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.

Evangelism, Missions

Throwback Thursday ~ 10 Fun, Practically Effortless, and Free Ways to Do Missions and Evangelism

Originally published September 12, 2014

PicsArt_1465478533543

 

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:18-20

This passage in Matthew is called The Great Commission. It is Christ’s mandate to all Christians to preach the gospel, clearly and verbally, as often as we can, everywhere. Some of the most important ways we can do this are sharing the gospel with our friends and loved ones, praying for our missionaries, and giving missions offerings at church. But while you’re doing these things, did you know that there are a lot of other little ways you can get involved in missions and evangelism? Here are some I’ve tried and loved:

Good Newsfeed– Get the good news to all five thousand of your closest friends simultaneously by posting a short gospel presentation video to your Facebook page. The two I like best are here and here.

The Main At-tract-ionLiving Waters has some awesome, attention grabbing tracts that make it easy and fun to start a gospel conversation. I like to use “Celebrity Millions.” As a Christian author, I sometimes have the opportunity to do book signings at secular venues. I lay a bunch of those “Celebrity Millions” out on the table, and it draws people like flies. (Sometimes, people are more interested in the tracts than my book, which is ok with me–they’re getting the gospel!) It’s fun to try to guess who some of the less identifiable celebrities are, and if you can’t get a foot in the door with a verbal gospel presentation, all you have to do is say, “There’s a great message on the back. Be sure to read it!”

Missions on the Amazon– Are you familiar with Amazon Smile? It allows you to designate a portion of your Amazon.com purchase for donation to the charity of your choice. I like to donate to the “International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention” (copy and paste that into the Smile search bar if you’d like to donate to the IMB).

Left Behind– If you’re new to sharing the gospel with strangers, an easy way to do it is to leave a tract or a New Testament (preferably one with a page that explains the plan of salvation, or tuck a tract inside) behind when you go somewhere. Some good places to leave one: waiting areas of doctors’ offices, hospitals, airports, the DMV, salons, restrooms, on a park bench (in a plastic bag in case of rain), or at a restaurant (with a GENEROUS tip). Use wisdom with regard to any rules the business may have about litter or soliciting, especially if your (or another) church’s contact information is printed on the tract or Bible. When I leave a Bible, I like to write a note on the inside (“I’m not lost, I was left as a gift for you. Please take me home and read me.”) so the person who finds it knows she’s free to keep it. You can purchase Bibles inexpensively at the dollar store, or ask your pastor about ordering them in bulk.

Be a Twit– Tweet gospel centered Bible verses, and, if appropriate and safe, let people know they can contact you (maybe via a designated, anonymous e-mail account?) if they want to know more about the gospel.

Throw Me Somethin’, Mister!– Down here in Louisiana, we have tons of parades, and in good Mardi Gras tradition, we throw things to the spectators. Instead of worthless plastic beads and trinkets, how about throwing New Testaments, or little bags of candy with tracts inside? If parades aren’t the thing in your neck of the woods, you can also give tracts and Bibles away from your booth at the fair, festival, or flea market, at your garage sale, at your kids’ lemonade stand, etc. And if your church does fundraisers like bake sales, car washes, or other events that are open to the public, be sure there are church members available to share the gospel and pray with people who are open to it.

Memorial BiblesGideons International has a wonderful program that allows you to donate Bibles in memory of a lost loved one. If you think it would be meaningful to the family of the deceased, consider donating Bibles instead of sending flowers. “…flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever.” (Isaiah 40:8)

Be a Designated Donor– If you own your own business, have garage sales, sell craft items, etc., commit to setting aside a percentage of each sale for missions. The more specific the focus, the better. For example, adopt a particular unreached people group or give to an organization that focuses on getting the gospel to a certain focus group (such as victims of human trafficking or ESL students). Learn about the people the money will help and briefly tell your customers about them with each transaction. This may also open a door for sharing the gospel with your customers!

Group Project– Looking for a great evangelism activity for your youth group or small group? Join up with The Biggest Project. It’s an operation that aims to get an awesome DVD gospel presentation called “The Biggest Question” into as many hands as possible by handing them out on college campuses, at sporting events, or anywhere else there’s a lot of foot traffic. Like the idea but your group isn’t quite ready? You can sponsor DVDs for groups who want to distribute them but can’t afford the cost to order.

Join the Club- The Bezeugen Tract Club, that is. Sign up to receive a free 30 day supply of tracts every month, take the daily tract challenge, share Bezeugen’s e-tracts via Facebook and Twitter, donate to supply others with tracts, or volunteer to help with their monthly mailing. This is a great little ministry to take part in.

 

There are probably more different ways and opportunities for sharing the gospel and furthering mission work now than ever before. Get creative, get out there, and let’s get the good news of the gospel to a lost and dying world.

What are some creative ways YOU like to share the gospel
with others or contribute to missions work?


THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED AT SATISFACTION THROUGH CHRIST, and has been modified.

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.