Episode 13: Conversations with a Missionary – Missions – Lessons from the Field

Description of Missions – Lessons from the Field:

TSR continues our discussion with David and April McWhite about lessons they learned on the mission field that are applicable to all believers. Come join The Socially Remote!

Summary of Missions – Lessons from the Field:

In this episode, TSR continues our discussion with David and April McWhite. The McWhites share lessons they learned while doing overseas missions. We talk about how the future of missions will more than likely look like “tentmakers” advancing the Gospel in their workplaces and, perhaps, God using their careers to move them into strategic locations. We also discussed some do’s and don’t’s for people to consider as they prepare to go overseas. (Before we got into the show proper, Steven talked briefly about his recent experience with Stitch Fix and offered a $25 credit to the listeners who sign up via this link: Sign Up for Stitch Fix.)


The Podcast:

Introduction to Missions – Lessons from the Field

On our previous episode (Episode 12: Missions – Great Commission or Colonization?), we started a conversation with David and April McWhite about their time overseas. On this episode we continue that conversation by examining some principles they learned while overseas that are applicable to all believers.


Sneak Peek of Missions – Lessons from the Field?

Summary of Missions – Great Commission or Colonization

The previous episode (Episode 12: Missions – Great Commission or Colonization?), began with a conversation about the idea of missions being “colonization.” We provided a lot of stats and discussion around the status of the global church. And we learned that the western church is declining in influence while the church is growing tremendously in the global south (Africa, South America, etc.). If you didn’t get a chance to listen-in, I’d encourage you to do so.

As we discussed their experiences, it became clear that this would be a two part episode. So tonight we’ll discuss their experience a bit more and then talk about some things they’d do differently, as well as what is the responsibility of every believer.


For the Counselors

Matt

Matt’s looking forward to the rest of this conversation and is feeling really good about it.

David

David actually found it rather cathartic to go back through his experiences from the field. It was a good experience and has dramatically shaped their lives and the lives of their family (except their newborn). In the week since the episode, he and April have been able to think back through that experience and are hopeful that what they share tonight will help others who are thinking of going.

Steven

Steven is responsible for typing up the episodes, and he found himself realizing just how little we actually got into their experiences from the field. As he listened back through, he just had more and more questions. So he’s looking forward to the additional discussion tonight.


Deep Dive on Missions – Lessons from the Field

Different Mission Fields

The Southeast US

Towards the end of our previous episode, April made the comment that coming back to the southeast has been a challenge because so many folks know “the lingo.” Lostness isn’t as apparent here, because going to church and talking about God is just something that is part of our culture. So we need to address what brings salvation and what characterizes the life of someone who is saved.

Assurance of Salvation

Being a Christian doesn’t mean that you’re perfect. But Christians are known by their fruit. In other words, it doesn’t mean that you won’t mess up and sin; but rather, that your life is more and more consistently reflecting the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23. Or does your life reflect the fruits of this world (selfishness, pride, envy, jealousy, anger, etc.).

In 1 John 5:13, John says the he has written his letter to those who believe in Jesus “that you may know that you have eternal life.” And the crux of John’s letter has been about learning to trusting that it is God who loved us first (1 John 4:10). Just asking if you are continuing to trust Christ daily (not just once). And then looking at your life. Are you seeking to love God and love others (1 John 4:19 and Mark 12:30-31)? Are you seeking to honor Him in how you live (1 Peter 1:15-16)?

Even pursuing the above with sincerity speaks of the right heart attitude and the spirit at work. It shows that you’re not just out for “fire insurance” or trying to make sure you “said the right words.” Rather it shows you are genuinely concerned about godliness. Ultimately this bespeaks about whether we’re relying on our deeds (praying a prayer, going to church, walking an aisle, talking to a pastor, etc.) or on Christ. Whether we’re looking backward to something we did or relying on our relationship with Christ. If you want to learn more, check out J.D. Greear’s book, Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart: How to Know for Sure You Are Saved.

Overseas

David transitioned to talking about life on the field by sharing a story about purchasing a table from a furniture store in Ireland. When the storekeeper asked what David and his family were doing in Ireland, David shared with him that they were missionaries, and he said, “So you’re born again?” and David said, “Yeah,” and then this guy said, “We are too!” and gave him a big hug. The idea of our salvation leading to a new family is felt much differently in cultures where that common language is not shared.

In the last episode, we mentioned Tim Keller’s book How to Reach the West Again. In that book he mentions that in many places, to be a Christian is not merely “offensive,” it is “incomprehensible.” And in both places David and April ministered, they witnessed this. But it was different in each place. In Czech, it was more of a novelty. They just hadn’t heard it. In Ireland it was more surprising. Since they’re predominately Catholic, they were asking, “Why haven’t I heard this?” Biblical literacy in many of these countries is very low (and that is from the top down). Unfortunately, in many settings, Christianity has simply turned into what Charles Taylor calls a “moral, therapeutic Deism”. Which is why consistent Bible study is very important (as we discussed in episode 6 and episode 7 on Discipleship). The important thing to remember is that “sharing” was not always a full Gospel presentation. It was showing people how the Gospel speaks into the everyday occurrences of life. And that is something we can all do.

