To Change or to Enrich

In the U.S., our supporters tell us that being a missionary is the highest calling. They say that moving overseas to plant churches is of eternal significance. To them, missions is telling people about Jesus. That’s what they ask about when we talk: How many people have become Christians? How many churches have you planted? They see missions as a spiritual endeavor with spiritual effects.

Here in Western Europe, if I were to tell people that I’m a missionary, they’d ask me why I’m not in Africa or India passing out food to starving children. They’d assume that I’m a bleeding heart who wants to build schools and educate people about HIV. To them, missions is about meeting physical needs out of a spiritual motivation.

Two different understandings of missions. The goal of the first is to change people; the aim of the second is to enrich them. I’ve decided to be the second type of missionary.

I’m not buying into the idea that we can separate out the spiritual needs from the physical ones, or that it’s okay to focus on one and ignore the other. I don’t think a preaching a sermon is better than giving diapers to a poor mother. I think that passing out water to thirsty people is good evangelism, even if the bottles don’t have tracts attached.

Don’t get me wrong. Making people’s live better doesn’t just mean passing out coats and blankets. It means boldly speaking truth in every conversation. It means teaching, encouraging, challenging, giving, and serving. I believe that God can use me to bless people to repentance.

As goals, “change” and “enrichment” make for very different approaches to missions.

21 thoughts on “To Change or to Enrich

  1. From a new reader to your blog:

    About this specific post: why does it have to be either/or? Why not both?

    This specific post is a representation of the other posts that I’ve read on your blog: you have a “me vs. them” mentality. And b/c you have that kind of mentality, everything that happens in the Board/on the field/in life is filtered through it. So what? is the next question. Well, it leads to something I like to refer to as a “victim mentality”. When the other party, in this case “them”, is your leader and tells you strategy is a certain way, instead submitting to their authority (which by the way, I read your post on authority, and I would recommend a book called “Under Cover” by, I think, John Bever), you fall into a victim mentality which completely takes God out out of the picture, and life becomes a battle between “me and them”.

    Ask God if HE wants you to be with the Company. If so and if your authorities tell you to do work a certain way, then do it. Stop complaining. But if God says change, then change to a different organization that will support you in what you feel called to do.

    The fact that you are not willing to put your name (your realy name, not earnest) on this blog says a lot about you. Maybe those in your region know who you are, but when someone begins a blog like this, it carries little weight without a name, without someone (you in this case) being willing to take the heat for what you say.

    How ironic that I’m commenting anonymously, right? I am sorry that I can’t at least put my name, but it’s for safety as I live in a country hostile to our work, and I can’t have my name put on the internet, especially on a blog with this much religious/work content. But this comment isn’t about me; it’s about your blog.

    I don’t know how to say this any other way except this way: you are doing nothing but harm to our company and you are just another person who would rather divide than try to unify; please, stop embarrassing the Company.

    I would love to find M’s blogs with our company that have encouraging news about their own personal lives or their work (whether through “real relationships” or filtering) and not blogs that are complaining out of a victim mentality.

    Your name, your real name? is it ****** ******?

    Comment originally posted on: Sunday, April 29, 2007 12:01:00 PM

  2. Anonymous,
    Wow. I have never felt as misunderstood as I do after reading your comment.

    If you are in a place that requires anonymity, you should know better than to try to reveal the identity of a fellow worker. I am editing your original comment to remove the name you unwisely included (and wrongly guessed).

    This post has nothing to do with “the Company.” When I wrote about two different perspectives, I was comparing what I come from (the people in my home church that love and support me- the ones who taught me about missions), and what I’m learning here on the field.

    I admit, a lot of my posts do present things as “this instead of that.” That’s because I’m processing the differences between the common understandings of missions and these new things I’m learning.

    I have never felt pressure from my authorities to do anything other than what God is leading me to do. I fully submit to them, and I respect their wisdom and experience. I have a great relationship with my leadership. I’m not complaining here! I am trying to challenge those around me to reconsider their missiology and the expression of their faith.

    I understand that my blog carries little weight without my name attached, but I assure you that my name wouldn’t add any whatsoever.

