Christmas, Mailbag

The Mailbag: Should My Church Participate in Operation Christmas Child’s Shoebox Ministry?

 

I lead the children’s ministry in our small rural church, and for years our children have participated in the Operation Christmas Child shoebox “ministry.” It has come to my attention that this program may be quite ineffective in spreading the gospel. In fact, I have read that many missionaries refuse the boxes because it causes such chaos and confusion. I would like recommendations of legitimate world mission organizations [we could donate to instead] that would allow our children to look past our sheltered life here to what God is doing in other parts of His creation.

Wait…what? Christmas? It’s only September!

Yep. Christmas will be here sooner than you think, and your church staff and committees are probably already planning for it. And if your church usually participates in Operation Christmas Child (OCC) but might decide to do something different this year because of the information in this article, they’re going to need some time to get their ducks in a row.

Operation Christmas Child is a ministry of (Franklin Graham’s) Samaritan’s Purse organization, an evangelistic “international relief” outreach. Each fall, churches across the U.S. encourage their members to fill an OCC shoebox with small gifts and hygiene items. OCC collects the boxes, tucks in a gospel booklet, and delivers the boxes to children in various locations around the world. At an OCC shoebox distribution event, an OCC representative shares the gospel with the assembled children and then distributes a box to each child.

There are two separate questions in this reader’s e-mail:

  • Should my church participate in Operation Christmas Child?
  • What are some other good international ministries my church could participate in instead?

Should I/my church participate in Operation Christmas Child?

I want to clarify this question a little bit. I understand what the reader who sent this e-mail means when she mentions missionaries reporting “chaos and confusion” resulting from shoebox distribution, because prior to receiving her e-mail, I had already been reading reports (maybe the same ones she read) of exactly the same thing.

The issue is not that Samaritan’s Purse is doctrinally unsound, or that there’s some sort of false doctrine being included in the shoeboxes or being preached by OCC staffers at shoebox distributions. Although I may not necessarily agree with every point of theology Samaritan’s Purse subscribes to, as far as I know, they are basically doctrinally sound, as are their materials and gospel presentations. The main issue the reader is asking about is whether or not the shoebox distributions are the most efficient, effective, and biblical way to share the gospel and undergird missionary efforts.

So the question is not whether or not participating in OCC is overtly sinful. The questions are: Is this the wisest way to steward our church’s resources – could we get more gospel bang for our buck another way? Is this a biblical model for sharing the gospel? Do shoebox distributions cause problems for missionaries and the communities they serve in?

And for the answers to those questions, I would encourage every church and individual considering participating in OCC to read all of the information at the OCC website and compare what you read to these missionaries’ first hand accounts¹ of how shoebox distributions were handled and how the distributions impacted their work and communities. Then, prayerfully consider whether or not you or your church should participate.

“What happens when the life-transforming gospel of Jesus Christ
is associated with dollar-store trinkets from America?”

“In some places, we haven’t been well-received because the missionaries who went there before us presented gifts….and we have no gifts. When those missionaries left, their ‘converts’ also returned back to their old faith and were waiting for the next gift presenters.”

Opening Up Christmas Shoeboxes: What Do They Look Like On the Other Side?
and
Sometimes the Starfish Story Doesn’t Work
These articles (the second is a follow up to the first) are both by Amy Medina.

🎄🎄🎄🎄🎄

“When Saddam Hussein was terrorizing the Kurds…an American was in Baghdad meeting with the Minister of Health. The minister abruptly said “I have to go – do you want to come with me? I have to do something for our leader’s birthday.” The American goes with him. They go to a warehouse in Baghdad, and there sit piles and piles of Samaritan’s purse Christmas Shoe Boxes. The Minister of Health is supervising minions to deliver all of them to the Children’s Hospital as gifts from Uncle Saddam for his birthday….a bunch of Iraqi kids got wonderful gifts from Saddam by way of Franklin Graham at Samaritan’s Purse.”

13 Things I Want American Christians to Know about the Stuff You Give Poor Kids by Rachel Pieh Jones

🎄🎄🎄🎄🎄

…the Operation Christmas Child boxes had reached the warehouse in Ndola and…the Mansa churches needed to come up with eight kwacha per box for 5,000 boxes to receive their shipment. That’s $4,000USD…comments from the pastors ranged from, “We don’t have this kind of money,” to, “Aren’t these boxes supposed to be free?” to, “Next year, let’s just refuse the boxes all together!”

boxing up expectations: reflections on OCC and the church by Bethany Colvin

What are some other good international ministries I/my church could participate in instead?

