School of Missions ... 1981
We are going to talk about attitudes. Attitudes toward ourselves, our fellow missionaries, our national brethren, and the work of God. There is nothing more important, and yet nothing more difficult to deal with, than problems that arise out of attitudes. What we think of ourselves will affect every aspect of our relationship with others. The Bible says, "Love thy neighbor ... as thyself.”
Can we love ourselves, and at the same time love our neighbor? There are those who tell us that loving our neighbor starts with loving ourselves ... and they quote the above words to back their statement. But is that what Jesus meant when He made the statement? And how does loving self stack up against our Lord's other statements saying we should deny ourselves if we are to follow Him?
Maybe the answer lies in a definition of what we mean by self-denial and self-love.
If, by self-love we mean self-respect and self-worth, then I can see how we can both deny ourselves and, at the same time, respect ourselves. Paul said a man is not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think. To do so would be self-love and self-deception. But Paul goes on to say that a man should think soberly (about himself) and recognize the measure of grace that God has given him. That is self-respect... or to put it more accurately ... "gift respect" since there is nothing we have that we didn't receive, and therefore there is no place for pride or self-love.
What I am getting at is the fallacy of using the words "as thyself as an excuse to pamper and provide for ourselves first on the premise that we cannot care for our neighbor until we have cared for ourselves. The Bible does not teach that we should be self-loving. Far from it! No self-respecting believer would think of stooping to the sin of self-loving! A self-respecter who strives for self-worth will follow Christ's example. He will please his neighbor for his neighbor's good to edification (Rom. 15:2). Those who live for themselves and love themselves become selfish. And to be selfish is to be the very opposite of what God wants us to be.
All of which boils down to attitudes. A self-loving person has a bad attitude. Selfishness is the essence of sin. If we are to be successful missionaries, we must overcome selfish living. We must think more of others and less of ourselves. We must have the right attitude!
Let me be a little kinder.
Let me be a little blinder.
To the faults of those about me.
Let me praise a little more.
Let me be, when I am weary.
Just a little bit more cheery.
Let me serve a little better.
Those that I am striving for.
Let me be a little braver.
When temptation bids me waver.
Let me try a little harder.
To be all that I should be.
Let me be a little meeker.
With the brother that is weaker.
Let me think more of my neighbor.
And a little less of me.
NINE ATTITUDES THAT ARE THE PRODUCT OF SELF LOVE
1. THE "FAMILY FIRST" ATTITUDE
This has come from the "love self' philosophy that is being propagated. The idea is that a missionary cannot be at his best if his family is unhappy. And this is true. But what makes a family unhappy? Or, to put it positively, what makes a family happy?
We know that giving a person everything he wants does not bring happiness. The happiest people in the world are not those who have the most. Happiness, for the believer, comes from knowing he is in the will of God. Happiness for the believer's family comes from identifying with the believer's commitment to the will of God.
It is a dangerous thing when a parent says to a child, "You come first... God's work comes second." That child is being taught that he is more important than God's work. He will learn to put his own wants above God's will.
Actually, it is not an "either/or" situation. It is possible to do the will of God and take the family with you in doing it. It is the parent who says to the child, "I have no time for you because my time is given to God's work" who loses his child. But the parent who says, "God's work is most important... come with me and we'll do it together" is the parent who keeps his child.
Experience proves that the parent who teaches his child that he is more important than the work of God usually loses that child. Conversely, the parent who involves his child in the work teaches his child the importance of doing the will of God at all costs, and the child adopts his parent's attitude. That kind of child goes back to the mission field.
There is something that is developing out of the "family first" attitude. Concern for the "neighbor" we want to save is being set aside for family concerns. When the family comes first, we are inclined to give family concerns top priority ... even if it means staying away from the field of our calling. The burning passion to "get back to the field" is dissipated.
Whenever we find it "necessary" to stay home longer ... for whatever reasons ... we should ask ourselves the question, "Is it still God first, neighbor second, and myself third?"