    I have never meant any harm to our organization, or to my coworkers. I’m sorry that you have been offended by what I’ve written here, and that you feel embarrassed by me.

    How would you suggest I write about the life and ministry lessons that I’m learning? What changes could I make that would invite people like you to discuss my ideas without taking offense?

  3. Stepchild – first of all, thanks for the post. I agree that those that support us in the states have a different idea about the “work” that we do. I do think however, that the “change” goal can happen as a result of the “enrich” goal. The only thing I agree with Anonymous about is that it can be both. But I would take the approach that in order to see change you first have to enrich the lives of others. Matthew 5:16 says that we should let our light shine before men so that they see our good works and glorify God. Interesting isn’t it…that they glorify God after seeing our good works, not the other way around.

    I think your post is spot on.

    Now, a comment for Anonymous: I’m sorry, but you are way out of line. Stepchild is in no way an embarrassment to this company. In fact, we need more like him on the field. Instead of accepting life as it’s presented to him lock, stock, and barrell, he chooses to ask questions that a lot of us should be asking ourselves. Just because he chooses to write about the things he is wrestling with and thinking through doesn’t mean that he is “against” the company, or not submitting to leadership.

    And him choosing to not publish his real name doesn’t say any more about him than it does about you. I write with a pseudonym, for the same reasons as you, and for some of the same reasons as Stepchild. Your view of him not publishing his real name is quite hypocritical.

    Stepchild, you are not an embarrassment. I encourage you to keep asking the questions out loud that you are wrestling with internally. There are those of us that appreciate it and are encouraged by them.

    –shorty

  4. welcome back stepchild. you have been missed. your challenging posts have been missed. and anonymous #1 really needs to chill and ask himself why he is so defensive. talk about reading stuff into a post that isn’t there….

    anyway, i have asked myself many times why the Church has historically struggled over the social aspects of the gospel. what i mean by that is simply the pendulum effect we see from time to time that goes between the two extremes of only meeting needs in the name of God one the one end to only evangelizing with words on the other end. read a bit of church history, especially in this country in the last century and you will notice that each side is battling to justify why their stance is the right one.

    my brain can’t even sort the reasons why this division is even necessary. i honestly don’t get it. both my actions and my words flow from a relationship with God that defines everything about me. if i dam one of them up, then i am being untrue to who i really am and who God is in me.

    to me, it seems so clear. jesus ministered to “whole” people. he meets physical, emotional, psychological and social needs. all of these make of the spirit of a person. we have to stop doing “part” ministry because people aren’t just appendages–arms, legs and heads. they are whole people and our approach and our life must be “whole”listic.

  5. Well, you know what I think already. Jesus preached and healed. He loved all the time and sometimes that meant speaking the truth and sometimes that meant demonstrating the truth. So, I say do that!
    I have been somewhat concerned with our constituency over the years. As I go back home and talk about our disaster relief and the humanitarian aspects of our work too many people are more interested in that than they are the spiritual things! The reverse of what I expected and your post implies. We need balance which comes from wisdom which comes from Him.
    As for annonomous- I used to suspect that you wrote some of the caustic annonomous comments yourself so you could debate the issues you wanted but maybe I am wrong and there really are people out there who are that far out of touch?

  6. Although you don’t want to post your name, perhaps you could tell how long you have been with the organization and what your missions background is. That would perhaps enhance your credibility to speak to various issues.

  7. Yes it is very important to attack credibility when you can not deal with the ideas themselves.
    Matthew was a tax collector and yet he wrote his Gospel to the Jews.
    Credibility sure seemed important to God when he had Matthew do that.
    How about it Stepchild? Do you have PHD in asking questions?

  8. Thanks for the post.

    It is a good reminder to me that…

    Changing people is what God does.

    Enriching their lives (salt) is what I does.

    :)

  9. Stepchild, I think you are speaking for a growing minority of ‘us’ ( in our company & other companies). Why handcuff cross-cultural workers to traditional evangelistic methodologies when they are clearly not working in a particular setting? If handing out tracts and holding events at the church is not reaching secular people, why keep doing PRIMARILY that? I’m not for adopting a new strategy plan every month, but allowing workers to use their giftings and address real life needs in the community seems a reasonable way to live out our faith and develop friendships.

