More than Money

By Josh Beaton, Partnership Coordinator

Since I have been involved with Next Step’s partnership in Los Angeles, I have seen many mission teams come and serve. Some return and some do not. Many people ask from outside circles, “Wouldn’t it just be better if all those people sent you money instead of wasting their resources and your time?”

My personal experience has led me to more and more confidence in my answer to that question. We need money to operate but money cannot hug a fatherless child or enjoy fellowship with Christian brothers. Money cannot play chess with recovering addicts or wipe the tears from a child. Followers of Christ are called to serve the poor, sick, widows, and orphans. Money can buy food for the poor and build homes for the homeless, but just as Christ touched the leper (Matt. 8:3), the poor also desire the touch of a loving and merciful hand. 

Some argue short-term missions cause more harm than good. Objections include increased dependency, lack of compassion for local cultures, incorrect motivation, circumvention of existing ministries, and excess costs.

As a (somewhat) experienced host of short-term mission teams I will be the first to admit the problems when hosting teams. However, those problems can be reduced if not eliminated with communication and altered attitudes. I am deeply thankful Next Step Ministries is committed to handling these challenges, solving them and continuing in their improvement of responsible cultural engagement and Gospel advancement. 

Before the Mission Trip

To the short-term missionaries: Churches sending short-term missionaries must stress that participants are going to assist and serve alongside the long-term ministry we are doing in Los Angeles. They seek to provide love, fellowship, and resources to people who minister in our community. We ask short-term missionaries to leave their expectations and cultural biases at the airport and trust the indigenous leaders and long-term partners. A mission trip should be approached with the desire to be a servant and not a burden.

Why Are Short-Term Missions Positive?

I see short-term missions as beneficial to both the home church and also the receiving ministry on site.

Here are a few reasons:

Christianity is a global fellowship. Christ calls us regardless of age, race, gender, ethnicity, or socio-economic status. Yet we frequently tarnish Christianity by viewing it through our cultural biases. Short-term missions allows those serving and those being served to see they have brothers and sisters throughout the globe. “I support short-term missions,” author Mike Bullmore says. “Despite their drawbacks, such trips provide two distinct cultures a taste of the harmony that exists between members of the body of Christ.”

Believers can give and receive love. I often tell short-term missionaries we don’t just need people to come to LA who have construction or other skills. We would welcome a team willing to sit on a soccer field and hug children for a week. We work in a community where few families have a father. The kids in our community don’t know unconditional love and seldom interact with adults. We need checks to survive, but even more, we desire you to come and hug one of our children.

Missions can be expanded in our home churches. Missions is at the heart of God. Short-term missions can increase the importance of missions in the sending church. If your church sends a short-term team, it is reasonable to think your congregants are thinking and praying more about their role in the Great Commission.

Increased prayer and giving in Christ’s name. If your church sends 10 people on a short-term mission trip, it’s likely each of those missionaries asked 10 others to pray for them and 10 more to write checks supporting the trip. Realistically, your short-term mission trip results in 100 additional people praying in the name of Christ and for the advancement of God’s kingdom, and 100 people writing checks to the glory of God.

Please Come

The apostle Paul was a long-term missionary who advanced the Gospel through short-term missions. Paul seldom stayed longer than a few months or even weeks in a single location. With a Christ-centered, servant’s heart, short-term missions can be used to aide the needy, educate fellow believers, and spread the gospel in all corners of our city. Short-term missions can play a healthy role in the advancement of the Gospel. I thank God for all the teams that have come, or are coming to Los Angeles.

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