Local Church

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?

The Gospel Crossing Kiwi Cultures (Issue 23)

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By John Hornblow

We live in Palmerston North, a city of about 80000, home to over 120 different ethnicities. Within the city, All Saints Anglican Parish is engaging with many born beyond our shores. There are many ‘strangers among us’ that we want to welcome and support.

Some ways our church community offer welcome and support include: resettling Afghan and other refugees, teaching English to eager students, offering hospitality to our large Bhutanese community and ministering to international students and staff at our tertiary institutions. It’s all about offering friendship, the opportunity to feel safe in a community again, maybe an invitation to attend a Bible study group or be included in a worship service.

These are all great beginnings. However, often these ministries operate unintentionally in silos. To bring these different ministries to the awareness of our church community we’re spending a month in August centred around ‘The Gospel crossing cultures in Aotearoa.’ During the month we’ll provide space in our worship services for people to tell stories of the Gospel crossing cultures and what that looks like for them. We’ve also invited Steve Maina to share about the challenge of integrating into a western culture. We’ll hear stories from the Wellington Chinese Mission about the excellent work they do amongst their people. We’re looking forward to many others who will share their journey of being strangers and becoming family within Aotearoa.

We hope this will deepen understanding, stimulate prayer, gain support and provide encouragement. It’s more than just learning what we do, but about discovering that crossing-cultures and welcoming ‘strangers’ is central to the Gospel we’re called to live.

This is one way we’re seeking to be more aware of the ‘strangers among us,’ helping our parish engage with the reality of life for many people in our neighbourhood and discover the cross-cultural mission opportunities in our own backyard.

 

For discussion

What cross-cultural opportunities exist in your own neighbourhood?

How is God calling your church to respond?

 

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of Intermission will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. Why not take up the challenge and start using Intermission in your community? For more information or to order copies click here.