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Friday, June 09, 2006

Some Of Us Shouldn't Be Here

While the timing of this post does not intentionally coincide with the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, I'll admit that it seems like a relatively safe time to write such a mean post. Hopefully, everyone that might read this, especially the people I'm actually referring to, are either at the Convention or busy reading about it over at SBC Outpost.

Yes, we're all supposed to be "missionaries" in the "Go ye therefore" sense of the word. Yes, the Lord of the Harvest calls workers to the field. But anyone who has spent any amount of time with IMB personnel and is willing to be honest will tell you that we've got some people on the field that shouldn't be.

Call it a result of the days when there was plenty of money and "Any Warm Body" was the candidacy policy. (Wow, we've gone to the opposite extreme, haven't we?) The IMB was all about momentum in those days- being able to report sending more missionaries and reaching more people groups really got people excited about missions. Volunteering was up, giving was up, and people were signing up for career service. The ranks of the IMB swelled with willing , if not capable, missionaries.

If you were to try to deduce the hiring policy of the IMB by conducting interviews of our career people on the field, what would you come up with?

I think this explains the recent actions of the IMB's Board of Trustees; "We've got people on the field that don't belong there, and we need to do something about it." It wasn't so bad when there was enough money to go around, but nowadays the Board can't afford to send just anyone. We've got people on the field that don't speak the national language, aren't actively involved in ministry to nationals, and don't have a clue of where to begin.

But we can't fire them, can we? On what grounds? "God hasn't used you to start a church planting movement?" No, the only way we can fire someone is if they steal money or sleep with a Journeyman. So instead of sending people home, we shuffle their incompetence around the globe. As if moving to a warmer climate would heal laziness. We could have all of our personnel on the field sign a new, even more exclusive document that includes a statement of belief, proof of effectiveness, and pledge of allegiance. You know- to get people to quit. The problem with that is the ones who get worked up about that sort of thing are usually the good ones. They were last time, anyway. So we're sort of stuck with the people we've already got on the field. For now.

Everyone is talking about the new, narrower, theological requirements for appointment, but those aren't the only changes being made to help weed out the dead weight (pardon the pun) and save some money.

There has always been a health requirement for IMB personnel. Obesity, serious medical conditions, and emotional/psychological issues have always been red flags in the consideration of potential candidates. But recently, the Board has adopted even stricter policy concerning overweight personnel. As a self-insured mega-organization, we can save a lot of money by not employing the fat people that are sure to use up a lot of money through medical claims. Recent changes have lowered the acceptable body-mass index (BMI) for all employees of the IMB. (Though I'm pretty sure trustees are exempt...)

The Board will continue to adopt very restrictive hiring and employment policies, but always leave a loophole for "exceptions." That way they only get people that meet all of the requirements, and screen out those that don't belong.

So who are these missionaries that shouldn't be on the field? Sorry SEBTS folks, I'm not naming names. Besides, they probably aren't who you might think.

Oh, and I'm probably one of them.

Stay tuned...

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Speaking as one of you I have two comments. One is that we belong to the Boss. He will make us what we need to be- even if it takes awhile. I have been out here for ten years and we are just now begining to see the harvest not because the ground was so hard but because it took that long for Him to work in us and make us usable.
Secondly, I think we could ship all the 'dead weight' out here to Central Asia and we would see people either refined by fire or leave in a hurry.

stepchild said...

Anonymous,
Thanks for your comment. I think all of us have been transformed pretty radically during our time on the field. He's made us much more usable in our time here. That said, I'm not sure the IMB should be hiring "diamonds in the rough" or folks that might potentially be good missionaries. I think that sort of thinking is what sent the people I'm talking about to the field in the first place.

I'm not super interested in comparing how hard your place of service is compared to mine, but I imagine life in both would have its difficulties. In my next post, I want to talk about how the "dead weight" aren't the ones that wash out when the going gets tough, anyway.

Thanks again for your comment. Please don't let my "yeah, but's" keep you from commenting. I'm really not trying to be disagreeable...

GuyMuse said...

Having lived 31 years on the field as both a M and a MK, I have seen a lot of M's come and go. My own observation is that there is little rhyme or reason humanely speaking for those that "make it" and those that don't. More often than not, those that seem to belong are those that have developed a genuine love and appreciation for their host people. They measure fruit not by a daily counting, but what remains after several years of patient laboring.

Another observation is that it takes years to just get one's feet on the ground overseas. Real ministry and seeing fruit that remains, seems to take place after long months of faithful plodding and service.

As far as "missionaries that shouldn't be on the field" I have learned it is best to not judge until we have walked a mile in their shoes. As stated above, getting one's feet on the ground and figuring out exactly what it is we should be doing is a process and varies from family to family. Yes, it is easy to become impatient with those who aren't doing it the way we think they should. We have to be careful about judging who should be on the field or not based upon our own limited experience and faulty criteria. God seems to work through us all and will use each of us in varying measure.

stepchild said...

Guy,
Thanks for sharing your thoughts. You always share from wisdom and your valuable experience, and I appreciate that.

I know it sounds harsh to say that some of our personnel shouldn't be on the field. All of them are good people; sincere and devoted. But realistically, our organization can only support a limited number of missionaries. Good stewardship requires that our resources be used to send the best we can send and give those people our full support.

Sure we all have a lot to learn. But can we afford to pay for what amounts to long-term training when there are some who are already capable waiting to be sent? Of course it takes time for people to adjust to life on the field. But how much time should they be given before we say "you aren't getting it"? Fruit only comes in God's timing, not ours. I'm not talking about measuring our worker's value by the results they see. I'm talking about people who, though their intentions may be good, simply aren't good missionaries.

A big part of my role and responsibility with the Board requires that I evaluate the performance of the workers that I supervise. The Board of Trustees has recently shown their concern for the integrity of our missionary force. I disagree with their actions, though, because the problem isn't theological. Remember in Acts 15, when Barnabas wanted to take John Mark along on the trip, and Paul objected? That's the kind of thing I'm talking about here.

A 10-40 Window Missionary said...

Stepchild,

You mention evaluating those you supervise. We all do that with the IMB. One day I would hope that we be given the opportunity to evaluate those who supervise us. In my years in the 10-40 Window, we have had a "revolving door" of Strategy Associates, most of whom have no idea how to supervise. That is not to say that all were "bad." Far from it...all were men who loved Jesus, but just had no training in supervisory technique. Maybe, some day the IMB will spend money on training supervisors to train and stop sending people to "ropes" courses or to a camp-out in Idaho.

stepchild said...

Maybe you should post as "a disgruntled 10-40 window missionary." Just kidding...

I know just what you mean about the leadership shuffle (and by leadership, I mean "the guys in charge," not necessarily "those who effectively cast vision and equip and encourage us toward church planting"). I agree that we should all have the chance to evaluate those in leadership positions. It seems like a lot of our leadership fit squarely into the "shouldn't be in that position" category. Unfortunately, our organization often treats leadership as a position, not a gifting.

GuyMuse said...

You ask...So who are these missionaries that shouldn't be on the field?

Here are some more questions...

Who would determine the criteria for those who should be on the field? BoT? Local national brethren? The Ms themselves? IMB SCs? TLs? SAs? RLs? I remember all the "fun" we used to have when Ms evaluated one another right before furlough--glad those days are past and gone!

Would consideration be given to the different kinds of spiritual ground that differ from region to region? Would it be on the basis of the Annual Statistical Reports turned in every year? Would we be compared to other Ms currently serving in the same region and evaluated by their results as compared to our own? The budget aspects of necessary M support? Number of kids each family has (the more they have the costlier it is to maintain that family overseas), Daily work schedules? Ability at mastering the language? Personal relationship skills? Ability to function well on a team?

I'm not attempting to make a statement of any kind with my questions, but simply am curious on what basis you might perceive this evaluation be carried out?

Ewinwe said...

Stepchild,

I tend to agree with you. There are a LOT of Ms who should not be on the field. I'm one of them. I have no seminary training, no church-planting experience, and only a few language skills in my host-country language. Send me home!

I'm not sure why I was even appointed a missionary, when I do not feel qualified to do what "real" missionaries do. If given an appropriate opportunity, I could witness to a local in their heart-language, so I guess that is good, but while at MLC I had the distinct impression that I was not 'qualified' to serve ... because I did not have an MDiv or similar acronym behind my name. Never mind that the job I have is not front line evangelism or church-planting or urban strategy.

For some strange reason, I felt that God called me here, to this region, to do a job I could do from anywhere on the globe.

I'm one of the ones who does not belong, but I slipped through the cracks.

I guess I should take comfort in the calling of the first disciples - Jesus did not say "hey you guys, you're really good at what you do, so come work for me" he said "come with me (regardless of what you are doing) and I will make you ... "

... so I'm working on being made.

a 40-70 window missionary said...

I think it is interesting that the Church in Acts sent one third of it´s leadership to be missionaries, however today there is more of a "come one, come all" mentality while we hoard our best leaders at home. I was told not to go to the field by a mentor because he said I had too much to offer to waste it somewhere else.

Or what´s even worse, someone is weird or has trouble fitting into their own culture and we send them to a foreign land. Granted sometimes being weird can be an asset, but if one has trouble relating to their home culture how can we expect them to understand a new culture? I don´t really think we should base someones ability entirely on education (while that can be useful), but probably more on evidence of the fruit of the spirit in their lives. Whatever someone does in their home culture will probably be magnified in a new culture be it strengths or weaknesses. Stepchild, I hear what you are saying and my own experience agree that people sometimes are sent to the field who shouldn´t be. Like Paul we should look for trustworthy, reliable people and like Barnabas we she go the extra mile of grace! A delicate balance I think.

stepchild said...

I said that some people aren't qualified to be on the field. Please don't assume I'm referring to their education. I'm certainly against measuring somone's "fruit" for dertermining their qualification.

Ewinwe, I'm sorry you were ever made to feel like a second-class missionary. Around here, we sometimes count lack of seminary as a plus!

You mention that the disciples were not called based on their ability. I agree. But being called as a disciple and being sent by the church as a missionary aren't the same thing. I agree that calling should be the single most important factor in missionary selection. I also believe that God's calling is what makes someone qualified for service, regardless of their education, experience, or ability.

For our organization, however, calling is not enough. We simply can't afford to send everyone who says he is called to the mission field. Essentially, we have more applicants than we do positions for them to fill. We must therefore consider more than just calling.

We also have a global strategy. If someone, called by God, came to us for appointment, but wanted to build a huge, English-speaking church and intall himself as the pastor, we could not hire him because what he wants to do is outside of our strategy. I'd prefer a selection process that was based on calling, as opposed to strategy. The fact that our organization even has a strategy (as opposed to leaving it entirely up to local leadership) is exclusive.

In my next post, I outline some the the ones I think shouldn't be on the field. I'd be interested to hear what you think.

Great Future said...
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