A photo by Luke Chesser. unsplash.com/photos/KR2mdHJ5qMg

Two Pastors Met For Coffee

Mike:   Have you heard that a new church has started in the community centre?

Tim:    Yes, someone did mention it. It has a rather strange name – The Church of the High Priest Jesus Christ[1].  Where in Africa are they from?

Mike:   I think it is from somewhere in the CAR.

Tim:    CAR?

Mike:   Central African Republic. It seems their services are in French.

Tim:    Do any of them speak English?

Mike:   I think most of them do and certainly the Pastor, but they are happier in French or Sango

Tim:    So have you met the Pastor?

Mike:   Yes. I asked her why they were opening another church in town. She said that no one else was putting on a service in French and their people found it more helpful to worship in their own language.

Tim:    Have they been able to attract other French speakers?

Mike:   Yes they say that there are some other Francophone Africans that have joined them as well as some English people who are brushing up their French.

Tim:    Anything else distinctive about them apart from the language and the ethnicity?

Mike:   Well I am not sure about that. They seem to have some ideas about Jesus as High Priest after the order of Melchizedek that they learned from an African prophet in CAR. The Pastor started using French and Sango words to explain it and I rather lost her. But otherwise she seemed sound on the Gospel.

Tim:    Should we invite her to join our evangelical ministers’ group?

Mike:   I would like to. It would be good to integrate her more into the Christian life of the town, but I am not sure that Dave would agree unless she can fully tick all the evangelical boxes and Pete might be worried about precedents we would set in having a woman Pastor amongst us.

Tim:    Tricky. I suppose she could join the Churches Together, but then she would be meeting with fewer evangelicals and who knows what she would make of Father Cedric!

Mike:   So should we just leave them on their own and not try to develop relations with them?

Tim:    I think they and we would lose out a lot if we did that. I am especially concerned about their young people. They still speak French and Sango, but they are more and more communicating in English and adopting the culture of their peers. A few of them have started to come to our Youth Group and I have been impressed with their Christian faith. When they talked about how their parents have suffered, but trusted in God and grown in faith, our young people were surprised and, I hope, challenged. I have talked to some of them about what it means to be a Christian in the local school and they said that they found that helpful, because their church leaders were still thinking in terms of teenagers in villages back home in Africa, and, sadly, many of the British Christian teenagers are content just to go with the flow and not wanting to stand out.

Tim:    Well what should we do?

Mike:   I think you and I need to talk to Dave and Pete first. They know that we are on the same page evangelically, except for our views on women’s ministry, and hopefully they can see the Gospel priorities in establishing a relationship with the Pastor. Then perhaps we could meet with her and try to understand more about the background to the church and their beliefs. From what I could understand their views were no stranger than some of the dispensational views of Hank at the Covenant Baptist Church, and we seem to fellowship with him OK.

Tim:    Yes let’s try that. We don’t want them to think we are unwelcoming and we wouldn’t want an evangelical church with a different ethnic background to be regarded as a cult. Above all we need to begin to work with them so that they don’t think we are trying to steal their young people. I would like to try to develop a working relationship with them so that we have a clear witness to the cross-cultural unity we can have in Christ.

Mike:   Agreed. It would be good sometime to have a more detailed discussion about ethnic churches and what their role should be. Another coffee?

[1] This is a purely made up name. Apologies if there is any church of this name.

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Education for the Kingdom

WITNESS WITHIN THE MAINSTREAM

The late Dennis Lennon, OMF missionary to Thailand, talked about ‘the strategic importance of establishing witness within the main stream of education.’[1]

I’ve been on the receiving end of that kind of witness. Sitting on my bookshelf is the copy of John Stott’s Issues Facing Christians Today that one of my secondary school teachers gave me. Let no one underestimate the missional significance of a Christian teacher, especially in the state school system, who over the long haul exercises a godly influence in the classroom and local community.

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Anti-racism legislation and Global Christian Mission

Anti-racist legislation is designed to protect people in the West from bias arising from ethnicity or skin colour to ensure that everyone is treated equally. People originating from other parts of the world should be taken as being as competent to function in the UK as are native British people.

This raises the question of what to do if someone is in need of something that regular Westerners do not need? What happens to any differences between communities that may actually exist? ​Are there any differences for which one should compensate or with which people need to be helped? ​Could it be that as a result of anti-racist legislation, these kinds of differences are ignored and that this could result in leaving people disadvantaged?

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Global Connections conference reflections – Part 4

This is the fourth in a series of blogs on the Global Connections conference in May 2016, From Where I’m Sitting, where we sought to explore mission from different perspectives. You can listen to the talks on the Global Connections events page. I had the privilege to seek feedback on what was heard on the last morning and made a wide range of points.

