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Our last edition of News Briefs featured a piece from Justin Long analyzing the annual status of global mission for 2015. You might also want to take a look at a follow-up article which points out that 70% of the least evangelized people live in just 70 states and provinces.
This week, we point you to an analysis piece from Wycliffe Global Alliance on the status of worldwide Bible translation.
Readers may have already seen another piece of recent global analysis, Open Doors’ World Watch List. The annual list ranks the top 50 countries where Christians face the most persecution and reports that it wasn’t an increase in violence, primarily, that drove religious persecution to record levels in this last year but rather increased “cultural marginalization” of Christians. Take a look at the report itself, Open Doors’ press release, or Not Forgotten: The Top 50 Countries Where It’s Most Difficult to Be a Christian (Christianity Today).
Finally, we hope you’ll appreciate more personal stories from Niger, New York, North Africa, and France.
Source: Wycliffe Global Alliance, November 2014
Today, millions more people around the world have access to God’s Word in the language they understand best. God is accomplishing his mission through his power and through partnership.
There are about 7000 languages in active use and at least one book of Scripture exists in almost 2,900 of these languages.
There is known active translation and/or linguistic development happening in 2,195 languages across more than 130 countries.
As of October 1, 2014, estimates suggest around 180 million people speaking at least 1,860 languages are understood to “likely need Bible translation to begin.”
» Read full article (available in six languages) and view related charts. As the authors helpfully point out, “Statistics are rarely as simple as the numbers imply. Please read the FAQ sheet before quoting these figures.”
Source: Mission Network News, January 20, 2015
Picture this: You go to church one Sunday. You worship God, hear an inspiring message, pray, talk to friends and then you leave, hoping to return the following week. Unfortunately, when you return, your church has been burned to the ground by protesters.
That’s exactly what happened to 61 churches in Niger over the weekend, says missionary Neal Childs who’s working there. “Last week, churches all across the nation went on without any idea that churches would be burned.”
Childs works with churches in the region. “Four of our churches were attacked. Three [they] actually got in and did great damage. Two of our pastors’ homes were also burned. A Bible school was also burned.”
Childs says the attacks happened simultaneously in Niamey. It appears police and other security officers were overwhelmed and couldn’t control it.
How has this affected the church? “The church is strong in Niger, and it’s growing. And we believe that as a result of the persecution, it’s going to grow even more. All this senseless attack will only be turned around for the growth of the church.”
» Editor’s note: Reports from the BBC (and elsewhere) mention only 45 churches burned in Niger but also attacks on French-linked businesses. The violence is connected to anger at the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, also felt in other former French colonies. See also Niger: Christians, Churches Targeted in Protests (Open Doors).
Source: Pioneers, January 13, 2015
We filled the house with joy and food, and then we packed in 30 international students for a holiday meal in our tiny New York City apartment. I watched the organized chaos and wondered if their first impression of a meal in an American home would forever be tainted with having to crawl under the table in order to get to the kitchen for refills?
For the past few months, these students have been participating in Bible studies. We, like so many others around the world, use a method that disciples people toward faith in Christ—before they have faith in Christ. They are in the process of discovering for themselves who God is, what the Bible says, and whether he is worth following?
Each week we ask them these simple questions:
What are you thankful for this week? (teaching them to thank God)
What problems do you have this week? (giving them opportunity to intercede for others)
What can this group help you with this week? (teaching them to serve one another)
Then, while studying scripture, we ask:
What does this passage teach me about God?
What does it teach me about man?
If this is true, how does this change the way I view God?
Is there anything I need to obey from what I just learned?
Who can I share this story with this week?
Each week they amaze me with their desire to learn from the Bible. They wrestle with hard truths and eagerly share what they learn with others. But they have not yet expressed faith in God.
» See also Training without Speaking (Act Beyond).
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.”
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.”
» You might appreciate another article from a related IMB source, 13 Things Mission-Minded People Do Differently that Set Them Apart.
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 Clicktivist.org 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 CareForCatania.com and read, pray, share and let me know what’s broken!
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Shane has been loving Muslims and connecting people who love Jesus with Muslims for more than 20 years. He speaks like he writes – in a practical, humorous, and easy-to-relate-to way – about God’s passion to bring all peoples into his kingdom.
Life includes a whole lot of waiting. We wait for the first snow, and then we wait for spring. We wait for someone to reply to our email, respond to our text, answer our question, or return our gaze. We wait for the baby to be born, roll over, say a word, take a step, tie its shoes, go to school, learn to drive, graduate, get married, and give us grandkids so we can watch the whole agonizingly beautiful process all over again. We wait for the doctor’s report. We wait for that breath that will be our last.
We also wait for a progress report, report card, yellow card, yellow light, and for the people with 13 items in the ten-item checkout lane who are paying with a check. I don’t know about you, but I wait for stuff to arrive from Amazon and say, “OK, Bezos, where are the delivery drones you promised?” I wait for people to take their turn in Words with Friends, for Mumford and Sons to release another album, and for 99% Invisible to drop in my podcast queue.
Those of us who love Jesus wait for his return and for the fullness of his kingdom on earth. We wait for God to keep his “blessing all families” promise to Abraham and Sarah in Genesis 12:3 and to answer the prayer Jesus prayed in Matthew 6:10 that his Father’s will would be done and his kingdom come on Earth as it is in Heaven. We wait for the fulfillment of the promise of Matthew 24:14, where Jesus says the gospel of the kingdom will be preached among all peoples as a witness to all nations before the end comes.
