Mission is a constant, biblical imperative until Jesus returns, and for agencies such as Interserve - which spans three centuries over a time period now approaching 160 years - ways of communicating the gospel message of mission and its life-transforming effect on individual people and communities have changed, never more so than in the past one hundred years or so.
Take television for example. Yes, television. Who would have thought that TV would have developed and grown into the world’s most popular form of consumer communication as it has done?
Interserve was 74 years old when John Logie Baird transmitted the very first television picture from one room to another in 1926. A year later he used telephone wires to successfully send a moving image from London to Glasgow and in 1928 he made the first trans-Atlantic television broadcast. Television sets, as we know them today, were not far behind those innovative concepts.
In 1941, when Interserve was entering its 89th year, the first commercial broadcast was aired into to people’s living rooms. Once that had taken place the technological communication revolution was up and running and nothing could stop it.
Today, television is under threat from other forms of media communication.
One of those threats to television is the internet. Who would have anticipated the enormous growth of the world-wide-web from its birth in 1990?
Today, if you type ‘gospel good news’ into the Google search engine, you will discover the first of 13 million pages relating to this subject. If you type in ‘Christian mission’ you will alight upon the first ten of 24 million pages.
Internet communication is big business and it is big business for mission agencies like Interserve.
Our desire is to communicate well with our supporters today and to the wider Christian community the amazing work that God is doing around Asia and the Arab World, through our Partners. And we are using modern communication techniques to do it.
Like it or not, it’s called progress, and I haven’t even mentioned social media, campaigning, financing of mission, advocacy, mobile telephones, radio and so on. All represent communication opportunities for mission agencies such as Interserve. Today, we look to utilise all available forms of communication available to us in this, the 21st century, to bring good news stories to people from around the Interserve world.
So how do we do that?
Firstly, we have to be selective. We can’t do everything in that list above. And we have to be wise. We cannot share some of the work that our Partners are involved in simply because it would put their ministries, or worse still, their lives in jeopardy.
But what we can share, we do, and we are using all of the opportunities of this generation to do so in order to inform and stimulate this generation.
Here are some of the contemporary ways that we are engaging in communicating mission today:
Campaigns – in keeping with many other Christian agencies, we run national campaigns. The objective of these campaigns is to raise up prayer and profile for the campaign focus, as well as pounds and people for the ongoing funding and facilitation of the work.
Advocates and advocacy – The word “advocacy” is simply a word which means ‘to speak up on behalf of,’ and we look to communicate on behalf of those communities that we serve which have no voice of their own. We do this in two ways: one, through political engagement at Westminster, and secondly, through training events in churches, Bible and mission colleges. With the growing challenges that living in a cross-cultural country brings, we are finding that both churches and Members of Parliament are welcoming our input - borne out of 25 years of Urban Vision ministry - on major and serious issues such as honour killings and forced marriage, as well as trying to answer one of the questions of the day, ‘how do we engage with our Muslim neighbours?’.
Schools work – over the past two years Interserve has been looking to present to year 12 and 13 year students (6th formers) in schools up and down the country, often inviting the local Member of Parliament to engage in the debate. We look to demonstrate something of our international work with unique audio-visual content, before discussing why we engage in such work, and concluding with question and answer sessions. In 2009, we visited three schools and spoke with over 400 students about our work.
Social media – working with our various advocates, we have sought to promote our work through social networking sites online, the preferred choice of many younger people these days. Interserve now has its own page on You Tube, and has advertised on Facebook and Google, a strategy that drives people to our website. Of course, we use wisdom in what we share, how we share, and to whom. All of our You Tube material is fine for exposure.
In conclusion we are seeking to inform the debate which is driven by today’s challenges and it is good that we are contributing in this way. Of course, if we didn’t do it, then someone else would. We feel that this is a timely work.