Remaining Faithful in the Mundane

What’s a missionary to do? It’s time to give a ministry report to supporters, but what can you say if you've been traveling, writing reports, struggling with language training, or sitting in meetings? The truth is that the majority of a missionary’s life doesn’t make good report material.

Facing what writer Darren Carlson calls the “real pressure to perform,” it’s no surprise that missionaries are often tempted to exaggerate a story or embellish some statistics to make it seem that we've been productive.

But the truth is that much of what we missionaries do is simply struggle to be faithful in the mundane. I think of missionaries who have been sitting in long meetings all week, driving visitors around, caring for children, shopping for groceries, or working on the monthly financial report to submit to their agency. That’s not very interesting stuff and as Carlson puts it, we're often “embarrassed by the mundane.”

And as I leave today for three weeks in West Africa, I realize it will probably be a very mundane trip.

First, I'll be traveling alone, as I do about 50 percent of the time. Sure, I'll get to see some interesting places, renew some old friendships, and meet some new people, but the work itself will be pretty banal—not the stuff for a missionary’s highlight reel.

My first stop is a country I've not visited in two-plus years where I’ll help local church leaders think through starting a new business. Exciting? Hardly. We will sit and talk: the questions and answers will flow, followed by the struggle (on both sides) to clarify, quantify, and understand.

Then in the evenings I'll work by myself to weave the information into a business plan and discover many more questions I need to ask the following day. Over several days working with my national colleagues, we'll try to decide if the idea is worth pursuing, and if so, how.

My second stop will be more of the same. There will be meetings to evaluate projects already started, and meetings to review school financial data and build budgets for the new school year. Then more meetings, working with national church leaders to develop a strategic plan for a new Christ-centered community transformation program; long hours of questions, answers, and clarifications.

Not exactly front-page news or even good picture material, is it? But it is more typical of missionary work than you might think.

But you know what? That’s just fine with me (and I hope it is with you too).

“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies – in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever, Amen.” (1 Peter 4:10 & 11)

This passage tells us the what (serve one another), how (as good administrators of God’s varied gifts of grace), and why (in order that God may be glorified) of our service.

But look at the scripture again. What does it say is the setting in which we administer God’s grace in its (many) varied forms? The answer is in the phrase, “in everything God may be glorified ….”

“Everything” means the up-front preaching, evangelization, and shepherding, as well as the quiet nights working on spreadsheets, long meetings, and even doing laundry. We are called to live out the grace of Jesus Christ everywhere and in everything we do, whether that’s in West Africa, West Dallas, standing at a sink doing dishes, or anywhere else God puts us.

The setting for this "grace work" is not the important thing. What’s important is that we are good and faithful administrators of God’s grace, keeping our focus on God’s glory, not our own.

So don't be embarrassed by the mundane, but rather see those things as important vehicles through which we express God's grace to others for His glory.

*Last name withheld for security purposes. 

Richard* in Reflection on May 9, 2016

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Pray for missionaries to remain faithful in the mundane and not get caught up in striving to perform for the praise of others. 

Pray for our Central Asia missionaries building the church through business as mission efforts.

Pray for the South Sudanese church that has formed in Uganda from refugees who have fled their homeland.

Pray for the women in a ladies' study in Cape Town, South Africa. Pray for courage and discernment to separate family rituals from biblical truth. 

Pray for the girls living at the Presbyterian girls home in West Africa. Many of them are coming to faith and asking to be baptized!

Pray for HIV/AIDS education in the Church throughout Africa, particularly in regions where there is still so much mis-information. Pray that the Church will become educated and lead a culture change!

Pray for MTW medical missionaries who serve longer-term in one location. Pray for those they serve and for a strong partnership with the local church.

Pray for missionaries adjusting to new cultures and new norms, forcing them to surrender the comforts they once considered non-negotiable. 

Pray for our ministries in Africa, where many have come to expect broken systems and corruption. Pray that God would intervene and change hearts that would change communities.

Pray for Business As Mission efforts, particularly in parts of the world that is hard to reach with the gospel. Pray for courageous Christian entrepreneurs to live as gospel lighthouses.