SMS: Re-Thinking Missions

Let’s start with a fun question:

If you could go anywhere in the world on a mission trip, where would you want to go and why?

Australia?  Italy?  Scotland?  Costa Rica? Haiti? East Africa?  Russia?

The location list is endless. But which one came first to your mind?

My guess is that not one of us named our home town, our neighborhood, our campus, or our unsaved friend’s house.

Jesus said, “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem (home town), and in all Judea (surrounding communities) and Samaria (similar territory, different culture), and to the ends of the earth (across the borders… all borders).”

Most are enamored with the uttermost, we want adventure, we like travel, we’re looking to serve Jesus with all our heart and we want other people groups to know and love Christ.  There is NOTHING wrong with any of these.

But what about our Jerusalem?  It’s very interesting that in the first full seven chapters of Acts we have not one written “witness” account outside of Jerusalem.  This means that the very men (the 11 remaining Apostles) Jesus trained emphasized local mission.  In essence the list Jesus gives in Acts 1:8 could be looked at as a priority list.

What if?

I believe a paradigm shift needs to take place.  One practical question Youth Leaders are asking (and being asked) right now is, “where are we going next year on the mission trip?”  Very practical question.  But what if our question became, “what are we doing right now to discern where God would have us go as we continue to reach our Jerusalem?  Emphasis on “as we continue to reach our Jerusalem.”

Even as persecution took place in Jerusalem ( Acts 8 ) the Apostles remained.  The first person we read of witnessing outside Jerusalem is the Deacon Philip in a city in Samaria.  How interesting that the Apostles remained reaching Jerusalem.

“There” is an option… for sure!

I don’t want to downplay the Judea, Samaria and uttermost options.  We certainly are still fulfilling the call from Acts 1:8, nearly 1/5 of the world’s population lives in areas where the Gospel is still not yet preached.  However, in my own experience and based on the pattern I see in Scripture, going to the uttermost is never the starting point.  I believe we must start with our Jerusalem.  We must train, equip and send our disciples to/for our own home-towns!  This is what we (Youthmark) call Mission51!  We desperately want our teams to have a wonderful mission experience for one week, however, we want all participants living out the mission the other 51 weeks of life!

“Here” is always!

Youth Pastors, I completely understand that you need to answer the “where?” question.  However, I believe you must first answer the “how do we do it here?” question.  In nearly 20 years of student ministry experience I believe I have the answer.  The answer is simple, and my 20 years is merely a reflection of the answer that was given 2000 years ago.  “Make Disciples.”

We must prepare our participants before, during and after a mission trip so that Mission51 is the end goal.  It’s not just an experience, it’s a life-time experience. Please hear my heart, some may see this as a shameless plug for Youthmark Mission Ventures, if that’s what you feel, you’ve missed the point.  This is a shameless plug to fall in love with the lost!

My challenge is for all of us to re-think Student Missions (actually, all missions).  By emphasizing Jerusalem and training folk before, during and after, the emphasis becomes full-time mission, not one-week experience where we hope to get a spiritual high.  No more should we have sign-up, raise funds then show-up mission trips.  It needs to be about faith-building, prayer-reliant, disciple-making training so that we’re prepared for “here and there.”

Whether you, or your church ever do a Youthmark trip or use our Youthmark training materials, my challenge remains: make disciples, not thrill seekers.  The end result is that the thrill-ride that Jesus has for our us in our own Jerusalem will far surpass the thrills of seeing new lands.  As friends and family members in our own communities come to Christ we will experience eternal joy with those we were closest to on earth.

The next few weeks are very important weeks in my life.  I’m doing preview lunches for Youthmark where I am gathering Youth Pastors for a free meal.  Many of these Youth Pastor are coming to the lunch to consider “where they may go” on a mission trip.  And while we REALLY want them to do a YMV, my heart is that they “get” Mission51.  We believe in our curriculums, camps and materials we give for before, during and after.  We love the places we’re going (Costa Rica, Mexico, virtually every western, mountain and southern state; Alaska, Hawaii and Canada). We believe we have priced our products below what anyone other organization is doing, we very much want people to get onboard because we believe “our Jerusalem” is just as spiritually needy as ANY other place.

Last note.

I wrote this blog post in San Jose, Costa Rica.  Where my world was rocked once again.  The needs in Costa Rica were many.  I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am that we (Youthmark) get to partner with our brothers and sisters down south.  However, I know the ONLY way to impact that (CR) community is to have students/leaders who do this as an act of obedience and a natural out-flow of their desire to reach their own Jerusalem! Mission51 is the needs to be the new emphasis!

Let’s re-think this stuff together!

If you would like to be a part of Mission51, please preview the materials/trips online here, if you’re in an area that has a preview lunch, please register here (you can see the complete list of lunches with that click).




One thought on “SMS: Re-Thinking Missions

  1. Wonderful post—I love the focus on doing missions all year round. With our ministry, we get to see a lot of youth groups go to their ‘Samaria’ and ‘the ends of the earth.’ We’re always stoked to see the growth that happens in the students as they minister on an outreach for a week or two. Many of groups want to bring that experience home, so I’m with Aaby on finding ways to help youth workers do mission in ‘Jerusalem’ and ‘Judea.’ Being a disciple and making more is an all year round assignment!

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