Mars, Modern Idols, and More | News Briefs

Missions-Catalyst-no-tagline_largePolyprismatic-Tiled-World-Map-800px“Without faith in Christ, where does one look for salvation? Read on. But be warned. This edition is a little odd.”

  1. EARTH: Elon Musk’s Salvation Plan for Humanity
  2. GERMANY: Six Modern Idols in the Land of the Reformation
  3. CENTRAL ASIA: “I Want to Know What I am Saying”
  4. USA: JESUS Film Project Introduces Gift Cards
  5. SOUTH ASIA: How God Is Using One Elderly Man, Serving Via Skype

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Greetings,

“Beat it into their heads continually,” he said. To what did Martin Luther refer? Nothing less than “the doctrine upon which the church stands or falls,” sola fide, faith alone. Five hundred years after the Reformation, the church continues to stand on this faith, and it can deliver prisoners from works-based cults (see this video or this one).

David Platt writes, “Salvation by faith alone is the best news we could possibly hear or deliver. If we lose that, we lose everything. So let us rejoice in that salvation, and let sola fide ring out from our lips in the Church and among the lost until the day when such faith finally becomes sight.”

Without faith in Christ, where does one look for salvation? Read on. But be warned. This edition is a little odd.

blessings,
Pat

EARTH: Elon Musk’s Salvation Plan for Humanity

Source: God Reports, October 3, 2017

SpaceX founder and Tesla co-founder Elon Musk is not pinning his hopes on God’s plan for a new Heaven and a new Earth.

He is offering an astonishing and remarkably detailed Plan B: to escape the confines of Earth before the apocalypse arrives, colonize Mars, and eventually move out to other planets and stellar bodies in the far reaches of our solar system.

Musk sees two paths diverging in the years ahead. “History is going to bifurcate along two directions: One path is we stay on Earth forever, and then there will be some eventual extinction event—I don’t have an immediate doomsday prophecy—but eventually … there will be some doomsday event,” he declared.

“The alternative is to become a space-faring civilization and a multi-planet species, which I hope you agree that is the right way to go.”

He delivered these remarks in a 63-minute talk, “Making Humans a Multi-planetary Species” before the 67th International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico on September 27.

From a secular perspective, it might be considered one of the most momentous talks in human history. The audience greeted Musk like a rock star, interrupting his remarks on numerous occasions with boisterous cheers as they began to grasp this daring plan for humanity’s future.

His plans are so detailed and so far along in the implementation, they cannot be dismissed as the wild musings of someone obsessed with sci-fi fantasy. No, Musk is well on his way to achieving his objective, bankrolled initially by contracts with NASA and his own billions.

» Read full story.

» Watch an interview on TED; Mars plan discussed at the 30-minute mark.

GERMANY: Six Modern Idols in the Land of the Reformation

Source: International Mission Board, October 9, 2017

Idol worship is alive and well in Germany, the land of the Reformation, as well as in cities across Western Europe. Often idol worship isn’t as obvious as it would be in a Buddhist temple in Thailand or Hindu temple in Kuala Lumpur, but it’s no less enslaving.

The apostle Paul described those who worship idols as having “exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and [having] worshiped and served something created instead of the Creator, who is praised forever” (Romans 1:25).

Take a walk through Frankfurt, Germany, and discover some of the idols tempting people here.

» Read full story. Unfortunately, you might recognized some of these idols. They are worshipped in many other contexts as well.

» You might appreciate the new documentary, A Return to Grace: Luther’s Life and Legacy. Or read how Africa’s “reverse missionaries” are bringing Christianity back to the United Kingdom (Quartz Africa).

CENTRAL ASIA: “I Want to Know What I am Saying”

Source: Operation Mobilization, October 7, 2017

Islam is considered part of one’s cultural identity in much of Central Asia. However, many people leave religious practice to the elderly. Often, when people turn 50, they begin searching for forgiveness of sins. For Muslims, that means going to the mosque.

