Intermission

Tethered to Christ, Tethered to Each Other (Issue 30)

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By Scottie Reeves

In Jesus we see this most powerful picture of inclusion. This man of immense integrity, character and holiness is always inviting those to the table we would never expect. The prostitutes, the thieves, the loan sharks and the violent extremists. At Christ’s table there’s room for Trump, room for refugees, room for beneficiaries and room for billionaires. There is room for you and room for me.

This is the reckless hospitality of Christ that whips up some more wine for a room full of wedding guests who were likely already inebriated. It’s the outrageousness that kneels down and washes the dusty feet of his disciples. It’s the controversy of a saviour who looks over the crowd immediately in front of him to call the short swindler down from a sycamore tree to eat with him.

In my experience of leading Blueprint, a church community of Millennials in the liberal heartland of Wellington City, I can tell you that my generation loves this radically welcoming Christ. He sits well alongside our near-religious fervour for tolerance at all costs. Our Jesus is shaped by a culture which says daily, ‘how dare you judge me!’ Yet we also follow a Christ who said in Matthew 16 that people weren’t really his disciples unless they left behind their families and began to carry their own instruments of death too. To sit at a table with Jesus was one thing, but to truly follow him meant abandoning family, reputation, career and security. Christ is consistently welcoming, but there is something quite exclusive about the way of Jesus too.

BELONGING AND COMMITMENT

When we talk about what it is to belong we must remember that our sense of belonging will always be equal to our commitment to one another. We belong truly with those who are tethered to us and whom we have tethered ourselves to. So while inclusive hospitality is deeply important, this alone will not build belonging or a dedicated community of disciples. Faith communities that provide constant encouragement and inclusion without a call to look beyond themselves will inevitably create consumers instead of disciples.

Alongside Blueprint’s usual Sunday services we run several community homes of hospitality filled with young adults. My wife Anna and I live in one of these houses on upper Cuba Street with five other young change-makers. Every Tuesday we hold a meal for anyone in Central Wellington who wants to join us. This is an experience of inclusive hospitality where anyone and everyone is welcome, from university students to those in the grip of addictions, from young professionals to those sleeping on the streets. Our guests describe this as a place of love, care, warmth and manaakitanga. There’s something special and profoundly Kingdom-of-God that happens around that enormous table each Tuesday night.

Yet what our guests don’t know is that the power of that hospitality comes from the fact that the seven hosts belong deeply together.

We’ve made unbreakable commitments such as daily prayer, proactive conflict resolution, mission to our neighbourhood and honesty with one another. Everyone is committed to being in our house for at least a year, and some of us are entering our third. When you know you’re still going to be living with someone in a few years it starts to seem silly to avoid the hard conversations.

KNOWN BY OUR LOVE

Jesus said that the world would know we belonged with him “by the love we have for one another” (John 13:35). Love doesn’t just grow in church services or life groups. It grows when we’re committed to one another, when we resolve to belong together even when we’re not sure we necessarily like each other anymore. The power of our dinner table is formed the other six days of the week in a community of people who have done the hard work to love one another sacrificially.

Sadly, if the commitments of our faith communities to one another aren’t deep then our inclusive hospitality is normally severely lacking too. We’re drawn in by the hospitality of God, but we’re formed by commitment to the community of faith we now belong in. As Christians we’re called to become a ‘set apart’ people (1 Peter 2:9), an exclusive people with exclusive commitments to one another and ways of living that stand as stark alternatives to the mindless consumption of the world around us. We are exclusively Christ’s, in order that we may be formed into a radically inclusive people whose dinner tables are always bulging, whose spare rooms are always full and who live out costly empathy, compassion, care and hospitality for all people.

And here’s the really interesting thing. As we’ve begun to pursue this deeper and ‘more exclusive’ way together over the past few years, we’ve seen more people come to know Christ for the first time than ever before. Maybe it is as Margaret Mead famously said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Scottie and his wife head up Blueprint Church in Wellington. He’s an ordained Deacon in the Anglican Church, a Social Entrepreneur, and has previously worked with a nationwide creative arts trust.

For discussion

In what ways does Scottie’s example of the Blueprint house encourage and challenge you?

