Answering 7 Common Objections to Long-Term Missions

During almost 500 meetings I set up to raise support for service in Germany, I glimpsed a snapshot of current evangelical sentiment towards long-term, cross-cultural ministry. Many exciting things are happening today in the evangelical world, whether in short-term ministry, church planting, or expanding our social consciousness. Yet I cannot escape the conclusion that a major change in the tides has come to the evangelical world regarding missions. Time and time again I encountered intelligent people, both laymen and pastors, who argued passionately that long-term, cross-cultural work is “no longer the way God does things.”

The arguments have come from many corners, but regardless of the source, the next generation of long-term, cross-cultural missionaries seems to be listening. I regularly hear about people who have been, in essence, reasoned out of their calling. Anyone who cares about God’s mission to the nations should be interested to address the ideas being used to deconstruct 20 centuries of missionary precedent. So let me briefly introduce the most popular objections and offer an alternative way of looking at each of them.

  • It (long-term, cross-cultural missions) destroys foreign cultures.”

In contrast to the way that American capitalism, franchising, and media encourage people to wear the same things, watch the same shows, and worship the same cultural idols, Christian missionaries have historically been at the vanguard of linguistics, studying local culture, and contextualizing the faith in a truly native way. Like any other branch of Christian ministry, international missions work has endured embarrassing and lamentable chapters. But in many cases Christian missionaries are some of the few people interested in preserving a language, even a whole culture, in the midst of the homogenizing effect of globalization.

  • “It’s based on outdated theology.”

If missions no longer concerns us, we must think (at one level or another) the gospel itself is no longer necessary or urgent. But to the extent that we think the spread of the gospel is no longer necessary or urgent, we are no longer truly Christians.

  •  “It’s unnecessarily offensive.”

The Prince of Peace himself offended people when he preached the gospel. Of course, Christians sometimes offend others by sheer rudeness, and where that happens it should be rebuked. But if your version of Christianity does not offend your non-believing friends, even when articulated civilly and sensibly, you have good reason to ask whether it’s really Christianity you’re explaining.

  •  ”Short-term teams can do the same thing but more efficiently.”

In every other field of human endeavor—whether medicine, accounting, or teaching—we think a person needs education and experience to do their job well. But it is increasingly popular to assume that everyone—no matter their commitment, education, or experience—can do equally well in explaining the gospel to people of a different culture. This is a kind of insult to the unevangelized. This view testifies to our belief that people outside our neighborhood or borders are somehow less sophisticated, or more easily appealed to, than we would be. Real work takes real time, and real people deserve our long-term attention.

  • “It’s much more effective to just fund foreign nationals.”

This is the most popular and consequential theory. It’s a false dichotomy, and there’s a place for both supporting nationals and also sending our own people long-term. But consider the problems with this idea when used as the primary strategy for all missions:

1. Some of the most spiritually needy countries in the world—North Korea, Somalia, Yemen, and others—cannot be reached by this method, because they do not have Christians whom you could support. So this extremely popular strategy will always overlook the unreached peoples who need innovative, outside missions the most.

2. Christians in many countries—take India for example—come from a sector of society with which most others will not associate. It’s all very well to support an Indian Dalit (and I know some great ones), but expecting him to reach India’s Brahmins may be shortsighted.

3. You can pay a Majority World pastor’s salary, but when that pastor’s congregation wants to do long-term, cross-cultural work themselves, they will not be able to do it as you have. So this approach fails one of the first tests of a mission’s success: reproducibility. At best it leads to paternalism; at worst it leads to corruption.

4. This view assumes that an outsider could never be as skilled at reaching a certain culture as an insider from that culture, yet over and over this thesis has been shown false. Outsiders must closely examine everything, from grammar to etiquette, and this intensity—combined with the great lengths to which missionaries must go to serve in the first place—can make them powerful evangelists even as outsiders.

5. Last, the idea extinguishes the mandate Christ gave to go into all the world, including the part of the world that doesn’t live in your own country, to proclaim his name to those who have never heard it.

  • “It distracts people from the needs of our own nation.”