Take the matter of additional schooling. There is a tremendous emphasis on academic achievement these days. The pressure is on to keep up with the educated Joneses. So, when we ask for an extension to our furlough to get more credit hours on our educational program, we should ask ourselves several questions. Are we really doing this for our national neighbor's good to his edification? Is added schooling going to make any real difference in our ability to fulfill our calling? Or are we suffering from inferiority and frustration? Are we expecting education and expertise to fill the void of futility? Are we expecting the classroom to do what only God through His Holy Spirit can do?
Let's not fool ourselves. Catering to self will never satisfy. Living for our family is part of our responsibility. But what better heritage can a father give his child than to teach him to be selfless ... to deny himself... and to put God first and to think of others before himself?
The rigors of missionary work never hurt a child. I've seen the kids of missionaries up on the edge of the Sahara. They didn't complain because the parents didn't complain. The attitude of the child is usually a reflection of the parent's attitude. On the other hand, I've seen children sheltered from the Africans, given the best of everything, who turn out to be malcontents. It sometimes happens, but not often, that you find a poorly adjusted child whose parents are well adjusted. So, with some exceptions, the onus is on the parent to keep God first.. . others second ... and self last. That's what self-respecting missionaries do!
2. THE "I'VE GOT TO BE ME" ATTITUDE
The "I've gotta be me" attitude smacks of pride and self-indulgence. It says, "I'm ever so glad I'm the way I am, and I have no desire to change." It also implies, "If you intend to get along with me, it is you that must change and not me." How patient our African people are! How much they put up with! They make few demands on us ... not because they don't see our selfishness or feel the brunt of our bigotry ... but because they care too much to offend us by telling us our shortcomings. There is much that a missionary brings to the work that the national tolerates—insensitivity and idiosyncrasies are part of the price he pays for missionary presence.
We are not saying that the missionary has "gotta go national." The people themselves don't ask that we do it. But why, on the other hand, do we have to be so American? Why not cultivate an appreciation for African culture? Why don't we adopt some of their value systems? They are miles ahead of us in sharing ... in care of the aged and orphans ... in hospitality ... in respect for the feeling of others. We would do well to emulate their strengths.
The national soon pegs the character of a missionary. Few of us will ever know the name for us that they have given, and which they use among themselves when referring to us. I'm afraid it would be humiliating if we really knew ... for they are expert at reading character. Wouldn't it be nice if the nationals would say among themselves, "We used to call him 'flint-stone' but now we call him 'gentle giant'."
We so often think of ourselves as people sent to change people. And this is true. But is it right for us to expect those we minister to to change and not be willing to change as well? We preach that, having believed, the national should strive to be Christlike ... but having preached to others, are we unwilling for Christ to work on us as well?
Missionaries are teachers ... but they must also be learners. What a tragedy it is when, after fifteen years of ministry overseas, the missionary is no different than he was when he came.
But this brings up another subject. It is possible for a missionary to change when he shouldn't change.
I remember so vividly our arrival in Africa. The missionaries and the nationals did a fine job of receiving us. School children sang our welcome, and baskets and bowls filled with dozens of eggs were presented to the "new missionaries." I was standing beside an African schoolteacher named Weston. We had been having an animated conversation. I was intoxicated with the exhilaration. How warm and friendly the Africans were. It was all so new and so wonderful. All I had dreamed and prayed about had come true.
So I was startled when Weston said wistfully, "Bwana, I hope you don't change."
"Change," I said, "why should I change?"
"Oh, you will," he replied, "They all do."
I've thought of Weston's words many times in the thirty-six years since that day of arrival. I know now what I didn't know then. Missionaries do change. I'm sure I have changed. But change should be for the better and not for the worse. Unfortunately, I've seen buoyant missionaries who went out to treat the Africans as brothers end up treating them like children. Missionaries are molded by the political climate of a country ... particularly those who went out in the days of colonial rule like I did. The white man was Bwana (master) ... even in the church.
I remember talking with an African clerk and telling him how fortunate he was to only have to pay ten shillings "head tax" while I had to pay forty shillings. His lips smiled, but his eyes did not. "I pay a skin tax," he said, "that costs me far more than you pay. My salary is small because I am black. If a white man was doing this same job he would receive many times my salary. My tax is bigger than yours!"
