This post is going to be very contraversial, because it is my opinion (I am a veteran missionary of 28+ years). My own missionary presentation content changed greatly when I married my wife, Tule, which is native Mexican. As we visited old and new churches, she highly criticized parts of my presentation, and I had to change things.
Never Belittle or Joke with the Culture of your People
Mexicans sometimes do funny stuff, and to the American viewer, this can be very funny. But when we consider that we are belittling people whom we should love, this is not a good thing.
Caution when using the “Great Danger” Card
Mexico is one of the highest kid-napping countries in the world, greater than Iraq, Iran, etc. The drug cartels kill so many people every day…
These kinds of statements and dwelling on the “great danger” of your field is not profitable. If it is so dangerous, then why are you going there? Go to any major city in the United States, and you can go to the “bad side of town”, and you will find the same situation, great danger. The point of a missionary presentation is convince the audience to pray for you, and perhaps to give you financial support if you and they bond. This bonding should not be for pity nor for fear. It should be because of the spiritual need of the people, and your ability to meet that need. I would not say it is wrong to mention the dangers, but do not dwell overly on them. What should convince people is not the danger you are facing, but power of God to overcome any opposition.
The Use of Poverty, Children, people deep in Sin, and Sickness
The use of photos of people that generate pity, sympathy, and moves the audience’s heart is a very good technique in missionary presentations. But one must be careful with the use of these things. It is good to open the eyes of U.S. Christians to the bad situations in countries around the world, but there comes a point in a single missionary presentation, and in presentation after presentation that when this reason for supporting the missionary is over used or abused, the U.S. Christians get hard heartened and there is no effect except a negative (apathy) effect. While this is a good element to insert in your presentation, you need to show hope for these people, and besides the poor situation of these people, give concrete examples where in your ministry, at least some of these people have come out of that poverty or bad situation and are now becoming a strong Christian.
If you read Acts and Paul’s letters to his supporting churches (Philippians), Paul praises what God is doing, and goes lightly on what is the evil where he is laboring. He does focus on the need, but the need is not primarily the evil of the people. Their real need is Jesus. They need to be saved. All the base excessive sinfulness of any people anywhere is because they don’t have a vibrant relationship with Christ. Focusing on their excesses is not important. Focusing on what they are missing that a true Christian has is what is important. Your people will not pray for you because there are drug addicts and drunks on the street. They will pray for you because you are changing that situation from bad to good.
Keep your Presentation Separate from Your Sermon
It is totally appropriate to put verses in your missionary presentation, but don’t get “preachy” in it, i.e. do a lot of heavy Scripture reading and exposition. People want to hear you preach, but not through slides.
Use of Scripture in Presentations
With fully remembering the above point, keep preaching separate from your presentation, I would like to address the use of Scriptures in presentations. Putting Scriptures in your presentation is an excellent element in general. But a few considerations should be kept in mind. Preaching the Scripture is probably NOT GOOD. Belaboring a Scripture equally NOT GOOD. If you keep your Scriptures to 2-4 maximum in a presentation (depending on the overall length of course), then that would be acceptable. Make sure if you are not going to read the Scripture out loud, use the test for how long it is on the screen. Any text that you put on the screen should be left there long enough for the people to read it. When you adjust the length, read it out loud yourself twice, and that is about the amount of time it should be (maybe a bit more even) if there is just silence or music with it.
There are no Bible believing churches in this area.
Many missionaries state this emphatically as a reason for them going to this area. In fact, many times there are good conservative churches in the area, but either the missionary doesn’t know about them, or doesn’t count them as being of anything. When the people in a church hear a missionary from your area talk about his work one week, that he has been there, has a large church, and is doing a great work for God there, and then a month later you come and say there is no biblical work there, the people get confused. What they don’t tell you is that you look like a fool. “Last month or last year we had somebody from your area, so it is just not so.” Once you have lost your people’s confidence in one point (without knowing it), then they will distrust everything else that you say, especially anything that would motivate them to give to you. You are manipulating them on one account, they don’t trust ANYTHING you say from there on out.
We work with ….
Many missionaries choose to work as a team. Theoretically that is a great idea, because you can share responsibilities and do a much better work. Practically there are a lot of problems. For example, U.S. churches perceive (at times) that it is “overkill”, and one (the younger more inexperienced) becomes a glorified secretary to the older missionary. Whatever their relationship (even if it is no so), that is the U.S. perception. So having co-workers is a thorny issue. Do you present your co-worker or not? Do you attribute a lot of things to them? If so you will look like you are not doing much except “tagging along”. Likewise if you present everything and just mention them, the audience has a doubt as to what the other missionary is doing? I did have a co-worker for years, and I always presented that I/we worked with them. I presented that we equally shared in the ministry, and I think that was true. I do not know if that helped or hurt me really, but it is an issue to pray over, to present a co-worker, and what to say and not say.
Repeated use of the same slides
I have been on “the other end” of this one. People seeing your presentation don’t want to see the same image various times within the same presentation. But as a missionary, getting good pictures is just extremely difficult. If you point out different things in the image at different points in the presentation, that is acceptable. As well, a title slide where you have several points and are slowly working through the points, this is in general “good”. But in general, I would highly recommend against this practice, but in actuality do it if you have to fill space with images and don’t have anything else to put in.
A Tourist View of the Country
While it is a great temptation to give a tourist view of your country, you should basically limit, restrict, or eliminate these elements. If you really want to show something “touristy” about your country, do it in a limited way. The issues here are very simple, if you are called to Puerto Rico and you show many images of the beautiful beaches (worse if you are in the picture there in your bathing suit), then the people think that you are on a glorified vacation at their expense. This is NOT THE IMPRESSION YOU WANT THEM TO GET! In almost every country there are tourist sites, and they are interesting. But note that these things are best for missionaries going out the first time with no work of their own to talk about, and even then it is better to skip.