As a child, my idea of a missionary was someone who traveled the world and spread the love of God wherever their travels took them! It was such an exciting concept, living in a strange land surrounded by people you couldn’t understand, and living in conditions that were very different than home. I aspired to do this, to travel the world and see what I could do for God. However, as I got older, it became clear that God had different plans, He started directing my heart towards various local children to teen aged programs. In a very short order my passion changed from travels to staying in Winkler and serving God in through local missions!
Local missions often don’t sound exciting to young people, they are too busy chasing after adventure to notice the adventure God might be calling them to right in their own backyard. Local missions can actually be just as exciting, and perhaps even more challenging than missions in some far off land.
What does local missions look like? It can be anything from helping a homeless person by giving them a couple of bucks, to large operations like Siloam Mission in Winnipeg, it can be as simple as saying a prayer for a strange or as complex as supporting a new family in your city, it can be seen or unseen.
This blog post is not to argue that people shouldn’t do missions far away, but that those that are called to local missions heed their calling, commit to their calling, and plant seeds in their local communities. So what I would like to look at is what does the Bible say about mission, what I see the local church doing correctly in regards to local missions, what I think our local church’s could perhaps improve/include in their local mission work.
I want to start with what the Bible says about missions, as I think the Bible is our ultimate guidance when it comes to living a life committed to God. Mark 16:15, Romans 10:13-15, 1 Chronicles 16:24, and Luke 24:47 are just a few verses where we are called to spread the Gospel and God’s love. They talk about the necessity of Christians spreading the word of God, to bring God’s love to all peoples in all locations across the globe, this means your neighbor and even those who would choose to harm you for your belief. We need to remember that in order to live a life devoted to God, we have to listen to his calling, and not our own selfish desires.
One thing I have always commended our local church’s (in Winkler) for is their ability to put aside their differences, and put on a joint worship service every year for the Harvest Festival. I absolutely love the fact that we are so community minded that we are willing to work together to further our brothers and sisters in their walks with Christ! Some things I admire my own church (Grace Mennonite Church) for is their devotion to our local youth, we put a lot of focus on our youth programs and I think it pays off, we have youth heading into all sorts of different mission fields, whether far away or close to home. I think that our church’s have a great awareness of the hurts in our local community and do a great job encouraging others to support local charities/organizations. I think our church’s as an organization is doing great work.
Where I see faults in the system, is with volunteers, I have found that over the last several years there has been a large decrease in volunteers, our church’s members, don’t seem to understand the value that their time adds, it is not all about money; money can keep a program funded, but without volunteers it won’t run. An example of this is my local church’s Sunday school program, every year we start late or just barely make it in time, because we do not have people volunteering as teachers/activity leaders. The tasks of being a Sunday school teacher are not complex, in fact they are very straight forward, everything is laid out for you and you basically have to show up and talk with the kids about Jesus! How hard is that? and guess what leading an activity station is even easier! This same rule applies to most organizations, the jobs of 90% of volunteers are easy and the only thing they require is time.
Basically, if you feel called to local ministry, don’t shy away from it because you think it won’t be an adventure or because you don’t think you will make a difference. Jump at the chance to serve your local community! God calls us to be a shining light on a hill, we live in a dark world that needs to see the light, and that applies to everyone. Live life as a servant because Matthew 20:26 says: “Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant”