Archive for the ‘Reaching the Unreached’ Category
Posted on April 16th, 2014 by Jonathan Lenning
The missionary question is not, “Where are there unbelievers?”
The missionary question is, “Where are there peoples who don’t have any Christians among them?”
HT: Justin Taylor
Posted on April 14th, 2014 by Eric Parker
Many of you may be familiar with Joshua Project. Joshua Project is an amazing resource ministry that can be used to learn about, pray for, and go to people groups all over the world for the sake of the gospel. We wanted to let you know that they have a new updated look that is sure to make it easier to learn more about the different peoples of the world.
They make it easy to:
1. Find people groups by country, language, listings, and maps.
2. Find accurate global statistics.
Posted on April 1st, 2014 by Jonathan Lenning
Several weeks ago, we told you of reports coming out of North Korea that told of 33 Christians who were awaiting execution for their involvement in planting 500 underground house churches. We cited theWashington Times and the Christian Post, and it has since come to our attention that their source may not be entirely accurate.
A seemingly more reliable report confirms that many people were detained and for their alleged involvement in helping South Korean missionary Kim Jung-wook sneak into North Korea, though they may not have all been Christians:
North Korean authorities have detained dozens of people accused of helping a South Korean missionary smuggle himself into the country, a local source said, as a report suggested that some of them face execution on charges of conspiring with him to set up underground churches.
As you can see, while it is still entirely possible that underground Christians face execution, we simply don’t know for sure. The report goes on to say that some of the detainees “include guards,” which means that it’s also entirely possible that not all the detainees were Christian and that the motivation for their detention may have had nothing to do with underground house churches.
We would still urge you to pray for Kim Jung-wook, whose current plight is far from favorable. And while one Christian blogger cautions us to stop referring to the detainees as “underground Christians,” we should still pray for them, too. Whether or not they’re all believers, it’s undeniable that they are in danger. Although the nature of news coming from North Korea can be murky and disputed, at least two facts do remain: the government is impossibly harsh toward its citizens and vehemently opposed to Christians.
Posted on March 17th, 2014 by Jonathan Lenning
In case you missed it, the prayer focus for the upcoming Secret Church (“The Cross and Everyday Life”) is the peoples of Turkey. Today, Turkey is 99% Muslim. Though there are only a handful of believers there now, there was a day when Christianity thrived in the region. Join us as we learn more about this country and the rich Christian history of a region now dominated by mosques.
Secret Church 14, “The Cross and Everyday Life,” takes place on Good Friday, April 18, 2014. You can find out more information and register for the simulcast at SecretChurch.org.
Posted on March 14th, 2014 by David Burnette
David Sills’ recent post is a powerful reminder of the urgency of our mission as followers of Christ. Reaching the unreached must remain a priority, for as Sills notes, “The tragedy of those who depart this life without hope in Christ is a horror beyond description.” However, this reality should also give us an urgency to teach the saved, that is, to see new believers grow and become stable and mature in their faith.
Here’s Sills’ reflection on the tsunami that hit Asia not too long ago, killing more than 200,000 people who in all likelihood did not know Christ:
“However, as I thought about the staggering reality of that vast number of souls who perished in one day during a massive tsunami in Southeast Asia, feeling the temptation to strategize to reach the rest of the world to give them at least John 3:16, I remembered something else. Virtually the same number of people died in one day in Haiti, a country that is considered Christian by almost any modern standard. Indeed, even CNN coverage noted those who were praying and singing hymns in the rubble. Haiti was deemed reached and left in the hands of the nationals, while many missionaries turned their attention to the unreached areas of the world. Yet, missiologists report that about 90 percent of Haiti’s population adheres to Voodoo, the brand of paganism that emerged during the colonial era that incorporates many Christian elements, adding Jesus to the pantheon of spirits that address all needs, fears or concerns of life.
There are many sincere evangelical Christians among the Haitian population, godly men and women who are burdened by the syncretism they see every day. There are countless more whom we have considered to be believers, but who are deceived by Voodoo and blinded by demonic forces. The same number of people died in Haiti in one day as died in the tsunami in one day. One group was never reached, the other was never taught what it means to know Christ truly, to turn away from the old, to repent and be born again. Can we begin to measure which one is worse? Are they not both unbearable?
