A both/and mission trip
Something happened to missions in the church. I don’t know if it’s a symptom or a cause (probably both), but you see it in our mission trips. When we returned from Argentina, I was soon invited to go on a mission trip to Mexico. It wasn’t until it was almost time to go that I realized that the whole trip was going to be about building houses. That’s all the kids would do. Very limited interaction with the local members. Almost no interaction with outsiders. No sharing their faith verbally (I’m trying to choose my words carefully).
We have a generation, or seemingly several generations, that gives little importance to verbal proclamation of the gospel. Yes, we preach with our actions. I know the phrase “I’d rather see a sermon than hear one.” But honestly, people need both. Samuel Shoemaker, instrumental in the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous, wrote: “A good life can testify to the belief in some kind of Higher Power… I do not know any mere example that can quite tell people that we believe God spoke in Christ to all men forever, or that Christ is His incarnate Son, or that the cross saves you and me from sin, or that the Resurrection is the crowning article of faith for us Christians.” (Extraordinary Living for Ordinary Men, p. 71) We live out the gospel, but it takes our words to explain it.
I work for Herald of Truth, a non-profit that does mass media ministry around the world. A few years ago, the leaders of our group toyed with the idea of becoming a relief organization. Why? Because it’s easy to raise money for relief. Show people a picture of a hungry child, and they’ll give you money. Talk about wanting to take that child’s family the message that will transform them and their people forever, and people yawn. After the tsunami in 2005, money poured in to help that area. A missionary to that area sighed and said, “Why can’t we even raise a fraction of that for Bibles?”
When we tell our kids that they are going to do missions, then the only tool we train them to use is a hammer, we are affecting their idea of evangelism for the rest of their life. Why not create opportunities for our kids to share their faith through their actions and their words? Must it be either or?
In college, I went on a 5-day mission trip to Hartford, Connecticut. We worked in a soup kitchen. Volunteered with retarded kids. But we also canvassed a neighborhood, inviting people to a seminar at the newly planted church in that area. It can be done.
Let’s recapture missions in the church. Let’s teach our people about evangelism. Let’s turn our mission trips back into mission trips.