From the LaFollette UMC newsletter
The appeals for giving have been great in recent weeks. In addition to ongoing church budget needs, we have bee promoted the Alaska mission trip, the conference offering for Sudan, backpacks and school kits for Liberia, a special offering for NESEI, and the 5th Sunday offering for Holston Home for Children. (We actually forgot to receive the offering for Native American Ministries Sunday!) Perhaps some have developed “missions fatigue.” I understand. It happens with preachers, too.
In the midst of our many conference/global promotions (United Methodism is a worldwide connection), I often hear that we should “do more locally," and I agree. We should. I invite you to bring me your list and I will share mine with you. We will begin with the neighbors who live right across our street. We sometimes may be unaware of what our church already does locally, including Food/Life Services, Habitat for Humanity, 4-H Camp Scholarship, Campbell County Cancer Association, Pregnancy Help Center, Caring Neighbors, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Campbell County School Supplies Program, Children’s Center of the Cumberlands, and the Hand Fund. Helping those within our own community is a daily function of our church, made possible by those who give to the church budget.
If by “doing more locally” we mean “doing less globally,” I profoundly disagree. When we find ourselves thinking our church should do more locally, it might be helpful to stop and ask, “What are we doing personally? What are we doing to help our church fulfill its ministry responsibilities? What are we doing as Christians (personally and privately) and not just as a church members (corporately)?”
Jesus had some things to say about where we “do missions.” He said we should “go home to our friends” and spread the word. He also said, “Go into all the world.” More specifically, Jesus talked about carrying our faith to “Jerusalem, and Judea, and Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the earth” (Acts 1:8). He was a both/and -- not an either/or -- kind of Savior. As I said a few Sundays ago, we need not only to “lift up our eyes unto the hills” (where we live), but to lift up our eyes to the God who can see over and beyond the hills, where needs might be greater than even the most pressing needs in our backyards.
Our message is that Jesus died for the whole world – not just for LaFollette or Jacksboro or Campbell County or Tennessee or even America. We do not have the luxury of picking and choosing whom we would like to be recipients of God’s love. Perhaps by the grace of the Gospel we can find deliverance from our parochialism and develop a vision embracing everyone as a person made in the image of God and worthy of our compassion. Instead of playing local needs against the needs halfway around the world (where people often have far fewer resources to help themselves), we can come to a lifestyle which enables us to celebrate what we are doing in both places.
If the protest is that “charity begins at home," my response is simply that it has. Come see me and we will sit down and discuss needs and budgets – yours, mine, and the church’s. I will share with you exactly what Chrissy and I are doing and what your church is doing.
If you accept this invitation, please bring your checkbook with you. I promise that I will ask you to do more than you are doing – both here and abroad.
The Rev. Faught is pastor at LaFollette UMC, Oak Ridge District.