While many mission groups are emphasising social justice, Church Missionary Society (CMS) is swinging the other way, making evangelism and church planting top of their priority list in a new vision statement launched today.
CMS Australia Federal Secretary Peter Rodgers, says the organisation is holding on to gospel-centred mission, despite an increasing trend for social justice and welfare to take centre stage.
“More and more people define mission as social justice – care and development projects. But it can’t be mission unless Christ is being proclaimed. So while we will support missionaries using their professional skills in those sorts of projects, it will be with the intention of sharing the gospel and building up the church,” says Rodgers.
According to Rodgers, CMS is happily swimming against the social justice tide: “We believe in holistic mission – we don’t only care for people’s bodies, but people’s souls. There needs to be gospel proclamation. Without it, when care and development is divorced from the gospel, that’s not mission.”
CMS says it’s time for Australian Christians to recognise their responsibilities to the millions of people living on our doorstep who don’t know Christ. Its new vision has a particularly regional focus – reaching Australia’s nearest neighbours in the Asia Pacific region for Christ.
“There are 500 million people in South East Asia who don’t know Christ,” says Rodgers. “We think it’s logical for CMS to respond to the need that’s in our own neighbourhood.”
That neighbourhood will bring CMS in closer contact with Buddhism in countries like Burma, Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia.
“We haven’t had a lot of involvement in these places in the past. But we’re conscious of the need for Christ in these areas and others.”
The new CMS vision also places a greater emphasis on equipping the local church with being cross-cultural right here in Australia. While there are more and more cross-cultural church plants happening across the country, CMS says its important in such a multicultural country for more Christians to be cross-culturally savvy.
CMS will begin cross-cultural apprenticeships in 2013, training people interested in cross-cultural ministry to people from Muslim and Buddhist backgrounds. Rodgers says the apprenticeship will encompass mentoring and training to reach people in your own suburb from other cultures and will also include several months on overseas placement, to learn the language and delve deeper in cultural understanding.
The new CMS vision, looking towards 2020, seeks to address what Rodgers says will be the biggest challenge for mission agencies in the next 10 years: keeping the focus on Christ.
“I think the greatest challenge comes back to mission that is focused on proclaiming Christ. If it loses that, it’s not mission. We’ve lost what we’re about. We must maintain a focus on Jesus.”More