It’s the age-old problem of relationships.Now there has been a new study of why most missionaries leave the field.
When I read the headline I immediately thought of several areas that would impact missionary service. I thought of money, family, health, and several other issues that I have known about in the past that created difficulties for missionaries staying on the field. Knowing many missionaries serve years without seeing significant fruit, I would have thought that lack of fruitfulness would drive many missionaries away from their ministry.
While all of those are significant, they are not the number one reason why missionaries leave the mission field.
This present study and one near the end of the last century show clearly that the number one reason for North American missionaries leaving the field is “conflict with peers.”
The truth seems to be this: if your relationships are not right, nothing is right.
This also seems to be true: get your relationships right and almost everything works out.
No wonder Scripture tells us so much about right relationships.
When Jesus spoke about prayer, He emphasized forgiveness. He showed the significance of right standing with others when He told His followers to leave their gift at the altar and go and make amends with those with whom they have conflict. Not even our offering of praise and worship can take the place of relationships.
Words matter, and words can destroy relationships. James emphasized the power of the tongue. It can produce wonderful results and it can destroy relationships–even relationships in ministry. “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be” (James 1:10).
The Apostle Paul told us to be careful about our speech as well. “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. . . . Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:25-29).
The Psalmist prayed that the words of his mouth and meditation of his heart would be right before God (Psalm 19:14). May you and I pray in the same way.
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