What Makes Short-Term Missions So Valuable

How do you justify the exorbitant price tag of a short-term mission trip? When 80% or more of what’s raised goes towards flight and lodging?

That money directly invested towards fighting poverty or training and supporting the local pastors would have a much greater impact than our spending a week smiling, holding kids, doing crafts and playing sports.

In light of that, is it worth it to do short-term missions?

I still say yes. First, the significance and impact of us being there is greater than we realize. We are relational beings, and we bring love, hope, respect and dignity with us that even a blank check cannot provide.

Second, something happens to us that cannot be replicated here. It is hard to explain what this is or how it works, so let’s turn to the Chronicles of Narnia for help.

In The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe four children from our world find themselves in the land of Narnia and play a small role in saving Narnia. (Aslan, a lion, is the Christ-figure in these stories, and he is the one who actually saves Narnia.) The four children are crowned Kings and Queens and reign for many years. They grow up in Narnia.

Then one day they stumble back into our world and discover no time has passed here, and they are once again children.

In the second book, Prince Caspian, the four children are pulled back into Narnia to help save the country again. The more time they spend there, the more they become who they once were. The very air of Narnia has a magical effect on them, and they are becoming Kings and Queens again.

At the end of this book Aslan tells the two oldest children, Peter and Susan, they will not be coming back to Narnia.

In the third book, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the two younger children, Edmund and Lucy, return to Narnia with their cousin Eustace and have more adventures.

As this story ends, Aslan tells Edmund and Lucy they will not be returning to Narnia. They are upset mainly because they think this means they will never see Aslan again. But he says this is not so.

Edmund asks, “Are you there too, Sir?”

“I am,” replies Aslan. “But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.”

This is the simple reason why short-term mission trips are worth every penny and more. Something happens to us while we are there. Our eyes are opened wider to God, to His world, and His heart for the world. It is not just so we can have a great week we will never forget, but so we can be different here.

So we may know God better here.

The Problem with Reading the Bible

There’s a problem with how we read the Bible. We miss things. Important things. We focus on the wrong parts. We forget what’s core and remember the peripherals.

We read a passage like the fruit of the Spirit, and all we take away is, “Here’s an essential list of character qualities for me to begin building into my life. I better start working on this.”

We read that faith without works is dead, and we zone in on doing works without doing the hard work, the foundational work, of having faith.

We have the whole story before us, but we skip to the end without poring over the chapters that come before it.

There is an order to these things, to this life-with-Christ, yet unfortunately we have a tendency to mess that order up and then wonder why we’re so messed up. This clip from “The Matrix” illustrates our problem when reading the Bible.

We are like Neo.

Neo is told that if he can “free his mind,” or have faith, then he will be able to jump a city block and do other seemingly impossible things. But before he has faith, he attempts to do what can only be accomplished with faith.

No surprise, he fails. No surprise, we do, too.

We read principles and commands throughout Scripture and we add them to our lives (just as the Pharisees did). We know if we are Christian, then this is how we are to live. But we have not done the foundational work that is required first.

We have not fully grasped or embraced grace. We are not completely convinced that God loves us as we are right now. We do not totally believe when Christ on the cross triumphantly cried out, “It is finished!” that it really is finished.

We are trying to live the Christian life without surrendering all of our life, without vulnerably trusting Christ with every area of life. We are trying to live the Christian life on our own, because we haven’t figured out yet how to abide with Christ or walk with the Holy Spirit.

So, the issue isn’t reading the Bible. The real issue is that as we read we tend to jump too far ahead of ourselves; we put the cart before the horse. Our foundation continues to be our own efforts to get it right, instead of getting grace… which means we’re not living by faith.

Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?
Galatians 3:3

Question: Can you recognize in yourself a default tendency to move ahead without God? To try to get it right on your own rather than living by grace?

The Boy on the Fence

*Photo credit Keith Maguire

Once upon a time, there was a little boy who sat on a fence. This fence was actually the little boy’s home. He had lived there with his family his whole life. And there were lots of other people who lived on the fence, too.

It really wasn’t a great place to live. It resembled a wide wall more than it did a traditional fence, but it was still confining and uncomfortable. However, all the boy had ever known was life on the fence, so he didn’t realize how silly it was to live there.

It was a safe place to live. A long time ago, a group of people had chosen to stay on the fence and live there in order to protect themselves and their families from the lands on either side of the fence.

You see, the fence stretched in either direction as far as the eye could see and separated two very different lands. One of the lands looked like it came right out of a postcard. The sun was always shining on the green, green grass, the blooming flowers, the birds in the trees filling the air with their music, and the bunny rabbits happily hopping through the fields.

Almost everyone who lived on the fence visited the sunny land from time to time. Most people were only gone for four or five hours, and occasionally some would be gone for a day or two. But they always came back to the fence.

The elders, who were the leaders and also the oldest people who lived on the fence, said that it was not wise or safe for anyone to ever visit the sunny land. While the others respected the elders, and even loved them, they didn’t really listen to them.

Once in a very great while, someone would leave the fence and not come back. When the people on the fence realized that the person was gone for good, they would not speak of that person again. And no one ever really talked about what they did over in the sunny land or what it was like.

This whole situation made the little boy very curious. He did not understand what made the sunny land unsafe; it looked harmless to him. And if it was unsafe, then why did everyone go there and come back unharmed? And why was it okay to visit the sunny land, but not okay to live there? And why didn’t anyone obey the elders’ command to stay on the fence?

The little boy was too young to climb down from the fence by himself, but he wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Someday, he told himself, he would explore the sunny land.

How Then Should We Live?

On Sunday, I talked about how Solomon’s Temple was built with a singular purpose, and when it was finished “the glory of the LORD” filled the Temple signifying that God found it a suitable and satisfactory place to dwell.

In the New Testament we find that through Christ we are “temples” that God has chosen to dwell in. And the more that we can be surrendered to God and His will for our lives, the more “at home” God is in us.

What if we lived each day with the singular purpose of being fully surrendered to God? Wouldn’t it be easier to live that way if we knew today was our last day? What if we just acted like it was our last day?

Discuss these questions as a family:

1) What does it mean to be surrendered to Christ?

2) What is one practical way that I can be more surrendered to Christ this week?

3) How can we help each other to live each day as if it could be our last… to make the most of each day and to live for Christ each day?

The CALL of the Cross

Read Matthew 7:13-14 as a family. Discuss what you think these verses mean.

So what did you come up with? Are things as black and white as Jesus is painting them?

If we take Jesus’ words simply at face value, what are the implications for our lives? How do we respond appropriately to this?

The Christian life is more than just believing the right things, memorizing the right things, and following Jesus “in your heart.” The Christian life is a LIFE that is lived for Christ!

The CALL of the Cross is “to come and die.” To daily kill off your sinful self, and live for Christ. To love God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your soul.

Do you agree with the above statements? If so, discuss as a family some practical steps to take as you journey together on the narrow road to Christ.