I was ashamed. How right he was! And how callous and unthinking I was to jest about it. I changed my thinking that ... for the better.
The point I'm making is that we don't "gotta be me." We can change. We must change ... not for the worse, but for the better. We must look back over our years on the mission field and ask ourselves, "Have I changed for the better? Am I more Christlike than I was when I began?" Having done that, we must look at ourselves as we are now and say, "What remains to be changed ... where can I improve?" We should pray every day, "Lord, don't let me settle for what I am. Help me to be like Thee!"
3. THE "MY HOME IS MY CASTLE" ATTITUDE
Let me start by saying, "My home is my castle." How wonderful to have a place to relax ... a place to rest... and a place to get away from the demanding duties of missionary life. Thank God for wives who know how to make a house a home ... whether it is a three-room mud hut, or an eight room mansion. A missionary needs a place of retreat. He needs to have a place where he can let his hair down.
But having said that, let me put you to a little test. When an African comes to your door, what are your first words to him? Do you say, "What can I do for you?" Or, perhaps, "What do you want?" Think what such questions indicate. They say loud and clear, "You really don't belong here ... you must want something ... otherwise you wouldn't be here."
To emphasize what I am saying, what are your first words when a fellow missionary comes to your door? Don't you say something like this, "Hey! Welcome! How nice to see you! Come on in!" There is all the difference in the world between the two greetings. They reveal what you really think about the African and about your home.
I recall returning from furlough to my home that had been occupied by a fellow missionary while I was gone. The day after I arrived, I saw the general superintendent standing outside my office door, hat in hand. "What in the world are you doing out there, Gideon?" I said. "Come around to the front door and come on in ... you shouldn't be standing out there." "Oh no, mphunzitsi (teacher)," Gideon said, "the missionary who took your place said we should only come to the side door where the office is."
While I'm concerned about the disparity in lifestyles of missionaries compared to Africans, I am more concerned about our attitude toward the things we have. Living in luxury among a poor people inhibits our ability to be real brothers to them ... which is bad enough. But if our homes are off-limit to Africans, we would have been better off not to have gone to Africa in the first place!
Simple living, and a willingness to share what we have is the key to service that is acceptable. When we emerge from our castles to condescendingly serve ... our serving becomes totally unacceptable! Our talk of love falls on ears that our hypocrisy has closed.
Again and again we hear missionaries say, "But the African doesn't want us to live like him ... he aspires to come up to our level... not for us to go down to his." Spoken like a true American! How smug we are! How sure that ours is the ideal kind of living! Listen to how we sound when we say, "Up to our level" or "down to his level." Such talk gives away our attitude at once. We are stratified in our thinking! How can any missionary with that attitude avoid "talking down" to Africans? If, in our thinking, we are "above" him, how else can we communicate except by talking down? God help us ! God help us to remember the example of Jesus who "made Himself of no reputation and took upon Him the form of a servant." Jesus never talked down to anyone because He never placed Himself above anyone! God help us to empty ourselves of our pride and of our American superiority!
I'm not saying we should live like the Africans. It is true that they don't expect us to. But it is also true that they appreciate humility, generosity ... and fraternity. They enjoy coming into our homes. But we should remember that they know the difference between the formal entertainment of Africans and the warm entertainment of friends. They tolerate the former but welcome the latter.
So, let's let our home be our castle, but let's put the "welcome" sign out. You can't entertain everybody. There are too many of them to do that. But the African understands this, and if we entertain the leaders and those in search of friendship and fellowship, we will do well, and our home will cease to be a mysterious "out of bounds" area.
4. THE "I'LL DO ANYTHING FOR YOU IF YOU GIVE ME CREDIT FOR IT" ATTITUDE
Don't smile ... this attitude is more prevalent than you can imagine. If you don’t believe it, wait until someone gets the credit for something that you have done. How will you react? Will you keep quiet and say nothing? What do you do when you have worked your fingers to the bone and the national jumps on you for not doing more? Do you take it placidly and refrain from reminding him of all you have done?
