For a few months now I’ve been feeling the call back to the mission field.
I’ve wrestled with the timing. I’ve prayed about it. I’ve tried to convince God that now’s not the time. I’ve questioned him. I’ve tried to ignore it. Then I just decided to do what I need to do and let God take care of the rest.
When a few friends from church suggested it to me, it seemed like I was on the right path. And then a pastor friend encouraged me to apply for a position in international missions again.
So I looked for opportunities in my church. Their mission revolves around getting the 3,000 regular attenders to “Belong, Connect, and Go” with the “Go” aspect focused on serving others and mission work.
While they had many volunteer opportunities in the church and in the community, they did not have any full-time missionary opportunities.
So then I contacted the organization I had been a missionary with before. It’s the mission body of my childhood church, the denomination where I was baptized, confirmed, and have served with for years as a VBS helper, long-term international missionary, and speaker with their mission league.
Despite having years of attendance at three different congregations in this denomination (the one I grew up in, the one my mom’s family goes to, and the one my dad goes to…I’m a child of divorce), they said their mission opportunities are reserved for members of their denomination who have an active membership in their body. Specifically, ONE of their “bodies.”
You see, I attend services with my mom, my dad, and my sister at their respective congregations, but when I go to church alone I stick closer to home and attend at a different denomination. My unofficial split membership (even though I have an official membership in the denomination) is something I’ve practiced ever since my parents divorced. But the church wants me to just pick one congregation and I’ll be welcome to reapply to the mission field once I do.
Another closed door.
Look, I get it. Mission work is a huge undertaking and in order to be successful you need a lot of support – financially, logistically, emotionally, and spiritually. I do understand why you want people that have been indoctrinated in your church.
But here’s the thing. I have been. I have three congregations ready to support me financially, spiritually, and emotionally. Five if you count the ones my extended family attend (and subsequently, supported me when I served overseas before).
And that’s the other thing. I’ve served with you before. I’ve taught VBS in your congregations. I’ve helped run fundraisers for you. I was already a missionary overseas for you. But because I go to a different church some Sundays I don’t fit your mold.
I get it; I just wish your view wasn’t so narrow.
Maybe this is a discussion for a future post about the dysfunction of the modern Christian church. The fragmented, broken disorganization of competing denominations.
For now just know that I feel burned. I feel like I’m being punished for being a child of divorce. I feel like I’m being punished for being single, because if I had a family of my own surely we would find a church to go to every Sunday.
Answering a call shouldn’t be so hard. When you (read: Christian organizations) post desperate pleas for workers in the mission field do you ever wonder why the workers are so few? Maybe they aren’t. Maybe we’re right here.
But there are so many obstacles to joining you.
- We need to discern that this is God’s path for our lives
- We need to overcome our fears of the financial, spiritual, logistical, and emotional responsibilities that come with such a call.
- We then answer the call and have to find the right fit, the right opportunity.
- Then, as I’ve come to find, we have to get past you, the gatekeeper.
The first two take time, prayer, and advice. The latter two, however, come straight from church leadership. This is where I think we are failing. How many more members are there like me? People who are feeling called to mission work. People you’re pleading with to join the harvest. People you’re encouraging to take a leap of faith. But people you aren’t helping to connect with opportunities. People you are turning away because they don’t completely fit your mold.
I get it. I really do. But I don’t get it.
So this wasn’t the right opportunity. That’s fine. I’ll keep searching out others. But it’s not an easy task, and I wish church leadership – of all denominations – would take action along with what they’re saying. You encourage us to Go. You train us to share our faith. You plead with us to join the mission field, whatever that may mean in our lives. But you don’t help us find the opportunities. You don’t cultivate the financial or logistical support within the church body. You have so many connections across the Christian industry, but you don’t help your members take advantage of them. And maybe that’s why it seems like the workers are few.