This is an ironic suggestion because the missional movement, justly concerned to reach its own neighbors, grew out of a desire for people to do at home what they saw missionaries doing abroad. So in abandoning long-term, cross-cultural, missions-sending efforts, many churches distance themselves from the very undertaking that informed them of, and then led them to eventually embrace, missional ideals in the first place.

  • “Because people from every nation have immigrated to America’s cities, it would be more cost-effective and strategic to stay and reach them here.”

God does reach diaspora populations in the United States, but we are naïve to think that all others will simply be reached as a result. I can think of dozens of Germans, for example, who have come to faith in the United States. But many have stayed there, as the sociological phenomenon of brain drain suggests they might. This leaves many tens of millions of Germans unevangelized, and the difficulty and impracticality of going to them doesn’t seem like an especially Christian argument in light of the difficulty with which Christ undertook his mission to us.

The effort to extinguish the church’s missionary impulse, though couched in the benign language of efficiency or methodology, belongs to the most sub-Christian kind of theological decay. For a variety of rhetorically effective reasons, it asks us to walk away from 20 centuries of missionary precedent and from the very heart that moved God to send his own Son here. Many people today believe God is no longer in the business of sending long-term missionaries into all the world. I hope you will build on these short replies in your efforts to win back those minds, and those future missionaries, for Christ’s sake.

  • Seth Meyers

    As a church planter among the Tsongas of South Africa, I would also like to ask, What about language learning? Without the gift of tongues, how can you reach the majority of the world’s peoples without spending a long time learning the language? We’ve been here for 8 years and are still learning.

    Secondly, conversion typically takes a long time. In two hours I meet again with a man from our village. We’ve been studying for nearly two years, and he appears to be getting nearer to the Wicket Gate. How could he ever have been reached with short term ministries who neither know the language nor take the time to peal away encrusted layers of unbelief?

    May God prosper your efforts, Ben.

    • Ben Stevens

      Fantastic to hear about your work Seth! Thanks for your encouraging words.

  • ForeFCB1899

    “Christians in many countries—take India for example—come from a sector of society with which most others will not associate. It’s all very well to support an Indian Dalit (and I know some great ones), but expecting him to reach India’s Brahmins may be shortsighted.”

    I agree, but many of the people I currently know go to minister to only the low caste or Dalit people. There is seldom any outreach to the Brahmins. In contrast, the old English missionaries ministered to the Brahmins and converted people like my ancestors. Furthermore, most of the Brahmins’ areas in one regard, are to India what Boston or Berkley is to the United States: highly intellectual. I believe that most current missionaries cannot minister to the Brahmins because the missionaries’ understanding of their own faith is tenuous. It is easier to throw rice and clothes at Dalits and win quick converts. If you want to the gospel to succeed in India, equip Brahmin Christians and send them back to India to minister to other Brahmins. Do not send American ministers with undercooked theology. Such people will be laughed out of the country.

    • Bobby Harnist

      “I believe that most current missionaries cannot minister to the Brahmins because the missionaries’ understanding of their own faith is tenuous.”

      I find this to be a great assessment of the modern missions movement. This is why we need more missionaries like Ben who actually have studied and thought about the Christian faith. Our missionaries need to be more theologically trained not less.

    • Amelia

      Amen! But don’t think that people aren’t. There are people out there who are attempting to evangelize, long term, to college students and professionals.

      Long-term missions is the only way to go to reach (not to mention effectively disciple) these people. They deserve more than a week of our time.

      Only problem seems to be with obtaining long-term visas, which are pretty much impossible to get. Many of my friends have been sent home after their visas weren’t renewed.

  • ForeFCB1899

    My issue with sending missionaries is that many American Christians I know do not share their faith in their neighborhood. They do not take the time to get to know their neighbor by either sharing a meal or having ordinary conversations. They would prefer the rush of going abroad to minister in South West Africa, or North East Europe than spending time helping the neighbor fix his plumbing or baby sit the single mother’s child. I concede that long term missionaries are necessary. However, American Christians must also engage their neighbors, which is increasingly hard to do as American becomes post, post-Christian. After all, Jesus largely witnessed to his people: the Jews. Why must missionary focus largely on those whose skin color or food customs are vastly different? How about also starting in the neighborhood? Or God forbid, how about sharing about Jesus with one’s broken family at the Thanksgiving table?

