Reaching the lost
Posted on: 17th August 2022
CMS has made a deliberate decision to focus on mission in locations close to Australia for many years, while not losing sight of other places where CMS missionaries continue to serve. Here CMS International Director Peter Rodgers explores why mission in our region is strategic.
The gospel radiates out, beginning close at hand
Following the death of Stephen, the book of Acts records the spread of the gospel radiating out from its beginnings in Jerusalem. Initially believers travelled through Judea and Samaria (Acts 8:1-2). By Acts 13, believers headed north to places located in modern-day Lebanon, Cyprus and Turkey, speaking to Jews and Greeks, telling them the good news about the resurrected Lord Jesus.
The words of Jesus in Acts 1:8, “You will be my witnesses in Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth” were coming to fruition.
As the believers moved out, it was natural they took the message first to those who lived nearby. Very soon a church was established in Antioch, and it was from there that Paul was sent on his first missionary journey.
Of course, in obedience to Christ, “the ends of the earth” was their goal. There was no sense that mission would stop with those living in their region. In Romans 15:8 Paul writes, “So from Jerusalem to Illyricum (modern-day region of Croatia/Bosnia/Albania), I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known.”
In CMS we are seeking to be obedient to the command of Jesus in Acts 1:8. Like Paul, we long to see churches planted and mature amongst every people group, as far as the ends of the earth.
Our commitment to global mission has not wavered. But what about mission in our own region?
Mission in our region
Since the 1950s, CMS has been sending missionaries to South East Asia, but the numbers were small. In 2013, conscious of hundreds of millions who do not know Christ, we committed ourselves to expand and grow mission in our region. We define our region as South East Asia, the South Pacific and Indigenous people groups in North Australia.
Looking back over the last 10 years
Under God and in partnership with the CMS family in prayer and giving, there is much to be thankful for as we consider how our involvement has changed between 2013 and 2022:
- We have grown from 24 missionary families or individuals, to 38 missionary families or individuals serving in our region;
- In South East Asia we have grown from mission in four countries to nine countries; and
- In work amongst Buddhist people groups we have grown from five missionary families or individuals to 11 missionary families or individuals.
We are also deeply thankful to God for the recent growth of our missionary work in North Australia, particularly the increase of missionaries serving in key Indigenous communities in Arnhem land.
Sadly, this growth is not replicated in the South Pacific. Despite the needs for discipleship and Bible teaching, we have seen little growth in our missionary presence. We are thankful to God for Joel and Tiff Atwood serving amongst university students in Vanuatu and rejoice with David Pettett who has finally been able to enter the Solomon Islands to teach the Bible at the Anglican college. Soon we hope to send missionaries for a Bible translation program in Vanuatu. But across the Pacific islands there are so many more opportunities that we would love to be involved in supporting.
Many opportunities are on our doorstep
In the Lord’s providence, Australia is placed in a strategic part of the world, with millions of people who have never heard the gospel on our doorstep. We don’t need to travel far to find people groups who know nothing of Christ.
In Indonesia, the island of Bali is reopening to tourists. For decades it has been a playground for Aussies. As it opens its doors again to international travel, we are thrilled to be placing our first long-term workers, Chris and Erin, to help support the growth of the local Balinese church. The Balinese follow their own brand of Hinduism and as yet very few of them know of the peace and freedom that Christ brings.
The Balinese are just one of almost 900 gospel-poor people groups in South East Asia. Aside from the Balinese, Indonesia is home to the largest Muslim population in the world, approximately 240 million people. If we have a passion to reach Muslim people for Christ, then Indonesia is full of opportunity.
Similarly, South East Asia is home to most of the world’s Buddhist people groups. Apart from work in Cambodia for many years, CMS has had little engagement in the Buddhist world. Recently we have been building new partnerships with local Christians in other countries in the region.
Dave Painter with a member of the Phnom Penh Bible School volley ball team.
I have the joy of living in a multicultural part of Sydney. Our local church has had a particular desire to reach out to those from Vietnam. But how about the 80 million Vietnamese people in Vietnam itself? CMS has recently partnered with an evangelical church in Vietnam with a heart for church planting. The growth of the church there is one of those surprising things that the Lord is doing. Could more people go and take gospel to the Vietnam?
What is true of Vietnam is true of other Buddhist countries such as Laos and Myanmar. The recent unrest in Myanmar, as well as being an ongoing tragedy, has been a hindrance to growing our missionary work, but as things settle, we’re optimistic that the door will open again, and we can build on our partnerships with local Christians.
Over the next few years, under God, we will be looking to build new partnerships in the region and playing our part in seeing more people in South East Asia and the South Pacific who know Jesus as Lord and Saviour.
Mission opportunities within Australia
In North Australia, CMS work started in 1908. We have rich and long-term partnerships with the Diocese of the Northern Territory and Nungalinya College in Darwin. We are also looking to expand our ministries within the Kimberley and consider possibilities in Far North Queensland.
As we know, the people from the nations we so passionately want to reach are also now our neighbours. It is our conviction that ministry today in Australia must be cross-cultural and the Australian church needs to grow a heart for, and develop skills to reach their neighbours from other cultures with the gospel. CMS is well positioned to share its experience and expertise in encouraging cross-cultural mission locally. Mentac, our apprenticeship program, operates in several cities and has proved to be a terrific training ground for local mission, but also as a first step in moving overseas in Muslim ministry. Over the coming years we would love to expand our Mentac program, including developing training for outreach to Buddhist peoples.
A church in South East Asia holds communion.
The challenge of our region
Growth in our own missionary numbers does not tell the full story. The church cannot yet echo Paul’s words and say that in our region the gospel of Christ has been fully proclaimed. Far from it.
Our commitment to mission in our region does not lessen our commitment to go to the ends of the earth. That always remains our goal. But going forward it is our conviction that we must also do more, much more, to reach those who live in our region.
There is so much yet to do to see churches established and mature amongst every people group—both in our region and to the ends of the earth. Under God, it remains an ongoing joy to be united in partnership in seeking to see
a world that knows Jesus together with you.
Will you take up gospel opportunities that exist in North Australia, or in neighbouring countries? Contact your local CMS branch to discuss the possibilities.