What would holding together high commitment and high belonging look like in your context?

 

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of the Intermission magazine will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. To signup to receive the Intermission in the post, email office@nzcms.org.nz. Intermission articles can also be found online at nzcms.org.nz/intermission.

We’re All Called to Belong (Issue 30)

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In the last edition of Intermission we explored how we’re all called to be missional. Mission isn’t just for some elusive ‘Christian elite.’ We’re all called!

We identified five missional postures and gave some ideas of what these could look like in each of our lives. But we only scratched the surface. We’re going to go through the postures this year, dedicating an intermission to each one. So at the start of 2017, let’s remember that:

 

We’re all called to Belong Participate Pray Give Go

 

In this edition we’re looking at how we’re all called to belong to God’s family of mission. We probably all know that we’re called to participate in God’s mission in some capacity, but often we feel pressure to do more without knowing what to do. Mission is almost always easier – and better – when it’s done together! The following articles will give some ideas of what mission as a community of God’s people, what mission together, can look like.

And to answer your question: Why the frogs? Since this is a series, we wanted to tie them together visually with something quirky that would make them stand out.

 

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of the Intermission magazine will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. To signup to receive the Intermission in the post, email office@nzcms.org.nz. Intermission articles can also be found online at nzcms.org.nz/intermission.

We’re All Called to Go (Issue 29)

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“There’s just no opportunities.” That’s what my team said to me as we sat in a radio station break room in the Middle East. No opportunities?! Simply to prove a point, I told them I was heading out for 10 minutes and would return with a story. Well, it took 20 minutes, but in that time I bumped into multiple people I could start a good conversation with, offered a traveller some chips, was taken by said traveller to meet the leader of a human rights movement, and was told that he could introduce me to a leader of a key political party.

Why couldn’t my team see the opportunities in front of us? Maybe it’s because, though we’d travelled overseas we hadn’t yet truly learned the posture of ‘sentness.’

‘AS YOU GO’

Matthew 28 often comes up when we’re talking about the ‘GO’ of mission. Jesus tells his followers to “go and make disciples of all nations”. In mission circles we often lock on to that first word, stressing how God calls his people to “go” into all the world. But in the Greek, the emphasis is actually on “making disciples”. And the word for go might better be translated “as you go” – as you go about your life, focus on making disciples.

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be going – it means we need to think of ‘going’ in broader terms. ‘Going’ doesn’t just mean traveling to an unfamiliar part of the world. It’s more an attitude of the heart, a posture of readiness. Some are called to travel, particularly to places where the Gospel has made little headway – think of Jesus’ challenge to the disciples in Acts 1:8. But going doesn’t just mean relocating; it means knowing we’re all equally sent.

Missional believers have a posture of ‘sentness’ – deep in their hearts they’re aware they’ve been and are always being sent by the God of mission. So regardless of whether that sentness involves a plane, learning a language, picking up a skateboard, visiting prisons or knocking on your neighbour’s door, God calls each of us to live from a posture of being sent.

ALL MISSION IS LOCAL

What’s more important: local mission or global mission? We all have our opinions, but the fact is, no matter where you are its local. In a real sense, there’s no such thing as ‘over there,’ because as soon as you arrive ‘over there’ it becomes ‘here.’

Why’s that an important observation? Because we often have an idea that, if only we could travel to some exciting place, engaging in mission will be easy. Somehow it can seem that a plane ride can transform us from ‘normal Christian’ to ‘missionary superstar.’ But who you are overseas is the same person you are back home – your habits, disciplines, strengths, gifts, weaknesses and fears don’t suddenly change. Like they say: ‘Wherever you go, there you are.”

Missional folk know it’s not about where you are, but who you are. For them, mission doesn’t have a start and end date; it’s an all-of-life thing. When they get on that plane, they’re ready for whatever God brings their way. But it’s just the same when they leave the house on a normal Monday morning for their workplace. In fact, time and again we find it’s people who know how to live missionally here who thrive when they relocate to a new part of the world. Why? Because they’re already living it out! They live from this posture of ‘sentness.’

