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.
Missional business (or Business As Mission) has been developing as a concept for mission for centuries, but has seen a reinvigoration in the last twenty years. One of the key questions facing those involved in deciding on missional business is: what type of enterprise is best?
Maybe you’ve started thinking and praying about how you could use the skills and experience God has given you in business or the trades. Maybe you have been convicted that God can use you to cross cultures to where the church isn’t yet present, in the UK or overseas? Perhaps you’re a church planting organisation or mission agency, thinking strategically about how you might cross barriers into a community, building relationships to enable a church to be planted.
So does it matter what type of enterprise is chosen?
“Jyrgal” from Kyrgyzstan and I sat on our couch talking about why he was studying in China, the beauty of the Kyrgyz mountains—and the claims of Jesus. I could do this with no Kyrgyz visa, no extra language, and no flight to Bishkek—he came to me.
My friend “Lalit” from Indian Kashmir and I are reading a gospel together. “Tesfay” matured in his faith while in China and returned to a persecuted church in Eritrea. Portuguese-speaking students from Mozambique, Angola, and Brazil meet together to study the Bible. These are some of the almost half a million international students in China, arriving from every corner of the globe.
Change, it has been observed, is the only constant. And that was pointed out 2500 years ago by a Greek philosopher.
Many of us in mission struggle to keep up with various aspects of change, whether it’s organisational structure, new technology, government regulations or the constant coming and going of co-workers.
Most of us are not particularly disposed towards change, and the accelerating rate of change seems ever more bewildering. So how can we learn to survive in a world where change is guaranteed, to continue apace? Here are our top tips:
One of the best bits of advice that I received in my early days in Africa was that I had to learn to be “blessed by Africans”. At first, that didn’t seem to make sense; I was the person trained to be a Bible translator. It was my job to bless Africans, not the other way round. I soon learned my mistake. I had a huge amount to learn from my African friends, Christian and non-Christian alike.
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.
I have commented before on the challenge of being distinctively Christian in an environment which requires certain legal and administrative practices of us.
Not only do we find ourselves forced to comply with legislative practices (often good) imposed on us by secular authorities, but in order to be seen to be delivering on that we often adopt secular business practices. This is all too easy for those of us who were trained in management in secular employment before we joined the mission field. And those of us who are already equipped with management and administrative skills are the ones most likely to be selected for senior leadership, which then reinforces further the use of secular practices in our organisations.
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.
This is the third part in a series on what those involved in mission to the UK can learn from cross-cultural mission around the world.
When Sue and I first went to live among the Kouya and before we were allowed to start translating the New Testament, we had to demonstrate that we knew something about Kouya culture. We spent a long time chatting to people, doing some informal interviews, and taking part in village life. Eventually we gathered enough information to allow us to write some ethnographic articles about Kouya life and culture. You can find some of them here, if you are interested.