As I had the privilege of helping distribute Gospels and share my faith with hundreds of Mexicans this past week, I was amazed at their overwhelming reaction and response to this simple yet important gift. They were excited!
Very few of those we met as we went door to door were negative, confrontational, or hostile. There were some who were somewhat disinterested, but the vast majority were filled with joy at the simple gift of a book of the Bible.
The adults and children that I was blessed to speak with had great interest in discussing and reading the Bible with me. They recognized it source (God) and its importance and applicability to their life. Although there was much confusion with what they were exposed to (heavy exposure to Catholic doctrines along with cults such as Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons), they clearly understood the difference of how salvation is provided by grace & faith alone and not by works, good deeds, etc.
The Jews of Jesus' day lived in a culture and religion that similarly supported the necessity of doing good things and obeying rules to be saved. Matthew 19, Mark 10. & Luke 18 all recount a discussion Jesus has with the rich young ruler. It is then he uses the oft-remembered phrase, "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."(Matthew 19:24) This passage points not to the fact that rich man cannot go to heaven, but rather that salvation does not come from mankind, good deeds, or human riches, but rather from God alone through His grace. Salvation is possible only through God.
"With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible" (Matthew 19:26)
It saddens me to think about the responses I get in my own country when I share my faith, even with a simple invitation to church. The responses are more hostile, negative, confrontational, and plain rude. Our country is so blinded by our wealth, busyness, success, entertainment, and our self-worship that we are far-less receptive to the amazing gift of salvation in Jesus Christ.
It is my hope and prayer that our nation, and all the nations of the world, are broken and brought down to the point that they seek salvation not in themselves (good deeds, riches, religion, self-worship, etc.) but in God alone through His gift in Jesus Christ.
- High cost (travel) & thus lower participation
- Impact limited by there being no long-term relationship
- Language & cultural barriers
- Need is great back home
I am a HUGE fan of short-term missions trips and here are some responses to some of these common objections:
- Cost: although international missions trips do often cost in the $1,000+ range for many trips, can you put a price on the salavation of those who might otherwise not come to know Christ? When you compare the money we spend on international missions and evangelism with other areas in our lives that are not necessities...vacations, entertainment, hobbies, leisure, excessive living, living beyond our means, wasted money due to poor financial management, etc....for most of us it is easy to find money in our budgets if we simply start living more practically and sacraficially. We cannot let cost be the driving factor preventing us from doing some of the primary tasks we are charged with...making disciples and being witnesses!
- No long term relationships: It is true that most international missions trips do not result in long-term relationships between the missions participants and the local people. However, the power in the missions trip is not in the personal impact, but rather in the work of the Holy Spirit in the demonstration of His love through service-related projects and through the sharing of His Word through more evangelistic projects (Gospel sharing, VBS camps, etc.). An additional strength of short-term missions trips results through the connection with local churches that can be strengthened and encouraged by foreigners in a way that may not happen within their own nation or people group. These trips also greatly help support the work of international missionaries in a way that they cannot accomplish on their own.
- Language & Cultural Barriers: In many ways this is not a weakness, but a strength of international short-term missions trips as many of the missions participants are able to share the Gospel more confidently and boldly in the midst of strangers than they are at home with friends and families. Oftentimes, the cultural differences in other countries makes them much more receptive to the Gospel then you would find most Americans. I was reminded of my weak language and cultural skills this past week in Mexico but remain amazed at how God chose to work powerfully through me depsite my weaknesses.
- What about back home? I do not deny the need is great back home. At the same time so many hearts and minds are already hardened to the Gospel truth. Have you considered the fact that 1.6 Billion people overseas have never even heard about Jesus Christ? At the same time most Americans have heard the Gospel many times, have access to the Bible, and yet reject Him over and over by instead chosing to worship themselves instead of the Creator? Short-term international missions trips often open up the eyes of participants to missions and international needs in a way that can only happen first hand.
It is my hope and prayer that every Christian can find a way to make the time and save the money to go on an international short-terms missions trip. You may not find yourself called to international missions, but I guarentee that if you are God-focused in your motives and efforts He will use it as a life-changing experience in your own life as well as making an eternal difference in the lives of many through your sacrafice.
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