We in the church in America are pretty uneducated when it comes to missions. This is improving in some small incremental ways thanks the the explosion of mission-trip going during our vacations. But sometimes mission trips tend to reinforce our misunderstandings about missions rather than educate us. That is because our week-long trips are so short that it is impossible for us to learn anything beyond what someone who lives there permanently tells us. Still, we come back home as experts and spout off all of our knowledge. If anyone questions us we say, "I've been there!" Since most others haven't been there, the argument is finished.
Most of us see missions as exotic charity. We are the haves. They are the have-nots. So, we give what we have to them. Then we take a picture of a white person hugging a dark-skinned kid and publish it in our churches and newsletters. Those who see the picture are touched and impressed. In fact, there is not much more impressive (to us who are Christians) than "giving up" your life, moving to a "third-world" country and giving things to dark-skinned poor people like health care, food, clothing, dental care, soap, toothbrushes, education, English lessons and... oh yes, church. In fact, we give all of those things in the name of Jesus and the church.
But have you ever considered (and I'm speaking as a Christ-follower, a missionary and someone who wants to see the kingdom of God expand--NOT as someone who is anti-Christian or anti-missionary) that these things might be doing more harm than good?
Tell me what you think.
Tomorrow I'll share about how mission agency advertising pulls us into certain ruts...