Monthly Archives: June 2012

Christianity Today Presents Three Short-Term Missions Experts

Earlier this week Christianity Today presented a series of essays by three short-term missions experts: Brian M. Howell, David Livermore, and Robert J. Priest. Titled “Should Churches Abandon Travel-Intensive Short-Term Missions in Favor of Local Projects?” This special feature presents various points of view on this contentious topic I’ve addressed in a recent Compass article in the Anchorage Daily News, and a previous blog post.

This is not an artificial issue I’ve concocted to anger local church people. I believe it requires serious study to ensure we balance local needs with often unproductive and damaging mission trips to far flung outposts in this world.

To read this article online click here —> Should Churches Abandon Travel-Intensive Short-Term Missions in Favor of Local

A Mall Church That Works

I’ve not had great experiences with shopping mall churches, that is, until June 10. It was then I visited Dimond Grace Fellowship. Located on the 2nd floor at the Diamond Center Mall, they offered a great worship experience without the expensive-to-maintain trappings of many modern churches.

They are doing what a few churches are discovering, which is taking church and the worship experience to where the people are, instead of expecting them to come to the church. That’s the real Christian ethic!

Mission Clearly Stated
Dimond Grace’s mission (below) was prominent at the top of their webpage. I had to see this church!
Dimond Grace Fellowship is a growing church with a BIG impact in our community. We do our best to show God’s love, in practical ways. Our Ministry Center, is located on the second floor of the Dimond Center. We average 150-200 walk-in contacts each week and we’re open on a regular basis. Many of these contacts are for prayer requests, encouragement, a cup of coffee or something to eat. We make every effort to take care of both physical and spiritual needs!

Hard to Find–Easy to Like
I was greeted warmly by several individuals when I arrived. Coffee and donuts were laid out for everyone. It was a little hard to find at first because I parked in the South parking lot. They’d indicated a 2nd floor suite number on their website. After meandering around the mostly people-free second floor I found them close to the Northside 2nd floor escalator. Directional signage would be helpful or more explicit instructions on their website might also work.

Great Service
It’s a small space that probably could seat 75-100. There were about 35-40 worshipers this day. Three musicians led the singing with the assistance of friendly Pastor Chris Ball. No songbooks were used and words were projected on a screen. The music was thoughtful, reflective, and theologically sound. Quite the counterpoint to many churches today. They do ask you to stand up and sing for every song, which meant a bit of rising and sitting. After the initial singing and preliminaries, children’s church was announced. The younger of the children went into an adjoining room. The remaining children sat quietly and listened to the service. They each had erasable white boards for drawing and writing. Great idea! I actually enjoyed their brief meet ‘n greet which I normally dislike. They were truly friendly and I was greeted by many.

Sermon Worked for Me
Pastor Ball mostly sat on a stool during his sermon. He also distributed an outline, with scripture references, for the sermon. In the interest of time, he appeared to only cover about half of the references, but it was a well-thought out and engaging sermon. He interspersed his sermon with several excellent DVD short film clips. His style is to call for amen, and frequently. His sermon concluded with prayer at 12:05 making this basically a 1 hour service. I love hearing a pastor dismiss the congregation with the Mizpah and he did not disappoint in this.

Worth a Try
I strongly recommend this church for its warmth, hospitality, music as worship vs. entertainment, and Bible-based message well-delivered.

My Recent Compass Column

The following items provide links to readings or videos related to my recent Anchorage Daily News Compass column on short-term mission vs. local addressable needs by churches.

Some readers perceived those comments as an attack, although I only referred to three churches without naming them. To encourage further dialog and exploration, I’m posting here several excellent reading and video selections bent toward stimulating a discussion of where our mission should truly be. The debate is much larger than this writer. As always, drive your questions and observations into the comments. Thank you for being a part of the conversation.[img_assist|nid=161541|title=Por Favor by Florence Squire (my mother)|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=278]

VIDEO: Are Short Term Mission Trips Effective?
This CBN video features missionaries talking about problems created by short-term missionaries, and churchmen talking about the need for better training and balance in short-term missions.

VIDEO: Are Short Term Mission Trips Worth Doing?
Well-known pastor, John Piper responds with a maybe.

VIDEO: Missionaries Speak About Short Term Missions
Here we have missionaries talking about the changed paradigm of short-term missions and the problems it presents them.

Blog Post: “Voluntourism”…”Poverty Tourism”…”Short-term Missions”
Good discussion with balanced thoughts about positive and negatives of short-term missions. Some useful correctives noted.

Blog Post: A Non-Advocate of Short-Term Missions
Excellent blog post with interesting stories and observations about the problematic nature of short-term missions.

Book Review: Wasted Charity-Why the ‘compassion industry’ is not helping the poor. A review of ‘Toxic Charity’
Christianity Today’s review of Bob Lupton’s insightful book, “Toxic Charity’.

‘Vacationaries’ Bob Lupton article in The Mennonite – p.12
Excellent article critiquing short-term missions by Bob Lupton, author of ‘Toxic Charity’ where some of this material appears.

‘Short-Term Missions, Long-Term Impact’  ‘Short-Term Missions, Long-Term Impact’
MissioDei article from Harding School of Theology—Feb 2012 providing a biblical model for short-term missions and thoughtful insight for building a successful program.

The Short Term Missionary vs. Vacationary debate; More Thoughts on ‘Toxic Charity’ and ‘When Helping Hurts’
Excellent Aquila Report article on the short-term missionary/vacationary debate.

[Update and Brief Review] Recent Donald Owens Organ Concert at Turnagain UMC

I eat my own cooking, and also attend events I note in this Church Visits blog. This concert was exceptional! Sadly it was under-attended, bearing out my ongoing observations that Anchorage church-goers tend to stick within the confines of their own churches. Mr. Owens was organist at Turnagain UMC for three years and is clearly well-loved there. He presented an excellently performed and sensitive concert on Turnagain’s Rodgers Organ. The pieces ranged from Bach to more modern composers like Dale Wood, Gordon Young, and Paul Manz. [See attachment below for entire concert program] In the middle of the concert he provided a demonstration on his personal Yamaha Clavinova, an absolutely delightful interlude. His renditions of takeoff’s of several local commercial themes like the unforgettable Mattress Ranch music was wonderful. Owens was very entertaining as he also regaled us demonstrating and reminiscing about his brief career as organ player for the Texas Rangers baseball team.

Owens introduced most of his pieces in an informative, gentle, and often humorous manner. After the concert there was a reception featuring various tasty goodies and an opportunity to donate to the young lady going on a short-term mission trip to Russia, the focus of Mr. Owens’ concert. I’m told approximately $2,000 was donated as a result of this event.

If you were not there, you missed a treat! I was so intrigued with Mr. Owens, I asked him for an interview. We’re currently working on it and will be posting it soon. If you like music, there are many free options such as this noted in the Anchorage Daily News Matters of Faith page in Saturday’s paper.

Thanks to you Donald Owens for providing our community with a fascinating keyboard experience.
Well-known local organist Donald L. Owens will be presenting a concert today at 4 p.m. at Turnagain UMC, 3300 W. Northern Lights Blvd. This concert is free but donations are being accepted for Sarah Walters mission trip to Russia. Why not visit a new church, and hear some great music? For more information click here.