SHORT TERM MISSIONS: WHY ITS BIBLICAL BUT NOT THE WHOLE PICTURE

February 7, 2019

PASSAGE: MATTHEW 10:1-15

 

What is missions?

 

A mission is an event with a particular crucial goal that needs to be completed by a person or group of people. A mission can be serious as a military operation in war or comical as trying to find the best tasting pizza joint in your city. The word “mission,” is often used in many different sectors of life and the church uses this term.

 

What is the mission of the church?

 

The mission of the church can vary depending upon which church you go to but the universal mission of all churches throughout time and space should be to love God and love His people, which often times is carried out through the living and proclaiming of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In the church, the typical format of mission is found in the short term mission (STM) trip that occurs during the summer months.

 

Some would argue that STM’s are not biblical and a cop out to engaging in a missional lifestyle but reading today’s passage reveals that not only are STMs biblical but that it is only part of the puzzle of what it means to live with a mission’s mindset.

 

In today’s passage, Jesus has been grooming his disciples by having them witness how Jesus engages the people through sermons, healings, exorcisms, and other miraculous acts. The last thing Jesus says in Matthew Chapter nine, is that there is a plentiful harvest but very few workers as he urges the people to pray to God to send out more workers. There are so much to do in terms of the Kingdom, therefore we will need more people to serve in establishing God’s kingdom.

 

This naturally leads into chapter ten where we get the official list of the Twelve Apostles that Jesus sends out to engage the communities to spread the Kingdom of God. Jesus gives the apostles authority over unclean spirits to cast them out, and heal every disease and affliction. Several things are highlighted in this one verse in regards to mission:

  1. Jesus has already done these things and therefore expects them (and you) to do these things as His followers

  2. Jesus has to send you and give you His authority.

  3. The mission involves displacing the kingdom of darkness with the kingdom of the light.

 

When we engage in missions, we are engaging in spiritual warfare in the sense that whenever someone comes to Christ, what we may not be able to see with our physical eyes is that someone who was spiritually dead is now alive and the hold of the kingdom of darkness has been pushed out by the kingdom of light. In the pursuit of the miraculous, we must never forget the greatest miracle is salvation! The ironic temptation that comes from salvation mentality is to completely get rid of the pursuit of the miraculous and almost demonize or neglect it but that is not the case because Jesus gave the apostles authority to heal disease, exorcise demons, and get rid of anything that afflicts people. Therefore to pursue the miraculous is the bridge to the goal of salvation of souls for the glory of His name!

 

Jesus is the caller and the sender of those in missions but the call to live missionally doesn’t end till we see Him come back so therefore the goal is to live in a mission’s mindset everyday. This is where people can get tribal and come against those who seem to “only” be engaged in STM’s during the summer but Matthew 10:1-15 gets confusing as Jesus sends his apostles on a STM!

 

As context is king, let us remind ourselves the situation in light of the whole Gospel and Bible in regards to this section because the call to go to only Israel and not the gentiles or Samaritans can leave an unwarranted conclusion that God is exclusive. When it comes to STM, there is a specified amount of time where the mission revolves around ministering to a particular ethnic group or culture. For instance, at our youth group, we have been going to Mexico for the past eight years and we would spend half the year in training to spend a week and a half to minister to rural Mexican farming villages. To prepare to minister to another ethnic group during this time period of getting ready for Mexico STM would not make sense but waste time and resources. Does that mean that other people do not matter? No. Will we never go to other places? No.

 

Jesus sends the disciples on a STM to their fellow Israelites because more often times than not, when you first go out to spread the name of Jesus, you would most likely go to the places you are most familiar with and oftentimes is your family, friends, neighbors, or whoever you call community. This is also to say that Jesus came to minister to the broken house of Israel for they were the initial chosen race to be the stewards of God presence and God came to restore them but later revealed in scriptures his intention to restore all creation and all people. In this moment in the redemption mission, Jesus sends the apostles to a specific field to which they will come back from as He will send them out further when He gives them the great commission at the end of this Gospel.

 

STM is just a slice of the bigger pie that involves a lifestyle of missions that we should all be engaging in for the rest of our lives. The thing with missions is that fields can change but purpose will still be the same. What is that purpose? According to the first STM that Jesus sends the apostles, they are to:

  • Heal the sick

  • Raise the dead

  • Cleanse lepers

  • Cast out demons.

 

To simplify the above statement, the purpose of mission would be to pursue healing and restoration of people both physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually through miraculous works and preaching of the Gospel! The mode can change, the field can change, but the purpose will remain the same. But what about the instruction of not having money or extra tunics or provisions for their STM? What Jesus emphasizes here is that for this particular STM, they are not to get ready as if it is going to be a long journey thus they don’t need as much supplies. Again… the method can change, the field can change, but the purpose of it all is still the same.

 

So what is the role of the STM?

 

It is just piece in the puzzle, a slice of the pie, a part to the whole. Is it biblical? Yes. Is it useful? Yes because it helps give perspectives and can break off any growing comfort in the world. Is it satisfactory to just do STM? Yes and no. Yes if you still plan on living missionally throughout the year but no if you only engage in “mission” during the summer while neglecting the rich fields ready for harvest at your schools, work places, gyms, neighborhoods, and cities throughout the year!

 

All in all, we must remember that Jesus didn’t request us to go make disciples of all nations but that He commanded us to go make disciples of all nations. This doesn’t mean that it is only for the few super spiritual but anyone that calls themselves a disciple of Jesus Christ.

 

Therefore…

 

GO!

 

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