All mission is local

I came to know and follow Jesus through Youth For Christ (YFC) in Wellington. YFC was an organisation that worked with teenagers and ran weekly clubs and camps. It had a strong emphasis that being a Christian meant giving of yourself, serving others, and being involved in ministry. It was this value that has stayed with me all my life. To be a Christian means giving your time, space, finances, emotions, and capacity and entering other people’s world.

While SIM has a focus on people serving overseas, when I talk at churches and groups, I always talk about people being involved in mission, whether it is across the world or across the road.

This is because I believe that ‘all mission is local’ because it is the local context and local people. We must be willing to serve locally in New Zealand if we are interested in serving overseas. Serving overseas means humbly entering another local context and learning the culture and language and working with local people and the same principle works here in New Zealand.

To minister overseas means learning to see life and faith through others’ perspectives. It involves you humbling yourself and leaving behind many of the things that you might be holding on to tightly because that is your culture and world perspective. I have seen this time and again as I have travelled and 3 Zealand heard stories of people I have sent overseas talk about the different cultural and faith views they encounter that challenge them.

Many of us come from a pakeha ‘life is comfortable and it is easy to be a Christian’ perspective. We have often seen our faith and interpreted our faith through our nice life in New Zealand.

For example, we believe that God is ‘Jehovah Jireh’, our provider, because we have a fridge, parents who work or a social welfare system, and not because we have truly experienced God provide for us — but what happens to your understanding of Jehovah Jireh when you live in a country with famine or limited medical services?

To go and choose to live in another context challenges us. The same principle works here in New Zealand. Most of us live in nice, safe and comfortable contexts with people ‘just like us’ but this doesn’t prepare us for ministry or service overseas. We must choose to go and involve ourselves with people in New Zealand who are not like us so we can get a glimpse of what it means to serve overseas.

I learned this doing youth ministry for years. Working with young people is so rewarding but will challenge you and push your buttons. Young people are not safe and the way they see the world and their values and actions are quite different from those of adults. These young people came from a culture different from church culture. I had to learn to enter this culture and be comfortable with it and learn to have my own world view and sometimes faith view challenged, and that was okay.

So, if you want to serve overseas then you need to learn to serve locally because all mission is local. Get involved with people and groups that are not like you so that you learn to see and live in their world, and you start to understand how Jesus would speak into and enter their world. Even if it is just for an hour or two each week. It will get you understanding, questioning, and serving in new ways.

—Sean Marston, SIM NZ Mobilisation and Recruitment

Pray • For opportunities and insight into communities different from you, in the place where you now live, and that New Zealand believers will be challenged to see that mission is indeed local.