It was 10:30 on a Tuesday morning and I’d just sent a batch of emails to pastors about an upcoming prayer meeting. My coffee was cold and as I prepared to head upstairs for a refill, I noticed I’d received a message on Skype. It was from my new friend Omar, a young father from Central Asia with whom I had recently connected.
I was working from my home in Marion, South Dakota, a typical rural town without all the diversity of the big city. There are no mosques or temples here. There are few people in fact who don’t call themselves Christians. Yet I was about to share the gospel with a man who lives in a country where there is little Christian witness. I am the first follower of Jesus that Omar has ever met.
I am a mission mobilizer who travels throughout the upper Midwest, sharing in churches and equipping believers to share the gospel with Muslims, Hindus and Buddhist who are moving to North America from the least reached regions of the earth. One of the first comments I hear, especially in rural churches, is that “we don’t have any of those people around here.”
There may be some truth to that claim. But an informal survey of any congregation usually reveals that a handful of people have a doctor who is Muslim or a co-worker who is Hindu. There is usually one or two women in every congregation who get their nails done by a “sweet little girl” from Thailand who, if they asked, they’d find out was Buddhist.
But for all intents and purposes, they are right. The diversity found in any large city doesn’t exist in small towns and most of us in an average rural congregation don’t have regular opportunities to interact with people from other religious backgrounds. Immigrants and refugees tend to move to places with robust economies, abundant job opportunities and existing immigrant communities. University students go where there are universities. Rural America has little of either.
Re-examining the Great Commission
But Jesus tells us in the Great Commission to “go into all the nations and make disciples.” This is his final command before returning to heaven and successive generations of Christians for the past two millennia have had to figure out how to do that in their context. For the western church over the last 250 years that has meant raising up missionaries and the financial support needed to send them to the far corners of the earth where the gospel had not yet been embraced. However, globalization and modern technology have brought rapid change to our world and with it a need to re-examine the Great Commission for our time.
Doug Birdsall is quoted in Western Christians in Global Mission as saying, “The Great Commission is for every church in every culture in every generation. There are no exclusions. But . . . every church in every culture in every generation must determine the way in which they respond to this responsibility—in a way that is appropriate to time and context.”
There are over 2 billion people in our world today that missiologist identify as unreached. They are from people groups that are less than 2 percent Christian and are found predominantly in what is known as the 10/40 window, a large swath of our globe between latitudes 10 and 40 north of the equator. This is a region dominated by Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism and is an area where there is very little if any gospel witness. Churches in this area are few and far between, Bibles are hard to access, conversion is often illegal, and it can be extremely difficult for missionaries to go there.
But both globalization and the exponential growth in technology are creating unique opportunities for our generation to reimagine our response to the Great Commission. From out of the 10/40 window, the nations are coming to us. The Apostle Paul in Acts 17 reminds us of God’s sovereignty in this when he says, “And he determined the time set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him.”
But God is not only bringing them to our country. He is also providing opportunities for us to go to them—and we don’t even have to leave our living rooms. My friend in Central Asia is just one example of this. He is one of hundreds of thousands of men and women in closed countries throughout the 10/40 window who are learning English and as part of that, are searching the Internet to find English speaking friends with whom they can develop a friendship and practice speaking.
Online ministry helps Muslims find English speaking friends
I connected with Omar because of Embassy. Embassy is a ministry that exists so that Muslims in closed countries who are searching for English speaking friends will find true followers of Jesus. Embassy identifies online language learning platforms and then trains ordinary Christians to use those platforms to make connections and begin friendships.
Embassy does a fantastic job of training and preparing the ordinary, everyday Christian for this ministry. They encourage volunteers to form a prayer team and to go through the online Bridges training. Embassy staff are there to answer questions and to encourage and pray for the work of beginning to minister online for Christ.
And God is moving. After getting to know an Embassy volunteer, Rahaf, in Syria, said, “I feel like my whole life is about to divide into two parts. Before knowing you and now.”
Another volunteer began reading the Bible with Sharif from Jordan. Sharif said, “I think that my destiny is going to change.” This was the first time Sharif had ever read the Bible. And as Muslims come to faith in Christ, volunteers disciple them into their new life of faith.
I called Omar that Tuesday morning and we spent 45 minutes getting to know one another, sharing stories of our children’s exploits and mischievousness and learning about one another’s work and hobbies and quite naturally, beliefs. I sent him a link to an online version of the Bible in his language and encouraged him to read it. I asked him questions about Islam and how he understands and practices his faith. He reciprocated, asking those questions about my own life of faith.
My new friend did not come to faith that Tuesday morning, but a friendship was born. We’ll continue to chat over Skype regularly—he gets off work at just about the time I need a break in my morning. Perhaps more important than anything is the fact that Omar now has someone praying for him daily—someone who knows him personally.
Embassy has allowed me to cross a culture without crossing an ocean. Imagine the kind of kingdom impact that could be seen if everyone reading this article took a moment to stop by the Embassy website and took the step of volunteering.
Millions of Muslims are still waiting for an authentic Christian witness. Will you answer the call?
You can learn more about Embassy at: www.thisisembassy.org