When I first got a passion for the lost, it was only for evangelism in my own culture. Then I found out that there were people in the world who would never hear the gospel even once in their lifetimes. These are the people in the Unreached People Groups. I felt I couldn’t just do nothing, I had to help! When I read Romans 15:20, I realised Paul must have felt the same way.
Ready to go (?)
Having had some ministry experience in my own culture, I felt ready to go! After going on outreaches to two African countries, my wife and I felt the Lord was leading us into full-time ministry. We were healthy, mature Christians, filled with the Holy Spirit and with zeal to spread the gospel! So we went to speak to our church’s missions pastor.
Seeing our enthusiasm and asking us about our calling, he told us that there was a course we had to do before the church would release us. With one lesson a week, the course was to take 15 weeks! We felt that this would be a total waste of time. After all, we were as ready as anybody could be, and with the leading of the Holy Spirit, we could “do this thing”, couldn’t we?
We soon realized how wrong we had been. The course pointed out many of the cultural mistakes we had made on the short-term trips. It was as if they had been with us and seen the kinds of things we had done - but of course they hadn’t! Our mistakes were so common that they had even been written into a course! We knew everything we had done, we had done with the best of intentions. But as we learnt more about cultures in the course, we could seen that we must have been quite offensive to those people who had received us so graciously!
Where had the Holy Spirit been?
We faced a dilemma. Where had the leading of Holy Spirit been when we made those mistakes? Of course He had been with us, we knew that. We came to the conclusion that we just had not heard His still, quiet voice amid all the “noise” of the outreach (1Kings 19:12-13). Now in the class, we could hear Him speaking loving and encouraging words to us through the lecturer, even while convicting us of our mistakes.
Suddenly, we realized the value of missionary training! Before going into the spiritual battle, we were to learn all we could while taking our time to listen to the voice of the Spirit guiding and teaching us.
We had not been full-time on the field for very long when we found out that that we were not the only Spirit-filled Christians who don’t always hear the guidance of the Spirit in the busy daily life of missions. We could soon spot the missionaries who had not had any cross-cultural missionary training. Sadly very seldom did they last more than a year or two on the mission field. And they all loved Jesus dearly!
The work of the Holy Spirit and Missionary Training working together
Here’s how we explain this situation in Didasko Academy’s “Missions 101” course. Think of your ministry as a sailboat. It has to move to be effective in reaching the lost.
Think of the Holy Spirit as the wind. Without the wind, we can do nothing! If the wind is blowing, but we didn’t know how to rig the sails properly, the sails would flap in the wind and even though the boat would move, it would move slowly.
With proper cross-cultural missionary training, we would know how to rig the sails well. Then the wind of the Holy Spirit would blow into our sails, and our ministry would really take off!
Not just an opinion
Some years ago, extensive research showed that pre-field missionary training, “especially missiological training, contributes significantly to the missionaries’ ability to persevere and ultimately thrive”. This is why we’ve made Didasko courses free of charge. We want to see more missionaries thrive so that more people can hear about Jesus!
Quote from page 105 of “Worth Keeping: Global Perspectives on Best Practice in Missionary Retention”, by Hay R, Lim V, Blocher D, Ketelaar J, Hay S 2007.William Carey Library: Pasadena, California.