Never-changing gospel for an ever-changing world
Posted on: 26th February 2018
CMS Australia International Director Peter Rodgers explains how the unchanging nature of the CMS vision assists us in facing the constant challenges of change in the twenty-first century.
A rapidly changing world
We are living through an age of rapid and unprecedented change: information generation, communication and genetic engineering are just some of the areas which have seen new and major developments in recent decades. The world we are living in today is very different from even a generation ago. It is hard to imagine the world that our children or grandchildren will inhabit.
For the Christian, the reassuring news is that God is in control, and the purposes he laid down from eternity will still find their completion at the end of this creation. We have a task and a message that are unchanged. Our task is still to make disciples of the nations (Matthew 28:19), and the gospel we proclaim is still the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Romans 1:16–17).
But such rapid global change does mean that the context in which we do mission has altered. How we did mission 30, 20 or even 10 years ago no longer fits. The way we do mission 10 years from now will change again.
At CMS, we are committed to staying unmoved at the centre—the unchanging task and message of God’s mission. But we are also committed to being flexible in response to the changing context of mission—always with the goal of doing all we can to see a world that knows Jesus.
Reach gospel-poor peoples for Christ
“In the parts of the world where the church is small and gospel witness is limited, we will engage in evangelism and church planting, partnering with local churches where possible.” 
Evangelism and church planting are always at the heart of mission. Today new challenges and opportunities have reshaped the way we must do this.
We have adopted the term “gospel-poor peoples” in our vision to describe not only people groups that have never heard the message of Jesus, but people groups who once did have the gospel—who were even at the centre of Christendom—but now need re-evangelising.
Last year, we remembered the 500th anniversary of the Reformation that spread from Europe across much of the world. But today, much of Europe has abandoned the gospel and Bible-believing churches are few in number. In fact, Europeans as a whole are the most resistant to evangelism of any people group. The world has changed, and Europe is now gospel-poor and needs re-evangelising.
The challenge of the urban poor
With the rapid urbanisation taking place across much of our world, most gospel-poor peoples today are not found in remote rural areas, but in urban slums of mega-cities that we may never have heard of. Today, one in five people live in urban slums, but only one in five hundred missionaries work in these areas. Mission in urban slums is tough and requires long-term commitment and presence.
The opportunities of migration
Never before has the world witnessed such massive migration as we are seeing today. More than ever, people are moving out of their homelands for various reasons—economic, political, religious, academic, labour, government and business, to mention a few. These people are voluntarily or involuntarily crossing political and cultural boundaries.
Migration has created new opportunities for mission, particularly amongst people who would have otherwise remained unreached. People who previously lived in countries with little or no gospel access can now be reached with the good news. Many are coming to Christ.
Equip Christian leaders for church and society
“In the parts of the world where the church has grown rapidly but leadership needs support, we will partner with churches and Christian organisations to train and mentor Christian leaders.”
In the West, we can think that churches are in decline. That may be true in most Western countries, but across the world the opposite has been the case. Christianity has grown in the continents of Africa, Asia and Latin America at an unprecedented rate. That is why today 65 per cent of all Christians are found in these three continents.
This shift has many implications. It means that places we once regarded as the mission field have now become centres of Christian vitality. It also means that mission is no longer a movement from Western nations to the rest of the world, but peoples that once received missionaries are now mission centres, sending missionaries out across the world. We praise God for the amazing growth of the Church and its new mission endeavours.
Training Christian leaders
However, while the Church has grown rapidly, growing Christian leaders still takes years. In these parts of the world, pastors and Christian leaders receive only limited training in the word, yet still need to apply the Bible to the complex issues of life. Where the word is not taught properly, the Church can easily be led astray by false teaching. The unchanging gospel that has the power to bring life can be replaced by a different gospel that brings false hopes, denies the truth and results in death.
Many, but not all, of the countries in Eastern Africa, Southern Africa and to a lesser extent Central Africa have strong Christian churches where evangelical Christians account for significant proportions (often over 10 per cent) of the overall population.
These churches have a proven record in evangelism and they have a lot to teach us. Their great need is training and mentoring Christian leaders to serve in the church and in society. CMS is increasingly involved, by deliberate decision and strategy, in such work.
Discipling children and youth
More than half of the world’s population is under the age of 18. Mission to children and youth has often been neglected. Discipling them to know the Scriptures and to love and serve Christ is critical to the future of the Church.
Engage churches in cross-cultural mission
“We will faithfully teach churches the biblical mandate for global mission and provide the expertise that enables them to set apart and support cross-cultural workers.”
Today, the world has come to us. Every church must now minister to people of other cultures. The opportunity for cross-cultural mission in the Australian context is unparalleled in our history.
CMS is well placed to serve the Australian Church by offering its expertise to assist them in their local cross-cultural ministries. We are always looking for ways to do that better. New initiatives include our Mentoring Across Cultures (Mentac) apprenticeship program, and expanding the reach of our cross-cultural training college, St Andrew’s Hall, located in Melbourne.
As important as local cross-cultural mission is, we must have an eye to the world and maintain our passion to see the whole world come to know Jesus. Sending long-term cross-cultural missionaries to other parts of the world is complex and specialised. This has been our focus for a very long time and we do it well. Our commitment to Australian churches remains the same: to encourage and support Australian churches to be faithful in supporting global mission to see a world that knows Jesus.
This unchanging vision, under God, can only succeed through the prayerful and sacrificial work of CMS supporters and missionaries who trust in the sovereign plan of our heavenly Father to bring the message of forgiveness to the world. Will you pray with us that God’s kingdom would come and his will be done on earth as in heaven?
Get involved! Take the opportunity to find out what is going on at your CMS branch. Go to cms.org.au/upcoming-events and add local events to your diary.
 Statements in italics have been taken from the CMS vision.