Something else we observed about that Anglican church recently visited (https://connectingwithyou.net/2016/04/25/reflections/) is a greeting in their website – ‘با سلام!’ Pronounced ‘Salam’ this is a warm ‘Hello’ welcome to Iranian Farsi-speaking visitors and enquirers.
Iran is the world’s fastest growing evangelical population… many Muslims are discovering Jesus, often as the white-robed stranger appearing supernaturally and working miracles. (See April’s Features – https://connectingwithyou.net/category/features/).
Good news indeed – but churches need to realise there is a vast mission field here on our own doorstep!
Evangelism opportunities here, not just overseas!
Many Muslims, not just those converted to Christianity, come here at great personal cost – financially and often risking their lives – seeking a safer, better life. Termed refugees, asylum seekers, so-named ‘boat people’ most are genuinely seeking safety, love, care – and often freedom from oppressing religion.
So it was great to discover yet another local church open to welcoming such hungry people, especially converts seeking good churches and new Christian friends. The unconverted too, tired of empty ‘religion’ and longing for reality, are open to realistic Christianity.
They sincerely understand the real depths of being family-oriented.
Taught to respect the Koran as God’s holy book, they are horrified when discovering Christians who carelessly disrespect our holy book, the Bible – not knowing/reading it enough, handling casually by bending, tossing down, and such.
Delighting in warm upfront greetings, men particularly love a prompt ‘holy kiss!’ on both cheeks. (When ministering in Middle Eastern churches here, both sexes quickly warm to us when I, Robert, don’t hesitate to greet guys this way. Paul encourages, ‘Greet one another with a holy kiss’ – Romans 16:16, 2 Corinthians13:12, 1 Thes. 5:26. (‘the kiss of peace’ GNB).
Their background means they’re open to God’s supernatural (Visiting a young Muslim businessman, his heart was touched when we boldly prayed for his healing. Automatically expecting something supernatural he acknowledged God’s power over him as the pain went!).
More openness needed today
Having ministered around various churches of different denominations/cultures for decades, we’re very aware that each church is decidedly different – even though they may have many commonalities.
Some are livelier than others, more traditional, open or not open to the Spirit’s presence, friendlier, noisier music-wise, caring and so on.
The main thing is this – churches, whatever denomination or way of doing things, should always be reaching out to the lost, hurting, searching, frightened, lonely, sick and needy. Boat people – strangers – are in these categories.
Jesus declared that he had to be about his Father’s business (Luke 2:49): so must his 2016 followers. That’s kingdom business and Jesus proclaimed in Luke 9:60 Mge: ‘First things first. Your business is life, not death. And life is urgent: Announce God’s kingdom!’
Often churches talk vaguely about missions as if such activity is only overseas – there is a decided failing to see the current vast mission field here!
In John 4:35 Mge, Jesus declared that missions are all around us: ‘I’m telling you to open your eyes and take a good look at what’s right in front of you … It’s harvest time!’
If Jesus recognised mission urgency in his day, how much more should we in our troubled times, especially Christians who claim we are in the ‘end times just before his return’?
Matthew is the kingdom’s gospel. Chapter 24:42, 44 Mge declares that no one knows when he’ll return, but to ‘Stay awake, alert… Be vigilant … You have no idea when the Son of Man is going to show up.’
Jesus direction is to ‘Seek first the kingdom… ’ (Matt. 6:33). This involves spreading the good news now! Happily there are churches around reaching out to the lost, to strangers such as boat people and making good connections. But we need more!
A warning – some making the effort don’t come across friendly enough or try to ‘push’ Christianity or their way/church ‘down throats!’ The result is confusion and turns seekers off, especially those who have stepped away from dead religion.
Searching recently for a good, scripture-centred Farsi-speaking church for a young, open-minded Iranian, we were so disappointed that we couldn’t find a spiritually safe haven in Melbourne near his home.
However, a caring, never-give-up-searching friend discovered such a church through the suggestion of an ‘atheist Muslim’ (a non-practising Muslim who’d found social help from a nearby caring minister).
A meaningful connection was quickly established with this minister who not only runs Farsi-speaking services but goes out of his way to befriend such strangers. Fluent in Farsi and understanding the culture, his Sunday messages, Bible studies and general everyday conversations are warm and clear – free of hype, baffling innuendo, confusion and ‘stained-glass church window terminology.’
He’s even gone out of his way to visit this young man at home rather than requiring him to attend church for studies. And he’s doesn’t spend every moment talking ‘religion’ but sincerely enquires about everyday concerns, settling into Ozzie life, and general social issues. Result: This young Iranian has sensed the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit. His heart is open to fundamental Christianity matters of relationship with God through Jesus, so different from empty religion.
Such self-sacrificing pastoring is kingdom oriented and more such willingness and involvement is needed! Now, not everyone can be like this particular minster – but the good news is that if we care enough, God’s Spirit works supernaturally converting boat people and using those converted! (See Maureen’s Features article, ‘I AM – with you’ assured the mysterious voice! https://connectingwithyou.net/2016/05/03/i-am-with-you-assured-the-mysterious-voice/).
Love wins through
Personally we delight in every God-given opportunity to meet, chat meaningfully and pray with new people – ‘strangers’ – encouraging them realistically, never Bible-bashing! And it doesn’t matter who or what they are. Extra joy comes when such connections lead to healings and relationship with Jesus.
We would encourage all churches to take whatever opportunities come up to reach out to ‘strangers’ – just as Moses commanded the children of Israel: ‘So you, too, must show love to foreigners, for you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt’ (Deuteronomy 10:19).
‘Love’ (ahab aheb) here means ’have affection for, befriend’: ‘foreigners’ (ger geyr) indicates ‘strangers.’ May we who were once foreigners to God’s kingdom share his love to all – including boat people arriving on our shores!
Links: Teaching – Jim McClure shares on the importance of pastoral visitation / Features – Maureen McQuillan’s ‘I AM – with you’ assured the mysterious voice