Thursday, April 29

How long do we continue to 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 24th year as missionaries here in Guayaquil, one of the questions that "disturbs" us is, how long do we continue to stay?

The IMB 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 it is the Lord who is leading us 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?

8 comments:

Dustan and Becka said...

I find a few things significant:
1. I can't find any of these statistics in scripture.
2. They ignore the individual leading of the Holy Spirit in a missionary's life.
3. My own opinion which is: God calls some of us to the much reached, some to the little reached, and many others to the not reached at all.

I find it odd that the IMB would put such specific standards on their international missions when, that I know of, nothing exists like that for the NAMB. Should we pull out of the US because frankly, it is over-reached? (I think I may have misunderstood something... my brain is jammed packed full of language learning)

Again, my opinion- but I believe we should discipline ourselves to hear and obey God's will in our lives (not some magically self-interpreted tarot-like reading; but real scriptural knowledge of God's will for us) and spend less time creating statistically based guidelines.
All hard questions should have scripturally based answers... which will provide us with far more assurance than numbers based answers.

(and yes, we will be praying for you- because knowing God's will is not as easy as reading some leaves in a tea cup, or following a gut feeling. And- sometimes it is a painful process. So, you have our prayers.)

Kevin Bart said...

Guy, you wrote "While these are helpful, there are other considerations that must be included in the mix. The main one being a sense that it is the Lord who is leading us in this process of transitioning out."

The "main one" you wrote about is really the ONLY one that matters. If He is not the One leading, then we can do nothing. Absolutely nothing. These are not merely words in the Bible, it is profound truth. We may do things for the right reasons & motives, but if it is not God leading us to do them then we will not see His power & glory on display in what we do. We must learn to hear His voice and discern His leading & will.

David Rogers said...

Guy,

When facing decisions like this, the following questions have guided me:

"Given the spiritual gifts, natural abilities, resources, life circumstances, and unique personality that God has given me, where in the world, and doing what, can I be the most faithful to Jesus’ call to discipleship and obedience in my life? Or from a slightly different perspective, where and how can I make the most strategic contribution towards the fulfillment of the Great Commission?"

The answers to these questions, I believe, will differ for each individual. The part about "life circumstances" sometimes plays a major role, changing what the answers might otherwise be. I think the welfare of our family is one of the most important of these "life circumstances." Also, I think you cannot discount the strategic importance of the number of years you and your family have spent learning the language, the culture, and the nuances of the work, as well as building relationships there in Ecuador. Though not insurmountable, starting over somewhere else would likely be a major challenge.

But, at the core, I think these are the questions we need to ask ourselves each new day, and be willing to go wherever the answers may lead us.

David Rogers said...

Forgot to add, I'll be praying that God will lead you clearly in the days ahead.

A. Amos Love said...

Deuteronomy 4:36
Out of heaven he made thee to hear his voice,
that he might instruct thee:

Psalms 32:8
I will *instruct thee and *teach thee
in the way which thou shalt go:
I will *guide thee with mine eye.



*Instruct - 07919 sakal {saw-kal'}
KJV - understand 12, wise 12, prosper 8, teach 2,
understanding 5, instruct 3, prudent 2, skill 2.

Strongs - to be circumspect, inteligent,
have understanding, prosper, teach, instruct.

*Teach - 03384 yarah {yaw-raw'} or yara' {yaw-raw'}
KJV - teach 42, shoot 18, archers 5, cast 5, teacher 4, direct 1, inform 1, instructed 1, shewed.

Strongs - to throw, show, to direct, teach, instruct

*Guide - 03289 ya`ats {yaw-ats'}
KJV - counsel 25, counsellor 22, consult 9, give 7,
purposed 5, advice 2, advise 2.

Strongs - to advise, consult, give counsel, counsel, devise, guide.

Heb 11:8
By faith Abraham,
when he was called to go out into a place
which he should after receive for an inheritance,
obeyed;
and he went out, not knowing whither he went.

GuyMuse said...

Dustan & Becka, Kevin, David, and Amos,

Thanks to all of you for your helpful comments. We just returned from a retreat up in the mountains with a few other missionaries. It was a good time of being together. We are still praying through a lot of the issues we are facing and do not feel pressured to make any immediate decisions. All of your prayers and suggestions are greatly appreciated.

Deborah said...

Dear Guy,
I will be praying for you and your family that the Lord will give you clear guidance and wisdom. In 2 Corinthians 2:12 it says about Paul, "Now when I went to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ and found that the Lord had opened a door for me, I still had no peace of mind, because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I said good-by to them and went on to Macedonia."
A wise counselor told us that we needed to have "peace of mind" about our decision to leave the field. And as David said, there are many factors like "life circumstances" that plays a part in such a major decision.

You know that your bottom line is being obedient to the Lord's leading...He will make that clear when the time is right. Meanwhile, we will pray that the Lord gives you His wisdom and that His peace will reign in your hearts.

Blessings,
Deb

GuyMuse said...

Deborah,

Thanks for the insightful words and taking the time to express them here. They are much appreciated.