A monthly update from World Mission, a ministry of the Presbyterian Mission Agency
The Mission Matters column addresses the impact of Presbyterian mission in the world and the issues that affect mission co-workers, the people we walk alongside and assist in service to God, and our partners around the globe.
January 2018 — Intersectional, Yet Faithful
Tamron R. Keith Sr., Associate Director
Presbyterian World Mission
I have been thinking about “intersections” lately — an odd point of contemplation, you might say. This perspective is countercultural in a society where we are most often focused on the “destination” rather than the intersections in between. And, it is important to note, in the context of moving objects, that intersections are places that must be negotiated carefully, for need of avoiding a collision at all costs.
Acts 6:1–7 (NLT), describe some interesting “intersections.” The first two verses describe the scenario quite well. “But as the believers rapidly multiplied, there were rumblings of discontent. The Greek-speaking believers complained about the Hebrew-speaking believers, saying that their widows were being discriminated against in the daily distribution of food. So the twelve called a meeting of all the believers. They said, ‘We apostles should spend our time teaching the word of God, not running a food program.’”
In this passage we encounter, at minimum, a three-way intersection: two racial-ethnic groups of people clashing with one another over a perceived bias; those who proclaim the word of God intersecting with those called to address the social needs of the community through the church; and church leaders intersecting with laity.
Verses 3–7 summarize how this three-way intersection was traversed by ecclesial leaders of the church who clearly articulate the issue threatening the future growth of the church. Laity respond by developing a trustworthy process to select deacons who can serve the church by addressing some of the social needs of the community, among other things. Seven deacons are selected by the congregation. The apostles ordain the deacons who begin serving food faithfully and equitably to all who are in need. The apostles continue preaching the word of God, and the church continues growing significantly.
This sounds so orderly. Yet, I wonder if this three-way intersection was really able to be navigated without anyone’s vehicle getting damaged. It seems so from the scriptural account. From this, we who serve in the church have much to learn.
Acts 6:1–7 begs that we consider present-day intersections in the church and the mission of the church, such as those who proclaim the word of God versus those who serve the social needs of disadvantaged people through the church; those who want to establish relationships with different racial-ethnic groups in their community versus those wanting relationships with different racial-ethnic communities around the world; congregational engagement in local mission versus engagement in global mission; creating ministry connections within the church for younger generations versus connections for older generations; those wanting to address medical needs in Africa or Asia versus those wanting to address the health care system in the U.S., and the list goes on.
Whether pastors, missional leaders, congregations and mid councils see these aspects of mission as competing priorities or intersections ripe with opportunity to be traversed so that no one’s vehicle gets damaged will determine whether the church grows or declines.
Acts 6 provides a model worth replicating if mission truly matters.
Please be in touch with us in Presbyterian World Mission to explore conversations on how we can partner with you like the Acts 6 church to traverse your mission intersections faithfully.