After 125 years of our mission, we celebrate innumerable endeavours carried out in humble service to the Lord. But we have also made mistakes. Here are 10 which have, on occasion, rendered our ministries ineffective and which we must guard against— not to discourage any of us, but rather to inspire us to keep Christ at the centre of all we do, and trust in him.

Mistake 1
Depending on our resources instead of God

The tendency is always to lean first on our own education or experience. We believe in our need of the Spirit’s work, yet often fail to rely on him. Simply, without Christ’s Spirit at work among us we will not see the glory of God. We need to remind ourselves and our teams repeatedly that, apart from this, we can do nothing of any worth.

Mistake 2
When we stop using God’s word as our means of mission

Since we’re committed to Biblical truth, it may seem strange that teams can try to make disciples without depending on God’s Spirit speaking through his word. We need to clearly share the good news of Jesus in a language people can understand.

Mistake 3
To live through mono-cultural eyes
We must always be aware that we see the world through our own particular cultural lens. To practise a multi-ethnic identity in mission, the breadth of cultural diversity has to contribute to our disciple-making. Let’s be open to growing in the love of Christ through the eyes of those we live among.

Mistake 4
Showing Christ’s compassion without speaking about him

Jesus cared for the sick, suffering and marginalised; he commands his followers to love their neighbours, to act justly and love mercy in communities where he is least-known. But our good works of mercy can never replace telling people of God’s mercy to us in Jesus. Fruitful workers do not imagine people will become disciples simply by seeing or receiving compassion — let us love people in Christ’s name and speak about Christ’s gospel truth.

Mistake 5
Failing to appreciate the strength of diverse teams

As one SIM colleague put it: “We say we will be more effective in ministry as we incorporate the richness of cultural diversity in SIM and celebrate our oneness in Christ, but I’m not sure we really believe that.”  Nevertheless, that strategy works. Look at SIM’s team in South Sudan, where Ethiopians cycle 20km to reach out to displaced people from Sudan, who are Muslims with no knowledge of Christ. New churches have begun as a result of this witness but it takes the support of the whole diverse mission team.

Mistake 6
To serve from strength, rather than weakness

Mission partners can sometimes arrive in a foreign culture and expect everything to work well, simply because they have enough money and have been well-prepared. The reality can be very different. One family spent two years trying to find a place to live, because they did not have the right paperwork. But through that they were brought into contact with countless people who had not heard the gospel. The way they dealt with their problems was a powerful witness.

Mistake 7
Thinking we know more than we do

Think humility, not arrogance. We must be quick to learn from the people we are serving and slow to presume we are qualified teachers. One SIM worker thought if he learned enough language and culture to share the gospel he would bring people to Christ. It was only when he listened to people’s problems that he learned how to point them to the Christ of scripture. The most productive thing is to have a learning posture as we present the word of God.

Mistake 8
Failing to equip local churches

The church is central to God’s mission strategy but sometimes we have wrongly prioritised our ministries over the central work of gathered local believers. We always need to ask ourselves: Does the way we do mission serve the church or limit the church?

Mistake 9
Not asking for prayers of those at home

God’s mission cannot be accomplished by just the relatively small number of people sent by churches; it requires the whole Christian community to empower that work through prayer. Communicating prayer needs is vital for effective ministry — how can people pray if they do not know what they should pray for? Writing prayer requests can sometimes feel like a chore, but building a relationship with supporters is part of ministry.

Mistake 10
Staying within traditional ministries

The refugee and migrant crisis in Europe and the Middle East has revealed a huge gospel need. Until recently, SIM had few opportunities to serve migrants and refugees and it would have been easy to say that we should leave such work to other people. We now have mission partners looking into this work.

— from a list compiled by Steve Smith