That’s right! Support fewer missionaries is what I’m saying. Have I lost it? No, I don’t think so. It may seem like a totally counter-intuitive thing to say but hear me out. Allow me to use an analogy from daily life. There are lots of things you would like to do aren’t there? Places to see and things to get involved with. New sports, recipes, careers, languages, skills etc…. But realistically, it is impossible to do all of them given the demands of daily life.
There are plenty of things that I would love to try out. My wife is often hearing me tell her, as we drive by someone getting on with their job, “I’d quite like to do that”. But if I adopted this way of working then I would switch job every week and never gain a good understanding of how to fulfill the role or develop the necessary skills.
The logic of less
Hopefully you can see the link. The more tasks we take on, we decrease our capacity to do other things at a higher level. It leads to thinly spread butter on the toast or being a “jack of all trades and master of none”. So how does this apply to mission and helping to partner in the mission of God across the globe?
Quite simply, the more missions and missionaries that we support, our ability to have in depth partnership becomes less. Instead of seeking to develop quantity we must learn to desire quality. That is why there is a logic in less. And here are some of the positive knock on effects that this produces.
Supporting 2 or 3 couples or missions organisations leads to real partnerships. If there is just a list of names or a dusty wall with faces on it then people tend to forget. This leads to forced participation in the mission, not gospel partnership. And when it comes to taking Jesus across cultures it takes real partnership. Paul knew this and he commended the Philippians for this (Phil 1:5, 4:15). They were there when he needed them and could share with him in his trouble (4:14).
It also allows us to move beyond pleasantries. The partnership should not remain formal but become personal. We can have good, meaningful relationships with our partners in the gospel; it’s not a crime. Weeping with them when they are in times of difficulty, rejoicing with them in the great triumphs of Jesus in reaching the unreached (1 Cor 7:30). The more that we engage with God’s world in this way the more personal it becomes.
Adopting these attitudes of partnership and relationship should in turn lead to real ministry. What do I mean by this? Instead of adopting the contemporary, western desire to see “results” and “achieved goals” real ministry accepts the limitations of a real person. We must stand against the prevailing attitude of “success” that this world pushes onto ministry. Our Father does not desire success, he desires disciples. Real ministry is about pointing others to the God of reconciliation who both desires and deserves our worship. And this can only take place in a real ministry setting. One which is long suffering and committed to the course.
So real ministry, in the context of cross cultural work, means sticking with those who we have sent or are supporting over the long haul. And that is a beautiful thing as it allows us to grow together towards maturity in Jesus. It helps us to learn more of what it is to be sacrificial in love, time and resources for the glory of God in all the nations.
So when you are looking at the various mission work that you or your church are involved with ask the questions; “What is my quality of relationship with this organisation/these people?” and “What is my role in developing real partnership, real relationship and real ministry?”.