Arminian Today

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My Mixed Thoughts on Missions Trips

I have mixed feelings about missions trips.  On the one hand, I was part of a missions trip when I was a young disciple that forced me to see the need for the gospel in other nations.  I witnessed first hand the poverty of spirit that is found in many nations.  I saw the poverty of needs as  well and saw the good that our missionaries from the United States were doing for the gospel.  I witnessed the strength that came from unity among brethren who were from different denominations in the USA but were united under the gospel in another nation.  I came back forever changed by my experience.

Yet on the other hand, I often fear that we in the United States use missions trips to do two things.  First, we provide comfort for our guilty consciences for not making disciples in our own towns.  I know of people who are passionate to go on missions trips and will work hard to save up money for their missions trips but they never share the gospel here where they are at.  I have watched missionaries in training go from church to church trying to earn money to go to the mission field but they are not sharing the gospel with people all around them here who are just as needy for Christ as people overseas.  I have watched people train and get ready for missions trips but never bother to go out here where we are and share the gospel with the lost.  How can we take Matthew 28:19 and not see that it applies to where we are at now and not in the future?

Secondly, I have watched people view missions trips as nothing more than glorified vacations.  You get to visit another nation (or even our own but in another part of the nation) and do so in the name of the gospel.  Instead of actually going to do evangelism (and by that I mean share the gospel with the lost), people go on missions trips to see others do the ministry.  They go to visit our American missionaries there and watch them do the work while they just sit back and enjoy their glorified vacation that others paid for.

But let me add some grace here as well.  I repeat again that my first missions trip blessed me.  It opened my eyes to going beyond my own borders to the lost in the world.  The United States is indeed a post-Christian nation and we are full of paganism but despite our sins, we have many solid disciples in our nation still preaching the gospel.  I don’t believe God is done with us yet.  He may be done with the United States government and their idolatry but He has a remnant in this nation and I believe He always will.  Nothing can stop the gospel.  Nothing (Matthew 16:18).  Jesus will save sinners in the United States as the gospel is preached even if the government makes it illegal (and this is coming).  Jesus will win (Psalm 110:1).  Yet I know that there are many other nations who also need the gospel.  Thank God for missions and sending people to those nations for the gospel (Mark 16:15).

Missions trips can do much in the heart of disciples.  It can even open people’s eyes to their own salvation.  When I went on my first missions trip, I think the entire youth who came got “saved” at some point.  Of course that meant praying the “sinner’s prayer” and nearly all of them are lost today but missions trips often show people how lost they are as well.  Some truly repent.  Others just play games and give lip service to God but came back to their sins when home.  God knows those who are His (2 Timothy 2:19).

One final point about this.  I am torn because when I went on my first missions trip, I was a very young disciple.  I was a disciple but knew so little.  I thank God that the people let me go.  I did have a heart for the Lord though my evangelism in those days was just to get people to say the “sinner’s prayer” and move on.  I knew little of the true gospel that demands repentance and total surrender to the Lordship of Christ (Matthew 7:21-23; 1 John 2:3-6).  I have often wondered if we do a disservice to missions by taking people who just want a glorified vacation and who are not serious about Christ, who know nothing of the gospel, who never share their faith (or simply think of evangelism as getting people to say the “prayer”).  I have noticed that few missions trips make strict guidelines for being a true disciple and often allow people who know little of the gospel or never display a radical desire to preach the truth.  We just allow whoever can pay to go and then stick them doing jobs that often have nothing to do with the gospel.

Yet nonetheless I am torn because my first missions trip was an eye-opener and when I came back, I did take serious the command of Christ to go and preach the gospel.  I begin to support missions financially and I also saw that I needed to preach the gospel in my Jerusalem as well (Acts 1:8).  I pray that others will do the same and go and preach the gospel in all places especially where they live (Luke 24:47; Romans 10:14-17).

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Written by The Seeking Disciple

06/07/2014 at 9:42 AM

9 Responses

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  1. I have heard several missionaries say things along the lines of, “Stop sending your worldly youth over to us. We have to work even harder after they go to undo all the damage they did to our witness.”

    jeff

    06/07/2014 at 10:02 AM

    • I have heard similar statements. That is a sad commentary on the status of our missions groups we often send.