    • Ben Stevens

      I think you’re exactly right. In fact I wrote my first Gospel Coalition article on that very subject: Thanks for interacting with the piece and hope this fills out the picture a bit!

      • Tony

        We don’t need an either or mentality- we need a both and. Padding the homefront isn’t the biblical pre-requisite for foreign missions. I think we should be thinking hard about both and moving towards both. You probably aren’t preaching the Gospel to your neighbors and strangers every day, so by that logic, you would never consider foreign missions. We should be convincted about both and thinking about how we can do both foreign and local missions.

        • Charlie

          Right on, Bro. Tony. The Great Commission includes both Jerusalem (i.e. our homeland) and the ends of the world. We cannot obey the command of our Lord unless we are willing to witness both at home and abroad.

        • ForeFCB1899

          “You probably aren’t preaching the Gospel to your neighbors and strangers every day, so by that logic, you would never consider foreign missions.”

          You must admit you have made a colossal assumption. Of course, by using the adverb “probably” you have allowed yourself a way out but also found a way to give a parting blow. Brother, how do you know what I do and don’t in my neighborhood? Moreover, had you, in good faith, read my argument, you would have read that I conceded that long term missionaries are a necessary part of the Church’s testimony to the world. Fact is some serpents are wiser than others. :)

        • Ben Stevens

          Well said, Tony! I rushed to defend myself in the first comment (by mentioning the article) but I think you’re right in fearing false dichotomies here. All the best and thanks for interacting with the piece!

      • ForeBarca1899

        Thank you Ben for the link. I agree with most of the sentiments. I too live in neighborhood that has brought me great joy via sharing, praying and fellowship at the table.

    • Otakar Vozeh

      That’s so right. You do not become a missionary overseas. You first need to be a missionary at home. Local churches need to be more careful about whom they are sending out and have a biblical approach to their “sending process”.

    • Anar

      American culture is more individualistic, and some people don’t work as well in this type of social environment. Could this be part of God’s call in their lives to have them work in a different social environment where they would be more effective? If a potential cross-cultural missionary is most effective at sharing with Americans, this may be God calling them to stay and evangelize their neighbors. On the other hand, if they find they are more effective when crossing cultures, this may be God calling them to this kind of work.

    • Kim

      This is a reply to Forefcb about reaching the neighbors in the U.S. before going OUT. If any American wants to know Jesus – they can find Him just about anywhere in the U.S. There are good, solid churches on every corner and bookstores crammed with info. There are even Christian radio stations in just about every city. I am a missionary to Eastern Europe and there simply is no access to the gospel in many places. I still meet people who have NEVER heard the gospel and that’s why I am here. The other sad fact is that many of the state churches are apostate and do not even believe the gospel and so there is no truth and power. Just down the street from me is a Lutheran church and the pastor is gay. I know of a Baptist pastor who does not believe in the resurrection. Jesus said to “GO” and so I went.

      • Christoph Koebel

        Kim…that is great news that you went to Eastern Europe. My mission serves in every country in the East

  • Gerald

    ForeFCB1899, why can’t we do both? Surely an outpouring of missional living at home can only be good for missioning abroad? Oh- I think I can see the thread of your argument, and my misunderstanding: you aren’t saying that we should reach ‘home’ first, (this devalues the call of God of people to go where-ever and when-ever he sent them) – rather, that we cannot be sending quality missionaries if they cannot witness at home?

    • Anar

      We should be careful how we measure the “quality” of missionaries. In the American context we may value the outgoing, direct, get-things-done, initiative-taking type of people, but in many other contexts this may come off as rude, arrogant, impatient, and lacking trust in God. I would argue that not fitting in, awkwardness, and quietness are things we should be looking for in missionaries we support and send.

      • RS

        I wholeheartedly agree with this. It is too simplistic to say we should be looking for those who are sharing their faith with their neighbors as the ones we should send overseas. We should be looking for the ones God has called to go overseas and send them. More than likely they are/will be more equipped to evangelize the international field for this is what God has called them to. It is our American mindset to say they must be effective here before we send them out…I’m thankful God does not operate in that way.

