All short term mission outreaches begin with great expectations, but not all of them necessarily meet them. I know this is true because as a pastor I have been involved in sending many teams out over the years into cross cultural settings and heard their reports when they return. And I have been on a number of teams and come back with mixed emotions about what I had experienced. I share this candidly but reservedly, idealism about such things was eventually pummeled out of me and I reluctantly settled for the one key to success that will always deliver and never disappoint – low expectations.
All that changed as a result of my recent participation on our church’s eight day outreach to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. It categorically far exceeded every expectation and has begun a restoration of healthy idealism in my soul. It has also caused me to think more deeply about what makes for a successful short term mission outreach.
How do you measure whether or not an outreach is successful or effective? Obviously success is in the eyes of the beholder; not only in the eyes of those who go, but even more importantly in the eyes of those who are the recipients. But ultimately, and we often forget this, it is what God sees that really matters.
In God’s eyes success is measured by our obedience of faith to His calling and faithfulness in seeking to bring Him glory. The gold standard and ultimate motivation for any mission sending endeavor always has to go back to John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son that who ever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.” Every mission outreach, no matter what the results, is successful in God’s eyes if it flows out of obedience to the great commission and focuses on glorifying God through preaching of the Gospel and expanding His kingdom.