2×2 In the New Year
It’s a new year. 2×2 spent the last few months posting less and preparing for the new year more.
We were surprised to find that our online ministry, sponsored by the smallest of small churches, is once again the victim of Christians who fear our influence.
Someone who sends support to selected ministries read our posts about small churches in far away places like Kenya and Pakistan and decided that we use our site to collect money and suggested that we are keeping contributions for ourselves.
THIS IS UNTRUE!
This person did not look very closely or direct any questions about our ministry to us. There is no DONATE button on our website. 2×2 is not set up for Paypal or Credit Card contributions. If we were interested in collecting money, we would have set these up years ago!
This troubled reader decided to cut support to one of these ministries because of our posts! Gossip started! We got a few emails: Where’s the money you are collecting for our orphans?
Pope Francis speaks about the tyranny of gossip in the Church. It spreads like wildfire and does more damage.
And so we start this year by telling you a bit more about 2x2virtualchurch with the hope of nipping the gossip before it buds!
A Correspondence Ministry
Paul’s ministry lasts because he wrote to churches.
We write to ministries of widows and orphans and struggling people, because we are widows and orphans and struggling people. Our correspondence is always initiated by them—when they find our website. We look for no more than Christian fellowship and mutual support, sharing our struggles and praying for one another. We find strength in recognizing that all small churches face challenges and they are often very alone in their work. We try to help—not by establishing a support system and raising money in any ongoing way and not by demanding doctrinal agreement. We don’t have the skills or manpower to get into that kind of control. We use a worldwide platform (which everyone has access to these days) to tell ministry stories—to help them.
Some of the people who contact us are looking for money. One sent us a detailed proposal! We are clear from the get-go that we have no money to give. Some of them disappear. A few of them continue to share. When we write about their ministries we do so with their permission. Some amazing things have happened as a result of just communicating!
We publicize small church ministries because they are rarely written about from a positive point of view. In our country, they are often the targets for church closures, orchestrated for the benefit of richer church bodies. Many have been neglected for years. Pastors, if they have one, are sent with instructions—just take care of them until they die a natural death.
Small churches play a very important role in the church. We are in a position to directly reach the marginalized and the hurting—the people most in need—the people who can’t pay comfortable salaries and send support money to regional bodies they never see. They are in the best position to serve daily—not in token outreaches at holiday time, not as badges for those who can afford charity. It doesn’t matter if they are in rural America, urban America, the African bush or the dangerous streets of the Muslim world. Small churches serve where mission is most difficult.
2×2 works to create voice for small church ministry.
Our Response to the Muslim Attack on Christians in Pakistan
In 2013, 2×2 responded to an extraordinary situation that was getting very little attention by bigger and richer church entities. In this one case, we offered to help people contribute to an extraordinary situation that affects all Christians but which we found no easy way within the established church to help.
2×2 was appalled at the church bombings in Pakistan in September 2013. A church with 250 worshipers was bombed by Muslim terrorists as the congregation was moving from worship to fellowship. Scores were killed. More injured.
We were close to this ministry partly because a pastor in Pakistan already had been corresponding with us for two years. When we heard about the bombings, we wrote to our contact: Are you all right?
He told us in detail what the national news was missing—that there had been multiple explosions and that the survivors were suffering from serious wounds and many children had been orphaned. The injured feared going to Muslim-operated hospitals. Christians had gone into hiding, fearing more attacks. Horrific!
How can we help? we asked. They needed clothing, food and medicine. They didn’t ask for money!
In the congregations we visited following the bombing, the Pakistan situation went unmentioned. When we talked with people about it, we got blank stares. We agreed with a Jewish columnist in the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper: Where is the Christian outrage!
But how could we help from so far away. That’s what national church entities are supposed to be good at!
2×2 has Lutheran roots despite being excluded from the ELCA. We looked for a way to help within the Church. We found no “companion synod” for Pakistan. Lutheran World Relief’s website did not list Pakistan as a service area and an email to the ELCA person listed as in charge of this sort of thing went unanswered.
