Which comes first: the Chicken or the Egg?
I've been thinking a lot lately about how important being involved in missions is to our personal growth as disciples of Jesus Christ. When I say "being involved in missions" what I really mean is being involved with God in reaching the world around us for Jesus Christ.
Now, if your thinking that involvement means "lifestyle evangelism"...that's not really what I'm talking about. I'm talking about physical involvement - something other than just being a good person - where what you are doing and what you are saying has a chance to impact someone towards Jesus.
So the question is, which comes first, being a committed disciple or being involved in reaching others for Christ? Often times we think we have to reach some greater level of maturity before we start to impact the world for Christ. But I submit to you that being involved in reaching the world for Christ is maybe the best way to grow as a more committed disciple!
Of course, since I am the Global Outreach guy here at CCC, I'm thinking about this in terms of world missions. I often get asked the question, "Should we be sending short-term mission teams to other countries when we could just send them the money instead?" My answer is emphatically YES, we should send people on short-term mission trips. There are many good things that come out of a short-term mission experience, but one of the most profound is that it's one of the best tools in our modern times to grow as a RISKS disciple.
If you've been at CCC very long you should have heard that term by now - RISKS disciple. RISKS is an acronym that describes the kind of disciples we are trying to grow here at CCC. If you want more information about that, go to this link: http://www.cccomaha.org/explore.php. In the middle of the page it will give you a detailed description of a RISKS disciple.
Ok, back to the topic I was discussing. I believe that being involved in missions impacts you as a RISKS disciple in the following ways:
Relies on God for "Growth and Identity" - One of the greatest aspects of an STM experience is the need to trust in God due to being in an environment that is foreign and outside your sphere of influence. The less we are able to depend on ourselves, the more natural it is to depend on God.
Initiates Interest through "Reciprocal Relationships" - Relationships are formed with missionaries where they live and work. Relationships are developed with the lost and often expand our worldview with the reality that most of the world is living in darkness. Relationships are formed with team members who are experiencing the same trials and joys of the STM experience.
Serves People in "the World" - Service is often an undervalued aspect of growing as a believer. STM experiences often provide the opportunity to assist people who have genuine, significant needs that we seldom experience in America.
Kingdom Investor of "time, talent, and treasure" - This is a unique service opportunity where all three of these resources usually come into play. An STM experience requires significant time (our most valuable resource), it gives us an opportunity to use the many talents God has granted us, and it generally involves giving of our money as well.
Shaped into Christ-Likeness by "Living, Loving, and Leaning" - These experiences drive a person to live by the Spirit, to love people that we may often see as unlovable (i.e. Muslims), and to lean on others as they work with teams and missionaries and others who are focused on serving the Lord.