The Africans are grateful people. In fact, they often give missionaries honor and respect that they don't get in America. I know of one missionary (no longer one of us) who makes a pilgrimage annually to Africa because he is treated like a king there. In America, nobody knows who he is. He has spent literally thousands of dollars on gifts and plane fare ... the price he is willing to pay for the adulation he receives. He has made it pretty miserable for missionaries who haven't given as much, but he could care less about their grief or about the fact that what he is doing is tearing up the work. What is important to him is the thanks he receives for his generosity!
It is quite a natural thing to want to be appreciated. Someone has said, "Treat me any way you like, but don't ignore me." This is understandable ... but it is not right. We do not work to be appreciated. When "thanks" come, it is very welcome, but our "doing" must not depend upon recognition. What we do must be as unto the Lord. He keeps the records!
I remember well a confrontation I had with a group of African ministers. They were really laying it on me. We weren't giving them all they were asking for, although we had given much. I was tired and the meeting had drug on and on. They were like a dog with a bone. They wouldn't let go. Finally, in exasperation, I said, "Well, you could at least be grateful for all we've ..." I stopped ... wishing I could pull my words back. I saw smiles of triumph on their faces. They had succeeded in pulling out of me what they knew I had every reason to say but was determined not to say! I apologized, for I was ashamed of myself. Interestingly enough, that seemed to satisfy them. If they couldn't get my money, at least they had gotten my goat!
As I try to analyze missionary work in the "old days" and missionary work today, I think "working to be appreciated" was more prevalent in the old days than today ... though there is still a lot of it around. It used to be that missionaries couldn't wait to get back to their fields. Why? Well, for many reasons, but one of them for sure was the respect and honor they received. It is a little harder today. A white face is no longer a passport to privilege. Now we have to earn our right to be respected. Some dread to go back to where Africans "talk back." Some find it hard to accept that they are not indispensable and are no longer "needed." The truth is that the African doesn't need a mother nearly as much as he needs a brother!
5. THE "I MUST BE FULFILLED" ATTITUDE
A missionary had just returned to America after a "successful" term on the field. He was quitting. The Foreign Missions Committee was questioning him ... trying to find out what made him toss in the towel. He had been a good missionary. He had related well to the nationals and the missionaries. His life was exemplary. There was no reason that we could think of that should have caused him to quit. So we asked him.
"Why, brother, when you had everything going for you, did you quit?" His answer was in keeping with an attitude that many are embracing today. "I wasn't fulfilled," he said. Fulfilled? What has fulfillment got to do with obedience to the will of God? "What soldier ever goes to war to be fulfilled?" I asked him. He had no answer to that. There is none. Fulfillment is one of the positive by-products of a job well done, but fulfillment is no goal to pursue. Think of what would have happened if fulfillment had been Jesus' goal. Jesus "saw the travail of his soul and was satisfied." Fulfillment for Jesus came out of obedience to the will of God. The experience of the cross was hardly fulfilling. The cup that Jesus drank was bitter. But look what it accomplished! We do not seek fulfillment. We seek to do the Father's will and, having done it, are fulfilled!
I have a hang-up on a number of things. One of them is the matter of specialization.
The trouble with a specialist is that he is apt to be unfulfilled if he is not doing his specialty. I know a young man who received a call to the mission field. He decided to prepare himself. So he opted for medicine and became a doctor. This was good ... but it was also bad, because the Assemblies of God do not go in for hospitals. This meant there was no place for his specialty. At first he said he wanted to do evangelism and only use his medical skills as a side-line. We thought we could use him on those terms. But he continued to hone his skills, and having done that, he began to talk of finding a place where he could use them. After all, God wouldn't have let him acquire all that talent and then let it go to waste. So what is he doing now? He is still doctoring ... in the States. He has specialized himself out of usefulness on the mission field. You can decide for yourself whether his talent is going to waste ... in the light of a lost world.
