Monday, January 20, 2014

Why I Support a Short-term Mission Trip Policy

Until a few weeks ago, I gave no thought to our church adopting a short-term mission trip policy. I had given plenty of thought to short-term missions as a concept, but it hadn’t crossed my mind that we might need a policy. Somehow, I ended up right in the middle of developing one.

I’m still on the fence about short-term mission trips. I’m torn between hearing short-term missionaries rejoicing in the work of God accomplished through them and hearing horror stories from long-term missionaries about it taking more money to get the short-term missionaries on the field than the annual budget of the mission.

The Big Picture

My indecision concerning short-term mission trips is part of the reason I see the need for a policy. While I see reasons to encourage short-term mission trips, we need to keep our eye on the big picture. Short-term missions is good, but only if it is beneficial to long-term missions. We want our members to help finance short-term missions, but it is more cost effective to finance the work of long-term missions. We want people to be excited about serving God on a short-term mission, but we also want them to do the work of the ministry here at home.

Unfortunately, we don’t have unlimited resources. Our Father does, but he hasn’t seen fit to fund everything we imagine to do. Until he does, we have to make some decisions about how to use the resources he has given us. That means that when someone comes to the church asking for financial support, the use of the building, or some other resource, the answer may be "no."

The Bad Guy

This is a big reason why we need a short-term missions policy. When it is necessary for the church to say "no, someone has to be the bad guy. Without a policy in place, the pastor ends up being the bad guy by default. Someone says, "I’m going to ask people to give to my mission trip this month." The pastor goes to them and says, "Let’s not do that; we’re trying to raise money for Lifeword this month." Then they start grumbling, "He let that person, but he won’t let me. It isn’t fair."

A pastor’s primary responsibility is preaching. While he often leads out in other things as well, it is better if he doesn’t have to stress over telling someone they can’t hold their fundraiser. I think a short-term mission policy will reduce the chance that our pastor will have to be the bad guy. It isn’t that I think the people who are currently involved in short-term missions would cause a problem (not intentionally anyway), but we don’t know all the people who will join our church in the future. It is better if the pastor has a policy he can point to and say, "This is what the church decided." Just like it was better for the early church to have a group of men other than the pastors to make sure food was distributed fairly, it is better if the pastor can focus his attention on prayer and the Word of God, and let others stress over the fair way to allocate church resources.


None of us like being the bad guy. We don’t like telling people they can’t do what they want to do or telling people that we don’t have the resources to give them. A pastor has to do that more often than his congregation is aware. And it is made worse by the fact that everyone believes that whatever ministry they are involved in is so importance that it shouldn’t be limited. If we had infinite resources, we could give grants to anyone who wanted to go on a short-term mission trip, and it wouldn’t matter whether they accomplished anything or not. But we don’t, so it is necessary to have a means of allocating the resources we do have, and of allowing people to request financial support without overburdening the church with a continual stream of requests, for which they have a limited capacity to give. So, I support the development of a short-term mission trip policy.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014


You don’t realize how much people learn from actions until you hear them talk about it. As Hindu friend of mine told me about something he had watched on television concerning Christmas. When he had watched it in the past, a man had held “the baby Jesus” in a basket and shown him to the people. This year, the man held the baby in his arms.

My friend asked, “ why would he do that? He is a god, he shouldn’t be touched by humans.”

Who would’ve thought that a basket would have such theological importance? But my friend is right. Jesus is God and from that standpoint, we humans shouldn’t touch him. That’s what amazed John when he wrote his epistle. God, the creator of the world, took on human flesh and dwelt among us. John had touched him, perhaps not fully understanding the significance of that when he did, but he touched him. The whole point of Jesus coming in human form was to restore fellowship between God and man. He took a form that made it possible for people to touch him.

I don’t know why one man would carry the baby around in a basket and another would carry the baby in his hands. I do know that the basket portrayed the wrong idea.