Saturday, October 16, 2010

Short-Term Mission, Zeal, and a Little Knowledge

Every year at this time of year, I attend a conference sponsored by the Fellowship of Short-Term Mission Leaders. We have just wrapped up our gathering this year, held in Green Lake, Wisconsin.

Both of these men challenged us but perhaps the highlight of the conference for me was when Bob was speaking Saturday morning.

Let me give you a little background. Bob is an anthropologist. He studies people. And he has come to the point where he believes you cannot effectively serve others until you can really understand them, their culture, and their background.

Repeatedly he quoted Proverbs 19:2. let me share it with you.

It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way.

Stop and think about that for a few moments. Zeal is not bad. But when it is not accompanied by knowledge, God does not consider it good.

Let me put that into a short-term mission context.

It is not good to go on a short-term mission trip without first taking the time to get some training. Your strong desire to do good is not enough.

Yet this is precisely what many short-term teams will do. Filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit, and with the best of intentions, they head off to China, Italy, Mexico, and every other corner of the globe armed with nothing other than their bibles.

They know little or nothing of the country they are visiting, lack a basic understanding of how the church functions, do not speak the local language, and perhaps worse of all, don't see a need to become informed at all.

God wants us to be a mix of both zeal, and knowledge. Knowledge of the local customs, mores, culture, and people. Because it will make us better ambassadors for Him on the field.

As you reflect back on your time serving short-term earlier this year, or as you prepare to go later this year, ask yourself these four simple questions.

1. How did the first Gospel witness get to the people I served, or am going to serve?

2. What are some of the cultural traditions in the area I will be serving, or served?

3. What is the average salary for an average adult male in my host country?

4. How much education does the average person have in my host country?

These four questions are not very extensive. But knowing the answers to them will begin the process of educating you about the people with whom you serve.

Consider it a start of what should be a lifelong goal to pair knowledge with zeal for the people you desire to serve. Then your zeal will indeed be good!