I came across a few startling statistics from a 2003 survey conducted by a company called The Jenkins Group. I realize it is somewhat dated, and I also do not know how the survey was done, or any details on the Jenkins Group, even so I find the following statistics alarming.
- 1/3 of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives.
- 42% of college graduates never read another book after college.
- 80% of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year.
- 57% of new books are not read to completion.
What does this have to do with being an effective missionary? It is about growth. Graduating from a Bible College or Seminary is not the end of our growth. We must continue to learn, we must continue to study, we must continue to grow! I realize that reading is not the only way we can grow. With the technology we have today, we can listen to leadership podcasts, we can watch instructional videos on ministry (or on almost any other subject), there are also online classes on a plethora of subjects. I was recently talking with a man who was learning how to play the guitar from an online class! There is so much opportunity, and as missionaries we need to continually read/watch/listen, etc. to grow. There are many different areas in which we can grow, but with this short blog post, I am only going to address five areas.
The Bible: I am convinced that I do not know enough Bible. I read it daily, I study it, I preach it, I take classes about it, I read commentaries about specific passages, I memorize verses from it, etc. But I need to know so much more! It bothers me that Satan quoted the Bible to Jesus in Matthew 4:6. Could it be that Satan knows more Bible than we do? We need to learn more Bible and there is no substitute for getting in it and reading and studying it! An old missionary once said, “If you have not read the Bible through at least 12 times, you probably should not be a missionary.” Some may no appreciate his perspective, but I think we would all want a surgeon who had a deep knowledge on the area he is going to operate on. I wouldn’t be very optimistic with a surgeon who told me, “I really don’t know much about the surgery I am performing today!!”, especially if it were a serious surgery! If we want our surgeons to have such a knowledge on what they are doing, we should at the very least want the same for missionaries who are serving on the field! We need to read, study, and grow in our knowledge and application of the Bible.
Leadership: Missionaries are leaders. We are to lead others spiritually. There is so much to learn from about leadership in the Bible. There are also great books and podcasts that speak on the same subject, that give biblical principles on leadership. I want to be a better leader, I want to lead like Jesus. I want to point to Jesus as I lead.
Church Planting: If a missionary is going to plant churches, he ought to know how! Learning from someone who has already done it will help the missionary avoid paying “stupid tax”. “Stupid tax” is something a missionary pays because he didn’t have someone tell him not to do something, or to do something different. I have paid a lot of “stupid tax” on the mission field! I want to help my missionary friends not pay that same price!
Mentorship/Discipleship: Our goal is evangelism and discipleship. We train leaders. Just like in any other subject, there is a great opportunity for growth in this area. It is great to have practical “how to’s” on discipleship. We know we need to disciple others, we know it is important, but how do we start? What does that look like? Do we ever give up on someone who isn’t showing interest, if so, when? What do we do if _______? Mentorship/discipleship is easy to the one who is not doing it. But to those who are in the midst of it, know it is hard and knowing what to do next is not so obvious.
Family: I love my family! Our oldest daughter is 16 years old. I am realizing more than ever that our time is very short with our children. I wish I could go back in time and have a conversation with myself 16 years ago (don’t we all!!). I would tell myself to enjoy every moment with my family, to not “wish away” their youth, to not be so consumed in my own goals. I have grown so much as a father and dad, and I want to grow more. I want to be able to be the father my girls need as they continually grow. I want to be the husband my wife needs whether we are on the field or on furlough, in each stage of life, every day of my life. Outside of my salvation, my family is the greatest gift God has given me, and I want to be the husband/dad they need, the husband/dad God wants me to be. One of the was I can do this is by growing. There are so many wonderful books on marriage as well as being a parent. There are podcasts, videos, and even retreats to help us work on our marriages and families. Let’s use them to the glory of God!
There are so many areas for us to grow. As missionaries, as effective missionaries, we need to continually grow.