Sunday, February 10, 2013

Window of Opportunity

A famous preacher once said, “To know the will of God, we need an open Bible and an open map.”

His name was William Carey, and he is known as the father of modern Protestant missions. Carey’s work in India in the early 19th century is foundational for the practices and philosophies of virtually every missions organization formed since.

Open a map of the world and look at the Eastern Hemisphere, then chart the region between 10 and 40 degrees north of the Equator. This is the 10/40 Window, and this geographic region is quite possibly the greatest challenge, but also the greatest opportunity, we face as supporters of world missions.

The Window is home to roughly two thirds of the world’s population, more than four billion people, as well as the poorest of the world’s poor; 85% of people in the Window live on less than two dollars a day.

The region also encompasses locations central to the world’s major religions: Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism. Many nations within the 10/40 Window are, officially or unofficially, resistant or even hostile toward Christians, the Bible, and Christian literature and teachings.

Ninety percent of the population of the 10/40 Window is unevangelized, meaning they have not heard the Gospel even once. Many cultures within the Window have few to no Christians; therefore they have no context for a Christian movement.

 If all of this weren’t enough of a challenge, of the 55 least evangelized countries in the world, 97% of their population lives within the 10/40 Window, yet only 10% of the global missionary force is working there.

But there is good news. Unreached does not equal unreachable. For example, according to a 2008 study, in 1989 there were only four known Christians living in Mongolia. That country now has an estimated 40,000 indigenous believers.

The efforts of missionaries and native believers in this country reflect another insight credited to William Carey: “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.” We can be certain that God is at work in the 10/40 Window, and nothing is impossible for Him!

Last summer, I visited a country in the 10/40 Window: Azerbaijan. This culturally Muslim nation sandwiched between Russia and Iran still bears the scars of Soviet-era oppression and a bloody revolution fought in the early 1990s.

Like many 10/40 nations, Azerbaijan outlaws any evangelism or public expression of Christianity. The missionaries I worked with there use creative access to reach people with the Gospel, through a business they have established in a local community. Even in countries that have restricted and outlawed Christianity, Jesus is still being preached!

If you’re interested in learning more about the 10/40 Window, visit this page for an explanation by missions strategist Luis Bush, who first coined the term and the concept, or The Joshua Project, a world missions initiative to bring Scripture and the Gospel to every people group on earth. Or click here for a short video.

Of his evangelistic work in the 10/40 nation of India, William Carey once said, “I will go down, if you will hold the ropes.” Let’s “hold the ropes” for those God has called to the farthest corners of the unreached world: Pray for the 10/40 Window. Pray for the missionaries serving there, that God would guide and protect them as they advance His Kingdom.

And most of all, pray for the people of this region, that God would break down barriers and open hearts so the lost may experience His love and grace.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Because He Cares

At the end of last month, I had the privilege of attending the World Missions Summit in Fort Worth, Texas, a gathering of over 4500 college students, campus ministers, young adult leaders, missionaries and pastors.

For three days I and my fellow attendees were able to experience international worship, messages from veteran world missionaries, workshops to learn about missions issues and opportunities, and “Windows to the World,” interactive exhibits that let participants explore the global regions where real missionaries are at work.

When asked about half-way through the Summit to describe my experience at TWMS so far, I responded, “It’s like Disneyland for people who love Missions!”

And it was. The elements of this Summit could have convinced even skeptics of the value of supporting missions and missionaries who travel to the ends of the earth to spread the Gospel.

The theme of this Summit was “Because I Care,” an appeal to our compassion to follow God’s call and reach the unreached with His tangible love. This passion for world evangelization was evident in over 900 college students who committed to give a year to serve in World or U.S. Missions after graduation.

But an even deeper overarching theme gradually developed throughout the workshops and messages: the vitality of keeping Jesus central to our lives, our work, and our ministry.

Jesus is the One who calls us to join Him in His mission to bring God’s Kingdom on earth, and this call must be our motivation for all that we do. Though this mission often positions us to help meet the physical needs of others, the fulfillment of those needs cannot be what drives us.

On the first night of the Summit, a missionary to the Sudan named Dick Brogden gave a message on abiding in Jesus, during which he made this eye-opening statement: “Disabuse yourself of the notion that God needs you… We are not needed, but we are invited.”

God can use anyone, or no one, to accomplish His mission; He is God and all things are possible for Him. But He chooses us and invites us to join Him.

Brogden went on to point out that “sin is the universal malady; not all are poor, not all are hungry, not all are sick, not all are trafficked, not all lack clean water or education, but all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

As we strive to live missionally, we must remember that the meeting of physical needs must be accompanied by the communication of the Gospel, or our mission is incomplete. The work of Jesus, on the cross and in our hearts, is what must drive us to reach out to those in need.

In a generation deeply concerned with social justice, we must remember that the greatest injustice is that people die without ever hearing the name of Jesus, the One who can save them from their sin.