“Jesus of the Scars” by Edward Shillito

Found this blog post as I was preparing this morning for the weekend event we’re running for folk from Above Bar Church – ‘Journey to Wholeness’.

Jesus of the Scars has for many years been one of my favourite poems – although until today I only knew the last verse existed!

The Jesus Question

I was unable to confirm whether Edward Shillito (1872-1948) was actually a soldier during World War I or only writing from the perspective of one. In any case, he lived during the horrors of the Great War and published this poem in its wake, in 1919.

“Jesus of the Scars” by Edward Shillito

If we have never sought, we seek Thee now;
Thine eyes burn through the dark, our only stars;
We must have sight of thorn-pricks on Thy brow,
We must have Thee, O Jesus of the Scars. 

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A Clearer Focus – Local Church & Global Mission

Not trying to do everything!

In June 2014 our Above Bar Church World Mission Strategy Group (WMSG) embarked on a journey of prayerful reflection that has led us to some fresh convictions about the place of Above Bar Church in global mission. We pray that the following 5 Drivers, 2 Principles & 3 Streams will help give a new impetus to our mission sending as a church – with a renewed global focus.

God’s resources are unlimited – ours are not! This calls for the churches to be good stewards of the gifts he has given and attentive to his particular leading (Rev 3:22). Jesus was certain of what the Father was asking of him – it led him to say yes to certain things and no to others (Luke 9:51). When God calls a person into mission we may be sure that the church also hears that calling (Acts 13:1-3). And so it is with the conviction that it is the task of the local church to discern the Lord’s leading, and identify and send individuals, that we offer this paper.

(I) Five Drivers for the New Focus

What does the new focus do?

• It provides a clearer focus for our ongoing prayers
• It helps us orientate or re-orientate new and existing mission partners as they approach us regarding future work
• It helps us to be clear and proactive in communicating mission priorities with the church
• It helps us to be proactive and vision led as we prayerfully approach those we believe the Lord may be leading into vocational mission work
• It gives a clear sense of direction as we wait patiently on the Lord’s provision and timing

(II) Two Guiding Principles & 3 Streams of Mission to Encourage

We assume that the vision of Above Bar Church (to glorify God by seeking to make and mature disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, so that in everything he might have the supremacy) and our ABC values (mission focussed, bible-centred, God-dependent, authentic community) are ‘owned by’ all those we send into mission. If ‘Loving God, following Jesus and sharing hope’ sums up who we perceive ourselves to be, then this paper speaks to the outworking of that vision through global mission.

So, then, what types of mission involvement will we especially promote and encourage through ABC?

Two Guiding Principles – Integral Mission & Humility

We are convinced that God’s mission moves forward with mission partners from all nations to all nations, involved in the vast breadth of human activity that works towards fulfilling God’s redemptive intentions for his creation. We believe that mission moves forward in word and action, with words having social consequences and actions having evangelistic consequences. At ABC we will therefore aim to promote overseas holistic engagements of a strategically crucial nature (i.e. not doing what a local/national could do). Our heart is for all ABC Mission Partners and Short Term Teams and Projects to seek to work integrally/holistically, whatever their specific calling and gifting.

Mission is as subject to change as anything else, and as members of the Western Church we affirm with much joy that ‘mission is from all nations to all nations’, rather than ‘from the West to the rest.’ New global partnerships are called for, both locally and globally, as we take our place in humility alongside (not over) others in God’s mission, giving and receiving blessing from the global church.

Three Streams of Mission to Encourage

1. ‘Church planting/building’ in Continental Europe

We sense the Lord’s hand guiding us to playing a more intentional part in the reaching of an increasingly secularised and polarised Europe. We will therefore encourage those whom the Lord is calling from ABC to plant and strengthen churches in Continental Europe, and work towards building closer links with those churches.

