Ethical Dilemmas of a Missionary

Ethical Dilemmas of a missionary

Over the past few years, these lists have slowly emerged from our personal experience. At the least, these questions remind us to pray for pastors in general and missionaries in particular that they would have wisdom.


  1. Should I give people a lift if I know they are going to a false church?
  2. Should I evangelize a woman if she is the only adult home?
  3. Should I give a generous offering of my salary to our churchplant?
  4. Should I baptize a young person (child) who has given a testimony of salvation, but has not shown Christian maturity?
  5. May I spend money on my family and personal standard of living even if it is above those in my village? What if it is very above? How much do I let them see?
  6. How harshly should I handle believers who fall into sin?
  7. Should I address cultural issues that are not clearly sin, but may not be consistent with a Christian worldview?
  8. Should I give jobs to church members?
  9. Should I keep doing Bible studies at a person’s home if they have shown very little initiative?
  10. Should I use expensive books, computers, and handouts to make my sermons as good as possible if I know that the next national pastor will not be able to keep the same standard?


  1. Should Christians tithe regardless of their financial circumstances?
  2. Should you teach new converts how to vote?
  3. Should you pray for unconverted people in their presence?
  4. Should you church discipline or otherwise dismiss church members who are nearly permanently absent because of work?
  5. Should you give Bibles to people who can’t afford them?
  6. Should you use slang in formal settings if that is what communicates?
  7. Should you sing nominally Christian songs at a funeral?
  8. Should I take parental oversight of believers who do not have parents or at least do not have Christian parents?
  9. Should you give new Christians jobs in church right away or wait until they prove faithful?
  10. Should missionaries restrain the size of their family so that missions dollars can be used to send more families with less children?


  1. Should I show frustration with incompetence?
  2. Should I sit with my wife and children in church even though many churches separate the men and women?
  3. Should I spank village children?
  4. Should I allow children to return to our yard if they have not been punished?
  5. Should I use loud speakers if that is what the culture wants?
  6. Should I ever encourage someone to pay a bribe?
  7. Should I use a literal translation that is difficult to understand or a thought-for-thought translation that sometimes oversimplifies theological discourses?
  8. Should I rebuke unconverted people for sinful behavior?
  9. Should I open civil functions in prayer if the society is nominally Christian?
  10. Should I feel obligated to stay in a place because of the investment of time and money?


  1. Should I accept living together as marriage?
  2. How long should those who fall to fornication sit out?
  3. Should I ask neighbors to turn their music down?
  4. Should I rebuke prosperity preachers the first time I see them?
  5. Should I strive to use English with the people?
  6. Should I send my children to a public school for the sake of the ministry?
  7. Should I encourage my children to marry Africans?
  8. Should I start a second church before we leave the first one?
  9. Should I offer aid to a poor polygamist?
  10. Should I use expensive evangelistic tools that do not create dependency, but which the nationals could not reproduce without US funds?


  1. Should I pray for my children to become missionaries?
  2. Should I congratulate unmarried couples on the birth of a child?
  3. Should I tell a polygamist before he is saved what he must do with his wives?
  4. Should I offer classes on life skills?
  5. Should a middle-aged woman be counted as married if the man does not pay the bride price?
  6. Should mothers be instructed to nurse their babies privately?
  7. Should a man be allowed to seek employment away from his family for extended periods of time?
  8. Should I pay a policeman if I am convinced that his request is unjust?
  9. Should I ask men with slimmer gifts to speak in public settings to give them more experience?
  10. Should I expect African pastors to live on a fraction of an American missionary’s salary?


  1. Should I intervene in mob justice?
  2. Should I refrain from pointing out weaknesses in the culture so as to avoid offending anyone?
  3. Should I address distracting children or their parents while preaching?
  4. Should I live outside the village where I am attempting to plant a church?
  5. Should I ever help a believer with money?
  6. Should I preach at a poor, village church if the pastor invites me?
  7. Should I spend sermon preparation time on evangelism?
  8. Should I baptize someone coming from a prosperity background if he believes the gospel, but does not repudiate false teachers?
  9. Should I tell young people that their parents who attend prosperity churches are not Christians?
  10. Should I rebuke those who cling to their mother tongue even if it discourages evangelism among those of other languages?


  1. Should I correct new believers as they minister in the church, or should I allow them to make their own judgments with the aim of promoting a self-governing spirit?
  2. Should I agree as much as possible with a false pastor trying to win his confidence, or should I clearly but kindly draw the line in the sand?
  3. Should I pay a pastoral intern, or should I encourage him from the beginning to support himself?
  4. Should I spend time trying to reform false churches, or should I shrewdly wait for them to seek help?
  5. Should I support Zimbabweans even though their economic conditions are perennial, or should I expect them to make plans to live in the time and place in which God has placed them?
  6. Should I continue to improve my house, or should I give that money to poorer pastors?
  7. Should I devote time for study and writing on theological issues like other pastors, or should I fill my schedule with direct evangelism?
  8. Should I tend to be skeptical of people’s words because so many lie, or should I tend to be hopeful since our Lord’s promises call for faith?
  9. Should I accept a man as a church member who believes in evolution, or should I tell him that he can join us when he accepts the authority of Scripture?
  10. Should I rebuke a Christian for living off government grants, or should I let economics sit on the side while I focus on faith, repentance, and the cross?


  1. Should I cancel church in the rain?
  2. Should I collect offerings from a group where the majority have not been baptized?
  3. Should I support a wedding that occurs years after the couple has been living together as husband and wife?
  4. Should I bar an excommunicated church member from attending?
  5. Should I preach in the open air amidst homes?
  6. Should I encourage the best members of a small church to return to their home areas?
  7. Should I call a meeting with four men under 20 who have been converted and baptized a church?
  8. Should I serve the Lord’s Table when the church only has young people?
  9. Should I pay for people’s transport to come to church?
  10. Should I count two people as married who have been living together for years?


  1. Should I build a house and move my family back to a village for evangelism?
  2. Should I continue to evangelize and meet for church services when religious and social gatherings are illegal?
  3. Should I evangelize at a home where women are immodest?
  4. Should I counsel two people who have been living together but are now studying the Bible weekly with me to get married or to break up?
  5. Should I count a man as a true Christian who says he believes the Bible and loves Jesus, yet he continues to live with a woman without marrying her?
  6. Should I go into a new village with the intention of planting a church or merely to preach the gospel?
  7. Should I encourage people to pray in the church’s prayer meetings who are not yet converted?
  8. Should I require that all prayers be in the same language?
  9. Should I encourage a man to leave our church, return to his village, and plant a church if his wife is not yet converted?
  10. Should I with Paul the Apostle call myself the chief of sinners and really believe it to be true?


  1. Should I encourage a man to lead who has not professed faith in Christ?
  2. Should I accept a man for baptism if the words of his testimony are weak, but the evidence of his life looks like conversion?
  3. Should I leave a larger area without an indigenous church in order to evangelize in a smaller but more rural and poorer area?
  4. Should I stay at a church until it has a durable Christian culture, or leave for the next churchplant once the basic matters of personal responsibility are in place among the new believers?
  5. Should I write and translate into an indigenous language even if the speakers of that language would rather read English?
  6. Should I invest my time into ministries that help other Christians even if it is not directly targeted at the plight of the people groups among whom I live and work?
  7. Should I accept more support in order to increase the standard of living for my family?
  8. Should I help start businesses for the good of the poor?
  9. Should my attitude be marked more with rejoicing because Tsongas have been converted or sobriety because so few have come to Christ?
  10. Should I pray in faith for revival if I believe that the world will spiral downward into sin before Christ comes?
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