A friend of ours recently pointed out an article by Shane Bennett that appeared several years ago in Missions Catalyst, “a free, weekly electronic digest of mission news and resources designed to inspire and equip Christians worldwide for global ministry.”
In his two-part post on Top Ten Myths about Missions , Bennett explained:
I want to understand how the average Lou and Sue, sitting in the pew, think about missions stuff. What begins to crackle in their minds when the pastor introduces a “missions” speaker? What synapses fire when a video rolls about poor kids in Faroffistan? From what I’ve seen there are some serious misconceptions floating around in our churches, at least some of our churches. We could call these collective assumptions, beliefs that simply don’t reflect reality, “myths.”
In a series of posts over next several months, I’ll be highlighting each myth in turn and adding my own comments. If you want to read all ten myths now, check out the article online.
Myth #1: Only Extraordinary People Need Apply
“God is only looking for little Jesuses or Pauls to carry his love to other cultures. If you’re normal, you don’t measure up. If you missed a quiet time this year, forget it. Don’t bother dreaming about learning a foreign language if you said a swear word in your own language last week!”
Now, it’s my hunch that some people embrace this because it gets them off the hook. “I’m not good enough, so God can’t use me. Dang,” followed by, “Whew, that’s a relief.” Others though, disqualify themselves with sadness and regret. They honestly wish God could use them, but realize that he’s looking for better raw material.
Certainly, God has used some extraordinary people in the Bible and history: Deborah and Solomon, Dr. Luke and Dr. Livingstone come to mind. But the guest-list is also packed with misfits: Gideon, Rahab, Peter, and Balaam’s donkey. If that beast qualifies to speak for God, maybe a lot of the rest of us do as well.
I used to believe this myth. There was no way I was spiritual enough, mature enough, pure enough, devoted enough for God to use me as a missionary. And that obviously applied to my spouse as well! Then God tapped us on the shoulder, and I realized that missionaries are just ordinary Christians wanting to obey God above all else.
Myth #2: Missions Means Going Overseas, Planting Churches
My friend and teammate Jon Hardin makes this apt and wry observation:
“Many people have the sense that at the end of a missions event, there will be two doors out of the room. You must choose one as you depart. Over the first door a banner reads, ‘Future overseas church-planting missionaries.’ If that is you, you walk out that door to the polite applause and eternal awe of the rest. Over the other door a banner reads, ‘Loser. Attend this event again!’ If that’s you, you know what to do.”
There are dozens of main avenues of involvement in missions, and alternate routes as varied as the people who love Jesus. Yet many people in church seem to have an unspoken sense that being involved in missions means something like going to Africa to preach and plant churches. If people can’t imagine themselves doing that (and most believers can’t), then they revert to myth number one: God doesn’t use people like me.
[There are] myriad of buy-in points for joining what God is doing cross-culturally.
While Pete and I consider ourselves missionaries (we raise financial support, ministry is Pete’s fulltime job, and our ultimate focus is those cultures without any Gospel witness), we are based here in the States, in Colorado Springs. This raises a lot of eyebrows.
Not all missionaries move to another culture. Just as during times of war, a solid chain of supply is necessary to support the front lines. Some are called to mobilize, others to train and equip. Anthropologists “spy out the land” by doing research on unreached cultures. Others take their results and create strategic plans. Techies keep the computers functioning and develop specialized software and websites. The mission effort (actually an extension of the church) needs the whole body, with all its gifts and skills, to function effectively.
Bennett mentions a number of other myths; I’ll comment on a few more next month. Meanwhile, consider the two we’ve just discussed. Has God been calling you to join in the Great Commission, and just maybe you haven’t been noticing his voice? Pray about it! (Warning: prayer on this topic could be life-changing. That’s how we got started.)