by Nathan Hedt
I am a missionary.
I heard God’s call and said, ‘Here I am, send me!’. And God said, ‘Okay then,
I will send you to Pakenham’.
Pakenham? A suburban satellite of Melbourne in the sprawling south-east of the city? That’s not a very exotic location for a missionary to be sent to, is it?
God has been shaping my life, my family, my calling, my community, and my church for many years, to bring
me to the point of being sent as a missionary.
My earliest years were cross-culturally shaped, as my dad and mum took our family to Tanzania when I was six months old. Dad worked with Lutheran World Service among refugees for four years. I grew up surrounded by African kids, and I spoke both Swahili and English.
As I grew older, I had a longing to be a pastor. Originally it was because I wanted to help people. But as my calling grew clearer, I knew that it was really because I wanted to share the life-giving, gracious news of Jesus with people. I’m an evangelist at heart. One of my greatest joys is communicating the gospel with people and seeing them ‘get it’, knowing that what God did through Jesus, he did for them.
Church planting and ‘mission to the West’ fascinate me. For almost 20 years I’ve researched, learnt, observed, and prayed about effective ways of making and multiplying disciples of Jesus. I recently completed a Masters of Arts in Theology, majoring in Missiology – the study of mission. My conviction has been steadily growing that we need ‘missionaries to the West’. We can no longer consider Australia a ‘Christian country’, and we need people who will sow the gospel in contextual ways in our secular, materialistic culture.
Sometimes I thought I wouldn’t find a call that would match my passion for church planting and mission within the church which nurtured my faith. So when the LCA developed a church-planting strategy through the Board for Local Mission (see breakout), I was very excited. Could my internal call to be a missionary possibly match God’s call through the church? And when a call as church-planting pastor and college pastor in Pakenham opened up, I knew that God was bringing things together. ‘Here I am, send me!’
But it’s not just me. God has been shaping my wife and family, too, to be missionaries and church planters along with me. ‘Here we are, send us!’
But it’s not just my family either. God has been preparing a committed group of his people in Pakenham for this church-planting and mission venture. In 2015 we have begun to learn how to live as missionaries in our local community. Who can we serve? How can we be family to each other? How can we learn to live and walk alongside the risen Jesus in everyday life? And how can we bring the good news of Jesus in natural, culturally appropriate ways to the people in our neighbourhoods so that they understand this is good news ‘for them’?
It’s a long journey, because many of us ‘established’ Christians don’t consider ourselves ‘missionaries’.
We have to learn new ways of being church and powerful ways of being community together. ‘Here is our Christian community – send us into our neighbourhood!’
What are we learning?
Mission is messy. It’s not linear. It involves both active servanthood and bold proclamation. It involves learning to configure our lives as a church community, not around ‘churchy stuff’ but around the gospel. We are doing this in Pakenham through groups called ‘Missional Communities’, or MCs. Our MCs meet weekly for a meal (or, in our case, dessert), to share God’s word and prayer, and to pray, think, plan and act in local mission. They are more than Bible study groups (which are great, but often focus on the growth and nurture of the Christians within them) because they have an intentionally outward mission and service focus. MCs are not just about us; they exist to be in mission to particular people around us.
In Pakenham some of us sense a call to be in mission to the families of Lakeside College, which connects with many people who may not yet be disciples of Jesus.