I’ve always enjoyed reading Wall Street Journal’s column “Houses of Worship.” Just recently, there has been an article that’s very provoking, The ‘Great Commission’ or Glorified Sightseeing? (HT: Daily Scroll). Yes, it’s a secular article, but Christians do not live in a vacuum.

This past summer, from evangelical churches nationwide, more than one million of the faithful departed for the mission field, taking up Jesus’ “Great Commission” to “go and make disciples of all nations.” The churchgoers hoped to convert souls, establish churches and meet other human needs. But they did not intend to serve for years or whole lifetimes, like such pioneers as Jim Elliott, who was killed in Ecuador in 1956 evangelizing to native people; or Hudson Taylor, the founder of the China Inland Mission; or even the awful fictional caricatures of African missionaries in Barbara Kingsolver’s novel “The Poisonwood Bible.” These new missionaries came home after only a week or two.

But are these short-term mission trips worth the cost? Is it fulfilling the Great-Commission or some glorified sightseeing (i.e. “vacationaries”)?

I wrote something on missions a while back, about the novelty of summer short-term mission trips. In a way, I try to stress the ‘learning’ aspect of these trips, where those being sent should go there to learn, much along the same lines as Lesslie Newbigin‘s emphasis on ‘learning’ on missions mentioned in the article.

Maybe we can think do some more thinking on the Great Commission:

Americans should therefore look to their comparative advantages, one of which is education. The U.S. has hundreds of accredited evangelical seminaries and Bible colleges — not to mention thousands of universities that offer religious education — far more than are available in the Global South. And our seminaries are some of the best in the world, combining first-class biblical scholarship with evangelistic passion. We should be bringing more pastors and church leaders to the U.S. to study — or, even better, figuring out ways to reproduce our religious- education system in the places where it is most needed. All of which should help Christians pursue the “Great Commission” more effectively.

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