Missionary statesman Dr George Forbes shares some mission gems:
Much has been said and written about mission teams over the last few years. Twenty five years ago they were a new phenomenon arousing both positive and negative responses on the mission fields of the world.
Literally hundreds of teams and thousands of young people and older team members were suddenly appearing on the horizon of missions’ activity.
Initially many missions’ leaders were uncertain, with some even asking for help to slow down the rush. The factors that led to this era were multiplied in number and complex in nature.
Worthwhile results and values
As a missions’ leader at that time I found a new tension between local churches and missions agencies, as well as with national church leaders, over the value and use of teams. The impact of teams varied from highly positive to very negative. The nature of teams, their preparation and composition, as well as the attitudes and skills of team members were all a part of the equation.
• Some leaders in the church scene were describing teams as the new strategy of the Holy Spirit, while some missionaries were speaking of teams with mixed feelings.
• Some teams claimed literally hundreds of conversions in their short visits to countries where they did not know the language.
• Other teams were contributing practical trade skills by erecting school buildings, hospitals, churches and much more.
Where teams worked closely with experienced missionaries I saw worthwhile results and values. Possibly the greatest of the values was the effect on the lives of team members. Many become more aware of the church internationally, the diversity of cultures and church life as well as a deeper appreciation of the body of Christ and the call of God in their own lives.
So where do short-term missions trips fit into God’s global plan to reach all nations? First, short-term missions introduce mission’s awareness and education through practical experience. A short-term trip exposes potential lifetime missionaries to a cross-cultural experience. Beyond these reasons, short-term missions sometimes help to bring the gospel to different people groups. In restricted-access countries, short-term missions may be one of the few ways to reach a people group.
Some argue that short-term missions are not effective, but that’s not true for those whose lives are changed as a result of going on a short-term mission’s trip, or for those who meet the Lord as a result.
Short-term missions do have limitations. Cross-cultural career missionaries must dedicate themselves to learning the languages and cultures of unreached peoples, so they can introduce them to the gospel.
One aspect of the journey to effective short-term mission teams has been the preparation of teams before they go. Team training has of course developed, yet it is sometimes overlooked or neglected. Yes, teams usually prepare in prayer, they practise their music and singing as well as their personal testimonies.
Adventure of a lifetime!
These are admirable preparations, however too often teams do not prepare enough for cross-cultural communication or consult resident missionaries on how best they can serve. These areas of preparation may seem obvious, yet they are missed too frequently.
There are excellent proven team training courses readily available, prepared by very experienced positive leaders who are glad to see their materials used to the glory of God. Any team preparing now, for the adventure of a lifetime, needs to get their hands on team training materials. I would be happy to provide contact details and related information.
Please don’t go it alone!
Dr George Forbes is internationally recognised as a missionary statesman with a heart for the lost of the nations. With a wealth of missionary knowledge and a unique ability to communicate the global picture, he is widely known as the ‘story-teller.’ Link: firstname.lastname@example.org