Guest post from KBC Mission Strategist Doug Williams, Ph.D.
Jesus’ commission to make disciples of all nations is clear. The early church saw the responsibility of Jesus’ command as given to them. But is the church today commissioned to simply send long-term missionaries, or might there be room for short-term missions teams, too? I offer the following eight reasons why the church should include short-term missions as part of its overall missions strategy.
1) Jesus commanded us to make disciples locally and globally (Matthew 28:16-20; Acts 1:8). The Scriptures do not give us an option of whether we make disciples here or there; it’s both/and.
2) There is more work than workers (Matthew 9:37-38). Jesus tells us to pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into the harvest. Every country I am privileged to share in disciple-making, I hear from our NAMB and IMB missionaries that they need more partners, not just the traditional long-term personnel (though that is true), but short-term teams as well.
3) Volunteer missionaries can be a source of encouragement for long-term missionaries (Acts 14:19-23). Every minister of the gospel needs someone to come alongside of him or her as a source of encouragement. Weariness easily sets in, and our missionaries and churches need to know they are not alone.
4) We can accomplish more together than we can alone (Matthew 10:5). Cooperation is more than our dollars; it includes our effort. As Jesus discipled his followers, he sent them out together for gospel impact. In short, Jesus planned for multiplication of impact. He knew that kind of impact required teamwork.
5) Volunteer missions work is a farm system for long-term missions (Acts 13:1-3). Throughout his missionary journeys, the Apostle Paul consistently brings others with him. Often those with him are more short-term in nature. Take Mark for example. While his first journey with Paul is short-lived, he later becomes a valuable partner in gospel impact.
6) Volunteer missions work opens our eyes to the need of the gospel worldwide (Matthew 9:36). In looking over the crowds, Jesus is moved with compassion that leads to action. Staying in our comfortable bubbles at home isolates us from the reality of a world desperately in need of the Savior. “Out of sight, out of mind” becomes our motto. Going somewhere besides our home turf allows us to see a world filled with real people who have real hurts and needs.
7) Volunteer missions work is a way to disciple (2 Timothy 2:2). Paul taught Timothy who taught faithful men who taught others. Short-term missions offers a platform for discipleship like no other. Taking people out of their comfort zones and into the vastness of the world is a great crucible for Jesus to work in incredible ways.
8) Because 98 + 2= 100. People often say, “Why should we go over there when people need Jesus here?” Yes, people need Jesus here, but they need Jesus everywhere. Why can’t I make disciples where I live 98 percent of the year and give 2 percent of the year making disciples over “there”? It’s not hard math: 98 + 2= 100.
Short-term missions should be part of an overall strategy for making disciples locally and globally for the glory of God. What other reasons would you give for short-term missions?