COMMENTARY | Mark Emerson
We’ve barely finished summer and it’s already time to plan spring and summer mission trips for next year. But before you get out a map and some darts, consider these questions:
• Has God brought to our attention a need, area, or people group?
• Have we identified our Acts 1:8 mission fields? What, if anything, are we doing locally, in our state, North America, and the world?
• How can we develop a long-term partnership with a missionary, church plant, or people group? What can we do in Illinois?
• Does our church understand the purpose of missions involvement?
As short-term missions increase in popularity, a plethora of reasons is being offered regarding why we are going on mission trips. Don’t get lost in a side purpose; the reason we participate in short-term missions is to share the gospel of Jesus Christ.
With that as our purpose, we now know who should join us (those currently sharing the gospel), we know how to prepare our team (teach them to share the gospel), and we know what we will be doing when we get there (sharing the gospel).
Of course, many teams use creative means to earn the right to share the gospel, but do not lose sight of your ultimate purpose. Mission trips not centered on that purpose are nothing more than spiritual tourism.
Leaders who take the approach of engaging a different area each year may find that their efforts are as temporary as their trip. Mission leaders who are willing to invest in a long-term strategy through partnering with a full-time missionary will find their effectiveness continues beyond the tenure of their trip.
As Southern Baptists, we are part of one of the largest evangelical mission forces on the planet. There are plenty of places to discover partnerships. Effective mission trips await those churches that are willing to stop organizing projects and start developing mission partnerships.
More than 24,000 members of IBSA churches participated in missions last year. IBSA helps many churches connect with missionaries and develop mission strategies each year. Contact the Church Resources Team at (217) 391-3138 to learn more.
Mark Emerson is associate executive director for IBSA’s Church Resources Team.