Audio Transcript:

Welcome to Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on church and missions. Welcome to episode 28 of Missions on Point. We're going to continue our series on keys to effectiveness as a missionary. The key of simple priorities is incorporating some of the other keys to effectiveness that we'll see later on, but it's good to take this one separately and consider how we organize our life day-to-day as missionaries. Some of the things that we'll talk about are very simple in themselves, but together it really becomes pretty complex.

Two problems that missionaries face that most other people don't face is the complexity of living in a cross-cultural environment. Sometimes it just takes so much time and effort to live, to get food on the table, to have a decent housing situation. And the transportation is often simpler or more complex than our daily life. Secondly, there is a press of urgency that missionaries face, urgent things pressing in on them. And because they don't work in a factory assembly line, because they don't punch a clock per se, there's so many things that can press in, whether it be family issues, or children's education, or mechanical things with your car, or neighbors visiting, or even ministry related meetings that take up so much time that there's very little concentration and focus on simple priorities.

One of the most difficult things in ministry is balance. So when we talk about simple priorities, we're going to assume that the missionary is taking care of their personal health, their wellbeing with regard to their living space, basic maintenance around the home, taking care of their family, spending appropriate time with spouse and children, doing regular things like devotions. And all of those things are part of their regular, normal, routine priorities. But even there, there's balance. I have seen missionaries who went way overboard on homeschooling and didn't have any time for ministry. I've seen missionaries who've gone way overboard and trying to fix up their house, and even because most housing is of different quality we'll say than American housing, they always have something in their little kingdom to fix, or repair, or extend, or expand. It takes up a lot of time and energy and eclipses sometimes the ministry priorities.

So I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about balance, taking care of those personal things for sure. But when we talk about the priorities of ministry, we keep it simple. What are the basic goals or stepping stones toward planting a church or doing your particular ministry job? In every case, teamwork and relationship building within your community, whoever that is and wherever that is, is a significant priority. So there needs to be something at least on a weekly basis that is aimed at establishing relationships and building teamwork for your ministry. In addition to that, basic evangelism. Sharing the gospel should be a normal part of your life and a priority personally as a Christian, whether you're a missionary or not, but especially if you're a missionary. Obviously in places we might call high security situations, you have to be careful about how you do that and what kind of words you use, but it still needs to be on the agenda as your simple priorities.

I remember on the field having this feeling that is confirmed and reiterated by many senior missionaries, that when you first start out, you feel like you're just taking your life in the United States and creating your to-do list, your priorities. And if you have a to-do list of 10 things in a day, you're going to be frustrated because more than likely events and circumstances will occur that invade that space and you may only be able to accomplish five or three. In fact, I remember one senior missionary telling me that if they accomplish one thing on their list for sure, then they were happy, that they had had a fulfilling day. Everything takes longer, and therefore it is important to be structured and focused about how you approach your day and the tasks of the day.

So let me talk about church planting and basic steps of that. This is a whole other course, a whole other system. However, it does impact this concept of simple priorities. Most of the activities of your day should be focused on the goals of achieving those stepping stones toward having an indigenous, reproducing church. If your goal is church planting, you want to be involved in evangelism, in discipleship, in training of leaders. You want to be involved in further outreach, extending the boundaries of the sphere of influence that you have for the gospel. If you're in a high security situation and have to have a work platform for ministry, you need to be about doing that well, not just faking it.

It reminds me of a quote from Greg Livingston, who is the co-founder of Frontiers Mission. For those missionaries who have to have a work visa in order to be in the country, there's three classes. There are job takers, that is people who take a contract to work in the country and work for another business or company. There are job makers, that is people who create a business and work that business well. And there are job fakers, that is people who have the shell of a company, but they basically don't do it. They don't even build expertise. They don't even know the work of that business very well, and they're just kind of going through the motions to meet some minimum legal requirement, and ultimately they don't stay.

Unfortunately, job fakers are probably well over half of those missionaries in that kind of situation. We want to encourage people to be job makers or job takers and do their job so well that the onlooking community and observers would easily see that they're really doing their job, they're doing it well. They're an honor to Christ by how they do it, and the integrity with which they do it. So that it is a long-term platform for them in their country.

