Jesus’ commission to make disciples of all nations is clear (Matt 28:16-20). The early church saw clearly the responsibility of Jesus’ command as given to them (e.g, Acts 1:8; 13:1-3). But the question remains, Is the church today commissioned to simply send long-term missionaries or might there be room for short-term mission teams too? While the list below is by no means exhaustive, I offer eight reasons why the church should include short-term missions as part of their overall missions strategy.
1) Jesus commanded us to make disciples locally and globally (Matt 28:16-20; Acts 1:8). While both seemingly stating the obvious and being repetitive, Jesus intends for the church to reach people with the good news and to teach them all things. The Scriptures do not give us an option of whether we make disciples here or there; it’s both/and.
2) There is more work than workers (Matt 9:37-38). Jesus tells us to pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into the harvest. The number of workers needed is directly related to the prayers of God’s people. Every country I am privileged to share in disciple-making, I hear from our NAMB and IMB missionaries that they need more partners, not just the traditional long-term personnel (though that is true), but short-term teams as well.
3) Long-term missionaries and churches need encouragement ( Acts 14:19-23). Paul understood the importance of encouragement well. Every minister of the gospel needs someone to come alongside of them as a source of encouragement. Weariness easily sets in and our missionaries and churches need to know that they are not alone.
4) We can accomplish more together than we can alone (Matt 10:5). Cooperation is more than our dollars; it is our efforts too. As Jesus discipled his followers, he sent them out together for gospel impact. In short, Jesus planned for multiplication of impact. He knew that this kind of impact required team work.
5) To be a farming system for long-term missions (Acts 13:1-3ff). Paul begins his missionary journeys in Acts 13. Throughout his journeys, he constantly brings others with him. Often those with him are more short-term in nature. Take Mark for example, while his first journey with Paul is short-lived, he later becomes a valuable partner in gospel impact.
6) To open our eyes to the need of the gospel world-wide (Matt 9:36). In looking over the crowds, Jesus is moved with compassion that leads to action. Staying in our comfortable bubbles at home isolates use from the reality of a world desperately in need of the Savior. Out of sight, out of mind becomes our motto. Going somewhere else besides our home allows us to see a world filled with real faces and names, with real hurts and needs.
7) To disciple disciples (2 Tim 2:2). Paul taught Timothy who taught faithful men who taught others. Short-term missions offers a platform for discipleship like no other. Taking people away from their comfort zone and into the vastness of the world is a great crucible for Jesus to work in incredible ways.
8) Because 98+2= 100. People often say, “Why should we go over there when people need Jesus here?” Yes, people need Jesus here, but they need Jesus everywhere. As if Jesus’ command alone is not enough (Go and make disciples of all nations!), the truth is I live “here”. Why can’t I make disciples where I live 98% of my year and give 2% of my year making disciples over “there”? You see, it’s not hard math, but 98+2= 100.
Short-term missions should be part of an overall strategy for making disciples locally and globally for the glory of God. What other reasons would give for short-term missions?