The Five-Percent

The “world languages” of Europe determine to a great extent how theology is done and which questions are posed. With ninety-five percent of the world’s population having access to at least a portion of Scripture translated in a language they understand the five-percent minority remains significantly neglected. This five percent includes over three hundred million people and more than two-thirds of the worlds languages. From a linguistic perspective, these minority-language speakers are the poor. Not only are they generally poor socially, economically and politically, but they are oppressed religiously by the confines of theological reflection that is in languages not their own. Bible translation in these minority languages becomes a means of liberation for these people. “The spectacle of a translated Bible, proceeding as divine oracle in the accents of native speech, being at the same time novel and patriotic, empowered victim and marginal populations”.

James Maxey (2010) Bible Translation as Contextualisation: The Role of Orality, Missiology 38:173 (with a closing quote from Lamin Sanneh).

If you are concerned about the five-percent, then take a look here to see what you can do to help them.

Whose God: Whose Theology?

“… until recent years, systematic theology has at its best tolerated interpretations of Christology from outside the mainstream academic quarters, that is, mostly Euro-American and predominantly male theologians. Toleration has meant paying lip service to the role of “exotic” interpretations of Christ stemming from the soil of Africa, Asia, Latin America, and non-dominant cultures in the Global North. At the same time, these interpretations have been marginalized, put in separate volumes and essays – apart from the “serious” dogmatic and systematic works.” (p.70)

Some Thoughts About Missionaries

Missionaries were part of the wallpaper of my childhood. From time to time there would be a strange adult at our week night supper table and I would be introduced to Miss X who was a missionary in some far flung country. These missionaries seemed to be a harmless enough bunch of people, a little dull and strangely dressed, perhaps, but they were unlikely to cause any problems. However, it was clear from my mother’s reaction that I was supposed to regard these slightly dishevelled people with a great deal of awe and admiration. They were missionaries, labourers in God’s harvest and I should feel privileged that they were clearing up the dessert before I could have seconds!

Over the years, I met a large number of these people. They would regularly turn up at Church youth group or University CU meetings to tell us tales of derring-do on the mission field.

Missionary talks were predictable: their slide set would always end up with a sunset and at some point in the talk they would say, ‘ I may be a missionary, but I’m an ordinary person, just like you’ (at which point everyone in the room would think ‘you are fooling no one but yourself’).

In my experience missionaries were a little eccentric, but like the earth in the Hitchhikers Guide, they were “mostly harmless”. I was of course, aware that there were other ways of looking at missionaries. They were rapacious neo-colonialists who destroyed cultures and bribed people to adopt a foreign religion.

The song Missionary Man by the Eurhythmics captures this nicely.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3baOdzHyLno

To be honest, I was never quite sure how this image of the colonial oppressor tied up with the rather mild mannered missionaries who had eaten my mother’s Yorkshire pudding, but the image was there..

It is very easy to find fault with the Western Missionary movement of the last 200 years. However, we should recognize that by and large it was a success. The phenomenal growth of the worldwide Church over the past hundred years or so can be traced, in part at least, to the pioneering work of missionaries from the Western world. That being said, I don’t want to appear to remove God from the throne. It is His mission and He is the one responsible for the growth of the Church around the world. Equally, I think it is important that we recognise that much of the most spectacular growth of the Church (for example in China since 1948) has happened in a post-missionary setting. However, whichever way we look at things, the missionary movement has been, under God, a significant factor in the growth of the Church around the world, and in that sense, if no other, is a success story

This is the introduction to a paper entitled “The Modern Missionary Movement, Was it All Bad“, which I presented at a conference a few years back. I go on to discuss some of my own experiences and what can be learned from them. This is then followed by responses from various other people. You might find it all rather interesting.

From Times Square to Timbuktu

I really wanted to like this book; I even quoted a couple of passages from it in blog posts a few days back. However, I found it really difficult to maintain my initial enthusiasm. From Times Square to Timbuktu, starts well but, like so much of the ecumenical conversation that it promotes, it descends into multiple journey and pilgrimage metaphors which don’t seem to lead anywhere.

While I applaud the author’s concern about the fractured nature of Christianity both in the west and the wider world, I am not sure that he brings anything concrete by way of solutions. Indeed, it seems to me that he avoids the hard questions of theology and practice which lie at the heart of the major divisions between the historic churches.

To make things worse, the prose is rather turgid and what could and should be a fascinating subject turns into a rather difficult read. Thankfully it is a rather short book, because if it had been fifty pages longer, I’d never have finished it.

