More than a Local Mission
Just over ten years ago, a group of Christians started meeting as Aigburth Community Church. Aigburth is a south Liverpool suburb with a population of around 15,000 people. That initial group of 20 has become a congregation of 180, which is now contributing to a global mission network as Steve Palframan explains.
Our mission was, and still is, to bring the light of the gospel to the lost in our community. We planned to gather as a church to disciple, encourage and train one another, and then send each other out as missionaries into the community in which we had committed to live.
In God’s kindness, we’ve seen a number of locals become committed Christians who are now part of our 180-strong congregation! Our work is not yet done, but God has blessed us.
From the outset, I’ve loved the beautiful simplicity of our mission, as we’ve told church members:
“live here, gather regularly around God’s word, and reach out to those around you.”
Yet, over the years, and with much still to do locally, I’ve become convinced that there is more to the mission of a local church than that statement suggests.
Supporting World Mission
Preaching through 1 Corinthians a few years ago, I was particularly struck by Paul’s view of the Corinthian church:
“To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.” 1 Corinthians 1:2
The craziness of the Corinthian church is renowned. This is the local church whose gatherings are doing more harm than good, who are more sexually immoral than the world around them, and who get drunk at the Lord’s Supper. Yet still Paul says the gospel of the Lord Jesus has the power to declare these sinners ‘saints’, and, more than just that, sanctified saints who are ‘together’ with the worldwide church. In other words, these significant issues were not beyond the saving and sanctifying power of Jesus, but neither were they a reason for the Corinthian church to neglect their responsibilities to the worldwide church.
So, as he explains in the letter, the church should be giving to the church in Jerusalem, sending people to other places and supporting Paul in his missionary endeavours.
This isn’t just mentioned in 1 Corinthians. Romans is written to engage the church in Rome in a mission to Spain; Philippians is an encouragement and thanks for global gospel partnership; Ephesians and Colossians both assume that hearing about Paul’s missionary endeavours and the progress of global mission are central to the church’s wellbeing; and 1 Timothy and Titus tell missionary pastors how to get on with their task.
Put all this together and it’s not hard to see that the New Testament’s assumption is that local churches are to behave as global mission agencies. Local churches are entrusted, commissioned, and tasked with the job of taking the gospel not only to their own neighbourhoods, but also to the nations.
This isn’t a job they should delegate, ignore, or save for just a few who are keen, because the truth is that each church member worships a global Saviour who is bigger than their own personal salvation, or even their mission to their community. The mission of the local church has another task: live here, gather regularly around God’s word, reach out to those around you and to the world.
The Radstock Network
As a church family, we’ve been helped to live out that calling by joining the global Radstock network of churches working together to see new ones planted in some of the world’s toughest places.
Joining Radstock gave us meaningful connections with churches overseas, and pushed back to us the responsibility of sending, receiving, training and pastoring global workers.
In the early days as a small church, we partnered with a USA church in sending long-term workers to plant in the Balkans. Through that work we also connected with Albanian planters working in Kosovo and Macedonia. Nobody claimed to have had a specific ‘call’ to any of these places. As leaders we were driven by the principle that these global mission convictions needed to land somewhere in practice. So, we prayed for these church plants in our Sunday gatherings, took members to visit them, sent short-term workers, invited them to visit us at Christmas and for church weekends, and treated their work like an extension of our own.
Last summer, almost seven years into these partnerships, we sent one of our elders and his family to join a church plant in Kosovo, serving alongside the Albanian pastor, and supporting the church mission.
More recently, our church freed up some of my time to enable me to become UK Director for Radstock. My passion is to help local churches engage in global missions, not just in the sending and receiving of missionaries, but in embedding global partnerships into local churches.
I’d love to see every member contributing and engaging in the task of taking the gospel to the nations. This is important work for local churches to grasp. Much of the world has yet to hear the gospel, and the responsibility to reach them lies with us.