I love what my friend, Mark Wessner, from Westwood Church in Prince George, B.C., recently told me about how sponsoring a family from Syria impacted his church.
He said, “We entered into the sponsorship excited about what we could give to this refugee family, but we quickly discovered that it was more about what we would receive from them.”
On their way to Canada, this Syrian family had endured three years of extreme poverty as refugees in Lebanon during which time they cried out to God for every need and challenge. In that season of desperate need, their faith in Jesus was tested and their lives were transformed.
When they finally arrived in Prince George, this family was fully engaged in living on mission with Jesus and displayed an amazing commitment to sharing the Gospel with their new community. Their love for prayer and their example of radical generosity, hospitality and capacity to welcome strangers had a huge impact on Westwood Church and the surrounding community.
Stories like this challenge us to re-think global mission. In the West, we have traditionally thought of non-Western countries as the mission field. That kind of thinking is out of date. Now, we are the mission field! Syrians are coming to North America to preach the Gospel to us.
In his mercy, God is humbling us by reminding us that we both give and receive in mission. It is this humility that authenticates the Gospel. Each one of us as messengers of the Gospel needs also to receive the love, kindness and resources of others.
When Jesus asked the Samaritan woman, “Will you give me a drink?” (John 4:7), he exposed his need and made himself vulnerable to a woman with a questionable reputation. But it was this vulnerability that opened her heart to a conversation about her thirst for living water and desire for inner wholeness.
Similarly, Jesus asked his disciples to make themselves vulnerable to others when he told them to go out on their short-term mission with no money, no bag and not even sandals with them (Luke 10:1-7). They were to receive hospitality graciously and discern the people of peace who would welcome them.
The power dynamics of our relationships change drastically when we embrace vulnerability and make ourselves dependent on God and others. If we can learn this kingdom principle in local mission, we have a better chance of bringing this humility into our global cross-cultural interactions.
God’s mission is to mobilize local expressions of the Gospel in contexts all over the world. As we think about local mission, here are a few other principles to consider:
God is already at work where we are going. It’s essential that all of our global mission strategies begin with this simple realization. It’s our job to pay close attention to the existing expressions of local mission. Our first responsibility is to understand and cooperate with this witness wherever possible.
Mission is the responsibility of every Christ follower. Mission is not a location, it’s a way of life. Living on mission with Jesus is part of our discipleship responsibility; the mission begins when we surrender our lives to him. The Holy Spirit is empowering us to love our neighbors and our enemies and to point everyone we meet to Jesus. No one is exempt from mission. Just because we don’t get on a plane and travel to some distant land doesn’t mean that we aren’t on mission wherever we are.
The local church is God’s strategy for mission. There is no plan B. Jesus is building his Church and there is no shortage of work to do. We need to wake up and get to work on the task at hand. My friend Nasser comes from a Muslim background and he shared with me a vivid dream he had on a recent mission trip. In the dream, Jesus said there was no shortage of work in his kingdom and that it was time for Nasser to wake up. That dream changed everything for Nasser. Are we engaged in mission through our local church? Are we making an impact on our communities, schools, and businesses? If our churches were to suddenly disappear, would the community notice?
I’m convinced that our vision for one mission – local, national and global – is God’s heart for the Church. When this mission becomes central to our lives and churches, the world will see Jesus. In this issue of Witness, we will be sharing stories of local mission from both here and around the world. Enjoy, and engage!