There's no such thing as short-term mission!

Rev. Dr. Mark Welsh

21.12.2016 | Congregational Life, Global Mission, Mission

Mark Welsh is PCI’s Mission Development Officer. In his blog he writes about mission trips, what they really mean and what they’re not – as well as telling us how we can get involved.

“There’s no such thing as short-term mission!”

There – I’ve said it; I’ve nailed my colours to the mast as far as my views on short-term mission are concerned.

But before you close this link in disgust or, alternatively, before you cheer me on for supporting your view that mission trips are ‘evil’, let me bring you back to what I actually said and, equally importantly, what I didn’t say.

What I actually said was … ‘There’s no such thing as short-term mission’.

NOT … ‘There’s no such thing as short-term mission trips.’

So what’s the difference between the two – or am I simply playing with words?

Turning to the Bible for our answer, we read that Christ himself sent his first disciples on short-term mission trips.  In Luke 9 we read of Him sending out the 12 and then, in the next chapter, the 70 (or the 72).  On both occasions the disciples were sent out to preach and heal the sick. These were clearly productive, worthwhile short-term ventures as, following each trip, the disciples were able to joyfully report to Jesus what they had seen God do through them. 

Each trip also provided Jesus with the opportunity to train these young disciples in ‘missional best practice’, as He shared with them four things:

  1. The approach they were to take
  2. The message they were to share
  3. The work they were to do
  4. The dangers they would face.

Later on in the New Testament, in his letter to the church in Philippi, we read of Paul thanking the church for their partnership in the gospel.  As we read on through that letter we see how that worked itself out in a number of different ways, including the sending of Epaphroditus on a short-term visit – not to preach or heal or even build a school – but simply to minister to Paul’s own pastoral needs.

In short, the Bible itself shows us that the sending out of disciples on short-term mission trips are one of the means by which God works out His many and varied purposes both through and for the Church.

So, where does that leave me with my original statement that there’s no such thing as short-term mission?

Well, I believe it still stands because each of the examples of short-term mission trips that I cite above actually form part of the outworking of a much larger – and much, much longer term – missional work.  Whether it was Epaphroditus providing support and encouragement to Paul, the ‘long-term missionary’, or the first disciples declaring that the Kingdom of God was near, these trips were not ‘stand-alone’ ventures. 

As the early disciples were exposed to God’s long-term mission plan – that began in the book of Genesis and which will continue until Christ returns – they saw God at work in their neighbourhood, in their surrounding towns and villages. Eventually, they saw the role they were to play in it as ‘partners in the gospel’ all the way ‘to the ends of the earth’.

Going back to the very beginning …

There is no such thing as short-term mission – but short-term mission trips in support of and as a contribution to the longer term outworking of God’s missional purposes, most definitely have their place.

Here in the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI), as we develop our denominational mission teams, we’re seeking to ensure that they reflect this approach.  It’s for that reason that our IMPACT (Home) Teams work in support of local congregations the length and breadth of Ireland as they seek to reach out long-term to their communities. And it’s why our IGNITE (Overseas) Team in 2017 is returning, yet again, to work in support of PCI’s long-term mission personnel in Romania, Csaba and Ilona Veres.

If you would like to be part of one of PCI’s short-term mission trips during the summer of 2017 then please do check out the opportunities that are available both within Ireland and Overseas by clicking on the logos or by contacting the Congregational Life and Witness office (+44 (0)28 9032 2284;

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