Missions is a buzzword in most local churches. The first church I pastored viewed missions as something they gave financially to support others doing the missions. For instance, missions offerings were the end-all, be-all for missions because that was how one’s commitment to missions was measured. When I started talking about a mission team going out from the church, I was told by one older church member that I did not need to get the idea of sending missions teams because that is why we took up the missions offerings.
In my second church, missions was measured by giving financially and going on short term missions trips. It was a far cry from the first church I pastored, yet it seemed rather scattered. The trips were mostly construction based. While there is nothing wrong with serving those in need, I wrestled with the fact that there was little evangelism and even less long term Great Commission trajectory. We did a lot of good, but I fear our good deeds were harmful to the actual accomplishment of the Great Commission.
It was in my third pastorate that I came to understand the value of partnerships in missions. The local church has a mandate from the risen Lord Jesus to make disciples (Matthew 28-18-20). Missions must be evaluated in light of Christ’s command. Meaning, whatever is done in the name of missions must be gospel saturated, contextually appropriate and stubbornly focused on long term disciple making.
The goal should not be to go on short term mission trips. Rather, the local church should live missionally. This should include occasional short term opportunities to engage globally in making disciples. Otherwise, short term trips become more of just dropping in to do a few good deeds, but not making sure there is a gospel tract for disciple making when the team is gone.
Missions partnerships are more effective in fulfilling the Great Commission because they connect the local church on mission in a way that focuses on long term commitment to engage a culture effectively to make disciples. The missionaries and indigenous pastors/churches should determine the course of the work.
Partnerships are effective locally, nationally & internationally (Acts 1:8). Partnerships are valuable for the local church because:
- The church can be better stewards of the resources by having a strategic plan.
- The work being done by the local pastors & missionaries is supported rather than contradicted.
- The local church can see the Great Commission impact she has in an area over time rather than just having scrapbooks with photos from trips.
- The local church is supporting and serving to make disciples who make disciples who make disciples. This requires more than a week here and there.
- The good deeds of a short term trip are connected with the gospel outreach of a local church, missionary or pastor. This creates a greater likelihood of dependency on Jesus than on short term teams.
John Piper wrote that missions exists because the worship of God does not exist everywhere. Missions is not for us but for Him. For His name’s sake. For His glory.