Mission Training

I want to follow up on a post from last week regarding passion for missions.

I posed the question, has passion for mission diminished? I still wonder. However, a follow up question was sent my direction by a mentor of mine.

This mentor asked the deeper question, is it interest in missions that has gone down or interest in mission’s training.

Oh boy! Receiving questions like this really get the wheels turning. Not that a probing question negates the first hypothesis. These may not even be mutually exclusive.

Nonetheless, I couldn’t wholeheartedly agree with his presupposition that interest in mission’s training which would include intercultural studies at the university level or training within any mission organization has gone down. My mentor, added this little nugget he received from a peer who does mission’s training.

Those with more mission’s training stay on the field longer.

So many experiences began to flood my mind when I reflected on this maxim. As a missionary in Thailand for six years, we ran into quite a few young people passionate to help with one thing or another. We heard it all, or at least close to it all. Maybe not close to it all, but a lot. I remember hearing many a young missionary talk about why they would choose one organization over another. Many times the bottom line in making their decision came down to which organization gave them the least hoops to jump through, mostly the least training, and the least prerequisites.

What began as a passion to just get out on the field quickly changed into tensions as they confronted a set of circumstances the young and inexperienced missionary was ill-equipped to face. Often, this meant the missionary did not last as long as they might have with better training, or simply more training. Issues of culture shock, homesickness, pressures of ministry, expectations that didn’t meet with reality from both the host nation and the missionary merely begin to scratch the surface of the barriers to a long-lasting time of service on the field. I’m not sure if the further training actually gives significantly better skills in handling the pressures of missionary life. Rather I believe it can be a tempered set of expectations and willingness to persevere, or maybe just the discipline it took to get through the process that helps people make it longer. I don’t know. The skills matter, but the training adds in so many more intangibles including stronger relationships with those that have gone before that can encourage along the way.

I am beginning to see why training matters. Those without it tended to produce the results expected by limited training.

On the flipside, our friends who worked in organizations that required substantial training and pre-requisites, even thorough follow up while on the field tended to actually last longer on the field.

So if training can be incredibly valuable as it builds into the missionary a capacity for longevity and perseverance, why are so many with a passion for mission displaying a disproportionately low passion for training?

If we train our body for athletics, why not train our mind, soul and body for ministry?

When I think of training, I think of Rocky, who never thought he could simply roll out of bed and win a prize fight. No, he trained his guts out in order to be ready.

What is it today that has caused people to think they can shortchange the process? Is it that Paul simply went on mission’s trips all around the known world, so why can’t I? Is it a sense of invincibility that young people have matched with their zeal and a calling.

Now, calling is important, but so is preparation. It is important not to shortchange the process as we desperately want to get out there and “save the world”. If God has called you, he will make the way and the timing work according to that very calling.

Sometimes, God calls us long before we are ready, and he is okay with that. He is willing to wait as he develops us and prepares us. On that note, I wrote about the space between the calling and the sending here and here.

But I can’t imagine it is just unbridled zeal and youthful naivety that causes people to forego more mission’s training. Maybe we could throw impatience into the mix. Do we think we are so eager to see our life calling come to fruition that those tasked with the training and equipping are simply roadblocks in the way of God’s call on our life. Is that just one more thing aimed to slow us down or detour us from accomplishing all that God has laid ahead for us. Pretty interesting when we think about it like this, huh?

Perhaps the instant gratification of our culture has caught up to this facet of training as well. If I can find info on Google about anything, why do I need to go through a process of training. If I can have Amazon send me packages by drones, why can’t I find some hyper speed way to accomplish my goals? In a moment, I can have a meal, in blink of an eye, I can have a library downloaded onto my hard drive. In a fast-paced world, one can easily lose sight of the Longview. It is easy to get lost in the now.

What are a few more weeks, or a few more books read, a few more meetings with mentors, a few more classes in the grand scheme of a lifetime of service to our missionary God? If we have 90 years or so to live and serve God, what could a little more training hurt? It seems too easy if we put it in those terms.

But the pressures of this world get us going. There are people dying, sick, malnourished, stuck in poverty, or war torn villages, in bondage to false religion or beliefs, and the list goes on. We can’t wait a moment to get out there and help people. But what if we could wait, wait just a little longer to be more prepared and better equipped to have longevity and sustainability.

Here is the rub. Mission’s draws out so much from any person willing to leave this world behind to live in a completely different world. Youth adds so much potential to the mix. there is something precious in the heart of a young person that is willing to risk it all. But as time goes by, the capacity for risk narrows. Age and often a growing family cause us to minimize risk rather than increase it. So how do we preserve in people a capacity for great risk while also equipping them for great effectiveness and longevity. These must be the questions that mission’s trainers wrestle with.

What do you say?