Kang-San Tan on:

new frontiers of mission, taking risks and being led by the Spirit

He’s shaken a lot of hands, remembered a lot of names, and travelled a lot of miles since he left Malaysia to take up the position of BMS World Mission General Director. Now that Kang-San Tan has been in the role for a year, we thought it was a good time for a chat.

Let’s look back to when you first arrived at BMS. What was it like for you?

I think it was a bit overwhelming because of the diverse aspects of BMS work, not only with our colleagues in Didcot, but also with our mission personnel and UK churches, and just trying to get my head around the long history of BMS. My colleagues really helped me to get to know each aspect of the work, and I’ve really appreciated that.

What was it about BMS that attracted you to the role of General Director?

I was converted in a small Baptist church in Malaysia, and in a way we, as in many other Asian and African and Latin American countries, trace our roots back to the Baptist missionary movement. It is quite moving for me in the sense that I have worked with various aspects of Asian mission as a theological educator. So, when I was invited to come and serve with BMS, it was almost like a full cycle back to my Baptist roots.

To be seeing God raising a non-western mission movement, and yet to serve with a historic mission society, reflects the sovereignty of God and also reflects the changing Christian mission. It points to an exciting future, not just for me personally, but for BMS and the wider Church.

A video to play in your church: Kang-San Tan’s special message to you

We’d really love it if you watched the video above and shared it with your church. To download it, all you need to do is hit the button below.

How has God supported you over the past year?

Psalms 127: 1 says that unless the Lord builds the house, we all labour in vain. There is a danger that we rely, as leaders, on our own wisdom and strength, but really it is good to be reminded it is God’s work, done in God’s way and in God’s timing. And for me personally, I have been reminded that we need to rely on the Spirit of God, God’s wisdom and God’s resources.

BMS workers receive a welcome marked with beautiful garlands at an event in India
As you can see, Kang-San Tan received a tremendous welcome when he visited India earlier this year.

Aside from visiting UK churches, where else have you been in the past year?

Well, in February I went to Kolkata, and in May I visited Lebanon to see a little bit of our work in the Middle East, and then in August I visited France. I’m still looking forward to visiting other BMS workers in Africa and in Latin America.

What piece of BMS work has most impressed you?

In Kolkata, I was introduced to BMS-supported work that seeks to plant indigenous discipleship making movements among a major group of Hindu communities. A lot of this work has grown and existed, not only because of the passion of our Indian churches, but also a sense of partnership from our UK churches.

We were on a boat in Kolkata and went out into a remote Hindu community that has no church. I met some young believers, many of whom have been Christians for just a year or two, and they’re leading fifty small groups. Many of them have this passion, a sense that they have received the gospel, not because of their own merit or good work, and they are passionate to serve Christ.

Gabi and Maher, two Syrian refugee children in Lebanon, in a classroom
Kang-San Tan visited Lebanon where Syrian refugee children like Gabi and Maher are getting their education back with your support.

Can you tell us a little more about the experience of visiting Lebanon?

We heard stories of people opening their homes to Syrian Muslims who were strangers, who were former oppressors and enemies. There were many practical expressions of Christian love demonstrated by Lebanese Christians. Many of them I visited are much poorer, and have far less, than many of us who live in western societies. I think it is a challenge for me, and for us Christians in the West, as we think about groups of migrants that are flooding into Europe who are our neighbours.

Let’s look ahead to what’s to come for BMS. What would you like to say to our supporters?

Over the past year, we’ve been able to look at our five-year strategy and bring together some reflections and lessons. But in the coming 24 months, BMS will be engaging in a process of consultation with our staff, Trustees, BMS Council, mission personnel, our partners globally, and closely with our supporting churches.

Watch this space as we begin to unfold a process of consultation so that in our vision for the future, new frontiers and priorities, we don’t neglect our historic work and our historic partners. We hope that you are excited to be involved with BMS in this re-envisioning of the future together, for the growth of God’s mission, both locally and globally.

BMS General Director Kang-San Tan holds a cup, along with his colleague, Steph, at a BMS cafe
One of the many ways Kang-San Tan has been meeting people is through BMS Café events.

How excited are you about meeting BMS supporters and our supporting churches?

I think I’ve spoken at over 20 churches so far, and each year I’m looking forward to visiting another 20 more. I think BMS is really a mission that belongs to our Baptist communities and we can’t do the work that we do without that close partnership of our Baptist communities.

And so, I want to say thank you, not only to churches, but to the many of you who are prayer supporters. Please know that your partnership in the gospel is so vital for us to continue our work, to impact the nations, to see one million live transformed. Please know that our prayers and your support are an integral part of our work for mission.

And finally, what can people pray for?

Please pray that we do not run ahead of the Holy Spirit, nor do we lag behind, not taking risks or pioneering new work. So, I ask you to pray for the BMS leadership, to pray for a good sense of teamwork and community work, but also not forgetting the cutting edge of mission.

BMS is a ministry of over 200 years and yet we are excited that we are still pioneering into new frontiers of mission today. So, join us in this exciting venture of being a missional community, which is not just for BMS but for every church and for every disciple of Jesus Christ.

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Posted on: October 03 2018

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