History, Geography and Sovereignty

24 06 2008

Operation World is a superb resource for seeking God on behalf of the nations. Patrick Johnstone and his team of researchers have done an excellent job of compiling (and condensing) information about the global church, and the continued need for cross-cultural mission worldwide. John Piper gives his thoughts on the value of Operation World here, for those interested in his opinion on it.

One of the things which I value most highly about this wonderful book is its capacity to encourage the reader to see the providence of God in global events. Every now and then Johnstone will include a fact which is mind-boggling in terms of how the activities of godless nations lead to the exaltation of God’s name among the nations. Time and again the sovereignty of God over the events of history is highlighted with great force. An example is the following quote I read this morning about Indonesia. We tend to associate this group of islands with pain and persecution for the body of Christ, amidst an increasingly hostile Islamic society. The following quote shows our God at work in the Indonesian government’s efforts to resettle remote island areas with citizens from densely populated localities. God has been at work in the midst of this population shift.

“The Transmigration Scheme is one of the world’s largest planned resettlements of people ever organised. Vast areas of virgin territory in Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi and Papua have been opened up for migrants from overpopulated Java and Bali. Over 8 million were relocated between 1969 and 1998. These new settlements have been hard on the newcomers; with harsh conditions, poor soils and inefficient financing and communications. Yet among these migrants there is an openness to the gospel, and Christian groups have thrived despite the preferential selection of Muslims. Pray that these Christians may be lights for the Lord in areas never before evangelized – especially Sumatra and Sulawesi. There are also large numbers of migrants to the cities. Urban areas are rapidly becoming multi-cultural centres where people are more open to the gospel”.
[Patrick Johnstone, Operation World, p.342]


Ministry Blog Up and Running

19 04 2008

We have just launched a new blog, which will carry details of our preparation for missions work in Peru, and our work for God once we get there. It is called ‘The Road to Peru’ and can be found here. It will be updated periodically with news and views about mission.

I will post a fresh link to it from Double Usefulness each time new content is added.

A Meditation on Global Providence

16 04 2008

In 1884 there wasn’t a single Protestant church in South Korea.

That’s a heartbreaking statistic.

By the year 2000 there were 60,000 congregations.

That’s cause for heartfelt praise.

In the land of Turkey Western missionaries struggle to be accepted, owing to the political tensions of recent years.

That’s the terrifying nature of modern life.

Korean missionaries are pouring into Turkey at an exponential rate.

That’s a blessing beyond words.

They are readily accepted by Turks because of alliances during the Korean war.

That’s a cause for rejoicing.

The reality is: people are being reached in a land which is hostile to the West, by missionaries from the East, who were reached by workers from the West.

The encouragement is: none of our work for God is in vain, nor limited to the context or continent on which it is exercised.

That’s the global providence of God.

Come Over Here and Help Us

8 02 2008

The world of missions work is changing. As inhabitants of Western Europe, we must acknowledge that the greater majority of Christians in the world are from non-European, non-westernised roots; and that while the Church in our part of the globe is not experiencing the growth and blessing that it once enjoyed, there are remarkable signs of gospel spread and health in other lands.

All of this affects the way in which we view mission. In a fascinating article in Evangelical Missions Quarterly in January 2005 Miguel Palomino (originally from Peru) writes about ‘Lessons from Latino Missionaries to Europe’. He writes that ‘new missionary winds are blowing into Europe from Latin America. The rapidly growing and maturing Latino church is fostering a vigorous, indigenous missionary movement that is at work in nations once regarded solely as missionary-senders’. He classes these Latino workers into three categories (itinerant missionaries, informal missionaries, conventional missionaries) and deals honestly with the benefits and difficulties which these individuals can bring to the Church in the West. Often these folks carry a zeal and love for the Lord which is sadly lacking in our own Church culture, but do not at the same time enjoy the same benefits of training and missiological exposure which is enjoyed by their European brothers and sisters.

All of this makes the phrase ‘come over here and help us’ reflexive, and it is amazing to think of the implications which this simple request now carries in terms of modern missions.

It demands humility from the Western Church, to admit that we are in dire need of help from those of our brothers and sisters who are experiencing God’s special blessing on their work. We can no longer think in terms of our land being solely ‘senders’, but must become ‘receivers’ from places where traditionally our own missionaries have gone to serve God. The centre of gravity in the body of Christ is no longer found in our own part of the world. We may be the ones who need a story to be brought from the nations that will turn our hearts to the right!!

It also demands mutuality. We can no longer think of them and us, but must itemise our missiological concerns in collective terms. Partnership in our current evangelical climate cannot be the benign handing on of responsibility to brothers and sisters in other cultures, but must literally mean a mutual dignity being invested by all Christians for the fulfillment of Christ’s commissions in all nations.

It also demands flexibility. My wife Carolyn and I are going to serve God in Peru, and we are grateful to Him for His call to that land. We feel a passion for God’s people in Peru burning in our hearts, and are eager to work for Him there. But could it be as we work with the national Peruvian church that the investment of training into local believers might be to meet global as well as parochial concerns? The sons and daughters of Peru must ultimately be the ones to lead the national church there, but they may also be required of God to come ‘here’ to bring the Good News of Christ to pagan Britain! This adds depth and dimension to the missionary task, and blows apart many traditional paradigms of ministry.

Come over here and help us’. How we need to simultaneously heed and issue this call for the glory of Christ in the world!

Which is more miraculous?