    • ForeFCB1899

      If you had read my post, Gerald, you would have noted that I did concede the need for long term missionaries. I did not say otherwise.

  • Bo

    One other major objection people typically have to long-term missions is the great cost of sending American or Western missionaries. Yet our first missionary sent to us (Jesus!)was sent at an infinite cost. This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t be prudent with the amounts of funding we raise (I’m a long-term missionary myself), but to be so focused on the bottom line is a distinctly American preoccupation/idol.

    The Great Commission doesn’t end with the qualifier, “but only if it can be done on the cheap.”

    • Charlie

      “One other major objection people typically have to long-term missions is the great cost of sending American or Western missionaries. Yet our first missionary sent to us (Jesus!)was sent at an infinite cost.”

      Right on, Bro. Bo. We cannot let extra-Biblical economics keep us from prudently obey Christ’s command “Go into all the World.”

    • RS

      AMEN Bo!!

    • Christoph Koebel

      the great cost we pay our pastors is a bigger issue

  • camelhairsuit

    I’m sure glad God didn’t just send a check.

    The essential piece that’s missing in trendy missiology is that of gospel modeling. As you mentioned, we do have a results oriented, bottom line global theology and the long term, slow, tedious process of modeling gospel transformation (DNA), expository preaching, and life on life disciple making is unappealing and quite frankly, exposes a serious idol of the western church. Furthermore it exposes our lack of love for the nations for while we feast at the table, the nations get our scraps.

    Thanks for writing this. I join you in the struggle to reclaim for our churches the heart of the Mission of God: sacrificial going and giving to the nations.

  • Sue

    Bravo!!!! This is one of the best articles I have read concerning the need for long-term international missions. I hope this is read by members of many churches and that they will embrace the truths it puts forth.

    • Christoph Koebel

      Yes Sue. I’m delighted that the author served on the LEAST REACHED and HARDEST TO REACH continent – Europe.

  • Ernest Manges

    Thank you for this article. I am one of those “long term” missionaries and when faced with the “bang for the buck” argument I respond that American Christians do not get a pass from going to live long term in unsafe and unsanitary places. Supporting locals is good if done well, but we must also keep sending out our own flesh and blood to live and, perhaps even to suffer and die, else eventually we will lose all interest in missions.

    Ernest Manges, EFCA ReachGlobal

    • Ben Stevens

      Thanks for your work and comment Ernest! Godspeed to you in your work. I have lots of great friends in ReachGlobal.

  • Eric Lantrip

    We have experienced all of these objections from many Christians we love and respect. It, at times, has caused us to wonder if we are on the wrong track but time and again after such encounters God has encouraged us to stay the course. Thank you for putting it in words for folks like us trying, by God’s grace, to be missionaries in a foreign culture.

  • Joseph K

    It’s always easier to embrace an either/or mentality vs a both/and mentality when it comes to serving overseas or the missions vs. evangelism debate. There are large unreached people groups who are simply needing more workers. For example, in my own field in Japan there is roughly one Christian worker per 150,000 Japanese nationals. As the 2nd largest unreached people group in the world ( in a nation where only 0.22% of the population attends a protestant church in the most expensive nation on earth, there are simply not enough native workers to disciple, raise leaders, and share the gospel with the millions of Japanese who have never heard the gospel even once. This is also true in many other unreached people groups, including many nations in Europe and Asia where the non-Christians outnumber the native Christians 500/1000/2000/3000 to 1 or in places where there are no Christians at all. Praying for more Kingdom workers for the Lord’s harvest! Truly the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.

  • Ruth

    To the “funding foreign nationals” argument, I would add another problem to the list. In the country where I serve, there are a good number of Christians in the capital city and the more developed lowlands. Many of these believers, however, are unwilling to move to more remote/rural areas (which are the unreached and least reached areas of the country) to be missionaries to their own people. There are many reasons for this (lack of educational opportunities for their children in rural areas, not wanting to leave the comforts of the city, and so on), but at this point in time there is still a great need for foreign missionaries here who are willing to serve in those types of settings.

    • Ernest Manges

      Ruth, we have seen that as well in our service in Asia.

