We Ten Went

We Ten Went

A year later reflecting on the mission trip to Cambodia.

map-of-cambodia

Alert:  Random thoughts coming up!

I am amazed at the missional mindset of so many people at church.  The willingness to either go or, if not go, then support those who go in prayer and financial generosity.

The link with Cambodia came through a tenuous family link with an Australian church.  We piggy-backed their magnificent endeavour over the years to support the church in Cambodia and see the Church be a blessing to the people of Cambodia.

photoThe friendship strength of the two teams that straddled the globe was quite something (although, I would have loved to have been there a few extra weeks to see what psych/ego dramas played out – but that’s a speculative unknown!

I loved the team we were part of, and the country we were in.  It has left an indelible(?) mark on my heart and mind, and I’m sure I speak for the team!

The reflection of our brief time there is a continuation of our physical time there.  There is a gospel-logic to going, and there is a gospel logic to processing and thinking about what happened there!

transformIt was a busy time; a chalenging time; a hot time; a thoughtful time; an unusual time; a playful time; a significant time.  The time was right, to talk with who we talked with, to preach to who we preached to; to give to who we gave to; to bless and be blessed by those all around; to live and learn another people and place; to pray and share and witness and eat and laugh.  We did it all and more.

The tuk-tuk’s were great fun, especially in a team of so many, chugging along throught the streets and traffic – sweet.

But the pepper.  Oh, the pepper, the Cambodian pepper:  Sell everything you have and buy some Cambodian pepper – if you like your pepper, you will love this pepper.  Sometimes I have a dinner with my pepper – it is the fragrance of heaven and the taste of the Kingdom!

(There is Cambodian pepper in Heaven – of that be assured)!

killing-fieldBut the pain, oh the pain.  Cambodia is a young country, robbed of its heritage, history and all that is in the past.  If Jesus can pray as he’s being nailed to the cross, “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing!” We can only surmise that the madness of Pol Pot was another evil manifestation of what a particular human being did not know what he was doing…did he know?  Probably….but so did the Roman soldiers.  They knew they were nailing Jesus to the cross, but they didn’t know what they were doing on a cosmic soteriological level…..how could they?  They were just following orders!  But Pol Pot and the apocalypse he unleashed of the evil hoardes was quite something!  To stand in the Killing Fields and read, watch, walk and feel, breathe, smell, think!  That is agony enough, but it isn’t enough; it is never enough!

The Church in Cambodia:  young, energetic, hopeful, faithful, fruitful.  Lord, bring it to completion.

with-transformHidden pain, despair, degradation, women, men and children, lost to the demonic world of prostitution, but not lost to the love of God, never!  Mercy will triumph over judgment because mercy does triumph over judgment….always……forever…..!

Lord, just say the word, and we/they will be healed….

 

 

 

 

 

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Resistances to Mission from within the Church

A guest post by David Matcham

Resistances:

