Being defeated 7-1 in a football match is an unmitigated disaster, particularly when it’s at home in the semi-final of a world cup. Recently Andy Murray crashed out of Wimbledon after apparently being upset in the locker room just before the start of the match. Mark Cavendish crashed on the finishing straight of the first stage of the Tour de France. And we won’t even mention the Ashes.
All of these defeats have a profound impact on those involved. As well as having to cope with the huge personal disappointment, they have to relive the event as they comment on it over and again in television interviews. Some of them will lose their jobs as a result, and possibly even their livelihoods. All of this is worked out in the shame and humiliation of the public eye.
But what happens when mission workers have to face a disaster of their own causing? Perhaps they thought that because they’re working for God they were exempt from complying with local regulations and a hefty fine threatens to close down their ministry. Maybe they trusted people and didn’t put in place adequate checks on their integrity, resulting in malpractice in their church. Or through pride, arrogance or stubbornness they fell out with their own colleagues and split the team in two. Perhaps they have failed to maintain their car properly, resulting in a fatal accident. Maybe they’ve failed to look after their own health, or their marriage. Sadly such occurrences are far more common than you might think, and often the mission workers have nowhere to turn to for help.
Nobody like accepting responsibility for failure. We try to blame someone else, and if there’s no obvious human, Satan is always a useful scapegoat. Mission workers fear that if they own up to their own faults, their agencies and churches might stop supporting them, and they may lose their funding.
In mission, we don’t tend to handle defeat and failure well. We often don’t face up to it, or we try to sweep it under the carpet. But, unlike banks, mission workers are not too big to fail. In fact, a timely admission of error can be appropriate and healthy.
Agencies and churches should work to create a supportive and honest environment in which failure can be admitted, repentance made, and lessons learned.
Syzygy provides confidential debriefing and pastoral support for mission workers, particularly those who feel they have nobody else to talk to. For more information email email@example.com.