As we enter the summer months, many individuals and churches will be involved in going on mission in new and unusual places away from home.
Historically, mission trips were typically only taken during the summer when school was out. But many more people are exploring other times of the year for engaging in volunteer mission efforts, like spring break and Christmas vacation. Many collegiate ministries will raise funds and travel out of state or internationally on mission trips during spring break. And believers of all ages will spend a week or more of their summer this year on a mission trip with their church or family.
But will we be going as missionaries or tourists?
We're quick to call everyone going on the mission trip a missionary, but is that really true? Is it possible that some individuals go on mission trips as a tourist and not a missionary? You may be asking, "What's the difference?" Let me explain.
Yes, both are going, and perhaps to some place new, but their purpose in going is dramatically different. Tourists go because of the place. However, missionaries go because of the people and their need for Christ. Jeff Iorg, in his book "Live Like a Missionary," addresses this very subject, suggesting that a "missional Christian prioritizes impacting people not going places as his or her ultimate objective."
If we go as tourists, we'll be involved in self-promotion and tell of all the places of interest we've seen. Missionaries, on the other hand, will tell what God is doing and how they've seen Him at work. It's not always the most accurate indicator, but our social media posts will give some insight as to whether we travel as tourists or missionaries.
Yes, God does call us to go and make disciples and many times that involves traveling to another state or country. But always, God's focus is on the people who need a relationship with Him, not the place. I've encountered Christ-followers who considered where they were going on their next mission trip by where they'd not yet been. Almost as if they were checking states or countries off a map to see how many different places they could go on a mission trip.
My prayer is that every Christ-follower would be on mission and willing to go wherever God leads. But let the emphasis be on "where He leads" and not where we want to go. There are already enough tourists traveling around. God is calling out missionaries who will go forth and engage lost people with a boldness to share Him.
Eric Allen is Missions Mobilization team leader for the Kentucky Baptist Convention.