It was 10:30 on a Tuesday morning and I’d just finished sending of a batch of emails for work. My coffee was cold and as I was preparing to head upstairs for a refill, I noticed I’d received a message. 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 office in rural America, a typical small 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.
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 two hundred and fifty 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 taken. Globalization and modern technology, however, have brought rapid change to our world; and with it, a need to re-examine the Great Commission for our time.
Doug Birdsall says, “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 3 billion people in our world today that missiologists identify as unreached. They are from people groups that are less than 2% 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 the 17th chapter of Acts reminds us of God’s sovereignty in this when he said, “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: both in person, and virtually. 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.
I was able to connect with Omar because of Embassy.
I called Omar that Tuesday morning and we spent forty-five minutes getting to know one another, sharing stories of our children’s exploits and mischievousness, 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 those questions about my own life of faith.
Omar 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 the step of volunteering. Millions of Muslims are still waiting for an authentic Christian witness. Will you answer the call?