A Mission Memory

Nineteen years ago I was in Zimbabwe on a two-month Youth With A Mission (YWAM) outreach, out of The King’s Lodge training base in Nuneaton.  This was with my wife and three young children (6, 5, 2), and nineteen other people (adults and children).

This was my first experience of cross-cultural mission and ministry outside the UK and my first experience of the incredible Continent of Africa.  I was not even thirty years old and despite all my senses being assaulted for good or ill, God was calling me and my family into mission.

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The necessity of the ‘upon-ness’ of the Spirit

The necessity of the ‘upon-ness’ of the Spirit

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

Because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives,

And recovering of sight to the blind,

To set at liberty those who are oppressed,

To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”

Luke 4:19-19

 

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me:

As it had to be for Jesus, so it has to be for us.

That the Spirit of God must be ‘upon’ us before anything is said or done.

The Spirit being ‘upon’ us speaks of God’s own desire to be present with us.

The Spirit being ‘upon me’ or ‘upon us’ is our recognition that God is near and not far.

 

Because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor:

The Holy Spirit of God is ‘upon me’ for a reason.

There is a job to do.  That job is primarily an announcement.

“And here is the evening news…death, destruction, lies, greed and war…”

This is what happens when the Spirit of God isn’t ‘upon’.

‘To proclaim Good News…’ is to announce the end of death, destruction, lies, greed and war.

To proclaim anything of God is always proceeds the anointing of the Spirit.

‘To the poor….’ isn’t merely an economic phrase. It’s a human quality-of-life-phrase.

The poor are those who do not have the Spirit of God ‘upon’ them;

Because they are being robbed by the evening news.

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The Drill

The Drill

A friend of mine describes the Christian life using a military metaphor that is both helpful and enlightening….I know – what a bargain!

drill

Not this kind of drill!

Being a Christian is about learning the basics:  Prayer; reading (i.e. exegeting and interpreting) scripture; Christ-likeness; learning the Fruits of the Spirit; living the sermon on the Mount; renewal of the mind; developing spiritual habits formed in the furnace of Trinitarian relationship, etc.  These basics are like the “basic drill” an army unit performs to stay sharp.  In other words, the existential reality for the army is the drill performed in peace-time: Marching; cleaning; inspection; fitness; and so on and so forth (one doesn’t want to push a military metaphor too far – there’s enough of that going on already)!

But the basics serve the special missions:  Either planned or spontaneous mission/evangelism; specific seasons of ministry; short or long-term mission; local or national or international.  In short, an Olympic athlete’s gold medal was forged on the running tracks of Trinidad; the swimming pools of Portugal and the cycling arenas of Argentina – the actual final in which it was won is almost a moot point!  The basic drill serves the special mission.

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Phenomenal Penh

Phenomenal Penh

Here’s my brief write up for the Baptist Times on the mission to Cambodia we experienced in November 2015….

From Torquay to Cambodia

Barton Baptist Church recently undertook a mission trip to Cambodia, involving the whole church. Minister Richard Matcham reflects

Cambodia

It is an incredible thing to attempt a full-scale mission trip that includes the whole church! We always knew that all of us should be involved, but that only some of us will go.

Barton is a small-ish Baptist Church in Torquay, and we took ten people on a mission trip to Cambodia in partnership with a church in Australia, who themselves took thirteen people.

We wanted it to be an inspiring time of trusting God for provision, hearing God’s voice, uniting for the team and church, and the like. We didn’t want to merely see the seasoned travellers go, but the unseasoned. We didn’t want those with missions’ experience to be the only ones, but those going for the first time.

Nor did we want only those with the means to go, but also those with no natural means to go. In the end we had a good combination. For those who stayed, they prayed. “Some will go; some will stay; all will pray!” That was our tag-line.

It was a sweet irony that a Baptist church in the English Riviera partnered with a church in Victoria, Australia, called the ‘Riviera Christian Centre’. This church has been partnered with several ministries within Cambodia for the past fifteen years, and every year, they take more people, young or old, experienced or not, to experience the world of Christian ministry within the format of short-term mission.

Cambodia was simply breath-taking, amazing people and truly amazing pepper! It was also heart-breaking. The country is a generation from the catastrophe of the Pol Pot era in the 1970s. Thus it is a “young” country, but it is emerging at pace as it faces the future.
The ministries we experienced were connected to the big city church in the capital Phnom Penh (or ‘Phenomenal Penh’ as I like to call it), and two particular ministries: one devoted to the education, feeding, health and nurture of children from very poor backgrounds, called ‘Transform Cambodia’; the other, a ministry that offers support, education and dignity to women and children who had been caught up in the trafficking industries, called ‘Precious Women’.

Every aspect of ministry focus had its historical tragedy, but there was not one without present or future hope. In a country where the Killing Fields have become an open museum and a testament to human evil, there is hope, and a significant part of it is located within what the church is doing, empowered by the Gospel.

Cambodia2Outside the capital, we visited the town of Poipet, on the Thailand border. This border town, displays the usual subsistence-level poverty and great wealth, side-by-side, as it is in many places around the world. Here, we supported the ministry of the church (a plant from the capital), including youth work, preaching, outreach and evangelism, prayer, pastoral ministry and the like.

There was much here that challenged many on the team, but despite whatever each individual on the team was experiencing, I for one, was so impressed with how the personal difficulties were covered for the sake of the corporate unity and the wider mission. The group held together in a truly astonishing way, even though for some, the difference in culture was challenging!