2. ‘Evangelism among unreached people groups’, particularly those outside Europe

We believe we should we be heeding the ‘silent global Macedonian call’ of those who have never heard the Gospel. Outside of Europe we will focus on either attempting to reach the unreached or equipping others to do so – through ministries such as evangelism, church planting and Bible translation. We would particularly warm to sending those willing to serve in Muslim majority countries. We recognise the day may come when we encourage the formation of a team from ABC to work mid to long term in an unreached area/group. We encourage those who work in unreached areas or groups to cooperate wherever possible with local churches and groups, where they exist.

3. ‘Training and equipping’ for strategic ministries overseas

Mission and Ministry training, Church-planting training, Discipleship training, Training for various professional kinds of ‘secular’ work – all these can play a strategically important role in mission. In this regard we would especially be open to those seeking to minister to the global South (as the new mission-sending countries), but additionally to those working in Europe and in unreached parts of the world. We encourage our Mission Partners and Projects to honour and support the local church wherever it can.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on all this!

10 Global Mission Books You Should Read #GlobalFest

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In no particular order…

 

 A Time for Mission, The Challenge for Global Christianity, by Samuel Escobar An excellent, thought-through reflection on the place of mission in the Church in the light of the changes that we are going through in the world today.

Changing the Mind of Missions, Where have we gone wrong? By James F. Engel and William A. Dyrness This is the best non-technical, look at the way in which we do mission needs to adapt in the light of changes in the world and our growing understanding of Scripture.

Dynamic Diversity, by Bruce Milne What does a missionary church look like? This book gives an inspiring vision of what the church can look like and achieve in our multicultural world. Bruce Milne’s excellent book Dynamic Diversity makes a compelling case for the revolutionary, missional potential of the communal life of the local church. 

Kingdom Without Borders, The Untold Story of Global Christianity, by Miriam Adeney Undoubtedly the best book about what God is doing around the world today. Fascinating and challenging stories from the church in every part of the world. There are other books about the growth of the world church that are more numbers or statistically orientated, but this is the most inspiring.

Operation World, by Jason Mandryk Pray for the nations systematically with this iconic prayer guide. A mine of information, your personal or prayer meeting prayers cannot help but be fuelled by this great book.

Shadow of the Almighty, by Elizabeth Elliott This old book will challenge your commitment to Christ and your passion to make him known. Jim Elliott, a pioneer missionary to the Auca Indians in Ecuador. This book, by Jim’s wife Elizabeth, tells the story of Jim’s life, using passionate and moving excerpts from Jim’s diaries.

Through Gates of Splendour, by Elizabeth Elliot This is another old book, but a good one. It’s a cracking, inspiring story (the same story as Shadow of the Almighty, but from a different angle) of five young men who gave their lives to take the Gospel into the Amazon jungle. It’s a reminder of what is required if we are serious about reaching people for Christ.

The Cape Town Commitment (Didasko files) An inspirational little gem.  The fruit of the 2010 Lausanne Congress in Cape Town. If you’re looking for a short but comprehensive statement on the mission of the church today, this is it. 

The Mission of God’s People, by Chris Wright  A brilliant introduction to biblical thinking on mission. Wright looks at Biblical themes (a ‘biblical theology’) that shape our missional engagement. It makes an accessible study book for individuals or groups, with helpful questions at the end of each chapter.

The Message of Mission (Bible Speaks Today), by Howard Peskett and Vinoth Ramachandra An excellent, non-technical, series of Bible studies on the importance and nature of mission.

 

 

All these are available from the ABC Bookshop.

12 Ways to Get into Global Mission

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Choose at least one of the following ways of engaging with global mission, and start today!

 

1. READ

Get to know more about Global Mission. Read one or more of the books on our GlobalFest Top 10 list! And/or sign up for Eddie Arthur’s excellent blog kouya.net (or even mine – abcworldmission.wordpress.com).

