I’m sure many of you have already completed your Christmas shopping and you’re just enjoying the holiday season watching Hallmark movies and/or football games and sipping on hot chocolate. For those of us who are last-minute gift buyers, there’s still a few days left to procrastinate.
Not only is this the time of year to celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus, but it is also when Southern Baptists receive their annual Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. We are also right in the middle of the week of prayer for international missions. Like you, I sense a burden to pray for our missionaries who serve around the world. I feel especially compelled to pray for those who serve in the most extreme circumstances – places that are dangerous to live as a Christian and where it is nearly impossible to speak the name of Jesus without fear of retribution.
For some, the topic of missions in far away places brings up a discussion about doing missions in our own proverbial “back yard” instead of sending money and resources around the world to far away places. Like you, I’ve heard something like this spoken in conversations about the Gospel and missions: “Why do we send so much money halfway around the world when we have lost people dying without Jesus right here in _____________ county.”
I encourage us all to avoid the “battle” between missions and ministry in our local areas versus missions and ministry across the globe. The Bible gives a comprehensive answer with the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20) coupled with Acts 1:8. Biblically, there’s not even a hint of a competitive attitude. The biblical approach to missions and ministry is everywhere, all the time, all at once.
Instead of an “either/or” dilemma, let us be encouraged to think of missions and ministry as a “both/and” proposition. That’s where the idea of a mousetrap comes into play. When I say, “mousetrap,” I’m talking about the old fashioned one with a base, spring, hold down bar, a catch, a hammer, and of course, a piece of cheese or peanut butter. You see, all the parts of a mousetrap are necessary and they are necessary all at the same time. If you’re unsure about this, try to make any of that mousetrap work without it all. It simply won’t work separately.
I believe this is the right way to view missions and ministry. God has not given us the option to choose between “here or there.” He has called us to make disciples everywhere. I applaud churches who do missions and ministry in their own community. They should. I also applaud churches who invest in missions and ministry in places they cannot go, nor will they ever go.
The beauty and power of the Cooperative Program is that it allows churches to minister everywhere, all the time. When disasters occur, your CP dollars are funding work to rebuild. When children are left without a family to care for them, our cooperative efforts help fund the Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes & Family Ministries. When students enroll in colleges across our state, Baptist Campus Ministries are there to greet them. When men and women sense God’s call to missions in remote places in the world, CP-giving churches have provided them a way to get there. On and on we could go.
For years I have heard a proverbial dilemma related to building a better mousetrap. When it comes to doing missions and ministry, there isn’t a better model than the Cooperative Program. When it comes to the Good News of the Gospel, there is certainly not a better message of hope.
We are better together than we are separately. Let us continue to support missions and ministry through our one program – the Cooperative Program!