Those who desire to go to the mission field must decide early in their training and preparation if their focus will be on teamwork or tactics. To get this wrong is rarely a disqualifying issue, but it may result in unnecessary division and hurt during the early stages of missionary service. Let’s begin thinking through this issue by defining the differences between ateam-focus and a tactics-focus.
What are missionary tactics? These are the strategies that maximize a missionary’s strengths and education that result in boots-on-the-ground evangelism and discipleship. Tactics often include learning multiple methods for evangelizing target people groups, language learning, andthe development of specialized skills like Bible translation and linguistics. Many missionary training groups emphasize tactical precision to an unhealthy degree.They over emphasize is placed movement building. These movements are viewed as the expected outcome of Bible-influenced methodologies that must be learned,repped, and rigorously applied. The tactics become the focus so that when the missionary arrives on the field, there is a plan that can be implemented immediately. When tactics dominate, preparing emphasizes doing.
What is missionary teamwork all about? In this emphasis, the missionary candidate focuses on building a biblically strong network that reflects the New Testament. This begins with the candidate’s local church. Is there doctrinal and practical agreement with the local church? If not, why not? Is it possible that seminary-level training is needed to solidify the candidate’s ministry philosophy? Which mission agencies does the local church support and why are they important? Who will be a missionary mentor and who might the candidate partner with on the field? Discovering the answers to these questions are the primary concerns for a team focus. The person or couple preparing for the field seeks local-church leadership, doctrinally informed relationships, and spiritual mentorship. When the missionary arrives on the field, there is a team that can be supported and can offer support. When teamwork dominates, preparing is about belonging.
To be clear, missionaries need teamwork and tactics. To miss either will lead to an unfruitful work. Yet, as a person or couple considers missionary work, an important decision needs to be made early. Should the focus be on learning tactics or developing teamwork? In subsequent articles, I will propose five commitments that lead to a teamwork focus.
By the way, the Advance the Gospel conference intentionally exists to help foster connections that result in strong missionary teams. Learnmore at advancethegospel.org.