OKAY… CONFESSION TIME.
I have a job in a missions organization (administrator of a Christian Counseling and Training Center). I also have had a role as missions director in more than one local church. I found myself drifting away from doing good work as missions director. Why? Because the churches had relatively little interest in missions as a group (at least compared to missions organizations I have been involved in). Sure there were a few people, but they were a small missions core in a much larger congregation. I tended to feel the church was selfish because they focused on member care most, with some interest in church growth (increase numbers in OUR church), little in classic missions (growth of God’s Kingdom, with little to no direct effect on our church).
However, I had two major realizations:
1. Maybe the churches were selfish… but so was I. A church that sends money, people, or resources to the other side of the world gets no real tangible return on their investment. Doing things “for the Kingdom of God” is pretty abstract for most church members. But as a missionary, I get credit for everything. I get credit for what I do in church… I get credit for what I do outside the church, on a local level… I get credit for what I do that creates change far away. Maybe churches are selfish (they are made up of people, and people are selfish), but I can’t be so sure that I am not selfish either. Would I invest in things joyously that I could not, on some level, claim credit? Perhaps my lack of effort in the church demonstrated my own selfishness, not willing to invest time in something because in may not result in something good (something I can take credit in).
2. Perhaps more than just being selfish, I was being lazy. A major role of the missionary is to reproduce himself. I believe the reason that so many churches in the Philippines (for example) have little to no cross-cultural missions interest is that they were trained up by missionaries. The missionaries did not instill in these churches an excitement for cross-cultural missions because this form of missions “is the missionary’s job”. Often the greatest missionaries were those who could inspire people and churches to missions who, otherwise, would not have. Missionaries often like to work in missions groups, because the members of these groups are already motivated, already wanting to learn, and already desiring to do great things in the world. Missionaries don’t have to go through the difficult and unreliable task of motivating and training those who don’t share this burden and passion.
A good missionary does more than organize a coalition of the willing. He inspires churches and church members to join God in His mission (Missio Dei).
So I intend to make some changes. We will see how this goes.