Fugitives from Fundamentalism

The Musings of Adult Missionary Kids (MKs) & Former Born-Again Believers

Why don’t more MKs become missionaries?

Posted by Paulo on July 4, 2009

As an MK (Missionary Kid, i.e. children of missionaries, for those of you not familiar with missionary acronyms), I often wonder why more MKs don’t become missionaries. If missionaries are right, what more important work could one do for the Lord than to go forth and spread the Good News to every nation? Christ is the ONLY way to salvation, right? And what better people to do it than the sons and daughters of missionaries, who are already equipped to do the job? Why don’t the vast majority of them feel “the call” to go?

For the last couple of years I’ve gotten in touch with literally hundreds of other MKs, mostly from my old Christian boarding school for MKs, through MySpace and now Facebook. The vast majority of them still proclaim to be Christian, but very few of them are missionaries. They were all raised in the mission field and are familiar with the work their parents are doing.

So why don’t they become missionaries themselves? Don’t they have the same faith as their parents? The majority apparently do, but in this postmodern world of globalization, the Christian is more hesitant to proclaim to others that his faith is the only true faith. Most MKs realize the difficulty of holding the argument that the Christian faith is the only true faith among all faiths. Prime example: The devout muslim. He, too, is convinced that he has the only truth. And how do you convince him otherwise?

Thinking Christians realize this. The majority of MKs now seem to take the position that maybe they can’t claim that their faith is the only true faith, but that it surely seems to be the best of all faiths. But with that point of view, missionary work seems less necessary. Why give up everything and go out to other countries just to promote a religion that you can’t claim is absolutely necessary?

There could be other reasons too. Maybe the lifestyle and the commitment of the missionary is just not for everybody. The missionary life was certainly a tough one for MKs: Moving everywhere all the time, never having stability, losing friends… Maybe the majority now want just those very things they didn’t have when they were growing up.

What are some of the reasons you think the majority of MKs don’t follow in their parents’ footsteps?

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11 Responses to “Why don’t more MKs become missionaries?”

  1. Keith said

    “The majority of MKs now seem to take the position that maybe they can’t claim that their faith is the only true faith, but that it surely seems to be the best of all faiths. But with that point of view, missionary work seems less necessary.”

    Do you have any evidence to support this statement, or is this a conjecture based on the hundreds of MKs you’ve spoken with? I’d be interested to see some statistics and to know if it is less likely for an MK to become a missionary than it is for any other professing Christian to become a missionary. I’d also be interested to see if there has been a decline in missionary work that correlates with globalization. I do agree that globalization seems to have corresponded with an unfortunate incline in moral relativism (as you describe above), but, as long as we are taking a stab at it, I would guess that this only challenges most “thinking” Christians to fight harder as advocates of absolute truth.

    • Paulo said

      This is a statement I make based on my own observations, my own life experience, and contact with former MKs. It is, of course, an opinion. Still, the majority of MKs do not become missionaries. Do you have an opinion on why this is? I would be glad to hear it…

  2. The Chaplain said

    Perhaps the majority do not follow in their parents’ footsteps to become missionaries, but I’m willing to bet that a majority are somehow involved in Christian ministries: as pastors, working for Christian aid agencies, etc. Based on my friends and acquaintances alone, the number is impressive. This isn’t too surprising though. It has nothing to do with something inherently insidious in Christianity; people tend to get involved in the family business.

  3. Pierre Charbonneau said

    Interesting questions.

    I’m an MK. I feel called to stay in Canada for the time being and involve myself with my local church (which I do). A minority of Christians are called to go overseas but the majority are called to stay put and make disciples of those around them.

    I find the ‘Thinking Christians’ part a little offensive. I’m a thinking Christian and I believe that Christ is the only way to God (John 14:6). Somewhere along, Christianity requires faith. That sounds crazy to modern thinker who demand proof. But God has proven Himself in my life time and again. This proof satisfies me.

    I know that some who grew up in Christian homes do not have the same faith their parents have. I guess that’s the free will part. This doesn’t make Christianity bogus. In fact it’s well documented in The Book. Some reject it, some believe from a distance and some are completely involved (and usually belief and involvement change over time). This isn’t some modern development, it’s been like that from the get-go.

    Thank for starting the conversation with your post.

    Cheers
    Pierre

    • Paulo said

      Pierre,

      When I say the part about “thinking Christians”, I do not see why that should be offensive. You have met Christians who blindly believe whatever their church believes (like many I have encountered in my life) and Christians who really take the time to think their beliefs out, no? Regardless, when one says that Christ is the ONLY way to salvation (whatever “salvation” may mean), this puts one in a position that is rather exclusive, don’t you think? That is in fact saying, “I am right, and you all (muslims, hindus, atheists, etc) are mistaken.”

      But in matters of faith, no one can be proven right. I’m sure you could find that a bit offensive because you’ve convinced yourself you’re right, but surely as a thinking Christian you realize that just because a person has strong faith, it doesn’t make what he believes more real to everybody else. Don’t be offended. I appreciate your comments.

      Paulo

      • Pierre Charbonneau said

        Paul,

        The offense I was speaking of is that you portray ‘Thinking Christians’ as coming to certain conclusions which I’m not coming to. So I must be a ‘Thoughtless Christian’. Honestly, I wasn’t fuming and my comment was not written out of indignation. Let’s put that to rest.

        The dilemma posed by various faiths all claiming to be ‘the only way’ is real. I don’t live in a ‘Christians only’ environment. I have friends with an assorted set of beliefs.

        Now ‘Thinking Christians’ will, as you mentioned, realize the dilemma posed by various faiths but they will also realize that at the core of the Christian message stands Christ claiming to be the ONLY way. Either you accept this or reject it. If you reject this, what is left of the Christian message? The legalism (which I despise), the traditions and the values. In my opinion, these have little meaning without Christ at the center.

