The Idolatry of Missions

by Jonathan Trotter on November 9, 2014

Missionaries are like the church’s Special Forces, right? They go into enemy territory, sometimes covertly, tearing down walls for Jesus. They have special training, preparing them to serve in the darkest places around the globe. Missionaries are on the front lines of the Kingdom of Heaven, right? I’m sorry, but no.

Wherever the Gospel is advancing, there is the front line. Wherever lives are being transformed by the love of Jesus, there is the leading edge of the Kingdom.

But aren’t missionaries the crème of the crop? Um, yeah, no. Turns out, we’re just people. We may travel more than most, and maybe we speak more languages than some, but the idea that missionaries are somehow “set apart” is dangerous. I’d like to begin a discussion about this. Care to join?

Whether these false ideas come from the missionaries themselves or those who send them, the consequence is the same: damage. Damage to the missionaries and damage to the churches who send them.

 

How These Lies Damage Missionaries

If a missionary believes these lies (crème of the crop, special forces, etc.), and if churches reinforce them, one of two things will happen.

Option 1. When the missionary realizes he isn’t superman (or supermissionary), confusion, discouragement, and maybe even depression will set in. He may be forced into secrecy, covering up and hiding the fact that he is, in fact, human. He may feel like a failure because he now realizes he’s not the best of the best, like all the “real” missionaries. He may create a thin veneer of perfection and hide behind it for a Very.Long.Time. Obviously, this is not healthy, but it does make sense to the missionary who’s comparing himself to the false perfect. And when a whole community of missionaries builds walls and covers up, the fallacy is reinforced; everyone looks super on the outside, and no one can see the inside. And the damage continues.

Option 2. If a missionary believes these lies, and continues to believe them, she may become extremely arrogant, judgmental, and condemning. The judgment and condemnation will be aimed at other missionaries who “just can’t hack it,” as well as all the lesser people back home who never even tried. After all, she’s the top of the class, the one called and equipped for greater works. Again, these attitudes make sense if she starts with the basic assumption that missionaries are better. Now, it’s true, most people will never talk like this. But I bet you’ve met people who act like it.

 

How These Lies Damage Sending Churches

We’ll address this more in a bit, but for now, let me just say that when a church believes these lies, it effectively keeps missions OUT THERE. Missions becomes something missionaries do somewhere over there. The great call of God becomes disconnected from the church of God. And that’s really, really sad.

Furthermore, it minimizes and marginalizes the godly saints in the local body. The old lady who just put her last few dollars in the plate may have sacrificed more than the family who moved abroad. The arithmetic of the Almighty includes variables we can’t see.

One of the kindest, godliest men I’ve ever known worked on an assembly line for most of his life. You know what he did during his shifts? He talked with God and he memorized the Word. And so, when this blue-collar, shift-worker of an old man looked you in the eye and shook your hand, you felt like you knew Jesus a little better. He was faithful to his Lord for decades longer than I’ve been alive. And whatever reward I get in heaven, I’m pretty sure it won’t be any grander than this faithful, Spirit-filled saint’s.

When the church idolizes young missionaries, it runs the great risk of forgetting the faith-filled old people. The plodders who’ve loved well and remained faithful for a lifetime. And when the church neglects those people, the church misses out big time.

It’s not just the faithful old that tend to get marginalized. What about the faithful young? Is the work I do abroad more important than the local pastor in my home country who loves God with all his heart, and loves his people with sacrificial and compassionate love?

Is my job more important or more holy than my friend who’s a doctor in an inner-city emergency room? He loves and treats folks most people wouldn’t even touch. And he does it with kindness, giving strong witness to the Spirit of Christ who lives in him.

My job, loving and serving people across cultures, is what I’m called to do. I really believe that. But as I’ve said elsewhere on this blog, I sure hope some people are called and equipped to do work other than this. And I sure hope they realize their work isn’t second-class.

idolatry of missions

The Risk of Idolatry

Why do churches put missionaries on a pedestal? Why do missionaries put themselves there? I’m not sure, but what I do know is that they, and we, do. And it’s dangerous.

I grew up in a culture that idolized missionaries. By the time I was a teenager, I had read the biographies of Adoniram Judson, Gladys Aylward, Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Elisabeth Elliot, Hudson Taylor, Amy Carmichael, Brother Andrew, David Livingston, and others. We revered these people. My parents even made sure I got to meet Elisabeth Elliot when she came to town, and we had a hand written note from her on our fridge!

These people were great and faithful and followed God in amazing ways, and I’m so grateful I was exposed to their stories; I in no way want to dishonor them. The error was mine, not theirs, because somewhere in all those stories I got the idea that really good Christians became overseas missionaries. If I wanted to sort-of serve God, I could become a pastor, but if I really wanted to serve God, I’d become a missionary. And if I didn’t care about serving God at all, I could become a lawyer (which I did, by the way, but that’s a story for another time).

The truly faithful, the truly holy, the ones most loved by God and most in love with God, would obviously serve him overseas. No one said it out loud, but I internalized the message nonetheless. I doubt you’ve heard these things spoken out loud, but have you ever felt them?

For too long, we have idolized overseas missions. We need to stop now.

I’m afraid that in our desire to be good followers of God, we’ve lost intimacy with him. Intimacy is personalized and requires time and a willingness to pay attention to subtle cues; we’ve preferred the one-size-fits-all, task-driven, widget-producing faith that measures success not by love, but by product.

Have we cared more about the work our hands do than the love our heart does?

Have we challenged people to obey “the call” instead of the Christ?

Have we sent and honored missionaries who are filled more with ambition than adoration?

Again, these things make sense if overseas missions is the end-all. But it’s not. Serving cross-culturally is definitely a valid response to the Gospel, but it is not the only valid response to the Gospel.

In fact, if traveling a long ways is how we serve God, then Jonah was doing a great job even BEFORE the whole fish incident. Remember, serving Jesus isn’t about traveling the right distance as much as it’s about traveling the right direction.

We’ve called “moving to a foreign land” the pinnacle of obedience, but in some cases, moving to a foreign land might be more like running away — disobedience, in its most spiritual form.

 

A Caveat

Please don’t hear what I’m not saying. I’m not saying cross-cultural missions is bad. I am a missionary serving outside of my passport country, and I love it. I really do. I hope to stay here for a long time. I’ve recruited people to serve overseas, I’ve preached to teenagers about serving overseas, I’ve passionately extolled service abroad. And I plan to continue! In fact, our personal website even has an extensive resource page for folks interested in serving overseas.