    I wish that the people who feel so threatened and upset if you suggest doing something different from their plan could understand that we are all committed to the same goal, and that there is room in the harvest fields for many different kinds of laborers (even within one company).

    It’s not divergent ideas that are the problem for the company. The bigger issue is people who so jealously guard their own power and authority that they feel the need to undermine or control anyone who is not just like them. If they can’t make the divergent thinkers submit and become a clone, then they seek to discourage them into going home for good.

  10. From Anonymous #1:

    First, if you are not her and you want to help her and you, then I would suggest that you take “Barcelona Company” off of your profile list because it ties her name to your profile.

    Second, honestly I am thankful when people ask questions and want to push the edge. I am one of those type of people. But I am not thankful when they do it from a heart that is not willing to submit to leadership if leadership says execute strategy a certain way that is different from our idea. When I read some, not all, of your posts, that’s what I hear coming through.

    (And unfortunately, I read other comments in relation to this post or my previous comment, and that’s what I hear: a heart that is not willing to submit–what they call “people guarding their power”. Euro M, they don’t guard their power (they may think they are guarding their power). But we all know that it’s God who keeps them there and takes them away as He pleases. Don’t look at things from such a humanistic point of view; He is in control. If it’s His will they stay, then they stay. Your job is to submit. Your ideas are interesting but hard to swallow because of your view of leadership and submission. Do you think by not submitting to them that you do yourself and them any good? Heb 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.).

    Next, I really want to, again, recommend John Bever’s book “Under Cover”. It’s great and addresses this issue of submitting to leaders even when we may not agree with them.

    I should also say, because it sounded like someone thought I had posted before, this is my second time to post. The first time was just a few days ago. So, no, I haven’t been around this way trying to stir up trouble.

    Fourth, if you feel called to a certain way of doing Min, then you should do it. If the Company says we are going to work plan A, but you feel like plan D is what He wants you to do, then do it. Just do it with an organization that will support you and be able to encourage you in that role. Don’t continue to be unsubmissive to leadership be doing what you “feel called to do”. I, and no one else with the Board, will doubt your calling; the point, again, is just go with a group that will support you in it.

    No one faults M Aviation when they turn someone down who doesn’t want to be involved in aviation or someone wants to do work in Paris but wants to go through NTM. So, why do we fault our company when they also have a strategy and a way to implement it a certain way but we don’t want to do it that way?

    A bit from Bever: God’s kingdom is exactly that, a kingdom. It’s not a democracy. It’s not an equal playing field with God at the top and all believers equal with each other. God is the head and any leaders, He puts all of them in places as He wants to. By submitting to the leaders above us, we submit to God. If we choose to not submit to them, then we are choosing to not submit to God. Unless there is a case of sin, or unless we absolutely feel Him calling us out of that situation, then we are to remain and submit, whether we like it or not. We have one appeal, and after that, go on and submit.

    If you were in leadership and those under you had that type of attitude, don’t you think it would free you up to lead instead of worrying about putting out fires all the time? So, then think of how your leadership would feel if you had that type of attitude.

    I’m not in any leadership, I’m not an SC, or SSC or RLT or RL. But I take that attitude with those above me, and I submit. And they know it. Does that mean I don’t ask questions and am a yes man? Of course not. I ask questions all the time and challenge them to think about ideas I have. But because my attitude is one of submission no matter what their final decision is (except for causing me to sin or them to sin), then they take me more seriously when I do ask questions about a decision that was made.

    If you just start out asking questions and writing off strategy as not what you want to do, then your leadership (wrongly) will not listen to you or take you seriously.

    Can I just say one more thing before answering your question? Your blog attracts people who are like you. If when you read a comment and you think, “wow, that’s a little harsh or radical or wrong”, then it might be the case that you have the same general type of attitude. This is not definite, but just a suggestion as to what could be a mirror.