So we offered to be a conduit for anyone who might want to help. There was no fund-raising “drive.” Just a mention and promise to help if anyone was interested. A few local readers, people we know, contributed. Their contributions were handed to us—not sent through the website.
About $265 was received. Every penny was sent to Pakistan. This was a lot of work. It took numerous trips to the bank. Pakistan is one of three countries where wire transfers are difficult, the bank officer explained. Since we all work as volunteers, this is not something we want to do every day! 2×2 paid the wire costs.
2×2 Sparked Reader Response
A 2×2 reader in Michigan, an eight-hour drive from Philadelphia, shared our post with her daughter’s book club. The children (middle school age and representing several churches) made a project of collecting clothing to send to Pakistan. The young people sent three huge boxes of winter clothing. 2×2 paid for the shipping. 2×2 pocketed nothing.
The children found the project so meaningful that they are currently repeating their clothing drive. We will support it by publicizing it. We will not benefit from it. Any donations that might be received will be forwarded. Every penny.
We made this effort to help Pakistan because we saw no one else doing this.
We still wonder why there was not more outrage. We wonder why it does not occur to Christians that strengthening their witness might be the most cost-effective strategy in stopping the hate. We are not big enough to do much more than we did.
We are proud that we were able to help, even in these small ways. It is disturbing that any reader would interpret our mission as self-serving.
Just for the Record—What 2×2 Isn’t
2×2 operates with no property and with no paid leadership. The ELCA confiscated our property and endowment funds in 2009. There is significant prejudice and ongoing gossip about our congregation because we resisted their efforts.
We are determined to continue our ministry. If we fail it will be incentive for church leaders to replicate these actions in other small churches. This is a very real threat to small churches as it is remains a tempting strategy in clergy circles.
We have members with skills in communications and education. We launched 2x2virtualchurch website four years ago.
We are entirely volunteer. We don’t even take offerings at our worship services. We talked a local bank into holding what little cash we have without a monthly fee, or even that would be gone.
So, please, if you care about any ministry you read about on 2×2, feel free to give directly to them. We can put you in touch with the leaders of these ministries (with their permission). We consider them friends in ministry but we make no attempt to oversee their work.
We are just a little church that reached 50,000 new readers last year. We have no hidden agenda. We are pretty upfront about our ministry!
Future Direction—What 2×2 Will Be in 2015
We are dedicated to helping small church ministries. For the last four years, we have visited dozens of small churches and talked to countless lay leaders. We’ve come to know their special challenges. We know the frustration of finding resources for lay leaders. We know that small churches often can’t afford salaried help with specialized expertise in music, education and youth leadership—but we have the same needs!
Most church resources are produced by people familiar with larger churches. Most church publishers aim their sales at larger churches and their leaders. Their advertising efforts are aimed at professional leaders. Most church leaders who rise to influential positions spend very little time serving small churches. Therefore, many church resources assume ministry conditions that are increasingly rare!
We believe that the laity are very important to the future of the Church.
We started developing resources that can be implemented by lay leaders—not to the exclusion of clergy but recognizing the realities. For example, we know small churches have difficulty maintaining traditional Sunday Schools, but still have a need to foster faith. That’s why we outline object lessons that draw in an entire congregation–not just children and that can be used in worship.
In 2015, 2×2 will launch resources that are useful and affordable to small congregations and that can be implemented by any dedicated leader, lay or clergy. We will continue to offer free resources. We don’t want money to stop people from using them. We intend to republish them in more convenient ways. Yes, we hope that this will help us continue our ministry long into the future. For now, it is all volunteer. We’ll find our way as we go!
One of the incentives that we hope will be of interest to our readers is the creation of community around the resources and the availability of “coaching” for things like website development—something we’ve pioneered! We hope to create online forums to unite the leaders of small congregations, especially lay leaders, in sharing. Our experience should be able to save other congregations time in creating and maintaining their own web ministries.
This is in keeping with our mission to help small church ministry. It may be a direction that doesn’t occur to church leaders who have distanced themselves from small congregations. This is the void—the niche— 2×2 tries to fill!