Over the next month, I will be blogging on my recent visit to Africa, Egypt and India. As a disclaimer, the reason I haven’t written yet is because I’ve been under a publishing deadline. The first four pieces (more to be added later) of my Missional Engagement Series are completed and sent! Thank God. My life had virtually ground to a halt, outside my work at Sandals.
As a first blog about the trip, I thought it fitting to share overall “mission” impressions from being in these religiously distinctive countries, and six flights through the Middle Eastern hub, Dubai. Although I have a resume of international travel, there was something evocative about touching three regions, like a stone skipping across a pond. It surfaced sentiments that I might not have felt as strongly if we were merely visiting one locale. Be forewarned, these impressionistic thoughts are not groundbreaking or particularly profound. In fact, they may appear only too obvious. But I wanted to share viscerally about the big picture, before I get into the nitty-gritty subject matter.
First, there’s a big diverse world out there to reach! As Christians, it’s so easy to live our lives in the U.S., and think we are the center of it all. Being in the 10/40 Window for three weeks has a way of shifting perspective. Although, undoubtedly, the world keeps an eye on America and the West, they see the world from a different colored lens. One thing that struck me as a formidable barrier was how much religious belonging was reinforced in a multiplicity of ways: family, cultural identity, names, dress, media, laws, customs, events, ideological concepts, etc. How challenging it is to break through—when so many strands interweave to create their sense of identity.
Second, Christianity is trumped by other religious ideologies in sizable sections of the planet. There is much to be said about each sector. Ahead, I will write descriptively about my interactions with church leaders, and deep personal conversations with a Muslim and Hindu. Despite globalization, both of these individuals had never read anything from the Bible. Zippo! In sum, Islam rules the Middle East with the iron fist of absolutes, leaving people unassured, spiritually empty and fearful. In all sectors, I would argue that a form of religious racism exists as well. I will explain why I say that in an upcoming post. And in all of this, the Christian mission seems to be a step or two behind. Perhaps, not in every context, but overall, we are lagging more than we should be. As an example, our key liaison person, who has ministered in India the past twenty-six years, said that the church is three decades remiss from having sound missiological understanding of that region.
Third, the return of Christ, when it happens, is going to majorly shock the world! I know that sounds like the no brainer thing to say, but bounding to-and-fro into these parts, I got a sense of this like I have never had before. I could see it happening. The truth of Christ remains veiled in spiritual blindness. Islam, with its “Jesus-didn’t-even-die-on-the-cross” dismissal dominates the Middle East. 97 percent of one billion people in India seek release through self-absconding their bad Karma. Overwhelming in its scope, it’s enough to break your heart—weep and mourn.
In response to the first three observations, I offer a final impression:
Fourth, multiplication/influence training should be our main thrust. Getting the gospel to root and spread as pervasively as possible should be our main goal. Our efforts must be focused on creating this type of projection from the indigenous peoples where natural influence already exists. Complementary to the multiplication movements that are taking place through relationship-connected discovery groups, soul whispering, my relational-oriented paradigm of gospel communication, works everywhere. Because of the way the paradigm is dynamically built to begin the conversation from where people are, and discern a corresponding path, the leaders of the churches loved what I taught. In the post-conference review, the African pastors asked me to return to speak more on the subject of evangelism. One pastor said, “Those were my favorite talks!” Although we addressed other dimensions of the church, most of the training focused on personal and group dynamic influence within a broader multiplication model. God is at work! It will be exciting to hear what he does through these churches this next year.
Next up: My Fight Through Fear