Pillars of Mission

by Martin Garner.

The ‘pillars’ are sketched out below but I explain them more fully in these audio files.

A final wee bomb Blast!

THE Big Gig for me is that I want to love people. Pass or fail on such a mission. I can’t help it. Such ‘feeling’ might not even always be obvious. It has however driven many of our choices. Too many enemies and detractors will soon rise up. However I really do desire not entirely my fault (whole explaining thing needs to go in there). I want to live doing that. Want to is not the same as succeeding- let the reader understand.

Certainly since a big event in my life that occurred around me turning 21 years old.

You can like but no comments needed unless you have some amazing revelations. i.e. no need to say nice things- it’s the wrong time!

As a passionate advocate for the simple (and I mean simple/very simple) teachings and life of Jesus Christ- of Jesus of Nazareth- to try and be somewhat clear of some 2000 years ago somehow got commissioned by the Archbishop of Canterbury and got to work in N Ireland, Luton, and Sheffield. We raised 2 girls here. Ka pow! Twas fun and v tricky. We developed some working principles which seemed to….really work, especially for so called inner city mission

Maybe they will help others; though I rather doubt anyone else will take them up much. The main issue in this context is that you don’t get paid

Hope they are helpful

Martin and Sharon, Emily and Abigail Garner


The world really could be a better place.


1.The Kingdom of God is near

Simple principle of faith based on Jesus’ teaching in Mark 1, but defining the mission of the church throughout Gospels and Acts. Something has changed, something has broken into our world called the Kingdom of God. For the missionary believing on that and acting on it is everything. Practically, it means that people encounter God all the time, sometimes they’re aware of it, sometimes they’re not. We often call this spiritual experiences eg.

Hearing God’s voice,

strange encounter on a mountain,

the coincidence of events happening,
answers to prayer,
bizarre circumstances etc etc.
Examples, there are many such examples that break through on an individual level if you’re open to listen to another persons story and take the time. Most people don’t tell of their strange experiences in case you jump on them eg.

Woman on a plane It was a short journey, we began to share why we were travelling. Both involved in business. Family was very important to both of us. So I took the bold step to ask if she’d ever had a spiritual experience, she surprised me by telling about a school trip to a monastery where she burst into tears and rushed into the toilets and wondered if she should become a nun. I told her that was very powerful had asked if she had any others experiences like that. She said yes 3 weeks ago she’d dreamt about Jesus. Then she took over the conversation and said ‘and now I’ve met you on the train’ and the penny dropped for her and she realised God was speaking to her. I gave what ever I had and offered to pray for her and the plane came into land.

Woman on a train. I was going to a Christian conference and the lady I met on the train just on her way home. After chatting with her I encouraged her to go. So she did go and when I met her an hour later she’d given her life to Christ.

Man on the bench He was sitting on a bench outside the Anglican evangelical assembly that I’d been asked to speak at – there were lots of bishops and archdeacons and I’d been asked to speak on mission. Before it started I went outside to pray about my talk and what to say and saw a man with a dog on a bench. In my mind I thought I should go and speak to him and was actually nervous both with the talk coming up and speaking to him. By the time I decided to make a move he went off. I was kicking myself as I realized it had probably been a nudge. He came back and this time I didn’t waste any time and went to join him and spoke to him and explained about the talk at the assembly. I asked him what was going on in his life and he told me that his wife had just died and that going to church was the last thing on his mind. I prayed for him and he brought up the assembly again and turned to me at the end and he said if there churches where people came up to strangers like me and listened he’d go. I went inside afterwards and did my little talk about mission and ended with sharing about my chat with the man on the bench. I then stupidly got 5 different job offers just for being a human being. I declined all of them. There were many more stories like this including:

  1. The man in chair doing alpha,
    The man who gets throat cut,
    Two men fighting at a bus stop,
    Some words of prophecy in the café,
    A prisoner reads book and meets his hero.

    2  Jesus became a Motilone

    This principle means that Jesus can enter every culture and is good enough in the culture as it is right now. People do not need to change their culture or their lifestyle in order to reach up to become more like Jesus and accept him. This is hard for those who don’t know how to do mission counter culturally, that it’s okay for Jesus to enter the culture without having to change it first. Only when Jesus and his values are in the culture, can the culture begin to change from within. It must change at this rate of the culture as the culture receives revelation, not by dictators from outside. Eg. There may be messages of unacceptable violence or strange habits that pervade the culture. These should be given time to change as the culture of Jesus invades the culture at it’s own pace.