      Supporting locals to do missions is great if done well, but another consideration most US churches miss is this: US money may tag the local as an “American agent” which may well close doors.

    • Ben Stevens

      Great point, Ruth! This is one of those arguments I’d have added in had I remembered it! Thanks for your work!!

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  • Vivek

    Hi, A great article. I agree with many of your points. I write as an Indian, pastoring a local independent Indian church in Pune, India. I honestly think equipping the national is a better way. That’s Matt 28! Jesus did not come to India. WHy? He could have right? But He equipped others to equip others. In this day and age there are many ways to come alongside and equip a believing foreign national. It is easier for the national to reach his people. You have made some good observations. I do not want to take away anything from those. But two points I would like to address are…
    “2. Christians in many countries—take India for example—come from a sector of society with which most others will not associate. It’s all very well to support an Indian Dalit (and I know some great ones), but expecting him to reach India’s Brahmins may be shortsighted”

    I think this is a vague general sweeping statement. I praise God that Dalits are getting saved. But I think many others are equally getting saved. In fact this is a skewed version of Christianity that the West has. I think it gaining the legend of the India where Fakhirs are sitting on nail beds! That’s good for a tourist campaign. I hope Christianity does not jump into that well. There are thousands of converts who are highly educated and are not from any of the lower castes. In fact, in my exposure to Indian Christianity in the last 13 years, I have not seen a single Dalit (highly localized problem)! But have seen thousands upon thousands of others who are well educated ad from ‘good- status’ families. I honestly think it is easier to support and equip one of these guys (in this generation) than re-invent the wheel. I also think there are enough and more Indian theologians who can defend their faith and articulate it equally well (if not better) than many of our contemporary celebrity pastors who have a fan-following (incl. authors of Gospel Coalition). One of the biggest problems of western missionary strategy (though well intentioned) is, “they are not smart/intellectual/capable enough”. I think people are equally made alive by the Holy Spirit. US is not ahead of N.Korea in that. I am sure when the Lord returns, you will be surprised by the real figures in heaven:-)

    Additionally, you say “3. You can pay a Majority World pastor’s salary, but when that pastor’s congregation wants to do long-term, cross-cultural work themselves, they will not be able to do it as you have. ” I wonder why you lack the confidence in the Holy Spirit working as effectively amongst third world leaders? Please be informed that most of South India was infiltrated by South Indians and not the West. I don’t want to take away the credit from some really enterprising missionaries from the West. BUt I think you are trusting that God works better through the West, with such statements.
    Having said this, pl be informed that I have worked very closely (and still work) with excellent missionaries from the West. They are most suited, in my opinion, for equipping the nationals (training being the foremost). I have heard well-trained missionaries from the West say, “You Indians ought to come and train us in the West”. There you go!

    • Mel

      Hi Vivek,
      Great points!
      Great to hear you are from Pune – I am from Australia, and will be passing through Pune early next year to complete a primary health short course nearby. I would love to visit a local church in Pune while I’m there – is it possible to get in touch?
      If you could email me at, that would be great!

    • Stancy

      I have a minor disagreement too to this article regarding the point talking about Christianity in India.I came in here to post my views and I’m glad to see that Vivek already posted most of the important points. Thanks dude

    • J

      Thank you Vivek I was thinking along similar lines. The part that especially bothered me in the article was when he mentioned about there being no Christians (maybe he meant missionaries?) in N. Korea. I do believe that the Holy Spirit is moving there, and there are, as you said, going to be North Koreans in heaven. :) Let us not think that the West has all the answers when it comes to Evangelism. God sends out his word, and it does not return to him without fruit, right?

      • Christoph Koebel

        Amen about America has all answers.TELOS grads from two colleges serve right now in NKorea. Obviously American cannot go there.

