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Can a missionary be prophetic in their home culture?

After our lighthearted look at deputation yesterday, today I want to ask about the flip side of one of the mistakes I mentioned: is there a place for missionaries to be prophetic?

Mistake #4 was: Guilting people about the good gifts God has given them. e.g. about their large home, iPad, multiple cars, etc.

Obviously guilting people is not appropriate in the Christian community: we have been set free from guilt! However, the missionary may not think they are doing this. They may feel that they are speaking prophetically into a context obsessed with mammon. Of course, it may not be perceived that way at all. For example, the missionary may come across as:

  • OUT OF TOUCH. Just because they don’t understand a touch screen doesn’t make it inherently materialistic. It might seem flashy to them, but it also might be cheaper than they think.
  • JEALOUS. They could have had this sort of wealth too, and it hurts that they don’t.
  • FRUSTRATED. Their fundraising might not be going well, and they feel that people are selfish and ungenerous in what they spend their money on.
  • SUPERIOR. They may have given up many comforts to serve elsewhere and they want everyone to know it.
  • INSECURE. They don’t know where they will live in their retirement or feel inadequate because their child doesn’t have an iPad/piano lessons/soccer club.
  • JUDGEMENTAL. Without listening, they have spouted forth on a country they haven’t seen for some years and perhaps don’t adequately understand.

Whether or not this is the case, it’s still possible that a missionary’s experience of life in a different country may help them to see things that those living within the Australian context gloss over. They potentially have a more accurate perspective of wealth and poverty because they see the discrepancy between their home and host countries. What may only be statistics to your average Australian may be lived experience to them.

But here’s my question, is there any way for a missionary to do this without it sounding either like sour grapes or superiority? Are you more likely to listen to someone from within your own culture or a missionary who lives outside it on this issue? Do you feel resentful when missionaries give commentary on Australians’ lifestyles? How have you seen it done well?

Categories: Uncategorized Written by Tamie

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Tamie Davis

Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at

2 replies

  1. I really appreciate it when missionaries share their insight about our culture. The most memorable one that I heard was Michael Collie speaking at St Jude’s on deputation, about the idols of money and food. Money was obvious to me, but I’d never even considered food (my blindness, perhaps?). It wasn’t said disinterestedly, but also not with angst or judgement, which enabled me to carry it without defensiveness. I turned it over in my mind for a long time afterwards. I think we need to hear voices from ‘outsiders’ with fresh eyes – but that’s greatly helped by those voices being loving, and me feeling secure.

    I’ve since asked other missos for insights into our culture, but on the occasions that I’ve asked, I think they weren’t people who think analytically or observe that kind of thing, unfortunately.

    1. Thanks Cat! The food thing is something we’ve noticed here too – quantity, quality and variety.

      I’m wondering whether a good approach is for the missionary to talk in ‘we’ terms, including themself in the critique rather than pointing the finger at others. So in the case of food, on one hand, I could point to posting of food on Instagram/FB as a sign of the overwhelming luxury of Australian life, but then, I’m liking all those pictures because that’s something I really miss, so I know it’s pretty deep-seated in my own heart too!

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