HERE, THERE AND EVERYWHERE

In many ways, I think the Church in New Zealand is a sleeping giant. Every day we cross paths with people who don’t know Jesus, who are hurting, who need someone to talk to. Lurking beneath the surface in our cities and suburbs are injustices, prejudices, addictions, needs, cycles of poverty. There’s enough opportunity in your own neighbourhood to keep you busy for a lifetime.

In fact, some argue that there’s so much need here that we can’t justify focusing on problems somewhere else. It’s a fair point actually, especially when there’s so much more we could be doing in our communities and when those engaged in local mission often feel alone in their efforts.

But that doesn’t mean global mission isn’t important. Coming back to Matthew 28, even though the emphasis is on making disciples, “all the nations” will never be discipled unless some of us get on a plane or boat or jeep or hiking trail and GO to them. There’s still an urgent need for people willing to go into all the world for the sake of Christ and his Kingdom – particularly to the ‘difficult places.’ For years the vast majority of global mission resources have been invested in areas where the Gospel has already taken root, whereas areas with little Gospel witness remain largely neglected. The harvest remains plentiful, but the number putting their hand up to serve overseas is actually decreasing. That means that though we’re all called to have a GO-ing attitude, some of us really are called to put our feet to the ground and GO somewhere new.

Having a GO posture means being ready to respond when God starts prompting you to a particular place, people group, neighbourhood, culture, street corner or club – whether that’s ‘here’ or ‘over there’! The question for us is, have we been seeking God about where and what and who he would call us to, or have we seen mission as something for someone else?

Regardless of where we do our going, we’re all called to GO.

 

For discussion What’s the difference between seeing sentness in terms of where you go and seeing it as an attitude of the heart? What difference does it make for you?

As someone called to belong to God’s community of mission service, what’s his challenge to you and your group when it comes to going?

 

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of the Intermission magazine will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. To signup to receive the Intermission in the post, email office@nzcms.org.nz. Intermission articles can also be found online at nzcms.org.nz/intermission.

We’re All Called to Give (Issue 29)

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By Zane

A couple of weeks ago I held in my hand my first million. There’s a lot of power in those words: ‘my first million.’

There isn’t space here to establish a comprehensive theology of giving, but perhaps the most important aspect can be summed up with one word: ‘stewardship.’ As caretakers of God’s creation Adam and Eve were given the mandate to ‘have dominion,’ to care for the earth and all that’s in it (Genesis 1:27- 28). The created order belongs to God, but we’re given the task of not only looking after it, but as people living cross-shaped lives, we’re engaged in renewing it. From the beginning, we’re called to be stewards.

That has an impact on the million that was in my hands. Such a vast sum of money opens so many possibilities, and so many pitfalls. Some people just don’t have enough each day, and here I was with more banknotes than I could stuff in my wallet. It was helpful for me to recognise that, as a steward, it wasn’t mine to use as I wished. The money in my hands was actually the property of God.

MORE THAN MONEY

It’s the same for us all, and for all of our resources, not just our cold hard cash. Everything we have comes from God (Psalm 24:1). It’s tempting to think these things are our own, that we’re the masters of our own destiny, that we deserve what we’ve got because we’ve earned it. Giving helps keep our pride in check. When we accept we’re stewards not owners, words like ‘earned,’ ‘deserve,’ ‘entitled’ drop out of our vocabulary.

Giving challenges the greed that’s so pervasive in our society. In Beyond Greed, Brian Rosner observes that “slavery to money can affect those at every level of society, and may even be thought of as encompassing society as a whole. … But worst of all, it can cause people to act in hard, unfeeling and even self-destructive ways.” To borrow a phrase from Batman’s Alfred, our greed – our slavery to money – can turn “good men cruel.”

Often our perceived needs stop us sharing our resources, our desires prevent us from seeing the needs of others, our lust for more keeps us from giving. We put ourselves first, using what we have leftover to build comfortable lives. But Jesus calls us to be people who forsake comfort so we can comfort others. Jesus calls us to be people who reject building bigger houses so that we can house the homeless. And sometimes Jesus calls us to leave our houses and possessions behind to move to someone else’s neighbourhood. Jesus calls us all to be cross-shaped people living to please our Heavenly Father rather than striving for the pleasures of this short life.

