Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

Writing mission reports

In our church in Swaziland October and November are the months for reports. Next weekend we have our annual synod meeting in Swaziland which gives the different congregations a chance to report on the work that had been done during the past year and then in November we meet with the missions committee which coordinates the subsidies given towards missions in Swaziland and then basically the same reports which were discussed during the synod meeting will also be presented to these people so that they can be updated on what is going on in Swaziland.
The problem which I have (and have had for many years) with these reports, is that everybody tries to draw a very positive picture of how the work is progressing. Nobody wants to be too honest about any negative things happening, because that may have a bad reflection on leadership and worse, someone may decide that the subsidies should be reduced! So now the reports become very technical where the truth needs to be told but also where certain crucial things are left out of the reports which may reflect negatively on the work being done. I’m convinced that it’s not only in Swaziland where this situation is found. I think all over, where church work is done, the same type of thing will be found.
I wonder how Paul would have handled situations like this. If I look at 1 Corinthians 12-14 then I can imagine him sitting at a meeting and saying to those present: We see in this report that brother Timothy has a problem down at Macedonia. We can see that he is really suffering because of this and it is wrong that he suffers on his own. Therefore, let us discuss ways in which we can give him greater support so that the kingdom of God will not be compromised and brother Timothy can also be encouraged to go on with the work.
But unfortunately this is not always how things are done in the church. A former colleague of mine once decided to write a newsletter to his prayer supporters in which he tried to inform them of the difficult situations which he had to face and for which he needed prayer support. He received so much criticism, that in the next newsletter he decided to focus solely on the positive things happening and asked them to thank the Lord for these wonderful things.
So today I’m busy writing reports. And I was wondering whether we should report that in one area our church died. How will they react if they hear that, for a whole year, in spite of continued efforts to make a difference, we have had only one person who regularly attend church? Actually, we knew about this problem a year ago, mainly caused by family strife within the area and accusations from one of our members that her mother had bewitched her baby and caused the baby’s death. We followed the Biblical principle to wait another year. But now I’ve decided that we can put our energy and time into much better projects than trying to revive a dead church. I suggested that we admit that the horse is dead, and if a horse is dead, then you need to dismount. I think it was Bill Hybels who wrote in his Courageous Leadership that true leaders know when to stop. It is not a sign of strong leadership to continue with something which is dead (unless of course if God convinces you to persevere to demonstrate His power). It is also not a sign of bad leadership to admit that something is not working as was hoped. But how will the others react if we write this in a report?
Personally I prefer an honest report – giving both the positive and the negative aspects of the work. And I trust that our fellow-Christians will realise that the negative aspects of the work is not due to lack of trying, but perhaps because God has something else in mind that we could do with our energy and time. But I must say that I’ve lost a lot of my enthusiasm for writing official mission reports.

Just on a personal (and VERY positive) note and for those whose interest may not be where all South Africans’ interests are at the moment: Last night South Africa won their match in the Rugby World Cup semi-finals in France and next Saturday South Africa will be up against England to determine who will be the champions for the next four years. I’m pretty sure that not all the members of the South African team are Christians, but it was really moving to see the team gathering in a circle after the match and praying together to thank God for their victory. So, if you are reading this and you are from England: I still love you as a fellow-believer, but I honestly and sincerely hope that South Africa will win this match 😉

Monday, October 15, 2007 Posted by | Bill Hybels, Church, Disappointments, Hope, Meetings, Mission, Prayer, Swaziland | 2 Comments