South Asia, Central Asia … a wide swath of nations, a huge variety of cultures and peoples. Looking at the many and complex challenges even a small country like New Zealand presents to the church, how can we endeavour to engage in a missional and appropriate manner with societies many times the size of ours?
What, for example, should be the response of the Gospel into the deep and bitter rift between Kirgiz and Uzbek people who were only a few short months ago, despite their common adherence to Islam and a similar culture, brutalizing, raping and killing each other in an outburst of frenzied ethnic violence?
Or how can we express Jesus’ compassion with the orphans, widows, shopkeepers, warlords or hardened jihadist warriors in regions like Afghanistan and Pakistan? In the midst of uprisings, military occupation, hatred and religious fanaticism it is quite likely it may require us to lay down our own lives.
And still, will we embrace the fast growing middle class of the Indian subcontinent – affluent, well-educated, preoccupied with materialism, and nominally Hindu or Muslim – 300-400 million people created in God’s beautiful image yet almost entirely unaware of Jesus’ claims as saviour and redeemer?
The longer I wrestle with missional questions the more I become convinced that we need appropriate words to share God’s stories; we need loving and grace-filled deeds to demonstrate his incredible care; we need the power and encounter of the Spirit.
Yet beyond … we need to disciple, one-by-one, out of our own authentic experience of a life deeply transformed and enveloped within the community of our triune God. Enjoying intimate relationship with Father, Son and Holy Spirit and sharing this through our lives (not programmes) will – I am absolutely convinced – make others around us hungry and thirsty for the truly Good News of Jesus, regardless whether here in Aotearoa, in the valleys of the Hindu Kush, or on the streets of Kolkata.
• Johannes Balzer is the director of Interserve (New Zealand).