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Mary Katherine Miller

Taste and See That Missions Is Good

By Mike Pettengill, Aug 23, 2016

The people of the world are changing and with it the Western Christian landscape is fluctuating. Church attendance, tithing, and missions participation are declining in much of the American evangelical church. Reformed and Bible-believing Christian ministries are declining less dramatically and are seeing increased involvement in some areas.

Missions, God’s mandate to reach the nations, should never slow just because finances and interest are down. Now, when the world is moving away from Christ, His obedient disciples must strive to serve Him even more. If the evangelical church is to recruit, fund, and replenish the frontlines of the battlefield with the next generation of missionaries, the evangelical church may need to better understand those new recruits.

Millennials
Most researchers assign the term millennials to those individuals born in the early 1980s to the late 1990s. Millennials are currently the largest generation and view many things differently than previous generations. MTW’s in-depth research on how millennials perceive missions found that “Generally millennials want to make a difference, they desire to be mentored, and want to be trusted with leadership responsibilities.” The millennial generation perceives international missions differently than generations before them. They do not define long-term commitment the same as others have. And, millennials prefer to learn about new experiences in person, in a hands-on setting.

No church or missions-sending agency should change to an unbiblical methodology or place any group of sinners ahead of the glory of God. Can missions remain Christ-centered and gospel-driven and also bend to accommodate the next group of missionaries? Yes. While no facet of Scripture should ever be sacrificed, missions can evolve to better impact an ever developing world. Expanding the existence of one- to three-year mentored missions experiences may be the motivation Christianity and millennials need to reunite.

Taste and See
Psalm 34 contains the passage, “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps. 34:8). That methodology is idyllic for the millennial generation, which desires to experience new undertakings with their own hands and determine if those experiences are right for them. Far from being a psalm about lack of commitment and erratic faith, Psalm 34 is a thanksgiving to God for caring for those who love Him. The psalm pleads with the reader to join in on blessing the Lord. The author says that when we have tasted with our own experiences and seen the love of God, we will know He is worthy and we will see the Lord cares for His disciples and answers their prayers.

The generations of man have changed and morphed, but our eternal Father remains forever perfect. Throughout Scripture God has described spiritual wanderers who finally find joy once they trust in what God showed them. It is glorious to find a child who commits his life to missions at an early age and then serves God their entire life in a far off land. That seldom happens. Are millennials and their “taste and see” mentality really that different from the generations of spiritual wanders before them?

Paul’s Journeys
Arguably the most impactful missionary is history was the apostle Paul. Certainly Paul was the most influential missionary who focused on shorter duration missions experiences. With fairly accurate certainty it can be estimated Paul spent the bulk of 30 years traveling across what is now called the Mediterranean Basin. During those three decades Paul served as a missionary dozens of recorded times for durations ranging from a few days to several years.

Paul’s first missionary journey (Acts 13-14) was thought to happen around A.D. 46-49. During that period Paul wrote that he visited 10 locations. Paul’s second missionary journey (Acts 15:36-18:22) likely took place A.D. 50-52. In that time Paul claims he visited 13 locations. Paul’s third missionary journey (Act 18:23-21:15) was believed to have taken place A.D. 53-58. On that trip Paul visited 13 locations.

Paul, the model for missions in the modern evangelical church, certainly took many mission trips, but for how long did he serve? By juxtaposing history with Scripture we could easily assign accurate durations to most of Paul’s missionary journeys. For the sake of this analysis we’ll discuss only the four missionary journeys to which in Scripture Paul assigned a duration. Paul said his first visit to Corinth lasted a year and a half (Acts 18:11). Paul went to Achaia where he stayed three months (Acts 20:2-3). Paul wrote that he stayed in Ephesus for three years (Acts 20:31). And, he spent seven days in Tyre (Acts 21:1–6). Paul greatly influenced the spread of Christianity by focusing on shorter-term missions experiences.

The Lord Is Good
The next generation of missionaries is truly no different than the previous generations of sinners. Like Adam’s descendants before them, millennials are concerned with their experiences and personal views. If Christians strive to put God’s glory ahead of their happiness there is nothing wrong with tasting and seeing if missions is right for you.

As Psalm 34 promises, when millennials experience missions through one- to three-year mentored mission experiences, some will see that the Lord is good and commit to longer terms of service. Others will likely gain a heart to pray for and support other missionaries.

Ready to serve? Visit mtw.org/serve to search through opportunities or contact us at [email protected]

Mike Pettengill has served with MTW in Honduras and Equatorial Guinea. He is now the director of MTW’s West Coast office.

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