Stop Sending Missionaries to Other Nations!

I’d like to challenge churches:


I’ve been thinking about missionaries lately.

Every Christian is a missionary – sent by Jesus with the message of the cross in community with other Christians to those in the cultures around them.

Every Christian needs to align their life with Jesus’ mission. There is one mission that every Christian can embrace and that’s to join Jesus’ in His redemptive mission.

Jesus said: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations.”

Every Christian needs to follow Jesus and make disciples.

Simply understood: Our mission is to disciple the nations!

On the street we used to live on in California there were people from a variety of nations: Korea, England, Israel, and Peru. On our street here in Washington we’ve met people from Canada, Israel, China, and Korea.

It’s so amazing how the nations are among us. You can travel across borders to disciple people from other nations. Yet you can also travel across the street to disciple people from other nations.

The problem is that most of us don’t do it. We may be willing to travel long distances on a short-term mission trip to “reach people” in another nation. Yet we aren’t willing to travel short distances on a long-term mission trip to “disciple” the nations in our neighborhoods. Why is this?

I think I’ve failed to understand that the mission isn’t to “go” – the mission is to “make disciples.”

Going is often the easy part. Making disciples takes intentional effort.

What if we only sent people across borders who were already effective at making disciples of all nations here at home? What if churches started getting serious about equipping every believer to live on mission here and to make disciples here before they would send anyone anywhere else?

What if we stopped sending missionaries to other nations until those missionaries were first making disciples of other nations here in America?

As Dick Hillis has said, “Every heart with Christ, a missionary; every heart without Christ, a mission field.”

Look around you! Where are there people near you from another nation? How will you begin to disciple them?

Today’s Missional Challenge

Don’t go overseas on a short-term mission trip until you’ve engaged in the long-term mission of discipling the nations around you.


Dave DeVries

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Dr. Dave DeVries is a coach, trainer, author and founder of Missional Challenge. He is passionate about coaching and training church planters and missional leaders. With 30+ years of church planting and leadership development experience, Dave brings his passion and encouragement to those he trains and coaches.
5 replies
  1. bt
    bt says:

    Thanks for the piece.

    I'm wondering if your goal is not really an appeal for effective missions cross-culturally at home? And more of it? (Rather than an appeal to halt overseas mission)?

    Just some thoughts … I think sending STM (short-term missions) teams overseas (effectively) will aid the effective missions at home goal. The problem could be that you have never seen that happen effectively?

    Are you used to seeing your STM teams just "making friends", after massive fund-raising, to be sent on some expensive humanitarian venture? No Kingdom stuff? No churches planted or even lives saved as a result?

    And maybe the foreign receiving hosts of these teams are just trying to maintain "damage control" as the teams come in? After all STM just "helps those who go", right?

    Is this what motivates your dissatisfaction with mission trips?

    What if STM teams planted churches on their trips? Or literally saw Kingdom advance EVERY time?

    I have seen (and train) STM teams (to) church plant and do Kingdom stuff on STM trips! Even in three days! Yes, plant indigenously led, growing, continuing churches in three days. It is not an accident.

    What if we could change the way teams go and what they do?

    Why I believe in STM …

    Because Jesus commands us to go (cross cultural)

    Jesus and Paul exemplified this for us in their sending/going
    And … personally
    As a veteran 35+ year missionary I would not have been on the mission field if I did not go on STM as a teen. (I know many others who are on the field today because they went on an STM trip).

    Also … funnily enough, I would not NOW be doing the stuff AT HOME if I hadn't gone overseas and done it. And so with MANY people I know who started to 'do it' at home because they went!

    When you have teens, who, let's face it, are peer-pressured to silence at home, go overseas and plant a church, see God come in Kingdom stuff and then come home to strategically placed home mission work, they will not only be asking 'why can't I do this at home?' but they will plug in and do it at home (if we also provide the avenue).

    Finishing the task of the Great Commission will not be accomplished if we stop, because history shows us CLEARLY that those foreign unreached people, reached outside their homelands in foreign lands, tend NOT to go back among their people to reach them and, if they do go back, most will NOT reach out very much IF AT ALL!

    Just a thought … Our churches model that you can be disobedient to the Great Commission in such a way that church is within four walls and being 'nice people' outside. When our kids grow up seeing this they live that lifestyle too. They have seen nothing else. To ask them to do anything else will be seen as abnormal, radical (for some special Christians only), or just "over the top"!

    While they are Tweens, Teens or young adults we can show them another way by effective STM trips that impact the lost, plant churches, see God come, as well as change the Go-ers for when they come home and continue to stay in a team doing STM at home … Planting churches, doing Kingdom stuff and real obedient Great Commission work.

    Would those results to STM change your mind a little?

  2. bt
    bt says:

    And I haven't mentioned the power of cross-pollination. What happens when people go cross-cultural to reach out! Seen it over and over. There is a unique power of doing mission anywhere when the person goes cross-culturally.

    Will Yemen be discipled as a nation because we reach Yemenis in the USA or Britain? I don't think so. Has it ever happened that way? Remember S Korea was changed because missionaries went in the early 1900s. Look at that power house today. And then there is China!

  3. disciple
    disciple says:

    I have a love/hate relationship with short term missions. I do agree that we should be discipling people right here, right now, in our own neighborhoods. However, at the same time I have seen amazing changes come over people who, for the first time in their lives, saw pain and suffering at a level beyond what they could comprehend here (in the U.S.).

    I am torn because I don't think it's fair or right to "go" and "save" someone and then leave them with, what? After the trip is over what happens to those who answered the call? It has seemed to me that short term mission trips make more of an impact on those who go rather than those who to whom they went.

    Either way, discipleship needs to happen and we, as the church, need to ensure our youth, and even our "mature" adults are being obedient to the commands of Christ.

    Regardless of which side of the fence one falls on at least you are making them think (hopefully).

    Thanks for all you do.

  4. Dr. Dave DeVries
    Dr. Dave DeVries says:

    Thanks bt for your comment. I'm glad that this post struck a chord with you.

    First let me say that I am a missionary to the United States with OC International. I am committed to seeing every believer align with Jesus' disciplemaking mission.

    I'm for sending missionaries all over the planet to disciple the nations! I believe we need to disciple those in "Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and event to the remotest part of the earth."
    However, I am addressing WHO we send and WHEN we send – not WHERE we send or HOW we send. I believe that we should send missionaries who are proven disciplemakers – who actually engage in discipling the nations where they live. That's it! Start here at home!

    We should send these disciplemaking missionaries on a short-term mission across a border or send them on a long-term mission!

    Let's not send Christians who aren't actually living on mission before they go. Let's eagerly send disciplemaking missionaries all over the planet!

    What if churches actually were so engaged in discipling the nations here that every Christian was being equipped as a disciplemaking missionary here?

    Then we'd actually be sending short-term and long-term missionaries who were living out the mission of Jesus.

  5. The Real Captain Karrot
    The Real Captain Karrot says:

    This is especially convicting for me. I'm headed to the other side of the country, but I have yet to make my own community a priority. It's my mission over the summer to establish a presence in my city. Even a small one – I want to be active in the place where God has put me!

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