The beginning of a new year provides a fresh opportunity to set goals. But sometimes success in a missions context means ditching our goals in order to please our Master and to follow his leading. We’ll dive into that topic this week and next.
By Joel Barkman — Before we left for Spain, we went through extensive training to prepare us for life and ministry abroad, and the people I met on SEND’s Michigan campus challenged my ideas of success in missions.
Many of the people who led sessions and worked at the home office had lived overseas. Some served for many years; others served for a short time in one country only to be directed by God to move elsewhere. A few had prepared for long-term ministry overseas only to return home after a year.
Which of these careers were successful? Were some failures? I found that I’d been subconsciously defining a successful ministry career as being on a field for 30 or so years, then retiring. I was thinking of people who returned after one year, or even after one term, as failures, and God really convicted me of this during our time in Michigan.
What is our job?
If our job is to raise 100 percent of our support, that’s easily definable; if it is to serve in Spain for 30 years, that is measurable. However, I don’t believe that is the job description God gave us when he began leading us down this path toward cross-cultural church planting.
None of us know the exact path that God has for us. What does our life look like in a year? Four years from now? He could direct us anywhere. For us to measure our success based merely on years in one ministry location can easily turn into idolatry.
Our number one priority is to faithfully follow God, wherever he directs us. Though he’s graciously allowed us to move to Spain, he hasn’t promised that we will remain in Spain for 30 years. God only asks that we remain faithful every day. If he directs us to another field, or back to the States, that is up to him, not us. He is the one who measures our success, not fellow man.
About the author: Joel Barkman and his wife, Kara, are studying Spanish in order to reach Spaniards for Christ through arts and music ministry. For the past year, they’ve been sharing the highs and lows of their first term in Spain. Read the First Year on the Field stories here.
Coming later this week: One of SEND’s mobilizers shares her ministry journey, which includes a major redirection that she was NOT expecting.
Read on …
- What is missionary success? Staying open to Spirit-led change: ‘I had to lay down before God my prejudice toward valuing overseas ministry more than US-based ministry.’
- What is missionary success? 10 definitions that miss the mark: Even if you speak without accent, you’re a leader and you always get the job done, success means something more.
- What is missionary success? Why many of our definitions leave us feeling empty: Plus, a better way to think of success, pulled from 2 Corinthians.
- When missionaries come off the field, many churches and families don’t know what to say and the missionaries themselves don’t always know how to move forward. Here are some practical ways you can help ease their transition.