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Our calling extends beyond our local communities. Let's discuss how as churches we can engage with our global mission.
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After writing the above, my Sunday flight was cancelled and I rebooked for 7:55 Wednesday morning. That was also cancelled, but I did get out a little later Wednesday morning on the second flight out of Heathrow. Meanwhile I had the chance to meet with a former student and my Hungarian language teacher from Romania who now lives in Cambridge, England. There are blessings to be found even in our frustrations!
My thoughts exactly, David. I have heard so many storeis over the years of missionaries and relief workers in Muslim contexts, who after many years of friendship have seen Muslims come to Christ.
A couple of posters on Facebook think this is a problem. I responded with the following post:
"A Muslim young lady being exposed to loving Christians and thru them the love of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ, where is the problem? Should we pull our missionaries out of Bangladesh be cause there are Muslims living there? If they are willing to come to us for a quality education why would we want to stop that? We should be thanking God for the opportunity and ask that the Holy Spirit work in this young lady's life and show her that Jesus is more that just a prophet."
We have been commanded to go into all the world to spread the good news. But if God brings them to us what are we supposed to do, ignore them, prevent them from attending "our" colleges? That doesn't seem to follow the spirit of the Great Commission.
For those of you who don't know Randy he is one the few guys I know who is really living into these shifts. This isn't just theory for him. Check out: http://www.sanctuarycrc.org/
Kevin, Great stuff man! Here is my "Missions Monday" story you asked for at the end of your article. Sorry, no ham bun for you. "...this is when you receive your first Holy Communion. The reason I know the date so well is that I received a bible from my grandmother. The date is printed on the cover. This bible is 44 years old and looks brand new, like it just came off of the book store shelf. God has been looking for me but I have not been seeking him." "I will never forget the first time I took communion at Crossroads. It was the first time in 30 years. We did not participate the first time we were exposed, though I yearned to. When we finally did I truly felt the touch of Jesus." Excerpts from one of our newest members at Crossroads. He and his wife are starting a community garden on our property this spring. Fun stuff!
I don't know the site well myself, but I do know that there have been major changes in the work of Back to God over the last few years. Have you looked around at http://www.reframe-media.com/? If not, take a look. They are making use of the internet in some remarkable new ways. Steve
Credit where credit is due. This was written by Randy Rowland. Steve
Powerful stuff, Steve. Thanks. These big themes form such a handy list for thinking and praying about where the Spirit might be leading us. Is systematic dialog being held about these themes anywhere in our denomination? (besides on your blog?)
Love it! Even if it doesn't result in any efficiency action (ie, combining some things), the conversation will bless us greatly, I anticipate.
Thanks, Kevin, for this critical insight. I've been increasingly struck in recent years by the lack of support, resources and encouragement provided by churches (not just CRC) with regard to practical Christian living in the workplace. As Reformed Christians we purport to have a holistic understanding of God's Kingdom as "already now but not yet"; we're big Abraham Kuyper fans; we understand God's sovereign redemptive grace to extend throughout His Creation, and yet we hardly talk at all about where most of our church members spend most of their waking hours - in their places of work.
I'm spending some time exploring this through Bible study, reading, and practical application in my own place of work (I'm called by God to be COO of a Mortgage Lender in San Francisco - a pretty good "rubber meets the road" calling!) In case anyone reading this is interested, I've just started a blog which will document some of the discoveries, challenges and joys of my flawed, fallible but Spirit-empowered attempts to live as one made in God's image in the middle of the financial and real estate worlds. It's at http://faithatworkplace.blogspot.com/. I would also be interested in seeing dialogue on The Network about how churches can help people in the workplace. I'll start another topic for that ...
Allen Likkel from CRHM.
Thanks Kevin for focusing the perspective on Christ's mission in the world on the calling each of us have to participate in that mission where we are. I do give thanks for sensing a significant shift in the last two decades in the understanding of many CRCNA members, congregations, and leaders to incarnational mission in their own "hoods." I also praise God for our international and domestic missionary pastors - such as yourself - who are leading the way in this mission.
