By Mark Snipes, CBFVA Missions Coordinator

In reconsidering CBFVA’s 2018 missions focus, we came up with three statements that help us wrestle with new ways of talking about missions: 1) changing the scorecard for evaluating success, 2) reconsidering the equation, and 3) allowing missions to be transformative. In this blog I would like to dive deeper into the second statement.

Before I go any farther, let me outline what I am not saying. I am NOT saying the way we have traditionally done missions is bad and we need to throw out everything and start from scratch. I fully realize the impact that local and foreign missions has had on the world and am grateful for the work that has been done. What I want to do is to awaken our souls to something we might have missed.

In mission work, many well-meaning folks have missed the underlying transaction that happens in mission service. I, the one serving, offer you, the one being served, a bag of groceries. Often what happen in this transaction is I (the one serving) receive the “good feelings of doing missions” and you (the one being served) give in return “dignity and the freedom of choice.” We need to change the transaction by leveling the playing field. Instead of the giver being in a position of power, we need to allow those coming for help to have choice and dignity in the process.

Josh Hearne, CBF Field Personnel, runs an Urban Farm in Danville, VA. Josh told me “the best mission work that happens on the farm is weeding. It doesn’t matter if you have a million dollars or two dollars, weeding is not fun. Furthermore, when you’re weeding there is no leader and no follower. Everyone is in the dirt together.” This image of missions in the dirt summarizes for me a philosophy of mission that changes the traditional one-sided transactional nature of mission service and brings us to a more equitable way of serving and being served.

So what changes could be made to help? Many churches are changing food pantries into food co-ops allowing patrons to put in “sweat equity.” This change also allows patrons to pick the food they like. Others are even going as far as allowing patrons to help pick out the kinds of food churches collect giving patrons a choice to food their families enjoy.

I know that shift adds work for the overworked volunteer base at the church, however, this change transforms your pantry from a transactional ministry to a relational one, giving back dignity and choice to those that we now serve alongside. In what ways could your church “Reconsider the equation?” Let the conversations begin.