Without casting stones at churches that are just trying to see their businesses make it through the recession, I want to point something out here—going on mission trips should not be optional. I know that some might say that short-term mission trips are nothing more than glorified vacations for rich youth groups (and in some cases, they would be right), but I’ve seen short-term missions serve the Church in incredible ways.
I heard a pastor the other day say that his church’s giving was down by 50 percent. He had to call up all of the missionaries they supported and tell them that the church wouldn’t be able to send them money this year. A friend of mine was such a missionary, getting an email from another church that could no longer send him monthly support (it was a substantial amount of his monthly income). Another friend who works for a large Christian missions organization told me that the number of participants they were sending into the mission field this summer was down by 60 percent, which translates into a few thousand missionaries for them.
Without casting stones at churches that are just trying to see their businesses make it through the recession, I want to point something out here—going on mission trips should not be optional. I know that some might say that short-term mission trips are nothing more than glorified vacations for rich youth groups (and in some cases, they would be right), but I’ve seen short-term missions serve the Church in incredible ways. I’ve seen teenagers come back from a month overseas, and their lives have completely changed. In fact, I recently got an email from a friend whom I helped train for a short-term trip a few summers ago; she was asking for prayer for some friends that she met in downtown Toronto. She’s been meeting with a homeless community each week for several months, all because God first broke her heart for the poor on a trip to Latin America.
My teenage sister has a heart for Africa, but she also has a tendency to desire “needs” that aren’t really needs at all. She recognizes it, but her surrounding culture isn’t offering an alternative other than self-centered materialism. What can she do? “Go on a mission trip,” I suggested. She listed a series of excuses, including finances, and I told her to find a mission trip and that I’d help her get the money.
The most generous and sacrificial people I know have all had some sort of experience in which God birthed compassion in them through exposure to the poor while on a mission trip. I know that there are other ways to get perspective and a healthy worldview, but the best way I know is to pack your bags and go live amongst the less fortunate for awhile.
Why is this relevant? Given all the economic hardships due to the recession, I’m concerned that the American church is facing a temptation to merely survive. For some of us, practices like charitable giving and going on mission trips are becoming increasingly more difficult. Naturally, it makes sense to make wise budget cuts, but I don’t believe that all God is calling us to do is subsist.
I believe that a scandalously gracious God wants to see His Kingdom come through His Bride who spurns the seeming lack of means to accomplish the task at hand.
I believe that Jesus wants His Body to live in such a way that our lifestyles say, “What recession?” (I realize that may be impossible for those who have lost their jobs, but I think you understand what I mean.)
I believe that our cultural addictions to comfort and excess need to be broken, and now is the perfect time to catalyze that paradigm shift. I suggest the way that you do that is by going on some kind of intentional trip to serve people much poorer than you. Read Luke 9 or Matthew 10, and tell me that short-term missions aren’t biblical, that Jesus doesn’t use discomfort and risk to teach His disciples how to rely only on God.
I realize that it seems counter-intuitive to cure a recession by spending potentially thousands of dollars on a short-term mission trip, but consider it an investment that will have long-term returns. Once you see people living happily on much less than you would even consider “fun money,” it changes you. It changes the way you make decisions, the way you spend your money, and the way you relate to the world around you. If you’re having trouble figuring out how to do this, send me an email, and I’ll help you figure out where to go and how to get there.
And then, maybe, just maybe, you’ll be able to say, “What recession?”