The Character of a Missionary: Brokenness
The stresses that missionaries face necessitate a unique skill set that is both broad and deep. One manual I know of simply gives a five-page checklist of skills and character traits to evaluate in every potential missionary while others have written complete books on the topic. While some catalogs have more value than others there are some unique characteristics that, even though they are little talked about, should find their way into our assessment of missionary candidates. Previously I wrote about the missionary’s need for childlikeness (which you can read by clicking the link at the end of this article). I propose another unknown characteristic should make its way into the list of qualifications: brokenness.
Often, the phrase ‘to be broken’ is indicative of a person who is in a state of despair having lost all hope. As Christians though, our brokenness must be defined differently because our hope is in the person and work of Jesus Christ, of whom there is no variation. Therefore, neither does our hope or faith waver. However, there are crises, or trials as James would say (James 1:2-12), that strain one’s faith and hope. Frequently, these are the defining moments in a Christian’s testimony that eventually push one toward God in a more meaningful way. We must not understand these to be typical, everyday scenarios. Rather, view them as intense times that cause a deep search of Scripture, a deep communion with the Holy Spirit and a deep reflection resulting in a deepening of one’s relationship with God through Christ.
Brokenness as a qualification for a missionary is important because of two extensive influences it has. First, brokenness gives a potential missionary the ability to perceive one’s self. It shows a person his or her own inability and thus their need for others; specifically, the need for God’s preserving power through the Holy Spirit and the need for God’s sustaining communion through the body of Christ. Brokenness will result in an accurate perspective of who one is both with and without God, much like the Apostle Paul saw himself as a sinner who depended mightily on Christ’s work in order to accomplish God’s work (cf. 1 Timothy 1:16; Ephesians 3:8).
Brokenness takes a potential missionary deeper by giving him or her the ability to relate to others. While circumstances may be different for each individual, having experienced a time of brokenness gives the missionary a greater appreciation for trials, allowing for compassion and empathy that may not have otherwise existed.
Such functions are important for any missionary, but particularly for those working cross-culturally. This is simply because their values, priorities, and experiences may be different, but having been broken before, a potential missionary can relate to those who are experiencing brokenness in the moment. Brokenness is a little talked about, and perhaps avoided, topic of conversation. Yet, as a qualification for a missionary, it becomes very helpful in shepherding people to God and for God.
To read the previous article mentioned above, click the following title: The Character of a Missionary: Childlikeness