Applaud the ‘go it alone’ pioneer spirit

While this category is a huge issue in any form of ministry, thankfully, many agencies work to avoid sending folks to a field of service without a team. However, the global worker who goes out with unreasonable expectations (internal or placed upon them), believing it is up to them to get the job done is not going to work well on a team. What to do?

lonely-man-in-a-boat-wallpaper_32221If the person or couple are productive, i.e. they are accomplishing the goals set out for them and their measurable results exceed expectation, leaders tend to wink at the fact the couple  doesn’t get along well with the other kids on the block. So, it’s a lot easier to let them be their own team. Sure, leadership encourages recruiting team members but a lack of team (think community now) is not so concerning if the couple seem to be doing well, which is usually defined as meeting established goals and ministry expectations.

I don’t think I’m being cynical here. Frankly, I’ve not heard of many instances where an agency (this is not statistically valid, you know) puts a couple’s ministry on pause because they don’t, can’t, or won’t work on a team or do not have a close community in their field of service. As long as the work is getting done, churches are planted, people attend training, language is getting learned, etc., it’s quite easy to ignore their relational short comings.


Gladly, I know of an agency that holds community as a core value. Many do. In one particular case, a dynamic couple sought employment with this group. Because of the particular need this couple was clearly skilled in meeting, the agency overlooked a few minor glitches in the hiring process. Their bad, for sure. However, in hopes that the small discrepancies were small and people can grow through things, they hired the couple.

This couple raised their funds in record time and seemed to need little oversight or help getting to the field. From the perspective of leadership, they had a true self-starter–someone who did not need handholding to their place of service. Whew!

Once the couple arrived to the field, their team leader pulled them into their community (the team was not formed around a task so much as it was formed around valuing community as a necessary reflection of the gospel). At first, the couple thought it exciting though a bit novel to meet only for prayer and shared life–but, they were excited to have finally arrived and be serving the Lord. At one point, when the life sharing got a bit personal after first year struggles emerged (the couple was embarrassed that they argued over the cost of household items in the store), they backed away from the community into isolation. The work did not suffer, but they chose to hide from relationship.

No problem. This is actually normal in some situations. In fact, culture shock gives a far better glimpse of the flesh that could never have been discerned in the interview process. However, it became a problem when it was evident the couple was deeply committed to not being seen. The more the team attempted to reach out, the more relationship was shunned and the more they began garnering support for their pioneering spirit from the supporters in the states.

When no help seemed forthright from leadership (because the organization valued relationship), the couple felt betrayed and began levelling accusations of being defrauded. They did not come to the field to make relationships with other workers, only to do the job they came to accomplish. Now, the glitches from the interview process because clear.

This couple eventually left for another agency but within a few months encountered the same struggles as before. The new agency would not let them work alone. Sadly, folks back home applauded the couple for their pioneer spirit but did not see the wreckage the couple created in the community at large through their insistence that relationship was unnecessary for them to do what they came to the field to do.

A lot when wrong in that case. Leadership did not pay attention to the small red flags. The couple was so keen on getting to the field they did not pay attention to how much relationship mattered to this group. When the couple withdrew, the team did not call in external help until it was too late. The couple refused help once it became available. The new agency did not do due diligence in asking why the couple left one agency so quickly to join a new one. Not until the problems surfaced with the new agency did any one from leadership call the old agency to find out what they missed. And, from my perspective, the worst part is that supporters from home were the voice of encouragement that this couple’s go-it-alone, pioneering spirit was not a problem. The set up was complete.

Isolate the players, and each sees the other as having the greater fault. What I have been able to discern from the mess is that the team leader owned his part in the couple’s struggle of trying to sort it out without calling in outside help; of not paying attention to warning signs that may have required slowing things down a bit in getting the couple to the field. He needed help, they were ready and able, he pushed to get them.