I’m starting to think about where God is leading me to serve Him in the world. Sometimes in closed countries missionaries apparently gain entrance by telling the government that they are coming to do linguistic study or literacy or some other service. Is it biblical for Christians to hide their intent to proclaim the Gospel? Would I be deceiving government officials by telling them I’m in their country to teach English when I am there to translate the Bible? Am I giving our enemies a reason to accuse me of evil? Am I acting on faith and trust in God, if I have to deceive people to do God’s work?
“Secret” missions is a concept with which I am very uncomfortable. Such deception certainly does seem to be contrary to a passage like 1 Thessalonians 2:1-7. The Apostle Paul declared that he and his fellow missionaries spoke the Gospel openly (bold, v. 2), not secretly, even though they faced hostile opposition to their ministries. Paul also said that they did not employ any “decoy” (the basic concept in deceit, v. 3). Consider the following common sense observations regarding “secret” missions:
- “Secret” missions practices confirm the suspicions of many non-Christians, especially Muslims.
- “Secret” missions ignores the respect non-Christians have for Christians who live according to convictions rather than convenience.
- “Secret” missions produces added persecution of nationals who must remain even after a missionary is expelled or voluntarily departs. Deception by foreign missionaries taints the testimony of national believers who work together with or under them. It is guilt by association.
- “Secret” missions gives in prematurely to gaining access to a so-called closed nation. Personal friends serving previously in such a nation openly declared their purpose and work to the police and government. They were allowed to remain and had unprecedented opportunities to witness to high officials. They also succeeded in protecting the national Christians from harassment and persecution. Success was wedded to honesty and integrity that was admired by non-Christian officials.
- “Secret” missions fails to be opportunistic in reaching closed nations by establishing work on the borders of such nations, rather than within, if access is denied. Borders are porous–citizens of closed nations freely pass over borders (e.g., Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan, Myanmar’s border with Thailand, Indonesia’s proximity to Singapore, etc.).