Operation Mobilisation’s Matthew Skirton reveals engagement with international mission is falling, and explains how every Christian in the UK can help make a difference
Long before Covid-19, I was noticing a decline in the number of British Christians engaging in cross-cultural, overseas mission. The urgency to go out and reach the 2.1 billion people in our world who have never heard the gospel has significantly dwindled in recent years. We know that less than one per cent of Christians around the world are actively involved in global missions. And our experience at Operation Mobilisation tells us there are noticeably fewer followers of Christ willing to count the cost and take the leap abroad into places where there is little chance of the people hearing the gospel.
Has it become all too comfortable to be a Christian in the Western Church – to profess a faith, but have no depth of commitment? Is a lack of commitment to Jesus’ Great Commission, and the ease in which we all (myself included) can fall into self-centered Christianity, behind why people are not queuing up for mission in foreign countries?
Or perhaps, in our politically correct climate, where it is not acceptable to say Jesus is the only way to salvation, we’re beginning to doubt that he is the only hope. Maybe some of us are wondering: what is the point of telling others?
Covid-19 has, of course, made it harder to work overseas, as international travel has been shut down completely for months at a time. But the pandemic is also an opportunity to re-engage and reimagine mission, both within our own borders and beyond. For instance, one of our mission partners, who hails from Bulgaria, is a Turkish-speaking pastor now based in north London. His services attracted 50 people before lockdown. But just a few short weeks after Covid arrived, more than 1,600 Turkish-speakers were tuning in for a livestreamed service from this same church.
Pippa (not her real name) from Surrey serves with a team of local Jesus followers in a region of the Himalayas, sharing the gospel in hard-to-reach Buddhist communities. During the pandemic the team stepped up their intercession through praying and fasting. Pippa has been overwhelmed by the response of local believers now mobilised into mission as a result, with 15 new believers wanting to join their area team. Just imagine the future impact of both near- and far-culture workers serving together, sharing knowledge, resources and understanding to enable God’s love to be shared where he is not known.
When the pandemic started, John 4:35 came to mind: “Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!” (NKJV). The phrase “lift up your eyes” really speaks to me. Could these times of uncertainty provide an opportunity for the UK Church to look up to the Lord of the harvest and ask him to send out his workers?
I believe we must start with prayer. First comes prayer, then vision, then going.
The number of people in the world who don’t know Jesus – and have little opportunity of hearing about him – is staggering, and growing by 55,000 a day. If faith “comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ” (Romans 10:17), are we prepared to share that message, whatever the cost?
Hear more from Matthew Skirton now on The Profile podcast