Wednesday, April 5, 2017

In Defense of Second-Class Missionaries

I posted at A Life Overseas today, and this time I revised an essay I wrote on this blog two years ago.  It's a topic that is near and dear to my heart, and I wanted it to reach a broader audience.

It must have hit a nerve, because six hours later, it's already been shared 150 times.  

Many of your missionary friends are aching for you to read and understand this.  Even if you read my original post two years ago, please read this new one today.  It's that important.

As I write today, a thought that is forefront on my mind is Haven of Peace Academy's need for teachers for next school year.  We are at the point of feeling desperate (yet knowing--and remembering to believe--that this is God's school and we can trust Him.)  I am deeply passionate about the important and very strategic ministry at HOPAC, and I want to shout, "Why is it so hard for us to find teachers?  And once we find them, why is it so hard for them to find support?"  How can I help churches back at home get this?

Maybe reading this today will help give you a different perspective.  I hope so.

In Defense of Second-Class Missionaries


Imagine what it would look like if western churches hired their staff with the same priorities that they choose overseas missionaries to financially support.

First of all, a Children's Pastor would definitely be out.  Not strategic enough; he's only supporting the children of believers.  Youth Pastor?  Also out, unless he targets neighborhood kids.

How about a Music Pastor?  Or Pastoral Counselor?  Nope.  Those are just support roles.  Not enough front-line ministry.

Administrative Pastor?  Receptionist?  Good heavens.  We could never dream of paying someone for those kind of inconsequential jobs. 

How about a Preaching Pastor?  Well.....that's if-y, but he probably doesn't make the cut either.  After all, he's only feeding the Body.  Most of the time, he's not actually reaching the lost. 

So that pretty much leaves only the positions of Community Outreach Pastor or Evangelist.  Yet how many churches even have those paid positions? 

I'm not suggesting that churches go about firing two-thirds of their staff.  I just want to talk about a double-standard I often see.

Let me introduce you to the class system among missionaries. 

Who is on the A-List?  Well, that would be the Church Planters.  Among unreached people groups gives you A+ status.  Pastoral Trainers and Bible Translators might be able to squeak by with an A.

The B-List?  Doctors and other health workers, community development and poverty alleviation workers, ESL teachers.

The C-List?  Administrators, missionary member care, MK teachers, or anyone else considered "support."

Whatever tends to be the current hot-topic in “justice ministry” also often ends up on the A-List.  These days, that’s fighting human trafficking.  It used to be orphan ministry, but that’s pretty much been relegated to B-status now.  It’s cool, but not that cool. 

Granted, this class system doesn’t usually originate with the missionaries themselves, but it’s come out of the culture of missions in their home countries.  How many missionaries have sat before missions committees back home who examined if they fit into their “grid” of priorities?  And often that grid looks exactly like the hierarchy I just outlined.

My husband and I worked for eight years in TCK ministry at an international school.  When trying to raise support, we called and sent information packets to over 200 churches in California.  We heard back from two.  Churches told us, over and over again, Sorry, but that ministry doesn't fit into our strategy.  

That all changed when we transitioned to theological training of East African pastors.  Finally, we had churches calling us.  It was nice.  But frankly, kind of frustrating.  We didn't change ministries so that we would become more popular with churches.  We switched because that's where God was leading us.  But the truth is, we don’t consider theological training to be any more strategic, or any more exciting, than what we were doing at that international school. 

Unfortunately, the missionaries themselves are often acutely aware of this hierarchy, and it makes many feel like they are second-class. 


Read the rest here.  (And then share it!)


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