This is an article from the January-February 2015 issue: The Power of Honor

Mobilistically Speaking

Further Reflections

Mobilistically Speaking

The story is told of two shoe salesmen who went to a rural, undeveloped part of the world. One came back and said it was hopeless, “No one wears shoes...we can’t sell anything here.” The other said, “Wow! No one wears shoes; no one is selling shoes; we have a totally open market here!”

While the story is often used to describe the difference between the pessimist and the optimist, it applies to our mobilization speech. Like others, I love to hear a good speaker that tells amazing stories from around the world. But I often learn more about what is and is not happening through a thoughtful, reflective person.

We’ve all heard the phrase, “evangelistically” speaking—by which we mean someone is stretching the truth a bit. We have the same thing in mobilization. We talk about getting the job finished. I was at one event, where “Get ‘er done” was shouted from the platform—to the applause of the crowd—as if more money thrown at the problems would mean we
were done.

I understand the enthusiasm. I want to see the unreached reached...That’s what I’ve given my life to for more than 32 years. We must communicate hope. But the longer I am involved, the more serious I seem to get. That grows from relationships with spirit-filled field servants who, with the best of tools and strategies, are still waiting for breakthrough. Of course, some do see breakthroughs. 

My “data” for suggesting we change the way we communicate is related to the reality on the ground in places like North India. In my last MF page, I mentioned just one part of India with a lot of people (Bihar, population 100,000,000). If you go from Bihar any direction you continue to see the complexity and massive size of the need.

Throwing more “warm bodies” at the problem—from the West or the East—will not be the solution. Part of the reason is that our way of presenting the gospel typically follows a Western apologetic with a legal/guilt approach rather than that of honor/shame (as we have outlined in this issue of MF). It does not work among the unreached cultures that generally do not “revere” Western morals, individualism and materialism.

For example: if you go east from India to China your approach needs to change. The Chinese, in the mainland, do not believe in God, so you have a different starting place. The gospel has made an amazing impact in China. They are now the main messengers to their own people and they have been for years. And as they go to minorities within China (or outside) they—just like us—must learn that effective sharing of the gospel must be done differently.

Back in India, that is not the case. If you start with convincing them to believe in God, they think you are either crazy or foolish. But if, as you continue a discussion with a religious person there, you are willing to say you do not really, fully understand concepts such as the Trinity—the finite understanding the infinite—they might respect you and dialog a bit longer.

A first step to adjust our mobilization speech is to consider a few key questions: 

  • How do we “temper” our mobilization language to wisely communicate without hype?  
  • How do we motivate people toward more serious involvement, if we can’t always talk about fast results? 
  • How do we communicate what we are doing and encourage prayer when we aren’t sure yet that our approach(es) will work?
  • How do we share the difficulties and the potential of failure? 
  • How do we talk in realistic time frames?

I invite you to share your answers to and reflections on these questions in the comments below.

We know God can always work faster, but he doesn’t always do so.

I pray that this issue of MF will help the gospel to breakthrough in new and deep ways as we share its truth from a position of love, servant-hood and humility. 

Follow Greg on Twitter: @parsonsgh


A mission executive asking for honesty from missionaries? I have waited decades to hear that.  Too many of the flower petals thrown beneath the feet of the visiting missionary speaker have wilted, too many of the trod upon seas have proven to be puddles. Both turn to dust since the life of service is still a life which is as grass. And so also are lives of co service. A spouse dies, a church fades away. While you still have time you might remember that once you promised her the moon. But your promise was to her, it wasn’t that you got the moon and she got the post card.


I hear you, but we should be careful.
I’m not suggesting that people are lying (and I am not saying you are suggesting that either). Sometimes it is a lack of understanding of the reality on the ground around the world. Sometimes it is a selective sharing of information.
On the other side of this coin might be reflected in this question: What would we (in a local church) do if the global workers told us how tough it is? Or how little fruit they see?
I realize that some churches can “handle the truth”!
Others may not quite be ready for “all the truth” and sharing it would be a great discouragement to new believers.

I can recall my own new believer days. Saw good old Oswald J. Smith at a real Podunk of a missions convention. Way over our heads. But then again, who would have known that since I was a little boy I’d made a hobby of collecting maps. That soon led to a hunger to study all the countries. By my new believer days I was a walking Joshua project. For many years now I’ve found it easy to interact with folks from just about everywhere. And I know about the political turmoil, the mud ruts in lieu of roads, the malaria, the sparse and strange foods and incomprehensible tongues.I’ve known for as long as I remember. We really weren’t in over our heads after all. We were ready. In about two years I expect to be putting up a Bible publishing house that will specialize in providing Bibles to all the small languages that get lost in the shuffle for years at a time. It took me thirty years of hard work to become the master craftsman printer that I am today. But I’ve I was trusted with such longing even before my new believer days. Trust us.

Dear Brother, our brief dialogue has been on my mind enough to make me want to add this last comment if I may. Supposing I were a member of a store front church with a building fund in place for the next stage, I’d likely know how much had been raised, how far we had to go in collecting enough, the efforts to secure a site and a fair number of details. I’d reasonably have some ideas about time frames. The call to continue contributing to the fund would be inspiring, moving folks along the patient road of a Jacob. Or at least that’s how it would be if the elders were responsible. But as it happens, I was a member of just such a church when a recently discharged Marine. And in that case the Pastor and his wife had been embezzling from the fund for some years. When things came to a head, all the elders quit the church suddenly, telling no one why. In the time span of two hours I ferreted out all the facts and single handed kicked out the Pastor, wife included.i recalled the elders and kept the church and it’s rather large bus ministry from collapsing. I was not raised in the faith and had no more than a fourth grade education, yet the church gave me every honor. I gave them all back. I didn’t want the short cut.
Isn’t it better to forecast problems rather than to be shocked and awed when they inevitably come? That church took a long time getting over their shock over the duplicity and the awe of my aplomb in addressing it. You see, I am not much for selective information. By the way, how’s the wife?

Dennis, I am grateful for what you have shared. I am also very interested in the project you mentioned in passing: “a Bible publishing house that will specialize in providing Bibles to all the small languages that get lost in the shuffle for years at a time.” Could you email (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)), text or call me (360 420-5634) at your convenience? Thanks!

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