“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” – Jeremiah 17:9-10
You are probably seeing the flood of social media post, cover photos, and #go that promote KCM’s Short Term Summer Mission (STSM) and are probably debating whether to go or stay. Either choice can equally be faithful and glorifying to God but for both decisions, there is a need to check where our hearts really are before finalizing our decision.
If you are planning on going this summer for STSM (or any mission program) it’s a God-honoring decision that warrants praise. Yet, from my own experience as a former student trainee and now as a leader, I’ve seen countless numbers of students come through STSM (even my own time) who have misguided motivations and expectations that can taint their time and the team’s on the field. Scripture is clear that our hearts are always a mess and we need to learn to have a thorough checkup of our hearts as we go.
You see the photos from your friends who go out the past summer. You see the testimonies online from former student trainees. You notice the hangouts and strong bond teams have when they come back. And you just can’t help wanting some of that as well. We live in a FOMO world where every experience is put on display for the world to see and for yourself to compare with your own. This is a temptation that every student (and even leaders) often face for the summer.
When we allow this desire to go unchecked, we’re severely mishandling a service to the people and the lost. We can easily become swallowed with a need of pictures, group bonding, and the joy of feeding your “wanderlust” that we can ignore the very people that God has called us to reach. The lost deserve more than selfies and journal entries about our experience.
There’s often a temptation to make the missions experience into a badge of honor to proudly wear. This comes from a desire for some to prove themselves a variety of figures. We may want to prove to others that we are holy enough. Or prove to God that we are worthy enough. Or even to ourselves that we’re ready to take the next step in our faith. When we let this go unchecked we can turn our time on the field all about ourselves. Your service will not be for the missionaries and people, but rather to further yourself in your own kingdom. Your teammates will not be brothers and sisters but competition in your eyes.
The very nature of the Great Commission frees us from having to prove anything to anyone, especially on the field. In Matthew, notice where the Great Commission is placed (Matthew 28:18-20). It comes at the very end, the last words of Christ sending His disciples out. This comes after the betrayal, after the crucifixion, and after the resurrection of Christ. Meaning this, we are already redeemed and proven before God through Christ and this is why he now call us out to the lost. The very reason Christ commissions us out is that His blood is worthy enough to cover our needs of affirmation.
Another misguided motivation of the heart is often to use missions as an escape from life at home. I know a fair share of students who wanted to get away from the mundane summer at home, from draining family problems, or from their dying church. So in search for a cure, they often turn to the summer experience which they can be surrounded by students their age with leaders who can feed them while doing Kingdom work. And I don’t want to deny that your time on the field can be a huge relief and even a blessing to those who feel dry. Yet one problem that arises is that the STSM experience is not sustainable for when you return home.
When people use STSM as an escape, they often view STSM as a solution that you can’t find at home. And as you are using missions to escape, the work you’re doing will only feel significant if it helps you ignore the problems of whatever you’re running from. Now, this doesn’t mean that you can’t go if you do have any issues back at home, but there needs to be some deep digging of how you can face these problems face to face before leaving and also remember you’re coming back as well.
The aim here is not to discourage anyone from going. We are all broken people being used by a perfect God so there will always be deceit in our hearts even when we follow Christ. Although we will never have perfect, pure desires God calls us always to check our deceitful and sick hearts to be effective and pure in our service. So as we put together our applications and thoughts let’s continue to check our hearts and fight these sinful desires, the more we can expand His Kingdom.