Perhaps the last shift in understanding to fully occur in the CRCNA is the notion that our denominational endorsed missionaries go to international "hoods" rather than North American. I praise God Kevin that you are a "missionary."
I was struck by this reality when visiting a sponsorship organization's school in Kibera back in 2002. Not only did it strike me as tragic that only one family member could attend the school, but it was heartbreaking to hear the children go around the room reciting their thanks to (relatively) wealthy North American Christians by name. The resulting sense of dependence on the support of sponsors could only serve to limit the child's self-confidence and complicate their relationship to their parents.
It was also difficult to see the meeting of one of these children with one of my North American traveling companions who happened to be the child's sponsor. My companion brought a slew of gifts: coloring books, stickers, small toys, etc. I could sense that this encounter not only reinforced that sense of limited self-worth and reliance, while also cultivating resentment among other children who had not been visited by their sponsors.
Lastly, I've read that the overhead costs of child sponsorship that involves direct contact between sponsor and student are enormous, especially when translation is involved. These costs come out of the monthly sponsorship donation, along with costs for promotional material and other administrative costs, resulting in an astonishingly small percentage of the actual donation going towards the student's educational needs.
I'm glad that CRWRC works towards supporting entire families, and wonder if there shouldn't be more education denomination-wide about the unseen costs of child sponsorship.
There is a great level of interest in PERSONAL involvement in mission whether local or global among younger adults especially. Of course, some kinds of mission, including some of the most vital, don't lend themselves to that very well. Short term teams visiting unreached Muslim people groups could unknowingly create a lot of havoc. I wonder if these pages could include some really good examples of churches that have found a way to engage personally but also strategically in mission.
Mark, in Global and Local you said "I think it necessitates looking at where we erred in our history" (or to that effect). I'd like to mention one dimension of that that has marked the DNA of our denomination (and others, like the Presbyterians as well).
Humanly speaking I owe much of my initial missionary vision and calling to the "Women's Missionary Union" meetings of a generation ago. But later as I went around on the tours speaking to them, I realized that Union should never have come into being. It did because the male-run consistories never took on that responsibility, and "missions" became largely the domain of the ladies, bless them. They had the support of a minority of so-called "mission-minded" ministers, but the congregational leadership focused elsewhere: mostly internally.
It is hard to undo history, or, to use the other metaphor "get missions in your blood" when your DNA doesn't have it.
I'm very concerned that now in this generation so much of the vision and initiative is seemingly in the hands and actions of another fringe element: the youth group! Or worse, the young short-term enterpriser, off to save the world. It is now increasingly difficult to even find a "Missions Committee" in local churches that answers to the Council; often the deacons have to field the funding requests, knowing little about the plan or person (other than that she is so-and-so elder's niece and the letter she sent sound like they have a challenge)
The solution? If the CRWM Board hasn't found it, will it apprear in this Network discussion?
I'll be following the conversation. For now, this historical (sometimes histerical) reflection.
Sorry, I didn't see you'd replied to this thread. I was mostly just talking semantics of the word choice, but I think this is a great conversation.
I see a real interesting chicken-and-egg question here. Does a passion for local mission bloom into a passion for overseas missions in our people? I'm fairly certain, at least historically, that that was not the case. Or, put more directly, if you had a metaphorical gun to your head, and could only choose community impact or global missions financing for your congregation, which would you pick?
In our increasingly-congregational denomination, I think that paradigm is shifting.....but I'm not sure people really know what that means yet! I just finished a message series on missional living only to get asked 100 times, "I want to impact my community, but what does that look like?" I think we can resource THAT by showing examples of ongoing community impact ministries (like churches/small groups that do monthly service projects, etc.). I found it telling (about the CRC) that you didn't list viewing local missions as an alternative to global missions as an option above, but I think we may see that reality within my lifetime as this thing swings.
Wonderful! We can celebrate together the one great mission of Jesus Christ.
Gary, you are absolutely right. Cross-cultural mission in our own neighborhoods is becoming more and more vital. We will be continuing to augment the site with such materials. In fact, we hope that those involved in this kind of outreach all over North America will post or notify me of such materials.
