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Missions From A Different Perspective

The following blog was written by a Middle Eastern international student:

 

There are 80 million people and 1,000 or less missionaries in my country. That’s 1 missionary per 80,000 people here, most of which have never heard the gospel. The work here is too difficult to do alone.There are only 5,000-10,000 believers. But it’s not just about the injustice of the matter, it is simply that it is just too much. The numbers and weight of the task is overwhelming. It’s hard, I cannot do this on my own. It is so important that people come and help because I cannot do this alone. The believers here cannot do it on their own. We need help, we need people to come and help us.

Before MAPS I knew it was important to share the Gospel, but now I realize the importance of it. I am thirsty to share the Gospel, I long for it to go forth. I know that this is my responsibility. I feel that God gave me this burden and I feel His heart for this nation and these people. But during MAPS I learned not only to feel His heart for my own people, but for all the nations. I cannot just pray for my own people. I am heavenly minded now, I must pray for all people. I got a heavenly mindset that I can’t just pray for my own country I have to pray for other people too because I am not in this world anymore, I am heavenly minded. This happened through MAPS that I now have a heart for nations beyond my own.

Being with MAPS taught me that even if I cannot just go out and share the Gospel with a thousand people every day, I can intercede for them. I have learned the place of intercession. I used to feel that I constantly need to do more and share with more people. But no longer do I just have to work more and always try to do more, but I have learned that I need to pray and cry out to God. I can do so much more through my intercession. I can’t just go on sharing the gospel alone I need His help. Yes, I need to share the gospel, I need to love people. But I also need to pray and cry out to the Lord every day and seek more of Him.

My people do not get love from their religion. What allah is giving them is all about judgement. Their god is distant from them. They also often do not get love from their parents. Not all people here, there are exceptions, but a lot of them are seeking for love from something. When they are seeking their god know that they are sinful and cannot find success in their religion and so they just give up. Their sins outweigh their good works and they feel that they are doomed to hell. But when we share the gospel with them we give them love that they have never experienced before. We give them pure love that is all about grace. Even though they do not deserve love, we love them because God is love. This is different from the world. This makes them begin to think and question, “Who is God? Who is this Jesus?” This is what my team does, they love the people here. Through this love the Gospel goes forth, and I am so thankful for them. I am so thankful for what God is doing in this nation. He is faithful, I know great things are about to happen.

It is a privilege to come here as a team. I am not alone. It is good that people said yes and came here to my country. When my team came to my country with me I felt like Moses when Aaron and Hur came to hold up his arms. When he was too tired and weary to hold his arms up any longer they came alongside him to hold up his arms that the battle might be won by the Israelites. When I see missionaries come to my country this is how I feel. You see, it is not about you or me, but it is about community. It is about being family. We get to do this together. The task of evangelizing this nation is big and heavy, but my team is here helping me. I do not have to do this alone anymore. I have a family around me who is fighting alongside me for the destiny of my people.

 

MAPS Global Student

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Two Worlds Falling

“Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies. At the end all his disciples deserted him. On the Cross he was utterly alone, surrounded by evildoers and mockers. For this cause he had come, to bring peace to the enemies of God. So the Christian, too, belongs not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the thick of foes. There is his commission, his work.” -Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I consider if a privilege to write this tonight in a foreign land under Islamic skies. Just a short while ago, a blast sounded across our city from the top of every stone minaret proclaiming the catechismal and idolatrous call “Allahu Akbar, Ashhadu an la ilaha illla Allah, Ashhadu anna Muhammadan Rasool Allah!”

“Allah is Great

I bear witness that there is no god except the one Allah

I bear witness that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah”

Meanwhile, across the ocean, life in America goes on as usual. Tomorrow morning believers will wake up and get their families ready for church. Hip worship teams will scale dimly lit stages equipped with multi-million dollar production, lights, cameras and sound equipment to lead thousands of onlookers into 15 minutes of worship. After magnificent announcement and offering videos the pastor will take the stage and deliver an inspirational 40 minute sermon complete with humorous experiences, some biblical lessons and finally a touching call to accept Jesus to a room of bowed heads and closed eyes.

Others will fill out $150 ticket conferences this weekend to soak in extended times of worship, be equipped for the hundredth time to lay hands on the sick, prophesy, hear God’s voice and make their way to the front of the line to be blessed by the keynote itinerant man or woman of God who is carrying the word of the Lord for the month- hoping for the day they too will be the one on stage moving in the anointing before the crowds.

