Much of missions programming in churches today are concerned with goal setting, budgeting, itinerary planning, health declaration, event rehearsing, etc. This is especially the case in missions exposure trips where time is short and participants are often eager to make the most of it (to the anxiety of missionaries at the receiving end)… no muddling around… fly in… hit the target… snap a few photographs to show and tell… and back out to reality again where life goes on… If this is what missions ought to be, then Paul, Silas and Timothy would have failed miserably and be blasted at the next annual missions review committee!
Missions planning is necessary and essential. But missions is not something we do for God, but rather under and with God. When our planning and programming stand in God’s leading and visioning, who is really in-charge? We want to be in charge because we want no mistakes in missions; it is after all God’s mission that ‘I am’ shouldering. Who then is the great ‘I am’? Once we are clear that God in Christ is himself the Master Missionary, our overall heart posture is then to wait, listen, and respond responsibly to God’s guidance. And surely there is room for muddling, and even to make a few mistakes.
Paul’s Gentile mission to Macedonia (Acts 16) is certainly an example of “muddling” under God’s guidance. Just imagine what his missionary report might read and [what their supporting church might think]:
V6 – We are so eager to preach in Asia, but the Holy Spirit stopped us! [Church: Are you sure? Are you afraid?];
V7 – We then tried to enter Bithynia, but we are again prevented by the Holy Spirit! [Church: Hey, if that’s bad planning, say so!]
V8 – We decided to go down to Troas instead… [Church: But that’s not budgeted for, is it?]
V9 – I’ve got a vision from God! [Church: You are just tired… go get some sleep… Oh, we’ll add an extra night to the budget.]
V10 – We are sure God has called us to preach the gospel across the Aegean Sea in Macedonia! [Church: No…! This trip has not been previously approved!]
There are only two non-negotiables as we go about “missions-muddling”:
(1) Take care to do so under and with God; and (2) Preach the gospel in season and out of season. Beyond these, God is greater than our mistakes.