Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Resource for Short-Term Mission

If you’ve been reading my stuff for very long you know that I have a dim view of short-term mission (STM) trips. But, then again, if you’ve been reading my stuff consistently you know that I have a dim view of many things missions, including career missionaries who have no cultural training, those who have no real clue of what it means to have a strategy of missions, nationals who are as clueless about taking the Gospel cross-culturally as those from the west, and people who make a living doing “feel good” ministries among people who already have access to the Gospel while 89% of 3.6 billion people in this world do not personally know a Christian. Part of my negative slant is to counter the glowing hype by people who are either marginally involved in missions, missionaries who merely follow trends and, especially, those who have never lived overseas yet somehow believe STM is God’s Divine plan for American involvement for the 21st century.

But hold on, if you remain committed to this blog you also know that I am not totally against STM, that I do believe there is still a vital role for career American missionaries, that I am committed to training non-Western missionaries in how to cross cultural divides and mobilizing the church to see beyond the four walls of their local congregation to that 89% that doesn’t personally know a Christ-follower.

In my attempt to find “balance,” in matters of missions, I lean heavily on the insights of others. Recently I have been asked to speak to a STM group as part of their pre-STM training. Kudo’s, first of all, to the pastor who makes such an attempt to do STM right. To help temper my bias on STM I read David Livermore’s book, Serving With Eyes Wide Open: Doing Short-Term Missions with Cultural Intelligence. Livermore’s book does not address all the issues of STM, but touches many bases on what a STM group should be thinking about.
Some interesting sub-titles in this book include: “Missions Should Be Fun,” “They Don’t Fly Planes in India When It Rains,” “Just Stick to the Bible and You Can’t Go Wrong,” and “Stop Petting the Poor.”

It’s estimated that as many as 4 million Americans are involved in STM annually (one of the reasons I hate to fly overseas May through August). The American church now spends as much on STM as they do on supporting career missionaries and, in many churches, their STM program is their MAIN missionary outreach.

Get a copy of Livermore’s book and I invite you to share other good books you’ve read on STM.