Mistake #1. Trusting Untrustworthy People
Note: To be fair, my wife and I have been BLESSED with many wonderful ministry partners. Additionally, many who are not reliable may have been set up for failure by me because I did not give them the proper tools and accountability to succeed. Prayerfully, this is an area for me to grow in.
In missions, you can’t only work with reliable people… it’s just not an option. Sometimes we must work with untrustworthy people. There are at least three reasons for this;
- We don’t necessarily know who is trustworthy before we start working with them. Asking other people as to who one can rely on necessitates trusting those people for their recommendations. Volunteers may seek to join who have an inadequate set of references. Or they have proven to be reliable in one area but are untested in another area.
- Sometimes, people with a proven record of reliability are simply not available. If there is no one available to partner with who has a proven track record of reliability, perhaps it is best not to work in that area. But sometimes choosing not to work in that area is not an option. If one is working with a trustworthy church in an outreach ministry, one may have to also work with a potentially untrustworthy government official. Or an unreliable gatekeeper may have to be dealt with to go from vision to reality.
- In missions, we need to be open to give someone another chance. Christ gave another chance to “untrustworthy” Peter, while Barnabbas gave another chance to John Mark.Since I just said that one must at times work with untrustworthy people, where is my mistake? My error (one I have made more than once) has been working with untrustworthy people without proper accountability and standards. In other words, I am guilty of trusting people who were not trustworthy. Accountability means overseeing and verifying that things are being done as they should. Standards means there is something to compare against. After all, how does one know whether someone is reliable or not if one doesn’t have standards to compare them against?
Okay, so why have I made this mistake on multiple occasions? I have at least three reasons (I may add more as time goes on):
- A Theology of Empowerment. In missions, I believe that a missionary should train and develop others and pull back. That requires empowering them with the resources and opportunity to succeed… or make mistakes. This is not necessarily a bad reason… but tied to the other two reasons, there can be bigger issues.
- Hope/Desire. I want someone to succeed. I hope they can be trusted. But sometimes hope and desire can lead one astray just as one who bets money on a “sure thing” (hope and desire do not win wars or games). Christians often don’t call it hope or desire… they call it “faith.” But faith without a solid basis is presumption. God has NOT promised that bad plans must succeed simply because we “will it” (by faith) to succeed. <I have known people to rip verses out of the Bible to support such a theology… but it’s still not true.>
- Laziness. I know that some people need oversight. I suppose on some level we all need oversight and accountability. But, really, when one has a busy schedule, the hope is that others will come along side to make your life easier. Training, oversight, and accountability takes time and effort. It is easier just to empower someone and hope that things work out.