21 March 2006

Dilettante Missionaries

by Frank "No Good Deed Goes Unpunished" Turk

We're here for your Bibles and your Blog ...
Yesterday at my blog, I made a quick report about persecution of Christians in India (HT: Brad Williams) which got some people reading and thinking about the Gospel work, and good for them. And good for the Gospel, yes? That’s the point of being a servant of the Gospel even unto death: preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ to this lost and dying world.

And let me also offer full disclosure in that I am sitting here listening to my fancy black iPod in a warm office with a Coke and a very-unhealthy breakfast from Sonic (Phil: I'm thinking of you), so if anybody is a fat, happy Christian, it would be me. Very fat, very comfortable. Very risk-insulated in spite of the fact that they are knocking down the wall in my store today to add 500 sq ft so I can better pander minister to Homeschool moms in a 100 mile radius.

That said, I’m not going to elaborate on what in particular has incited me to write this post – which is bound to draw flack from all sides. However, I want to start by considering a passage of Scripture:
Acts 18:1After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. 2And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them, 3and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade. 4And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks.

5When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus. 6And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, "Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles." 7And he left there and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. His house was next door to the synagogue. 8Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized. 9And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, "Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, 10for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people." 11And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them. (ESV)
Fair enough, right? Paul is in missionary mode, and after his first pass through the ancient world with Barnabas he is living in Corinth and (in somewhat-useful modern terms) is a bi-vocational preacher until his helpers arrive.

I think that example says much good about our friends and brothers in India (as one example) who are being mistreated even under that law for the sake of their Gospel work. But the thing about the Gospel, and the work, and the Bible, which is always apparent to me is that it also says something about the wannabes.

Before I go on, let’s be clear that when we first become disciples of Christ and not just members of the local religious club we are all wannabes. As I remember my conversion experience, it was a pretty heady thing. And I wanted to try everything – try being in the choir (be glad you missed it), try being a teacher (which, if your church is right-minded, it does not let new believers do), try being a greeter (as if I was that nice in person), etc. Again, if you have decent elders and discipleship going on in your church (and that’s what I think I had when I first came to the church as a disciple), there’s nothing wrong with this if it is contextualized or moderated with the end of true discipleship in mind. It’s fine to see all the places at the dinner table, but in the end you should sit in one seat and not handle everyone’s silverware for them.

But then we all meet our first real-life missionary – someone who lives in a place we never dreamed of who preaches the Gospel to people we never imagined existed -- and we get blown away. And rightly so, because the person living in danger of his life (or her life, or the life of their whole family) is actually doing the Gospel work in a black-and-white kind of way. I believe strongly that it is possible and necessary to do the Gospel work in our secular workplaces – as necessary as preaching to Muslims and Hindus – but somehow (especially to a new believer) the exotic nature of preaching to people in a completely alien culture seems like the American Dream of Christian service. We get this picture that we could be both Indiana Jones and Saul of Tarsus, and boy is that cool.

So in that respect, we are all wannabes in our spiritual immaturity, and we think we wannabe Indiana Tarsus or Prof. Saul Jones or whatever and "really" "do the work." That is: as if making sure there’s a Christian church and culture here at home to come back to and to supply foreign missions is not really doing the work. Someone who is spiritually mature recognizes that missions (as we use the term in 2006) is a function of the great commission but that it is not the only function of the great commission.

In that context, I want to consider an example as generically as possible. Let’s imagine that there’s a work going on in Central America which is seeking out, sheltering, educating and discipling abandoned children. It’s heart-rending when you see these kids on the videos – absolutely devastating. You can see them sleeping huddled together in trash heaps at night to keep warm – any night of the week, but particularly in the video you are watching. And in the video, you see a lot of American youngsters who flew down there to spend a week doing part of that work – fishing these kids literally out of the trash and placing them in a new home and with a new lease on life.

Booyah, right? It is hard to say, "yeah, what a waste of time," when these Americans could have just as easily chosen Daytona or Cancun or whatever – clearly, if that’s the choice, they did good. My suggestion is that this is a false choice stacked up by an immature view of commitment and sacrifice.

Before you read another word, let me say this clearly: I am not advocating an end to short-term mission work. I am advocating an end to treating missionary work as if it was a vacation.

Think about this for a second: to fly down to El Salvador (as an example) for a 10-day stay requires a minimum of 3 days travel time, round trip. You have to spend time in customs, you are flying for a whole day each way, and after you finish driving to wherever you are going and back, it’s at least 3 days. So your 10-day trip is more like 6 or 7 days on the ground. Once you get there, you need a day of orientation (which we might call "sight seeing" if we were feeling a little hard-headed), which brings you down to about 5 or 6 days on the ground. So you might put in 6 days at 10 hours a day, which in the US would go for about $500, but in El Salvador someone could be hired to do that work for less than half of that. But let’s value your service down there at $500.

Now, what you spend to get down there is more like $2000 after you get your shots and buy your tickets – and if this is your first trip out of the country, you also buy luggage, so maybe you spend $2500. And about 4-6 times a year (on average), a plane load of about 30 people make this trip down. So for the cost of about $75,000, they provide this mission with about $15,000 in services which the mission could probably have purchased for about $7500.

And before I start sounding like Tony Campolo here, maybe the cultural interaction is worth it on both ends. Maybe having someone spend their vacation in a mission rather than in a hotel on a beach is worth it. I can tell you from personal experience that I will never vacation in the Caribbean again because I was conscience-stricken the whole time I was there back in 1997. I spent about $5000 on a vacation with my wife driving past people who were going to eat less that month than I did in any single day at the resort. I was mortified. If you’re going to spend $5000, go to Disney where you can pretend there are no hungry people even at $8 for a sandwich and $3 for a Gatorade – without which you will die.

But is it actually any better to treat mission work like a vacation? For example, what does it say about our beliefs to spend about 6 days doing what appears to be good work in Christ’s name and then coming home, taking a shower, and going back to our dorm room or our neighborhood or whatever as if the work is all done?

It’s dilettante missionary work. It makes us feel better that we did the "Christian" thing for "those people" (you might be nicer and say "those kids"), but it is wildly wasteful and self-aggrandizing. To spend $75,000 to provide $7500 in value is absurd in any circumstance, but to do it for the sake of making us feel like Indiana Tarsus – we went into the Third World, man, and we built a house because, like, they don’t have Home Depot -- is frankly ridiculous.

Here is what would make more sense: the first plane load of folks down – they stay for the whole year. Net cost: $75,000, plus room and board at EL Salvador standard. Then the next 4 plane-loads of folk should simply send their $75,000 per plane load for a net $225,000 in cash for the mission – which is a lot of money in El Salvador. But what that would mean is that 3/4th of the people who were going to vacation in El Salvador would simply have to do something for the sake of the Gospel rather than the sake of their experiences and make a personal sacrifice. And the ones who go down for the year? Dude: they are spending a year off from work in a country that’s like a discarded suburb of Miami (which I don’t think is a nice thing to say) in terms of climate and habitat, making a personal sacrifice for the Gospel work. And like Paul in Corinth, they have the chance to live for the sake of the Gospel.

The work is important. If you are reading this blog entry, hear me say that the work is important. The work is important. My point today is that it is so important that we ought to treat it like it is important rather than a hobby. The Gospel is not a hobby. The lives we may or may not reach with that good news – they are not hobbies.

Jesus Christ is not a hobby. If you have made him one, today would be a good day to do something about it.


43 comments:

Gordon Cloud said...

Some of what you say is true. It is true that there are some who participate in short-term missions who feel that their "obligation" has been fulfilled. It is true that there are those who treat mission trips as a junket. It is also true that in the short run, these trips are perhaps not very cost-effective.

Let us not, though, forget the benefits of such efforts. I have been on numerous short-term trips. I can honestly say that every time I have been changed. Each time I have come home and done more to be on-mission where I live (I know, it's kind of pathetic that I have to go overseas for that to happen, but the fact is, it has happened.) Every trip has been a time of spiritual development for me. I know many others who could share the same testimony. Some missionaries that I know, had their hearts turned toward full-time missions while being involved in short-term.

There is also the benefit of encouragement to the missionary. Now if someone is just coming in to "vacation", that doesn't help. But the missionaries I have know, expressed to me that they were greatly encouraged by the knowledge that those at home cared enough to come labor beside them, even if only for a short time.

