Over the past 4 days, I had the great privilege of attending a conference in Glasgow, organized by FORGE Scotland, entitled “Reactivating a Missionary Nation.” For those unfamiliar with FORGE, they are an international missionary training network which exists to “birth and nurture the missional church worldwide.” While the conference was hosted by FORGE Scotland, the topics covered applied to any missionary context. My main reason for joining this conference was to network with the FORGE leaders present, and explore the idea of starting FORGE in Taiwan.
What does FORGE do?
FORGE International is an inter-denominational network of leaders who invest their time into encouraging Christians everywhere to see themselves as missionaries who are sent by God to different non-Christian cultural groups. They help accomplish this through:
- The FORGE Course. This is a 1-year training time to equip and encourage people who are already active in missional church planting. The course is designed for people with regular jobs, and involves extensive reading, regular discussion with other course participants, and 4 weekend intensives. More info here (example from the Dallas Hub; the content of other courses might vary slightly).
- Hubs. These are networks of missionaries within a certain city. They provide ongoing training and support.
- Coaching. The FORGE leaders are incredibly generous with their time, and offer regular 1-on-1 coaching in person, or over Skype. Over the past 8 months, I have had several very helpful Skype conversations with FORGE leader Mark Michael.
Our world is currently undergoing tremendous shifts. One of the major changes is taking place on the level of people’s worldview. Especially in the West, we are moving from a modern way of thinking to a post-modern one. In the modern world, the church had a leading voice in shaping culture. But most would agree that this voice has been lost, and the Christian church moved increasingly to the margins of society. This new cultural environment has been described as Postchristian. FORGE was started by missional church gurus Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost in response to this pressing challenge.
People on Mission
If we are serious about fulfilling the Great Commission, we need to change the way we operate, in light of these changes. One major change that we desperate need to make is to start seeing ourselves in a missionary context. Instead of expecting our non-Christian co-workers and neighbors to come to our church buildings, we need to see ourselves as missionaries whom God is sending to them instead.
A Missionary God
All throughout the Bible, we see that God is actively on mission to reach humans with His love. He walks with Adam and Eve in the Garden, He seeks out and calls Abraham, Moses, and the prophets. And God’s active engagement with humans culminates in the ultimate missionary act of becoming a human himself in the man Jesus of Nazareth, and living among us. This has been called the Missio Dei, or mission of God.
[quote]If this is the kind of God we follow, how can we not be on active mission ourselves?[/quote]
No longer can we sit in our comfortable churches, and wait for them to show up at the door (which usually doesn’t happen anyway). We need to go to them!
A helpful question to ask yourself is: “If my non-Christian friends never step foot into a church building, how will they ever become disciples of Jesus?” There is really only one answer to this question.
[quote]You must band with other believers to bring the church into their life.[/quote]
The kind of church community which you start will look wildly different depending on who you are sent to. A Jesus community among retirees might gather several times a week at 7am at the local McDonald’s. A missional church among upwardly-mobile urban singles might meet in apartments or trendy cafes. The location, time, and style don’t really matter, because that’s not what defines church. After all, the church is people.
If you recognize the need to actively engage with the mission of God to reach your family, friends and co-workers with the Good News of Jesus, I would encourage you along these lines:
- Pray. All mission should be saturated in prayer. Since we are unable to change anyone’s heart, we desperately need the Holy Spirit to touch those to whom we are sent.
- Share. Grab some of your friends for coffee, and share your heart with them.
- Dream. Imagine if God told you: “Whatever mission you choose, I guarantee success.” How would you respond? To whom would you become a missionary?
- Act. Gather some some like-minded friends, and go for it! Together, start praying regularly for the group you are sent to. Begin spending most of your free time with these non-Christian friends. And watch for ways to partner with whatever the Holy Spirit is already doing among them.
- Grow. It’s likely you won’t feel up to the task. So start with reading through some of the best missional material out there. Our Resource Page outlines some of the blogs and books we’ve found helpful. If you need more help, get in touch with us, or find out where the next FORGE Course will be held.