The synergistic possibilities are far greater than they used to be of course. Knowledge of Islam used to have a great deal of value overseas and very little in North America. Today Bosnians, Somalis and others from historically Muslim people groups are our neighbors and co-workers. Our missionaries who serve in Muslim context can provide a whole new function helping us understand and love Muslims into the Kingdom.
Synergy is totally necessary. I'm with Mark and others in that getting people to think missional in their own backyards is invariably going to get more people thinking about and even participating in global mission. I remember being frustrated as a youth pastor when people supported youth who wanted to go on a YWAM DTS or a CRC short-term mission, but we could hardly get support to do ministry in the streets of our local communities. It made no sense to me at all, but certainly bore witness to the fact that people think about missions as about being, "over there" and not in my backyard.
I've witnessed first hand however in two churches, one I served and the current, where people who started serving local became more open to serving globally. We do a huge Serve project here and ongoing Communities in Service ministry. This past December three of our men went to Nicaragua with another group to drill a well. Now we're talking about going to Zambia in June 2011.
Missional starts at grass roots.
Lots of interesting comments about the relation of global and local here. I'll be processing them with others on Monday. Meanwhile, I'd love to see some response to the resources and ideas about global mission we've placed here. What is missing? How are congregations informing and inspiring their members to be part of what God is doing around the world? Do the many materials here on short term missions scratch where churches itch? We look forward to your feedback.
Thanks for your contribution. Back when I was a pastor, and before that an average church member, I didn't have much of a sense for the size and scope of the work the CRC does. Having been on the inside for a few years now, it is clear that if we got rid of the current structure, some new one would be necessary. There is a lot going on and it has to be organized somehow. That being said, there is a long history of silo operation by the various agenices. Fortunately, those barriers aren't nearly what they used to be. There is a long list of collaborative projects and warm working relationships across agency lines now.
I often do presentations in churches on the state of world missions and the remarkable growth of the church in many places over the last century. Of course, this movement has not affected every place and people group in the same way. There are still more than 10,000 people groups with little or no Christian presence. Over 1.5 billion people (about 27% of the world's population) live in groups where they are unlikely to hear the Gospel in a culturally intelligible way.
Allen, while waiting for a glocal section on the Network :) are there other ways that Home Missions is distributing the knowledge and experience capital from missional leaders and church planters into established churches, especially those asking questions about community engagement? In a breakfast gathering that Jerry D. and Peter H. led in Hamilton, ON this morning, they mentioned a cluster of pastors in the Seattle area that is bringing together seasoned pastors from established churches and several pastors/leaders of missional initiatives. Are there more of these types of clusters developing and being nurtured/cultivated by Home Missions? From what I heard this morning, this seems like one way that the experience capital you mentioned can flow between church planters and leaders in established churches.
Good question Wendy. The knowledge and experience capital gets distributed primarily through our "distributed" regional leaders and teams. Considerable energy goes into sharing best practices and learnings from one location to another. Our website has suffered in part due to "benign neglect" as we await new opportunities for the "domestic" side of our engagement in Christ's mission to be present on a denominational Gobal Mission site...:-).
Sorry Allen D - I was responding to Allen L's post :-)
if you're talking about Serve, that's under Youth Unlimited. The CCSP is now its own 501(c)3 organization with its own board of directors. It has become a more cross denominational organization here in the valley with our church taking the lead. I'm not sure what resources you are asking about.
To clarify about my suggestion to go to the deacons section - I certainly didn't mean to imply that deacons are the select few to DO the work of local outreach and evangelism. Rather, they are to be the encouragers and equippers for the congregation. That's a whole other topic, though ;-)
Allen, how is all that experience and resourcing being promoted and distributed to our churches? I didn't see much info on the home missions website, but it's quite possible I'm just not looking in the right place. I think it would be great if HM could write some articles for the network.
I love the "Glocal" idea.
