Pastor Post │ Monthly Mission

Every month at Lakeview Community Church, the deacons invite a different organization — one working to improve society — to share its mission, its work, and its volunteer opportunities with the congregation. Representatives from these organizations speak during the worship service, which is followed by a time of prayer for both the speakers and organization as a whole. At the end of the service, we take up a special offering as we financially partner with these organizations.

This tradition started long before I became the pastor at Lakeview, and it’s a ministry that I am proud of. Each month is a new opportunity to learn about an issue affecting our community, how people and organizations are addressing the issue, and avenues for us to partner, both financially and through our talents, in God’s restoration in the world.

I tasked Lakeview’s deacons with developing a philosophy for our monthly mission. Why do we support these organizations? How do they contribute to human flourishing in our community? What guiding principles do we follow in the selection process?

Timothy Keller’s book, “Generous Justice,” has provided us with foundational knowledge to create our philosophy. It has sent us to the Bible, searching and grappling with God’s call and desire for justice. It has propelled us to discern what living justly might look like in our lives as individuals and as a church. It has also bolstered us to formulate what we believe is most important to God as we decide what sort of organizations we want to support. As a result, we largely seek to partner with local, Christian organizations. Although there are occasional exceptions to that rule, each organization always contributes to shalom and human flourishing.

Below are guiding principles that have emerged over the course of our study and are contextually pertinent to our church and community:

1) Don’t just give a handout; give a hand-up. Those of you who have interacted with Robert Lupton have probably heard him say this before. Yes, relief is important. Yes, meeting immediate needs of food, shelter, and healthcare are important. But without development that follows relief, we perpetuate the cycle of poverty in spite of our best intentions. Thus, our deacons are evaluating whether the organizations we support do relief work or development work. At the moment, we seem to have a good mix of the two. For instance, we support both a local food pantry (relief work) as well as an organization that offers clothes, counseling, and financial literacy and budgeting classes (development). Both the handout and the hand-up are needed to break the cycle of poverty.

2) “The quartet of the vulnerable.” Keller quotes this phrase from Nicholas Wolterstorff, an American philosopher noted for developing reformed epistemology. It refers to the four groups (widows, orphans, immigrants, and the poor) that the Bible teaches us are especially vulnerable to injustice and in need of protection and care. In response to this insight, Lakeview’s deacons have added to our monthly mission slate a missionary in Naples, Italy, who cares for parentless and homeless refugees relocating from Africa and the Middle East.  We now consider this new question: who are the most vulnerable in our community, and how might we minister to them?

3) “To do justice, love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” These words from Micah 6:8 have challenged our deacons to expand the monthly mission ministry. In the past, our primary acts of justice have been to financially support the organizations and ask the representatives to provide opportunities for church members to volunteer. But as we seek to do justice and to love mercy, we’re in the process of organizing church-wide volunteer opportunities. These opportunities will emphasize our partnerships and help our church to work with the organizations and the people they serve, rather than for them. This project will hopefully make living justly more tangible, and spur the congregation to consider other ways in which we can love mercy and do justice in our community.

Blaine Crawford served as minister at Lakeview Community Church in Greece, NY.

Reflection Questions:

  1. Who are the most vulnerable in your local community? Undernourished children? Single parents? The elderly?
  2. In what ways does your church provide handouts? In what ways does your church provide hand-ups? How might you begin to bridge   this gap?
  3. What Scripture passages might you use to preach on the topic of “doing justice”?
Topics: Common Good
Church: Lakeview Community Church, New York City

About the Author

Blaine Crawford previously served as the pastor of Lakeview Community Church in Greece, NY.