2. PRAY

Prayer is the fuel of mission! Ask God to make clear your role in his global mission. Get a copy of Operation World and pray for the nations, learning heaps as you go along. Or sign up for mission partners’ prayer letters and pray for them. Or join one of the mission prayer groups locally. (Did you know that on our church twitter account we are ‘praying through the nations’ each night using the Operation World resources mentioned above – Follow us @abovebar now and #Pray)

3. GIVE

A good percentage of the money from our ABC gifts and offerings goes to the work of global mission and our mission partners. Consider increasing the amount you give, so that world mission can get more!  Or find out about the financial needs of our mission partners and become a personal supporter.  Besides the amount they receive from ABC as a whole, our mission partners still need to raise a considerable amount of finance. Or if you can’t give financially, then pray regularly for their needs to be met.

4. ADOPT an ABC Mission Partner or Project

Home Groups / Missional Communities (or Individuals/Families) are encouraged to adopt an ABC mission partner or project, in consultation with the Minister for World Mission.

5. GO SHORT-TERM

Our Mission Projects Group (MPG) would love to meet you if you’d like to hear more about our trips to places like Haiti or Spain.  If you are going alone we can pray with you, give practical advice and support or help you tell your story when you get back.  Email Above Bar Church or speak to Bryan Stonehouse, Helen Clark, David Katulwende, John Clifton or Chris Tuck.  Pick up a FREE copy of the Global Connections short term mission directory this weekend too which has great information for short termers!

6. GO MID/LONG-TERM

As a church we are committed to sending one new mission partner / family into full-time mission work per year for the next 4 years.  If you think that the Lord may be directing you/your family, into global mission, then the Mission Personnel Support Group (MPSG) would love to help you explore the part the Lord has for you in world mission. Please contact Tim Sutton, or members of the MPSG (such as Clive Osmond, Graham Salmon) at Above Bar Church.

7. Give HOSPITALITY to MISSION PARTNERS

Have you got a spare room? Make it available for a mission partner on their return visits to Southampton.

Or otherwise make it available for those from other countries who are on mission in the UK.

8. Give HOSPITALITY to people from foreign countries

There are unprecedented opportunities to reach out to people of every nation and people, right here in the UK – many of them here in Southampton. Have your neighbours around for coffee or a meal. Find out how you can support and encourage our ‘Global Gathering’, the ABC group that meets weekly to reach and encourage internationals. Or discover more about the work of Friends International that reaches out here in Southampton.

9. Make your BUSINESS TRIP OR HOLIDAY visit count

Many of us travel and sometimes even live overseas but not many of us think of that as mission. What if you took a Bible or Gospel literature in the native language, praying for the right person to give it to? What if you looked out for opportunities to network or point local people to local Christians/churches…. to Christ?

10. JOIN – an ABC World Mission group

Behind the vision for global mission at ABC lies a number of groups responsible in different ways for the work of global mission. (See page…) Please ask Tim Sutton about any opportunities to join these groups.

11. EXPLORE with others

If you would like to join with others who are exploring involvement in world mission, then come to the World Mission Breakfast.  It’s a great time of eating breakfast, discussing mission, sharing our stories, and praying for each other – and happens on a Saturday morning, from 9.30-11.15am, five times a year.

12. Talk

PLEASE contact me if you have questions about being involved in global mission!  I’d love to help you find your place and role.

 

We ALL have a part to play in Global Mission. What is yours?

 

 

 

3 Views on Pastoral Care: Which is Yours?

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Sometimes people seem surprised at my job title: Minister for World Mission AND Pastoral Care? How can that be?

My instinct, if I’m honest, is to sympathise with their thinking. I’ve experienced in my own life the sense of guilt and drivenness that sometimes comes with being part of a church or agency with a passion for mission. In the last few years –  and yes as I’ve got older! – I’ve come to appreciate quietness, meditative prayer, and read books on ‘emotionally healthy-‘ and ‘slow spirituality’ from evangelical authors who expose the evangelical obsession with activity and are trying to redress the balance.

But although I sympathise, I’m never quite content to concede that mission and pastoral care are almost in opposition to one another. For a start, they are both part of Biblical Christian practice. They come from the heart of One God. So how do they fit together?

