October 3, 2017
Editor’s Note: In forming Resonate Global Mission, Resonate staff developed six core postures that are essential for effective mission work in and through the Christian Reformed Church. While the postures can stand alone, we’ve asked staff around the globe to give them some substance by sharing examples from their own experiences on the mission field.
This third post focuses on the posture of Learning and is written by Marco Avila, Resonate’s regional leader for the Eastern United States. You can read the previous posts in the series here (The Posture of Prayer; The Posture of Listening).
Avoiding the Landmines
Every good thing comes with challenges that can help us grow or become a landmine. Once we step on these landmines, it’s impossible to lift our feet up without them blowing up in our own face.
Taking a posture of learning, we can avoid triggering landmines that get in the way of effective mission.
Landmine 1: Arrogance
Years ago, I met with a possible church planter. During our conversation, he spoke as if there was just one way to do things, unable to recognize any flaws in himself. This raised a red flag for me. This person was not teachable.
Sometimes this landmine comes from the idea that one has walked with the Lord longer, has more experience, or knows the Bible better. While this may be true, this “I am better than you” posture leaves no room for learning.
The apostle Paul said, “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3).
Landmine 2: False Expectations
Another landmine, according to Paul, is trying to impress others. In our culture, we aren’t expected to show our weaknesses. There is pressure to show everything you know, and perhaps, pretend to know what you don’t even know. But we must defeat our fear of being labeled as incompetent.
If we take the posture of learning, we will avoid this landmine. Someone may critique you for not being the expert they expect you to be. Nonetheless, it will become clear that you have valuable skills to offer others. It will show you are a learner. We must strike a balance between having humbleness to receive and the willingness to give graciously. This is a healthier way to do mission.
Landmine 3: Preconceived Ideas
We have learned much from past bad experiences—where most missionaries imposed how to dress, what to eat, and what music to play without taking into account the culture or context. Still, we face the temptation of telling others how things should be done.
Recently, I visited a new church plant that defied my preconceived ideas about what makes a church service “good.” The group met in a multi-floor building. Everyone read from the Bible including kids who couldn’t read well, elderly who struggle seeing, and first-time visitors. Kids sang with the only two microphones. Then everyone was encouraged to share experiences or thanksgiving. People shared their struggles and disappointments as if they knew each other forever! That was mission, that was church; there was the Spirit.
I cannot stop having pre-conceived ideas of what church should look like—especially coming from the Catholic Church. But I can free my mind to new missional paradigms and see ways God is at work in different contexts. I must decide to be a learner.
When we talk about mission, we must keep in mind that we can always learn from one another instead of assuming we have the answers. There is no need to impress anyone but to be humble in learning. The posture is to be exercised not just among ourselves as Christians, but among our neighbors, our communities, and the countries we live in.
This reflection originally appeared on The Network