I want to briefly respond to three common objections that I hear concerning the “007” lingo used by IMB workers around the world.
Objection 1 – Missionaries who speak in 007 language “lack trust in the sovereignty of God to protect them and their people group.” This is the most common objection, and it raises a good question. To be sure, God is sovereign. He is in control of everything. He is King of the universe. Nothing happens in this world that He does not cause or allow. At the same time, we never want to be presumptuous and act as if we can do and say anything we want without consequences. In my particular case, my fear is not for my life, but for the life of those with whom I will be sharing. Most likely the worst that can happen to me is to be labeled as a missionary and have this people group shun and ignore me. I would lose an audience. But for them, they could be beaten, rejected by family, and even killed for associating and befriending someone who is known as a “missionary.” I might lose an audience, but my audience might lose a life. Thus, the sensitive language is used to protect those who need to hear the message. Also, as Christians we must remind ourselves that we are a part of the bigger picture of God’s plan for all peoples and our mistakes not only have consequences on us but could affect others doing the same work in other countries around the world. For example, if a Missionary serving in a secure area is captured, this capture could affect all other workers with whom this person is connected. If one is not careful, an entire region or team of workers could lose access to their target people group. This applies as well to the short-term teams that come and join the work. Short-term teams have the dual ability to either greatly assist or greatly hinder the work on the field. In the end, this issue is less about sovereignty, and more about wisdom and discernment.
Objection 2 – Missionaries who use 007 language “are too worried about security and never get around to sharing Christ.” Of all the objections I hear, this is the most viable. Unfortunately, this is the case with some workers in some places around the globe (See previous post “When You Say Nothing At All…). Some people serve in areas so hostile to the gospel that they fear if they are too bold, they may lose their life. I am not in the most hostile environment, so I do not want to throw rocks at those who are. Others fail to share due to fear of sharing itself, not necessarily security concerns. However, whether in the secrecy of a home or in a job setting, we have the responsibility to share the message we came to share. Those who have been purchased by the blood of Christ are debtors (Romans 1) to the world. Just as the apostle Paul was obligated, so also are we obligated to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. There is no excuse for a silent witness. That is an oxymoron. A witness is one who speaks out what he or she has seen and heard (Acts 4:20). I do not see this as an issue of secure or non-secure language, but an issue that must be dealt with on a personal level. If a worker cannot share a verbal witness, they need to be sent home.
Objection 3 – Missionaries who use 007 language “are silly to speak and talk this way. They are not military or CIA.” This objection used to be one that I embraced. My thinking was, “Perhaps, secure language is needed in SOME places, but this is silly and way too overboard for me.” This may be where many are in their opinion of this method of communication. I understand and can sympathize with you. However, two things occurred that changed my attitude on this issue. First, I came to realize that this kind of communication was not as much for my safety as it was for the safety of those who have never heard. It is one thing to blow my cover and lose an audience, but it is quite another for a young girl to be forced to marry an older Muslim man and deported because she associated with people known as “missionaries” (true story among my people group). Second, when I became an employee of the IMB, I agreed to submit to their authority (Romans 13). You see in the grand scheme it does not matter if I agree or disagree with the secure language. I am to submit to the authority that God has placed over me. Therefore, if my supervisor decides that it is vital for our team and short-term volunteers to use wisdom and discernment in our speech, then my duty is to submit to that instruction. I ask that all stateside will be mindful of this next time you go on a short-term trip to an area where secure language is the norm. As was stated earlier, people sometimes take this too far and overreact. I do not condone that. However, I also do not condone short-term workers coming with an attitude of arrogance and dismissing these warnings because they think they are silly or juvenile. There have been cases where short-term teams have done much to jeopardize work being done in secure areas. The sad truth is that it is the worker living there that is left to try and clean up the mess left by the short-term team. We must all remember that we are here to SERVE one another. Short term teams who come with an attitude to serve the missionary and the unreached people are a blessing from the Lord. I pray that we all will come with the attitude of learners and servants. I believe those are the vessels that God desires to use for His work and His purposes.
There is no doubt that this issue raises all kinds of questions about cross-cultural work, but I hope that it also reminds us that the Bible commands ALL followers of Christ to speak and live out the life of a witness. That is the command of the King. It does not matter if you live in Asia, Africa, or the US, you have a mandate and responsibility to verbally share the message of Jesus Christ. Let us no longer separate the secular and the sacred. If you are a teacher, coach, doctor, student, or whatever, you do that as one who follows Christ. Your identity is not found in your occupation. Your identity is in Christ (Galatians 3:27-29). Therefore, let this be a reminder for us all to share Christ in whatever environment we find ourselves. Whether it is in the Bible belt, the secular European cities, or the 10/40 window, Jesus Christ and Him crucified must be on our lips always. Anything less, is an insult to the King. In the end, this debate will continue. Some people will live so secretive and secure that they will be ineffective in sharing Christ with lost people. On the other hand, some people may refuse to use sensitive language and jeopardize work on the field. I pray that we all will continue to think through these tough issues. Engaging lost people with the gospel in this post 9/11 world changes some things. But one thing for us all to remember is that while the methods sometimes change, the message of Jesus, the cross, and the resurrection never changes. Let us aspire, not to be like “Bond…James Bond,” but to be like Christ. He is the one who rules and reigns in a world that is not make believe.