What Lessons Did Your Experiences on the Mission Field Teach You?

David

David learned a lot about the church. It provided a familiar setting and a unity, even amidst some differences in worship style. Additionally, it gave him a practical view of what missions is. There are so many people who are doing so much to try to reach the world for Christ. It’s really neat to see how many people from so many different churches and missions organizations are working for the advancement of the kingdom. And it also underscored the truths about the church being multi-cultural from Revelation 5, 7, and 9.

April

April was a bit fearful to return home, because of what the church had been to her overseas. It was a family. But she knew the reality of church in the southeast United States is not quite what they experienced on the mission field. Another thing that she learned, though, was that sharing the Gospel was not as intimidating as she thought. A lot of the sharing the gospel happens through building relationships. And that has been helping her now that she has returned from the field. But developing a burden for the lost is not something that comes naturally. She has had to pray for it. Finally she feels that she learned that sometimes God has to take you out of your comfort zone in order for you to experience growth. God used the mission field to do that for her. She had to completely rely on God.

The Future of Missions

Borders continue to close across the world to missionaries. So the future of missions may look like people going through their normal career path, but then ministering where God places them. It was really hard to explain what they were doing in the country – especially as a man, because men tend to define themselves by their career. And workplace evangelism creates natural opportunities for relationship building. So David sees an increase in the number of equipped professionals being sent around the world on mission.

Additionally, there’s also a push to train up the locals – essentially working yourself out of a job. Because they will be better able to minister within context than any foreign missionary ever could. That was the McWhite’s goal in Czech Republic. Starting small groups, training locals to lead the group, and then eventually starting a church.

Does the US Need Missions?

David Platt has said that if all you’re concerned about is the US, then you have about 5% of God’s heart. What we really need is for people to see that every believer has been strategically placed to support the spread of the Gospel throughout the whole world:

What Would You Do Differently Based on the Lessons You Learned on the Field?

Go through an organization. There was very little support or direction as they went straight through a church. Sometimes we can romanticize missions and we think that it can just happen.

Spend time getting ministry experience here, before you go. Talk to folks who are missionaries or who have been missionaries. And then get with folks who have the same vision as you do, but have folks on the ground who can provide leadership and direction and make sure you family is taken care of. You can’t over-prepare. You might be able to over-stay trying to make sure everything is perfect, but you can’t over-prepare. It is a huge thing to move your family overseas while trying to start something from scratch.

Have the Lessons You’ve Learned from Doing Missions in the Field Colored the Way You Read the Bible?

The portions of Scripture where Paul speaks about his suffering for the sake of Christ became very personal and real for April. And David has been struck by the passages in Revelation that talk about the multitude of nations being around the throne. The church is so much bigger than what we see in the west.


Parting Shots

Steven

The idea that we are all missionaries was a good reminder to think about the bigger picture when making career decisions.

Matt

Paul writes in Philippians 1:27 to live a life worthy of the gospel. And that is our calling no matter where we are. That is our mission in the world. And hearing from David and April has been an encouragment to Matt.

David and April

It’s been good to talk through this on the show. And their hope is that the lessons they learned on the field doing missions can help strengthen and encourage the church. That was their prayer when they decided to leave the mission field. Was that they could use their experience to be faithful to the calling that we all have.


Conclusion

What a great episode! I think that David and April have accomplished what they set out to do by sharing the lessons they learned on the field doing missions. This episode has certainly been an encouragement to me, and I’m sure it has encouraged our listeners as well.

If you enjoyed it, don’t forget to rate and review us on whatever platform you listen. And please (please) share this on the socials.

Please tune in for our next episode where we’ll take a look at the Netflix documentary-drama The Social Dilemma (if you have Netflix, you can even try watching it beforehand).

Until next time, we are The Socially Remote!


Links and Stuff

The Podcast

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About The Socially Remote

Does it ever seem like the longer you adult, the less social you become? The responsibilities of being a spouse, a parent, and an employee often leave us with little time for meaningful interaction outside our home and office. As a result, many of us aren’t even remotely social. We try to fill the void with outlets like Facebook and Twitter, but we soon discover social media isn’t as social as it sounds. And the effort we put into soliciting likes and comments doesn’t produce stronger relationships with other people like we’d hoped.

This podcast is an attempt by a pastor, a lawyer, and a generalist to combat the growing culture of social isolation by making time for meaningful conversations about life, theology, and the church. We want to create space in our lives to engage in regular discussion and debate with those around us, and we hope this podcast will encourage you to do the same.

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For the Lawyers

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Deep Dive segment introduction from “Dive” by Steven Curtis Chapman on the Speechless album. Used with permission courtesy of the Stable Collective.

About the Author
Steven Halbert is a husband, father, son, and brother. He has held various roles in children and family service organizations and currently works as a product manager for an industrial manufacturer. He enjoys teaching adult Sunday school, which is where the idea for his book - The Relational God - materialized. He has an associate degree in Bible and a master's degree in English; and he blogs about business, relationships, and the church at stevenhalbert.com

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