Missionary Qualifications-redefined by AIM

April 26, 2017 by missionsandmysticism

“We often fail to realize that missions must be guided by the principles found in God’s Word and not by enthusiasm, sentimentalism, or romanticism.

Men and women should be supported only after careful and prolonged scrutiny.

They must have a solid testimony and a strong reputation among the churches and elders who know them best.”source

Please read what we have shared before about the desperate plea for missionaries that have a saving faith, Godly character and knowledge.  Going to the nations without the true gospel message is a pointless endeavor that will not be blessed by God.

We must clarify at the outset, we understand there are Racers who are qualified, but may be better used of the Lord in a different mission organization.

The following is an email that was written by AIM to their alumni and shared with us by a former Racer. AIM has redefined what a typical “missionary” should look like.  Let’s take a look at what they say.

AIM -“Some people think they will be barred from the mission field because they carry too much baggage. Some think they will be judged by how they’ve lived. Some people think they don’t have what it takes; they couldn’t possibly give up what they have in order to embrace what God is calling them to do.

But Christians in this century are letting Jesus reclaim what being a “missionary” means: being his disciple.”

Don’t gloss over the last sentence.  It is actually a very eye-opening statement.  The word “missionary” is traditionally defined as “a person sent on a religious mission, especially one sent to promote Christianity in a foreign country.”  AIM has changed the definition to mean “being his disciple”.  The focus is not on doing (sharing the Gospel), but on “being”. Consistent with all that we have seen from this organization is the narcissistic self-focus they promote.  The focus is not on the people that they are claiming to serve, but on the World Race participants themselves.  These trips cost almost $20,000, fund-raised by family, friends, supporters, the church, etc.  

Who would guess that the emphasis of an organization called “Adventures in Missions” wouldn’t be missions!

This article from the Christian Science Monitor says, “Agencies make no apologies for designing trips with missionary-as-beneficiary in mind. They then quote Seth,

“That’s how Jesus intended it to be when he sent people out to minister in his name,” says Seth Barnes, who heads Adventures in Missions in Gainesville, Ga. “We view these mission trips as discipling experiences [for paying participants]. We’re looking for whatever will optimize their spiritual growth…. It would probably be paternalistic to say we could do that for [indigenous] people in the field.”

He just admitted that the “mission” is to benefit the missionary.  While God will certainly bless the efforts of one called by Him, this is not to be the focus.  Reading through the many, many Racer blogs, it is evident that this is how many of them perceive their year long trek around the world.   Seth also says, “Our rationale is that [Racers] decided to go on the race in large part because you wanted to grow.”

A missionary is a “sent one”.  Sent to preach the Gospel of Christ to save those who are perishing in their sins. An example of this would be in Acts 13.  Paul and Barnabas were called by the Holy Spirit and sent by the church.  (vs 1-3)  They proclaimed the Word of God (vs 5) beginning in the Old Testament all the way through to Christ.

Missionaries are expected to know the Scripture! Paul says to those he was sent, “Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man (Christ) forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by Him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.”(vs 38,39)

This is very different from what AIM is looking for.

AIM “Contrary to popular belief, being a missionary doesn’t necessarily mean having a shiny past. It doesn’t mean having a ton of biblical knowledge. It doesn’t mean having your life together and figured out. In fact, in spite of that people are taking a step towards the mission field.”

It does mean, however, that the past is, and has been, repented of and behind you long enough to have a proven, genuine saving faith.  A tested character that is growing in holiness and hating the sin Christ died to pay for.

AIM “Jesus didn’t call the squeaky clean, high achieving, had-it-all-together kind of person to join his little band of revolutionaries. Jesus called the second class, the messes, the broken, the rejected, the people with the not-so-great past: the people who also believed there was more.”

We agree with that. However…the disciples were not changed until they encountered and submitted to Christ,  putting on the new self (Col 3:10). As all Christians can attest, “none is righteous” (Rom 3:11), and we all have a history of sin before Christ.

But what about the phrase, “believed there was more”.  What does that mean??  More what?  Jesus called his disciples to suffer as they shared an offensive message.   All his disciples died as martyrs or were persecuted in horrible ways, beginning with James soon after the birth of the church. (Acts 12:1-2)

This is probably not what AIM means by “they believed there was more”.

AIM  “Jesus didn’t wait until his disciples were more holy, had more knowledge of Scripture, or had their lives together. There wasn’t a training camp, seminar, or a class on how to be a follower of the Son of God. He simply showed them how to do it.”

The disciples were a unique group picked for a very specific purpose.  We cannot always apply their lives and experience to ours, including their martyrdom which most of us will never know.  Also, we must remember that Jesus was physically present with them and spoke directly to them.

