Don’t Be a Missionary Tourist

Mike Pettengill | July 5, 2016

Before I discuss the pitfalls of being a missionary tourist, I suppose I should clarify what I mean. A missionary isn’t a tourist just because he takes selfies, buys souvenirs, or has lots of fun while serving. In fact, a missionary tourist’s actions will almost always look good and right. It’s the motives that are problematic.

A missionary tourist participates in missions for self-aggrandizing reasons. She goes on trips to appear compassionate, to “experience” another culture, to improve her résumé, or to feel good about herself. A godly missionary, by contrast, desires to be a sacrifice poured out so that others might receive Christ’s grace.

Of course it’s nearly impossible to discern a condition of the heart, and no one but the individual can know if she is or isn’t a mere tourist. Actions alone don’t turn a servant into a tourist. Every missionary must examine her own heart, then, to ensure her motives are pure and Christ-centered.

Serving God or Seeking Fans

The purpose of missions is to get those throughout the world to focus on Jesus. The senders write checks and pray as the goers seek to make disciples of Jesus the King. But a missionary tourist draws attention away from Christ and makes the experience about himself, elevating his own reputation above God’s glory.

A missionary’s actions should point to God first and…

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