Did you know that in India alone there are over 2000 people groups unreached by the gospel? In Britain, as a reached nation rich in resources, it’s right that we should put world mission front and centre in our churches. Yes, people in the Home Counties need to hear about Jesus, but they already can. Children in Saudi Arabia are pretty unlikely to know anything about the Lord Jesus, so let’s give some thought to that.
On our church weekend away last week there was a theme of diversity in the church. We looked at Revelation 7: ‘After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.’ Do you see? In heaven the church is diverse. We won’t all merge into clones. So we need to do two things:
- We need to preach the gospel to every people group God has made.
- We need to celebrate diversity in our churches, as we unite as brothers and sisters in Christ.
This is a tough task, and to many mums it might seem like mission impossible. World mission is something that other people do. Maybe when my children are grown up, I’ll be able to start thinking about world mission. But at the moment, I’ve got enough on my plate, and I don’t have opportunities to take part in world mission, even if I had the energy.
But maybe we need to take another look at our situations. No matter who we are, if we’re Christians we can be praying for people all over the world. What an amazing thing, that we can partner with missionaries and Bible translators all over the globe by turning to God in prayer. At the moment it is Ramadan, and I’ve been given a booklet so that I can pray for Muslims each day of Ramadan (http://www.30-days.net). What a wonderful thing, that we can make a difference by coming to God in prayer in our own bedrooms.
This has got me thinking more about the School Gate. When I had my first baby, I spent a year and a half wanting to make friends with local mums and not really managing to do that. Then I had another baby, so making friends with anyone became even more difficult. Then, just as I had another baby and no time to make friends or even make a cuppa, I arrived at the School Gate – a place where even the most reserved, reticent or rude mother finds it hard not to say hello. You see pretty much the same people ten times a week for 39 weeks of the year. Come on, even if you’re shy it’s easy to pass the time of day. Nobody can call you OTT because you crack a smile. And if you are really shy, there’s bound to be one or two mums there who aren’t. Let them be the facilitators! My lovely friend organises coffees and day trips with the mums in our daughters’ class. All I have to do is turn up.
And if you live in an urban area like I do, you’ll find you can do world mission round the corner from your house. I’m probably not going to travel to Northern Iraq to evangelise the Kurds, but praise God! He has brought a surprising number of Kurds to my school gate. I don’t plan on moving my family to Afghanistan any time soon, but the Lord in his wisdom has brought Afghan asylum seekers to my child’s classroom. And almost certainly I will not be moving to Berkshire to share the gospel with the super rich, but I can witness to them, too, at my humble school gate while they spend their weekdays in London. And if your school gate is made up of people just like you, and not multicultural in the slightest, then God hasn’t put you in that mission field by accident. Local mission is no less important than world mission. These people need to hear the gospel, whatever their tribe or tongue.
You’re hopefully thinking, ‘Catherine I’ve been doing this for years, what’s your point?’ But if you’re a bit daunted by the idea of School Gate as Mission Field, here are a few ideas that might help:
1. Talk to people. That’s a good place to start! I have spent years honing my abilities to talk to strangers, usually spouting completely uninteresting bits of information that I can laugh about later. But I’ve found that this waffling does tend to put people at ease! (A recent low – or high? – point: ‘Oh you’re from Finland?… My son looks Swedish!’) I’m not suggesting you learn to waffle – you should of course just be yourself! But I heard an evangelist once say that you can’t preach the gospel unless you start by talking to people. And if that means you have to start watching Eastenders when you’d rather be watching University Challenge (or vice versa) I’m afraid that’s a price you might have to pay for the sake of the gospel!
2. Pray for wisdom. Wonderfully, the school gate really has too many people for you to make friends with. Ask God to guide you towards people you can genuinely connect with, and who might be receptive to the gospel.
3. Don’t discriminate. Sometimes I think, for various reasons, that I won’t ‘click’ with a certain person. This is a terrible attitude, coming I think from various irrational and sinful prejudices. How refreshing it would be if we could love everyone and not turn a blind eye to some. God’s already surprised me that I can genuinely get on with people who say phrases like, ‘And do you have a place in the country?’ And why should I be surprised? Shame on me.
4. Include your children. It would be a wonderful thing if our children saw from a young age the need for everyone to hear the gospel. God wants to glorify himself, and what better way to show people his glory than to share with them the news of his great rescue? Our kids can pray with us for their classmates and their families.
You have opportunities that many people in your church don’t have. Your pastor might do the school run, but he can’t really start asking mums for their phone numbers and inviting them for coffee. People working in an office do make friends with their colleagues, but the work they’re doing can often prevent them from having in-depth conversations about life and death. And loads of Christians – the elderly, the unemployed, and many with jobs – just don’t have contact with many people the way you do. I waited three-and-a-half years to make friends with mums, and I’m thankful to God that I now have several. I love having friends! Friends to share coffee with; friends to get advice from; friends who understand that 5pm feeling; friends who desperately need to hear the amazing news that Jesus Christ is Lord.