Stop Calling It A “Short Term Missions Trip”. Here’s What You Should Call It Instead.

Our vocation, whether in butchering, baking or candlestick-making - is the primary means we have been given to serve God.

Learning Exchanges – a time when our theology and understanding of the world is rocked to the core and deconstructed. When we travel as learners, eager to have our minds expanded and preconceptions challenged, we will not be disappointed. This category includes those who travel as part of their vocation – as a builder, surgeon or dentist for example – but are open to learning from God while they are passing on expertise to others in another country.

 

Imagine if I wrote this letter to my local dentist.

“Dear Sir, I’d like to come and be a dentist for 2 weeks. I’ve been meeting once a month with a small group of others who also want to be short term dentists, and we have our t-shirts printed and we’re ready to come.

  1. Can you drive us around, translate for us, and help take cool photos for our Facebook pages?”

I’d like to be a fly on the wall when the dentist received that letter.

We don’t have short term Social Workers, or short term Bio-Scientists.

We don’t have short term Gastro-enterologists or short term Politicians.

So why, why, why, WHY, do we have short term Missionaries in ever-increasing numbers?

Here’s the problem. We’ve created in our minds a false continuum. At one end of the continuum is “short term missions” and at the other end is something we call “long term missions”. We think of them as pretty much the same thing, but with differing lengths of service.

But they’re not the same. No, not at all. And by naming them both “mission” we’re missin’ the point.

It might help at this point to situate “long-term missions” properly. Let’s just agree right up front that there is no such thing as a part-time Christian. There is no such thing as a follower of Jesus who is not in full-time service to God. If you are a full-time banker, and a part-time Christian – you might be deluded. (So, don’t tell me you are going into “full-time Christian ministry” – I’ll be tempted to ask what you thought you were doing up to this point.)

As followers of Jesus, we are all called to a VOCATION.

That’s the term we need to embrace. It will put everything else in its proper place. Our vocation, whether in butchering, baking or candlestick-making – is the primary means we have been given to serve God.

So, some of us will have a vocation as an architect or a writer, as a parent or a nurse. And some of us will have a vocation in cross-cultural service among the poor. Humanitarian work, Bible translation, social entrepreneurship – these have all been labeled  “long term missions” – but they are just different variations on every Christian’s call to pursue a vocation that serves God and his upside-down kingdom.

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