the freedom given here in this country to create wealth?

Either extreme can kill our passion for mission work. 

The Challenge

If you lean toward not pursuing success and creating more than you need, then you don’t have the means to give to missions, either local or around the world.

And you if you want to go on the mission field, you have to rely on someone else’s wealth.


But can a Christian successfully pursue the American Dream without succumbing to the trappings of success?

I think it all boils down to what a person’s motivation is for pursuing the American Dream. If the motivation is any of the following:

  • Status
  • Keeping up with peers
  • Living a life of comfort
  • Satisfying a need for more

Then I think all that will do is lead to is apathy, pride, boredom, and disinterest.

That kind of pursuit of the American Dream will definitely kill our passion for missions.

What Is Our Motivation?

The challenge lies in the motivation for prosperity and success. Exactly why and for what purpose do we as American Christians want to prosper?

Once the pursuit for the American Dream is unleashed, what will keep things in perspective for a Christian who prospers?

How can we both create wealth and still have a passion for missions?

  1. First, fall in love with the One who sends. God is a missionary God. He sent His Son.
  2. Embrace His mission. Not only is God a missionary God, He has a mission for us.
  3. Go on short-term mission trips. Experiencing first-hand the need around the world to hear the Good News will change your perspective.
  4. Understand who gives you the ability to create wealth. Yes we live in a country where we can choose what we do to earn money, but it is God who gives the ability, talent, etc. And, He gave you this ability and opportunity for His purpose.
  5. Hang around others who have a missionary heart. We truly become like those we spend time with. If you are hanging out with people who are consumed with needing more and more stuff, you will want the same things. However, if you are around people who use their wealth for God’s purpose, guess what? That most likely will motivate you to do the same.

I will share soon another blog about a concept called “Giving Circles”. Stay tuned!

To whom much is given, much is required.Luke 12:48

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I am a longtime Austinite. Married my beautiful wife over 25 years ago. Adopted our son September 2012. Currently a writer and loving it. Previous jobs and careers include project management, missionary, and pastor. I enjoy sports (both watching and playing), traveling, reading, digging in dirt and hanging with my friends and family.

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4 thoughts on “Is the American Dream Killing Our Passion for Missions?

  1. Hey Kenny,
    The missionary sending data is super interesting to me. I would not have guessed that 32,000 CHRISTIAN missionaries have been sent TO the US. And I’d be willing to bet the IMB has missionaries in Palestine, Malta, Ireland, Somoa, and South Korea too. I know its not the point of your post, but a system that has countries sending missionaries to each other seems rather inefficient.

    • I find it interesting too Damon. I’m not plugged in enough to know the reasons behind this, but I find it strange as well. For example, over the past decade or so, a swing to indigenous or local missionaries ministering in their own culture has happened. Common sense tells us that they can engage their own culture more effectively and with less expense.
      The fact that other nations see a need to send missionaries to the U.S. in such great numbers could reveal one of two reasons, or both. One is that they are sending missionaries to work among their own people group who have migrated to the U.S. or are here temporarily.
      The other reason could be a reaction to the main question of my blog. They recognize that we have lost our passion not only to passionately support mission work around the world, but that we have also lost our passion to share the Good News right here in our own land.

    • Adding my own 2 cents, I will say that as a missionary, God gives some of us a heart for places that we did not grow up in — whether that is the next city over as a pastor, the next state over doing missions in the workforce, or the next country over teaching or doing traditional missions work. God uses us all in a variety of ways, no matter where we are taken or called. I agree is seems inefficient; but, to the human nature, we are often drawn to people that are different than us, and sometimes it takes someone “different” for us to listen. I don’t know all of the ways of God, obviously. Yet, many who are called into ministry, only a fraction of them leave this country to do ministry in another… I’m sure when we all get to Heaven, more of this will be clear. It’s just important, until then, that we are obedient to where God is calling us — whether that is to another country or out our own back door in our communities.