Understanding Mission Funding

Theology should be practical. It should never be a purely intellectual exercise. Instead the things you believe should always find an expression in behavior. Whatever settles into your mind, will in some manner, also leak out your toes and fingertips. Doctrine hasn’t completed its purpose until it changes your work and walk.

One of the areas on my mind right now is how we fund missions. When I say it like that, it probably draws to mind the missionary offerings we take at this time of year. Whether your church has a missionary society or a board or whatever, Christmas is a great time to raise funds for missions. I love the Lottie Moon offering, which is my denomination’s major funding event for International Missions.

But special offerings have a serious weakness. After the Christmas offering is done missionaries need to continue their work from January to November, not just in December. So there needs to be a means of funding missions the rest of the year too. The need is year round, so the giving also needs to be year round. For my church this means giving a percentage of the churches income to missions.

But don’t forget that the work of the local church is also a part of the mission. The tithes of the church members pay for the work of the pastoral staff, and a whole lot more. The buildings, grounds, teaching programs, potlucks, and fellowship groups all are part of that mission carried out by the local church on the local level.

Yet I don’t think any of these are the most important way that missions are operate and are funded. Spreading the gospel is the heart of our purpose, and its best fulfillment is in the witness of individuals who personally sacrifice to tell others. In today’s world witness is very seldom a chance encounter but instead is developed through a personal relationship. The wise Christian will intentionally build bridges with their neighbors and acquaintances in order to earn the right to tell them about Jesus.

Every believer in the church should see themselves as a part of the purpose. They learn about it, they develop a pattern of giving to it, but also they begin doing it, and this where the mission really takes shape. A Christian man volunteers in a local school. A Christian woman takes neighbors out for coffee on a regular basis. A believing senior pays for his bushes to be trimmed, but also pays for the widow next door to have her bushes trimmed. All of these things are done intentionally in order to one day have the opportunity to share the gospel.

This is how it becomes a reality that every believer is a missionary. The most important and effective work of our mission is done by a believer reaching whomever happens to be right next to them, whether that person lives in rural America, the Bible belt, a great urban center, or anywhere else along the way to the ends of the earth.

 

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Northern Shoveler Wings

Northern Shoveler

This is a picture of a Northern Shoveler. This duck looks totally different in this picture than in other pictures of it because it has his wings open showing colors that are normally hidden away.

The iridescent portion of a ducks wing is called the speculum, and in this case it is followed by white and black markings.

If you did not see the bird in flight you would never see these details. Christians can be a lot like this duck. It’s only when we begin to do something that our true colors become visible.

When we care for strangers we show the love of Christ. When we work together we show the fellowship of the Spirit. When we live by the moral principles of Scripture we show the beauty of righteousness. When we share the message of Christ with the world we bring evangelism and missions into the public view.

Our activity shows off who we truly are, while inactivity can hide our identity. This is a problem in the American church, which carries an increasingly passive role for the person in the pew. Instead of worshipping we sit and watch choirs, praise teams and staff members worship. Instead of being directly involved in personal ministry we hire professionals to manage the work of ministry. The average person in the pew then is validated in stating their church experience begins and ends on Sunday, that their Christian ideas don’t affect their home or workplace, or that a church that asks for deeper commitments is too domineering.

But like the duck, the real nature of the church, and of the individual believer, is most visible when it is moving. For the duck that means when it is flying, and for the believer when they are serving. It is little wonder the church means so much less to society today than it did in previous generations. They cannot see it correctly because the opportunities to see it at work are severely limited.

In Matthew 7:15-20 Jesus talks about identifying people around you correctly by watching the fruit in their lives. If you want Christ to be visible in you, if you want His name glorified in your life, then do the work of Christ. In this way your fruit, that is your Christian identity, will be visible.

Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. (Matthew 7:15-20 KJV – translation chosen for the familiar wording by their fruits ye shall know them.)

Missions

“Then He (Jesus) said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.’”

