**This is an updated repost from 2015**
This summer dozens of Southeastern students are serving on short-term mission teams (STM) around the world. In fact, I am currently sharing the gospel in Phoenix, Arizona with 12 students as you read this post. This is not unusual. In fact, most school breaks we send multiple teams around the world. It is part of the DNA of Southeastern. It is popular in some circles to question 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 an important 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 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 demonstrates how quickly missions are neglected or redefined into something other than what the Bible teaches.
SEBTS wants to make sure 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, God called men and women to missions through a motivating sermon or book. However, to quote Bob Dylan, “Times they are a chang’n.” Today, the vast majority of new appointees through 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 encourage 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 the 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.
Southeastern is a Great Commission Seminary. This is more than a sells pitch or slogan; it drives much of what we do. It shapes the classroom. It reverberates through our chapel services. It also determines some of our school policies. Recently, our accrediting agency visited the campus. When they left one of the members 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.
Short-Term Missions provides a controlled environment to practice what we teach.
We want all our students to share their faith. We want all our students to pray for the lost. We want all our students to be able to defend their faith in the face of criticism. STM provides a training laboratory for students to practice what we teach. So, these mission trips serve an important role for student’s education. As we think about training our students to take their seminary education into the “real-world,” the opportunity to practice alongside a seasoned missionary and professor is invaluable.
How about you? Where are you going on mission this summer?
Scott Hildreth is the director of the Lewis A. Drummond Center for Great Commission Studies. He frequently speaks on issues of missions, spiritual formation, missiology, and theology. Scott also contributes to SEBTS faculty blog www.betweenthetimes.com