Whether you’re looking for a ministry to donate to or a way to tangibly serve others, the first thing I would recommend is that you ask your pastor what the needs are in your own church (remember, we serve the needs of our own church members first before serving others). It’s not biblical to overlook the needs of the brother or sister down the pew from you in favor of strangers half a world away.

If everyone in your church is taken care of, your pastor may be able to suggest a local or international ministry that could use your help. Many churches donate directly to various individual missionaries and local and international ministries, and I think you should support your church and its leadership by donating to the ministries they have chosen before looking for other ministries to donate to.

Some of the articles linked above include information on alternatives to OCC.

My suggestion would be to give what people need the most: God’s Word:

Bible League International

Gideons International

Pocket Testament League

Whichever ministry you choose to serve or donate to, make sure to vet its theology, and make sure they are sharing the gospel along with whatever relief or goods they are providing.


Addendum: After the original publication of this article, most of the feedback I received was thoughtful and positive. However, I was very surprised at the number of ugly, argumentative comments and e-mails I received that seemed to elevate participation in OCC to an idolatrous level. What you prayerfully decide to do about participating in OCC is between you and God, but if you are angered by the information in this article to the point that you strike out at me or one of the missionaries who has simply stated her honest experience with OCC, you need to check your heart against Scripture. You are idolizing OCC over loving your brothers and sisters in Christ.

OCC Shoeboxes: Answering the Arguments


¹These specific articles are provided for their attestation to experiences with OCC, only. I DO NOT ENDORSE ANY OF THEM WHICH DEVIATE FROM SCRIPTURE OR MY THEOLOGY AS OUTLINED IN THE “WELCOME” AND “STATEMENT OF FAITH” TABS AT THE TOP OF THIS PAGE.

If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Movies

Movie Tuesday Double Feature: Hearing His Voice ~and~ New Life In Christ

Note:
I apologize, but I need to temporarily suspend “Project Breakdown“.
This project will be completed at a later date.


It’s a Movie Tuesday double feature! Get out the Kleenex and get ready for a heaping helping of encouragement. These movies will do something most others can’t: introduce you to some brothers and sisters in Christ whom you’ll meet in Heaven. So get comfy and gather the family around for a night of joy!

“Imagine how dark it would be to live out of reach of the Gospel and any of the hope that it brings; to only know Satan’s rule and fear of the spirits, an endless and terrifying cycle of appeasement. Imagine if murder, self-harm, and deception were a part of everyday life.

Hearing His Voice documents the story of what happened when a people group just like this encountered God’s Word for the first time. They were forgotten by the world in the jungles of Asia-Pacific until 20 years ago when a Christian pilot spotted them in the foliage below.

Watch Hearing His Voice to stand in awe of the power of God’s Word as it transforms a desperate people into a joyful community. The hero of this story is not the pilot, or the missionaries, or even a specific evangelism strategy… it is God alone and his precious, everlasting Word.”

Hearing His Voice is a production of Access Truth“We develop training resources for making the truth of the Bible accessible across cultures.”

This year, 2019, marks John MacArthur’s fiftieth year in ministry at Grace Community Church. On February 10, GCC celebrated his many years of faithful service. And as a little homage here at the blog, I thought you’d enjoy this movie featuring Dr. MacArthur, Jubilant Sykes, and members of GCC. All the way from 1979, here’s New Life in Christ.

Mailbag

The Mailbag: Potpourri (Female missionaries, quantum physics, book recommendations…)

Welcome to another “potpourri” edition of The Mailbag, where I give short(er) answers to several questions rather than a long answer to one question. I also like to take the opportunity in these potpourrri editions to let new readers know about my comments/e-mail/messages policy. I’m not able to respond individually to most e-mails and messages, so here are some helpful hints for getting your questions answered more quickly. Remember, the search bar can be a helpful tool!


In the last Potpourri edition of The Mailbaga reader asked if I could enlarge the font of my articles. I played around with several different fonts and sizes, and what you’re currently seeing is the best I can do to enlarge the font without throwing the layout of the whole page out of whack. Personally, I think it’s still too small, but I hope it has helped at least a little.