Regardless of Catholic or Protestant, evangelical or reformed, charismatic or fundamentalist, the cycle continues and life goes on and on, week by week. Regardless of denominational orientation, all find themselves in the cycle of American Christendom, far from the songs of the minarets. Far from the sound of the unreached world.

I’ll be honest this blog is difficult for me to write. I would much rather spend my time writing to encourage the Church of America in her walk with her Lord, to be thrust deeper into the love of God in Christ and to walk in the fullness of the newness of resurrection life through the finished work. I recognize that the lowest place on the prophetic totem pole is the cynical individual who’s prophetic ministry consists primarily in calling out the flaws and shortcomings of people and ministries, lacking heavenly authority and the tender heart of their Head Jesus Christ the Word. I realize more than ever before how much Jesus looks across the American church with deep love, exhilaration and joy, desiring their very best and highest good at every moment.

Having said that, I am troubled once again tonight by the polarization of these two worlds: The world of the Western Church and the world I am currently living in: the lost world of Islam. I am pained by this dichotomy. More than ever before we need these two worlds to collide in a gospel explosion that results in people movements to Christ. We need the western church to arise and answer the challenge of Islam like never before- for the sake of lost billions of souls.

Yet there is a clear separation of worlds with no foreseeable shift before us without a sovereign awakening by the Holy Spirit. We are entirely too disconnected from the grand crescendoing drama of Matthew 24:14 in America. We have created our own world- our own kingdom of heaven- to live in and from and have insulated ourselves by and large from the missional crisis across the oceans. It doesn’t take a prophet to see the current state clearly: We are our own existence.We have our own church culture detached from that in which we live. We fill our own bookstores, record our own music, study in our own universities, film our own movies, listen to our own radio stations, have our own politicians and run our own coffee shops. We have encased ourselves in a prism of largely middle-class suburban cultural Christianity. The collective result of this emerging subculture is a calcification and solidification of unseen cultural barrier between the church and the surrounding world making Her more and more missionally irrelevant. Moves of the Holy Spirit are understood only in the context of ministering to the saints, not in impacting the lost, so that His saving and healing activity is limited only within the bounds of this cultural kingdom. Often our lens of the outside world is interpreted through the warped perspective of what we see in the media resulting in our burrowing down in silent judgment towards others who are different- particularly Muslims. Couple this with long held bad theology concerning holiness (that holiness is an escape from the world, an abstention of interaction with it lest we be made unclean) and eschatology (that the kingdom of God isn’t primarily a future reality in the millennium but rather one we establish now pseudo-spiritually through material means) and we have ourselves a Christian kingdom of heaven on earth. A kingdom of heaven that is outwardly prosperous yet one that has all but abandoned her mission to the earth.

Consider Luther’s words,

‘The kingdom is to be in the midst of your enemies. And he who will not suffer this does not want to be of the Kingdom of Christ; he wants to be among friends, to sit among roses and lilies, not with the bad people but the devout people. O you blasphemers and betrayers of Christ! If Christ had done what you are doing who would ever have been spared?

If we were to be objectively honest with ourselves we have to see a real difference in the present culture of the church in America and the life of the Incarnate God in His earthly ministry. Jesus’ life shows us what it means to be truly missional. The Incarnation is the blueprint of all missions in the earth. Jesus was eternally before His Father in love and bliss and yet stepped out of His Father’s house and entered fully into our experience to rescue us. He fully became all things to all men to heal and save us to the uttermost. He took on the form of a servant to bring us back home to the Father’s house. Do we see a difference here?

We have built our own kingdom of heaven with the unsaid expectation that outsiders must enter on our terms. We have established the very nature of our evangelical approach on this premise! The primary evangelical and kerygmatic epicenter in our churches is from the pastor on Sunday mornings when he asks if anyone wants to accept Jesus. Statistically, most people who will hear the gospel from the American church have to hear it from a pulpit. They have to cross multiple unseen subcultural barriers- making their way through our Christianized universe- to even hear the gospel because we have allocated it to the role of the man on stage on Sunday mornings. The world must come inside our walls to hear the good news- to taste and see the Lord is good. Yet God in the Incarnation in opposite fashion left heaven to bring us home to the Father.

Consider Him who made friends with the sinner and tax collectors, who interacted with and loved the prostitute and leper and poor. There is a difference here. It is Jesus who said, “Blessed are the poor” (Luke 6:20), yet we preach blessing equals wealth. It is Jesus who loved not His life even unto death. Do we embody this example in our life? The essence of missions is simply the Church’s participation in the mission of the Son but do we even know His example that we may begin our participation? Consider Him who died surrounded by His enemies- who sent us out as “sheep among wolves” (Luke 10:3) to mimic His example by carrying our own crosses in self denial for the reconciliation of those wolves around us. Do we look and live like the crucified God? Do we love our lives and hold them close or do we freely give them away for the salvation of the world in self emptying love? Do we intentionally live among the wolves or do we built affluent pens around us and our fellow sheep? I am of the opinion that if Jesus had employed the same methods of cultural engagement and evangelism that we do the world would have been lost- there would have been no cross!

