Thursday, March 5, 2009

Dependency Mission 01

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...


  1. I think pointing out our differences is potentially a bad thing. It's like what you said about the pimp this bum website. How we see a person has much to do with how we love them. It is when we find common ground that we feel a connection. (For me, anyway.)

  2. Yes, I've often thought that such missions presentations makes us feel so good about ourselves that we helped "those poor people." Like we're saying to ourselves, "Aren't we so good for helping those pitiful people!"

    Respect for those we minister to is, I think, the first most foundational thing, and I think that is what made Jesus so different when he was on earth. He gave people that kind of respect.

  3. Banner Elk GeorgeMarch 17, 2009 at 9:04 AM

    It seems to me that there are two ways you can look at a short term mission trip: It is an opportunity to join in their lives or it is an opportunity to join in their lives temporarily.

    Unfortunately, most groups are the temporary kind... It's as if bringing the truth matters so much that nothing else we do matters at all. We may end up changed (for a while), but the culture we hoped to impact can end up broken.

    Our goal ought to be long term change... in both the lives of those to whom we minister and in our own lives, as well. THAT is the power of the Gospel.

  4. Regarding those who come visit us here in The Location on short-term trips... I've always felt like I didn't want to host those coming who felt like they had more to offer than they had to learn.