While Jesus was on Earth he assimilated a team. 12 ordinary men. As soon as he called them, he gave them authority and he put them to work. The task that they were given was not cleaning, singing on the praise team, or being a greater. They were sent out to do missions work. None of these men were seminary trained, nor had they first conducted a bake sale to raise funds. They merely obeyed their master and went.
In this day in age, mission trips are quite common. It seems like in many American Churches it is the new fad. People are glad to go on mission trips to exotic places all over the planet. While they are there they are given tasks such as digging wells, building schools, and playing with children. All these things are good, but there is something missing, namely the primary purpose of missions.
The above verse is the first missions sermon preached. It was short, but to the point. I think it is helpful for us to see what was on the heart of Jesus when he sent out the first mission team. Their main directive was to proclaim. Proclaim what? The Kingdom of heaven was at hand. What does that mean? Simply, that the King (i.e. Jesus) had come and the gates of His dominion were open to all that accepted the invitation.
We see this same message in Mark 16:15 by Jesus right before his ascension, “And he said to them, "Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” Thankfully, the disciples once again obeyed and did as they were told. Likewise, Paul was also given the same directive by Jesus. He was called to be an apostle (“messenger”) to the Gentiles. “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God,” (Romans 1:1).
Lastly, this directive was given to all Christians. “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. “ (1 Peter 2:9).
We are to be a people who proclaim, at all times, and especially on mission trips. Proclaiming the gospel should be the main event for any trip. Too many times, I worry that it is not. The trips are more about patting ourselves on the back or checking something off our spiritual bucket list. This is not the point. The point is to proclaim.
Why? Because there is power in proclaiming. It is how God designed the invitation card for his Kingdom. Romans 1:16 says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” This effectual call of the gospel can only be heard if spoken. When it is spoken, it is like hearing a voice waking someone up from a deep sleep.
So are mission trips good? Absolutely. They are essential and they are commanded. We must either go or send. However before you partner with a missions organization or sign up to go on a trip, ask questions about how the gospel will be proclaimed, and what your role is in supporting the primary purpose of inviting people into the Kingdom.