This is a complaint that I hear regularly from people who are professionally involved in promoting world mission. The accusation is levelled against individual churches, groups of churches and sometimes as a blanket condemnation of the church as a whole. For what it’s worth, I beg to differ. It’s not that everything in the garden is rosy, it isn’t. However, I’ve never met an evangelical church leader who had no interest in world mission and who didn’t wish that his church was doing more in this area. However, I have met a number of church leaders who resent what they see as pressure – bullying even – by mission agencies to be involved in their area of mission.
A recent visit to the Wilson Carlile Centre in Sheffield, home of the Church Army, prompted me to find out more about this remarkable evangelist. A successful Victorian businessman who suffered a breakdown following financial ruin, he turned to Christ and, heavily influenced by D L Moody, discovered a passion for evangelism.
It was a joy earlier this year for me (Ben) to be commissioned by my church into the ministry of Mission through Business. The local church has the authority and precedent to do this (eg Acts 13), and it was very significant for us as a family to have the church standing as a commitment to pray, encourage and hold us accountable as we move forwards.
In the run-up, the church took time to understand me and the ministry, testing the purposes against the Lord’s will. This went through various cycles, with the leaders, the deaconate and the membership all involved. The process will differ at each church, but one of the key tests remains the same:
What do we look for in a worker sent by the church?
In the next couple of posts, I will be returning to a theme that I’ve touched on before and will undoubtedly touch on again; the partnership between churches and mission agencies. To let you know where I am going, the basic thesis of these two posts is that the way that mission agencies are set up makes it difficult for them to partner seriously with churches in their home countries. I’ll touch on a different aspect of this in each of the posts.
However, before going too far, I’d like to make a couple of statements.
- I know that many agencies have some good partnerships with churches in the UK.
- I believe that for the most part, mission agencies and their leaders take the role of the church and partnership with churches seriously.
We’ve explored the great need and strategic opportunity of international student ministry (ISM) in China in my previous posts. But who will reach, disciple, and equip them with the gospel of Jesus Christ? What is the road ahead?
We know that God is calling people from every nation (Psalm 96) and that the nations have come to China! This motivated the pioneers of ISM. What can we learn from them about why and how ISM movements started?
In turbulent times, God is working out his agenda to add to his church, people from every nation, tribe, ethnicity and language on earth (Rev.7:9). Iranians of a Muslim family background are finding their way to Christ in unprecedented numbers. What’s more, they are also attaching to local churches. It’s vital that existing congregations respond well – here’s why.
When we lived in Gouabafla, I’d often spend an hour or so in the late afternoon chatting to people while cleaning up wounds of one sort or another. I treated machete wounds, abscesses, tropical ulcers and all sorts of things. I’m not medically trained, I’m just a bloke who knows a bit about first aid and who (unlike anyone else in the village) had access to basic medical supplies.
More importantly, I couldn’t claim to be in the village to share the love of God through the Bible and yet ignore the suffering that was all around me. I couldn’t do much about the poverty in the village, or the endemic corruption that reinforced that poverty, but I could clean out a dirty wound, treat it with antiseptic and put a clean dressing on while showing people how to treat their own wounds in future.
During our time living among the Kouya, I was regularly called on to preach in church – people didn’t really think that Bible translation kept me busy enough. It became obvious, pretty quickly, that the way I’d learned to preach in the UK wasn’t going to cut the mustard in rural Ivory Coast. The logical three-point (alliterated) sermon gave way to a more narrative form and I soon realised that I needed to be far more overt in talking about the spiritual realm – bush spirits, witchcraft etc., than I would have been in the UK (more of this in a later post).
Chair: So the next item on the agenda is Christine’s return on home assignment for nine months.
Ron: I expect she is going to have to go round all her supporting churches raising support for her next term and we won’t see much of her.
Chair: Well actually we will have her exclusively with us for five months.
Carole: That is a long holiday!
Bill: I expect she will want to be active in the church for some of the time.
Christian mission often finds itself up against ‘world religions’. We have been told, since year dot (when we were toddlers), that there is a set of eleven or so ‘world religions’, of which Christianity is one. Those who told us this, didn’t seem to have any qualms about its truth.
When we believe the above, we see mission as doing our bit for Christianity, against other ‘world religions’. When we look in the bookshops, we find lots of books on the shelves telling us about those other religions. We think that is helpful, because if we can understand them better, that should help us to convince them that Christianity is ‘better’. At the same time we wonder – if there are so many world religions; then how can we be sure that ‘ours’ is the best?