Friday, September 23, 2011

God Hates Short-Term Mission Trips... and these things too!

You read that right.

Put simply, the term short-term mission trip has led to an environment where people, by packing their bags and getting on an airplane, can check off one of their Christian bucket list items.

This short-term mission trip thinking has led to a belief that excuses us from living a missional life the other 51 weeks of the year.

A few years ago Adventures in Life Ministry saw our mission as “Giving participants from around the world the opportunity to grow in their relationship with Jesus by serving on mission in Mexico.”  As that statement was being proofread for a brochure, one of my good friends mentioned that we were missing the letter “a” before mission.

Notice how much differently that statement would read if we included the “a”.  With just one small change, mission becomes “a mission”, or something with a beginning, middle, and end.  An event, not a lifestyle.

The Pilgrimage Concept... Courtesy of DELTA Ministries and The Next Mile

Wouldn’t God be more pleased if we adopted the view that we are always on mission for Him, all year, no matter where we are, as opposed to our one-week mission trip?  I believe He would.

But let me share three other STM sacred cows that I believe also anger God when we serve on mission.

When our mission is all about us.

You’ve arrived on site and are ready for the specific task for which you and your team spent weeks preparing.  Within minutes of arriving, your host receiver informs you that circumstances and your mission have changed.

A challenge now exists.  Will you set aside your agenda and joyfully serve in the way your host receiver now needs, or will your group stubbornly hold on to their goals and what they hoped to achieve?

A couple of years ago I had a team serving with us in Oaxaca, Mexico.  We had planned to stay in one village and work on a specific project.  Unfortunately, days before the groups’ arrival, the leaders of the local village passed a law banning outsiders from staying overnight.  The new law was clearly aimed at our planned evangelical work.

As I explained this to the team leader, he looked me and said, “Dave, we are here to serve.  Use us as you need, it’s not about us.”

What a blessing it was for me to know that this leader, and his group were willing to set aside their agenda for the needs of the field.

I believe if we saw more of that attitude from short-term participants, we would see a real desire by more long-term missionaries to work together for His Kingdom.

Zeal without knowledge.

Easy, relatively cheap air travel has made it possible for those with means to get on a plane in the morning and land later that afternoon half way around the world.  This reality has led to countless problems in overseas mission work.

What we are seeing on the field are groups combining their passion to serve with their abilities and resources, and getting on a plane without a plan and very little training.

It is as if many teams have adopted a strategy that since God can use cracked pots, there is no need to try to make those pots water tight.

I do not believe God is blessed when we arrive on field devoid of any real preparation and training, even though our intentions are good.

When teams and individuals receive training that goes beyond just receiving the details of their upcoming mission, they are better able to serve and thrive in the rigors of cross-cultural mission work.

A focus on what, as opposed to who.

Americans can be very project oriented. While this is a great asset to have on mission, it can quickly become a liability if it gets in the way of building Kingdom based relationships.

Remember that all mission needs to be about sharing a relationship with Jesus.  It does not really matter if the building gets finished or the cement floor poured on our schedule.

We must never lose sight of the fact that while the projects we complete might look great, only relationships built on a foundation of Jesus Christ are eternal.

So there you have it.  Four things I believe God hates about short-term mission.

The good news is that while each of these can deal a destructive blow to successful mission, with just a little work, we can turn each of these liabilities into some real victories for God!

This article was originally published by Delta Ministries in The Hub, a gathering for STM articles, resources and opportunities.  Check them out, your mission will be better for it!

©dave miller... adventures in life ministry


Michael Beuving said...

As always Dave you nailed it! Wish this message would permeate the souls of Churches and missions organizations everywhere! Keep fighting the good fight!

Ron Hanney said...

Well Dave, your 20 plus years on the mission field are evident in this soul piercing, heart rending post that is right on target with God's highest call and commission for us to embrace and responsibly run with!

Dave Miller said...

Ron, you were part of my early education that relationships could be such an important part of mission. For that I will always be grateful.

And Michael, you know I will keep at it...

Dave Miller said...

BTW Michael, that guy on the field I mentioned was Andrew... one of my mission heroes...

Thank you for introducing us... I am a better missionary because of him and his encouragement...

ChocoflanChild said...

Thanks for summarizing your thoughts into 3 succinct points to remind me of the 1000s of pieces of wisdom that you've given me over the years of serving with you! (btw, feel special that I commented on your blog b/c I don't like commenting on blogs that talk about DEEP stuff... haha).

Dave Miller said...

Mooooooochas gracias Kayceee... I was in a restaurant last week in Covina and thought of you... the mexican food was good, pretty authentic, and they had personal chocoflans for dessert.

First time I've seen it here in the US...