September 08, 2015

Seeking and Saving the Lost

Post by Mindy Belz, editor, WORLD

If you are like me, your image of the church underground formed around stories like Brother Andrew's God's Smuggler, and you picture white men in old cars trundling Bibles and fervent teaching to huddled, olive-skinned masses hungry for the word of God.

Or, if you read the headlines—even the headlines in WORLD—you imagine the underground church thoroughly embattled, a church torn asunder by jihadism, Islamic law, and tyranny in places where the Apostle Paul, the Coptic fathers, or Augustine of Hippo once held sway.

You'd be wrong, or at least wrong about the way God builds His kingdom. The church in the 10/40 window—the area between 10 and 40 degrees north of the equator where mission experts say most unreached people live—is experiencing dizzying growth. Even in the midst of persecution, a tremendous movement of God to convert unbelievers to Himself is underway.

According to Miraculous Movements by Jerry Trousdale (2012), 45 different "unreached" Muslim-majority people groups, groups that a few years ago had no access to God's Word, now have more than 3,000 new churches among them. And the typical agent of change is himself olive- or dark-skinned—most likely an Egyptian missionary, perhaps an Ethiopian, or a Sudanese.

For Westerners it's hard to grasp the result of decades of church growth in the global south: Christian believers in sub-Saharan Africa and other "poor" corners of the world are the ones currently sending missionaries into the hardest corners of the globe.

One, whom I cannot name, is a father of two young children and the husband of an academic researcher. He lives with his family in a large city in Africa and travels to some of the hardest, unreached regions. At least one of the house churches he helped to start among Muslims now has 3,000 members. He told me calmly (I had to press) that he once baptized 250 new believers in one day.

How does this happen? I asked.

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