While “conventional” missions continues to hold a critical place in the Church, the way we talk about missions requires a greater emphasis on inclusivity.
To reduce missions to a two-week trip to run community engagement programmes in Thailand is to reduce missions to a co-curricular activity. To limit our understanding of missions to a ten-year stint in China is to sideline most believers.
The reality is that missional living was never meant to be reserved for a small, select group of particularly adventurous people with a special calling. It is to be every Christian’s way of life.
In the words of Pastor Alvin Tan, it is important to “help the church to move their mindset from missions belonging to an exclusive group of people”.
These issues were brought forth at the second GoForth Millennial Influencers Gathering, this time with a brand new panel of leaders in missions and young adult ministries.
Alongside Pastor Alvin, the Senior Pastor of Bartley Christian Centre, were George Butron, a veteran missionary and former Senior Pastor of Community of Praise Baptist Church, Vinnie Tang, regional head of Alpha, and Wayne Sim, the youngest panelist who serves full-time with YWAM.
Missional living is to live out the mission of God in every aspect of our lives. It is in the interactions we have with our families, our classmates, our colleagues. It is in the way we speak to our Uber drivers and bus uncles.
It is also in being conscious of our decisions as consumers, putting thought into what our decisions mean for the environment God placed under our care even if it comes at the price of inconvenience. Fundamentally, it is a lifestyle that ushers in the Kingdom of God and brings reconciliation and life to all of creation.
Talking about missions holistically empowers millennials to feel that they too are able to fully engage meaningfully in the mission of God wherever they are placed right now. We must also continually challenge young people to see the bigger picture and catch a compelling vision of what this mission entails.
For many millennials, it might seem that the Church “doesn’t know how to fully engage your gifts, your talents, your passions”, George Butron shared. That the Church is too preoccupied to listen, too rigid and stuffy to adapt. But the younger ones – such as us – must also ask ourselves if we have taken initiative.
Have we stepped up to volunteer our time and skills? Have we spoken to and of our leaders in ways that honour and encourage them? Have we allowed them to hold us accountable for our actions and show that we, too, can contribute good ideas and be counted on to see things through?
Notably, the millennial generation is uniquely positioned and impassioned for social justice causes. The advent of the information age also means we can no longer claim ignorance. Environmental causes, migrant workers’ rights, the global refugee crisis, and human trafficking are just a few of the real-world issues we want to know how to grapple and engage with.
The question that must be asked is whether there is space in our churches for conversations about these topics.
Panelist Wayne Sim admitted that these issues can sometimes be seen as competing with other causes of our churches such as discipleship, but “it takes humility and unity in the Body to say, actually we can do this together. Let’s not fight. Let’s not compete.”
And instead of feeling restricted, disengaged, and discouraged by the church, humility means realising, as young people, that our leaders are not our enemy. They are, more often than not, simply trying to look out for us as best as they can.
That being said, recognising that the church can learn from millennials and the way they see and do things takes humility on the part of leaders as well.
Similarly, while our parents can sometimes seem restrictive, they also often speak out of a place of concern for us, Vinnie added, reminding the gathering that it is important that there be “continuous conversation” between parents and children.
Contrary to popular belief, young people are not averse to involving their parents in their lives. Especially for Christian families, being able to talk about how God has been working in our lives is imperative for God’s original design for family. Ideally, spiritual mentoring and missional living begins at home.
Pastor Alvin ended the discussion with this poignant thought: “When you read Scripture carefully, every disciple of Jesus is missional.”
“Let us not have this false impression that missions done overseas is somehow of higher value than the work that God has given you here.
“The soul over there and the soul here, the value is the same. For those who are called overseas, you have to be there. And those who are here, when God gives you someone to reach out to, you have to do that.
“We just have to be where the Lord wants us to be. Faithfully journeying as a faithful disciple of Jesus.”
Amanda and Janan are twenty-somethings serving at the GoForth National Missions Conference.
With an expected one billion people in Asia moving from rural to urban areas by the year 2030, the number of world city dwellers is expected to rise to 70% by 2050. There is an urgent call to the Church, especially as the majority of new urban dwellers will be young (under 25 years old) and live below the poverty line ($2 a day).
The GoForth National Missions Conference, happening June 21-23, 2018, will look at an array of diverse strategies to empower individuals and churches to reach and transform cities with the love of Christ. Visit their website to find out out more.