Mission engagement is the heartbeat of CBFVA.
We take seriously Jesus’ call recorded in Matthew 25:31-46 to care for the poor and oppressed. To be Christ in the world means to be intentional about serving “the least of these.”
CBFVA responds to this call by offering four mission engagement opportunities to congregations across the Commonwealth:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family,[a] you did it to me.’ 41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Matthew 25:31-46: 31
Our philosophy of missional faithfulness is built on these three foundational principles:
The scorecard most congregations use to evaluate mission efforts is the number of people served. There is, however, value in shifting from a numbers-based to a relationship-based assessment. While the number of people served is reason to celebrate, numbers may also reveal an overly objective, linear approach to ministry. Well-oiled food pantries and clothes closets, for example, can become a “factory line” of sorts where clients are processed quickly so others can also be served.
What is lost in this frantic pace is the transformational, albeit time-consuming, work of building relationships. If we approach missions with relationships as our goal, we give ourselves permission to slow down and see and know the people who walk through our doors. We can discover ways to invest more deeply in the lives of those God places in our care.
Reconsider the Equation
There is often an unintentional underlying message of transaction and hierarchy when engaging in missions efforts. It suggests that the person serving receives good feelings (blessing) at the expense of the dignity and freedom of choice of the person being served.
What if we changed the message? What if instead of the giver being in a position of power we invite those coming for help to make choices thereby preserving their dignity?
CBF Field Personnel Josh Hearne manages Urban Farm in Danville, VA. Josh says, “The best mission work that happens on the Urban Farm is weeding. It doesn’t matter if you have a million dollars or two dollars, weeding is not fun for anyone! Furthermore, when you’re weeding there is no leader or follower. Everyone is in the dirt together.”
This image of missions “in the dirt” challenges the traditional one-sided transactional nature of service. In its place it offers a more equitable way of serving and being served.
Mission involvement is much more than logging community service hours. Missions shape and form both individuals and community. If we believe God works through us to transform the world, then surely we are transformed, too!
There is no script for what transformation looks like. Think creatively. Follow your passions and act on your convictions.
In addition to already well-established missions efforts, CBFVA encourages individuals and churches to consider advocacy work in their next steps toward missional faithfulness. Find ways to invest at the local or national level and let your voice be heard! Churches and people of faith must not remain silent. Our public witness and ministry to “the least among us” is vital in shaping policy and practices in our communities.