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6 ways short-term missions change lives

Here are six ways that a short-term mission trip can change your life:   1. Short-term missions change your worldview  We in America are notoriously provincial. We think our way is the only way, simply because we’ve never experienced any other ways. Short-term mission trips expose…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
Here are six ways that a short-term mission trip can change your life:
1. Short-term missions change your worldview 
We in America are notoriously provincial. We think our way is the
only way, simply because we’ve never experienced any other ways. Short-term mission trips
expose us to new ways of doing life and to those who, though different,
don’t seem so strange.

2. Short-term missions reveal your narcissism
We sing “It’s All About You,” but we live “it’s all about me.” Our
little worlds need a dramatic overhaul that can only come as the
pettiness of our concerns is juxtaposed with the needs of others.

3. Short-term missions teach you how to minister
Most American Christians know precious little about how to listen
to the heart of a hurting person and how to pray for them. Most of us
need more experience. When Jesus talks about “loving one another,” he’s
talking about ministering to the places where we hurt.

4. Short-term missions reveal your materialism
Do you really need all the toys that cram your closets and garages?
Do you need to shop as much as you do? It’s a problem in the west.  To
reach our destinies, we need more simplicity, not stuff.

5. Short-term missions connect you to God
How often in life do we find our world spinning so fast that we can
no longer hear ourselves think, much less God whisper our name?  We
need to get off the merry-go-round of life and engage with God’s
priorities more often than we do.

6. Short-term missions grow your faith
Good short term missions will throw you into the deep end, forcing you to the end
of your comfort zone and resources, to a place where you’re forced to
depend on God in new ways. This dependence is the posture God is waiting
for in order to grow our faith.
Living in the west can be toxic to
your faith. If your world is feeling claustrophobic and your faith is
stagnating, chances are you need the kind of life-changing experience
that Jesus gave his disciples when he began activating them on the first
recorded short term mission experiences (read Luke 9 & 10).
They came back with
stories about how this power that they’d seen in Jesus had become their
own and they were ecstatic. Maybe that’s what he wants for you, too.
For more on this topic, you may enjoy reading: Short Term Mission Trips Change Lives (Even Your Own)
To learn more about the short-term missions agency I work with, check out: Adventures in Missions

Comments (10)

  • All true, but I especially value number two. So much so, that I am posting on my fb. I have decided that I am wrapping up a bunch of stuff for Christmas and donate it to a local church for the pastor to distribute to people in the community. Many of them may not get a single gift. There is poverty a couple of communities down. I am aching to simplify and it is all part of a prune and purge process for me. Saying no to all but the most valuable commitments (which center around family at the moment) and purging from stuff. Sure some of it carries memories, so I will take a photo, put it in a book, and write a blurb about the memories. So just a few things that are lying around are a gorgeous outgrown Christmas dress, some infant royal doulton china, a pair of wedgewood candlesticks and once I start digging, plenty of other stuff as well…simplify, simplify, simplify, and realize it is not all about us. I had a yard sale and this stuff didn’t go…I could try again some other time, but then it is about me, me getting the money, right? this way it is about sharing with others.

  • Good blog.
    It’s been 3 years since we finished the world race. A lot has happened since, but no missions. I leave oct 30 for Haiti with our church- In this blog #5 sticks out.

  • These are all excellent points, but we must remember that these are not the goals of STMs; they are not why we go. The goal must always be to see the person and work of Jesus Christ exalted so that those who have never heard can join in the worship of our King. These six points are God-given by-products of going, and our Father masterfully and graciously uses our going to change us and prepare us for future work. And we certainly reap the benefits of growing closer to our Savior and reveling in His joy. But we must be careful that the goal of STMs does not become us: to help us, change us, make us feel better. Otherwise, STMs simply become another outlet for our narcissism. The goal is to see people from every tribe and tongue and people and nation worship the Lamb, and we get the unspeakable joy of taking part in it.

  • One thing to keep in mind is that missions is really about bringing truth to others who need it. It is not primarily about doing volunteer work or being changed in the process. It is sad to think that many of the people, especially young people are not even christians when they go on missions trips. There needs to be a new standard. John Piper’s book “Let the Nations be Glad” is a great resource. God bless.

