I wrote a little the other day about short-term missions and mentioned I intended to write more on the subject soon. I even made an outline. But then that outline got really long, and I became overwhelmed. So I’ve decided instead to do something even longer! I’m going to use some space up on the blog writing about missions in general — and eventually I’ll get back to the specific topic of short-term missions (though I think each of these general missions posts will help to inform our study of short-term missions). So here goes part one (or two?) of what will surely be a meandering study of missions (that really ought not be numbered). Let’s look some at how Jesus sent (short-term) missionaries out.
Jesus sent missionaries out two by two (Mark 6:7; Luke 10:1). Why was that important?*
No doubt some missionaries travel to dangerous places. Just the other day in a village I sliced my finger open a little bit. There was blood. And other times I get an upset stomach after eating and drinking what’s served. [Really, I don't want to make it sound as if I'm serving in a dangerous place, because there are so many in our world who very much are risking their lives every time they speak of God. I appreciate those people a great deal. To read just how easy I've got it, on the other hand, check out superheroes and martyrs: common missionary misconceptions.] Anyway, there’s safety to be found in a plurality of workers.
I’m not sure if this is common knowledge or not (so maybe I shouldn’t say anything) but it would be really easy to be a lazy missionary and no one ever know.** It’s kind of a job for motivated and disciplined people. Working alongside others ensures that you begin work before lunch and that you do more during a work day than go mudding on washed out roads. It also helps you to not do anything stupid while you’re away from home all alone — or to be accused of such. Two people can keep one another in check, above reproach if you will.
Partners in mission often possess complementary gift sets. Just as Christ’s body is made up of many parts in order for the church to better represent him to the world, a couple of missionaries are likely to paint a better picture of Jesus than just one of them will. The ways in which they serve and minister will be different — and it’s good for the recipients of their ministry to see that. They also will model unity without uniformity for new believers, as there are bound to be some things on which they disagree, yet they continue to work together.*** A great example of complementary roles in foreign missions was Daniel George and I when we worked together in China. He was great at forming relationships with Chinese college students, and I was good at distancing myself in order to be the detached teacher with whom no one was comfortable.
A good leader never wastes an opportunity to train someone else to do what he’s doing. [This is just one of the reasons I'm not a good leader.] An inexperienced missionary who works alongside a more practiced disciple maker will progress far more quickly than if he’d simply continued reading books and gaining instruction in a classroom. A leader really ought to ask someone to accompany him most everywhere he goes. It makes reproduction so much easier (and faster).****
What do you think? Why did Jesus send missionaries out two by two?***** Have you seen this done well — or have you seen bad come from its absence?
* Your guesses are as good as mine. The only difference is that this is my blog and I’ve listed all of mine above. You’re more than welcome to put yours in the comments section. Consider yourself encouraged, even, to do so.
** Not wholly unlike youth ministers — though youth ministers have more people looking over their shoulders. So they can’t merely be idle. Instead they mask their laziness by looking busy playing games, watching movies, and going on
vacations er, short-term mission trips.
*** I wonder how much damage and division has occurred in the body of Christ because missionaries and leaders preached uniformity while hiding their own disagreements.
**** So why doesn’t that happen more often?
***** I hope it’s not for the same reasons Noah brought animals on the ark two by two….