Finally, in financial terms, every time I have come home from one of these trips, I find myself giving more to missions. In addition, I have been able to encourage others to give and pray more for missions. So in the long run, I believe the cost-effectiveness becomes more balance.

But, hey, what price can we put on a soul?

HZ said...

Um.... actually, I mostly agree with you on this one. Not that I don't think it's nice for friends of the missionaries to come see them on vacation instead of going somewhere else. But that oftentimes, the 'team' takes a great deal of time and energy away from a missionary's necessary work (and I have seen this firsthand, having been a mother's helper for six months in Mexico as a teenager, now living here, filling in for friends on furlough). And the people who go need to make sure that what they are doing is worth it - as you say, for the sake of the gospel, not for the sake of a hobby. Sometimes it truly is. But the vast majority of our American church culture- even the very conservative branch of it- indulges in its religious experiences like a personal hobby.

John Hollandsworth said...

Frank--
you won't catch any flak from me on this one.
Your point is not that "short term missions" is not beneficial to the Kingdom, but that is it what is most beneficial to the Kingdom? The question we should be asking ourselves is not "what floats my boat, what makes me feel good?" but "What is the most strategic investment of my life for the sake of God's purpose?" (quoted from Don't Waste Your Life, Piper) Is short term missions the most strategic use of resources? Sometimes yes, oftentimes no. Is it easier to get evangelicals to give to something they get a "feel-good" out of like going on a short term trip, or just not going to Sonic or DisneyWorld or (God forbid) Starbucks and giving the money straight to missions?
Piper himself has said that he struggles with wanting to go on the mission field, but he has decided that it is more important strategically for the cause of Christ for him to stay where he is and do what God has given him to do. Would we all use that paradigm, whether we stay or whether we go.

David said...

great post, with a few caveats.

I think short term missions can serve as a spring board for future action plus can serve to wake up christians. When my son went on a youthwerks trip to appalachia, he was exposed to a whole new world.

When my daughter went to an orphanage which later became the poster child for reform in that country, it impacted her life significantly.

But on the whole I agree - it is a hobby, a vacation - not a life commitment

puritanicoal said...

Frank,

Great post. I like the math lesson, especially. When put in those terms, the concept of "stewardship" is written all over it. I am not necessarily against ST mission trips either, but that cost-benefit must be considered.

When people list the benefits of S-T mission trips, this is what I usually see: "...us...I....I....I...I...me...I..."

Carrie said...

This is an excellent post.

We have a trip scheduled from our Church to go to Africa at a cost of $2500 per person. My husband and I thought briefly about giving toward a slot for someone to go until we realized we could buy alot of Bibles (through a Bible distribution ministry) with that money. Getting Bibles into the hands of Christians struggling in third world countries (or food, etc.) appealed to us more than funding someone else's experience.

It's not all black and white but it's nice to hear someone call for better stewardship with all we give.

Dan B. said...

I've witnessed the mentality of it being a hobby while attending my college. It was a Wesleyan school, and very focused on missions (close to seven organizations had strong ties to the college, with several having large offices near our campus). We even had a "missions week" which highlighted all the short-term trips that were taken and what was done, etc. They may not have intended it that way, but it seemed almost self-aggrandizing at points because it emphasizes what they had learned and not how the Gospel was advanced.

To me, the short term project can be problematic because a person going cannot possibly be committed to the people that they are serving since they are there for only a short time. God meant Paul to stay with the Corinthians so that he could minister to them as part of their community. Short-term mission trips can have their benefits, in meeting the physical needs by building a building or digging a well, etc. But is the Gospel advanced any more to hearers such as children in a VBS setting (that takes place over one week) any more than it does here? Not unless there are adequate resources to do true follow up in discipling--otherwise the missionary is overwhelmed with a garden he or she cannot fully tend to.

Great post, Frank.

Libbie said...

In the UK at the moment, it's very popular to have 'service events' - whole weeks where church youth are encouraged to go to a run-down area, litter pick, clean graffiti, dredge ponds, paint people's houses and so on. There's usually a big 'community event' at the end of the week at which some version of 'the gospel' is explained, and then off everybody goes.

I've had a problem with these things for a while. Not because I think service is a bad thing. Service is a very good thing. But service is a lifestyle.

The teens who participate are the same kids who gripe about having to put their washing in the basket instead of on their bedroom floor.

