Short Term Missions and the Task of God's Church


Is short-term missions (STM) a great means of discipleship or a huge distraction from the actual work of missions? One thing is sure: STM has become a huge phenomenon. One analyst counted about 500 short-term missionaries in 1965 compared to 1,500,000 in a recent year. Books, video series and a variety of other training materials have proliferated. Even as the ripple became a tidal wave, critics have not been in short supply. After all, what sense is there in sending 15 people, at $2000 per person, to build a church that could have been built for $2000 by currently unemployed local laborers? On the other hand, the testimonies of those who have gone are often moving. "I loved meeting the local people there. The joy they have in the LORD, and their confidence in Him despite their poverty is amazing! How can I, with much, be so ungrateful, when they in their poverty are praising God for His goodness?"

Over the next few weeks, we will have a series of blogs here on the topic of short-term missions. We will try to get into some of the many issues that surround this trend, and think about how it might be used to build God's Kingdom both there, in various foreign settings, and also here in North America, as those who go apply the lessons learned in their home environment, and receive visitors and even teams from the Majority World into our hearts and homes.

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I'm glad to see this topic - much discussed but not by the right people, and never resolved - picked up again on this page. I found chapter 7 in B Fikkart's book When Helping Hurts quite helpful in outlining pros and cons.  I'll be glad to join the conversation; with a couple of stories I've picked up along the way.