Why the switch from overseas mission to local mission?
I think there are several factors we need to consider:
- Our God is too small, to paraphrase J. B. Phillips. We believe God can help us reach folk in our neighbourhood, but the idea of going somewhere completely different, with another culture and language, seems too far fetched. Also, deep down we may believe that, actually, they are OK with their beliefs and practices, and we have little to share with them. This is tantamount to believing that each region has its own god, and ours is only in charge of the local patch.
- We have believed the lie that short-term is better than long-term mission. This has turned mission service into mission tourism, which is also fine, and better than getting sun-soaked on a beach in Greece, but does little to further the Kingdom. The trouble with focusing on short-term mission is that it ticks a box, and we think we've done something significant. Really?
- We have heard that the church is growing elsewhere, but not here. This makes us think that we need help, rather than wanting to send people to serve elsewhere. But this is not a universal truth. There are still many many unreached areas of the world. If you believe the church is growing elsewhere, then look into where it is growing (Korea, sub-Saharan Africa, etc.), and stop sending folk there! Only kidding. But seriously, there are many places in Asia, for instance, where the gospel has not yet begun to have an impact.
- I also suspect that our failure to send folk overseas means we have lost faith in the gospel, and therefore our local mission is also doomed to failure. It's not about getting people through the door into church, but about going to where they are, to the 'next village' as Jesus said (Mrk 1:38). We can't spend all our time in the local synagogue.