I was going to blog about it, but some bookstore owner stole my thunder...

HZ said...

I wanted to add that you hit on something extremely important that gets minimized:

".... missions (as we use the term in 2006) is a function of the great commission but that it is not the only function of the great commission."

The apostle calls the people who gave to him and prayed for him 'fellow helpers'. He considered them as working alongside him, just as involved as himself. I think one of the reasons we have adopted a 'mission trip' mentality is because we have undermined this aspect of every ministry that goes on.

Libbie makes an excellent point that we pat ourselves on the back for our 'sacrificial' service experiences, and then gripe about the menial services we are to perform at home.

Even So... said...

The great part about this post is that it is causing us to think, and if only a few people actually see it, it will at least, upon further refelction, cause those of us who do see it to not only "count the cost" but to consider the effect.

We would do well to use this idea in other areas of life also. Think about it...

The whole idea of service and spiritual maturity, IMHO, is a bullseye. As a pastor, I can't tell you how often someone just starts to get going in their spiritual life (read: they finally start coming more than once a month), and suddenly they feel "called to ministry". They have not learned the difference between serving and being a servant, yet. In God's economy, you must be a true servant before being a true leader, and you must learn to submit before you learn to serve. And before you learn to submit you learn to obey. What I believe this post points out is that we so often have things out of order, and we feel as if we have discarded our duty when we "do something" for God.

There is a huge difference betweeen serving and being a servant, and this is what, IMHO, I beleive the post to be "splitting the hairs of". We should want to be servants, but so many just want to serve, getting it over with, and apppeasing their seared consciences. Not everyone, okay, I am not saying that, but remember when you were a "baby Christian" and you wanted to "win the world"?

The personal benefit of short term mission work is undeniable, but what about the benefit of those whom we are suposed to be benefitting?

Thank you, Frank. This post is accomplishing a lot with me, in any event. Sorry for such a long reply, and thanks.

Even So...

Garet Pahl said...

nteresting Frank- I like your take.
I think your points are valid and reflect a healthy cynicism.

It strikes me that last spring when I went to El Salvador on a surf trip for seven days, it cost $1500 less and my accomodations were much more spartan than when I went to Peru for two weeks on a mission trip the summer prior. Of course can we put a price tag on seeking and saving the lost? I was priveleged to see God bring multiple of his own to himself. People who are reportedly growing in faith still today and contributing to the work of the gospel in their own town. So the outlaying of other people's cash wasn't all bad. I think we should always remember Paul's statement that he really doesn't care from what motives the Gospel is preached, as long as it is preached. Sure there was a bunch of middle-aged retiree's who where on that trip as an adventure vacation- but they were preaching the Gospel.

Chris D. said...

What about the brochures for short-term missions trips that come to our house? Three days of jet-skiing, 4 days on safari, 7 days of missions. Then they mention prominently how it helps to beef up the college app.
In our town I know people who have never darkened the door of church, other than holidays - they are sending their high school kids on mission trips to help with the college application competition.
I've become very cynical. I'd like to hear more from missionaries - what do they think?

Matthew said...

Well said, Frank - this sentiment is long overdue...

donsands said...

Long term missions seems to be the biblical way, for the most part. There are good short term missions. I suppose the question is why are you going?
To glorify the Lord and His grace. To reach the lost sheep, and bring them into the fold. To encourage and build up the body of Christ with the Word of God.

Good post to make us think, I agree.

Phil Johnson said...

Reminder: This blog is totally G-rated. All forms of cursing or profanity (including most of the disguised varieties) will be automatically removed, no matter how "mild" current public opinion deems such language to be. See rule 2.

I'll repost this one without the offensive word:

____________________________________

Aero Racer E said...

That's a nice little article, and it makes me think extensively about my friends who are travelling around the world not just as missionaries, but as engineers, and doctors as well with no interest in spreading the Gospel as it were.

The lot of them (and they are long-term) make me so proud to be a human, and I wish almost daily that I could be out there joining them. In fact, were it not for my sizeable debt, I would. ____ college.

There are cases when even short-term stays are important through, especially when considering things like the hurricanes here in the US or the tsunami last Christmastime. Were it not for short-term volunteers, the long-term volunteer effort would have never gotten off the ground, and I'm sure the majority of those who went certainly didn't feel it was any kind of vacation, subsisting on rice cooked in sea water, or spending 10 hours a day tearing up rotting homes.

