Speared: A Faulty Mind-Set

So far, we’ve looked at how a lack of accountability and preparation contributed to the ineffectiveness of the speared missionaries. But I think it’s important to understand the mind-set that birthed those failings. How did ten young men who loved the Lord and desired to bring God glory by the proclamation of the Gospel miss these marks? I think the answer is important because it is the trap that most modern missionaries are closer to falling into. To put it another way, most of the guys I meet are at least paying lip-service to the need for accountability and preparation for missionaries. But while they agree that these things are important (Elliot probably would have as well!), many of them fail to act on it because of another more fundamental failure, the mind-set that I want to draw attention to in this post.

3. They subscribed to a biblically-faulty missions mind-set

It’s hard to boil this perspective down to one line, so let me lay out a couple of the big pieces…

  • God calls missionaries to work in a particular location, therefore the missionary’s most immediate goal is to get where God called him to go
  • The Great Commission calls for representatives from every people to believe the Gospel, therefore the ‘most unreached’ are the priority target for missionaries
  • The return of Christ awaits the evangelization of the last people group, therefore preaching in remote areas is the most urgent and the most glorious

Now each of those pieces merits their own treatment, but as I’m really wanting to move on to some other topics, let me try to quickly offer a little commentary (for what it’s worth) on each one.

First, their understanding of the call of God as primarily to a location soon leads to the question: ‘How fast can I get there?’ However, an understanding of God commissioning us to a particular kind of work would lead to a completely different question, namely: ‘How well equipped will I be for the work when I arrive?’ I am astounded at the percentage of missionaries who are under-trained (by their own admission!) but plunge forward believing that if they can just get to (and then stay) where God wants them to be, all else will be fine. This leads to young missionaries being willing to cut any corner, jump any obstacle, and take any offered path that will get them as quickly as possible to the field. Fast they are; effective they are not.

The second component is one of the most widely-accepted statements in modern missiology. Why did they pass by the millions of Ecuador and Bolivia to chase murderous tribes into the jungle? Because of a certain understanding of the Great Commission. This is something I hope to write more about in the future, as it is such a dominant force in the strategic thinking of so many missionaries and organizations. There is currently a tremendous push toward the minority peoples of China for the same reasons. The Han Chinese (about 90% of China) have been labeled ‘evangelized,’ and therefore attention is turning away from them. For the record, of course I think the Gospel needs to be taken to the tribes and minority peoples of the world. I just want to point out that the two major interpretations of the Commission – ‘take the Gospel to every person that hasn’t heard it’ versus ‘take the Gospel to every people that hasn’t heard it’ – lead to radically different strategies.

The third part is the theological undergirding of their strategy. This is about as deep as the roots go. If your understanding of missions is simply giving a Gospel witness to a people to remove another obstacle from Christ’s return, then preparation and longevity are going to move to the backseat. Haste is driving; the bare minimum’s riding shotgun.

Hopefully this has helped you as it’s helped me in understanding the mind-set that drove those men into the jungle. Because the ranks of missionaries in China (to speak of my own mission field) are filled with the strategic brethren of Elliot and Co., and we need to be aware of the dangers. Next post: the missionary that actually evangelized the Ayore!

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3 Comments on “Speared: A Faulty Mind-Set”

  1. megan July 9, 2011 at 10:31 am #

    I am interested in the creative ways to obtain a Chinese visa (something you mentioned in a previous post). Please email me when you get a chance. Thanks!

    • Vengador August 4, 2011 at 2:58 pm #

      Hey Megan,
      You may not like the answer very much! To put it simply, visas are for sale. You can enroll in a school, or you can find someone (by asking a hundred people or so!) who can help you get a tourist visa in-country. The problem is, both of these approaches cost money. And by and large, the people that are coming to teach English haven’t really raised much money. They need the English teaching in order to make money, not just to get a visa. I’m afraid that a large number of people sign up with English teaching organizations because they make the process of coming to China simple. They do all the legwork for you; you just get on a plane. If that’s your situation, I would ask you to seriously consider coming to China after raising a little bit of money, then finding a job teaching once you’re on the ground. To be honest, English-teaching positions are a dime a dozen in mainland China. Don’t sign up with an organization just because you can’t imagine how you would ever get a job without them! You can – and I’d be more than willing to help you do that. Again, the organizations will most likely NOT be your bridge to ministering in China. It’s far more likely they will be the barrier. So cut them out…

  2. China Church Plant July 9, 2011 at 12:20 pm #

    Good

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