Sometimes the stories we tell of those we minister to can become dangerous.
I’ve been at this missions thing for 23 years now. I’ve made a lot of mistakes.
I often reflect on things I did in the past and cringe. Hindsight is always 20/20, but perhaps others can learn from my mistakes.
One mistake centers around how I have reflected the stories of others to my own supporters and sending churches / organizations.
One of the things our organization does is partner with nationals who are also involved in missions. We attempt to raise monthly support for them and use our network to assist financially.
We often highlight one of these nationals in our periodic newsletters. We share what they are involved in and add something like, “your support to Project Grace helps this individual/or family to accomplish this work…”.
This approach seems harmless enough, but there are several dangers involved.
We realized this when years later, one of these people who had since moved on, contacted us and confessed that they had harbored bad feelings to us for how we represented them. He felt we were “using” him to show how great our ministry was. This dear friend carried this hurt for years till he finally was able to express it. We were so grieved and set about attempting to restore the relationship.
There are some lessons here. We can share dangerous stories without even intending to. There is an appropriate sharing of stories which must happen. How can we guard against the danger but still share to the glory of God?
5 Signs You are Telling Dangerous Stories:
1. Carefully consider your words. If the person were standing next to us, would we reflect our stories in a different way? There is always a temptation to embellish poverty, lostness, or a person’s state of need.
2. Avoid any hint of superiority. This is rarely intended, but so many sharing times promote a “they are so primitive, we must help them see the light” mindset. I’ve sat in far too many testimony times where people ignorantly share how horrible a foreign land was, not thinking that there are nationals from those very places present!
Sometimes, the people we are attempting to show the gospel of grace to, walk in massive grace with us!
3. Ask their permission. This was the biggest mistake I made in the above story. This helps you cut through any misguided motivations in a hurry.
4. Share in the blessings. If you benefit materially from sharing a story, it would be good to extend a blessing to the friend or co-worker you shared about.
Imagine what this scenarios seems like for a national:
- They know you are sharing their story.
- Often we as missionaries live a higher lifestyle than those who’s stories we share.
- Even the most noble of people would have a question or two about the use of funds which was in part gained by their story.
Sharing the resources promotes open communication. We’ve receive donations and when sharing the blessing, told our friends, “We told your story and people were blessed. They ended up blessing us so we wanted to pass some of this on to you.”
5. God must be honored. Are stories shared in a way which is honoring God or us?
Do we become savior, rescuer, and the lifter of people’s heads or is that place reserved for Jesus?
No one sets out to say this, but our words can convey this if we are not careful.
Attention Life Overseas Community!
I am sure we have countless stories and mistakes made in this area among us. Let’s share and learn from each other!
What pieces of advice would you add to the five I have mentioned? How can we avoid Dangerous Stories?