Here are three models of Pastoral Care…

1. Traditional model.

Pastoral Care is,

“the practical outworking of the church’s concern for the everyday and ultimate needs of its members…”*

Some have spoken of an unspoken agreement between churches and their members: ‘You come to this church on Sundays and we will care for you, visit it you when you are sick, pray with you at the crisis points and crossroads of your life.’ Eugene Peterson (himself more of a Classical than a Traditional practitioner, however… but that’s a different story) would add, ‘And we will point you to God and the signs of his grace.’

2. Contemporary Missional Church model.

LICC (an excellent group that are blessing the church and have my full respect) for example has spoken of “moving away from a classic pastoral care model to one that emphasises the call to equip one another for the missional cause”. LICC proponents spell out what they mean…

“Leaders in the church seem to have entered into a ‘benefactor agreement’ with their congregations, where they are expected to be the providers of what people need pastorally and spiritually.

We have ‘taken hold of that for which the Church has taken hold of us’ instead of taking hold of that for which Christ has taken hold of us.

When we do this, we effectively become like a ‘shell’, insulating people from the life of discipleship that Jesus has called them into, instead of a skeleton supporting and helping people to disciple others.

The church becomes like a crab or a wood louse, with the staff surrounding the people with care and teaching, catering to their needs. But what we want to see is the church operating like a human body; arms, legs and torso supported by the skeleton and working together to achieve the commission that the head gives it.

Jesus’ commission is ‘Go and make disciples.’ Are we primarily doing that as leaders? Are we helping the people in our church to do that? If we are not, then are we really fulfilling the commission that Jesus has given us?”

So the aim of Pastoral Care in this context is to equip and encourage folk to stand in mission on their front lines for God.

While there is much with which I can agree in both of these 2 models, I think they are still slightly wide of the mark.

3. Biblical Missional Church model (sorry – can’t think of a better name!).

Yes, it is our duty to equip people for mission. And yes, Pastoral Care is “the practical outworking of the church’s concern for the everyday and ultimate needs of its members…” But this concern stems from God’s love for his people and his world. As such, pastoral care is part of God’s mission to his broken creation; a Christ-centred mission to address the many and terrible results of the ‘fall’.

Pastoral Care ministers to the agents of God’s mission, but not simply to get broken people back to fitness for service on the frontline and certainly not to pamper them. Pastoral Care rather advances God’s missional purposes for and in his people, on their long journeys to personal wholeness. This is a Pastoral Care that addresses issues of the human heart as discipleship issues whilst refusing to get stuck in ‘navel gazing’. The goal of this approach is to form worshippers, not primarily missionaries. The happy bi-product of this approach will certainly be better equipped missional people.

So God’s mission has ethnic/geographical, holistic/integral AND spiritual/emotional aims. It reaches as far and long as the ends of the earth, as wide as the whole of creation, but also as deep as the depths of the human heart. And Pastoral Care belongs to the latter.

 

 

 

* First quote is from Pastoral Care, Counselling and Psychotherapy in the New Dictionary of Christian Ethics and Pastoral Theology, Eds. David Atkinson and David Field, 1995).

What does a missionary church look like? (Part II)

brasilTwo things seem to have coincided this past week or so. First, the World Cup – a global celebration of [mostly!] friendly international competition – has begun, albeit against the backdrop of Brazil’s own internal, national strife. And second, the TV news seems even fuller than usual of international strife and brutality. In this post I’m asking what a missionary church looks like in this kind of world. The kind of world where groups, countries and individuals disagree and tend to fight and fear difference – rather more than they celebrate and embrace it.

Exclusion or Embrace?

