Two Kinds of Supporters
Ok, so you're thinking about going on an international mission trip. Is it a good idea? Does God want you to go? Can you get the money? These are all good questions. You will probably quickly discover, though, that when proposing the idea to those around you, you may get many different reactions. You definitely will be met with a barrage of responses if you decide to go and now have to raise your support. You'll meet (at least) these two kinds of supporters:
1) There's the guy who thinks that any and every mission trip is worthwhile, helpful, and altogether more holy than ministry done in the local church. This person will not think twice about supporting you. Just because you are willing to go, he believes you should go.
2) Then, you'll meet the guy who says "I don't know why you need to go to Africa to do mission work when there is so much to be done here." They say, "Can't you just use the money to minister to someone in the states?"
They Aren't Completely Wrong
Sure, each has a skewed and, in some ways, an unbiblical point of view. But before lashing out and throwing a holy fit by quoting the Great Commission to them in Greek, take a minute and think about each perspective. Let's be honest, both guys have hit on something. As the first person would likely point out, we need to place great emphasis on international missions, much more than most churches do. (You mean, the church exists outside of the good ole' USA? Yes, it does.) On the other hand, it's also true that not every mission trip is effective and worthwhile. For instance, let's say you raise three thousand bucks to take teenage girls to Africa to build a deck. I'm not sure that is an effective way to help those believers. They could have done much more with the three thousand bucks and they might actually be quite the burden to the hosting missionaries. Moreover, its absolutely true that we always need to think about missions as a lifestyle wherever we are, ministering where the Lord has us.
You mean, the church exists outside of the good ole' USA? Yes, it does.
5 Good Reasons
So, in light of some of these common questions, I propose a two part post. I'll give you my top five responses to both types of people. For today, I give you a response to the second guy. These are the five reasons why we should involve ourselves in international mission trips, despite the fact that we should also be involved in ministry in the states. Though these are not exhaustive, here are five legitimate motivations that could end with you in an airplane, flying to the other side of the world:
- Because of the commandments in Scripture. We should principally apply the methodology of ministry that Jesus Himself initiated and was modeled by Paul. Though I'm sure one could say that we're not all called to be traveling missionaries like Paul; still the church has clearly been assigned the task of engaging the nations through the Great Commission. This is and should be done where we are locally, but the scope of the command is extended to all of God's people. Since this is a team effort, it is perfectly legitimate to want to obey Christ's command by coming alongside believers in other regions. Of course, wisdom and guidance should be sought in this process.
- To meet a specific need of the church in another country that requires the presence of mature believers (e.g. leadership training, Gospel presentations, teaching, special skills). One might say that "Surely, there are plenty of believers who are closer (geographically) to that area who could meet this need." However, this misunderstands the sovereignty of God. For instance, I know of a pastor who has made a connection with a group of believers across the world who are going through the same sort of struggles as his church. His experiences, guidance, and assistance are particularly beneficial to this international congregation where other closer churches may not be able to relate as well. If a church is willing, it might very well find that its specific personality, strengths, and ministry tools are perfectly suited for a similar type of connection. Maybe that could go both ways. So, be careful of coming into a ministry situation as an arrogant American, thinking you're brand of Christianity should trump all others and you're there to "save the day."
- To minister in an area where there is significantly less Gospel influence, an area where generations could come and go and not have heard the Gospel. Who takes precedent in evangelism- Americans who hear the Gospel twenty times throughout their lives or a group of refugees in China who never hear the Gospel in their entire life? How will they hear, if no one will go to tell them?
- To bring a renewed fire back to your local church. The Lord often uses mission experiences as a way to inspire local church ministry. There's something about getting out of our comfort zones and away from our situations that allows us to see the bigger picture of what God wants us to do at home. Also, the testimony of believers in other cultural contexts can incite just the right amount of inspiration and vigor that is needed in your spiritual development. The mission trip is about serving, but serving others is instrumental to your own spiritual growth.
- To catch a vision of the Kingdom of God-- the multi-ethnic and multi-national submission to the King. There are many ways to spend your vacation time. Sometimes a pleasure trip is perfectly acceptable as your family may find rest in the Lord. Such rest is godly. Still, I can't imagine that seeing a glimpse of how the Spirit unifies the body in other places could be characterized as anything other than "heavenly." This motivation is not a bad reason to want to go on a mission trip in my opinion.