Short Term Mission- Be a Student, Learn

“For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.”

John 13:15

“Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.”

1 Corinthians 11:1

Last week we began this topic by looking at the first thing any of us must do before getting into ministry or mission work- check our hearts. If you didn’t read it, I would encourage you to check it out here: .

This week we move on to the next two points- learn from the mistakes and successes of others who have gone before. The operative word here is learn. It takes humility to recognize that you don’t know everything.

Short Term Mission

All of us still have much to learn when it comes to mission work.

The only One who ever arrived is the One whose example we must truly follow. Our God was the first (and greatest) missionary ever when He reached out to this broken world. He already came up with a mission statement and plan of operation (aka The Great Commission.) If we are not taking heed to His way of doing things, we are wasting our time. For example, humanitarian aid is noble, but if we are only giving temporary relief and not recognizing the eternal sin problem, we are cheating people. Jesus said: “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Matthew 16:26a)

We need to follow God’s blueprint for missions. We should also learn from others. A few specifics have been ironed out over the last 2,000 years. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. There is a great cloud of witnesses, people who have gone before us and set an example for us (see Hebrews 12:1) of faith in action. Before moving to Uganda, I read a lot of missionary biographies. I wanted to learn about different ministries and works of God throughout the ages. It truly blessed me and opened my eyes. Once I came onto the field, I met several seasoned missionaries. They taught me a TON! I learned from both their successes and their failures- what to do and what not to do.

Here are the next two points for you to consider:

2) Learn from their Mistakes

Anyone who has been on the field for- say, five minutes- has made plenty of mistakes. Multiply that five minutes by years and you’ve got a lot of missteps under your belt. We have had failed initiatives, poor planning, ineffective preaching, and too many cultural mistakes to count. Instead of repeating these same blunders, learn from them. When you go on the field, take notice of the observations that long-term missionaries and organizations have made. They no doubt have tried things and failed. Look to the book of Acts to see where the Apostles themselves messed up. Listen to the warnings you receive about people who are known to have bad character. Instead of learning the hard way, learn from the mistakes of those who have gone before you.

Don’t be too proud to hear and receive these things.  

3) Learn from their Successes           

In addition to all the failures, there have been some wonderful successes as well. The likes of George Mueller, Mother Theresa, Amy Carmichael, Gladys Aylward, and Hudson Taylor testify to this. Even small organizations with missionaries who aren’t famous (like, umm, Africa4God and our small team out here in the bush) have learned things that you could benefit from. Through a lot of trial and error, confusion and cultural hindrances, we have a village ministry that is thriving. It took years, but God is faithful. Wherever you go, you will hopefully find ministry that is bearing fruit. Learn from them what might work best in the cultural setting, understand the literacy level (or lack thereof), and see what tools and methods the local people respond to the most.

David Livingstone, one of the missionary heroes of old to Africa, once wrote: "I am immortal till my work is accomplished. And although I see few results, future missionaries will see conversions following every sermon. May they not forget the pioneers who worked in the thick gloom with few rays to cheer, except such as flow from faith in the precious promises of God's Word."

We have a foundation that has been laid for us in times past from brave men and women who endured much more hardship than we do today. Let us not forget their sacrifices and their bravery, let’s learn from them!! And let us not take lightly that we can travel by plane to the farthest corners of the world, and we can drive a 4wd vehicle out to what was once an unreached place to proclaim the Good News and be the hands and feet of Jesus.

Action Steps:

  • Read and study God the Missionary’s blueprint for ministry (the Bible).
  • Read missionary biographies. I would highly recommend reading the ones whose names I mentioned in this post. (If you have any recommendations of your own, please share it in the comments!)
  • Be open and learn.

I share a lot more about this topic in my book, For the Joy Set Before Us: Insights into the Missionary Journey. For anyone getting started out in missions, this is a good resource to add to your “tool box.”

You can get it on Amazon here:

What do you think?

Please share your thoughts!