A good word from Steve Hafler (former missionary in Kenya and Zambia):
Near the end of his extraordinary life, William Carey was becoming a household name in England. Biographies were being turned out to an eager public. Even mementos of Carey’s life were prized as almost sacred objects. One day a friend of Carey’s was going on and on about the fame of the “Father of Modern Missions.” Carey interrupted him sharply saying, “When I am gone, speak no more of Mr. Carey. Speak of Mr. Carey’s Saviour.” Carey wasn’t the last missionary to become a celebrity, and his rejection of such misplaced attention, his “He must increase; I must decrease” attitude is refreshing. But the whole story underscores a dangerous tendency in ministry.
When missions becomes man-centered, a deviation has occurred from its Christ-centered and Gospel-focused purpose. This deviation often stems from an outdated biographical ideal from the 1800s coupled with the masterfully prepared updates of “Mr. Missionary.” The pictures and stories may present a warped view of reality on the field, but who needs facts when people are spellbound? Close the deal and sign the contract while people wipe tears from their eyes and feel guilty for living in America. Pass the plate now! How can you not give when the photo collage of children’s dirty faces, recent burial mounds, and abject poverty glare at you during the closing song? Anyone untouched by the show must have a hardened heart, it is assumed.
Thankfully, there are a few refreshing exceptions on the missionary horizon, and they are easily identified. First, they do not sound like the two daughters of Proverbs 30:15 whose names are “Give” and “Give.” Secondly, they refuse to praise themselves, even inadvertently (Proverbs 27:2).