Dear Missions Guy and Gal,
I know you mean well and I love your passion, I really do. But I’ve got to tell you I’m starting to scan the crowd and drift left when I see you coming from the right. I like you and all. It’s just that your advocacy for the world is becoming a little strident. Your zeal’s starting to make me daydream of making you a missionary to a galaxy far, far away.
I don’t want to be too harsh here. But it’s late on Sunday, my football team lost today and I’m not happy with my sermon this morning. So I might use my current mood to get a few things off my chest. You may want take a couple aspirin right now and put on pads and a helmet.
Here goes... Here’s how you can be sure I’m never going to be mobilized for missions:
1. Present all your requests as though they were crises. Emergencies happen. I get it. But sometimes I think maybe you just didn’t think ahead. Or when your emergency 8500 miles away is competing with eight other emergencies within a stone’s throw of the church door, it’s hard for me to prioritize yours. Heck, it’s kind of tough just to listen to it. For added anti-impact, corner me with your crisis just before the service on Sunday morning!
2. Use jargon that I should probably know, but don’t. This makes me feel dumb. Which makes me get defensive. Which leads to saying snarky stuff I later regret. Yeah, and refer to people I don’t know, but don’t explain who they are.
3. By all means, go to my wife if you’re disappointed in how I’m responding to your requests.
4. Give me books I don’t ask for, the context for which I lack, and the content I’m not interested in. Do this monthly. Then ask me if I’ve read them. Heads up: If you ask me twice, I’ll give the books back to you. That way you’ll have them to give to your new pastor.
5. Leave me out of the process. Send me a support letter that you haven’t even signed, telling me you’re off to do something the Lord’s led you to do with another organization, when we haven’t even had one conversation with each other! When you’re actually in the decision process, keep it between you and your college crew.
6. Don’t pray for me, just give me more work to do. And if you do pray, really give it to God on my behalf. Ask him to change me or re-locate me.
7. Inundate me with information, but don’t ask me questions. Don’t ask how I’m holding up or what God’s saying to me lately. Let me pull back the curtain just a bit: I’ve got all the normal family issues anyone else has. And maybe a few more “pastor family” issues, I don’t know. Plus I’m juggling the good, the bad, and the ugly at church. This week that includes the death of a child – unexpected (aren't they always?), two dear saints going into hospice, the unplanned pregnancy of an elder’s high school daughter, the need to terminate a staff member, a decision to repair or replace the roof, and preparing a sermon on trusting God. (I’m wondering if I can live it enough to preach it.) So I feel for the persecuted church in the horn of Africa, I really do. I cry for a million displaced Syrians. I just struggle to find the energy and focus to take action.
8. Don’t serve what we’re currently doing; just tell me how our church isn’t doing all it could. It’s hard for me to believe you’re willing to bleed on the foreign mission field when you won’t even get up 30 minutes early to help us set up chairs. And honestly, how familiar with our present ministry are you? God has opened amazing doors here in our community. I’m sure it’s not all he has in mind for us. At the same time, I don’t accept the feeling I get from you sometimes that ministry doesn’t count unless it’s a certain number of miles away from home.
9. Ask me if your missionary friend can speak to whole church. Then get that hurt look on your face when I question if he’s really qualified for that!
10. Ask me to go with you on a three-week-trip to the craziest parts of the world. (Me paying, of course!) Then that hurt look on your face again when I hesitate!
11. When you email me about the cool thing you’d like us to invest in, be sure to bad-mouth eight other similar things. This will feed my insecurity and make me wonder how you speak about me to your missions friends.
12. Tell me missions is what’s really on the heart of God. You and I both know I haven’t preached a missions series in two or three years. The implied distance between God’s heart and mine will be clear.
One last thing: Some of us see the giving records, you know. Are you really asking me to allocate church funds to missions when, as far as I can tell, you’re doing nothing to fund the church?
OK, this is more direct honesty than you usually get from me, but I thought you should know. And you should know this as well: None of these issues is forever. Any of them, in fact all of them, can start being different tomorrow morning. I hope they will.
P.S. If you really want to get me connected to the Muslim world, do this: Fly my wife and me to Turkey for a week’s vacation. Include a day and a half kicking around with your missionary friend there. Just a day and a half.
» Comment on this article on our website.
Photo: Creative Commons image from State Library of Victoria.