    3  A community leader will appear

    This is a less familiar doctrine, however one we find consistently true. The missionary is like a catalyst searching for a leader or leaders from within the community who they’re reaching. That person will quite soon rise up as someone who others look to lead them, who others look to talk about. Important they may not have the same ideas as the missionary, it is the missionary’s job to pass on all that he knows about the gospel to the new leader, but then once he’s satisfied, he’s done that to let it go with the leader in his own direction and just be available for mentoring any encouragement, but in no way control the direct decisions of the new leader. Eg.

    Billy Moore in Northern Ireland (see below in point 10)
    There are plenty of other examples to include e.g. Jo Laidler at Sommeries in Luton; the Iranian community in Sheffield; 70,000 in north East Sheffield; Alice in Rwanda.

    4  No preconceived ideas about who you will reach

    I think of the foolishness of God and how it can surprise us. E.G in setting up Sommeries Church I thought I was a great expert, all the theory in place, all the right practices begun and yet it was a Mentally handicapped girl called Hazel who’s arrival brought the life and growth of the church. See more below. Similarly and counter intuitively to our culture the presence of God (the Kingdom of God) can often be found most powerfully and with the means for growth and advancing amongst those who are the poorest. Eg see James Ch 2:5 “Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?” It belongs to the poor Its for everyone Its good news

    The unpredictable foolishness of God must be a strong awareness in a Missionary’s mind. The possibility of being lead to any group of people. Because the harvest is plentiful, the Kingdom of God is near. This could include mentally handicapped people, this could include the very poor people in the community, it doesn’t matter.

    5  The church formation and culture belongs to them

    Our job is simply to take the message of Jesus as transforming power. What kind of church forms, what kind of culture is expressed is entirely up to them. We’re not to impose our experience and culture onto them. Strangely and frequently they do a better job. Do not attempt to tell them how to run a church. This should be self-evident however chapter 6 in a book called ‘Christianity Rediscovered’ by Vincent Donavon, the opening pagers of Chapter pages 1-4 spell out in crystal detail what is meant by not imposing your church culture and ideas. To put it simply you pass on the same things that the early church had and you don’t pass on what they did not have.

    What did they have? They had an experience of Christ and the teachings of Jesus. You pass on the teachings of Jesus well and the presence of Christ to walk in and you will have done an amazing job.

    If you do anything else you are interfering in areas you should not go.

    LEADER (see next paragraph – a leader will usually emerge from the culture and take forward the hows and the whys of a meeting)

    6  The Leader must get their emotional security and identity elsewhere (not from their mission work!)

    It’s vital for the leader going out to sort out their emotional security and identity. It simply cannot be tied to the work. Their needs cannot be met on the success or failure of their missionary task. They must have their needs met elsewhere, through family, through God, through hobbies, through a different focus. This is absolutely vital, otherwise their motivation will be incorrect and what they produce will be a load of rubbish.

    7  Go with nothing

    Another key principle is they must not travel and they must not arrive in the culture with anything in their hands. They must only arrive needing to receive sustenance like it’s food and water and friendship at the most. They must not be ready to hand over goods and services. They must receive what they get from those they go to, this feels highly risky and dangerous, but it’s a safe place to a certain successful mission. Many examples of people need to be trained how to survive, how to look for funding, there are many examples of this in the New Testament. Time to start it again.

    8 Principle of the meeting place

    One of the principles for outreach which can be helpful is that God seems to provide meeting places where it’s easier to meet some folk in the initial outreach. These are found by the missionary going with nothing, looking for the Kingdom of God being near, and often finding a person or more than one person who gathers at a particular site. They recognize that this site is the place of attraction for people who are close to the Kingdom of God, and so its easy to revisit over and over again, hoping to meet others. I have found such sites to be very helpful, often in places where it is difficult to know where to go and talk to people. Eg Istanbul we found a key place within 20 minutes of looking. Good examples,

    Lydia by the shoreline –
    Saint Antony’s in Istanbul – this was a fun example, arriving in Istanbul – a strange city for me, having been asked to mentor a leader there, I took all the basic principles, go empty handed, the kingdom of God is near etc and we just walked down what translated as ‘Freedom Street’. A very famous wide pedestrianized road. I was inadvertently drawn to visit a Chapel offset called St. Anthony’s. We went in, there were lots of tourists nipping in and out and within a few moments I was drawn quite unexpectantly in my spirit to a woman who was visiting. Now it was a very strong and unusual impression I assumed I should try and speak to her. Now I felt frightened, nevertheless I managed to pluck up the courage and we began to talk and pray which led to a marvelous conversation. It turns out about half of the group were all Muslims who were following Isa (Jesus) and at sometime had gone exploring at St Anthonys because it felt a safe place with lots of literature for potential to follow Isa more. It meant that Muslims could come and read and think and feel part of the tourist crowd. St. Anthony’s was therefore a meeting place, an easy place to come.
    Botanical Gardens in Sheffield – this was a simple not even specially marked out location but it soon became apparent that at lunch time many folks rested and had their sandwiches. It was an easy place to strike up conversation to explore spiritual things further.

