I recently had chats with the three church planters that Faith Baptist church has sent out and I asked them to share what general or specific challenges they have faced or continue to face on the mission field. My goal was to do a write up and share with the church so that we are aware of the challenges the men we have sent into the trenches face in order for us to support and pray for them with knowledge and in a sense some of them apply to ministry in general.
It is also important to note that facing or acknowledging challenges in ministry does not necessary mean one is complaining neither does it mean one is unspiritual. Paul and his team often faced challenges in some cases the challenges were life threatening. And though Paul served with a joyful heart and found blessed contentment he often shared the challenges of the mission field with the hope of informed prayers been offered for them. In their first missionary journey John Mark a member of their team could not endure the challenges faced that he called it quits (Acts 13).
High demands and expectations for success
When an entire church holds a service to ordain you and sends you off into the mission field they often do so with clear outlines of what your responsibilities are and they have very high expectations. Truth be told we expect fruit and in some cases we expect the fruit yesterday! Now expectations are not necessary wrong, because you do not want to be paying a man for lazing around and giving lame excuses. The problem comes in when the expectations are unrealistic and/or unbiblical. Unrealistic expectations often tempt the missionaries to start been “creative” with their reports and conjuring up numbers that do not exist or manipulate salvation testimonies out of people that still spiritually dead!
There is also a sense in which the people you are ministering to on the mission field equally can equally have false expectations of you and your work. They begin to treat you like the super saint who never struggles with sin when in actual fact you struggle with sin daily. As a result missionaries face the danger of keeping up face so that they can keep the super saint image.
Moving to a new area comes with its own cultural shocks regardless of the distance from your home. This is true even if you are ministering to your own countrymen. Granted the degree of shock varies the further away from home you are. For instance a person moving from Riverside Kitwe to Wusakile, Mindolo or Kakolo in the same town is still in for a rude shock. The worldview and dynamics are totally different that one has to do some adjusting in order to be an effective minister to the people. Missionaries who fail to adjust and understand the dynamics of their mission field will either become an offense (rendering their ministry effective) or they will abandon the work in frustration. Paul was wise to this and his philosophy was I am all things to all men. To the Jew I became a Jew and the Gentile I became a Gentile. Missionaries who insist on forcing their culture on the mission field are not fit to be on the mission field. The damage they do to the ministry takes a long time repair.
Uncertainty of financial support
This is probably the biggest challenge or struggle missionaries have to face because it touches on their families livelihood. Generally missionaries have to make do with very little and have to make a lot of sacrifices to remain in the church plants. This can bring a lot of strain on the family and make serving extremely difficult.
Any work requires money and a lack of resources to do actives and do projects can be very frustrating for the missionary. The apostle Paul struggled with this challenge as well and shares his experiences in the fourth chapter of Philippians. As a sending church it is important that we are not only praying for these men and giving faithfully and generously to ensure that their needs are met while they labor
Loneliness and discouragement
Been on the mission field can feel like out of site equals out of mind. I really admire our missionaries! They willing decide to uproot their families and go to a new area and basically start all over again. Away from friends and family. With the many challenges in ministry both from within and from without it is easy to get discouraged and despair. Especially in moments of personal attacks. The wives and children can also get discouraged and sadly we often forget they have also gone and made sacrifices.
Despite these and I am sure many other challenges, we thankful that there are families who are still willing and ready to go and labor for the gospel. We grateful that these men and women do not throw in the towel when the going gets tough. I am positive the Lord the righteous judge has many crowns waiting for them on that great day. As for us who have remained. Pray, give and visit these families. Assure them that out of site is not out of mind.