Breaking cultural captivity: How to Mission

Breaking cultural captivity:

How to Mission

BMS World Mission partners with the World Church to grow God’s kingdom.

“We don’t know how to do that. But BMS does,” Tony, from a Baptist church in Shropshire, tells me. Tony and I are at “How to Mission”, a BMS conference, chatting about the need Tony’s so clearly identified: “to engage in cross-cultural mission with the people we find around us.” It’s a need that’s more pertinent than ever.

A man speaking with his hands up.
BMS’ key speakers brought together a wealth of knowledge from Asia and the Middle East to Latin America and Britain.
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It’s a pivotal time for both UK Baptist churches and BMS as we seek to grapple with globalisation, new technologies, immigration and increasing secularism. Keeping abreast of cultural change, BMS is moving towards a new strategy for 2021 and has just announced a partnership with Spurgeon’s College to deliver an academic course on mission. Our How to Mission conference (8-10 July), where I met Tony, was part of this ethos, sharing the knowledge BMS has gleaned from 225 years of mission.

As UK churches are realising, cross-cultural mission is not just relevant when going overseas. As Prabhu Singh, Principal of the South Asia Institute of Advanced Christian Studies explained in his insightful two-part lecture, a young person in the UK and a young person in southern India might share more in common than with their own families, despite being so far apart, due to the rise of new technologies and globalisation.

A mother and her son sitting on a doorstep smiling and holding a football in Uganda.

If you’d like to know more about how your church can get involved with helping refugees, check out our Leader’s guide for South Sudan’s Conflict Survivors.

Prabhu has been leading the largest body of research into Christian movements in India, where the church is the fastest growing in the world even in the face of alarming religious animosity. He also revealed that nearly 90 per cent of new believers in India are actively engaged in evangelism, and that those who had come to Christ primarily did so through a friend, family or mission worker. It’s a challenge to UK churches, that we need to not only preach the gospel in words but also in actions, building relationships along the way.

Themes like solidarity with the marginalised and forgiving your enemies surfaced repeatedly, this being a significant theme for speaker Elie Haddad, President of BMS-partner the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary. On Monday, he shares with us how, in his home country of Lebanon, people pushed aside their historic animosity when Syrian refugees arrived on their doorstep.

As churches began to take action and become more missional rather than internally focussed, they were unified and are now growing exponentially.

A man smiling at the camera with a bush in the background
Refugees living in Bristol arrived on How to Mission delegate Richard Skinner’s doorstep and now his congregation regularly welcomes refugees into the church.

Welcoming in those with different cultures, stories and struggles involves dismantling our own sense of what is culturally comfortable. Our cultural boundaries were challenged with Loun Ling Lee and Kang-San Tan diving into theological thinking from Asia, Latin America and Africa. Michele Mahon, a BMS youth worker in Peru, also led us in sung worship in styles from all over the world.

“We are all culturally captive. I came here to be pushed out of my cultural comfort zone,” Susan, a Baptist minister in Wales, says enthusiastically.

A woman speaking and smiling
Michele Mahon led us in worship with songs from the UK, Nigeria and songs in Spanish.

With all this grounding, Deborah Hancox, a consultant to Christian development organisations, led us on how to put this missional thinking into action on Wednesday: beginning with organisations like BMS, which is perhaps the very first of the Christian development organisations, and then spreading into our UK church congregations.

And on the final day as we leave BMS’ Mission Training and Hospitality Centre in Birmingham, there’s an excitement in the air. From mission workers in Peru to members of UK Baptist churches, God was re-commissioning us and sending us out into all four corners of the world.

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Words by Melanie Webb.

BMS World Mission and Spurgeon’s College announce major new partnership

BMS World Mission and Spurgeon’s College announce major new partnership

BMS World Mission and Spurgeon’s College have developed a significant new partnership to enable a joint theological and mission training hub to open in September 2019, located at BMS’ campus in Birmingham.

Warmly welcoming the innovative development, BMS General Director Dr Kang-San Tan comments: “The strategic case for the partnership is strong. Spurgeon’s academic discipline and administration offers potential for course development and reach, as well as quality assurance. The remote learning capabilities that Spurgeon’s will bring to the partnership will enhance the BMS learning and training opportunities for mission workers, both pre-departure and ongoing. Spurgeon’s academic reputation and knowledge will be of great value as we develop BMS for the future.”

Echoing Dr Tan’s comments, Rev Prof Philip McCormack, Principal of Spurgeon’s College, says: “Having opened a successful hub in Cambridge last year, we are delighted to mirror that in Birmingham. This new partnership with BMS is strategically important to the future of the College and our governors have accepted a plan to invest towards growth.”

A white building with a car park in front.
BMS' campus in Birmingham will be the home of this new project.

BMS and Spurgeon’s intend to move quickly towards the College offering a whole range of courses from the Birmingham hub. Those may include, over time, BA, MA/MTh and DMin programmes, as well as the Equipped to Minister (EtM) programme which is delivered on Saturdays. An option within the BA programme would be a new pathway in pioneering or missional leadership currently being developed by Spurgeon’s with support from the Baptist Union of Great Britain.

Spurgeon’s Cambridge hub already successfully offers the EtM course, but a hub of the size envisaged for Birmingham is a significant new venture for both partners.

Philip McCormack adds: “We are both delighted to have support for the venture from the Baptist Union of Great Britain and from the Heart of England Baptist Association. This is a really exciting opportunity for mission and theological formation in the Midlands and far beyond, through online learning opportunities.” There is much to do, with a range of developments to complete prior to courses beginning, including a new library, software to enable online and remote learning and a range of other academic infrastructure.

But, as Kang-San Tan notes: “Hopes for our joint partnership are high, and there is a shared commitment in our primary aims to see leaders, churches and wider communities transformed through the good news of Jesus. There is a growing sense that this partnership could make a significant impact in the area of mission and theological formation in the UK and further afield.”

Further information:

BMS World Mission:

Mark Craig, Director of Communications
mcraig@bmsworldmission.org

Spurgeon’s College:

Simon Jones, Vice Principal (Director of Ministerial Formation and Training)
s.jones@spurgeons.ac.uk