My advice to all missionaries is to get all the training you can but don't specialize yourself out of usefulness. I have little time for the "white collar" missionary who is above manual labor. One reason we ask Bible school teachers to start with area ministry is to acquaint them with the whole spectrum of missionary endeavor. We want people in the classroom who know what they are talking about... and we hope they will not only talk about interpretation of Scripture, but also its application in the context of the village! Doing area ministry may not be fulfilling to a Bible school teacher, but it sure is practical and beneficial.
Another hang up I have is job descriptions.
Now don't get me wrong. It is good to have goals and it is good to outline the tasks each man is to do to attain those goals. But if a man cannot work unless he has a job description, something is wrong. We need self-starters for missionaries. We need missionaries who don't wait to be told, but who, seeing a need, jump in and get a job done. We have too many who, like the priest and the Levite, say, "That isn't part of my job description."
Let me close this paragraph by saying that the most fulfilling place is the center of God's will. You may die doing it, but His will is still the best. You can't improve on God's will. You can't reach a higher place of attainment. To do less than God's will is to end up empty and dissatisfied. You can gain a whole world of acclaim and accomplishments, but if they were not a part of God's plan for you, they will be as sounding brass to you ... meaningless! Do not equate fulfillment with success and recognition. Equate fulfillment with the perfect will of God.
6. THE "MY KIND OF PEOPLE" ATTITUDE
Many years ago, when we were missionaries in Malawi, we had a visit from two preachers from America. They were gregarious and active. They preached well and played a lot.. They had many friends in high places in our Assemblies of God organization, and they impressed us with the names they dropped in casual conversation.
I felt out of my class, and a bit awed. I guess I was complimented when they treated me as an equal. A phrase one of them used when he made a phone call to his wife in the States has stuck with me over the years. "You'd like these missionaries, honey ... they're our kind of people."
The reason that statement has remained with me is because we learned later that one of them was a scoundrel and the other ran away with his secretary. I've wondered what they saw in us that made them say we were their kind of people. I wish now I hadn't been.
Birds of a feather do flock together, and it is very easy for missionaries to find enjoyment with their own kind. It is so easy to become professional in our ministry ... to do things for the African rather than with him ... to preach to him but never really know him. It is possible to spend thirty years trying to save people that we never intend to be "our kind of people." But isn't salvation more than merely being saved from the flames of hell? Doesn't salvation mean becoming a son of God and a brother to all other sons of God? Doesn't salvation mean that the middle wall of partition ... the cultural barrier ... the language barrier ... the social barrier ... the racial barrier ... is broken down to the extent that brothers enjoy one another's company? If it doesn't mean that, then salvation is a negative thing ... a mere escapism rather than a heaven on earth of fellowship and healing.
I heard of one missionary who asked for a transfer because he had no one to fellowship with. He was living in a city teeming with tens of thousands of nationals, but he had no one who was "his kind of people"! It never occurred to him that he was sent to do other than preach to them. He never intended to cultivate close personal ties that would fulfill his God-given longing for fellowship. Pity the missionary for whom the national is merely a statistic to be reported as part of his evangelistic conquest! These are God's children ... our brothers and sisters ... not mere objects for anthropological study ... or objects of pity ... or pets to be pampered ... or fodder for our itineration stories. God forgive us ... and God help us!
I think, too, that we often get too busy to form close friendships with the nationals. Our schedule is too full. When they come to our home to just visit, we get "antsy." We feel we are wasting time. We can't wait until they go so that we can get back to what we like to do best.
On the other hand, we sometimes go to their homes or churches and fail to linger after the service. We preach our sermon and are on our way. Fortunately, African hospitality keeps us from being totally inconsiderate. We are invited to "have tea" or to "take food" after the service. This saves the day, and we are pressed into fellowship. But even here we have to be careful. If we are formal and "all business" we miss our opportunity to know them in a different fraternal dimension. Missionaries who take time to know the family ... to listen attentively to personal joys and sorrows ... will gain a place in the people's hearts that will make their ministry far more effective.
The Africans are quick to know whether we really enjoy being with them. They will not press us to stay if they know we don’t enjoy it. It is here where we must take the initiative. We must invite them in. We must go visiting. Have you ever gone to a village for no other reason than that your African friends are there and you wanted to spend some time with them? Try it... you'll be surprised how it will enrich your life and "pay off' in better relationships.
