Am I the only one who is concerned with the way the American church does missions? In my denomination, a missionary must have a M. Div. to be appointed as a full-fledged missionary on a foreign field. Next comes missionary training, which includes more education and learning another language. Once the missionary reaches his/her destination, they often realize how different they are from the natives. Skin color, customs, culture—even the concept of time—become barriers to effective communication. Trust is another factor that stands in the way of establishing healthy relationships, along with American feelings of superiority.
After spending thousands of dollars to train, travel, and set up residency, the hands-on ministry haltingly commences. Discouragement soon sets in, especially during the holidays, and the missionary often yearns for hearth and home.
Just how effective is much our mission strategy?
The same can be asked about short-term missions. I was discussing this question with a good friend who told of a recent medical mission trip to a poor Asian nation. Approximately 30 individuals made the trek to set up make-shift clinics, examine patients, and treat them with prescription drugs. By necessity, they worked through interpreters. The three-week venture cost each participant approximately $3,000. That was $90,000 for the trip. Since the annual project has been ongoing for a decade, nearly $1,000,000 has been expended to date!
What is wrong with this picture? One million dollars could have funded several clinics, staffed with native doctors, nurses, and aides on a full-time basis for the past ten years. Instead of 30 weeks of medical care, the villagers would have received 520 weeks of care.
How did the early church do missions? Is it possible they developed strategies that are still applicable for twenty-first century missions? Hopefully, in the weeks ahead we can provide answers to some of these questions. Your comments are welcomed.