No Rainbow in the sky
It hasn’t been much of a rainbow day. Actually with all the rain today, I couldn’t see one in the sky. From what I can remember rainbows are regular occurrences in Jamaica but not here in the UK.
This probably will be the first blog of many with reference to my one year placement in South Africa from Jan 2014 – that I fondly called ‘Mission To SA.’ After reading Keith Ferdinando’s article on `Mission: A Problem of Definition’, I am beginning to wonder if I am using the word ‘mission’ appropriately. Keith argues that the definition of missiology remains elusive. The dilemma may arise partly because the noun, mission, is not a biblical one, which makes it difficult to define on exegetical grounds. He made reference to Bishop Stephen Neill’s statement in one of his Duff Lectures ‘Creative Tension’ ;
“Since the 1950s there has been a remarkable escalation in the use of the word ‘mission’ among Christians. This went hand in hand with a significant broadening of the concept, at least in certain circles.” Ferninando argues that if words are defined by their use, then the variety and breadth with which “mission” is used suggest that Neill’s prophecy may have been fulfilled: “If everything is mission, nothing is mission.”
Four Approaches to ‘Mission’
As in most debates, there are a variety of positions about what constitutes mission. Ferdinando identified four principal contemporary understandings of mission approaches.
The first is the Latin expression Mission Dei which simply draws attention to the fact that all Christian mission is God’s: he alone initiates, empowers, directs, and blesses all true mission. An example given is in the apostle Paul’s commendation of Timothy being sent as God’s fellow worker (1 Thess. 3:2)
The second is described as the ‘Cultural Mandate’ rooted in God and in Genesis 1:26-28 (the creation of mankind). Here mission is understood more restrictively as the church’s action in the world, rather than all that God does in the world. God the creator being constantly active in the world in providence, in common grace and judgement says Stott in ‘Christian Mission’
The third limits the mission agenda to ‘Social Action’ along with proclamation of the gospel and making disciple. It narrows the focus of ‘everything’ God sends his people to do. Ferdinando argues that while social action is rarely given precise definition, it refers to the alleviation of human suffering and the elimination of injustice, exploitation, and deprivation. It is thus specifically remedial and transformative, in a way not necessarily true of all that Christians do to glorify God in his world. Social Action has had a place in missionary activity over the centuries, an example given in Gal 2:10 – the request addressed by James, Peter and John to Paul. “All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.”
The fourth ‘Making of Disciples of all Nations’ is emphasised as the essential, exclusive content of mission. This approach according to Ferdinando risk serious distortion, especially if what is in view is just the making of converts. The mandate given to us in the Great Commission (Matt. 28:16-20) is of making disciples of all nations but Jesus has left us an example in his discipling of the twelve. Paul was also given as an example. In his missionary trips Ferdinando highlighted that he remained in places for extended periods wherever possible, establishing churches and discipling individuals, his aim was to communicate “the whole will of God” (Acts 20:27).
Shedding a Light on ‘Mission’ To SA
I want to believe that my ‘Mission To SA’ encompasses all four approaches. I feel that this whole trip has been initiated by God (Missio Dei) and is the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever experienced for the past 4 years since my redundancy from PWC and the start of my vocational journey. I remember while at LST and in praying about my vocation, I was specifically given these words ‘Your ministry is more than Counselling’ and that was the reason why in the final year of my training I made the decision to transfer to the Christian Life and Ministry (CLAM) course. The placement with Urban Voice will draw on my theological training (pastoral), counselling skills and professional services (business development) skills , that to me is more than counselling. I was also given the following words, again while in prayer (and I hope I am not freaking anyone out) ‘I have not called you to your own people’. Well I’m not South African as much as I have many friends who are, eat the food especially with a SA wholesale nearby and presently learning to speak Afrikaans with limited progress. Goeie nag!
