Archive for the ‘Reaching the Unreached’ Category
Posted on September 3rd, 2015 by David Burnette
Why focus specifically on the Somali people as we seek to make the gospel known to all the peoples of the earth?
That’s a good question, and it highlights the need for The Horn Project that we introduced last week. Go here to find out more about the project. By simply taking 9 minutes to watch and share the video below—which contains a summary of God’s plan of redemption in the Somali language—you can be part of an effort to get the message of the gospel to the Somali people.
To highlight the desperate situation of the Somali people, consider the following …
1. Somalis are numerous: There are 16,965,100 Somalis, which is more than the populations of Michigan and Missouri combined. 
2. Somalis don’t have access to the gospel. The Somali people are listed as Unreached, which means that there is not a community of Somali believers capable of engaging in church planing. The percentage of evangelicals is less than two percent. In fact, almost 9.6 million Somalis are listed as Unengaged, which means that there is currently no church planting strategy to reach them.
3. Somalis are persecuted and forced to flee. Over half of the nearly 17 million Somalis live in Somalia, which is ranked second in the world in terms of countries where Christians face persecution according to the World Watch List. The unstable government in Somalia combined with the reality of Islamic terrorists and Somali clan authorities makes for an environment that is extremely hostile to Christians. Somalis are #3 in the world in terms of number of refugees, with approximately 1 million Somalis being forced out of their homeland (and this doesn’t count those who are displaced within their own country).
4. Somalis live across the globe, including right here in the U.S. In addition to Somalia, Somalis also live in the U.S. (42,000), Canada, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Italy, Kenya, Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tanzania, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, and Yemen.
Watch and share the video for the Horn Project below …
Posted on August 31st, 2015 by Jonathan
Social media is a two-edged sword. At its worst, it preoccupies us with ourselves and the things of this world. At its best, it is an avenue for the gospel to penetrate unreached people groups.
We’re excited to tell you about a specific initiative aimed at helping you do the latter.
The Somali people are located in the Horn of Africa, our Secret Church 9 prayer focus. An unreached people group, there are nearly 17 million Somalis. War and famine has led many of them outside the borders of Somalia, yet they remain unreached with the good news of Jesus. Thankfully, there are some invaluable efforts currently underway to change this. But we’d like to add one.
We’re calling it The Horn Project. It’s creative, unconventional, and cutting edge. And it’s dependent on you. Here’s how it works:
Below is an animated video in the Somali language. In under ten minutes, the history of sin and the need for a blood sacrifice is traced all the way from Adam to Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God. Now it just needs to be viewed by Somali people.
This is where you come in. You can actually help us get this video in front of Somali people. In two weeks, Somali-speakers will be targeted with a Facebook add for this video. These adds will be much more effective if the video is highly viewed.
So we need you to view it. A lot.
And not just you, but your family, your church, your friends, your small group, and your co-workers, too. The more views it gets, the higher the chance it’s seen by Somali eyes.
We know you probably don’t speak Somali, and that’s okay. We simply need the number of views to increase. So over the course of the next two weeks, get to watching (and re-watching) and sharing. Post it on your Facebook page, tweet it from your Twitter account, pin it on your Pinterest board, and employ any other social media accounts at your disposal.
The Horn Project is an easy way to help make disciples of all nations. As you participate, pray that this video would ultimately be seen by the right people, that the Lord would transform hearts, and that God would then bring believers to follow up with them. Pray that the Somali people would put their trust in the one true Savior.
— To understand the message in the video that you’ll be sharing, you can download the Somali video English transcript.
Posted on August 11th, 2015 by Jonathan
Jesus’ marching orders to us are to make disciples of all nations. Obedience here means baptizing people of all ethnicities in the death and resurrection of Jesus and teaching them to observe his commands. This is what we need to be about. So we need to take care that we don’t replace making disciples with strategizing about how to make disciples.
But there is something to be said for being strategic.
Where We Make Disciples
A missionary in a difficult context once used the following illustration to explain why he was serving in the location that he was.
Imagine two burning candles, the first in a room lit by 99 other candles, and the second in a room by itself. What happens if the first candle is blown out? There would be a little less light in the room, but the difference would not be noticeable. What happens if the second is blown out? Utter darkness.
In some ways, both candles are equally powerful – flames on wicks that emit the same amount of light. In other ways, though, the second candle shines much brighter.
The difference is need.
This is why when we sit down to form missions strategies, we should not ignore need. We should carefully take both physical and spiritual need into consideration and accordingly prioritize the areas to which we send people.
Urgent Physical Need
The United States is riddled with problems – a broken foster care system, generational poverty in urban housing communities, financially devastating medical problems, crime and violence, and more. Our churches are called to address these problems with the love and generosity of Christ.
Yet, think about the problems of a developing nation – no care systems for millions of orphans, extreme and inescapable poverty in urban slums, rampant death from preventable diseases, corruption and war, and so much more.
So one question that informs our strategy is: Where are these physical problems worst?
Urgent Spiritual Need
On top of the physical need is the even more important spiritual need. There isn’t a neighborhood in the world that is without lost people. But some areas of the world have more neighborhoods with more lost people than other areas of the world. The plight of an atheist in the Bible Belt is a bit different than that of a Hindu in Nepal. Both are on their way to eternal destruction without Jesus, but the latter will probably never hear about Him.
This question also informs our strategy: Where are the places that lack access to the gospel?
Physical Need + Spiritual Need
We send medical missionaries to places like the Dominican Republic and Congo because the physical need is high. We send missionaries to the 10/40 window because spiritual need is high. Let us, then, be doubly sure to send missionaries to places where both physical and spiritual needs are present. Countries like Syria, India, and Myanmar are clear examples of this.
But some of the darkest, most candle-deprived rooms may not be as obvious. Physical and spiritual need also coincide in Athens, London, and New York. It may come as a surprise to learn that such needs are present in these bustling cities, but they are. They largely exist in populations of international immigrants. These people are (at least at first) unfamiliar with their surroundings and homesick, perhaps financially struggling, and often totally ignorant of the gospel. Many are also refugees who are emotionally suffering from the past traumatic experiences that forced them to flee their home countries.
Has your church considered sending missionaries to the immigrants in an international city? It could be that they are in an unreached people group and came there from a closed country. It could be that they are struggling to make ends meet and no one living in the busy, urban setting cares enough to lend them a hand. It could be that they’re plagued by seemingly inescapable depression and anxiety.
It could also be that they’re more open to the gospel now than they’ve ever been before.
Posted on August 3rd, 2015 by Jonathan
As you watch the video above, released on June 18 from the UNHRC, think of the individuals that these staggering numbers represent. A child who is lonely, helpless, and scared. A young woman who is continually plagued by flashbacks to the horrific violence she endured. A father who doesn’t know where his family is. An elderly woman who is now facing the prospect of spending her final years in a crowded tent away from home. Each of these 59.5 million forcibly displaced people has a unique and heartbreaking story.
Enter the gospel. God sent his Son in the flesh to proclaim liberty to the oppressed, sight to the blind, and good news to the poor. Not of this world and hated by it, he endured suffering beyond what we can imagine, taking God’s just wrath on behalf of all who believe in him. One day he will return to fully redeem all who have trusted in him for righteousness. On that day, he will give evil people the judgement they are due while he personally wipes away every tear from the eyes of his saints.
This is the good news that refugees so desperately need. But unfortunately, the likelihood that they know it is low. Half of them come from the countries of Syria, Afghanistan, and Somalia, where only 5.9%, 0.1%, and 0.3% of their respective populations profess to be Christians. Indeed, despite their dire physical circumstances, the eternal plight of these people is much worse.
Here is their glimmer of hope: many of these refugees no longer live in Syria, Afghanistan, and Somalia. Outside the borders of their war-torn and/or closed countries, the opportunity we have to reach them is greater than it’s ever been. That is to say, we are their glimmer of hope. May we pray faithfully, give generously, and go accordingly.
Posted on July 30th, 2015 by David Burnette
Joaquín Guzmán, the billionaire head of the Sinaloa cartel in Mexico, escaped from a maximum security prison on July 11th of this year, slipping out through a mile-long tunnel outfitted with ventilation, electricity, and a motorcycle on rails.
You may have seen the headlines about “El Chapo,” as Guzmán is known. His second prison escape highlights not only a weak justice system in Mexico, but also the level of corruption that exists in certain parts of Mexico due to influential drug lords . So, in addition to a general desire for justice, why should Christians care about El Chapo and other Mexican criminals?
