North American Missions Offering

Much has been said the last few months about giving and going to the nations. Parkwood celebrated sacrificial and significant giving to the International Missions Offering in December, and earlier this month, we gloried in the mission of God during Mission Impact Celebration. Much of Parkwood’s focus has been looking beyond the United States and even North America to the global cities and hard to reach places of the ends of the earth. Now, however, we turn our attention to the North American Missions Offering, what Southern Baptists have historically referred to as the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering. 

It is important to see these offerings with a consistent vision rather than at odds with one another. To see these offerings with consistent vision, consider two things: the meaning of harvest fields and the reason for disproportionate giving. First, consider the meaning of harvest fields in the Scriptures. Begin with the Great Commission command to go and make disciples. Since going is actually a participle, the instruction is to make disciples as you go. As you go, make disciples near or far. Most should make disciples everyday during the course of your going to school, to work, to play. Others, though, should leave and intentionally go cross-culturally to make disciples. If we are to make disciples among the nations, then the geographical goal of that command necessarily includes the place in which you live. 

Likewise, this near and far tension relates to the harvest field. Followers of Christ are commanded to earnestly pray to the Lord of the harvest that he will send workers into the harvest fields. What fields? Certainly he does not only mean international locations to the neglect of closer places. What did Jesus say to his disciples before ascending? Indeed he directed his disciples to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. When we consider the harvest fields, then, it is consistent to consider each of these geographical locations as legitimate fields of service. Jesus tells his disciples that the fields are white for harvest, and later he tells them to go to their current city (Jerusalem), to regions beyond their city (Judea), including areas that are different or even difficult (Samaria), and of course, to the ends of the earth. When you consider the biblical directive to go to the harvest field, therefore, do not negate every harvest field for one particular field. The hard to reach places are harvest fields for which we should pray and to which we should go, but other harvest fields exist also, perhaps in your own backyard.

Second, the reason for disproportionate giving to international missions should be understood in view of disproportionate need. No doubt much is said at Parkwood about going from the United States to the nations, about going to global cities and hard to reach places, about naming Christ where he has not been named, and no doubt Parkwood exhorts the church to give and send and pray toward these end of the earth harvest fields. But spurring this international harvest field focus is the reality of drastic need. Of course the lost are in the United States, but also across this country are many Christians and churches and resources. In the forty-five unreached people groups of the Caucasus Mountains, for example, many more lost live with much fewer Christians, churches, and resources. So we unashamedly raise the call to go to other nations even while we consistently go, pray, and send to our own country and North America.

For these reasons, it is consistent and right to highlight the far and hard to reach harvest fields even while we give through the North American Missions Offering to the North American Mission Board. With this vision for missions, would you please consider this week what you might give next week to the North American Missions Offering? I pray we would give faithfully and obediently in accordance with the gift given to us in the gospel.

Mission Impact Celebration Rewind

“Declare His Glory” is the theme of Parkwood’s 2016 Mission Impact Celebration (MIC). We pray we have declared his glory, and we pray we will every day and into the future. I explained in a previous post that Mission Impact Celebration exists to glory in the mission of God, to share what God is doing through the mission of the church, and to exhort the church to be on mission in the intentional opportunities of everyday life and in the strategic cross-cultural communication of the gospel. Every aspect of MIC, therefore, is planned and conducted with this purpose in mind. Our time together begins with an explanation of why we go and how we go, as I interview normal guys who are sent out from Parkwood under normal circumstances to plant churches and declare his glory. We are sent out and we go to declare his glory as these three families have, to our own community and state, to international settings, and to pioneer contexts. 

Having considered what the Lord of the harvest is doing through those interviewed and many more testimonies of gospel work, every member of Parkwood must be confronted regularly with the question, “Does God want me to go?” “Is he sending me?” The Something New video suggests the possibility that limitless missionary teams could go to the harvest field if we would only consider the option for normal people to go along various pathways, as church planter, students, professionals, and retirees.

Where should we go? Why should we go? Well, it seems true enough that we should go to the lost because we have the gospel and they do not. True, there are lost, and we should go to them and share with them. But the missionary question, is where are there lost that do not have access to the gospel? The lost are everywhere. Some of the lost, though, are unreached. If they awake today and want to know the gospel, they could walk for days and weeks and never see a church, a Bible, or meet a Christian. So, yes, we must go because people are lost, but we must not lose site of the broader picture. Two billion people are lost and unreached,  and no one is yet looking for them. 

We are thrilled to complete another Mission Impact Celebration on Sunday when we investigated the mission of God in the Scriptures and discussed our strategy of going, sending/giving, and praying both locally and globally. It was a joy to see such throngs of people come forward with decision cards as we issued the 2% Challenge: a challenge to give 2%, or 1 week, to going locally or globally with the gospel. Are we on mission? We do not have the privilege of “maybe;” the answer is “yes” or “no.” What about you? Have you acknowledged that the God of the mission has enlisted you? Remember Psalm 96:3, “Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!” I pray we would be about the mission of God, and declaring his glory would be our consuming desire. 

Mission Impact Celebration

MIC is Parkwood’s Mission Impact Celebration. In less than a week we will kick off our biannual conference in which we celebrate missions to our neighbors and among the nations. Mission Impact Celebration exists to glory in the mission of God, to share what God is doing through the mission of the church, and to exhort the church to be on mission in the intentional opportunities of everyday life and in the strategic cross-cultural communication of the gospel. Consider with me the mission of God, the mission of the church, and the opportunity we have to be involved in the mission for the glory of God and the sake of his gospel.
  MIC is for glorying in the mission of God. His mission is to magnify the glory of God and proclaim the gospel of God among the nations. The motivation of the mission is clear in Psalm 67. God wants the nations to praise him; he wants them to be glad and sing for joy as they find their salvation in him. The time of the mission is clear in Matthew 24:14. This gospel will be preached until it has reached the end of the nations and until the end of time. The example of the mission is clear in John 20:21. Disciples of Jesus are sent just as Jesus was sent, and so we go as his representatives with his example. The strategy of the mission is clear in Matthew 28:18-20. Our Father wants his glory magnified and his gospel shared, and disciple-making is his chosen methodology. And so we glory in the mission and missionary heart of our God to reach a people who are running and to redeem a people who are wretched.

