I had just finished years of preparation and, all along the way, was told just how important strategies were in mission work. In our last phase of training, Missionary Internship in Detroit, Michigan, we received multiple lessons on strategy development. Why in the world would missionaries not want to talk about strategy?
After some in-depth discussions with missionaries who had been on the field for several terms, I began to understand the issue. Young missionaries were coming out with talk about strategy as if it was a new invention and older staff members were left feeling they knew nothing.
I hope I did not come across as arrogant, but I probably did. Sometimes our best intentions get sideswiped by previous experiences and preconceived ideas. This meant we had to slow down, have in-depth discussions, and proceed with unity of spirit.
I asked a straightforward question of one of the missionaries I knew had an aversion to strategies. I asked simply, “Do you have a plan for reaching the villages in this area with the gospel?” He responded, “Of course I do.” At that moment I realized one of the main obstacles in this discussion was terminology. Both groups were saying the same thing, but using different words. Did we really need to insist on using the word strategy? Should we not be willing to contextualize (another missiological principle) and go with the word plan?
In all honesty, it took another 10 years before the word strategy became acceptable nomenclature. But, until that time, we did just fine talking about our plans to reach the unreached.
No matter what term you choose to use, the essential point is to have a plan or strategy to complete your role in fulfilling the Great Commission.
First of five in a series