Social Media & The Short-Term Missionary

Social Media & The Short-Term Missionary

We’ve all seen it, and some of us might not want to admit it, but we’ve been there. The perfect Instagram shot of a mission trip. It’s hard to distinguish between the purpose of the trip and the purpose of the post. Is this about “likes” or the Kingdom? There’s nothing inherently wrong with social media, but let’s dialogue a bit about the collision of social media and short-term missions.

One of the dangers of social media is creating a virtual life, separate from reality. We don’t often realize it, but we may use social media to numb or escape our boring or painful existence. The problem is, when we go on a mission trip, everything we feel in our culture (and everything we escape from) will be exaggerated...

REIMAGINING SHORT-TERM MISSIONS / 6

REIMAGINING SHORT-TERM MISSIONS / 6

Millions of Americans go on short-term missions trips every year, but only a percentage of us slow down long enough to think about it. And even fewer ask, “How can we do this better?” If you’re asking this question, that’s a good thing. This is a conversation needs to happen. Thanks for tuning in for this series, and if you have missed our first five posts on this, you can find them here.

Let’s take this to an even finer focus and application. Envision is a ministry strategy of the Christian & Missionary Alliance. So how does this apply to our Alliance family of over 2,000 American churches that report sending out approximately 14,000 short-term missions participants annually?

REIMAGINING SHORT-TERM MISSIONS / 5

REIMAGINING SHORT-TERM MISSIONS / 5

At one point in time the majority of the Christians lived in the northwestern hemisphere. Today, however, the epicenter of Christianity is moving. “60 percent of the estimated two billion Christians in the world live in Africa, Asia, or Latin America. By 2050, there will be an estimated three billion Christians, 75 percent of whom will live in what is the "Global South.[1]" Although this is a wakeup call for us in the Northern Church, these statistics are exciting! What a privilege to live in a time when the churches that were planted by European and American missionaries a century ago are showing such fruit! The Global South is stepping up to take the place of its predecessors in the North.

REIMAGINING SHORT-TERM MISSIONS / 4

REIMAGINING SHORT-TERM MISSIONS / 4

Most people sum up their short-term mission trip with “It was a great experience!” And this is something that Envision loves to hear as participants return home after a trip! What can happen, however, is that we end up preparing for a trip hoping for that response. We want our participants to have a great experience, which can lead us to plan trips losing sight of the long-term discipling component, turning the posture of STM into one that is purely experiential.  

STM with an experiential posture is centered around “me.” What can this experience do for me? Will I enjoy it? What food will I eat and will I like it? What could happen that could ruin my experience? 

REIMAGINING SHORT-TERM MISSIONS / 3

REIMAGINING SHORT-TERM MISSIONS / 3

We had on our matching shirts, holding our passports, and had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. Mostly, we were just excited to be traveling with our friends. Our giant high school group landed in South America, assigned with helping build a church, play with children, and visit churches. We came to serve with an organization. We came with a genuine desire to help people. We came to give what we had to people who did not have. And none of these things we came to do were inherently wrong. I know there were students on this team that were exposed, not only to a different culture, but also to poverty on a new level. A new foundation was laid for a church, and our work hours, the heat, and the teamwork, stretched everyone. But I don’t remember talking to anyone that actually worked in Guatemala long term...

REIMAGINING SHORT-TERM MISSIONS / 2

REIMAGINING SHORT-TERM MISSIONS / 2

When it comes to examining our posture on short-term missions, it’s important to turn inwards, as those who participate in these experiences, to evaluate our own motivations. And, when these are perhaps skewed or sinful, to re-align with Christ. It’s important to mention that while we are talking about individuals, this is a collective shift we are making. It’s not just about us, but about the broader Body, and how we view ourselves in the narrative of missions. And particularly, how those of us in the West view ourselves.

REIMAGINING SHORT-TERM MISSIONS / 1

REIMAGINING SHORT-TERM MISSIONS / 1

My life has been greatly impacted because of Short-Term Missions. I’ve had great experiences, horrible ones, and everything in between but God used those experiences to eventually call me into full-time missionary service. Many missionaries have a similar story. The problem is, Short-Term Missions is not all rainbows and unicorns. 

 

It is no secret that Short-Term Missions has a complicated reputation. Some see it as the be-all, end-all of the church’s mission program and others think of it as a waste of money at best. The reality is, no matter what you think of Short-Term Missions (STM), it doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon...

The Next Evangelicalism

The Next Evangelicalism

One of the things I love about my job is the opportunity to read new books. I help mobilize numerous churches on short-term mission, and I get to read books on missiology, the Church, the changing landscape of missions, how we can do things better, and how we can keep (or shift to) the right posture.

 

Recently, I was impacted greatly by The Next Evangelicalism by Soong-Chan Rah. Soong-Chan writes clearly and movingly about the shift in evangelicalism in the West and the future of the Church. The title comes from what he describes as the next wave of evangelicalism in the West. Historically and even to this present day, the dominant voices and influences in the Western church have been white (male) voices. Soong-Chan notes a trend in that that Anglo churches are on the decline in the U.S., while ethnic and immigrant churches are flourishing and growing...

DON'T TAKE YOURSELF SO SERIOUSLY

DON'T TAKE YOURSELF SO SERIOUSLY

I’ve been guilty of it so many times, thinking I’m in charge of my event. Thinking if I’m not there then there is no possible way the show can go on. I’ve lived with fear gripping my heart that I haven’t done enough or I haven’t done well enough or I just haven’t done “it” (whatever that elusive “it” is). I’ve had those moments staring into the eyes of my audience knowing I’m bombing and not knowing how to fix it. I’ve walked away from days fully aware we had a loss. I’ve had my stomach turn and my heart be heavy knowing it just didn’t work.

Can anyone out there relate?

The older I get (geez, I sound ancient) the more I realize I’m very small and insignificant in the grand scheme of things. I’d like to think I matter but I’m realizing more and more that while I’m important and God desires to use me he certainly doesn’t need me. In fact, let’s be honest, there are times I’m quite sure God has simply worked around me to accomplish his purposes. He hasn’t shoved me out of the way but neither has he needed me.

4 THINGS TO BE AWARE OF DURING TRANSITION (PART II)

4 THINGS TO BE AWARE OF DURING TRANSITION (PART II)

In Part I we discussed transition from the familiar into a new place. Now let’s talk about a less discussed aspect of transition: coming back “home” after living in and experiencing another culture. This transition is often overlooked and not taken seriously, but I can tell you from experience both personally and in my many conversations, it is one of the hardest.

You’ve spent months or perhaps years in a different culture, and you have finally figured out your new normal in this new place. You can talk to the people around you, navigate the city, and have made wonderful friends. Now you will get back on a plane and go “home. People are anticipating your return. You are excited to see family, eat a hamburger, have unlimited root beer.

What you are not prepared for, is what it looks like when you step off the plane...