Shifting Tides in Mission

The tide is shifting. For some time now, it has been coming in and we are challenged more and more in how to respond. The church has traditionally thought of going out on mission overseas, but now the nations have come all around us—at least into our society, but into our churches, not so much. So what are we to do?

Jesus calls us as his people: “As you go therefore, make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). When we think about it, this call to disciple others in following Jesus is applicable to us whether we’re going about our business here in Australia, or whether we’re going out to the furthest reaches of the world. The emphasis is on making disciples.

This call is not only for us to share amongst ourselves. God’s heart is ultimately for the nations to glorify him together in vibrant worship. And that’s the picture we see in the new heaven and earth:

“Behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, were standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands” (Revelation 7:9).

With this glorious vision for our future in mind, we look around us and see the multiethnic environments in which we live, work and study. And yet we think: if God desires people from all these nations around us to follow Jesus and worship him, then it does not make sense that, according to the National Church Life Survey 2021, approximately three quarters of churches in Australia are monocultural.

Why is this? And what should we do about it?

Community and Partnerships Director, Lisa Bateup, reflects on how Interserve can use its skills and knowledge to support the work of God’s people:

“Making disciples of all nations is the calling of the church.”

“Yet intercultural ministry requires a great deal of intentionality to produce lasting change. It will not happen without the active involvement of church leadership.

“So we’re seeking to partner with the church in their ministry, to better reflect the local community and grow their engagement with what God is doing around the world.

“We’re seeking long-term partnerships with the local church that enable us to journey with them in their discipleship and outreach activities.”

As we speak, this church engagement initiative is building a team to work closely with a small number of churches around the country in 2023 to support their work. They are seeking church leaders to be part of an advisory group to provide insight into where they would value support in local and global missions engagement.

“God is the one bringing the nations to Australia and working out his purposes as the country becomes more ethnically and culturally diverse,” Lisa said.

“We have the privilege and responsibility of joining in the work he is already doing. This will both revitalise our churches and raise up workers for the harvest field around the world.”

So as the tides continue to come in, and people from many nations cross the seas to live amongst us, the question is raised to each one of us and our local churches: as we go, how can we join in God’s work of making disciples of all nations?

LOCAL // GLOBAL Conference

How can we make disciples of all nations from our own local setting?

That was one of the bright and colourful threads running through Interserve’s Australian Team Conference. It was brilliant to see everyone face-to-face again in our first national conference in 10 years! It kicked off with a fun-filled evening celebrating 170 years of Interserve with cake and conversations, cross-cultural experiences and stories from Asia and the Arab world.

In a weekend of inspirational speeches and up-skilling partners, International Director Bijoy Koshy gave the keynote address on how Interserve can see lives and communities transformed through encounter with Jesus—in the local/global mission dynamic. More and more we realise how we do not face a go/send divide in God’s mission of making disciples and extending his love. Rather, we engage in the frontline wherever we are in our local context, and wherever we go in our global context. So following Jesus’ words in Matthew 28:19, as you go on your journey, “make disciples” among the people of the nations who come to your neighbourhood, just as when you go out to them.

Matthew Kuruvilla spoke on growing a multi-ethnic church through the story of his time as Senior Pastor at Sydney’s Parkside Church. The author of ‘Church without Borders’ demonstrated theologically and practically the beautiful reality of how we no longer gather according to ethnicity, but that people of all ethnicities gather around Christ.

Lisa Bateup, Community and Partnerships Director, addressed how Interserve can support the church in Australia in intercultural mission. She emphasised listening to church leaders, supporting churches in their ministry goals, customising our support, and investing in ongoing relationships.

A highlight of the workshops showed how mentoring men and women brings wonderful growth in godliness, courage and ability to serve in the community:

Mentoring is walking alongside someone in their journey in an intentional relationship whereby one person empowers, challenges and enables another to develop in areas of character and competence, thus increasing the impact in their life and service for the glory of God.

It is especially vital for Gen Z that we convey a wholistic, integrated vision of how we may live as followers of Jesus in our local and global environment.

So as we asked in our national conference, let’s ask ourselves as we go: how can we as individuals and churches respond to the call to build a multicultural church—in our neighbourhood and in the world?

Thank you for a most generous June!

God is able to make all grace about to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may about in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8)

Thank you for supporting Interserve’s June appeal! Through your generosity, God has provided $359,000 for his work in transforming lives and communities through encounter with Jesus Christ.

Your generous support has exceeded our goal of $300,000 and last year’s record.

These funds are essential to Interserve’s purpose of making Jesus Christ known among the peoples of Asia and the Arab world.