I believe that God called us to our current church in Alamosa CO to lead in the direction of missional as a life style whether local or global. We sense a strong heart for mission at both levels. They already do a local Serve and another ministry called Christian Community Service Projects, but this is all program oriented. I think that as we start to revision and redisign to make disciples in a simpler way, the missional will become a more natural thing.
Perhaps it starts with a vision more along the Simple Church line in building disciples so people don't feel like church life is so busy there is no time to develop relationships locally or participate in a global mission effort. Financial resources can be freed up from unnecessary programs to be used toward more missional projects whether global or local.
Just thinking out loud.
I agree, Wendy, that there are few churches that have engaged a missional strategy that sees the integral nature of missions. Your suggestion to look at the deacons forum also points to a tendency in our denomination to think that mission is for a few specially gifted people in the church or for the church as an institution to engage in, but not for each individual to embrace as integral to discipleship and following Jesus Christ. I've heard from several outreach pastors (and experienced it myself when I was serving in that capacity) a response of "that's why we hired you" when members are asked to personally engage in mission.
For facilitating dialogue within this network, I would urge us to consider ways in which the structure of the network can facilitate dialogue for those interested in mission. I don't believe that a local mission/deacons section and a global mission section will help us move beyond the stereotypes. Even though as Steve noted we're not at a point yet where those old barriers/divisions between local and global (or word/deed, or church as institute/church as organism) are gone, I would hope that the way we facilitate and structure the dialogue in this space would help to move beyond those divisions.
My suggestion is that we have a section simply titled "mission" rather than global mission. We can have lots of different threads within this section to pursue and express different trends or issues that come up. That's my two-bits for now.
Precious little at those sites on all range of resources CRCNA's domestic mission agency has invested and gathered through the years on local evangelism, discipleship, and church planting. There are over 300 church plants and missionary pastors out there since 1988 with an incredible amount of knowledge and experience capital to be invested in Christ's mission by sharing with others.
Excellent idea...and the correct way to go. Only improvement would be a third button entitled, "Glocal."
I go back and forth on this too. It's easy to point fingers and say "it should be done this way," "we don't want to reinforce old ideas," but the reality is that we have to meet our constituents where they are. For many, that means deacons take care of the local benevolence and the missions committee decides which missionaries to support. Others have developed a missional strategy for the whole church which incorporates local and global missions, enabling everyone in the congregation (all ages, all talents) to support the unique calling of their church. In the short time I've been doing church missions coaching, I have yet to see a church very far along in the latter.
For those of you looking to do local missions, I encourage you to check out the Deacons forum - or go directly to www.communitiesfirstassociation.org :-)
I like alikkel's "glocal" suggestion, but I'm afraid it may be hindered by its lack of being an actual word.
Great discussion here, though. To a certain extent, I think this conversation necessitates an acknowledgment of where we've erred in the past. So many false dichotomies have and still do exist in the CRC's mission efforts that complicate the question: Word vs. Deed (CRWM vs. CRWRC), Overseas vs. Local (CRWM vs. CRHM), the fact that missions is often understood as something you give money to rather than participate in and Steve's well-stated point that global missions has come to our back door here in North America (including them sending missionaries here).
Although we've made great strides at synergy and collaboration, people don't always get the connections. If this conversation were started in a vacuum, we could probably assume "Global Mission" includes all of the above (word and deed here and abroad). But we're not in a vacuum....we're dealing with real people that have really mixed up ideas when a phrase like "global mission" is thrown out there.
Personally, I think the worldwide Church is moving in the direction Bill Hybels stated: "the local church is the hope of the world". And, since the local church is flourishing in most places other than here, we ought to turn our thoughts towards how we, as the local church, can get our hands dirty in our own neighborhoods and communities.
Add to that the fact that "missional communities" (ie, evangelism and community transformation through small groups/house churches) are the newest buzz words amongst the micro and mega church world, I propose this tab on "The Network" be called simply "Mission" or "The Missional Church".
Thanks for your reply Steve. I think you're right that the boundaries are weakening but they aren't gone. Maybe another option might be to have a "Missional" button with two sub options being "Global" and "Local".