A Surprising Ranking
Surprisingly, Mexico was ranked fifth on the list of most violent countries for Christians in 2014. This ranking was based on a seventeen-month survey of “persecution incidents” by Open Doors, and the anti-Christian violence can be attributed in part to the criminal organizations and drug cartels that have targeted Christians and churches. These churches are seen as revenue centers, and are therefore targets for extortion. Churches are also targeted, according to Open Doors, because they offer rehab and support services to drug users .
The violence in Mexico appears to be much greater in the southern states, where the traditional laws make it difficult for Christian converts. Those who do not accept the practices of the local community are ostracized and sometimes persecuted. Open Doors’ annual World Watch List, which ranks countries in terms of their persecution of Christians, has Mexico at #38 in 2015. This ranking is based on different types of persecution, including discrimination from the government, social pressure, or outright physical violence.
Closer Than You Think
The persecution of Christians in Mexico is a reminder that intense pressure and physical hostility aren’t just problems over there, far across the ocean on another continent. It happens right in our backyard, in the same country where many Americans choose to vacation. Of course, not every area of Mexico is hostile to followers of Christ, and we shouldn’t mistake the influence of organized crime as the attitude of most Mexicans toward Christians. After all, over 90% of Mexicans self-identify as Roman Catholic. Still, these realities remind us that opposition to Christ comes in many shapes and sizes, and that following him can be costly in many places around the world, even right next door.
Praying for Mexico
As you pray for persecuted believers around the world and for the spread of the gospel, here are some specifics on Mexico:
- Pray for believers to endure and bear witness to Christ in the face of pressure and persecution.
- Pray for the gospel to be proclaimed clearly. The overwhelming majority of Mexicans self-identify as Catholic (around 90%), while only around 8% identify as evangelicals out of a population of over 122 million people.
- Pray for the 32 unreached people groups consisting of over 1.4 million people.
- Pray for the 8 unreached people groups that are still unengaged, i.e., there is no church-planting strategy underway to reach them. This accounts for over 156,000 people.
- Pray for the reduction of organized crime and for criminals to be brought to justice.
Posted on July 28th, 2015 by Jonathan
You may have heard about the suicide bombing that killed 31 people in Turkey last week (Yahoo News). Those attacked were part of an activist group that had gathered to prepare an aid mission to the Syrian city of Kobane, just across the border from where they were in Suruc. The group’s aim was to help rebuild Kobane, war-torn after multiple advances from ISIS. Indicators suggest that the man who carried out the deadly attack had links to ISIS.
Such tragedies merit the attention of the Christian community as we seek to love our neighbors well. But the closing few lines of the Yahoo News article cited above, easy to gloss over, deserve our attention as well:
Suruc, once a centre of silk-making, is home to one of the biggest refugee camps in Turkey housing Syrians who have fled their country’s bloody four-year conflict.
The camp shelters about 35,000 refugees out of a total of more than 1.8 million refugees taken in by Turkey since 2011.
A steady exodus of refugees fleeing a four-year long civil war doesn’t naturally lend itself to headlines, but such numbers are alarming. We’ve talked before about the Syrian refugee crises, but let’s focus in on Turkey for a moment.
In large part due to the Syrian war, Turkey hosts more refugees than any other country in the world, the population still rising. There are over one million Syrians now in Turkey, and, as we’ve discussed, there are 18 unreached people groups in Syria. But this is a case of need on top of need, because, percentage-wise, Turkey is the least reached country in the world.
The weight of need in Turkey grows with each new refugee that’s registered there. Meanwhile, ISIS continues its advance along the Turkish border. Might it be that God is at work in the hearts of people there, using their sense of physical peril to open their eyes to the imperiled state of their eternal soul? In Acts 17, Paul says of the nations that God has “determined allotted periods and boundaries of their dwelling place that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him” (vv. 16-27). God is sovereignly orchestrating the migration of people groups that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Many of them are now in Turkey; who there will tell them what they’re looking for?
As Syrian refugees in Turkey lose their homes and their sense of safety, who will tell them of the divine comforter? As Turkish nationals anxiously peer into Syria, the rumblings the terror now at their doorstep, who will tell them about the reigning Prince of Peace? As ISIS militants visit the Turkish border, will they see anyone bearing witness to the God who is “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom 3:26)?
At the bottom of it all, the question is this: “How then 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?” (Rom 10:14)
According to the 2015 World Watch List, Syria is the fourth most hostile country in the world for Christians living there, in large part because of the growing presence and control of the self-proclaimed Islamic State. Christians are among those most marginalized and endangered, but between the Islamic State’s harsh implementation of sharia law and the ongoing violence of civil war, they aren’t the only only ones suffering. This is evidenced by the astounding number of Syrians forced to flee from their homes.
