1 Corinthians 16:14 – Let all that you do be done in love.
Tomorrow my team leaves for Peru. The church prayed over us and officially sent us, now we just need to get there and start working.
This isn’t the first time I’ve been to Peru. I’ve been 4 of the past 5 years.
This also isn’t the only mission journey my church has gone on. A few years ago we started running multiple journeys and we have seen some pretty awesome groups go to various places such as Navajo Nation, Costa Rica, Peru, and Haiti.
Haiti so touched the hearts of the people, and our senior pastor, that the church purchased a school of over 200 kids. Many of those kids were fortunate to get 1 meal a day. After purchasing the school, the kids are now getting at least 2 meals a day and a lot has been done there to improve the conditions of the children and their families.
But what should the church’s position on missions be? I have heard a lot of different views, even among my own friends.
Luke 10:1 – After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go.
There is one school of thought that believes short term missions do more harm than good. In this view, the only successful mission is one in which the sending church invests in the long-term both with resources and money. The belief goes that a short term trip only offers a week-long missions vacation for the people going and there is no long term benefit from sending people to them.
I disagree with this view.
Of course the goal of missions is to see long-term relationships built and communities move from struggling to thriving all while giving praise to the God of Creation. But I do believe that short term missions have a very important role in the missions strategy of the church.
First, short term missionaries don’t have a “tomorrow” in the field. They can take some risks that long-term community missionaries can’t. They are able to take the gospel to people without fear because they don’t know any better.
Second, almost all short-term mission journeys are overseen by a long-term missionary group or family. If that is the case, these short-term missionaries can be a great source of relief for the receiving agent. Many times the long term missionary comes from the United States, where we are coming from. This gives the long-term missionary someone to discuss life with in “American” terms. This can recharge and refuel the long-term missionary with the energy and excitement of the short-term group. It also gives the long-term missionary some extra hands to get some bigger projects done that may not have been able to get done if it weren’t for the extra hands.
Third, and I think this is the most important one, it changes hearts of the short-term missionary. Every year I have seen one person take on a new appreciation for missions and ministry. The first year it was myself. One year I saw the senior pastor’s granddaughter come home with a new energy that is still happening to this day. In one of our church’s Haiti trips, one of the women went on to become a long-term missionary to Nepal. All of these people may not have had this energy if it weren’t for their mission trip.
2 Corinthians 10:16 – So that we may preach the gospel in lands beyond you, without boasting of work already done in another’s area of influence.
But them there is another school of thought about missions. In this school of thought, the church believes that short term missions are the only opportunity for a church. Many of these churches either don’t know how to set up a long-term missions program or they believe that they only way to assure the money they are spending on missions gets to the community they want to serve is to send it down with a short-term group.
I disagree with this school of thought as well.
If a church only focuses on short-term missions then they are not following the great commission. Short term trips are great for hands on the plows and boots on the ground. But there can be no long term discipleship.
Matthew 28:19-20 – Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Christians are called to go and make disciples all around the world. We are not just called to dig a well or build a kitchen or build a wheelchair. We need to support programs that make disciples.
So I want to suggest to all churches out there that we follow a short and long term missions strategy.
This would be to support long term missionaries worldwide through both resource support and sending while also supporting short term missions through doing youth group trips, domestic, international, and others. This strategy gives everyone an opportunity to participate and it gives God an avenue for changing hearts of people, both the sent and the target.
We should never limit God by telling Him that only short term or long term missions are the answer. God can, and will, use all strategies to change hearts and lives.