A Plane Ticket Makes A Missionary?

by | Jun 15, 2016 | Missions | 4 comments

Missionary Flight

A Plane Ticket Doesn’t Make A Missionary?

The title caught your eye! It caught mine. I read the article and had such a good time I included it in its entirety for your consideration! Would love to know your reactions to this piece.
Before I go, just know I’ve heard all the discussion and comments the author references. Maybe that’s why I so readily indentified with what he has to say!

Soli Deo Gloria!

When a Plane Ticket Makes a Missionary – Jason Seville

A Plane Ticket Never Made A Missionary.

I’ve heard this quip a number of times in a number of forms from a number of teachers. Indeed, I’ve even used it myself to aid a preaching point.
And the point, of course, is that purchasing airfare to Jamaica (or taking a road trip to Florida) won’t magically transform someone into a missionary. The ensuing one-liner often goes: “If you’re not sharing the gospel over here, you won’t all of the sudden start sharing it over there.”
To be sure, there’s much merit to this idea, which is why so many have verbalized it. It’s a notice to churches and sending organizations to both temper expectations and speak realistically about what’s taking place on many short-term trips. The adage is also a helpful reminder that mission is ever-present—something Christians should be engaged in everywhere their beautiful feet take them. Gospel sharing shouldn’t be relegated, merely, to something you can circle on a calendar.
Very well and good. Having affirmed those truths, however, I offer two rejoinders.

Jumpstarting a Lifestyle

airplane wing rightFirst, there are plenty of times when a short-term trip does make a missionary. Have you thought about that? Get beyond the lovely lilt of our missionary-plane-ticket quote and consider that God can and does use short-term trips to embolden the faith of the fearful. To give tangible models of ministry to the inexperienced. To jumpstart a lifestyle of evangelism in his church.
Many of you may have seen or experienced this work firsthand. I know I have. I had people teach me how to share the gospel, but it was a missions project in California the summer after my freshman year of college that cemented in me a passion for evangelism. Likewise, I knew the Bible talked about God’s heart for the nations, but it wasn’t until I spent a couple months overseas that I caught a vision for multi-ethnic ministry.
This is hopefully taking place in your church as well. Timid high school students step out in faith to engage someone on a beach only to conclude, “Hey, that was easy! There’s no reason I can’t do that in the halls of my high school.” Collegians struggling with the familiarity of relationships at home or on campus in America suddenly gain a new passion after a summer in Africa. After a week of making new friends and having gospel conversations they see it’s no more difficult and no less vital to walk in the same manner back home.
What “makes a missionary” is a heart issue. Only when Jesus is beautiful and glorious to us will our affections be stirred in such a way that we must talk about him. This is the type of work God is up to as his children trust him by traveling to unfamiliar places.
So, yes, people often do gain a missionary perspective on the field and not prior to it.

Encouraging Encouragement 

Second, where do we get off with such pessimism and discouragement? Certainly the heart behind it can be positive: we want to stir up the saints toward a lifestyle of gospel advancement at home before they attempt it abroad. But why not focus on promoting both?
I realize I’m wading into the turbulent waters of considering the effectiveness and efficiency of short-term missions. That’s another discussion for another day, and I’d never advocate an uncritical approach; there is much wrongheadedness and poor stewardship on the mission field that must be corrected.
What I’m encouraging is, well, encouragement. Don’t be the skeptic who sneers, “David, if you didn’t fight with us against Moab and Ammon, you won’t be able to magically”—only to have your sentence cut short by the thud of a Philistine giant’s body. Instead, take every chance you get to encourage the faith of those who want to follow Jesus and tell others about him.
If you have the opportunity to visit with short-termers this summer (sending, receiving, debriefing, supporting), please build them up. Plant a vision in their hearts and minds for how they can fan the flames for gospel proclamation wherever they’re from in this season of life. Challenge them to think about specific persons for whom they’ll commit to pray. Dialogue about specific alterations to perspective or lifestyle that will aid in ministry. Discuss how missions has deepened their grasp of the faithfulness of God and the saving work of Christ and the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, and how all of that can equip them for the weeks and months ahead.

Multiplying Missionaries 

While I understand the point being made, my ultimate response when I hear someone say, “A plane ticket never made a missionary,” is simply: “Except all the times that it does.”
Let us praise God that it does, and let us pray that it would happen more and more.
(Gospel Coaltion Website)


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  1. Wayne Terry

    I think he is spot on. First, I’ll always remember the first local “short term mission trip” I took in the neighborhoods surrounding the church we attended. many years ago. We engaged people as we met them, shared the gospel with them, asked if there was anything we could do for them and prayed for them right where we met them. I’ll always remember that first short term mission trip (that afternoon) because one man we talked to broke down in tears, prayed with us and accepted Christ right then and there at the curb of his front yard! It was easy! We just shared, God did the work in the man’s heart! Secondly, I became friends years later when we lived in GA with the founder of an organization that does international mission trips. I learned about his next trip when he spoke to our neighborhood men’s bible study. I was so moved, I bought plane tickets for my daughter, two oldest granddaughters (10 and 13) and me and we did a short term mission trip with him and others to Belize. We were all impacted in several ways. My experience from that one trip encouraged me to get involved in international short term missions. I was able to introduce my founder friend to my church in GA and that church has gotten heavily involved and has sent teams to numerous places to help the local people with their biggest problem and share the gospel. We later moved to AL and I became the missions committee chairman at our new church. Same thing there, introduced my founder friend, got a team to go to DR and many teams have gone since. A staff member of that church saw a need for a dedicated evangelism arm of the organization and went into full time evangelism/missions work with that mission organization. later, I took my son and the same two granddaughters to Dominican Republic. They became strong in their commitment to missions. My oldest granddaughter was baptized in the beautiful waters of DR. My son has done another trip. I was fortunate enough to be able to connect my GA founder friend with another founder friend in MA who also has an international missions organization. They now do joint mission work! We have long time good friends who are missionaries to Russia and work in orphanages and with the homeless and helpless. We were able to introduce them to our church and did a coat drive to help them. My family has been fortunate enough to be able to provide monetary and prayer support to all these organizations as we can’t make all the mission trips. But, we can and do encourage others to go and we help in other areas as needed. The point is, I saw lives changed and read about lives changed (here and there), saw living conditions improved and God’s provision when it was needed! There is so much more I could share, but the point is, did that plane ticket make a difference? I think so!

  2. Stanley Bramlett

    I agree with the article. In fact I can say that I am a product of a situation where a plane ticket did make a missionary. I was one of those who had not been sharing his testimony before, but in another cultural environment, with good encouragement and with good leadership setting examples, I did. It was a high point of my christian life. It acted as a “jump start” on a stagnant christian life. So, in spite of fear, I encourage others to do the same. Your lives will never be the same.


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