10:12 AM, March 21, 2006
_________________________________

centuri0n said...

Aero:

I think you didn't actually read my post. However, I could be wrong.

Could you tell me where my post indicated that going to temporary relief efforts -- which are, by definition, short term -- are in the same class as short-timing long-term missionary efforts? I thought I took a lot of time to square up the scope of my complaint, but maybe I goofed.

Please: tell me where I said "the work is not important", or where I said that disaster relief is not a goal of Gospel work. I'll be glad to revise or amend my remarks.

centuri0n said...

I'd also like to speak to the matter of "proud to be human", but let's clear up the matter of what I ought to have said in my blog post today.

Patagonia Mike said...

Good post. Over the years while serving as a missionary I have hosted and or worked with hundreds of volunteers. The point you make about short term missions not becoming a vacation is well taken. I would say that most of the teams I have worked with have come to work hard and give the glory to God. There have been some individuals with other motives.... Anyway I have a few suggestion for anyone wanting to go on a short term mission trip. 1. Find out how what you will be doing works into the strategy of the missionary and his work. 2. Ask if you will be doing something that can be done more easily by nationals on the field? 3.What are the desired results (expectations) of this trip? Not all missionaries can justify the use of volunteer teams in their work. Many of us find however that when the teams are worked into the strategy of the work they can be a great blessing. I have seen many vols go back to the states with their lives changed forever. When teams go under the leadership and Lordship of Christ great things can happen. When they dont.....Oh well thats another story.

centuri0n said...

Mike --

Being who I am perceived to be on the internet, it will be hard to ask this question without it sounding snarky or like a set-up, but I'd be interested in where you worked as a missionary and in particularly-good uses of short-timers where locals could not have done it cheaper/better.

I wrote this post as someone who is looking in from the outside; you're on the inside, and I want to know what you think.

centuri0n said...

Libbie:

those bookstore owners are always anglin' for a cut.

centuri0n said...

And I just re-read my own post, and realized I should add this:

ARGLE: I AM NOT TALKING ABOUT YOU IN THIS POST.

Argle knows who he is. The rest of you be about your business.

Libbie said...

Mr Turk, are you trying to boost your comment count all by your lonesome?
Will this self-promotion never end?

centuri0n said...

No, the self-promotion will never end.

centuri0n said...

never.

Kim said...

Very thought-provoking, Frank.

One thing that has gone on in the church that I attend is that young men go to bible school, uncertain of what they're headed for, return three or four years later and go out on the mission field because they don't know what else to do. They spend a few months on the mission field, and then return to the workforce, out of the ministry. I don't understand it.

Patagonia Mike said...

Frank, We have been serving in southern Chile for 20+ years. Right now we are serving at about 53 degrees south latitude. Let me say our volunteer involvement has changed over the years. Some of the ways that we have seen teams used effectively is in the area of medical care clinics, health education and dentistry. Some of the teams that we use help us open doors that have been closed. We have used teams to help in Intensive English camps (one week) that enable us to engage people for Bible studies and eventually Church starts. I am not saying that all volunteer short term missions have had or will have a positive effect. I struggle along with my team to use teams to the glory of God. Sometimes it works well and sometimes not. We don't do the construction type teams or mass evangelism team thing so I really can't comment on that. There are groups we do not work with that come in with a 10 question type survey you add up the positive responses and surprise your a christian! Anyway I try to be faithful to God and the doctrines of grace.... BTW how do all you experienced bloggers post those nifty pictures by your name. Hey...give me a break I've been out of the country a while.

centuri0n said...

Mike --

Great insights, and I had a feeling that any doctor is a good doctor on the mission field. Our church supports an optimologist and a dentist who both travel broadly to deliver health care in a missions context.

For your pic, go to your blogger control panel, click "Edit Profile", and about half-way down the page there's a place to drop your link in for your photo.

centuri0n said...

Kim:

[not trying to start anything, blogosphere]

Sounds like iMonk to me. You should ask him.

[/not trying to start anything, blogosphere]

Jeremy Weaver said...

