You Might Reach the World Through Your Backyard

What if a way to reach them over there is to reach them over here?

You Might Reach the World Through Your Backyard

What if the unreached people groups in our communities helped determine the international locations of some of our future short-term and long-term teams?

A brother recently told me about a friendship developed in Birmingham with a man from Nepal. He shared the gospel with this man and their relationship continued to grow. One day the man asked him: “Would you be willing to come with me to Nepal? I would like for you to meet my friends and family. If you are able to purchase your airline ticket, I can cover all of your lodging and meals in my country.”

Another couple from our church shared with me the following story: “After spending a great deal of time developing relationships and sharing the gospel with Indian Hindus in Birmingham, one friend invited us to travel with him to a wedding. He wanted us to meet his relatives and to spend three days together in India.”

A church member shared with me about his encounter with several Saudi Arabians. After weeks of playing soccer, sharing the gospel and having meals together, one of the men asked: “Would you be willing to come with me this summer to my hometown and and spend a couple of weeks? You would be my guest and could meet my friends and family.”

Do we see future possibilities?

In 1955, Donald McGavran described the social relationships throughout a people group as “bridges.” These bridges were divinely designed to carry the gospel, noting that “Christianity has flowed most powerfully when it has flowed within peoples” (The Bridges of God, 93-94). While such is true when it comes to the discipling of a people group, these bridges of God also allow the gospel to come from the outside too. Those cross-cultural relationships developed in the neighborhood should be the bridges on which your church travels for days to come.

The Divine Maestro orchestrates the movement of the peoples that “they should seek God” (Acts 17:26-27, ESV). We may understand if someone from an unreached people group is in our neighborhood, then we should share the gospel with that person. But do we consider those transnational relationships that remain attached to family and friends in other parts of the world? Do we see the bridges of God?

What if one way God wants to reach the world through your church is to begin among the unreached people groups living in your area? What if a way to reach them over there is to reach them over here?

I have talked with missionaries struggling to find ways into this or that country to reach a people. While such challenges remain, one possibility when faced with such a barrier is to ask, “Is anyone from that people living nearby?” If so, start there. If possible, how much better is to to go into all the world as an insider, staying in the home and traveling with a national, than as an outsider with no credibility or trust. Doors often open for insiders.

Do we see future possibilities?

Here is one last story, one I share in Strangers Next Door, to show the possible:

Samuel and Young Cho met a Nepalese waitress and her family in Baltimore. After sharing the gospel with them, the server and her household came to faith in Jesus (cf. Acts 16:14-15). The Chos then led this family to self-identify as a local church. After teaching them about obedience to Jesus, the new believers began to pray and discuss reaching family and friends in other parts of the world. The church planned a short-term trip, sending Samuel and the Young to family members and friends in Nepal. On this trip, 200 Nepalese made a profession of faith in Jesus and a church was planted! About a year later, the church in Baltimore planned a second-trip. This trip involved ministering to refugees and ordaining leaders. During this second trip, two additional churches were planted with 200 Nepalese, 300 Bhutanese and 35 Indians declaring Jesus as Lord!

Do we see future possibilities?

Of course, this paradigm is impossible if we are not laboring among the unreached peoples in our communities.

JD Payne
J. D. serves as the pastor of church multiplication with The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama. He has pastored churches in Kentucky and Indiana, and served for a decade with the North American Mission Board and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of several books on the topics of evangelism and missions.