As you will have gathered, I’m not going to recommend that you buy this book. If you want to know about the growth of the Church worldwide, there are more informative and more interesting books out there. If you have read Kingdom Without Borders: The Untold Story of Global ChristianityWhose Religion Is Christianity?: The Gospel beyond the West and The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity (Future of Christianity Trilogy) then you might give Times Square to Timbuktu a go. Even then, you might want to read my essay on Reading the Bible with the Global Church with responses by scholars from around the world which has the great advantage of being free as well as informative!

A Church Divided

Even more regrettably, modern denominational divisions are often driven by crass motives of money, power, and pride. Often, new denominations are created simply as ways to exercise control and power by a person or faction, and then justified by some obscure doctrinal rationale. All this makes a mockery of the church’s witness. So the existence of more than 40,000 denominations in the world is not only a measure of flagrant disobedience with respect to God’s desire for the Church; the paths that have led the church to this reality are littered with sin. Our contemporary practice shamelessly violated biblical teachings in ways unimaginable to those who wrote the New Testament  and to leaders of the early church.

From Times Square to Timbuktu by Welsey Granberg-Michaelson (p.15).

One of the reasons I enjoy working in Bible translation is that our work generally does not have a denominational basis, indeed it can serve to bring believers from different backgrounds together; I wrote this in a blog post 8 years ago, but it is as true today:

Bible translation is one area in which Christians from different confessions can unite in order to advance the Gospel. The Scriptures are above our theological differences; there is no premillenial Bible as opposed to a post or amillenial one. The faithful translator strenuously avoids placing their personal slant or theological spin on their work – and where inevitable mistakes occur there is a rigorous checking procedure to ensure faithfulness to the original. If we are truly Christians, of whatever background, our concern must be to make God’s revealed word available to the millions of people around the world who still can’t read the book in their own language. Placing the Bible and God’s desire to communicate through it, above our own theological and cultural convictions is a liberating experience. It allows Christians who might never meet or who might, in other circumstances, be hostile to one another to work together towards a cause that is bigger than them and their secondary convictions.

I Think I’m Going To Like This Book

The astonishing ability of Christian faith to embed its truth in the life of widely diverse and endlessly changing cultures is the key to is growth, durability, and vitality through time and across geographical space. Christianity rests on the conviction that God became flesh and blood in Jesus. This incarnational foundation projects Christianity into an ongoing pilgrimage, constantly asking how it finds expression and vital witness in the world’s changing history and culture.

From Times Square to Timbuktu by Welsey Granberg-Michaelson (p.3).

The Best Books On Mission (Again)

This, dear reader, is the definitive list of the best books about world mission. In this case, “definitive” has a rather vague sense and basically means “until I get round to updating it”.

The Best Book On Mission

Without a doubt the best book on mission today is Kingdom Without Borders: The Untold Story of Global Christianity by Miriam Adeney. That being said, you’ll have to work pretty hard to find any mention of mission or missionaries within it’s pages. Essentially, it is a book about the world church, or if you like, a book which results from the the success of the 19th and 20th century world mission movement. From my point of view, this book should be compulsory reading for anyone in church or mission leadership. You cannot understand world mission today without taking into account the development of world Christianity (though some try) and, for my money, this is probably the best place to start.

Best Biblical Overview of Mission

Demonstrating regrettable indecisiveness and a failure to understand the meaning of the world “best”, I’m actually going to list three books in this category.

First, and most obviously, comes Chris Wright’s magnum opus; The mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative. This book does what it says on the tin. Rather than starting with the normal mission texts, Wright starts with Genesis and demonstrates how mission is a key theme running through the whole of Scripture. He doesn’t present a Biblical basis for mission, but a missional basis for the Bible. The downside is that the book is long and heavy; not only will your mind be engaged, but reading it will develop your forearms too! If you are feeling lazy or can’t afford another big book, you can download a pdf of a booklet by Chris Wright which covers some of the same themes (but that would be cheating).

Covering similar ground to Wright’s book is Dean Flemming’s excellent Recovering the Full Mission of God: A Biblical Perspective on Being, Doing and Telling. Like Wright, Flemming works his way through the Scripture from Genesis to Revelation looking at the theme of mission. Flemming’s key thesis is to integrate character, action and proclamation into a holistic view of mission across the whole of the Bible. There is nothing new here, but it is excellently presented.