I am wanting to start a Bible study for my coworkers after work maybe once a week or every two weeks but I don’t know where to start. Many of them are young women in their early twenties and either new in the faith or no faith at all. I want to start slowly so I don’t overwhelm them but I have no idea the first step I should take. Do you have any resources for sound Bible studies for new believers or young women? 

Yes, I recommend you choose a book of the Bible, maybe a shorter one to start with, start at the beginning, and work your way through it with your ladies, teaching and discussing as you go. If you need some help in the beginning knowing what kinds of questions to ask or which issues in the text to focus on, you are more than welcome to use any of the studies I’ve written free of charge (see the “Bible Studies” tab at the top of this page), and even print them out if you like. Once you get a feel for teaching this way, I’m sure you’ll do fine on your own coming up with questions and pointing out important points in the passage.

You might want to start out with my study on Colossians since it’s fairly short and will give your group a good grounding in biblical Christology (who Jesus is, what He did, and why).

Another option might be for the group to choose a Bible reading plan (again, maybe one of the shorter ones to start off with), do the reading at home, and come together weekly to discuss the readings.

I don’t recommend “canned” book or DVD studies anymore. First of all, the overwhelming majority of them contain false doctrine. Studying the Bible itself sidesteps that problem altogether. Second, Christian women need to learn and practice the skill of picking up God’s Word and studying it for themselves. You have the unique opportunity with new Christians and non-Christians to start them off on the right foot of studying the Bible itself rather than getting them hooked on other people’s books. Below are a few more resources that might be helpful. Let me know how it goes!

Bible Study resource articles

The Mailbag: We Want Bible Study Answers

10 Simple Steps to Plain Vanilla Bible Study

You’re Not as Dumb as You Think You Are: Five Reasons to Put Down that Devotional and Pick Up the Actual Bible

10 Bookmarkable Biblical Resources for Christian Women

Rightly Dividing: 12 Do’s and Don’ts for Effective Bible Study

Bible Book Backgrounds: Why you need them and where to find them


What is your take on quantum physics and God?

Oh my! My take is that I really don’t know enough about quantum physics to speak intelligently on this. You might want to check out Answers in Genesis or the Biblical Science Institute. The founder of BSI, Dr. Jason Lisle, is a doctrinally sound Christian who has a double-major bachelor’s degree in physics and astronomy with a minor in mathematics, and a Master’s degree and Ph.D. in astrophysics. He would be the one to ask.


Book Recommendations
I need some help from you readers on these!

Readers have written in requesting doctrinally sound recommendations of books on the following topics:

Theology books for teenagers
Neither of these are written specifically for teenagers, but they’re both written simply enough that teenagers shouldn’t have any trouble with them:
None Other by John MacArthur
Everyone’s a Theologian by R.C. Sproul

A whole Bible commentary
Here
are some you can try out for free. MacArthur’s commentaries are excellent, as are Boice’s.

Explaining sex/where babies come from (8 year old level)
Clueless. My husband and I just explained it to our children verbally.

If you have a recommendation for a doctrinally sound book on any of these topics, please comment below with the title, and the author’s name and a link if possible. Thank you!


I read your blog regularly and haven’t seen you write about a particular topic: Christian wives, especially mothers, working outside the home. 

The reader went on to answer her own question quite beautifully, I thought. I couldn’t say it any better, so here’s the rest of her e-mail:

As I have read and studied Titus 2:3-5 lately, as an older woman (62 this year), I was struck by this phrase, workers at home:

Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored. (emphasis mine)

Interestingly, our pastor is doing a series on evangelism. He has started out in a different place, sort of laying the groundwork. He is showing us particular passages in the Scriptures regarding practical things that Scripture says Christians can do to perhaps provide openings and help to overcome some of the unsaved person’s natural enmity to the gospel. He preached on this passage because it says that women are to do/not do these things “so that the word of God will not be dishonored.” This has made this issue seem even more compelling to me. I know of Christian wives that are working outside the home, some against the counsel of godly people in their lives and even the wishes of their own husbands.

Lest you misunderstand me, I am not saying that a Christian woman should never work outside the home. Every Christian couple must decide together before the Lord how this looks in their own family. Obviously, a woman who has children in school all day, or grown children, or no children, has more leeway. If a husband is absolutely unable to work because of ill health, or whatever, I am sure there are some exceptions. But still the Scriptures teach that the Christian wife’s primary focus and attention is to be in her home, that the word of God will not be dishonored. I agree with what Grace to You wrote here.


Should women be missionaries?

