Here is a quick tip for missionaries: Read.
Yeah, you read that right. Read often. Read a lot. Read stuff on the internet. And, most importantly, do not just read The Gospel Coalition and the same five other evangelical blogs that agree with your exact way of viewing the world.
Reading is a really good idea if you are in the business of cross-cultural work, especially of the missionary variety. Let me show you why.
In a recent article posted on World Hindu News, a supposed news site for people of the Hindu faith, there is a scathing article about the low-down dirty deeds of those nasty missionaries at Youth With a Mission (YWAM). Clearly, I am a bit tongue in cheek about this; YWAM is a quality organization. But this Hindu “news agency” does not think so. It is a prime example of how those on the other side of the fence see our work. If you are a missionary, especially in India, you probably need to read this: Youth with a Mission spreading hatred against Hinduism in India – Organised Christian Missionary Racket.
Here is a quote from the article:
India is a hot destination for missionaries. Here is the pattern these young missionaries follow: “Graduate” from a Bible School like YWAM, raise funds for travel, come to India, preach gospel and convert using deceptive techniques (both morally and legally), spread hatred that Hinduism is a false religion, express solidarity with Indian missionaries (who get funds from countries like USA), go to the USA and brag about how many accepted Christ. They then become heroes in their circle of friends and relatives.
If you are a missionary, your first response may be to chuckle. This article clearly misses the mark, right? But take a second look, it may hit closer to home than you realize. There are two reasons I think so.
1. You probably should question your motives.
You need to question your motives whether you realize it or not, because the people you are trying to reach are questioning them. Trust me, people can tell when your motives are less than pure. If your heart for missions is not the same as Christ’s, you will not only hurt your own reputation with the people you want so hard to reach, but you will also bring condemnation on missions altogether.
And let’s face it, pride is an ugly tumor inside the human heart. Often, it grows without us realizing it is there. The life of a missionary is not easy, and when you get home, everyone in your little local church wants to pat you on the back for it. That feels pretty good.
2. Methods matter.
Did you see what was said about method in the above block quote? Let me quote it again, “come to India, preach gospel and convert using deceptive techniques (both morally and legally), spread hatred that Hinduism is a false religion.” I added the emphasis.
Now, above I called this a “supposed” news source because it is getting harder and harder to tell the difference between real news and tabloid garbage on the internet these days. Other South Asians could even think this website is off its rocker, so do not think I am endorsing it as fact. However, it does serve as a potent reminder that methods matter. The gospel offends, but our methods of proclamation do not have to. Be wise, and consider your culture.
So, have you searched out what the people you are trying to reach say about your work?
Keelan leads the Peoples Next Door project and is a Senior Church Consultant with the Union Baptist Association in Houston, TX. He is working on a PhD in Missiology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. In previous years, he spent time as a church planter in West Africa with the IMB and doing ethno-graphic research in Washington, DC with NAMB.