Rachelle Crowe resides in Kansas City, Kansas along with her husband Mark where she serves as the Director of Community Development at Redeemer Fellowship in Kansas City.
Local or Global?
I have read multiple articles, blog posts and tweets discussing whether Christians should focus their energy on serving in overseas missions or serving locally. The overall focus has been to elevate one or the other, and make this an either/or issue; serve in your neighborhood or serve outside the country.
If you are currently taking trips to serve those in different parts of the world, then maybe you read these opinions, and feel guilty or even irritated. Perhaps you wonder if you should stop serving overseas because your own community needs help! But then you think back to the filthy water, the uneducated children, and the overseas village you just visited and wonder how you could forget about those people. I mean, isn't clean water a world away just as important as packing a backpack of snacks for the school in our community we serve as a church?
Christians are such pendulum–swinging people. We love things to be black and white: This is better! That is wrong! And we go on judging one another over differences in calling or “missional” focus. But what if both ways of serving are equally valuable?
Local and Global.
In more than 10 years of work in community development I have gone on many long- and short-term missions trips. I have seen value and underlying issues needing to be addressed, in both. Yet I still actively participate in both and believe that the gospel supports both callings: local and global.
Instead of arguing over which type of missions work is best, what if we, became a community where “both” “and” are good and welcomed?
We need to ask ourselves how we can affirm all types of mission endeavors; both in the city and globally to give life and be joyful in what God is doing wherever He is working. After all, isn't this in line with the gospel we proclaim? A gospel not of division, but of unity – even when we are passionate about different aspects of mission work.
Glorifying God Through All Missions
Though we may do it in different local or global contexts, all of our service brings glory to His name. As Christians, we want to glorify one or the other and it’s usually the one we are personally more passionate about. But can’t both be done in a way that gives glory to God?
God has uniquely gifted His people and is leading His children to serve in so many different parts of the city and world - and that is a beautiful thing, because it shows off His glory, not ours (1 Cor 12:12-30).
Praise God that one has a calling and gift to work with churches to partner with a neighborhood school! Praise God for the people loving orphans in Haiti or offering medical care in the Congo! Who is to say that one is more valuable than the other when God has called each of us to take his message to all people?
How Our Church Has Done It
As a church, locally, we are involved in efforts all over our city. We have tried very hard not to reinvent the wheel, so we partner with existing initiatives. But, we also try to be unique and think about ways that would really serve the families in our community. Locally, this year hundreds have become involved in Redeemer’s Community Development efforts in Kansas City. We often end our services with an exhortation to trust Jesus and live “for the glory of God and the good of the city.” But while we work tirelessly for the gospel to go out in our own city, we also look globally and support Community Development efforts in another city – a small rural village called Gonaïves, Haiti, and helped plant a church in Dubai. Why? Because God asks us to do both.
Loving Our Neighbor
Regardless of where we live and in what circumstances we live, we're all humans in need of God's grace and mercy. And we are all called to serve our neighbors.
In his book, To Live in Peace, Mark Gornik refers to the Parable of the Good Samaritan. After reading this parable, many evangelicals ask themselves, “Who is my neighbor?” Gornik challenges us to think further by asking, “Who will be neighbor to the beaten, bruised, and left behind?” (Lk 10:36). Gornik reminds us that Jesus is inviting us into his mission and calls us to live like him.
We are called to serve all communities who have been abandoned – no matter where they are – and to support each other in obeying this call. Jesus reminds us that the poor and hurting will always be with us (Matt 26:11). Knowing this, we recognize that while we are not the answer to Kansas City's or Haiti's problems, we are still called to faithfully speak and demonstrate the gospel; to take the message of the gospel wherever we are able.
How amazing would it be if believers encouraged one another in the ways that God has called each of us, instead of tearing each other down for not sharing the same calling? With the knowledge that both types of missions are for the glory of God, I pray we would have an “and” mindset to say to some, “Yes! Do that long-term mission trip,” and to others, ”Yes! Do the short-term trip.” To praise God for the calling we all have to reach out to our neighbors – whoever that may be.