I have been thinking a lot recently about the idea of Short Term Missions. This idea that we in the western world spend thousands of dollars taking our students overseas to share the good news of Jesus Christ with the poor. There has been much talk about whether or not this is really affective, or if there is a better way that we as the church could invest our money in world missions. I have thought about this many times and recently this is where my thoughts are taking me.

Let me start by saying that I believe in and am sold on short-term missions. I have been setting up, coordinating and leading short-term mission trips for the last 12 years. I do it because I believe in it and I have seen beautiful things resulting from it. I have seen the long-term workers on the ground get encouraged. I have seen the locals that the students are coming to serve get blessed, but mostly I have seen the lives of the students going on these trips eternally changed. Now I believe in Short term missions, but what if we started looking at it differently, what if we started calling it something different, something that is tied to the majority of results within short-term missions? The result being our students changed, challenged and encouraged. What if we called it reverse missions.

Students are growing up in a world where they are not really challenged or stretched in their faith. There isn’t much persecution, we are free to worship whoever or whatever we want and to be a Christian or follower of Jesus is not a way of life, but seems to be nothing more than a belief system. Most Christian kids growing up in todays culture look or live no different from all their non-Christian friends This is a problem. I also believe that it needs to change, and that change happens when we are doing mission.

When we take students on mission something happens to their lives. They see God working in and through them, they see God in way’s that they have never seen before and they meet other believers who are living radical lives out of their belief in Jesus. This is the thing that happens to the majority of kids who go on a short-term mission trip. Yes all those other things happen, but this is the primary result of a short-term trip, changed lives of the students we are bringing.

Since we are learning so much from these christians in foreign countries whose faith costs them their families, their jobs, their freedom and sometimes their lives what would it look like to take our students over to these countries not only to share the gospel, but to learn the gospel? This happens all the time in the world through foreign exchange programs but do we do this for our students growing up in the church? I have not seen it done very intentionally, but I always see it as a byproduct of doing mission.

If we dish out thousands of dollars for our kids to get on planes and share their faith, would we still be willing to dish out thousands of dollars for our kids to go on these same trips, but to learn about faith? I think we are already doing this, but we are not calling it what it is. Most Christians in Thailand, India, China and Cambodia and other developing or 3rd world nations can’t afford to come over here, so are we willing to send our students over there? I would dare to say that if we started looking at mission in this way that our students would  come back changed, on fire and ones who’s lives mirror that of Jesus, because they have invested in their faith, they have taken the time, spent the money and saw how Jesus us outside of our luke warm, compromising American Christian culture.

Like I said, these are just thoughts formulating in my head, I would love some feedback from you and discussion on this. Cheers.

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5 comments so far on “Reverse Missions

  1. Indra Helmbrecht says:

    “Reverse missions” good idea. Honestly I have been thinking a lot about it was well, since there is a lot of talk out there about the “short term” missions and its effectiveness. But, just like you I have been thinking about it a lot and from different points of view and I still think that God uses it in a very powerful way. We just have to ask God for wisdom in how to go about it and never forgetting our main goal: JESUS.

  2. lyla says:

    i agree Phil, I think everyone in this western rich world should do it, go to a 3rd world country and serve, have their eyes opened. That said, I can’t help get frustrated when “older Christians” go down and do the work. I know they can still be effective with locals and spreading the gospel, but can’t we send our money down there and employ local people? our travel dollars would go sooo far for locals in those countries. I couldn’t help but think when Haiti had their earthquake how devastating it was, but it also created a lot of potential work for locals (altho sounds like their gov’t might be preventing all those donated funds from proper distribution). Anyway, just my thots.

  3. lyla says:

    (you have a lot more knowledge of missions than me, maybe its incorrect, this is just what is on my mind at times)

  4. Wade says:

    Great thoughts Phil.
    There are a lot of haters on short term missions which is sad but also understandable if teams are going into countries with a ‘we’ll show them attitude’. I think the way to do reverse mission well is to make sure we are going with a learning mindset, assisting and serving long term ministries in the country and being people focussed rather than task focussed.

    Iyla, I can understand what you are saying but with our current media numbed generation, it is near impossible to get a bunch of young people (or anyone at all) to fundraise to give funds to local people in a 3rd world country. There is a saying that people will give when their heart is touched, so possibly in the longer term it would be a better investment to send people to these areas, have people partner with ministries there, see what is happening and then be a part of the solution. That doesn’t always work but I have seen this happen numerous times… I suppose there is a responsibility to the people organising these trips to make sure people are blessed and not taken advantage of

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