I had the pleasure of spending Wednesday afternoon with six college and seminary students in downtown Washington DC. These six students are apart of a team initiative called GenSEND that seeks to research parts of cities with an eye to plant a church there. This particular team has spent their summer in an area of Washington DC known as Adams Morgan. Adams Morgan is an area of the city known for a couple of things: a crazy party scene, ethnic diversity, and social activism.
If I could sum up the report the team gave me in one sentence it would be this: Adams Morgan is ripe for a church plant. This week, the team is putting together a prospectus that they will turn into a NAMB leader, which they can potentially turn around and hand to a church planter. I would not be surprised at all if multiple members of this team wound up staying and partaking in planting a church there. The heart this team has for Adams Morgan is immense. They have seen three people profess faith in Christ, and have done significantly leg-work that will benefit future gospel ministry.
I wanted to share a really sweet time that happened during the trip. Upon arrival, I met with the team in the dorm rooms of George Washington University, which has housed the team for the summer. We prayed together, recapped the GenSEND experience, and then opened the word together. Here are 3 points we gleaned from looking at Philippians 4:1-5 that I hope serves you well if you get to minister to other short-term mission teams:
Don’t let the voice in your mind rule the Christ in your heart. Group dynamics can be hard. Different fears and insecurities can creep in, and hinder a mission team greatly. After reading the Scriptures and dialoguing, we realized frustration was beginning to creep in, and the last week of the trip was headed for derailment. The longer short-term trips go, the more likely the honeymoon phase wears off and sin has opportunity to take root. The team found the truths in Philippians 4:1 helpful: God sees you as dearly loved and highly sought after children. Not as unworthy or incompetent. To paraphrase Bonhoeffer in Life Together, Christ is stronger in the word of encouragement from a fellow believer than the previously received word in our hearts. Make it a daily practice to speak Christ to one another, especially during short-term mission trips.
Don’t be surprised by tension between team-members. When you think about it, Paul repeatedly experienced divided teams. We see this clearly in Philippians 4:2-5. This does not negate striving for Christian unity. What it should do is keep you from hovering your hand over the panic button. Division will sneak up on a team like a thief in the night. Acknowledge that division is a possible–even likely–and once you recognize it:
Don’t let the tension in your team rule Christ and His Word. Unity is not a recommendation. Unity is not optional. Unity is not a wish. Unity is commanded. Division on mission teams hinders to 3 things clearly found in Philippians 4:3-5:
- v.3 contending for the gospel
- v.4 rejoicing in the Lord
- v.5 tangible displays of graciousness.
I want to close with this thought: Paul grounded his call for unity, rejoicing, and graciousness in an eschatological reality: the Lord is near (Philippians 4:5b). Be fervent about unity; the Lord is near. Rejoice in who God is; the Lord is near. Reach the nations for Jesus; the Lord is near.