Book Review: Serving With Eyes Wide Open

This past week I read the book, Serving With Eyes Wide Open, by David A. Livermore. I had picked up this book at the suggestion of some people I attend church with in Nashville. We had been having a discussion about what ‘missions’ looked like for the church and about the decision to take a short term trip to Brazil. I got in a little bit of trouble for it, mainly because I was asking questions about the decisions. The suggestion was for me to read this book to get a better understanding of some of the thought process and decisions behind going. I in turn suggested they read the book, Revolution in World Missions. Unfortunately, I’ve finished the book, but no one seems interested in dialogging with me about it. Oh well, on with the review.

The book is split up into three parts. First we get a broad global perspective, then we focus on short term missions as they are currently done, then it discusses CQ (like IQ) or Cultural Intelligence and how to go about doing cross-cultural ministry properly.

I really like the information presented in the book. The first section regarding a global perspective is a glimpse into the harsh realities of the world we live in. Everything from the stories and statistics of global poverty to the impact of globalization. It was poignant and accurate.

The second section discussed the shortcomings of our current short term missions. This section was excellent. It raised important questions and provided some tough realities about the ignorance and naivety many short-termer’s bring when they travel abroad. It talked about the underlying motivations of adventure concealed in the guise of altruistic motives in our trips. I might post some quotes and further discussion later in the week.

The third section is a suggestion of how to do Short-term missions intelligently. It was valuable information. The kind of things you’d probably learn in a sociology class regarding culture. It is the type of information that is helpful for everyone, whether you ever leave the country or stay right where you are. We constantly are encountering people from different backgrounds and cultures and it would do us well to be conscience of our cultural assumptions.

Overall, I felt like this was a good book. However, I don’t feel like the third section regarding how to do short term missions effectively, in any way negates the concerns brought up in section two of the book. The reality is we spend far too much on short term missions as a international church, it is often ineffective, often motivated by much more then pure motives to help others and spread the gospel, and often is a complete waste of valuable resources that could be used to further the kingdom through the people who have the desire and the skills, but simply lack the financial resources (native missionaries).

This is a good book for us as individuals in a multicultural society to read, it does not, however, serve as a certification to then embark on short term missions without seriously considering the purposes, motivations, impact, and other possibilities within the body of Christ.

3 thoughts on “Book Review: Serving With Eyes Wide Open”

  1. I spent my summer in Mexico, and as I thought about that trip before and after, as well as about people I saw come to Mexico while I was there, I came to the conclusion that missions trips are for us. They primarily serve those who go on them. If we approach this reality “with eyes wide open” (pardon me, ha ha), then this might sometimes be acceptable. But we shouldn’t pretend that spending hundreds or thousands of dollars to travel in order to simply cook, or clean, or build, or witness is the best way to serve those in need. As you said, this “often is a complete waste of valuable resources that could be used to further the kingdom through the people who have the desire and the skills, but simply lack the financial resources (native missionaries).”

    On top of that, you also get into the whole issue of “commuter ministry” as opposed to “incarnational ministry,” or a whole life of ministry.

  2. Good thoughts here, Ariah. I’ve been in a season of questioning the framework of short-term missions, as well. I hope someone at your church picks the dialogue back up with you on this…

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