You may find some resistance if you "get too friendly." Not resistance from the Africans, but resistance from your fellow missionaries. Don't be deterred by this, but be sure your motive is right in cultivating such friendships. It is possible to be friendly for the wrong reasons. It puts you "in" with the Africans and leaves the other missionaries "out." When this happens, it is easy for the "out" missionaries to criticize the "in" missionary and to put pressure on him to get back into the group and be "our kind of missionary." The best way to deal with an "in" missionary is to get "in" with him. This doesn't mean you have to match gift for gift and dollar for dollar. The African appreciates gifts, but he appreciates genuine friendship far more. Give of yourself to the African. Let him know that he is "your kind of people."
7. THE "COME TO WHERE I AM" ATTITUDE
The great thing about the good Samaritan was that he went to where the wounded man was in order to help him. What a lesson! And how well missionaries have learned it! There is a special reward for those who leave father and mother, home and country in order to go to where the lost are. I remember a pastor who visited Africa who, when I asked if he had received a call while there, said, "Oh, no, deliver me from living in Africa. We'll support your missionaries, but as for me, I'll stay in the States!" It takes special love and courage to leave the familiar path and go to where the lost live. Hats off to our missionaries!
But we can cross the ocean ... build our American community overseas ... and never get out to where the real need is. We can do abroad what has been done again and again in America. We build churches and announce on our sidewalk bulletins, "Come and hear." We advertise in the newspapers ... "Come and hear." We get on the radio and television and say, "Come to where we are and we will tell you what you ought to know."
But that was not the method of Jesus or of the Apostles. They always headed for the places where the people were. They frequented the marketplaces, the town halls, the synagogues, and the homes. The people hunted them out only after they had hunted the people out!
The trend these days is to locate in the city ... to find a comfortable house and a good school for our kids. Then we set about transplanting our American concept of evangelism overseas. We look for an auditorium. We buy a tent. We advertise. We take our public address system and go through the town saying, "Come to us ... come to the tent... come where we are and we'll help you."
Please understand me. I am not knocking tents and evangelistic campaigns. We need them. They are good and effective. They get a job done. Let's not stop doing them. But let us remember that, when we've done all of that, there are still thousands who never darken the door of a church or go to a tent meeting. This is why TV is so effective. It gets into the home. Radio does the same. So do the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Mormons. They go to where the people are. They go from house to house. This is where the Korean church has been so effective in organizing a city into zones with workers assigned to each area. There are many ways of doing it, but basically the idea is, "Let's go where the people are." It isn't enough to call them to come to us. We must go to them.
There are two things that make "going to where they are" difficult. First, it requires a lot of effort. It's hard work. It's a lot easier to set up a busy routine ... to have church activities for every age group ... Women's Ministries meetings ... men's fellowship meetings ... CA meetings ... Missionettes meetings ... Royal Rangers meetings ... and special meetings of various kinds. But the trouble with these meetings is that they are mostly for the believers and, as a means of evangelism, don't touch the people who need touching. To get sinners saved we need to go where sinners are. Jesus got in trouble doing it. He sat with sinners. He ate with sinners. He fraternized, if you please, with sinners. He lived dangerously, for when you leave the sheltered environment of the "house of God" and go out into the nitty-gritty world, you become vulnerable. It is easy to be misunderstood. Jesus took a chance when He was seen with a harlot at Samaria's well. He brought down the wrath of the Pharisees when He ate at Zaccheus' house. He was accused of being a wino because He associated with winos. He got criticized but He got the job done.
The second drawback to "going to where they are" is that we get mistaken for Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons who use the door-to-door method. But why let that deter us? Are we going to abdicate our responsibility and forsake a method that is successful simply because false religions are using it? We will never reach the world for Christ unless we can inspire the national church to go to where the sinners are. And the best way to get the national church to go to where the sinners are is to lead the way. We cannot afford to merely be teachers. We cannot afford to sit in our priestly offices and tell them to do it. We need to set the example of concern. We must demonstrate what being moved with compassion means. We must be good Samaritans!
