International Students in China: Who will reach this vast and strategic yet invisible group? – Part 5

Church outside of China

Finally, how can the global church outside of China be part of this ISM vision in China? First and foremost, brothers and sisters could commit to praying for this.

Experienced ISM workers could be sent to China to support international churches or to come alongside local Chinese fellowships and campus ministries. Networking could be established between healthy national ISMs, pioneering ISMs outside of China, international churches within China, global sending organizations, and the nascent Chinese ISM movement.

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The Surprise of People Finding Faith

It should come as no surprise, but perhaps for many of us, it is. Certainly our behaviour suggests so. Consider the extraordinary events of Acts 8-11.

The Samaritans find faith in Jesus (resulting in an apostolic visit); then an Ethiopian finds faith (as a result of a Spirit-inspired diaconal encounter with Philip); then Cornelius, a roman solider, finds faith along with his household (during a Spirit-inspired apostolic visit); then the Greeks start to find faith in Antioch as the new diaspora of persecuted followers of The Way tell the story of Jesus.

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Notre-Dame and Sri Lanka

A French nun stood in front of the burning Cathedral and said that it was only a building; the church of God is people. In Sri Lanka a few days later over two hundred of those people died. As words came from politicians that Notre-Dame must be restored, millionaires rushed forward with offers of large sums of money. No millionaires rushed forward to support the suffering families of Sri Lankans or to rebuild their churches. From Sri Lanka there were only pictures of coffins being carried to graves and even the number of the dead was uncertain. The Western press had pictures and stories of tourists who had died, but the Sri Lanka Christians remained anonymous. Notre-Dame survived the fire. No lives were lost. Sentiment was high that this symbol of France, the testament to a nation’s lost faith, must be a continuing part of Paris life. In Sri Lanka perpetrators were pursued, security chiefs resigned, churches were closed and tourists warned away. Paris resumed normal life and the causes of the accident were sought. The Sri Lanka victims are still dead.

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A Calling to Betrayal

Following Jesus is a call to betrayal. There can be no fudging this. As soon as we affirm that ‘Jesus is Lord!’ we have committed an act of betrayal. We are announcing that all other allegiances and narratives must now be forfeit to a greater and deeper vocation. 

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Acts of the Apostles – Part 1

I am beginning a series of blog posts on Acts of the Apostles. They will be a series of reflections as I seek to draw some lessons from the biblical text and apply them to the contemporary ‘mission scene.’ You may agree with the points I make – but equally you may want to question some of the things I write. This is healthy and I welcome your comments and feedback.

Other better scholars will (no doubt) offer different perspectives, but I am approaching the text primarily as a missiological narrative rather than as doctrinal or historical accounts. Acts is an account of the spread and growth of the early church, from ‘Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth’ (Acts 1:8). There are four main actors throughout the text: Jesus (1:1) and the Holy Spirit (1:8), the ‘Word of God’ and the Christian community. Off stage – in the wings directing everything – is the Father. The director and actors work in collaboration throughout the text as the story unfolds.

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Faith to the Extreme

If I said the words “extreme faith” to you, what would spring to mind?

A missionary leaving behind their home to go to an unreached part of the world? A terrorist bomber? The title of a Christian conference?

In our wider culture, faith to the extreme has become a no-go zone. Radical religion is socially awkward at best and dangerous at worst.

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Churches don’t care about mission

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.

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Who can go?

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?

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Church and agency partnerships

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.

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