Bringing both reality and transparency into missions is a growing struggle. Three different mission leaders wrote me this month basically saying how discouraged they are with the discrepancies they are seeing between what their home staff mobilizers are sharing about what is happening overseas and what is actually happening. There is a gap between what mobilizers at home say and what is actually happening on the field.
Several months ago I was approached about a project that was funded to research BAM. Obviously that’s a broad topic so I pushed the leaders for specific objectives of the study. Basically they were planning to survey other mission leaders and some church leaders too, to determine the impact BAM has on reaching people needing the Gospel. When I asked, “How are you going to involve BAM/B4T practitioners in this research?” The answer was, “Gathering input from them is not easy and their input is not essential.”
One of the best explanations for this strange phenomenon comes from an I Love Lucy episode I saw a number of years ago.
Ricky, Lucy’s husband, comes home from work one day to find his wife crawling around the living room on her hands and knees. He asks her what she’s doing.
“I’m looking for my earrings,” Lucy responds.
Ricky asks her, “You lost your earrings in the living room?”
She shakes her head. “No, I lost them in the bedroom. But the light out here is much better.”
And there it is.
Most leaders prefer to look for answers where the light is better, where they are more comfortable. And the light is certainly better in the measurable, objective, and data-driven world of organizational mission intelligence than it is in the messier, more unpredictable field overseas.
But life IS messy. We are all sinners. We are all going to make mistakes. We are all going to have our failures. Many business people and missionaries are on record stating that they learned more from their failures than their successes. So if failure is a better teacher, why are we so afraid of it?
Consider… who is reaching the Taliban in Afghanistan? The Muhammediyah in Indonesia? The Brotherhood in Egypt? If mission orgs are going to move into the difficult areas of the world it is going to be messy. It’s going to require extreme wisdom, perseverance and preparation. We need to gather our information from the front lines and be forthright and transparent about our failures and successes.