Uninhibited Negligence initials out to U.N. I find this hilarious and appropriate, but beside the point. I was actually thinking about the missional mindset of the wealthy and successful.
I read a friends link to a post about short term missions (s.t.m.) and was reminded of a lot of other conversations and experiences. It didn't warn against doing s.t.m., just raised some unfortunate issues.
We have money, power, resources, and know how. Many of us even have a desire to help those "less fortunate" than ourselves, spiritually or materially. Here is the problem, good intentions aren't enough. Hit and run missions, as fun as they are can cause more damage than good (that doesn't mean they will just that they can). This concept builds on the previous post about relationship and it will spill over into some future posts as well, but for now lets state the obvious. Everyone wants to get and do the things that make them feel good. Actually doing good often gets little more than lip-service in the internal dialogue of desire.
Here is the unfortunate reality, if you want to help bring about long term help and growth, spiritually or physically, it is going to take a long term commitment of time, resources, and love. This doesn't mean you can't role through for a week with a bunch of high-schoolers, build some houses, sing some songs, and talk about the love of Jesus, it just means for that to have any real benefit in the community it will need to be carried out as part of a larger longer term relationship.
Some simple truths #1: S.T.M. are for the benefit of the missionaries... there is nothing wrong with this as long as you understand it. Mexican ghettos and African slums didn't get the way they are overnight and 25 teenagers from the burbs won't fix them in a week, no matter how trendy their work cloths, how many pictures they take, how many babies they hold, or how many people give their lives to Jesus in the last outreach service. This doesn't mean nothing good took place. A dusty snot-factory baby getting held and loved on is a good thing, a family getting a new house (even if it isn't done the way they wanted) is a blessing, but the real winners are the 25 teenagers who had their eyes wrenched open, hearts broken, and worldviews shattered. Heck, they may even spend the rest of their lives trying to learn how to love and help those people, and others like them, because of the impact one S.T.M. had on them and the way God used it to talk to them, this is a win. Dumping cash, giving the impression that all Americans are wealthy and their lives perfect, and teaching the locals that the best way to get gifts from Westerners is to show up to their meetings, raise their hands and come forward at the right time, isn't.
As a side note, if you, or someone you trust, isn't going to stick around, be in relationship with, and disciple people, DON'T do an alter call. I once saw a missions team put on a three day conference/crusade in Zambia. Thousands gave their lives to Christ and got free Bibles and resources, a bunch of them did it every night. I'm not saying there weren't some genuine commitments, I'm just saying it's a shame and a sham when the impact of the gospel is reduced to hands raised and Bible given rather than lives lived and relationships built. If the unintentional impact of an outreach is the creation of the impression that saying yes to Jesus means you "get stuff", the outreach is actually watering down and hindering the gospel. The lesson shouldn't be "don't preach", but "learn how to teach".