MIC is for sharing the mission with the church. The mission of the church is rooted in the mission of God. He is using his church to accomplish his mission. Parkwood is delighted to send and/or partner with a number of harvest field personnel who have given their lives and their families to see the mission realized. MIC is a great time of celebration, and certainly of thanksgiving, as we gather with guests who have surrendered to the call from the Lord of the harvest. He is sending laborers into his harvest field because his mission is to magnify his glory and proclaim his gospel. As Lord of the harvest, his prerogative and delight is to send laborers to carry his life-giving gospel and accomplish his mission. So the mission of God has been received and embraced by laborers as the church’s mission. We do not gather for Mission Impact Celebration to pat ourselves on the back but to express thanksgiving and share the work that God is accomplishing through the church for his mission. It is not a time for pride in our work but for rejoicing in God’s name.

MIC is for exhorting the church to be on mission. With this grand mission to be sent out as ambassadors of Christ to proclaim reconciliation to a world far from God, we want to exhort the church to join the mission. Collectively, Parkwood embraces God’s mission in the mission of the church, and this resolve is evident in her stated purpose of glorifying God by laboring together for the growth of all believers while going with the gospel to all peoples. Individually, though, it is a constant work to exhort the faith family to join the mission. We must be consistent here for two reasons. First, the church is growing, so we must communicate well across the body of Christ to new members/visitors, and second, the natural tendency of fallen creatures is away from the surrender and discipline of mission. For these reasons, we exhort the church often, and particularly during our Mission Impact Celebration, to join the mission of magnifying his glory and proclaiming his gospel in all the world until Christ returns. I anticipate MIC with much excitement as we glory in the mission of God, share the mission with the church, and exhort others to join in the grand, creation-consuming, Christ-exalting mission. Hope to see you March 2-6 at our 2016 Mission Impact Celebration.

Schedule for Mission Impact Celebration

Wednesday, March 2

     6:30 pm MIC Worship Celebration in Worship Center

Thursday, March 3

     6:30 pm MIC Guests “Really COOL Story Night” in the Worship Center

Friday, March 4

     6:30 pm On-Campus Growth Group Dinner Meetings with MIC Guests

Saturday, March 5

     11:30 am Off-Campus Growth Group Lunch Meetings with MIC Guests 

     6:30 pm Night of Prayer and Fasting in the Worship Center

Sunday, March 6

     8:00, 9:30 & 11:00 am Worship Celebration and Life Commitment

     8:00, 9:30 & 11:00 am MIC Guests Share in Adult Growth Groups during Bible Study Hours

When Helping Hurts

Interest in meeting social needs has increased among evangelicals in recent years. Much of this help is well-meaning but not all help has been beneficial. Sometimes helping hurts. For this reason, Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert have written When Helping Hurts to focus on “appropriate ways for a North American congregation – and its missionaries – to participate in poverty alleviation at home and abroad, taking into account the God-ordained mission of the church and the typical church’s organizational capacity” (15). Corbett and Fikkert offer foundational concepts, general principles, and practical strategies for helping without hurting. 

When Helping Hurts
begins with understanding the solution and the problem, in that order. Understanding why Jesus came and recognizing the true problem help interpret all the other issues and options that might present as possible problems or solutions. Jesus came to announce, establish, and reveal the gospel in word and deed. Since the task of the church is rooted in the task of Jesus, then the church should preach the good news of the kingdom just as Jesus did. And just as he delighted in reaching the hurting, the weak, and the poor with his message, so the church should follow suit (37). The church, though, must determine how to minister in word and deed. Insufficient material provision is a consistent world-wide symptom, and “a sound diagnosis is absolutely critical for helping without hurting” (53). Corbett and Fikkert point out that the church can hurt by identifying the symptoms while missing the underlying illness or by misdiagnosing the illness. The answer begins with being convinced of the gospel’s solution and identifying the true problem in light of Christ and the good news. This understanding of solution and problem means the rich are as broken as the poor we seek to help.

Any action, then, should be informed by principles consistent with this mutual brokenness and should work toward meeting the true need with the right solution according to the gospel. Our authors suggest useful advice to this end. They offer a continuum of relief-rehabilitation-development that suggests what type of help to offer at the appropriate point along the continuum. “One of the biggest mistakes… is applying relief in situations in which rehabilitation or development is the appropriate intervention” (101). Asset-based community development (ABCD) is particularly useful for projects and partnerships as the situation moves away from relief toward development, which is much of the North American congregation’s work among the poor. This ABCD principle moves our work away from giving and providing and toward facilitating and participating, with an eye to being reproducible and sustainable. Corbett and Fikkert expound on these principles and introduce others. And in the final sections of the book, they apply these principles in strategies for helping without hurting at home and abroad. They have even added a section to this updated edition that provides some wisdom and motivation for putting the ideas into practice.

Corbett and Fikkert have aided the church well in writing When Helping Hurts. I commend this book to you. Offered here is a brief highlight because the book is helpful and the authors have much to offer us. This resource should be widely used and considered prerequisite reading for those involved with partnerships among the poor of the world. We want to help – the gospel says we must – but we want to help without hurting.