    So as to your question “how?” and “what changes to make”, my suggestion is that you start submitting to your leadership (their strategy, their plans, the way they want to do it whether you agree with it or not) and write about those lessons, how you differ yet you know that you are supposed to submit to them and how it’s a struggle yet you want to glorify God through your life and how you are because you choose to humble yourself, submit to them, and gain credibility to speak into their lives, but if you never gained that chance to change their ear, then you still did what you were supposed to do–submit to them and thereby submit to God. Then, you would be more so inviting people like me to be willing to discuss your ideas. But, you have to ask yourself the question, do I want people like this jerk Anonmyous #1 to come back and discuss my questions? :) Will the faithful who follow my blog deny me as a heretic if I choose to submit to their ideas and not my own?

    I went back and read and re-read my previous post, and I want to apologize for using the word “embarassment/emabarassing”. That was not the appropriate word. Will you please forgive me? I look forward to your thoughts about this submission idea and if you think I am still misunderstanding you and how I can understand you better.

  11. Wow, Strider, that was a bit harsh. It was simply a helpful suggestion. I am aware of who you are and your history with the company, and it gives you enhanced credibility to me. I take seriously your comments because I know of your work and reputation. It was simply an idea.

  12. You know, Strider, the more I think about it, the more surprised I am at your comment. I guess the perceived blanket of anonymity gives one much security.
    Hopefully I have misinterpreted your tone.
    Credibility and reputation do matter.

  13. BJ- If you know me and my reputation then you should not be surprised at a harsh statement. I am quite capable of saying stupid things. Anonymity is not an issue with me. Many folks know who I am and that never changes what I say- unfortunately!
    However, I took your comment as another attack on Stepchild and if it was not then I do apologize. He does not need me to defend him but I view this blog as a place to discuss missiology and I get quite annoyed at those who don’t think it should be discussed.
    Which brings me to anonymous1- I have big problems with your views on authority. Authority never means ‘do what I say without question and if you don’t like it get out.’ We here on the field have more than freedom to discuss methodology- we have a responsibility to do it. I am very thankful for a leadership who is very encouraging and responsive to what we on the field believe that God is teaching us. New Directions was not cooked up in an office building in the West. It was the result of God moving in the hearts and ministries of people on the field. We continue to learn and grow and those in authority over us are excited about that- not threatened by that.

  14. Geeez Stepchild! You try to come back and write a simple post and look what you stir up!

    Anon #1 – We all respect authority and submit to Spirit led leaders. That does not mean that we cannot receive some direct guidance from the Lord. It does not mean that we cannot question people over us (most welcome the questions). All have a role a leadership, just at different levels. Stepchild is influencing from the bottom up… not everything has to come from the top down.

  15. Anonn.

    Help me out here with your accusation of being annonymous:

    “The fact that you are not willing to put your name (your realy name, not earnest) on this blog says a lot about you.”

    Seems like you are expecting someone else to hold a different standard than yourself.

    Stepchild’s annonymity was what drew me to this blog. I decided to read what he had to say based purely on his ideas, not his identity. I find it is very difficult to maintain a discussion in the realm of ideas without resorting to some kind of attack on the other person who disagrees with me. Its much easier to call someone an idiot than it is to consider their point of view.

  16. Well, that went downhill in a hurry.

    Anonymous, you have contributed very little to this discussion, and in fact have been quite rude. This is not a spiritual issue, or even a maturity issue, but one of common courtesy. At the least you should register under a pseudonym, so that we who read and/or comment here often can get a feel for your personality, and your credibility. Plus, you’ll be less tempted to insult others if you have to live with the reputation your rudeness has earned you.

    Stepchild, I wouldn’t be too worried about the charge that you repeat yourself. We all do. I think it’s because, as you know, there are no easy answers. If it were possible to say, definitively, that the proper way to do missions is to preach, or to feed the hungry, then we wouldn’t need to have this discussion. But it’s not easy. There’s tension.

    Because people are different. One body, many members, all that. We aren’t all fingers, or all eyeballs. God has called some to teach, some to prophesy, some to hand out water to thirsty people. Don’t let the eyeballs tell you it’s not important to be a finger, just make sure you’re doing the work of a finger because God made you a finger.

  17. All,
    Thanks for commenting. I appreciate the interaction. I really think your input has challenged me to express myself more deliberately.

