Thursday, April 17, 2008

Men and Missions: What Are Guys Afraid Of?

I was intrigued by some of David Hosaflook's thoughts since I've had several conversations along these lines recently. One seminary professor even told me about a strategy a missions agency had pursued to create unusually challenging job descriptions to reach radically difficult places, hoping that the adventure instinct in men would be engaged.

The only people willing to apply were women.

Here's Hosaflook's theory:
I think the real problem--the elephant in the room--is sin. Two great missionary qualities are boldness (Acts 4:13, 29, 31) and a passion to evangelize (Acts 4:20). Spirit-filled people, even despite natural inhibitions, have those two qualities. But when sin is in your life, your lion heart cowers (Proverbs 28:1) and your burden for the lost is sucked right out of your soul (Psalms 51:13).
It's not at all difficult to imagine how the sin patterns that are so common among younger Christian men in contemporary American culture could paralyze them from pursuing overseas work. But for whatever reason, there's not the same shortage of men heading into pastoral ministry. So regardless of the reason for the deficiency, it does seem to be a widely recognized phenomenon.

What do you think the solution is?

13 comments:

tjp said...

Perhaps this is the answer:

"Pray ye the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest" (Mt. 9:38).

It's not about men's sins; it's about the saints' prayers.

Jim Peet said...

Thanks for this thought provoking post.

I don't think there are any 1 or 2 paragraph answers.

There is much broken about the missionary process. Do you really think the Lord intended that missionary candidates spend 3-5 years traveling around raising support? How many have you met who "washed out" of that process?

Don Johnson said...

But for whatever reason, there's not the same shortage of men heading into pastoral ministry.

Really? By what measure?

The preacher boy's class at BJU was at least double the size it is now when I was in school. I would guess that the record is similar at other schools.

Regards,
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Chris said...

Sin is one of the major problems; full stop. Whether it is missions or pastoral ministry, fewer and fewer men are willing to sign on.Our church has been praying for workers in the harvest for 25 years, yet few have gone. Yes, I think there is a problem; disobedience is likely at its root. Sobering.

Ben said...

tjp,

No arguments with your main point, except it seems odd that the absence of prayer would affect men more than women.

Jim,

No arguments at all, but it also seems odd that men would be more affected by the process.

Don,

I'm not arguing that we have plenty of pastors. It simply seems that a broad range of people seem to think that the need for men in missions is more dire.

Bobby said...

Don,

My father was at BJU the same time as you. You do have to remmeber that there is a lot more competition for the "preacher boys" what with all the new colleges since the early 70's. The "preacher boys" are spread around now to different schools in fundamentalism

Don Johnson said...

Hi Bobby,

I think the 'competition' was pretty well under way by the time we were at BJU. I suspect that if you were to compare the numbers of all the schools 'in the orbit', you would find that overall the number is less than it was.

I'd actually love to be proved wrong on this, but...

Regards,
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Anonymous said...

Don,

I'd add to Bobby's point that there is also a matter of demographics at work here. The baby boomer generation is generally calculated as born between 1946-1964, which means that college years were roughy 1964-1986 (when the last of them hit 22). I believe the peak of that was in the late 70s. So, there were more men studying for the ministry at least in part simply because there were more men in college at that time. I suppose the better test would be percentage of population.

I tend to agree with Bobby, too, about the distribution of students. When I went to college in 1979, PCC and NBBC were significantly smaller than now, and Ambassador, Crown, West Coast, and a bunch of others didn't exist. Granted Temple and Pillsbury were bigger (TTU was much so). Another factor is the rise of the seminaries--some men aren't majoring in ministerial undergrad degrees because they plan to go to seminary.

I guess my point is that I think the question is more complicated than guaging it by the ministerial class at BJU.

To the point of the post, I am not sure that there is a problem that is blocking men from pursuing missions. How are we coming to the assessment that there is a problem? Can we use more? sure. But is that fact that more are not going definitely an indication of a problem? I am not so sure about that.

Ben said...

Might be a good time for a reminder here. While I don't prohibit anonymous comments, I've chosen not to interact with them.

Don Johnson said...

Certainly I grant the points about demography, but I don't think that explains it all.

Btw, I read in my just arrived Voice of the Alumni that the student body in 1947 was over 40% in the ministerial class, the result of returning GIs wanting to go into the ministry.

Demographics affects all of that also, but I would be delighted to see that kind of representation in all the fundamentalist colleges.

...

But, you're right, we are drifting away from Ben's point.

I saw Hosaflook's post earlier and thought about commenting somewhere on it, but didn't.

I am somewhat conflicted: as one under missionary support, I am not keen on increasing the competition for missionary $$$ (speaking from an exclusively self-oriented perspective). I guess I am not in competition, not any longer raising additional funds, but...

Nevertheless, I do agree with the basic premise: there is a problem. There is a lack of workers in the field. I am not sure that I agree with the nature of the problem, however, because to simply say "it is sin" is too generic. What is the sin that keeps men out of the ministry? Or sins?

