NORTH AFRICA: The Little Things

Source: Operation Mobilization, January 16, 2015

Small successes are marked with big celebrations in a therapy center for handicapped children in a North African country.

“If a child shows a little movement somewhere, it means the brain is generating new cells,” explained “Alex,” the co-field leader. “It can take months to see one little improvement.”

Therapists who have been working with the children over time see the tiniest twitch and recognize the months of preparation behind the movement. But other people easily miss it.

Church planting in this country is the same. “We miss [the movement] with believers and with non-believers,” said Alex. “Someone sits with you. You have a conversation and [recognize] there’s something happening here. Then there’s nothing again for another two months. You can easily miss it and give up with this person, or you can slowly continue on, and God will bring the fruit.”

Some workers have been in the country for over 10 years without seeing a single person come to faith. Work is still in the pioneering stage with church planting efforts.

Here, planting churches is the difference between microwaving and marinating, according to Alex. “We from the West are so quick in everything. We come to the Arab world, and it’s different. Things seem to take forever… There are no short cuts, no quick results.”

» Read full story. See also another recent OM story, this one about ministering in the Arabian Peninsula: Marriage Changes Everything.

FRANCE: Tragedy Leaves Parisians Open to the Gospel

Source: Eurasia Stories, International Mission Board, January 15, 2015

Christian workers living among the Muslims of Paris were surprised during [last] week’s Bible distribution as non-Muslim Parisians were the ones to stop for a spiritual discussion.

“We usually have many (Muslims) who stop and want to engage us in conversation, but that was not the case on Saturday,” said [a Christian worker] ministering among the Muslim immigrants of Paris.

This new openness by native Parisians comes on the heels of [the January 7] terrorist tragedy targeting the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a secular satirical newspaper famous for its cartoon depictions of Muhammad, and a kosher supermarket. A total of 20 people, including the three gunmen, were killed in the attacks. Al Qaeda of Yemen (AQAP) has claimed responsibility.

France is a secular state that doesn’t care much for religion of any kind. Charlie Hebdo is a shining beacon of that secularism, using paper and ink to mock, scrutinize, and defame anything considered sacred.

The Parisians who stopped to receive a Bible were young adults, and this gives the workers hope. “We pray that an openness to the gospel will be the description of this upcoming generation.”

» Read full story. Consider joining a campaign launched before the Charlie Hebdo events, The Pray for France Challenge.

» You might appreciate another article from a related IMB source, 13 Things Mission-Minded People Do Differently that Set Them Apart.

The Power of Slacktivism

Illustration: I Like Facebook by Caris Tsevis, on Flikr (Creative Commons).

The Power of Slacktivism: Inviting Thousands to Take their Next Step

By Shane Bennett

I love to help people take baby steps. You know, like moving from “I truly detest foreigners” to “I’m not terribly fond of foreigners.” That’s a win! Granted, it’s a small step in a journey like the one from here to Saturn, but it’s a step.

I think that’s why I’m a fan of “slacktivism.” You’ve heard of it, eh? It’s a made-up word, combining “slacker,” a person who avoids work or effort, and “activism,” vigorous campaigning to bring about political or social change. I love Wikipedia’s take on slacktivism:

“The word is usually considered a pejorative term that describes ‘feel-good’ measures, in support of an issue or social cause, that have little or no practical effect other than to make the person doing it take satisfaction from the feeling they have contributed.”

So you click, like, share, or retweet, but you don’t really do anything. Or at least so it seems.

Three Reasons to Give This a Try

I would like to see us, those who carry a torch for the nations, provide a gazillion opportunities for the people in our networks to like, share, and retweet. Here’s why:

1. It works.

Consider the biggest slacktivist campaign so far, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Despite the stunning observations that not everyone donated, that the campaign wasted clean water so much of the world desperately needs, and that money spent on ice and such might have been given to ALS research instead, and you’ll find this equally stunning point. You probably already know it. Donations to ALS research rose from the typical US$3 million average to over $100 million! I don’t know about you, but I can come up with a plan or two that would benefit from a 3000% increase in funding!

2. Baby steps (can) lead to bigger steps.

To be honest, this point is debatable. A frequently cited study on slacktivism questions whether or not clicking, liking, and sharing actually lead to donating and volunteering. I know my own journey toward commitment to the world looked more like tip-toeing into the pool than cannon-balling into the deep end. But some people will take the plunge. I certainly want to pitch opportunities for people to move to Karachi. But I also want to help thousands of people take their next step, however small, toward blessing the nations.

Sometimes that step is as simple as liking a status, nodding, and thinking, “Yes, this is the kind of thing I’m into.”