        Many people come to a crisis of belief. I’ve been there too. In my life, God has proven Himself to be true. How can I deny it. The evidence in my life has been “When I pray, coincidences happen, and when I don’t, they don’t” (Sir William Temple). And some of these ‘coincidences’ have been so amazing that it’s impossible for me to reject the message of Christ. I haven’t convinced myself out of the blue. Yes, I placed my faith in Him (which was an act supported by very little personal evidence) but then God proved Himself time and again.

        If you ask me if humans need to be saved and if there is only one way, I answer yes. We must be saved and Christ is the only Way. This is the message of Christ. It is exclusive.

        What are your religious beliefs?

        Nice talking with you.
        Pierre

  4. Paulo said

    Well, Pierre, I don’t have any religious beliefs. I am not a man of faith. Even though I was raised in a Christian environment, I could never buy the whole story. It never made sense to me (like ancient myths don’t make sense to me). I tried to make sense of it for a while, but I was a better skeptic than I ever was a believer. I have written some of my thoughts on God and religion in an earlier post, if you’re at all interested: Letting go of God

    It’s interesting what you say about God proving himself to you time and again. I have heard many Christians say this, of course. My take on that is that we as humans are constantly projecting meaning into things. We have done this since the beginning of time. We create our own interpretations of the world, if you will. The more you have faith in something, the more it’s gonna seem real to you. But ultimately, those proofs are just your own interpretation of events. You could have just as easily attributed those proofs that you speak of to Allah or Krishna, if you happened to believe in them.

    Thank you for your thoughts, and thanks for taking the time to comment.

    • Pierre Charbonneau said

      Reading your ‘Letting Go Of God’ was an interesting read. Being honest with oneself is very important.

      We all(Christians, Atheist, etc) interpret reality based on our experiences, biases, etc.

      That being said, let me present some of the proof my faith rests on. (This is a very small sample of what I have seen God do.)

      Around 1987-1988, I saw a crippled man healed. He was previously unable to walk. This was in Abidjan. I was rather young at the time (7 years old).

      In 1993, a guy from my neighborhood in San-Pedro, Eric, fell into a trance while reading the Gospels in his room. He was a recent convert. One Saturday morning, he came to the beach with my family. My father started to pray with him and he fell into a trance again. In Jesus’ name, we cast the demon out of him. He later told us that as a child his parents had been involved in witchcraft. This was a pretty frightening experience for a 12 year old.

      In mid-2006, my wife and I start praying that I would get a better job by end-of-year. We also prayed that I would get a raise and prayed for a specific amount. I went through the internal interview process at the company where I work. I never mentioned a raise because I was really tired of my current job. They called me up for a second interview and there they offered to transfer me effective January 1st 2007 and offered me a raise of the exact amount we had been praying for. That’s exactly what we had prayed for. This was all really thrilling for a 25 year old. 🙂

      I interpret these events (and many other that have taken place in my life) as Jesus acting in the world around me. I don’t find any other plausible explanation.

      A few years back I was on a long bus ride with a sociologist from Switzerland. I thought that my seeing a crippled man healed would be irrefutable evidence of the divine. I was obviously mistaken. He came up with a theory about the power of the mind.

      So I don’t expect to convince you with my evidence. The New Testament has examples of people who didn’t believe and rejected miraculous events as proof. If an angel appeared to some people, they would label this an optical illusion and move on with their lives. I believe and I’ve been seeing God at work in His fallen creation.

      Nice talking with you.
      Pierre

      • Paulo said

        Pierre,

        The question is: why do you interpret these events as Jesus acting in the world around you? There are more naturalistic explanations for some of these “miracles.” For example, what people in the past took for demon possession can now be explained by things like epilepsy. People sometimes get over illnesses for no apparent reason, and sometimes the placebo effect alone is enough. We may not understand why, but just because we don’t know it does not mean that Jesus did it. I don’t see these things as proof of any divine intervention. In the past people believed in all sorts of supernatural causes for natural events. Now as our understanding of science advances, we know that they are nothing more than natural events with very natural causes.

        Sometimes I don’t find any plausible explanations for strange coincidences that happen in my life too, but I guess the difference between you and me is that I am okay with just labelling the event as something that I can’t explain rather than assigning a supernatural cause to explain it.

        But what about your prayers being answered? It’s very simple, really: You pray for something. You expect that thing to happen. If it does happen, you remember that you were praying, and you think Jesus did it. You’re attributing a supernatural cause to a natural event. If I seriously believed in Krishna and I prayed to him and I got what I prayed for, would that mean that Krishna exists and answers prayer? I can see why a Christian would believe in prayer, though. When one believes in a spirit world run by God and filled with angels and demons, it’s easy to see how one creates such interpretations.

  5. As a missionary kid and recent de-convert myself, I find your article very interesting. I can vouch for the fact that many MKs do not follow in their parents’ footsteps to become missionaries themselves. Not only am I refusing to be involved in missionary work, but I am also completely rejecting Christianity… and I know other MKs who are in the same boat.

    I think one reason MKs don’t return to “the field” is that the whole missionary system seems so dated in today’s world. I grew up under the management of New Tribes Mission, an organization that is notorious (at least where I come from) for being somewhat backwards in its procedures… even if I had remained in the faith, I would have refrained from becoming a missionary and would have chosen to support programs that send native missionaries to their own people groups. Cross-cultural ministries are quickly becoming outmoded.

    btw, I found this blog while browsing Facebook groups. And, Paulo, I grew up in Brazil, so it appears that we share something in common. 🙂

  6. […] post about why many MKs don’t return to the “mission field” is telling. As religious people […]

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