Gospel Movement in Southeast Asia
C.T. Studd said, “Some want to live within the sound of church or chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop, within a yard of hell.”
There are still many regions and people groups of Southeast Asia where Gospel-centered churches have not taken root. But God is moving and working in Southeast Asia in outrageously exciting ways. I was able to spend a little over a week with a young church planter recently whom God is using as a movement leader in his area. In a city of millions, God has raised up men who have planted the seeds of a Gospel-centered, church-multiplying movement. I was able to see some of the sprouts.
The Work Being Done
This young church planter has trained and raised up others who are planting churches in their communities. We here in Hawaii have played a wonderfully small role in this process. While we support him financially for projects, send short-term teams for special events, and assist in some pastoral training, the real work is being done by local pastors. I must admit that I have always been bit skeptical about the effectiveness of short-term trips. Much has been written about how to do these trips well, but I wasn’t sure if our yearly trip was actually helping the local pastors, or just creating things to do. I had some ca phe sua da with him at the end of the trip and asked bluntly if we were actually assisting him, or just causing more of a headache by being there. His answer genuinely shocked me.
He said that we were helping him meet the biggest need that all pastors in his region had: establishing connections and fostering relationships with their neighbors. When the “Hawaii” show came to town, people wanted to come out and see us. They were intrigued with our ukulele’s, and more joyful than I had ever seen them when we danced hula. This “cultural exchange” gathered a large crowd, and allowed local believers to interact with their neighbors in ways that they had never been able to before. I felt like we were stealing the show and distracting from the work of the ministry, when in fact we were a perfect “excuse” for these pastors to invite people from their community into their homes!
The Men and Women Doing It
Six of these pastors sat together in a morning prayer gathering. Their network is small, but it is passionate. They each took turns sharing how God has answered their prayers, and what they were begging God for this week. They were impassioned, eager, and bold. This partnership is on the front lines of bringing the Gospel to an entire city. One pastor shared about how there were many new converts in his church who were now being persecuted by their unsaved relatives. Because of this persecution, and the fear of police officers looking into their church gatherings, some of the new converts had stopped coming. Through tears, he shared how he was “love-sick” for these brothers and sisters. Love-sick; like his heart had been broken. We begged God for these believers and their families.
One of the greatest things that I saw during my stay was the way the pastors' wives supported the work of the Gospel with an “all-in” ferocity. They were working hard, long hours alongside their husbands. They were bold in their evangelism, and selfless with their time. It was amazing to see how God had gifted these wives to complement their husbands, and how that was being lived out for the expansion of the Gospel.
Praying for Next Year
As we look forward to returning, we have begun to consider some ways that we could support these pastors better. If their biggest need is opportunities to connect with their neighbors, and their neighbors seem to be drawn to Hawaiian cultural uniqueness, then we decided that we should run with that. We are hoping to purchase choke ukuleles, bring them with us, and run classes for keiki. At the end of the week, we will celebrate with a performance where all of the parents can come and hear. This could be an ongoing ministry that the local churches do within their communities.
We are also hoping to bring a worship leader or two with us. It is a very foreign thing for a church to have a “worship leader,” and instead the pastor usually does his best to put something together. We are hoping to train gifted church leaders who could become lead worshippers in their congregations.
The oppression and darkness that is rooted in Southeast Asia can feel like you are within a yard of hell. Between sex-trafficking, world views completely devoid of the God of the Bible, and people bent on money as their God, it can feel like this area of the world is far from revival. I believe that it is swelling and will eventually burst with Gospel-centered revival. I’m sure that this small network of men is one of many that are forging ahead with the Gospel. If they could ask anything from us, I’m know that it would be what Paul prayed in 2 Thessalonians 3:1, “Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored.” May the word of God speed ahead, drawing dead people into these “rescue-shop” churches.