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Only a call that costs a lot is worth following

One of the problems we Jesus-followers have is that we don’t ask enough tough questions and we don’t let others see us making ourselves vulnerable. I hate that. We’re all a mess and we who follow Jesus should be quick to own up to it and get the issue of hypocrisy out of the way. So, I’m going to…
By Seth Barnes

One of the problems we Jesus-followers have is that we don’t ask enough tough questions and we don’t let others see us making ourselves vulnerable. I hate that. We’re all a mess and we who follow Jesus should be quick to own up to it and get the issue of hypocrisy out of the way. So, I’m going to work at a bit of vulnerability with this blog today.

In the last 17 years, AIM has taken a lot of people on mission trips. When I started out taking the first 100 people in 1990, what I didn’t know about missions was a lot. And since then, I’ve made a ton of mistakes. But as a result, I have learned a few lessons. In recent years, I’ve become increasingly concerned about the way we do things. Increasingly, it seems like our short-term trips are losing their punch.

Mission trips should be faith-filled opportunities to experience God?s power, and I?m wondering, are we Americans organizing God right out of our lives in a lot of areas, missions included. “The kingdom of God is not a matter of talk, but of power” (1 Cor. 4:20). Jesus won’t be domesticated. He won’t conform to our schedules, much less our theology. Jesus came to raise a ruckus in the temple and he’s still doing that today. Those of us who are most deluded are the ones who think we’ve got him figured out and are trying to package and market him, and those of us who are avid short-term missionaries are no exception.

In 1975, when I went with Teen Missions to Huehuetenango, Guatemala, it was two months of in-your-face challenge. It marked me for life.

Fast forward thirty years and I’m asking myself, have I participated in a process of taking this wild, life-altering experience and dumbing it down to a four day youth group trip where we brush up against the foreign concepts of poverty and servanthood enough to mentally write them off: been there, done that, literally, got the t-shirt.

My concern is that every summer, by giving students short-term missions lite, we inoculate them, as though we had given them a flu shot. Not enough of God’s heart for the lost to challenge them to pursue a call to missions or even begin praying toward that possibility. But enough to be able to put a check on our list.

And so students can say: “Oh yeah, I’ve been on a bunch of mission trips, and now I know that God hasn’t called me to missions.”

What?! Oh yes he has! He called all his disciples to missions before he left the earth and he calls each one of us today! He’s calling young people the world over, an entire generation of them, if we teachers of the law would stop working so hard to prove that the kingdom of God is in fact about talk, not about power. That is, if we’d commit to stop inoculating students, watering down the gospel, and turning Jesus the warrior, into a church lady with blue hair, saggy stockings and a purse.

Does this mean we stop offering week-long mission trips? I don’t think so – no more so than it means we should shut down our temples. But surely a reformation is in order. Cost-me-nothing missions that bear no fruit of radical disciples are a sham and should be stricken from your schedule immediately.

Am I cutting my own throat and saying, “Don’t send your group on an AIM trip if you can’t make a commitment to do it right?” Well, my marketing people may hang me, but yes, I guess I am. If your idea of a mission trip doesn’t wreck the lives of at least half your group, then you’re kidding yourself. You’re probably doing more harm than good, inoculating students to the real thing, leading them to a watering hole that’s run dry.

Living water is not about cheap talk. It’s about healing the blind, helping the lame to walk, raising the dead. It’s undiluted power. It requires risk. It’s the pearl of great price.

Lately, I feel like God has been confronting me with the possibility of selling everything like St. Francis, and giving it to the widow and the orphan.

I’m not there yet, but I’m actively wrestling. What about you? What is your pearl of great price?

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