by Peter Swann
A question for each local church is whether or not engagement in long-term missions is optional. It’s treated that way at times, it seems. We often approach local missions as mandatory, but long-term missions as for the select few.
There are reasons this is detrimental for the Kingdom, but also for the local church. Engagement in missions will develop the church, but it also serves as a barometer of church health. The more missionaries, the more it says about the church. Here are a few thoughts on what it means:
1. Long-term missions reflects surrender.
It’s true that people can go overseas out of a sheer hunger for adventure, but that’s unusual. As a general rule, it takes a significant level of surrender to be willing to leave everything behind and move internationally.
2. Long-term missions reflects a commitment to Kingdom-advancement.
We are all missionaries no matter where we live, but when we go overseas, it’s specifically because we are called to engage people there with the gospel. It is explicitly linked to a heart for Kingdom-advancement.
3. Long-term missions reflects a level of discipleship.
New believers can certainly head out as long-term missionaries, but generally, it is men and women who deeply love the Lord and have genuinely committed themselves to Him. It reflects powerfully on the level of discipleship in a church.
4. Long-term missions reflects the heart of God.
God is a missionary God. Scripture reflects that from start to finish. When we go as long-term missionaries, we are reflecting the heart of God to draw all peoples to Himself. It points ahead to what heaven will look like one day.
The number of missionaries any church has reflects powerfully on the health of that church. And the more people are invested long-term, the more that perpetuates itself in a church. It powerfully shapes that church for the future.
It’s an incredible joy to see the long-term missionaries who have headed out from Hope. It blesses me to know that any church of any size can have the privilege of sending people long-term. It’s hard, it’s challenging, but it sure is exhilarating. How amazing that God lets us in on what He’s doing around the world.
We’ve said before that long-term missions is an outworking of the gospel. There are other reasons it’s not optional, but that alone propels us forward while richly blessing us all at the same time.