As Westerners, we tend to underestimate the time it takes to build relationships, share the gospel and disciple new believers. Somehow in our economy, as it were, our religious economy, things happen so much faster and we're driven by western sense of pragmatism to accrue numbers and statistics, and grow through statistics instead of through vital relationships. Strong believers and local church leaders are not developed by going through a 10 step course and filling in the blanks. This is life laboratory stuff, and there are so many moving parts to anyone's life. Learning how to grow in Christ and express their Christianity and to mature in Christ, in their family, in their community, in their culture, is going to take a lot more effort if their culture has not been so highly Christianized or de Christianized that they don't understand what Christian family life, Christian marriage, Christian discipleship really looks like.

The temptation for missionaries is to mistake means for ends. In other words, the big goal, the clear biblical vision is that big goal at the end. It's the finish line. It's the achievement of something that is measurable and recognizable. The shorter goals underneath in terms of simple priorities are the stepping stones toward that clear biblical vision. And often missionaries get tangled up by saying, we're doing this activity or this outreach, or this event, or I'm having these such and such meetings. I'm working through such and such a study, looking at that as the end. Okay, I accomplished these things and draw a line and say, "Hey, victory, we won." But it's falling far short of that larger biblical vision. Don't confuse means with the ends, don't confuse strategies with the end results. Don't confuse fads and man-centered trends with what the end result's going to be.

In fact, sometimes they can be a distraction. If the fads or trends or the latest thing out there in missions journals are leading you astray, you may go pretty far away before you realize, whoa, we're heading in the wrong direction. We need to be doing something more like the simple biblical stuff that drives us toward that larger biblical vision. That's what I want to see in a missionary mindset, whether it's a candidate or someone on the field. And you can evaluate that by asking some questions. What do you see as the end goal? Is it X number of people accomplishing certain discipleship program? Or is that a stepping stone toward moving toward the larger goal? I've talked with missionaries in even a relatively warm, welcoming western environment of missions and realize that it takes 30 years to achieve the ultimate goal of having reproducing indigenous churches that are themselves, also planting other churches.

That's kind of amazing. How much more miraculous in God's grace is it that in difficult, challenging, opposition related cultures, that God is doing these things usually on something of a smaller scale, like a house church movement with solid biblically qualified leaders that are continuing to raise up other churches and reach out. Every day the missionary needs to evaluate what's on their list of priorities for the day, for the week, for the month, and figure out is this truly in line with that larger biblical vision? Am I doing things that contribute to that or am I off track? Am I doing things that may even be a detriment to that? Am I evaluating the ideas that are presented to me, even presented to the team and critically looking at them to see if they match up with what the true end result is supposed to be?

Rather than just the means of using this tool, or that tool, or this strategy, or that strategy. Make sure that it lines up with where you're going, and then that will give you a greater probability of advancing on that goal, and ultimately by God's grace achieving that goal.

So how might this apply to local Christian Church Leader here in the States, or in the western world? To the church, the local church here, or us personally as Christians? We face the same kind of thing. In fact, I'm convinced that most Western Christians are sleepwalking. They're going through the motions of attending church, maybe even participating in things, maybe even being a leader of some part of ministry at some level, and they don't really see the end goal. They don't know where they're going, and they're not helping others along the pathway to go with them.

So they're just kind of doing things because it seems right or in a legalistic manner, checking off the box, I did this, this, this, therefore I'm good in God's eyes. That just doesn't work long term when circumstances of life crush you, you've got to have a bigger vision and know how you fit in that vision, and then you become much more fulfilled and much more effective because you have simple priorities that lead you along the pathway to do that thing, to accomplish that end goal. And we all have to do this day by day in our daily lives.

Hey, I wish I could sit down with you personally because every individual's a little bit different and your situation is different, and I've been speaking in a little bit more generic terms. For instance, if your ministry is mechanics on the field or teaching, your goals may be pretty simple, and in fact, in some places you may think, I just have to survive the day, the week, the month, this period of time, or this era in my life or my family's history. So yeah, I get that, and you just need to take it step by step and think it through with a trusted, godly person in your life.

It certainly makes sense to do this on an annual basis. Usually, for me, it's toward the end of the year. The end of December and January, early January are usually a little bit lull times because of all the holidays. It's a great time to spend more time reviewing what you've done, looking ahead to what you want to do, and refining your to-do list as it were, your simple priorities, so that you stay on track and accomplish what God wants best for you to accomplish.

Thanks for joining us today on Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on church and missions. I trust that you'll find more help and resources on the website, Please preferably consider supporting this ministry, now to God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever. Amen.

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