Speared: Isolation and Independence

Here’s another factor in the strategic failure of the murdered missionaries:

2. They cut themselves off from those who could be of help

Jim Elliot’s team in Ecuador was afraid of attracting too much attention to their efforts in the jungle, because they thought that too many outsiders would serve to further alienate the Aucas. For this reason, they were extremely secretive with their plans, going so far as to use a code to prevent leaking the details. Unfortunately, this commitment to secrecy kept them from sharing their plan with some of the people that may have guided it to a better end.

As we saw with their failure to learn the language, it would be a mistake to think that there was no other way for them to proceed. There were ministries in South America that were making progress among dangerous headhunter tribes. Those missionaries were intentionally left out of the loop. Was it because these young men knew that they would hear advice they had no interest in hearing? Advice that would counsel them to move slower?

Rachel Saint, one of the missionary’s sisters, was studying the Auca language with Dayuma, an Auca girl who had left her tribe. Why was neither of them included in the strategy for reaching the Aucas? Another missionary, Frank Drown, had experienced success in taking the Gospel to native jungle peoples. He also was left in the dark ‘until the plans had been finalized.’

The nail in the coffin was a mission board that prided itself on letting the missionaries do whatever God ‘led’ them to do. From all I can tell, there was virtually no accountability. Three of the missionaries were with a mission board that reminded the missionaries that they were not answerable to any man – only to God. Ruth Tucker writes, ‘It was a hastily drawn-up plan devised by members of three different missions with virtually no consultation with their leaders or with senior missionaries on the field. They were proceeding “by faith,” depending on direct guidance from God.’ Nate Saint was the man on the team with the most experience (7 years) and he was the voice urging wisdom and caution. But there was no holding back the zeal of the others, who had only two or three years of experience.

Once again, this factor is one that I believe to be at work in many modern missions as well. I can really only speak with a great measure of confidence about missions in China, but the lack of accountability in the average missionary’s work is astounding. I have asked many young missionaries who helped them formulate their strategy, or who checks their progress in their work, and generally the answer is ‘no one.’ How can we expect missionaries to be greatly effective when they are islands to themselves?

The application goes both ways. Missionaries need to get accountable. They need training. They need a Paul directing them like a Timothy. And organizations need to practice accountability. Giving an unexperienced missionary freedom to do whatever they want (even if they’re covered by the ‘God-told-me-to’ insurance) isn’t spiritual – it’s foolish. Ignoring all counsel from men is not the same as relying on guidance from God. A little restraint would have made these heroes of mine far more effective in their ministries, not to mention extended their lives.

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2 Comments on “Speared: Isolation and Independence”

  1. Eugene July 6, 2011 at 5:27 am #

    Great couple of posts. I agree with you wholeheartedly re: accountability. We are currently in the process of joining an organization of churches that will provide us much more than we have previously had… and we are hungry for that, knowing that it will do us well!

    Thanks for this!


  1. Jim Elliot’s mistakes – Isolation and Independence | The Latin Bridge - July 29, 2011

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