Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Missionary Call - from a Member Care Perspective PART VII - Some negatives about the missionary call

The negative aspects of the missionary call

A strong sense of missionary call is largely a positive factor. There are, however, two aspects in which a strong sense of call is negative. First, a false call can be used to manipulate other people. Second, a “totalitarian call” can consume all of a missionary’s life and lead to missionary burnout.

False Calls:

First, false “missionary calls” can be used as a manipulative tool. A person may claim to be “sure” that the Holy Spirit is leading them in a particular direction and yet wreak havoc on their lives and the lives of others. Pronouncements of “God’s calling” may, in fact, be used as a manipulative tool so that a person may further their own agenda. After all, who can argue with the call of God?

Frank Allen muses that, “Ralph Winter once remarked that the words, "The Lord is leading me," are probably one of the greatest obstacles to effective missionary work.”

Such people often are not the best team players. Agencies and churches, therefore, should screen wisely for past and present relationship patterns of dysfunction. These people may be quite persuasive and may even convince others of this call. Self-confidence and assertion opens many doors. Egocentric personalities that utilize spiritual matters for personal gain, for enhancement of reputation and status, or as a means of social control over others must be screened out.

Marge Jones writes about “the pedestal” of missionary service and how this serves to humble us and yet, at the same time, set us apart into a unique category of people based upon our call. Even for truly called missionaries this may prove to be snare.

Jones warns us:

Individuals placed on a pedestal because of their call to the mission field need to understand how much this treatment has influenced their thoughts and actions and how detrimental the results can be when they arrive overseas.

The All-Consuming Call:

Second, another danger is that the missionary call may become a tyrant instead of a friend and ally.

It may consume the missionary’s whole life.

While a strong sense of missionary call and urgency is often what drives candidates to the field and sustains them, it can also eat them alive.

Gregory Waddell calls this the “totalitarian call” and describes it this way:

Any job can become your entire life if you let it. Missionaries and pastors are especially prone to this scenario because their job is their life. It could be argued that the two should not be separated; ministry, after all, is a divine calling. This temptation to allow the mission to absorb everything we are and everything we do is harmful both to the missionary and to his or her family.

Thus, while the missionary call is a strong motivator and sustainer in missions, it can also drive the missionary to exhaustion. If left unchecked all other aspects of the missionary’s life can become pushed to the side leading to attrition. Thus, an intense and urgent sense of calling can become a case of “too much of a good thing.”

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