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Friday, June 16, 2006


I was home from college for summer break, and our pastor began a sermon series on the book of Romans. When I returned home for Christmas, he was on chapter 2. I'm convinced that's why our church wasn't Calvinist. I never thought I'd post a "series" of posts. I guess I've never had a single coherent thought that would call for it. (Not that I do now, mind you.) But here I am, posting what will be part three of my "Some of Us Shouldn't Be Here" "Series." How many parts does "Left Behind" have?

If the Professionals are the most visible missionaries that shouldn't be on the field, the Lifers are the most common. Imagine a person who grows up in the American Christian subculture: youth group, visitation, mission trips, Sunday School. He responds to the invitation to consider "Full-time Christian Service." Twice. When it's time to go to college, he chooses a fine Southern Baptist institution, and majors in missions. Then he's off to seminary for the MDiv. He takes his first pastorate at the age of nineteen, marries at twenty, and has three kids by the time he reached the IMB's minimum age requirement of 24. He makes contact with a Candidate Consultant, answers all the questions right, and is appointed for missionary service. He prayerfully selects the field to which God is calling him from the Board's list, and the next thing he knows, he's on the ground as a career missionary. In many ways, he's prepared for this his whole life: he has the degree, the "experience," and the endorsement of his home church. He's a Lifer.

I call them "Lifers" because while these folks actually worked very hard to get to the mission field, they only do just enough to stay on the mission field. Their label comes from the fact that if they can just stay beneath the radar, not draw too much attention, they can be supported by churches back home for life. Never mind that they don't have the gifting, people skills, or work ethic to be church planters. Ignore their inability to detect differences between their host culture and the American culture they miss so much. Overlook the fact that they don't have any friends back home, either. We, the Convention, called them to full-time service through our altar calls and missionary slideshow guilt trips. There is great need, and they answered the call.

Sure there are drawbacks. Separation from family. Monthly Ministry Reports. No Dr. Pepper. The whole "living in a foreign country" thing. But for lifers, it's worth it. You get paid to do... well, no one is sure what it is you do, exactly. Great insurance. A month's vacation. And a hero's welcome every time you're home on furlough.

Besides, you can stock up on brownie mix and your favorite jeans on your next stateside assignment.

Lifers shouldn't be on the field because they may or may not have heard God calling and then they quit listening. They have the Board to maintain them in a strategic place where they live in permanent survival mode. They're content. Fat and happy. Apathetic, even. But this is what they are. If they weren't missionaries, what would they be? What would they do?

Lifers love to suffer for Jesus. If nationals don't like them, they count it as persecution. Their loneliness is due to the "soil being hard," not their abrasive, annoying personalities. They blame not knowing anyone in their city on "Things are slow here," instead of the fact that they tell the same stories over and over. Hey, it wasn't that funny the first time. They sign their prayer newsletters with subtle lines like "Blessedly Tired,"or "Joyfully Busy," just to let you know how much missionary stuff they're doing. Their reports reveal how much they dislike and distrust the people they've been sent to work with.

Lifers shouldn't be on the field, but they are. And they will be long after I'm gone. They're in this thing for the long haul. For them, being missionary isn't a job, it's a lifestyle.


Outoftheshaker! said...

It is a refreshing to read your post. I smile every time I read one. I would love to get to know you. Here in Uruguay we face some of the same cultural things you face judging by your post. We are not Latin but very European. I waiting for you post on someone like me.
Thanks again!

GuyMuse said...

I thought you had me pretty well pegged in the "professionals" post, but now I actually think I fall in the "lifers" category as well--kind of a hybrid of the two...PROLIFER, yes indeed, that is what I am; a pro-lifer!

Anonymous said...

I can tell that I am neither a "professional" nor a "lifer." I am beginning to wonder what in the world I am doing on the field. Yes, it was an act of God that got me here. Maybe everyone has this feeling at times. Maybe not. I think it comes down to the reality that I do a lot of things because we are expected to do them, it is the current paradigm, our leadership at the moment has "this" vision. Sure there have been new relationships develop--but I must say that there has been very little fruit. I am just desperate not to waste Kingdom resources if I shouldn't be here. At the same time, I must ask if I wouldn't be much more effective using the skill sets that I do have-even if that means serving in the states. While I hate that idea since there are PLENTY of resources there I am faced with the fact that there is only one life. What do I do with it?

Michael said...

I agree for the most part, we should probably imagine for academic purposes
"if I had a job over there with a secular company, would I do the same thing with my free time as I do now?".
I think we should all consider getting a job over in another country or place of service before considering the IMB. (I only said "consider" not neccessarily getting a job)
It would certainly clear out those poeple that you call Lifer's
and leave those people who would do missionary work there even without sending service.

I'm glad the IMB is there, I think it works well as a organisational structure so we don't have redundancy and wasted resources.

Anonymous said...

Stepchild, After reading your whole blog, I've come to the conclusion that you are a Lifer, albeit a postmodern one. You are still an IMB missionary because the pay is good, great insurance, and you get paid to do....well, spend an awful lot of time on a blogspot that bites the hand that feeds you! You suffer for Jesus because you have to work for an organization that you don't agree with. I also work for a missions organization, and I don't agree with every policy made. But no organization on earth can be perfect because it is run by men...even godly men. My suggestion would be that you quit whining about what you don't like and start winning people to Christ like a missionary should. Don't focus on the non-essentials, because no one at the IMB will complain if you are winning people to Christ. Think on these things: whatever is true, whatever is honerable, whatever is pure, lovely, commendable...
And don't let the devil get a foothold in your life, distracting you from the excellent and really important things. Don't be one of those that "shouldn't be here". Otherwise, he wins!

