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Embracing small-town ministry

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Chinese-headerThe MB Chinese Churches Association started an evangelistic ministry in Prince George, B.C., more than 10 years ago.

When we tried to get resources from the national and B.C. MB conferences, we bumped into some differences in ministry philosophy. Our international mission agency also declined to adopt Prince George because, at the time, Canada didn’t fall within their mission mandate. The B.C. board of church extension eventually agreed to provide resources under the “target-oriented” condition; however, we were required to plant a church within 3 years. Given the limited population and the high mobility of the Chinese community there, we didn’t consider it viable to plant a church within that timeframe.

One size doesn’t fit all

In view of our experiences, I think Christians should shed some longstanding concepts, so that God’s kingdom can be expanded more effectively. Whether pastors, mission agencies or organizations, we tend to focus on familiar ways of doing evangelism and mission – we often try to build new churches that bear our “brand” and look exactly like us.

Based on this approach, small-town evangelism will never become a priority in our churches’ mission ministry because it’s impossible to build churches identical to us in small towns.

I am thankful for the Chinese Christian Mission of Canada (CCM) because they are courageous in embracing boldly innovative approaches. It’s not hard to come up with new ideas, but CCM carries them through, persistently holding to their commitments. After 10 years, CCM is still committed to small-town evangelistic ministry. They have taught us, the traditional churches, the true meaning of church.

Tangible and intangible church

“Church” doesn’t only refer to a local congregation.

I often have the opportunity to talk with brothers and sisters in the midnight hours when I go on small-town mission trips. Many times, their sharing and stories give me great encouragement. They are usually the only Chinese Christians or sometimes the only Chinese people in the town.

It’s impossible to build up a tangible local church just through our brief visits. However, through small-town evangelistic ministry, we are indeed building a church – an intangible church.

The Apostles’ Creed says, “I believe in the holy catholic church.” Church, here, means a gathering that is beyond a congregation or even denomination: it’s universal (“catholic”). Small-town evangelism helps us establish a broader vision and aspiration in building God’s church, so we will not fall into the trap of clinging to “the way we always do things,” and evaluating our success by whether we can build our church’s franchise.

Is it worthwhile?

Some brothers and sisters may question whether it’s worthwhile to do small-town evangelism. I believe if we have the same heart as Jesus, then our answer will undoubtedly be: “Yes, it is worthwhile.” On the contrary, if we do not have the heart of Jesus and we are still only focusing on building “brand” churches – getting good reports on the numbers of converts, basking in the glory of the growth of tangible churches – then our answer will be: “No, it is not worthwhile.”

We need to understand Jesus’ heavenly kingdom view, so that we can have the same heart as our Lord, and with such, we can wholeheartedly say: “Yes, it is worthwhile!”

Lord Jesus’s compassionate heart

During his time on earth, Jesus went through towns and villages proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing all types of disease and sickness.

What did he see? Jesus saw the crowds.

What was his reaction? He had compassion on them because they were lost and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Brothers and sisters, “crowds” are there in small towns. Jesus saw them. How can we stay in our comfortable church cocoons and not see the crowds? If we cannot see the crowds, maybe we don’t really understand Jesus’ compassionate heart.

Choose to move

There is a song written by Josh Wilson called “I Refuse”:

Oh, I refuse to sit around and wait for someone else to do what God has called me to do myself. Oh, I could choose not to move, but I refuse.

Brother and sisters, you can choose not to move. Are you willing to move?

So, if you [God] say move, it’s time for me to follow through. And do what I was made to do and show them who you are.

We are all made to go tell others about who Jesus is. Let’s choose to move!

—Antony Law is associate pastor at South Vancouver Pacific Grace MB Church. He is the secretary of the MB Chinese Churches Association. This article is based on a presentation to a CCM gathering. It originally appeared in the Chinese MB Herald and was translated by Tina Ngan.

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