It’s normal for missionaries to report the exciting moments of spiritual awakening in someone, signs of spiritual growth in a new believer, answers to prayer, or any other good news they think others may be interested in. Focusing on the positives is a good thing to do in life and in mission; however, they do not represent the whole story. Sometimes these positive beginnings don’t have the picture-perfect ending that we desire. When backsliding happens, people disappoint us. And when believers make decisions that negatively affect God’s work, it can feel like we’ve failed as missionaries. It’s disheartening.
Recently, a baptized member of one of our Pnong church plants decided to marry a non-Christian man. While pursuing a relationship with this man, she made several compromises and even consented to him making sacrifices to the spirits during the wedding. To her, it seemed like a reasonable solution to keep him and the animist villagers happy. After all, community is very important here. But it was so disappointing to us! We have seen this slippery slope of compromise snatch away others, thinking they could return to Jesus afterward but never having the strength and courage to commit wholeheartedly to Jesus again.
As I think about this situation, I wonder what we could have done better. It feels like we have failed as missionaries. Then I think about Jesus’ life and ministry. To many, it seemed like He failed. He didn’t overthrow the Romans as most Jews wanted Him to, and many people who at first followed Him finally turned away.
But Jesus didn’t base His success on worldly standards, the number of people following Him, or the approval of the religious leaders. Jesus spent much time communing with His Father, seeking His leading and praying for those for whom He labored. He based His success on His obedience to His Father. Ultimately each person had to choose the path they would follow, and Jesus was satisfied with completing the purpose His Father appointed to Him, even though many did not choose to follow Him.
We are sad that our friend did not stand firm for Jesus in her courtship and marriage. We recognize her freedom of choice, but we continue to pray for her and encourage her to re-surrender her life to Him. Please join us in praying for her! Thank you.