Yes. Absolutely. In fact, we need more women – single and married – to serve as missionaries (more men, too). The only caveat is that women who serve as missionaries need to do so in a way that is in keeping with Scriptural principles of women’s roles in the church. (For example, female missionaries should not be pastoring churches on the mission field. A missionary’s job is to share the gospel with people and then disciple them in sound doctrine, and you don’t want to be teaching false doctrine through the act of preaching to men.) But there are oodles of mission opportunities that fit the bill.

It is my understanding that there is a great need for women missionaries to minister to women in countries whose cultures discourage or prohibit their women from interacting with men. A male missionary could not reach out to women in those countries, but a female missionary could be very effective.

My denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, has a rich history of female missionaries and mission work, starting with our Women’s Missionary Union, celebrating its 130th anniversary this year. Our yearly offering for international missions is named after female missionary, Lottie Moon. Likewise, our annual North American missions offering is the Annie Armstrong offering, and my state convention collects the Georgia Barnette missions offering every year. You might enjoy reading about these female missionaries and others such as Amy Carmichael and Amy Medina.

There are many reputable missions organizations out there, but the two I’m most familiar with are the Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board, which, even if you’re not Southern Baptist could give you some ideas of the types of mission work out there and the countries needing missionaries.

If you’re thinking about becoming a missionary, set up an appointment with your pastor to talk it over. He can probably give you some great pointers and put you in touch with people and organizations that can help you.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Favorite Finds

Favorite Finds ~ March 27, 2018

Here are a few of my favorite recent online finds…

 

Thanks to my sweet friend Kesha over at Bible Thinking Woman for giving me a heads up on all the great t-shirts and other products available at her online boutique, Eternal Gift Store! The BTW shirt she kindly sent me is super soft with an eye-catching design. Check out all their products and give BTW a follow on Facebook or Twitter.

 

Does your church collect Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes at Christmas time? Amy Medina and her husband Gil are missionaries in Tanzania, and she has written two startling articles at Everyone Needs a Little Grace in Their Lives about being on the receiving end of OCC shoe boxes. There’s corruption, evangelism dilemmas for missionaries, and often, no gospel. I urge you to read Opening Up Christmas Shoe Boxes: What Do They Look Like On the Other Side? and Sometimes the Starfish Story Doesn’t Work, and maybe pass them along to your pastor now, while there’s still plenty of time to decide whether or not your church should participate in OCC this year.

 

Who doesn’t love an online quiz? Here’s a Simple Bible Doctrine Quiz from Josh Buice at Delivered by Grace that will test your knowledge of basic theology.

 

 

If you’re a Sunday School or Bible study teacher, or even just for your personal daily Bible study time, The Hero of the Story is a really helpful new podcast from The Gospel Project featuring my friend Aaron Armstrong and co-host Brian Dembowczyk that will help train you to teach and/or study the Bible better. (So far, it is not specific to The Gospel Project Sunday School curriculum, so your church doesn’t have to use that literature in order for the podcast to make sense.) You can listen on line as well as get all the appropriate podcast links at the link above.

 

My Sunday School class has a breakfast rotation. Last week it was my turn to bring breakfast, so I made a doughnut bread pudding. When I mentioned it on Twitter, a lot of people seemed interested in the recipe, so I thought I’d share it here. I use this bread pudding recipe, substituting glazed doughnuts for the bread. I leave out the raisins, cut the sugar a little (since the doughnuts are glazed), and top it off with a a cream cheese buttercream icing drizzle (melt a little butter and cream cheese, add a dash of vanilla and a spritz of water, stir in powdered sugar until it’s the right consistency) when it’s done.

Christian women, Church, Complementarianism, Mailbag

The Mailbag: Should women give testimonies and reports, lead prayer and worship in church?

 

I was wondering about having a female missionary giving a talk on her mission field in place of the sermon for that Sunday. Also we have had a female worship leader saying the prayer at the end of the service.

When we consider women’s roles in the church, it’s good to think about these “real church life” types of situations and how best to handle them according to Scripture. A couple of resources here at the blog that might be helpful to those thinking through these issues are my Rock Your Role series- especially, Rock Your Role FAQs.

There’s a lot to address in this reader’s question, so let’s break it down into several smaller questions.

