Missionary Sam was a machine. He could go into a new community, set up an event, form up the respondents, place a pastor in charge, and be onto the next community in a matter of weeks. After a few years of such stunning success, he wrote up his dissertation on his methodology, and “retired” to a life of being a church growth expert and professor.
Sadly, nearly all of his church plants failed within months of their creation. But it doesn’t matter.
Sam was a church planter, it wasn’t his job to maintain a church. His job now is to teach missionaries how to plant churches, not develop viable, self-sustaining, and self-propagating churches.
Missions is not just a ministry… it is also a career. A lot of great missionaries go through life with little that can be used to demonstrate success. Sadly, many mediocre missionaries are extremely competent at the career side of missions. This is true with most jobs. With some effort it is possible to separate the self-promoter from the faithful servant, but the ones most capable of making the judgment are the missionary and those that work the closest with the missionary. If it is about God… if it is about His kingdom… if it is about the people that God misses most… if it is about Jesus and his call for faithful servants— then it is NOT about awesome statistics… it is not about career tracks… it is not about accumulation of positions and awards.
The best missionaries often will live lives of obscurity and (apparent) mediocrity. But God knows the truth, as do many of those closest to them.