• Our hope-filled future is bound up in sharing the story of Jesus, in discipling others, in bringing those disciples together into communities of believers, and in developing and releasing those believers to create other communities... till Jesus the King comes again!

“Independent Subcontractors”

So have we really drifted into becoming more like “independent contractors” than a “bonded fellowship”?   Why would this be case?  How did this come about?

One reason would be that certain concerns take precedence over others.  For the most part, those concerns are right in front of us: just to live and to work.  Those concerns, though certainly legitimate, can push us away from others who are not right here with us.  A common definition of an independent subcontractor is “a person or business which has a contract to provide some portion of the work or services on a project agreed to by a contractor.”  A subcontractor sets his/her own hours and work schedule.  A subcontractor has his/her own small team and doesn’t necessarily work in tandem with other workers outside of his/her local context.  Their chief concern is to make sure they get paid for the work they do.

Another reason would be that we only apply the value at a local level.  WT has a strong aspirational value for community, though its application can be limited.  We have done a good job building local communities, but struggle to have any sense of connection to the larger WT community

A final reason would be the lack of trust that quickly sets in between people.  I have heard one writer say that it takes ten positive comments to offset one critical one.  Could it be that we too quickly find ourselves thinking less of a member within the WT community because of one misplaced comment?  The longer that comment is not dealt with, the harder it is to maintain a bonded fellowship.

The WT community is a unique group of cross cultural workers, passionate about one thing: the multiplication of disciples and communities of believers around the globe.  Many communities of workers work towards this end.  Maybe I’m not seeing things correctly, but it seems like we act more like a group of “independent subcontractors” sometimes than a community pulling together with and for one another.


4 Responses

  1. Part of this tendency could be the nature of the process involved in getting to the field in the first place. I’m in the subcontractor category whether I want to be or not as a missionary appointee. I’ve spent years trying to be a part of a specific team and if I’d admit it to myself, I’ll be glad when I get to be a part of the local team and can put some of the “larger picture” behind me.

    • Another way to look at it might be to realize that the ‘team’ or community is not engaged or involved in getting you to the field. You have to do it on your own. That only creates and furthers the mindset that what we do, we will have to do on our own.

  2. Interesting idea of being more like “subcontractors” – I’ve recently been re-reading Thomas Hale’s “On Being A Missionary” and Ch. #9 deals with the issue(s) of joining “new missionaries” to the “older, established” ones, and the inevitable conflicts that can come with this scenario. Each one believes they have the correct answer for what it takes to reach their specific people group – one from a degree and education that tells him how, and one from life experience and trials that show him how. Each can function independenty from the other in a ‘subcontractor’ sort of way when they think they do not need each other for the full picture. Isn’t that really what we are talking about – community involves a humility that says i NEED you and your opinion, experience, knowledge, etc. in order to work together in a mutually exclusive way. The mistrust you spoke about is such a barrier to this – we don’t know one another across broader countries and scopes of ministry – and in that not knowing one another, we assume we are not the same. Why the assumptions? Why the mistrust? How do we change that for the better good of the mission.

    • I appreciated your insights. Awhile back, one new worker talked about ‘intergenerational’ mentoring as a way to integrate new workers into an existing community. I do believe your questions at the end of your comment are worth pursuing further. I hope to do so in a further post, but would love to hear ideas from others for changing our ethos in this regard.

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