By Alan Ch’ng
Pioneering Navigators in Asia seek to advance the Gospel among Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and ethnic mainstream cultures within the hardest nations to reach. These are men and women of faith, courage, and sacrifice: faith, because they believe God and His promises; courage, because the people and governments they live among are hostile to their faith; sacrifice, because life in these places is difficult and dangerous.
Recently, 38 of these pioneers from 12 Asian countries came together to address the common challenges they face as they advance the Gospel. We discussed one of the most problematic barriers, which is that many Asians have misconceptions of what biblical Christian faith is all about. They reject what they think is the Gospel, when in fact they haven’t ever had a chance to see it clearly.
For example, many Asians blend their notions of Christianity with Western pop culture. In many parts of Asia, movies produced in the West, such as Rambo, are referred to as Christian movies. Likewise, Asians of the major religious groups perceive Christian worship meetings on Sundays and buildings with steeples as just Western culture.
In Nepal, a Navigator laborer (we’ll call him Joseph to protect his identity) had struggled to take the Gospel to his parents and relatives because they were confused by Joseph’s church traditions. Joseph had come to Christ in a Western-style church. In that context he grew as a strong and devout follower of Christ. But he struggled to communicate the Gospel to his family. They simply couldn’t understand or accept Joseph’s Christian traditions. It all seemed so foreign.
After studying carefully how the Gospel spread through the New Testament church across many ethnic and cultural boundaries, Joseph realized that the only way to help his family see Jesus clearly and accurately was to offer the Gospel independently of his traditions.
Last year Joseph traveled back to his home village during a major Hindu festival and holiday. During the time with his family, he asked them to focus on Jesus alone, not on the Western expressions of Christian faith. His parents agreed to do that, and soon they accepted Jesus as Lord, as did some of the villagers. Since then, a number of others in the village have also decided to follow Christ. The Gospel is spreading!
During our gathering, we found great encouragement from Acts 19. We read that Paul first preached to the Jews. Then he also taught the Gentiles for two years in the hall of Tyrannus—a completely different audience. This is where the Ephesian church came into being. Forty years later, the whole of Asia had heard the Gospel.
Stories like that, and like Joseph’s in Nepal, became an inspiration and a testimony to the amazing work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said to Peter: "And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it" (Matthew 16:18).
This is what Navigators in Asia and around the world long to see: movements of the Gospel starting from where they live and work, flowing out through natural relationships, and being reproduced generationally. I believe these men and women in Asia represent the seeds of such movements.
Alan Ch’ng is an International Vice President. Before joining the International Executive Team, Alan led our Asia Pacific Region for more than six years. Alan and his wife, Connie, moved to Colorado Springs in April. They have three grown sons.