Why is pragmatism in missions particularly harmful?
Pragmatism is the attitude that “results”—specifically, numbers of conversions—matters most in ministry. This attitude is particularly harmful in missions because
- It tempts us to ignore what God has said in his Word and focus instead on man-made techniques.
- It tempts us to rely on our strategies rather than God’s grace. If we’re fundamentally concerned with results, we will depend on our ability to produce those professions rather than on God’s power to awaken dead sinners.
- It generates nominal Christians. When missionaries are driven by numbers, they employ techniques that are geared towards getting as many people as possible to make a “decision” to follow Christ without necessarily understanding what that decision entails. This, in turn, can lead to huge numbers of people who now consider themselves Christians but have never genuinely repented of their sins and trusted in Christ. When missionaries want numbers, it’s numbers they get, but not real Christians.
- It causes missionaries to fixateon something they are utterly unable to accomplish: to change the hearts of sinners. While all missionaries long to be fruitful, they are primarily responsible for being faithful. Missionaries are responsible to plant the seed of the Word and water it faithfully, but only God can make it grow (1 Cor. 3:6). So when missionaries focus primarily on generating the most immediate, visible fruit, they are focusing on what they are unable to do, instead of what they are able to do.