The stereotype of mission in the CRCNA in the past has been that it is "overseas." Having an online Network system that begins with the "overseas" dimension and does not include local mission effectively reinforces the old stereotype. As one who was called to be a domestic, North American missionary this has been a long journey of trying to move beyond the stereotype. Sometimes I think we've made progress, and at other times the old DNA seems to resurface. I'd request that whenever those of us who serve in either the global (overseas) or local (domestic) dimensions of the mission speak into this and cast the vision for Christ's mission, we always respectfully include the whole "glocal" dimension of Christ's mission. This is especially true when we invite North American congregations to think about Christ's mission. We are beyond the day when we can seperate the two.
I've just been having an exchange with Mike Bruinooge about this topic. It isn't that I or others involved in the global mission network think this is unimportant. I'm part of an inner city church that is very deliberately focused on its neighborhood. Neland is growing into a "mission with" rather than "mission to" mentality. Mike wondered if the global mission site could embrace local mission too. I'm not sure, though, that people will look for the resources they need for that purpose on a site called global mission. It seems that it would be better to establish an additional network, with lots of links of course. The boundaries between these two are weakening, but they aren't yet gone. We need to do ministry locally and globally, but the dynamics and issues are somewhat different. What do you think?
I agree with Gary's statements about thinking locally. We have for too long in the CRC thought of the "missio Dei" as something we do in other countries while neglecting our neighbors. We have somehow come to think that the local church can be "successful" apart from improving the community where the church is located. We need to begin to think about how we impact our communities and if our community isn't improving then the local church is not living it's mission. We can no longer think, "As long as we are doing missions somewhere..." We can't let this thinking give us permission to neglect the people closest to us. This disconnect from God's mission locally is evident even on this website. It is a site designed for the local church but has little connection to local mission. How do we effectively impact the communities where our churches are located. What does it mean to be "missional" at home? How do we listen to our communities in a way that we discover where God is moving and how we can be in step with Him in our communities.
I'm looking forward to exploring and discovering the myriad of resources on this site. I came to the global mission looking for resources on cross-cultural mission, but not over seas. Rather, how to connect and minister with churches from vastly different cultures right down the street, or, in our case, right in our building. I'm looking forward to finding a common niche with other similar churches facing the same opportunities.
One of my hopes is that there will be a more unified effort from the CRCNA in regards to Haiti. As congregations gain appreciation for the excellent work being done through the CRCNA agencies in Haiti, they will be motivated to join and support those efforts, instead of going it on their own or dispersing the efforts in a myriad of other channels. There are so many Christian as well as non-evangelical programs in Haiti, most of them doing good work. But as a denomination, I think we should focus our efforts, like a sports team unifies for a common goal, or like an army that focuses on one goal. On a baseball team, for example, each player fulfills his role in his own position and during his turn at bat, and has to concentrate on doing his own job well. But each one has to do that a part of a team. Imagine if the pitcher decided to start throwing the ball into the outfield! Or if each batter only tried to hit home runs? (hmm, that does seem to happen sometimes). There is also a principle in warfare, in which the maximum available force is brought to bear on one objective if an attack is to be successful, and every good general knows not to disperse forces too much or squander them in small operations.
So it should be in our denomination: instead of many dispersed and diluted efforts by individuals and congregations, the best way for us to approach Haiti now is with the whole denomination, including all individuals and congregations, pulling together in support of our denominational agencies that are already there and doing a great job. So I mean to say that nobody should do anything else? No, but that the primary efforts be made in unison.
Christian Reformed World Missions
It looks great!
I think that CRWRC's asset based approach is an excellent model. Instead of going into a community and asking "what do you need?" or, worse yet, decide for themselves what a community needs from a North American perspective, they work through churches to help a community develop a vision for a preferred future. Then they work with the community to develop a plan on how to get there. That plan may include outside help (such as funding for agriculture projects or literacy classes), but is not dependent on it. This is a much more respectful and stewardly way of approaching not only disaster recovery but community development in general.