I have been on numerous mission trips. I have never been on one in which I was not profoundly changed. Each of them have left markers in my spiritual walk that have shaped me toward Christ-likeness. That said, I do not want my following comments to be a condemnation of the “mission trip.” But I must be honest, currently, I am doing nothing in any of the cities to which I have been whether it be in the way of missions support, partnership, or ongoing work. Not that I haven’t tried. In every place I have been I had a passion to support and to return, but I am currently batting .000. I have yet to return. I have no ongoing relationship with any of the missionaries, planters, or pastors in those locations. It is no one’s fault. Others have made ongoing, fruitful connections, but I have yet to do so. This does not mean I am not appreciative of what they have added to my life, nor does it mean I fail to pray for them. It just means, people are busy. Pastors, missionaries, and church planters are all well intentioned people, but staying connected (sort of like breaking up), it is hard to do.
Again, this does not mean that I think mission trips are a total waste of time. In fact, I think they make an incalculable contribution to our souls; far greater than the money or time we invest in them. Mission trips, especially cross-cultural ones, help us expand our vision for the Kingdom of God. They convict us at the point of selfishness. They help us become better stewards of our resources, wasting less and investing more in the spread of the gospel. They challenge our calling. They make us listen to the voice of God. They expose our cultural blind spots. They make us want to go again!
While all of this is profitable, for me, none of these positives sufficiently represent what is for me the most important point of mission trips. Mission trips help me become a better missionary in my town.
Allow me to make further clarification before I speak to missions in my town. This is not a missional cop out statement. Many people justify their lack of giving and going by pointing to the need of the gospel right around them. The hypocrisy here is that while they say they realize it, they do nothing about it. The end result is that they are missional nowhere. What I want to challenge you to do is to go somewhere else, anywhere else. Learn from missionaries in a cross cultural context how to be truly missonal. Then come home and take a look around at your town through the lens of what you learned.
Another end I want to avoid is the heresy some participate in in which we are only misisonal elsewhere. Many people will spend great resources and time on mission trips, but are virtually invisible and ineffective in their own town. This too is hypocritical and should not be so. Missions is incarnational. You do not go on “missions” as if the gospel is something you are to meet up with and start doing in another town. The call of the gospel is global, universal, timeless – your zip code is not exempt.
In any scenario, missions is a “where you are proposition.” The thrust of the Great Commission is to baptize the nations and teach them all things Christ commanded, as you are going. Christ never meant for missions to be scheduled. He never meant for us to think of missions only in chunks of time, effort, and energy we call “trips.” On “trips” we should go, but after “trips” we should not stop. If anything we could say about this, we could say that mission trips should take us to another place in our town. When we return we should not be in the same place we were when we departed; metaphorically speaking of course.
What I want to do is to encourage you to take a cross-cultural mission trip this year, if for no other reason than to be able to learn how to think missionally about your town. Over the next few days I want to share with you what I have learned on mission trips that help me think missionally about my town?
to be continued . . .