Giving is hard. It can hurt. It means sacrificing our desires and enabling someone else. But giving helps us develop Christ-like character, and this is by no means limited to financial generosity. We can give a meal. We can give a spare bed to someone in need. We can give our time serving, interceding, stuffing envelopes at the NZCMS office. In fact, when ministries and mission organisations talk about giving it’s easy for us to roll our eyes: “here’s another appeal for more money.” But giving isn’t just about how much money you hand over. The truth is, sometimes giving money is the easier option. Are we willing to find ways to give that doesn’t include a $ sign – our time, effort, energy, talents?

When we’re generous with the things God has blessed us with we learn to trust him more fully. Instead of living from our excess and relying on ourselves, we rely on God and recognise his provision. We learn to consider others before ourselves – I’m pretty sure Jesus said something about that one. We learn to give thanks for the excess or the talents and gifts we have instead of chasing after what we don’t. And when we give, particularly towards mission projects and Mission Partners, we partner with others and enable them to serve God in ways we may never be able to ourselves.

So let’s start. Start giving. Maybe a small sum of money to bless someone else, maybe a meal to someone who needs it, maybe a bit of your time. Then, when you’ve started, or if you’ve started already, evaluate. Evaluate your giving. What impact is it having on you? What impact is it having on those around you? What impact is it having on your closeness to God? Where could you give a little more?

It sounds easy for the guy with the million right? What could this 32 year old millionaire ever know about the struggle of giving?! Well just for the record, the million was Indonesian Rupiah ($106NZD). It doesn’t matter the amount, or what non-$ gift you’re offering, all the same principles above apply. It all belongs to God, and can all be used to glorify him and as a way to make us more like Christ.

We’re all called to be generous with all we have.

Zane is a member of the NZCMS Council and serves as a Chaplain for the New Zealand Defence Force.

Want to read more? Check out Brian Rosner’s Beyond Greed and Dr Omar Djeoandy’s Redefining Success.

 

For discussion Why is the subject of giving often taboo in our Christian culture? What difference does a broader view of giving make, one that includes but isn’t limited to financial giving?

As someone called to belong to God’s community of mission service, what’s his challenge to you and your group when it comes to giving?

 

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of the Intermission magazine will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. To signup to receive the Intermission in the post, email office@nzcms.org.nz. Intermission articles can also be found online at nzcms.org.nz/intermission.

We’re All Called to Pray (Issue 29)

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We’re all called to pray. This statement appears in the middle of the five missional postures discussed in this Intermission. But I wonder if it should be in the middle. I wonder if praying is where we ought to begin. Or is the middle exactly where it should be – central to everything else?

In John 15:5 Jesus states “I am the vine, you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” I wonder if we sometimes become so fixated on working for ‘fruit ’ that we forget that the fruit is ultimately born of relationship – a natural outcome of the ‘remaining.’

For me ‘remaining’ is always the initiative of God; God’s Spirit touches our spirits and we respond. In this way our relationship was born and in this way it is sustained – Spirit to spirit and spirit to Spirit. When we remain in this relationship with God who comes to us as Love, we find ourselves knowing more of who God is, what delights God and how God works. Our love and appreciation for God grows. This is prayer.

EXPANDING OUR VISION

In the nature of love, those things that matter to God increasingly matter to us. Stirred by Love, we see God all around and seek to become more aware. Our vision is stretched by God’s limitless vision that reaches far beyond our own small world until it includes places we haven’t visited, people we don’t know. The burdens of others, our brothers and sisters who share the same Father, are now our burden. Their poverty and oppression and struggles affect us and we cry out to our Father on their behalf.

Sometimes we need words as we struggle to find God in the situation. At other times our prayers may be only a silent ‘Amen’ to God’s ever-loving intention. Our prayers may result in a call to action: a call to fasting, a call to go. Always our prayers will result in a call to share with others the wonder of how much God cares so that their eyes too may be opened, their faith grown and their hearts also turned to praise and glorify God. These are fruits of ‘remaining.’

REMAINING BUT LOOKING EVER OUTWARD

As Christians we’re all called to be members of the vast ‘community of mission service.’ As members of this community we’re all called to pray. The fruit of this prayer is always an expanding love and compassion for others which reaches far beyond our own small corner of creation. In the cycle of God’s never-ending economy of grace, our joy in seeing the fruits of prayer in the lives of people brought into the light grows our faith, and turns us in joy back to the One who began it all, our God of Love.

