When I was growing up in the church, I viewed mission trips as the work of the varsity team—something reserved for the spiritually elite delta force. Consequently, every time a mission opportunity presented itself, I gave every reason why it wasn’t for me. And even when I did put myself out there to serve, I only did so after laboring over the decision for weeks through prayer, internal debate, and counsel.
The truth is, I didn’t think I was good enough, spiritual enough, or ready enough to be a “missionary,” even if it was for only a week or two. Maybe you’ve been there too.
As a pastor to college students and young adults, I’ve both used and heard a plethora of excuses why serving on a particular mission team wasn’t going to work out this time. Here are some of the most-used excuses and my heart-felt answer to them.
1. I don’t know if I’m called. This is one of the most used and misunderstood excuses. But the reality is God has already called you to Himself as His disciple; and He commissions all of His disciples to make more disciples and to serve others in Jesus’ name.
Your participation in a short-term missions project is not an issue of calling as much as it is one of opportunity and timing. Do you have the time? Is this project feasible in your current state of life? You might over-spiritualize the decision by saying “I don’t know if I’m called.”
2. I don’t have the money. I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that one. With it, I could probably fund my next mission team! Trust me, I understand that money is not always readily accessible, and I’m sensitive to the financial states of my people. However, when we play the “money card,” we overlook the provision of our Heavenly Father. Every trip our ministry leads, our team trains our members in building a support-network of ministry partners. After leading more than 30 teams in nearly 15 years of ministry, I’ve never seen someone appointed to a short-term team who wasn’t able to go because of money.
3. I don’t think I’m ready. I appreciate the self-reflection and humility, but not so fast. There are obviously Christians who lack the maturity and personal integrity to serve on a team of other believers for gospel-purposes. But you’re probably more ready than you realize. Agreeing to go on a short-term mission trip doesn’t require you to sign your life away as a vocational missionary. It could be an integral part of God’s sanctifying process in maturing you as a disciple.
4. Maybe next year. Sometimes extenuating circumstances most definitely exist. I get that. But in many cases, we perennially kick the can down the missional highway, therefore causing us to live in a constant state of missions-procrastination. We might focus so much on what might be that we miss out on what is right in front of us.
5. I’m scared. Okay, so many people don’t normally say those words verbally, but in essence it’s what they’re saying. And I understand it. I was scared too one time. Before I went on my first overseas trip, I was scared of the culture. I was scared of the flight. I was scared of the food. I was just…scared. It’s okay to admit that. It’s not okay to sit on it. Fight through it and take a risk. I’m fairly certain you won’t regret it.
Many more excuses exist, but these are some of the most recurring ones I’ve heard. If you’re someone who is considering an upcoming missions opportunity, guard yourself from using one of these excuses. Instead, consult a spiritual leader who can walk you through your current state of life. If you’re a leader, help your people examine their lives and encourage them to take an opportunity they might not take if left to themselves.
Chris James serves as Boston Collegiate Coordinator for the Baptist Convention of New England where he serves as Pastor of Mill City Church & Christian Student Fellowship, a multi-site ministry reaching students at UMASS Lowell. He is a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi (BA) and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (MDiv).