Do We Need a Missions Moratorium?

16 thoughts on “Do We Need a Missions Moratorium?”

  1. As a missionary, we have hosted countless short-term teams both in Nicaragua and Mexico. I can honestly say that I believe the short-term trip has value, but rarely on the foreign soil. What does it do? It opens the short-termer’s eyes to see God though other lenses, from another perspective. “You mean, God does that in Mexico?”
    It can take away some of their ideas that God is a white-Anglo-Saxon Protestant.
    Also, it definitely can help them with their xenophobia. Once someone has come here and interacted with Mexican brothers and sisters they realize the conundrum of the needs here, the lack of good jobs here, and the appeal of going to the US to work for a few months.
    When a team comes here, we take it as an opportunity to minister to them, as they are usually more sensitive and open during a mission trip.

  2. Here’s a thought: We don’t get to decide. Mission work is God’s domain. If we issue a moratorium, I think he might just ignore it and call other people anyway. Thankfully.

  3. I’ve been both missionary (long and short term) and a sender here at home. This debate will continue into infinitude. But not surprisingly the Sojourners author seems to focus mainly on the money and economic impact and not the spiritual impact.
    Some random points:
    -If short term trips ceased what would happen to the airline industry that services developing world nations? Jobs lost there.
    -Most long term missionaries start out as short term. I don’t know of any that just got on a plane and spent the next 5- 10+ on a field that they never saw before.
    -As the previous post said, Americans are (like everyone) isolated in their particular lifestyles and worldviews, despite an almost unlimited supply of international news.
    -A person at my church in chatting about short term missions said ” what could the people in that country possibly have to offer us?” So absolutely paternalism is still a big problem but the only way this person will ever know that even people in slums in nairobi or calcutta have ALOT to offer us rich Americans is to go and be awakened.
    – That said, it is a self-serving agenda, and one that cannot be denied. BUT the peoples living in remote or deep urban poverty are just plain grateful that anyone would fly half way around the world to pray with them. They know that they are the ‘least of these’ in terms of the worlds importance (in Gods kingdom they are at the top) so when we, the people at the top of the material and political world humble ourselves enough to walk with the poor even for a week, it speaks volumes.

    Ok enough for now…..

  4. Hi, I appreciate your response, Seth. Another point I would love to make is that often, short term missions are for us- the people who get to experience the beauty and challenges of other people and cultures. I went on my first “mission” trip this past year and it changed my life. I didn’t go with the intention that I was going to save someone or make a huge difference in the lives of people I met- although I prayed for God to use me in whatever way HE wanted. One thing I really appreciated about the trip I was able to take, was that the money we spent to go there ended up supporting the mission and the family we were with. I

  5. Thank you for your excellent elucidation of a topic that has long raised some concern and questions for me. I am one who has never participated in a short-term mission, but who has friends and family who have.
    First, I need to say that their experiences were overall very positive.
    But, I have had this underlying suspicion of mission work in general, for reason #2.
    It’s due, I’m sure, to my long-term aversion to the Ugly American syndrome and this country’s paternalism, long played out on the international political scene.
    Therefore, it was very helpful for me to have each of the points in the Sojourner article addressed, both factually and insightfully.
    Your last paragraph was the clincher for me: “Go into all the world and make disciples” is a foundational tenet of the Christian faith. Almost all modern missionaries start out as short-termers. Proposing that we temporarily suspend the experiential starting place for understanding Matt. 28:19 seems like asking the church to throw the baby out with the bathwater.”
    Matthew 28:19 is a clear Biblical mandate!
    And, your point about short-term missions being the starting point for many long-term missionaries supported the value of retaining these trips as the avenue to fulfilling this mandate.
    Thank you. I really appreciated this analysis.
    Judith

  6. If the need of the poor was merely economic… food, shelter and water, then perhaps he would have a point. By far the greatest need is spiritual, and merely sending economic help divorced from the gospel is fleeting and temporary and in the end of it all– useless.

  7. Its a hot topic. We have to balance our cultural values, international access, and weigh the efficiency of our actions. The early pioneer missionaries had no choice but to get on a boat and offer decades of service. We have opportunities and luxuries that they don’t. We also value our freedom, rights, and standard of living such that it’s difficult for many people to conceive of committing decades of service in 3rd world conditions. Is that the way it should be, probably not, but its a reality we must work through. Are short term missions the most efficient means of discipling the nations, I don’t know, it doesn’t seem so financially, so we should give some thought as to the most productive use of the resources God puts at our disposal. Yet, at the same time, God seems to be doing a lot to provide for short term missionaries, working through them, etc. The fact that the Lord seems to be utilizing organizations and people who’s lives and gifts are devoted to short term missions means that we must consider that the Lord may have a place and a purpose for short term, even if its purpose is simply to yield long term goers, prayers, and givers.

