I think the most difficult thing about being a missionary is me.
There are of course a number of different reasons why I can be such an obstacle to myself when it comes to the work of missions. The most obvious have to do with the ways in which I struggle with sin. Less obvious perhaps are the ways in which my own culture has encouraged me in my own sinful tendencies.
When it comes to being an American missionary, I think one of the primar ways our culture makes it more difficult for us as missionaries is:
* The way it encourages our pride.
We naturally love ourselves and believe our way is best. The American culture does nothing to discourage that. The opposite.
Many years ago, Roland Allen noted this:
“St. Paul’s method is not in harmony with the modern Western spirit. We modern teachers from the West are by nature and by training persons of restless activity and boundless self-confidence. We are accustomed to assume an attitude of superiority towards all Eastern peoples, and to point to our material progress as the justification of our attitude. We are accustomed to do things ourselves for ourselves, to find our own way, to rely upon our own exertions, and we naturally tend to be impatient with others who are less restless and less self-assertive than we are.”
I remember when I was studying biblical counseling. One of the key elements in the counseling process is that of involvement. Involvement means slowing down to understand the person you are counseling and trying to identify the problem they are actually experiencing. This is very difficult to do when you are proud, when you are in a hurry, and when you feel superior to the person you are trying to help.
This modern Western spirit obviously has some things going for it, of course. It pushes us to seek to get something done. If we don’t fight our pride however as missionaries, it will sometimes push to get things done that aren’t really clearly thought through or even ultimately most helpful.