This is a continuation of our first blog on reframing short-term missions, found here.
Moving from FOR to WITH (Us & Those We Serve)
Poor posture: The Church in the Majority World looks like the Church in the West, and the Western Church sets the tone for what the global Church looks like, acts like, is motivated by, etc.
Often times we in the West see ourselves as representative of global Christianity today. Which may have certain ones of us stressed out, given the way things are going in our postmodern society. Christianity is not thriving in Western culture; some would say it’s on its way out. With globalization on the rise and the spread of the gospel in the last 50 years, you may be surprised to learn that the average Christian is more likely to be an African woman than a white American or European. In the words of Paul Borthwick, the Church today is nonwhite, nonWestern, and nonwealthy. The Church is spreading fastest among some of the poorest ethnic groups in the world, and in some of the most dangerous places. Korea is the second largest mission-sending nation. It’s estimated that by the year 2025 there will be more than 1 billion believers in Africa.
Some of the language we’ve begun using to describe what’s happening in the Alliance is “gospel access for all people, from all people.” And a majority of those people are our Nonwestern brothers and sisters. We are past the season of doing missionary work for them. We now have a unique opportunity to still be participants, but we are working alongside them, often times learning from them! We need to move from for to with.
We who think we are rich in many ways (and may be so materially) are actually poor in many ways too. We lack dependence on God and instead rely on self. We are poor relationally, in our ever transient and disconnected society full of broken relationships. We are lukewarm, and have lost the passion we see evidenced in our brothers and sisters around the world. We are not disqualified from the work, nor are we being asked to give up our contribution or our voice, but going forward, this is going to be shared and influenced by our family around the world.
Moving from EXPERIENCE to DISCIPLESHIP
Poor posture: When we return home from a short-term trip, we think the trip is over, we’ve got our “mission trip” badge on our spirituality sash, we’re good to go…
We’ve got a short-term perspective on short-term trips. We don’t see them as connected to a participant’s’ overall spiritual formation. We don’t see them as connected to long-term work. We need to move from seeing these trips as an isolated experience to an opportunity for discipleship.
Since this is not the normative narrative of short-term missions, we need to create this atmosphere intentionally as trip leaders and those who receive teams. One of the biggest way this happens is through mentoring. Those who lead the teams and have a pre-existing relationship with participants, as well as the long-term workers who are receiving the teams have a unique opportunity and responsibility to walk with these individuals to build them up and help them discern what the Lord is doing in them and through them. A short-term trip might be timely as an individual is learning about their own giftings and personality. A trip might also be spiritually formative for someone who has not yet put all their eggs in the Jesus basket. A trip might help individuals or a group of people to learn how to serve together, as they will also be doing “back at home.”
It’s our job, as leaders of these trips, to develop the relationships it takes to sustain the growth that happens in the greenhouse of a missions trip when these individuals come back home.
Britt Cooper serves as the Trips and Communications Coordinator for Envision, facilitating short-term trips to our Envision sites and handling website, social media, and marketing. Britt is originally from Iowa, and enjoys hiking 14ers, baking pies, and gathering around the table with friends.