Are they friends with Jesus? A challenge from the young.

1 Aug 2009

Kindergarten has stretched our five year old son’s view of the world. Until this year, he has been surrounded by Christian family and friends. Now at school, interaction with his classmates and teachers has raised lots of questions.

One of these big questions has been, ‘Dad, Is Miss … friends with Jesus?’ And a week later, ‘Mum, does Uncle … love Jesus? He doesn’t? Why doesn’t he want to be friends with Jesus?’

You see, my son believes what the Bible says about heaven and hell. And he places all people into one of these two simple categories: there are those who are friends of Jesus already; and others who need to become his friends. He asks his grandparents about his deceased great-grandparents. Are they in heaven, or hell? He asks about whole countries of the world in these categories. ‘Are there many Egypt people who are friends with Jesus? Will there be Egypt people in heaven?’

Weighing on his little mind is one of the greatest concerns we can have as Christians. Many cross-cultural workers feel this burden, living in cities where Christ is not known at all – multitudes who don’t have the opportunity to hear that God entered their world. This concern is so central to Pioneers that we have made it a core value. Delivery of this message is our reason for being. And we can be sure that when we have this concern, we share the concern of God himself for his world (e.g. Lk. 24:46-47; 2 Pet. 3:9).

My son’s outlook is a great challenge to me. It reminds me that the problem and God’s solution are really quite simple. He knows, with enthusiasm, that because we live in Mongolia, some of those who haven’t heard, will.

We wake up each day in a setting that testifies that God is able to bring multitudes of formerly “unreached” people to himself. Sometimes he does this very slowly, but not in Mongolia’s case. Some of our friends arrived in Mongolia in the early 1990s. Mongolia was just coming out of 70 years of communism. For centuries it had almost no gospel presence; just a long, cold silence. No gospel proclamation. No salvation. Darkness.

Then God decided it was time. Following the entry of very ordinary mouthpieces, from Pioneers and other agencies, God grew his church. By 1995 there were 2000 believers. By 2001 there were 10 000; by 2005, 30 000. The most recent estimate is 60 000 adults. The national Church, made up of 520 churches, is praying that 10% of its population will be disciples of Christ by 2020. It is an ambitious goal, and a goal that appears most beautifully in the detail, that is, in the individuals who make up this growing number.

A Mongolian friend shared with me about his brother who was dying of starvation in a Mongolian prison. Hours before his brother’s death, my friend received a call from the prison suggesting he visit. My friend shared the urgent message of Jesus with his dying brother, pleading that he believe and accept Christ as Lord. His brother was too sick to move, or to speak. But he could hear, and he could repent and believe. As he lay on that bed, all that his feeble body could do to respond was to produce a tear which ran down his cheek. How simple the message is! And how eternally powerful! How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!

Another Mongolian who is represented in the church growth statistics is a converted Buddhist Lama. He continues to be the ‘religious man’ in his remote town, but with a transformed life to go with his new message. Today he speaks with great authority of the true and living God.

It is impossible to express in words just how significant the gospel has already been to this nation as individuals, and often soon after their families, become friends of Jesus. The problems of vodka, abuse, hopelessness, and their ingrained distrust of one another are beginning to lose their grip – household by household, town by town, and now, generation by generation. A growing number of second-generation Christians are now reaching adulthood, mature in their faith and eager to carry the baton.From our apartment we see hundreds of other apartments, each with eternal beings living in them. How many are friends with Jesus? How many have escaped the futility of life without him? How many will heed Jesus’ warnings, and be spared the weeping and gnashing of teeth?

Paul says, ‘Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!’ (1 Cor. 9:16). And we might pray, even now, Lord, prevent me from being an unfruitful servant. For your sake, and for the millions still without access to the gospel, may I devote my remaining days, months or years to this cause of Christ. May I be a disciple in priority as well as name. God, may you spare me from wasting my life on my own petty ambitions, from the double-mindedness that comes with fitting in with the world. I am not my own, but yours; for your use.

While teaching a group of pastors in a remote village 500km west of Mongolia’s capital city, a young pastor asked me a question that I hope I will never forget. He said, ‘If Jesus came 2000 years ago, why has it taken so long for our people to hear about him? What about my father, my grandfather, my ancestors?’

I thought of the tens of thousands of Christians in my home city. Who among us will stand up and go? And who among us will support those who stand up? What a challenge we have ahead of us as the Church. But God is very able.

Are they friends with Jesus, Dad? Not yet, my son, not yet.

by a Pioneers team member in East Asia

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