Short-Sighted on Short-Term Missions?

There’s been a push back against Short-Term missions recently. Paul Washer in a Q&A session (video here) said this about short-term missions:

I literally just can’t understand the ideas that we have about missions. Sometimes I’ll walk through an airport in a foreign country and I’ll see 40 American teenagers or college students all with the same t-shirt on, they’re a christian group. You add it all up and they’ve spent about 80,000 dollars for their week and a half mission trip. It’s 40 of them. They’ve come down, they’ve preached the gospel that’s not really the gospel at all. They’ve done puppet shows. They’ve run around acting silly in their silly clothes and they go back and tell everybody a thousand people got saved, when in fact, probably almost no one got saved because all those people who made decisions don’t show up at church the next Sunday. Where that same amount of money could have put 25 Peruvian pastors on the field for an entire year where they speak the language, preaching the gospel 24 hours a day.

This isn’t anything groundbreaking. Many have come before Washer, and surely many will come after, berating High School and College students for wanting to go on a short-term missions trip. In essence, the argument is that we spend a vast amount of money for a few students (who may not have even been evaluated on spiritual maturity) to go, paint a building, talk to someone about Jesus, and then go home. This missions model, according to Washer and others, is unacceptable and unbiblical.

I understand this argument, and even have some significant sympathies for it. I spent two months in Scotland in the summer of 2012 with the PCA missions arm, Mission to the World (MTW). During my time there, it was extremely hard for me to connect deeply with that many people who weren’t believers, and share the Gospel with them. Quite frankly, it isn’t hard to wonder how much harder it would be for a two week missions trip. There’s no way my team would have been able to accomplish any one of the tasks we were given in a two week trip.

But, have we really looked at both sides of the issue?

When I recall my time in Scotland, I don’t think about how I impacted people. I don’t try to imagine how awesome I was, or how my team would have been ineffective without me (they definitely would have done better). What I think about is how that trip shaped me. That’s all I can think about, really. I don’t know the minds of the American team that went, the minister we spent the majority of our time with, or the young guys that I’m dying to see again (big shout out to John, Ewen, Iain, Niall, and Ally!). My perspective on my time in Scotland is centered around what Christ did for me, not what I did for Scotland or for Christ.

When we look at short-term missions, we’ve been short-sighted. We’ve focused less on the people going and more on the people they are going to. Why have we forgotten about the spiritual health of those going?

My next observation is this: why are we so worked up about the money?

Any penny spent for the spiritual growth of an individual is worth it. Let’s be concerned with stewardship, but not at the cost of growth. Are you, dear friend, more concerned with how the money is being spent that the growth of either the team or those they’re going to serve? If so, repent of your love of money. Rejoice and give gladly, for the Lord loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor. 9:6-7). We need to trust that God will give bountifully to those who sow bountifully (also 2 Cor. 9:6-7). When you donate money to a short-term missions trip, know that your money is going toward both the short-term missionary and where he/she is going.

In the end, my question in this debate about short-term missions is this: have we forgotten that the team that was sent needs Jesus, too? I’m not saying this is a slam dunk for why we should do short-term missions, but the focus seems to be 99.9999% on the place and people where the team is going. Christ is moving in both the lives of the recipients of the team, and the team itself!

So, whether you’re a fan of short-term missions or not, don’t forget that the team going needs Jesus, too. Don’t forget that our Father could use a short-term experience for the good of those going and those they go to. Don’t forget that the team going and those they’re going to serve are sinners, in desperate need of the grace and mercy that Jesus gives by the power of His death and resurrection. And for the love of heaven (seriously), don’t let money be the deciding factor in your opinion.

God’s Plan for My Wife–Who Isn’t My Soul Mate

I keep seeing an article passed around friends on Facebook. Hannah (that’s all I got) wrote it, and if you haven’t read it, then I highly encourage it. I enjoyed it a lot.

I find myself torn on this article, though. It encourages a revamp on the cultural idea of dating—which I’m all for, of course! But Hannah makes a move that, honestly, made me squirm a little in my seat. I’ll keep it short, since I’ve been told I should stop writing on dating topics.

Hannah sacrifices a deep and beautiful theological truth to make her point. She rightly attacks the cultural idea of soul mates, but makes the unfortunate move of giving up God’s sovereignty.

So how can we reconcile the two? Well, that’s a large task, as many brighter and greater men than myself have attempted to tackle it. And while I may be foolish for even trying in this severely limited context, I will try nonetheless.

