I’ve talked to a number of mission committee members about which missionaries their church supports financially. Many of them are not happy. Why? Reason #10, The missionary is on the field because they say they were “called” and can’t return home.
A few years ago a missionary announced to me that after just two years he was quitting and returning to the States. When I asked why, he said that his “calling had changed.” What is that? Before coming, he said he had a “calling” to come and serve for at least three years. If God is behind the “calling” did God make a mistake? Come on!
Calling in the New Testament is primarily the Holy Spirit drawing or calling people to Jesus. We have transformed this into a personal decision that can’t be questioned by rational means. After all, if God called me back to the States, who are you to tell me that I should keep the commitment that I made when I said that God called me to the field?
Yes, the wisdom of a careful decision process used before going to the field is something that helps give missionaries something to hold onto when times get tough. But let’s call it what it is, a careful decision process. Let’s not call this a new personal revelation or “calling.”
This concept of calling also hinders healthy conversations with field personnel who probably should return home. If a missionary says, “I know that I’ve seen no fruit, that I can’t seem to get along with missionaries, and that I am totally distracted by personal issues that prevent me from doing my ministry assignment; but you see, I’ve been called here! Hmmmmm. Maybe, but probably not.
What should we do?
Have a conversation with the missionary and explain that the best decisions are made according to God’s Word with wise counsel, “victory comes with many counselors” Prov. 24:6. Although it may have been a good decision to go to the field, that doesn’t always mean it is a good decision to stay.
Using “calling” to avoid talking about the reality of a situation is a misuse of the concept. Calling should not be used to explain broken commitments or avoid conversations about a decision. There is more honor and truth in saying, “I just can’t handle it here” than “my calling has been changed.” My respect for the missionary didn’t go up with the “God changed his calling” excuse, it went down.
Stewarding the financial resources is an important role in your church. Avoid the error of funding missionaries simply because someone says they were “called.”
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