  • Charlie

    Thank you for this article. It was very encouraging in a day when some many respond negatively to the idea of foreign missions by claiming the true statement that they can witness at home as an excuse not to obey God’s command. When a LifeWay poll shows 61% of evangelicals in America don’t witness, we should start asking people if they are already witnessing and American and admonish them that they can’t witness in America, they should witness in America. And for those feeling the call to go overseas, heed the words of Jim Raymo (Marching to a Different Drummer) that if our church in America won’t miss us, foreign missionary societies don’t need us. We should put the emphasis on preaching the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. The reason we don’t preach the Gospel is because the ‘gospel’ preach in some many churches today is not worthy preaching. If the Gospel we believe in doesn’t inspire us to preach it through the whole world, it isn’t worth preaching at home. Once we are inspired by the Gospel, once who know what we should be preaching, then we will start preaching it every. The emphasis needs to be more on what we are preaching then simply just preaching. Thank you TGC for standing in the gap.

    Here’s a objection against foreign missions I have heard recently: The United States is the ends of the earth. What would you say to such an objection?

    • Seth Meyers


      “The United States is the ends of the earth. What would you say to such an objection?”
      1. Americans are too often internationally ignorant and/or disinterested so it sounds like that response has not tried to grapple with all the people groups and nations around the world.

      2. The US is the richest nation in the history of the world. It is at least possible that someone would like to defend their reason for staying in a more comfortable society and culture rather than living in an uncomfortable setting for the sake of planting churches. I’m not saying any particular person is doing that, only that it is a possibility that needs to be engaged.

      3. The Great Commission applies most to areas where there is least Gospel-penetration. The less potential a group has to hear the Gospel the more urgent is that group’s need for full-time missionaries. In general, anyone living in the US has a greater potential to hear the Gospel (via churches, internet, books, etc.) than the average person living in unreached / least-reached places.

      • Christoph Koebel

        US richest nation….Please read Operation World and make a list of ALL countries with a higher per capita income. I’m not American. I’m dual citizen of two great nations. some assume we need to look to the USA for all answers. that is WRONG. As I write this a leader from mission is on his way to Mexico/Bolivia. some Christians down there have a desire/vision serving in the 10/40 window, particular Turkey

  • ultimate player

    Great Articles and Great comments. Thank you writers.

    Tony Campolo said at Urbana (i think) “America is overstaffed.”

    Your local fellowship may not miss you because someone else can step in. You can argue that many neighborhoods have been oversaturated with the good news. Americans and Westerners, KEEP LOVING YOUR NEIGHBORS. If they aren’t brothers and sisters, by your love may they meet the Father. If they are brothers and sisters, may your love show the world the meaning of the body.

    If you feel called overseas, GO. Even if you aren’t fully trained or skilled, you can be effective.

    Long-Term workers are necessary in places where building a relationship is necessary to get through barriers.

    We must go or send no matter the cost.

  • Kim

    From the article:
    “But it is increasingly popular to assume that everyone—no matter their commitment, education, or experience—can do equally well in explaining the gospel to people of a different culture.”

    I believe that anyone CAN explain the gospel to people of a different culture and do well by the power of the Holy Spirit. I believe this is great news! Jesus didn’t say, “Before you go…get education and experience”. He just said, “GO”. The only requirement was to wait for the Holy Spirit to come down. The whole area of missions should be one of OBEDIENCE. Did Jesus tell you to go? Did He tell you where to go? Are you still listening to His voice? Some of our most amazing mission stories come from those who simply obeyed and had no education or financial backing from home…they just OBEYED.

    • Ben Stevens

      Hey Kim! A very intriguing point you raise. It’s always a balance between zeal and knowledge, no?

      Here’s one thing I’d toss out for consideration: the New Testament intimates that the Christian message spread quickly through relationships and through preaching on the home front. But when we hear about situations in which the message begins to penetrate different cultures, it’s very often people like Peter or Paul who are charged to do that work, as their expertise is needed to sort out the particularly hairy situations one encounters when operating in a totally foreign environment.

      The book of Acts is no exhaustive history of the early Christian movement, so I don’t want to lean on that too heavily. But it’s worth considering nonetheless. The unparalleled access we have to the rest of the world via modern travel has unfortunately not been accompanied by some kind of quantum leap in the ease with which we can actually understand the rest of the world. So I think it’s worthwhile to develop a healthy fear of the challenges and pitfalls that could result from going into such situations without adequate preparation.

      But I’m with you on the zeal :) All the best from Berlin!