Some 6.5 million Syrians have been internally displaced, while around 4 million have been displaced to surrounding countries, and some still beyond. Numbers like these are so big that they can actually be ineffective. Rather than helping us feel the tragic weight of human suffering, we’re left to grapple with an intangible statistic. In reality, these numbers represent individual people. Most are lost, and many are unreached – without access to the gospel.
Of the over 20 million people in Syria (the vast majority of whom are Muslim), nearly 7.5 million are unreached. These unreached people span across 18 distinct people groups, people groups who may now be found in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq, and Europe.
All of this has a few huge implications for missions:
- Those hardest to reach with the good news remain in Syria. With the Islamic State taking over, people who remain are either silently hurting at their hands or complicit. “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim 1:15), so to sinners we must go.
- Whether in Syria or abroad, Christians are being persecuted. The Islamic State violently opposes all who don’t agree with their religious convictions, especially Christians. Believers still in Syria are likely to be on the run, anxiously hiding, or suffering abuse. Believers who have fled Syria are often homeless, unemployed, lacking basic needs, separated from family, and still religiously restricted… unfortunately, Iraq, Egypt, Turkey, and Jordan (the top destinations of Syrian exiles) are all also on the World Watch List. As fellow members of the body of Christ, we suffer when they do. Our love for them is evidence of our love for God and a testimony to the gospel for a watching world (1 Jn 4:7, Jn 13:35).
- Those displaced are uniquely situated to hear the gospel. For displaced unbelievers, not only are they more accessible than they would have been in Syria, but they’re also potentially more receptive to the message of Christ. They may be disenchanted with Islam (Daniel Abraham explained this clearly today on Tim Challies’ blog), they might be thinking more about eternity, and their awareness of their need for a Savior may be heightened.
As is often the case, the church hurts worst in the world’s darkest spots. As we look to Syria and see our believing brothers and sisters suffering and fleeing, let’s not be guilty of indifference. Let’s pray for them, support them, and advocate on their behalf, knowing that helping the Syrian church continue to shine brightly is one of the greatest services we can do for the dark world around it. Syrians today need the light of Jesus more than ever. So let’s also bring the good news of forgiveness and reconciliation to those who presently oppose God.
The people of Syria are in dire need. May we rise to the occasion.
Posted on June 23rd, 2015 by Radical
This message was delivered by David Platt at CROSS 2015. In it, he shares his own personal longing to go to the unreached while urging all believers to give their lives for the spread of the gospel among the unreached. Below are his three main points:
- Surrender to Christ regardless of the cost.
- Abide in Christ and follow where He leads.
- Trust in Christ, for He is the great reward.
Summer vacations are not the only trips in view when the last school bell rings and the neighborhood pool opens. For many of you, these things also mean that your summer mission trip is just around the bend. It’s good that you begin thinking about it now. You’d be well served not to wait until the week (or night) before to begin preparing for it.
So here are some simple ways to get ready, between now and the airport terminal.
Begin Praying Now. This should go without saying, but prayer must undergird any sort of ministry in which you engage. Why? Because you can’t change people; only God gives new birth. Your dependence on him for this should be evident in your prayer life. If you aren’t praying, not only may your missions goals be too low, but your trust may be misplaced.
Know Your Team. This may already be happening, but if you aren’t meeting with your team before you leave, try to get together with them soon. While praying together and planing together have enough merit on their own, meeting with your team will also help you discern personalities and roles. One of the greatest opponents to your effectiveness as a team is disunity, and spending some time together before you find yourselves in an unfamiliar and/or stressful context may help to prevent any potential quarreling.
Rehearse the Gospel. I was privileged to spend a summer on mission in East Africa. I had been warned that on-the-spot introductions to speak were common. As it turns out, that couldn’t have been more dead on. At one point I was actually handed a megaphone in a crowded market. Thankfully, part of that warning came with an encouragement to prepare a gospel presentation. I would encourage the same. Even if you’re not going to a culture where impromptu sermons and megaphone preaching is common, it would be still wise to prepare a clear and concise statement of the gospel that you could share at a moment’s notice.