8. THE "I’VE GOT MY RIGHTS" ATTITUDE
It is very hard to take away a man's rights when he doesn't claim any rights. That was why the Pharisees found Jesus so hard to handle. Jesus only got upset when His Father's rights were at stake.
We would do well to analyze our emotions when we get all hot and bothered. What does it take to get us upset? When the other fellow's toe is stepped on, or when our own toe is stepped on? Does it bother us when our fellow missionaries on another field have a less-than-adequate cost of living? Do we weep when another missionary is assigned to a task we wouldn't accept? Or do we only blow off steam when we are the ones who are denied what we want?
There was an article many years ago in a Reader's Digest that profoundly affected me. It was titled, "Do you act or react?" Many of you will remember it. It told of a man who regularly bought his daily newspaper from a small boy who was insolent and rude. When the man's friend asked why he put up with it, his reply was, "I'm not going to let an insolent boy determine what my actions are going to be." What a lesson! Think of the times we are offended. Somebody picks our sermon apart. We are insulted. Someone tries to point out an error in the way we speak the foreign language. We bristle ... and look for a chance to point out his mistakes. We are told to cut back on the time we spend in recreation, and we react by pointing out that we have just as much right to do what we are doing as Joe has to do what he is doing.
What are a missionary's rights? Well, he has a right to have a say as to where he works and what he does. Not that he will always be allowed to do what he wants. Everybody on the team can't be captains! If two people want to be principal of a Bible school, it is obvious that one is going to have to set aside his "rights."
People who can't work unless they are precisely where they want to be have real problems. If I say it is God's will for me to be in Zanzibar and claim it as my right, I'm going to be terribly frustrated if the door to Zanzibar closes, or if the national church requests that I go elsewhere. I will have painted myself into a comer. I would have been better off to have couched my "rights" with the words, "If God wills, I will go to Zanzibar."
I'm so glad Jesus didn't have a call to Africa. I'd have been lost for sure! Christ was called to save "whosoever will" ... whether in America, Africa, India or South America. Really, I have no right to turn away from any man or people who are lost simply because I don't feel I have been called to minister to them.
A missionary has a right to trust God for his needs. God has promised to supply all our needs. When we go to the mission field, we lay aside our "rights" to be near family ... to make a fortune ... to eat McDonald's hamburgers. But we should remember that this does not give us the right to "demand" adequate salary or a comfortable lifestyle. When we enlist in the Lord's army we should know what soldiering means. It means we give up our right to live as other citizens. It means we put the Kingdom before our family. It means we eat army rations. It means we go where we are told ... even if it means doing without, getting sick, or dying. We are grateful that we belong to an A/G family that takes care of us ... but our commitment is not dependent upon that care. We would be missionaries if our allowances were half what they are now ... because we don't serve for salary. The only right we claim is the right to fulfill the burning desire to reach the lost for Christ... wherever they are!
Godliness with contentment is great gain ... but contentment, in some instances, seems to be missing. We are often guilty of comparing ourselves among ourselves, and of insisting that we all be treated alike. We believe in capitalism as a political system, but we want socialism in the missionary family. Thank God for the many, many missionaries with generous spirits who can rejoice when others have more than they, and can put up with conditions that require self-denial.
9. THE "FOR HOME CONSUMPTION" ATTITUDE
Americans are success oriented. Unfortunately, our churches in the States only want to hear success stories. Thank God we are past the "pity me" presentation in which the missionary shows pictures of starving babies, leprous hands, and grass shacks. Congregations are full of people who have traveled. They know what is over there. We gain no brownie points by telling of all the hardships and suffering we have experienced. True, it still works sometimes. People seem to like to cry. But the thing that turns people on these days is the news that sinners are being saved, churches are being established, and national churches are picking up the Great Commission torch.
Our congregations are project oriented. They like to get behind something they can see. Pastors like to dedicate buildings they have built. So we have ministers and laymen traveling back and forth across the ocean to get a taste of the mission field and to be part of the action. This is positive ... but it has its problems. Sometimes they want a project whether it is needed or not. Sometimes they want to do for the national what the national is well able to do for himself. When this happens, the minister's contribution is counter-productive. It becomes a situation where the project exists for the propaganda value back home.