Bruce Milne gives a strong case for the missional potential of a local church being missional or missionary by fully embracing diversity (please see previous post). Enormous challenges, however, are waiting for any church that tries to radically embrace diversity. Croatian born Miroslav Volf has addressed some of these issues in his book Exclusion & Embrace. For Volf, the contemporary situation of unprecedented local-global diversity is not simply an opportunity for witness, it necessitates a new strategy for survival:

“It may not be too much to claim that the future of our world will depend on how we deal with identity and difference. The issue is urgent. The ghettos and battlefields throughout the world – in the living rooms, in inner cities, or on the mountain ranges – testify indisputably to its importance.”

For Volf the answer lies in the shaping of ‘social agents’, the formation of people who, in a world of fragmented relationships, will learn to “give ourselves to others and “welcome” them, to readjust our identities to make space for them… prior to any judgement about others, except that of identifying with them in their humanity.” Volf sees the the origin of this theology of embrace, or of ‘self-donation’,  in the Trinitarian God. The Father, the Son and the Spirit exist in an eternal, mutual self-surrender of Divine love. And, “the very nature of the triune God is reflected on the cross of Christ.” According to the Gospels, the cross is both the means of salvation and the model of discipleship. Since, then, this is how God deals with his enemies (i.e. rebellious humanity – us), so must we.

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This way of talking sounds outrageous and simplistic in an often brutal and violent world. How can, for example, ’embrace’ stop the bullets flying from a gun? And Volf admits that what he is describing is indeed costly and often scandalous – the scandal being that there is no certainty that, when we have so given ourselves to the ‘Other’, there will be any immediate positive outcome. But for him this is not ultimately a problem, as those who have found themselves in such a predicament have “discovered a promise” – by which Volf seems to mean that of the hope of resurrection.

There may be things in Volf’s (or even Milne’s) books that we can’t fully go along with. But I think that they make some really important points. Learning from them, we could say that a church that wishes to become missionary in its very being will be a church modelled on and celebrating the breath-taking example of self-giving provided by its Triune God. It will be a church that holds together both the vision of diversity and the reality of the cost. It will grasp the urgency of being this kind of church in this kind of world.

So in more ways than one the challenge is not simply ‘over there.’ It’s ‘over here’ amongst us: Will we exclude or embrace?

Mission – rather uncomfortably – starts at home.

 

Questions for Reflection

1. What various kinds of diversity are visible in your church? Are any groups not represented? Why?

2. What are the primary obstacles to diversity in your church?

3. What Biblical passages particularly inspire a vision for diversity in the church?

4. In pursuing diversity, what mistakes could be made?

5. When may a certain kind of ‘exclusion’ be legitimate and right? (Clue: 1 Corinthians 5…)

6. How do we hold together embrace of our ‘enemies’ with a belief in justice …and what about Revelation 20?

7. What can you personally do to help make your church more diverse and ‘missional in its very being’?

 

What does a missionary church look like?

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What does a missionary church look like? Does it have a big map near the entrance, perhaps marking all the missionaries it has identified, trained, sent and is praying for? Does it keep up with global events and pray hard for the world? Does it engage in evangelistic and holistic projects in its own local community? Does it mobilise all its members to recognise and utilise the opportunities God has given to serve him on our many and various frontlines at home, work and play?

YES. YES. YES AND YES!

And it would be great if a church did much of the above, but… is there more?

We usually talk about mission in terms of saying or doing things. But what about mission in terms of being?  I’m reminded of something René Padilla once wrote:

“The local church is called to demonstrate the reality of the Kingdom of God among the kingdoms of this world, not only by what it says, but also by what it is and by what it does…” (Emphasis mine)

Mission as a way of being? What might that look like for a church?

Dynamically Diverse

Some time ago I read Bruce Milne’s excellent book Dynamic Diversity. In it Milne makes a compelling case for the revolutionary, missional potential of the communal life of the local church. Milne calls it ‘the new humanity church,’ basing his argument on Ephesians 2.15 where it says that Christ’s “purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two…”

In Ephesians 2 the cross is seen to have a dual effect. For Milne, not only does it remove the wrath of God (v3), it also removes the hostility of people towards one another (v15). The cross thus creates community. This community or new humanity is then, “a divine attestation to the gospel.”