Aslan’s mother was no exception. An older woman looking for spiritual peace, she had started attending a mosque and reciting Islamic prayers. But she wanted a translation of the Arabic prayers. “I am [Central Asian], and I want to know what I am saying to God,” she told a Muslim religious leader.

During that time, some relatives living in a nearby city approached Aslan’s mother. “We found a group of people who are reading, worshipping, and praying in our language. Can we go and see these people?”

The discovery of that Central Asian church transformed Aslan’s family. His mother, touched by prayer and teaching she could understand, became a believer. Over the next seven years, the rest of the family followed.

» Full story illustrates how Scripture and related literature distribution is making a difference in Central Asia.

» You might also appreciate and want to share the following articles about helping people discover God’s Word for themselves: Frontiers workers involved in a Bible discussion group explain Why We Stopped Leading; a Pioneers worker in West Africa often asks, Can I Tell You a Story?

USA: JESUS Film Project Introduces Gift Cards

Source: Mission Network News, October 13, 2017

JESUS Film Project has a new strategy to help share the gospel—gift cards. While there are many ways to share the JESUS Film, a whole new door has opened for it.

“The gift card allows you to give this to someone. One of my favorite ways of doing that is somebody who’s helped me, an attendant at a gas station, a waitress, a waiter, somebody who’s given me some service,” JESUS Film Project’s Ray Rohland shares.

“I say, ‘You were very kind to me, can I give you a gift?’ And, 99.9% of the time they’ll say yes. When they get the card, the card has a QR code on it or a URL, and they can follow those links, put in a promotion code, and they’re left on a page that says to them, ‘What language do you speak?’”

From here, individuals have to opportunity to download or stream the JESUS Film in their heart language. The JESUS Film (classic version) is currently in 1,542 languages. The JESUS Film gift cards are meant to help reach the non-English speakers living in the United States and Canada.

» Read full story.

SOUTH ASIA: How God Is Using One Elderly Man, Serving Via Skype

Source: Email from Missions Catalyst reader, October 2017

For the past 14 months or so, we have been having weekly meetings at our house, very small meetings, and almost every week we get an update from an elderly gentleman (he is 86), who has been holding Skype meetings with a congregation in a remote area of South Asia. He preaches, the pastor translates, and exciting things are happening. These happen once or twice every week.

During the past year, all unadvertised (except by the Spirit), the congregation has been reaching up to new villages in that area, and each week many people are healed of all kinds of disease—diabetes, heart issues, blindness, deafness, demonic oppression or possession—and many hundreds are coming to Christ. Over the course of the past year, about 5,000 people have been become Christians, a few at first, then more as the momentum accelerates. This is just the count reached directly by the core church, not those indirectly reached.

Sometimes, God has prepared a person ahead of time—not yet a Christian—who has told the people in the village that a messenger of the truth was coming; in one village where that happened, almost the entire village, about 1,500 people became Christians. Another time is was “only” about 250.

The meetings are not advertised—people would be arrested and killed in that case—but, like those Brother Andrew discusses in God’s Smuggler, arranged as seeking people get together, being led by the Spirit.

I am very encouraged by these ongoing reports, and felt led to spread the encouragement. After all, Peter does the same: “…encourage one another with these words.” Indeed, the Lord’s coming is nigh, when the word of God is being preached to all the nations, even remote villages in difficult-to-reach countries.

» Note: As Christians commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation of Christianity in northwest Europe, says Steve Bell of Interserve, let’s not airbrush the supernatural out of the biblical narrative.

Who Will Go? | Practical Mobilization

Missions-Catalyst-no-tagline_large

goers

Who Will Go? Six Things You Can Do to Find Potential Missionaries in Your Midst

By Shane Bennett

Imagine this scenario: Your pastor stands on the stage Sunday morning and says, “Everyone point to the most missions-minded person in the building!” Do they look at you? Are fingers pointing your way? The odds may be pretty good if you are a Missions Catalyst reader.

