An unexpected skill necessary for ministry leaders is the ability to sift through the unsolicited ideas of others. Advice and counsel is not always inappropriate and sometimes accountability is necessary, therefore this is not meant to make light of sometimes profitable advice. However, offering godly counsel is differentiated from dispensing subjective opinions without understanding the entirety of the situation (or at least listening to have a better understanding). As missionaries, the messages we often receive are filled with the things we need to do in order to reach people; some of that has been great and some of it not so great. Usually this counsel is dispensed to us with great intentions and causes us to consider things differently. Interestingly, my wife and I are a bit surprised though, at how frequently it is suggested to us that we should partner with unbelievers.
Such counsel has ranged from recommending that our closest friends be the unbelievers that we are trying to reach to advocating our attendance at the local churches (which only include the Mormon, Jehovah Witness, and Catholic churches). None of these understand, teach, or live the gospel . . . which explains the rationale for coming to this area. It is concerning how frequent this advice is dispensed in the Christian world (and a bit more surprising considering that most of our group is fairly conservative).
This advice though, is contrary to the wisdom that God has given us. First, Scripture urges believers to avoid being unequally yoked. Most often this is equated only to the context of marriage, yet one would be wise to consider how those principles transcend all types of relationships. Furthermore, through his Word, God frequently urge believers to be on guard because false teachers seek to mislead and deceive in subtle ways. Using the ability to reason that God has given us and wisdom which he has gifted, Christians would be prudent to guard the way in which they expend their relationships.
These words are not meant to advocate that believers avoid contact with a secular world or the all relationships with unbelievers be avoided. However, Christians need to exercise prudent in how they utilize those relationships. Attendance at the local churches would both give the appearance of approval to the false teaching, while simultaneously undermining our testimony by becoming confrontational in a city that is already hesitant to accept us since we are outsiders. Finding unbelievers as our closest confidents seems imprudent because when we are facing great and difficult issues, unbelievers are incapable of thinking and offering counsel from a godly perspective.
Called to be in the world in order to reflect the glory of God (2 Corinthians 3:18), certainly, there is a great need to ensure we are connecting with the unbelievers around us. However, Christians need to be cautious in how they steward contact with unbelievers. It is much easier for the Christian to fall into the ways of the world than it is for the opposite to occur. Furthermore, believers must consider how those relationships either strengthen or sabotage the Christian testimony.