I am not surprised that we are not engaging with the Islamic world on a large scale right now- but I am deeply hopeful tonight. I believe our Lord is changing the understanding and expression of Christianity in this generation- This is a prayer of mine. He is showing us the power of crucified love and is sending us in the same manner. “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you… receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:21,22). Yet I am convinced that for Islam to melt off of the hearts of billions, the kingdom of the American church must give way to the outflowing Kingdom of Heaven. The gospel of self actualization must give way to the Gospel of God and of His coming Kingdom. I see millions leaving the West in self emptying love and going to the East as salt and light, lambs among wolves carrying crosses and songs of hope. I see the world of the west fade into something far more glorious and peculiar- one in which the prophetic picture of the Incarnation is repeated time and time again by millions of martyrs in the living and the dying. When the world of the American Church is emptied in self sacrifice by the power of the Cross the opaque Islamic world will be reborn under the power of the Resurrection.

There is a day when the minarets will never again play the songs of Allah. The song of the Lamb will take it’s place for all days. The day is quickly coming- the Lion is coming. I call the American Church in tenderness and sincerity to abandon their lives, take up their crosses and follow the Lamb into the heart of the Muslim world! Let us prepare the way of the Lord- let us make straight His paths! The Lion is coming!

Travis Owens, MAPS Field Staff

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Who Will Go?

In Matthew 24:14 Jesus said that “the gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed through the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” It states that every People Group should  hear the gospel before the end will come. So I ask the question, Who will go?

Studies show that there are still nearly 6,800 unreached people groups, unreached means that there is less than 5% professing christians, that number represents around 3.1 billion people. Most of the unreached people groups are located geographically in what some scholars call The 10/40 Window from West Africa across Asia between 10 degrees latitude north of the equator to 40 degrees north. Global Missions is only sending 3.3% of our Missionaries to the unreached peoples, that breaks down to 13,000 workers which means 1 missionary for almost 237,000 people! Furthermore, less than 1% of every dollar that is given to missions in America is dedicated to the work among the unreached and unengaged.

I sit here in tears just thinking of the number of people who have never even had the option to hear the good news, to know of the great love of the Father or know that they do have a savior. It’s heartbreaking and it is a complete injustice.

But we have a great Hope! Jesus is writing the story, not us. I believe Jesus’ words in Matthew 24 that the Gospel WILL be proclaimed! In the midst of these outrageous numbers and statistics, we are hearing and experiencing amazing testimonies coming from the 10/40 window. Testimony of the Man in white showing up to muslims in dreams, healing and signs and wonders in refugee camps, and worship and prayer being established AND led by local believers!

We are in an hour in time where the Church needs to plumb-line itself to the great commission. Jesus gave the call to preach the gospel “in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” to His Church. “Just as every believer’s first calling is the Great Commandment; every believer’s first ASSIGNMENT is the Great Commission because it is the preeminent mandate of the Church.”(R.A Martinez)  I believe, as the Church, if we put the Great Commission as the plumb-line of every kingdom assignment and orient ourselves with those that have yet to hear or have a witness that we would begin to think differently on how we spend our money and where we send our young people. May we be a church that when we hear the Lord say “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” that our first response would be “Here I am Lord, Send me.”

 

Bethany Tombley, MAPS Global leader

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Global Cities: The Frontier of Our Day

“You shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth”.

These words of Jesus have driven forward the advancement of the Great Commission with unceasing momentum over the course of the Church Age and  are just as relevant today as they were that day at the dawn of the Church. We are approaching a crescendo in world missions. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit and subsequent mass church planting movements across the Global South in the last 100 years have dramatically shifted the geographic center of the life of the Church. It has also clearly quantified the remainder of our mission to which we now lift our eyes: the world that stretches across the deserts of North Africa, the historic Middle East and bustling world of Asia- the 10/40 window. Therein lie the the remnant multitudes of the earth’s over 3 billion unreached peoples. Their reconciliation is all that stands between us and the restoration of all things. We are approaching a crescendo.

As I look to the 10/40 window, I have thought much about the best way to tackle this enormous task that stands in front of us. Where in the world do you start and what strategy do you employ when you are talking about a task that includes reaching billions of people in need of the gospel?