But here’s the problem. Early on, I internalized the idea that this job, this ministry, was in fact the best. It’s what the best Christians do. It’s what the holiest Christians do. It’s what people who don’t have problems do. But you know what, that’s crazy talk. I’m not setting out to discourage folks from cross-cultural missions. I am trying to say, if you’re going to follow God across cultures, do it because he called you. Do it because you love people. Don’t do it because you think it’s what good Christians do.

 

Conclusion

Before we moved overseas, I wrote a song that had these lyrics, “To the ends of the earth, or down the street, where you send I will go, I will go.” I sang it with gusto and enthusiasm. I now realize it’s ridiculous; it’s based on the false dichotomy that some are called to go to cool places (the “ends of the earth”), and others are just called down the street.

We are ALL called down the street, it’s just that some of us have to travel a bit to find our street.

God didn’t want to send me to the ends of the earth OR down the street. He wanted to send me to Cambodia AND down the street. Why? Because the call of God is local. It’s right here, with the people in front of me.

He may call you to change streets (and that’s totally his prerogative), but once you get to your new street, you still have to love and serve the person in front of you. He may send you to a street that looks (and smells) nothing like the streets you’re used to. Great! But you know what, once you get there and learn their language, you still have to love and serve the person in front of you. It’s not rocket science.

So, whether your street is paved and filled with luxury cars, or it’s a collection of muddy ruts and filled with wildebeests, the call of God is the same. Love well. Serve well. Live your life in such a way, that…

   When people look at your eyes, they see our Father’s compassion.

       When they see you create, they marvel at our King’s genius.

             When they watch you sacrifice, they know our Savior’s kindness.

No matter what street you live on, may you truly experience life on the front lines of the Kingdom; not because you live on a special or super-holy street, but because on your street, “the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.”

 

*photo credit

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About Jonathan Trotter

Jonathan is a missionary in Southeast Asia, where he provides pastoral counseling at a local counseling center. He also serves as one of the pastors at an international church. Before moving to the field with his wife of sixteen years and their four kids, he served as a youth pastor in the Midwest for ten years. He enjoys walking with people towards Jesus and eating imported Twizzlers. | www.trotters41.com | facebook: trotters41 | twitter: @trotters41
  • Wendy

    Agreed! My blog is called “on the edge of ordinary” and my main goal is to show people that though we are missionaries, we are just ordinary people (if a little odd at times). http://www.mmuser.blogspot.com

    • Awesome, Wendy! I’ll check it out. (And yeah, I agree about the “odd” thing, at least as it relates to my family.) : )

      • Wendy

        I received some interesting comments on my post. One from an army chaplain said: I would say that I have met very few ardent admirers of missionaries.
        Sadly, I have met more who are quite indifferent.
        My reply: I think it isn’t just the ardent supporters who are an issue but anyone willing to harbour
        the thought that they couldn’t do what we do or that we are particularly brave.
        He replied: I would suggest that such people tend to worship the illusion
        of comfort and convenience, and that their idolatry is in thinking that they
        can control life for comfortable outcomes. I have often found people like that
        have no real interest in life stories that disrupt the illusions to which they
        desperately cling.

        • I’ve received some really interesting responses too, via e-mail and my personal Facebook page. : ) It really reveals the diversity of the worldwide body of Christ! Thanks for sharing the above interaction.

  • John Yoder

    Though I didn’t feel so good about it at the time, when God called me to serve full time in Cambodia, shortly after my arrival I was dissed by my church (who refused to ‘send’ me formally) and told that to them I was just another member who chose to live elsewhere. It was revealed to me later, that while I was experiencing some of the most incredible spiritual transformation (heart and mindset changes about living overseas vs US), many on the missions board were joking about me behind my back, saying that I was only going to Cambodia to find a wife. As it turned out, this was actually a blessing from God, because it put me on the proper footing for the work he had for me here, which was to arrive as His and the Cambodian people’s humble servant, and nothing more. He graciously set it up so that I was self supporting (I don;t envy fellow missionaries who have to bend God’s will to meet the expectations of their financial supporters), and introduced me to the organization I would represent here, months before I left my church – though at the time, I thought it was just a nice lunch with some other ‘missionary minded’ folks in my US hometown. Now, when I go back to the US, and get a few chances to speak about what I do in Cambodia, I’m honest with those I’m speaking with; telling them about how Christ transformed my heart so that I would actually desire to do what I’m doing now (Psalms 37:4), which makes me no more special than a golf enthusiast getting up at 6 am to ‘hit the course’ for a nice round of golf on any given day. From my first short term trip to Cambodia, till today – 9 years later, I’ve always believed that my being ‘sent’ by God to serve in Cambodia, has a lot more to do with the work that Christ wants to do in my life, and much less to do with the work he has me doing here; in the Kingdom of Cambodia. Great article Jonathan.

    • Christ does his work of transforming the heart. Awesome! Thanks for sharing your story, John! I’ve enjoyed getting to know you some over the last year or so! God bless you as you serve and love in the Kingdom of Wonder. : )

  • Elise

    Beautifully written. I am only a year in to this cross cultural living, and when I went home for a short furlough, I kept getting asked if it was hard to see the dramatic difference between America and a third world country. I am so thankful that during this preparation and last season The Lord has taught me that the core of what He is always after is the heart. Whether first world or third world! It always comes back to the heart! May we serve Him well across then globe AND down our street. Well written my friend!

    • Thanks, Elise! We really do want to make it about so much more than the heart, though. What’s going on in the heart is hard to measure and quantify! Of course, it will spill over into our actions, but as a byproduct. I heard someone say once, “overflow, not overwork.” I like that.

  • Mark

    While I understand the flow of thought here I must say that the main focus of your post is somewhat misleading and unbalanced. The issue you raise does not seem to be a main problem, at least where I came from. (Iowa, now living in Japan) Going to the all the nations is not “just another calling to go down the street”, it is the Great Commission – to reach the world that God loves! It is the heartbeat of God throughout Scripture starting in Genesis and ending in Revelation where all the nations are gathered before the throne. For Christians (all Christians) not to be about the unreached nations is an act of rebellion against God and His one revealed plan for this whole world. We all need to be involved in THIS plan by either giving or going – or we are being disobedient and we are missing out on God’s best! Missions exist because worship does not – that is the issue. It is a God issue. It is a worship issue. He is the focus. It is an urgent call, and it is a frontline ministry since there are millions who have never even HEARD the name of Christ! That should trouble every Christian alive today. The goal is to gather worshipers/ lovers of CHRIST in every nation, to gather the harvest, not SIMPLY to “be a missionary” wherever you happen to be. We need more than “missional” believers, we need missional believers who are also MISSIONARY believers in heart, soul, and action.

