Christian mission
COVID has forced us to change our approach to missions, says Iain Hesketh. Photo: Bernard Hermant on Unsplash.

The six shifts in mission

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It is fair to say that we have all changed over the last couple of years in one way or another, writes Iain Hesketh. And this is true for missions, too. 

When I think back to life before the COVID pandemic, loads of short-term mission teams were going out from our churches. There was hope we would see more long-term missionaries on the field and less returning home! During the past two years, we have had to learn to change.

I am choosing to believe those changes are for the better, as it has caused me to become more focused on the core values of making disciples and reaching out to the yet-to-be-reached. As I have thought about the big picture of mission, considering all that Jesus has called us to and what I am seeing take place globally, I see six shifts taking place in mission.

  1. From doing missions to joining mission

This is one that has been in the making for a while but the days of simply doing a mission trip are ebbing away. The team going can no longer set the agenda for what will take place. The reality is that the Holy Spirit is at work in the global church, and they are best positioned to reach their communities for Christ. Short-term teams will need to let the host set the agenda and realise we are joining them in mission.

  1. From projects to people

This should not come as a surprise. I am not saying projects are no longer needed but the reality is, unless we support our workers who are sent out, there will be no projects. If we focus on developing people, who knows what level of Holy Spirit-inspired ingenuity will be released across the globe, to see communities blessed and people brought to Jesus!

  1. From telling to equipping

I am convinced the pandemic has revealed that we have been good at telling people how to live by passing on information about Jesus, but have been found wanting in showing people how to live. Equipping is done best in small groups, just like Jesus did, where we create space for information to be shared and practised.

  1. From addition to multiplication

This is something we struggle to get our minds around in the West because we like control, and often control measures are placed upon us. I’m not advocating no control at all, but if we want to see multiplication of kingdom life, we must let go of the reins. If we get people involved early, equip them, and not just tell them information, we can have greater confidence to release people to missions a lot sooner. If it can happen in Africa, the Philippines and South America, why can’t it happen here? In the next ten years, I think we will be more comfortable with smaller gospel communities being empowered to saturate the nation and the nations with Good News.

  1. From my thing to our thing

Kingdom partnership is on the agenda, as increasingly organisations are talking about how this is done well. It does not mean we will not identify with our family and want it to grow, but we will be more willing to work with others who do the things we are not equipped to do. This means we can all focus on the things that God has called us to do, in contribution to the outworking of his purposes.

  1. From many things to one thing

Every organisation today is asking what their core objective is; whether that is because they realised they were doing too much or because the financial resources are not what they once were. A symptom of missions’ drift is when we try to do too many things that do not help us achieve the one thing we exist to do. Jesus called us to make disciples, so if what we do does not help us do that, why are we doing it?

How have you changed?

Admittedly these are my musings about what I am seeing; they are not formed through rigorous academic research, just what I dream for in the days to come. I am determined not to waste the opportunities afforded to us by changes we did not create.

If you take a few minutes to reflect on the last two years, how have you changed? Have you become more passionate for Jesus and his mission or less? Have you sought out community or have you withdrawn? Are you more aware of the big issues or have you buried your head in the sand? Are you more hopeful of Christ’s ability to bring about his kingdom purposes or less confident? Are you more focused on the things that really matter or are you easily distracted by things that do not really have anything good to contribute to being a people of Good News?

Lots of questions, I know! I hope they will help you access the shifts that have taken place in your own life and where you may have drifted from the mission that Jesus has set for us all.

From Direction Magazine issue 236

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