The Mind of a Missionary: Robert Moffat

1024 538 David Joannes

Global Kingdom worker: Robert Moffat

Role in The Mind of a Missionary: He appears in section two: Expectations, chapter four: The Internal Monologue.

Dates: December 21, 1795—August 9, 1883

Location of missions work: South Africa

Known for: Robert Moffat was a Scottish Congregationalist missionary to Africa, father-in-law of David Livingstone, and first translator of the Bible into Setswana.

Famous quotes: “In the vast plain to the north, I have seen, at different times, the smoke of a thousand villages—villages whose people are without Christ, without God, and without hope in the world.”1

“Oh, that I had a thousand lives and a thousand bodies! All of them should be devoted to no other employment but to preach Christ to these degraded, despised, yet beloved mortals.”

In The Mind of a Missionary, section two: Expectations, chapter four: The Internal Monologue, you learn how to overcome the disparaging internal monologue in your mind. You recognize that the “great missionaries” of the past dealt with the same mind battles you encounter today. Your mind can be renewed; you have the mind of Christ! You will read how God used Robert Moffat to transform an entire continent. Not only do the “menace in your ears” seek to derail your missional calling, they also want to tear you away from your Heavenly Father. The voices speak not only of the personal expectations they have of themselves and of their ministries, but they also tell of identity. Who are you, really? they query. You are defined by your responsibilities and duties, callings and tendencies. Are you really a son or daughter of the King before you are a missionary? These are their challenging thoughts, and Paul encourages you to “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” You will learn how to overcome the negative internal monologue by the the Holy Spirit’s power.

 

It is easy to lock into a loop of negative thoughts. The mind is, after all, a serious battlefield. Every success emerges from this staging point; every failure is the fruit of the mind’s health.2

 

The floorboards creaked sullenly as Moffat leaned forward in his chair. He squinted, his deep, doleful eyes taking in the moment, his sight converging upon the scattered ramshackle homes bejeweled in the distant valley. Leisure sunlight warmed the terrain, and the man fixated on the thin wisps of smoke rising slowly then vanishing above foreign homes.

With a sudden burst of compassionate sentiment, tears streaked down Moffat’s cheekbones, pooling in his white, timeworn beard. He recognized it again; he caught another glimpse of the spiritual reality that he long understood but had so grown accustomed to, even often overlooked. Villages without Christ, without God, and without hope in the world, he pondered, weeping at the thought of it.

This moment—this quiet valley layered with mist and slow sunrise and the smoke of a thousand villages—would become the catalyst of his missionary campaigns. Uncharted regions remained untouched by the presence of the Gospel, and he could not stand idly by. From his adopted home in South Africa to the North and East, Robert Moffat would champion the cause of Christ. He would pioneer new territory and trailblaze new routes for numerous succeeding missionaries. His simple yet profound platitudes would have an immense effect on those who heard him speak about the unreached peoples among whom he served.

 

This striking conflict between an altruistic drive to make a difference in the world and the negative internal monologue of the carnal man circuit the thoughts of every cross-cultural missionary. Their minds are ever a battlefield between good and evil. The voice they believe determines the future they will experience.3

 

Robert Moffat paved the way for missionary service in Africa. He overcame the disparaging thoughts of failure lurking in his mind and propelled countless people to foreign fields. During a series of meetings in Great Britain, he was exhausted from the previous week of meetings; he took to the stage and silently surveyed the congregation. In attendance that night was a young man named David Livingstone, whose life goals were about to be rearranged by the Spirit of God. With hushed timbre, Moffat opened his message with a portrait of his life in South Africa. “Many a morning have I stood on the porch of my house, surveying the landscape,” he began. “In the vast plain to the north, I have seen, at different times, the smoke of a thousand villages—villages whose people are without Christ, without God, and without hope in the world.”4

 

The inner critic seeks to derail positive assessments of a ministry’s value, skew the whole plot, and create frustration and doubt.5

 

For a missionary who was far more conscious than anyone else could be of his deficiencies, Moffat could never have imagined the impact his words would have. These opening words depicting the great imbalance of global missions pricked the heart of twenty-five-year old David Livingstone. He felt as if Moffat spoke directly to him, his poignant words resounding in his mind: “The smoke of a thousand villages… The smoke of a thousand villages.” Later, God used David Livingstone in remarkable ways to open new doors for the Gospel in Africa.

 

Today, people are fatigued by a wide array of divisive social issues. Unlike generations past, we are constantly bombarded with topics like education, civil rights, poverty, terrorism, pollution, ineffective government, immigration, racism, and climate change. Christians are left with little energy to think about the state of global missions. In fact, oftentimes thoughts about the Kingdom of God are not even forefront in our minds.6

 

The menacing murmur of the inner monologue can be overcome. Unwarranted expectations inundate the missionary mind. Moffat was no stranger to this conundrum. He recognized his inadequacies and hurled himself upon the strength of God. His willing obedience led to Livingstone’s call to Africa, which opened the continent to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.7

 

Popular culture cannot command our compliance; the world’s manmade patterns cannot impose our subservience. The chatter of the inner critic is quelled when we set our minds on Christ.8

 

The Mind of a Missionary: What Global Kingdom Workers Tell Us About Thriving on Mission Today by David Joannes

 

Books/resources:

Missionary Labours and Scenes in Southern Africa by Robert Moffat (Free PDF)
Other books by Robert Moffat

Books/resources referenced in chapter four of The Mind of a Missionary:

The Lives of Robert and Mary Moffat by John S. Moffat (Free PDF)
The Gallup CliftonStrengths assessment (formerly Clifton StrengthsFinder)
Crash the Chatterbox by Steven Furtick
Switch on Your Brain: The Key to Peak Happiness, Thinking, and Health by Dr. Caroline Leaf
African Missionary Heroes and Heroines by H. K. W. Kumm (Free PDF)
Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light: The Private Writings of the Saint of Calcutta by Brian Kolodiejchuk
The Missionary Heroes of Africa by J. H. Morrison (Free PDF)

  1. H. K. W. Kumm, African Missionary Heroes and Heroines, page 173, New York: The MacMillan Company, 1917
  2. David Joannes, The Mind of a Missionary: What Global Kingdom Workers Tell Us About Thriving on Mission Today, chapter four: The Internal Monologue
  3. David Joannes, The Mind of a Missionary: What Global Kingdom Workers Tell Us About Thriving on Mission Today, chapter four: The Internal Monologue
  4. H. K. W. Kumm, African Missionary Heroes and Heroines, page 173, New York: The MacMillan Company, 1917
  5. David Joannes, The Mind of a Missionary: What Global Kingdom Workers Tell Us About Thriving on Mission Today, chapter four: The Internal Monologue
  6. David Joannes, The Mind of a Missionary: What Global Kingdom Workers Tell Us About Thriving on Mission Today, chapter four: The Internal Monologue
  7. David Joannes, The Mind of a Missionary: What Global Kingdom Workers Tell Us About Thriving on Mission Today, chapter four: The Internal Monologue
  8. David Joannes, The Mind of a Missionary: What Global Kingdom Workers Tell Us About Thriving on Mission Today, chapter four: The Internal Monologue