In my last post I responded to the man who simply doesn’t understand the need for the American local church to engage in international missions. This post will be my response to the guy who thinks that every mission trip is wise, helpful, and effective just because of some supposed built-in holiness associated with the short term mission trip.
5 Bad Reasons
Aside from gauging the effectiveness of the methodology of particular trips, one must also gauge his or her reasons for going on the trip. I want to give you my top five reasons that should not prompt you to go on a mission trip. These are not reasons you shouldn't go—we are commanded to go— but these are inadequate motivations for going. I should say, though, that this does not mean that God cannot change your heart before or during a trip. Rather, this is a commentary on what many short term trips have become. Here they are:
These are not reasons you shouldn't go—we are commanded to go— but these are inadequate motivations for going.
- Because you’ve always wanted to go outside of the country. I wonder how many people go on mission trips and secretly are only really excited about it because they want to sight-see. Its "mysterious," it gives you a different experience, and you get to see cool things. Don't get me wrong, these aren't bad desires. They just shouldn't be the motivation that drives your mission trip.
- Because you want to do something to feel spiritual. Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying wanting to do something spiritual is bad. Of course that’s not the case! However, when your motivations for going on a mission trip are focused primarily on your own exercise in spirituality, you run the risk of becoming self-centered in your decision making. God will bless you because of your obedience to be a part of His mission, but by definition, a mission trip should be focused on the work of the Lord, not your own works. If your motivation is primarily on your own need to be spiritual, call a spade a spade and label your trip a “pilgrimage,” not a “mission trip.”
- Because you feel that you have all the answers that "those other folks" haven’t understood yet. We Americans have a default attitude of arrogance. Often we are tempted to judge the success of a church by its financial stability or programming, but I know of local churches in third world countries with absolutely nothing (monetarily speaking) who make us look like spiritual midgets. Humility is always the proper posture in mission.
- Because it’s a requirement of your job- just another event you have to do. If you’re a pastor and you’re expected to take part in the planning of a mission trip for your flock, then you must work hard to be sure that you’re not doing something simply because it’s obligatory. I think this may hit on a considerable difficulty for pastors—the tension between viewing your job as a profession and viewing it as a calling. This wrongful motivation is not limited to pastors though. Deacons, elders, and leaders in the church on whole all may feel that they are obligated to participate in a mission trip. I assure you, if you are motivated by obligation alone, your trip's success will be severely limited. I am inclined to think much prayer and fasting is needed to combat such a struggle.
- Because of how going on a mission trip makes you look to others. I’ve got a feeling that half the people motivated by this one don’t even realize it. It looks good on a scholarship application or a resume, doesn’t it?
The Lord has given us the great privilege of being involved with His workings through His mission. This gives us our very purpose in life and through the process of engaging in mission, in all of its forms, we are shaped into being the disciples that give up selfish ambition to count others as better than ourselves. This is a sacred calling and let's make sure that our motivations reflect the sanctity of our privilege to participate in it.