1. Is it ever OK for another sort of presentation to take the place of the Sunday morning sermon?

Well, it’s not anathema or anything. The Bible doesn’t command a certain order of worship on Sunday mornings (for that matter, it technically doesn’t even command that we meet on Sunday mornings, but that’s a bucket of worms for another day), but as we read through the New Testament, it’s apparent that preaching and Bible teaching were the centerpiece of the New Testament church’s worship meetings. I think that’s a good example to follow.

I’m a little leery of anything taking the place of the Sunday morning sermon. If I were a pastor (which I know we’re all glad I’m not) I would probably consider scheduling special presentations such as a lengthy mission report, choir presentations, dramas, etc. during the Sunday evening service, the midweek service, or another day. If the mission report could be shortened to 10 or 15 minutes, perhaps it could take the place of other parts of the worship service, or the service could (gasp!) be lengthened a few minutes.

If the mission report has to take the place of the Sunday sermon, the optics of a woman giving the report are a little iffy, because it gives the appearance that she’s delivering the sermon. If a man could give the report, or if the pastor can at least take a teaching moment to verbally clarify to the congregation (for visitors and others who may not understand what the Bible says about women preaching) that the woman giving the report is not preaching or delivering the sermon, that would be helpful.

2. Is it OK for women to give mission reports or personal testimonies during the worship service?

(For the purposes of this question, I’m going to assume that whatever kind of mission work the woman is doing is in compliance with Scripture. Also, the reader did not ask about personal testimonies, but I’m throwing that in because the two are similar in nature.)

I don’t see why either would be a problem biblically, as long as she doesn’t veer off into preaching, exhorting, or instructing the congregation (which I have seen happen), because that’s the biblical prohibition, not that women are never to open their mouths in church. I once heard a pastor say that when someone is going to give his or her testimony in his church, he has the person write out what will be said and then goes through a “dress rehearsal” of the testimony with the person where he can offer advice or editing. This is a really good idea, not just because of women (and men) who tend to veer off into preaching, but to correct any false doctrine the pastor wasn’t aware the person held to, to keep the testimony from going too long, etc. This would work for mission reports too.

I would encourage women who give reports or testimonies to check in with your pastor well in advance and ask if he has any advice, parameters, or concerns with what you might say. Focus on the fact that you are giving a report on, or testifying to, what you have personally seen, done, experienced, or learned. It’s fine to talk about something God has taught you through His Word or read a verse you found helpful in your situation. What’s not fine is to turn things around and tell the congregation what they need to do, learn, think, or believe. I know we’re constantly driving home the point that when it come to church, the Bible, doctrine, etc., it’s not about you…it’s not about you…it’s not about you. In this case…it’s about you and your story – giving all glory to God, of course.

3. Should women lead prayers during church?

I would discourage it, not because it’s necessarily a violation of Scripture for the woman, but because there seems to be a tragic dearth of male leadership in the church in general. So many men are either too lazy or too afraid to lead, or they see very few examples of what leadership by a godly man looks like. I think it would be great for the pastor to sometimes ask men who need to learn leadership skills to dip a toe in the water by leading a prayer during church, and at other times ask a spiritually mature man to model leadership skills by leading prayer during worship. Sometimes, these kinds of situations aren’t about women’s roles, but men’s needs.

4. Should women be worship leaders (lead the congregational music)?

(Let me just take a moment to say that my husband has been a minister of music for about thirty years, so I do have some experience in this area.)

No, women should not serve as the worship leader. The primary reason I say this has more to do with the position of minister of music – a term I think we need to get back to – than the role of women in the church.

Overseeing the music ministry of the church, selecting music for worship and the teaching of biblical truths, being in charge of half of the worship service, and leading the congregation in worship is not some inconsequential thing that can be shuffled off to any Tom, Dick, or Harry who happens to have a nice voice. It is a pastoral role. As the pastor shepherds the congregation through the exhortation of the preached Word, the minister of music shepherds the congregation through the worship, praise, declaration, and imploring of the words we sing. Preaching is when God speaks to us. Singing is when we speak to God. And we need a pastor to teach and lead us to do that biblically.

By biblical definition, women are not to be pastors or hold that kind of functional authority over men in the church. Therefore, women should not hold the position of minister of music or “worship leader” (singing in the choir or on the praise team, singing solos, playing an instrument, etc., under the leadership of the minister of music, is, of course, fine). By the same token, men who do not meet the biblical qualifications of pastor or elder should also not hold the position of minister of music. Placing biblically unqualified people in pastoral positions is not only disobedient to Scripture, it exposes the church’s low view of, and lack of reverence for the lofty act of worship.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.