AIM “They learned through doing, through experiencing, through stepping out in faith into the great unknown. God can and will use anyone willing. He’ll use a preppy Ivy Leaguer or a dropout drug user; it doesn’t matter. Whether you have a degree in biblical studies or have never read the Bible, Jesus empowers those who respond to his call to spread the good news of his love and salvation.”

Jesus called those who obeyed Him. (John 14:15) The only way we can be obedient is if we know what He commands of us in Scripture.  NO ONE can know the true message of love and salvation without reading the Bible.  It is found NOWHERE else. 

We 100% disagree with this assessment of missionary qualifications.

Clearly they have a different definition of what love and salvation look like.  Repentance has yet to be mentioned and  Jesus said this is the reason He came.  It is also the reason missionaries are sent. “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”  Luke 5:32

“Christ-like knowledge is  greatly lacking on the mission field today. Missions is not merely about sending missionaries. Otherwise, it turns into a peace corps. Missions is about communicating biblical truth to men.

If you do not know biblical truth, if you cannot communicate biblical truth, you have no business on the mission field.

The mission enterprise today in the world is filled up with strategists, facilitators, and few people even preaching or teaching the Gospel or the full counsel of God. If there is anywhere on this planet a group of people among which there is a dearth of the knowledge of God and the preaching of the knowledge of God, it is among missionaries from the west.

Missions is about truth and communicating biblical truth to men.”  source

“Desire without knowledge is not good…” Prov 19:2

This email goes on to share a specific example and a video story.

AIM “[This Racer] didn’t fit the definition of “missionary.”

In fact, he was smoking pot in his room when he heard of the World Race.”

It hardly seems necessary to point out that this is not a good indication of a genuine calling.  They almost seem to be bragging that they truly take anyone, even someone who is currently HIGH.

AIM “When a friend told him she was going on an 11 month mission trip around the world, [he] went to the website and saw a video eerily close to his own life: a guy at a party who desperately wants something more. In that moment, he heard God say:

“You can come back to me. You can change your life. You need to go. And you need to go do this. This is what I have for you.”

He knew it didn’t make sense. But he also knew he’d heard the voice of the Lord.”

This young man was hallucinating on drugs… not hearing the voice of the Lord.

“So he went. This is his story.”

AIM produced this video of his story. There is tragedy in this story.  This was story about looking for what will bring happiness…music, drugs, alcohol, addiction, sexual activity…this could be anyone’s story. (This is also reminiscent of this Racer’s background we wrote about)

What finally resonated with him was not Christ, but a google search for “adventures”. 

One more attempt at happiness… he was excited for a fresh start.  The problem is, four minutes into this story, called “The Tragedy of Me”, he has yet to mention Jesus.  He said he wanted to grow and to have a change.  Did anyone from Adventures give him the good news??  “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  Matt 11:28  The “rest” does not come without repentance as verses 20-24 show just prior.

In this video, it took five minutes for him to even name the name of Jesus.  There was no testimony given of repentance, nor an understanding of who Christ is.  It never actually offered any hope or reason for serving Christ. 

This man was accepted on the Race with no evidence that he acknowledged his need for a Savior and no evidence of a changed life.  The World Race accepted this young man and most likely many others with similar stories.  This begs the question, if the Gospel message is not clear in their own testimonies then what are they proclaiming to the world?

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

This is NOT good news. 

Oh, but praise God for the next verse!

“And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” 1 Cor 6:9-11

Washing. Christ’s blood washes away our sins! This is not to make us happier. Unfortunately, this was not part of the story shared on the video.  There must be grief over sin against a Holy God, not regret that poor choices made us unhappy.  That is worldly grief.

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” 2 Cor 7:10

We don’t know about his life or relationship to the Lord now, we are not attempting to judge that. We can confidently say from this story alone, at this time in his life, he was not qualified to be a missionary representing the Lord Jesus Christ.

We share this simply to point out that Adventures in Missions does not have a Gospel centered mission in mind when choosing their missionaries.

One of the first missionaries sent from the United States, was Adoniram Judson.  What did he have to say about the seriousness of the mission?  In a letter to his future father-in-law, requesting to have his daughter’s hand in marriage, as they set off for a lifelong mission to Burma, this is what he wrote.

“I have now to ask whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world; whether you can consent to her departure for a heathen land, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of a missionary life; whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean; to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India; to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death?

Can you consent to all this for the sake of Him who left his heavenly home, and died for her and for you; for the sake of perishing immortal souls; for the sake of Zion and the glory of God? Can you consent to all this in hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory, with a crown of righteousness brightened by the acclamations of praise which shall redound to her Savior from heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair?”

This is the very opposite of the “me-centered” culture AIM promotes. To be a missionary is to give up everything for the “sake of the Glory of God” to save “perishing immortal souls.” You can read more of the story of their sufferings as missionaries to the Burmese here and also that their efforts were not in vain because the Lord had called them, He also was the power behind their message to save many.

“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Romans 10:14-17

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