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An Experiential Outlier: Five Pitfalls (part 2)


With a strong correlation between mission results and fulfillment of the 10,000 hour rule, the reality begs the question, “Why does the correlation not hold true in all cases?”  Five reasons are given in the previous post. Unpacking each a little may prove helpful. Throughout the following, it relates to a cross-cultural mission context. Additionally, all of this also relates to missional communities in the U.S. or other settings.

Moral (spiritual) failure – moral failure is commonly understood as someone being disqualified for sexual or lifestyle behaviors that are inconsistent with a mission organization’s interpretation of Scripture. Combined with this, there are times when people are choked out by the cares of this world, the difficulties of their context, etc. An event or just a stretch of time in a different context causes some to rethink their beliefs. This area covers a vast range of issues, all of which are real. This category entombs too many making them leave a mission field literally or figuratively. The individual who has put in their 10,000 hours but is struggling in this area will be unlikely to see meaningful results.

Living out or seeking to promote an ethnocentric worldview – when the bearer of the good news views the place and/or time where they came from as intrinsically better than the place and/or time where they land there are difficulties ahead. The ideal disciples and churches for the ethnocentric M will look like the place and/or time that is utterly foreign to their new context. This will limit result potential even after passing the normal time prescribed for a level of mastery.

Not investing in nationals – this category fits in many ways with the previous item in that it stems from an ethnocentric perspective. In a foreign missionary context where there are other foreign missionaries, it can be a struggle to not place primary emphasis or more on relating to other missionaries. Chances are, however, that these missionaries are already disciples of Christ. It seems to me that there are limited returns in discipling the discipled. Another challenge in this area can be relating primarily to expats that are on assignment with an embassy, international non-profit, or work assignment. A third challenge in this area includes working with nationals that are not the peoples to which one is seeking to minister. If an individual’s goal is to impact Swedes living in Stockholm, it may not be a success to have a Bible study with a Cambodian guy and Chinese lady. The person / missional community praying and working for success as they pursue their 10,000 hour level of proficiency will be honest in their evaluations and objectives or minimize their potential level of mastery that comes with experience.

Not pursuing relationships with either non-believers or with nationals that are heavily involved in the lives of non-believers – this happens too often in supposed missional endeavors. Most readers that have been involved in the evangelical church for some time have probably been in a situation before where the informal question is asked how many non-believing friends each member has. It is too easy for us to get so involved in the church that we don’t have time for those that Christ came to plant the church in the first place. So the next jump is that if we are not going to work with lost people at least we will work with believers that are going to work with lost people. (I think there are some challenges with this line of thinking, but that’s not the purpose of today’s post.) If we are going to pursue this path, then integrity requires that we do due diligence to find that the disciples we are discipling are reaching the lost. If not, a 10,000 hour investment will not have a meaningful impact on that individual’s / missional community’s level of proficiency or mastery of being missional.

Placing emphasis on supervisory responsibilities – reaching the 10,000 hours of proficiency in supervising missional endeavors is well and fine, but it is not a guarantee that the same level of mastery has been reached at doing missional activities. Ideally supervisors will have done mission in the same context in which they are supervising. However, when this is not the case, it will be helpful for the supervisor to be an encourager that is mindful and honest about his or her limitations.

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  1. Grady Bauer says:

    Can’t add to this, you said it well. I will say about supervisory roles….in both ministry and business we have a misconception about what makes a good supervisor/manager. In our world we take guys that are good church planters and put them in leadership. Not all church planters will make good leaders….and not all leaders are good church planters. If you look at pro coaches, some were good players but most were average at best….the required qualities are different. I think it’s important that the supervisor has a good idea what it takes to be a good church planter….but when they take the job as supervisor they need to start over with another 10000 hours focused on leadership/development/mentoring.

  2. C. Holland says:

    Great expansion on the last post. On the Moral/Spiritual Failure, I’ve seen a lot of missionaries that weren’t necessarily participating in “bad things”, yet they seemed more in love with the job of being a missionary than in love with Jesus. That alone will cause a collapse.

    “Promote an ethnocentric worldview” In my Intercultural Communications class in college, we learned that every culture has a natural measure of ethnocentrism. However, sociologist Pierre Bourdieu asserted that the U.S. has promoted itself as the most advanced society, measuring all others against itself as the end goal of human history. Because most of my exposure has been with American missionaries (and I am American, too), I do believe our Americanism does sometimes interfere with cross-cultural mission work.

    “it may not be a success to have a Bible study with a Cambodian guy and Chinese lady” I blogged on this in “When The World Comes To Your Field”. We struggle because many of the Christians here are immigrants, and unfortunately the nationals are very put off by “foreigners” in church.

    @Grady: I’ve seen the same example when I worked in advertising. There were some stellar ad sales guys who were promoted to manager–and completely stunk as managers, yet they were still great sales guys. Excelling in one aspect does not equal success in a different field.

  3. Jeff says:

    One of the problems is when you get a guy who is not a good leader and has never tried church planting, so we don’t know if he’s any good at that or not.
    I feel that a leader of an organization of cp’er ought to at least be involved in a start at some point. Context is so critical when one is dealing with strategic issues. If a leader has no experience in the context, he tends to make decisions based solely upon his previous experience (which may have nothing to do with the current context).

  4. adminsmile says:

    Guys, thanks for your input. Lots to think about as a result of your contributions. Would be good to do this over burgers or pizza some time.

    While I do not claim that this is a definitive list, it is, I believe, at least a healthy start to serve as an occasional checklist to determine if the end goal in this scenario–some level of mastery in missions in a particular culture that will lead to the result of God being glorified and people turning to Him–seems to be a future point on the road map based on the present course. Missionaries, missional communities, supervisors, etc. would do well to evaluate periodically. Are we on the right road based on our desired arrival point? (http://almostm.com/2009/07/confidently-un-oriented-part-1/)

    While supervision seems to be the most common of themes in these comments, I will say that I agree that healthy, effective supervisors will have and/or will be pursuing experience in making disciples and planting churches. From my vantage point, respectable / respected leaders are ones that do this. By definition, leaders that don’t practice or have experience in the things they are promoting for others are not leaders. They may be called consultants or theorists…. It seems like James had something to say about this.

  5. Grady Bauer says:

    Almost and Jeff,
    I totally agree with you….to be a leader/supervisor of church planters you must have experience in it….but you may not have been the best at it. A good leader may have been a good church planter, but a good church planter doesn’t automatically make a good leader. The skill sets are radically different…but the experience is vital….you would never hire a coach for a baseball team who had never played.

  6. Jeff says:

    I’d give your last comment a “nail on the head” sticker. Not that you need my affirmation, but I totally agree with you.

  7. […] the work of those who have gone before, etc. Additionally, a number of factors may positively or negatively impact the correlation between results and […]

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