Archive for the ‘Reaching the Unreached’ Category

  1. Correctly Using a Good, Helpful, Biblical Category

    Posted on October 21st, 2014 by Jonathan

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    If you’ve ever taken a vegan friend to lunch, chances are your first suggestion was not Whataburger. You probably stayed away from all restaurants the fell under the “fast food hamburger joints” category. But not only did knowing your restaurant categories prove to be helpful; so did knowing the category your friend fell into – “vegan.” When used correctly, categories are good and helpful tools.

    People Groups

    One category that Jesus makes use of is ethne, translated “nations” in the Great Commission –  “make disciples of all ethne.” This command drives us to go and steers us toward our many destinations: the ethne of the world. But ethne doesn’t refer to nation-states such as Uganda, India, or China. Rather, it refers to categories of people (people groups) such as the Seminole Nation, the Yazidis, or the Kurds. Our desire to fully obey this command has led us to identify who these people groups are, and then to prioritize the ones that have little to no believers among them – unreached people groups (UPGs). We have a clear aim.

    Categorizing people into groups doesn’t just give us an aim, though; it assists us in attaining it. Knowing a person’s specific people group can help you prepare to share the gospel with him or her by indicating language, cultural customs, religious beliefs, social norms, assumptions, values, and more. The good news cannot spread where there is no understanding, and people group categories help us find some common ground so we can meet them where they are.

    For example, let’s suppose you meet an Afghan woman. Knowing that her Afghan people group is unreached, you decide to go out of your way to share the gospel with her. Based on her people group, you infer that she speaks Dari, practices Islam, is offended by women in shorts, and doesn’t talk directly to men. So you learn a few Dari words, study the basics of Islam, make sure you’re modestly dressed, and make sure there’s no one-on-one situation with a male.

    People Groups and the People that Comprise Them

    But what if the Afghan woman’s parents immigrated to America shortly after she was born and she grew up in the California public school system? Will she feel that you cared more about her than her Afghan-ness? Does your preparation allow you enough flexibility to still be an effective witness?

    What if people don’t always fit their people group mold?

    We must remember that individuals are not people groups. Though people from within the same group will necessarily share some characteristics, they won’t necessarily share all characteristics. In fact, chances are, you’ll find a whole gamut of differences within each group. Our mission is still clear: to make disciples of all of the people groups. And these people groups give us a huge jump start in knowing about a person so as to communicate with them well. But as we seek to share the gospel with individuals, we must learn to use people group categories as guiding tools rather than hard line rules.

    I have an Iranian friend named Ali. He came to the United States as a student in engineering. One night, a close friend and I were talking with him, and we began to steer the conversation toward spiritual things. I thought I knew how it would go: What do you believe? Islam? Great, let’s talk about the difference between Islam and Christianity. To my surprise, not only was Ali not Muslim… he was more interested in finding out where American guys go to meet American girls. In fact, according to him, the Iranian government was far more Muslim than the people they governed. He shared a heart language and cultural identity with the Persian people of Iran, but not the majority religious belief.

    Again, categories – including people groups – are good and helpful tools to utilize… when they are used correctly.

    There are more than 11,000 people groups, and well over half of them are unreached. Though the Great Commission demands we make disciples among each of them, we ought to be careful not to approach individuals mechanically with regard only to who their people group says they are supposed to be. In the end, all ethne will be represented around God’s throne in heaven. And the representatives will all be unique individuals. May our ministry reflect both these truths.

    Additional Resources

    WEBSITES: People Groups and Joshua Project

    SERMON: Our Obligation to the Unreached, Part 1 (and Part 2), David Platt

    BOOK: Let The Nations Be Glad (and related resources), John Piper

  2. How One Church is Engaging an Unreached People Group

    Posted on October 20th, 2014 by Jonathan

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    Nearly a quarter of a billion people live in the 29 countries that comprise Southeast Asia. The region hosts 426 people groups, 343 of which are unreached. If you’re one of the 215 million people in these unreached people groups (UPGs), chances are, you live your entire life without ever hearing the good news of Jesus. That’s a sort of despair with which most of us are unacquainted.

