The “True Fans” of Disaster Response
by Brad Hertzog, video director and communications advisor for Disaster Response
An OP missionary, home on furlough, gives a presentation to your church about life on the mission field, reaching the nations for Christ. You feel a tug and wonder if you could get involved. You read and hear about church plants around the country, about new people, new converts, and new churches—churches that seem to always be embarking on the adventure of finding a place to worship. You wonder whether, if the opportunity were to arise, you would go and serve them, or stay where you are comfortable. You hear of OPC Disaster Response heading into difficult places where people have lost homes and livelihoods. Would you go help? Should you go help?
And these amazing gospel opportunities are just within the OPC! Add to them the local pregnancy center ministering to hurting young women, the local school that needs tutors, and the refugee ministry or homeless ministry that needs volunteers. You hear the stories. You hear the amazing opportunities. You want to serve. You know you should serve. But how do you know where to serve?
Rest in the Gospel
First, let me encourage you to rest in the gospel. The tug you feel may be a heart to serve, or it may be guilt for not serving. Rest assured that, in the gospel, you are no more of a Christian for volunteering and no less of a Christian for not volunteering. Jesus isn’t tallying the score of how many times you’ve served versus how many excuses you’ve made. Rather, the gospel truly frees you to serve from a thankful heart.
We say things like that a lot and maybe don’t pause to really let them sink in. So let it sink in: your service isn’t fulfilling your holiness quota. So, as you think about serving or as you feel a tug when you hear a report or a call for volunteers, work deep into your heart the truth that you are free to serve for the sake of the gospel and the advance of his kingdom. You are free to serve out of gratitude and not guilt.
Finding the True Fans of Disaster Response
The question remains: Where do you serve? We want to answer that question from the perspective of OPC Disaster Response. We put out a fair number of calls for volunteers each year. Perhaps it may surprise you to learn that we don’t need everyone in the OPC to serve in Disaster Response. What we need is to find our “true fans.”
There is a popular idea in the entrepreneurial and creative world that a songwriter, or an artist, or nonprofit needs to find its one thousand true fans. Those true fans are the people who want to read, hear, or watch everything you create. Your work speaks to them. They resonate with you. Others may listen or may occasionally read about your work, but your true fans want to see everything. They want to be on your email list and get first crack at whatever you offer. These true fans are what help you survive and thrive.
Now, we don’t want to borrow too heavily from the world of products and business, but the organizational idea is powerful. A ministry, even an OP ministry, needs to find its true fans. Others will pray at times, maybe go on a trip sometime in their life, or contribute money if there is opportunity. But a ministry still needs to find those who want to hear about everything they are doing; those who want to read, watch, and listen to everything they create. OPC Disaster Response needs to find its true fans who want first crack at every opportunity. Not that they have to respond to every need, but they do say, “Disaster Response, that’s me. That’s where I should be serving.”
Are You a True Fan?
So, how do you know if you are a true fan of OPC Disaster Response?
First, a general principle: Serve where you feel the strongest tug to serve. We aren’t giving squishy theology with that statement. It simply makes sense to serve where you are most inclined. In these kinds of questions, God often, though not always, works through what you are most desirous to do. Reformed pastors and theologians have often discussed this reality. You may have heard R. C. Sproul’s famous answer when a young man asked, “How do I know whom I should marry?” Sproul told him that if there were two women he was interested in, and both were in the Lord, then he could pursue a relationship with either one! That same reasoning applies here. If a number of godly service opportunities are presented to you, then serve in whichever one you want!
So, who is most likely to feel the strongest tug to serve with Disaster Response?
- People who have experienced great loss. It may be loss of worldly goods or it may just be great loss throughout life. People who have experienced great loss resonate with what people are going through in times of disaster. It is especially true of people who were blessed in their time of need by a church or ministry and want to pass on that blessing to others in the throes of loss. These are the people who feel the tug to Disaster Response. Their loss means that they think and feel differently than most when watching and reading the news about hurricanes, fires, and other disasters.
- People who are naturally adventurous. Some people are wired to live on the edge. Being a Christian doesn’t change that wiring. Some people hear about the OPC’s Disaster Response team going into Houston a week after Hurricane Harvey, and they’re looking for their boat and their Bible—in that order. If that describes you, Disaster Response may be the place for you.
- People who may not feel like they have much to offer. Disaster Response teams need a wide range of people. A tenderhearted person who can listen to a homeowner’s story—just sit and listen—is an important part of the team. Maybe you could put a meal together. Let the adventurous do their thing and build the house. You may be a better background person, unsung, just making the whole thing go. Disaster Response teams are just that—teams. They need varying types of people with varying gifts and graces. Can you imagine if a team had ten adventurous types heading into a disaster zone? We’d probably have to send another team just to recover them!
The Orthodox Presbyterian Church is blessed with remarkable gospel opportunities for service in varying fields with varying needs. Just like disaster response volunteers are a team, so the denomination is essentially a team, and it needs people with varied gifts and graces to serve it in various ways. The local congregation functions in this way as well—each member of the local body has different gifts that are used to build up the congregation as a whole.
The long-term health and long-term effectiveness of a ministry like Disaster Response comes, not from the involvement of everyone, but from the involvement of those who are gifted and moved to be involved—from its true fans.
Do you have a soft spot for people who have great loss? Are you adventurous and want to see the kingdom march into difficult circumstances and help those who are in need? Do you feel like you don’t have much to offer in terms of carpentry or drywalling, but would enjoy sitting and talking with hurting people or making a meal for them? Then you just may be feeling the tug to Disaster Response. If not, that’s OK. But if so, send us an email, call, or just sign up and say, “I’m here. True fan ready for action.”
The author is video director and communications advisor for Disaster Response. New Horizons, April 2021.