In Acts we find a story of The Jewish diaspora, in which Jews, allowed to legally hold to their faith, were nonetheless subject to the vagaries of Empire. The Jews were scattered through the Mediterranean world, particularly the eastern end, and like all diaspora peoples, they gathered together for mutual support and protection. They formed insular communities so that their religious and cultural lives could be built up. Whilst there was trade (and other) engagements with the wider, imperial community, this was limited. Integration was not part of their agenda.
Last week we looked at introverts, thought about the environment they function best in, and how we can help them thrive. This week I want to look at extraverts, and consider how we can help them thrive too.
Extraverts primarily gain their energy from the world outside them, so need to engage with it. Unlike introverts, being alone and reflecting will make them uncomfortable and they are much happier being involved with people, often in large groups. Being naturally gregarious, they are confident at meeting strangers, building bridges and enjoying diversity, and they can quickly make connections in a new culture and engage effectively with people.
It is said that introverts enjoy living in a secure private space to themselves and recharging their batteries in solitude rather than in a group setting. So how do people who are introverted cope in the mission field?
Leadership and ministry potential
A surprising number of Christian students come to China with church leadership experience. While some are confused or lukewarm in faith, others are eager to be equipped for ministry and are incredibly responsive to capable, intentional and loving ministry training. A Pakistani Christian student wrote, “Just need more prayers so I could work more for Christ and become a source of light for others.” Is this an opportunity to strengthen churches and train people for ministry?
“Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.”
1 Peter 1:3-4
Like it or not, every day we face the unknown. Some changes we greet with joy, some with despair. We may see change coming from a long way off or it might come when least expected.
The modern Western mission movement has seen huge success over the past 200 or so years. But now, partly to the efforts of that movement, the world has changed dramatically and if Western missions are to remain relevant they will need to make some radical changes. I would like to suggest that there are three areas in particular that we need to pay attention to.
Destinations in China
Though Beijing (17%) and Shanghai (14%) attracted the lion’s share of international students in 2016, there was a notable spread throughout the country.[i]
Reasons for coming
Due to a combination of diverse factors, China will continue to grow as a destination for international students. It has some of the world’s top universities,[ii] boasts a great diversity of institutions and programs, and is much cheaper than western destinations.[iii] Well over 800 colleges and universities in China accept international students,[iv] with many offering accessible undergraduate and postgraduate courses entirely in English.
Mourning is something that many western cultures don’t do well. Unlike our Mediterranean neighbours, or more expressive people from tropical climes, we think holding our feelings in check is a Good Thing. “Stiff upper lip, old boy.”
Christians are often even less inclined to mourn than others, because we have a sure and certain hope that our departed have gone to be with Jesus. We use terms like “promoted” to express our positivity. I was even once told by a family member at a funeral that we were not going to cry, because it was a happy day of celebration for our friend who had gone to a better place. Which left me with a lot of grief and no outlet for it. Sometimes we need to express our emotion and have a good wail.
In the evangelical world, short-term mission trips are incredibly important. They exist as almost a right of passage for many students and other young Christians; joining a short-trip to Africa, or somewhere is one of the things you do before you settle down and get on with life. For many established mission agencies, short-term mission trips comprise one of their main publicity and recruitment tools and then there is a whole load of organisations whose whole purpose is facilitating short-term trips. Whatever the benefits or otherwise of short-term mission, you cannot ignore it.
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6
The word incarnate means “to become flesh.” Jesus did this, literally. He laid aside his rights to godliness and took on our fragile human form – living, laughing, loving, bleeding, dying.
In a profound reversal, we the Church also use the term ‘incarnate’ to describe OUR life-long process of growing in Christlikeness. But what does it look like to become like “the Word made flesh?” (John 1:14)