Do you, like me, sometimes get tired of waiting for the kingdom? Even though Jesus launched his ministry by saying, “Repent, believe, for the kingdom of Heaven is here,” if you look around, you see lots of non-kingdom stuff going on. Sometimes I need look no farther than my own heart. Other effects are more distant, but no less gut-wrenching, as when kingdom workers in Kabul perish in the midst of their work and others in Aden are killed after months of captivity.
I hear Peter’s words in my head: “They will say, ‘Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation’” (2 Peter 3:3-4).
Can I say to you (while I’m saying it to me): Don’t give up waiting for his kingdom. Even as we look forward to celebrating the birth of Jesus, may God renew our faith and hope for the fullness of the kingdom which the babe was born to bring. Stay strong, the kingdom will come. God’s purposes will not be thwarted.What to Do While We Wait
We have a couple of dogs, and we let them live in the house. That makes “going outside” just about the most amazing experience they can imagine. When someone opens a door, pretty much any door in the house, the dogs are instantly there. Since they’re not allowed to go out before the humans do, they’re given one of two commands: “Wait” means hang on until I get through the door, and then you can leap into your joy. “Stay,” on the other hand, means you don’t get to go outside this time. I imagine something like this goes through their little canine brains: “Oh man, we can’t go outside. Now all we can do is lie here and wait for him to come back. Our main challenge is to try to keep from eating out of the trash can.”
Our waiting is more like the first command: an anticipation of joy. In his book With Open Hands, Henri Nouwen describes the work we have while waiting:
“You are Christian only so long as you constantly pose critical questions to the society you live in, so long as you emphasize the need of conversion both for yourself and for the world, so long as you in no way let yourself become established in the situation of the world, so long as you stay unsatisfied with the status quo and keep saying that a new world is yet to come. You are Christian only when you believe you have a role to play in the realization of the new kingdom, and when you urge everyone you meet with holy unrest to make haste so that the promise might soon be fulfilled. So long as you live as a Christian you keep looking for a new order, a new structure, a new life.”
Wait well, my friends. Ask for the kingdom. Battle apathy and despair. Ardently follow your kingdom passion. Love your enemies.
Enjoy Christmas for all you’re worth. And from time to time, pause to gaze at the wee babe in the nativity scene and remind yourself, “My, but that boy is going to change the world.”
In This Issue: When the light of heaven breaks through the darkness
December 25 will be just another day in 14 of the world’s countries (those that do not recognize Christmas as a public holiday). See this map and try to name them (answers here). Spoiler alert: one of them is Bhutan. Recently we pointed you to two video stories about Bhutan, one about changes coming to the kingdom and one about Pema, the inspiring carver with cerebral palsy. This time I’d like to point you to a short video from some pastors in Bhutan speaking about religious rights (World Watch Monitor).
As we celebrate Jesus’ coming and bringing light to darkness, let us remember that anywhere the light of heaven breaks through the powers of darkness, it is like Christmas. Let us pray all year long, “Let earth receive her King!”
And remember this about the nature of light: the light that shines farthest shines brightest at home. The Billy Graham Center for Evangelism offers some good tools to help you speak to others about the Light of the world. See their videos on “Speaking the Story at Christmas.”
Pat Noble has been the “news sleuth” for Missions Catalyst since 2004. In addition to churning out the news, she is working to create a SWARM (Serving World A Regional Mobilizers) in Northern New York using the NorthernChristian.org website. You can connect with her at www.whatsoeverthings.com.
Source: Mission Network News, December 11, 2014
Terrorism in the Middle East and Africa: You’ve seen the headlines about advances, bombings, death, refugees and fear… but there’s actually good news emerging, too. Bruce Smith, President and CEO of Wycliffe Associates, says, “God is moving in a way, in this arena of the world that, to my knowledge, in my lifetime, is unprecedented.”
“Light stands out as a stark contrast in the darkness, and people are turning toward the light. In our arena, in terms of Bible translation, people are stepping up and saying, ‘We want to make sure that the light of God’s Word gets to the rest of our people and the rest of our communities.’”
He notes that some of these people are now members of national Bible translation teams, and targeted, themselves. “In many cases, they’re undergoing the same kinds of persecution that Paul experienced. And yet, they’re willing to make that sacrifice because they believe in the power of God’s Word.”
Source: Christian Broadcasting Network, December 10, 2014
For five decades, the South American country of Colombia has been a war with Marxist insurgents. Fighting can erupt at any time throughout scattered war zones, but that doesn’t stop an intrepid messenger of peace.
For years, missionary Russell Stendal has taken Christian literature to all sides in the conflict: guerrillas, paramilitary, and government soldiers. He has forged friendships with all sides and his radio stations and solar-powered receivers pave the way.
Stendal tries to reach areas where it’s not possible to have church buildings or scheduled church services, and where it’s not possible to do normal missionary or evangelistic work.
“And so we drop these radios on guerrilla camps, by parachute. We distribute them to soldiers; we distribute them to paramilitary forces,” Stendal told CBN News.
Former journalist Dario Silva has followed the conflict for years. He now pastors House on the Rock Church, one of Bogota’s larger churches, and sends aid to suffering families in rural Colombia. Silva said that hardship and persecution have not kept the gospel from reaching the remotest corners of Colombia.
In fact, he remembers a guerrilla leader complaining: “Those Christians are the worst problem we have. Because we arrive at a remote part of the country where there is no electricity, no running water, or roads, or transportation, or a parish house, or any political figure, and there’s always some nut with a black book under his arm preaching about Jesus!”
» Read full story and watch related video, with several encouraging perspectives and testimonies.