Thus from remaining to fruits and from fruits to remaining – remaining in a God whom we follow out into a world beyond ourselves.

We’re all called to pray for God’s whole world.

Along with her husband Gerald, Maureen was a missionary in Nepal and then a NZCMS Mission Partner in Cambodia. They have now settled in Dunedin where, among other things, they help run the local NZCMS branch.

 

For discussion How has your ‘remaining’ – your personal time with God – grown your heart for God’s whole world?

As someone called to belong to God’s community of mission service, what’s his challenge to you and your group when it comes to praying?

 

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of the Intermission magazine will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. To signup to receive the Intermission in the post, email office@nzcms.org.nz. Intermission articles can also be found online at nzcms.org.nz/intermission.

We’re All Called to Participate (Issue 29)

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Only about 10% of Kiwis go to church, and that number hasn’t changed in decades! The average church sees only about two (or less) people come to faith each year, and that’s while many others walk away from the faith. And importantly, up to 80% of Kiwis are beyond the reach of a Gospel witness – either they don’t know a committed Jesus-follower or their Christian friends haven’t shared the Gospel with them.

Why’s it like this? God doesn’t want anyone to perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9) – so it’s not because God doesn’t want people to know him. Perhaps the problem is closer to home – people can’t believe if they haven’t been told (Romans 10:14), and sharing isn’t just the role of ‘professional Christians.’ We’re all called to be ambassadors for God, yet maybe many of us think we’re the exception. But we’re all called to participate – God wants an army of ambassadors, not just a few Generals.

EVERYONE GETS TO PLAY It’s easy to see things as ‘us’ and ‘them.’ The professional preacher and us normals. The gifted leader and those who are led. The ‘missionary’ and the ‘supporters’ back home. ‘They’ are the ones with the calling; we’re here to watch or help out. But we all have a role to play, each and everyone one of us. Some roles may seem dramatic and exciting, others may seem small and insignificant, but every follower of Jesus has a place – think of 1 Corinthians 12:12-26. And importantly, from God’s perspective, no role is more important.

Think about that. The missionary in China or Abu Dhabi is just as important in God’s mission as the little-ol’-lady who enables community by serving tea after church. If they’re both doing what God’s called them to, if they’re contributing what they’re capable, then God values it equally! So let’s not act as if some of us are ‘more important’ than others.

“All God’s kids get to play.” John Wimber built a movement on this principle: ministry and mission is something for us all, not just the ‘professionals.’ And it’s important to stress that we get to, not have to. Too often appeals to get involved are all about turning up the pressure. We’re made to feel guilty that we don’t preach to our neighbours, that we don’t volunteer at a soup kitchen, that we don’t feel called to travel overseas.

But God isn’t so much pressuring us to do more, but is inviting us to be involved in something life-transforming. It’ll take us closer to God, unite us in our communities, give us meaning and purpose, not to mention the eternal rewards we’ll reap (Matthew 25:20-23, 31-40). No one is excluded from the fun and joy of mission, even if it may be challenging.

God is welcoming us all to participate, not with a stern look of frustration at how little we’ve done, but with the hopeful excitement of a loving Father who’s delighted to share his greatest joy and passion with his kids!

AN ILLUSTRATION What’s it look like when everyone’s following their call to participate? Perhaps each person simply feels equipped and ready to live missionally in their local contexts: their workplace, school, family, neighbourhood. But sometimes it means finding ways to participate together. After all, mission happens best in community.

Our church has been putting this into action with a ‘church open day.’ One Sunday a year, the seats are cleared out and replaced with bouncy castles, candyfloss machines, a sausage sizzle, face-painting stations, manicure tables, ministry promo stalls. People from the community venture in – it’s less threatening and more inviting than a typical church service. Maybe they’ll stop and listen to someone sharing a testimony from the front. Maybe they’ll get into a deep conversation with a church member. Maybe they’ll join a programme our church offers. Maybe they’ll just grab a coffee and then disappear – but even so, our prayer is their view of ‘church’ and ‘Christians’ is softening.

