MISSIONARY CARE: Field: Accountability

Accountability issues with missionaries on the field

QUESTION From: NancyJoSmith@compuserve.com ...we want to give the Spirit room to work, but shouldn't we also hold the missionary accountable for some level of results? If so, then what pressure does that put on the missionary to report accordingly?

ANSWER From: "Chris Vannoy" <chris.vannoy@CCMAIL.LFA.COM> We need to hold people accountable to what THEY can accomplish rather than what GOD does. Yes, they need to be accountable to sharing the gospel with x number of people and the like, or living by a certain strategy that they have outlined, BUT, you can't hold a missionary accountable for increase that the LORD gives!!! As for the pressure, we westerners already heap tons on ourself for results, don't smother them by adding what they can't handle! Far too many devoted people get burned this way. Also, what accountability do we have for the church and the sending agency to make sure they are pulling their share (finances, prayer, pastoral ministry, etc)? The work isn't just the missionary's (I hope!); its the team's. GRACEful accountability with the right motivation always! That means a lot!!!!

ANSWER From: MissionJAPAN@xc.org (Greg Fletcher) ...I cringe at the tendency for agencies to become, to use your words, "crass and business-like." I personally have to control my response to your words "evaluate the effectiveness of our investment." Are we talking about lives here, or shares of stock in Kingdom, Inc.? If we are talking about shares of stock...then I suppose you can say "evaluate our investment," but if we are talking about lives, then...we need to re-think our terms from the start! Our presupposition when we use the word investment is that we will enjoy a visible return on the amount we put into the investment. Commonly, we understand that return to come to OUR OWN pockets. For the stock market, that is reasonable. However, for the seeds of the gospel being sown around the world...the return on investment does not [go] to our pockets but to the Lord of the Harvest. You see, we all--donors, senders, workers on the field, report-writers and report-readers--are actually part of the investment. The investor is the Lord of the Harvest. If He wants to set a level of "minimum results," that is His prerogative. However, I don't see ANY Scriptural (or logical) basis for fellow workers setting a standard of results for one another.

This leads me to my second area of concern. Before we can hold someone accountable for results, the individual must be RESPONSIBLE for results... Isn't the Holy Spirit the One responsible for the results? Isn't HE the one who should get ALL the credit when a soul is won to Christ? When we begin to "credit" success to missionaries, we are in dangerous territory. And requiring reports of success is on the verge of that territory, I think. Instead, how about if we re-think this whole "investment" scheme in a more Biblical light? The ultimate goal of God for my life is that I be conformed to the image of Christ. If I don't get that right, I won't be a good missionary. If I DO get that right.....well, I haven't yet, so I can't tell you what will happen! ;-) I *do* believe that missions is an overflow of an abundant heart that is daily more conformed to the image of Christ. What if we focused on building missionaries, rather than on reports of exploits on the fields? THEN, I think we will see results. The focus, however, will be on God, and not on results...

ANSWER From: Jen White <jenwhite@compuserve.com> Our mission organization requires each missionary (or couple) to fill out a basic Ministry Report Form each month which they send to their Country Director and the Director sends to the home office. This form gives them space to fill in the following: Place/Event, Number of Salvations, Number of Holy Spirit Baptisms, Number Discipled, Number in Leadership Training and Totals for the month. At the bottom of the form is space for "Comments/Testimonies." ...We also have our field directors visiting our missionaries as well as people from the home office who make trips to the countries to oversee how things are doing. In this way we get written as well as visual, face-to-face accountability and encouragement (so it's a two way communication.) ...We have no "minimum level of results" because the results for each one would be different. For some their goal might be to learn the language and the culture and begin to make friendships with the nationals... We keep these reports (along with their Ministry Expense Reimbursement Forms) ...at the home office to ...confirm the validity of their ministry and provide for essential accountability of expenditures to the IRS.

ANSWER From: Stephen Brauning <stephen.mark@codetel.net.do> The best accountability is through peers - in this case, missionary colleagues. You can't expect the senders for North American churches to be objective or informed enough. That's why the missionary team is much better than the old "Lone Ranger" missionary. That implies a level of organization, whether that be denominationally - which improves the ties at home, too - or other types of mission sending agencies. The missionary team on the field should have it's own evaluation structure, and mutual accountability to other team members. Sure, each also has to report to prayer and financial supporters, but there shouldn't be that pressure to "perform" for them. It's a dangerous pitfall. The team structure on the field is way to go!

