Q I’d like to give my time and money to organizations in my community. How do I justify this to my church?
A God has called us to serve both in a local congregation and in our community. Although the two aren’t identical, we must not dichotomize them and devote ourselves to only one. However, we may find ourselves in a season of life where we are only able to utilize our time and talents in one area or are called to address a particular need in the community.
At mosaicHouse, a Christian Reformed church plant in Edmonton, Alberta, where I serve, one of our core values is that the church is the people who are commissioned and sent by the One who himself was sent from God the Father. We believe we must go out into our neighborhoods and communities embodying the hands and feet of Jesus.
Here’s what I recommend: approach the leadership of your congregation and request that they commission you in a formal service as a missionary to a community organization. I cannot overemphasize the importance of this agreement between you and your church--that when you invest your time, talents, and treasure in that organization you are doing so not merely as an individual but as a missionary of a local congregation, sent and commissioned by Jesus Christ. In fact, has not the church commissioned hundreds of missionaries to meet the needs of communities like New Orleans shortly after the Hurricane Katrina disaster? Yes, we must be sent by the church in the name of our God, who is indeed a Sending One.
—Victor Ko Rev. Victor Ko is a church planter with mosaicHouse Church in Edmonton, Alberta.
Q Our culture puts so much emphasis on “success.” I have a job, but it’s not nearly as impressive as I had originally hoped (I’m basically doing clerical work even though I have a college degree). How do I make peace with my life when I know that what I do is important but it’s not a leadership position or a money-making one?
A You are absolutely right in your evaluation of cultural pressures towards “bigger” equaling “better.” More status, more influence, more upward mobility—it’s as if there’s a “success train” that college grads are expected to board once they graduate. But for many, that’s not the path they’ve found themselves pursuing, either deliberately or perhaps by default.
In response to your comment about “making peace with your life” as you lean against this pressure, I would suggest picking up a copy of No Little People by Francis Schaeffer (reprinted by Crossway Books, 2003). I have returned to his first essay, by the same title, at various times over the course of my working life. Each time I’ve found myself getting re-grounded in Scripture and re-rooted in God’s perspective. Schaeffer’s premise can be summed up by the following quote: “We must remember throughout our lives that in God’s sight there are no little people and no little places. Only one thing is important: to be consecrated persons in God’s place for us, at each moment” (p. 25). He further suggests that we work hard where we are until God literally extrudes us to a higher place—not of power but of servant leadership. I hope this idea will encourage you as you serve in your current place of ministry.
—Bonnie Speyers Bonnie Speyers is a career counselor at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Q May candidates for elder or deacon actively campaign for their own election? If so, what ways are appropriate?
A Before electing delegates to synod, some classes ask if there are officebearers who wish to attend. It’s far better to elect people who really want to attend than to delegate people who will merely serve because they are elected. The same is true on a congregational level. Some nominees hope they are not elected; others are eager to serve because they have both the interest and the time. It would be helpful if the congregation knew that.
How to make that known in ways that do not appear self-seeking is difficult, and sometimes a “campaign” can insure a nominee’s defeat. In personal conversations, an honest expression of interest is appropriate. Close friends can also indicate the interest of a nominee.
—George Vander Weit George Vander Weit is a retired pastor in the Christian Reformed Church.