This week we have been spending some time at the All Nations Christian College in Ware (where’s that I hear you say?) just north of London, attending a cross cultural training course. It is a really good college set in some beautiful grounds. I am sat writing this to you in a large Victorian house set in some stunning scenery; for the first time in a while it is raining and I wish I had a jumper! But I have a comfy chair and the turret window I am sitting in allows me to look all around at the trees and gardens
We have met some amazing people here, who are setting off on their journeys, ready to fulfil a calling on their lives – becoming missionaries. One of our sessions was on the topic of what mission means in the 21st century, and the discussions and thoughts took me a little by surprise and challenged what I thought, which is a good thing I guess!
If you asked me, “what is a missionary?” I would have responded with the traditional statement, something along the lines of “someone who has been called by God to go to another nation and help or preach.” Or even something more brash such as, “someone who is going to save the world.” I wonder how many people think like this as well? After all, we are told in Matthew 28 verse 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations… Today my thinking was challenged and changed, for the better I hope.
Part of my view of the above is formed on the thought and idea that in some countries there is no church, and therefore we needed to go and take the church to that country. This is probably all my own doing as it’s not something I have ever looked into. However, we were told that in the world today there is not a country in the world where there are not Christians and churches already in existence, so the traditional thought of going to a country and starting a church doesn’t really work any more. The church is already everywhere, albeit in different forms and strengths. So what does that leave for us in terms of mission work?
Simply put, the mindset is changing from Invasion to Invitation. Gone are the days of the pioneering Christian aid worker arriving in country to ‘save’ the indigenous people from their wicked ways. Now the prevailing thought is how can we help the local church continue the work it has already started, bringing physical and spiritual transformation to its own people.
I find it interesting that in Acts 16 we see Paul wanting to continue the work of church planting, of breaking new ground. He tries to go once, but the Holy Spirit prevents him. He tries again to go to a new and different place, and again the Spirit prevents him. Then (V9) During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” Notice the change here, Paul was not told to go, but instead invited to come, to bring the gospel, to train leaders and establish and support the local church.
This got me thinking a little bit about what Becky and I are about to do with MAF. How does our work with them fit into my new understanding of mission by invitation? I confess I have stated to a few people that I am “off to save the world,” and here I am challenged by God who is saying “I am already saving it.”
Don’t worry, I am not backing down. The difference is I have a fresh perspective and an altogether more exciting view on this. We are all still called to go, but we can be so much more effective when we join with existing works. That’s why we are joining an organisation that serves and facilitates the local Christian environment. MAF makes it possible for Ugandan pastors to meet and pray together. For Ugandan churches to push deeper into their own country and bring the Good News to their own people, in their own languages. MAF brings in teachers, aid, and flies out the sick and infirm, all for the Glory of God and so that the church that is already in Uganda can grow and flourish. I have never been more excited to be joining MAF than I am today. From November this year Becky and I have been invited and will go to Uganda to serve and facilitate the local church that is already in place. This will, of course, be in practical and spiritual ways, but all with the aim of supporting those Christians already doing a fantastic work there, and not for our own glory. We will bring our knowledge and skills to help develop and grow the church further.