By Sage Foss and Casey Harkins, Resonate Send team
It may be easy to think that being a Christian is just about us - we get eternity in heaven with Jesus and we get God’s comfort here on earth. But that assumption couldn’t be further from the truth. Even though we do get those things, the Bible is clear that being a Christian is about more than just us. It’s about sharing the love that God has given us with others.
But how does that manifest in our lives? Do we just share with the people in our context or go out of our comfort zones? Should we live in the same city our whole lives or move somewhere else? Or should we travel to share about God to other places on short-term trips? If so, which trip do we go on? Where do we choose to go out of the myriad of opportunities? And is short-term missions even the best way to share about God?
To answer these questions, we need to start in Matthew 28. Jesus says we must go and make disciples of all nations. He doesn’t say that the Great Commission can be fulfilled by sharing the Gospel and making disciples in only your home and comfort zone. We must go out; we must be sent. As he was ascending to heaven, Jesus said that we should be his witnesses in our home cities, out to our whole home country, and to the ends of the world (Acts 1:8).
One way of doing this is via short term missions. God is advancing His Kingdom all throughout the Earth, and we must choose to closely align ourselves and our purposes with the mission of God. His mission is that those with the knowledge of God and Christ’s resurrection should spread that blessing to all peoples of the earth because God is worthy of the praise and glory of all people. “To do any different is to disobey the direct commands of God Himself.” (https://globalfrontiermissions.org/gfm-101-missions-course/biblical-basis-of-missions/)
Beyond our Backyards
Looking at the examples of Jesus and Paul, we see that they were long-term missionaries using short-term tactics. God’s mission for Jesus and Paul was for them to declare His glory regardless of their location or circumstances, but He also asked them to change their location at certain times to bring the Gospel to people who had never heard.
In Mark 1:38, Jesus said “Let us go somewhere else - to the nearby villages - so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” In Romans 15:19-20, Paul declares his “service to God…from Jerusalem all the way around Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the Gospel of Christ, for it has always been my ambition to preach the Gospel where Christ was not known.” Therefore, God has given us the mission to make His name known on our campuses, in our workplaces, and in our homes, but He has also commanded us to lift our eyes and look beyond our own backyards - to bring the Kingdom of God afar as well.
Missio-Dei vs. Missio-Me
Short-term mission trips have many personal benefits to the go-ers - increased awareness of lostness, deepened trust of the Lord and reliance on His nearness and Spirit, and the excitement of something new and unfamiliar. But the moment our short-term mission trips are motivated by our own personal gain, we’ve made the trips into something that does not reflect the Missio Dei - God’s mission. It has become the Missio Me. Once we align ourselves with how God is moving in the places He has brought us to and obediently participate in the Great Commission, personal discipleship and growth are the natural byproducts.
But the moment our short-term mission trips are motivated by our own personal gain, we’ve made the trips into something that does not reflect the Missio Dei - God’s mission. It has become the Missio Me.
Give, Pray, Go!
So the understanding is clear that we are all called. There is no argument against Jesus’ command to live on mission and to go. But what if you can’t go and are limited to your current location? Does this mean that you get a free pass? Going is not the only way to participate in short term missions. We see throughout the New Testament the churches supporting Paul and the apostles in their efforts to take the Gospel to the unreached, by prayer and funds (Phil 4:16-18, Acts 13:2-3, 1 Cor 16:1-3). Even if you are physically unable to participate in a short term mission trip, it is likely that you know somebody who is and could be blessed by your support and prayers. And as for you who can go, don’t spend $3000 for a two week mission trip and then give nothing else the whole year. Whether you personally go or not, continually pray for God to work in hearts across the world and to pray for people going on short-term as well as long-term missions!
Praise God that we have this “ministry of reconciliation” - the good news that God is restoring relationship to His people through His saving grace (2 Cor 5:19-2). As ambassadors for Christ, He has called us to join Him in His ministry. How are you being obedient to God’s command to further His global mission?