September 5, 2016

LFTF: Episode 15


Series: Lessons from the field


John Sharpe

How important is it for missionaries to be seen as people of integrity who do all they can to keep their word with the people they are living among?

Well I think it’s very important and I think that’s why it’s so crucial, when you move in amongst people, you always under-promise rather than over-promise. To not deliver is to undermine any confidence that they have that you’re a person of your word. Often these people have been terribly lied to in the past and exploited so you don’t want to go down that path. As I think of honouring our promises, I’m reminded of a story of a fellow who was involved in church planting and was asked by the police to bring this … The father of a young guy who’d committed a murder, down to the police station. This involved quite a bit of travel and the man, initially, was very reluctant to go. He decided with a lot of encouragement that he would go along with this particular church planter and so off they went together, the church planter always assuring him that, “Don’t worry. Everything’s all right. I’ll be with you all the time and we’ll come home together.” So he basically made that promise to him. Well when they arrived at the police station, the police immediately detained this young man’s father and the church planter saw what was happening and immediately protested. The police at the time had decided that they were going to put this guy in jail so the church planter basically said, “I have told him that I won’t go home without him so if you want to detain him, then you better put me in jail with him.” He was prepared to be locked up in order to keep his promise. Thankfully, the authorities responded pretty well to that and said, “We’ll let him go.” They questioned him and released him, but that church planter knew that certainly that man wouldn’t have believed anything he told him in the future, and probably that would have spread around the community, that he had failed to keep his promise. He only went to the police because he knew that the church man was going with him. So he got to see this man honour his promise, even at the possibility of being locked up in order to do it. So I think the lesson is, if you do promise something, be sure you can deliver. Don’t over-promise, but you want them to see you as people of your word … A person of your word, rather, because that will have an impact on your credibility as a messenger when you later teach God’s Word.

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John Sharpe