Obedience as Strategy

I recognize that there are some problems with “obedience as the strategy.” There are real questions of trust and control. Allowing the Holy Spirit to run our strategy would require us to trust each person with hearing and understanding God’s call on their life. We might not have control over where we send people. Plus, how do we decide where the money goes if we let God lead? And how would we measure results? Even worse, there would be no subjective way to rate performance. “84% obedient- try to work on that before you fall into the 70s- that calls for probation, you know.” We would have to trust the individual to maintain such a close personal fellowship with God that he or she knows what God wants for them and does it. We’d need to spend less time training our folks about church planting movements and more time teaching them who they are in Christ. We would have to put added emphasis on accountability, where our obedience actually could be measured within the context of relationship. But what a lot of work that would be! Better to make an across-the-board rule against drinking than to trust missionaries to make the right decisions regarding such cultural issues. Would that we had such an organization that associates were hired and fired based on personal accountability and pastoral guidance instead of projected personnel needs and rule book violations.

We depend on the terms “lostness,” “unreached,” and “the Task” to provide a standard by which we can measure our success. They were invented by strategists to help us get a handle on what we’re doing, and to assure the people back home that we’re making progress. We recently received a strategy report from the home office, in which our leadership outlined our strategy for the coming year. Basically, it stated that our organization needs X number of missionaries on the field in order to “finish the task.” They looked at the number of “unreached” people groups and decided that if we placed missionaries from our organization among those peoples, our job would be done. This plan was passed by the board and sent on to our leadership in the field. But this is a case of the performer dictating the standard by which his own performance should be measured. By sending out brochures and flyers and promotional videos, we teach people that success is possible and tangible and just around the corner. This works well to show that we are professionals who know what we’re doing. We’re in control, and you can trust us to use your donations well. But it is essentially a human-centered plan. We seem to have forgotten that God sometimes moves in mysterious ways.

About E. Goodman

Ernest Goodman is a missiologist, writer, teacher, and communications strategist.