O. K. I am now officially Turkish. Awesome post. That has bugged me for years.

Also the inevitable response of every single person who goes on one of these vacation/mission trips when they return home is always something like, "We have it way to good here. You should be ashamed that you have a car to drive."

Mission trips are fine. But let's do some actual mission work.

BugBlaster said...

I've not done a short term mission, but I know of one example that's a good one (I think). A church in a tough living rural area of Jamaica was destroyed by Hurricane Gilbert (1988?). It just sat there decaying and roofless. There were no local skills or money to rebuild it. About 1998 or so a group of guys from our church with masonry and carpentry skills and strong backs went down there at the request of a missionary and rebuilt the thing. The pastor down there says if they hadn't come down, it wouldn't have been rebuilt.

But I do agree with you about probably the majority of short term vacations, I mean missions.

candyinsierras said...

Great article. I'd like to add another point.

Short term missions seem to be the trend in many churches. With that in mind, some years ago as a single person (divorced) and working with at-risk youth, I decided to become a single foster parent. I saw it as a great opportunity to provide a home for the many homeless and at-risk youth in my town, and a great way for my church to be involved in ministry with kids. I had three adolescent boys. One boy from an Indian reservation, one whose mom had cancer and was unable to care for him, and one who had been abused. Out of a church of over 500 people, only one guy spent time with these kids. He played basketball or took them places about twice a month. Two women offered respite care.

In the meantime short term missions for teens and folks in my church was doing a brisk business.

4given said...

This blog hits home for me in several ways. I am on the missions board at my church... I am a Calvinist that loves to share the Gospel... I am married to a doctor that is a family member with 3 other siblings becoming doctors and a father that is a doctor that often spend their "vacation" time to go on short-term mission trips that entail not only spreading the Gospel alongside the full-time missionaries there, but the locals that are being raised up as learners of Christ, while these doctors are performing surgeries for 12 hours a day... (long lines of people desperately needing help, and thus providing even more opportunites for the missionaries to serve these people)... and they do not do it to be patted on the back. It is back-breaking hard work. It is exhausting. And it is what they choose to do on their vacation time for the glory of God... and they go back to it every summer.
One of the siblings is almost done with residency and will be headed to a "closed" country to be a doctor (a.k.a. a "missionary")... my father is a missionary... lastly my Uncle does short-term construction-type missions.
It does boil down to motive. But I can say quite earnestly say, those full-time missionaries truly love and need the short-term missionaries that provide them further opportunities to serve the people they live amongst. I do know there are those that do not have the right motives before going. They either come back changed profoundly, being more effective in the command to spread the Gospel or they sadly come back and think they have done their part and they are through.

As a member of the missions board we are in the process of revamping it since it was originally written from an Armenian perspective and not well thought out... and since the introduction of the Doctrines of Grace to this church, which is quite a story in and of itself, we are essentially starting from the ground up... e.g. will not fund missions to a woman in a teaching/preaching position (we have already caught some flack for that stance), the missionary has to agree with our statement of faith and doctrinal distinctives, and whether long-term or short-term, we have to maintain that God's message will be proclaimed for the purpose of glorifying God which must include a high view of God, High view of scripture, the reality that evangelism cannot be seperated from discipleship and thus making sure a way for those evangelized is established so they can become learners of Christ for the "Great Commision" entails "going and making DISCIPLES of all nations" (not throwing them to the wolves after sharing the gospel from an easy-believism perspective)... which also goes hand-in-hand with church planting and thus lovingly inclined to meaningful fellowship so they can can thus grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In saying all that, the best short-term mission work we have seen really is that work mentioned above, that goes alongside the work of the full-time missionary and fulfilling needs that he cannot fulfill either in his work, or through the locals.

David said: "I think short term missions can serve as a spring board for future action plus can serve to wake up christians."

I throughly agree. It can cause a life committment in several ways. Maybe not full-time missions, but in other ways. E.g. there is always a need for funding, for those willing to buy the Bibles, for earnest prayer... and perhaps it can stimulate a deep longing and action towards living out and sharing the Gospel wherever they are.

By the way, where did the term "missions" originate? It isn't a Biblical term. I like Bunyans "Evangelist"... greek word for evangel is Gospel. The "Great Commission" is another coined term. But then so is "trinity"... of which I wholeheartedly believe in the "trinity".