Why is it that significant numbers of people in a given church either passively or actively resist moves by that church to open itself up to being more missional in its dealings with the world? The first question that I would ask is, how does the church function as a body of people beyond how people say it functions as, say, a Spirit-filled church?
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I ask this because regardless of how people say they think both the church functions and what their own role is within that functioning, if mission is either passively or actively being resisted then something else is at play in the ‘how’ of that church’s functioning for those people at least. To say that, yes, the church is the body of Christ, is Christ’s hands and feet in this world, is the House of God, is a family of believers, or whatever, is to ignore what is actually going on when people think of church and their role within that particular body. What role then, does that church fulfill and how does it fulfill it for all the church members?
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The phrasing of this last question opens up here the way in which churches, the idea of ‘church’ acts upon the believing Christian. This is an inevitable part of the fact that the concept of ‘the Church’ functions as much as a socio-historical one as it does an eschatological realisation of the purposes of God for mankind. In a sense therefore, to be part of a church is to enter into a relationship with an already existing body of believers with already existing specific ways of being with each other and the world.
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In this sense to be a member of a church is an inherently passive experience for the believer who is not at liberty to tinker with the self-understanding of either the concept of ‘church’ or the particular body to which he or she belongs. Fundamentally, whether or not the believer goes to this church or that church, or any church, the contribution they are able to bring is already in advance mitigated. Not entirely, of course; at the micro personal level of normal interaction, individual believers will form relationships within a given church that hold significant importance, and are vital for the “spirit” (small “s”) of fellowship in that community – as indeed, in any community.
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At this point a further reflection comes to mind regarding the camaraderie described above: that there is a love which is natural to human beings, and a love which is unnatural. Fundamentally, therefore, the love which is unnatural is the love which is commanded. It is not at all that the one cancels out the other. In marriage, for instance, the paradox is entered into of a permanent vow to continue to lifelong fidelity of erotic love for one person; something which is inherently changeable is forced to submit to a binding legal vow. But, of course, erotic love wants this vow, against all the evidence of our experience, the lover wants to commit to the beloved.
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Fleshly love is not, then, in opposition to a binding contractual obligation to love, but, in its purest form, seeks it out. Likewise, the kind of love that Jesus commands his disciples to is not to be confused with buddiness or camaraderie. It does not exclude this kind of love – in fact we should encourage it so far as it doesn’t detract from God’s purposes – but natural human love and enjoyment of company must submit to a different, less natural love that is commanded.
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And here I come to a central point which I’d like to make, that if camaraderie, the kind which often develops through common activities and or purposes, then of course churches will not be outward looking. A collection or club of likeminded people who get on because they are all like-minded personable people is not going to be motivated to the kind of radical call to love the loveless that Christ commands and the Spirit makes possible.
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If “love” in a church setting does not mean the kind of commanded love for the loveless, but is in fact more like camaraderie or like-mindedness, outsiders not only won’t be invited in, but nor will they really fit in with their unlike-minded knobbliness if they do come. And this is the sense in which the usual, enjoyable, friendly love that grows amongst people of like mind, who like the same music, dress the same, read the same books, etc, and of which we all naturally want to be part, actually works against a church being missional.
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To join this kind of group, to want to be a part of it the “unbeliever” would already have to have submitted themselves in advance of joining to what it is that makes this group tick. In this case it cannot be said to be Christ, but rather a fleshly desire to be part of a larger whole, a mere sociable drive to have friends and be liked.
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How then can a church differentiate itself from any other group of people who more or less enjoy each other’s company and get along? This issue goes to the heart of what a church is, rather than what a church does. There is a sense in which what a church is is not independent from what a church does, but that is not here the point. There is though theological justification for seeing the church not just as a collection of geographically bound believers gathering together for worship and fellowship, but as an eschatological eucharistic community.
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What I mean by saying this is that the church as an eschatological eucharistic community draws attention to the ‘now and not yet’ of the Christian hope as it works itself out through the celebration of the dying and rising body of Christ, on whom we collectively feast and whose ‘body’ we collectively are. The ‘now and not yet’ refers to the church as an instance of the Kingdom of God here on earth, but also to the fact that the full revelation of the sons of God is yet to come.
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As a eucharistic community we are brought together in thanksgiving and acknowledgement of God’s grace for our salvation as a body, not our own efforts. Though this is extremely brief, these pointers suggest a reason for belonging that far transcends the merely natural desire for company. Not centered on its own ways of functioning, the church is in fact part of God’s radical call to love the loveless in the dispensation of his Kingdom on earth. Such a call is profoundly alien to the human concept of a group because mere friendship or fellowship may more often than not hinder such a call.
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Anyone can have friends or groups of trusted people, but not all are called by God in this way to be an eschatological eucharistic community. The point is that we are together not because we like each other or because we are all of a similar social class or intelligence level, but because we are committed to the working out of God’s eschatological purposes for the world of which we are each a part. That God’s purpose for the world is to become a eucharistic community centered on Christ’s body, and thus in a sense inward looking, is actually at the heart of the good news which we have to bring. The message is, don’t join the church if you could get what you want just as easily as you could from joining the Freemasons, or the W.I., or the Rotary, or whatever.
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The church does not exist to pander to perfectly normal but essentially fleshly desires or a fear of loneliness. That the broken body and spilt blood of Christ are what joins us together as a ‘body’, and not our mere likes and dislikes, is what makes us, drives us outward into the world.
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The problem of resistance then seems to have taken a distinctly theological turn, as I would have expected. The more churches establish their common unity upon team-building activities, whether it be soup-runs, sports, music groups, theology discussion groups, evangelism, etc, (and yes, I agree that it sounds odd to include such evangelical projects, except when you consider to what kind of church are these evangelical projects calling people in for) the less motivated people will be to actually see the Father’s Kingdom come.
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That is, insofar as evangelism is calling the lost, the lonely, and the disposed to a group that is essentially a christianised club of like-minded people, not only will that evangelism lack lustre (why would you really want outsiders to join and potentially disrupt the group anyway), but also why would you, as a disposed, lonely and lost individual want to join a group which would inherently desire you to become like-minded (christianised) before integration can even begin. Nor is this a back-handed way of saying that communion must take on a more elaborate style for evangelism to become more effective and more motivated.
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Where communion (or Mass or the Eucharust, or whatever you want to call it) as a point of non-individualistically realised transcendental unity in the Body is sidelined, the church is in danger of descending into a Jesusclub, welcoming new-comers with one hand, whilst sticking two fingers up to them with the other if they don’t fit in well enough. And communion is just the start of this process of de-naturalising our relations with each other, because our unity is not in liking each other (which is great when we do) but in the broken body of Christ; just as our fellowship is not in our enjoyment of each other’s company, but in the impossible command of God to love one another.

