How to Improve the Needy American Missionary

Help him see the treasure in Christ's local earthen vessels.

Mark Roth preaching at Emanuel in 2008Before I graduated from high school, I knew I wanted to return to Mexico as a missionary. Yes, return.

My parents had entered missionary service in Mexico when I was less than two months old. Our family left the field when I was almost seventeen years old. A little over five years later, my wife and I joined a pioneering missionary team (led by Dad) going to another area of northwest Mexico. Over the next ten years, Ruby and I had two stints of service totaling some five years on the field. We last left in 1991, expecting to return to service soon. (We didn’t.) The last twenty years I’ve served on our congregation’s Mexico mission board.

I tell you all that to help you understand why a title such as this would grab me by the nose: “What’s Wrong with Western Missionaries?” The author reports on a lesson learned when he put this question to a bunch of believers in some Muslim countries: “What makes a good missionary?”

Finally, with great hesitation, one of the believers looked at me and said, “I don’t know what makes a good missionary, but I can tell you…”

No, I won’t reveal the answer here. 😯 😀

I was quite enthusiastic about the article well before I was done reading it. It motivated me to write my own piece addressing the self-imposed distortion suffered by the self-sufficient missionary. I snatched some snippets from it and put them here as a preview: Read it all

I Must Decrease

Jesus, Others, You -- a wonderful way to spell JOY

“I’ve been there and done that,” I think to myself. “I’ve done what he’s doing and been what he is.”

“I’ve been there and done that,” I think to myself.

But times change and needs change. As does standing. As do positions, assignments, and responsibilities. And when the time comes for me to give up long-held things like that, I want to remember again what John the Baptist said: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).

I remembered it when I resigned as principal of “my” school.

I remembered it when I encouraged another friend to assume a calling that would diminish “my” role.

I hope I remember it when I’m replaced as chairman of the board I’ve “headed” for over 19 years. Read it all

Can’t We All Just Pull Together?

Well, sure. We could. But...

I shuffled along through the dirt, water can subtly shifting my weight, water shower generously dampifying the vegetable plants. (Were they corn, beans, beets, or squash? I don’t remember and you don’t care.)

“Which is more important?” The weight of the question shifted my mind this way and that. “Pulling together. Standing for truth. Pulling together. Standing for tru…”

I concluded that if I must choose one over the other, I will choose truth.

Actually, though, I vote for standing together on truth so we can truly pull together. If we don’t stand on truth, we will slip and slide while trying to pull together. You just can’t pull well when you aren’t on solid footing. I would even argue that you can’t pull safely in such a circumstance. Read it all

I Flunked Song of Solomon 907

I wrote it for ninth graders and overshot the mark.

You may know I’m writing Old Testament lessons for high school freshmen. Recently I got to the sole lesson on the Song of Solomon.

The instructions I had were quite elementary:

The lesson focus is that last sentence.

In addition to those mandated parameters, I had these of my own:

  • Make it practical for ninth graders.
  • Avoid eye-rolling stretching to make the passage point to Christ and the church.

Well, I finally settled on using these passages:

  • Song of Solomon 2:4 (85)
  • Song of Solomon 4:1-7 (176)
  • Song of Solomon 5:10-16 (143)
  • Song of Solomon 7:10 (107)
  • Song of Solomon 8:6,7 (217)

The numbers in parentheses tell you how many words I dedicated to each passage.

I began and ended the lesson with these paragraphs respectively:

Song of Solomon is a difficult, much-debated, little-understood book. Perhaps it describes a real-life romance. Perhaps it’s more a poem or play to instruct and encourage husbands and wives. Perhaps it’s an intricate allegory illustrating God’s relationship with His people. Perhaps it’s some combination of those. This lesson, though, will help you consider several portions of the Song of Solomon from three different angles: pre-marriage guidelines, marital principles, and spiritual truths pertaining to Christ and the church.

Nothing shall be able to separate us from divine love (Romans 8:35-39). As the church is secure in Christ, so the church must secure her love for Christ alone (Matthew 24:12; Revelation 2:4). We should let Him know in thought, word, and deed that we are His alone.

Considering the parameters I had, I was enamored with what I submitted. Well, that’s too strong. Maybe infatuated. No, not that either. Pleased, anyway.

So much for feelings. I received instructions to please rewrite the lesson. :mrgreen:

(Oh, you’re wondering about the 907 in the post title? Well, 101 is so predictable, passé, and/or blasé.)

Today I started that process by reading through Song of Solomon. Alas, now I’m less optimistic than when I started. 😯

Do you have any passages to suggest (that fall within the above parameters)?

Love: The Proof Is in the Pudding

That love you profess -- Is it curdled and barf-worthy?

Love, the proof is in the putting

Love puts its object first.

When you tell him, “I love you,” you’re saying you put him first.

When you declare your love for them, you’re committing yourself to keep putting them ahead of yourself.

Love puts aside selfish self-interests and self-centered self-absorption in order to do what is best for another.

Love puts a premium on the good of another…and without complaint or self-pity pays that premium.

Love puts its best into benefiting the other. Read it all

Above all, love God!