  • Bradley,

    I agree with your emphasis if you look far enough down the line, but my reading of scripture and experience shows that we disciples don’t arrive at the place you describe before going out on mission trips. We need time and experience to get there.

    I invite you to dig deeper into Jesus’ pedagogical intent as he pioneered STMs for his church. Until Jesus became Lord for his disciples, he knew they could not be successful as missionaries. And the only way that he could practically begin to become Lord was by giving them experience in situations where they were over their heads and dependent on him. So what we see in Scripture is that Jesus’ example emphasized Lordship and a discipleship process first and mission work second.

    Jesus did not begin his missionary campaign by sending out his disciples on STMs in Luke 9 and 10. He didn’t commence the missional phase of his ministry until after he had ascended and empowered his disciples in Acts. What you see Jesus doing is giving his disciples the opportunity to practice what he’d been teaching them. The mission trips he sent them on were primarily for their discipleship. They were training experiences. If this weren’t so, you’d read a lot more about followup and assimilation in the gospels. In Acts we have the story of a church being planted. In the gospels we see Lordship being developed in a few disciples.

    Our orthodoxy in the evangelical church is good, but our orthopraxy is sadly lagging – the people we’re raising up in the faith need more hands-on experience – they can’t be expected to have their act together as we send them. Over time they get the big picture, but in my experience it takes years to break the narcissism off of them. Idealism says, “It shouldn’t be that way,” but it is what it is. I don’t like taking narcissists on STMs and certainly don’t cater to them when I can help it, but there don’t seem to be any other candidates available to me.

  • Bradley and Daniel, I agree 100% with what you guys are saying — the goal of missions should not ultimately be selfish or, “What am I doing to get out of this?” Ironically enough, when we serve with selfless motives, we end up receiving so much more than if gaining something were our actual goal.

    However, the title and context of Seth’s blog post here is not, “What your motives should be on short-term missions.” There are positive things that happen personally in our life during STM whether we seek those things or not. Seth is simply listing some of them. He’s not saying that this is why we do missions. That would be a different post with a different title and intro.

  • I wonder what a saved, tongue-talking, demon-casting young African boy or girl feels about STMs today? What does s(he) know about missions… short or long term? How many missionaries does s(he) know personally?

    If the African church can give God a tithe of tithes of tithes (that’s 10% of 10% of 10%)of their youth in STMs for 3yrs, we’ll bring closure to this commission in record time.

    But will they? Why wont they? we keep guessing and ridiculing those going or attempting to, with great sounding teachings. Excuse me please!! Bring me some STMers save or sinners and let’s see what when God steps in to honor simple faith.

  • Tim, the title of Seth’s article is “6 ways short-term missions change lives”, which led me to think how STMs change the lives of the people ministered to. However, each of the 6 points has “you” or “your” as the focus in the title, which could have the appearance of being self-centered, even narcissistic toward those going. I fully agree that God can (and does) use STMs to change those going, and it may even be the primary purpose God sends them the first time. These points, as I stated earlier, can be (and are) masterfully and graciously brought by God to change us and prepare us for future work. But again, they are not the goal; worship is the goal. That was Christ’s goal in training His disciples, that was the Spirit’s goal in leading the nascent church in Acts, and that must be the church’s goal today.

    I honestly think we are all on the same page here. I’m pretty sure we would all agree that Seth’s six points are not the ultimate goals of STMs. So please hear me: I am not disagreeing Seth’s blog. As I said earlier, Seth has made six excellent points – that was not lip service; I meant that. My point is simply to emphasize that we as pastors and teachers have a responsibility to teach/train/disciple those going on STMs that the goal is worship, not simply feeling better about yourself when you return. Will everyone one fully understand that before their first trip? Certainly not; but why not begin teaching them that before they go, reinforce it when they return, and reemphasize it as they go again?

  • Bradley, point well taken. I saw the intro, “Here are six ways that a short-term mission trip can change your life:” and that’s what I figured that was the context. That’s why it didn’t bother me when his points were “you” and “your.” He didn’t say, “This is why we do STM” or “This is the goal of STM” to introduce the post. The stuff we’re talking about now I think we all agree with, it just wasn’t the point of this post, that’s all. 🙂

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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