There are two kinds of visitors overseas. The first... and thank God, the majority ... go to be a blessing. They are not merely sightseers. They are ministers who want to share their burden and their love. They come to give rather than to take.
When they leave, part of them remains behind. We thank God for every one of them.
The second kind of visitor comes with an eye to the publicity his trip will give him back home. You can spot him immediately. Pictures are taken and sermons are preached ... but the speaker hardly sees the people. He is preaching to the crowd back home. It is all fodder for his propaganda cannon.
I remember being in Jerusalem before the Six-Day War. We owned a church property that was later sold. I slipped into an evening service unannounced. Only a dozen people were there. An elder was conducting the service. Seeing that I was a stranger, they asked for my testimony but apologized for not asking me to speak. They were expecting visitors, they said, who hadn't yet arrived and who were scheduled to preach. About that time, they came in ... cameras on their arms and shoulders. Then the show began. The elder asked who was going to preach. "Oh, two of us will preach," they said. (They were not A/G people, thankfully!) Due to the small crowd the elder was standing down front close to the people. The first speaker insisted on standing behind the pulpit. So the elder obliged and followed him to the platform so he could interpret.
While his companion walked back and forth taking different shots with his movie camera, the man preached, struck poses, and got highly emotional about the significance of Jerusalem in prophecy. It was as though we were on a set with the whole event being recorded on film for the folks back home. In fact, that's exactly what it was! After the first man was through, the second man got his ... and we went through the whole act again. I wondered how many times those patient people in Jerusalem had put up with such nonsense!
But we mustn't be too hard on those tourists. We must look at ourselves. How much of what we do is with an eye to the churches back home? I remember a missionary who was determined to build a church where there were no A/G members because he had to have "something to show" when he went on furlough a few months later.
I think missionaries are getting more and more sensitive to camera carrying. We do need pictures, and our congregations need to see what is being done. But we have to be careful not to leave the impression that we are only interested in people as subjects for picture taking. No wonder nationals are asking to be paid when their pictures are taken. They think we make money out of their pictures ... and we do ... not for ourselves, but for our projects and for the work out there. But they think we make money for ourselves, and they feel they ought to have a cut of the pie. I know of a pastor, now deceased, who had a sign up in his church ... "No picture taking allowed here."
The pressure to have a good story can easily lead a missionary to become a liar. It is amazing how easy it is to rationalize. We talk jokingly of "evangelistically speaking." It's no joke. Lying is never a joke. The fact that an untrue story brings a good offering is beside the point. Better a bad offering with a good conscience than a good offering with a bad conscience.
Whenever we stoop to lying to please the crowd we are exhibiting a lack of faith. We are saying that God can't do it unless we lie for Him! Shame on us! The truth is exciting if we are excited about the truth. And there is an added bonus. We can have the Holy Spirit's blessing upon the truth. The spirit that inspires a lie is not the Holy Spirit. Rather than spending time embellishing a story, we would do well to ask for a special anointing on our presentation of the truth.
I know the pressure is great to produce. We see that some "get by" with misrepresentation. It is hard to swallow when we see them in the limelight... getting in the best churches ... getting huge offerings. It is a temptation to emulate them. Yield not to temptation. Yielding is sin! God will help you get services, and God will help you raise your budget. If the Joneses are liars, don't aspire to keep up with them!
If these nine attitudes seem to emphasize the negative too much, we apologize. They were not meant to be. What we have sought to do is to point out the importance of attitudes. We can deal with adultery and rebellion, but how does one handle attitudes? And yet 90 percent of situations where there is trouble, attitudes are the culprits.
Our prayer is that these paragraphs will help us see ourselves as the national sees us. Let's not deny that such attitudes exist. And if we are guilty of them, let's not brush them off as inconsequential. If we're having relationship problems, it may well be because of our attitude. Bad attitudes are sins to be repented of. Bad attitudes can destroy our effectiveness as missionaries. God give us good attitudes!