This includes enabling our workers to provide wholistic care for people through healthcare, education, practical help and building friendships. It involves coming alongside refugees, displaced people and diaspora communities in their suffering, so that they may have freedom and hope for the future.

“I believe Interserve is providing very valuable support and guidance to those who seek to serve and honour the Lord in a variety of ways, some of them in risky/marginal human environments.”

Robin, Interserve Supporter

So thank you wholeheartedly for your participation in growing God’s kingdom, here in Australia and around the globe.

If you would like to read more stories about real people impacted by your support of Interserve, come and have a look here.

Unprecedented times, really?

New Year, same reality, renewed hope

To our God of the unexpected

Coming alongside their children


“Will they make friends?”

“Where will they be able to learn and continue to thrive?”

“I hope they will be happy.”


When God calls a family away from what has been called ‘home’ to work alongside Him overseas, it is not just the parent’s lives that are changed – but also their children’s.

INF seeks to provide schooling for both primary and secondary aged children, so that their parents can focus on the work God has called them to Nepal to do, knowing that their children are in caring community and receiving excellent education. The Pokhara Study Centre, located at Pokhara in Nepal, is part of this vision.

This school is essential for the ongoing work at the INF Green Pastures Hospital and Rehabilitation Centre which is presently being transformed into a major referral centre for the western half of Nepal. Without excellent education for their children, medical specialists are often unable to stay which impacts the whole community.

There is an urgent need for two expatriate Christian Primary School Teachers to join the team. There are also opportunities for secondary school teachers. Is this somewhere God may be calling you, or someone you know?

Share this with someone you know, find out moreget in touch or learn more about opportunities to serve with INF.


We also have opportunities for teachers to teach expatriate children is many places in Asia and the Arab world. Get in touch with us!

Introducing new Interserve Teams: Germany and Central Europe

War, conflict and persecution has caused massive movements of refugees. There are many opportunities to come alongside them to support them practically and emotionally, to bring a message of hope or to wait alongside them in the unknown.

There are now new Interserve Teams in both Germany and Central Europe, with the need for experienced cross-cultural workers to minister to Asian and Arab world refugees, children and youth. There are also many other diverse opportunities throughout Asia and the Arab world where you can be involved short-term or in long-term work among refugees.

We are looking for people to join us in serving people on the move – would you come along with us?


Read Joel’s* story about waiting with people as they hope for new and divine beginnings, as he serves among refugees in West Asia.

*Names have been changed.

Seven Habits of a Refugee-Welcoming Church

I don’t often cry reading the news, but I did shed a tear earlier in the year when three year-old Alan Kurdi appeared in my newsfeed. The images of his body, face down in the sand, remain a chilling reminder of the dangers faced by those fleeing conflicts in Syria and across the Middle East. Despite those dangers, millions of people continue to risk everything for the hope of refuge beyond their borders.

But I also cried because it took the photograph of a lifeless child on a Turkish beach to provoke a response from nations around the world. We – and so many believers – have felt the pressing need to show compassion and Christ’s care for people like Alan Kurdi and their families. But the sheer size of the crisis, and the fact that we are unimaginably distant from it, mean that we can sometimes feel overwhelmed and powerless. How can churches here do anything meaningful for those seeking protection around the globe?

Our experience working with CultureConnect amongst people seeking asylum in Sydney is that the church can be a wonderful welcomer of the displaced right here – we just need to start somewhere. Here are seven habits we think many, if not all, churches can get into.

1. Connect, one person at a time.

“I’d love to welcome a refugee – if only I knew where to find them!” We hear this so often when we share about our work with displaced people. It isn’t often that a person seeking asylum will rock up at church without an introduction; ask God to lead you to them first. You might try spending time in a culturally diverse part of your city, chatting to locals. Consider English classes or other initiatives that engage new arrivals to Australia. [1] Community organisations working with people seeking asylum often need volunteers to help refugees to settle well and feel at home in Australia – it may take some effort, but the new friendships will be well worth it.

2. The roof is your introduction.

We’ve noticed that for many people seeking asylum, walking into a church building feels like walking onto a film set without a script. Strange music is playing, strange words are being used, and everyone seems to know when to stand and sit – except you. It can be a bewildering experience for them, especially if Christian worship was forbidden in their country of origin. So you can imagine that one of the hardest things for us has been watching displaced people visit our church without being welcomed. They sit at the back or stand by themselves in the morning-tea crush, surrounded by regulars catching up with one another over a cuppa.

It can be incredibly hard talking to someone new for the first time, but as someone once told us, ‘the roof is your introduction’. That is, if you and someone else are in the same place, under the same roof, you have at least one thing in common! See where that introduction might take you.