Missional potential

Milne goes on to show that this text can be taken as an example of God’s intention to make a new humanity church not just of two different racial groupings (Jew and Gentile) but out of all the distinctions that usually divide mankind. He surveys the New Testament, highlighting the prevalence of the ‘new humanity’ theme. He shows how the ‘new humanity church’ is underpinned by the great theological themes of Trinity, Creation, Incarnation, Atonement, Church as the Body, and Eschatology. And he outlines the missional potential of the ‘new humanity church.’ He says that in the remarkable diversity that is the reality of today’s and tomorrow’s world, the Church is uniquely placed to demonstrate the power of the Gospel. In a church where diversity is embraced and celebrated, people feel as though they are ‘coming home’; there is a strong sense of ‘Otherism’; and owing to the multi-layered make-up of the congregation there are multiple points of connection with the people and world around.

Milne argues that now is the time for a return to an intentional focus on establishing truly diverse churches. This is not least because,

“[t]he story of the expansion of the church universal is the story of the founding and effective function of the church local.”

Milne’s thesis is that,

“the calling of every local church, everywhere, if it is to be faithful to its New Testament roots, is among other things to be a community of reconciliation in which all the primary divisions and polarities of its surrounding culture are confronted and find resolution under the gracious reign of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

So then… a real missionary church would not just be one that sends folk to far away – or even nearby – places. It would in its corporate, day-to-day life be a living, breathing example to the world that Jesus is alive – and He brings all things, all people together.

Exciting but also very challenging stuff.

 

 

Mentally Healthy Mission

 

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‘We all have physical health and we all have mental health. Each will vary from time to time. And it’s important we take care of both to promote our overall well-being’. So begins a brilliant little booklet I picked up a few weeks ago on a visit to Romsey Abbey.

These days in the UK we seem to be waking up to the fact that mental health and mental illness is a much stigmatised and misunderstood thing. For those who suffer from mental illness and their families, it is a very real and sometimes quite frightening experience.

One of my previous blog posts looks very briefly at the example of Elijah in the Bible as someone who suffered from discouragement and perhaps depression. Elijah was on mission with God and he’d seen God do great things. But one day he found himself burnt out, scared and on the run. He was quite literally on the run and had every reason to be so. There was a very real threat to his life from Queen Jezebel who didn’t like what he had just done to her prophets.

Being on mission with God is stimulating but deeply challenging. There are quite likely to be times when we feel like Eljiah or perhaps even worse. Here are the points I made from 1 Kings 19…  But I’m adding one further point with more direct reference to mental health.

To get the most out of the points below, please take 3 or 4 minutes to read through the Old Testament book of 1 Kings, Chapter 19….

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I deduce the following points from that story:

1. Discouragement, burnout or depression can happen to the best of us and is not something that only affects non-believers or weak Christians (Don’t forget the Apostle Paul’s experience in 2 Cor 1:8-11)!

2. It can happen apparently unexpectedly (see ch.18) – although burnout and depression are most likely the result of/related to underlying issues that have been there for some time.

3. Remember that God is gracious and loving in his approach to you (vv5-8).

4. The short term answer may be as simple as the need for good food and sleep (vv5-6).

5. Be aware that during a difficult time you may not be seeing things clearly/accurately (vv10,14 & 18).

6. An important part of God’s remedy for you is time spent consciously in His presence (vv11-13) – through time alone with Him and/or through the Christian community/corporate worship.

7. Don’t shrug off your experience as unimportant – it could be that God wants to communicate something new or significant to you through this time (vv15-18).

8. And don’t be a loner like Elijah! Find someone you can trust and talk to about what you’re going through.  Use this chart below as a way of helping you discern whether or not you need to see someone urgently to give you support. You should be able to click onto the image to make it larger…

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Let’s be part of a culture change in our churches and mission agencies. For those who are struggling with their mental health it can be difficult to talk about these things. But whether you are a mission partner/missionary or simply on mission with God through your local church locally, let’s start making it possible for people to talk freely about their mental health and receive the love and support of caring communities.