My final selection in this category is The Message of Mission (The Bible speaks today) by Peskett and Ramachandra. The Bible speaks today series are all excellent and this is no exception. Unlike the other two I’ve mentioned, this does not work through the whole of Scripture but expounds specific texts in order to illustrate various concepts and ideas in mission.

Best Overview of Current(ish) Mission Issues

There is no doubt that the best overview of (more or less) current mission issues is Global Missiology for the 21st Century. It is almost fifteen years old, so it isn’t entirely up to date, but it is very comprehensive and it has the wonderful advantage of being a free download. I really can’t conceive of any reason why you would not download it (well, perhaps you are on a very expensive internet connection).

The Best History of Mission

This one poses a bit of a problem. I’m sure that the best history of Christian mission is Kenneth Scott Latourette’s 24 volume work. However, unless you are a library, you are unlikely to want to give up enough shelf space or money to get hold of it. In which case, you might find a second-had copy of his one volume abridged history (still a weighty tome) but you might prefer to get hold of the Pelican History of Christian Missions by Stephen Neil. Sadly, it seems to be out of print at the moment, but I’m sure that the usual online-second hand book shops would find you a copy. You can’t have mine!

Best Book of Mission Praxis

There really is only one contender for this title: The Mission of God’s People: A Biblical Theology of the Church’s Mission (Biblical Theology for Life) by Chris Wright is absolutely excellent. In some ways it forms a companion volume to the Mission of God which I mentioned above, but it is much more accessible. Essentially, it is an overview of different activities which fall under the head of mission and an explanation of their biblical basis and a short exploration of how they can be carried out. It’s another one that needs to be on lots of peoples shelves.

The Best Overview of Mission Theology

There is no getting away from this, it has to be TRANSFORMING MISSION (American Society of Missiology). Bosch is the book! It gives an excellent overview of the development of mission thought historically and a broad canvas of where things are today. Some readers of Kouyant might object that it isn’t an Evangelical book, but I would actually argue that this is a part of its value. Much Evangelical mission theology seems to assume that nothing happened before William Carey, thus discarding three quarters of the life and history of the church. By adopting a broader sweep, Bosch allows us to learn from the thoughts (and mistakes) of others which we might be otherwise unaware of.

If you’ve read Bosch and are looking for something else, you might appreciate: Constants in Context: A Theology of Mission for Today (American Society of Missiology) or Comprehending Mission: The Questions, Methods, Themes, Problems, and prospects of Missiology (American Society of Missiology).

The Best Overview of the Great Commission

If you are looking for a short, readable and cheap overview of one of the key Bible passages relating to mission, you could do far worse than get The Great Commission for your Kindle. Then again, if you don’t have a Kindle or if you are really mean, you can get the same work for free here.

Closing Thoughts

This is a somewhat updated version of earlier posts on the best books in mission and missiology. It is undoubtedly as flawed as those earlier posts were, but I hope it will give you something to think about. Meanwhile, if you have suggestions of books I’ve missed, feel free to suggest them in the comments – even better, buy me a copy! If you think the whole list is hopeless, then this is probably a good time to start your own blog and make your own list!

Almost But Not Quite

Albert Mohler, who is President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary has just published an article entitled Christian Mission in the Twenty-first Century. It is an interesting piece and well worth a read. However, the most significant things about the article are not what it says, but what it doesn’t say.

Mohler makes some interesting remarks about a move towards focussing on people groups rather than on nation-states, which is good, but hardly new:

The new vision for world missions is directed toward the reaching of people groups rather than nations. Missiological focus upon the nation-state is a remnant of the nineteenth century, when nations were conceived as singular units and national identity was paramount. This paradigm was long out of date by the end of the twentieth century. Christians now recognize that there are thousands of distinct people groups, each identifiable by culture, language, and social structure–and they are not always divided neatly by political boundaries. Each of these people groups represents a distinct missiological challenge, and each must be considered in its own right.

There are some interesting comments about generational changes in the US (though I’m not entirely convinced that these are accurate):

This generation demonstrates a readiness to take on new challenges and to go where no previous generation has yet taken the gospel. They have been born into a culturally diverse world, and they are gifted with skills in intercultural communication. They are impatient with the cultural isolationism of previous generations. They see no political boundaries to the Gospel. They are ready to cross political borders and see no limitations on the Great Commission. Where previous generations wanted to support missions, this generation is determined to do missions. Incubated in an experience-driven culture, these young Christians are not interested in missions by proxy.

