Where have all the Heroes Gone?

Author: Rob Hay, Director of Research and Partnership Development, Redcliffe College.


Mission has a history, at least in recent times of being heroic. Look at the books published on mission – biographies of people who dared great things for God. I was reading recently about a missionary woman who whilst she spent most of her time in Africa was greeted with huge public expectation when she returned home for a visit. People wanted to hear the latest daring, the latest adventures and yes, the latest victories in spreading the gospel worldwide. Missionaries were not “normal” Christians they were super-Christians who were courageous with their faith, who did not fear the unknown or arduous living. They were very spiritual, with unwavering faith in God, and had a greater awareness of Him and His presence than other people in “secular work”. I am conscious that I paint a picture that some missionaries from previous generations would be uncomfortable with but I would suggest that there was not enough of them that were uncomfortable enough to challenge it in the public arena.
Here we explore the area of expectations that people have of missionaries. What do people expect them to do and to be? How do supporters, churches and colleagues expect them to behave? How do missionaries perceive the expectations of others, for the perception and reality are often different as we shall explore. How do we measure success? What is fruitful? When we look at missionaries how do we measure their success and equally important if we are missionaries how do we measure success for ourselves?

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