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March 11, 2009

Send them to Vermont

The next time the kids in your church ask you to help send them on a mission trip to, say, France, or to some obscure country you never heard of, tell them you'll write a check for them to go to Vermont, instead. According to the American Religious Identification Survey (also referenced in a recent roundup), more than a third of all Vermonters say they have no religious beliefs--the highest number in the country.    

The study has not even been officially released yet, and I've already heard commentators on TV criticizing the methodology. But even if the authors are off a bit, I've become more and more convinced over the last few years that mission-minded kids (and adults) ought to volunteer to go, not overseas, but into the nearest U.S. inner city to help the poor in some constructive, life-changing way (i.e., not just give them another handout), or into more secular states to plant churches, or volunteer with youth sports teams, or open their homes to college students who have had enough of life in dorm brothels.   

Those who read to the end of the article will see that the only reason the U.S. is not more secular than it is is because of millions of immigrants, who bring their religious beliefs (mainly Catholic) with them. As for native-born Americans--clearly we have our work cut out for us.

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Chris Krycho

An interesting thought, but I have to disagree. The difference is that a whole 1/3 of the people in Vermont identify themselves as areligious - and in a huge number of areas around the world, the percentage of people identifying themselves as Christians is at or below 1% of the population. Most places in the world it's still below 10%.

I'm sorry, America does need God, but the rest of the world has a far greater need. There's a church in every city in America. There are places where people have never heard the name of Jesus. In the US, we need to worry about Christians who stay living as though they're actually Christians. But if I'm going to put money for missions, 99 times out of 100 it'll be to send people where the gospel has never been, not just where Christians are doing a bad job with it.


I have to agree with Chris. I know I volunteer with our local youth soccer organization partly to be a witness and role model for the young kids. Doing foreign missions opens people's eyes so much.

However, I live in an area that probably needs more evangelism than Vermont: Utah/Idaho. We could use support out here, (even though I often say there are enough Christians still to do the job).

Anne Morse

Good points, everyone--but in tough economic times, when we all have less money, why fund an expensive trip to another country when we have such tremendous needs here? Many of us Pointers work for a prison ministry and have been inside prisons. But how many other people go into prisons, where the need is so great? How many volunteer in the inner city? How many take needy mothers and children into their homes, or pregnant teens who have been thrown out of their parents' house? We can do so much in the name of Christ without spending thousands of dollars on an overseas plane ticket (or helping a teenager raise funds for one).

My son Trevor is spending his Spring Break going into Chicago's inner city with his InterVarsity friends to help restore deteriorating housing. He LIVES in Chicago, so this "mission trip" will cost him little more than bus fare. Great idea (and a great kid!)

Chris Krycho

To clarify: I think inner city projects and prison ministry projects are great. I just don't think they're in the same category as missions to unreached people groups. I could go on a long spiel about the Greek and what the Great Commission actually is, but suffice it to say that I think we're commanded to reach all peoples before we reach all people, and that makes it MORE important to use our limited funds on overseas missions - because we can usually find ways to do the right-here missions without or with minimum use of funds. Volunteering in the inner city or in a prison usually doesn't cost anything but time and maybe gas/bus money. And even on the larger scale: more people NEED to see the need for missions outside of the US.

Yes, there is great need here... but there is much, much greater need elsewhere, and part of the cost of meeting that need is showing our young people - people your son's age and my age - how very great that need is. Because the worst off people in America are better off than 95% of the population of the world in hard economic terms, and the farthest from a church here are still closer than 95% of the world in pure distance terms. People walk over mountains to get to church in a lot of places I know of.

As a side note, I'm saying all this as a guy whose primary calling isn't - as far as I know now - to overseas missions but to working here to stir up the church for every calling, both at home and abroad. So this isn't just me on my personal passion soapbox.

And at the most fundamental level, I don't think God wants us to be holding back with our money toward missions just because the economy is a mess. Frankly, He's probably calling us to sacrifice by giving as much or more than we have been. God's economy isn't ours, and He provides for all of our needs - though maybe not all of our wants. If the belt needs to be tightened, I'm going to find a way to tighten it somewhere besides my giving, because all the people dying without ever having heard the name of Christ don't stop dying because our economy goes into a little dip.


We are a ministry that equips the church to serve families in crisis in the United States. Over and over we see how much easier foreign ministries have to raise money and to get people to go.

I think it has something to do with the threat of being so close to the need. When you admit the need is at your doorstep you must wrestle with emotional, time and more $ involvement.

Once you see it and admit it is there you can't ignore it.

So it is more comfortable to just convince yourself the need is greater oversees.

I will never forget being in Philadelphia and having an elementary child ask, "What is a Jesus?"

There may be a church on the street corner - it doesn't mean they are reaching the people. That should be evident to all by the condition of our cities - rural areas are even worse.

The church in America must be mobilized to serve families in crisis.

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