3. Big nets catch more fish.

While the work of clicking “like” on a Facebook post will not change the world, it does help spread the word. And as awareness spreads, the likelihood of connecting with someone who is ready to take action increases. As Caitlin Dewey, writing for the Washington Post, says,

“Despite the oft-repeated claim that awareness does nothing, it almost always does something—something small, perhaps, but something measurable.”

Four Things to Do

So how can we put this into action?

1. Offer easy ways to respond.

Commenting on the 2014 Cone Communications Digital Activism Study, Alexis Petru says,

“Organizations should still continue to offer individuals more passive online actions, including ‘liking’ and ‘sharing’ content, but they should also suggest more action-oriented activities like giving feedback and committing to change their behavior. The survey data demonstrates that most Americans want to do more to help their favorite causes, Cone Communications said, but they need organizations to channel this desire-to-help into specific actions that make an impact.”

2. Encourage creative engagement.

Elsewhere, Jacqueline Herrera adds that far more important than a simple ‘like’ is inspiring individuals to upload their own photos, thoughts, and shares on social media in order to emotionally connect with others, thereby creating engagement and organic word-of-mouth in a domino effect.

3. Learn from those who’ve seen it work.

As you think about how to activate your slacktivists, keep in mind some of the key points which says made the Ice Bucket Challenge go crazy:

“The timing was right: It landed as a piece of good news in the midst of a summer of depressing global and domestic events. It provided a fun and kindly counterpoint to a sober season.

“It used peer pressure, (mild) humiliation and guilt. By tagging you in the post the challenge calls you out in front of your friends. You can ignore it but then you’ll look bad. So you’re peer pressured and guilted into participating. Some people would prefer to call this social proof.

“It was authentic. This is the one that would be the hardest to replicate. The ice bucket challenge just felt authentic and not like it was cooked up in the back room of an office or that it had been focus grouped. I mean that’s because it wasn’t but still, you get the point. It was simple enough that anyone could have thought of it or started it and that’s something that people liked. They were on an equal playing field and not being directed by an organization.”

4. Don’t forget about the most powerful response, prayer.

One final thought. As followers of Jesus we have the opportunity to converse with the one who’s running the universe about how things are going. On the one hand, C.S. Lewis reminds us, “It is much easier to pray for a bore than to go visit him.” So prayer is slacktivism. But then Oswald Chambers asserts, “Prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work.” Somehow, in kindness and mystery, God invites us to join him in shaping the future. As we ask people to retweet and share and like, to give and send and go, we can also offer the immediate response of prayer. Watch a video and pray. “Like” an Instagram picture and pray. Retweet word of a humanitarian crisis, pray, and invite all your buds to pray as well.

The growing Syrian Circle is a brilliant example of this. It mobilized thousands of people to pray for Syrians during the past month. Check it out for ideas and further prayer.

What about in your church? Your organization? How can you provide “right now” response mechanisms that will potentially lead slactivists to greater involvement?

Finally, can I invite you to join me in practicing some slacktivism mobilization by ransacking the website of a new initiative I’m involved in? Go to and read, pray, share and let me know what’s broken!

INDONESIA: AirAsia Crash Kills 41 Members of an Indonesian Church

Source: The Gospel Coalition, January 5, 2015

One of the largest church networks in Indonesia, Mawar Sharon Church, lost 46 members in the recent crash of AirAsia Flight QZ8501.

Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation, and only seven percent of the population is Christian. Yet almost one-third of the victims in the crash were Indonesian Christians.

According to CNN, the church members weren’t heading to one event and didn’t all necessarily know one another, having attended services at different churches mostly around Surabaya.

Philip Mantofa, pastor of the Mawar Sharon Church in Surabaya, was shocked when he found out that 41 of the victims were from his church. Another congregation, Bethany Church, lost five members of the same family.

Another church, Gereja Kristen Indonesia Ngagel, a Presbyterian congregation of around 2,000, also lost members in the crash. Florida Rambu Bangi Roni said three members of her church—two adults and their child—died on the flight.

“The tragedy of AirAsia is a reminder,” she said. “We don’t know what time we will die.”

» Read full story (also reported in other sources).

WORLD: Status of Global Mission

Source: The Long View, January 6, 2015

Every year in the January issue of the International Bulletin of Missionary Research, the Status of Global Mission is published. This table is particularly important for succinctly laying out the global trends over 150 years (1900-2050) and locating our current position among them.

Christians (of all kinds) presently number 2.4 billion; Muslims, second, number 1.7 billion. Christianity is growing at 1.35% per annum—good news, in that it is faster than the population. But Islam is growing at 1.88% per annum—faster than Christianity. The trend line does not envision a point when Islam becomes the largest religion—even by 2050, Christians will likely number 3.4 billion vs. Islam’s 2.0 billion.

The number of missionaries dropped from an estimated 420,000 in 2000 to an estimated 400,000 today. What is more disturbing is a new line added to the Status this year—the percentage of non-Christians who know a Christian: 14%. This means that 86% of all non-believers do not personally know a believer from whom they can receive good news.

