Stories of Failure on the Mission Field

Stories of failure on the field are not commonly shared, although they are often experienced.  As Christian consumers, we strongly push missionaries to feed us testimonies that bring encouragement. It is our strongest desire to see the number of souls reached with the Gospel to increase by astronomical increments per day, or hear about supernatural healings or miracles, or even supernatural escapes from prison.

Stories of failure can be inconvenient for a congregation that is hungry to hear only victories.

As donors, we like to know that our funds go to a cause that produces a good return on investment, encouraging us to give more, but what of the missionaries who fail? Is there any room for those stories? Should stories of failure not be shared, even if they potentially do not encourage the Body of Christ or bring in funding?

One of the most beautiful parts of the Bible is that it does not hide any failures.  In an odd way, the Bible’s examples of failures do not discourage us, but in fact bring comfort to the Body of Christ.  Not only does the Bible not hide the failures of heroes of the faith like Abraham, David, and the Apostle Peter, but goes out of its way to give an accurate account of human fragility – which we can all relate to.

I know of countless stories of failure and sin on the mission field that are never told. Not only have I heard of them, I have experienced them in my own life.

“Eugene,” one Chinese missionary cried out over the phone from Egypt. “We are hopeless and do not know where to turn.” Sarah (not her real name), was the daughter of a well-known underground house church pastor in China. She was on a team brought to serve as missionaries in Egypt from South Korea. When the South Korean team ran out of money, they were forced to return home, leaving the Chinese missionaries on their own. The Chinese had no visas, no money, no jobs, and no way to purchase return tickets back home. They were stuck and soon to be out on the streets.

Out of despair, one of the Chinese missionaries jumped from a high-rise building to commit suicide. Sarah and her family reached the end of their rope. They felt like failures.

Three years ago, during the height of 2020, a Chinese missionary leader serving in the Middle East had an affair with another missionary. The entire team was impacted and deflated. They all felt like failures.

In the Bible, failures are not tossed to the side to sulk in shame and silence forever. In fact, we owe so much of what we know about Christ to a ‘failure’ who prematurely quit the mission field (Acts 13:13).

We do not know the exact reasons why John-Mark left the mission field, but we do know that it caused an irreparable split between Paul and Barnabus (Acts 15:36-39), but Barnabus never left Mark (v.39) and as a result, Mark went on to write one of the amazing Gospels of Jesus Christ in our Bible today!

I can relate to the failure of Mark and the Chinese missionaries. I have experienced my own failures recently in ways that I am still repenting for, but draw strength from the redemptive Word of God, as well as overwhelming support from partners on the mission field.

The mission field has often been compared to a battlefield and the missionary to a soldier. When missionaries visit our churches to share stories, often times they speak as witnesses to some of the most atrocious environments known to man. They are like battle-weary soldiers needing food and rest from the front lines.

When supporting and praying for missionaries, it might be beneficial to acknowledge that failures can and do happen on the mission field.  If we can learn from failures in the Word of God, then perhaps there are lessons to glean from today as well?

Dr. Eugene Bach is a known trouble-maker with an active imagination and sinful past. He has a PhD, but is not a real doctor, so please do not call for him during a medical emergency on an airplane when someone is having a heart attack. Eugene started working for Back to Jerusalem in the year 2000 after a backroom deal involving Chinese spies, the NRA, Swiss bankers, and a small group of Apostolic Christians that only baptize in Jesus’ name. He spends most of his time in closed countries attempting to topple governments by proclaiming the name of Jesus and not taking showers. From time-to-time he pretends to be a writer. He is not good at it, but everyone around him tries to humor him.


  1. Florence

    This article touches my heart

  2. Allen Smith

    We must remember that our own flesh is at war with the Spirit. God gave the born again Christian a new heart to governor of this earthly temple. He called it the new man and flesh is contrary to the heart Jesus dwells. You can resist the flesh all you want and it will not flee. You must recognize that it does not make peace with the Spirit. Knowing this helps us to cope and understand how in need we are of one another


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