Monday, May 18, 2015

The Missionary Oath

"Missionary, first, do no harm." This is what I'm calling the Missionary Oath. And I've come up with it mainly with so-called "short-term missions" in mind.

You've doubtless heard of the Hippocratic Oath. A modern translation of the classical version, originally in Greek, may be found here.

The popular modern summary of this oath today, wrongly attributed to Hippocrates (though some think that the substance of a part of the Hippocratic Oath is at least somewhat summarized by it), goes like this: "First, do no harm."

So: "Physician, first, do no harm." I would likewise suggest that churches adopt—especially for "short-term missions" work—the missionary form of this: "Missionary, first do no harm." And then each missionary would take this oath: "I, said missionary, do promise, to the best of my ability, first to do no harm."

Why, you might ask, is this necessary? Well, the reasons why are well documented: "Why You Should Consider Canceling Your Short-Term Mission Trips"; "Toxic Charity"; and "When Helping Hurts."

And one of the remedies for addressing problems with "short-term missions" work would be for far more robust training and educating to prepare people to—above all else—do no harm. After which training and education the said trainee would swear the Missionary Oath.

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