Nagaland Missions Movement
When the American Baptist Missionaries came to Naga Hills in the early 1870s, it was not a planned policy of the American Baptist Foreign Mission Board but a conviction given by God to one of their Missionaries based in Sibsagar (Sivasagar), Rev. Dr Edward Winter Clark. He and his wife, Mary Mead, came up to Naga Hills against the advice and also without the official permission of the British Colonial power. Following them came many more American Baptist Missionaries who gave the prime of their lives to serve the Naga people in the name of Jesus Christ.
Recognising the purpose of God and in gratitude of the sacrifices made by the American Baptist Missionaries, the Nagaland Baptist Church Council established the Home Mission Board, during its annual meeting at Mokokchung in 1962. Rev. Longri Ao was the initiator of the formation of the Home mission Board. The objective of the Home Mission Board was to complete the unfinished task of evangelism after all the foreign Missionaries had withdrawn from Nagaland by 1955. The Ministry of the NBCC Home Mission Board was gaining momentum and was further strengthened in 1969 when a decision to appoint a full-time Secretary was taken at the 32nd annual session at Tseminyu from 28 to 30th January, 1969. At the same session, it was also decided to have a strong Mission Committee in cooperation with respective Associations and leaders of the local Churches in Kohima, Mokokchung, Tuensang, Wokha, Zunheboto, Dimapur and Impur. On 5th January, 1970, Ellis Murry was appointed as the first full-time Mission Secretary of the NBCC Home Mission.
There were two significant actions taken during the initial term of the Mission Secretary. The first was related to a change of nomenclature to reflect the broadened vision of the Mission. Thus, the Nagaland Baptist Home Mission was changed to Nagaland Missionary Movement in 1970. The second was to provide a support base for the Mission branch of the NBCC, wherein, the first seven days of May every year was to be set aside for special prayer for the NMM and to raise money for its Ministry. The NMM Mission Week became the primary avenue for sharing the news of the Mission projects, with local Churches as well as for raising prayer and financial support. Later the concept of “Mission Partner” was launched, wherein every believer was encouraged to become a partner with NMM for Missions by contributing `1000 annually. These two voluntary contributions continue to be the main source of Mission funding for NMM.
Up to this milestone, many Churches and Associations did not have any Mission strategy or project. Therefore, the vision of NMM besides reaching out to the unreached Nagas was to encourage the local Churches to send out Missionaries. They went to Churches and Associations motivating them to sponsor Evangelists and Missionaries outside of Nagaland. This continued at least for a decade. In 1972, the first cross-cultural Mission project was taken up by the Ao Baptist Arogo Mungdang (ABAM) amongst the Tirap tribe of Arunachal Pradesh. From this point and especially after the widespread Revival in the mid 1970s, different Associations and Churches took up Mission projects and saw the opening of Mission Fields in the North East region and beyond. There came a trend in the 1980s and 1990s where local Churches started to open Mission Fields and sent out Missionaries and Evangelists. So the original Mission vision of reaching out to all the unreached Nagas and mobilizing the Churches for Mission was achieved. Hence, the need to review the NMM role vis á vis Association and Churches became important.
In 2008, a significant change was made with the re-naming of Nagaland Missionary Movement to Nagaland Missions Movement. The name change was an acknowledgement of the Mission work being carried out by Churches and Associations and an affirmation that the Church should be the base for Mission work.
The Vision of NMM
The vision of NMM Ministry is summarised in a simple caption, “The Field is the World: Ready for Harvest.” With the understanding that Mission begins in one’s own ‘Jerusalem’ and ‘Judea,’ the first Mission focus was to penetrate to every Naga village with the Gospel. Thereon, the Ministry spread to non-Nagas living within Nagaland and on to the neighbouring States. Presently, Naga Missionaries are also placed in countries outside the borders of India. Today, the Naga believers are more accountable towards the command of Jesus Christ to go to “the ends of the earth,” to be his witnesses and to make disciples. Many committed young men and women are coming forward for Mission upon hearing the clarion call of the Risen Lord. Nagaland Churches and individual believers are generous in giving for the Lord’s work, but the task is even more enormous.