    • Mark

      Here is a bit more explanation on my blog: http://markandmaki.blogspot.jp/2014/11/the-idolatry-of-missions.html
      Blessings to you in your ministry, Jonathan.

    • Mark, I really appreciate your thoughts here and I believe they help to round out the discussion. My post is specifically designed to address some issues that I have observed, both in the States, and on the foreign field. Our missions agency “lives and breathes” for the unreached as well, and that’s one of the reasons we’re in Cambodia. My primary point was to address the subtle lie – that I believed – that said missionaries are somehow more worthy, more godly, and more holy. Indeed, the Church should be all about spreading the fame of Jesus to the whole world and following him wherever he leads. However, that does not mean that he will lead everyone to move overseas. It’s this distinction between “missionary” and “non-missionary” that I’m trying to address, as well as the fallout that comes to the missionary and the sending churches when the distinction is strong.

      • Mark

        Glad you feel it rounds out the discussion, Jonathan! Let’s continue giving all the glory to God – AND rounding up passion for God’s Name to be known and loved in all the world. “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached as a testimony to ALL the nations and then the end will come.” Missionaries in unreached people groups do have a very important and high calling that should not be neglected or undervalued.

        • RJR Fan

          The verb in the Great Commission isn’t GO — it’s μαθητευσατε — make disciples. This is a task right at hand for any Christian parents. Traditional missions agencies got this priority wrong, and the cost was astronomical. Hudson Taylor’s China Inland Mission hustled five year old children off to boarding schools, so that their parents could be free to focus on the “really” important stuff. Even when Taylor’s own son died of separation anxiety, this heartless policy remained in effect. In the 1980s, the truth leaked out about what hell holes of abuse (sexual and physical) these “missionary boarding schools” could be. Staffed, all too often, by angry and disappointed folks who couldn’t make it to the frontlines, where the “really important” stuff was happening.

          The folks in the mission fields watched, and learned. In China, one result was the “one child per family” policy.

          Home schooling the children entrusted to our care is our first duty as parents. If our faith isn’t good enough to raise our own children in, how dare we export it?

          So — where does this leave the folks with a passion for cross-cultural ministry? With five aces up their sleeves! A man’s family becomes, not a distraction, but a force multiplier! Your shortcomings and tics might be obvious to your new friends — but then they see how much your children respect you, and how much they enjoy working with you to serve guests in various ways.

          We recently pushed the last two little birds out of the nest, and moved to a rural site far from the “language partners” opportunities of our old home town. But some of our richest memories as a family revolve around the Turkish graduate students we adopted, spent time with, dined with, and shared our lives with.

          My prayer is that thousands of home schooling families will gasp at, and grasp for, the opportunity God has placed before us. We have the leisure, the energy, and the vision to invest in learning non-standard foreign languages. To learn about exotic cultures so different from our own. To build relationships with sojourners who were taught by Hollywood that Americans have no time for faith or family — and express relief to discover that this isn’t the whole story.

          My story of this adventure was published in a Muslim foundation’s magazine, BTW.
          http://www.tomsmedley.com/FountainArticle2.pdf

          • Mark

            I agree with everything you said… except for the first sentence. The command is to go and make disciples of ALL NATIONS. Every believer is responsible to be a part of this heartbeat of God. – I agree totally about the homeschooling etc!! You are so right about that and I am happy that we are able to homeschool our kids legally in Japan. We love to invite people into our fellowship at home. It is the best place to reach people. Missionaries have screwed up so many lives by getting their strategies and calling wrong. Amen.

          • RJR Fan

            A few of us are called to “go,” but almost all of us can build cross-cultural friendships right where we are. As Bob Finley, founder of Christian Aid Mission put it, we can not understand, at this point in history, why Hudson Taylor and William Carey felt compelled to leapfrog over all the thousands of Chinese and Indian sojourners right there in London. (The first Mrs. Carey suffered a psychotic breakdown, in fact.)

            Foreign students are often more receptive to new ideas and friends than they’d be back at home. They often struggle with their English (to appreciate how weird English is, study Turkish!). A man’s career can end in disgrace if his professors run out of patience with his syntax. Friends with red pens can be friends indeed, at a point of painful need.

            Help these scholarly guests with their English, and you’ll make friends. Show an interest in their language, and you’ll have a superhighway into their hearts — language is a core element of our identity.

            One of my long-range desires is to teach business English / communication in the Silk Road area. To be invited in through the front door, rather than trying to climb in over the back wall. I was invited to interview for a position in Kazakhstan, but the family freaked out. Turns out my wife was beginning “the long goodbye,” with early onset Alzheimer’s. Ah, well. Meanwhile, I have a shelf of Turkish textbooks, children’s books, and (extravagant chutzpah) a Turkish translation of James Joyce’s “Ulysses.”

            Back to the point: education is often a key to engaging a non-Christian culture. As Bojidar Marinov pointed out, “The famous Robert College in Istanbul was instrumental in spreading Protestantism on the Balkans by offering low-cost and high quality Western education to the sons of the wealthier Christian subjects of the Ottoman Empire. Even today, missions in India work as schools among the general population. Local authorities seldom object to education by Western missionaries.”
            http://americanvision.org/4597/a-missionarys-five-step-plan-for-effective-cultural-resistance/

          • Mark

            I am in Japan in part because over 80% of the Japanese students who become “Christians” overseas abandon that faith when they get back to “reality” in their own culture. We need to go, and support those who do, so that these people can live as Christians in their own culture. It is a great ministry to do educational work with internationals in the West, but it is key that we actually go to the unreached/ unengaged and support those who do. And yes, language education is the field that most Westerners can use. It is in fact what I do! – Blessings to you in your work and your labor of love to your wife.

          • RJR Fan

            Wow. I did not know that, Mark. Those numbers remind me of the American evangelical kids who jump ship as soon as they can.

            As a former nerd, I think in terms of systems vs. application software. The operating system establishes the environment that the application software runs on. If your basic OS is secular, you might run Christianity as a guest application in a sealed-off “sandbox.” But it’s an option, not a foundation. The OS defines “normal.” Default.

            This is why we home-schooled our kids. All education is religious education, and American parents who outsource the shaping of their children to the agents of an alien faith have only themselves to blame if the kids, upon coming of age, choose the faith that their own parents told them is the best match for “the REAL world.”

