Changing the lens with which we see the world
International Director of Interserve, Bijoy Koshy, shares on the search for a new normal
The pandemic has turned our lives upside down. A tiny virus has brought the world to a grinding halt. Things that we thought could never be stopped have been suspended, not for a few days, but for months. Whereas earlier the bottom line of global decision making was finance, that has been replaced, at least for the time being, with survival. But then the foolishness of our pursuits was already apparent to the observant. As we search for a new normal, it is my submission that actually the signs of what should be changed were already evident before the pandemic, but we chose to ignore them. The pandemic has made it painfully obvious to us that change is inevitable. Janine Benyus, an innovation consultant, has said, “The answers to our questions are everywhere. We just need to change the lens with which we see the world.” Jesus words in Luke 10:26, “How do you read it?” echoes the same sentiment. Even before the pandemic, it was obvious that the context of missions had changed. We will only have space in this article to briefly look at three factors that will determine the lenses through which we structure the missions of the future.
A Changing Church
We operate today with mission structures and processes which are founded on principles nearly 300 years old. The principles were derived from realities, world view and culture of a particular group of people. Our reading of Scripture (largely) through the lens of individualism, resulted in a certain understanding of mission and calling. These structures and processes have served us well and efficiently for nearly three centuries.
The answers to our questions are everywhere. We just need to change the lens with which we see the world.
However, the move of the centre of the church from the Global North to the South means two things. Firstly, that the structures and functions that served the Missions world thus far are not a good fit for people from another world view. The interpretation and understanding of Scripture through a different lens offers a new understanding to mission and function. Secondly, in the past, the gospel movement was well delineated from ‘Christian West to the Rest’. That is no longer the reality. There is a church in almost every country that has to be taken into account – however small and seemingly weak it may be. What does this mean for us as an organisation? It means that even before the pandemic (and now made so obvious), God was showing us that we must allow the National Church to lead us in local missions. That will mean that the dominant world view of missions will be community focused, relationship oriented and locally led. Diminishing
presence of outsiders in a country in the future means that we will either have to close down or will have to be ‘nationals driven’ in the future. This is a major change that we, as an organisation will have to navigate. It is important to reiterate that being nationally driven does not mean that there is no place for non-nationals in mission.
Collapsing Economies in the Developing World
If the Church is now largely in the Global South, then the collapse of their economies, already evident before and now accelerated by the pandemic, sounds a serious warning for the future. As new and emerging missions movements begin to increase sending personnel into the field, they are beginning to be hit by a financial crunch. For the first time in the history of missions (at least in the last 300 years), God has placed resources for missions in different parts of the world. Our world view of compartmentalised and individualised financing is perhaps the greatest hindrance to the future of missions. With human resources coming from places where there is less finance, and places where financial resources exist seeing less people stepping out for missions, we have a sudden mismatch leading to a crisis. Further, the present model of individuals raising funding for missions from a group of people around them is derived from an individualistic missiology, which is at odds with the community nature of thinking that drives much of the Global South. We are then faced with a missiological question – are the resources that God promised His Church for missions promised to individuals, national missions movement or to the global church? Are the resources of God given to the global church for global missions, to be shared and used as there is need? There are numerous issues that need to be addressed in this discussion, but the bottom line will need to be one of sharing and generosity. Looking beyond the syndromes of dependence and control, can we even begin to understand what it means to share resources without needing to control them. And can we understand that the availability of resources and the receiving of that generosity does not absolve us of the need to grow a sacrificial lifestyle and generous giving ourselves?
Key to all of this is the development of a mindset of community rather than an organsation, so that as a Fellowship we are Kingdom oriented for the glory of God.
The present financial model of missions is severely dependent on the availability and movement of people from resource rich areas in the field of missions. With possible continued restrictions on travel and work in the future and of further protection of the job market in favour of nationals, the dream of tentmaking as the way forward for the global south in missions is also likely to take a hit. We then circle back to the place of nationals in wholistic ministry as possibly the main plank of the missions
movement of the future. In addition, those who can make it to a cross cultural, trans-national place on the field, will need to be supported through the generous sharing of resources by the global church for global missions.
