I was chatting to a friend who has just finished a 9 month placement in Peru and asked her what made her interested in global mission and what prompted her to come to Perú. She noted a couple of things:
1. Being part of a church
- That has a global focus and link missionaries in different parts of the world.
- That invests in young people and in discipleship
- That encourages people to live out their faith, wherever that may lead.
2. God challenging her to have the faith to go.
3. An interest in Latin America that started years before.
Her answers fit a familiar pattern and highlight the way the local church can nurture mission and form a biblical worldview, encourage every member to discipleship, and share in God’s mission.
Mission organisations have something to offer here, helping churches consider mission issues and themes (which are important for the UK as well as other parts of the world); how to navigate cultural change and keep a wider perspective.
My friend’s answers also highlight the place of relationships. I read an article in Evangelical Missions Quarterly (vol 52, No 2 (2016) pp.172-179) based on research in Australia. This showed the important place that relationships play in encouraging people to join mission organisations.
- It is through personal relationships that people are stimulated to consider it, folk join agencies where they know someone and feel welcomed and over half the people who join are initially prompted to think about mission because someone visited their church.
- While short term mission gives people exposure to needs and grows their awareness, it is the opportunity to see a viable pathway for the service and the relationships built with mission workers which leads to people offering to go themselves.
But engaging churches also involves helping them to see how mission is changing.
Latin America is a good example. At the end of the 19th century one historian wrote that the history of protestant mission in Latin America was a ‘sadly humiliating endeavour’. Now, just over a century later Brazil is one of the largest sending nations in the world. The frontiers of mission are not only the Favelas of Brazilian cities or jungle outposts in Perú but increasingly Canterbury and Didcot, Falkirk and Swansea. The church in the UK has much to share with the rest of the world but we have much to learn and to gain from them as well. If you are interested in thinking more about this and how it might related to your local church in the UK, BMS are hosting a conference in July How to mission which is shaping up to be a great event.
There are other factors as well. The US Southern Baptist IMB published an article yesterday noting that, for perhaps the first time, they had more funding for mission personnel than people willing to go. Some of the reasons for this are particular to the US context and to the SBC so I’m not convinced the article is correct to simply blame it on a lack of zeal for the gospel. Nevertheless it is a helpful reminder that engaging churches in mission also requires us to have a vision of God and God’s work in the world.