In seeking to be a movement, not just a denomination, one of the core values we hold to is Missional Centrality: We believe in living out the whole of the Great Commission – including evangelism, spiritual formation, compassion, and redemptive justice both in our communities and around the world. One of the ways our ECO churches have lived out redemptive justice is sharing in the work of the International Justice Mission. With Freedom Sunday coming September 24th, we have an opportunity to mobilize awareness and resources to support the work of International Justice Mission (IJM) as they work to redeem those trapped in slavery.
Here is a conversation about justice with Pastor John Crosby, Christ Presbyterian Church in Edina, MN and Brian Cress, Director of Denomination Mobilization for International Justice Mission.
Brian: How has integrating justice into mission and ministry happened over the years at Christ Presbyterian Church?
John: It was the founder of IJM, Gary Haugen’s passion at God’s call of Justice for the poor that provided a ‘second conversion/deeper walk’ for my wife Laura and I, among many others. We’ve had the privilege of hearing IJM speakers from the pulpit, which is always a profoundly moving experience that leads our congregation to say, “What’s NEXT?”
Brian: Why is seeking justice not simply a “flavor of the month” topic to preach about once and then move on?
John: CPC was privileged to get in on the front end of IJM’s movement by underwriting their venture into Uganda. One of the by-products of our trips was the hands-on experience of some of our lawyers aiding in restoring land stolen from AIDS widows. It was a powerful motivator.
Brian: How has partnering with the International Justice Mission helped CPC on your justice journey? What has that looked like for CPC?
John: The head of World Vision says, “Helping the poor IS rocket science." It is a complex journey where we continue to learn and serve while God changing us more than those we ‘help’. IJM has shown CPC the futility of bringing aid and change to societies when the powerful still have impunity to ignore laws to protect the weak. Gary Haugen’s classical book The Locust Effect shows how evil can undercut the work of decades unless evil systems are challenged at the same time.
Brian: What would you recommend for other ECO churches to do as they are looking to incorporate justice into their mission and ministry plan?
John: Start small, be focused on one aspect of biblical justice. Choose one response to which you can commit, hopefully in line with mission partners you already have in place. Perhaps follow up with a study of Bethany Hoang’s primer on social engagement, entitled Deepening the Soul for Justice. Contact IJM directly to see how they might serve your congregation.
Brian: What was Freedom Sunday like for your church last year?
John: It’s the tip of the iceberg…CPC has been profoundly shaped by IJM in ways that don’t even bear its name.
IJM is more committed to prayer than our church has been, believing only God can bring justice. Over the years we’ve seen daily prayer exercises by the staff, or creative prayer conferences lifting up the battle against evils such as trafficking or human slavery. IJM’s 2-day Global Prayer Gathering changed my leadership of staff prayer, and we have begun integrating some of the enormous creativity in prayer during regular services and quarterly prayer gatherings.
IJM's advocacy arm/resources/updates have moved us to act and advocate with our congress people. IJM is SO effective in communicating needs and giving clear steps to follow. You can sign up to get email updates here.
One of our members has become involved locally in fighting sex trafficking as a result of the IJM justice team, developing a 6-week class whose curricula is being copied by Thrivent for congregations around the country.
Brian: John, thank you so much for your leadership at CPC and other ECO churches looking to integrate justice into their transformational ministries.
On September 24, churches around the world will dedicate a service to fighting slavery by sharing stories about the reality of slavery and calling on their congregants to partner with IJM until all are free. We are inviting you to ignite God’s people to fight slavery by bringing Freedom Sunday to your church. IJM will provide you with all the resources you need to craft a sermon, plan your worship service, and invite the members of your church to join the fight by becoming Freedom Partners.
Visit http://www.ijm.org/freedom-sunday and click on “I am a pastor” to sign your church up. You can also find can find our online resources: http://www.ijm.org/freedom-sunday/resources#resources-church
Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to seeing many of you at the National Gathering in 2018.