The Function Of Short Term Mission Experiences In Christian Formation -- By: Shane Parker

Journal: Journal of Discipleship and Family Ministry
Volume: JDFM 04:2 (Fall 2014)
Article: The Function Of Short Term Mission Experiences In Christian Formation
Author: Shane Parker

The Function Of Short Term Mission Experiences In Christian Formation

Shane Parker

Shane Parker (Ph.D., The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is the teaching pastor at Crossroads Church in Columbia, SC. He is also an adjunct professor at Southern Seminary, Lancaster Bible College, Capital Bible Seminary and Toccoa Falls College. He is the co-author of Transformission: Making Disciples through Short-Term Missions (B&H Academic, 2010). He is married to Lydia and they have two children, Wiley and Evie.

Expectations are always high when it comes to short-term mission experiences. After all, the sometimes multi-year process of identifying where to go, who will go, and how they will get there usually comes to an exhausting, but successful conclusion, complete with video clips and jet-lagged participants. The reentry from the trip commonly brings with it the requisite refrains “I’ll never be the same,” and “It changed my life.” These oft heard phrases are standard fare in the midsummer heat of peak short-term mission season, but they are all-too-often distant echoes, at best, by the time the opening kickoff takes place at your local high school in the fall. Because this lackluster outcome can be mixed with other personal stories of men, women, and children who have experienced sustained change, a fair question that we must pursue is: Can short-term missions experience truly play a significant role in the substantive Christian formation of those who participate?

Biblical Mission: Expressed Foundations In The Old Testament

Before directly attempting to estimate the value of STM for Christian formation, it may be helpful to, first, frame the discussion in terms of the biblical rendering of mission. Many times, our notions of what the Bible teaches about mission start, and many times end, with a handful of New Testament texts, but Walter Kaiser argues that this is an inadequate approach to capturing the biblical picture:

The Bible actually begins with the theme of missions in the Book of Genesis and maintains that driving passion throughout the entire Old Testament and on into the New Testament. If an Old Testament ‘Great Commission’ must be identified, then it will be Genesis 12:3—‘all the peoples of the earth will be blessed through you [Abraham].’ This is the earliest statement of God’s purpose and plan to see that the message of his grace and blessing comes to every ethnolinguistic group on planet earth. The message did not begin there. The basis for it, in fact, went all the way back to Genesis 3:15.

In Genesis 3:15 (ESV), Go...

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