God does have a plan for you and whomever you marry. Sorry to go against Hannah’s father here who said something like, “God doesn’t have a husband for [you], doesn’t have a plan for who [you] marry.” This is just hogwash. Sorry to be blunt, but it is. God absolutely has a plan for who we will marry (should the Lord will that we actually do). He has written whether or not we will marry, and to whom we will be married, from the dawn of time.

The problem we face is this ‘soul mate’ business. This, too, is hogwash. There’s no perfect person that just ‘completes your soul’ when you find them. Your soul is already completed in Christ! But, that doesn’t remove God’s sovereign plan for your life.

In other words, the danger of Hannah’s line of thinking is simply this: we would be able to think that we married the wrong person. We can’t think that, nor should you married folks ever think it. God wanted you to marry that person for the sanctification of you both. That is to say, for your good!

So let’s ditch the soul mate idea, but not God’s sovereignty. Let’s agree that God does have a plan for the person I marry (should He will it so), just as He did (and does!) for Hannah and her husband! How wonderful that is! But let’s also agree that whoever I meet, woo, and say ‘I do’ with is that person—even if she doesn’t meet this bizarre standard of being a ‘soul mate.’

Relevancy and Security

Can we lose our Salvation? Most of the people who read my blog will undoubtedly be adherents, in some manner, to “Perseverance of the Saints.” Some may not call it that exactly, but the content and idea behind the terminology is pretty much the same.

This topic has come up several times in different conversations recently. And, since I’ve recently been told I have the gift of prophecy, I feel as though God is trying to get my attention to post this on my blog read by millions.

In all seriousness, the amount of people who reject the idea of Perseverance of the Saints (PS) is slightly frightening. Furthermore, the attitude of some in discussion about it has been: “I’m more worried about winning lost souls than fretting over some irrelevant theological issue!”

Is our eternal security, our ability to keep the faith, an abstract and irrelevant theological issue? And is it irrelevant to winning souls for Christ?

Here is where I’d drop numerous biblical references for PS, but I think, since that tends to not persuade in discussions as well as emotions, I’ll appeal to those first.

Let’s think about this really quick: Jesus died an excruciating death, after being tortured, and suffered the entirety of God’s wrath. He lived a selfless life, claiming none of the riches that He deserved as God’s obedient son. He rose again from the dead, and remained with the church by giving them the Holy Spirit. And He has ascended and remains at the right hand of the Father, ever interceding for us.

Why on earth—or in all of creation—would Jesus allow us to walk away from that? He accomplished the work of salvation, freely gave it to us by His grace, and at the end of the day I can still walk away from it? How irresponsible of Jesus! How little salvation truly is, if true!

Why would Jesus stick His flag into the ground of someone’s soul, justify him, and then allow that man to uproot Jesus’ flag and toss it in His face? Why would Christ proclaim ownership of someone, why would He adopt someone, and then allow him to run off?

He wouldn’t. Jesus has conquered our very souls. He refuses to give them back to Satan. You won’t run away because of someone nagging at you for your beliefs, because of some horrible circumstance, because of a lack of food or clothing, or because a fear of torture or death. This is the case for two reasons: 1. You won’t want to, and, more importantly, 2. Jesus won’t let you.

I tricked you, one of the millions of readers, when I said I was going to forego the Biblical argument for an appeal to emotion. Go read Romans 8:31-39, you’ll find a strikingly similar argument there. Paul knows some will disbelieve the free grace of the Gospel. He knows that some will attack the gift of Christ, and that humans will falter and fail.

At the end of the day, a salvation I can walk away from is not a salvation I have security in. A salvation I can walk away from is not a salvation that understands the human condition, it is not a salvation that acknowledges humans fail but God doesn’t, and it is not a salvation that truly saves from the one whom condemns me most: myself. Praise God my salvation is not in my own hands. Praise God for His faithfulness to me, because He knows I haven’t been faithful to Him.

If we’ve come to a point where our American notions of “freedom” and “individual choice” mean more to us than the Bible, than a salvation that saves, than the true grace of the Gospel of Jesus, then we’re not really attempting to win souls for Jesus. If you tell someone that you’d rather be winning souls for Jesus, yet accept that you can lose your salvation, you’re not pointing them to Jesus. You’re pointing them to themselves, and that’s a problem.