Mission: the Headwaters of Community

I love short-term mission trips! For me, these trips are filled with more love, greater joy, closer fellowship and a deeper sense of purpose than I’ve experienced in any Christian setting at home. Yet none of this wonderful fellowship is planned; it’s usually spontaneous and authentic as we balance solemnity and laughter, hard work and rest. Perhaps it’s just me, but this “abundant life”I experience on mission trips seems like a foretaste of heaven.

Yet I ask myself, why isn’t the everyday Christian life this good? Why is the community life on a mission trip so different than the community life of my fellowship at home? Then I realized that it’s not the trip but the mission that makes all the difference.

My hypothesis is this: all the mission-trip blessings of great love, joy, purpose and fellowship are the natural consequences of placing God’s mission as our first priority. When we embrace the mission of sharing the love of Christ with the whole world, changes happen in the community of believers.

This idea is nothing new. Jesus said, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well”(Matthew 6:33). In Mark 10:29-31, he said “No one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age . . . and in the age to come, eternal life.”

Sometimes our priorities are totally backward! As chapter leaders, how often are we deceived into thinking that if we just make our fellowship better, then non-Christians will want to join us? Observe how much effort goes into planning and preparing our large-group meetings, worship times and Bible studies, and yet people leave them feeling hardly any closer to God or other Christians than when they came!

If this is the case in your fellowship, compare how much attention and effort is being spent to meet the needs and interests of those within your Christian community in relation to how much is spent focusing on the needs of those outside of it. Commit to work together to make God’s mission a priority, and call those in your fellowship to join you in following Jesus into the world. Then your community life will bear fruit, too.

--Robert Howe

(reprinted from Student Leadership Journal)

Explore InterVarsity Missions to encounter God's mission beyond your campus.