Imagine what it is like to be part of an unreached people group. Few of your people have ever heard the Good News about Jesus, and likely don’t know a Christian who can tell them. Your people group is probably Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist, with religious practices and traditions deeply embedded in your culture and identity.
When you think of Christianity, you picture a western religion and all the negative things you’ve seen in the media from the west: loose morals, alcohol consumption, violence. You shudder at those things and are thankful for your daily prayers and other rituals. Even so, you don’t feel peace from God. Imagine, what barriers or obstacles might you face to becoming a true follower of Jesus?
A couple of years ago, a missionary was visiting some new followers of Jesus, deep inside a Muslim people group. He was the first Westerner they had met because they had been discipled by another Muslim background believer from their own people group.
As the missionary sat down and visited with these believers, he was intrigued. He asked, what did they call themselves? Did they identify as Christians? Or as something else, such as a Muslim follower of Jesus?
Shocked at the suggestion, one of the new believers exclaimed, “Can a Christian follow Jesus?!” You see, he had learned to love and obey God through studying the Bible. Maintaining his cultural identity, he was a true disciple of Jesus but did not identify his newfound beliefs with Christianity, which was considered by his people group to be the “immoral ‘religion’ of the west.”
Too often in missions and the church, we expect new believers to take steps beyond what the Bible prescribes for true disciples of Jesus. Sometimes that can feel like they are being asked to become more like us, rather than more like Jesus.