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U.S. MISSIONS (FIRST-PERSON): ‘Why do mission trips?’ Here’s why

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (BP)–“Why do mission trips?” a member of my congregation asked. “They’re just glorified vacations.”

I couldn’t believe my ears. I was dumbfounded. I confess I even was momentarily angry, grieved that someone just didn’t get it. Undoubtedly, many of our churches have a few unconvinced people like this. And in some cases, this mindset may have a discouraging effect.

I answered that question and others during a missions emphasis message and experienced nothing but positive feedback.

“Why should we do mission trips? We already give to the Cooperative Program, the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions.”

Because the recipients of those Cooperative Program and missions offering gifts — our NAMB and IMB missionaries — urgently request that we come alongside them. I trust their judgment and support their calls for mission teams to come do short-term projects. It generates excitement, captures the community’s attention and makes a noticeable impact when a group is willing to give of themselves to serve people they’ve never met. If a missionary or church needs help hosting a large-scale, short-term event they believe will enhance their long-term work, then I’m all for it. Many times the ministries of our missionaries require outside assistance. It’s more than they can do alone. Partnering together, we can accomplish more for the glory of God.

“Isn’t it a waste of money?”

It often costs a lot to travel to a distant city or another country to serve. But surely the salvation of a soul, the spiritual growth and expanded vision for the participants and the encouragement and assistance provided to missionaries is well worth the cost. It says something very meaningful to the recipients of the missions activity when they realize that all these people paid out of their own pockets to come and serve simply out of love. It’s the Lord’s work and as such is by no means a waste of money.

“Why do we have to go somewhere else to do missions? Don’t we have needs right here in our own area?”

Yes, we absolutely should do missions at home. A church can certainly do both. We are given the biblical pattern of evangelism in Acts 1:8 where Jesus said, “… you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Jesus’ call to take the Gospel doesn’t exclude the local community (Jerusalem) in order to serve somewhere else in the state (Judea), North America (Samaria) or overseas (the ends of the earth). His call is inclusive of all and exclusive of none. This is not an either/or, but a both/and proposition. Short-term mission trips are certainly an expression of that call.

“Isn’t it a glorified vacation?”

Mission trips are hard work. There’s so much to do and so little time to do it. Not a vacation! I’ve been on several World Changers trips and associational trips that involved light construction. I’ve never seen youth so ready to go to bed! This is because they work hard throughout the day and worship intensely at night.

Yes, most mission trips usually provide a portion of one or two days to get away from the work and go sightseeing. Such outings are a welcome and much-needed break in the midst of a busy week but hardly constitute a vacation. They also provide a more in-depth look at the culture you are serving.

So, glorified? Yes, because God is glorified as people see the love of Christ in action. Vacation? No, because on vacation we like to be served and enjoy comforts. On mission trips, we serve others and often forgo our own comforts.

Given the benefits for the participants and those they serve, short-term mission trips are undeniably an effective part of the overall strategy of an on mission church.
Rich Jenkins is pastor of Macedonia Baptist Church in Springfield, Mo. This article is featured in the Winter edition of On Mission magazine of the North American Mission Board. NAMB is the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) mission entity, which, in cooperation with state conventions, assists SBC churches in reaching the United States, Canada and their territories with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. NAMB oversees the work of more than 5,000 missionaries who are supported through the Cooperative Program and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions. For more information, please visit www.namb.net.

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  • Rich Jenkins