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Global Connections conference reflections – Part 1

My role at Global Connections means that I have to be rather a conference junky. As a network we are committed to people learning from each other, and the best way to do that is to bring people together. Fortunately I love meeting new people at the many diverse events that we facilitate.

As well as the many day events, every couple of years we hold a residential conference where it is easier to spend quality time with others. This May we tried to do something different in terms of those we asked to contribute. Entitled From Where I’m Sitting we sought to explore mission from different perspectives.

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A Christian Mission Perspective on the EU referendum

We are constantly being told that the EU referendum is the biggest political decision of our generation and potentially a turning point in the history of our country. Well that may or may not be true, but whatever our political perspective, as Christians we believe that Jesus Christ, not politics, is the hope of nations.

The earliest Christians confession “Jesus is Lord” wasn’t so much a statement of faith as a defiant rejection of the supreme authority of Caesar. For Christians Jesus Christ, not secular political power, is our ultimate authority. He is Lord. His sovereignty should be our controlling paradigm for reflection on life, the universe and everything, even the referendum.

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Three young missionaries – part 2

The three young missionaries met again in their favourite noodle bar.

The Young American: It was great to hear about the growth of the church in China this morning. If the church keeps growing at the current rate, we in the US of A are going to have to look out for our status as the largest Christian nation. Who would have thought it?

The Singaporean: Well you know the saying. God must love the Chinese, he made so many of us. And now he is bringing us into his kingdom. You had better start learning Mandarin for heaven. And at least with so many Chinese cooks there we will get everlasting noodles for eternity.

The Englishman: Doesn’t the growth of the church in China now get us back to the question we had yesterday? After all, the recent growth is not the first time Christianity has had a presence and influence in China. I was reading a book recently that argued cogently for St Thomas having got to China as well as India[1]. Certainly the Syrian Christians got there during the Tang Dynasty and their message seems to have been accepted. The Great Church of the East once spread across China and into other East Asian countries, but nothing survives from that work today. Do we have any guarantee that the church in China today will continue to grow?

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Single Women & The Great Commission

Gladys Aylward, Helen Roseveare, Marjory Foyle, Elsie Maxwell … single women have always been, and probably always will be, a critical force in missions. It’s estimated that 60% of the missions workforce are single women. It’s a dynamic worth some more thought.

  1. Value. We need to celebrate the work of single women in our missions. Particularly as it will be the majority of that work! There are still conscious or unconscious biases in our society – wherein men, couples or families, may be more valued, noticed or acclaimed. And there’s probably some truth in the stereotype – that many women are less likely to push themselves forward or blow their own trumpet. Let’s encourage our single women to excel and celebrate them when they do.

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Bricks without straw – part 1

John, a new missionary, made an urgent Skype call to his Pastor

I need to talk to you. I have just had a row with my language supervisor.

What was it about John?

Well he was asking me to do something that was contrary to what you want from me as a church and I said that it was the church that sent me out and that I must obey them.

The Pastor wondered what the language supervisor had demanded that was so contrary to church policy. His mind began to speculate on various heresies that might have been urged on his church’s young missionary, but then John spoke to him again:

I’ve been told to stop tweeting, using Facebook and writing my blog. I said that you had told me that I must make sure that I communicated regularly with the church and kept in touch with all my friends if I want them to continue to support me. No way was I going to stop using social media to keep in touch with you all.

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Thine is the Kingdom?

Few would argue with the view that mission workers are sacrificially serving God.  They move far from their homes, often to work in uncomfortable, unstable or unhealthy places.  They risk health, career, family and wealth to follow their call into world mission.  Thousands of mission workers worldwide work selflessly for the God they love and the people God has sent them to.

Or is it selflessly?

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Making bones about mission

Earlier this week crowds flocked into the centre of Leicester for the triumphant  parade of the city’s victorious football team. Against all the odds, Leicester City had become the Premier league champions. When the news first broke I sent a congratulatory text to a friend in Leicester. His reply was swift, acknowledging the celebrations but reminding me that there is more to Leicester than football. I guess not all cities need to add that reminder… But I knew where he was coming from, having followed his earlier excitement over the discovery of King Richard III’s bones in a car park and their ensuing reburial in Leicester Cathedral. Somehow to me it didn’t match the wonder of the “Foxes” astonishing triumph. I told him as much. His response was that the events were connected, and, as many have noted, success of the football team seemed, along with other positive developments, to have followed the re-interment of a long dead king.

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Three young missionaries – Part 1

Three enthusiastic young missionaries were sitting in a noodle bar in Singapore

The Young American: It was good to hear this morning about John Mott’s giving a call at the 1910 Edinburgh Conference to complete the evangelisation of the world in this generation. I like that ‘can do’ spirit.

The Englishman:  Pity that generation soon plunged into a world war. Rather than saving that generation, it almost wiped it out.

The Singaporean: And the sight of the major missionary nations trying to destroy each other didn’t do much to commend the Gospel to the people of Asia.

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Trade and the Transmission of Faith

What can history teach us about the relationship between trade and the transmission of faith? Quite a lot it would seem. The answers to two further questions will help unpack some key lessons for missional business in 21st Asia.

Q 1: How did Islam arrive in East Asia? Answer: Muslim Traders.

Exactly how Islam came to East Asian communities is not known but scholars agree that a “direct relationship between trade and the spread of Islam is undeniable.” The maritime history of the Indian Ocean suggests that there were Muslim sailors working on ships plying the trade routes around the archipelago as early as the eighth century. As trade increased and connections with ports and peoples were strengthened, so the Muslim presence grew. In their book, Spice Journeys: Taste and Trade in the Islamic World, de Guise and Sutarwala write that “Islam and hospitality go together like coffee and cardamon. Islam and trade have also been inextricably bound since the time of the Prophet Muhammad.” Islam spread to the region, not to begin with by the intentional efforts of Islamic missionaries, but through merchants.

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Should we stay or should we go now?

As with most people in the UK, I am trying to figure out what is best for me to do on June 23rd.  Am I in or out?  Am I pro-Europe or pro-Brexit?  There are plenty of arguments on both sides, some of which are compelling and some of which are not quite so!

The subject is one which is not always mentioned for fear of upsetting, disagreeing or otherwise causing anxiety between friends, colleagues, family or fellow church members.  So it is with trepidation that I bring it up here.  Whilst we’ve heard much from both sides in the area of economics, I believe that missiological implications also need to be considered. What will be the impact on sharing Jesus?

As this is on the GC blog website, I want to major on that which is relevant to the local community here; and please note, I have no axe to grind and no answers.  Just questions!

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