Sunday, December 9, 2012

Regarding a backpack food program driven by the Mission Committee of Dexter First Presbyterian Church

This will be a series of posts.
    1) Reasons for the program.
    2) Needs of the program and promises the program makes.
    3) Short term planning including its current state.
    4) Long term planning and execution of promises.
    5) Methods for exiting the program.

Reasons for Backpack blessings:

    1) Mission project

It provides or has the possibility of providing a church-wide mission with opportunities in service for young and old and those of multiple skill sets. It re-enforces and develops relationships within our community and offers new avenues for mission.

    2) Presumably it addresses a need.

We have not truly performed a needs assessment, but we have the evidence of children eating ravenously on Mondays and Fridays at the school cafeteria. We also have help from the school in identifying those with the "greatest need". All of the children in the program receive school lunch program and some of the family situations are partially know to members of the mission committee.

    3) Being like others successfully. 

We see the sense of previous similar endeavors; of backpack programs nationwide.

 I care deeply for reason one. Church in mission is wholly different than church without a mission. Church without mission becomes simply worship, pretty and vacant, albeit benign. To me mission develops our relationships according to the Kingdom, using our hands and heads in concentrated thoughtful execution of love for one another.

What about the importance of reason number two? Surely we long to address a need, but I believe the greater need is for our own purpose, to be used however we may be, by the Holy Spirit. I believe we are all always half starved for the Holy Spirit. We run around supporting weak relationships to God and thinking we know what we’re doing and that we are doing good.

Surely we should use our minds identify needs and then meet them, but we should do so humbly, knowing full well that our mission first and foremost serves our needs, our needs to serve and to try and work through our own hunger for the Holy Spirit. We know that what we do is very, very small compared to the overwhelming needs of the community. We know also that we make huge mistakes in identifying needs and addressing them, but we refuse to be paralyzed by a notion of perfection and accept that God will let us know or the community will let us know when we are off ill-informed or worse, failing. We have no clue what people need until we are in relationship to them. So yes, we start with food for the weekend and work towards relationship.


We do not know the identities of these families so how can we develop relationships. Should we know who these people are? Does it matter? Of course it does, but not in the beginning. In the beginning, in order to secure respect, we start with hands on, hearts off. This simple reservation, protects us from our own arrogance mostly. It allows us to make those first tentative steps into mission without killing the program or tripping over ourselves trying to do good for the Kingdom and forgetting that the Good only comes from God.

So, regarding meeting a need as a reason for the program, it is not, to my way of thinking, the driving force of the program, nor the mission of the mission committee.

The last reason I have suggested is orthodoxy, by another name. I am very susceptible to this. So susceptible that it is one of the main reasons I do not argue as we proceed. My thinking runs like this: but others all over the U.S. are providing these great backpack programs, therefore they are necessary and good. At least greater minds than mine have considered them and seen the need and greater minds than mine have developed them and are successfully implementing them.

Now I see the flaw in this useful reasoning, there must be merit to our orthodoxy and understanding, otherwise we risk being like Israel in 1 Sam 8 demanding to be like others.

Turning again in Scripture, our endeavors might match any of the following: Micah 6:8Matthew 22:36-401 Corinthians 10:31, Romans 11:36 and Psalm 73:24-26

 Rather thank address reasons against the program, which is not a useful conversation at this point the next post will address the needs of the program which is another side of the problems with the program.
Thank you for reading.