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Guidelines for Deciding Whom a Church Supports
An internal Capitol Hill Baptist Church elders' memorandum
The following memorandum was unanimously affirmed by the elders of Capitol Hill Baptist Church as providing the criteria and "tiers" of support for CHBC church members who do overseas missions work.
Our goal in thinking through the issue of "how much" our church will support our members who move overseas is not to discourage people from taking the gospel to other cultures. Rather, it results from the fact that our resources are not infinite as well as the positive desire to help church members view their relationship with the local church as a significant, even essential, part of what it means to be sent with the gospel. We want our members to think not merely about how they can take the gospel overseas, but how they can serve and support their local church in where, how, and when they go overseas.
Re: Levels of support for CHBC members headed overseas.
[In my capacity of overseeing our overseas missions work for our church,] one of my most significant challenges has been to help determine what level of relationship (pastoral, strategic, and financial) CHBC should have with various members hoping to work overseas. In this memo I want to lay out my current thinking and invite your questions and feedback.
In just the past 3 months I've had conversations about missions that have run the gamut from one person recently saying,
to a conversation with a member who said,
Obviously these two conversations reveal radically different understandings of what it means to be "sent out" by a church. And they show radically different understandings of whether missions is
or if missions is mainly
The reality of this continuum has caused me to think about how we can and should both send and support gospel workers from CHBC. Adding to the complexity are the small but growing number of CHBC members who are interested in being genuinely "sent" by CHBCwith all the attendant involvement in their life and decision makingbut who are interested in going to areas and joining work where we as a church have no strong relationships.
For example, Tina R. [not her real name] is a sweet sister who wants to have CHBC leaders involved in her decisions about overseas work but who really wants to take a two-year position in Latin America. I have looked over the organization's job-request list with her, but there is no real potential for me to build the kind of relationships that will allow me to have much knowledge about any team she might join.
And there are additional complications. How should we think about supporting Tina (or others like her) if she ends up in Argentina or Chile? It's certainly not wrong for her to want to go to a Spanish-speaking nation, but should we be as committed to sending leaders to visit her and to trying to get members to partner with her work as we would for a person who might choose to join a team we know well and whose judgment and methods we already trust and are invested in? And how should our assessment of the strategic nature of work in Latin America (with some areas having tens of millions of evangelical Christians) affect our commitment of staff time and CHBC resources? How would trying to engage fully with workers in areas we find less strategic, with potentially theologically diverse teams, affect our congregation's focus and impact our training for missions? Finally, do qualified CHBC members have a right to expect full support from CHBC regardless of whether they go out in cooperation with or outside of CHBC's congregational plans, efforts, and overseas network of relationships?
FOUR PROPOSALS, FOUR TIERS OF SUPPORT
These are just some of the issues I've been thinking about lately. What follows is a tentative outline for how I propose we respond. I propose that we
My hope in this is certainly not to discourage workers in Tier 3 and 4, but to acknowledge and communicate the reality that CHBC won't (and likely shouldn't) try to support all people equally. We want to encourage any good motive among members willing to uproot their lives for the sake of the gospel, but we also want to encourage getting wise counsel and working to serve the aims of CHBC, not just their own personal interests and desires. Likewise, just as we do in our financial support for seminary students, we don't want to communicate that agreeing to allow folks to go equals a commitment to provide ongoing oversight and support. I also think we will need to be humble in recognizing our church's limited size. We cannot give adequate attention to the whole world and to everyone who might choose to move overseas.
Andy Johnson is an associate pastor at Capitol Hill Baptist Church and a trustee of the Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board.
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