The Professionals

Perhaps the most visible type of missionary that shouldn’t be here are the Professionals. They are the missionaries that built the IMB into the huge corporation that it is today. These are the folks that fill their days with professional missionary things like going to conferences and making appearances at meetings. Usually, the Pros are big on networking. They like to name-drop, brag, and make guys like me meet people that they think are like me so that we can know each other and so later, when they drop our names, they can say things like, “You know, I introduced them!” The Professionals are the ones who have a hard time not having a “real job,” so they put lots of effort into making church planting look like one.

The reason professionals shouldn’t be on the field is that they are not really planting churches. They are not really sharing life, culturally translating the gospel, or facilitating a house church movement. No, these guys don’t have time to do real ministry, they’re too busy being missionaries.

Professionals are usually the ones that get promoted up the responsibility food-chain and put in strategy leadership positions. At first glance, they look like they’re really doing something. They’re well spoken. They have a great web site. They bring in lots of volunteers. They’re sharp dressers. They prioritize primary action items and draft mission statements and publish team goals and objectives in sleek .pdf prayer newsletters.

The reason that Professional Missionaries shouldn’t be on the field is that they have effectively redefined the concept of missions for the churches that support us. They have changed the stereotype from the four-pocket short-sleeve dress shirt wearing homely couple with seven children to a jet-set Blackberry addict with places to go and people to see. They are the reason we have conferences about how to “reach” people and strategy documents and ASR reports instead of, well, churches.

Don’t worry, I’m not saying we need to fire all of the Professional Missionaries. We don’t need to. They are the ones that get burnt out and go home as soon as they realize that no matter how hard they try, they cannot make church planting into a corporate position. They realize that no one is competing with them for the next leadership position, and that there is no prize for starting a new church planting partners network. They go home to work for Xerox or Saddleback.

About E. Goodman

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