I think that churches, not parachurch organizations, should be doing missions. I believe that there is no substitute for the God-designed structure of pastoral leadership, ministry of the spiritual gifts, and the community of faith.
Some churches, though, just don’t get it.
We sometimes joke about the church-sponsored group that arrived for a week-long trip to Wales wearing bright orange “Save the Wales” t-shirts. It really happened, but this was not an isolated instance of myopic missiology. We’ve had puppet shows, choirs, mimes (in France, but of course!), badly-translated tracts, well-translated tracts, and bullhorns. Rarely are these methods prescribed by long-term workers with cultural insight. Rather, they are tolerated in hopes of fostering a partnership and broader involvement.
It used to be that a missionary had two choices- let the churches do whatever they want (usually what they think “worked” back home), or spell out every step of a short-term trip and babysit the group to insure compliance.
The good news is that now there’s another option. There is a growing number of willing participants who are not bound by tradition or convention and are capable of contextually-appropriate innovation in missions. They’re connecting with people across cultures in meaningful and influential ways through art, business, and social action.
How do you find them? Start with a visit to the Upstream Collective.