You may say that this is all sentimental but I am surely not uprooting my life for sentimentalism. The very fact that I’ve named my blog ‘The Rainbow Fairy’, and I am going to South Africa – The Rainbow Nation is enough confirmation for me and here I am not being flippant as this name (Fairy not being very theological) came after much thought and prayer. Angel perhaps would have been too conceited; coupled also with the fact that I will be assisting in pioneering a ‘fresh expression’ of church which fits in with my passion and vision. Most importantly, God has reminded me of something I completely forgot about. As a teenager my heart was stirred by the events happening then in South Africa, and as young Christian filled with the Holy Spirit I prayed and asked that he would one day use me to bring the gospel and healing to that nation. Be careful what you ask for? You might get it. My prayers have been answered.
The flags in my webpage banner tells the story of my spiritual and whole life journey from Jamaica to the UK and if you look closely, you will see that both flags emerged to form the South African flag; with the cross (Christ) at the centre. I truly believe that this ‘mission’ trip is one that God has initiated.
It also includes ‘Cultural Mandate’ – Urban Voice as the church engaging and reaching out to the community through various projects which I will be involve in ; Choices – a crises pregnancy service offering counselling and support to women; Emyezweni School – a pre-school based in Lwandle township and a sports ministry at the Helderberg Academy teaching life skills to teenagers through sports.
‘Social Action‘ is evident in Urban Voices’ mandate and interest in social concerns to reach out to people from all walks of life – from different cultures, backgrounds, ages and socio-economic groups; a very distinctive church that seeks to be truly biblical in its expression of church and are walking a journey that few South African churches are embarking on. “The oppression of the poor is sin, and the church should never be the bastion of an evil status quo or the “opium of the people.” – Dewi Hughes.
Ferdinando states that the pursuit of justice, the furthering of human dignity and the reconciliation of groups who were hostile towards each other all reflect God’s will for his creation and so all are part of his mission whoever the agents may be. This is an example of a renewed awareness of the social dimension of discipleship, as expressed in the Wheaton Declaration (1966) which urged “all evangelicals to stand openly and firmly for racial equality, human freedom, and all forms of social justice throughout the world.”
John Stott also in ‘The Contemporary Christian’ states “the actual commission itself must be understood to include social as well as evangelistic responsibility”
Ferdinando argues that for those who respond to the gospel and are effectively disciplined, social engagement then becomes an integral part of their Christian life and obedience.
‘Making Disciples of All Nations’ – in pioneering and establishing a new church plant ‘Urban Voice Cafe’. My involvement in the various activities that Wesley Van Graan has highlighted in my extensive job description as a Pastoral Assistant includes supporting Alpha, Youth Ministry, Small Group Ministry, Get Connected and Hospitality & Welcoming will contribute to a biblically holistic discipleship – not only bringing people to faith but fostering their spiritual growth in their relationship with God, all his people and of their obedience in all areas of life.
I have my work cut out for me! Anyway, this will make my work even more challenging, fulfilling and exciting and give me even more grounds to define my trip to South Africa as ‘mission’ .
Feelings of Incompetence
My intention was not to write about the complexities of the definition of the word ‘mission’ but blogging is a good way of displacing all the angsts of the day. Preparing for this ‘mission’ trip hasn’t all been fun. My feelings are ranging from high passion to low periods of discouragement. During those low periods I need to remind myself of that bit of the Great Commission that we often overlook, which states “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matt. 28:20b)
At times I do feel as though my whole life is taken up with fundraising which I am finding difficult for some reason but maybe that’s to do with my ego, the fact that I need a little bit more humbling in asking. Maybe it’s also to do with the fact that I am no longer able to run 15 miles on a Sunday which usually gives me the high drive and energy to deal with anything.