 

Written by David Matcham at Swivel Chair Theology
Phenomenal Penh

Phenomenal Penh

Here’s my brief write up for the Baptist Times on the mission to Cambodia we experienced in November 2015….

From Torquay to Cambodia

Barton Baptist Church recently undertook a mission trip to Cambodia, involving the whole church. Minister Richard Matcham reflects

Cambodia

It is an incredible thing to attempt a full-scale mission trip that includes the whole church! We always knew that all of us should be involved, but that only some of us will go.

Barton is a small-ish Baptist Church in Torquay, and we took ten people on a mission trip to Cambodia in partnership with a church in Australia, who themselves took thirteen people.

We wanted it to be an inspiring time of trusting God for provision, hearing God’s voice, uniting for the team and church, and the like. We didn’t want to merely see the seasoned travellers go, but the unseasoned. We didn’t want those with missions’ experience to be the only ones, but those going for the first time.

Nor did we want only those with the means to go, but also those with no natural means to go. In the end we had a good combination. For those who stayed, they prayed. “Some will go; some will stay; all will pray!” That was our tag-line.

It was a sweet irony that a Baptist church in the English Riviera partnered with a church in Victoria, Australia, called the ‘Riviera Christian Centre’. This church has been partnered with several ministries within Cambodia for the past fifteen years, and every year, they take more people, young or old, experienced or not, to experience the world of Christian ministry within the format of short-term mission.

Cambodia was simply breath-taking, amazing people and truly amazing pepper! It was also heart-breaking. The country is a generation from the catastrophe of the Pol Pot era in the 1970s. Thus it is a “young” country, but it is emerging at pace as it faces the future.
The ministries we experienced were connected to the big city church in the capital Phnom Penh (or ‘Phenomenal Penh’ as I like to call it), and two particular ministries: one devoted to the education, feeding, health and nurture of children from very poor backgrounds, called ‘Transform Cambodia’; the other, a ministry that offers support, education and dignity to women and children who had been caught up in the trafficking industries, called ‘Precious Women’.

Every aspect of ministry focus had its historical tragedy, but there was not one without present or future hope. In a country where the Killing Fields have become an open museum and a testament to human evil, there is hope, and a significant part of it is located within what the church is doing, empowered by the Gospel.

Cambodia2Outside the capital, we visited the town of Poipet, on the Thailand border. This border town, displays the usual subsistence-level poverty and great wealth, side-by-side, as it is in many places around the world. Here, we supported the ministry of the church (a plant from the capital), including youth work, preaching, outreach and evangelism, prayer, pastoral ministry and the like.

There was much here that challenged many on the team, but despite whatever each individual on the team was experiencing, I for one, was so impressed with how the personal difficulties were covered for the sake of the corporate unity and the wider mission. The group held together in a truly astonishing way, even though for some, the difference in culture was challenging!

It is my hope and prayer that, in doing something like this, we gain a fraction more of the Kingdom of God and the wider world. That our churches exist for more than our local communities; that it is good for our local communities to see and know that their local church has done something out of the ordinary. That they are people who take God seriously, that God is not content with mere localism, even if we are; that our horizons must expand if we are to love and serve in a world that desperately needs to experience the love of God in Christ.

A banner of gratitude and thanks hangs at the back of our church from the members budding Christian community in Poipet. It reminds us that Barton Baptist Church is inextricably linked to the worldwide church. And we’ve been there to make and then tell our own stories of the love of Christ!

barton
The Revd Richard Matcham is minister of Barton Baptist Church in Torquay

 

 

Mission and Bosch

Mission and Bosch

Below is a brief refelction I wrote a few years ago of David Bosch’s outstanding Transforming Mission – paradigm shifts in theology of mission.

transforming-mission-bosch-david-j-9780883447192Bosch’s work has been given the highest praise, with such eloquent descriptions as immense, great, comprehensive, magnum opus, summa missiologica and magisterial, among others, for his book Transforming Mission.  This is worthy praise for the work of a man held in such high regard for his loyalty and commitment to mission in the church and the mission of the church.  It is very important to understand that these nouns and adjectives of praise for his book do not in any way suggest that all is well with the world of mission, or that Bosch has in fact covered every angle and said all that needs to be said about mission, and especially about what he calls “Elements of an Emerging Ecumenical Missionary Paradigm.”  This sentiment was well expressed in an article by Bevans and Schroeder when they compared the theological genius of Aquinas with the outstanding missiological contribution of Bosch, suggesting that as theology ‘need always to be done after Aquinas,’ likewise, missiology need always ‘be done after Bosch’ (Bevans & Schroeder 2005:69-72).

