Tag Archives: evangelism

A Digital Ministry Profile

This morning, at church, I felt vindication.

It’s not a top-of-the-list expected sensation when you walk into a place of worship. But for today, vindication fit.

The pastors preached on wineskins, using Jesus’ words to the Pharisees as a reference.

But no one puts a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and a worse tear results. Nor do people put new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wineskins burst, and the wine pours out and the wineskins are ruined; but they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved.” (Matthew 9:16, 17 NASB)

The point for the congregation today is that holding onto our old ways of doing things may keep us from experiencing growth in our relationship with God. And relationships are one area where our pastor sees a new wineskin is needed.

In today’s culture, so many of us spend our time connected to the Internet, hands almost surgically attached to our cellphones or mobile devices. I personally was shocked at how quickly my iPad got its dark tentacles wrapped around my habits.

Here I am typing this onto my iPad while riding a bike at the gym, using my cellphone hotspot to upload. No, I am not addicted to these devices.

Speaking of modern culture, our pastor declared, “A lot of people have more relationships via the Internet and social media than they have in face-to-face relations.” By unscientific appearances, because I’m too lazy to find data for what seems obvious, this is the case. Everywhere I go, I see people on cell phones, texting, Facebooking, tweeting, Vining, snapchatting, vlogging, and whatever new thing I’m not even aware of yet.

At least I do when I take my eyes off my iPhone.

Ok, so why the vindication?

Because my pastor’s words spoke directly to a form of ministry my wife has labored in for probably over a decade. And his words lent credence and validity to her form of ministry where others rolled eyes, scoffed, patronizingly agreed, or outright walked away.

My wife ministers the light and love of Christ to people online.

A stay-at-home mom by choice and homeschooling teacher by choice of four children ranging from three years old to teenagers, my wife doesn’t get a lot of time to spend volunteering for the church or doing whatever small group activities come up. When she gets time, she usually takes advantage of the chance to rest, because she earns those breaks.

So when the church wants to go door-to-door, or when they’re asking for nursery volunteers, or they want all the women to come out to a midweek Bible study, or to cook up dinners for the family with the new baby, more often than not, my wife isn’t serving there.

And she gets the looks for it! “Well, if you’re dropping your kid off in the nursery, then we need you to volunteer.” I get that. That makes nursery sustainable. So how about if my excited, willing teenage daughter volunteers in my wife’s place? “Not good enough.”

“Well, it’s so neat that you talk to people on your computer, but you know, we really need someone to come do street evangelism.” Because pouncing on people is a proven tactic, right.

My wife may not step foot out the door, but she clicks across the world and types words of love and hope into the hearts of people she’s never met in person. She may not have a foot on the ground, but she has a virtual hand on the shoulder of a grieving woman, of a new divorcee, of a worried parent whose child is in trouble with drugs. She may not be knocking on doors, but God knocks on hearts through the connection my wife makes with friends and strangers.

Years ago, when I’d log into a chatroom on Yahoo or geocities to debate theology, my wife would talk with people one-on-one to find out what they were going through and share her similar experiences.

Later, when I hopped on forums to post rants about politics and religion in our culture, my wife would trade private messages with people who had been emotionally or physically abused, whether by family, by acquaintances, by strangers, or even by their church. She gave hurting people an avenue to open up, to trust again, to connect with someone who had walked in their shoes and survived to tell the tale.

On Facebook, my wife almost always has a chat open with a friend or two, most of the time just staying connected and sharing life across the country or around the world. That constant reliable bond makes it possible to speak into someone’s life when they are in need of a friend. And sometimes it comes back to bless my wife when she needs encouragement.

Even on World of Warcraft and Farmville, she has made connections to strangers that developed into friends.

All the while, she’s ignored or brushed away the silent criticism and derisive looks from people who should have been excited and supportive.

Sure, if you get her going on politics or draw her into an argument, ministry gets lost in the chaos and flame wars. But that’s true of everyone, regardless of how persuasive we all might believe our memes and rants on Facebook to be.

So to those who laughed at my wife and her “so-called ministry,” I’d like to rise above and be the better man. But she’s the better half.

That means I get to laugh back, feel vindicated, and point out that she’s so ahead of the curve, no wonder they couldn’t see her from way back there.

Flip-Flops and Soccer Balls

“What are we supposed to do with a thousand pairs of flip-flops?”

I imagine this was the question for a pastor at BCC a few weeks or months ago. A local school had a fund raiser for a missions trip to Kenya, and they chose to collect flip-flops for the African children the team would meet.

They weren’t expecting a thousand pairs, and getting that many shoes from Nebraska to Kenya no doubt meant logistics and expenses and effort.

They get to the city and meet the couple who are running a ministry to children orphaned by AIDS and other diseases, and they find out that–oddly enough–the wife has been specifically praying for flip-flops for the 700+ kids she cares for.

On top of that, the team brought clothing and sundry goods, stuff we don’t even stop to think about like toothpaste and soap. It was like they were handing out treasure.

The team built two church buildings, visited with orphans, provided for needs, and even supplied joy in the form of soccer uniforms and balls. They saw returns on work they’ve been doing for over ten years, contradicting the thought that missions teams just show up for a week or two, then never come back to build relationships or follow up.

Teams I’ve supported or even traveled with have brought cases of medical and dental supplies, pulling rotted teeth and distributing basic vitamins and medicine. They have brought basic food, meeting the practical and real-life needs of the people.

Back on Okinawa, that one church partnered with several others to perform medical missions twice a year, to the Philippines and then Cambodia.

I know from a trip to the rural parts of the Philippines how much I take for granted.

A woman brought her infant to me and asked for prayer for his fever. I felt the baby’s head and ulled my hand away shocked. I thought about if it had been me with one of my kids. Jonathan was about four months old at the time, and so I thought of him. I would have been flying down the highway to the emergency room. My baby would have been full of Infant Motrin and Infant Tylenol and any other thing I thought might help.

This woman didn’t have any of that.

She and her child stand out as the memory of that trip for me. Her desperation and need for something we could meet with no real great expense or thought still haunts me. The unwillingness or apathy of Christians regarding meeting these needs… That frightens me.

Despite it being generally understood that Jesus’ last order to His people was to go into all the world and make disciples, we don’t always see a church that looks out past its building, past its community, past even the borders of its country.

In spite of common sense telling us that people need more than Bibles and “decisions for Christ,” that sometimes turns into the image we have of “reaching out to the world” with the love of God.

More than all of the above, we provide ministry to churches and we preach the Gospel to those who have not heard… Or who have seen no reason to believe before.

There are stories of missionaries handing out Bibles and being rejected. “Do you think I want your book? Will this feed my children? Will it keep them warm? Can your book be a roof or a bed? I don’t need this.”

We come not just with a Bible and a sermon, but with aid for real needs because our sermons based on the Bible tell us to do more than just give out a book or a tract. Sometimes we need flip-flops to deliver our message.

Some of my agnostic and atheist friends would say to deliver the latter, the real needs, while leaving the former at home in church.

They would ask, shouldn’t we do this practical ministry just for the sake of doing it? Should the goodness of the deed be enough to motivate the deed? Should we do this without such an obvious emphasis on Christ?

Ok, maybe.

Maybe it’s not enough to clarify that the response to evangelism is not connected in any way to the services received. But we’re out doing something about the suffering and tremendous need in the world, and we’re putting every cent and every bit of the supplies and support we raise into the people we encounter.

If you can find a better organization that does what you want more effectively, great. Support them. But if not, consider partnering with those who are meeting practical needs in the lives of others.