    However, one North Carolina church is at work in the region, hoping to change the situation for the “T people,” as they affectionately call them. There are only a handful of known believers among the T, a largely Buddhist UPG. Why are they unreached? IMB writer Paige Turner – who lives in Southeast Asia – explains:

    The problem lies in getting to these people. It isn’t easy. Few outsiders make it to the remote villages nestled in the steep, wet mountains of Southeast Asia.

    Just to tell this one Bible story about creation, Harrison [a pastor from the North Carolina church that is engaging the T] and several local believers ride 45 minutes in a three-wheeled motorcycle taxi, with little protection from the rain and wind. Along one road, the group walks while the taxi slowly maneuvers through the mud. Then, they ride motorcycles another 30 minutes straight up a mountain to the fishing village.

    The journey is even difficult for local residents to reach the remote villages. Khin and Thet [believers from a neighboring ethnic group] often walk three hours one-way during rainy season, when their motorcycle can’t make it up the mountain through the mud, to share the Gospel.

    Again, this is just one of 343 UPGs in Southeast Asia. Worldwide, it’s one of 6,565 . .  all of them without access to gospel. Though the reasons for these groups’ lack of gospel knowledge are varied, the fact they don’t have it should lead us to ask the same questions as Paul in Romans 10: “How will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to peach unless they are sent?” (vv. 14,15).

    To read the whole story from which the above excerpt is pulled, click here. To learn more how your church can embrace an unreached people group like the T, click here.

  3. 7 Comments

    A Forgotten Field

    Posted on October 14th, 2014 by Jonathan

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    When we think of mission work, our minds may most naturally go to the African bush, the Indian slums, or the Arabian deserts. We probably don’t think of Tokyo high rises.

    We should.

    At less than one percent evangelical Christian, Japan’s 120 million natives make up the second largest unreached people group in the world. Don’t be fooled by the neon lights illuminating the bustling streets – Japan is a dark country. Some have even dubbed it “the missionary’s graveyard,” not because violent persecution is common there, but because ministry burnout is. In Japan, after spinning their wheels for years, many missionaries find themselves stopped dead in their tracks.

    One reason that ministry there has been so difficult is its material excess. Contrary to the hunger, sickness, and poverty that so often opens doors for ministry in developing nations, Japan seems to have it all. Blinded by worldly ambition and distracted by excessive busyness, the Japanese obliviously wander on, “like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36).

    At the same time, they may soon be ripe for a huge harvest. Their immense spiritual need is starting to come to a head as they work themselves to death (literally – they call it karōshi), fight a losing battle with depression and suicide, tragically give themselves to sex trafficking, and realize that their advanced technology and infrastructure is no match for nuclear disasters, typhoons, and earthquakes.

    Pray for the Japanese. Pray for the worn out missionaries among them. Pray for a massive harvest.  And pray for more laborers to go to this forgotten field.

  4. A Collection of Videos on Missions

    Posted on September 25th, 2014 by Jonathan

    To acquaint (or re-acquaint) yourself with David Platt’s teaching on missions, here is a collection of videos in which he talks about different aspects of it. While these videos do not offer a comprehensive theology of missions, we hope they will compel you to go to God in his Word and to the lost in the world.

  5. Mid-Term Field Report: “Because Jesus Is Worth It”

    Posted on September 24th, 2014 by Jonathan

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    Have you ever been “missing in action” when a loved one needed you? Karina has. And from her critter-infested home in Thailand, she can testify to the pain it causes . . . but she can also testify to the joy of loving and obeying Christ.

    Karina was sent out by The Church at Brook Hills to serve mid-term (anywhere between two months and two years), teaching English to kindergarteners. We hope that her example will encourage and challenge you to love Jesus far more than anything else. According to Karina, even though such love is sometimes hard, “Jesus is worth it.”

    Here’s what Karina had to say . . .

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    What has been the most surprising aspect about serving in this new context?

    It never fails to surprise me just how many other creatures I share a home with. We’ve had infestations of ants, termites, geckos, mosquitos, roaches, tokays, snakes, lizards, spiders (anywhere from really small to as big as my face), snails and rats.

    What has been the most difficult part of your time there?

    The most difficult part is managing my classes. I teach anywhere from 27-39 students. That’s 39 three-year-olds. So to keep them all focused and on task is a bit challenging, to say the least.

    Can you give us your highlight of the trip?

