Missions is for others

There has been an explosion of short-term missions in the US. With it, has come a focus on the experience of the person going on the mission. Was it positive? What did the person learn? Are they now more motivated to pray, or to give? This focus is new. Historically, missions was about doing something good for others while it brought hardship, even danger, to the person going.

I am not opposed to missions having a benefit for the missionary. But, I have seen a number of short-term missions trips close-up and noted that they are not all created equal. For me, the most striking difference is between those highly focused on accomplishing something specific, and those preoccupied with the experience of the missionaries. Enough people have noted this that the Babylon Bee satirized it.

Young Ghanaian women reading the Bibles in their languages

There is a group who is unusually unconcerned with their experience in missions. I think of them whenever I see Africans reading the Bible in their languages. I’m not thinking of missionaries who came to translate but rather of those who gave and prayed. They don’t get any missionary experiences. They derive no direct benefit from the translations because they can’t read them. In fact, the translations done through their giving and prayers probably won’t benefit anyone they know. They gave and prayed to produce good for others. By faith, they expect an eternal benefit, but for the moment, their only benefit is hearing occasional anecdotes.

I laud them, not because they embody some humanistic ideal, but because their actions fit the model of Jesus, who came not for himself but for us.

Those of you who support translation through their prayers and giving are the most worthy of heavenly reward because you, of all those involved in translation, recieve the fewest earthy rewards.

3 thoughts on “Missions is for others

  1. From The Gospel Coalition: Questions for Your Missions Budget.
    4. Are we giving priority to long-term missionaries?

    It’s no secret that we’ve seen an explosion of short-term missions in the past generation. Almost every church sends out teams to build homes or do street evangelism or teach in the Bible school for a couple weeks. Thank God for the interest more and more Christians have in serving God in different places. But it’s easy for churches to spend too many resources on short-term missions. People like helping people, they like visiting new places, and they like hearing the stories on the other end. So some churches spend tons of money sending their adults to Russia every year and their teens to Belize every summer and the college students to Uganda. Short term missions are good for some things: creating interest in missions, planting the seed for missions, exposing people to different cultures and needs, and doing some kinds of support ministries.

    But there are lots of things short-termers usually can’t do. They can’t speak the language. They can’t follow up with discipleship. They can’t really become a part of the culture. They can’t earn the trust of the people. They can’t translate the Scriptures. They don’t have time to learn from the people already there. In other words, the Great Commission will not be completed through short-term missions. The church needs more people committed to cross-cultural missions for 5, 10, 25, or 50 years, especially in the places where the church is smallest or non-existent. Make sure your budget reflects this priority. It’s not always as sexy as the youth trip to Kentucky, but it is the only way to win the world for Christ.

    Liked by 2 people

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