Wouldn’t it be great to have a job where you could set your own hours, be your own boss, and do your own thing? That would be the life! Well, maybe and maybe not…
Truthfully, there is no job where you truly get to “do your own thing,” because even if you have no earthly boss you still have a heavenly boss – God. He is at the top of every chain of command chart – all of us will give account to Him one day (Romans 14:12).
But there are jobs where you have less direct human oversight, and you have the privilege (and responsibility) to be in charge of your own schedule, set your own hours, and be in a sense your own boss. One of those jobs is the job of a missionary.
Missionaries and church-planters are usually the leaders of a new church, often work alone, and unfortunately for many have little accountability. (I am not condoning this type of isolation and will make a few comments about it later, but for many that is the reality.)
So what does this mean for the missionary and for the young person who is preparing to be a missionary? Let me offer a few thoughts:
1. Learn from the ant.
In the book of Proverbs, Solomon challenges the sluggard to go learn from the ant and get wisdom. I think that all of us, no matter how disciplined, have sluggardly tendencies. We take shortcuts. We want the easy way out. And if left to our own devices would be lazy.
Proverbs 6:6–11 6 Go to the ant, thou sluggard; Consider her ways, and be wise: 7 Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, 8 Provideth her meat in the summer, And gathereth her food in the harvest. 9 How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? When wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? 10 Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to sleep: 11 So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, And thy want as an armed man.
- The ant works without a guide, overseer, or ruler. No one tells the ant what to do; the ant just works hard without someone always looking over her shoulder. If you can’t be a self-starter, take the initiative, get out of bed, and work hard without someone checking if you are clocking and clocking out, then you should not be a missionary.
- The ant works at the right time. Even when it is warm and life is good, she works hard because she knows that winter is coming. She may not feel like getting up and working, but she does any way because she knows that it will pay off in the end. The good missionary will keep the end goal in mind – a man or men trained, churches planted, souls saved, a work started that will be able to reach a region/a country/a world for Christ. If he wants to look back with rejoicing at sheaves that have been reaped, he must go forth with weeping and do the work.
- The ant takes the small things seriously. A little more work and a little more food collected are not just little things to the ant. All those little things add up to a lot. Notice the opposite is true for the sluggard. Just a little sleep and a little slumber will bring poverty and want as forcibly as an “armed man.” “Little things” like reading your Bible every day, studying and reading regularly, getting out of bed, getting out into the community and meeting people, working hard, etc – make a big deal and add up to big things.
2. Get a boss.
There is a reason that Jesus sent the disciples out two by two. And there is a reason that Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 that “two are better than one”:
9 Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. 10 For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. 11 Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? 12 And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
All of us need someone at sometime to help us. None of us are meant to live life alone without friendship, companionship, and accountability. So if you find that you are cut off, on your own, or have little accountability, then you are in a dangerous spot.
That is why every missionary should have a close connection with his sending church, pastor, and some strong Christian people who will encourage and challenge him.
The responsibility for seeking out this network of people who can hold you accountable lies with the you. You should know that isolation is dangerous; so stay connected. Here are a few suggestions:
- Stay in regular communication with those who know you well and are familiar with your ministry.
- Invite and welcome people to visit with you to see if you are doing the work and to speak into your ministry regarding ways you can improve.
- Be transparent in your life with those around you and never build an ivory palace where you can’t be seen, questioned, or challenged. (In this regard, discipleship is mutually beneficial to both the disciple and the discipler – because you can’t ask a disciple to do something you are not doing.)
- Set up an accountability structure for your internet use, your work, your time that holds you accountable.
3. Make your schedule your boss.
Regular time reviewing how you spent your week will reveal whether you have being doing the right things. Learn to schedule discipleship, outreach, personal study/growth, sermon preparation, administration, etc., so that your schedule is your boss. If you simply “get up in the morning and see how things go”, you will be guaranteed to get very little done. Here are a few ideas to help:
- Plan your monthly calendar in advance, scheduling in big events. (Read Ordering Your Private World to help with this.)
- Plan out your month several weeks ahead.
- At the beginning of each week, schedule out your week and plan each day what you need to get done that week.
- Each evening, plan out the next day, so that you get up with a plan.
- Set a time to get up and a time to go to bed.
4. Realise you will give an account to God.
No matter who you are or what job you do, you will cut corners and make small concessions if you lack proper motivation. Unfortunately, if you live only for what people can see or what people expect, you will never be as highly motivated as you should be.
The ultimate motivation in our life must be to please and glorify God with everything within us, knowing that we will one day give an account of our service to Him. He is our real boss. He sees how we live, what we do, and we should live for Him and to bring Him great glory. Colossians 3:22-25 expresses the proper motivation for our lives:
22 Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God: 23 And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; 24 Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ. 25 But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons.
I hope this helps you and encourages you to work now at living your life for God and His glory regardless of what others may do, whether anyone notices, or whether you have a boss telling you what to do. If you are faithful in the little things now, God may choose to exalt you to a position of more responsibility because you have been faithful.