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Showing Christ’s love in Haiti, together

It was Katrina all over again.
As soon as a 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit Haiti, Churches of Christ around the globe went to work.
Congregations took up special contributions to help ease those suffering from one of the worst disasters of our time. Members planned emergency medical mission trips.
Our fellowship has learned a lot about responding to disasters — from an Ethiopian famine to a Gulf Coast hurricane.
Increasingly, our ministries are first responders. From Kansas to Honduras, church-supported groups cooperate to deliver effective aid that means more than a TV sound bite.
But there’s room for improvement, as evidenced by phone calls we received after the quake. Christians across the nation were preparing relief teams and collecting funds. They wanted to be added to the “how to help” list on our Web site. That list quickly grew to 13 churches and ministries collecting funds. It bewildered a few of our readers.
They called and asked, “Which one should I pick?”
Others wanted to go to Haiti and be part of the relief effort. Did wehave a comprehensive list of who’s doing what and going where? We toldthem what we knew, but explained that compiling such information is adifficult task.
Younger church members — and people outside our fellowship — sometimesask why Churches of Christ have no “central office” for coordinatingsuch relief efforts. Older members know the answer. In pursuit ofnon-denominational Christianity we eschew any centralized,policy-making body that robs us of congregational autonomy.
Some in our fellowship believe it is unscriptural to supportspecialized ministries, preferring that all benevolence be done on acongregational level. Autonomy means unique opportunities andchallenges in missions. We get invested in our efforts in ways thatother religious groups can’t.
It thrills us to see children in Bible class point to a map of South America and name their church’s missionaries there.
But it saddens us to see two mission groups in the same city —sometimes within miles of each other — who don’t cooperate. Some simplydon’t know of the other’s existence.
We love and celebrate Churches of Christ. We support the role of churchelders as shepherds of our Lord’s flocks. And we believe that churchautonomy is the model that Scripture gives us to follow. But we urgechurches and ministries to find new ways to work together — to sharenot only relief efforts, but to share information in a way thatempowers Christians who want to help.
We are thankful that God has allowed us to play a part in this, helpingto direct believers to resources and contacts. Doing so is part of ourgoal — to inform, inspire and unite.
In the coming months, we all should focus on Haiti. Churches of Christneed to be working in Haiti long after the TV cameras are gone.
Thechallenge of helping this nation of 9.7 million souls to heal andrebuild is immense.
So, too, are the opportunities to show Christ’slove — and to do it together.

  • Feedback
    Bobby: In our day hosted collaborative software and cloud computing can accomplish most of this coordination. It would be good for our colleges and universities to find students among the biz, computer science and missiology emphases to work together to make some web infrastructure which the churches can use. The Open Standards and Open Source movements have a lot to teach concerning best practices and lessons learned. Frankly, I don’t understand why the national United Way and local Community Foundations don’t provide this for all charities.
    Ed Dodds
    Woodmont Hills Family of God
    Nashville, TN
    United States
    April, 21 2010

    I say “AMEN” to your editorial. We lose none of our autonomy when we work as one in emergency situations. We can accomplish so much more and more quickly when we work together. Jesus’ prayer was that we be “One”. Let’s do it!
    Carol Raymond
    Southgate Church of Christ
    Heath, OH
    February, 3 2010

    Bobby, you are right on target in your analysis of the positive and negative effects of our autonomy on getting things done in an effort like the Haiti earthquake. The same effects extend, though, to the autonomy of the various Christian denominations. The same lack of coordination exists between the Baptists and the Pentacostals. It is inevitable given the current state of Christianity. I believe it is also inevitable given the original design of Christianity – so designed by its founder. At the risk of sounding self-serving, let me add that my new book, “Prostitutes, Tax Collectors, and You: Church Leadership for Non-Leaders” (available from Amazon)addresses the issue head on.
    David May
    Eagan Church of Christ
    Inver Grove Heights, MN
    February, 3 2010

    Having been a missionary in Kenya for 17 years I have experienced the problems that can come from those who would suggest that I am not a faithful Christian since I do not hold to their particular doctrinal persuasion. I have also known missionaries who were willy-nilly moved around by some centralized authority without any concern for the acculturation that the missionary had gained working with one people group that would not help when transferred to a different people group. God’s way is best. But whatever plan is followed, we won’t be able to prevent what Satan does through willing agents. There will be tares among the wheat. There will be seed that falls among the thorns.May God be praised.
    Lawrence Barr
    Indiana Church of Christ
    Indiana, PA
    February, 3 2010

    Your ending quote is exemplary:
    “So, too, are the opportunities to show Christ’s love — and to do it together.” I would add that upon occasion it might be well to forget the implied “exclusively.” I noted in one e-mail – and I could not tell you in which one I saw it – one of “our” groups was in contact with other help groups outside the church of Christ groups.
    Bob McAfee
    Prestoncrest, Dallas
    Dallas, TX
    February, 2 2010

    “Showing Christ’s love in Haiti, together” is an honest statement of the current situation in Church of Christ missions, benevolence and disaster relief. I would add that I’ve been privy to the the efforts of the independent Christian Churches, Church of Christ (a cappella), Disciples of Christ and ICOC in response to this disaster and have been made somewhat uneasy by how each is unaware of the work of the other, even in the same city. Where the Disciples of Christ are concerned there are vast theological differences, but far less so with the latter three branches of the Stone-Campbell movement. The lack of cooperation, or even basic familiarity, is discomfiting to me, to say the least.
    Adam Gonnerman
    In Transition
    Kearny, NJ
    February, 2 2010

    Congregational independence does lend us many advantages and is the most biblical example we have.
    Relationships and exchanges between churches is also biblical. Having strong social networks on the web and relationships between our congregations to concentrate our mutual efforts is key to success.
    We must remember that regardless of our “home congregation”, we are all called to “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Eph 4)
    Whatever city we are in, we are always a part of universal Church of Christ that should seek to support the needs of the local churches across the spectrum of our fellowship and beyond into the rest of the community.
    Farmers Branch Church of Christ
    Dallas, TX
    February, 2 2010

Filed under: Editorial Staff Reports

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