Monday, July 17

A response to "Should Missionaries Feel Pressure to Produce Converts?"

Wade Burleson posted yesterday on his blog a good article entitled, "Should Missionaries Feel Pressure to Produce Converts?" I agree with Wade that many missionaries seem to sense a feeling of being "pressured to produce."

I would like to respond to his question from my own perspective. I am one of those missionaries who feel an incredible amount of pressure to produce converts, baptisms, church starts, 2nd-3rd generation multiplication, etc. The pressure I feel, though, is not coming from the IMB or our immediate leadership. Rather, it comes from an inner sense of urgency that we have a unique window of time in which to gather in the harvest. We are seeing very little fruit in light of what we sense we ought to be seeing. So much time is being lost daily due to our floundering and indecisiveness. We can't quite seem to be able to put all the pieces together.

The Lord has provided us with every resource needed to bring in the harvest. The Gospel has been present in Ecuador for more than 100 years. There are some 800,000 evangelical believers in this country of 13-million. A huge army with which to work and more than enough "foot soldiers" to easily finish the task in this generation. We have the Scriptures in the main languages spoken, abundance of adequate materials to work with, Christian radio and TV, literature ministry, theological education, general openness to the Gospel, national and international missions efforts, etc. What is left to complain about not having? God has provided every tool and resource necessary to finish the task. Why haven't we been able to bring in the harvest? Therein lies the "pressure" the frustration that I feel. If the Lord were to return today, 94 out of every 100 people in Ecuador would pass into a Christless eternity. Talk about PRESSURE! Have we lost the sense of the horror of hell?

A few of the obstacles have been expressed well by fellow IMB M Bloggers David Rogers, Ken Sorrell, Mr.T, Stepchild, and certainly contribute to the overall picture. But all of these combined are not the real source of the problem. To me the root of our inability to coordinate a concerted effort to win this country to Christ is due more to our being duped by Satan. We are all guilty of being territorial, divided, proud, seeking our own kingdoms, jealous, judgmental, legalistic, "my way or no way" ...you get the idea. Satan must be quite pleased with the success of his strategy for slowing down immensely the gathering in of what is a clear harvest field.

In short, our greatest sin has been to divide the Body of Christ. Something that was never intended. Instead of One Head (Christ) we now have thousands of heads competing with one another. Each "head" thinks his way best and is "God's plan." We "heads" are frustrated that all the other "heads" don't see things our way. Each "head" is out there doing his own thing, feeling the pressure to produce and prove their way is "the way."

I don't know the answer to this dilemma, but pray the Lord has mercy on us all. Sometimes I think the only solution would be for the Lord to allow a huge catastrophe or crisis that so overshadows all our petty differences that all else would be swept under the rug and we come forth as one of united Body of Christ to minister and reach this country in a short timespan.

Any feedback, words of wisdom, or input from anybody out there is more than welcome. As a missionary or church worker do you feel you are "pressured" to produce? What are your thoughts?

6 comments:

David Rogers said...

Guy,

When I look at what is happening there in your ministry (31 new churches and 44 "outreach groups" in the last year through COSECHA training), I feel a sort of "envidia santa" ("holy envy" for all you non-Spanish speakers). We would be doing double back flips, if we were to see that here in Spain.

Yet, I sympathize with your feelings of "we could be doing so much more." There is a delicate balance between complacency and getting stressed out.

I believe each of us just has to seek to be good stewards of the gifts God has given us (1 Peter 4.10), and leave the results up to God. I do believe you are right, though, that a big part of our stewardship means lending our influence and example in working towards greater unity in the Body of Christ.

I have thought more than once about just going over there, and letting it soak in for awhile, and see if I could maybe "import" some of it back to Spain. And maybe someday I will. And maybe that would be of some value. But, in the long run, I'm afraid we are going to have to find God's strategy for Spain, not just carbon-copy something from somewhere else.

mr. t said...

Guy,

Feeling that pressure is not a bad thing. Unless it is pressure to lift ourselves up, and look good in the eyes of others. I know that you are not referring to that kind of pressure. I can relate to what you are saying. I don't have the answer either.

But there is the good kind of pressure that we get from the Holy Spirit prompting us and giving us a burden for the lost. That is what you are talking about. I hope that pressure never leaves me. I hope that I never get complacent and satisfied. I think it is a positive that our organization holds us more accountable for results. We need that accountability from others to spur us on. The Lord uses that. Of course, it can get out of hand, or be focused in the wrong way.

Lately, I have been reading Jesus' narrative and prayers in Jn. chapters 14 to 17. I was struck by His emphasis on unity in Jn. 17. How the world would come to know Him through our unity! I think you have hit on something. If we could just leave that sense of competition and promotion of personal agenda behind ... but the reality is there.

One of the reasons I started blogging was to learn from others how God is working in their context, so that I might apply some of those principles in our field. It will look different and may not come out the same, but we serve the same God. I have no problem learning from others what the Lord has taught them through their experiences. I think if we put our "heads" together, we might even move closer to that unity Jesus prayed for.

Ken Sorrell said...

Guy,

Excellent post! I too have had many of the same thoughts that you have so articulately expressed. Like others, I began blogging hoping that conversations just like this one would begin to take place. Until we get to the place that it is not about us, I fear no sense of unity of vision and purpose is in sight. I have been traveling a lot through our region the past three weeks and have encountered numerous volunteer teams from a variety of denominations. The sad commentary is that most of these teams admit that they are no more than "sanctified" humanitarian workers. They measure success by how many patients were treated, or how much rennovation was done on an orphanage. I even overheard one man say, "Maybe on our next trip we will find the time to share the Gospel with the people we worked with." We have a long road ahead of us before we see any cambio de la vista.

Anonymous said...

Guido:

Urgency is one thing and it is a Biblical word. Speed is another thing and it only leads to false converts, misunderstanding and in the long-run very weak Christians. The pressure should be to "make disciples". Chapters six and eight of the Gospel of John make it very clear that it is easy to believe in Jesus but very difficult to keep on following Him.

Esteban

GuyMuse said...

Guys,

Great comments from each of you. Thanks for the input. Your words encourage and confirm many of the things I believe, but too easily forget. Gracias for the reminder of the bigger picture.

George Klineberg said...

Esteban makes an excellent point. We are working towards disciples. Urgency is what drives us but urgency is no excuse for poor missiology. Too often poor missiology driving the urgency leads to nothing more than syncretism.

We must share as often as we possibly can but at the same time we must push forward to learn how to better contextualize the Gospel message in the cultural context where we are. That doesn't take 25 years but it isn't very often that you can enter into a new culture and really contextualize the Gospel in a day either.

So... we are walking a fine line. If I am going to err, it will be on the side of urgency but we must continue to push towards contextualization.