Look back a few more years, to what was arguably the most reached country in Africa, with more than 90 percent of the population being baptized Christians. Yet, while the West blinked, almost one million were hacked to death by their “Christian” brothers. Between 800,000 and one million people died in less than 100 days in the worst genocide we have known – among “Christians.” They called themselves reached Christians; we called them that, too.”
This is a good reminder of the central thrust of Christ’s commission in Matthew 28:18 – to “make disciples.” Sills points out that we shouldn’t simply aim to let others know about Jesus (obviously a great and necessary starting point), but rather to see disciples grow and flourish in their faith. Of course we want these disciples to multiply in their own contexts, but this won’t happen in a healthy and sustained way for those who are nominal or immature Christians. Here’s how Sills closes:
“There should be no dichotomy between search and harvest, as if one is more biblical than the other, as if one is essential, crucial, imperative and urgent while the other is less important. Reaching the unreached is an absolute necessity and unquestionably the Christ-given task of the church. Teaching the reached is its twin duty – equal in importance, urgency and biblical origin.
Reaching the lost and teaching the saved is the task of missions.”
Posted on March 14th, 2014 by Paul
Pillar 5: Hajj (Pilgrimage)
What is the Hajj?
Every Muslim, anywhere in the world, is obliged to perform, at least once in a lifetime, the Hajj. The Hajj is the Muslim ritual pilgrimage to Mecca. Mecca (Saudi Arabia) is the holiest city in Islam. Every Muslim that is physically and financially able is expected to make the trip to Mecca. This pilgrimage occurs during a fixed time on an annual basis. Every year during the 12th month of the Islamic calendar (Dhul Hijjah) Muslims from all over the world assemble in Mecca to worship Allah. This gathering of Muslims is very diverse and signifies the global influence of Islam around the world.
An estimated 3 million Muslims perform the Hajj on an annual basis. Over 60% of the visitors to Mecca during this time come from outside of the country. While on Hajj, Muslims focus on ritual cleansing and purification. Pilgrims will wear white Ihram clothing that typically consists of two white un-hemmed sheets (like towels) that are intended to make every pilgrim look and appear the same. It is important that the cloths do not have any stitching or color. The top sheet is draped over the chest and torso while the bottom sheet covers the hips and the legs. Muslims celebrate the sense of unity that is created when everyone is dressed in the same Ihram clothing.
Once in Mecca for the Hajj, Muslims will enter the Grand Mosque and perform a series of rituals over a four to five day period. Each person will walk counter-clockwise seven times around the Ka’ba. The Ka’ba is a small square building in the middle of the Grand Mosque that Muslims consider to be the original House of God built by Abraham. During the Hajj, Muslims will also run back and forth seven times between the mountains/hills of Al-Safa and Al-Marwah. Muslims will also drink water from the Zamzam well. According to Muslims, the Zamzam well is a miraculous source of water that is often associated with Abraham’s son, Ishmael. Perhaps the most interesting ritual during the Hajj is the stoning of the Devil. Muslims will throw seven stones at one of three walls in the city of Mina, which is nearby Mecca.
What is the significance of Hajj for Muslims in Turkey?
While many Muslims in Turkey desire to go on the Hajj, the reality is that very few have made the pilgrimage to Mecca. The cost and the ability to get from Turkey to Mecca is a barrier to many Muslims in Turkey. In fact, the Pew Research Center on religion estimates that only 9-10% of Muslims around the world have actually made the pilgrimage to Mecca. When Muslims in Turkey are able to go on Hajj it is a special event. In smaller towns, it is common to have a celebration, send people off, and then welcome them back. If you are in a Turkish airport around the time of the Hajj, you will likely see some Muslim pilgrims dressed in Ihram clothing and sandals. In the end, the Hajj is a once in a lifetime event for Muslims and exposes them to both the diversity and global influence of Islam as they gather with Muslims from all over the world in the birthplace of Islam to worship Allah and perform sacred Islamic rituals.
