To continue in our discussion of the long-term benefits of short-term missions, I’d like to quote a portion of the book “Radical” by David Platt. (Although I have questions about certain things in this book, as a whole I am encouraged by the message of the book in calling us to evaluate our church culture in light of God’s calling to the nations. I would highly recommend reading chapter 4 for a good overall argument for our responsibility in impacting the world for Christ.)
In the last chapter, Platt wrestles with what appears to be the common question among American churches in regards to short-term missions: Why spend so much money sending somebody overseas short-term when you could just use that money to send directly to that country?
Financially, that makes a lot of sense. Time-wise, it sounds more efficient. Strategically, it seems like the way to go.
But in relation to God, it may just fly in the face of the gospel.
Platt shares about a conversation he has with a person in Sudan who mentions his gratefulness for the many groups that provided supplies to his people during times of war, suffering and persecution.
But then he looked at me and asked, “Even in light of all these things that people have given us, do you want to know how you can tell who a true brother is?
I leaned forward and asked, “How?”
He responded, “A true brother comes to be with you in your time of need.” Then he looked me in the eye and said, “David, you are a true brother. Thank you for coming to be with us.”
Tears welled up in my eyes as the reality of the gospel hit home with me in an entirely new way. I was immediately reminded that when God chose to bring salvation to you and me, he did not send gold or silver, cash or check. He sent himself -the Son. I was convicted for even considering that I should give money instead of actually coming to Sudan. How will I ever show the gospel to the world if all I send is my money? Was I really so shallow as to think that my money is the answer to the needs in the world?”
If we are going to accomplish the global purpose of God, it will not be primarily through giving our money, as important as that is. It will happen primarily through giving ourselves. This is what the gospel represents, and it’s what the gospel requires.
-Platt, “Radical”, pg. 197-198
I believe it was Os Guiness at the recent Lausanne multiplex session on Globalization that said that by all accounts, the Incarnation appeared costly, wasteful and not time efficient. But God came in the flesh as one person, in one place, at one time and the world has never been the same. Jesus’ method was not to reach the masses but invest in the lives of 12 men who then turned the world upside down. And He commissions us to do the same (Matt. 28:18-20).
So when it comes to missions or church for that matter, don’t look for the most cost-effective, time-effective or logically strategic method. Look to God’s method and start following Him.
When you think about overseas short-term missions trips, the numbers do not seem to add up.
A group of ten or so goes for about two weeks at a cost of roughly $30,000. A day is lost in travel with a few more needed to get over jet lag. Finally, just when members get adjusted to the time, culture and language, it is time to go home back to the normal daily grind of life.
What that all adds up to does not seem to amount to much. However as with all things in the Lord, the impact of something short-term can go a long way. And that is particularly true in regards to short-term missions trips. Here then are three ways short-term missions trips can have a long-term impact:
1) A missions trip can impact you for the rest of your life
Stepping outside of your culture allows you to evaluate your life in light of what God is doing around the world. Many long-term missionaries first recognized their calling to missions after going on a short-term missions trip, and people who go on missions trips are often lifelong supporters of missions.
2) We have something to offer that is otherwise not readily available
Our teams have been asked to construct custom fitted furniture for children, equip a church in the area of prayer and provide English teaching. Locals often ask why our teams would travel all the way from America just to serve them, which provides a great opportunity to share the gospel.
3) We can encourage, minister to and pray for Christian staff and workers
Our teams try to take the time to minister to and pray for our brothers and sisters in hopes of encouraging them to continue the awesome work of proclaiming the gospel and making disciples long after we’re gone.
4) We can bring back here what God showed us there
I say this because I received my calling into pastoral ministry while on a missions trip, had a heart for children’s ministry soon after returning and am writing this article as the missions pastor having gone through the experience. But don’t take my word for it …
*Taken from latest issue of Evergreen SGV Online newsletter