GOD'S MESSENGER – INTELLECTUAL LIFE
Missionary work has undergone a radical transformation since the end of the colonial era. New approaches and attitudes have been demanded. Pioneers like Dr. Donald McGavran have popularized the science of missiology. Hundreds of case studies and textbooks are now on the market that can be utilized as resource material. Many outstanding graduate schools offer mission studies, and some offer extension study for the missionary on the field. Journals like Evangelical Missions Quarterly, International Journal of Frontier Mission, and Missiology keep the missionary abreast of fast-breaking concepts and practical outreaches around the world.
Joseph A. McCoy’s relevant bit of advice to missionaries is that they should “keep an open mind, realizing that times change and one must make adjustments. Tactics of ten years ago will not work and even those of five years ago are outdated.”5 It is always sad to see missionaries become rutted and inflexible. The orientation and allegiance of some missionaries (both older and younger) to traditional methodology can cause them to think that a careful move into new areas of sensitive experimentation is almost a denial of truth.
Younger missionaries arriving on the field with a more venturesome approach become frustrated. Their ideas and zeal are often lost, smothered under a patronizing “Keep it under your hat for a few years. Experience will mellow you and mature your input.” A fresh and non-threatening relationship between the senior and junior missionary must develop. One adds experience and the other brings the latest in theory and enthusiasm. United, they are almost unbeatable. Divided, they are a catastrophe, not only to the inner team of missionaries, but also to the perceptive, on looking national community.
Our commitment to Jesus Christ means that we want to be the best servants possible for his glory. It means stretching, not only in spirit, but also in intellect. True academic excellence leads to greater effectiveness, not to pride or snobbery. We must beware of vegetating on the mission field. Both our hearts and our minds must stay alive and alert.
A professor of missions wrote: “Students, the single most important area of your life and ministry will be in the realm of attitudes. It is here you will either succeed or fail as a missionary. Attitudes touch every nerve end of life. Your relationship to Christ, fellow missionary, national believer, and non-Christian will be deeply affected by proper or improper attitudes.”
There is an old adage that contains a great deal of truth. “The gift without the giver is bare.” Missionaries are giving people. Their job demands that role. They may be engaged in relief; teaching, medical work, or some other ministry that necessitates the act of sharing. But the act of giving is inadequate in itself. What is the force behind the action? Is there love? Is there a deep concern for the other person? Has giving become a professional obligation? Have the poor or the unreached become a product to sell? These axe heavy questions.
5. Advice From the Field (Baltimore, Md.: Helicon Press, 1962), p. 144.