The keys to success in Christian missions are far different than they were during the greater part of the last three preceding centuries.
Success in Christian missions today requires much more than a person packing their personal belongings in a trunk and heading off into the great unknown. At this unparalleled point in human history, individual missionaries are far more well-equipped to face the challenges they will face at their destination.
Success on the mission field requires a combination of commitment, cooperation, and collaboration.
No one will ever succeed in advancing the Gospel in Christian missions without an unshakable commitment to the Lord’s persistent calling on their life. Books (the things we used to read before the internet) are replete with stories of people who did not particularly plan or have a desire to travel to a foreign mission field.
Many recall their resistance when they first felt the Lord drawing them to go to a place that seemed far less comfortable and far less civilized. Yet, their commitment to go was based on their desire to do the Lord’s work regardless. Their response to submit to His will blossomed into a resolve to commit to His work.
In that respect, nothing has changed.
Like any other person in any other place, a missionary lives within a place that operates by systems that may be radically different. Whatever that system is, it has been in place a lot longer than the individual missionary.
It is never a good idea to insert oneself into a neighborhood, a business, a church, or another country and expect the native people to adapt to your way (system) of doing things. To be a part of a smoothly operating system, you must fit in, i.e., operate in your assigned place and at the accepted pace.
The missionary may have to learn to operate simultaneously within several systems. For instance, various national laws and local ordinances may be significantly different than they are back home. Processes – and the pace of those processes – may not have the fluidity and efficiency the missionary is accustomed to.
Many other things, including lifestyles, customs, food, and culture, can be decidedly different.
Living in a foreign country means living in a system that is also entirely foreign. The missionary is not sent to change the system. Success in Christian mission work requires the missionary to change and cooperate within the system into which he has entered.
One person cannot build a ministry alone. A missionary must understand that he cannot complete his mission on his own.
Success in Christian missions requires collaboration with others.
Horizontal Collaboration with other Christ-honoring ministries. Elijah may have felt like he was alone, but he learned that there were 7,0000 others like him who had remained committed to Jehovah.
Sometimes we may feel like we are endued with some kind of superpower so that we can take on the entire task by ourselves. At other times, we may feel that we are all alone and that the job is just too big.
Neither is true, but the latter is much closer to how most of us feel.
A missionary needs Bibles. Generally, the most economical means of obtaining Bibles is by collaborating with one of the many Christian organizations that translate, print, and/ or distribute Bibles and Christian literature.
With so many Christian missions’ efforts focused on providing health and wellness services, the most efficient way of doing so is hiring outside help for these areas of ministry.
Not many Christian missions agencies own well-drilling equipment or have access to means of maintenance. Drilling wells requires collaboration with a willing company partner, probably not operated by Christians.
The same goes for food supplies, production, and distribution. Is the missionary or agency capable of doing this on their own? What about qualified teachers for school children? What about contractors to build schools, churches, and clinics?
Collaboration is necessary unless a mission organization wants to invest significant funds in capital expenditures. Among other considerations, capital expenditures require either extraordinary funding or debt acquisition.
Growth in Christian missions is good, but it may come riddled with hidden costs that leak funds like a sieve or distract the missionaries’ work by drawing their attention away from their reason for being there, which is leading unbelievers to become Christ-followers.
One particularly pernicious source of compromise is when missionaries and mission organizations latch onto the coattails of powerful secular organizations that are working jointly to establish a prophesied global economy, government, and religion.
Our commitment, whether missionary, agency, or donor, is to keep the Lord’s work of discipleship at the forefront of our efforts. Jesus is King, and it is under His banner that we serve.
Cooperation and collaboration are essential for success in Christian missions. Above all else, however, is our commitment to proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If that commitment is ever compromised, we are reduced to being a humanitarian agency, giving primacy to physical needs and rallying to causes that break our hearts but that do not prepare lost souls for eternity.
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