Seven Myths Perpetuated by Missions People

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Jim's picture

  1. Frontlines: We frequently talk about the frontlines of spiritual warfare as if they are geographically defined (i.e., the mission field).
  2. Calling: I suggest our specific ministry fit/niche is discovered as we struggle to be obedient to God’s universal callings. Universal callings are what all followers of Jesus are called to do and be. For example, we are all called to: holiness (1 Peter 1:15), bear fruit (John 15:16), suffer (1 Peter 2:21), peace (Colossians 3:15), and make disciples (Matthew 28:19). These “callings” never change, and apply to all of us.
  3. Full-Time: Some of us talk about being called to full-time ministry/missions. Does Jesus call anyone to follow him part-time? Full-time is the only choice Jesus gives us.
  4. Significance: If missionaries think what they are doing is more significant or strategic than what God has called others in our sending congregations to do, we promote a myth.
  5. Go, Give, or Pray: While these three actions are important, they can also subtly perpetuate a myth by suggesting these are the main three things YOU can do. Scripture also calls us to WORK, THINK, CHANGE, BE HOLY, RISK, SUFFER, STAND, etc. These don’t fit nicely into a tag line, and thus their importance is deemphasized by silence.
  6. Business for Missions (B4M) & Integral Missions:  If we are not careful when we use terms like B4M/B4T and integral missions, we promote the notion that our work business/social activities are somehow more spiritual/missional (i.e. significant) than those practiced by the members of our sending church
  7. Missionaries: What do we really mean by the word missionary? The word is a construct of our own making, derived from the Latin word mitto, which is a translation of the Greek work apostle (Αποστολος). Apostles were followers of Jesus who had a special anointing and authority as sent ones. [But] very few missionaries are apostles in the biblical sense of the word, so isn’t missionary the wrong word for them?
TylerR's picture

These are common advertising points missionaries drive home again and again as they come through. They all need money, and they all use variations of the same pitch. Not taking away from what they're doing, of course, but I'm more and more inclined to think we have more than enough of a mission field in America.

My church is small and struggling. We had a missionary we support come by on furlough a few weeks back. We sat and listened to all the wonderful things God is doing in this foreign country. He went on for 90 minutes, and eventually we had to literally stop him from speaking anymore. It was very apparent he had much more money, people, resources and tools than we (his supporting church) did. I joked afterward that his church should probably take us ​on for support.

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Kevin Miller's picture

Near the end of the article, the author brought up a point that I have often wondered about, but I'm not sure how it relates to the seven myths. He mentioned the fact that some missionaries go "undercover" into nations that are closed to traditional missions. I understand the point that this practice can appear deceptive, but the article emphasized more the idea that this practice leads to fear and paranoia about getting caught. He wrote "This fear fosters behaviors, attitudes, and thinking patterns that hamper and disable these otherwise wonderful saints from being the bold and loving representatives that Jesus called them to be. Fear and love do not make compatible bedfellows." I think anyone who lives in a persecuted area is going to have a hard time being a bold representative. They can still be loving and faithful even if they are not able to be as bold as they could be ina free environment, so I'm not sure of the point the author is trying to make. Is he saying missionaries should not go into sealed countries because they would be teaching a fear of getting caught? Wouldn't any believer have that fear?

Or is he just saying that a person should not go into a country with the "identity" of "missionary" because the identity is a stumbling block? The very next sentence after the one I quoted is "So why do so many continue to embrace a missionary identity when it is a stumbling block to both their audience and themselves … and is not a requirement for following Jesus?" Do the seven myths really show that the missionary identity is a stumbling block? Does the fear of getting caught in a sealed country show the missionary identity to be a stumbling block?