God’s witnesses to the ends of the earth
Answering the call to mission
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
The call to engage in God’s mission is clear in Scripture.Sometimes our understanding of how to step into mission engagement, either as a church or as an individual, seems confusing and daunting. How do faith, obedience, our gifts and skills, our life circumstances and our relationships all congeal into some sort of useful kingdom purpose? Do we really have something to offer that God will use?
Here a few principles and questions I have found helpful in defogging this conversation:
1) Each individual has something unique to offer
In my role at Willingdon Church, my goal is that every person at Willingdon be inspired, equipped and positioned to engage passionately and effectively in God’s mission. Each one of us is invited, called and commanded to participate in God’s global mission in some way.
Of course, not every believer is called to be a long-term missionary in some other part of the world. But, I’m convinced that each follower of Christ is called to a few specific tasks:
• Foster a relationship with Jesus. A relationship that is growing in vibrancy and obedience will pour out uncontainable joy, grace and wonder.
• Be ready with answers to faith questions. Not all of us are gifted apologists or evangelists, but we all need to heed Peter’s instruction to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15).
• Pray faithfully and fervently. For neighbours. For missionaries. For nations. For world leaders. For the persecuted church.
• Give. All that we have and are is a gift from God to glorify him.
• Be willing to take a risk for God. Ask God what is the next step to take.
• Engage eagerly with church family. Each believer is called to join in God’s mission. I’m convinced that this call can best be discerned, supported and implemented within the context of a church family also on a journey of mission engagement.
2) Each church has something unique to offer
Each local church needs to discern the specifics of how they are called to participate in God’s mission. Helping churches work at clarifying this was one of the privileges I had in my role as a mission mobilizer with MB Mission.
• Who are the people that make up this church family? We might be surprised by the ways that God can use our skills for his glory. South Abbotsford (B.C.) Church has a crew of ESL teachers. They built on relational connections to the Czech Republic. Since 2001, they have sent 13 teams to help missionaries run English camps.
• What natural points of affinity or calling does this church already have? How might God be inviting you to use the unique relationships, history, cultural or linguistic assets your congregation already has? Killarney Park MB Church, Vancouver, intentionally serves its neighbours, impacting families through preschool and VBS. A few years ago, to be able to continue offering VBS in the summer (at the request of community parents), Killarney Park partnered with MB Mission’s SOAR Vancouver program (pictured above).
• What is this church doing locally that could be leveraged to advance God’s kingdom elsewhere? One of Willingdon Church’s unique gifts is its School of the Bible. Since 2003, it has been helping people in the Vancouver area grow in their knowledge of Scripture. To our unexpected delight, we have been able to offer School of the Bible content to pastoral leaders in settings around the world.
• What is the next step the Holy Spirit is inviting this church to take? Pastor Charlie Chun asked that question about South Vancouver Pacific Grace MB Church. The result was a number of teams from that church going to serve with Dave and Louise Sinclair-Peters in Thailand, offering their unique skills and gifts to see God’s kingdom advanced.
The promise of being empowered by the Holy Spirit for mission is attractive and exciting. But the pathway to our engagement isn’t always as clear. As we work together to discern how the Lord is asking us to move, the principles and questions above may be helpful in demystifying the call to engage in mission.
Let us move forward, as individuals, local churches and together as a denominational family, to step into all that God has for us as partners on his mission.
—John Best serves as missions pastor at Willingdon Church, Burnaby, B.C. He previously served as MB Mission’s mobilizer in B.C. He is married to Christy. They have three children.