24,000 Neighbors

Recently, I did some rough calculations on our apartment complex. It’s divided into 5 phases with a total of 84 buildings! On average these buildings are about 30 stories high, and there are 3 units on each floor. If there are 3 people living in each apartment, my neighborhood has around 24,000 people living here…24,000. The town I grew up in has a population of about 1,400. (Maybe 1,500 on a Friday night for high school football.) This is an overwhelming number of people to be surrounded by, and it’s just one apartment community in a city with a population of 2 million.

When I walk along the river next to my community, see all of these buildings, and think about the 24,000 souls living here, it breaks my heart. I feel so incapable of making any measurable difference in a place where so many are blinded to the truth of the gospel. It reminds me of God and Abraham discussing Sodom and Gomorrah. Are there 50…45…40…30…20…10 righteous people in this community? Does God have a plan for these people? Is there any hope here?

Praise the Lord, God is working in this community.

God is faithful to grow and strengthen his church even when the task seems too big a burden to bear.

I know of a number of house churches in our community that are bravely worshipping God every week right in the heart of theseRead More »

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Weeping and Waiting

Our mouths they were filled, filled with laughter
Our tongues they were loosed, loosed with joy
Restore us, O Lord
Restore us, O Lord

Although we are weeping
Lord, help us keep sowing
The seeds of Your Kingdom
For the day You will reap them
Your sheaves we will carry
Lord, please do not tarry
All those who sow weeping will go out with songs of joy

The nations will say, “He has done great things!”
The nations will sing songs of joy
Restore us, O Lord
Restore us, O Lord


I had never heard this song before doing full-time ministry overseas. I’ve now heard it several times and on every occasion it’s accompanied by tears. I understand why it hasn’t caught on in America. It hasn’t got a catchy melody or clever lyrics. But the words of Psalm 126 speak deeply to those who have given their life to share the gospel in foreign countries.

The men and women who weep as they sing this song have given their life to working a country that is not their home.

They work within a language that is not their own.

They are burdened for people who have been blinded to the light of the gospel and live in oppressive darkness.

They talk about Jesus to the same families over and over and over again.

They travel to the same villages again and again praying that God would open ears, eyes, and hearts…and year after year there is little to no response.

They feel lonely.

They feel defeated.

They are burdened with the weighty seeds of the gospel, but they know that they are not the ones who can bring the harvest.

They have to wait.

They cling to the promises of God knowing that one day he will bring some of these people into his kingdom.

They look forward to this time of joy when all of their toil will amount to something. When they will sing songs of joy to God with all the other nations.

Pray and weep with these men and women that God might set the captives free.


Download here: “Psalm 126” (feat. Molly Parden) – by Bifrost Arts

Five Keys to Ministry in the Deep South

I’m always up for a good discussion on cross-cultural living, rarely does it hit as close to home as this article. Obbie Todd’s five points…

  1. Know their geography
  2. Know their loves
  3. Know their names
  4. Know their culture
  5. Know them

…are relevant in any culture – US, Middle East, East Asia. But having grown up in the South, Todd’s acceptance of LSU football was quite the challenge! If God had led me to Louisiana instead of East Asia, would I need to abandon my allegiance to my SEC alma mater?

In order to become “all things to all people,” almost certainly.

Read the entire article on the Southern Blog.

Religious Growth Projections – Islam

The Pew Research Center recently released projections on population growth from 2010-2015.

While the world’s population is projected to grow 35% in the coming decades, the number of Muslims is expected to increase by 73% – from 1.6 billion in 2010 to 2.8 billion in 2050. In 2010, Muslims made up 23.2% of the global population. Four decades later, they are expected to make up about three-in-ten of the world’s people (29.7%).

By 2050, Muslims will be nearly as numerous as Christians, who are projected to remain the world’s largest religious group at 31.4% of the global population.

This growth comes from several factors:

  1. Fertility – Muslim peoples typically have more children than any other religious group and being born into Islam make
    s one a Muslim.
  2. Large Youth Demographic – Muslims currently have the youngest median age of any religious group. As these young people start having children the growth rate accelerates.
  3. Location – Most Muslim groups are located in Africa and the Middle East. These areas are projected to have the largest growth in the coming years.

These growth factors are also highlighted by many religious groups, particularly Christians, losing numbers due to religious switching, a problem that is not so relevant to Islam.

Applying the Data

What does this mean for individual believers and churches in the 21st century?

  1. Get to know your neighbors. If you do not have Muslim neighbors or an Islamic center in your area, do not be surprised when you do. Reach out to your neighbors in kindess and gain some understanding. Be hospitable towards your neighbors. If you open up your life and home to them, then they will open up to you.
  2. Educate yourself and others. Try to understand Islamic culture and avoid conversations that are ignorant of truth. Understand the culture that Muslims come from so that you can speak truth into regular conversations. Better yet, learn from your Islamic neighbors about what they believe nd how it shapes their culture. Educate yourself on what is taboo to them, so that you can be respectful towards them. This may mean making sure you don’t serve them anything with pork or dressing more modestly than you normally would.
  3. Create bridges for the gospel. As you understand the Muslim worldview and the Muslim people around you, find ways to speak the gospel into their lives. Churches, realize who is in your local demographic and find ways welcome them.
  4. Be relational. Most Muslims come from a very welcoming and relational culture. You will need to make yourself available if they want to come over for an unannounced visit, or they expect you to stay at their house long after a meal is finished.

While the face of the world continues to change, the message of the gospel, and the commands of Jesus do not. Embrace all those aorund you with sacrificial love.


View the full report here.

Detailed observations on the growth of Islam can be found at pewresearch.org.

 

Serving

Post 5 of 5 on Principles of Cross-Cultural Servanthood

Serving is the ability to relate to people in such a way that their dignity as human beings is affirmed and they are more empowered to live God-glorifying lives.   Servanthood takes different forms, depending on the situation. That is why it can’t be legislated, formulated or scripted in any detail. It is, after all, an attitude that, when embedded within us, finds an appropriate way to express itself in every situation. Read More »

Understanding

Post 4 of 5 on Principles of Cross-Cultural Servanthood

Working in a cross-cultural setting comes with so many challenges.  Even simple things like shopping, cooking, and running errands become exhaustingly complicated chores. In your home country, these things can almost be accomplished on “autopilot,” but in your new country, you are mentally invested in every outing, conversation, and monetary transaction. Along with mental fatigue, you have to endure a culture that in many ways is very abrasive to your own cultural background. Many days our natural fight or flight mechanisms want to kick in. But getting angry or running away Read More »

Trust

Post 2 of 5 on Principles of Cross-Cultural Servanthood

Trust is the ability to build confidence in a relationship so that both parties believe the other will not intentionally hurt them but will act in their best interest. First off, trust takes time. Trust requires emotional risk. Opening up to someone else is done with the hope that they will still be accepting of you while keeping personal matters secret. You can never make someone trust you, because trust must be built from the other person’s perspective. Trust must be continually and carefully nurtured.Read More »

Openness and Acceptance

Post 1 of 5 on Principles of Cross-Cultural Servanthood

Those involved in cross-cultural ministry are accustomed to thinking long-term. Everything takes a little longer, moves a little slower. If your desire is to serve others in a cross-cultural setting, you cannot just dive in without understanding the people. But understanding the people that you are ministering to is a life-long process, so where does someone begin? The next three articles outline the six principles that need to be practiced when entering into a new culture.Read More »