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In the 1990’s, the church with which I serve embarked on a journey, with the goal of reaching a previously unreached people group with the gospel of Jesus. The planning and preparing took a little more than 10 years, but we planted one of our families in a place where the gospel is not openly welcomed. Because of security and safety concerns, we call this work our “Canaan Project”.
Over the years, we’ve had some of our folks who are good friends, who love our Lord and who love the lost, but who have had strong objections to our involvement in this work. Their voices have been heard, and their thinking carefully considered. While we have come to different conclusions than they have, we love them, and are glad that they’ve been a valuable part of the congregation.
And, to be honest, some of their objections have been things with which we’ve had to struggle over the years. This kind of work is not to be entered into lightly. On a recent Sunday morning, I shared three reasons why we shouldn’t do what we’re doing, and three reasons why we should. I want to give you the “shouldn’t” reasons today; tune in tomorrow for the three reasons why we should.
Why We Shouldn’t Be Involved In This Work
1) It’s dangerous
We know that our friends are living in a dangerous place. It’s hard to think of people you love being exposed to the dangers there. It’s a country which is strongly anti-Christian, generally anti-American, and plagued by armed conflict and violent protest. We’ve made all the security arrangements we can make, both there and here, but our friends are well aware of the dangers. They have had friends of their own who have been murdered in this country, for just being who they are. Why would we want our dear friends going to such a place as this?
2) It’s expensive
Our congregation isn’t large. We currently have about 85 actual “congregational members”, with an average Sunday morning attendance of around 110. We have been both a little smaller and a bit larger over the last ten years. But this small church has put some big money into this effort. Since 1997, we’ve spent somewhere between $350,000 and $400,000 on this project; from 2009-2011 alone, we’ve invested about $150,000. This year our total outlay will be around $60,000. That’s a lot of money for a church this size. Currently, 22% of our General Fund giving is going, directly or indirectly, to this work, as well as special designations and special project gifts from the little extra we have.
Sometimes I think about the other kinds of things we could have been doing with all that cash. How much could we have improved our building here? We’ve had to continually address flooding problems in our basement; Jesse and Dave have spent many, many hours mopping up rainwater that the sump pumps couldn’t carry away. We could have been making our building more inviting & comfortable. We’d love to have a better sound system, unstained carpeting, a more inviting children’s area. We could have given ourselves more paved parking, so that folks wouldn’t have to walk through the red clay mud on wet days. We could have given our children safe and secure outdoor play areas.
How much good could we do in the community this year? Our food pantry could be kept overflowing; we could offer helpful programs for our neighbors; we could be more involved in local outreach of all kinds. How much good could we do around here for the Kingdom with that $60K to work with?
3) It doesn’t appear to be successful
How many new Christians has this project brought? How many baptisms have we seen? How many disciples of Christ in that far-away land? Not many. A handful, or less.
Why not spend $60K this year on local missions, reaching out evangelistically in THIS community? We could be getting much better “bang for the buck”; it’s hard to see how we’re being good stewards of God’s money. Why do we persist in placing our friends in such danger, at such expense, to see so little apparent effectiveness for His Kingdom?
Wow. All that adds up to quite a persuasive argument. One could easily make the case that we have no business doing what we’re doing. So why do we persist in it?
Each of these very reasonable objections has a counterpoint which explains why we do what we do. Comment or argue below, if you care to, and tune in tomorrow.