This poses a huge challenge to us as an International Missions organisation used to working on a model where people are recruited and sent from one country to another geographical context. We are not in the habit of recruiting locals in the countries where we work. In the next few months, we are about to see a major move of our partners back from the countries they serve into their home countries. The pandemic shows no signs of subsiding globally and the possibility of most of those who have gone home, getting back into their countries of service any time soon, is a very remote possibility (at present). Which leads us to our third factor to be considered for the future.
The Diaspora Movement
Already we have especially in GBI, a well-developed work among the Diaspora of the Asian and the Arab World. This is true in other National Office countries too. This has to become a normal way of life in our organisation. Further, we may need to step out to work in other non-Arab, non-Asian countries as we continue to
Kingdom Diaspora refers to the people of the Kingdom of God who are in a diasporic state: Those of our faith who have moved to other countries (apart from their passport countries) to study, work or as refugees.
minister to those who are central to our calling. However, we also need to accept the presence of the Kingdom Diaspora in the countries where we are presently serving. The pandemic threatens the continuation of this group, but we need to closely monitor their movement once the pandemic begins to ease. At present, our very strict categories of belonging – partner, staff and (in some countries) associates- does not offer these people a place in the Fellowship. Our future models and structures will have to make place for them. This will mean a wider understanding of ‘belonging’ embracing a Community model built along the lines of a centred set rather than a bounded set. Organisationally, the challenge will be to step out of our operational silos, to genuinely partner with (and be led by) nationals in our countries, to remove distinctions of home countries and ministry areas, to find ways of engaging with and including Kingdom diaspora within our Fellowship and of developing financial models that are built not on the personal (entity) ownership of resources, but on the principles of sharing and generosity. Key to all of this is the development of a mindset of community rather than an organsation, so that as a Fellowship we are Kingdom oriented for the glory of God.
Beauty in Creation
Interserve member of staff Dawn Macaulay shares on how we might be being called to reset our focus
Watching my daughter snip fragrant, pastel pink roses for display highlights again how this recent time of lockdown has helped many to gain a deeper appreciation of the natural world. We may be more aware of ‘nature’ as we’ve walked by a sparkling stream, explored the starry patterns in the sky, listened to the early morning birdsong and enjoyed the evening scent of honeysuckle. Amid the trauma and darkness that coronavirus has brought to many, I am grateful that our loving God has not only been alongside those who are sick, suffering and in need of His loving comfort, but He has also shown us what He holds preciously in His hands – His awe-inspiring creation. We were blessed in Great Britain & Ireland with the most stunning natural springtime I can remember for many years as if everything were hand-painted in vivid colour; or is it just my perception? Maybe, like me, you’ve felt more in tune with His
creation as you’ve been forced to slow down, taking time to enjoy and be thankful. I’ve had time to watch and wonder why I hadn’t noticed everything look this bright and beautiful before like His voice is singing through creation. Why does creation call out to an inner part of us in such a way to make us give thanks to our Father in heaven for its glorious colour, majestic splendour and intricate beauty? Surely because the artist, author and composer is Himself reflected in all that He has made. And if His beauty is found in all His creation, then it is surely found in all people around the world. In a wonderful and intricate way has He formed us, For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. (Psalm 139 vs 13-14) Each human being is made in His image and worthy of love and care – that’s the call that resonates within us – to share the good news of His love and grace to the peoples of Asia and the Arab world. To see individual lives and whole communities transformed as we share our love of the Father through creation with those of other faiths and cultures who may see the natural world differently. Maybe we will find common ground with them; one GBI Partner shared recently how she picked and pressed some flowers from her garden and sent them to two Muslim families, encouraging them to connect with nature through the flowers in their own gardens.
And if His beauty is found in all His creation, then it is surely found in all people around the world.
As a fellowship of believers here within Interserve GBI, together we can make a difference for Him. Lockdown led some of us to reflect and repent of our relentless consumerism: perhaps we don’t really need all that we normally buy. We have realised that we can do without things that may have been produced by someone living in poverty with no fair wage, gone and forgotten in a few short minutes. We are beginning to value and appreciate all that we have, to streamline our lives, to live more simply and have more to give away (time as well as other resources). Maybe God is calling us to ‘reset’ the focus of our priorities, within our fellowship as well as our own lives. When we pray, work together and commit to action, we will see the benefits for the planet and its people in our lifetime.