Now, Contending for the Faith. In this regular feature, Dave and Tom respond to questions from listeners and readers of the Berean Call. Here’s this week’s question: “For the longest time I have believed that the Lord has called me to go into the mission field, but our church and our denomination requires that I go through a process of psychological testing to see if I have what it takes, I guess, to be a good missionary. This doesn’t seem right to me, but I’m not sure if it’s my pride resisting this or my spirit. What should I do?”
Tom: This question, Martin and Deidre, we just get it all the time, because we have so many people - whether it be on our mailing list who are supportive of the ministry - they have a heart to go out and to be used of the Lord, and many do feel it’s a calling, but they’re running into a wall, most of them.
Martin: Well, what we have done as we’ve received some of the same kinds of inquiries and complaints - and we recently, last fall, did a survey of 35 of the 100 largest mission agencies, and in that survey we just asked three questions: Do you use mental health professionals to screen missionary candidates? Do you use psychological tests to screen missionary candidates? And the third question had to do with if you have a missionary who is having problems of living, do you use mental health professionals in order to help them with those problems of living? And the reason we did that is we had done a couple of articles in the past in our newsletter having to do with two well-known, very high-level mission agencies, and we found that they were very steeped in psychology and the use of psychologists. And so we looked into it, and essentially what we’ve done is to come up with a book that contains all we know about it and the things we want to say about it. And what we know about it is the answers to those questions from those mission agencies, and what we want to say about it is this is wrong from two standpoints: it’s wrong biblically and it’s wrong from a research standpoint. And what we have done is we have gone ahead and looked at some of the most popular psychological tests, and we have indicated why they shouldn’t be used, and we have looked at what service these psychologists provide either through screening or through care, and we’ve indicated in this book why they should not be trusted to do this.
Furthermore, we’ve really said what we’ve been saying right along: the Lord has given us all that we need for life and godliness. We don’t need these other individuals, we don’t need their theories and ideas, and if they mix them in with Christianity it just demeans the effect of the Word rather than empowers it any more. We can’t have more power than we have with the Word. We can’t minister more strongly than we can with a mature believer who draws alongside.
And so we’re sympathetic with these individuals. In fact, we reprinted part of a letter from a couple who was rejected because of their failure on the psychological test that they had taken, and so we’re adamantly opposed to this. We are very sympathetic with those people who write and who have called us and have been concerned about it. We’re sorry that so many of the mission agencies are steeped in this, and we just sound a warning: Get out of it and use what God has already empowered you with.
Tom: You’d think if the testing or the questions on the test are a reflection of what we’ve been talking about in our programs, if these people are really called of God and have a heart through the Scriptures to do what He’s called them to do, they would fail this, you’d think.
Martin: The interesting thing is that if you think about those individuals who have been so well-known over the years in missions throughout the world and in starting mission sites and evangelizing nations, what we find is we find individuals who are peculiar in their own ways. And I remember when I was questioning one of the mission agencies, he said, “You know, it’s kind of interesting. I was a missionary,” he told me. He was a missionary for years in Africa, and he said, “You know, I think that if you’re a little bit crazy, I think it’s helpful when you’re a missionary.” He was saying that as a former missionary, but joking around a little bit. But the fact is we don’t know the character, the qualities, the profile, the types of temperaments or anything like that that makes the ideal missionary.
As a matter of fact, what really - one of the things that was frustrating is about all they can say about the ideal missionary is it’s somebody who doesn’t drop out after being there a year or two years, but it’s a career missionary who stays on the field. Well, somebody who stays on the field may be not too good a missionary. We don’t know.
Tom: Right. Well, as you alluded to, is this something that Hudson Taylor went through or Jonathan Goforth? I don’t think so. And these - well, they used to be - men and women as well who are heroes and heroines in the faith, but that’s not the case anymore, because we’re looking to another criterion to do God’s will, to do God’s work, but it’s not God’s way.
Deidre: And the other criterion doesn’t even hold up. These tests do not do what they claim to do.
Martin: We look at the academic research with respect to it, and I don’t like to get into technical terms, but I’ll use it anyway: criterion validity. Criterion validity is very simply this: if the test is supposed to screen in and screen out the people for a particular occupation, profession, or whatever, then the test ought to be able to screen in the best and screen out the worst, and there is no indication that these tests do that in any way. As a matter of fact, we even talk about the standards for testing, a volume put out by the APA, and these tests that they use and the purposes for which they use these tests are really in violation of the standards volume. But in most cases, these people don’t know who hired the psychologist. They just go ahead and hire them because they’re kind of enveloped with this whole psychological mentality that exists in America, and they just trust them, and there is no reason to trust them either to screen out or to screen in, or to use a test that will give a profile that will get in and get out the right person.