Embracing the Unreached Unengaged (Part 1)

Last Sunday, I got a taste of the heavenly scenes of Revelation 5 & 7. I heard Jesus’ Name being praised in the Arabic tongue. I preached in English, it was translated into Arabic & heard by American & Arab Christian brothers & sisters alike!

The pastor of the church I preached in is a remarkable man. He planted the church in 1989 in his house. In 1991, they bought a building to worship in, and the security police shut it down.

The pastor went to the officer in charge and the officer told him, “I don’t care if the president of this country tells me to open your building. I won’t do it.” The pastor replied, “If you stand against Jesus then you will see what will happen to you.”

The pastor went home. He and his wife fasted and prayed for 3 days, and within a week the officer lost his job, and the man who took his place now feared the pastor. It took him almost a year to get the building re-opened for the pastor and his church, but the new officer got it done.

While the church was prevented from meeting in their new building they planted 2 churches.

They have faced many persecutions. Being a Christian means it’s hard for members to find jobs. If they see the doctor for an illness the doctor may prescribe them false medicine because they are Christians. But God has protected them. In a 6 month period, 13 people who had opposed the pastor died suddenly.

The Muslims think there is something magical in the church, so now they don’t touch it.

God is at work building His church. The church has planted 7 churches total, currently has 2 new starts, and the pastor has a vision to plant 100 churches! He wants to train church planters in his church and send them out.

I praise God for this work and am reminded that much more work needs to be done in this city that is home to over 20 million people.

Will we as Southern Baptist churches engage in the work of God around the world? Will we come alongside our brothers who are pastors in the Middle East by providing training and resources? Will we pray for them and their ministry? Will we send people from our churches to minister in these contexts? Will we as churches embrace the 3800 unreached & unengaged people groups?

This year’s SBC in Phoenix will be challenging churches to do just that! Join the Movement!

The heavenly scenes of Revelation 5 & 7 will become a reality. God will use His church as a means to that end. My prayer is that tens of thousands of SBC churches will join God in His mission for the good of the nations and the glory of King Jesus!

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  1. I am encouraged by your, and others’, zeal for the glory and kingdom of God to be spread in this world.

    Speaking from my own experience, I’d like to pose a sobering question: Now that we want to plant churches around the world, how do we do that? My own church sent a team of three to West Africa last summer to survey two unreached people groups. The visit went well, but we soon realized that the time (at least ten years of sowing before we’d expect to see a stable church in that culture) and energy (we’d probably have to send a team every two months) was too much for our church of 100…which is the typical church from which we are beckoning future church planters. Must we resign our efforts to giving money to the megachurches or denominational workers since we are too small, too poor, and too under-numbered?

    I want to plant churches, but I see that we don’t more often because we can’t than we won’t. I would love to hear advice/input on this….

  2. Andrew,

    Thanks for your question. It is very important and I certainly don’t think I can answer such a complex question in a brief or thorough way, but here are some thoughts:

    1. I am certainly a proponent of partnerships and am grateful for the SBC, CP, and the IMB that allows us to do more together than we could apart. I think it’s appropriate for a group of churches to embrace an unengaged people, especially when a church can’t fully self-support a mission team/individual.

    I also think having a missions agency that supports local churches in this is a wise model.

    2. It’s going to take time/decades to reach these unreached peoples (it took Carey and Judson 7+ years for 1 convert in their contexts). It’s certainly going to take energy and resources. We have to count the cost and be willing to give up some things in order to engage in this mission.

    This task will never be completed unless we count the cost. It will take lives laid down for the gospel over decades for this work to be completed. So I totally understand when you mention the challenges and just have to agree “yes it’s going to be tough.”

    3. I think we will need to think/strategize creatively. We need to ask what the task actually is and what a church actually is. If what we mean by missions is reproducing a western model of buying land, building buildings, etc. then I think it’s too costly for most churches. But if we are talking about house church models that are reproducible in poor contexts then I think it is possible for churches of any size to engage in this. Churches in china are sending tons of missionaries and there are few “mega” churches…

    4. I don’t think the answer is giving money to mega churches

    5. I don’t think the answer is simply to give money to denominational workers, though I think that’s certainly a part of it. I think we need to explore both/and options instead of the either/or options we are so often presented with now.

    At current a church can either send its own missionaries or it can send them thru the missions agency. It’s an either/or approach. But, what if we could have creative partnerships where some missionaries are supported half by the church and half by the agency, or fully by the church, or fully as a tent maker on foreign soil?

    I think we need to explore these options.

    6. I don’t think it’s a “can’t” issue for “small” churches when it comes to church planting. I think it’s a model issue. Can we come up with models that are reproducible? I think we can. The church in the 3rd world is doing it. The west should certainly have the resources to do it.

    However, it will take the hard work of analyzing our budgets and seeing what we can do w/o…

    The answers are not easy, and they will be in many ways against the grain of western models of church. That’s my 2 cents,but there are others who are certainly better equipped to advise.


  3. Jon,

    Thanks for your input…I agree with almost everything you said!

    I guess the problem is innovating/following a non-Western way of doing church here first…like you said, we need to get our own priorities aligned. then, I suppose and hope, that the money will free itself up.

    I too think a transitional idea would be local associations or a 50/50 church/agency split of support. The first is being tried in my church’s association…but the compounding of so many Americans suffers from the same problem (not unsolvable, but still a rock to push up hill).

    The second, I hope, will grow organically from the new Elliff/IMB focus…if not, we should probably propose it! Again, my church got missions-oriented because we prayer-supported an IMB missionary to Eastern Europe for several years. Her return sparked the “need” for a new mission site for our church.

    Hope to see you at the Convention…maybe we can talk more in person

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