People doing short-term missions are not heroes! Can they do good work? Yes! Is that work needed? Yes! Should you engage? Absolutely! What should you leave at home? The hero mindset. Why is that important and what should you take instead?
Short-term Missions: Jesus’ Example
Did you know Jesus did short-term missions? Think about it. And there is a Scriptural basis for that statement. He was only on the earth a short time – about 33 years. So what does His model show us?
Had Jesus taken the Hero approach, His time on earth would have been very different from what we know. Heros approach missions with the idea they have appeared to solve all the problems in a short period of time. Heros think they are more important than they really are. Heros usually have good intentions while being blind to self-focus. That is not how Jesus came.
The Zero Approach
My word play on Hero and Zero has limits. I use them to depict fallen people like you and me; people who need the example Jesus gave. Here is the Scriptural basis for my zero thought:
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, Who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equalilty God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.
Jesus is in fact our Hero in the best possible sense of that word. But in ways we can’t fully comprehend, He put on flesh and became as one of us. He left heaven. That means He left home for His mission. He limited Himself and came to serve. And servers are what I have in mind when use the zero term!
Have you seen a news story about some state dinner in Washington? Do you remember a movie where the charcters attended a gala ball of some kind? What sticks in your mind about those events? We remember the important people who were there. We remember what they wore and who they were with. These are the heroes.
There is a very important group we do not see in those scenes. Oh, they are there. They just sort of fade into the background – they’re almost invisible. They usually wear black and white and we call them servers or servants. The event couldn’t happen without them, but they are the zeros. We look right past them.
Short-term Service – Long-term Relationships
Heros come to work and be seen for a week or two. Servants come to build relationships. That’s what Jesus did. He sent His Spirit to enable us to carry on His mission. He calls us to serve, give, love, and sacrifce as He did. When we do that, we see our own poverty. You don’t think you are poor?
People doing short-term missions often have a renewed gratitude for their own physical possessions. That’s good, but it’s barely a beginning. There is spiritual poverty as well as physical poverty. Mission volunteers often serve people who are physically impoverished while being rich in spirit. That shows us our real needs. That realization is often difficult to grasp because we never thought of ourselves in need of anything.
Understanding our own poverty means we can serve as zeros and leave the hero at home!
Soli Deo Gloria!