Missionary Tragedies: A Prayer
Posted on December 16, 2013
“God shapes his servants to embody the Word they proclaim. But other forces are also at work, shaping or misshaping God’s servants for their divinely appointed tasks. People are sometimes twisted out of the form God intended for them through the actions of misguided church and mission leaders, and this process can transform some of God’s fittest servants into misfits. Jakób Jocz was such a servant.”
I read this tragic story about the life of Jakób Jocz written by Stuart Dauermann this past month. In it, he shares the journey of missionary Jakób Jocz and how his calling from God to reach his own Jewish commmunity never came to fruition due to poor choices on the part of his mission agency and mission leaders responsible for his shepherding and placement. He called the life of Jakób a “missionary tragedy” as it left him as a “square peg” being forced into “round holes” of his mission agency. The quote below was the most sobering:
“Some might say mission agencies and church structures are means God uses to shape God’s servants for God’s purposes. That is certainly true. Others would say we must never forget the sovereignty of God, who works in mysterious ways to accomplish all things according to his will. That would be true as well. But it is just as true that there are times when institutional leaders use God’s servants for ends that have more to do with cultural arrogance and organizational agendas than the call of God.”
This whole essay stirred in me a deep sadness over how often a similar misshaping has happened to my own Latino community as we have sought to join in God’s mission around the world through different agencies that are majority culture dominant in the U.S. How many Latinos have been forced to fit into systems and structures that were never created for people that looked like them or had their narrative? The following was a prayer that came out of my reflection on this story. May it be the prayer of all mission leaders who have the ability to either keep step with God’s movement in the hearts of his servants or go against the grain of God’s intended shape of their identity.
Oh God, how often has it been true that we have forfeited the ways you have distinctly shaped Latino ministers for the sake of our organizational agendas or cultural arrogance? How often have we made Latinos fit into our “round holes” instead of seeing their “square peg” uniqueness as being for the advancement of your kingdom in new places? Why aren’t we willing to change and become different shapes for the people we are meant to shepherd as we steward the callings of you on their lives? Do we get so wrapped up in our own institutional vision that we miss the God who gave us such vision? Do we become so self-focused on our success that we become enslaved to our own existence, unable to genuinely serve people that may currently be different molds than what we originally built the whole agency for?
Lord give us eyes to see how we might need to change our shape to make space for Latinos that don’t fit right now. How might we love and come alongside this group of people to empower them to participate in mission along side majority culture ministers? Are there places in the world that you might want to take them to shine Your light into the darkness? Are we creating more missionary tragedies every day as we serve the institution rather than ethnic minorities in our midst? While these two are not always mutually exclusive, there will be crucial moments when a choice must be made between the two. Help us Father to pause in these moments and make choices that honor you and the image you are forming in your servants.
Lord, make us the kinds of leaders of mission organizations who are willing for our agencies to be re-formed so as not to create more “missionary tragedies”. Give us a disdain to stay as we are so the new missionary with us is not be at risk of being re-formed by our structures and de-formed for their calling from You. Yes, we know you use all things for good, even mission agencies that make mistakes. But let our agencies be marked as places that don’t treat our structures, models, trainings, and strategies as sacred and as a result neglect the divinely written stories of the missionaries who are trying to listen to Your voice. Father forgive us for the times we have not moved with you in the work you were trying to do in the lives of your precious saints. Thank you that you are more sovereign than our stubborn institutional ways. Please make our ministries places that reflect the image of your incarnational Son. Forgive us. Forgive me.
image credit: bigpinkcookie