3. “Won’t you have some tea?”

We’ll tell you our secret for the best connections with people seeking asylum: tea and hospitality. Awkward post-church conversations aside, one of the best ways to connect deeply with people is to share time around the table. Meals – or even just cups of tea – are the currency of so many cultures from which our displaced friends come. Almost invariably, they miss that togetherness and community. Why not have a go at offering that togetherness to them? It need not be a complicated affair. What really matters is your willingness to welcome them into your home and into your life.

4. Listen, don’t just do.

As we’ve built trust with our friends who are seeking asylum, we’ve gotten used to the problems they face every day as they try to build new lives here. When food has run out, we’ve bought groceries. When we learned our friend was sleeping on the floor of his rented room, we found a mattress. We’ve fixed cars, looked for jobs, sourced crisis accommodation, provided lifts to church, and written countless letters to support claims for protection. All these things are critical parts of ministry to the displaced; at their best, they show Christ’s care for the whole person.

However, if our welcome consists only of these things, then it can very quickly devour us. There have been times where we’ve been burned out by compassion. We’ve been wearied by what feels like endless neediness from the very people we are trying to serve. God has shown us (the hard way!) that sometimes, it’s best to do less and listen more. It can be easy to jump to conclusions about what we think a displaced person needs, and to go ahead and do it – but rather than fix all their problems, we are learning to be present with them. We pray with them. We try to be a family of faith surrounding them with grace. When we journey with people seeking asylum, we can learn so much from them about perseverance and the struggles of life in this present age. Our friends who trust Jesus have become for us one of the clearest pictures of the work of God in bitterness and trial that we in the West can ever hope to see.

5. Join forces.

Ministry amongst people seeking asylum can often be a case of ‘two steps forward, one step back’. On your own, it can quickly become overwhelming. Seek out people who share your concern for the displaced, either in your church or further afield. For us, that meant getting together with two other families to plan welcome dinners and support for asylum seekers in our church. What might it look like for you to team up with others? Perhaps your church could start something big, like English classes for migrants. Something smaller might be mobilising your church to provide food for those seeking asylum in your community. [2]

6. Pray.

However we go about welcoming refugees, we must begin in prayer to the God who is a refuge for all of us (Psalm 62:8). He alone can bring peace and healing to the broken-hearted, and prayer must be at the heart of any ministry to the displaced. When we fold our concern into the public prayer lives of our church, it can be a strong signal that our care comes from the heart of God. It also tells our friends seeking asylum that their unfinished journeys lie in His care, and that His people have not forgotten them.

It can be difficult to know how to pray. You can keep informed through news sites, or through more general Christian resources such as Operation World. [3] Interserve also have a number of Partners at work amongst people seeking asylum, both in Australia and abroad, whom you could uphold in prayer.

7. Change the conversation.

The broader discussion in Australia about asylum issues is sometimes enough to make us despair. Instead of talking about rights or responsibilities, our leaders are more concerned about ‘stopping the boats’ and deterrence through detention. People seeking asylum have become a target for anxieties about security and the threat of religious terrorism. As they are increasingly marginalised in our communities, the divide between ‘them’ and ‘us’ is reinforced. The church, however, can speak life into this discussion. Pick up your pens and write to your local Member of Parliament (a real, paper-and-pen letter is far more likely to be read than an email) and let them know your views on asylum policy. Share stories about the positive impact refugees can have in their new homes. Be informed about the many myths circulating about refugees [4] and become equipped to reframe the conversation constructively. These might seem like small steps, but they can go a long way towards changing the way neighbours and communities think about the displaced and how we should receive them.

 

These seven habits of a refugee-welcoming church may not change the tragedies that led to Alan Kurdi’s body washing up on that beach. However, we hope they will spark your imaginations for embracing those who did make it to our shores, and through that embrace, for showing them the divine love, which opens up the highest possibilities.

 

This article was written by an Interserve Partner preparing to serve in West Asia alongside refugees.

 

[1] For those in Sydney, the Welcome Dinner Project aims to bring established Australians together with new arrivals around the kitchen table.

[2] Simple Love is a Christian organisation doing this kind of work in the Sydney region.

[3] Operation World is a guide for praying specifically for each nation around the world.

[4] The Refugee Council of Australia, for example, has produced a number of useful fact sheets.

 

Being present on the margins

This year we’re celebrating the gift of God’s presence by giving the gift of presence ourselves.

Our Christmas appeal is raising money for Interserve Partners to live and serve alongside the peoples of Asia and the Arab world – many of whom have never met a Christian.

Share how you are giving the #giftofpresence to those around you this Christmas.