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.

3 reasons to listen to the World Church

3 reasons to listen to the World Church

BMS World Mission is committed to listening to the Majority World Church and to contributing to a conversation between the Global South and western Church. Mark Ord argues why.

1. When someone’s talking, it’s polite to listen

The Majority World Church has something to say: experience to share, points to make and questions to ask – and to answer. In all sorts of pockets of western culture we are used to being protagonists, having the answers and calling the shots. In this conversation, though, we may find that we are not at the centre of things – that, more than anything, there is much to be learned and gained from listening. We’ll discover that our experience of secularisation is a minority report in the context of global Christianity, that elsewhere faith is on the front-foot, not in retreat. The challenges of pluralism are still there, though lived differently, and the gospel is met as power, rather than propositions.

Want to join a global conversation about local mission? Sign up for How to Mission.

On 8-10 July, you can join BMS partners, personnel and friends and be part of a conversation based on 225 years of mission experience to help you and your church.

Don’t miss this opportunity. Sign up today!

How to mission logo with world map and pointers

2. Joining the conversation of global Christianity is an antidote to our obliviousness

Much of the Majority World has been minimally affected by the materialism and rationalism that define our outlook and confine our imagination. We don’t know what we don’t know, but others see us – and everything else – differently. Their experience sheds new light on our world and priorities. It unveils our blind spots and names our fixations. Conversation is an art and as we learn to listen and sympathetically engage, we become more skilled at receptivity and grow in our ability to see the world anew.

We also join the conversation because we have a perspective, experiences, understanding and mistakes to share. If global Christianity is the table at which all are welcome, then we too have our place and our contribution to make to the kingdom cause of welcome and inclusivity that sees none left on the doorstep.

Kang-San Tan, General Director of BMS World Mission
Want to learn from the World Church? Start with BMS

Watch Kang-San Tan’s latest challenging Bible study series, Is God British?, now.

3. Despite the silos – South/West, majority/minority – we are one Church

These categories are still, I think, important as they keep us aware of history and privilege, but they are destined to disappear and we ought to get in on the act in advance. We are one, we will be one – every tongue and tribe! We don’t join the conversation for strategic reasons, we listen, speak, engage and embrace, because the deep and sometimes brutal lines that divide us are not so entrenched that the Spirit of fellowship cannot freely pass.

Mark Ord is Director for Mission Training and Hospitality at BMS. If you want to hear from engaging and inspiring speakers from the World Church, sign up for How to Mission, a three day conference from 8 to 10 July to engage and inform you for outreach in your own context.

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Mission: it’s so much more than you expect it to be


It’s so much more than you expect it to be

We all learn about mission in different ways. But many of us come to it with the same preconceived ideas of what it’s all about. Part of our work at BMS World Mission aims to change that. So even (and perhaps especially) if you think you know what it’s all about, read on. We might just surprise you!

Where do you expect mission work to happen?

An illustrated map of the world

When we imagine mission workers overseas, we often imagine them being sent to far-flung places we would never be able to visit. We think of people flying off to Africa or India and doing things we could never do at home.

Where does mission work actually happen?

A woman stands with a microphone and a Mozambican man stands outside a building.
Our mission workers serve all across the world – from France to Mozambique!

We do send mission workers to places like Mozambique, India and Peru – but we also work much closer to home! Christine Kling serves as an associate pastor in Paris, about two hours away from London.

And we support work in Southend, helping fight modern slavery. In fact, we’re also helping UK churches learn from and with our brothers and sisters in the world church, changing theologies and learning to minister better – and all that is mission too!

Who do you expect mission workers to be?

Illustration of a woman in brown clothes standing in a desert

Who do you picture when you think of a mission worker? It’s easy to imagine western Christians who have worked overseas for many years. It can be difficult to imagine anyone other than ‘white saviours’ with imperial attitudes and insensitive approaches maybe?

What does a mission worker actually look like?

An 80-year-old woman sits on a sofa and a Ugandan woman stands outside a building.
Anyone can be a mission worker, no matter what you look like or where you come from. In fact – every Christian is!

Mission isn’t restricted to a single age group. Whether they’re 18-year-old Action Teamers or an 80-year-old BMS volunteer like Ann Bothamley serving in India, all our mission workers are an important part of God’s work across the world.

And mission isn’t just sending people from the ‘West to the rest.’ We have mission workers serving in their own countries, and crossing borders. People like BMS lawyer Annet Ttendo Miller, who was born in Uganda but who is currently serving in Mozambique, or like Ben Francis, planting churches in his homeland, India!

What do you expect mission work to be?

An illustration of a teacher and a doctor

It’s easy to imagine that the main thing mission workers do is preach. Or provide traditionally ‘missionary’ things, like medicine or teaching. We imagine them distributing Bibles to local people or setting up health clinics, and it can be difficult to see them doing anything else.

What does mission work actually look like?

A woman in a blue top sits outside and a woman in a white top sits outside.
Our mission workers want to serve the communities they’re working with in the best way they can, which is why their jobs aren’t always what you would expect them to be!

Mission work can be almost anything. Healthcare and education are a big part of what we do – but even that isn’t constrained to teaching English. Take the BMS supported Siloam Bible Institute in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Many young Karen people enrol there, so that they can study the Bible in their native language. Or our many training programmes to develop crucial skills in local Christians around the world!

Mission today is about responding to the World Church’s needs. Laura-Lee Lovering is an environmental scientist working on a number of different sustainable horticulture initiatives in Peru. And Lois Ovenden is serving as a speech therapist in Uganda, helping those who struggle to communicate. We have physio therapists, chief executives, HR professionals and computer geeks – all serving God alongside local Christians, bringing life in all its fullness to people in Jesus’ name. And it happens because people like you support it. And because people like you go.

We’ve hopefully shown you how much amazing work is done under the umbrella of mission across the world. If you want to help us keep changing expectations of mission work, share this story with your friends and family, and show them what mission actually looks like.

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Words by Laura Durrant.