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Are Mission Trips Really Mission?

Mark Junkans

The church is supposed to be about the mission of God.  However, every follower of Jesus, small group or congregation sometimes gets to the point where they don't know where to go "do" missions.

First of all, let's start by listing what mission isn't.  Mission isn't necessarily

  1. Painting houses
  2. Handing out food
  3. Running a sports camp
  4. Tutoring
  5. Collecting items for the poor
  6. Flying to exotic locations and building houses

Mission trips may include these activities, but these aren't in and of themselves mission.  In other words, just because you do something good for someone less fortunate doesn't mean that you did missions.

"Hey," you say, "we just went on a mission trip and that's exactly what we did.  In fact, we even did this with your organization (LINC)."  True, doing good work among the poor can make an impact and there is nothing wrong with this.  The problem, however, is when we exclusively turn mission into a trip or an activity that is outside of our normal context.  Don't get me wrong, I love opening people's eyes about the needs of our communities.  I get excited when youth and adults get a chance to see things from the perspective of the poor, and I appreciate the help in getting our message out to the people we are called to serve.  Mission groups are a tremendous blessing to us.

Mission may involve service to the poor, but that in and of itself isn't mission.  

Mission is working to extend the kingdom of God.  More narrowly defined, it's to extend the kingdom of God among unreached people or people groups.

We could divide missions into three categories based on the activity and role of that group.

  1. Frontline Missions
    • These are the missionaries working in and among a community, bringing the Gospel message of Christ to people who don't yet know him, and forming groups of disciples.
  2. Support Systems
    • Agencies and congregations who directly support missions.
    • This includes support staff, financial support, training, coordination and other means of directly helping to facilitate and promote mission work.  (mission agencies, congregations, etc)
  3. The Church
    • The whole church participates, or should participate, in missions by praying, financially supporting and sending warm bodies to help run outreach programs.
    • Whatever the church is doing, it needs to make sure that it isn't fostering a dependency model or one that is void of Gospel proclamation. 

Understand not only where you fit within the mission system, but how you can best serve where you are.

When you go on a mission trip to do a service project, you aren't necessarily doing mission work in a biblical sense of the word.  You are more than likely acting as a support for the ongoing mission work that happens in that place and helping to create trust with the community in which they serve.

Your main goals are (in this order) to: learn, serve and amplify the Gospel message in that community.  If you are really blessed, you will even get a chance to share the message of Jesus verbally with someone.

Above all, let your mission trip be a way for God to awaken in you a heart for the lost.  Maybe through this experience he will call you into missions as a way of life, wherever you are.

What is the answer to the question, "Are most mission trips really mission?"  It depends on your definition of the word.  

So....what is your definition of "Mission Trip"?