By: Rony Tomo (pseudonym of a Guest Blogger- Soon to be working with Muslims in East Africa)
A common problem in Evangelical churches today is finding men who are committed to living under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and actually get involved in the life of the church. Women are always volunteering to help with outreach, youth ministry, and even prison ministry. Men are often not even in the picture. Recently, I have noticed that this vacuum of male leadership is not only absent in our churches, but also on the international mission field.
As I write, I am preparing and training at the International Learning Center (Richmond, VA) with over 250 adults who are all going to be deploying around the world over the next two months. As I look around, I am amazed at the boldness of the multitude of single young women who are committed to serving our Lord wherever He leads. At the same time, my spirit is burdened over the lack of men who are willing to follow in the footsteps of their sisters in Christ. The ratio here in Richmond is women (60%) to men (40%). Allow me add that this is one of the best ratios that they have seen here at the ILC in a long time!
The ratio of women to men on the mission field around the world is shocking. In some regions around the world, female missionaries outnumber the males by a ratio of 6:1. An even more appalling fact that I heard from one of our workers is that in one country last year the ratio of single girls to single guys was 43:1. The question that naturally arises when we are confronted with facts like these is WHY? We serve the same God. We read and study the same scriptures. We have all the same resources available to us. We even know that Scripture commands men to take the lead. Why are so many women responding in obedience to the Great Commission and so many men staying home?
Allow me to suggest three barriers that prevent men (single and married) from stepping up and taking their families around the world to serve King Jesus.
1. Pride- Men battle and wrestle with pride on a minute-by-minute basis. We claim that we want to exalt Christ, but so often, we are seeking to exalt ourselves. The allurement of recognition and fame is too enticing for many men. The idea of going halfway around the world to an unknown people group, living in an unknown city, and receiving little to no praise is a frightening feeling for many men. We want to pastor the big churches, we want to write the bestselling books, and be the successful businessman. We are desperate for respect and want applause for our efforts. Gutting it out in out-of-the-way, hard-to-reach places, where years may pass with little visible fruit is not very appealing when men crave recognition for succeeding in their vocations.
2. A Failure to Die to Self on a Daily Basis- This directly links with the pride issue but goes a step further. The call to be a disciple of Jesus is a call of death. We must sacrifice our desires on a daily basis. As believers, we are to conform to the image of Christ, not conform to the image that we have constructed in our minds. Jesus said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. (Lk. 14:26)” Jesus said we must be willing to forsake everything to be His disciple. We must rid ourselves of our selfish desires (recognition, comfort, contentment) and be willing to follow Christ wherever He leads.
3. Fear- Fear keeps men and women alike from going to the mission field, so it would be difficult to assert that men are more fearful than women. However, many times it seems that women display more courage in heading to tough areas than men do. Even at the cross, the women are there and the men are not. Why is this so? Humans naturally fear the unknown. Life and ministry on the mission field can be a mystery. What will my role be? Will my children be safe? Will my wife be happy? Will we see fruit where God has placed us? Will we be persecuted for sharing the message of Christ? These questions along with a host of others bring fear to the mind of men as they contemplate serving the Lord in a foreign land. When we refuse to serve the Lord on the mission field because we are fearful, we have pronounced victory for the evil one. Satan uses fear in our lives to keep us at home. He knows that if he can frighten us just enough that we will stay home next to “Mommy” and “Daddy” and leave the Great Commission to those who are “called.” The Scripture is clear; we all are called to the task of taking the gospel across the street, around the corner, and all over the globe.
This is obviously not an exhaustive list of reasons why men are absent on the mission field. Nonetheless, these barriers along with others often prevent men from trusting the Lord and being willing to go anywhere to serve Him. At the risk of being misunderstood, I want to be clear. I do not believe that every man must sell everything and jump on the first plane to Yemen. I do not believe that is the message of the Bible or the desire of the Father.
However, I do know that there is a lost world out there. This lost world extends far beyond the borders of the United States of America. Trust me; I want a revival to sweep through America just like everyone else. Nevertheless, there are many places around the globe where people can travel for days and weeks and not find a gospel believing church. People are waking up everyday in utter darkness. The evil one has blinded the eyes of some people for thousands of years. Christ has called us to follow Him in obedience and to take the message of truth to ends of the earth.
