Long-term missions

by Stan Mitchell

“When I grow up, I want to be a Mission Mary” (Overheard by a missionary’s kid).

If there are any elders out there considering taking on a new mission work, I want to make a plea. Back a long-term missionary, not an extra-church organization, and not a part-timer.


* Because it takes years to develop the tools needed to do effective mission work. Learning the language, the cultural cues, and the customs of another country cannot be done in a couple of weeks a year.

* Because other cultures are cautious. Americans are notoriously informal. “Oh please,” we exclaim, “Call me Bob.” This after knowing the person for ten minutes! Other cultures take time to know each other. And when an American missionary comes, they will take a wait and see attitude. Is this American here for the long haul? Or will he abandon us? As the years went by, I saw my father’s clout and respect increase among the African people he worked with.

* Because it is harder to do mission work in another culture than to work in the United States. We emphasize experience and training for our local preachers, but think a missionary should master the task in a couple of months. That doesn’t even make sense!

* Because the Great Commission does not end at “baptize.” Jesus also urged us to “teach” converts to “obey everything” he had commanded. It might be impressive to go for a month or two and glow about the number of baptisms, but grounding brethren, teaching them, developing leaders takes years, even decades!

Please don’t misunderstand. I think there is a great value in our young people going on Spring Break campaigns and Summer missions, but the major value of these efforts is that it introduces the young people themselves to mission work. Mission work is the most important job on earth; it cannot, therefore, be a part time job!

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the father, and of the son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you…” (Matthew 28:19,20, ESV).

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Stan Mitchell

Stan has preached since 1976, in Zimbabwe, California, Texas and Tennessee. He serves as preacher for the Red Walnut Church of Christ in Bath Springs, TN. He is currently Professor of Bible at Freed-Hardeman University. He is married to the former Marjorie McCarthy, and has one daughter, Tracy Watts. He is the author of four books: The Wise Get Wiser, the Foolish More Foolish: The Book of Proverbs, Give the Winds a Mighty Voice: Our Worship in Song, and Equipping the Saints for Ministry. He has recently published another book, "Will Our Faith Have Children: Developing Leadership in the Church for the Next Generation.

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