1. They cannot overlook personal faults and idiosyncracies such as differences in communication style, sense of humor, perspectives on leadership, or common courtesy.
2. They are philosophically different regarding issues such as the use of American funds, the nature of a missionary, or the role of social ministry in cultural reformation.
3. There is tension among the wives.
4. They are theologically different either in their conclusions or in their general interest in theological discussion and study. Nestled in this category is the hyper-separatism of too many fundamentalists who draw a line in the sand over nearly everything. For some no doctrine is too tangential to deserve the final weapon of separation.
5. Their mission boards disagree, or amazingly enough, they disagree over the very existence of boards.
6. A general apathy about the value of unity or friendship keeps one or both of them from taking the initiating strides necessary to form an enduring relationship. This runs tandem with a spirit (Should I say a “fierce spirit”?) of independence among many missionaries.
7. They differ in their work ethic or lifestyle such that one feels the other’s presence is a constant and uncomfortable barb.
8. A missionary’s difficulties in one area of ministry begin to weigh him down so that he is susceptible to sinful schism with a fellow missionary over an entirely separate point. The accumulated stresses tempt him to magnify some other minor tension with another man.
I have sometimes been astounded at the nature of interpersonal problems between two or more missionaries. Hopefully, this list will remind us of the insidious nature of Satan’s attack on those serving outside their home culture. It may also gently direct us toward fuller conversations and fervent prayer on this important topic.