Conflict is one of the principle avoidable reasons for mission workers leaving the field, whether conflict within their own team or with their agency leadership. This issue is a chronic festering ulcer in the missions world, which has existed since the dawn of missions nearly 2000 years ago (Acts 15:39), and will in all probability continue till its end, though that is no reason to not to try to resolve the situation.
A central role for any sending church is prayer for those they send. J.O. Fraser, missionary to China in the early part of the 20th century*, learnt much about prayer while bringing the gospel to the Lisu people. He came to realize the vital part that the prayers of those back in the UK had to play in seeing fruit in his labours. To his main prayer support team he wrote,
“I am not asking you just to give ‘help’ in prayer as a sort of side line, but I am trying to roll the main responsibility of this prayer warfare on you. I want you to take the burden of these people upon your shoulders. I want you to wrestle with God for them.”
Oliver: Do you remember John Apulyo.
Rupert: Yes wasn’t he a student of engineering who attended our church a few years ago? I think I remember that after he had returned to his own country he had problems relating to his church pastor and went off to study at a Bible college in another Western country.
Oliver: Yes that is right. I had a message from him the other day to say that he had now returned to his own country and wants to start church planting.
Rupert: Who is he going to work with? Has he been reconciled with his Pastor?
It may seem obvious to say it – but – we only have one life to live and one chance to invest it.
I have been spectacularly bad at discerning how to do this wisely. For instance, as a son of an economic migrant, my first attempt was to invest myself in my identity as a member of an ethnic minority; my second attempt was into becoming a Counter-tenor in an Oxbridge college choir followed by a choral career; when that idea flopped my third attempt was into education and to become one of Britain’s earliest black head teachers; my fourth and final attempt was in the direction of Anglican ordination as one of the earlier non-Caucasian intake.
It has been really exciting to see a surge in church planting happening around the world. I believe that planting churches, or should I say, planting churches well, is probably the most effective strategy for reaching those without Christ that there has ever been. Now that you know I’m pro-church planting, I’d like to share some thoughts and suggestions for those planting churches cross-culturally from the perspective of a missionary who’s seen the good and the bad. I’m particularly thinking of people church planting in the Global South (previously called the ‘developing world’) with their denomination or church network.
Continuing the horticultural theme we started recently with ‘re-potting‘, today we’re going to think about pruning. All of us who are mission workers will be no stranger to sudden losses in our ministry. Whether we are being evacuated, losing a work permit, finding a key supporter withdraws funding, losing a key colleague or having a ministry closed down by our agency, we all know what it is to find our plans thwarted.
Paul: So what do you think of our preferred candidates?
Alan: Well they seemed to have the right qualifications and experience for the job.
Paul: And they were both very insistent how good they would be in the role.
Alan: You sound as if you thought they tried too hard to sell themselves.
Where does our organisation or type of ministry fit in the list of priorities of a local church? Pastoral leadership, office and caretaking staff, local outreach workers, youth and children’s ministry probably all come higher up the pecking order than far flung mission initiatives or specialised ministry opportunities. One of those that can fall between the cracks when making the case for priorities can be International Student ministry.
I’ve recently met with a lot of people going through transition. Whether they are leaving a posting, parting company with their sending agency, closing a ministry, going to a new country… people in mission relocate frequently and are no strangers to change.
Britain sustained three home-grown terrorist attacks in 3 months. While the nation reeled the inferno at Grenfell Tower happened; the majority of victims were Muslim. Yet the Bible insists that even in despair God gives ‘treasure in darkness’ as a sign of the Kingdom breaking in. The media marvelled but couldn’t quite explain the impromptu solidarity – here’s some evidence of it.