29 01 2008

Working as a part time librarian in a theological college carries certain advantages. One of these is the access I have to a variety of journals, both academic and non-academic, and the rich resources that can be found within their pages. Just yesterday I was reading in EMQ (Evangelical Missions Quarterly), when the following account grabbed my attention. It centres around an American interviewer who visited China to learn about the House Church Movement. The article* addresses the perception that miracles happen in the Chinese church, whereas in the Western church they tend not to. The words contained in the article contain a stiff rebuke to such thinking:

“The Chinese House Church movement is a story of the miraculous. Conservative estimates of believers in house churches in China begin at 100 million. The interviewer was astounded by the church growth observed in three church planting movements. In one location, over 150 house church leaders were being trained. Pastors sat on the ground in rows as other leaders passed among them. They seemed to be tearing pages out of books, distributing them to the people seated on the ground.

In horror, the interviewer suddenly realised these leaders were tearing copies of the Bible into page-sized pieces. He asked what could possibly cause such destruction of God’s Word. The answer cut him to the heart. ‘There are about 150 pastors here today,’ he was told. ‘Only five of us own a Bible. We are tearing our Bibles into its separate books and distributing them so that each leader can return home with at least one book to teach from the Bible.’

The interviewer watched as they passed books of the Bible back and forth. ‘Have you taught Genesis? No? Here it is.’ Rip. ‘Have you taught Luke yet? Here is Luke.’ Rip. The sound of tearing pages filled the air.

Then the house church leaders began to ask the interviewer questions. One asked, ‘Has Jesus made it to other countries yet or has he come only to China?’ The interviewer told them of millions of believers in other countries. The church leaders cried out in delight. They were amazed to hear of churches that were free to meet whenever they wished. They were astonished to hear of individuals who personally had several copies of the Bible, in addition to study books.

Suddenly, the house church leader began to cry, ‘Why, God, don’t you love us like you love the believers in America?’ The interviewer could not believe his ears. He asked them to explain their anguish. Their experience rivalled the stories of the apostles. Miracles of healing were common. Thousands were coming to faith in Jesus. Almost half of their pastors had served multiple years in prison for sharing their faith – often starting churches in those prisons. How could they possibly compare those miracles to what the interviewer had told them about America?

They were surprised the interviewer did not understand. ‘Which is more miraculous?’ they asked. ‘That we can divide our Bibles chapter by chapter, or that you can own dozens of them, along with music books and study materials? Which is more miraculous? That Chinese are being healed by the hundreds of thousands and that maybe a thousand of them can discern their healing had come from Jesus – or that you can access doctors and health care any time you choose? Which is more miraculous? That we move from house to house, meet on different days of the week and at different times during the day – or that you can go to church all day, every day, and that no one would ever think of arresting you or your pastor? Which is more miraculous? That we view prison as our theological training ground – or that you can study in special schools set aside for believers? Which is more miraculous?’

It was the interviewer’s time to weep. He realised what he had called ‘common’ in his own country would be considered profoundly miraculous by most of the believing and persecuted world.”

*Nik Ripken and Barry Stricker. ‘Five Lies About Mission’. EMQ, January 2008.

Pray for MEET

3 10 2007

The Missions Experience and Exposure Team (MEET), a group of young people being sent to Peru with Baptist Missions for 9 months of ministry, left today for Peru. Please pray for them, that the Lord would use their efforts and labours for Him in days to come. In particular, please pray for team member Graham McCracken who, for medical reasons, has not been able to travel with the team. Pray that the Lord would bless, strengthen, and settle him amidst the disappointment he is now facing.

Up to date news on the work of MEET can be read here.

The Joy of Certain Guidance

1 09 2007

This post, and the one below, constitutes some reflections on this important weekend for Carolyn and I, as we contemplate the conclusion of our ministry in Armagh Baptist Church tomorrow. As a couple we’ve been so blessed by the guidance and grace of God made apparently and abundantly known to us as we have sensed the call of God to mission. We can truly say ‘All the way my Saviour leads me, what have I to ask besides?’. Today’s first reading from Spurgeon’s ‘Morning and Evening’ has been a rich blessing and I thought I’d share it here as a balancing post to the one previously posted this morning. What a joy it is to walk in God’s path, to trust His hand, and to know His sustaining grace!

“Thou shalt guide me with Thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.”—Psalm 73:24.

The Psalmist felt his need of divine guidance. He had just been discovering the foolishness of his own heart, and lest he should be constantly led astray by it, he resolved that God’s counsel should henceforth guide him. A sense of our own folly is a great step towards being wise, when it leads us to rely on the wisdom of the Lord. The blind man leans on his friend’s arm and reaches home in safety, and so would we give ourselves up implicitly to divine guidance, nothing doubting; assured that though we cannot see, it is always safe to trust the All-seeing God. “Thou shalt,” is a blessed expression of confidence. He was sure that the Lord would not decline the condescending task. There is a word for thee, O believer; rest thou in it. Be assured that thy God will be thy counsellor and friend; He shall guide thee; He will direct all thy ways. In His written Word thou hast this assurance in part fulfilled, for holy Scripture is His counsel to thee. Happy are we to have God’s Word always to guide us! What were the mariner without his compass? And what were the Christian without the Bible? This is the unerring chart, the map in which every shoal is described, and all the channels from the quicksands of destruction to the haven of salvation mapped and marked by one who knows all the way. Blessed be Thou, O God, that we may trust Thee to guide us now, and guide us even to the end! After this guidance through life, the Psalmist anticipates a divine reception at last—”and afterward receive me to glory.” What a thought for thee, believer! God Himself will receive thee to glory—thee! Wandering, erring, straying, yet He will bring thee safe at last to glory! This is thy portion; live on it this day, and if perplexities should surround thee, go in the strength of this text straight to the throne.

If you’d like more information about our forthcoming missionary service then please email us here, and we’ll happily send you a pdf copy of our first prayer letter, and subsequent letters as they’re produced. If you’d prefer it in hard copy then feel free to include your postal address in your email and we’ll make sure it makes its way to your door mat instead of your inbox.