4 Ways to Use the Holiday Season to Glorify God

Tradition is not sinful; in fact, it is often helpful. We must consider tradition a servant rather than master. David Crabb explains our traditions should “exist to serve the ministry of the Gospel, not the other way around.” We all have or have had traditions for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. So now, let us “work-shop” traditions to “serve the ministry of the Gospel,” instead of allowing tradition to dictate our holiday bustle. Think about these 4 challenges alongside any tradition you may have.

  1. Invite those with little or no family to join yours. Everyone has a different home life and family culture. Some people cannot imagine enjoying a Thanksgiving spread without their cousins, aunts and uncles, and grandparents, while others cannot remember such a gathering. Is there a person in your Growth Group or office that you ought to move towards? Think about the new neighbors who just moved in across the street or the new person in the break room. Keep in mind holidays magnify loneliness and hurt, so invite them to join holidays with your family.  A sincere invitation can be the “ministry of the Gospel” most needed.
  2. Strategically disciple at gatherings. Can you think of one family member you don’t want any of your friends (especially from church) to meet? Mark Dever states in Discipling, “Discipling requires you to be willing to be watched, and then folding people into your life so that they actually do watch.” Don’t let your family hinder your obedience to make disciples. Invite them to join holidays with your family. Let them see how you deal with all the scenarios that arise when your family, large or small, gathers. Bringing your spiritual family around your earthly family will benefit both. [Read more…]

International Missions Offering

The IMB is the Southern Baptist sending agency for international missions. Each year over half of the agency’s operating budget comes from the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (LMCO). This offering is given during the Christmas season and is used directly for the sending and maintaining of global workers among the nations. Parkwood gives to the same offering, but we have elected to use the name International Missions Offering (IMO) simply because the name offers more explanation. The IMO is the offering we give for international missions. We significantly emphasize the IMO every year at Parkwood because we believe two truths, and all of missions come together in these two realities. First, we believe that the God of the Bible is worthy of all worship, and his desire is to redeem a people lost apart from his salvation that he might receive their worship and glory in rescuing them. Second, we believe that in the Bible our God has made clear the marching orders for every follower of Christ to magnify the glory of God and proclaim the gospel of God in all the world. Because we are driven by these two realities, we must not rest until Christ returns and announces the mission is complete. Until that day, therefore, Parkwood will give, send, and go to our neighbors and to the nations, and this coming Sunday, December 20, offers a remarkable opportunity as we give to the 2016 International Missions Offering.

As you think about giving, consider this word from our Kids Pastor Ryan Foster:

Imagine what happens when kids begin to see beyond themselves to see how they can be a part of God’s work in the world. Each Wednesday night, 225 Kids & Leaders get together for Awana, a night focused on scripture memory, relationship building, and lots of fun with recreation. This time of year is really exciting for them because it means store night. Store night is a blast because the kids trade in shares to buy gifts for their family, friends, and/or themselves. Shares, paper money with dollar equivalents, are earned throughout the year as the kids learn verses and do other awesome things. This month, we challenged our kids to do something new: to give more than they take. 

With the help of Pastor Kem Lindsay, Jacob Mennear, Lisa Taulman, and our amazing Awana leaders, we hosted a special offering service last week where the kids could give their shares to missions. It was really important to us that they understood how and why they were giving. We explained how their shares would be able to purchase specific things like Bibles, SIM cards with videos articulating the gospel, and even supporting a missionary family for a week on the field. 

After explaining, we showed video of a Nigerian village with whom we are partnered giving as they danced to the playing of drums. As the drums begin, the people come forward to give their offering. All the kids were glued to the screen and became so excited to give like the Nigerian village gave. After praying, I told them it was their turn to give and invited to come. Row by row, with the drums beating in the background, the kids came to drop their shares into baskets at the front.

What happened next, none of us fully expected: 120 Kindergarten-5th graders gave 1,180 shares, which we matched with $1,180. The entire amount was given to the International Missions Offering! Their giving, instead of buying more gifts for themselves, provided enough to support an entire missionary family on the field for 8 days! 

The Bible says that God loves a cheerful – literally “hilarious” – giver. There were a lot of hilarious kids last week, and my continued hope is that on December 20 they will see how Parkwood gives to the gospel and goes to the nations to advance the Kingdom of God. As one mom told me later, “I asked my son in the car how much he was going to give. He emphatically answered, ‘All of it!’” Wow, that kid’s perspective demonstrates the way we all should give and view the gifts and resources God gives us.

Would you consider giving like that, not out of abundance but sacrificially? Perhaps a little more explanation of what the IMB will do with these funds would help. Christ was clear regarding the extent of the mission when he said to begin where you are and continue to give, send, and go into all the world (Matthew 24:14, Acts 1:8). The IMB takes that commission seriously and sends intentionally to global cities and extreme places. They send to global cities because of the vast numbers of people in cities like Dubai and Shanghai that are lost and without the gospel. And they send to extreme places because it’s easy to get people to go to luxurious locations but difficult to convince them to go to demanding or dangerous places. The IMB sends people to global cities and extreme places because more important than preference is the desperate need for the gospel among millions and millions of unreached people who are dying with no one telling them that they can live. For example, one of those extreme places is Central Asia where many of the world’s least evangelized live with little access to the truth. In the Caucasus Mountain region of Central Asia – between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea – exist more than 2,000 villages where 45 distinct languages are spoken… and the vast majority of them are unreached with gospel.

The national goal for this year’s offering is $175 million, but that goal would be reached if every Southern Baptist gave only $30. What if every Southern Baptist gave $150? The total offering would be nearly $1 billion. Consider how many global workers we could send to global cities and extreme places with that much money?! In the days and hours leading up to Sunday, December 20, consider giving to the International Missions Offering for the sake of God’s glory among the nations.