            No matter how much you overclock, turbocharge, or feague it, a navel view will never do when a worldview is required. This assertion makes sense if one approaches the issue from a post-mil presuppositionalist theonomic perspective.

    • Mo86

      “For Christians (all Christians) not to be about the unreached nations is an act of rebellion against God and His one revealed plan for this whole world. We all need to be involved in THIS plan by either giving or going – or we are being disobedient and we are missing out on God’s best!”

      This attitude is part of the idolatry. Those who are stuck at home for whatever reasons are made to feel not only inferior to those who do missions work abroad, but like you’ve done here, they are told they are being disobedient to God and missing His best.

      Trying to influence others for Christ at a 9 to 5 “secular” job (while also being heavily involved in your local church) is one of the hardest ministries out there. It is not rebellion. It is not God’s “second best”.

  • kgb

    I am currently serving overseas, but also served with the Special Forces. I agree with you that in both situations there can be excessive pride (hubris) if you aren’t careful. I’ve been blessed to serve the Lord in both situations.

    • Wow, you certainly have a unique vantage point on all of this! Thanks for stopping by.

  • Thank you for this. We were originally planning to “be sent out” to Mexico. We really enjoyed that idea and were affirmed in our circles. Yet, God changed up our plans, and we didn’t get out of our neighborhood. It took months of us wrestling with being called “to stay” when our Christian culture and OUR HEARTS wanted to do the elite thing – to go to another country as a missionary. I wrote a post just recently about this subject: When the Mission Field Slips in Under Your Feet http://frontporchinspired.com/2014/10/28/when-the-mission-field-slips-in-under-your-feet/
    Thank you again and God bless!
    Anne

    • Thanks for stopping by, Anne. I look forward to reading your story. By the way, what a great title! : )

  • Richelle Wright

    I’ve heard people say there are three choices: Go, send, or disobey.

    I agree that either seeing ourselves as somehow better, encouraging others to see us as more worthy and not taking the steps to correct that illusion are all wrong – and that is what we, as missionaries, can do.That “more worthy flies in the face of Christ-likeness. (“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men…”)

    At the same time, I think part of what people respond to is that as missionaries are part of a group who’ve been chosen… elected… confirmed… by their churches and other ministry partners to travel, to represent them in carrying out the Great Commission. Because of those words “chosen… elected… confirmed” – often the idea of elite become like a “topping,” and we missionaries easily forget that any talent or skill is a gift from God… because we’ve often worked hard to gain some skills for that calling. I think welcoming transparency, authenticity, vulnerability and accountability on the part of the missionaries… as well as grace, mercy and genuine partnering on the part of the church and others can go a long way towards helping this issue.

    • As always, Richelle, I appreciate your seasoned wisdom! I think you’re right, those words (chosen, elected, confirmed) can sort of leak into our souls and morph from something that should cause humbleness and reverent fear into something causing arrogance and pride. But wow, what a list: transparency, authenticity, vulnerability, accountability, grace, mercy, genuine partnerships. May the Bride of Christ be full of these things!

  • Bart

    This is interesting. While I think I understand the motive behind such a post, I do have a question:

    When taken as a whole group, would you not say that Christian missionaries (those serving overseas) are more godly than those Christians that are not? Would I notice no difference between, say, a group of 1000 overseas missionaries and a megachurch of 1000 people in downtown Orlando?

    I think, by and large, we would have to say that yes, Christians serving overseas exhibit, as a whole, a deeper appreciation for the Lord and a deeper love for those that do not yet know him. Now, there are absolutely many, many examples to the contrary. But I’m speaking generally.

    I love that you’re championing all godly work as honorable and equally faithful. There are no second class servants in the King’s Kingdom. I love that you point out that true faithfulness is not about a distance, but about going the right direction. And I love that you speak into what can be a soul crushing pride for missionaries who think they are better, or more worthy, or whatever.

    Yet, I wonder if the manner in which you’re trying to encourage those that feel “second-class” is actually doing a grave disservice to those that are serving overseas.

    • Thanks for dropping by, Bart! I really want to dialogue with you around this topic, but I was wondering if you could clarify something for me first. What do you see in this post that causes the most “disservice to those that are serving overseas”? That was definitely not my intent, so this discussion could be very helpful, I think. Thanks!

      • Bart

        Great question.

        I thought my post above somewhat hinted at it, but I would say the thing that causes the most disservice to those serving overseas is perhaps the unfair generalizations.

        In the caveat, for example, you correctly assert that cross-cultural missions is not a bad thing, yet I wonder who would actually say that? Would anyone actually say cross-cultural missions should not take place?
        Then you used your own story to talk about how you incorrectly believed cross-cultural missions was the best. I appreciated this. And I also appreciated your closing line, cautioning people who would go overseas due to a misguided belief that that is what good Christians do.
        But what of those that don’t believe these extremes?

        I don’t believe only “good Christians” are missionaries, nor do I believe cross-cultural missions is a bad thing. Yet I do believe, and this is perhaps what I feel like is the disservice to missionaries, that missionaries as a whole are a special, uniquely gifted and faithful bunch. Unique probably being the key word there. Uniquely faithful and especially bold as a whole.

        You are special and uniquely gifted and especially faithful to be doing what you’re doing. I am glad to call you my brother. I admire your family and it’s courage. But I think that, in this post, in your desire to empower those that are not overseas missionaries you’ve brought the missionary down, rather than simply brought the stay-home-lay-leader up.

        Hope that makes sense.

        • Bart

          And really, the thing that I feel like adequately describes what I feel like is the disservice is this: you commented,

          “My primary point was to address the subtle lie – that I believed – that said missionaries are somehow more worthy, more godly, and more holy.”

          I’m just not sure I believe that that is a lie at all. Again, as a collective whole, I believe missionaries do exhibit more godliness and holiness. That’s what I was getting at with my comparison between 1,000 missionaries and 1,000 members of a megachurch in Orlando.

          I think the heart behind saying “anyone can do what I do” or “missionaries are not any more godly or holy than any other believer” is a noble and humble one, but I think it’s just not fully true. Hebrews 11, as an example, does not just hold up everyone in the same manner. Some are especially faithful and to be honored and esteemed. This is ok. It is no disservice to those not in Hebrews 11. The disservice would be to say anyone can and even should be in the same chapter.

          I cannot imagine Paul sending a letter to Corinth saying anyone can do what he does. He would uplift their specific callings, he would beckon them to faithfulness, he would encourage and gush love on them, and all the while he would recognize the distinct difference between his call and his hearers.