And there is something about grass roots changes in American Churches:

This new vision for world missions is also remarkable in the fact that much, if not most, of the energy is coming from grassroots Christians rather than from institutional structures. Perhaps the greatest missionary advance among American churches is seen in the widespread participation of Christian laypersons in missionary trips and short-term mission projects. Churches that encourage and support this hands-on approach to missions will bear testimony to the powerful impact it has upon the participants and upon the missionary commitment of the entire congregation.

However, what you won’t find is is any mention of the growth in the world church and the role of majority world believers in the spread of Christianity beyond a couple of tangential references:

Reviewing the history of the missionary movement, it is clear that great gains were made for the gospel.

One missionary leader has defined this mobilization as “all of God’s people reaching all the peoples of the earth.” That motto sets the issue clearly.

Admittedly he does mention ‘all of God’s people’ but he rarely seems to imply that this means anyone outside of the USA.

Albert Mohler is an excellent theologian and a great writer; I very much appreciate his writings, especially on the subject of Bible translation. However, in this piece he is setting out a vision of the future of Christian mission that owes far more to the past than it does to the future. Welcome to the twentieth century.

A vision for the future of mission that does not take into account the explosive growth of the Church worldwide and the way in which majority world Christians are spreading the Gospel – often without reference to traditional missionary models – is grossly inadequate. Even if the article is aimed simply at an American audience (as this one seems to be, though it doesn’t say as such), it does a disservice to its audience by not pointing to the context in which American missionaries will need to work and live in the future.

Mohler quite rightly points out some of the failings of a previous generation of missionaries:

At the same time, every generation has left its own imprint on the missionary task, and each generation is blind to some of the cultural baggage it takes along with the gospel. At the height of the missions movement in the Victorian era, it often seemed that missionaries were just as intent on Westernizing native peoples as in evangelizing them.

However, in painting a future of a world mission movement that is essentially American and which ignores the shift in the centre of gravity of the Church, he is, sadly, committing the same mistake that these forefathers made. There is some good and interesting stuff in this article, but unfortunately its major flaw outweighs the good.

Soft Discipleship

Another challenge for us here in the UK is the belief and practice of the growing churches of the Global South. Many Global South Christians are more conservative in terms of both beliefs and moral teaching than many of the mainstream churches of the West. Many preach deep personal faith and communal orthodoxy, mysticism, and puritanism, appealing to scriptural authority. Just look at the gay issue in the Anglican Communion.

Many have said that the church in the global south is “one mile wide and an inch deep”. However that is not my experience. Prayer is often more everyday than in the western church. Dependency on God, rather than wealth. generosity and hospitality, rather than selfish individualism – the list is endless.

In my previous position, I often spent times in places like the Philippines. One of my best friends is Nathan Mejica. He looks on me as a mentor, but for me his faithfulness, prayer life, dependence on God is just something that I aspire to have just a little more of. At one time some of his family turned on him and tried tom oust him. His quiet acceptance of what happened, warmth to those who wronged him and prayer for the best to come out of the situation, have remained with me since. I am sure that we all know people like that – he has been my mentor and inspiration.

Yes some preach messages that, to many westerners, appear simplistic, hyper-charismatic and apocalyptic. However we all know that life is not split into departments like it is for us westerners. Healing, exorcism and dream or visions are all fundamental parts of religious sensibility. Of course there are excesses that many struggle with such as the prosperity gospel, but actually wouldn’t it be great to capture some more of their excitement of knowing Christ.
For me, there is a huge contrast with the marked spiritual poverty of many churches in the West. Some have said to me that they find the western Church “one inch wide and not even an inch deep”. Too harsh? Maybe but maybe we need to reflect more on that.

I came back from the Cape Town Lausanne Congress with an enormous sense that the UK church would benefit from more commitment to prayer and a discovery of a deep spirituality. Talking to a friend from Kenya last week, he is just about to move to a new black majority church in Ashford, mainly Central African. He wondered if even he could cope with the expectations for prayer and fasting that are a normal part of church life of that congregation.

HOW WILL THE WESTERN CHURCH, TRAPPED IN ITS SECULARISM AND MODERNITY AND SUBSERVIENCE TO TOLERATION, RESPOND TO THIS SHIFT? DO WE WANT TO LISTEN AND LEARN?

I did say that yesterday’s blog post would be the last from the Global Connections Conference, but then I decided to quote this whole section from Martin Lee’s opening address. You can download this as a pdf and listen to the other talks on the GC website.