Another key point raised was “Agencies need to collaborate, innovate and take risk”

Chris Kidd commented about hearing from so many competing mission agencies. “As a church youth worker, it is like being part of a rugby scrum”.

There has been an enormous growth in the number of mission agencies. There are many reasons for that, one of course is that the whole meaning of mission has changed as we discussed in an earlier blog. There is a plethora of smaller, one country or one project ministries. That is not necessarily a bad thing, some are dynamic and visionary. There is no time to think through the large number of reasons, both good ones and there are many not so good ones.

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‘But I assumed … !’

We’ve probably all heard the old adage: that to ‘assume’ things makes an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me’.

As our church has grown in experience, we’ve realised that, when we start new mission partnerships, we need to clarify our assumptions with our missionaries and their mission agencies. So we’ve developed a 3 way written agreement.

  • The first page sets out what we are hoping to do as a sending church – praying, providing financial support, helping with pastoral care etc.
  • The second page sets out what we are hoping our missionaries will do – working diligently, keeping in touch, alerting us about any serious issues etc.
  • And the third page sets out what are hoping the mission agency will do – support and supervision, administering financial gifts, crisis management etc.

We have a draft partnership agreement, but it’s just a ‘starter for ten’ and is often adapted and personalised. When everyone’s happy with it, we all sign it and everyone keeps a copy. Then when we meet to review the partnership, or if problems arise, it’s a firm foundation to which we can refer.

Of course we’re not the only ones. For example, SIM have a similar agreement, but with 4 parts – for the church, the missionary, the UK agency office and the field office!

We’ve made it available on our website (www.allsouls.org/wmr) so that others can use of it – and we’re hoping to add more resources. It’s also a work in progress. Every year we amend and improve it, to reflect what we’ve learnt, and we welcome feedback (email us at worldmission@allsouls.org). As missions community it’s great when we can share resources, swap ideas and help one another grow.

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Multicultural Mission Teams: Three Good Reasons

Most mission organisations place men and women in multicultural mission teams. But wouldn’t it be so much simpler and less stressful for team members and their leaders if we simply built teams with people from the same cultural backgrounds? Why can’t we be part of teams made up of Our Kind of People – to use the title of one of Peter Wagner’s books?

The danger with that approach is that if we allow teams to be made up simply of our kind of people, we’ll end up preaching our kind of gospel and planting our kind of churches. And whilst that might be very comfortable it may not be very biblical. There are three good reasons for multicultural mission teams.

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God is neither real nor supernatural

I noticed in a recent trip to the UK, that some UK Christians argue that ‘God is real’. The other term that I have heard a lot is ‘supernatural’; God’s actions are expected to be supernatural. Ironically, neither of these terms are biblical. The term ‘real’ has been used in English only since the early 14th century. The term supernatural was first used about 1520.

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Transition – safely from one side to the other

It has rightly been observed that the only thing that doesn’t change in the life of a mission worker is the presence of change!  Our lives are constantly changing as we transition between different countries, cultures, roles, relationships, agencies, cities, ages, homes, family settings and churches.  Yet for all the frequency of change, most of us do not deal with it well.

Change destabilises us emotionally.  It removes the certainties that we rely on to maintain emotional equilibrium.  We don’t know where to shop.  We don’t understand the language.  We’re not sure if people are staring at us simply because we look different, or because we’ve done something terribly wrong.  Sometimes we recognise and prepare for the big things that change, but often it’s the little ones that trip us up.  We can cope with eating different food three times a day but really miss our favourite brand of coffee.

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Global Connections conference reflections – Part 3

This is the third in a series of blogs on the Global Connections conference in May 2016, From Where I’m Sitting, where we sought to explore mission from different perspectives. You can listen to the talks on the Global Connections events page. I had the privilege to seek feedback on what was heard on the last morning and made a wide range of points.

Another key point raised was “Agencies and churches need to do something about their Governance”

I was very challenged by Chris Kidd’s comment about trustees. It is vitally important that we are well run, but legislation is now taking that to an extreme. It is only a part of a trustees’ role whatever the Charity Commission says. Being well run and balanced books is not the “be all and end all”.

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Holistic evangelism: A bleeding woman and a dead child

I finished my last post by saying, please God, may my anger continue to burn until the church practices holistic evangelism as God has called it to do. This raises the question of what is holistic evangelism? I answered the question by saying, “when the kingdom is enacted on the earth, amidst all the messiness of human existence with its sin, sickness and spite.” But what does this actually look like?

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