Jeff Richard Young said...

Dear Ernest,

It is a hard but necessary job to point out what is wrong with an organization. I agree somewhat with the anonymous poster just above, that you have to be careful not to let this whistle-blowing work take over too much of your life. But I won't go as far as he does, because I don't think blogging and faithfully witnessing to the lost are mutually exclusive, not an either-or proposition.

Sorry I haven't been by for a while. I've been too busy listening to Dr. Condoleezza Rice hold a political rally at the SBC and all the other nonsense that went on in Greensboro.

Love in Christ,


JoeMissionary said...

this is REALLY off-topic - I just wanted to say "Congrats" to the Spanish soccer team. the second half of today's game was beautiful!

stepchild said...

Thank you for taking time away from soul-winning to comment on my blog.

I'll have you know that the time I spend writing and posting here isn't taken from "winning people to Christ" time, but from my scheduled "personal hygiene" time. I haven't had a bath in weeks, but my blog sure is getting lots of hits!

Perhaps someone can help me here. How can I ask questions and make people think (the reason for my blog) without sounding like a complainer?

Also, I don't spend any time sitting around dreaming up what to blog about. I post about things that I come across in my everyday life and ministry. Ideas like "Maybe not everyone belongs on the mission field" and "The Dangers of Modernism" aren't something you hear about very often, so I write about them. Sometimes I'm processing these sorts of ideas. Other times I'm venting my frustrations. Usually, what you read here are pages out of my personal journal.

These are the concepts I wrestle with every day. I'm not trying to expose anything or blow any whistles. I'm not looking for a scandal. I try not to concern myself with the politics of the SBC, but instead to give you an idea of what life is like for me apart form the minutiae of what I ate for breakfast that day.

My recent string of posts was not written as an attack on the IMB or as a judgement on any individual. It was written (originally as one long, rambling note) as I thought through some of my current team issues and as I dreamed about putting together my "dream" church planting team. As an upbeat ending, I was planning on posting "Who Should Be Here" or something like that. (Okay, so my post titles do take hours upons hours to come up with.)

I appreciate all of the comments, even the ones that are contrary and slightly argumentative. Not so much the mean ones, though...

cafeaddict said...

ready for some honesty? as i read your posts, i jumped immediately into your band wagon. i know people like the ones your describe. i work with them too. i get frustrated with the professionals who get all the travel budget money, hit every seminar in the world, and spend more time away from their field of service than on it. my biggest beef with the pros is that they take up good budget money that could be better spent on those who actually want to spend time with lost people. (note: i know we need some pros, but do we have to be so top heavy?)

then i read about the lifers and again i said, "preach it brother." what is it with the slackers? in the middle of my own personal, mental raving, i got convicted. while pointing the finger at others, i realized that there is a bit of the professional and the lifer in me. there are times when i want to hide behind administrative details because i get sick of chasing after people who seem to careless about god. there are days when i don't know what to do. it is hard here. sometimes i don't know what to try, who to call, what to say. on those days, i order a pizza, rent a movie and pretend that i am still in the states. i become a lifer for a day.

i guess i confess that to say that i never want to fall into the trap of being so critical of others that i forget to evaluate myself. pride is deceitful. i don't want to become what i preach against.

Ewinwe said...

two points.
point numero uno.
if it is wrong to be taking time to blog your feelings and thoughts (and journaling is the same, only not in such a public venue) then keep on sinning in a like manner.
some of the best time spent witnessing to others is not spent talking to someone about god, or about salvation, or about the F.A.I.T.H. points ... it is best spent discussing what you are thinking, feeling and wrestling with personally. the witness gets back to the root of the word. just by living here, we can be a witness to the work of a living god.

point deux.
by all wisdom and knowledge, we ought to be working to a point where NONE of us should be here. but the fact remains that the work is increasing, not decreasing, the enemy seems to be growing stronger in some areas while abandoning others. it's push-pull and tarry-a-while, while the debate of "does blogging reduce your effective time going door to door and 'witnessing' to people" rages back in the states.

so keep the posts coming. i'd love to read about the "belong here's", but i kinda think that there is another category that needs to be covered as well ... "the wannabes".

Anonymous said...

awesome, insightful post. I think this is good stuff.

Publius said...

You know, stepchild, you have inspired me to start my own blog. Indirectly, though, since I had to sign in to to post comments, but still...

Here's the thing. The trap I (and many around me) fall into is thinking for one second that the Kingdom of Heaven is rational and organizational. It isn't. It's a remnant. God chooses whom He will, and it's not often the obvious choices. You might can put together a "dream church planting team" out of people you personally know, but the concept isn't scalable. What works for you won't work for the next guy. There is no blueprint for it, as much we all sometimes seem to want one.

A text I've been working through is Romans 14. I read it first to inform my own beliefs about alcohol and other "matters of conscience," but I've since extended it to other matters of faith and practice. My concept of calling is being stretched to fit other people's callings, which often look very different from mine. And I can easily judge how well I think they're living up to the calling they claim, if I can only avoid thinking about how well I live up to the calling I claim. Especially since every stop along my faith/service journey has been a growing experience for me, and knowing I'm still learning even now (i.e. I haven't yet learned whatever God is trying to knock through my thick skull right now), who am I to criticize others for not having "gotten it right" yet?

Tim said...



Oh no! How can that be? Dude, send me some contact info, and I'll send you some!!!

Do you want the most common, made with corn syrup, or do you prefer the stuff made wth cane sugar (aka. "Dublin Dr. Pepper.").

Let me know,


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