The concept of “mid-term missions,” an overseas mission experience of one to three years, has been around for quite some time, but the interest and demand for that length of mission opportunity seems to be growing, particularly among college students or recent college grads. Mission agencies are responding to this trend with the hope of filling gaps in their long-term field needs and/or with the hope of seeing some of the mid-termers come back career. But the reality is that most of those who go mid-term return to live in North America, return to their planned career path, and do not continue their involvement in overseas missions.
Another trend facing missions is the growing number of unreached people groups that can now be found in diaspora pockets in North America. The North American church is generally not well equipped to connect with these diverse people groups. Many churches have a burden to reach out to the newcomers, but they don’t know how. Their diaspora outreach often boils down to offering ESL or citizenship classes. This approach is somewhat similar to that taken by the Judaizers toward the “foreigners” in the Book of Acts: an approach that says, “Come learn how to be like us and then you can worship our God the way we do.”
What if mission agencies with cross-cultural expertise and mid-term mission opportunities partnered with North American churches that desired to reach a particular diaspora pocket in their community? Such partnerships could send mid-term missionaries to that people group’s homeland to learn the language and culture, and to gain firsthand experience in the country and with the people. If there is an existing indigenous church, the mid-termers could learn what worship looks like in that context and culture. At the completion of their overseas experience, their next assignment would be to return to the U.S. and help the North American partner church penetrate that ethnic community with linguistic and cultural understanding, with the goal of establishing a culturally relevant local church. For the mid-termers, a commitment of approximately three years overseas with a second commitment of at least three years working with the diaspora group “back home” could build a possible bridge to plant new churches among unreached peoples within North America.
The opportunity to form such church-agency partnerships could provide a mission platform that mission agencies could offer to North American churches and meet legitimate needs—filling the desire many individuals have to invest in missions for a mid-term length of service while also strategically helping churches reach out to diaspora groups.
Posted by Ed