My fellow church planters working in unreached people groups: As long as you are driven by an abiding love for Jesus Christ and you have time to do it:
Write. Post. Tweet. Repeat.
The technology tribal missionaries have at their finger-tips, if you really think about what missions was like even 30 years ago, is astounding. On the other side of the globe, in a VERY remote area in the world, I’m able to FaceTime my parents from my iPhone. Think about that, and compare it to the letters missionaries wrote to their loved ones that didn’t show up for six months, at the earliest. They were basically dead to their families. These missionaries just kind of left, fully trusting their lives into the hands of their Heavenly Father, probably never to see their families again. Get this…they actually shipped over coffins; no, that’s not a typo, they didn’t ship over coffee…they probably didn’t even get to drink that. Whoa. I’m sweating just thinking about this right now.
We’ve rubbed shoulders with missionaries here that came over to Papua New Guinea on a boat. A BOAT. They were actually at risk for scurvy, which, I think the last time I actually typed that word was in a 1-page report in 5th grade on the Pilgrims. So times, they are-a-changin’ for us missionaries living in remote places these days.
The divide in our organization is pretty drastic. Missionaries who had been in the middle of the jungle for 15-20 years are moving out and overseeing the new works just starting, so the realities of Facebook and Twitter, even bulk email-sites like MailChimp are quite new to these veterans. A decade ago, sending churches didn’t expect their missionaries to post pictures on Facebook semi-daily, or send out email updates every two-weeks. They didn’t get emails or Facebook messages saying “thank you for that last video update you posted from the tribe, it really feels like we’re right there with you.” Unheard of. Or, “Wow, that podcast on a ‘Typical Papua New Guinea Wedding’ was very informative, thank you. ”
Tweeting? Vines? Instagram? Team websites updated and maintained by the actual team? Kindle!? Life for us Millennial-Missionaries is much different on the surface, though we depend on the same all-sufficient Christ as our predecessors. And, honestly, life for the nationals is different too: Cell phones have been in our village for about 10 years, but now, smart phones and laptops are creeping in. Even though they may live in huts, are subsistent farmers, and kill and eat pigs like their ancestors did, I get texts from them all the time asking me where I’m at.
Missionary life is always evolving, daily bringing in whole new challenges. There’s always the fear that we will spend time on Facebook absorbed in the American culture, rather than learning the culture that we are actually striving to take the Gospel into. Or perhaps we share too much information on our social-media sites, to the detriment of our ministry or, um, our organization. There are a myriad of really bad things that technology in tribal works could bring upon the church planter and the future church – we certainly need to acknowledge that fact and trust the Lord to convict us when we are abusing this privilege and being unwise, “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but He who restrains his lips is wise,” Prov. 10:19.
With every good thing that we are blessed with, there is an inherent risk of making it an ultimate thing that clouds our view of Christ and becomes an idol.
It was a good thing that missionaries 30 years ago didn’t have all the distractions that we have. It was great that they were willing to risk it all, especially the lives of their families for the Great Commission’s sake. But, just as all this new technology for the Missionary-Millenial could take our eyes off of Christ and His work through us, the brave acts of the past generation could cloud their view of the Only One That Deserves Glory. We all have a sin nature that fights for our affections and fools us into believing that we are “The Captain’s of Our Fate” or we’re the “ideal tribal church planters.”
No, brothers and sisters, “Christ is our life.” “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Neither generation is better, smarter, more brave, more savvy. No: whatever wisdom we have, if it isn’t Christ it’s worthless. “And because of Him you are in Christ, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness, and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord, (1 Cor. 1:28-31).” Whatever brave acts we’ve done or risks we’ve taken, if it isn’t Christ: pure trash. Every fruit produced in our ministry is because of Jesus. Comparing the two generations of missionaries is useless and sin, because comparisons like this aren’t based on faith in the all-sufficient Christ who carries the world from one dispensation to the next, one generation to the next, one technological break-through to the next, rather, it mindlessly gawks at the works of mere, sinful men captive to the time they were born by God’s perfect timing.
Let the sweetness of Christ drip from every line in your blog posts, every word in your podcasts, every story you tell to the next generation of missionaries, why? Because I believe we are in an unprecedented time of access, and we, with the tech. we have, can put the incredible things God is doing in tribal church plants onto smart phones everywhere. Help your churches and loved one’s pray for you more accurately, as well as the people you’re giving your lives to. Don’t let missionaries in training give the excuse, “I didn’t know what the cost would be when I signed up for this,” and don’t let a single one of your Facebook friends make the excuse, “I had no idea there were still people living like that, completely isolated from the Bible and it’s story.” Whether you write well, are photogenic, create apps, or have a great podcast voice, let’s wisely fill the newsfeeds with God’s glory among the nations, “Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ,” Col. 3:23-24.
Write with urgency. Christ’s return can happen at any time, and who better to write about tribal missions than you, the one actually dealing with the day-to-day grind of living in a completely different culture, and speaking in a formerly unwritten language. Some Christians don’t actually know God doesn’t want them to live for themselves, and that they’re called to be a part of reaching the unreached with the Gospel, “Deliver those who are drawn towards death, and hold back those stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, ‘Surely we did not know this,’ does not He who weighs the hearts consider it. (Prov. 24:11-12)”
Talk about your struggles. Don’t do it so people feel bad for you like so many people do on Facebook, but so people can rejoice with you in the grace and kindness of Jesus Christ. John Newton did this when he responded to the people who sent him letters for advice:
Every day draws forth some new corruption which before was little observed, or at least discovers it in a stronger light than before. Thus by degrees they are weaned from leaning to any supposed wisdom, power, or goodness in themselves; they feel the truth of our Lord’s words, “without me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
Instagram pictures of your milestones. You guessed it, for God’s glory, too. As Spurgeon once prayed, “Every moment of our time help us to employ for you, every breath may we breath out to your honor.”
I wrote this post over the weekend. It took me 3 whole days, 10 minutes per day to finish, so it’s possible to get these things done fast. Whether it’s 10 pages or a few paragraphs, you, my friends, are the 5%-ers, not many Christians actually know what tribal church planting is all about. Just imagine if everyone in New Tribes Mission wrote, podcasted, or Instagrammed about tribal church planting experiences twice a month and posted it to trusty Facebook. According to studies, the average Facebook user has a circle of around 300 friends, 30% or more will see your posts on their newsfeeds. I say get some content out there!
Who knows, we may all get banned from Facebook within the next five years anyways, so we should probably do all this while we still can.
Wait, before you click send/tweet:
- If someone in your village saw this, would they be suspicious of your intentions? If money is involved, tread carefully.
- Are you sharing GPS coordinates or a Google Earth screen shot of your village? Don’t.
- Are you saying something that your host-government would disapprove of? Stay away from that mess.
- Make sure your privacy is set to “Friends Only” on Facebook when you post, and unless your tweets are protected, anyone can read your stuff on Twitter, so yeah, be wise.
- Don’t tweet or post about petty things like Crocs or something weird like that. If you do, you’re probably spending too much time on the “soshe.” Be interesting, but try to keep it in your intended wheelhouse: God’s glory and missions.