You see pictures on social media of people serving in different parts of the world. You pray over your friends, family, and church members as they are sent out. You even receive newsletters and updates from missionaries who live and work in the most remote places on earth. Short-terms missions seems like a unique, exciting, and hands-on way to get involved in Kingdom work, but should you really do it? Here are a few reasons why you should (or shouldn’t) do short-term missions.
Why You Should: To Witness the Diversity of the Worldwide Church
God designed His Church in an amazing way. It’s not limited to people of a certain ethnicity, race, or socio-economic status. The Church is for all who are in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:28). Going on short-term missions is a great means of seeing the universal Church in action. Seeing different styles of worship, preaching, and fellowship across the globe can give a greater understanding of what the Church actually is. In the same way that every church member contributes something unique to the local body, every local body contributes to and teaches us more about the universal Church.
remember that God has not called people to make a name for themselves but to make a name for Him.
Why You Shouldn’t: To Travel the World
While a large part of short-term trips includes experiencing a new place and culture, short-term mission trips are more than Jesus-sponsored vacations. The mission of God is more about going to people than going to places. Obviously, reaching all nations with the gospel will require traveling (Just look at Paul’s life!), but the emphasis is on the “who,” not the “where.” Of course, have fun serving in a new context, but don’t forget what’s most important. Meet new people, tour the country, and learn the culture, and then use what has been learned and seen to share Christ in a way that can be understood.
Why You Should: To Obey God’s Call to Go to the Nations
Scripture makes this point crystal clear: the good news of Christ is meant to go to all people and all nations (Matt. 28:19, Mk. 16:15). Just read the last couple of chapters in any of the four gospels. Christ’s intentions are evident; He wants His children to take His command of going seriously. This isn’t even something you have to pray about, but this is something you have to be obedient to. Christ says, “Go and tell,” and anything less is disobedience to what He has said.
Why You Shouldn’t: To Check Off a Box for Evangelism and Service
In Acts 1:8, Jesus lays out the game plan for how His message is going to go out to the world. He says that the apostles will start where they are, go to the surrounding areas, and ultimately venture to the ends of the earth. Christ’s command was not a choice to serve at home or abroad; it has always been all-inclusive. While short-term mission trips are great opportunities to serve and evangelize, they cannot be the only instances in which the gospel is shared. A one-week trip does not exempt service during the other 51 weeks of the year. Instead, short-term missions should be a motivation to continue Kingdom work back at home.
Why You Should: To Support the Work of an Established Mission
Most of the time, the goal of a short-term mission team is not to trailblaze to an unknown people group or to translate the Bible in a new language. Instead, common short-term work is to support the ongoing work of a full-time missionary. While short-term missionaries make sacrifices of their time, money, and effort, they must remember that their mission is to serve, not to exalt themselves for their service. Full-time missionaries have given their lives to the work of their mission; the least a short-term team can do is support, serve, and encourage their full-time brothers and sisters.
Why You Shouldn’t: To Change the World
Short-term mission trips are the ideal times for people to think they are winning the entire world to Christ. They have traveled thousands of miles and have instantly become rock stars in whatever village or town they are working in. When pictures are posted and updates are sent out, all the praise and adoration from people back home makes can make short-term missionaries feel like they have become spiritual superheroes. In these times, remember that God has not called people to make a name for themselves but to make a name for Him. God is ultimately the one who works through short-term mission work. He has given many the opportunity to be his witnesses unto the ends of the earth. May these opportunities be used to humble believers and exalt Christ so that His name might be known among the nations.
Jake Hines is a junior Intercultural Studies major at North Greenville University. Jake will be studying language, culture, and religion this summer in South America and North Africa with hopes of moving overseas full-time after graduation.