Matthew 28:19-20 - Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
Have you ever bribed someone to become a Christian? Have you ever told someone “I’ll give you $1 a day as long as you follow Christ, listen to a sermon every day and read this Bible I give to you?” Would that be a draw to someone? Probably not in the depraved United States, Canada, England or any other economically “sound” country.
What if you did the same thing in a deprived nation instead of a depraved nation? Imagine the people that would be knocking you down to get that dollar bill a day. Let’s use Ethiopia as an example. This is one of the poorest countries in the World. The Per Capita income of Ethiopia is in the $90 range, meaning some people get more and some get less. So offering a person $1 a day would make that person wealthy in Ethiopia. Now what if you changed the offer, “I’ll feed you, your family, your village every day. I’ll build you houses, give you free medical and dental care, dig fresh water wells and set up schools for your people. All you have to do is listen to our message, follow what we say and accept Christ as your savior.” Does that sound familiar to anyone? Am I very far off base as to what goes on in some mission fields?
I have heard mission trip reports of how many people were fed, how many teeth pulled, how much food given out, how many people ministered to and how many people that got saved. Let me clarify something now before you read any further – I am not against missionaries, I am not against feeding the poor, I am not against treating the infirmed or pulling teeth. I believe a Christian should help out who they can, when they can. But I will put this out there – Is it biblical for confessing Christians to bribe the poor people with food, health care and shelter in order to “get decisions for Christ”?
Jesus did feed thousands on a couple occasions found in scripture (Matt. 14:13-21, John 6:1-14) and it would probably be safe to say He did even more times than these. What I see in these passages is Jesus feeding those that were following Him to hear His Word. They were not being bribed with food to come and listen. Not to say that some did not have the purpose of a free meal in mind. But the food was secondary, it was not a calling, it was not an issue. It was a freebie if you will. The draw was Christ Himself and His Word, Christ’s teachings, not bread and fish.
Once again I am not disrespecting the feeding of the starving or any other good that comes out of mission trips. What I am speaking about is motives for why people do these things. Is it to feed people, help people? Is it more selfish and about the mission persons works and to feel better about themselves. Is it about the numbers and boasting about how many people “accepted Christ” along with the bag of beans? I am sure that a lot of emotion is seen on the mission field, a lot of joy and a lot of grief. Shouldn't Christ be central to everything on the mission field? Not the human ego that thrives on “feeling good” about what they have done. But is that the answer to this dilemma? A lot of missions trips are for the sole purpose of making the missionary feel better about themselves, feel good that they “did their part and saved some souls”?
What if only 10% of those souls were the only truly converted ones? Actually, what about the other 90% that were told because they “accepted Jesus” that they were going to heaven where they would never be hungry again, where you can have whatever your hearts content, where the person’s needs are magnified above The True Reason for Heaven. God. Sure the benefits of being in heaven are great, but is that a persons motivation for going there? If so I would strongly consider doing a self-examination to see if you are really in the faith - 2 Cor 13:1-10. God is central to any truly converted life. Not the sparkles that entice the flesh, be it food, health care, fixed marriages, healed relationships, full bank accounts or a warm fuzzy feeling. All of those may be true fruits, but the Lord is the True Reason, His Glory, His Exaltation. We are but mere slaves that He bought but a great price, a true Christian is not central to their own lives, but the Master is central and is worth everything.
So what is the answer for missions trips? Like anything else the answer is God. What will bring Him more glory? What will get the message of the Cross out there more? Spending $5,000 for a missions trip per person, or sending that same $5,000 to indigenous missionaries that can use that same $5,000 to build 5 churches or feed a whole village for a year or send 10,000 bibles to China? What is the motivation is the ultimate question and answer as well? Is it self-centered or is it God centered?
What about the American mission field? What should an evangelist do in America if 90% of the “decisions” they are getting are not true conversions? This is the exact question I would submit to the large crusades, celebrations and festivals throughout the USA. If the 10% were your goal and the 90% thought they were saved but were speeding toward an eternal hell, would you change your message? Would you tell the 90% that they were damned or would you assure them that because of their decision, an emotional outpouring, after hearing you speak of how bad hell was on one extreme or how loving God is on the other extreme they “decide” to follow Christ? Jeremiah 17:9 declares that the heart is wicked above all things. We as humans are wicked and therefore it is our nature to reject God in His Holiness and righteousness. We need Him to burden us, to show us our sins, to take us to a point where we then see how deceitfully wicked we are, how much our lives were lived in hating God and how unrighteous and deserving of hell we really are. Then and only then can you look to God and plead for His forgiveness through the redemptive work of Christ on the Cross, Repent and Believe is all we can do, it is the only way to God through Christ. You can’t profess to be a Christian and live like the world (Romans 12:1-2, James 4:4, John 15:19, John 17:14) it is not possible – can a dog meow or a cat bark? Can a fish live out of water? So a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17) cannot live like the world. We are birthed into the family of God out of the bondage of sin, we are His and He will keep His children faithful. God will not partially do anything; He will always finish what He starts (Phil. 1:6)
So just seek the Lord’s Word on missions. Do not jump into something with selfish motives. God does not need more missionaries to go have a feel good trip, that will make you feel good for taking beans to an outskirt area in Africa. He needs His people to take the Word of God in all Its glory to those people, without compromise, without bribery and without selfish motives. As I said before if you really want to help, send your $5000 to an indigenous or native missionary and take the vacation time you would have traveled on and go to the outskirts of your own city, or the vastest mission field of all – the American Church.
A great place to start if you would really like to help spread the Word of God would be Heart Cry Missionary Society. This is a great organization that takes the true Word of God to many places first and foremost, without compromise. I am sure there are many other missions and opportunities for you to be a part of sowing the seed of Gods Word throughout the world. Please do extensive research and commit to prayerfully seeking God's will before you send money to any of them. Make sure that the Word of God in TRUTH is the foremost to whatever group you send financial support to. If you truthfully seek Gods guidance He will direct you.