How Short-Term Mission Trips Can Make Our Churches Healthier
SOUTHGATE, MI – As Baptist State Convention of Michigan (BSCM) churches across our great state seek to be healthier, the short-term mission trip can be one way to make that happen. There’s nothing quite like teams from our churches taking the Gospel to another place. There’s something very Biblical about it. There’s something very transforming about it. There’s something very healthy about it.
Our church, Calvary Baptist of Southgate, has taken five short-term mission trips in the last seven years and the positive impact on the church has been very evident. We’ve been to Honduras, New York City, the Philippines, Los Angeles, and Peru. Those on the mission teams have experienced tremendous blessing from serving Jesus beyond the walls of the church and beyond the borders of their communities. And, the church family has been blessed by praying, supporting, and sending the teams.
What are some healthy outcomes of sending mission teams from our churches to other parts of the country or other parts of the world? Here are just a few:
1. Short term mission trips can produce the satisfaction of fulfilling the Great Commission
Healthy New Testament churches are to be “going into all the world to preach the Gospel” and the short-term mission trips are one way our churches can be obedient to this Commission. In the Gospel accounts, Jesus sent His disciples on short trips to other parts of Samaria and Galilee to share the good news of His kingdom (Luke 10:1-2). And, in the early church, Paul and Barnabas were led by the Holy Spirit to go on the first of three mission trips into Asia Minor and beyond (Acts 13:1-3).
So, “sending” churches are being collectively obedient to the Lord of the harvest and are, therefore, healthier because of doing so. I recall when our church was “on mission” in Honduras, Central America, some years back and we made a conference call back to the church in Michigan. As we utilized technology to speak with the congregation over the church’s PA system during a morning church service, one of the closing comments to our team from a Deacon of the church was, “Thanks for representing all of us there in Honduras. It’s like we are there with you!” That statement was evidence that our whole congregation was healthier as they experienced the mutual joy of fulfilling Christ’s Great Commission into the “uttermost”.
2. Short term mission trips can produce longer term missionaries from within our churches
Studies have shown that many of those that go on short-term mission trips will go on to consider being full-time career missionaries. In fact, most mission agencies, including the International Mission Board (IMB) encourage potential missionary candidates to go on a short-term mission trip before making their final decision about missionary service. This can be the way Jesus confirms to people that He wants them on a mission field for the rest of their lives.
Could the apostle Paul have caught the vision for more missionary journeys after his first one? What if he would not have gone on the second and third journeys? There may have not been any Macedonian call and, thus, no Gospel witness to the continent of Europe and, thus further, no Gospel eventually going from England to America. Mere conjecture, indeed, but something to think about. Jesus could have used that first missionary journey to motivate Paul to keep going, and to keep making trips further out into the world. This phenomenon of short-term mission trips being “sparks” that light a “fire” in someone destined to be a career missionary is very real.
And, while we may not want to lose the brightest and best from our churches to a distant mission field, we must admit that this very thing can make our churches healthier. It engenders a sense of deep joy that young people, as well as older people, in our churches who are spiritually healthy enough to receive the call of Jesus to the mission field. That means our churches are healthy, because it is a place where people come to know Jesus as Savior, grow in faith in Him, and are open to hearing His call to the mission field. And, as more and more people are called to missions, it continues to produce a healthy environment in our churches. This type of multiplication seems to have happened in the early church (Acts 9:31). May the churches in our state convention multiply in this way. And, for sure, mission trips can help facilitate that very multiplication.
3. Short term mission trips can produce more giving in our churches and to the Cooperative Program
No discussion about the health of our churches can omit the mention of money. And, while “the love of money is the root of all evil”, the love of using money for missions is anything but evil. When our churches partner together to send a team of their own people on a short-term mission trip, it reveals the value of the money they are giving. They see the passion of the team. They see the adventure of the mission. They see the resulting souls saved, saints edified, and mission projects accomplished. It can give our churches a renewed desire to be faithful in the giving of their tithes and offerings to their own local church, as well as revive their loyalty to the Cooperative Program.
So, these are just a few ways that short-term mission trips can increase the health in our churches. Feel free to come up with others. Let’s be bold to declare these things in our churches! Let’s be ready to go on a mission trip. Let’s challenge our people to get a passport, pray over it, asking Jesus to lead them on a mission trip beyond Jerusalem and Judea to Samaria and the uttermost parts of the earth.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Dan Russell is the Executive Pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Southgate, Michigan, a NAMB Coach for church planters, and an adjunct professor for Spring Arbor University. He has 37 years of pastoral experience, including lead pastorates in Missouri, Kansas, and Michigan. Dan and his wife, JoLinda, live in Brownstown, Michigan, and have three adult children, along with seven grandchildren.