Recently, I received an e-mail from a very dear high school friend. In the letter she kindly, but pointedly articulated weaknesses that she sees in the deputation process as she has seen it through our lives over the last half of a year. Of course the letter stung a bit, but a lot of her comments we’re right on. She pointed out some errors that Joshua and I must correct, but she also pointed out some weaknesses that neither Joshua nor I can correct. They’re inherent to the deputation tradition and would require cooperation on a national level to fix.
We know that these problems that seem simple to fix to her, an unsaved market-minded Japanese woman, really are a bit more complicated due to the politics of our movement and our independent polity tradition. And we know that many a missionary, lay Christian, and pastor has yearned to correct the system because of the obvious wasted resources of time and money. But my friend’s critical letter caused me for the first time to think that while it is tragic to waste resources, it is much more tragic that our failure to fix these problems results in a poor testimony to the unsaved world.
Every missionary has unsaved family or friends who follow his progress on the fund raising trail and what a tragedy that our methodology may hinder our effectiveness not only to get to the place God has called us to minister in a timely and cost effective way, but also may hinder our ability to share Christ with our unsaved family and friends in an unblemished way.
As Christians, 1 Corinthians 10:31 commands us that whatever we do, we should do all to the glory of God. And 2 Peter 1:5 tells us that we are to supplement our faith with excellence. Few, if any, would call the deputation tradition an excellent way to efficiently fuel the Great Commission.
So there’s an obvious problem out there and that begs the question how do we fix it? If you have any ideas on how to improve the deputation process, please pass them along to us. We’ve met many pastors who aren’t fond of the system and who want to change it, but so far we haven’t met anyone (including ourselves) who has suggestions on how to change it. But if anyone can come up with some ideas, it seems that there are good men out there ready to break with or at least to build on and adapt tradition into something a bit more efficient and effective, and we will willingly pass on your ideas to pastors that we meet.
I am so grateful for the gift of such a genuine friend who is willing to be “iron sharpening iron.” Even though she might not admit that God used her in such a way. He did. Now can we as a Christian family get busy sharpening this system, and let God use our efforts toward excellence to turn the deputation trail into something that will reveal His excellence and glory to both the saved and unsaved world?