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Monday, July 16, 2007

I'm Not Doing This For You

So I've had a couple of inquiries about the "new" "trend"(it's really neither, but more on that later) away from full-time, professional missionaries and toward volunteer and short-term mission endeavors. I've made no secret of my own discomfort with being a professional missionary, so some of my readers ask if I'm excited by the potential shift toward an alternative that might facilitate broader involvement.

I'm not.

What I do is not something you can do on a week-long visit to the Old World, no matter how many language-courses-on-tape you've listened through. The cultural immersion required for relational and incarnational ministry is a long-term investment. I believe in the short-term involvement of volunteers, and I expect divine appointments through which God can affect tremendous change, but I believe that hit-and-run evangelism will not communicate the gospel to Western European peoples better than sharing life with people over time. We need both long and short-term people on the mission field in order to be effective in contextually-appropriate ministry. I'm not special, but I'm here.

With that said, people (especially those who support me) need to realize that I'm not doing what I do so that they don't have to. Sending money to me (through my organization, of course) is not what you get to do instead of being a missionary yourself. The Commission is not one you can or should hire out, and I'm not your stand-in. In fact, if you give to missions for any reason other than obedience to God, please stop. We don't need your money.

A missions organization asking about the "trend" toward volunteers is like a travel agency asking about the "trend" of customers using the internet to make travel arrangements. The democratization of missions activities means that the professionals no longer have a corner on the market. We need to take extra measures to spell out the benefit (relevance?) of career missions. If people don't see the point, or see better way (say, missional expatiratism, or incarnational immigration?), of course they're going to pursue it.

Heck, if we've got professional missionaries wondering about the validity of professional missions, maybe we're not doing a very good job of rationalizing our system.


Perry McCall said...

Great point. I agree with you about the dangers of exalting short missions beyond its' usefullness. It is valuable but your arguement for the neccessity of incarnational commitment is correct.

Strider said...

We have faced this issue here as well. Some have come and have suggested that the age of the full time M is over. I agree with you on this. Both are needed. What concerns me about the discussion however is that there seems to be two motivations going on. Some put the idea forward of short-term missions as an exploration of missiology. They want to see the Kingdom expanded and they are exploring ways to do that. They are no longer satisfied that someone in a seminary somewhere will come up with 'acceptable' missiology and the churches should just leave it to the professionals. I applaud this new exploration and think that we professionals could really learn from new people with new ideas.
BUT, and you knew there would be a BUT, I have seen too many who are looking for a short cut. Too many are trying to find ways to do 'missions' in their spare time. I have no patience for these people. So, let us encourage Churches to be involved on every level but let us also set out a clear call that Jesus own mission to the world cost him his life and it will cost us no less.

Debbie Kaufman said...

I too agree that both are needed. However, nothing reaches people like a personal relationship with them and what better way to demonstrate our personal relationship with the Trinity. Good post as usual stepchild. I find your posts to be inspirational and full of honesty and thought. Know that I am praying for you daily stepchild. The things you write about are things that need to be said in my opinion.

Debbie Kaufman said...

Strider: I like your last point that began with the "but". No one knows better than you and stepchild. Your thoughts on this should be valued.

Anonymous said...

And it needs to be said that not everyone is cut out for the full-time incarnational role. We can't have a "y'all come" mentality. It takes the Lord calling and the Lord keeping us on the field.

Short-termers are helpful, but they can also be hurtful. I think it depends on whether they are coming to "feel good" about doing something FOR God or if they are truly being obedient and are coming to be used (and changed) by God.