Why are these powerful events? Community creates synergy. You didn’t have to be the gifted Gospel preacher or the one sharing a testimony. Regardless of your gifting and strengths, you have a role. Everyone is essential, the preacher as much as the one keeping the toilets clean! It’s the combined effort, not the work of any key player, that created a platform for us to engage our neighbourhood.

Sometimes we get to all participate together like this, the synergy of our efforts accomplishing more than we could alone. And sometimes being called to participate is about remembering that God’s invitation to engage in mission is always open to us whenever and wherever we are. Missional engagement is possible for each and every one of us.

We’re all invited to participate with God in what he’s doing, wherever we are!

 

For discussion Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-26 together. How does this passage speak to our equal invitation to participate in God’s mission?

As someone called to belong to God’s community of mission service, what’s his challenge to you and your group when it comes to participating?

We’re All Called to Belong (Issue 29)

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By Paul Thaxter (CMS UK).

The Church Mission Society emerged from an informal mission community, the so called Clapham Sect. This group of people met together, ate and prayed together, and were in and out of each other’s homes. It was energetic group of diverse, influential leaders being shaped by God’s mission in Christ. Led by the Spirit they set up CMS to work for social and moral reform in the UK, to spread the Gospel in Africa and Asia, and to abolish the slave trade.

Since those early day over 10000 people have crossed cultures and continents to share the Good News of Jesus through CMS. Importantly, they’ve been supported not simply by the CMS organisation but by the wider CMS community. In fact, for many to join CMS isn’t just a membership commitment but rather a welcome into a mission family that understands and values them and sees mission as much bigger than any human enterprise. That’s why I’m delighted by a renewed CMS emphasis on regular people putting the call into action wherever they made be.

REIMAGINING BELONGING

The development of new creative Christian communities is vital in the West for the proclamation and demonstration of the Gospel. As CMS began to encourage emerging church movements and pioneers working in the UK, we realised we needed to re-imagine and re-define what membership of CMS means. We were keen to continue to encourage all followers of Jesus to play an active role in mission both locally and globally. As we became an acknowledged community by the Church of England, CMS UK has been recognised as being a community that encourages the wider church into mission.

We wanted to renew the idea that membership in CMS means participating, praying and learning in God’s mission together – and by doing these things we grow as a true community with a contemporary purpose. Developing a missional lifestyle is key to our community and our discipleship. Whilst many of our older members radiate this practice, newer members are attracted by the offer of belonging to such an intentional mission community with a global as well as a local outlook.

ALWAYS BEST IN COMMUNITY

Community is the enabler of mission. When we’re talking about the ‘belong’ of mission, we’re not just talking about belonging to a nice social club. Mission always happens best in community. Think of the early church in Acts. Sure, there were some key leaders who played important roles, but when 3000 people came to faith, they were “added to their number” – they were welcomed into a community. And in many cases today, people come to faith and experience the richness of God’s Kingdom by being accepted within a community – oftentimes, ‘belonging’ actually happens before people come to believe in Jesus. Without a community to welcome people into, mission doesn’t happen.

Community is also the context of mission. Too often we desire to be more missional, but we can feel alone in it – honestly, it can be pretty crippling. Going out and finding ways to engage your neighbourhood by yourself can be discouraging and difficult. If it all rests of your shoulders, it often amounts to little. Mission happens best when a group of people – a ‘missional community’ if you will – has decided that together they’ll reach out to a particular location or group of people. Synergy is created by engaging together. My weaknesses are overcome by your strengths and vice versa. By working together, we can do significantly more than if each of us went about it alone. How sad is it, then, that many who are passionate about mission in our backyards feel so alone and isolated in it!

So let’s remember, we’re all called to belong to God’s family of mission.

Paul is the Director of International Mission for CMS UK. He’s previously worked as an economist, a church planter and helped lead a drug rehabilitation project in South Asia.

 

For discussion

What difference does (or would) belonging to a mission-focused community make for you?

As someone called to belong to God’s community of mission service, what’s his challenge to you and your group when it comes to belonging?

