Friday, August 10, 2007

Disneyfication Of Missions

The other day I read a post from a pastor who just returned from a two-week youth camp in Eastern Europe. He concluded his cheery post by saying, “Ain’t serving God fun!”

Fun? I read the post while sitting in my sweltering three-room (that’s rooms, not bedrooms) apartment in Delhi. With the daytime temperature at 95 with a heat index of 120, fun wasn’t exactly what I was experiencing. It may be fun to do a 10 day sortie serving others on the mission field, but it’s an entirely different matter when you know your return airplane ticket is still another two years away.

This pastor’s post came on the heels of a note from a friend in Cambodia. His subject line heading was “Home Because of Burnout.” After being on the field for over three years, struggling with learning a difficult language, living in a steamy climate, eating rice everyday and facing a resistant population, Lee and Pat were not having fun. Culture stress usually gets all those who spend more that a fortnight away from the comforts of home. Being around people of a different culture everyday loses its giggles in a hurry.

The trend for many years in the American church has been to make the church experience fun. The songs we sing, the games we have to entertin our children and youth all point to the Disneyfication of the church. This trend is an attempt to make church appealing, exciting, not boring. There is nothing more tedious than being in a service that drone’s on. In our desire to draw people into our services we are trying to convey a message that being a Christian is a hoot. Finding a balance between worship and whooping it up for Jesus seems to be a challenge.

Though life overseas isn’t always rainbows and daisies, it is rewarding. What keeps most cross-cultural workers going is knowing that maybe God will use us in His grand scheme of redemption. Fun is not why we do what we do and it’s a good thing, because life overseas ain’t always a barrel full of monkeys.


fletch said...

OUCH! Sometimes saying what needs to be said is not easy, or well received. But that doesn't change the fact that it needs to be said.

I think that Short Term Missions definitely have a place in the Grand Scheme of Redemption, but I too am "bothered" by the fact that some who make these "quick sorties" and come back without facing cultural stress can get the idea that they are the answer to the problem. They are a PART of the equation. However, it still requires people to dig in deep, to get their hands dirty with language and culture if we are to see the BIG breakthroughs. To the degree that short-term visits can encourage and assist, they have a rightful place. But if you ONLY come back with a glib, "Ain't missions fun?!" attitude, you haven't seen the reality.

Thanks for saying it like it is, Richard. Even though you might not be appreciated by some for what you still bears saying.

Bill said...

That's my Brother!!!

Welcome Back with your caustic comments for the sake of BALANCE!!...

wish some of your posts (like this one) could show up in the Baptist Sunday morning church bulletins.. it's a shame that's your stinging comments are viewed to just a few who for the most part share your thoughts...... your insights hit places like with my church having a focus on doing 'short term" mission in Paris and sending "families to work", I wonder ...what are we thinking?..I'm sure it's a FUN trip for all, with a good purpose...... keep up the good work...

RG Lewis said...


Thanks for your comments. Yes short-termer's are a PART of the equation, but missiologically a small part. For mobilization purposes, for which you are involved, the exposure trips may be helpful. We depend on guys like you to make sure that just because the foreigner has tasted kangaroo meat, it doesn't make them a missionary.


Me caustic!? I refer to you the words of "Give em hell Harry" (Truman)..."I just speak the truth and it comes out that way." Besides, being caustic is a part of our family's DNA.

AfricaBleu said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
AfricaBleu said...

Wait -- isn't Disneyworld heaven? Darn -- and here I was, all ready for my short-term mission trip to Florida.

Speak for yourself; there isn't a caustic bone in my body.

AfricaBleu said...

Oh, and Uncle Bill,
Have you ever forwarded Dad's blogsite to your pastor/head of the mission committee? That would be a great way to get the word out -- I'm glad we're on the same page visa vie short term "fun trips."

fletch said...

Agreed, Richard. When we were "on the field" we learned firsthand how little is accomplished by or during a short-term team's visit. It is investment in the lives of the short-termers, and possibly plowing the soil with a new set of contacts that we wouldn't otherwise meet. As long as I saw it as an investment in the Kingdom, and in the short-termers, it was easier to understand what we were doing.

Now...I would highly recommend kangaroo. Lean, tasty, really good grilled "on the barbie". :-) Delicious! One of the things I will miss when we leave Australia! :-9