We asked Andy Upton, pastor of Knighton Free Church, Leicester, about world mission and the local church…
As a pastor, what would you say the role of a church leader is in identifying and equipping people for cross-cultural mission?
I think our responsibility is to keep global mission pumping through the veins of the church family. On my desk I have an angle-poise lamp. Remember those? If it’s not tightened up, then you lift it up over your work, only to have it slowly and imperceptibly drop down. It feels like that with global mission in the church.
The best way to help identify and equip people for cross-cultural mission is to keep lifting our eyes to the world around us. That has to start with God’s Word. We have the occasional sermon series focusing on world mission but ideally it should flow out of every passage we look at.
There are lots of other ways we try and raise our eyes: interviewing and praying for those in cross-cultural mission in prayer meetings; partnering with a local church in a very multicultural part of the city; working with other churches to help students and refugees. We also have a Middle Eastern worker on our staff which changes the dynamic of our church family in many helpful ways.
The best way to help identify and equip people for cross-cultural mission is to keep lifting our eyes to the world around us. That has to start with God’s Word.
Where do mission agencies best fit into that?
We need somebody to prod us every now and again: ‘Look Andy, can you see what God is doing here? Are you aware of the need there?’ Mission agencies help keep that angle-poise lamp raised. We lean on them for resources and information, but most crucially when we send a mission partner/worker. The combination of local church, mission agency and mission partner makes a strong team.
Why ‘mission partners’ not missionaries?
The word ‘missionary’ carries a lot of baggage these days. Like it or not, people still think of pith helmets and colonialism. The word also feels like a very solitary calling, the missionary heading off to fulfil their calling, but it’s a calling for the whole church. Our mission partners are sent by God and by us. We partner with them in mission to the people group they go to.
What does a healthy mission partnership look like in practice?
I can think of one couple who came to Knighton passionate about a people group in Africa. They had links with a mission organisation we’d worked with in the past and, as we got to know and love them, we began to catch their vision. They spent time with people in the church who have served abroad. They got involved in cross-cultural work in Leicester. When it came time for them to head out they’d recently had a small child so it was hard to say goodbye, but we get regular updates and pray for them. They work in a sensitive part of the world but we’ve learnt how to manage that and speak to them on Skype without putting our foot in it – well, most of the time! Some have been to visit them and we’re looking forward to them coming back this year.
Our mission partners are sent by God and by us. We partner with them in mission to the people group they go to.
What lessons have you and your church learned through your involvement in world mission?
That we have much to learn!
We have much to learn from our mission partners. This year, a couple are back for an extended period and we are looking forward to them teaching us about cross-cultural mission from their experiences in South America.
We have much to learn from churches in other countries. Through one church partnership, some Romanians have joined our church here. Being outside our culture, they see where we are weak or in error.
And we have much to learn from God himself who is calling a people to him from every tongue, tribe, language and nation. He loves all people and we need to learn to do the same.