Look to Local Partners. I doubt you are unacquainted with the mission of your local parters, but if you are, get to know their vision before you get there. Little could be more encouraging to a long-term missionary than showing genuine care for the ministry they’ve devoted their lives to. But more than this, doing your homework will also tell you how to best come alongside them in their work. On a short-term trip, your time is best spent serving the long-term partner since they’ll be there long after you leave. So take a back seat, follow their lead, and see what will actually serve them longterm (not just give your team the best experience). And as a side note, you can begin serving them before you go by asking them if there is anything you can bring them from home – like care packages from loved ones, books, and even snacks they cannot get in their local country.
Be Ready to Grow. Don’t substitute your personal walk with Lord for serving him on a mission trip. It’s incredibly easy to place all your focus on your team, the work you’re doing, the travel plans, and all the sights to see. In doing so, you neglect communion with the source of your power. You must proactively combat this tendency to forgo your daily devotions on the trip. So before you leave, come up with a basic plan for reading your Bible and prayer. Also, expect to learn and grow a lot through what you do and experience; it would be prudent to have some sort of journal in which to process your thoughts.
Plan for Change. Though flexibility is key on the mission field, being flexible is different than not having a plan. In fact, flexibility often requires more planning. When your in-country transportation is running two hours late, have a section of Scripture ready to begin (or continue) memorizing. If the ministry plans fall through for a day, have some sort of backup plan in place to encourage your teammates and/or local partners. If a more pressing need arises, don’t be so married to your original itinerary that you can’t adjust. Humbly serve according to the advice of trusted local leadership even if it diverges from your preconceived notion of service. And if something strange is placed on the dinner plate before you, it’s time for you to expand your palette.
Posted on May 7th, 2015 by Jonathan
With the death toll at well over 7,000 people and climbing, the tragic scale of the earthquake in Nepal is hard to put into words. Perhaps the sadness is more effectively captured in this vivid account of the continually blazing Katmandu funeral pyres than it is in a quantitative catalogue of casualties. Here’s a heartbreaking excerpt:
The family of Usha Shrestha gathered along the banks of the Bagmati River on Monday to bear her body down to the funeral pyres.
They carried her on a stretcher fashioned from green bamboo, her body wrapped in a lavender flowered sheet, a red-and-gold sari and a marigold cloth written with God’s name.
They dusted her with red powder and placed small, crumpled bills atop her chest. They laid her jewelry over her heart, roughly two days after it stopped beating.
A professional body burner stacked logs of sal wood, a teak-like timber, onto a small platform and laid packets of ghee, a clarified butter, amid the timbers to ensure the flames would take light. One by one, her three sons prostrated themselves at her feet, their weeping uncontained by the surgical masks stretched across their faces.
Then the eldest son performed the ultimate filial duty, laying a flaming stick upon his mother’s lips.
As the flames spread across her chest, the body burner heaped straw atop her corpse, sending bluish smoke billowing into the sky over the white stupas of the Pashupatinath temple.
Since Saturday evening, when the 45-year-old widow was crushed in her home by Nepal’s massive 7.8 earthquake, Hindu funeral pyres have been burning here almost around the clock. As of mid-Monday, nearly 300 bodies had been cremated, authorities at the temple said, more than six times the normal rate of roughly 15 to 20 per day. (The Chicago Tribune)
The report goes on to relate the perspective of a professional body burner in Katmandu. Though devastatingly sad, you should read the rest of it. And as you read it, be reminded of what is really going on as the funeral pyres smoke and smolder. David Platt was reminded of it during a visit there a couple of years ago:
I stood at the Bagmati River in South Asia where every day funerals are held and bodies are burned. It is the custom among these Hindu people when family or friends die to take their bodies within twenty-four hours to the river, where they lay them on funeral pyres and set the pyres ablaze. In so doing, they believe they are helping their friend of family member in the cycle of reincarnation. As I saw this scene before me, I stood in overwhelmed silence. For as I watched these flames overtake the bodies, I knew based on Scripture that I was witnessing at that moment a physical reflection of an eternal reality. Tears streamed down my face as I realized that most if not all of the people I was watching burn had died without ever hearing the good news of how they could have lived forever with God. (Counter Culture, 248-249)
As we look to Nepal, may we bear in mind the eternal state of souls who die without Christ. To only meet their needs with water, shelter, and medical attention is a travesty of a remedy. Without the gospel, the flames of funeral pyres are not the only fires that Nepal’s dead will face.
Hear David Platt address the current situation in Nepal on the latest Radical Together podcast episode: A Christ-Compelled Response to Nepal.
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