Apart from fundraising, there’s the sorting out of my life here before I move to a new country, the financial constraints, the spiritual preparation, the leaving of the known to the unknown. I am doing a mentorship program which prepares leaders for mission. It takes you through the theme of the FIRE acrostic;
F – Father’s Love Revealed Through Jesus Christ
I – Intimacy, Presence & Hearing God’s Voice
R – restoration Of The Heart/Soul
E – Extending The Kingdom Through The Equipping, Empowering And Anointing Of
It brings up with emotional topics like ‘Having a heart knowledge of God’ and dealing with my own wounds and hurts. Basically this course is helping me look at what is in my own heart and what God wants to change. I am also doing another course looking at how I deal with stress with one way identified as comfort/compulsive eating. This is throwing up even more emotional stuff that I could do without at this time – but unless I commit to continuing the process of personal transformation by receiving personal ministry I cannot be effective in my ministry to others . The way forward is to have a revelation of the Father’s love, “we love, because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) When we know we are loved, we can give out love. Without this, our attempts to show compassion are ineffective, failing to give comfort. I cannot give when my cup is empty. When we do not pay attention to what is in our hearts, we will not be able to withstand the storms of life. (Matt 7:24 – 27). Recognising and dealing with the issues of our hearts is not optional for me, for out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45)
At times I feel so incompetent for what lies ahead but my encouragement is that God’s concern is not with competence but with obedience and a willing heart. I am reminded of the following verses;
“The Lord doesn’t make decisions the way you do. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at people’s thoughts and intentions” 1 Samuel 5:7 NLT (The Lord looks at the heart – NASB)
“He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)
Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God ( 2 Corinthians 3:5)
And today I am feeling really incompetent and that’s a good place to be! After working myself to over-tiredness over the past weeks in sending out numerous emails and then to be told of the death of a loved one, it became evident in church that I was low in spirit. I tried to comfort myself with the following scriptural verses.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. ( Psalm 34:18)
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11: 28-30)
And it worked….for a while.
Modern Day Parable – The Not-So Good Samaritan
On my way from church I decided to walk part of the journey home (in the rain), recognising that I had pent up emotions related to tiredness and grief and this would be a good way to displace them. It was a nice walk until I came near to a section of the road, close to home where there was a large puddle of water. I looked for any sign of traffic and proceeded to make my way across without getting splashed by on-coming vehicles. The first came and kindly drove past, staying closely to the other side of the road and I thought such a nice driver. The second drove in the middle avoiding the puddle and I again thought how thoughtful – this is my day!. This is almost a modern day re-enactment of the parable of the Good Samaritan. Then the third came, a truck, which drove straight into the puddle splashing me all over! Now what came next is not what you would expect from a godly woman preparing for mission. Within a split second and to my surprise, all my pent up emotions emerged into what I must confess as some well-known adjectives and hand signals. I can only ask for forgiveness and pray that next time I will not yield to temptation and take heed to Ephesians 4:9 “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
Maybe I need a course in dealing with my emotions but frankly I am tired and I will just have to depend upon His grace.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
Conclusion – Prayers & Support
The conclusion is that the extent of Christian engagement ( mission) with the world is not limited to disciple-making but includes involvement in every area of life—all for the glory of God
“The Church exists for mission as a fire exists for burning. Where there is no mission, there is no church.” (Emile Brunner, The Word and the World (London: SCM, 1931), 108)
With all that said and done, I would really value your prayers, so here’s a little rhyme asking for your support as I seek to respond to call and engage in mission as God’s co-worker.
Please put Saturday 16th Nov in your diary
As a priority
For only 25 pounds
Help me raise funds
In aid of my ‘mission’
To the Rainbow Nation
You’ll be serve a 3-course French gourmet
followed by African drumming ensemble’
And some great raffle prizes
Raising a bit more for great causes
Dress code is smart casual.
Or if you’re feeling adventurous
And this isn’t a must –
Wear something African.
I’d love to stay
But when God calls ‘Arise and Go!’
There’s no place for ‘no-show’
It’s best to obey without delay
Invite all your friends
To a great night without much spend
Please come and help me celebrate!
Cause we all know God is great!
And if you can’t come
Please donate a small sum.
To book visit: www.missiontosa.yolasite.com
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts;” – Psalms 139:23
Show me the things in my inner life that needs to be change. Teach me to pay attention to my heart. Many of life’s problems is because we do not listen to our heart. Give me a tender heart so that I might receive and give love. As I look to you, may my life be transformed into the image of Christ so that I can effectively minister to others. Amen
The Call of Abraham
The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.
“I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.[a
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.” (Gen 12: 1 -3)
Excerpts taken from Mission: A Problem of Definition— Keith Ferdinando —Themelios 33.1