Do You Lie or Speak the Truth to Missionary Friends?

September 25, 2013

Churches, sending church

I’ve had several friends leave recently for the mission field. I’m always surprised when I hear the types of comments made to missionaries leaving for another culture, words given by well meaning friends who are clueless about what the new missionaries are going to encounter:

  • “You’ll always be a part of this church.”
  • “We won’t be able to replace you.”
  • “Everything is going to be fine.”

Stop lying to your missionary friends. These kinds of statements are not true. They are falsehoods.

The Church Is Going to Change

Save for a little country church, the church is going to change. People will leave. Best friends of the missionaries will move on. Pastors and other staff members will change. The missionaries may come back to a church that they don’t recognize. They may come back to a church that doesn’t recognize them. When the missionaries return, newer church members will say, “oh that missionary family is visiting today.” When the missionaries meet you, they’ll think that you are the visitors.

Both times before we moved overseas my family were important members of fabulous churches. One church fell apart while we were gone. The other began a significant decline over a couple year period and never recovered. Needless to say, when we returned the churches were different. Even in a best case scenario, the membership and emphases will be significantly different in most cases.

The Missionaries Are Going to Change

The missionaries will be different too. Their attitudes on politics and theology will change. Their perspective on wealth and poverty will be different. They will have had life-changing experiences with which no one will be able to identify.

Missionaries are truth tellers who need to hear the truth. Is it a safe assumption to think that the churches and Christians who are sending them are truth tellers as well? Or is there more concern for social graces that don’t benefit anyone but the speaker?

Be reasonable, church. Let’s help cross cultural workers manage healthy expectations, not be flooded with short term niceties that will end up discouraging them in the long run.

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2 Comments on “Do You Lie or Speak the Truth to Missionary Friends?”

  1. davidgrissen Says:

    Brian you hit the nail on the head — a good caution for all of us.

    May I use this as a “Guest Post” on my blog,

    I’m dealing with Missionary Care, and this is definitely an issue church mission leaders should be aware of.

    I’ll link this post to your site, if you give me permisison to use it. D


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