Often, I find myself scrolling through Instagram and Facebook to see people from various walks of life discussing their perspective on mission work. I’d like to elaborate on what a healthy calling to love a person or community looks like verse the stigma of how Christians are off to serve the “needy and poor” in order to make ourselves feel good.
1. Missions work is about Jesus, not us
We should throw away the notion of attaching false identities to people groups being poor and needy. The reality of it is, each of us are hungry for something and lacking in one area or another. These needs simply look different per person.
When approaching this subject, a few ground rules are in order. We must agree that the heart posture of a missionary (regardless of whether this is full-time work or short term) should not be self-seeking. It shouldn’t be for an ego boost or to fulfill a savior complex.
Rather, it should be to love people as Jesus loves them, whatever that may look like. But, because He is good, the byproduct of a heart that is set on outpouring love, tends to be filled to an overflow of it anyway!
2. People encountering Jesus matters
We must decide that people encountering Jesus matters, even more than their earthly needs. By no means am I saying these physical needs are not important; on the contrary, they are precious, valid and real. In the book of James, it says, “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them,’Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
In a non-manipulative way, (this is why that heart check we talked about earlier is crucial) people’s needs are an avenue for relationship. By effort of working on human needs, it creates a way for an intentional insertion of Jesus into someone’s life. Jesus is love, and His heart for people is soley good. So much so, that He cares about our deficiencies, and sends out people to assist with lack. But more so, His heart is for people to have the hope of glory no matter what circumstances may come.
3. Christ desires disciples from every nation
One of the greatest things we can do is contribute to making disciples of the nations. That is why there is a desperate need for missionaries in countries that aren’t typically seen as physically “in need.” In Japan, suicide is the number one cause of death for people ages 15-39 and has one of the highest suicide rates globally. And yet, they are a first-world country.
Interestingly enough, only 1% of Japan’s total population are believers. Though there isn’t an outcry for humanitarian work, missionaries there use other means to love people, and therefore share the love of Jesus. A dear friend who is a full-time missionary in Tokyo teaches a group of kids English, regularly incorporating Jesus and His love into the way she instructs.
4. Short-term missions, why the bad rap?
Short-term missions, in particular, tend to get a bad reputation for being a bandaid to much bigger issues. To this I say, partner with those who are there on a long term basis, whether it be a church, organization or perhaps even a missionary family living in the area, and ask them what the needs are. If you’re not an expert on those matters, it doesn’t disqualify you. Provide fellowship to those who are working out the complexities. Having a missions team come over and help with things but not really put effort into relationship can be more discouraging than having no one come at all.
5. It’s about Jesus
Do all things in love. We often over complicate things, when all we really need to do is ask Jesus how He wants us to love Him and His people. He guides and directs far better than any human set of rules or opinions ever could.