Russell Thorp, Missions Director, Global Connections in Mission (GC3)
Russell Thorp, MTh, is the New Zealand (NZ) Missions Director for Global Connections in Mission (GC3). Russell has been involved in teaching and administration in Bible Colleges in Papua New Guinea and NZ. Russell’s role is helping churches be more strategic in mission and is currently involved in a variety of local and overseas mission initiatives. Russell and Pearl have four adult children and live in Auckland.
Recently I encountered a new Pakistani Christian in Malaysia who came to Christ through a discipling process that intentionally shared the good news of Jesus. He had left Pakistan and his religious roots to pursue women and beer in Bangkok but had found Christ in Kuala Lumpur through relationships developed in this small church. This young man is committing himself to a life of mission and desires to go back to his country of birth to plant churches. I found this so encouraging and wondered what could be learned from the Malaysian context that might help us in our missions.
What I noticed was that our Malaysian friends were responding to Jesus’ commands about mission and they were intentional about growing believers, using their gifts and helping them find their identity in Christ.
We learn, firstly, that Jesus asks us to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:18). He also desires that “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). These commands are for all of us. The Apostle Paul said, “we are … Christ’s ambassadors” (2 Cor 5:20) and that God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. (2 Cor 5:18).
Secondly, mission involvement grows people and churches. We can attend church and hear great sermons or belong to a small group and enjoy discussing the Bible but being actively involved in mission forces us out of our comfort zone and leads us on a faith journey where we see God and the world at work in new ways. We will learn how to trust God in ways that becomes a catalyst for faith development.
Thirdly, mission involvement is a great way for more people to use their gifts. There are so many opportunities to use your skills and training in mission contexts both in the short term and longer term. We are seeing business and trades people adding to the mission effort of teachers and nurses. We are seeing trained linguists working with new people groups. We are seeing those with management and accounting skills mentoring nationals or helping internationals.
Fourthly, mission involvement, while being about serving others for the sake of Christ, is also an experience of identity discovery and formation. Finding our purpose and passion for life in serving Christ in mission is a compelling outcome of the process of mission engagement. This is needed in a world that focuses on gratifying and bettering self.
How is our Pakistani friend doing? A few weeks after meeting him I received a ‘Whats App’ message describing how he, alongside his discipler, had led two others to follow Jesus. He was being engaged in mission, following the commands of Jesus and intentionally growing through engagement in the process of mission. Along the way he is discovering his giftedness and developing a secure identity in Christ in the context of the life of the church.
The nature of mission work is changing in a world that is much more connected. The flow of people groups, the speed of transportation, the flow of money and the issues of health and safety create new opportunities and risks. Navigating these is something your church mission agency would love to help with. They can connect you with people who have the experience and skills to help you along the way.
For further help related to mission strategies and opportunities that will grow your people and church, contact your local mission service group. In the UK, contact Echoes International here.