The Brave and Broken Missionary Heart – Overview

Missionaries and church planters face life-altering battles every day.  The daily decisions related to money, biblical faithfulness, family stresses, cultural faux pas, and life and death place the missionary heart in vulnerable positions.  Sometimes good decisions are made while other times the heart proves to be deceptive.

What are the factors that encourage a missionary toward a wise decision versus crashing and burning?

We will explore six dimensions of the human heart that affect our choices, tastes and preferences and our decision making processes.  These six dimensions fall into three spheres or arenas:


Where does your energy come from?

What is the purpose of your life?

Which resources do you create and draw from?

Within each arena every human being pulls from either godly or human sources to live life.

Non-Christians only have the ability to pull from their humanity.  Christians have the ability to pull from God as well as from themselves.

All of us then face the day to day, hour to hour, and sometimes moment by moment determinations whether to walk in the spirit or foster the flesh.

Due to the nature of the missionary lifestyle and context, our choices reflect whether our hearts are brave or whether they are broken.


Energy is our disposition toward life.

God-given desire for adventure


Creation-inherited propensity toward inertia


Purpose is our reason for living.

Christ-enabled sense of mission


Culture-enhanced sense of humanitarianism


Resources are the spiritual, physical and emotional characteristics of life.

Spirit-infused ability to laugh and love


Human-developed responses of self-protection and self-reliance

Within each arena is a couplet in which the godly and the human compete for prominence.  The battle of brave vs. broken is on.

Decision Making and the Six Dimensions of the Heart

How do these six dimensions affect decision making?  Every decision that we make is formed primarily out of one of the six dimensions.

When life becomes complex it is because two or more of the dimensions of our hearts are in conflict with each other.  For example, we may feel compelled to share the gospel with our neighbors or a people group across the globe but in doing so our self-protection tendencies will kick in when the response of our neighbor is to ridicule us and call us ignorant.

How will we respond?  By focusing solely on the sharing of the gospel and ignoring our desire to protect ourselves?  Or by choosing to protect ourselves and letting the gospel go?  Or more likely, some point in between along the spectrum between gospel declaration and self-preservation?  Maybe we’ll keep sharing the gospel but only to the extent that we can bear the pain of a heart exposed to the person we are sharing with who responds with hate and slander.

Natural or Supernatural Responses?

When conflict happens, do we resort to natural or supernatural responses?  In a time of war, do we stay light-hearted with a God-given desire for adventure or high tale it out of there to preserve our lives?

When a government leader asks for a bribe, do we go with the culture and succumb to the system or do we consider another solution that would honor God more?

We can choose to respond to conflicts, dangers and trouble within our natural means or we pull from supernatural resources.  Our maturity levels will often frame our decision and heavily influence us toward a godly or a humanistic response.

I am not suggesting that we can always determine a godly vs. a humanistic response or that life is black and white.  On the contrary, we live a gray life in between boundaries and borders that we are trying to discern.  That’s why it is vital to understand the complex milieu of motivations that make up the missionary heart.

Brave or Broken?

If we are honest with ourselves, we missionary types have hearts that are both brave and broken.  God has given us a desire for adventure (brave), a sense of mission (brave) and an ability to laugh and love (brave) but he has allowed our bodies, hearts and minds to be infected with inertia (broken), influenced by humanitarianism (broken) and disjointed by self-protection (broken).

The power of the gospel heals our broken hearts and allows us to be brave.

Discipleship is the process of choosing to live brave lives in a broken world through the power of Christ in fellowship with his people.

Discipleship: teaching another to live a brave life in a broken world.

How Can Missionaries and Church Planters Choose Bravery over Brokenness?

  1. Discern our maturity levels and why we have made certain decisions.
  2. Connect to our hearts by feeling and labeling emotions.
  3. Choose community and fellowship over independence and loneliness.
  4. Seek out specialist help from pastors, counselors and other professionals.

How Can Prospective Missionaries, Appointees and Church Planters Prepare for Bravery in a Broken World?

  1. Understand your experiences and how they have shaped you.
  2. Seek out mentors to help you grow and to learn from.
  3. Develop your heart and mind within community.
  4. Read about culture, history, communications and personal habits.
  5. Learn how to ask good questions; practice it; and ask.

In the coming days and weeks I will break down these components piece by piece.

Be brave!

“Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.

Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged,

for the LORD you God will be with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9 NASB

Subsequent Articles on Brave and Broken

Missionary Adjustment

Missionary Vulnerability

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4 Comments on “The Brave and Broken Missionary Heart – Overview”

  1. Jim Van Meter Says:

    Looks like you are developing an important theme. Like what your have done so far, and look forward to future articles. Vulnerability is certainly an important spirituality trait.

    Good to see you at the MC2 conference. I recognize you, but sorry we didn’t get to chat and get acquainted. It’s the down side of conferences–full scheduled programs.


    • Brian Stankich Says:

      Jim, thanks for your comment and encouragement surrounding the theme. I led a session at the conference that included some of this material and people were into it.




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