    In April my mom and good friend were able to visit me. We were able to celebrate Songkran (the water throwing festival). It’s basically the ice bucket challenge all day for three days, and everyone plays. It’s the best festival ever.

    What advice would you give to people considering going mid-term?

    Go. And try to learn as much language beforehand.

    What advice would you give to friends, family, and church members in terms of how they can support workers like you?

    Please pray for us daily. I can’t say it enough. Pray, pray, pray, pray, pray. Also, little notes of encouragement are great too. It can get pretty lonely overseas, so it’s always a pleasant surprise to find a personal email waiting for you in your inbox.

    What is one big takeaway that the the Father has taught you in your experience as a mid-term worker?

    Luke 14:26 has really taken on a new meaning to me since being here. “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” I only thought I knew what that meant, but now I know what that means. Being a disciple of Jesus means missing weddings and baby showers of my dearest and oldest friends. It means being away from family in illness. It means missing birthdays, graduations, and other celebrations. It means people may not think you love them because you are away when they “need” you the most. And it’s hard. Especially on the rough days, and the enemy tempts you to think it’s not worth it. But it is worth it, because Jesus is worth it.

    What is one thing you have learned from the national brothers and sisters that you are partnering with?

    They are so selfless, generous, and some of the most joyous people I have ever met.  They don’t let their circumstances dictate their emotions. They may not have much, but they will sacrifice for you.

  6. Mid-Term Field Report: “Utilize The Time”

    Posted on September 17th, 2014 by Jonathan

    As many of us are leaving summer behind to return to school or get back into a regular routine at work, Matt is doing no such thing. Life is different for him. Matt lives in Central Asia and was sent out to serve mid-term by The Church at Brook Hill. Mid-term is described as a period of anywhere between two months and two years. For him, school looks more like learning a foreign language, and monotonous routine . . . well, there’s not much of that.

    We asked Matt some questions about his life in Central Asia. Our hope is that his words might challenge those of us tempted to simply survive the next test or deadline. Our lives are intended for more than intention-less routines driven by purposeless attitudes. When we realize that God desires to use us to bring the nations to Himself, and when we hear of brothers and sisters whose devotion to Christ means harsh persecution, we see everything differently. The reality is, we have so much more to live for than the weekend.

    Here’s what Matt had to say . . .

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    What has been the most surprising aspect about serving in this new context?

    Time and time again, my team and I have been surprised at how quickly God answers the prayers of us and our supporters back home, and His answers to these prayers are often even better than we knew to ask for! We shouldn’t be afraid to ask Him to act in big ways to help us reach lost people. He desires and is worthy of the worship of all peoples and is actively working in hearts and lives all across the world.

    What has been the most difficult part of your time there?

    It has been difficult being part of a new team re-engaging a minority people group that has not been worked with for several years. Due to the difficulty of gaining access to our people’s homeland, we are in the process of establishing a business in a nearby country where there is a significant population of our people. This poses many challenges such as learning a minority language with few immersion experiences, balancing business and ministry responsibilities, and justifying to the community why we as Western businessmen spend so much time with this minority people and are learning their language.

    Can you give us your highlight of the trip?

    One of the biggest highlights so far has been growing closer as a team and becoming more like a family.  Being part of such a small team, we spend a lot of time together, and the Lord has used that in teaching us more of what it means to be the body of Christ. Praying, worshiping, and having fun together, holding one another accountable, and being united in a common vision has helped us to encourage one another during the difficult times and overall thrive in our first year on the field.

    What advice would you give to people considering going mid-term?

    Utilize the time before you leave the U.S. to establish routines of engaging lost people where you are currently. Often times, we get caught up in enjoying the benefits of Christian community so much that we rarely put ourselves in places where we are surrounded by the lost. Going mid-term is a weird balance between a sprint and a marathon; the routines you are able to establish before arriving on the field will help you to make the most of the time you have in your new context.

    What advice would you give to friends, family, and church members in terms of how they can support workers like you?

    The way that is most obvious and yet often over-looked is to actively pray for that person, their ministry, and their people. Be proactive in asking for ways to pray for that person and in regularly praying for their boldness and evangelism opportunities. Also, we love hearing from friends, family, and supporters about what is happening back home and how we can be praying for them.

