By Aaron Earls
American churchgoers seem to be taking at least part of the Great Commission seriously—the going part.
Matthew 28:18-20 records Jesus’ instructions to His disciples to go and make disciples of all nations.
Despite half of American churchgoers saying they’ve never heard of the Great Commission, nearly two-thirds (62 percent) have traveled internationally within their lifetime, according to a new study from Barna Research.
For most of those, their trip outside of the U.S. happened more than a year ago (40 percent). Fewer say they’ve been abroad with the past year (10 percent) or past six months (12 percent).
Still, almost 4 in 10 American churchgoers (38 percent) say they have never traveled outside of the U.S.
For those who did travel, their stays were relatively short. More than half (56 percent) said their longest trip was less than two weeks—34 percent said between one and two weeks, while 22 percent said less than a week.
Relatively few American churchgoers have spent considerable time away from the U.S.
Of those who’ve traveled internationally, only 22 percent say the longest length of time was more than two weeks, but less than a month; 10 percent say more than a month, but less than a year; and another 10 percent say their trip lasted more than a year.
The time spent away from America is connected with how strongly someone feels the U.S. is generally better than most other countries.
“Less travel is correlated with more pride and more travel is correlated with less pride,” the Barna report concluded.
Regardless of their views on the U.S., most churchgoers still say they enjoy learning about other cultures. Almost 9 in 10 (86 percent) agree, with 46 percent strongly agreeing.
Younger American churchgoers and those who have been outside of the country are most likely to say they enjoy learning about other cultures.
More than half of millennial churchgoers (54 percent) strongly agree compared to 33 percent of those 72 and older.
Around 4 in 10 of those who have never left the U.S. (41 percent) strongly agree they enjoy international cultural learning. Among those who have spent less than a month outside of the U.S., the number climbs to 46 percent. For those who have spent between a month and six months, it jumps to 66 percent.
Has your church considered taking a short-term international mission trip next year? Now is the perfect time to start planning. What are some other ways you can teach your members about other cultures?
AARON EARLS (@WardrobeDoor) is online editor of Facts & Trends.