Just before He ascended to Heaven, Jesus challenged all to “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” Matthew 28:19, NIV. Then He promised that “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth,” Acts 1:8, NIV.
With these pronouncements and promises, all have a very clear invitation to international missional engagement. However, there is a dangerous tendency that comes along with the tremendous opportunity.
This tendency is succinctly explained by the late, great theologian Howard Thurman, when he spoke about missions, saying, “This impulse at the heart of Christianity is the will to share with others … but there is a lurking danger …. It is the sin of pride and arrogance that has tended to vitiate the missionary impulse, and make it an instrument of self-righteousness on the one hand and racial superiority on the other.”
It is the Holy Spirit Who leads everyone to engage in ministry and mission work. However, it is in doing that work that many may become puffed up as though they have righteousness in and of themselves because they are inclined to help those who are in need. Closely akin to this danger is a sense of arrogance and pride that suggests that one who is in position to help is somehow more superior than those in need. This is simply not true.
It is with this in mind that the Southeastern Conference has devised a new initiative to create mission partnerships with foreign fields, rather than top-down service projects that are short-lived.
During the past two years, several pastors and Southeastern ministry departments have conducted ministry projects in collaboration with the ministry leaders in Jamaica (and the Central Jamaica Conference in particular), with the expressed intent of building lasting relationships, and collaborating for building God’s Kingdom.
In March 2017, the Youth Department went to help paint a school. Two years ago, the singles’ ministry adopted a school and has committed to supporting a particular school over several trips, with equipment and building repairs. This past October, four Southeastern pastors partnered with the Central Jamaica Conference’s annual multi-site, lay-led evangelistic effort, which yielded nearly 100 baptisms after one week of preaching.
Nevertheless, the intention has always been to build a partnership. So, not only has the United States served Jamaica, but Jamaica has served the United States. In September last year, a group of youth visited Southeastern from Central Jamaica Conference to lend a hand with multiple service projects throughout the state of Florida. Also, in March of 2018, the Conference is planning to host pastors from Jamaica who will come to preach revivals in Southeastern, just as the Southeastern pastors did there. In the coming years, the Conference looks to build similar partnerships with local conferences in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
With each visit, there was focused time for collaborative worship and fellowship. Without a commitment to both, lasting bonds cannot be formed. Therefore, both teams spent time together aside from work to relax, laugh, and enjoy each other’s company. One such fellowship outing included a trip to Disney’s Animal Kingdom. It was most likely in one of those down times that Steven Gates, pastor, learned that his host pastor in Jamaica is a direct relative of a family who are members of the church he pastors in Florida. It’s these types of circumstances that remind that all are one in Christ. All have been bound together, not simply in service, but in familial bonds of love.
All are not enemies, and all are not superior. All are partners. All are co-laborers. All are the family of God.
Southeastern | February 2018