Missions: The Current Status

The background for the work of mission to the unreached would seem depressing. In 1900, the world had 1.6 billion people, half of whom had no reasonable chance to hear the Gospel in their lifetime. By 2000, there was an appearance of improvement: nearly two-thirds of the world now have a reasonable chance. But: the world’s population had grown to over 6 billion (and further, to over 7 billion by the end of 2018). In terms of people, in 1900 about 880 million had no chance to hear about Jesus; this year, that number had grown to over 2.1 billion—and it is still growing. The Church is alive and well, but the number of people with no chance to hear about Jesus is increasing faster than our effort to reach them.

This is why Beyond, and many of our partners, focus on disciple-making movements: throughout history, these kinds of movements have rapidly brought large numbers of people into the Kingdom. They grow faster than population growth, filling up whole peoples and spilling over into nearby places and cultures. And in the last few years we have begun to see the “first fruits” of these movements.

Let’s be clear: this fruit is not ours—it’s God’s. Only God starts movements. He uses us, so we place teams among the unreached who are doing everything they can to be “ready” when the Spirit blows, calling people to Him.

This year, Beyond saw one major movement double in size from nearly 17,000 churches in 2017 to well over 35,000 churches in 2018. We’ve seen over 20 new candidates join us, and placed several new teams in the field (with others heading to the field in the first quarter of next year). Many of the existing teams have seen 1st and 2nd generations of fruit, and some more—so although they are not quite yet at “movement” stage, they are seeing hopeful progress.

Around the world, Beyond and our friends and partners are part of broader global 24:14 Coalition focused on starting movements in every unreached people and place. The movements, networks, agencies and other groups are likewise seeing significant growth. At the recent Ethne conference, reports were heard from:

  • The Middle East, where networks have seen thousands of new believers and churches form in the midst of strife and warfare
  • Across Central Asia and Eurasia, where one network has seen a movement of over 8,000 churches established among former Muslims
  • Across North Africa, new works are being prepared in very difficult to reach areas
  • In the Horn of Africa, dozens of movements have seen more than a half million new believers come to faith
  • In South Asia, in numerous movements, we are aware of more than a million house groups currently active
  • In Southeast Asia, over a million believers are in nearly 100 sustained movements

In all, we have documented more than 660 movements, with nearly 70 million believers. While this is an amazing sight, we know that there is much left to do. These 70 million believers represent just a little over 2% of the unevangelized world. And even now, significant persecution, restriction, and pushback is arising. Many movements saw martyrs this year.

With our partners, we are earnestly working toward the day when every place and people has a team of apostolic laborers working to ensure every individual has the chance to hear the Good News in their lifetime. Yes, we are spurred on by the mysterious promise in Matthew 24:14 – but even more, we are energized by the desire to see the light of God brought to people who sit in great darkness, and see their lives transformed by hope, faith and joy.

The Haji’s Gift

It was the *Woodhouse family’s second year serving in Indonesia, and their first Christmas living in the house they would rent for the next 18 years. Everything was going really well. They had found a home to rent in a mostly Muslim neighborhood and were on good terms with their landlord, Mr. Haji, who lived right next door. Everyone called him “Mr. Haji” because he had made the pilgrimage to Mecca. He considered the Woodhouses to be part of his own family. In fact, he had instructed all the neighborhood kids to be nice to the whole family or else they would answer to him!

The neighborhood was the kind where everyone knew everyone else’s business. Having settled in, the Woodhouses employed some local help to work in their home. This assured that many details of their lives became part of the neighborhood’s interesting news. The Woodhouse family had already shared that they were followers of Jesus, but soon it was known that they did not own any dogs or eat bacon, pork, or ham, things considered “haram” (forbidden) to Muslims.

These considerations were very intentional on the part of the Woodhouses. They did not want to cause any offense or relational distance with their Muslim neighbors. Knowing Indonesians already believed Christianity to be a “Westerners” religion, the Woodhouse family desired that everything they did and said point to Christ and not merely to religious trappings.

