I see her walking around town, in stores, and taking her children to school. I’ve even seen her in church a couple of times. I often wonder “what her angle is,” but I think she’s all too well aware of what she’s doing.
It’s the mission teams that I worry about. I often wonder if they’re likewise well aware of what they’re doing. We don’t ‘facilitate’ mission teams anymore, but instead offer our service when they come. Not ‘service’ in any sort of formal capacity, but more like serving along side of them as they serve people.
I love when teams come inclined to discover and do the Lord’s will in the spur of the moment. I don’t like it so much when they come without having done their homework, with an attitude that they’re going to save the world, or are so intent on delivering their rehearsed programmatic message that they fail to see and listen to people.
Our small town has been ‘evangelized’ numerous times by foreigners as well as locals. The woman I mentioned earlier has little or no interest in listening to local Christians who consistently deliver the good news and live accordingly, but is always in the midst of short-term missions team when they come around.
After all, they bring good stuff for free. All she has to do is listen and act interested for a time to reap whatever benefit she perceives possible. After the team goes, after they’ve put her name on their registry, after she’s prayed that prayer, and after she ‘confessed Jesus is Lord,’ she likewise goes back to the same life she’s lived before unaffected by, or possibly, even inoculated to the Gospel.
I can’t always be with every team member from ever short-term missions trip, but I do like to roam amongst their divided up groups and watch them work. I have arrived too late on the scene 3 times with this particular woman only to see her being coached into praying a prayer and receive ‘salvation.’ I have personally witnessed her being ‘saved’ at least 4 times.
What am I supposed to do? Should I interrupt the evangelizers and explain the situation? Should I call her out in public? I didn’t do either of those in these instances because I thought it would be unfruitful and maybe even a harmful endeavor. Should I counsel with this lady and those like her not to take advantage of visiting missionaries like that? That too seems unproductive, controlling, and disheartening.
I once asked a congregation to stand up. I then said “If you have ‘accepted Christ’ only once, sit down.” About half the congregation sat. I then said, “If you have ‘accepted Christ’ twice, then sit down.” About half of those sat. Three, Four, Five times… the same results. After I got to 6, there was one woman still standing. I asked her “Dear one, how many times have you ‘accepted Christ?’ She stood a bit taller, smiled, and proudly said “SEVEN!”
It’s not their fault. At least not initially. It’s the way we’ve been conditioned to get results, get them saved, and ‘get our money’s worth’ on mission trips. In truth, it saddens me when I see the same scenario played out over and over. I think to myself, “Surely mission teams will grow out of these sorts of silliness,” only to see it happen over and over. I’ve even seen the same set of people respond to the same mission teams over and over. Everyone just seems to pretend that they’re not the same people or even worse convince themselves to the contrary.
What would you do or say to the woman who has prayed to receive Christ 4 times with 4 teams in 4 years?
How would you counsel a missions team to avoid these sorts of scenarios?