          And many do not exhibit the faithfulness or courage or trust to go. That is not damnable or anything, but it still remains true. They are not less loved and cherished by the King.

          Missionaries, on the other hand, have proven their courage, they show regularly their trust, and that should be esteemed and honored.

          • sir

            Philippians 2:2-3: “Fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same
            love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through
            selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem
            others better than himself.”

          • I think the story of the prodigal son provides a good example of how one person(the older) can appear on the outside to be much holier than another (the younger son). But in reality he is just as lost as the younger son which is really the main point of the story and one that we usually don’t even recognize. (This basically comes from Tim Keller’s book The Prodigal God. Awesome book! ) So just because missionaries are doing something that many deem as a more honored profession is no reason to assume that on a heart level they are really closer to God than anyone else.

          • Bart

            I appreciate your thought, Andy.

            Yet here is in essence what you’ve just said — given the context of my current conversation with Jonathan:

            Just because a group of Christians happen to be doing, on the outside, the work of the Lord, it is no reason to assume on a heart level they are really closer to God than anyone else.

            I think 1 John, James, John 13-15, and numerous other passages would have very much to say about this, but regardless…

            If this is true, then pastors and priests and elders and whoever else may be in some esteemed or honored positions in the church must be looked at with a very critical eye. Regardless of their actions or position, we have “no reason to assume that on a heart level they are really closer to God than anyone else.”

            Again, and obviously, there are many many examples of failed pastors, missionaries, elders, and priests. In this case, one bad apple does not ruin the batch. I’m just saying that, as a whole, we must be willing to say that they exert more faith than your average believer. Mustn’t we? Why the aversion to saying this? Does it feel like pride?

          • I’m not exactly sure what your definition of average believer is but if it’s someone who committed to following Christ than I would have to say “no”, I don’t believe that as a whole they exert more faith than the average believer. I say this as someone who spent 20 years as a missionary if that lends any credence to it. Based on my experience (and many others) it just doesn’t fit with reality.

            Also, I was one of those bad apples. No offense taken. 🙂
            http://www.alifeoverseas.com/want-to-see-what-a-porn-addicted-missionary-looks-like/

            Actually porn is a good example of this. It affects missionaries and pastors just as much as it does average believer in the pew. The statistics all show this. I was just talking to the HR guy at work (I still work for a mission agency) today about this and he told me what a huge problem it is and they’re just not sure what to do about it.

            I’m not saying there aren’t some great men and women of faith out there in the overseas trenches. There definitely are! But there are also a ton of people struggling with their faith and that’s ok too. Our relationship with God is a journey and I thank God that part of my journey was into the pit of despair.

          • Bart

            Thanks for the quick reply!

            I’m starting to wonder if I’m coming off harsh. I sure hope not.
            As someone who has spent 3 years overseas, recently returning in March (actually being evacuated), and prior to that 6 years in college ministry in Ohio, I just feel like this is digging up lots of stuff in my heart.

            I’ve read the statistics on porn with missionaries. It’s interesting you’ve processed them through the lens of equality between all believers. I think when I’ve read them I’ve felt a tremendous burned to provide much better member-care for those serving. You probably felt that as well, I’m sure.

            Take this for example. I’m on staff with Cru. Every year we probably have 500 graduating seniors take one-year missions trips overseas. And we probably have 50,000 or so (totalyl made up that number) normal graduates. Am I wrong to assert that those 500 are, by and large, the more faithful lot?
            They aren’t more faithful BECAUSE they are going. That is just a by-product of their faith. But I would say they are the more faithful group, by and large. Would you not?

          • You’re not coming across as harsh Bart. I appreciate the way you have approached this! I too hope I don’t sound harsh. I think it’s great to be able to bounce opinions and ideas back and forth without getting defensive or angry because this is how we grow.

            So back to the fight. Haha. 🙂

            Regarding the 500 who attend the mission trip I would ask these questions:
            – How can we assume anything about the others who didn’t go? Do we know what they did instead? What if some decided to work with homeless people, or someone got sick or had a loved one who got sick and needed care, or maybe some simply felt that God was wanting them to work instead and pay off their school debt? Isn’t faith simply doing what God asks us to do and trusting that He’ll take care of us?
            – And now to the motives of the 500 who did go. Can we say that all of them had pure motives and great faith? Is it not possible that some of them graduated with a useless degree and couldn’t find a job so going on a missions trip seems like a good fill in the gap measure? Or maybe some of them are doing it out of a sense of guilt feeling like it’s something a good Christian must do in order to truly be loved by God?

            Motives are very hard to judge so I think it’s best to leave that to God.

        • Thanks for expounding on this. It does help to clarify. I think our hearts beat with the same passion and the same vision. That being said, it seems to me that our differences lie in our beginning assumptions. You state that “missionaries as a whole are a special, uniquely gifted and faithful bunch.” I respectfully disagree in part. Missionaries are often uniquely gifted to do the work they do, and most missionaries have received specialized training. However, the leap to saying that missionaries are more faithful is a jump I just can’t make. You mention below that missionaries “have proven their courage, they show regularly their trust, and that should be esteemed and honored.” I absolutely agree. But I would take it a step further and say that anyone who’s proven their courage or faith or trust should be esteemed and honored. That was my point precisely. I know missionaries who don’t show much of those things (and I have my moments, for sure). And I know believers back “at home” who are more faithful, more trusting, and more courageous than any missionary I’ve ever met. So, perhaps we’ll just have to agree to disagree on this. I’m ok with that, and I’m still thankful for your comments. : )

          • Bart

            Yes! Anyone who has proven their courage or faith or trust should be esteemed. Absolutely. I’m not sure I said anything to the contrary and if I did I was woefully mistaken.

            My problem has nothing to do with location — overseas or not. My problem is the generalization.

            Take it in a vacuum. Two different groups of people love Jesus. One group shares their faith. Another does not. Which group would you consider to be the more faithful?

            Now, you could play the super-spiritual card and just say that just because one group is sharing their faith and esteemed is no reason to assume they are more faithful. You would be right, but only in part. Of course we cannot know the inner workings and motivation of each group’s heart.

            And of course some in the first group who do not share their faith are trusting and faithful and courageous. I would hope so. But those in the second group, those that are already actively sharing their faith, are already showing their trust and their faith and their courage.

            In the caveat you asked those considering missions to “do not do it because it’s what they believe good christians do.” You’ve drawn an unfair line here between “good christians” and missions.
            Being a good christians means being missional. Caring for, loving, and laying our lives down on behalf of the poor, hurting and unbelieving is ABSOLUTELY what “good christians” do. So then, in a sense, being a missionary IS what good christians do. Now, serving cross-culturally is not the ONLY route good christians take, but that doesn’t change the fact that, by and large, missionaries ARE good christians because they are doing the things that good christians tend to do.

