Monday, November 24, 2008

Short Term Missions, Revisited

When my Momma was here last week, she sat me down and unloaded the double barrels of her esteemed opinion on my previous blog post, Tourists or Missionaries? She is a wise woman so I listened and she indeed had some valuable things to add to the discussion but since she's not going to post them on here I will throw them out and then comment.

The gist of her comments was twofold: first, we shouldn't place so much emphasis on money or commodify God's plan with missions. It's not all about money.

The second point was that we should not limit God in his workings. Who knows what can happen when someone chooses to participate in short-term missions.

As you can see, these are a couple really good points that got me thinking again. Wise woman, that momma of mine. But here's what I got to thinking on.

She's right, my original post focused too much on the money side of things when I really see that as a subordinate aspect to the relational side of missions. My problem is with how we represent Christ in out relationships with others. While most people who engage in short term missions probably hope to represent Christ's compassion and love to the impoverished -is that what those "impoverished" see? Or do they see a rich, white Christ who flies in for 10 days, jets around in air-conditioned chartered vans, eats way too much food, and then complains about how friggin' hot it is outside and how there are lizards in the bathroom? Do they see a patronizing Christ who makes them wish they were somehow a little better off? Perhaps a Christ who feels they need a new church building rather than a steady source of food?

I believe that missions work is about relationships. Those types of relationships can't be made in a week or two. They demand a long-term commitment to working, living, crying and playing with people in their lives and in their situations - whatever they might be. It's about portraying Christ as someone who is willing to listen to them, to be there when they're hurting, to support them when they need it, to really understand what the struggles in their life are. This is the relational side of missions that those short-term projects seem to miss, I think.

As for limiting God... guilty. There indeed are no limits to what God can use and the situations that he can choose to work in. For all my objections, it is hard to deny that there have been short-term missions projects that have changed lives for God's glory. But at the same time this seems like a bit of a cop-out to me. God can use anything so we'll give him something inferior because he can use that just as easily as something more superior.

We're called to be good stewards of the resources God gave us - does short-term missions accomplish this? We're called to take up the cross and bring an offering of sacrifice - does short-term mission accomplish this? We're called to truly care about the suffering and oppressed, to wash their feet, to clothe them, to feed them as if they were Christ himself - does short-term missions accomplish this? These are some of the questions I wish the church would sit down ask themselves.

Thanks for the thoughts Momma!

1 comment:

The Renegade Librarian said...

Nice respect to your mom, dude--that was class. However, I still think that your points are very valid and I find my thinking in line with them. Thanks for the revisit to what I feel was one of your best posts!