Posted on March 13th, 2014 by Jonathan Lenning
Recently, David Platt and five other pastors from The Church at Brook Hills had the opportunity to go to Nepal with a ministry called Mountain Child. Pastor David recounted some of their experiences to the church the Sunday after they returned. In the clip below, he describes the rugged area of the world in which Mountain Child is addressing “urgent spiritual and physical need” and reminds us that the people groups there “are unreached for a reason: they’re hard to get to.”
Go to Mountain Child’s website to learn more about the gospel ministry in which they are engaged.
Posted on March 12th, 2014 by Paul
Pillar 4: Sawm (Fasting and Ramadan)
What is Ramadan?
Ramadan (or Ramazan in Turkey) occurs in the 9th month of the Islamic lunar calendar. Historically, it was during this month that Muhammad received revelations from the angel Gabriel that later were incorporated into the Qur’an. The emphasis during the month of Ramadan is on the practice of fasting. Muslims all around the world during this month will fast from sun up to sun down. For Muslims fasting includes refusing to drink water, eat food, or enjoying other pleasures during the daylight hours. All Muslims are expected to participate in the fast. There are some exceptions that are allowed. For example, senior adults, young children, and pregnant women are exempted from practicing the fast during Ramadan.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Ramadan is the celebration that occurs each evening as the sun goes down and Muslims are permitted to “break the fast” (this meal is referred to as “iftar”). Each night as the sun goes down, many Muslims will gather with their families and partake in a big feast to celebrate the end of the fast for that day. In fact, food consumption during the month of Ramadan greatly increases. This has led some to suggest that Muslims actually consume more food during Ramadan than during any other month of the year. For this reason, Ramadan is a bittersweet time of year. On one hand abstaining from food and other pleasures during the daytime is very difficult. On the other hand, gathering with family and friends and breaking the fast together is a joyous occasion for many Muslims.
Ramadan is a significant time of year for Muslims and something they take very seriously. In fact, in some Muslim countries it is against the law to eat or drink in public during the daytime. This is such a sensitive subject in some Muslim countries. For example, I recently was in the Middle East during Ramadan and bought lunch at a restaurant in a food court and ended up hiding myself in a bathroom stall just to eat lunch! Some places are more relaxed on this issue than others, but Muslims in general take Ramadan seriously and view it as a time to reflect and hopefully hear a word from Allah.
What is the significance of Ramadan in Turkey?
During Ramadan in big cities, restaurants and businesses will remain open during Ramadan. At the same time, it is assumed that tourist and non-Muslims will respect the culture and attempt to refrain from eating and drinking in public. In smaller cities and towns throughout Turkey, many restaurants will be closed during the day. In Turkey, it is customary for drummers to walk around in the early hours of the morning to wake people for the predawn meal (sahur). This is always an interesting wake up call for tourists and visitors!
At the conclusion of Ramadan, Muslims around the world celebrate a 3-day celebration known as Eid al-Fitr (Ramadan Bayram in Turkey). This celebration includes singing, dancing, visiting, gift giving, and lots of fireworks! This celebration is perhaps the most joyful event for Muslims every year.
Posted on March 10th, 2014 by Paul
Pillar 3: Zakat (Giving Alms/Charity)
What is Zakat?
The term “zakat” is mentioned more frequently in the Qur’an than any other of the five pillars. In fact, over 80 verses in the Qur’an mention the requirement to give charity and alms to the poor. One verse says, “Those who believe, and do deeds of righteousness, and establish regular prayers and give zakat, will have their reward…” (Qur’an 2:277). Based on this verse and others in the Qur’an, all Muslims are expected to give zakat, which is 2.5% of one’s accumulated wealth (not annual income) to the poor and needy in their community. If a particular family is poor they can offer food or something else as a replacement for money.
Zakat is a system established for equitable distribution of wealth in Muslim societies. The background for this practice is the Islamic understanding that Allah as the creator is the rightful owner of all things. He alone determines the religious tax and implemented zakat as a way to care for the needs of the poor and destitute in the community. Therefore the giving of zakat is considered an act of worship to Allah. Zakat is intended to serve as a simple reminder to Muslims that everything they have ultimately belongs to God.