            The reality of examples of faithful lay-leaders and faithless missionaries should not control the narrative we have of either lay-leaders or missionaries.
            Just because some priests have been found to be sexual predators must not demean the faithfulness and esteem of the entire priesthood. Nor should the existence of a few faithful lay-leaders in the US rise the esteem and honor of a largely rich and apathetic american church.

            Missionaries are special, it is not proud to say so. I honestly wonder if it’s not some inverse-pride that refuses to say so. I’m not saying that’s the case here but I could see the temptation.

            Does it feel prideful to you to say that you are more faithful than others? If so, why? What if it is obviously true? (I genuinely would love an answer to those questions — it may help me in my heart processing).

            On a personal note, and with a personal plea, would you be willing to move this conversation to email? Or perhaps even skype? As someone who only recently returned from the field (March) and is potentially returning somewhere overseas, I really feel like this is something that I should give more thought to as pertaining my heart and motive.

          • Hey, Bart! Yeah, I’d be willing to continue via Skype. My Skype handle is trotters41. I have read your interaction with Andy Bruner below, and I want to second his recommendation of the book Prodigal God by Tim Keller. It is a wonderful book, and short too! I really believe that book would be powerful for you as you give more thought to these things. Thanks again for the discussion!

  • Ah

    Spectacular last paragraph. Love it! Thank you for sharing this.

  • Jennifer

    Amazing article!!! Like it was coming straight out of my brain but in better form that I could have written it. Thank you for being willing to write this and share with us. My desire is to see the world, the church, believers everywhere see missions as you have stated it!!! And yes, praise God for all those wonderful missionaries you named (who I too grew up reading about and dreaming about) and their love & dedication to the world!!! Blessings-Jennifer (missionary in Sao Paulo, Brazil)

    • Yes, I hope that came through…that I do indeed praise God for the love and service of so many who gave so much in the King’s service. And seriously, you’re brain comment’s awesome. Thanks. : )

  • Elissa Picconatto

    This strikes me at my heart. I’ve had this thought a few times, “I’ve already sacrificed enough, haven’t I God? I’m an ocean away from my home!” Then I’d repent of it and ask him to help me through the trouble. I know I’ve given up a lot. But that doesn’t mean my dues are paid and now I get a free pass from trouble. There are many faithful people from my Stateside home who are in the middle of struggles and trials right now too.

    I agree with this article on so many levels. False idols=missing out on authenticity and God’s joy.

    Objects on pedestals are easier to knock down and make a bigger crash than grounded objects.

    • Right! May we all be “grounded objects,” planted deep in the Love of Christ. Thanks for that, Elissa!

  • Tara Porter-Livesay

    SO so well written and expressed. Great thoughts and Amen.

  • Margaret

    Love your honesty. Many years ago, I went to Uruguay and worked with the missionaries and helped with VBS for the MKs. I learned then that missionaries are regular people working for Christ in a different place. The missionary hosted a WMU meeting in her home and I thought that’s just like back home.
    Recently I have had a chance to move to South Africa with my husband. I have not been sent here by a denomination as a missionary, but I have been sent here by Christ to be the same missionary I was being in Alabama. Thank you for your reminder of why I have this great opportunity: to love people for Christ where ever my home street is.

    • Thanks for sharing your story, Margaret. May God be with you as follow Him to the ends of the earth AND down the street. : )

  • Joshua

    Interesting article, I totally agree with the premise, that we should never idolize people or even a job (like being a missionary); but I, too, grew up in a culture where missions was placed as a high priority and missionaries were viewed as heroes. Almost every social structure or culture has some type of hero, people that other people look up to. Most countries in the world have a day to memorialize and honour veterans; but this is not to say that we idolize soldiers. We simply respect what they represent. Soldiers are everyday people like you and me, and that’s how I’ve always viewed them, but I have the highest respect for what they do. That is not to say that I idolize soldiers or the military. The same is true with my experience in missions and with missionaries. We exalted the calling of missionaries in our church growing up, and treated missionaries well, but it never gave me this idea that they were supermen. In fact, I am a missionary in Africa and have only been humbled by just how well we are treated in many churches because we are missionaries. This humbles me because I know just how human I really am, and it is not I who am special, but the God who called me who is special. I think it boils down to personal experience and how you interpret that experience. Like you said, “The error was mine, not theirs.” That statement really sums it up. I think I had a very similar experience to you, but interpreted it differently. In fact, I learned at a young age that if I was going to become a good missionary overseas, then I had to make sure that I was a good Christian at home, no matter what my job was (I worked in a grocery store).

    • Thanks for chiming in, Joshua. For sure, there’s a difference between respect and worship, and I’m glad you highlighted that. Perhaps I could clarify something else though; I was not trying to communicate that we shouldn’t give honor where honor is due. I was trying to communicate that sometimes honor is due the faithful at “home.” I’m all for honoring and respecting and learning from the heroes of our faith, it’s just that sometimes the heroes live among us instead of across an ocean. We must not forget them. Thanks again for the comment, Joshua. May the God of Peace be with you.

  • Fay Girouard

    not only true for ‘missionaries’ but ‘ministers’ in general

  • Lidia

    Elizabeth, thanks so much for posting this. So true. I was one of those, until I got told I wasn’t much worth in my field. It crushed me. It crushed my identity because I was trying to be that good Christian and I had failed. But it was at that moment that I realized that my value and worth were not based on what I do for Christ, and certainly not on what mere mortals thought of me. My identity is based on what Christ has done for me. His love is so extensive that it covers all my inadequacies and says: “I love you because I love you. I love you for you, not for what you do.” It set me free (and is setting me free) to really live and love for Him, out of a response of awe for His love for me and regardless of whether or not I am accepted by others.

    • Wow, Lidia, thank you so much for sharing this very personal story with us. It is so helpful for the community here (myself included!) to see this.
      May we all experience “that moment that I realized that my value and worth were not based on what I do for Christ,” because it’s those kind of moments that set us free, as you mention, “to really live and love for Him, out of a response of awe for His love for me and regardless of whether or not I am accepted by others.” May the God of Peace walk (and dance!) with you. Again, thank you so much.