Mission, just like Church, is NOT for ‘perfect’ people who never struggle. And we must repent if we have given others that impression. God uses us in our weakness. But we also need to be aware of our own boundaries and limitations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

No Vision For Global Mission? Here’s why…

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10 Reasons for British Church’s current ambivalence about global mission

Excellent recent blog posts by Steve Holmes (http://steverholmes.org.uk/blog/?p=7261) and Eddie Arthur (http://www.kouya.net/?p=6031) have reflected on the loss of [global] missionary vision in the UK Church.

Steve says, “And so we live in this place where UK evangelicalism has lost its missionary vision, and cannot, yet, embrace a new one. Mission weekends are now an oddity amongst our churches; interest in global mission is perceived as a strange and specialist concern. This is a far-reaching, and (I believe) potentially disastrous shift in our evangelical identity; I am convinced that we are at our best, and we are truest to ourselves, when we boldly and unashamedly commit to and celebrate the work of bringing knowledge of the gospel, and signs of the kingdom, to all in the world who do not yet know to name Jesus as Lord.”

Steve mentions three factors leading to ambivalence about global mission as loss of confidence in the concept of conversion, the success of the missionary enterprise and the growth of the worldwide church, and Post-colonial guilt. Eddie adds a fourth – ‘benign neglect’ due to the business of clergies’ lives. Interestingly, these all feature on my list below – a list compiled over the last couple of years of mission-watching.

So here’s my own list for what it’s worth – and I’ve ordered it in what I think may be the least to greatest influence:

10. The 1972/73 call for a ‘moratorium’ on Western involvement in world mission

In an influential WCC conference in the early 70s one delegate called for a moratorium or delay/suspension of Western missionary activity. This was because of perhaps quite legitimate concerns about paternalism in some quarters. One influential WCC speaker said the effects of that call are still with us today. Some it seems did suspend their missionary activity and lost their vision for global mission.

9. Secularism’s discouraging but mistaken belief in the end of Christianity/religion

There is a popular myth that Christianity/religion is on the way out and it”s only a matter of time before secularisation runs its full course and religion is no more. Myths like this can be very discouraging and put us on the back foot with regard to nurturing a vision for global mission.

8. The reality of shrinking numbers of churchgoers in large segments of the church

This results in a change of emphasis and the realisation that there is a need for mission ‘over here’ – but can also result in a false dichotomy opening up that our mission is no longer ‘over there’.

7. The move from being a productive to a consuming society

Today in the West we have become consumers of Church/Christianity, rather than ‘producers’ (if we can say that) of it.

6. Postmodernism’s focus on the local and hatred of meta-narratives

Postmoderns don’t like anything much that proclaims itself to be a truth for all.  Historical Christianity proclaims faith in Christ as a truth for all. The Western Church is affected by this.

5. Postcolonial Embarrassment

This is the feeling that somehow mission is colonialism in disguise. There has always been some truth in that, but not as much as is commonly supposed. But it stops some of us from being interested in global mission.

4. Success of mission

The last few decades have seen amazing growth of the worldwide Church. It is now well documented that the Church is predominantly non-Western and is located in the Global South. This is great but it can sometimes give way to a false optimism, a sense that the mission baton can now somehow be handed over now to Africa, Asia and Latin America to carry on the task.

3. Over-busy Church leaders

Ministers who have their hands so full with keeping up with the immediate needs of their congregations let alone thinking about local mission…. Let alone thinking about global mission…

2. Religious pluralism with its implicit challenge to the uniqueness of the Christian faith

There is consequently a crisis of confidence in the Church and in the uniqueness and value of Christian faith.

1. A weak missional ecclesiology

This is major. A huge misunderstanding of the nature and purpose of the Church. I.e. That the Church is primarily caught up in God’s mission and called to be his co-worker in it.

In what order would you place the above? Would you mention any other factors?