It is my hope and prayer that, in doing something like this, we gain a fraction more of the Kingdom of God and the wider world. That our churches exist for more than our local communities; that it is good for our local communities to see and know that their local church has done something out of the ordinary. That they are people who take God seriously, that God is not content with mere localism, even if we are; that our horizons must expand if we are to love and serve in a world that desperately needs to experience the love of God in Christ.

A banner of gratitude and thanks hangs at the back of our church from the members budding Christian community in Poipet. It reminds us that Barton Baptist Church is inextricably linked to the worldwide church. And we’ve been there to make and then tell our own stories of the love of Christ!

barton
The Revd Richard Matcham is minister of Barton Baptist Church in Torquay

 

 

Mission and Bosch

Mission and Bosch

Below is a brief refelction I wrote a few years ago of David Bosch’s outstanding Transforming Mission – paradigm shifts in theology of mission.

transforming-mission-bosch-david-j-9780883447192Bosch’s work has been given the highest praise, with such eloquent descriptions as immense, great, comprehensive, magnum opus, summa missiologica and magisterial, among others, for his book Transforming Mission.  This is worthy praise for the work of a man held in such high regard for his loyalty and commitment to mission in the church and the mission of the church.  It is very important to understand that these nouns and adjectives of praise for his book do not in any way suggest that all is well with the world of mission, or that Bosch has in fact covered every angle and said all that needs to be said about mission, and especially about what he calls “Elements of an Emerging Ecumenical Missionary Paradigm.”  This sentiment was well expressed in an article by Bevans and Schroeder when they compared the theological genius of Aquinas with the outstanding missiological contribution of Bosch, suggesting that as theology ‘need always to be done after Aquinas,’ likewise, missiology need always ‘be done after Bosch’ (Bevans & Schroeder 2005:69-72).

Some of Bosch’s most insightful critics are among his closest friends and colleagues, and it is within these critiques that we discover areas that Bosch may have overlooked or been completely blind to in the first place.  We will return to some of these voices in due course, but first a broad brush stroke is in order.  Bosch’s insights, written in the late eighties and published in 1991 reflect a profound and well thought out view that many Christian authors and missiologists especially in the West are still struggling to define, namely post-modernism.  For Bosch to elucidate this slippery concept at such an early stage in the way he does has really set the scene for much discourse on this subject.  We observe this because it is inevitable that with any description of a culture in flux, which is essentially what a paradigm shift is, and attempts to fully explicate at such an early stage, at least earlier than many other cultural analysts were writing, would surely be frustrated, even assertions that it could be fully comprehended would surely be naïve.  Bosch does not presume to have done this primarily because he knows he is referring to something that is happening now, it is in a sense live, and subject to unpredictable change.  Since this is still the case in our day, how much more in his day?

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If We…

If We…
If we were on the Air France plane that crashed into the Alps, we would be dead.
If we were born just one caste above the pathetic Untouchables of India, we would despise them.
If we were carried on Empires wings to far flung places, we would have had black ‘servants’.
If we were a migrant from a poor nation, we would be on those Mediterranean boats.
If we were Germans in the 1930’s, chances are we’d be Nazi’s.
If we were a child in Gaza today, we would be traumatised for life.
If we were caught in the IS net, we would be Jihadis.
If we were born in Saudi Arabia, we would be Muslim.
If we were Syrian and couldn’t escape, we’d be reduced to factional fighting along tribal lines.
If we lived during post-war East Germany, we would be Communist.
If we lived near the Japanese nuclear reactor, we would likely die younger than planned.
If we were an uneducated female from rural Thailand, we would be lured to the sex-trafficking industry.
If we were born to the Christian poor in Egypt, we would live on the city’s rubbish dump.
If we were not British, we would not have access to the NHS.
If we were not Western, access to credit for loans and mortgages would not be possible
If we were not filled with food, we would become a different person.
If we had a twin in the Third World, we would give them our old phones and computers.
If we didn’t live in a democracy, we would live in a dictatorship.
If we weren’t British, the elderly wouldn’t get a fuel allowance.
Most people on the planet do not know what a pension is;
Or a weekly bin service; or a liveable wage; or dignity; or compassion; or ….mere humanity.
In other words, if we were not us, here, now, humanised, we’d mostly likely be someone else, somewhere else, living an existence – dehumanised.
For God so loved the world? He desires all to be saved, not wishing that any should perish?
Yes! For God so loved the world. He desires all to be saved, not wishing that any should perish.
We are here, by God’s grace, yes! By divine design, for sure! But why us and not someone else?

Does this qwerk of “chance” or providence change who God is? No.
Does it change how we as God’s people respond to those not like us? Yes. Of course.
It’s easy now to imagine ourselves as Christian – here and now, in this context, this powerful context of white Western power, economically strong, and militarily mighty.

Under these conditions the Gospel is so good. God is so merciful.
But God is still God to the 9 year old frontline IS warrior. Kid soldiers with men’s guns.
And God is still God when we do not get the parking space we prayed for, or the phone we wanted, or the illness which we just don’t have time for.
Our environment determines far more than we realise.
God does not change. But we do. Our lives, cultures, circumstances change almost constantly.
The Gospel makes us realise not only our own time and space, but then we are told by Jesus:
To cast the Gospel net further afield.
To scatter the Gospel seed onto every path.
To preach the Gospel Word in and out of season.
To proclaim Gospel peace and the year of the Lord’s favour.
To give away all but one of our coats.
To feed the hungry: “You give them something to eat.”
To bind up the broken hearted.
To go. Where?
Into all the world. Preach this Gospel to every creature under heaven.
And if we go into all the world, we would find God already there, in extraordinary ways, preparing the way.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition make your requests known to God.”

 

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