Some of Bosch’s most insightful critics are among his closest friends and colleagues, and it is within these critiques that we discover areas that Bosch may have overlooked or been completely blind to in the first place.  We will return to some of these voices in due course, but first a broad brush stroke is in order.  Bosch’s insights, written in the late eighties and published in 1991 reflect a profound and well thought out view that many Christian authors and missiologists especially in the West are still struggling to define, namely post-modernism.  For Bosch to elucidate this slippery concept at such an early stage in the way he does has really set the scene for much discourse on this subject.  We observe this because it is inevitable that with any description of a culture in flux, which is essentially what a paradigm shift is, and attempts to fully explicate at such an early stage, at least earlier than many other cultural analysts were writing, would surely be frustrated, even assertions that it could be fully comprehended would surely be naïve.  Bosch does not presume to have done this primarily because he knows he is referring to something that is happening now, it is in a sense live, and subject to unpredictable change.  Since this is still the case in our day, how much more in his day?

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Letting go – Missionally speaking

letting goI am a father. My children are the first of both my parent’s family lines to grow up in a Christian home. As a young man of twenty one, I had a lot of catching up to do regarding the Christian faith, when God actually invaded my personal space and started asking some pretty searching questions of me. I never went to Sunday school as a youth, and as far as God was concerned, I couldn’t have given a hoot to whatever ‘religious people’ said and claimed. I don’t even think I went into a church. My life and family were God-less.  We weren’t barbaric savages eating the flesh of our neighbours (not that I remember anyway), but we were, when the two-edged sword is speaking it’s truth – God-less.

Strangely, I am not aware that I even came across what I now know as re-formed, redeemed, renewed, born-again, evangelical, bible believing, Spirit-filled, rescued sinners turned saints – i.e. a Christian, as we say in the West, or a Nazarene, as Christians call themselves in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East.

I couldn’t have given a hoot to something I didn’t understand or think about in people I never met (I was thoroughly secularised). Until God met me. That’s the introduction to my indifferent-atheist-secularist-1980’s materialist-turned follower of Jesus (and those details can wait for another time) life.  But God met me.

Three years previously, as a goofy teenager, I met this gorgeous woman, one of those God-botherers, but I couldn’t take my eyes off her (I still can’t). This is how it panned out (minimalism at it’s best): I met my (future) wife; God met me; we met our children. Our children thus grew up in a home with both parents madly in love with each other and God!

I am so proud of my kids (er, adults now)! My daughter, beautiful – clever – deep (like her mum), is my jewel. She could do anything she wants in this world. If she wanted to be an engineer, boom, done. If she wanted to be a writer, she could. And she may yet well be. But she has chosen to keep her heart and her ears and her mind and her life open to whatever God has for her. She is currently exploring missionary possibilities on the other side of the world. God bless the other side of the world!

The cost of missions; the cost of following Jesus does not just effect the individual concerned, it affects the whole family. I am certain my daughter could command a high standard of living in whatever she sets her mind to. She could earn high. She could do what she wants, when she wants, how she wants.

But she has chosen another way, the Way – of Jesus. Surrendering her God-given skills and ability unto the service of Jesus Christ is surely my highest honour as a father and my daughters greatest decision. There is a lot of uncertainty, in income, in security, in future decisions. But my attitude is simple: that’s what the majority world have to live with anyway. Us Westerners are so soppy and soft sometimes. We want secular/materialist/godless ‘securities’ (pension, salary, safety, etc) for our children, we often desire them as parents to make ourselves feel more secure in our God-less Chrisianised faith.

In fact, what we often truly want (our secret desires) for our children, is a successful secular/materialist life with a veneer of respectable Christianity (i.e. the Western Church – i.e. we want them saved but we don’t want their salvation to cost too much to our safe and mediocre lives). We want for our children a suburban piety – a Christianity without heart, a Jesus without the Cross and mission without the cost. We play with Jesus, and frankly, he can keep his Cross. When we talk about missions, what we really mean is someone else, somewhere else! We don’t mean me, we don’t mean here and we don’t mean now! But Jesus does!

And yet, it is not easy to let my daughter go into a ‘missional life’ (all life is missional I know), but it just isn’t easy to let go. I know I have to let God be God and, frankly, grow up in my faith. I have to see that when God calls, He calls. When He speaks, we’d better listen. When He sends, we’d better let go.

Good bye my darling daughter. I’ll see you soon. I am so proud of you for daring to believe God at His most wonderful Word. I couldn’t ask for more, even though my humanity has tried to make me ask for less.

I love you
Dad xxx

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