Missionary fog

When we lived in Stockdale, Texas, there was a fruit and vegetable stand on the highway outside of town. Travelers would stop to buy the fresh fruit and vegetables sold there. When someone would ask where he got the produce, the owner would point vaguely and say, “Back there.” Back there was a nearby supermarket, but he didn’t see any need to share that information with his clients.

That sort of thing happens in missions, I’m afraid. Donald McGavran, known as the father of church growth studies, used to call it “missionary fog.” There was a preacher in our area who used to talk about his mission work in Thailand. I asked a friend who worked in Thailand, and they replied that nobody really knew when or where this man had been there. As best they could discern, he had been on a mission trip or two.

There is a Christian sister who corners me from time to time to tell me about the dozens of churches that have been started in Cuba by a radio ministry she is on the board of. I know the skepticism shows in my face, because the last time she added, “I’m sure they are in areas that you aren’t familiar with.”

I know the man giving her the information. I was present when he claimed that many churches were started through a radio effort I was a part of. When he called on me to confirm his assertion, I could only stare in shocked silence. We did radio programs at a time when the Matanzas church was planting new churches. Coincidence doesn’t mean causality; that church planting program was well underway before we ever broadcast anything.

That fog seems especially strong where the Cuba work is concerned. Everyone wants to take credit. “It’s our preacher training.” “It’s our materials.” “It’s our radio work.” “It’s our conferences.” “It’s our Bible distribution.”

Shame on anyone who takes credit for another’s work. Feel free to praise the work of the Cuban Christians. Feel free to give the glory to God for the growth that only He can give. Stop pointing to yourself and your work.

Let the fog blow away. Honor those who deserve honor. Give glory to God.

2 thoughts on “Missionary fog

  1. Nick Gill

    Give glory to God! Amen!

    But God doesn’t write donor checks :) and donors like stories with results…

    I know you know all this but I don’t know how to address it

  2. Tim Archer Post author

    That’s true, Nick. Same reason people like to get their picture made performing baptisms. (Our brotherhood doesn’t think 1 Corinthians 1:14-17 means anything)

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