How social justice could ruin your next international mission trip
Most people would say that social justice is a good thing. And it is. Whether you're helping starving orphans get the food they need, fighting against the sex trafficking industry, or digging a well for a village, engaging in social justice is a good thing.
However, social justice can also ruin a mission trip if you're not careful. Here's why and here's what you can do to avoid ruining your next mission trip.
Social justice does not make a mission trip
What makes a mission trip a mission trip? “Serving overseas,” “giving of my time in a developing country,” and “engaging in the service of others,” all seem like reasonable answers. However, there are many nonprofits, government agencies, and humanitarians that do the same thing and they would never classify what they do as “mission work.”
While social justice and serving others is absolutely a huge part of every mission trip, it's not the only part. If social justice is our only focus, we are tricking ourselves into thinking that we are truly on a mission trip.
Jesus makes a mission trip
The temptation on a mission trip is to focus only on digging that well and playing with those kids. The temptation is to go, serve, paint, build, and then come home. However, if we stop at serving and stop at social justice, we're simply doing humanitarian work overseas, not being the hands and feet of Jesus.
Jesus never urged us to be great humanitarians or awesome social justice advocates (though there's nothing wrong with being either). He urged us to be His disciples. Yes, being His disciple means serving, painting, building, helping the poor, and playing with kids. But it also means spreading His love and His Word. While it's important to focus on social justice issues, eventually we need to shift our focus to Jesus if we want to have an effective mission trip.
Engaging in social justice is fun, energizing, inspiring, and glamorous. On the other hand, sharing Jesus with the world is daunting, scary, and largely uncool. This is why it's easy to focus solely on social justice during a mission trip. But if we really believe that Jesus can change and save a person's life, we can't avoid talking about Him because we're afraid.
What to do about it
The best way to overcome the fear of sharing Jesus on a mission trip is to be prepared. And this doesn't mean you have to ask every person you meet about his or her faith or preach a sermon on your trip (although it might!). It could mean simply praying over someone you meet or sharing part of your testimony with a local. You don't have to force or fake a conversation either. If you prepare your mind and heart to share Jesus on your mission trip, opportunities usually present themselves.
Let's get practical
Practically speaking, you can prepare for your next mission trip by asking yourself some spiritual prep questions, developing your testimony, and learning how to evangelize without being awkward. If we want our mission trips to be effective, we can't leave Jesus out of the equation. Social justice alone is not enough. We have to be willing to share about the hope we have in Jesus.
Written by CJ