Here’s why I want to paint that picture in your imagination: I suspect there are people in your fellowship whom God has in mind to serve his kingdom in a strategic, cross-cultural way. And I have a hunch that you may be an instrumental part of their activation.

If there were people at your church God was calling to long-term service overseas, how would you know? What might you do?

1. Pray.

Since this is always God’s work before it’s our work, prayer leads the way. Try this: Set a daily alarm on your phone for 10:02am. When it goes off, take a moment to pray in line with the instructions Jesus gave in Luke 10:2, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

Ask God to raise up workers from your church. Then listen for any nudging he gives about particular people. Pray for your pastor, staff, and missions leaders. Pray for particular individuals in whom you see long-term potential.

2. Search among the servers.

This is a little dicey, I know, because most of us operate with a scarcity mentality. (It’s not just me, is it?) I’ll never forget my former pastor saying to me, as God began a fresh global move in our church, “You can take whoever you want, but don’t take Brenda!” Brenda was his personal assistant. And, you guessed it, she was the first to move to Central Asia with her family!

Fact is, few people step into overseas work from sitting the pew and nothing more. Faithful service leads to more faithful service. The future long-term workers at your church are presently engaged in vital ministry. As God calls them out, there will be loss—for them personally and for the programs they’re serving.

I see no way around this. So we must tread carefully, leading with humility and empathy, never implying that “real service” is missions.

3. Launch some intro events.

This is the church equivalent to a fisherman chumming the water. Sponsor a cool event, or start a helpful study and see who shows up. The Embark Study from Frontiers is a crazy simple intro to God’s work among Muslims. Crescent Project’s Bridges program either as a seminar (which I would love to do for you) or as a small-group study with DVDs can help normal people shed their fear of Muslims with a little bit of knowledge and some comfort-zone-expanding homework.

I’m sure you can find similar intros bringing biblical insight but focused on reaching out to other populations. The idea is to provide a baby step of information and activity.

4. Take people to visit a Perspectives class.

Still hands down the best missions mobilization education going, Perspectives has been a huge factor in many long-termers’ stories. This week I’m kicking around Catania, Sicily with a great team of people exploring longer-term investment. Perspectives is a common and significant thread in the lives of most of the group.

Once people have a taste of the course, they’re going to want to attend. Lobby your church to fund a handful of scholarships, then invite people you choose to use them. Even better, consider hosting a course at your church! Enlist those you have your eyes on to help you coordinate the class.

5. Take a little excursion.

A tour of a local Hindu temple or a day at a refugee apartment complex will help potential goers get their feet wet. It will also provide a small chance for you to consider if you have your eyes on the right people. Brief forays like this can lead to longer domestic and overseas trips, building cross-cultural capacity and smoothing rough edges.

6. Connect them to people who can place them.

One of the best gifts a mobilizer can give to a potential goer is connection and open doors to people who can help them. You have some idea what organizations excel in given areas. You have a sense of what pitfalls and biases to be aware of. A timely introduction to a team leader or agency staff might significantly accelerate the process for a would-be goer.

Conclusion

Fair warning: Put these things into practice and you’ll run the risk of people saying about you, “God loves you and [your name here] has a wonderful plan for your life!” I don’t much care for that statement when it’s applied to me, but I’m not going to simply sit on the couch to avoid it.

Most of us are designed by biology and guided by our faith to operate best in community. And that means in part that we do better with trusted friends who encourage us, who will say, “Yes, I believe this nudging you’re feeling is from God.” Or, more radically, “Have you ever considered kingdom work in an unreached culture? I see potential in you.”

You don’t know God’s will for a particular person, but you have a sense of what he’s up to in the world. If you think someone in your church could play a part, take a risk and let them know.

» I’d love to hear what you’ve done to help people in your church become goers. Would you take a moment right now and share your good ideas and practices? Posting a comment on this Google doc will make your thoughts available to us all.

7. Bonus Tip

Here’s a final way to find long-term cross-cultural candidates at your church: Make them from scratch! Build them from a young age. Bring your kids to work with me and some refugees next year in a US city.