  2. […] More here: My Mixed Thoughts on Missions Trips | Arminian Today […]

  3. Wow! Great post, thanks for sharing. I agree with you, God bless you!

    conoscigesu

    06/07/2014 at 6:21 PM

  4. Sorry, this is a bit off topic, but I don’t see any other way to email you. (If there is a somewhat less “public” area for discussion like your private email, please feel free to let me know where to direct my questions.) I notice that you have Gary DeMar’s website listed on your blogroll. I come from a similar religious background as yours and am currently a homeschooling mother. While homeschooling is becoming more and more mainstream, it is influenced by theonomists / Christian reconstructionists. I can appreciate much of what they offer, but do experience a “check” in my spirit re: some of their applications of civil law all the way down to the specific required penalties. Specifically, I do not see a clear-cut separation of civil, moral, or ceremonial laws in the Scriptures (many are listed within the same verses). Yet, I can certainly appreciate how the founding fathers used the Bible to inform their decisions when setting up our country. I was wondering how those theological traditions outside of the Reformed faith (and specifically theonomy) handle the application of Scripture to all of life. I read on a ‘Restless and Reforming’ blog that theonomy is a Calvinist version of Methodism. I found this idea interesting and wondered if you might have any comments regarding how these two relate to one another.

    Furthermore, as I’ve homeschooled, I’ve also come to realize that much of education has been influenced by Constantine / Augustine / Greek thought rather than Hebraic thought. I see this theologically as well, specifically regarding thoughts about Calvinism and misunderstandings about women in leadership. However, as I’ve been studying on the internet, I am seeing that there are several out there who take this a step further outside of what many would consider orthodox beliefs about the Trinity, Hell (either annihilation or Christian universalism), and possibilities of Open Theism. Could you please help me sort out these issues?

    Thank you greatly for your time,
    L. Lyn

    flarevyron

    06/07/2014 at 11:16 PM

    • I adhere to partial preterism so that is why Gary Demar is linked. I don’t follow him for his views on civil government or theonomy. My wife and I homeschool our three children but we follow the basic principles of reading, writing, and math. We do teach the Bible to our children but my main emphasis there is on salvation through Jesus Christ alone. Obviously, we deny evolution and teach biblical creationism. That said, my children are young now and the ideas of theonomy and Christian reconstructionism have not come up. In time I will have to address them but it is not an issue now.

      My views would be similar to those found in John MacArthur’s book “Why Government Can’t Save You” and I would focus on the kingdom of God in the book of Acts as the disciples focused on the risen Jesus and His saving work above all other things. I want my boys to honor Christ in whatever they choose to do with their lives and see that their ultimate purpose is to exalt Jesus.

      I know that I probably didn’t answer your questions but it is not an issue for us at this time.

  5. Someone who doesnt share the Gospel with the people around them Does not know Jesus and is not saved.
    1st John 4.1-3, 15.
    also
    “He who does not confess me before men,I will not confess before my father in heaven”

    The first 200 years of The Way (what we were first called) we had a nickname, ‘Confessors’. EVERYSINGLE CHRISTIAN WITNESSED TO EVERYONE.

    *this obviousely does not include people with mental illness, some introverts, very young or old people, et.

    malaach

    06/07/2014 at 11:29 PM

    • I would agree. Charles Spurgeon said that you are either a missionary or a mission field. There is no middle ground. Those who truly love Christ will love the lost and long to see them saved. This comes from the Spirit of God who dwells within us and He longs to make Christ known (John 15:26-27). But of course, salvation doesn’t begin with or end with our efforts but the saving work of Christ and His precious blood shed for our sins (Ephesians 1:7).

  6. […] I have previously written on missions trips and my thoughts on them.  My mixed feelings on them are that they can be both a blessing and a curse.  The gospel that is preached by missions groups is often the American gospel of “God wants to bless you, make you happy, He loves you endlessly.  So pray this prayer and you are in forever!”  The poor gospel that is often preached in the evangelical churches is carried over in missions trips and so missionaries spend their time when mission groups depart having to clean up the mess (and not just the physical mess).  The spiritual mess is worse.  It leaves behind people thinking that the way to God is through praying a “sinner’s prayer” that has no biblical basis and they think that God wants to bless their socks off.  Like those in Matthew 13:20-21, they turn away from Christ as soon as disappointments come. […]


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