Musings on Missions and Evangelism: Short-Term Missions as Distraction


This post is from a few months ago, but I am re-posting it in order to put it alongside the other two posts about short-term missions. It is unedited.

I don’t think it is too strong to say that we are addicted to stimulation. And we particularly like our stimulation in rapid, short bursts. We want our news scrolling by at the bottom of the screen in 5 second intervals. We like our opinions and stories in 140 characters or less. We change jobs once the excitement has worn off. We don’t like the mundane, the routine, the commonness of everyday life. We need the newer, the bigger, the better in order to keep us engaged. I don’t say this to be judgmental. I am as inculturated in this mindset as the next person. However, I am concerned that we are losing something vital to the Christian life if we don’t resist this strong tide.

Generally speaking, our spiritual lives are characterized by trying to string together exciting and moving experiences. We long for the next powerful worship service. We want that next great blog post to move us. We can’t wait for the upcoming spiritual retreat and mission trip. These are obviously not bad things, but I am afraid that we use these experiences to catapult us over the mundaneness that fills the majority of our time.

My assertion is that we have substituted “experiences” for “practices” in our discipleship. I believe central to following Jesus is cultivating practices which, over time, conform us into the image of Christ. The way for virtues such as generosity, selflessness, and peacemaking to manifest in our lives is to go about the hard work of engaging in consistent and long-term practices that shape our character accordingly. If I want to become generous, then I might think about covenanting to stop and converse with every beggar I see. If I want to be selfless (and I recognize the irony in that clause), then I could start doing the house chores that my wife dislikes the most. If I want to be a peacemaker, then maybe I should spend significant chunks of time with people from different ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds than myself. I think our churches need fewer experiences and more practices.

What does all this have to do with short-term mission trips? Well, I wonder if the rise in STMs over the past 20 years is, in some way, connected to our stimulation addiction and desire for the next “spiritual” experience. It is a lot easier to “experience” God and be moved spiritually during a two-week campaign to an exotic place than to commit weekly, for months or years, to serve a hot meal to local homeless people. We might feel righteous when we do door-to-door evangelism in a faraway place (this is one aspect of STMs that I have serious reservations about but that’s for another time), but we don’t “get much” from making weekly visits to the nearby nursing home. We feel blessed to step outside of our circumstances for a few days in order to understand the suffering of others, but what about moving our home from our familiar neighborhoods and incarnating among people unlike ourselves?

My desire here is not to evaluate the benefits, or lack thereof, of STMs, either to the participant or the receiving group. My concern is whether or not STMs can serve as a distraction, and a rather expensive one at that, from the cross-bearing practices involved in daily discipleship. And my goal, if I have one, is not necessarily to see a decrease in short-term mission trips but to witness an increase in long-term missional practices.



  1. What current STMs do you value, think to be of worth, or just need a little tweaking?


    On 2013-1-25, at 下午10:20, Reeses in Thailand wrote:

    WordPress.com reesesinthailand posted: “This post is from a few months ago, but I am re-posting it in order to put it alongside the other two posts about short-term missions. It is unedited. I don’t think it is too strong to say that we are addicted to stimulation. And we particularly like o”

    • Good questions. The post right before this one explains what I would hope STMs would like. It does not talk about “types” of trips but does describe some characteristics.

    • just sort of accidentally hneppaed upon your site i happen to have an issue with a windsor based solar company and their faulty/sloppy microfit solar install here , amoungst other farm and country issues here in central south ontaio.. perhaps we could consult as my personal computter is in rehab, i will be restricted to mostly telephone or occasional innernett for next week or so and am quite anxious to be on top of this escalating two way sue me sue you scenario my hope is arbitration with them over this dispute..705 887480

  2. […] Musings on Missions and Evangelism: Short-Term Missions as Distraction […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: