This week's blog post consists of updates from three spring break teams that went out from Bob Jones University to minister in Michigan, California, and Ohio. We're so thankful for the impact they and others have made for the gospel during this one short week!
Phi Kappa Pi in Detroit, MI
Today was the first day on our society’s mission trip to Detroit. We have the amazing opportunity to shadow and learn from leaders that have planted and revitalized churches in inner-city Detroit. This morning came early as we got up to meet with Pastor Dave Doran who gave us two amazing lectures on the biblical vision of church planting. He walked us through Scripture, pointing out God’s command concerning the importance of church-planting in our lives.
Once we were finished, Aaron Berry took us out to a Mexican restaurant for lunch. While this restaurant showed us a small part of the incredible diversity in the city, David Doran Jr. later opened our eyes to a significantly larger understanding of how diverse Detroit really is. David is a church planter who has such vision for making disciples for Jesus. The passion this pastor has for winning souls for Christ is inescapable. He is a living testimony to all of us, and an example we should all follow. We saw the different social classes as well as the different religious backgrounds of Detroit while David shared his burden for all of them. We saw such a need here in Detroit today, but God is sovereign and we can find hope in this truth as we seek His will for our lives, whether that’s here in the inner-city of Detroit or not.
To finish our day, the seven of us were split up and taken to Gospel Community groups which are a part of Inter-City Baptist Church. We all enjoyed the fellowship we had with fellow believers and getting to know their stories of how God led them to Detroit. Tomorrow is approaching soon and we all must get rest as God has much in store for the following day.
Zeta Chi in San Francisco, CA
Yesterday we were able to tour San Francisco with Pastor Innes and Pastor Pelletier. The weather was absolutely perfect. We got to visit the Golden Gate Bridge and several popular tourist locations around the city. It was kind of a "vision casting" day to allow us to see the city and understand the culture better. It definitely gave us all a burden for the city and the people.
Today, we are spreading out to different coffee shops and places around the church to share the gospel and spread word about the church. It's very rainy today, and that's pushing a lot of people inside. Obviously, relationship evangelism is difficult in such a short time frame, but we have tracts and New Testaments to hand out.
I just spent about an hour and a half talking to an elderly man named James. We talked about politics (of course), San Francisco, California taxes, and the Bible. He quickly asked the common questions like, "what about the people in the jungle that never hear…," but he allowed me to share the Gospel with him and do my best to answer his question. I left him with a New Testament and a tract as well as my email address. I hope he contacts me with questions.
Later, we are going to visit a construction site adjacent to the church during the workers' lunch break. We will invite them to the church and advertise a children's ministry that will start in a few weeks. We've had a great start to the trip. God has given us safety and a great place to talk about Him with others.
Chi Alpha Pi in Orrville, OH
Chi Alpha Pi has always been a society that loves to serve. When the opportunity arose to embark on a mission trip to Ohio to minister to a local church, seven Cavaliers jumped at the chance. Cross View Church, located in Orrville, Ohio, was started in 2015 and is currently being pastored by Bob Jones University graduate John Marino.
The Cavaliers’ main goal is to host a community kids program (titled Friday Fun Night) to present the Gospel message. The night will include games, songs, Bible verse memorization, and most importantly, a clear presentation of the Gospel.
While planning the community kids program, the Cavs team members have kept themselves busy with landscaping and other yard work. On Wednesday, the team assisted an elderly couple from the church with a few outdoor projects. One of the other larger projects the team began was clearing seven pine trees and two oak trees from Pastor Marino’s front and back yards. The team hacked and chain-sawed away from morning till dusk on Thursday, and most of the day on Friday.
Aside from the kids’ program and lumberjacking projects, the Cavs have enjoyed time encouraging the church and one another in Bible studies and fellowship in song. The Cavs have specifically enjoyed the hospitality and encouragement of the Bauman family, praising God with hymns and sharpening one another in the Word. During the Sunday services, the team will minister to the church in musical ensembles and help host a college and career night at the Bauman’s in the evening. On Monday, the Cavs will set off to Greenville again – spiritually refreshed and encouraged after ministering to fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.
Dr. Dan Olinger
The subject of short-term missions raises a number of questions, both philosophical and logistical. What are the benefits of short-term work? What are the dangers? Who should go? Who should not?
The benefits are great. A brief experience gives the student an opportunity to experience mission work up close and reasonably realistically, at relatively low cost. It certainly makes sense for the student to find out that foreign missions is not his calling before he has gone through the effort and expense of candidate school, deputation, and language school. On the other hand, a large number of career missionaries testify that it was a mission trip that either initiated or confirmed their recognition of God’s calling for them.
A significant benefit for American students is that it attacks the insularity with which most American teens develop; they are separated from the rest of the world by two large oceans, and they really believe that trending issues in pop culture and American sports are significant news stories. They can very quickly learn otherwise if given the opportunity. The student will benefit from this exposure whether or not the Lord eventually calls him to foreign mission work.
Pretty much everyone can benefit from team-oriented activity. Sports provides most young people their primary experience with teamwork, but mission work provides a team experience that is different in many ways from what they’ll learn on the athletic field. Most obviously, the work they’re engaged in is overtly and primarily spiritual; they’re helping one another tell the story of Christ and disciple younger believers. They learn to make sacrifices, encourage one another, and share failures and successes as they go about the business of taking the message to the ends of the earth. That is precisely preparation for life in the church.
