I came home from our mission trip to Puerto Rico last Friday night, exhausted but also overwhelmed with gratitude for a great trip. The Lord used our team, in partnership with some new friends we met and served with from a church in Indiana, to accomplish much work and share the hope of Christ with many who have seemingly lost their hope after Hurricane Maria. We were used by the Lord to bless others, and we ourselves were blessed in so many ways.
Then during Sunday’s worship service at Shelby Crossings, we heard from several of the students and adults who went to Oklahoma in June to serve the children of the Choctaw nation at the Bertram Bobb Bible Camp. That was the fourth straight year our church has taken a trip there, but this year’s ministry seemed to have been more fruitful than ever. In fact, in the four weeks of their camp–including the week in which our group served–more than 80 children came to faith in Christ. I am so thankful for what God did and is still doing in the lives of those kids and their families, as well as in the lives of those who went to serve them.
On Sunday night, one of our TCASC small groups made their way to downtown Birmingham for our church’s monthly ministry to the homeless at the Firehouse shelter. They served faithfully and joyfully–I saw the photos on Facebook of the good time they had–and no doubt were used to impact the lives of the men there. It wasn’t across the ocean, or across the country, but it was living out kingdom ministry to “the least of these,” just as our Master commanded us to do. And lives were touched in the process.
Those few days last weekend serve as a “slice of life” look at a church that is dedicated to missions. Those who went to Puerto Rico or Oklahoma or the Firehouse are just a small number of those who have lived their life “on mission” in the past year, sharing the gospel to the lost, discipling new believers, providing support and care for needy orphans, reaching out to those in prison, and doing medical missions in destitute areas.
And that’s not even mentioning the dozens of ministries and missionaries around the world with which our church partners, both with our prayers and our financial resources, to share the gospel, plant churches, and meet the needs of the orphan and widow. As you may know, our church budget takes a very generous percentage off the top of our general offerings that goes straight to missions causes, administered by our Missions Team. And that doesn’t even include the special offering collected by our VBS kids in June, which went to help provide tents for gospel churches planted along the Rio Grande valley near the Texas/Mexico border.
Theologian Emil Brunner famously said, “The church exists by missions, just as fire exists by burning.” He was saying that a church that is not “on mission” is like a fire that is not burning. In other words, there’s no such thing; whatever it is, it’s not really being a church. When we cease to be missional in our theology and our methodology, in how we think and in what we do, then we stop functioning as the New Testament church. We’re merely a social club, interested only in our own comfort and well-being. And that doesn’t look anything like the Biblical picture of the Body of Christ.
One of our themes as we left Puerto Rico last week was that even as we got on a plane and headed home our “mission trip” continued. And that is true for each and every one of us. The mission never stops. We all have a role in our being a mission-focused body, whether it’s going, praying, giving or just living the gospel on your block every day. Thanks be to God that we’re doing that a little more each day. And thanks to each of you for your obedience in following Jesus.
I appreciate the opportunity you provided our team to go to Puerto Rico, and we truly counted it a privilege to serve the Lord and the people there on your behalf. Likewise, it is such a joy to serve you–and serve with you–as the pastor of such a great church. I’m praying for you, as I hope you are for me, and I look forward to seeing you on Sunday.