God is great for cross-cultural missionaries

Here is the third part of my course preparing people for cross-cultural mission. (Here are parts one and two.)

God is great

What are the worries you have about doing mission in another culture?

The refrain we kept repeating when I visited missionaries in the Middle-East was: ‘fallen world, sovereign God.’

This world is full of broken people. It is full of people who are sad, needy, insecure; people who misuse their power; people desperate to prove themselves; people who are fearful. And that is just your team! Seriously, co-workers are often the main cause of grief on the mission field – perhaps because our expectations are higher.

You may be wondering, ‘Will I be able to adapt? Will it get easier? Will I find friends?’ Do not panic. It will come. You are not failing. You are normal. You are a frail, finite human being.

This world is fallen. It is a mess. It is full of corruption and injustice. It is full of lost people who desperately need a Saviour.

And you cannot mend it. You are not sovereign and you are not infinite. If you try to fix everything then you will burn out or break down.

You can only do so much. It is not just that there are some things you can not do. You cannot do all the things you could do! In other words, there will be many things you could fix, but you will lack the time or energy or emotional strength to address them. And that means there will be many things that are left undone; many suffering people unhelped; many lost people who do not hear the gospel.

That can be difficult to live with. The danger is that it will drive you to over work, over stress, over worry. Or you will push those emotions onto other people – making them feel guilty that they are not doing enough.

But I have good news for you. God is great. He is sovereign. He is in control. He is the great mission strategist. He will bring people into the lives of those he plans to save. You can trust him with the big picture. You are called to be faithful with the task which he gives to you and have faith in his sovereign control of the big picture.

Consider this: Jesus said, ‘I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.’ (John 17:4) Jesus could say that he had completed the task. Yet many people were left unhealed, many did not hear his proclamation, many were not fed. But he had completed the task that God had assigned to him.

Give up any notion of being a super-hero or a super-missionary. You are allowed to be mediocre! Forget your missionary hagiographies. This is not what you are called to be. You are called to be faithful, not fruitful. Keep telling your heart that God is great. He is in control.

Indeed if you try to be a super-hero then you will distort the message. ‘But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.’ (2 Corinthians 4:7) The message of the cross is proclaimed by weak people (1 Corinthians 1:18-2:5).

What behaviour and emotions might follow from not embracing the truth that God is great?

One danger is that you feel the pressure to say something so when you do it comes out in a burst of pent up frustration. This leads to unhealthy or destructive speech. Being free from the need to change other people or be in control allows you to speak freely and faithfully, entrusting the outcome to God. This creates healthy speech. Be slow to speak.

Your initial focus is on learning the language. Do not have any bigger ambitions than this. Take a day at a time. Have small expectations for each day. Be patient. Be content with slow living. God will use you as he chooses if you are faithful to him.

God is also in control of the situation back home. You can trust our great God for those you have left behind.

ð            Rewrite Psalm 27, either as a version adapted to your context or as a negative Psalm which says the opposite of the original

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2 thoughts on “God is great for cross-cultural missionaries

  1. thanks so much for todays article, very timely as I’m doing a literature review for counselling course – my topic is depression in ministry, my personal interest being to help missionaries.

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