Billions.

Traditionally, the strategy of world evangelism has been church planting efforts in predominantly rural locations that move from village to village within a framework of cultural homogeneity. Historically, this has been the premier church planting strategy- often times at the expense of urban centers. While this has been wildly successful in past times, I want to stress that we are in a unique hour in history and that our old strategies of cross cultural missions have to be adjusted in order to keep up with the sociological phenomenon of world urbanization.

Without realizing it, you and I are living in the midst of the greatest population movement in the history of the world. A vast majority of the earth’s population is leaving rural villages and moving to urban centers and global cities. This is very unique since in most of history, a majority of the world lived in rural areas. In 1800, about 3% of the world’s population lived in urban centers. By 1900, 13% lived in cities and by 1950 a startling 30% of the world were located within urban centers.

Today, over 50% of the world lives in urban cities. It is expected that by 2050 that 70% of the world’s population will live in global cities. It’s difficult to fully appreciate the gravity of these population migrations. To put into perspective, in the just last 200 years, over half the world has moved to cities and these patterns are showing no sign of changing. In the last 2 decades, over a billion people have moved to the cities. Of the 10 largest cities in the world, 7 are found within the 10/40 Window. The masses of unreached people groups are clearly migrating to global cities across the 10/40 Window. *

There a number of reasons for this movement of peoples, but what is of importance is the need to recognize the strategic significance of urban centers as it pertains to the Great Commission and the need to focus our efforts on city missions. Cities have always directed the culture of the the nation they reside in.  As the city goes so goes the nation in terms of arts, politics, philosophy and even religion. Many have rightly noted that cities are transmitters of culture and creativity to the surrounding rural locales. The same cannot be said about the opposite. Even in America today, the demographic trends across a millennial generation suggest that without question, the cultural values of the youth of America- rural and urban- are coming in line with those of existing major metropolitan and cosmopolitan city centers. This case study can be repeated countless times in almost any nation. Without question: what happens in cities directly affects the nation of that city in terms of culture, art, politics and religion.

This means that for those who desire to make a dramatic impact on unreached nations should strongly consider planting in a global city initially and then rural areas secondarily. Even Jesus’ command quoted earlier emphasized Jerusalem- an urban center- first, then a dissemination across rural lines even to the “remotest parts of the earth”. This is a helpful model to use in our present day. It makes sense to church plant in global cities where the nations are literally gathering to be able to hear the gospel. If we can reach the cities with the gospel in a dramatic way, it will dynamically affect the rest of the nation. In short: if we take the cities, we take the nations- in terms of pure population numbers and unmistakable sociological trends.

It’s interesting to note that the apostle Paul’s missional strategy was almost entirely urban. He focused his mission’s efforts on major cities and centers of trade like Ephesus, Athens, Rome and many others. In fact, it wasn’t until the early second century that we begin to see church expansion into the more rural parts of the Roman Empire like Bithynia and Armenia. It’s without question that the apostolic church’s missional strategy was first urban and secondarily (even residually) rural.

I don’t want to suggest that missions efforts to rural areas are wrong. I honor any efforts to close the 10/40 window and rejoice in sincerity of heart. Every person matters to Jesus- whether they live in village or metropolitan center. Yet with limited resources, manpower and time, I want to suggest that we who desire to do the work of pioneer missions across the 10/40 window step back and rethink our church planting strategies. What is the most effective way to tackle the task at hand in our day?

Does it actually make sense to focus our efforts and resources on remote rural areas or rather on major cosmopolitan cities?

Does it make sense to plant long term efforts in places where the population of the world is leaving in droves or rather in the centers of their destination?

Is it really a better long term strategy to be salt and light in villages that are on the tail end of societal influence or rather in global cities that serve as the source of transmission of culture to the rest of the nation?

What is the biblical example that we can learn from and emulate? When I look at the text it seems obvious that the witness of the early church was urban oriented. These are some of the many questions I am asking myself. I don’t want to condemn any expression of missions. I simply want to get this conversation started. Some may think that city oriented mission’s efforts aren’t “real missions”. I would like to suggest that global city centered missions is the only real way moving forward as we approach the day of His appearing. Without a doubt, the next great outpouring of the Holy Spirit across the unreached world- the crescendo of harvest I spoke of earlier- will take place primarily in global cities. I suggest we prepare in advance for that outpouring- For every tribe, tongue, people and nation.

 

Travis Owens, MAPS Global leadership

 

* ”The Challenge of Cities”, Roger S. Greenway, Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. Pg. 559