    What is one big takeaway that the the Father has taught you in your experience as a mid-term worker?

    I often feel like I am sitting on the front row watching Him prepare the harvest of these people in a way in which only the Creator of the universe is able! In our first month on the field, He answered our prayers by providing a language teacher, national believer, and friend all with a single person whom He had burdened to return to his family and country (at the risk of his life) to help reach his people with the gospel of Christ. The things we’ve seen happen over the past year are more than coincidences; no doubt the Lord is doing the same type of things in unreached people groups all across the world!

    What is one thing you have learned from the national brothers and sisters that you are partnering with?

    Extreme persecution is normal, expected, and worth the risk for the believers in this part of the world. Coming from a place, like the U.S, where it is “safe” to be a Christian, it is still difficult to fully understand what these national brothers and sisters experience everyday in living and dying for Christ. That being said, the Lord is using these terrible acts to bring others to faith, grow the church, and advance the gospel of Christ to the most difficult to reach people and places in the world.

  7. That Muslims May See Christ’s Surpassing Beauty

    Posted on September 12th, 2014 by David Burnette

    Kevin DeYoung posted the following prayer by Samuel M. Zwemer (1867-1952), an RCA minister and Princeton professor known as “The Apostle to Islam”:

    “Almighty God, our Heavenly Father, who hast made of one blood all nations and hast promised that many shall come from the East and sit down with Abraham in thy kingdom: We pray for thy prodigal children in Muslim lands who are still afar off, that they may be brought nigh by the blood of Christ. Look upon them in pity, because they are ignorant of thy truth.

    Take away pride of intellect and blindness of heart, and reveal to them the surpassing beauty and power of thy Son Jesus Christ. Convince them of their sin in rejecting the atonement of the only Savior. Give moral courage to those who love thee, that they may boldly confess thy name.

    Hasten the day of religious freedom in Turkey, Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and North Africa. Send forth reapers where the harvest is ripe, and faithful plowmen to break furrows in lands still neglected. May the tribes of Africa and Malaysia not fall prey to Islam but be won for Christ. Bless the ministry of healing in every hospital, and the ministry of love at every church and mission. May all Muslim children in mission schools be led to Christ and accept him as their personal Savior.

    Strengthen converts, restore backsliders, and give all those who labor among Muslims the tenderness of Christ, so that bruised reeds may become pillars of his church, and smoking flaxwicks burning and shining lights. Make bare thine arm, O God, and show thy power. All our expectation is from thee.

    Father, the hour has come; glorify thy Son in the Muslim world, and fulfill through him the prayer of Abraham thy friend, “O, that Ishmael might live before thee.” For Jesus’ sake. Amen.”

    — Taken from Islam and the Cross: Selections from “The Apostle to Islam” (edited by Roger Greenway).

  8. 3 Comments

    Pastor David Platt Elected as the New President of the IMB

    Posted on August 27th, 2014 by David Burnette

    We’re grateful to announce that the trustees of the International Mission Board (IMB) have just elected Pastor David Platt to be the IMB’s 12th president. As the missions entity of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), the IMB serves approximately 40,000 churches and over 4,800 international missionaries. David Platt will succeed Tom Elliff in this position.

    Here’s a video announcement from the IMB along with a few excerpts of the news release from Baptist Press:

    Baptist Press:

    ROCKVILLE, Va.—David Platt, one of the most passionate and influential voices for missions among evangelicals, was elected president of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board Aug. 27 by board trustees, meeting at the IMB’s International Learning Center in Rockville, Virginia.

     Platt, 36, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills, a Southern Baptist congregation in Birmingham, Alabama, will take office effective immediately as president of the 169-year-old organization, the largest denominational missionary-sending body among American evangelicals. More than 4,800 Southern Baptist international missionaries serve worldwide.

     Platt succeeds former missionary, pastor and Southern  Baptist Convention president Tom Elliff, 70, who has served as IMB president since March 2011. Elliff asked the agency’s trustees earlier this year to begin an active search for his successor. Elliff and his wife, Jeannie, plan to return to their home state, Oklahoma.