During the Christmas season this meant no Christmas tree in the Woodhouse home. The four Woodhouse children were perfectly fine with this because they had never had a Christmas tree. As Mr. Woodhouse put it, “I never found a tree helpful for pointing myself or anyone else toward thoughts of the incarnation.”

The absence of a tree had been noticed, however. And one December morning a knock at the door revealed Mr. Haji bearing a gift. “I saw you didn’t have a Christmas tree, so I wanted to bring you one.” The Woodhouse family graciously accepted the little, potted evergreen and set it in a place of honor in their front room where neighborhood visitors could admire it. To this day, the now-grown Woodhouse children enjoy the irony that their first Christmas tree came from an Indonesian Haji!

*pseudonym

A Caroling Calamity

When Sanjay* and some fellow followers of Christ decided to celebrate the Christmas season with caroling, they knew to be discreet. After all, they lived in northern India, where persecution of Christians is an everyday threat. Casually going into the streets singing to random strangers was not an option. No, they purposed to only go to the homes of friends like Raja. Raja was not yet a follower of Jesus but he was regularly participating in one of the local Bible studies. Surely it would be okay to sing outside his house? They assembled at Raja’s home and had begun singing when the front door flew open and a man shot into their midst. It was Raja’s older brother, Charan.

With a machete-like knife in his hand, the irate man lunged into the crowd of carolers. Charan first destroyed the drum they were playing and then began slashing wildly toward the people. He got close enough to cut one man’s shirt, but thankfully no blood was drawn. The carolers quickly left and reported this incident to the police. Some officers accompanied them back to Raja’s home, but by the time they arrived, Charan had fled. After the officers left, Sanjay and the others prayed for Raja and his whole family.

About one week had passed when Sanjay’s phone rang. It was Charan. He explained that he had turned himself into the police and asked if Sanjay could come down to the station. As soon as Sanjay arrived, Charan bent down, touched Sanjay’s feet three times (a gesture of respect) and said, “I am very sorry. You are a good person.” God had been at work in the lives of Raja’s family, and, because of this incident, all of Raja’s family except Charan decided to become Christians!

This Christmas, whenever you hear your favorite carols, please be praying for God to open the hearts of those who are violently opposed to him. Pray they would accept Christ and become conduits for many others to receive him.

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!

Let Earth receive her King.

Let every heart prepare Him room.

(*pseudonym)

Navigating Difficult Conversations with Family

The Christmas holidays can often be made more stressful by difficult family members.  Sometimes we gird ourselves up just knowing that that person will be at the family gathering. Ibu Sayang in Indonesia knows how we feel . . .

When “Uncle” called Ibu Sayang to his home for a family gathering, she had no idea of the storm she was going to walk into. Questions about her faith pelted her from every direction. Guided by the Holy Spirit, Sayang was able to share about how she struggled with finding truth and meaning in Islam despite having been on the Hajj (a spiritual trip to Mecca) twice and having earnestly sought God as a Muslim. She shared how, in her frustration, she had cried out one night, “God! Please reveal to me your truth!” Boldly, she told her family of the man with white hair dressed in white robes and a golden sash who appeared in her dreams that night. In his hands this man held a book on which was a large cross with her name written below. He handed her the book, and Ibu Sayang awoke. Immediately, she knew that the man was Isa al Masih (Jesus the Messiah) and that truth was found in him. She confidently explained that the dream was the reason she had removed her traditional Muslim clothing and claimed to be a follower of Jesus.

After hearing all she had to say, Ibu Sayang’s uncle, who is a respected leader in the Islamic community, declared, “If I receive a vision from Allah as you did, I and my whole family will receive Isa al Masih!”

Sayang and her teammates are rejoicing over this announcement and praying for this very thing. They are also in awe of the ready answers the Holy Spirit provided during this tense encounter. Aware that she can only plant seeds while salvation belongs to the Lord, Ibu Sayang has already made an appointment to go back and share more with her family!

As you prepare to meet with your extended families over the upcoming holiday season, please be praying for your Christian brothers and sisters around the world who will be meeting with family and sharing with them why they have chosen to follow Christ. Pray also for Ibu Sayang’s uncle; that the vision he has asked for, he will have.