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“See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me.” — Malachi 3:1

God's Mission Matters

Hit the brakes!

Moving away from a problem solving approach to mission

By Dennis Smith
Bear one another’s burdens." (Galatians 6:2)

Americans fix things. It’s in our DNA!  We’ve long thought of ourselves as a nation of problem-solvers; America’s economic progress has often been linked to our capacity for innovation. 

As participants in world mission, our Mr. Fix-It problem-solving mentality has been a mixed blessing. We are learning that what is broken in the rest of the world might not be susceptible to our proposed solutions.

Indeed, many of our mission partners would respectfully ask why, if we are so good at fixing things, so many parts of U.S. society (and even the PC(USA)!) remain broken? They will help us remember times in our relationship when our desire to “fix” things sometimes has caused more problems than it has solved.

As we journey together in faithfulness to Jesus, God’s Spirit will guide us in the best ways to channel our creative capacity and resources in ways that honor local cultural and historical contexts. This takes time, patience and lots of listening.

With more than 170 years of experience under our belt, PC(USA) World Mission has learned that our mission partners must take the lead in addressing local issues. God calls us to accompany our mission partners and to practice mutual accountability. We have wonderful gifts to bring to the table of partnership: our energy, our skills, our resources. But we learn, in this process, also to name the gifts our partners bring to the table and to understand that their gifts are no less valuable than ours.

Our partners call us to faithfulness and help us to experience God’s world, both at home and abroad, through new eyes.

Listen to this episode of “God’s Mission Matters” and hear stories by Debbie Braaksma, former mission co-worker for both the Reformed Church of America and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) for 11 years in Kenya and 4 years in  Sudan, and now staff member of Presbyterian World Mission; and by Nora Bland, who as a teenager went on a 2009 mission trip to Guatemala.

Hit the brakes! episode toolkit

Use these resources to equip your congregation, network, youth group and other groups in your church for mission involvement. You may use any of these for activities in the context of Bible studies, Sunday Bible class, Sunday worship service, and committee or session meetings.

  • God’s Mission Matters: Hit the brakes!
    Prefer printed? Download and read this ready-to-print booklet including the text of the podcast, a study guide for group leaders and a reflection on popular culture. This is a great tool for a learning session in your congregation or mission group context.
    • Download a copy of Handouts 4 and 5 on models of development ministries from Interactive Sessions for Faith in Action: Understanding Development Ministries.

  • Matters from Pop Culture: Problem-solving: the story of Proof shows us the difference between problem-solving and relationship-building as analogies of how we approach mission
        • Matters of Worship
          Loving God, we yearn to be a part of Your mission to share the gospel in word and in deed. Teach us to see not only needs around us, but the people behind those needs.  Teach us how we might best come alongside brothers and sisters in Christ through ministries of compassion, justice and transformation.  Give us open hearts to receive the gifts these same brothers and sisters might offer to us.  In the powerful name of Jesus we pray, Amen.

        • Hymn suggestions:
          “The Servant Song” (2222, Sing the Faith)
          “They’ll Know We Are Christians By Our Love” (2223, Sing the Faith)

  • My Story Matters 
    Read stories of mission workers on "Hit the Brakes!" as a good practice in mission: 
    Rose Fields: Read how this Young Adult Volunteer from 2008-2009 learned to “Hit the brakes.”

  • Contact: