Reflections and resources for lifelong learning for missionaries

Category: Leadership Page 2 of 5

Saul was not ready

1 Samuel 9 introduces us to a very promising young man named Saul, a young man who we soon find out has been destined by God to become Israel’s first king.  He is from a good, highly-respected family with wealth and influence (1 Sam 9:1).   He himself is physically impressive, tall and handsome (1 Sam 9:2). But this young man has a problem – his father’s donkeys have wandered off, and he and his servant have already spent three days looking for them without success.

At this point, we come to an interesting discourse that gives us a window into Saul’s spiritual formation up to this point in his life.


When God prepares a person to serve him in a leadership or other significant ministry role, he often chooses to use crucibles. Crucibles are small pots used in chemistry labs in which metals or other substances are heated to a very high temperature. In the middle ages, alchemists used crucibles in their various attempts to forge gold out of base metals and various strange ingredients. But Webster also defines a crucible as a difficult test or challenge or a place or situation that forces people to change or make difficult decisions.

The Scriptures speak of the crucible as an instrument for purifying silver, but always in the context of some type of testing for the purpose of refining.

Shepherding or herding?

The Shepherd-leader

I have often heard the remark that leading missionaries is like herding cats. Yet are we in the herding business? As followers of the Good Shepherd we are to shepherd, not herd those in our care. Even if we shift the imagery from herding to shepherding, we can still go astray because of our cultural perception of shepherding.

Last year, my pastor was preaching on the Good Shepherd from John 10. He told a story of watching a sheep dog demonstration at the state fair. The dogs would circle the sheep barking and nipping at their heels to get them to go in the desired direction. If we look at shepherding from this cultural perspective, we lead by threatening and scolding (barking and biting). This is not the model of shepherding from a Middle Eastern perspective in biblical times or today and not at all what Christ was suggesting. The Middle Eeastern shepherd goes before the sheep and leads them by voice. “

Leading a team takes time

Over the past few weeks, I have had a number of conversations with both new missionaries and team leaders in a few different countries.   An observation that I have made in the past has been reinforced: leading a team takes time and more time that the team leader expected.  In these conversations, I have noticed a common theme among new missionaries – leaders don’t have time for them.   Leaders are so busy with their own ministry that they directly say or inadvertently give the impression that helping a younger, less experienced team mate is a distraction from their “real ministry”.   A few months ago, we featured in this blog the testimony of one of our area directors who had learned the importance of mentoring new missionaries.  But unfortunately, for many of us, we learn this lesson slowly.

As team leaders, we often make two simple assumptions when we invite and accept new team members.

Reaching and Teaching in Animistic Oral Cultures

In my last post we looked at Sills’ book Reaching and Teaching: A Call to Great Commission Obedience. This book is clearly a follow up to this work. It is in essence an application in practice of the principles in the earlier book. “This book explores how the Lord led missionaries to minister effectively among a specific people whom he called to himself: the Highland Quichua people of Andean Ecuador.”(pp. 2, 3).The book highlights the challenges of reaching and teaching an oral people group with a long history of syncretism:

Are we reading all of Matthew 28:18-20?

A review of M. David Sills, Reaching and Teaching: a Call to Great Commission Obedience, Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2010.

This book has sought to bring awareness to those who have been lulled into thinking that God wants us to simply reach them. He doesn’t. He wants us to reach and teach – reaching them with the saving gospel message and teaching them to observe everything that He has commanded. (220).

So ends Sills’ book.

Leading multicultural teams

Just a few years ago, we could find very little that had been written about multicultural mission teams.  The subject has been of great interest in our mission organization, since our membership is becoming increasingly international, and many, if not the majority of our teams, already include members from countries other than the USA or Canada.   But very few resources for guiding the team leaders of such teams were readily available.

A few would know of Lianne Roembke’s work, Building Credible Multicultural Teams.. Unfortunately, Roembke’s book has still not been released in digital form, and I cannot seem to find anyone who has written a review of it.  Then in 2011, Sheryl Silzer of SIL published her book, Biblical Multicultural Teams: Applying Biblical Truth to Cultural Differences. Silzer’s work focused on the formative nature of one’s childhood home and how that experience has impacted one’s view of what is right and wrong.

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