  • Lynn Shearer

    Another interesting fact is that many missionaries’ children have difficulty integrating into the American culture after they return to the states. Often those children suffer from depression and rebellion issues. I wish that there could be help for those children. They suffer unnoticed until it is too late–IE: suicide. I have several missionary friends who had dealt with this, silently, receiving only censure, but no help. How can we as a church family deal with this in a life-saving way?

  • Thanks for this, Jonathan. You’re willing to say the hard stuff and that’s enormously valuable.

    • Thanks, Kay. You and Andy have done your fair share of “saying hard stuff” too, and Elizabeth and I are so grateful for your witness.

  • Andres Muñoz Johnstone

    Really enjoyed reading this post and the comments, here’s the story someone shared with me about himself, it really helped me put things in perspective:
    When he finished high schooll back in Ireland (1.950’s) he decided to be a missionary, for him missionaries were the best, the top class of the christian society, everybody else was second class: pastors, business men, elders, sunday school teachers, etc., not worthy to be in the same sentence!, He would consider them cowards!, becouse missionaries were in the front line willing to die!
    He went to Bible school in Belfast, 4 years, one of the best off his class, when he finished he started contacting different mission agencies, but nobody called him back, all the doors just closed on him. He tried going to Asia, Africa, South America, nothing! He REALLY wanted to be a missionary, several moths later he finally went in prayer to Lord and asked the Lord, whats wrong? Why are all the doors closed? The Lord answered him. “You never asked ME what my plans were for you!” He almost fainted!!
    Lord, what are YOUR plans for me? he asked. “Go and work with your dad in the small store he has” said the Lord. Now the Lord was asking him to work in something he considered inferior, something he despised. He decided to obey the Lord and started to work in this small store, as the years went by the small store grew, and grew, and grew and he became a very succesful bussinesman…!!! So now he was able to support dozens of missionaries thruout the world!!

    I think from the Lord’s point of view it’s all about HIS WILL, and what we do regarding HIS will. May it be as a missionary, or pastor, or sunday school teacher, or “just” a mom raising a new generation of Christians. It’s all about the will of the Lord for my life, nothing more nothing less.

    • Thanks for sharing this, Andres! This story perfectly captures the heart of what I was trying to communicate. : )

  • David C. Sisson

    The European system of mission work gives enough support to missionaries so that they can share the gospel full time, start a church, do whatever they need to do. The only problem is that from the viewpoint of the people that watch them live in the field. The missionary never has to work, always has lots of money, and lives an extremely fancy lifestyle. This has two detrimental affects. First it creates a culture of backbiting, gossip, and infighting because everyone in the church wants to be the one to get the next handout. If they see someone else getting to close, and too friendly with the missionary they will do or say anything to destroy that relationship. Second, the life goals of new Christians are to connect to foreign churches, or Christians that will support them so they can quit working. So they will take a few pictures of them giving rice to an older couple and than go hunting up support.
    When a house costs 500 dollars and minimum wage is 10 bucks a month why is a missionary required to raise 5000 dollars a month support? Why doesn’t he get a job and support himself while in country? Show a good example, and make contacts that he would never make otherwise. The kind of contacts that respect you, and not for your money.

    • Yeah, you’ve touched on a heavily discussed (debated?) topic in missions right there! : ) I know I’ve seen people wrestle with these very questions, seek God’s will on the matter, and arrive at very different conclusions.

  • Kristi Lonheim

    Yup. All called to His mission, just a matter of where.

    I LOVE this line, “The arithmetic of the Almighty includes variables we can’t see.”

    • Thanks, Kristi! And for the record, I’m blaming that line on the fact that I’m married to an engineer. : ) God bless!

  • Brent and Sj

    We have We have been saying this for years. We life in Mexico and have been serving the Lord as a family internationally for the past eight years. We agree fully with this article.

    Missions should be a lifestyle not a title. It’s all too common for
    missionaries to be put on pedestals, and just as common for missionaries
    to want to stay there. Some groups go so far as to say these are the, “crème of the crop”. Damage is exactly what happens and has happened.

    MKs children too often either grow up with resentment or a
    false inflated ego. Both are shameful.

    Missions can become a way to
    “lord it over the flock.” You are exactly right in saying, that
    elevating missions “marginalizes the godly saints in the local body…”

    • Thanks so much for adding these thoughts! I agree with you, and it’s sooo sad, that it’s “just as common for missionaries to want to stay there.” And yikes, your comments about MKs are poignant and I hope more and more folks begin to discuss and process these things. Thanks again!

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  • Erika Loftis

    I just want to say a hearty “Amen’! I have been thinking about this SO much lately. Being a “missionary” myself… which was a lifetime dream… Well, actually what I’m doing now was not a lifetime dream. I am a stay at home mum of 4, while my husband does counseling in a counseling center here in Thailand, and also Media stuff for our agency, and I, a “missionary” am a stay at home mum. I don’t even have piles of wonderful local pals with whom I share the Gospel. Turns out you need to be able to speak a bit more language than I have been gifted to glean in our two years between nappy changes, snacks, and crafts… I am a missionary disappointment. A walking missionary failure. I had always wanted to be an AWESOME missionary. Not a normal one who made mistakes. And used air-conditioning… and deodorant (because of course all “natives” forgo the wonders of deodorant and leg shaving for more earthy pagan pursuits… sheesh) I have been thinking lately, as many many people say “Wow! You are so brave, and have such an impressive faith” how that sets me apart from them. As if, by some magic God-powers I’ve become a super-human. Well, I will confess, I am not. In fact, I have never struggled with my faith as much as these last two years, our first two years on the mission field, on the sacred grounds of foreign soil… I think that up-holding missionaries as doing some more sacred work than people who are spreading the gospel where they live damages the church, the missionary, and the Body of Christ as a whole. In fact, aren’t many of us desirous of a LOCAL church, LOCAL missions, LOCAL believers reaching their neighbors with the Gospel? We as missionaries are certainly NOT more sacred, nor is our work any more honored by God than the God-honouring way my house keeper cleans my house. It is ALL as unto the Lord. Well, hopefully anyway… 🙂

    • “I am a missionary disappointment.” Whoa, those are heavy words, and I’ve heard them over and over and over again. Thanks so much for your honesty in this comment, Erika. I really appreciate your thoughts and I’m glad you shared. You may have seen this already, but my wife actually wrote a post called “I’m a Proverbs 31 Failure.” I think it might resonate with you. Here’s the link: http://trotters41.com/2013/09/14/im-a-proverbs-31-failure/

      Also, if you haven’t read my post on Missionary Mommy Wars, it might encourage you too, cause it echoes a lot of what you’re saying and feeling. It’s here: http://www.alifeoverseas.com/missionary-mommy-wars/

      Thanks again for sharing, and may the God of Peace be with you and yours.

