On Saturday 10th October approximately 80 people gathered at Emmanuel for the OMF Day to celebrate 150 years of ministry in Asia following the vision and prayer of Hudson Taylor on Brighton Beach in 1865. It was a both thrilling and challenging day as we heard of the ways God has called and used different missionaries, but also as we were given insights into a hugely changing world. The theme of changing worlds also came out on the Sunday morning of our anniversary when Phil Hill showed us how the early church had to change cultural understanding in order to reach the world that God wanted to save.
We as a church have effectively begun our 150th year and we will celebrate that significant milestone in Oct 2016. During the year we will have significant events in order to remind ourselves of our role today. By the time you read this we will be less than 2 month from Christmas Day. How will you use the events of that season to witness to friends and invite them to church? We, as leaders, will organise events, but every member has to take initiative to invite. Next Easter we have agreed to work with Malpas Road in the week leading up to Easter on a week called Passion For Life, when we will organise joint services/meetings with MREC, but we will also have men’s, women’s and Family Events. There are currently spaces in the programme, when perhaps you could suggest an event. We need to pray in preparation.
Returning to the OMF event, I picked up a copy of Billions (The OMF Magazine) and was challenged by an article written by Peter Rowan with the question What does the Future hold for Christian Mission? He gives ten answers that relate to Emmanuel as much as Asia,
1. A future that needs the joy and hope of the Good News of Jesus Christ.
2. A future that recognises the importance of partnerships.
3. A future where multi-directional mission will be a reality.
4. A future that will insist on more-than- Western expressions of theology and practices of mission.
5. A future in which (East Asian) Christians will need to be salt and light across all dimensions of life and society.
6. A future for agents of reconciliation.
7. A future for tent-makers.
8. A future that is urban.
9. A future that looks for authentic messengers who are transformed by the message and are prepared for sacrificial, costly service.
10. A future that recognises the crucial place of prayer.
I want you to notice the unchanging bookends of this list, our ministry must be Gospel-focussed and prayer fuelled. We only have one Gospel, the Good News that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. There is no other hope for the people of this world than faith in and obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ. That faith is not only exercised on the day that we are converted, but it is exercised daily as we come to Him in prayer. Without prayer we will never achieve anything of significance, but I want us at the beginning of our 150th year to consider the fact that ‘multi-directional mission’ is an essential in the life and work of the church.
Since the beginning of the modern missionary movement (William Carey going to India in 1792) the direction of mission has been from the Western Caucasian world, primarily Europe and USA to other parts of the world. This has changed and continues to change, from South Korea to Brazil churches have understood and embraced the challenge of mission. Countries that were once the recipients of missionaries are now mobilising and sending their own church members to serve in other cultures.
Europe, the UK, and Wales are recognised as mission fields, places where people need to hear the Good News. We need to ask ourselves a series of questions,
• Do we see our country and city as places that need ‘outsiders’ to remind us of the Gospel?
• Are we prepared to hear the message as it is preached by a foreign national?
• Are we prepared to adjust our own approach to many areas of life in order that we might help others to hear and understand the Gospel?
If we are not prepared to seriously consider these questions and make the adjustments that they require then we have to ask ourselves, “Do we know anything of the spirit that motivated our Lord Jesus Christ, so that although He was God yet He humbled himself and became obedient?” (Phil 2:5-11)
As we begin this exiting year, may each of us listen for that voice behind which says, “This is the way walk in it” (Is 30:21)
Your friend and fellow-missionary,
Bernard Lewis November 2015