Returning from Missions
Missions trips are amazing and often transforms our lives. We see God at work in a new and dynamic way and we find it easier to get our priorities right. We focus on Jesus, the source of life and as a result we find it easier to be bold for the Gospel. Often we make commitments while on these trips to never go back to the boring American Christian lifestyle back home. However, for those who have been on short-term or long-term missions trips, we know that it becomes very hard to keep up the missions lifestyle once we get back to our comfortable American lives. In the weeks following missions trips, we find that we have fallen back into our same old habits and patterns that we swore to leave behind.
Why do we have a tendency to have these amazing mountain top experience where we step out of our comfort zones and see God do so much through us – and then go back to our lives like nothing really happened besides some nice stories for our Christian friends?
I find that often people justify falling back into their comfortable lives in two ways- First, whenever someone travels overseas and does missions, they experience a ‘special’ grace from God that enables them to share the Gospel on that specific trip. Second, God moves in certain parts of the world but in America, God is not moving; we need to wait for revival. I believe neither of these are true simply because throughout Scripture we see God’s heart for all people- every nation, tribe and tongue- to be saved and God also desires to partner with us- both on missions trips and in our daily lives- as long as we, the church, are willing to listen to His voice and walk in obedience.
So why then do we have problems being authentic Christians when we come back?
Firstly, our environment changes drastically. The Bible tells us to live as aliens or strangers in this world (1 Peter 2:11-12). This is really easy when we are in a foreign land where we are obviously different. The stigma of being weird is gone; we are the crazy Americans. Also, as we travel, we are taken out of our comfort zones. This puts us in a natural state of trusting God for everything. For example, every morning you go to a coffee shop; it is familiar and comfortable and you do not feel the need to talk about God with anyone. You are not looking for opportunities to share the Gospel, you are simply getting coffee. Now imagine visiting a coffee shop overseas; being in a new and different culture drives you to see God’s heart for those in the shop which in turns leads you to seek out opportunities to talk about God and the Gospel.
Secondly, while you are on outreach, you are typically surrounded by a team of people that are like-minded. You are all there to share the Gospel and to lay your lives down for Jesus. Therefore, you all can hold each other accountable and encourage one another.
Sadly, we do not see that support and accountability in the church in America. Therefore, as we say goodbye to those who we did missions with and return to our local churches, we lose that safety net and worse, we find ourselves surrounded by many unenthusiastic and complacent American Christians. This makes accountability and encouragement very hard to find; it is much more difficult to be different and to live life fully surrendered to Christ.
If you find yourselves in this situation, I would encourage you to seek out genuine and authentic fellowship with other Christians that will continue to push you and challenge you in your faith. Also, always remember that Jesus is enough; run to Him and let Him carry you.
Thirdly, our mindset changes when we are on outreach. We become focused on Jesus. The distractions have been taken away and e are completely present and on mission. We are intentionally putting ourselves in the will of God to reach the lost with the Gospel. When we return to our family and homes, we lose focus and other things become more important than God. We need to live our lives with the mindset that everything we do is for the Lord and for the advancement of the Gospel.
In conclusion, I would encourage you to view America or wherever you are as temporary and just one stop on our way to our eternal home in heaven. I would encourage you to seek out other Christians that will challenge you and encourage you to continue to be on fire for Jesus. Finally, I would challenge you to re-assess your mindset – am I living my life for Jesus alone and for the advancement of the Gospel or am I living under the radar as a complacent Christian? Put the Lord first in all things and you will find that it is not us waiting on God to move in our nation but rather God eagerlyand patiently waiting for us to willingly submit to Him and walk in obedience to Him.