    BJ,
    When I started this blog, I chose to post anonymously as to engage people on the merits (or lack thereof) of my questions and ideas. Maybe I will post some personal information someday.

    Anonymous #1,
    I’m not sure where you’re getting the idea that I’m unwilling to submit to authority or that I’m somehow insubordinate. Can you help me see where I’m communicating that?

    Maybe it would clear things up if I explain that when I pose questions and challenge ideas here, I’m setting my thoughts over and against what I understand as conventional wisdom, common misconceptions, and what I have heard from colleagues and other believers. When you read a “me vs. them” mentality (you mentioned in your first comment that many of my posts come across that way), it isn’t “me vs. my IMB leadership;” if anything, it’s “me now vs. me when I started this whole thing.”

    Sometimes, the things I question are pretty pervasive in our circles. I think we should discuss them. I’m not questioning my leadership, their devotion to God, or their authority over me. I am questioning missions, missiology, and the way we’ve always done them.

    I happily do whatever is asked of me by my organization and the leadership they’ve placed over me. They have, in fact, entrusted me with the task of some strategy development. My posts are my attempts to process through those things as God leads me.

    Tim,
    -And for a mediocre post (at best!)

    Publius, Strider, Watchman,
    Thanks for encouraging me. I enjoy the ongoing conversation.

  18. Stepchild,
    We have found your posts to be thought provoking, to say the least. We are struggling with what we preceive as definite absence of any type of social ministry in our part of the world (through the company). When we question the either/or and why not both/and, we’ve heard, “when the church grows, then they’ll take care of social ministries.”

    We don’t see that this in anyway negates our call, from God, in the Bible, to also do social ministry within the context of our imb work.

    Yes, we feel a tension here between these two things. We would strongly agree with your last statement,
    “Making people’s live better doesn’t just mean passing out coats and blankets. It means boldly speaking truth in every conversation. It means teaching, encouraging, challenging, giving, and serving.”

    This is the side we happen to fall upon as well.

  19. To Obey- I appreciate your comment and I want to give you a challenge- which you may not need but your leadership might. Those whom you lead to faith and the Churches you start will have no other model than yourself. It is foolishness to think that we will not do social ministry but the Church will one day- later- when they are stronger. They will not. They will follow the model of their mentors- even as we have! We must serve human needs because we want others to serve human needs. Those whom we disciple may one day go beyond us- we pray!- but in the short and medium run if we want to see them serving fully then we must model this fully. Stepchild’s post is not an either or, but a full paradigm shift to something else. I believe it is the true heart of the gospel.
    Sorry for the long comment- I guess your good comment got me preaching again!

  20. Just thought I’d check if you came back. Glad to see you have. Ask Him for material; He’s got plenty. :) Of course, it sounds like Anonymous can tell you what you should say too, but I trust you to let the Holy Spirit speak.

    I’d challenge us all to be more about the good news of the Kingdom. All of these things we call missions are exactly that when done in obedience to the King and representing Him as His ambassadors. It is an every day and every moment thing. And it requires listening for His direction.

  21. My husband and I found your blog by accident – or maybe not. God has a way of drawing all of us where we need to be. Your comments throughout this blog has expressed our feelings about ‘missions’. As we are newly stationed ‘older’ missionaries outside the ‘company’, our ideas, praise the Lord, are not crazy. What we sense from your blog is a passion for the people, not just a bunch of theological ideas we could all discuss until Jesus returns. The importantance of what you expressed is exactly what the Lord is teaching us. Will we be willing to disciple if we are not the ones to plant the church for ‘credit’? Will we be the ones who give food to the hungry even if we can’t get credit in a newsletter? Those who live out the call of God among the nations are to be what you mentioned. The blessing. We were called to be a blessing in the nations. As we discover the fathers heart to reach the nations, He will change our thinking and this is a good thing. For those who have it all figured out in a 10 point outline, remember, God is always up to doing a new thing. He works best when we get out of the way. The earlier comments expressed in response to your blog, most likely, have not received the revelation you are speaking of. It is hard to get some things others share when we are not there yet. (I am not expressing spiritual superiority, just plain old some people are not there yet.)

    Keep on sharing. We get it!

    Teachable Diciple-Makers in SA!

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