The good news is that Christ will ultimately get the glory He deserves. People from every tribe, tongue, language, and nation (Rev. 5:9) will worship him. The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as waters cover the sea (Hab. 2:14). God’s purposes among the peoples of the earth will be accomplished. Yet, a few questions remain. Will we be obedient and follow His command to go? Will we choose to reject the worldly standards of success and submit to the Lord? Will we be content to be “nobody’s” in God’s Kingdom? Will we choose the salvation of souls over our own recognition, comfort, and fame?
In the end, every man on planet earth will answer to God for what he has done in this life. As Southern Baptists in the 21st century, our goal ought to be to raise up men like Abraham, Isaiah, and Paul. These were men who regardless of the cost chose to be faithful and obedient to God. What we need today are men who will gladly trek around the globe telling the story of Christ, the cross, and the empty tomb. I believe that we all would be proud if our sons grow up to be this kind of man. A man who chooses to yield to the guidance of the Spirit, humble himself, and lead his family to be on mission with God will bring great honor to the name of Christ.
A few closing questions for us all to ponder: Are you seeking your own personal glory? Do you find yourself craving recognition or a “pat on the back?” Has Scripture and the Holy Spirit convicted your heart about going to the lost peoples of the world? Have you truly submitted to be Christ’s servant? Are you resisting God’s guidance in your life? Are you dying to your selfish desires on a daily basis? Is Christ and His Kingdom the number one priority in your life? If not, it may be time to “cowboy up.”
I would like to hear from you. I think this is a problem that needs to be addressed and I do not have all the answers. Why do you think that the ratio of men to women is so skewed? Why do you think men seem less likely to go to tough areas? I do not know the answer; I just see the glaring difference right in front of me. In many ways the final point of my argument is phenomenological, I would like to hear from you as to why this appears to be the case.
Rony Tomo… Great pseudonym… Great blog. You are spot on about male and female issues. I was at the big meeting of one of the IMB’s regions this summer, and the ratio was 17 to 2. 17 females and 2 males. The leader of another of the IMB’s regions said that two years ago they intentionally wrote some “tough” job requests to put on the books, in hopes of drawing some men to the field. Instead, he said, each of the “tough” job requests was filled by women who were willing to come, and there was no increase in the number of men.
Thanks for addressing this important and saddening issue. I am currently serving overseas as well and the ratio of women to men in my region is around 8-1, and it seems like we are losing men as we speak.
In talking with some of the male workers here, they think another reason for the lack of men on the field also has to do with men’s moral failures. They think that we are losing men in the application process due to reason’s of pornography or some other sin that has reign in their life.
In my opinion (strictly mine), I also think many men are not serving overseas because they are unaware of the many opportunities to use their gifts and abilities (Ex: Business, sports, teaching, medical, etc…) to serve the Lord overseas.
An additional reason: the problem of more women than men enthusiastically serving Christ is not simply a problem in foreign missions, but in the congregations of American churches as well. This stems probably from a poorly-preached Gospel, or the preaching of a non-Gospel in our local churches. Many a wiser man than me has spoken to this issue, including one of Baptist21’s own contributors, Nick Moore, and I would not attempt to duplicate these fine arguments here. I will say that this serious problem, as with most, can be traced back to the lack of faithfulness in week-to-week Gospel preaching in the local church by a sincere, courageous shepherd, who cares more about oversight of souls than posturing for position. I do not claim to be such a faithful man, but pray for grace that I might become one.
Well said, Rony. As usual.
I appreciate the article and the discussion it produces. I’m surprised by some ratios and wonder how accurate they are. I am studying the topic of single missionaries on the mission field and am curious if you can support some of the ratios. Maybe you were just trying to make your point, but if your numbers are accurate I would greatly appreciate to know your sources. Thank you, Aaron.
This article was from a guest blogger, but I will answer the best I know at this time and if need be search out a fuller answer. The numbers were not inflated to make a point. This is based on the numbers of trainees every session at the IMB training deployments. So the one who wrote this is training up there, he knows that the ratio of single missionaries there right now is 60/40. The leaders of that training say this is far and away the best ratio ever. So the numbers reported here are based on the trainers knowledge for the past years of those at training that are then funded and sent out. So the numbers are accurate. Also, the numbers more than likely will not be readily made available to you because many are in locations that cannot be mentioned. The number of those in each region comes from the Regional Leaders of the IMB, they know who is in their care (I will see if I can find if they publish this information). I hope this helps, but this is based on the number going through training and then being funded so they have accurate numbers.