The percentage of the world that is unevangelized dropped from 54% in 1900 to 29.3% today, and is projected to continue to drop. This is good news. Unfortunately, due to population growth, the absolute number of unevangelized individuals has grown: from 880 million in 1900 to 2.1 billion today. And it is continuing to rise: to 2.3 billion by 2025, and 2.6 billion by 2050. The end of the task continues to recede away from us.

» Read full article from The Long View. The article and table to which it refers (which includes all kinds of useful statistics with up-to-date numbers) is also online and free, but you’ll have to register with the IBMR for access.

UKRAINE: Churches Launch Yearlong Campaign for Evangelism and Discipleship

Source: Crossfield News, December 21, 2014

As snow falls outside, most of the people milling inside Central Baptist Church [in Kiev] keep their winter coats on. The parkas testify to the financial crunch that Ukraine has suffered with its recent civil strife and the concurrent economic slump. As tensions with Russian-backed separatists in two eastern provinces have heated up, churches like Central Baptist have turned the heat down to save money.

Today’s crowd of about 120 people has come to help kick off Mission Ukraine, a yearlong evangelism training effort organized by leaders of several Ukrainian Protestant denominations and Minneapolis-based GoodWORD Partnership. The goal: Train leaders across Ukraine in evangelism and discipleship. Those leaders then will teach people in their churches how to share their faith and, in turn, help the anticipated new believers to follow Christ and share their faith.

Mission Ukraine organizers hope to train people in as many of Ukraine’s 10,600 Protestant churches as possible before next fall. This in a country that began 2014 in relative peace but ends it mourning more than 4,700 deaths and more than 500,000 internally displaced people, the result of fighting in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

» Read full story, which includes pictures and interviews with church leaders. Does this story sound familiar? We included an earlier report about the campaign in one of our November editions.

» See also another story from Ukraine, Now Is the Time for the Church to Shine (Operation Mobilization). And thanks for praying for Ukraine, a nation standing at the crossroads.

MIDDLE EAST: A Change of Hearts

Source: Wycliffe Associates, January 2015

“Paul” lives in one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a Christian, a place so volatile that it cannot be named. He has survived multiple assassination attempts since turning to Christ more than a decade ago. But this time, it appeared that his attackers would surely succeed.

There were three of them—men armed with lead pipes and rods—and they meant business. In a flash they unleashed a furious beating not meant to harm, but to kill. As their weapons delivered blow after blow, Paul was not filled with hate for his attackers. Instead, Paul was saddened by the fact that these men were lost and without Jesus. So he began praying and urging them to turn from their sin toward Jesus. Imagine that! With the shadow of death looming over him, Paul was inviting his would-be assassins to experience a life of freedom in Christ.

What happened next is difficult for us to fathom—but not for Paul. He has seen God’s faithful intervention too many times to count. One dropped his pipe and fled. The other two, with tears in their eyes and hope on their faces, dropped their weapons as they dropped to their knees and began pleading with Paul to tell them about Jesus Christ.

God is clearly at work in this highly dangerous region of the Middle East, and He is using people like Paul to help bring His message of love and redemption to men, women, and children who are looking for the answer to their emptiness.

» Read full story. See also another inspiring article from this issue, Why Would This Jesus Come to Me?

WORLD: Praying for the Nations

Source: Missions Catalyst

Want some fuel to feed your prayers for the world as a new year unfolds? Prayercast calls prayer “the number one way to reach people.” We hope you’ll pray in response to what you hear from news sources like Missions Catalyst, missionary prayer letters, and of course the topics, places, and people God has put on your heart and brings to mind. But if you want to pray more systematically, here are a few other tried-and-true tools to help.

Prayercast: Videos invite you to pray along with Christians from every nation and are supported by additional materials, including current news feeds and “quick facts.”

Operation World: A research-based prayer guide to every nation; also available as a book and helpful as a reference.

Global Prayer Digest: A daily dose of stories and information about the world’s peoples, especially the least reached; read online or subscribe to emails or a paper edition.

World in Prayer: Prayers of petition and thanks in response to changing global situations.

» Your favorite site left off this list? Share it with other readers by commenting below.

2015 Calendar of Events


Independence Day Fireworks

Happy New Year!

As a service to readers, Missions Catalyst compiles and maintains an online calendar of mission-related events across the US and around the world. It includes a list of 2015 conferences, seminars, classes, retreats, and more.

Maybe you would like to attend some of these events or tell a friend about them. Or perhaps you are planning an event of your own and wonder what else might be going on those days. If you know about an event that would interest our readers and should be added to the calendar, let us know. We will post and send out updates as the year goes on.

» View the 2015 Calendar of Events.