How have our identities been shaped by the missionary culture? Is there balance between who we think we are and who God made us to be? In his book, Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry, Paul David Tripp gives three common factors that cause pastors to struggle in their lives, ministries and personal walk with the Lord. There are many parallels in the missionary ministry that beg for our consideration and attention. (affiliate link)
The first of these factors is a problem of identity.
All too often those in ministry (and everyone else) get caught up in the busyness of the work and forget our identity and who were were made to be. Today we use all sorts of technology and secular tools in the work of the ministry. These tools and methods make it all too easy to begin to rely on those things and our training rather than our faith and our God. When we do that, we are no longer doing the Master’s work.
Pressure to produce results can push a missionary to expend tremendous amounts of time, energy and resources trying to achieve results and satisfy the demands of others. I know this one all too well. After only 9 months on the field I had a mild heart attack. When I asked God why I was afflicted as I was trying to do what He had called me to do I got a lesson from His answer.
I sensed God saying, “I didn’t ask you to do everything I was doing in this country…” I got the message loud and clear and cut back my ministry schedule and tried hard not to get out of balance again.
Preaching, teaching, and personal ministry demands had consumed an average of more than 12 hours a day 7 days a week leading up to my heart attack. I said yes to every opportunity no matter how crazy my schedule had become. Forgetting to check in with God for confirmation and direction can certainly have serious consequences. Don’t get too busy to stay in touch with Him!
Competitive attitudes sneak into our lives and color our thoughts. If unchecked, carnal competition will in time change our motivation. We all too easily fall into trying to do great things for ourselves rather than doing great things for our great God. Attention and praise from man that accompanies man-made success becomes what is sought rather than obedience to and glory for the Lord.
I firmly believe that almost no missionary or cross-cultural minister sets out with selfish desires. But many of us have fallen victim to our carnal or fleshly natures under the pressures of the work of the ministry. By basing our identity on the outcome or status of our ministry work, we risk losing our divine connection.
There are other ways that our missionary culture can shape us, both positive and negative. What are some of your experiences with identity issues?
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