We had lunch with a missionary friend, who shared with us some of the challenges she’s facing in the field. Since I could not find good graphics for missionary statistics, I borrowed one from the pastoral ministry as many of the problems they are facing are similar. The difference is that for missionaries often the problems are even more acute, as they work in cross-cultural settings with few resources and limited support.
97% of pastors have been betrayed, falsely accused, or hurt by their trusted friends. Our colleague narrated the case of a young pastor who left the pastorate because he was falsely accused by a retired pastor. The saddest part is that the old pastor was the one who encouraged the young man to enter the ministry and mentored him, but grew increasingly narrow-minded and stubborn as he aged. The elderly pastor started well, but he did not finish well. I am less sure about the statistics being that high for betrayal by trusted friends, but have seen many cases of being hurt by “friends”.
94% feel under constant pressure to have a perfect family. Pastors live in a “fishbowl”, and their wife and kids (PKs) are under continual surveillance. The same applies to missionaries, their spouse and MKs.
90% work more than 50 hours a week, yet admit their work is never done and the expectations never end. This is not an exaggeration as my own experience was 62 hours a week, and I was only average.
80% feel discouraged, 78% have no close friends, 70% battle depression. Many hear only criticism from their lay leaders and feel lonely with little or no support. Nearly 2/3 of the 70% experiencing depression or burnout are serious to such an extent that they needed to take a leave of absence from ministry.
You can review the charts for other challenges your missionaries are facing. They have given up on climbing the corporate ladder and earning a comfortable living for their family, and the security of being surrounded by family and friends and having resources at their disposal. Often they face a hostile environment in which neither the language nor the customs are familiar.
If pastors feel discouraged by their apathetic congregation who care more about fun and fellowship than following the Great Commission, so much more for missionaries planting a church in foreign land. Few are those who regularly receive words of encouragement from their churches. Are there bad pastors and missionaries? Of course there are, but in percentage terms probably no more than bad sheep among God’s people. Many are conscientious workers doing the best they can with what little they have. Pray for your pastors and missionaries. They deserve better support than that.