In the mind of American Christians, the thought of modern missions usually consists of people dropping $2,000 or more to fly to an overseas mission field and teach kids how to comb their hair or kick a ball. However, it usually includes very little that reflects biblical missions. We leave the field with smiles and tears, but with very few conversions. We come home with the joy of having gone, but with the realization that a lot of money was spent for very little return of spiritual fruit. It seems it has become more about us…about appeasing our conscience over the lack of sacrifice we make for the gospel with our life of luxury. Instead of embracing the cross with all of our life, we offer one week out of the year to do ‘missions.’
For all the money, all the photos, all the hype, what do we really have to show for modern missions? Where is the revival?
Maybe we need to re-evalutate our mission trips and begin getting serious about what they should be in light of the pattern we see in Scriptures. Maybe we need less expensive ‘mission trips,’ and more gospel centered mission ministry. That is, trips which have purpose of equipping believers and reaching people with the gospel through street evangelism and church planting. Trips where fruit of conversions are the focus, and leaders are equipped to mentor believers, instead of just games, toys and western ideas of what outreach is about.
For all the thousands and thousands of dollars spent on ‘mission trips,’ very little eternal results seem to show. What are we doing? Why are we doing it? Is there a better way?
I’ve witnessed men with very little worldly goods, who have been taught and trained to reach their surrounding areas, receive minimal support and give their lives to the work of missions in the rural villages of India. These indigenous missionaries have planted 57 churches in 20 months. And the expense? Each church has been planted for less than $300 each! That means, for what it takes the average person to spend for a week long ‘mission trip,’ we can plant SEVEN churches among unreached people groups. It may be just me, and I may be over simplifying it, but seven churches with an average start up group of 30 new believers has far more eternal value and return for our resource investment than spending $2,000 on a feel good personal flight on an overseas mission trip. Am I missing something here?
Missions is not about us! And when we evaluate what we call missions in America, I think we’ll begin discovering many areas of waste, and also find ways to fulfill God’s calling while being frugal with the resources He has blessed us with. Certainly, through prayer and evaluation we can re-capture the true nature of missions, and see biblical fruit come from our efforts to preach the gospel to every creature.
My desire is not to bash anyone’s effort to reach out, and I thank God for all those who have been willing to do ‘something,’ even when it has only been a week trip to help others. I’m just questioning whether our ‘something’ is biblical, and wondering if there are better ways of spreading the gospel and getting the greater results for our investments.
We should even ask these questions about our mission fields in America. What if, instead of building another ‘gymnasium’ or adding another pretty steeple or a new set of elaborate pews to our facilities, we found ways to reach our communities with the wonderful message of Jesus Christ? These questions can hurt as they shine light on our comfort and religious hypocrisy, but they have the power to move us toward authentic faith and purpose.