In 2007 the Christian Vision Project asked, What must we learn, and unlearn, to be agents of God's mission in the world? CVP editorial director Andy Crouch has been exploring this question with mission leaders not just in the pages of Christianity Today and its sister magazines, but with the help of a documentary film crew, producing a curriculum on short-term missions that will be released in October 2008. Here he describes what some churches are learning, and unlearning, as they rethink the meaning of mission trips.
A few years ago I was in a church service where a team of energetic young adults was reporting on their short-term international mission trip. Like most such groups, this one had plenty of cross-cultural experiences to report. "The food was so spicy," one wide-eyed young woman said, drawing laughter from the congregation. "It was terribly hot and humidwe had such a hard time getting to sleep," another team member said. Amid much hilarity, the team leader described their consternation when they arrived at a remote village only to discover that the Christians there were expecting them to lead a worship serviceon the spot.
They had been stretched, they said, way beyond their "comfort zones." They had also returned full of praise for God and love for one another and their new brothers and sisters. "We received so much more than we gave," one team member said. All wonderful, true sentiments that I had heard dozens of times from returning short-term missionaries.
The only difference was that I was in Nairobi, Kenya, every member of the team had been born and raised in Africa, and they had just returned from India.
That morning I had to unlearn several of my ideas about global mission. That this short-term ...