It was a great privilege to be at the FIEC leaders conference last week. I think it’s the best one I’ve been to. The input was excellent, the venue much improved and as ever being around such an esteemed group of fellow gospel ministers is a source of much joy and lively conversation. FIEC directors, staff and volunteers you did a great job.
What’s most exciting over the last few years has been to see the growth in the FIEC family of churches, not so much from churches leaving other networks to join (although that’s certainly a sign of the health of the FIEC) but the growth from new churches starting. The UK is a needy mission field with only an estimated 3% of the population in evangelical churches and it’s good to see the church waking from the complacency we’ve perhaps been guilty of in the past as we now proactively seek to reach more people, aware that we need to go and tell the people of Britain because the days of them bringing themselves to church are long behind us.
Speaking more broadly than the FIEC leaders conference, although it was reflected there, I do have a growing concern that as our churches get better at seeing this local mission field we are becoming more blind to the call to global mission. It’s striking to me that as we talk about rightly trying to develop evangelistic churches we seldom talk about the ‘all nations’ part of the great commission, as passion for the lost tends to be mainly focused on our own unbelieving friends. Of course this is not an either/or thing we need to talk of both local and global need but ‘balance’ between the two is definitely not the answer.
What’s really clear as you read the Bible is that God’s passion for reaching the lost in our community is a function, or subset, of his passion to reach people from every tribe, people, language and nation. God is concerned with Aigburth because he’s concerned with the world. So it’s a mistake to tell our church to balance the local with the global rather it’s because God loves the world and will accomplish his plan for the world that he sent his son to save people like them from all over the world. We need to say and repeat that it’s God’s passion for the nations that I live out as I share the gospel with my unbelieving neighbour and as I pray, give and go to take that same message to the ends of the earth.
Thinking and speaking like this ensures not simply that we don’t misrepresent God as a local deity but also importantly saves our church from thinking their only task is to fill their building.
We indeed face a task unfinished and not simply in the UK.