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Are missionaries pedestal-worthy? Part 1

Obeying God’s call to relocate to another country for the sake of the Gospel and the expansion of His kingdom is a major move that a minority of Christians make.  In this first post of a series, Pastor Jeff Jackson reflects on what he experienced as he was placed on a pedestal he had no desire to be on.

Many years ago, when my family and I were “in the chute” on our way to the mission field of the Central Philippines, an interesting and uncomfortable change of perspective took place in many of our Christian friends and church members.

They began talking about us and treating us as if we were some kind of “super” Christians that deserved to be placed on a pedestal.

–We felt like we began being treated with an increased amount of respect.

–Many of them actually told us that they felt humbled by our willingness to obey the Lord, when to obey meant that we had to leave behind everything that was familiar and comfortable.

–I was asked by many people at various times about the secret to my prayer life that made it possible for me to hear from the Lord so clearly and then to be so confident that what I heard was actually Him speaking.

To put it mildly, the new way people began interacting with us was……..AWKWARD!

We didn’t feel like we had done anything to merit the way we were now being viewed and treated.

We certainly didn’t feel like “super” Christians and we didn’t view ourselves as pedestal-worthy.

We tried to downplay the significance of what we were doing by emphasizing to everyone that we were just “normal” believers in Jesus who were making every effort to know and obey His will for our lives–just like they were doing.

We told them that to us, what we were doing was nothing more than the point Jesus made about servants in:

Luke 17:10  “So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’ “

We were convinced that we were just sinners saved by God’s amazing grace and that obeying Him in whatever He commanded us to do was nothing more, or less than our call of duty that He had assigned us to do.

We honestly didn’t feel like we had changed even though it was obvious that everything else in our lives, except the Lord, was in the midst of radical change.

When we returned almost two years later for our first two month period of rest, it seemed like the level of respect and regard for us had increased even more.

That nine-week stretch of time was jam-packed as we met with different people five separate times each day, (breakfast, coffee, lunch, coffee, and dinner).

They all wanted to hear about what God was doing and about what it was like to live in a country that they knew was different from our country in almost every conceivable way.

And so the sea of awkwardness that enveloped us and that we had been forced to swim in as we preparing to move to the mission field came crashing in upon us one more time.

But this time it was even more challenging to navigate and to try to not be swallowed up by it.

Although I had heard about the pedestal that many missionaries are placed upon by a large number of  well-meaning Christians, as you can see from what I’ve written, we actually had the experience of being placed on that “missionary” pedestal by people that we knew, loved, and respected.

Were they wrong to do so?

When we grew weary of resisting being placed there, were we wrong for just surrendering and permitting people to relate to us as they preferred?

Over the next few posts, I’m going to share what I’ve learned and the conclusions I’ve come to over the past 27 years regarding the pedestal placing inclination that so many Christians have towards missionaries and the pedestal-worthiness of missionaries to be placed there.

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