Some Muslim nations require zakat by law and zakat stamps can be purchased from local post offices. In other countries, giving zakat to the mosque or to the poor is a voluntary activity. Many mosques will have a metal zakat box near the entrance that Muslims can place their monies into as they exit the mosque. The month of Ramadan is the time when most Muslims will pay the zakat.
According to Islamic theology, those who give the zakat will receive rewards, be assisted in their journey towards paradise, and perform an act that is pleasing to Allah. A common mantra is that zakat is not just charity, but also duty, worship, and purification. Zakat is a central tenet to Islamic theology and something that Muslims all around the world practice annually.
What is the significance of the Zakat in Turkey?
In Turkey, many of the Muslims will at least claim and likely give the zakat in some form or fashion on an annual basis. A common occurrence in Turkey and other Muslim countries during Ramadan is for beggars and the needy to go door to door in apartment complexes asking for food and charitable gifts. This practice is not discouraged and serves as a way for the poor and needy to receive food and gifts from the Islamic community. As a country, Turkey does not have an official government run zakat system. Prior to Atatürk’s reforms in the 1920’s, the state collected the zakat, but it now has largely become a matter of individual responsibility. Therefore, the practice of zakat by Muslims in Turkey will differ from person to person throughout the country.
Posted on March 7th, 2014 by Paul
- “Friday Prayers”
Pillar 2: Salat (Prayers)
What is Salat?
Five times a day the muezzin calls from the minaret of mosques all around the world to call Muslims to prayer. The Muslim call to prayer (adhan) is perhaps the most recognizable sound throughout the Muslim world. Muslims are expected to pray 5 times per day. Each of the 5 prayer times have a name and specific time of the day in which they are to be performed. Fajr is between dawn and sunrise, Zuhr is between midday and mid-afternoon, Asr is between mid-afternoon and sunset, Maghrib is just after sunset, and Isha is between nightfall and dawn. Muslims are expected to pray during these times each day either corporately in a mosque or individually at home or at work.
One of the unique characteristics of Islamic prayer is that those praying are expected to turn and face the city of Mecca. Mecca is in modern day Saudi Arabia and known as the holiest place in Islam. Muslims all around the world are expected to turn wherever they are (even in an airplane which can be interesting) 5 times per day and face Mecca when they pray. Before they pray, Muslims must ritually cleanse their hands, arms to the elbows, face, head, ears, nose, and feet to the ankles with water. This ritual cleansing process is known as wudu. Being outwardly clean before God is an essential part of Islamic prayer.
As they pray, Muslims assume special prayer positions throughout the prayer. The following steps are involved in a Muslim prayer:
- Raise their hands and say in Arabic, “God is great.”
- Fold their hands and quote the opening of the Qur’an.
- Bend over three times and says three times in Arabic, “Glorify the name of God most great.”
- Stands with hands to their side and says once in Arabic, “Give thanks to God.”
- On their knees they touch the prayer rug while saying five times in Arabic, “Glorify the name of God most high.”
- They sit up.
- They bow down again and repeat step 5.
- They stand and prepare to repeat the steps a second time.
- They turn their head to the left and to the right. These steps end the series of prayers each time.
What is the significance of Salat for Muslims in Turkey?
Most sources estimate that more than 96% of the people in Turkey follow the religion of Islam. The challenge is that the level of devotion varies significantly from region to region, city to city, and person to person. Pew Religion Research suggests that 27% of the Muslims in Turkey actually pray five times per day. 15% of Muslims in Turkey claim to pray several times per day, but not all five. Based on this research and my own personal experience in Turkey, it is safe to say that Muslims are practicing the prayers, but perhaps not as often as one might think. Again, this varies from person to person, but while many of the confessing Muslims in Turkey know the process and content of the prayers, chances are that they are not performing it as much as they might claim. Five times a day, the call to prayer sounds out from the minaret in cities all across Turkey, but the question is . . . do Muslims believe they are actually communing with God when they pray or are they simply going through the motions of religion?
Hear the Muslim Call to Prayer below:
This is part 2 of a 5 part series on the 5 Pillars of Islam. Check out part 1 here, and be on the lookout for the other parts over the next week.
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