Often overlooked is the benefit to teachers of gathering foreign mission experience. It rejuvenates the jaded teacher, and it places into their toolbox a set of experiences that will both shape their teaching techniques and enrich teaching content for the rest of their life.
Any work that can be done well can also be done badly. Mission trips are no different. And the price of failure is high—waste of financial resources given in good faith by God’s people, which could have been used instead on something worthwhile, not to mention the spiritual damage that can be done both to team members and potential ministry recipients if the job is done badly.
A great danger, obviously, is that the trip becomes simply pious tourism; the members are interested primarily in experiencing something new, in gathering experiences for their own selfish purposes. There’s nothing wrong with tourism, I suppose, but there’s also no reason why the church should pay for it. Teams need to understand that they’re there to work, and they need to be held accountable both by supervisors on site and by the sending churches back home.
Another danger with short-term work is that it gives the impression that you’ve “seen missions,” but it typically isn’t long enough to provide a realistic experience. In a week or two, you don’t really have time for the adrenaline to wear off. It’s all a whirlwind and very exciting. But that’s not what missions is like. Missions is all about being faithful through drudgery, routine, and perhaps the occasional moments of terror. Lust for adventure is a lousy reason to become a missionary. My most recent mission team experience lasted 8 weeks, and intentionally; I wanted the students to have enough time to get really tired. That’s part of what they needed to learn.
My greatest fear in short-term mission work is that I or the team will turn out to be more of a burden to the missionary than a help. Most short-term “missionaries” don’t realize how much work it is for a missionary to prepare for and supervise the work of a team. I know of cases where teams ran up significant expenses for the missionary (I hope without realizing it) and then left the missionary to pay the bill. The team leader needs to discuss frankly with the host missionary whether what the team is doing is really worthwhile from the missionary’s perspective; the team needs to ensure that the missionary lets them do as much of the work as possible; and they need to pay attention to the costs they’re running up.
A very significant danger of short-term work is the fact that in a short stay, team members cannot learn to work effectively in a strange culture. They don’t have time to learn the language; they are unknowingly being strange and offensive in virtually everything they say and do; and their effectiveness at carrying out the Great Commission will be significantly hampered.
One more danger worth mentioning is the temptation to cut corners on qualified, discipling leadership. Team leaders need to know how to disciple believers, how to discern what’s happening spiritually in the lives of team members and confront them biblically. There are all kinds of leadership styles, of course; some leaders are very intense and driving (in a healthy way), while others lead with a lighter touch. But whatever their style, leaders need to lead, and they need to be proactive in spotting and addressing spiritual needs as they arise. Not everyone can do that well; knowing a lot about the country or the culture or the cuisine or the airline is simply not enough. This is a mission trip, not a cultural exchange program.
Short-term missions is not a substitute for career missions, but it is an important ingredient in an overall missions strategy when done well. Most Christians would be surprised at the positive impact it can have on the spiritual walk and effectiveness of almost any believer.
by Nathan Murphy, senior business major
This post adapted from a speech given in Mission Team chapel at Bob Jones University on Thursday, September 29, 2016.
I had the opportunity to spend the last two summers in Australia—first on the Bob Jones University Australia Team, and then this past summer as a pastoral intern at a church in Melbourne.
As I reflect on my experiences over those summers, I’m reminded of how John Stott describes the life of the believer:
"We must be global Christians with a global vision because our God is a global God."
That sounds good doesn’t it? It sounds super radical and spiritual and stuff. If we were scrolling through Instagram and saw this quote on an obscure picture of a mountain or a rowboat, we would probably all like it—or heart it or whatever. But how realistic is it for us to live this out?
College students have plenty of reasons to NOT go on a mission team—many of which are legitimate. For some here today, your summer ministry will be working a job to continue the education God has called you to complete.
However, the fact that we are attending a Christian college means that God has led us to invest in more than a degree. And that investment doesn’t end in May. Believe me, you will learn more during several weeks of immersive, cross-cultural ministry than you will learn the rest of the year in the classroom.
If God is stirring your heart to learn more about mission team opportunities, then all the obstacles will look small in comparison to the God we serve.
But let me warn you – a mission team is the furthest thing from a sanctified vacation. It’s not something to add to your spiritual resume. And it is certainly not like working at a camp. In a camp setting, people leave their culture to enter yours. But on a mission team, you leave your culture to enter theirs.
Cross-cultural ministry will break you. It will leave you vulnerable, and force you to examine your motives.
Going on a mission team was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But the lessons God used my time in Australia to teach me are worth more to me than the diploma I will receive when I graduate.
Father, we come before You as a student body—astonished by Your grace and ambitious for Your glory. You ask us to be broken and sacrificial in our service of your Church. And in response, we ask for the courage to GO—not where our careers take us, but where the Gospel takes us. Father, make us look small so that You can look big. Reveal the idols of our hearts that prevent us from truly loving the people You have called us to. Do whatever it takes to advance the Gospel—first in our own hearts, and then across the world. Amen.
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The CGO Blog
Written by the CGO staff, with guest posts from students and other faculty/staff at BJU to provide thought leadership for missions in a new millennium.