Kinship Christian Radio airs “Up for Debate” through Moody Radio on Saturday mornings. It's an excellent program where Christians debate timely topics and I very much enjoy listening.
This past Saturday, the topic was the value of short term missions.
Now, if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that I was on a short term mission trip to the Dominican Republic in January of 2015.
It was an absolutely wonderful, life-changing trip and I cannot wait to go back and once again be with the brother and sisters (“hermanos”) I came to know and love while I was there.
So obviously, I am incredibly biased on this topic.
Nonetheless, I think there was something that was just barely touched on in that program that needs to be expanded upon and very clearly spelled out.
But first, let’s sum up the objections to short-term missions:
Basically, the opponents of short-term missions say that they can be done in a way that is harmful and that the money spent would be better just sent to the people we want to help.
Yes, it is possible to do short-term missions incorrectly. If the team comes in with a big pile of money and 150 members and just kind of bulldozes their way into and through the culture and then leaves, that can be a bad thing.
There is a right way and wrong way to do things. It’s very important to work with an experienced missionary who has a long-term relationship with the people in the area. Short-term missionaries should be there to support and encourage the local church, not go in and “show them how it’s done.”
That is a huge mistake rooted in ego and pride.
And yes, it’s not cheap to go on a short-term mission trip—but that’s a relative term. The cost of the mission trip I went on to the Dominican Republic was about $1500 for 10 days. It amazes me that people will gasp at such a high cost in service to the Lord, but think nothing of spending the very same amount on a vacation to a different part of the very same country.
Plus, (and let’s be honest here) those who say we should stay at home and just send the money are not going to send the money. That comment is exactly the same thing Judas said when he complained that the jar of nard should be sold and the money given to the poor.
But the part of this whole debate we are missing here is that we are talking about this subject with earthly minds.
We are completely and utterly forgetting that we serve a God of multiplication, not a God of addition.
When you go on a short-term mission trip with a heart willing to wash feet, to be the hands and feet of Jesus, and to love the Lord and love your neighbors, an absolutely amazing thing happens.
Yes, you absolutely and positively do bless the people you visit. But, when you are sitting in church your first Sunday back in the U.S. and you find yourself and your wife in tears because the lyric in a song has broken your heart for the Holy Spirit, you realize something:
You got a chance to actually see, taste, hear, touch, and understand how wide, how high, how long, and how deep the love of God is in Jesus Christ.
When you are standing before your congregation with tears falling on Ephesians 3:18, trying to explain what that is like, then and only then will you understand why it is so very important that we share this love of Jesus Christ that is so vast and incomprehensible that it is beyond all words to describe.
That’s why a Christianity that stays huddled in the corner of its own safe little world clenched in the fetal position is no Christianity at all. That’s why we are called to go to the very ends of the earth to share the love of Jesus Christ with every people, every tongue, and every tribe in all the earth.
Because it’s not about “me.”
We are the church. We are the bride. We are the body.
That’s why every pronoun in the Lord’s Prayer is plural. Our Father…give us…our daily bread…forgive us…our trespasses…lead us….deliver us…
I’ve written here before that in huge sections of the world, Christianity is actually growing and that it is we here in the western world (where Christianity is declining) who needs to be evangelized.
And I am convinced that the absolute best way to train missionaries to evangelize the United States of America is to send them out so they can see and know what a living body of Christ looks like and return to tell others about it.
We have it so easy here. We have been blessed so greatly that we take those blessings for granted and we have the pride and arrogance to actually believe that we are somehow better than the members of Christ’s body in the “third world.” (Take a moment here to consider how a brother or sister in Christ might feel about that phrase.)
But then, when we step into their world, we realize that it is not them, but us who are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked in our faith.
As I reflect on this now, I am amazed that they have the grace to continue to let us come.
We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. 1 John 3:14 (NIV)