  • lostandfound2013

    Jonathan, I can’t thank you enough for writing this. This is so great and provides such a great perspective. I think that the problem here is connected with the “superstar” perspective that is prevalent across western Christianity. In many sectors, it’s like anyone in ministry is a superstar, which is directly opposite of what Jesus taught. You’re so right, what about the faithful old people who serve the Lord in silence and obscurity like the blue-collar worker you mentioned? No one gives them much accolades at all, but the church is supposed to pay attention to folks like this (1 Cor. 12). We borrow too much from the thinking of the world today. We are all servants of the living God. Thanks so much for posting this!
    By the way if you’re on Google Plus, I think the Christian Missionaries forum could really benefit from more of your articles. MissionTravel.org was so great to link your post to the forum. I’m a moderator there and you’re more than welcome to come and post more of your articles and stories.

    • Thanks for the invite! I think I found the forum and joined already. : ) And the whole superstar vs. what Jesus taught, that’s a great way to put it. Thanks for stopping by!

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  • Jon

    Jonathan,

    We just discovered your page and have been reading your posts for the last half an hour, laughing as we go. Great stuff, especially in light of also living here in S. Asia (Bangladesh). Appreciate your honest and humor. Also for talking about the stuff people don’t talk about/isn’t addressed and confronting it head on. You are spot on bro. Thanks so much, Jon and Katie

    • Thanks for the encouragement, guys, and I’m glad you found the site! (I’m also really happy it brought some laughter to your particular spot on the planet.) : )

  • Brenton

    Hi Jonathan

    Great article!!!

    A statement that I love is “Every Christian is either a missionary or an impostor.” ― Charles Haddon Spurgeon

    My family and myself will be living in Sihanoukville by August this year, we will be there about 4 years. Not sure where God will use us yet but interested to know what you do in Cambodia.

    We are from Australia and have been in the Philippines for the last 4 years.

    I’m not a pastor or a missionary but my family are best at partnering and supporting other ministries.

    We have been serving in Victory Church in Dumaguete for the last 4 years and assisting Little Children of the Philippines Dumaguete. We have a heart for seeing the gospel spread and assisting with helping the least of society.

    Victory where we attend has about 16 Every Nation churches in Phnom Penh but we won’t be living there. I was offered to be trained up as a pastor but in my heart I love business and supporting other ministries, additionally my wife just loves to support as well.

    Cheers.

    • Hey, Brenton! Thanks for stopping by! And yeah, that’s a great quote! Here’s a link to our family website with some contact info: https://trotters41.com/about-us/ I work part-time as one of the pastors at ICA church here in Phnom Penh, providing pastoral care and counseling. I also do some one on one counseling/discipleship in Khmer. I work a bit at Living Well, a counseling center serving the expat community. http://www.livingwellcambodia.org Stay in touch, brother!

      • Brenton

        Hi Jonathan

        Thanks for the reply!. You said “I work a bit at Living Well, a counseling center serving the expat community.”. It appears from the expat community in Dumaguete, which is very large, that this is a large ministry area.
        In Victory Church which is a predominant youth Mega Church in the Philippines, more recently in Dumaguete in the last year a lot of older expats have started attending, which is a good thing. It seems though many of them are challenged for varied reasons, hence why I said it is a large ministry area.

        I have saved your blog and will message as we are closer to arriving, let’s catch up if you have time.

        Do you know any ministries in Sihanoukville we can support?

        We moved to the Philippines by faith about 4 years ago and are doing the same with our move to Cambodia, therefore we are looking for opportunities where God can use us. We have found on the internet that there is a c3 church where we are moving and also an outreach ministry to some of the least in the community.

        If you know any other people that are ministering in that region, where we might potentially be able to help, then let us know. Cheers!!!!!

        Regards

        Brenton

        • Hey! I’m not too connected with what’s going on down in Sihanoukville, so I probably won’t be too much help with that. But still, shoot me an e-mail or something when you get here and we’ll try to connect somehow. Happy Tuesday!

  • Marsha Hubler

    Our church is REALLY BIG with its missionary support, but our pastor and all our missionaries we support have always made it clear they are “just folks like the rest of the congregation.” Our pastor also preaches regularly that we as Christians are all “missionaries” who need to share the gospel with our neighbors, even though we might have secular jobs.

    • Sounds like a healthy perspective, Marsha! It’s pretty unique to have that particular perspective AND a lot of missionary support.

  • Good article Jonathan. I truly believe each believers calling is equally important. God has a plan for each of us, I don’t believe we can put more value on anyone’s calling. If a person is doing what God has called them to do, how can we say it is minor, not at all. Sadly we us the world’s guidelines instead of God’s. In my 32 years of ministry I have seen missionaries who feel they are above everyone and some who are so humble, also I have seem pastors who feel they walk on water by their own power and some that are so humble. What I want to see is the honoring of each believer as they follow God’s plan for their life. Simply put, all can not be full-missionaries, who would support them, (giving is a gift right), all can’t be pastor, who would they pastor, and on and on… what we need to do is follow our calling and honor each other as they follow that call. Again, good article with points that do touch a lot of God’s followers.

    • Thanks for the comment! It’s amazing how we’re still having this discussion of giftings and callings and who’s got the better one. Like you said, let’s honor each believer as they follow God’s plan…

  • Dalaina May

    I know this is an old post, but I want to say how much I appreciate it! I was just getting ready to speak on character and spiritual development to a group of 1st termers, and the material I was given is half unusable. There was a section in there that said “If you are not in this for the long haul and 100% certain about it, you won’t make it. Go home.” Really?! Nope. I am not feeding that kind of shame into the next generation. How about, “Are you convinced that this is the faithful next step for today? Then go with grace and blessing and joy, knowing that at some point – maybe sooner than you think!- the next faithful step will bring you back home and that obedient step is no less worthy than the first.”

    I am substituting this article instead. 🙂

    • Wow. If 100% certainty is the required benchmark, yikes! Just go home?! That’s crazy! I’m glad this article was helpful. : ) Thanks so much for subverting the culture of shame!

  • Missionary Yesutor Blessing Gu

    Thank you for the honest analysis of the fallouts in thinking as regards cross-cultural missions. Because you are in it yourself i.e. serving cross-culturally, it makes the reading come alive and even lovelier! Certainly, we must, as we say in Ghana, call a spade what it is, ie a spade and not a farm implement. Love you and God bless.

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