Mobilisation is a word often used in the arena of global mission. What it really means is to respond in obedience to God’s call. But what about COVID? Has God’s call been put on hold? No. The call is as clear today as it ever has been—we are called, as individuals, as churches, as a united faith, to mobilise for mission. Alan Jamieson, NZBMS general director, presents his thoughts on mobilisation in a post-COVID world.
Right now, we are immersed in a global pandemic. No one knows when it will end, but it will. When that happens, many places in the world, especially those where the gospel of Jesus is least known and that are home to the desperately poor, will need us to send global workers again. God, who loves the whole world and reaches out in special compassion to the least and the lost, is calling again.
The suggestion that New Zealanders would be sent overseas to engage in mission work sometimes raises a number of concerns which, in the middle of this COVID pandemic, may become even more glaring.
For many, there is a growing anxiety around the seeming arrogance of evangelistic work in places where different religious beliefs and cultural life are strong. This is a cultural cringe born from times when missionary work was wrapped in colonialism, locals were talked down to and their cultures ignored.
Coupled with this is the growing awareness of the huge cost of sending westerners and the value of supporting locals.
These critiques are real and we at NZBMS are aware of the validity and widespread nature of such critiques.
Recent research amongst committed American Christian young adults shows that over half would call themselves ‘supportive skeptics’. That is to say, while they share these critiques and concerns, they are also supportive of global mission. However, they want to move beyond an independent white saviour syndrome to mission based on genuine partnership and ways of sharing Jesus that are respectful and culturally sensitive.
While we, as New Zealand Baptist churches, have always sent New Zealanders overseas, we are also proactive in supporting locals. Some of our most significant and long-term ventures have been to support networks of overseas pastors and indigenous churches (involving many more churches and individuals than the Baptist movement here in New Zealand). This includes indigenous pastoral and evangelist training in Tripura (India) and similar work with the Baptist Churches of Bangladesh.
Supporting these locally-led indigenous churches and their associated community works of compassion is a very important part of who we are.
More recently, we have helped initiate businesses which encompass a commitment to education and healthcare. These businesses are in partnership with locals and are eventually handed over to local leadership and ownership.
When this pandemic comes to an end, these global churches, their compassionate works and the businesses we support will need increased support and part of this needs to be in person. It requires people who are called by God to bring distinctive skills and a richness of faith that will enable them to partner with locals. In going, we will be stretched and we will learn from a genuine partnership with locals about what God is doing amongst them. These are learnings and experiences we can bring back to New Zealand to encourage and reshape our churches.
But who is sensing this new call to global work?
Could God be calling you to prepare to go when the world opens up again? Is God calling someone in your church who needs prayer, encouragement and the wider church to help prepare them for serving? Could they be sent and supported from your church whānau? NZBMS is here to help you personally, and your church collectively, in this journey.
Please email me if you would like to talk more.