Matthew 9:37-38 (HCSB)

Millet

As a pastor I keep my eyes open for mission opportunities. I do this because I believe being involved in missions will encourage the members of our church, bless them in their service and allow them the privilege of participating in God’s work in new ways. Even though I recognize mission trips will always invoke a large amount of spiritual warfare, and it will always present more challenge than we expected or are ready for, I want us to continue to be involved in missions.

I hold a high view of missions.

Recent circumstances allowed us to go on two mission events this year. The tricky part is the second even occurred only a short time, about three weeks, after the first. In both events a little over a dozen of our people were able to go and help other churches in Arizona. The first was in doing a block party for a new church start and the second was to assist an existing church in doing framing in a new building project.

These events were challenging for us since we are in an economically depressed area. These trips were hampered by the fact that a lot of our people are seniors. But despite these hindrances we went to do what we could to help.

Now that the second trip is done, I am finding myself evaluating the two trips. As it happens the first trip was to help a new church start in an affluent community. The fact we were going to an area with a much higher cost of living, and generally more affluent families didn’t seem to hinder us in any way during the trip. As it happens the second trip was to a church which is at probably more than twice the size of our church.

Both of these mission trips were therefore a bit beyond what people expect in missions. We can fall into a mindset that missions are all about reaching out to the poor, struggling churches or reaching out to unreached peoples. But missions also includes anything that allows us to expand the kingdom. The questions of income, age, church size and so on, are merely false values compared winning souls for Christ.

I am excited to see what God leads us to do next.

Presidential Cooperation

This past week, President Obama addressed the UN General Assembly. He spoke to several issues hoping make the world a better place. Notable among them was his plans for the world to come together and battle terrorism. Among his suggestions were guidelines to interrupt the flow of money to support terrorism. Specifically a plan to prevent citizens from one part of the world, funding subversive organizations in other parts.

On one front it looks like a great idea for our president to cooperate with the rest of the world. We like that he is showing leadership. But on the home front, I wonder why it is he has chosen to place blame on his opponents rather than to extend an olive branch of compromise? He has preferred to save his spirit of cooperation for the international scene.

The idea of laws being instituted over our country by the international community bothers me. Specifically as a Christian, who supports missionary work all around the world, I am concerned. You see the definition of terrorism is different from place to place, and miscommunication can be disastrous. On a side note, this is why a group like ISIS can think it is a good idea to publicly behead American citizens. They think they are saying to America, “Stay away from us.” They don’t know what we hear then saying is, “We need to be wiped off the face of the earth.” Miscommunication can be pretty extreme indeed.

In the future it seems very probable some locations will define the work of missionaries as terrorism. At that point, will every mission minded church in America be deemed guilty of supporting terrorist organizations or activities?

 

The Centrality of Missions

One of the Biblical passages which is commonly talked about in missionary minded churches is Matthew 28:18-20, commonly referred to as The Great Commission.

Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

In this passage Jesus is instructing the disciples, immediately prior to the ascension, to make a concerted effort to reach all nations with the gospel message. Notice also that the instruction is specifically extended to the end of the age, verifying we are to keep at it until He returns. This process of trying to spread the message, church and life practices of Christianity to all the world is commonly called missions.

I have a very high view of missions.

I believe that a church which ceases to work toward missionary actions and purposes has ceased to be a church. Yes, I know that is a very strong statement. Just as we would say a person who does not believe the Bible and will not submit themselves to Jesus is not a Christian, a congregation that is not interested in reaching their neighborhood nor their world, is not a church. Of course there are other things a church needs too, but for this discussion on missions I will confine my evaluation of the church to this one qualification.

In the same, ‘by their fruit you shall know them’ way that we evaluate believers, we can evaluate groups of believers. A group which is not interested in missions is fundamentally defining itself as having different purposes, or at least different priorities, than those assigned the church by its founder.

For my readers, here is what I want you to take away. When your church is meeting, teaching, planning, budgeting, worshipping, and whatever else they happen to do, be a strong advocate for missions. You will do a great deal to protect your congregation by keeping it busy on the task assigned to it by our Savior. As a rule of thumb, it is when a congregation loses this missionary focus that they begin to fail.

The Mission Field

The Mission Field

Micah 2:10 (HCSB)

Get up and leave, for this is not your place of rest,

because defilement brings destruction—a grievous destruction!

