Reflections on Mission

In my view, the heart of Christian mission is evangelism, “Go and Tell” (Mark 5:19). To be sent as a missionary is to be sent to preach.  As the Apostle Paul writes (Romans 10:12-15):

“For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile–the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him,   for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?

And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

Every year, together with a group of students, I have the privilege of being sent by GWC to the people of Lesotho for a week’s preaching. We preach the gospel to children and to adults, and we train pastors. God willing, we will be going again in June this year – please do pray for us.

What follows are a few lessons on Christian Mission gleaned from my mission trips to this Mountain Kingdom:

Preach the Gospel (not morality). Be evangelistic, pray that God will work the miracle of the new birth, and pray that God in his grace will give the gifts of repentance and faith. Faithfully preach and teach God’s Word and trust Him by His Word and Spirit to change lives, to work his miracle of the new birth (1 Peter 1:23). The missionary must have a passion to see the lost saved, and the missionary needs to be patient in making disciples.

Here is an example:-

When I first started preaching at Letsunyane, Rev. Mokoto Leeto was the pastor. He was replaced by Pastor Joaz. He, in turn, was replaced by a woman, Pastor Mary. She is a believer and faithfully serves the congregation to the best of her ability. She is hospitable and always asks me to preach when I visit the church. But I have a problem! Because of 1 Timothy 2:11-15 I am convinced that it is wrong for a woman to lead a church and to be the main Bible teacher. So what should I do as a visiting missionary? Should I end my relationship with the Letsunyane church and the LECSA[1] denomination? Should I tell Pastor Mary that I will no longer partner with Letsunyane church because of her appointment? Should I quietly cut all ties and just never return?

No, after much thought about mission in the light of God’s Word, I decided to keep partnering with the church and to keep teaching God’s Word faithfully, as I am given opportunity. And of course it goes without saying (so it needs to be said!) I will keep praying for Mary’s own submission to God’s Word and also that of her denomination. I have spoken to the Seminary, where all LECSA candidates are trained, about 1 Timothy 2:11-15. Now I leave the matter in God’s hands.

As a visiting missionary I soon realised that if I were to do something worthwhile in Lesotho, I would need to partner with an established denomination. After some reading, lots of walking and riding in the mountains visiting local churches, and lots of questions, I decided to work alongside the Lesotho Evangelical Church (in 2012 they changed their name to LECSA). God has blessed my relationship with LECSA and I now have some influence at the Morija Theological Seminary, at Letsunyane, in Maseru, with the denominational leadership and a good number of their Pastors are studying through our GWC Explore programme. In fact, in 2013 two of the Explore Correspondence Course students came all the way to Cape Town for their graduation! Building real relationships is key.

Communication is critical. Either one must learn the language fluently (a life-time commitment) or have trusted translators who are themselves disciples of Christ and with whom one has a good relationship, who respect you and understand you – and of course vice versa. In my view, using translators you do not know and who do not know you is hugely problematic and open to all kinds of misunderstanding. All sermons, Bible studies, and testimonies must be practiced beforehand and the translator must do his/her work on the passage before they undertake any translation. I am so grateful to God for my relationship with Mokoto, David, Tumo, Meke and Mary – who are my Lesotho translators.

Respect local customs. In the mountains of Lesotho the local chief is held in high esteem, let alone the Principal Chief. So, years ago I decided to pray for and befriend chief Berreng Api who lives a few kilometres from Letsunyane and who is the Principal Chief of this area. During my first few visits he was suspicious, uninterested and distant. But I persevered.  Now he is a friend, trusts me, accepts me as an honorary chief (I even have a chief’s blanket from the Royal House) and his wife is attending the Letsunyane church!

Respect local culture. In my view there is no such thing as cross-cultural Christian Mission, only inter-cultural Christian Mission (ie. the cultural currents flow both ways). Respecting local culture and custom, however, does not mean treating them as ‘sacred cows’. Where they contradict Scripture they need to be changed – but that will flow from the converts themselves. Respecting local culture and custom does not mean having a romantic view of the people concerned. They are human beings and therefore sinners just like the missionary!  The missionary must preach repentance and faith. The sinner needs a new heart, not a new culture.

By partnering with LECSA, when I am absent between mission trips it means the work continues. The fruits of our evangelism and teaching are followed-up by the local church and denomination with whom we work.

Letsunyane is a desperately poor community, so I am able to help with money, applying for study bursaries at UFS[2] for some of the teachers, helping with school fees, providing lots of good second-hand clothes from Cape Town, theological books and commentaries for the pastors, food parcels, etc. This is not mission, but it is discipleship. Jesus commands us to “love our neighbour as ourselves”. The missionary must remember that he is first and foremost a disciple of the Lord Jesus. So as a missionary I preach the gospel, John 3:16 (calling people to repent and believe because they are lost sinners under the just wrath of God); and as a disciple of the Lord Jesus I help the needy, 1 John 3:16-20 (meeting material needs because my neighbour is a body-soul in community).

The pastors at these remote villages are isolated and lonely. By our gospel partnership with them we are able to encourage them in remaining true to the Lord Jesus.

Christian Mission is about the Lord Jesus – His Kingdom, His will, His honour. If the missionary loses that vision, he/she should rather stay at home. Daniel 7:9-14.

Christian mission is costly. In every way – emotionally, physically, mentally, financially and perhaps above all spiritually, by which I mean the reality of spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6:10-18). There must be accountability and real prayer support.

Please pray that from our College God will raise up many pastors and missionaries, who by His grace will faithfully preach the Gospel of our Lord Jesus all over Africa and indeed the world, and that through their preaching many will be saved.

And please pray for the GWC students as they go on ministry week from 13-21 June 2015!

Romans 1:16, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.”

[1] Lesotho Evangelical Church of Southern Africa.

[2] University of the Free State.