Christian short-term missions today is very different from missions in the book of Acts. American Christian missions is especially different, for reasons that are good for the message of Christ—and potentially bad.
Some have criticized Christian missions as spreading western culture and destroying native culture, acting as if the American way is God’s gift to the world, and actually hurting the receiving country instead of helping.
I personally believe that there is a biblical basis for short-term missions and that there are many benefits to short-term missions. I personally have been impacted greatly by serving abroad. (My experience on a half-dozen short-term trips fueled my desire to serve with Leadership Resources training pastors to preach God’s Word with God’s heart.)
Even so, short-term missionaries, even with the best of intentions, can offend those in the receiving culture in ways they don’t even realize.
Dave Livermore of Sonlife Ministries surveyed 23 national pastors in 12 different countries on their thoughts of American missions projects. The list below is what they commonly said they disliked about some Americans who visited them on missions trips. Use this list to test yourself and to make sure you are serving in the best way possible.
Here are ten things the national pastors had to say:
10. You act as if the American church is the true trend setter for how we should all do church.
9. You’re so concerned over the evil spirits ruling our land when so much evil breeds in your own backyard.
8. You live so far above our average standard of living and you behave as if you’re still in North America.
7. You conclude that you’re communicating effectively because we’re paying attention when we’re actually just intrigued by watching your foreign behavior.
6. You’re obsessed with picture-taking and making videos during our evangelistic programs. It’s really quite embarrassing for us.
5. You underestimate the effectiveness of our local church leaders.
4. You talk about us to your churches back home in such demeaning ways.
3. You too quickly get into the action without thinking through the implications on our churches long after you go home.
2. You call us backward for having little regard for your music, no palates for your green salads, no IQ’s for your advanced technology, and the list goes on.
1. You came to our country because some missions speaker gave you a guilt trip about giving your life to missions.
This information comes from research done by David Livermore. You can print this list from this PDF.