I wrote about Jamie the Very Worst Missionary's missions critique here. She said a lot of things but the primary point is that we over-spiritualize and inflate the work being done overseas. Then she wrote the very appropriate counter-point post titled The Sexiest Missionary Wins. And that post? Well, in a season of raising support within the American church, it hits home in big way.
She points to her last post on the topic and says, " Dear Missions Pastor/Church
Leader/Generous Supporter.... Sometimes, you're
See, here's the thing. Say you are one of five employees who is responsible for doing a certain job and then writing up a report about that job every week. At the end of the month your company decides who to pay and at what rate based on your reports. Over time, of course, the person who writes reports that sound the most meaningful, dramatic, and productive will be the ones that are paid the most and therefore last the longest.
So, church, welcome to the evangelical missions world that you have created. Some of the troubles here are not so much problems in missions so much as that missions reflect the problems in the American church. The American church has increasingly used business principles to form itself, thus valuing productivity, results, and growth in terms of customers/members and profit/giving.
Missions is going the same way. Increasingly the church suspects that over-institutionalized missions might be inefficient, and so they pull away from the blank-check lifetime support from a church to a family. Instead, missionaries enter the competitive market and have to essentially sell themselves with a ministry plan (strikingly similar to a business plan) and hard sell tactics to convince people to support them. Once on the field we look for results, we emphasize effectiveness, growth, numbers. Essentially, to echo Jamie's "the sexiest missionary wins", the most inspirational speaker/writer with a big personality generally wins support, and thus those are the people who represent us around the world.
We aren't called necessarily to success. We're called to obedience.
We're not called to big stories. We're called to faithful work.
Big personalities and dramatic stories are great, but they aren't necessarily the people who are truly in it for the long haul.
People who are great fundraisers are not necessarily effective at ministry in the field. And vice-versa.
Asking people to essentially be awesome success stories in missions fails to recognize that real people who are working hard will often struggle with dry times, hard times, depression, etc, and this never makes a good newsletter or ministry report.
Church, God is at work around the world, and He's called His people to join the Spirit in this work. Let us do it by following Him and proclaiming Him, not by looking for the most externally successful reports.