    Pastor David on the Lord’s leading in this transition:

    “This is not something I saw coming,” he said. “I love pastoring The Church at Brook Hills. I love shepherding this local church on mission for the glory of God among the nations and could picture myself doing that for decades to come. At the same time, God has been doing an unusual work in my heart and life. The only way I can describe it is that He’s been instilling in me a deeper, narrowing, Romans 15 kind of ambition, where [the Apostle] Paul said, ‘I want to see Christ preached where He has not been named.’ … He has given me a deeper desire to spend more of my time and energy and resources in the short life He has given me to seeing Christ preached where He’s not been named. The concept of unreached peoples — of nearly 2 billion people who have never heard the Gospel — is just totally intolerable.”

    David Platt’s message to IMB missionaries overseas:

    “I just [want] to say to you, more than anything, that the vision of the IMB remains the same: a multitude from every language, people, tribe and nation knowing and worshipping our Lord Jesus Christ.. If you don’t hear anything else, please hear me say that all I want to do is lock arms with you, with what you’re doing on the frontlines, with what’s going on back here in mobilizing churches, to go after that vision. … I’ve been so thankful over the years pastoring in the church to partner with so many of you in different parts of the world. I’m thinking about specific brothers and sisters that I’ve had the joy of serving alongside and many others that I look forward to serving alongside in different ways. And I just don’t believe that there is a means that God has blessed so greatly as He has the IMB and this coalition of 40,000 [Southern Baptist] churches working together for the spread of the Gospel to the nations.”

    “I am honored, humbled, overjoyed and overwhelmed to be in this role, and I just want you to hear from me from the beginning that I am committed to praying for you, to supporting you, to listening to you, to learning from you. … How can we most effectively work together to make disciples of all nations? … I love you, I’m praying for you, and I’m honored to serve alongside you in what is the greatest mission on this earth.”

    For the entire article, go here.

    Please be in prayer for the IMB and its missionaries, for SBC churches and members, and for Pastor David and his family as they make this transition in ministry. Also, please remember to pray for The Church at Brook Hills, as they too will enter into a time of pastoral transition.

  9. Who Are the Unreached and Why Must We Go to Them?

    Posted on August 21st, 2014 by David Burnette

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    What does it mean to be part of an Unreached People Group (UPG)? How do unreached peoples stand before God? What is our obligation, as followers of Christ, to those who have no access to the gospel?

    The following outline provides a good summary for these kinds of questions. The outline was taken from Pastor David Platt’s sermon titled “Our Obligation to the Unreached,” and is based on Paul’s teaching in Romans 1-3 about man’s inherent sinful condition. To access the sermon in its entirety, including the outline below, go here.

     

    Who are the Unreached?

    • A people group among whom there is no indigenous community of believing Christians able to engage the people group with church planting.
    • Technically speaking, the percentage of evangelical Christians in this people group is less than two percent.

    How Many People Are Unreached?

    • Over 6,500 people groups are unreached . . .

    Including at least two billion individual people

    • Over 3,000 are also unengaged (meaning there is currently no evangelical church planting strategy under way to reach that people group) . . .

    Including around 200 million individual people

    What Does It Mean To Be Unreached?

    • Practically . . .

    You do not currently have access to the gospel.

    Unless something changes, you will likely be born, live, and die without ever hearing the gospel.

    • Biblically . . .

    You have knowledge of God.

    You have rejected God.

    You stand condemned before God.

    You have never heard the good news about how you can be saved by God.

    Why Must We Go To The Unreached?

    • Because their knowledge of God is only enough to damn them to hell.
    • Because the gospel of God is powerful enough to save them forever.
    • Because the plan of God warrants the sacrifices of His people.
    • Because the Son of God deserves the praise of all peoples.

    To learn more about unreached peoples, visit Joshua Project.

  10. Persecution: The Basics

    Posted on July 21st, 2014 by Jonathan

    Every once in a while, it’s good to get a refresher on concepts we generally think we understand. When’s the last time you’ve heard a good explanation of persecution?

    Below, you can listen to a good overview of what persecution is, how it may look, and why it occurs from Jonathan, the (well-traveled) Pastor of Global Disciple-Making at The Church at Brook Hills.



    When it comes to the persecution of Christians, Open Doors is also a great resource. They have a good general overview of persecution as well as country-specific information.

    ~ The goal of persecution is to silence witness. ~