Patagonia Mike1: Please consider contacting my husband and I via e-mail with your insight on this as we work through the details of developing our Missions Policy.

Tim Adeney said...

Thanks for the post,

I generally have the same resistance to short term missions. (especially where I live, in Australia, where we are just so far from everyone)

The only real counter I have heard was from a lady who worked in an HQ of a missionary agency, who said that all their long term missionaries had either grown up in missionary families, or had been on a short term mission at some point.

Which is not to say that there aren't better ways of oprganizing them, or more discernment required in who we encourage to go on them.

Tim

Steve said...

One thing my wife and I love about the one-week Mexico trip made by the high-schoolers at our church: It's a serious mission trip. That's harped into the kids from day one. No vacation time. We go, we serve, we work (long hours), we come back. The preparation is intensive and demanding, with lots of homework assignments.

Our two oldest sons have gone four years straight, and the youngest son will go for the first time next week. The first two boys were affected profoundly by their experience and have since been actively involved in other more substantial avenues of service to the Lord.

Done right, the spiritual dividends of such an endeavor can be wonderful.

Crunch Hardtack said...

Wow. How Refreshing! Good post.

Rhology said...

My wife and I have been on the mission field for just over 6 months now, in Japan.
We have been asked to consider "hosting" short-term mission trips from our church and such, and I always wonder what the point would be, to be honest. Going back to the 1st of Patagonia Mike's 3 points, I don't know what that would accomplish, at least around here and at this time. Perhaps in the future it will be clearer to me.
Another thing to consider on the "encourage the career/long-term missionary" front is whether your presence really will be a benefit to them or whether it will be a big pain in the neck taxiing you around, interpreting for you, keeping you outta trouble w/ the locals, etc. Wouldn't always happen, but it sometimes does, and some from my church, very conscious of this, have done short-term trips to E Asia to encourage a friend who is a long-termer there. They were very conscious about whether they would be a burden or not.
Finally, as for Patagonia Mike's 2nd point (que frio debe hacer alla donde vives, no?) my wife and I went on a short-term trip to Juarez w/ our church 20 months ago. It was a mixed youth/adult trip that worked very well and we served as the interpreters. Anyway, part of the trip's goal was to build some retirement houses for Mexican Evangelical pastors who ordinarily had very little financial support. As we arrived w/ our energetic youth and our adult volunteers w/ lots of tools and know-how (not me - all I had was Spanish and a hammer), more than one of us were struck by the fact that some of the adult male friends of the pastor, at least one of whom we had seen at church that Sunday, were just sitting around and chilling out during the day. Why didn't they come to help us out? Only one of them ever came to contribute, and it's not like they were job-searching or anything.
Just an anecdote to refine the discussion further. Peace out from an Ozark boy.

Pastor Eldred said...

Thanks Frank! This is good food for thought; and should be used as a beginning for those considering taking / leading / being part of a ST missions trip.

donsands said...

"..the best short-term mission work ... is that work .. that goes alongside ... full time."

That sounds like a solid statement. That hit me.
Somebody has to have a huge heart for missions to write such a long blog! PTL
May the lord continue to bless you and your mission board with His wisdom and grace. Amen.

4given said...

Yes Donsands, I am actually, in retrospect, rather embarrassed I made such a long comment. I imagine with all those run-on sentences one could never guess I am a home educator and published writer. Do I get the award for writing the longest comment on a TeamPyro post?
But I guess, in going so overboard, perhaps the Armenians that might read this blog will see that Calvinists really do have a fervent heart for Christ-centered Missions and the Gospel...??? or not.

donsands said...

I have a fellow church member, Triston, who I call "little Luther", because he's such a fired-up reformed believer, who has been a missionary in Nepal for 11 years; married to a Nepali sister in Christ. he's a dear friend, and the Lord has be using him to take the gospel to people who have never heard the name of Jesus Christ.
We Calvinist are forseen as non-evangelistic, I agree. I appreciate your heart for missions. Keep on!
Of course there is John Piper's book, Let the Nations be Glad!, which reveals the heart of most of us Calvinists, I would think.
All for the Cross!

Gummby said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Gummby said...

What are the chances that Argle actually makes it out here to read this?

centuri0n said...

Gummby:

I'll bet he asks me about it when he comes back.