By Samuel Lim
In an age of disruption where livelihoods are put into disarray, masses are still adapting to a new way forward. This unprecedented reality has seeped into all spheres of society, not least shaped the life of the Church and global missions.
One of the biggest questions in considering the future of missions involvement as we are so used to is, “How can I be involved in missions when it is getting harder to travel?” A perfectly valid question which we will explore together.
Missions is like a beautiful tapestry woven by many different colored threads.
Travelling into another country to learn and serve among different people groups and cultures has been one of the key ways in which many engage with missions. Through the years, the sending of missionaries and short-term teams overseas highlight the incarnational pulse of missions. While travelling overseas for missions has largely defined our missions involvement, I would like us to think of missions as a beautiful tapestry woven by many different colored threads. As such, there are a variety of creative and equally significant threads to missions engagement that we should also consider, especially with our rapidly changing world.
Concern for the local pandemic along with travel restrictions and national measures have contained us geographically. These have somewhat truncated our perspective of missions to be rather inward-looking and less attuned to the news outside. There is a risk that many unreached people groups and countries are fast becoming forgotten. The phrases ‘long absent, soon forgotten’, ‘out of sight, out of mind’, can soon become a reality for these unreached people groups and countries if we don’t take the initiative to intentionally remember them.
When Apostle Paul was not able to travel to visit the different churches in Asia Minor, he did not forget about them. He took the initiative to learn how they were doing (1 Thess 3:5-6), he actively remembered and prayed for them (Phil 1:3-5) and always encouraged them of his love for them (2 Cor 2:4). We too need to take a greater initiative to pursue missions engagement.
• Will we avail our time to explore and learn more about missions through the various workshops, events or meetings available?
• Can we be intentional in praying for unreached people and countries in East Asia and perhaps commit to be part of a regular prayer group for them?
• Have we considered involving ourselves with ministries reaching out to the migrant or diaspora communities here at our doorstep?
• How about being advocates for different ministries and missionaries by writing to encourage them or sharing about missional needs and opportunities within our own social media sphere?
Let’s take the initiative to keep up to date with missions.
With the world rapidly changing, many are starting to realise that maintaining the status quo is no longer sufficient. There is a growing need to be agile in this age of disruption so that the Church and global missions will not be chronically surprised by changes.
Being innovative is no longer a language only for startups and entrepreneurs. To nurture a culture of innovation in missions engagement is crucial in making the truth of the Gospel meaningful to the current realities, now more than ever.
A culture of innovation in missions engagement is the creative discipline to understand the times and provide a fresh perspective, not necessarily new, to doing what is needed. Just like the men of Issachar who understood the times and knew what Israel ought to do (1 Chron 12:32). Allow me to briefly put forward a few innovative perspectives on how we can engage with missions:
Long-term placement in addition to just short-term trips. As it gets harder to travel overseas with the additional measures and processes, going on short trips may not seem worth it. Maybe this is the time for us to stretch ourselves and take a bold step to commit to a longer term missions placement and make the challenge of travelling overseas count.
Issue-based focus in addition to just country focus. When we think about missions engagement, we usually think in terms of country or people group. But there is a growing need for missions to engage with key issues like poverty, migration, justice, technology, ageing population, creation care and much more. We need people in missions who are as passionate for these issues as those who are for specific countries. You can find out more about these missions opportunities from opportunities.omf.org.
Planting leaders in marketplace in addition to just planting churches in villages. With the increasing rate of urbanisation in East Asia, we need to reinvigorate urban missions engagement. The arena for church and discipleship will have to take place at the heart of urban society, the workplace. Do not underestimate your experience and skills in a vocational setting. Allow what you do well to have a redemptive purpose. There are exciting ministry opportunities to use your vocation to shape the culture of work for the Gospel and catalyse indigenous leaders in the marketplace.
Every disruption reveals not just vulnerabilities but also opportunities. While it is a good time to reflect on how we have been involved in missions so far, we also need a renewed vigor and courage to partner with what God is doing. The missional heartbeat of followers of Christ is to keep asking ourselves, “What has God called us to be and do in our current context?” Are we ready to rise to our new context?
This article was first published in Go Asia (May-Aug 2021).