    9 No preconceived idea

    This is just throwing off any idea from the missionary about who they’re going to reach and how they’re going to reach them. Could be one-footed, blue-faced Iranians with blonde hair, and that would be fine. Lets revisit again that the Kingdom of God is near, that the harvest is plentiful and that God can surprise us. Therefore never plan in advance, who it is that you’re going to connect with. This message is for everyone and it’s good news. Be prepared to be surprised!

    10 Look for individuals and myths within the culture

    Look for individuals that God has spoken to. And especially look for myths within the culture. Search for those that God has already drawn near and spoken to, individuals aware of God’s presence, something’s happened to them. Listen hard and hear their stories. There are also frequently myths and stories and legends within the culture, that God has placed in, and just need listening to and translating. It’s as if they are long standing prophecies waiting to be unfolded, once they’re unfolded you can open up the community to the fullest revelation of God. These are the stories and the legends that are repeated about the culture of tribe. They can sound like common sense, or utterly bizarre. Often God has revealed himself to the culture through these myths. The astute missionary will be aware of them, and aware of the possibility that however the bizarre the story, they may be the doorway to the gospel. So as you enter a culture beware of the first pillar that God has already spoken to people. The second major feature is that a whole culture may have myths or legends within the culture. People will be unaware that these myths or legends maybe about God and about them and they are the doorway into the spreading of the Gospel. E.g. the Motilomi had a legend about a blond man visiting them and that God would appear out of a banana stalk. (You need to read the story in Bruchko ) it took Olsen 5 years to realize the meaning of the legend. Once the penny dropped that the legend was a revelation about God himself it was easy to tell the Motilomi the Gospel. There are other stories in other cultures very similar to this.

    A Story to End

    N Ireland and Billy Moore

    I want to finish with this story. It covers several bases. Sharon and I came to Northern Ireland with the desire to bring this message of good news to the people of Hillhall. It’s for everyone, and it’s good news. In Northern Ireland people are so hardened by the message they hear over and over again. And yet these principals stay the same. So we did our best to pass on the message against opposition from the church and even the paramilitaries themselves who were deeply suspicious I suppose of our different methods. I think I would have done the same if I were in their position. Still the principals work and as we persevered a leader rose up. His name was Billy Moore. At first he didn’t want anyone to speak to him about Jesus and he didn’t want to do anything. He sat at the back of the cathedral and was invited to come over and see what we were doing. The connection was obvious, his first home had been on our estate and he knew the community. He began to attend and slowly but surely Sharon and I encouraged him in participating and in his following of Christ and what it meant to follow Jesus. He never stopped coming.

    A tipping point was when one of the locals went and killed the landlord of the local pub with a machete. Two things here – the landlord of the pub was the landlord of the pub where the paramilitaries met. Billy knew the landlord and his bereft family – wife and 3 children joined us at our meetings. At this point Billy said ‘I should have done something years ago’. It seemed that very quietly God had been speaking to Billy to rise up and lead and become the spiritual leader of this community and from this day forward that’s exactly what he did.

    As I write he recently held a meeting in Lisburn Cathedral attended by all the local paramilitaries now reformed and wanting to transform their community. A model is to attach young men who have a skill with other men who can train them. It’s all about being believed in. When the young men are believed in, believe that others love them and that Jesus loves them, they start to believe in themselves.

    The choir at the event that led the singing with 200 people were the women of the estate who sang ‘Be though my vision’. The preacher was the Archbishop of Armagh – Lord Robin Eames. And a whole bunch of other people visited from the wider region. These include eminent leaders such as Rev. David Jardine from Belfast Cathedral and others who now want to know how Billy Moore has had such an impact into such an estate. How can they do something similar?

    The point is not the event or where it was! But that Billy has set up a unique opportunity for the Gospel to spread. He is the chosen leader – He’s leading the community his way. All the hallmarks of the pillars are present for the Gospel to spread. As with all theses kinds of examples there was great opposition to Billy’s work from those who were perhaps failing and yet still insisted that their model was the correct one.

Martin Garner (Dec 2015)



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