"Our Church Is Taking A Mission Trip To Africa!" Why?
I want to tell you a brief story that prompted me to write this blog. A few days ago, like so many of us, I was surfing my social media and I happened to come across one of my friends’ profiles. For the sake of full disclosure, this person is someone I went to high school with and we probably only communicate online five or six times a year. And that’s including “likes” on memes we post. In any event, he was posting on how he was so excited that his college aged daughter was going to be taking her first mission trip to Africa. I liked the post. It seemed like the right thing to do. But, I kept getting this nagging feeling as I thought about it. Why?
Taking a mission trip, for so many Christians, is the highlight or the pinnacle of their spiritual journey. It’s become particular popular among the teens and young adults. And, I get it. The people who go on mission trips in your church are probably hot stuff. They command the podium for three months worth of services before they go asking the congregation to finance the trip and another couple services after they get back to tell the congregation all the exciting things they did. Their photographs of the trip pepper the church website, the hallways leading to the classrooms or the church bulletin. The term “missionary” alone just sounds really cool. Your church might even make the local newspaper. I can really understand why this idea of travelling overseas to a faraway land, usually Africa, Asia or South America, and winning over the populace for Jesus Christ sounds exciting, a bit dangerous, like something out of an adventure novel. Here we are, usually for a week or two, fulfilling the Great Commission in a savage land like the Apostles did and countless saints, martyrs and explorers before us. And fortunately, the church office has a travel agent they can partner with to help make all the arrangements.
I decided to do a little bit of research. As it turns out, this particular African nation is already 82 percent Christian and growing. And yet, the city my friend lives in, right here in the good, old United States of America, used to be 90 percent Christian a decade ago. It’s only 61 percent Christian now. And of those 61 percent who identify themselves as Christian, only a little over half are practicing in any meaningful way. Christianity isn’t declining in Africa, Asia or Central or South America. In fact, it’s growing pretty fast there. Would it surprise you that where Christianity is in a free fall is the United States, Europe and Australia? And that is despite having more Christian media (television stations, radio stations, movies, books, etc.), schools and churches available. Maybe we shouldn’t be sending Christian missionaries overseas, maybe we should be begging these other continents to send some over to us.
Mission trips are important. Distributing Bibles, medical supplies, food and witnessing the Gospel to others is all part of the Great Commission given to us by Jesus Christ. And while supporting our brethren overseas matters, let’s not forget those brothers and sisters struggling less than 2 blocks away from our church doors. Mission trips aren’t Christian vacations. So, the next time your youth minister gets up to talk about the upcoming mission trip to Daytona Beach or Disney World, why not raise your hand and say, “how about this year we stay right here?”