What Do We Leave Behind?

Posted on April 6, 2012 by Dr. Jerry Rankin in Rankin Connecting

It has been encouraging to see more and more churches become involved in missions. The trend of short-term volunteer teams going overseas has escalated in the last 30 years with tens of thousands from our churches taking vacation time, raising funds and cashing in savings to go on a mission trip. Obviously, this mobilized resource is supplementing the witness of over-extended missionaries, encouraging national churches and making a difference in the lives of those who go.

However, what is left behind when the project is over? What difference does a mission partnership make to the kingdom? Do we feel good and come home with personal gratification because we have sacrificed to make the trip and done something good? Or is there truly a lasting result that advances the kingdom of God? Have our efforts pushed back the frontiers of lostness, strengthened the ongoing indigenous witness of local believers, or have we created a dependency that weakens what can continue without us?

It is important for every mission endeavor, whether a short-term trip, ongoing partnership or a missionary assignment to be strategic and intentional about what is to be accomplished. Something should be left behind that continues without our presence and resources. We need to keep in mind that the church is both the agent and objective of missions.

It is evident that the church is the agent of missions as the task of evangelizing a lost world and making disciples of all nations has been given to the people of God as followers of Christ. But the objective of our ministry and witness  should result in “church”–people coming to faith in Christ and being drawn together into a fellowship of believers which is a local church. That local church then is a nucleus of witness that continues to share the gospel as it grows and reproduces beyond the work of a missionary and after the volunteer mission team goes home.

When we partner with established churches on the mission field, are they stronger in faith from our having been there to encourage, train and disciple them? Are they more diligent to witness and share the gospel because of our example and passion for the lost? Or have we sought to inject financial aid in supporting the pastor and building a church building because of their severe economic conditions. In doing so we deprive them of having to trust in the Lord since they now have a benefactor from the U.S. We convince them they are not capable of providing for their own needs and ministry. While meeting the needs of one, local congregation we inhibit their vision and ability to reproduce and start other churches.

Certainly we have a responsibility to minister to people in need, seek to alleviate suffering, heal the sick and encourage victims of oppression and injustice. It is appropriate for us to bring manpower and aid in response to disasters and minister to chronic humanitarian needs since we have the capacity to do so. Showing the compassion of Christ without any ulterior motive is good as an end in itself. But will the people be hungry again when we leave? They may have a roof over their head and purified drinking water, but why would we deprive them of something more lasting and eternal?

If we are obedient to proclaim the good news of the kingdom, as Jesus calls us to do, then an expanded niche of the kingdom is left behind when we leave–people of faith carrying on worship, witness and ministry without us and our money.

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