  8. I’ve noticed that many who go on short term “mission trips” won’t help an elderly church member with opening a door or walking her to her car. Also, missions trip out of our church includes site-seeing, shopping, etc. A day or 2 to get there, a day or 2 to get back, a day or 2 to shop….mission trip? Also, why travel halfway around the world to paint a wall or put shoes on feet? SEND THE MONEY and let the nationals do it…you will get more bang for your buck. I agree that the mission trips are for those that go, not the nationals. There are communication barriers as well. Many in our church who go are white Republicans who spew bitterness about our black president, immigration, etc…and yet go on mission trips. Oh, how I love Jesus…..The two don’t jibe. If participants have not raised their full amount of money to go, they still get to go….and the church is left to pay the balance at our church. Our pastor goes to New York several times a year–it’s easier than visiting the nursing homes in his own town. Too much reality for him. He is not a pastor…he’s a travel agent. The problem is with the immature leadership of the churches. Take the money that would have spent on travel…and invest it in the lives you step over as you twitter. And if one who goes on a mission trip compares themselves to Paul, he/she doesn’t have a clue. God help us.

  9. 4But some were indignantly remarking to one another, “Why has this perfume been wasted?

    5″For this perfume might have been sold for over three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.” And they were scolding her.

    6But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you bother her? She has done a good deed to Me.

    Isn’t it just like us to over evaluate the things that God appreciates and perhaps uses according to His will and not ours. “Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity”, Paul told us Christ followers through the church at Colossi. Perhaps if all of us believers would take the opportunity to share the gospel …. every day ….. we would not so scrutinize “short-term missions”. Short term missions does not so much have to be looked at as an “event”, but an opportunity for God to use His people … every day! One week happens to be at work and in my neighborhood, while the next week happens to be with 20 others in another part of the world … same God, same message, same need for people to turn to Christ!

  10. And isn’t it just like us to tag God’s sanction on any action that the church decides to do? What we do and what we say MUST align with scripture. The perfume poured on Jesus belonged to Mary…she did not borrow it from someone else…she did not go into debt to get it…she did not solicit funds to replace the perfume she lost…she used what she had and it was honored by Jesus Himself. She used what she had. Very different story can be told for many churches who use what they don’t have to afford them some Christian adventure with a site-seeing and shopping advantage to “obey the Great Commission”…yet don’t know their own neighbor. How receptive would WE be if a foreigner who could not speak our language came to our land for a few days and left. Lasting impact? My money goes to the missionaries, like Paul, who live among them, gains their confidence and respect, is a true witness to the love of Jesus and who stays to disciple those who follow Christ. Sorry, but you can’t do that in less than a week. The short-term mission trips are largely “lost” on the “lost”.

  11. Americans spend $41 billion per year on dog food. I’m sure Christians are a big part of that number. I think we should create a campaign to steward better THAT money rather than nixing short-term missions.

  12. Debbye, remember Chick Tracts? You know, those little cartoons that people left behind on Toilet tanks for people to read while …. , In regard to the style, cost and approach of a Chick Tract, most believers would say, what a waste of time and money. One of today’s most influetntial evangelists on college campuses, Tom Short, got saved from a Chick Tract …. he has in turn shared the message of the cross to hundreds of thousands of people. I think when we stand before the Lord one day, our eyes will be filled with joyful tears at the things we thought were so insignificant, God used in mighty ways.

  13. Yes, I remember Chick tracts and love them. The cost of Chick tracts is well spent. However, mission trips in our church (a mega-wannabe) cost 1000.00 to 4600.00 per person. How many chick tracts can we purchase for that amount of money? Boggles the mind.

  14. Sure, there is pragmatic side of looking at the cost effectiveness of short term missions. God calls us to be good stewards of our blessings. However, the moment that we ONLY focus on the financial sacrifice and benefit, then we are becoming short sighted on the purpose of going. Missions, domestic or international, are like the preverbial ‘three legged stool”. The Task, The Ministry & The Spiritual. The Task is the monetary debate at hand, but is the least important of the three. The Ministry is being God’s hands & feet, and allowing Christ’s light to shine through us, as we go anywhere to serve others. The Spiritual is how God molds you through that experience and what you ultimately do with it. The Mission is not successful until all all three are fully realized.

    I would encourge you to read the postings on our blog, especially the ‘personal reflections’ posted by those recently returning.

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