I have been thinking about mission trips a lot since I read THIS ARTICLE. Since becoming a Christian I have been exposed to hundreds of mission projects. Early on I was taught that the term “missions” can have scores of definitions. It could mean kindness to others, traveling far away places, handing out tracks and an endless list of sanctified actions. Each year thousands of American short-term missionaries travel local or abroad to participate in projects that are completely divorced from the establishment or advancement of any local church. They are not apostles, sent out by the Holy Spirit like Paul and Barnabas in acts thirteen , so what are they? Well the article indicates that they are vacationaries and they have been created by well meaning churches and pastors.
A Princeton University study found that 1.6 million people took short-term mission trips — an average of eight days — in 2005. Estimates of the money spent on these trips is upward of $2.4 billion a year. Vacation destinations are especially popular: Recent research has found that the Bahamas receives one short-term missionary for every 15 residents. At the same time, the number of long-term American missionaries, who go abroad from several years to a lifetime, has fallen, according to a Wheaton College study done last year.
The vast majority of these trips, though conducted by churches are not doing anything to plant, assist or enhance any church in any way. I don’t mean to say that short-term trips are bad because they’re not… I also know that places like the Bahamas (or Iceland) needs the gospel just as desperately as Indonesia. That said though, I think it is safe to say though that not all is well in the world of short term missions.