Missionaries vs Mission-Trippers

Over a year ago, Tim Challies wrote about the tension between Missionaries and Mission-Trippers. His insight, humility, and challenge has been on my mind ever since, especially since it was written during the end of Our Season in Allendale.

I get what Challies is communicating. I understand (in my head) the need for more missionaries, but my heart struggles to yield to this call. Maybe part of it is because I Hate Roughing It. Maybe part is laziness and pride on my part. And maybe it’s just not what God has for me. Who’s to say?

But I do say this: there is a tension between goers and senders. Or maybe it’s more of a tension between those who actually went and those who merely say we should go.

Who Is Telling Us to “GO”?

Challies explains,

The voices screaming “Go!” the loudest are not people who have gone, but people who have stayed. It’s not the missionaries telling us to go, but the mission-trippers.

They [the mission-trippers] have gone for a week here or there. Maybe they even went for a month. But they issue their commands from safe pulpits in safe countries, from mega-conferences where they stay in suites, from comfortable lives in comfortable parts of the world.

The Go! seems to lose a little bit of its weight when the one giving it is earning a good living in a safe suburb or when he has never gone for more than a week at a time.

I feel that tension. The call to become missionaries (not just go on a mission trip) rarely comes from missionaries themselves. I’m not blaming them. They have enough to worry about – like engaging a foreign culture with the gospel in relevant ways, raising support, leading their families, and answering a host of other common struggles. But for all the missionaries I know, they would love to co-labor with you, because “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” (Matthew 9:37).

What We Are Telling You

I don’t think of myself and my family as missionaries. Even for the 3.5 years we spent in Allendale, we used the term missionary loosely. Yes, it was a different culture than we were used to, but we were not as isolated as our friends in PNG, Eleuthera, or even Romania.

But we definitely understand the difference between a missionary and a mission-tripper. And I think we have a little bit of credibility.

And as someone who went, I am telling you to go! At the least, you should prayerfully consider the questions:

Could God be calling me (or us) to go somewhere?

What are the obstacles to going?

What would it look like to trust God with our doubts?

As we transitioned away from Allendale, all I wanted to do was scream, “Go!” to people. I want my friends, and the whole church, to see the blessing of being sent. I would never have understood this blessing if we had not gone to Allendale.

Struggles –> Flourishing

Around the same time Challies wrote about missionaries, I heard (or watched on-line) a sermon on Luke 9. If you are feeling the struggle of going vs sending, or even if you are even struggling to want to do missions, perhaps these words will be an encouragement and a challenge in the midst of your struggles and tensions:

“In the Christian life, we find ourselves in a perpetual state of dying, so that our hearts can flourish.”

(You can get the full sermon on the Grace Church teaching page.)

And as David Platt explains, we have an Obligation to the Unreached. “We must do everything we can to get the gospel to people who’ve never heard it.”

Now the question remains . . .

Will you go?

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3 thoughts on “Missionaries vs Mission-Trippers

  1. This is an interesting read. I am from a country were missionaries visit in droves each year. I am more interested in how missionaries view local culture. From that point, you will find there is little difference between missionaries and trippers.


      • From my experience through encounters with missionaries, I noticed those who have been in the field long often change their perspective regarding mission work. The major problem I have experienced is when missionaries come with a ‘I have come to change you’ attitude. But the can be changed through extended stay, but mainly when the mission work is not about ‘them’ but us.

        Liked by 1 person

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