Editor’s note: We recently interviewed Josiah Bancroft, Serge’s Director of Mission. We talked about strategy, values, serving in hard places, and what comes next for Serge.
Serge: So what is next for Serge?
Bancroft: Our target for the next three to five years is to seek the poor, the marginalized, and those who are under resourced. This is not our only strategy, but it is a primary strategy.
For example, Serge teams are building small businesses as platforms for poverty alleviation in Europe and South Asia, training doctors in under-resourced areas of Africa, and we’ve just added a new field among a poor community in Nicaragua. Additionally, we’re moving forward to establish new teams in Japan and the Philippines. Serge teams have also begun serving in three new countries that are closed to traditional missionary work.
Serge: How does Serge go about kingdom work in some of those higher risk places?
Bancroft: We are very careful about security, mainly to protect local believers. There is the potential for a threat to our staff from extremists, but the bigger threat that local believers would be harmed if they are seen as related to our teams.
We have a specialized way of working in high-risk locations that keeps a lower profile. Our missionary staff identify local Christian leaders and work to equip them to plant churches. Nationals lead the church plants with our staff working alongside to help equip them. A central component of our equipping is pointing local church leaders to the present grace of Christ. We believe it’s critical that leaders and their congregations are rooted in gospel renewal, which leads to mission.
How does serving the poor and marginalized fit into Serge’s ethos, or values?
Bancroft: For many years the mission operated from the three pillars of “Preaching, Healing, and Equipping.” Now, the language has been refined or clarified, and we are exploring using the words “Renew, Reach, and Restore.” Renew represents renewal in the life of believers as they learn to live out the gospel. Reach is the focus on church planting and evangelism. Restore is a commitment to works of justice and mercy.
Individual people and teams have their own special abilities and gifts, but the gospel is best exemplified in a whole picture of Renew, Reach, Restore—like a band where everyone plays their separate instrument to create the whole. Serge teams typically have a greater specialty in one of the focus areas, but carries out all three elements in their work. For example, a medically focused team would begin with Restore, but Renewal and the training of Christian leaders follows. Additionally, we believe that Renewal in the life of the believer propels us to share the light of Christ with those who do not yet know Him. That is Reach.
In another context, we may have a church planting team that leads with Reach but Renew and Restore implicitly follow.
Serge: Historically, how has Serge served the poor and marginalized and gone to hard or high-risk places? How are they doing so now?
Bancroft: Caring for widows, orphans, and the dispossessed is central in Scripture. Our calling from the very beginning has been to work from the grassroots up rather than from the elite down.
Historically, Bundibugyo, Uganda, is a great example. In the early days, when Serge went to Uganda during the time of Idi Amin, staff went to the place called “the end of the road.” In the local language it is Bundibugyo. Over the years the work has included medical outreach, church strengthening, education, clean water, and leadership development.
More recently, a Serge team has begun in the mountains of South Asia and runs a medical clinic alongside evangelism work. In urban Asia a Serge team is developing an ethical business to give employment to women victimized by human trafficking and sex trade.
Serge: Can you tell me about the growth that Serge is experiencing right now?
Bancroft: Over the past six years, our missionary staff has grown from 157 missionaries on three continents to more than 250 missionaries on four continents, representing 60 percent growth. Why is that? We are asking ourselves the same question! We believe the values we have held for more than 30 years are values younger believers embrace. Serge is less corporate, less driven by divisive issues, and has a holistic approach. It was not an organizational change that brought the key growth, but the way the young church has adopted values that Serge has seen as critical for quite some time now.
Key to these is the value of ministering from brokenness. We believe broken people go to broken people, and we believed that back when you weren’t supposed to say that, because if you were a Christian you were supposed to have it “together.”
We are and want to be an organization that is defined by clear values. Our values came grassroots up from field workers. Some organizations are bounded by a strategy, an expertise, a denomination, etc. We are bounded by our values.