Steve Saint is the son of Nate Saint, a missionary pilot who was martyred with Jim Elliott in 1956. We had the opportunity to hear him at a medical missions conference, where he listed the 15 most common mistakes made by Christian missionaries.
These are remarkably insightful (not that I'm qualified to judge them). Give them some thought. I've explained a couple that seemed to need it. Those are marked with asterisks. The rest you should meditate on!
See bottom of page for why Steve Saint is an authority on Christian missions.
I'm certainly not going to be able to add anything to Steve Saint's insights on Christian missions, but I can explain a couple of these based on what he said:
We don't think about this much, but I've heard it a lot of places. I don't put a lot of stock in some of the people I've heard that from, but from Steve Saint it matters.
People are prone to being dependent. If you don't give them responsibility, they won't grow.
In any country, the people will be best served by leaders who know their culture and their ways. Pastoring is not just preaching the Gospel from the Bible. Pastoring involves caring for people and helping them in the most difficult of Christian tasks: getting along with one another, staying in unity, and sincerely loving one another. That is best done by a native who understands the ways of a nation, people, or tribe.
This means thinking that the Gospel will always go from the western world to other parts of the world. Or, worse, it can refer to thinking that the West has some special understanding of the Gospel!
This isn't a literal reference to a pitcher. Christian missionaries are to be bringing living water, but Steve Saint warns us that it's the water that matters, not the vessel it's carried in. American clothes, American church services, and American culture are not essential to the Gospel. In fact, they will very likely be detrimental to the Gospel.
Steve's father, Nate, and four other Christian missionaries, including the well-known Jim Elliot (Lives of Faith), were speared to death by the Auca tribe in Ecuador before they had a chance to reach them with the Gospel.
Amazingly, it was the wives and family of these missionaries that eventually converted the Auca tribe. Steve returned there when he was a mere 9 years old.
It is the remarkable conversion of the savage and feared Auca tribe, plus the legacy of a great father and mother, that makes Steve Saint an authority on Christian missions. He is by no means the only one, but when he lists the most common mistakes made by Christian missionaries, he speaks from 50 years of effective and astounding mission experience.
It would be wise to give heed.