Wednesday, November 14

How long do we stay?

"We tend to prefer answers to questions" says Charles Ringma in his devotional, Dare to Journey. "Answers are meant to reassure. Questions usually disturb us."

As we approach our 20th year as missionaries here in Guayaquil, one of the questions that "disturbs us" is, how long do we continue to stay?

Our IMB regional leadership suggests the following items as indicators when the missionary should begin to trasition out of their assigned people group/population segment:
  • 2-5% status of evangelization in a people group or population segment
  • 1:1000 church-to-people-group or population segment ration
  • widespread 2nd and 3rd generation churches being planted
  • 50% of church leaders receiving leadership training
While these are helpful, there are other considerations that must be included in the mix. The main one being a sense that the Lord is leading in this process of transitioning out.

While information is difficult to come by, I am fairly confident that we have surpassed the 2-5% evangelization threshold. But does that by itself signal our need to transition out? When only 5 out of every 100 people who die will go to heaven, have we completed the task? Is it time to move on? This is a tough question for missionaries to deal with. There are no easy answers.

Another related question: if we stay, are we being more of a hindrance than a help? Most missionaries realize (whether they admit it or not) that as long as we are on the scene people tend to rely upon us. We are looked to for answers, for help, for support, for training, for money...the list is long. As long as we are here the brethren will continue to lean upon us. It is a good feeling to be needed. Missionaries have a lot to offer emerging churches. But our presence can also be a limitation. Often our presence hinders local leadership from truly coming into their own. Ownership of the work is not really theirs as long as we continue to be present.

Is it right that we remain where God has placed us when daily unreached people groups--like those featured in the right-hand side bar from the Joshua Project--reveal that 0.00% of these peoples are reached? I don't know about you, but everyday when a new UPG is featured showing anywhere from tens of thousands to MILLIONS with less than 1% reached, my heart is crushed. It is just not right. Where are the laborers? Does anyone care that virtually 100% of those dying within these UPGs will spend a Christless eternity?

Ringma continues..."there is nothing as significant as the power of the question...questions ruffle the smooth front of what we already know and open us up to new possibilities...but so often we close off the power of the question..." He concludes, "We many often think that God is only with us in the answer. He is, however, equally present in the question."

So, how long do we stay? We continue to struggle with the question. Will you pray with us and for us?


Burkhalter Ministry said...

His sheep will hear His voice. As you listen to the Lord on this, He will speak to you. By the way, Michael and Ann had their second "outreach" meeting tonight and it went great...the Lord showed up. They often speak of their time in Ecuador.

Eric Kurfman エリック・カーフマン said...

Eric Kurfman in Japan here...long time no "see". It is AMAZING to me how what you write is often exactly what I am pondering or going wife and I have just started seriously asking the same question...AMAZING...

Just as a note, interestingly enough, November 14th was our 20th wedding anniversary...we have been here 19 years...

GuyMuse said...


Thanks for the good advise. Often all that is needed is a few months back in the States and a break from the daily grind. But you are right, we need to listen to the Lord on this one!


Thanks for the comment. I think many M's out there wonder about these things, especially "how long do we stay?" Living there in Japan, I can only imagine how you must be asking the same question! I understand the work is a lot slower there than it is here. My hat is off to you guys for sticking it out there, but again, how long do we continue to plow away doing the same tasks? Congrats on the 20th wedding anniversary, sounds like you guys were just behind us in the appointment process.

GuyMuse said...

The following comment comes from Debbie Kaufman...

This just shows that all of you were indeed called to be
missionaries as this post and the comments following it show a true
missionaries heart.

Thanks Guy.


Debbie Kaufman

Cahleen 何凱琳 said...

This is a tough question, and yes, many things have to be considered. Take Taiwan for example. While Christianity definitely isn't the main religion here, there are some Christians. Statistics say that about 2.5% of the Taiwanese population, but almost all of them are upper class people and only about half of them are regular church attenders. And many of these "upper class Christians" that I have met are still very superstitious and follow certain Taoist traditions as well (just in case I guess). So, I guess what I'm saying is that sometimes those percentages can be deceiving. By the way, there's a lot of interesting information about what I've been talking about at Great post!

GuyMuse said...


Thanks for struggling along with me! If followed by everyone, the percentages argument would have ALL believers exit the USA since it is well over the 5% threshold. But is this God's will? I think indicators are just that--guidelines--that help, but it is the Lord who ultimately must lead his children to the pastures He has prepared for them. If your 2.5% figure is correct, we are more evangelized here in Ecuador than you are in Taiwan...maybe we'll be headed your way soon! :)

Anonymous said...

Guy, I think we are all better served by using NT guidelines rather than modern missionary statistics.

Why can not we take Paul as an example? Is that such a stretch?

It would have been unthinkable for Paul to stay for 20 years as an Apostle in any one place. Three years was his maximum and that is because he was holding down the fort in Ephesus while his co-workers planted the outlying churches of Colosse, Hierapolis, Laodicea, Sardis, etc. (see Col 4 and Acts 19)

But since we know only "missionaries" and know little of apostles we stay on, going by statistics you mentioned and the like...

Here is for a return to the methods laid down by Paul and his co-workers ion the 1st century!!

Jeff G

GuyMuse said...

Jeff G.,

Interesting thought about us only familiar with "missionaries" and little of apostlic methodology of Paul and his co-workers. I know in our own case a huge factor in all this is family. One of the reasons we stay put is due to family needs and concerns, and little to do with what is best for the work. My mind often wanders to what our lives might be like once the kids are grown up and out of the house. What kind of role will be play? Where will we serve and how will we go about it? What you share is good food for thought!