Kit pulled the reigns back hard, stopping the horses short. Carolyn had been napping inside the wagon, but the shift woke her.

“Is something wrong?”

“It’s nothing, go back to sleep.” Kit knew it was a bold faced lie. He wanted to save his wife from the sight in front of the wagon.

“What is it?” Kit knew the question needed an answer, but what could he say? A moment later he heard a shrill gasp and he knew he was too late. Carolyn had seen it. Two poles crossed and with a dead man tied to them.

“Who would do such a thing?” It was another answer he would rather save her from hearing.

After a moment of silence, he glanced back and found her staring at him. He spoke quietly. “It’s the Apaches.” He turned back forward and drove silently. For a moment he wondered if she had heard. Then her sobs muffled in the blankets, confirmed she had. Even when she broke into hushed prayers he couldn’t turn aside the guilt he felt.

This was his fault. He was headed to the California mining camps. He wanted to bring God to the West. He had felt the call, but now he doubted himself. They were separated from their train. Alone. Afraid. They were beyond the point of no return, so what else could they do?

After another hour they came across a little Apache girl. She was dried up and called out to the wagon pitifully. Kit knew she was calling for help, but hesitated.

“Stop.” Carolyn said as she jumped. For about an hour Kit paced while Carolyn doctored. The girl improved with water, and improved more with food.

Kit thought aloud, “The Apaches will kill us if they find her with us.”

“We can’t leave her.”

“We can’t take her.”

“Would you rather stay here until she heals?” So they took her along, fearing discovery, but moving. Three days later they were found, and quickly surrounded by natives. Carolyn tried to hide the child, but it was impossible. She climbed out the back and into the arms of a chief.

Kit and Carolyn both cringed, but the girl interceded for them. Turns out the Navajo girl had been kidnapped by Apaches. The Navajo were grateful, not angry.

Kit got his wish to minister in the West. He started a mission in Northern Arizona.

 

This story was written as a sample for Christian Flash Weekly. This will be a new weekly flash fiction challenge, with a specifically Christian bent. The web site will be www.christianflashweekly.wordpress.com and it’s first challenge will run from Feb. 7-10.  Anyone and everyone interested in Christian writing is encouraged to enter. Winners will get an E-badge to display on their blog, website, Facebook or wherever. 

 

Two Missionaries

halong-bay-4427_1920

Dragon of Halong Bay (Vietnam). Photo by LoggaWiggler.

 

 

Two Missionaries

 

I have spent my life on this island, hiding behind these dragons. They were carved out of wood and spaced around the island to scare off any unwanted visitors.

Today the dragons are aging. The wood is cracked and broken; and so also, is the community behind them.

We were content to follow the old ways. We fished for food, made our tools, and worshipped our ancestors. We found comfort in these ancient patterns of life. Centuries back, my family was selected to be the guardians of our way of life. It is a sacred duty and we have always been zealous to keep it.

A man came from off island. I liked him, and became good friends with the man. But then I realized he was challenging the way of life I was called to protect. He was a missionary, attracted by the dragons.

I did my duty. But the incredible part was—when he knew he was about to die—he forgave me. He told me he was sorry he couldn’t prove to me his God was real.

He died well. He had no anger, no fear, and no regret. At that moment I wanted to be like him. Dying well, he had proven something to me. Loving his killer was proof enough for me.

Today I see the boats coming with more missionaries. He told me they would come. I have made a decision. I will not oppose them. When they arrive, I will encourage my people to listen to them. The power of their faith is stronger than death. I will no longer hide behind these toothless dragons. I have been protecting the wrong way of life.

But I also know my son is next in line as guardian of the dragon people. He is anxious to prove himself a faithful protector of the people. The minute I speak on behalf of the missionaries, it will be his responsibility to kill me. I trained him to know and love these traditions. I know he will proudly do his duty.

I hope I will die well, too.

 

The above piece of flash fiction was written for the one year anniversary contest for Flash!Friday.  The photo above is the prompt and this weeks instructions were to write exactly 350 words, not counting title. If you are interested in learning more follow the link.