Saturday, June 20, 2009

Missionary Material

I love the phrase "missionary material." The only time you ever hear it is when we're judging whether or not someone should be a missionary. Either they're not spiritual enough or they're not tough enough. We say, "I don't think they're missionary material."

I've probably uttered these words once in my life. I don't have a specific memory, but I wouldn't deny it if someone else did. I know I've thought that way before. But this phrase just makes me want to laugh now.


Because usually we have some pretty uninformed ideas of what kind of person makes a good missionary. Would the following things be on your list?

* Loves adventure.
* Very extroverted.
* Independent.
* Doesn't mind being dirty.
* Enjoys eating strange foods.
* A little on the wild side.
* Has a strong sense of God's calling.
* Loves working with children.
* Doesn't miss home, friends or loved ones when gone.
* Loves mixing and pouring concrete.
* Has MacGyver-like skills at fixing almost anything.
* Confident riding motorcycles.
* Enjoys speaking to large crowds of people.
* Has no need for luxury or convenience.
* Can live on next to nothing.
* Has training in agriculture or machine mechanics.
* Good at initiating conversations with strangers.
* Loves to travel and can't stay in one place (wanderlust).
* Has a pith helmet.

Well, let me tell you that while many missionaries do possess many of these qualities, many of them are actually less effective BECAUSE of these same things.

I once met a person who told me they wouldn't be a good missionary because it would be too difficult to leave relatives, friends and loved ones. They suggested that people who don't miss their families would be better missionaries.

Actually, I think those who know how to form deep relationships with others and then feel like they don't know what they could do without a close connection to those people would actually make very good missionaries. Those who don't have deep relational ties at home usually aren't able to form deep ties with nationals on the field, either.

Those who are "social butterflies" aren't as good at discipling small groups of people.

Those who are very independent often clash with other missionaries on the field (who are also very independent). (You've heard we missionaries don't get along very well, right? And that most of us who return home early do so because of differences with other missionaries on the field. Well, that independent streak has a lot to do with that.)

Those who are good at mechanics, farming or some other skill often get caught up into doing work.

Those who love to work with children often don't know how to relate to the leaders and decision makers in their location and are sometimes seen as deceptive by preying on the little ones to spread their foreign religion.

Those who have wanderlust aren't very good at staying put on the mission field, either, and are always traveling around and not doing consistent ministry in any one location.

Those who can jump in, blend in and live in poverty are often seen as strange and useless in the eyes of nationals who know the missionary has more money than them.

So, don't sell yourself short. You don't have to be a cross between Indiana Jones, MacGyver, Jason Bourne and Mother Teresa in order to be a missionary. God calls people of all shapes and sizes.

No comments:

Post a Comment