I promise that this is probably the last thing I’ll write about the conference.

Friends Not Bosses

Finding Our Place. What exactly is the place of the Western Church in world mission today? In this final (probably) post inspired by the recent Global Connections Conference, I’d like to briefly explore this issue. As I’ve done in earlier posts, I’ll refer back to some of my tweets from the conference.

This is such a simple, but very powerful quote. The church of the South needs the church from the West, but it doesn’t need to be bossed around. We cannot and must not assume that Westerners will automatically be in charge of any missionary or church endeavour that they are involved in. Ray Porter of OMF captured this wonderfully in a quote from Indonesia which I tweeted.

The Global Church does not need experts because they can’t do stuff. But they do need their brothers and sisters.

The other side of this equation is that churches in the North and West need to get away from the idea that they are always the ones giving. We send money and missionaries and the rest of the world receives them. The world has changed:

The UK Church needs to learn to receive, but we do have something to give. Partnership is a two-way thing. Velloso-Ewell

Perhaps the first thing we need to do is to rebalance our impression of the church in the rest of the world. Over and over again, I have heard it said that the church in Africa is a mile wide and an inch deep. Well, it is true that there is a lot of nominalism in some parts of Africa and that the prosperity Gospel causes huge problems, but I have met many, many African Christians is far more than an inch deep. In the face of conflict, hunger and suffering they demonstrate a life of faith that puts most believers in the West to shame. Anyway, what gives the materialism-wracked churches of Europe and America the right to call anybody’s faith “an inch deep”? Pots? Kettles?

Christians in the UK have a great deal to learn from Christians in other parts of the world and vice-versa. We need each other; partnership is a mutual activity and so is leadership. You can’t assume that you will be in charge or that your agenda will be the most important one, just because you come from the West or you have provided the funds for a project.

The great paradigm of mission is that if we need to be prepared to become slaves and submit to suffering and death @Bourdanne

Or in the words of the master:

Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all… (Mark 10:43,44 NIV)

If you are interested in more information on this theme, you could try this post in which includes a very cutting quote about one type of mission outreach and a link to a lecture I delivered with a series of responses from around the world. Go on. You know you want to!

Our Place in the World

I am a child of the British Empire; or, more accurately, a child of the legacy of Empire. When I was in school, vast swathes of the world map were coloured pink to show that these were countries that Britain ruled (or had recently ruled – we didn’t have new atlases!). In reality, the Empire was already a thing of the past by the time I was born; Britain was in decline. In the immortal words of Sellars and Yeatman by 1918 “America was now clearly top nation and so history came to an”.

Despite this decline, we hung on to notions of grandeur. I recall a joke my father told me about a British ship being hailed by a counterpart from the US Navy. “How is the world’s second largest navy?”, shouted the American. “Fine”, said the British Captain, “and how is the world’s second best?”.

During my lifetime, the United Kingdom has had to slowly grow to realise that we are not the second biggest, nor are we really the best. We are a small nation among many other nations on the earth. This is a reality that we find hard to grasp as a poll in today’s Telegraph demonstrates.

In an excellent short talk at the recent Global Connections conference, John Stevens of the FIEC pointed out that the position of the British church is analogous to the position of the United Kingdom in world politics. In the same way that we are getting used to Britain no longer being a dominant economic, political or military force in the world, we also need to adjust our expectations of the role of the British church in the world. While the number of Christians has declined in the UK, the church around the world has grown rapidly and we need to find our appropriate place within the wider ecclesiastical world.

This is a theme I’ve come back to several times over the last few years.

This piece is part of a series I wrote last summer.

A hundred years ago, the majority of Christians lived in the Western World and missionaries were sent in huge numbers from Britain (and other countries) to the rest of the world to bring the Gospel. This endeavour was incredibly successful; so much so that the church has grown enormously in areas where there were virtually no Christians just a few decades ago. At the same time, the percentage of Christians in the West has declined precipitously. To quote  well worn phrase, there has been a shift in the Centre of Gravity of the Church. The role and place of cross-cultural missionaries has changed dramatically over the last one hundred years and we need

to think through what this means for the future.

This one looks at the issue of mission out of exile:

The Danish physicist Neils Bohr said that it is difficult to make predictions, especially when it concerns the future. I think this can be applied to the situation of the church in the UK today.  There is one school of thought that says we are living through a paradigm shift which will see an almost terminal decline in the church in Europe and a reawakening at the periphery. Others believe that things have more or less stabilised as they are. Our Grandchildren will be able to tell us how it all worked out.

