Solomon writes, “If the ax is dull and its edge unsharpened, more strength is needed, but skill will bring success.” (Ecclesiastes 10:10, NIV). One might imagine why Solomon wrote this proverb. Was it from personal experience or from watching another struggle chopping wood? Perhaps his father, David, said it to him on a sunny morning in Jerusalem as they worked together on a project. Or maybe someone said it to a servant preparing fuel for the feast. No matter the background, the purpose is clear. Preparing oneself and the tools one uses is important preparation for success. Maybe this is what Abraham Lincoln was thinking when he said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
Preparing for a mission trip is not only about gathering information, resources, and people but also about readying our spiritual lives for the task. The basics of spiritual preparation are best summed up in the children’s song about discipleship, “Read your Bible, Pray every day, Pray every day, Pray every day. Read your Bible, Pray every day and you’ll grow, grow, grow.” Many of us know this foundational truth and practice what we preach (or sing in this case).
Beyond reading and praying, what are some additional steps we can take toward spiritual preparation for missions?
Examine your own life :
Of primary importance is to examine your own life. Are you at a place in your life where you have confessed your sins and are in right relationship with Jesus Christ? Confession and belief are the hallmarks of Christianity. If you have non-believers participating on this trip, don’t miss the opportunity to connect the dots for them on the meaning and purpose of the trip. Who knows, you may win one of the team members to Christ!
Develop a devotional guide :
A suggestion that may help with spiritual preparation is to develop a devotional guide for the team to begin prior to departure. Reading, studying, and discussing the same passages of Scripture days and weeks before the trip will give the team common ground from which to grow during their time of service. In addition, the team will enjoy using the information and inspiration they received prior to leaving to begin conversations with each other while serving during the trip. And let’s not forget the important sharing time after the trip. The spiritual truths learned before, during, and after the trip will lead to spiritual maturity.
Some examples of good resources are:
Flippin Missions – a resource guide from LeaderTreks that covers before, during, and after a mission trip and is designed specifically for youth and leaders. www.leadertreks.org/store/section/mission-trips/
Radical – by David Platt, helps believers see the gospel from a bible perspective rather than an American Christian perspective. www.radicalthebook.com/
Not a Fan- by Kyle Idleman, reminds us what Jesus demands of a disciple. www.notafan.com/
Assign prayer partners :
Another idea is to assign prayer partners that will pray specifically for individuals and for the goals and objectives of the team. You will be strengthened on your journey knowing that prayers are being offered on your behalf. You may go a step further and ask for around the clock prayer coverage. Your mission destination may well be “to the uttermost” which usually means a different time zone. When you return, be sure to include your prayer partners in the share time. A consideration for spiritual preparation is to research books and authors that specialize in mission participation or more specifically, missions to the people group or country you plan to assist. You will gain valuable spiritual insight on needs and concerns, much more so that any travel book or website. Be sure to pass these on to your prayer partners so that they can pray with wisdom and discernment.
Consult with others :
Consulting with church leadership, other believers, and former mission trip participants may yield additional insight for spiritual preparation. The experiences of others are valuable resources to be gleaned in the work of missions. Don’t assume people will volunteer this information. Personal, one-on-one conversations will likely produce the kind of rich content you The key to spiritual preparation is to acknowledge the importance of it and then do something to prepare. Sharpening your spiritual ax will help you develop the skills needed for a successful mission trip.
Conduct a dedication service :
Consider conducting a dedication service for the mission team on the Sunday prior to their departure. This allows the church to formally participate in the sending out the group as their missionaries. There should be time for participation of both team members and the congregation in the service. Team members should be challenged to focus on their role as “carriers of the Good New”. The congregation should be challenged to be active participants through the ministry of prayer.
You may want team members to sit together in a designated area toward the front of the church. The theme of the service (including music) should be missions service and commitment. Consider testimonies from one or two team members about how God has been working in their lives to prepare them for service. A responsive reading, led by the pastor, which includes challenges to the team members and the congregation, would be appropriate. Finally, the team may be asked to kneel at the front while church members come by to lay hands on each individuals and offer a quick prayer or words of Christian encouragement.
Sample Commissioning Service
Do you need Bibles for your trip?
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, including Bibles in other languages.