Regards,
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Ben said...

Don,

As much as the notion of competing for missions support is repulsive, I sympathize with the realities behind it. What so many missionary candidates go through just to get to the field is truly appalling. The self-centeredness and materialism of American "Christianity" is an abomination.

Don Johnson said...

Hi Ben, I agree that the 'competitive' nature of deputation is very flawed. I have never been able to figure out how to do it. I have had years of work in sales and have the instinct of 'going for the sale', but somehow have found it very awkward to apply to the deputation process. I have had conversations about it with supporting pastors, theorizing and bouncing around ideas to improve the process, but so far none of us have come up with something that makes things better.

Part of the problem is related to the independence of independent Baptists, but I am not willing to head for denominationalism (or conventions) to solve that aspect of it. I suspect that the nature of deputation (not the length, per se) but the notion of 'selling yourself' on the deputation trail may be a factor in holding back some from the ranks.

Anyway, I could go on, but it is probably something I should think about a bit and do a blog of my own. Or two.

Regards,
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Noah said...

Don, it isn't that the money isn't there to make it so that missionaries don't need to "compete" as you put it (I understand what you were saying, though). The problems are several.

I'll be completely honest as I start off this comment, though. I have prayed, I have asked, I have BEGGED at times (you have no idea how much I wanted to go to Brazil with our youth group this summer- to help Pastor Ray Ronk and his family- and it simply did not work out for various reasons) for God to make my calling the mission field. Though it is not something I can explain, I just KNOW it is not my place, at this time in my life. However, I am willing to concede that, just like with John Zimmer, maybe at some point down the road God will call this youth pastor- who believes God is leading him to help train the next generation of missionaries- to be part of the next generation of missionaries. I don't know. I have, Lord willing, many years ahead of me to see God work in my life.

I know in my life surrendering to the very idea of just being open to missions, let alone being willing to actually go if God wants me to, was very hard. In this respect, I am much like Moses. It is so much easier to walk with my brain, than to walk by faith (not that you check your brains at the door of faith, but I think you understand what I mean). Also, the money is there. I believe it was through the Barna Research Group, I saw a survey a while back that showed that only 10% if Fundamental Baptist give on a regular basis to their churches, most of which have missions line items in their yearly budgets. You know what that means? ONLY 10% OF ALL FUNDAMENTAL BAPTISTS ACTUALLY HELP IN SUPPORTING MISSIONS REGULARLY! This is a travesty! Yet, we wonder why it takes 2-5 years for missionaries to get to a level of support that they can get overseas or out of the country and go where they believe the Lord is calling them (and, I know of many missionaries who choose to leave while still not at 100% support; they believe so strongly in what God is calling them to do, they go on faith believing that God will provide the rest that they need; Not gonna' lie, it would be very hard for me to do that....).

Obviously, sin is going to be an issue in the surrender process. That, in addition to my pride and putting God in a box, has also been an issue. There have been great strides in the last couple years of my life since dealing with the sin of bitterness that I had been holding on to for soooo long. Obviously, dealing with that opened the channels in my relationship with God to place on my heart the burden to be used by God not only in being a missionary, but in training up the next generation of missionaries.

As for the non-lack of men going into pastoral ministry, I have known far too many guys at MBBC who have graduated and after 2-5 years, have either left the ministry, or never got there. Frankly, some of the guys I went to school with, I was shocked to find out their majors were Biblical Studies. Not to mention that the Bible Colleges seem to have a mentality towards their undergrad classes that they have to save something for seminary, which I'm afraid makes the undergrad classes ridiculously easy (except for Greek)- when compared with the average class a music major takes at the undergrad level. So, they leave college thinking they're prepared to be pastors because, that's what earning that degree is supposed to be training them to do, right? Wrong, otherwise, we wouldn't be encouraging them to go to seminary so much afterwards.

I don't think we can look at any one thing and say, "This is why we don't have more men in missions." Obviously, we should be praying. We need to pray that men who claim to be born again would have a relationship with Christ that is such that they would follow Him anywhere- even to the ends of the Earth, should God call them there. We should be praying that they would be wise in their decision making, and that they would not give up when the task gets difficult. We also need to be praying that- as they have a relationship with Christ- that they would put on the whole armor of God, so that they can withstand the wiles of Satan's attacks against them and their families. And, like J. Hudson Taylor of old said, if we have not been called of God to serve as missionaries, then we must make sure and do our part to hold our end of the rope in praying for and financially supporting our missionaries as God blesses us to be able to do. If the missionaries are to venture into the mine of this world and pluck those gem stones of lost people who need Christ, we must hold the rope so that these missionaries do not fall headlong into the abyss.

Sorry if this seems somewhat jumbled and disorganized. Was just kind of writing this as it came. I hope this makes sense. I've been thinking a lot on this subject lately, due to circumstances with many of the missionaries that I/my church support and pray for.