Lately, there have been several articles circulated around the internet that have called into question the value of short term mission trips. I would like to add another voice and different perspective to the discussion.
Over the past ten years, I have led or participated in 15 international mission trips and almost as many trips within the continental United States. Internationally, I’ve been to Africa, Peru, Honduras and Taiwan. The majority of my trips have been to Taiwan, which ultimately resulted in a call from God to move our family here two years ago and serve full time. You can read more about our story here.
Should you go on a Short Term Mission Trip?
I can’t answer that question for you personally, but, when the purpose is to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ and serve local partners who can follow up and provide support for the work you do, the value is immense. I’d like to point out what I believe are some of the many benefits.
ALIENS – The Bible says that we are aliens and strangers in the world. (1 Peter 2:11) For most of us, we live in our own culture and look no different from those around us. A unique thing happens when we visit another culture, we become an alien. It gives us a chance to experience that “alien” life that Paul speaks of. So the benefit is two fold. First, because of our “outsider status”, we are often given a unique voice in the culture we visit to speak the Gospel. Second, we return to our home culture and carry that outsider experience with us where hopefully we begin to live more like aliens and strangers rather than citizens.
INCARNATION – When we visit a foreign culture, we often go with a group. In cultures where the Gospel has little traction or exposure like the one where we serve, when a group of 10-20 Christians arrive, it is like a small church shows up. The Bible says, the world will know that we are Jesus disciples by our love. (John 13:35) Many times, I have heard unbelievers talk about the community they see our groups share, the love they experience and how different it is from anything they have ever seen in their own culture. They are seeing a real example of Christ “in the flesh”. For those who come on the short term trip, this experience also intensifies the bonds they share when they return to their home culture. The group shares an intense common experience together and much like the early church experienced a unique closeness, they have some of that same unique experience upon a return from being in a foreign culture.
URGENCY – Short Term Gospel Missions create a sense of urgency. When you visit a culture that is largely unreached, especially for the first time, you are reminded of the lostness in the world. The short term nature of this type of trip forces you to quickly forge relationships and because you will quickly have to leave. This intense experience gives the participants a fresh sense of that same urgency for their own culture. We are reminded that time is limited for all of us. Tomorrow is not guaranteed in any relationship.
CONTINUITY – How do we keep the flow of money and people moving into missions? People need to be exposed first hand to the lostness of the world. Once people go on missions, they end up supporting missions in the future. They give to missionaries, they support other people going on short term missions and they pray for lost people to know Christ. And upon return to their home culture, they are able to share their stories and experiences with their friends and family. The more people who go, the more people who come closer to the mission field.
CALL – It is often on short term mission trips when people experience the call of the Holy Spirit to reorient their lives and spend some portion of time in service on the mission field. Some people end up in career ministry, others in short term service.
BENEFITS TO THE LOCAL CHURCH
There are also many benefits for the churches that support and send teams on short term trips.
GIVING – At the particular church where I served for ten years, in addition to some financial support from the church budget, we encouraged people to raise part of their support from church members and friends. Some people thought this would be detrimental to the overall missions giving, but actually we found that more money was given to support missions through the church each year. The more people who went on mission trips, the more money was given to missions!
MINISTRY – We found that our church as a whole had a greater heart for the nations and lost people. People were set free to go and serve in all kinds of ministry opportunities locally, nationally and globally. Even more, we began to see young and old people experience calls to full-time christian service in both church related and mission work.
Most often the criticisms I would hear involved money. “Why don’t we take all that money and just give it to missions?”
Of course it costs money. But the last time I checked, God has plenty of money in his bank account, or should I say, in His people’s bank account. I’ve found that people just need to be given a compelling and God honoring picture of something worth giving their money towards. I believe that sharing the Gospel with lost people fits that quite well.
So, for those of you reading this article – I hope you will find a short term mission trip and go. Support someone going on a short term mission trip. And maybe you’ll take a little time to check out our story and join our support team. We would love to have you come and join one of our short term trips here in Taichung.