I don’t know what the future holds, but one thing I am sure of is that it won’t be the past! We can’t go back! Things are not like they used to be and they never will be again. Britain will never be the great missionary sending country that it was in the past – it may, in God’s mercy, be a different sort of great missionary sending country, but the social and political factors, not to mention the religious ones, which allowed for the great mission movements of the 19th and 20th centuries have ended. We need to look to a new sort of future and not try and revisit the past.

And in this one, I make a surprising foray into the world of football:

Despite our history of not doing very well in international football, there is still an expectation that England should do well – after all, this is football’s homeland.

And what about the Church? For years, centuries even, Western Europe was the centre of the Christian faith. The United Kingdom was a great missionary sending nation – we took Christianity to the world. But, just like with football, those pesky foreigners have taken Christianity and seem to be doing it better than we do. The Church around the world is growing and developing like never before, while in the traditional homelands, it is struggling. The next generation of world Christian leaders will not be from Europe or the US, but from Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Last night’s match may provide a much needed dose of reality for English football; we need to abandon our dreams of grandeur and start to learn from the way other nations have moved ahead of us. The Church in Britain needs to do something similar; we need to start learning from the Church around the world.

 

Not by Missionaries Alone

I reckon that the Church in the West places too much emphasis on missionaries.

Before I get dragged before the mission-leaders’ trades union, let me quickly point out that I have argued on numerous occasions that the Church in the west should still be sending missionaries out into the world; try this series for size.

In one of those earlier posts, I wrote this:

The Church is called to be a witness to Jesus (Acts 1:8) and to make disciples (Matthew 28:19). These commands are universal and apply to all Christians everywhere and in every time. The two passages from Matthew and Luke also assume that Christians will bear witness and make disciples in all parts of the world. So, all Christians everywhere are to make disciples and bear witness to Christ to all people everywhere. You can’t argue with that: see Serge’s comment on an earlier post.

However, we should not make the mistake of assuming that sending missionaries is the same as bearing witness to Christ and making disciples. We are very apt to confuse our own cultural expressions of the Christian faith with the deeper reality of the faith itself and this is a case in point.  The modern missionary movement is one response (among many) from the Church to God’s call to serve him. (If you want more on this theme, see the following post.)

I would add to this, that in the current situation in the UK, not all churches have the human or financial resources that would allow them to send people across the world; but that doesn’t absolve them from the call to make disciples. So, what are the alternatives to sending missionaries?

The World Has Come Here

Whatever we think about the economics and social impact of immigration, as Christians we have to recognise that it provides us with an unprecedented opportunity to share the Gospel with people from around the world without needing to visit a travel agent or buy malaria tablets. English language classes, overseas students’ cafés, providing help to navigate British bureaucracy, are all meaningful and useful ways that Churches can serve their local international community and provide opportunity to share the message of Christ.

Going Without Going

There are many ways in which a congregation can become involved in world mission without actually sending a missionary of their own. I’ll give examples from Wycliffe, but there are plenty of other options out there.

Support a Missionary Anyway

There are many missionaries who struggle to raise adequate financial and prayer support who would be grateful if a Church were to get behind them and encourage them.

Pray for a Project Overseas

Prayer is really important; really important! Even if a church doesn’t have a lot of people or money, they can pray. There are a number of good websites which will provide you with information for praying for different needs around the world. However, many of us find it difficult to pray for lots of different countries or situations; it is easier to concentrate on one thing. A programme such as First Gospel prayer can be a real help to many. First Gospel Prayer involves a group committing themselves to pray for the translation of the First Gospel (hence the name) for a people group. This normally involves a time period of 1-4 years, during which the group will be provided with regular prayer and praise updates to encourage and motivate them.

Get Involved With A Church or People Group

There are many programmes that help churches in the UK partner with Churches or groups around the world. In Wycliffe we have a thing called In Focus which will ‘introduce’ your church to one group so that you can:

  • pray for the Lord to break through into their lives
  • build meaningful relationships with national workers ministering to this group
  • prayerfully consider the financial needs of the programme
  • praise God as scripture becomes available and has impact
  • celebrate as the kingdom expands as a result of your involvement

There are lots of other ideas out there. The important thing is that we need to realise that changes in the demographics of the Church, new technologies and the ease of travel mean that we have many more opportunities to obey Christ’s commands to make disciples than were available to previous generations.

We have to be involved in mission work; but that may well not involve missionaries!