SIM's 21st century challenge

A passionate commitment to take the gospel of Jesus Christ to those who do not know it lies at the heart of Serving In Mission’s vision for the 21st century.

That was the clear message from two special Serving In Mission meetings held at Bloomsbury Baptist Church on May 5, when the future strategy was outlined by international director Joshua Bogunjoko and UK director Steve Smith to audiences of church leaders and SIM supporters and members.

Joshua revealed how a global conference of SIM leaders had produced a purpose statement designed to focus hearts and minds on the need to take the gospel to those who have never heard it. It reads simply: Convinced that no one should live and die without hearing God’s good news, we believe he has called us to make disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ where he is least known.

Joshua explained: “I believe the greatest disaster that befalls a man is to live and die without hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are striving to make Christ known, irrespective of barriers. We are deliberately using the language of crossing barriers to proclaim Christ.

“There are many barriers — cultural, economic, social and geographic. We want to know what the barriers are to people hearing the gospel and how they can be overcome.

“We have seen specific statistics from this country about groups of people in their thousands who are unengaged with the gospel so we are focussing on those communities. Britain will always be regarded as a ‘reached’ country but there are thousands of people here living and dying without hearing the gospel.”

To emphasise just how cross-cultural ministry can work, Joshua used the example of a church in South Korea, which was set up by SIM to proclaim the gospel to migrant workers from Cambodia. He said it was impossible to get a missionary visa for Cambodia, but God is now opening doors for Cambodians to be reached by bringing them to South Korea.

Steve, chairing an afternoon discussion between Joshua, Andy Paterson from the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches and Dave Pepper of Friends international, said: “We believe we have much to learn from other mission agencies and churches, many of whom are already engaged in this work.

“We want to open a conversation between us to see how we can work together, how we can avoid duplicating work and, most importantly, how we can take the gospel to those communities in Britain who have never heard it.”

Steve pointed out that there is plenty of mission work to do in the UK. For example, one million Mirpuri people live in Britain — barely fewer than the 1.2million who live in their native Pakistan — and hardly any are Christians.

Church leaders from all sections of the British evangelical community heard the afternoon discussion. They included representatives from several London-based African churches, as well as from several independent evangelical churches.

Steve pointed out SIM could be involved in bringing a missionary in from abroad to work among a specific people group, or perhaps a church worker could be trained abroad in how best to reach certain groups.

More than 80 supporters and mission workers then joined the evening meeting, at which various models of missionary work were explained.

Former Liberia director Will Elphick spoke movingly of the incredible commitment shown by SIM nurses and doctors through the recent Ebola crisis, the on-going need to rebuild communities and lives, and SIM’s commitment to be part of that in the long-term.

The key to making ministry work, both at home and overseas, is to bring local churches together with the missionaries who will do the work – which is where SIM’s small group of local mobilisers come in.

The mobilisers meet face-to-face with people considering going out as missionaries, providing vital advice and discernment through the process. They also bring the vision of cross-cultural ministry to local churches, helping to inspire the next generation.

Serving In Mission’s UK board director Gill Phillips stressed just how important these mobilisers are and how vital it is that we can fund them, especially as the legacy which currently pays for them runs out in just three years.

She said: “We know the need. And we know the British churches that have a heart for the gospel. We want to enable those churches to take the gospel to the nations and we really want to continue to support our six mobilisers.

“With the legacy running out, we need to raise more money I would ask all our supporters to pray for this work and consider whether they could support it financially.”

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By Tim Allan 

Nigel Head