Friday, April 21, 2006

Counting Souls

A missionary friend was telling stories about her recent experiences in the field. Sometimes, people from different mission agencies will work together in the area she serves. She told of one of her friends who receives letters from a church wanting to know how many converts were made in the last year. That can be unsettling for a missionary, because it could be tied to how much support the church is going to give. Her friend was not supported in that letter, but instead, she needed a form of support because of the letter. How sad.

I wonder, what if missionaries all over the world conspired all at once to send letters to all of their supporting churches. And what if the missionaries challenged the churches saying, “How many converts and new members have you seen this past year?” Are you still with me? And what if they had the power to change the budgets and move the numbers from this column to that column, so that church folks would have to wonder whether this would affect a beloved staff member or some ministry item that is dear to the heart?

Well, that’s not going to happen, but what if it could? Can we write back to the missionary and justify ourselves as good stewards of time, talents and treasure? After all, we don’t need to learn a new language and culture. We have immediate access to all kinds of tools and resources. In most cases, the persecution we fear is being shunned. We don’t have to worry about blowing our church’s cover and seeing brothers go before a firing squad or being deported, etc.

One more thing…

When writing to your missionaries, let’s make sure they know we’ve got their back. They have enough challenges in the field without having to wonder whether we’re going to pull their support.


David Zimmerman said...

Well put. So, what kind of report should a church seek from a missionary? How, practically speaking, does the missionary enterprise encourage the faith and discipleship of a sending body? And to continue another conversation, did the church "mean" to threaten the missionary's support base by asking how many people were converted? How can the sending church and the missionary minimize that kind of anxiety in their communications when there's virtually no possibility of face-to-face encounter?

Craver Vii said...

I would like to continue exploring those questions, but my first thought is that it would be wise for some of this to be sorted out before the sending/support begins. Now, who's responsibility should that be? I don't know...who is going to be more mature?
I doubt that the sending church really meant to create an ulcer, but sometimes we do things that were unintended, but still responsible for.
Personally, I took this as a challenge to look at my own church, take inventory and increase the vision for what we can accomplish in the local community.

Anonymous said...

I give so much credit to missionaries...who sometimes spend their entire lives never seeing a single convert, but sowing the seeds for others to reap the harvest. It saddens me to see so many churches more concerned about numbers than the actual planting of seeds. We need to exercise faith in God and trust Him without being so concerned over just how many were converted. He will take care of that in His own time.

By the way, nice "Rivera Code." Will you have a movie? Can I be your agent?

Craver Vii said...

D'oh! You used my real name!! Now, people are going to know that I am not just a cyber-personality, but actual flesh and blood...just a regular guy.

Code? What code?

I clicked on your link and found your site just beautiful! Great pictures! I have one of somebody I know who had just woken up at a camping trip. I wonder whether somebody would try to pay me not to post that picture on the blog. (I can be payed with peanut-butter-flavored snacks.)

Back to missions. The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few...we need to be concerned that we ourselves can be counted among the workers that are sent. Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers (not converts). The converts are God's business, but when we ask Him to send out workers, He might answer, "How 'bout you?"