  • Pietro Ciavarella

    Thanks for the excellent post, Ben. In support I share here a simple piece of anecdotal information, based on what I’ve observed in Italy over the past twenty-five years. It is almost always true for ministry in Italy that lasting results can only be accomplished by people who minister here long-term. Short-termers can accomplish some things, but they rarely can produce long-term results. In Italy long-term people = long-term results. As to a definition of long-term, I’d say a minimum of fifteen years, preferably double that.

  • Harold Britton

    Great article. Another objection coming from affluent mobile people today who want to “focus on quick mission projects, fast deployment, a bare bones budget and our church can do it alone”, which is also quite convenient for busy ethnocentric Americans:

    When you stick to a long term call, however hard it is, learning the language, culture, customs, and bonding with the people group, when you suffer and live among them, it really contributes to great mission, transformed lives, and has the best possibility of transforming whole cultures. Jesus did not come on a short-term trip.

  • David Hunt

    Excellent article Ben! I’ve been concerned for a while that the modern emphasis on short term missions has reduced emphasis on the GREAT need for long term workers! The world needs missionaries who will go out with an “I’m here for 30 years” mindset, not just for a stint.

  • christoph koebel

    “some of the most needy countries, North Korea”…I know the context speaks about another issue. But folks wake up, according to OW N’Korea has 1% evangelical Christian, more than 10+ European countries.

  • CM

    Ben, great article. The excuses of outdated theology or offensive to cultures took me by surprise, but maybe it is because of the sphere in which I pastor. I haven’t read all of the comments that have been posted, so I hope I am not being redundant, but I truly believe most of the excuses are cop-outs. I believe these excuses tie into the whole notion of the American dream: comfortable living, making more money, not sacrificing for the sake of the gospel, and selfishness. As one who encourages and mobilizes frontline workers I am a proponent of American sent missionaries, because I have personally seen the dangers of supporting national pastors.

  • Dean P

    Somebody might’ve already mentioned this above, but one of the things I’ve noticed that makes it hard for some to want to go into the field is the grueling and bureaucratic process you have to go through to just get the ball rolling. I know in some ways this process seems necessary, but regardless when all is said and done it just makes one not to want to even bother. I think that if the process was easier it might improve the chances of people wanting to give up on the calling.

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  • Percival

    He forgot to mention the effects of the long-term missionary on their home churches. Missionaries serve to: 1) Bring a bigger perspective to their home churches, 2) Speak from an outside perspective offering theological balance, prophetic challenge, and decoupling the Gospel from culturally-conditioned evangelistic methods, 3) As intermediaries, they bring the voice of another part of the body which would not be heard otherwise, 4) Serve as an ongoing reminder that God’s plan for the nations, which is too important to out-source (i.e. funding nationals) or to dabble in (i.e. short term).

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  • Darius Walker

    I have found that while raising support, my goal of raising funds is not primary (which is tough when I need to raise funds to be ministering overseas!).
    Often, my ministry while raising support requires me to respond to these 7 objections, especially #4 and #5 (“Short-term teams can do the same thing but more efficiently,” and “It’s much more effective to just fund foreign nationals.”).
    It has been important for me to keep in mind that if I respond to these objections well while raising support, then I don’t need to feel disappointed if they don’t support me.
    I especially see this when addressing the issue of the unreached regarding supporting nationals. Many people tell me they had no idea about the unreached. Support raising itself is such a great ministry!
    (fyi – I use a pseudonym online because I work in a security sensitive part of the world and it would be unwise to have my name online associated with missions)

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  • Michael

    Ben, I appreciate much of what you have written here. With regard to the matter of funding foreign nationals, I would add this:

    My responsibility as a missionary is to lay upon national churches the burden of the NT on local church operation. That includes 1Cor 9, Gal 6:6 and 1Tim 5:17 where churches are called upon to support their leaders/teachers. At home we support our own pastors because we think it’s biblical, not merely because it’s economically practical. The nationals must come to see it in the same light, and our financial influence will either enhance or inhibit their obedience. In this case I think the Lord is much more pleased with their obedient giving out of poverty than our giving out of excess.