ANSWER From: W Scott Wood <WScottW@aol.com> The most recent issue of "Networker", ACMC's (Advancing Churches in Missions Commitment) newsletter, happens to deal with many of these issues. Good practical stuff for churches/committees to use re: evaluation issues, criteria etc. They can be reached at 770-631-9900, ACMCAtlanta @ compuserve.com.

ANSWER From: John Burgess <branzjcb@branz.org.nz> I think that Missionaries should be held accountable to pursuing a previously agreed direction with a previously agreed strategy. If the Holy Spirit allows results to be seen by that missionary, then its lush for all the result-oriented people, but perhaps the missionary won't recognize the form of the result that is brought...

ANSWER From: Beram <sbks@pc.jaring.my> Nancy, typically, the approach to World evangelization has been very much been based on "results - performance" THUS the question of "accountability" has been a vital point. BUT we stand at a threshold of CLOSURE (a church amongst every PEOPLE) in this generation like never before. With this comes a need for new focus that the "older wine-skins" just do not fit. Today we need to talk about :

- Partnership: no longer a "missionary being sent out" to do the work and report back BUT the senders and the sent-out working in such closeness that "accountability" gives way to "sharing the work - results or lack of it !!".

- [Unreached]: ...there are still places where you can "plant a church of 20 within 6 months to a year". YET, if we carry on like this, will the unreached ever be reached?? Missionary effort needs to be based on OBEDIENCE TO FINISH THE TASK and not just RESULTS TO JUSTIFY THE MISSION. Having said that, I do agree that there needs to be "accountability" in order to "evaluate the strategy / workers" IN ORDER TO move forward and improve the work. But this needs to be done very very carefully AND NOT in any way to suggest that "work with results are more important that work WITHOUT". That is not true - not when we consider UNREACHED PEOPLES...


QUESTION From: Ed Snyder <eesnyder@teleport.com> We have been supporting missionaries for some time but this year we need to evaluate a couple families who are serving as "tentmakers" (professionals) in closed (to the Gospel) countries. They aren't serving in the "normal" (my apologies to any missionaries reading this) missionary roles and so don't fit into our "normal" missionary evaluation...

ANSWER From: Frank Tichy <FTICHY@aol.com> You have a wonderful opportunity to strengthen your tentmakers by asking them to participate in whatever research you are doing to evaluate any of your missionaries.

  1. Unreached People Ministry. In our church, this has a high placement in the grid we set up to evaluate who should serve through us and what amounts we should contribute. I assume they are serving in a limited access country otherwise they would probably have associated themselves with a mission agency. Perhaps they are in such a relationship as many agencies now incorporate tentmakers in their recruitment and shepherding. This would certainly make it easier for your people to recognize them as "bone fide missionaries."
  2. What is the nature of their contacts and ministry to the people they are attempting to reach? Is it only their "influences" on the job, or are they using their homes as witness and discipling centers?
  3. Are they networking with other Christians, both missionaries and nationals to help with strategy and planning?
  4. How do they keep in touch with your committee? Do they faithfully supply reports and requests for prayer, as would any other missionaries?
  5. Do they see themselves as missionaries or primarily workers in another culture?
  6. Have they had significant missionary training before they went, or are they willing to obtain this on what leaves they might have. I am thinking of their active participation in a PERSPECTIVES course, as a minimum preparation. We took the course after 21 wonderful years in West Africa, 17 of them as "tentmakers". Both my wife and I are convinced we would have provide even greater service had we experienced the class prior to going overseas. Needless to say, I firmly believe "tentmakers" can be effective missionaries, and models for an alternate approach to missions ministry, something your young people, and others in your church need to affirm.

ANSWER From: Scott Wood <WScottW@aol.com> You might want to get some feedback from "Intent." They are a group organized to facilitate, train etc. tentmakers. They can be reached at <Intent@AOL.com>. They are headed up by Carol Davis, missions pastor at Church on Brady (in L.A.) among others.