Friday, 15 June 2012

Character Traits – a Follow-up

At the (Jubilee) Bank Holiday weekend festival, we had a great set of introductions to the Multiply International conference (MILC) delegates.  They’d come from as far afield as the Philippines and Florida.  

In the minibus on the way home to Kings, I reflected on where the UK new churches stand on “world mission”.  It was part of my foundation as a young Christian to “support missionaries”.  But that was largely a denominational characteristic.  Looking across the Christian scene as it’s emerged in the last 30 years, I don’t see the same picture.  We don’t have “New Frontiers” missionaries, nor Spring Harvest ones (like Keswick Conference used to germinate).  Maybe it’s all different today with YWAM and short term missions.  But I ask the question.

Awareness of missionary activity was so embedded that if you wanted to stage an attractive youth event, you often arranged a "missionary squash".  You'd get the person in your church who circulated prayer letters to speak and maybe do a slide show.  It you were lucky, there'd be the genuine article on home furlough doing deputation work.  This early exposure produced a very personal moment when I went to Zambia in 2010.  As a teen I’d attended camps in Wales run by South Africa General Mission (SAGM – later to become Africa Evangelical Fellowship, then in 1998 merging with Serving In Mission).  I got their quarterly prayer diary, and “the Copperbelt” in Northern Rhodesia signified Kitwe and Ndola, listing their respective schools and so on.  When we first met Steven, our Multiply apostolic man in Zambia, I asked him about SAGM.  “Yes,” he confirmed.  “We knew about their schools and other work.”  So, on the first day of our Conference in Kitwe, I related this coincidence.  It created an immediate bond.

Maybe it was the rediscovery of Holy Spirit commissioned leadership gifts that changed things.  When the Charismatic Renewal threw up new churches as we’ve come to know them, we tended to turn our backs on formal selection and training processes such as missionaries classically experienced.  “An aeroplane flight doesn’t make you an apostle.”  “The call of God and witness of the Body that you should be sent.”  These became our principles.  And it’s no bad thing to match church-building aspirations with some measure of experience!

However, consider that the Global church majors on power, whereas the Western church majors on wisdom.  Is there nothing we should learn from each other?  I sometimes polarise the dilemma as, “Do you believe in the germ theory of disease or the demonic root of sickness?”  One of our African pastor delegates related the hair-raising witchcraft assaults set against him.  The opposing guy concerned eventually broke down in despair and conviction as his magic powers failed.  I struggle to find the categories and vocabulary by which to hang this in my familiar framework of thinking. 

There’s also been a bit of chat about Smith Wigglesworth 1947 prophecy about the Word and the Spirit coming together.  Could we put this a different way: wisdom and power coming together?

For now, our partnership with the Multiply guys has been massively enriching. I look forward to being part of how it will all develop.


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Aidan Ashby said...

So do I

n0rma1 said...

Thought-provoking, as ever. In fact, I think New Frontiers do have missionaries: a couple I was good friends with at Uni are now in Cambodia. (Of course, they call it church planting!)