Have you ever been on a dorky missions trip where you didn’t really do anything? I have a friend on the mission field who used to host various mission teams. And over time he started calling them “vacationaries” rather than missionaries. Like many other Christians, he knew that there had to be a better way of doing short-term missions. And over the years, I’m starting to agree.
To make matters worse, there’s such a dizzying array of mission organizations vying for our attention. I’ve been on many great trips with organizations like Operation Serve. But I’ve also been with a few other organizations that were mediocre…at best. Of course, every other week, we’re approached by a different organization wanting us to send a team somewhere. Certainly, I’m excited that everyone is passionate about bringing Christ to the nations; yet, I’m also deeply concerned that our lack of strategy is becoming quite wasteful. That’s why, just recently, we called up our friend Rob Hoskins and One Hope organization to do some strategic consulting.
For those of you unfamiliar with OneHope.net, they are one of the most thoughtful mission organizations on the earth. With hundreds of employees around the globe, they’ve engaged over 600 million youth with the scriptures in 125 countries. In fact, they’ve done some of the best missiological research I’ve ever seen (see www.SpiritualStateOfTheChildren.com …it will blow your mind). You simply name the country, these guys have a pretty well-informed strategy and network to reach it. So, who better to help develop Substance’s very own missions strategy!?
One Hope was generous enough to fly up five of their brightest minds from their headquarters in Fort Lauderdale. (Of course, the thought crossed my mind that we should have reversed the location : ) To be honest, our executive team was a bit nervous hosting such a brilliant crew. I felt like the dorky 7th grader asking the popular girl to dance. But all is well. The One Hope crew is a riot. (I think we’re even “going steady” now : ) But seriously: These guys rocked my world. I’ve never in my life heard such a fantastic and strategic approach towards global missions.
For example… most people think of “missions” as merely a budget of the church, not an extension of the churches’ greater calling. In other words: Every church has a strategic “missional gift-mix.” For example, some churches have a large quantity of construction workers, videographers, or medical practioners. Yet, very few churches develop their missions strategy in light of this gift-mix. Even worse: Church mission trips become nothing more than wasteful vacations that put a huge burden on the foreign mission base – yet do little to actually grow the churches in those countries. Even worse: Some countries are far more strategic to reach than others. Yet, many churches mindlessly take trips to countries that are already over-saturated with aid. And just as bad: Many mission trips aren’t even connected to thriving indigenous churches. And if they are connected to churches, they rarely serve the strategic needs of those churches. In the end, there’s very little thought given to “What are the most strategic churches to be serving.” And the reason is usually because, very few missionary organizations are as well connected as One Hope. Thus, everyone seems to go with their aunt’s cousin’s mom & pop missionary church. Yet, just down the road, there may be a wildly more fruitful church to be serving.
But at Substance: When we spend our missions dollars, I want it to be on the most effective kingdom efforts on earth. And if we take short-term mission teams, I want to use Substance’s strengths and go to strategic nations and then work with carefully selected churches who are fully capable of fully utilizing our short term efforts for long-term gain. Even more, I want to send teams to foreign churches that are fully capable of healthily converting our short-term missionaries into one or two year missionaries. But many churches are incapable of healthily absorbing westerners without harming the church or the well-intended missionary. Yet none of these things will ever happen if American churches are constantly distracted with mediocre mission-trips to mediocre countries doing mediocre things with mediocre foreign-churches with out any long-term measurable goals.
Of course, many church strategies work through one or two of these things; but, I’ve never met an organization like One Hope who can create an elaborate missiological business plan that factors in all of these things. (Can you feel my excitement!!!!) DUDE! I am so pumped!
Perhaps it’s because, I believe that we are designing far more than just a church missions strategy. I feel like we’re designing an entirely new way for American churches to do missions. Every ten years, there’s a new “missions bandwagon.” There are a lot of mission projects that “preach well”… like disaster relief or trafficking. (Both of which I whole-heartedly support). But I sense God’s heart is crying out for more from us! We need “God-ideas” not “good ideas.” And the only way we’re gonna discover this is if we do our homework and then bathe all of it in a good amount of prayer. Make sense?
But one thing is for sure: I believe God wants Substance to be a model of thoughtful missional outreach. So keep praying Substance! We’ll be unveiling our new strategies over this next year. But remember: this is just the beginning.
P.S., Get your passports ready! We’re going to the ends of the earth! : )