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  • Bryan Varenkamp

    “It’s unnecessarily offensive.” The better response is that short-term mission-aries are far more likely to give offense than those who are there for the long haul and have relationships, the language and culture under their belt!

  • Don Wilcox

    Even though I agree with some of your comments in defense of traditional missionary efforts, your post is a classic example of a straw man argument. The arguments are stated in a one-sentence statement, and then refuted with a more lengthy defense. I spent some of the best 31 years on staff with CRU doing international minisry. Some of it was effective, but I have to admit that we made a lot of mistakes. I recently read a very helpful book, When Helping Hurts in which the authors make some pretty compelling arguments about how well-intentioned people often do more harm than good on their missions efforts. Honestly, I saw myself in many of these stories. There is much to be learned from others, and my concern is that many of my contemporaries with CRU don’t have ears to hear. I don’t have a dog in this fight. I just want people, especially young people to go into missions with their eyes wide open.

  • Christoph K.

    Like to comment to one topic; “Short Term vs Long term” In the REAL WORLD they go hand in hand, or should do so. I was both a short term missionary and a long term missionary, as well as hosting short term teams. I’m a recruiter for a company involved in Short and long term ministry for over 55 years, serving in 110+ countries. One example: As a short term leader I left some Christian tracts in a religious building. A farmer, I never met, picket that tract up, ordered a Bible correspondence course. By the time a “Long Term” worker arrived that farmer was already a Christian.

  • Linda S

    Could short term missions even operate without the long term missionaries? They are often the ones making it possible for short term people to come in the first place. Long term missionaries are probably the ones providing the opportunity & context, the invitation. They also act as the language & culture buffer, the emergency contact, the interpreter & the connection w local people whose trust they’ve earned over a long period of time.

  • pbt

    I am of Indian origin, and am extremely grateful to the unknown missionaries who came to India generations ago. It is because of their witness that I am a believing Christian today. Their tears, sweat, blood and sacrifices have had an eternal impact through at least 5 generations in my own family. So I fully agree that long term missions continues to be critically important, especially for unreached people groups around the world. Please read my remaining comments in the light of this.

    The problem is that many Christians living in America are much more excited about sending missionaries cross-culturally, than about reaching out to their multi-ethnic local communities. This allows the vast majority of Christians in the church to get completely off the hook, other than writing a check once in a while. Why is the church almost blind to the fact that today the whole world is also at our doorsteps? Could it be that there is greater glamour in travelling far distances as a missionary than being one where we are right now?

    For example in one of the churches we attended, there was a missions presentation talking about the importance of reaching out to Indians in India. It was ironic that although we were the only Indians in the audience and were wearing Indian clothes, not a single person even noticed we were there or took the trouble to talk to us later on. Such issues are felt much more acutely with those from other cultures who are not very fluent in English. We can feel moved when we hear about the great spiritual needs of a culture on the other side of the world, and not not even notice that our next door neighbor is from that same culture.

    I think the bottom line is that we need to strongly teach that it is *every* Christian’s responsibility to be an evangelist right were we are. God calls some to go out for long term missions, and in their case, “right where they are” is in that foreign country. But if we teach that missions is a here and now responsibility, then none of us can escape the obligation to share our faith with those around us.

  • Christoph Koebel

    I fully agree with the writer. I would like to comment on the last issue he raised about “every nation have immigrated to America’s cities.” Yes, I agree we here in North America, have to reach out to our newest neighbors. But that never replaces GOING to the end of the world. I grew up in Switzerland, live now in Winnipeg/Canada. Over the last three years I gave leadership to Winnipeg Challenge, an outreach/training to focus on Muslims, Hindus, Sikh etc.I promoted that event in a big way. Winnipeg has a population of around 700,000. Over these 3 years we had only a handful of locals, beside the multi-cultural host church. WE ARE NOT REACHING OUT TO THESE new neighbors. How is our attitudes to Muslims, Sikh and Hindus in our North American communities? 30% of all short term “missionaries” from North America go to Mexico. We need to reach those brought to our cities AS WELL GO to the MOST UNREACHED regions of the world. That region is EUROPE!!!According to Operation World, written by a Winnipeg boy, Europe has 2.5% Evangelicals, less than Asia.

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