W. Austin Gardner
THE NEW MISSIONARY’S ATTITUDE
Someone has said: “A good start is right smart.” In beginning a new career, with all of its uncertainties and imponderables, there are few things as important as attitude. If the new worker starts off with a positive attitude he will probably succeed. A negative attitude, on the other hand, often leads to failure. It is impossible to overemphasize the importance of attitude.
1. Gratitude for the privilege of Christian service. Paul said: “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry” (1 Tim 1:12, KJV). Full-time service is not for everyone. It is reserved for those who have been specially called by God (Heb 5:4). Paul was extremely grateful that he had been appointed a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher (2 Tim 1:11). The new missionary will feel the same way. He will be forever grateful for the grace that called him into the service of Jesus Christ.
2. Wonder and excitement at being a missionary. Not all servants of God are missionaries. Paul never ceased to wonder at the grace that called him to preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ (Eph 3:8). It was his joy to preach the gospel "not where Christ was named” (Rom 15:20, KJV). He delighted in the fact that he was sent “far hence to the Gentiles” (Acts 22:21, KJV). He was convinced that to be Christ’s ambassador to a lost world, to be guided by His Spirit, entrusted with His Word, and endued with His power, is the highest honor that can be conferred on any man.
3. Willingness to learn. The new missionary has been through college and seminary and probably has several advanced degrees. This does not mean that he has nothing left to learn. He should not equate education with maturity or confuse learning with experience. In spite of all his years of training he still has much to learn. He does not have all the answers. He doesn’t even know all the questions. He will be wise to listen and learn, realizing that there are a host of new ideas, new methods, new problems, and new patterns of work. Some day he will be a leader; for the present he is a follower. And he will be a better leader if he is a good follower. He will be able to learn from his missionary colleagues, even the veterans who appear to be slightly behind the times, and he can learn much from the national church leaders. There is no room on the mission field for the cocksure recruit who knows it all and is unwilling to learn.
4. Desire to please. His first responsibility is to please God (Gal 1:10). This does not necessarily preclude the desirability of pleasing one’s fellow workers. Speaking of our conduct towards a weaker brother, Paul admonishes us to act charitably in the spirit of Christ, giving the other person the benefit of the doubt. He goes on to say: “He that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God and approved of men” (Rom 14:18, KJV). It is important that the new missionary have the approbation of his colleagues, foreign and national, especially those who are older and have had more experience than he. Some missionaries judge their fidelity to God by the number of fellow workers they can alienate. When working with a group of spiritual people—which the missionary usually does—he will best please God by pleasing his colleagues. Their wishes should have a direct bearing on his conduct. He will not go far wrong by trying to measure up to their expectations of him. They are his friends. They wish him well. They want him to succeed. The least he can do is respond by doing his best to please.
5. Confidence to succeed. His confidence, of course, is in the Lord, not in himself. The new missionary is confronted with a formidable array of hostile forces sufficient to strike fear into the stoutest heart, but he is licked before he starts if he looks only at the circumstances and forgets the treasure he has in his earthen vessel—the power that is of God and not of himself (2 Cor 4:7). No man was more conscious of his own spiritual bankruptcy than Paul, yet time and again he expresses complete confidence in the power of God in his life and ministry. He said: “I am sure that when I come unto you I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ” (Rom 15:29, KJV). His gospel, he said, came not in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance, or conviction (1 Thess 1:5). He expected results and he got them.
The new missionary starting out will feel like the ten spies on their scouting mission in Canaan. When they saw the size and strength of the enemy they felt like grasshoppers. As a result of their report the children of Israel wandered forty years in the wilderness. Their problem was lack of faith in the power of God to operate on their behalf. Their enemies were formidable, but they forgot that God was greater than all their enemies. So it is with the new missionary. He sees the obvious—the powers of darkness arrayed against him—and if he is not careful he will succumb to unbelief and lose the battle. He needs confidence, not in himself but in the Lord and in the power of His might. He must remember the words of John: “Greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4, KJV).
Herbert Kane, Life and Work on the Mision Field