We’re All Called (Issue 29)

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By Steve Maina (NZCMS National Director) 

I’m often asked to speak about mission. At churches, in small groups, in Bible College classes, that’s the topic they all want me to share about. But the word ‘mission’ carries a bit of baggage with it – we all have an understanding of what it means, and more importantly, of who’s called to be involved. And that’s a major question: is mission for a select few, or is it for you? Is it for us all? The question matters, because it determines whether or not you see yourself as essential to God’s mission in the world.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT ANYWAY?

Mission belongs to and originates from God. The Bible’s grand narrative has mission at the centre: from the start to the finish, Scripture is all about a God on a mission, a God seeking to redeem his whole creation through Christ from sin and evil. “God so loved the world that he sent…” (John 3:16). Mission flows out of God’s very heart.

God is a God of mission, and his Church is supposed to be the same. The Church doesn’t send some people with a special calling in missions; the Church itself is sent. As Emil Brunner said, “The church exists by mission as a fire exists by burning.” The Church is not and cannot be the Church unless it’s orientated around mission. Whether or not someone crosses cultural or geographic boundaries to pursue mission isn’t the issue. Wherever the Church is, it’s in God’s world and is supposed to be all about God’s mission. And here’s an important reminder: if you’re a follower of Jesus, you are the church!

NOT IF BUT WHERE

The question is not if I’m called but where I’m called. It’s time we stopped legitimising some places as ‘mission fields’ and others not. We’re sent to follow Christ as Lord in a broken world and to shine Christ’s light wherever we are.

We need to pause to ask God where our ‘wherever’ is supposed to be. It may mean leaving one’s own location (social, cultural, geographical, intellectual) to enter a new space we’re unfamiliar with. Maybe it’ll be found across an ocean, in a shift within your city or country, or simply by going out of your way to meet people you otherwise wouldn’t. Moving from the known to be with the other is exactly what Christ did. He emptied himself and left behind the glories of heaven to enter the darkness and poverty of our world (Philippians 2:5-8).

Or perhaps you’ve already discovered the ‘wherever’ that God’s called you to. But even there, maybe God’s opening new doors: opportunities with neighbours, workmates, family. Being sent by God isn’t so much about where you go, but the posture of your heart – people who know they’re ‘sent’ have a readiness deep within them for whatever God brings along.

MAKING MISSION THE CENTRE

For a while we’ve wrestled with the question: how can you sum up who NZCMS is and what we’re about? Many people view us as essentially a mission sending agency – an organisation that sends people overseas. That’s a big part of what we do, but the core of who we are is much deeper and bigger. Our purpose is to partner with the Church in order to make mission central for every follower of Jesus.

That’s it: Making Mission the Centre.

But if we’re to help believers discover what God’s mission is all about and how they can make it central to their entire lives, we need a shared understanding of what a missional follower of Jesus looks like. We’ve identified five postures – five lived-out attitudes – shared by people participating in God’s mission. These postures are the same whether you’re serving overseas or engaging here in New Zealand.

And we’ve not taken these out of thin air. These reach back at least as far as a NZCMS bookmark from 2008 that invited people to make four simple commitments: to keep informed, pray regularly, give generously and go willingly. The simplicity of this list was great and made clear that we all have a role to play, though unfortunately it implied that mission is ‘over there’ and not here; mission is for the go-ers meaning the rest of us are more-or-less merely senders. (We, of course, do need to be sending some people as Mission Partners to different parts of the world, which involves supporting, praying and financing their efforts. But all of us have a role to play in mission, not just supporting others in it.) So we’ve made some updates, keeping true to the list but making it clear that mission is for us all.

We’re all called to belong

We’re all called to participate

We’re all called to pray

We’re all called to give

We’re all called to Go

We’ve arranged this Intermission around these five missional postures, exploring what each can look like in hopes that you’ll join us in committing to living these out as best you can. That’s what it means to belong to the CMS family: it’s not about signing a piece of paper or a membership form but sharing this missional DNA.

Join us as we seek to Make Mission the Centre for every follower of Jesus.

 

For discussion

Are you familiar with the earlier four NZCMS commitments? Share what these meant in your journey of faith.

What would it mean for you, your group, your church to ‘Make Mission the Centre’? What challenges or obstacles might get in the way?

