The Impact of Short-term Mission Trips
Something I’ve come to find in my time as a believer is that if I ever want to find a good example for the best way to do something, or the best way to go about something, is to look at the example of Jesus. It only makes sense, right? Jesus is perfect and everything He did was perfect. He set the standard for us to follow and the example for us to live by. Whether it’s how to deal with conflict, how to handle trials, how to pray, or how to preach the gospel to the world, Jesus is the One to look to.
If you’re looking to understand both the validity and definition of short-term missions, look no further than the life and ministry of Jesus Himself. Jesus really started His ministry in Capernaum, but it didn't take Him long to start traveling to the other cities of Galilee. There is no doubt that Jesus was very much a journeying preacher. We see this stated perfectly in Luke 4:42 when the people were asking Him not to leave, but He tells them that He had to preach the kingdom of God to the other cities, too. Peter, recounting the story of Jesus to Cornelius in Acts 10:38 (HCSB), says that Jesus “went about doing good and healing all who were under the tyranny of the Devil, because God was with Him.”
And this model for short-term mission trips set by Jesus was clearly seen in the sending out of the twelve and the seventy (Luke 10:1) from city to city, in the great commission (Matthew 28:19–20), and in the acts of the twelve apostles.
In Acts 13, we find what is considered the beginning of reaching the “uttermost parts of the earth” when Paul and Barnabas embark on a multi-city short-term missionary tour to evangelize the world and try to establish Christian communities. At the end of Acts 15, we see the apostle Paul’s desire to head back out to the people in every city where they had proclaimed the Word of the Lord in order to see how they were doing.
We could also look to Philip with the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8, Peter visiting the house of Cornelius in Acts 10, or even Paul’s continued journeys throughout the Book of Acts and see that some of the most fruitful and meaningful experiences in the New Testament were birthed from a short-term journey with divine appointment after divine appointment just waiting for them as they went out to all the world.
Perspective On Short-Term Missions
As a missionary involved in church planting in northern Italy, I have seen a lot of people come and go throughout the past 10 years. A question that many ask is, “What is the best investment for missions that any local church can make?” I don't know if that question is so easily answered. What will bring the greatest fruit? What is most pleasing to God? What is His specific will for any given moment in time for any given region of the world? One question always leads to others.
The answer may be different for each team and each church, and that’s okay. One thing I strongly believe is that, as much as a short-term missions team tries to come and be a blessing, more often than not the biggest impact is for the group itself. I believe the strongest benefit of short-term missions is that it exposes church members to other countries and cultures, and more importantly, to God’s work in those locations.
Team members often go out having very little cultural points of reference to what is outside of their home country. They get opportunities to serve, evangelize, and make a local impact, but the impact can be felt well beyond the week or two spent “in the mission field.” How so? Because in the process, the Lord charges them up and causes them to realize they can live radical lives for Jesus when they get home, and not just on these special trips. The impact this can have on a sending church can’t be overstated; it really makes a big difference when the team gets back.
Concerning long-term missions such as my own, I am strongly convinced that, if not for the short-term mission trips, most of our long-term missionaries would have never been exposed to the countries they currently live in. As a missionary church that receives short-term mission teams, if we can help inspire one person out of twenty on any given team to consider becoming a long-term missionary, then we have accomplished something very important.
Now, I don’t want you to think the receiving church doesn’t benefit. It does! Without a doubt, our local churches benefit from these teams. In fact, the team that recently came in October 2016 from Calvary Fort Lauderdale was a massive blessing in helping us get started on our church building project. They spent three days painting, cleaning, and building walls for what will be a very important place of future ministry for us. It was both an emotional and financial boost for us to move forward in what the Lord has for us here in the city of Ferrara in northern Italy. Besides the encouragement that it was to me, when our church members see that Americans come over on their vacation time and pay out of their own pockets to serve us, it really shows our congregation they need to step up their game a bit. The body of Christ is provoking itself to love and good works. It’s truly bellissimo!
So, if you’re considering going on a short-term missions trip, but aren’t sure if this is something God wants for you, let me put your mind at ease: God has called us all to this mission! This is clear throughout the New Testament. What’s also clear is the wide-reaching impact these trips can have as God both uses and blesses you through them.