Therefore, one of the primary challenges today is to encourage Churches and individuals to give sacrificially and voluntarily for Mission. The second challenge is the call to “holistic” Mission. In the beginning the NMM Ministry was mostly Church planting cross-culturally. But now with the changing scenario of the world’s political landscape and deeper understanding of the Biblical mandate of Mission, Churches are becoming aware of the concept of “holistic” Mission. Majority of Naga Missionaries overseas are deployed as “Tent-makers” who are involved in holistic Mission. The challenge is to encourage more professionals into Missions and for skill based training for Missionary candidates.
Thirdly, in order to fully accomplish the above two challenges, the Nagaland Churches and individuals must coordinate and cooperate in Mission efforts. One of the principal tasks of the pioneers at the NMM office was to encourage the Churches and individuals for Missions, to which Nagaland Churches responded enthusiastically. After having fulfilled this task, the next step is to properly coordinate the Mission activities of all the Churches. The “autonomy” understanding of Baptist polity needs to be transcended to a level where the Naga Mission in this 21st century is required to work in coordination with Churches and Associations.
The Nagaland Missions Movement was established in response to the Great Commission of the Lord Jesus Christ and with a sense of a “debt” to the American Missionaries who came “forsaking all” and made immense contribution to the Naga society not only in terms of Spirituality but in all round development. It became a catalyst Mission agency for the Nagaland Baptist Churches. The Naga Mission consciousness was further heightened by the “prophetic call” in the 1970s by leaders of the NBCC, to send out 10,000 Missionaries. Though it was not the NBCC resolution as such, nevertheless, this “prophetic voice” was carried out to all the corners of Nagaland and to the world which became another catalyst for the Naga Mission. However, this call was made by the Nagas for their day and age, the late 20th century to which, the Nagas responded enthusiastically. The time has now come to spell out how the present generation of Nagas should respond to this prophetic voice.
Like any traditional Mission agency, the primary activity of the NMM is to plant Churches cross-culturally. Initially this Ministry was supervised directly by NMM but gradually Churches and Associations are being involved as partners, as more and more Churches and individuals become aware of their Mission obligation. NMM has ongoing Ministry for over twenty years in the Andaman Islands, Coastal Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal – Indo-Bhutan area beside the neighbouring States. Together with the Mission focus in India, NMM has a vision of going across international borders since its inception. Thus as early as the 1980s NMM sent out overseas Missionaries to minister in countries like Nepal, Cambodia, Thailand, China, Sudan, Kenya. In these countries the Missionaries are involved primarily in teaching, discipleship and leadership and not directly in Church planting Ministry.
Naga Christian Fellowships
The Naga Christian Fellowship (NCF) is a Ministry to Naga diaspora: a Ministry to Nagas scattered in the Indian cities and abroad for studies and for employment purposes. The main objective of the NCF Ministry is to nurture and shepherd the Naga community in Christian values and faith. NCF also offer a platform for social and cultural interactions to Nagas who are far away from home and family. There are sixteen Naga Christian Fellowships in different cities in India with full time Pastors. Each NCF is autonomous in its functioning, with NMM providing the link with NBCC Churches and other NCFs and providing support financially and pastorally.
Hospital CHAPLAINCY Ministry
To care for and to comfort the patients, Chaplains are appointed in various hospitals like in Kohima, Dimapur, Mokokchung, Vellore, NEIGRIHMS, Shillong and St. Stephens, Delhi. In most cities the Hospital Chaplaincy Ministry is carried out in partnership with the local “Baptist Pastors’ Fellowship.”
Training & Consultancy on Mission
Training and consultancy on Mission policy, strategy and practice for the constituent Churches and Associations is another key Ministry of the NMM. Training is also provided in the Mission Field to local leaders.
NMM office strives to provide “member care” to the missionaries by visiting them and attending to their welfare and other needs.
Research and Information
NMM has a Department dedicated to collection and disseminating information on Mission to its constituent members. This is carried out primarily through its two annual publications: the Annual Magazine which seeks to provide comprehensive information on the Mission activities conducted under the aegis of NMM and Associations. The other is pamphlet distribution to every household during the NMM Mission week for information and prayer. The other task is to Network with other Mission Agencies and to link them up with the NBCC Churches and Associations.