This is a term commonly used and heard in today’s churches. But what does it mean?
Local is a straightforward word—close to home. But missions? What does that look like? Does that mean evangelism, or fundraising, or volunteering, or community service? Are we meeting physical needs, spiritual needs, relational needs, or community needs? Is it humanitarianism, or philanthropy, or proselytization? What is the goal, aim, agenda, desire, hope, expectation of local missions?
In some ways, a general term here is a good thing. The Church is diverse, and so are the communities in which we live. Whatever “missions” means, it is going to require a broad stroke from the Church Universal.
On the other hand, I would argue that in today’s [Western, American] churches, our understanding of what constitutes “local missions” is so vague because our missiology is so anemic—but more on that some other time.
So while a varied approach to “reaching” people (again, vague terminology) will be necessary from the Church at large, it will do no good for each community or church to carry that same variety. Individual churches need to have a focused understanding and approach to local missions.
At The Bridge, our focus has become distorted. In the three years I have been a part of our community, we have sent money to homeless shelters, gathered backpacks and supplies for underprivileged children, thrown pancake parties in neighborhoods, hosted summer BBQs in neighborhoods, sent money to an anti-trafficking organization, hosted a dinner and dance for disabled adults, taken homeless men out to dinner and a movie, raised money and supplies to help mothers with unwanted pregnancies, given gas cards to folks living in their cars, paid random utility bills and rent for people in need, hosted a free seminar on fishing, and probably a few other things that I can’t even remember, all in the name of local missions.
And I couldn’t tell you a single person’s name who was a recipient of that.
That is the heart of the problem with an unfocused local missions ministry. Everything in that list is a “good” thing. But was it worth it? Worth the time, the money, the investment? I have no idea. I’m sorry, church. I wish that I did. But I have no idea.
So what now? That’s a question we’re asking a lot and being asked a lot. It’s a good question. It demonstrates that we’re a church that’s ready to obey Jesus and advance his Kingdom into our communities. (By the way, that’s one really good and basic way to understand what “missions” is—seeking to advance Christ’s rule and reign in our world.)
This is where fostering comes in.
A Broken World
Through a series of strange events—or as we see it, a series of divinely orchestrated events—we have become aware that a large chunk of our church already has a passion for foster care and adoption. Many of you were foster kids, had foster kids, have foster kids, or have adopted foster kids. It has become clear to us that the most natural answer to our focus question is fostering.
Let’s talk about fostering. Everyone knows about it, but not many think about it. There are over 10,000 children in the foster care system in the state of Washington alone. Fostering is rough on everyone involved, children and parents alike. The children often suffer from severe psychological trauma and behavioral issues. They struggle in school—averaging a 25% higher rate of not meeting 3rd-grade reading proficiency. 70% of all minors who are human trafficking victims come from the foster care system. 14% of prison inmates were foster children. And on and on we could go.
Sounds like a world we want to venture into, right?
Maybe that sounds daunting, but let me tell you the hope. What if we could deliver the gospel to every child and parent involved in fostering in our communities? Not just tell, and not just show, but deliver the gospel. What if we could bring the gospel to bear on the lives of these people who spend much of their days in real and desperate need? What if they knew there was a Savior, a King, an eternal hope? What if they had helpful support, meals cooked, houses fixed, cars repaired, friends made, relief provided, bills paid, children tutored, regular prayer, regular encouragement, regular engagement…and on and on we could go. And what if that all came from the redeemed people of God who brought not just those things, but the message and example of a hope beyond?
Here are 4 questions we often ask around here:
Who is God?
God identifies as a Father.
What has God done?
"But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons" (Galatians 4:4-5).
Who are we in light of what God has done?
We are children and heirs, adopted by our loving Father!
"And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God" (Galatians 4:6-7).
How will we live in light of who we are?
That’s the beauty of what God has done in saving us—by making us sons, he has already given us the righteousness, the status, and the Spirit who empowers us to be able to reach those who thoroughly lack all of those things, in both the worldly and spiritual senses—in this case, the fatherless and orphans.
Isn’t that a beautiful work? God has promised to be faithful to those suffering injustices in our world, and he achieves that through us, his children, the body of Christ, who have already received that promise! This is the exciting mission and purpose into which Jesus has called us.
How can I help?
This Fall, we will begin hosting a support group at the church for foster families in this area. This will first and foremost involve childcare during those meetings, but will ultimately be the launchpad for all our engagement with foster families. We’ll be able to build relationships and discover needs as we invite foster families into our church and community.
That means we’ll need an ever-growing team of people who will take responsibility for that support group. The needs and ways to be involved will grow from there.
If you would like to enter this world with us and be on the team that plans and launches this support group, simply email us at .