As I write this post two short-term mission teams (STM) of Southeastern students are serving opposite sides of the globe. This is not an accident, nor is it all that unusual. In fact, most school breaks we send multiple teams around the world. It is part of the DNA of Southeastern. I hear a lot of questions about the value of short-term missions. Some question the expense. Others question the real impact. Still others ask about missiological sustainability.
This post will explain five reasons short-term missions are a key part of our students’ education.
- The Great Commission is the responsibility of each local church and Southeastern is charged to train local church leaders.
We have been entrusted with the responsibility of equipping men and women to serve the local church; we take this trust quite seriously. The future of the SBC depends on the next generation of leaders. What these leaders value will become the priority of the SBC. Even a quick study of church/mission history shows how quickly missions is lost or redefined to mean something other than what the Bible teaches.
SEBTS wants to insure that every student we graduate understands the importance of the Great Commission. As they prepare to serve churches we want them to keep missions as the top priority. Our STM trips educate, motivate, and equip the next generation of church leaders about the importance of the Great Commission.
- Short-Term Missions is the #1 missionary recruiting tool, bar none
In years past, people were called to missions through a motivating message or book. However, to quote Bob Dylan, “Times they are a chang’n.” The vast majority of new appointees with our International Mission Board and North American Mission Board would list some type of STM experience as the pivotal event in their call. This means, if we want to see more young men and women on the mission field. Or, if we want to have more people passionately funding missions, there is no better way to achieve this that short-term missions.
SEBTS places great emphasis on short-term trips because we believe that the fields need more laborers!
- Short-Term Mission teams are a huge encouragement for long-term missionaries
The missionary life can be lonely. Separated from family, friends, and other things that are familiar, missionaries often feel out of touch with the US and home. STM teams can provide a solution to this problem and can improve longevity of field workers.
Mission team can bring “comfort goodies” or encouragement to missionaries laboring in loneliness. When a team understands part of their ministry is to the missionaries as well as the people, the impact can be multiplied many times over.
SEBTS has dozens of students and alumni on the mission field. A significant number of our STM teams work alongside these students to help in the work as well as a source of encouragement. In other words, STM are one way we continue our ministry to and training of SEBTS students – even after they have graduated.
- Short-Term missions keeps the world before our faculty and students.
SEBTS is a Great Commission Seminary. This is more than a catch phrase, it really does drive much of what we do. It shapes the class-room. It reverberates through our chapel services. It also determines some of our school policies. Recently our accrediting agency visited the campus as part of our regular renewal. When they left one of the member said that one thing was clear, everyone knows who SEBTS is and why it exists, “Southeastern Seminary is a Great Commission Seminary.”
This passion does not happen by accident. It requires discipline and continual re-focusing. STM provides opportunities for this. As our students and faculty travel, they see needs, experience the thrill of sharing the gospel, and encourage each other to consider the implications of Christ’s commission. Of the five STM teams going out this summer, two are being led by non-mission faculty. This is how we seek to make every classroom a Great Commission classroom.
- Short-Term missions provides a controlled environment to practice what we teach.
We want all of our students to share their faith. We want all of our students to pray for the lost. We want all of our students to be able to defend the faith in the face of criticism. STM provides a training laboratory for students to practice what we teach in our class-rooms. So these mission trips are part of a SEBTS student’s training. As we think about training our students to take their seminary education into the “real-world,” the opportunity to practice alongside a seasoned field worker and professor is invaluable.