The Messenger :: Authenticity in Missions

messenger header.jpg

Happy 2019! We hope you had a happy and blessed transition into the new year! The theme for 2019's The Messenger is Better Together: Addressing Disciple Maker Resiliency and Attrition.

The idea for this theme came from reading the new research by Andrea Sears at A Life Overseas . We not only want to help people stay on the field, but we want to help people accomplish the call God has placed on them and stay healthy in the process.

Each quarter will have a different topic, starting out in the first quarter with discussing a disciple maker’s call, followed by two quarters discussing working as a team, and concluding in the fourth quarter with exploring soul care practices for the disciple maker.

We are excited to be on this journey with you through 2019. As always, we are open to your feedback and would love to hear your thoughts and experiences about what is helpful to you on the field. For January, we want to take a few moments and talk about authenticity in missions and the importance of living a congruent life on the mission field.

P.S. We always love to hear from our readers, so drop us a note and tell us what you think .  

Better Together: Addressing Disciple Maker Resiliency and Attrition

Authenticity in Missions

The alarm goes off again. You take a final swat at the mosquito that kept you up half the night, already knowing the futility of the movement. You grab your phone and swipe right. The glowing timestamp breaks through the darkness that shielded your eyes through the night’s tossing and turning.

“I need to pray,” you think. “I need to journal and then get to the airport. I need to follow up on that WhatsApp message and mail those cards back to the States.”

“I need coffee.”

“Strike that. I need good coffee.”

These thoughts seemingly rumble through your mind all at once.

“No, no, no.” Your body pushes back. You flip the phone back up on the side table face down.

“Just five more minutes…” is all you can think about as you punch your pillow, scissor kick your covers, and close your eyes.

It’s not glamorous. It’s nothing to write home about. But it is reality. It's a morning waking up on the mission field. It’s just one of those mornings. Mornings of dragging yourself through the “motions.” Mornings of 15-minute self-pep talks to get your passion flowing. This is not every morning. But it is some of the mornings. And that’s okay.

It’s called authenticity. Being able to accept and live with the duller moments of missional life, walking through the gray fog without the pressure to be the sun.

Everyone experiences moments like this, days like this, weeks like those. But too often for missionaries, accepting this reality, much less discussing these times, is anathema. It’s an unspoken reality that increases internal dissonance. Not speaking these experiences leads us to live an inauthentic life, which is the opposite of how we are trying to disciple others to engage.

This song of inauthenticity rings out more and more from our missionaries. It is a song of faith, but it is also a song of needing to be able to live a more congruent and transparent life. A need to be seen as both a healer and a wounded warrior. As both a disciple and a disciple maker.

The result of hiding these life experiences leads to periods of shame, doubt, depression, anger, and anxiety. We need more in missions. We need more honesty, we need more realness, we need more truth, we need more authenticity.

There are two primary ingredients to get there: community and acceptance. We need to continue to reach out to one another and break the ice. If you are experiencing something, you can be certain someone else is as well . Together, we need to break the stigma.

We also need to embrace acceptance. Part of this is pushing back against the stereotype of the boot-strap emotionally hardened missionary. We also need to push back against the pathologizing of human experience. Sometimes days, weeks, even months are hard. Sometimes they are awesome. Most times they are an intricate blend of the two. That’s not pathological, it’s simply experiencing the life of a disciple in a fallen world.

On some level, I think we can all resonate with the desire for more authenticity in our work. Along with authenticity comes freedom, connection, and ultimately the ability to be and to make true disciples. I want to affirm that if you wake up and stare blankly at the alarm clock from time to time, that’s okay. Embrace and accept the ups and downs.

To be able to embrace our roles as true disciple makers we also have to embrace the vulnerability and authenticity that comes along with the calling. Oftentimes this is not easy as supporter relationships, perceptions, and even our own expectations of ourselves get in the way of allowing a more authentic existence in mission to manifest itself. Being authentic is more than just accepting the gray days, or openly sharing and discussing the challenges of day-to-day life on missions. Being authentic in missions is pushing back against the father of lies. It’s living in truth and freedom, allowing God to be present and redeem even our most mundane moments.

As we kick off a new year, I want to challenge you to really ask yourself how Kingdom living would look different if you embraced authenticity in your missional call. How would that change your relationships? How would that change how you experience and share God? How would that change the world around you? It’s a big task, and a long journey, but we have a big God who has plenty of experience in leading.

I want to leave you with a couple resources on authenticity and acceptance. The first is an article on authenticity by Brene Brown. In her wonderful way, she unpacks our desire to please others, to have our own value rest in the eye of how others view us and reconstruct a narrative rooted in true freedom and truth. The second is a link to some information regarding Acceptance and Commitment Therapy . While it is a therapy model and approach, there is a lot of general information that you can access to help dispel any dissonance you have in life so as to live authentically and value driven.