Primary Author & Executive Director for DELTA Ministries International
What if God has a longer view of the Short-Term mission experience? What if He sees the mission trip and all its parts as another element in a life-long discipleship process? Then he would care not only about the mission itself, but about all that someone goes through in preparing for the mission (the mile before) and all that comes after (the next mile), right? He would see the short-term mission as more than a dot on the timeline of someone's life. It would be a series of events on a spiritual pilgrimage seamlessly blended into all the other events of life.
Mile after Mile
The following illustration shows the short-term mission as only a self-contained event in a person's life. It starts and it ends. That's all. It's a picture of the default mode for short-term missions. This is what it looks like when people don't do anything more than "just go."
But we believe that God would be thrilled if you were to tackle your short-term mission with the idea that it should span much more time than the mission trip itself. The following diagram illustrates a bigger view of your mission experience with the idea that you can lead your team members to accept all the events leading up to the mission as a part of the discipleship process, and to view all the things after the mission as a continuation of what God is doing in their lives.
This is called the "pilgrimage concept." Look at the following chart:
Your Christian life is started on purpose. At some point in time, you decided to follow Jesus. You did it on purpose. In the same way, you must live your Christian life on purpose. Not a series of sprints here and there. But mile after mile after mile. The apostle Paul gives us a view of why we should do the things we do. He looked "down the road," and he did things on purpose:
"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize ? Run in such away as to get the prize [on purpose] . Every one who competes in the games goes into strict training [on purpose] . They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it [on purpose] to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore, I do not run like a man running aimlessly [without purpose]; I do not fight like a man beating the air [without purpose]. No, I beat my body and make it my slave [on purpose] so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize." 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, emphasis mine.
God cares about every one of your team members. This short-term mission isn't just another trip to the grocery store for them. It's an important part of what he wants to do in their lives. Paul reminds us in Colossians 1:28 about God's long-range purpose and desire for each person's life: "We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom so that we may present everyone complete in Christ." And in Philippians 1:4-6, Paul writes, "In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."
So lead your team members into this short-term mission on purpose, mile after mile, with a goal of becoming more like Christ. Yeah, it's hard work, but The Next Mile will provide you with lots of tools to help you along the way, so have fun!
Content taken from The Next Mile Curriculum