Granted, there’s enough hurricane clean-up to keep most of our youth groups busy for the next 18 months. Should God give you grace for it, though, I’d love to talk to you about a week-long, well-led, local-church-partnered short term that blesses refugees and equips your kids to tell stories of Jesus to people from all over the world, even the world two streets over from their house.

Yikes, I guess I do have a wonderful plan for your life!

» Learn more.

World News Briefs

Missions-Catalyst-no-tagline_largeMissions Catalyst News Briefs 10.04.17

  1. MYANMAR: Update on Rohingya Persecution
  2. BAHRAIN: Arab State Declares Religious Tolerance
  3. MIDDLE EAST: How Ministry Has Changed
  4. SOUTH ASIA: God Uses Ordinary Women to Grow Churches
  5. TURKEY: Andrew Brunson, Political Hostage

Greetings,

This past week the Kurds of Iraq and the Catalonians of Spain voted for independence. The Myanmar government clearly wants the Rohingya people gone. Racism persists in America, and Europeans (and others) fear the influx of refugees. Is peaceful pluralism even possible in our fallen world?

Those who worship tolerance believe we can all learn to get along, but the evidence suggests otherwise. Listen to Tim Keller’s take on why the Church is uniquely equipped to live and thrive in a pluralistic society. For a good example, watch a Palestinian and a Jew share the stage at Lausanne (six-minute video).

Wonder how diverse your own neighborhood is? This USA interactive map can help. (Thanks to the Space Informatics Lab of the University of Cincinnati.)

One more thing: If you have not ordered a copy of the 15-Day Hindu World Prayer Guide, consider getting the 32-page downloadable PDF for just US$2.50 and using it to pray for the world’s more than one billion Hindus October 8-22. The Hindu festival of lights, Diwali, takes place during this period.

blessings,
Pat

“Diversity may be the hardest thing for a society to live with, and perhaps the most dangerous thing for a society to be without.”
— William Sloane Coffin Jr.

MYANMAR: Update on Rohingya Persecution

rohingya - Open DoorsSource: Open Doors, September 19, 2017

A few weeks ago, we reported about the most persecuted minority in the world—the Rohingya Muslims. This group is continually denied basic rights and treated as illegal.

The word “genocide” has been attached to the situation as the situation worsens with Rohingyas fleeing to Bangladesh.

For generations, Rohingya Muslims have called Myanmar home, but now, their government seems to be systematically purging them.

Since our last report, the estimated number of Rohingyas that have fled to Bangladesh has risen from at least 123,000 to more than 400,000.

» Read full story.

» Also see an article explaining local history and including a good map of Burma’s ethnic groups (Al Jazeera), a 36-minute documentary (Channel 4 News), a moving photo essay (CNN), an article about the also-persecuted Rohingya Hindus (Foreign Policy Magazine), and, finally, a Christian website dedicated to praying for the Rohingya (Pray 4 Ro).

BAHRAIN: Arab State Declares Religious Tolerance

Source: World Watch Monitor, September 21, 2017

The King of Bahrain has sought to promote his country as a global champion of religious tolerance, with a declaration that advocates freedom of religion for all and rejects extremism.

In the Bahrain Declaration, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa “unequivocally reject[s] compelled observance.”

The one-page pledge, which was co-sponsored by the Jewish US-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, also calls for the condemnation of terrorism, of stirring up extremism, of suicide bombing, and of sexual slavery.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the Center’s associate dean and social action head, told World Watch Monitor that Muslim, Christian, and Jewish scholars had looked over the king’s text before it was published. He added that it was the first such declaration by the head of an Arab state. “We hope to take this text and get sign-offs from leaders around the world of all faiths,” he said, adding that the king had also pledged to build a center akin to the Wiesenthal Museum of Tolerance.

» Full story points out that this declaration stops short of specifically stating that Muslims can leave Islam for another religion.

» Also read Saudi Arabia Agrees to Let Women Drive (New York Times).