This post begins a series of posts I’m calling “A Process of Missional Engagement.”
Recently, much has been written calling the Short-Term Mission Trip (STMT) phenomenon in Evangelicalism (especially American Evangelicalism) into question. One such example is this week’s post on the Gospel Coalition — “Why You Should Consider Canceling Your Short-Term Mission Trips.”
A consensus seems to have emerged: Evangelicals’ approach to “Mission(s)” is quite problematic.
I’ve read many of these kinds of resources and have strong opinions about STMTs and their place in the life of the church.
Further, I have a vested interest in following these developments. All of this is personal for me. In my full-time role as a minister to college students, I wrestle theologically and philosophically with what we do, or don’t do, in the category of “mission.” But even more importantly, I’m involved with a ministry effort in Haiti. My responsibility within this organization is to connect, coordinate and manage short term teams. Suffice it to say that I spend a lot of time to trying to lead, think about, shape, craft, connect, etc in this aspect of Evangelical life. A huge personal passion is how to lead people to think of the work of God in the world and how to participate in it.
That’s what this series is about.
I’m wanting to propose a potential way forward with how we lead people to think of “Mission.” In my work with college students, in my local church, in my responsibilities in Haiti, how can I lead the church towards a richer, fuller, more healthy engagement in the Mission of God?
This series of posts will have implications for STMTs. But I hope it’s broader than that.
In my experience of leading God’s people in these things, I see five paradigms for how Christians think of “mission.” For better or for worse, I believe most Christians approach “mission” in one of these 5 ways. Further, I believe most Christians engage “mission” in this sequence. A forthcoming post will explain each.
“Bless Their Heart/Bless Your Heart.” Mission as a demonstration of pity.
“Christian Altruistic Tourism.” Mission as adventure.
“White Man’s Burden.” Mission as North American takeover.
“God’s Doing Something Here.” Mission as participation.
“Mutuality in Service and Mission.” Mission as fellowship and friendship.
Instead of being angry about how the church thinks about mission, I propose that we think about ways to intentionally lead people through this progression. Our job is to push them along in their journey, purposefully and pastorally.