Making Mission the Centre (Issue 29)

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The latest issue of Intermission explores what it means to belong to the NZCMS family. Over the next few weeks we’ll be posting these articles to our website to highlight the fact that we’re ALL called to be part of God’s mission in the world. Join us as we seek to Make Mission the Centre for every follower of Jesus.

Mission means different things to different people. For some it’s about planting churches; for others, planting trees. For some it means critiquing local or national government; for others, working within political frameworks. Some say it’s about going overseas; others say it’s going next door. For some it means developing businesses; for others it’s challenging the business worldview. There can be a lot of energy invested into figuring out what mission is. But our questions are too small if they’re only about what is and isn’t ‘mission work.’

The more important question is: what’s it mean to be missional? Mission isn’t so much about what we do, but who we are; missional activity flows out of missional lifestyles. If we focus on the activity, we’ll probably conclude that some people have ‘higher callings’ than others. But what matters isn’t so much what we’re called to do; it’s whether or not we’re being faithful to who God’s called us to be.

This Intermission is framed around five missional postures that help form us as individuals and communities on mission. Our hope is that you’ll join us in making these postures part of your own life. God’s inviting each of us to participate in his ‘community of mission service’ – will we respond to his call?

Helping Without Hurting in Short-Term Mission (Issue 28)

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At the end of a trip, one of the students uttered the words every leader hopes to hear: “This was the best short-term mission experience I’ve ever had, and I’ve had a bunch.” I’ve led my fair share of teams, so what made this one so good? Was it my amazing, charismatic leadership? … Actually, no! Perhaps ironically, it’s because we didn’t follow the typical approaches for short-term mission trips.

In many cases, short-term teams want to maximize the opportunity by visiting as many places, people and projects as they can. Instead, we decided to stay in one location and work with one church. And typically, short-term teams pack as much into the schedule as possible. In our case, it wasn’t long before our contact ran out of things for us to do! He’d even dismiss the team after morning Bible studies, telling us to “just take rest today.” We were in a bustling South Asian city, so once the contact left I’d whisper to the team: “we’re not taking rest today.” Instead we’d break into groups, ask God what we should do, and then go do it. We’d end up encountering new people, finding and meeting needs, and sharing life with various folk. It’s hard to summarise just how fruitful this actually was!

So why did my student think this was the best mission experience he’d had? “Because what we’ve done here is precisely what we can do back home.” Normally we run around doing so much, meaning there’s no way we can replicate it in our normal lives. But here, we were integrating mission and regular life. We were learning how to be open to the opportunities God was opening up in front of us.

FINDING A BETTER WAY

This experience left me wondering: are there approaches and models for short-term teams that will help people integrate what they learn into their ‘normal lives.’ I’m not interested in people creating nice memories. There needs to be something of ongoing value from the experience for both the team and those we’re seeking to serve. How can we be making disciples (Matthew 28:19) not just good trips?

Many short-term teams go out with very little solid training – but good intentions are simply not enough! Helping Without Hurting in Short-Term Missions (Moody Publishers, 2014) is a new biblically grounded training package designed to help short-term teams prepare, process and maximise their experience. It also helps teams avoid attitudes and practices that actually harm the communities we’re seeking to bless. Though it focuses on teams going to poorer communities, we think it’s beneficial for almost any team crossing cultures.

It’s made up of eight 90 minute sessions that include reflections, discussion questions and short video teachings. Each team member receives a Participants Guide to help them process all they’re learning, and the Leader’s Guide is designed to give the team leader(s) all they need to know to facilitate the training, preparation and debrief. We hope this package will assist many Kiwis put together, implement and process short-term mission encounters.

If you’re interested in finding out more or discussing your ideas for a short-term Encounter Team experience with NZCMS, email kirstin@nzcms.org.nz

 

For discussion

In what ways do teams need to prepare and train well – whether for a cross-cultural trip or local mission?

If you want to explore in your small group how these concepts apply to local (and global) mission, I can’t recommend enough the free online video series ‘Helping Without Hurting’

 

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of the Intermission magazine will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. To signup to receive the Intermission in the post, email office@nzcms.org.nz. Intermission articles can also be found online at nzcms.org.nz/intermission.