Recently, I was sitting in class when I heard a guy nearby say he was going on a missions trip over spring break to Paris. His friend immediately started doubting his motives and ridiculing him for going on a mission trip to Europe.
My first thought was: you don’t know his motives; only God does.
And my second was: how dare you say Europe doesn’t need God! As an MK who used to live in Europe, nothing frustrates me quicker than someone who says “real” missionaries only go to places like Africa, Asia, and South America. Doesn’t the whole world need Jesus?
Europe-rant aside, this conversation I overheard really made me think about mission trips. I’m not an expert, nor do I have all the right answers, but I’ve been on two myself and have had many conversations and read many articles/books on the positive and negative aspects of these trips.
While there’s a lot of encouragement to go on mission trips, there’s also a lot of criticism. Today, I want to focus on the positive aspects of going on a trip and in part two, explore the potential negative aspects and how you can avoid that.
Before Jesus left Earth, He gave his disciples the “Great Commission.” In Matthew 28, He said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Many ministries send people on trips with the focus of both holistically (meeting basic needs like shelter and hunger) serving and evangelically (spreading the Gospel) serving. If you go on a trip that this dual-focus, or if it’s solely evangelically focused, you’re going to make an eternal impact on the people you’re serving. That’s really exciting!
Even if just one person response positively to the Gospel, your trip was worth it and God used you to expand His kingdom. How awesome is that?
A second really encouraging result of going on a mission trip is personal growth. Sometimes, people criticize these types of trips because participants can seem to get more out of it than those being served. This one is hard to wrestle with. At least, for me it was. Each time I left for a missions trip, I felt this nagging feeling that maybe I wasn’t good enough.
I worried that the true desire of my heart was not to spread God’s word, but to make new friends and visit cool places. And to be honest, while I really did want to experience what my parents did first hand (evangelism, teaching, etc..), the main reason I went to Ethiopia (my first trip) was because it just felt like the thing to do. I’d always expected to go on a mission trip.
In Philippians 1, Paul writes about how some of his enemies, in order to annoy him, had begun to “proclaim Christ out of rivalry.” While that sounds like a strange way to annoy him, the following verse is important to remember: “Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice” (verse 18). So basically, what he’s saying is that in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter why the Gospel is being taught, just praise God that it is! This does not mean you should ignore your heart and your motives when going on a mission trip, but I think it does mean you shouldn’t let them stop you. In my opinion, what matters is that you’re willing to serve God and obey Him and that your heart is open and willing to change.
God will sometimes do some crazy things to teach you something or change your heart. If He uses a mission trip to do that, then great! It’s important to realize you don’t have to go somewhere else to change or grow, but if that does happen, then there’s nothing wrong with that.
To conclude part one, I want to quote what the guy in class said in response to his friend’s accusations: “We’re just spreading the word of Jesus; it doesn’t matter where we go.” I don’t know his heart, but I think he’s got the right idea.
[read part 2 here]