“Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.” - Jonathan Edwards -

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Thoughts on Missions Part Deux

I recently met with my good friend Mike to discuss missions. He is an inspiration to me, a man who followed his convictions and left a secular job to work full-time in the mission field.

He will be speaking at my church next week, and I am looking forward to hearing from him. He works in Sudan and Ethiopia, and other places, but we spoke about the mission field. I reiterated my concern that people were looking for safe missions, and Mike confirmed that this is often true.

So, with that in my mind, I wanted to post a few more thoughts -- these may not sit well with all, but I have given them serious thought and wanted to put them to paper (so to speak).

I have many well-meaning friends who send their youth to Mexico every year on a 'missions' trip. Generally it is to the same exact area, and they end up erecting another building and maybe sharing their faith for a brief time. Now, many may say -- "Well, what could be wrong with this?"

Well, I have a few questions:

1. Why do these groups need to go to the same location every year? Is their mission work so ineffective that they must return year after year? Or, could it be that this is a well-known area, (i.e. safe) and therefore the parents will let their kids go to get their 'ticket punched'?

2. I have heard several of the stories shared by the people on these trips, and I have noticed that they dwell a lot on the fact that the kids really 'roughed' it, sleeping in sleeping bags on hard dirt floors. They have a ton of pictures of cute little kids, and they dwell a lot on that as well, but it seems to me that they are very light on actual sharing of the gospel in a meaninghful way. OK, so they built a lean-to for the community, but did they do any actual evangelism?

Now, some may feel that I am being overly harsh, but my concern is that we are teaching our young people that missions are about them to a degree ("wow, we really had it rough, we had to sleep on a dirt floor, but it was all worth it to see those cute kids")

And we are re-evamgelizing the same areas year after year -- it has become a Jack Tar type of mission field for many -- but I fear that we are not telling our youth (or adults for that matter) the real PURPOSE of missions -- that is to proclaim the Glory of God through the proclamation of the Gospel. While it is important to dig wells, and build houses, it pales in comparison to seeing someone come to a saving knowledge of Christ. A house may shelter a person for a number of years, but without Christ, they are bound for a Christless eternity in Hell! We need to get our priorities straightened out.

Bottom line -- Build houses, dig wells, but don't do these to the neglect of sharing the Good News!


Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Ray, I am planning a two-month mission trip to Japan in the New Year.

It is fairly certain that I will not be preaching the Gospel while I am there; for the simple reason I cannot yet speak Japanese. Instead, I will be doing menial tasks.

The reason I am going is not because my going there will be especially useful to the mission, but in order to prepare for a long term career as a missionary. The mission would not want me to apply for long term service until I have actually been on a short-term mission to Japan.

The real value in short-term mission trips is not in what they accomplish, but in their use in recruiting future long-term missionaries.

I hope you will not think the less of me for going to a safe country.

Japan may be safer than Burma or Pakistan, but there are still millions and millions of lost Japanese people.

Every Blessing in Christ


Mike said...

Thanks for the reference Ray. This ought to get a few folks bent. Ha! Before I agree with you too much, I'll link to Ed Stetzer's article on having a humble approach to missions. It, uh, humbled me after I read it. http://theresurgence.com/ed_blog_2006-06-09_humble_missiology

Okay with that out of the way ...

Let me expand on where my head is on this today. It's important to note the time because we're always learning and we're always seeking God's face and wrestling with His word to obey as best we can.

We have a limited amount of time before we die. We also know that we will stand before the throne and give an account of all of our actions. Ecclesiasties and Hebrews tells us this. (Fear of the Lord anyone?) In that context how should we approach missions? When we review Acts, Luke 10, and the Great Commission how should we interpret that in today's context?

Where does the Sermon on the Mount fit in? This made me rethink things recently: http://glocaltrekker.blogspot.com/2006/09/phridays-thoughts_29.html

God established the local church. Matthew 16:18 Through this body, He accomplishes His will. Not soley through this, but in a big, big way.

We get to be partners in the expansion of His Kingdom while we're here. If you begin to see everything "missions" through this lense: establishing the local church, expand the Kingdom, then you can shape all your missions work through it as well.

Example: construction. I'm opposed to this about 90% of the time. It's unbelievable the problems this causes on the field. But then I've heard of one group (seeing through this lense) who took $ to a country, hired local labor (pride of workmanship) and shared the gospel with them every day for a week. They gathered them together for worship during breaks and in the evening. After the church was constructed, the workers became the congregation. And that was totally intentional.

We are in the midst of a constant spiritual battle, and a lot of us don't even know it. Imagine the church is a ship. Most think the church is a cruise ship. Hence the kind of trips you reference in your post.

The "dangerous" churches know it's a battleship and we're soldiers, not vacationers.

God is moving in your heart. You're a blessing.

Ray said...

Matthew -- No, I don't even think that going to 'safe' countries is a bad thing - my post was meant to primarily address the pervasive attitude that one will only do something for the Kingdom of God if it is either 'safe' or 'convenient', or better yet BOTH!

Yes, some people do go on short-term missions to prepare for longer-term missionary work -- my friend Mike is a perfect example of that. However, I was addressing the MANY groups that do the Jack Tar type of missions work -- in other words, they go to the same place, and do the same thing year after year, and for many it is to get their 'ticket punched' as I mentioned.

Mike - Yes, humbling stuff -- I find that reading the biography of many of the missionaries is also quite humbling. These were people who had a burning desire to win the world for Christ.

There are still many who feel this way -- but I grow weary of many wanting us to get involved in their 'missions' work, only to find out that it is something that is basically a youth group outing! Our church is too small and too cash 'light' to get involved in that type of 'non-missions' work.

BTW, I also realize that I am just as guilty, quite often, of taking the 'easy way', and I have been, and continue to be convicted of this (such as when i have lunch with you Mike!) :-)

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Yes, I do wonder if those kind of missions are really worthwhile.