One of the reasons for failure in Missions is going to locations where God has not sent us. If you discuss this subject with Prophet Jonah, he will tell you a lot of frightening testimonies. Speaking to Prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 48:17,18, God said:
I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you in the way you should go. Oh that you had paid attention to my commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea.”
So, Isaiah makes it clear that succeeding in the business of God happens only when we follow God “who leads us in the way we should go.”
FIVE PARADIGMS OF MISSIONARY GOING.
- Denomination Planting: Here, the dominant motive is to have our denomination represented in popular destinations like state and national capitals.
- Open Door church planting: Motive here is to take advantage of the relocation of church members to target destinations to plant churches while they are still there. In other cases it is to take advantage of the opportunity of having church members who are in positions of leadership or appointments in the society to start churches in their areas of geographical influence.
- Financial Profitability Church Planting: Motive here is to plant churches majorly in prosperous locations where the return on investment would happen quicker. This motive would exclude church planting amongst unreached people groups as such mission projects take very long to even have shape or make sense.
- Competitive Church Planting: Here, the motive is to plant one’s own church where the churches of colleague ministers or competing denominations are trending. It is a manifestation of the spirit of “Warri no dey carry last.”
- Divinely Commanded Church Planting: This is going where the Lord has commanded us to go. It is the only divinely approved method of missionary sending or going. The question is: “Where is the Lord leading us to?” and this is the subject of this paper.
TWO WAYS GOD LEADS US TO GO.
1. BY THE WRITTEN WORD
After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindred, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;Revelation 7:9
So we understand from God’s Word that He would have all nations, kindred, People and Tongues stand before Him on that day. In this our generation, we are counting over 3.23 billion people in 7,400 People Groups representing about 41.8% of global population that are yet to be reached with the gospel. So, we clearly understand that God’s preferred destination for our missionary escapades must be towards the unreached People Groups.
2. BY THE LEADING OF THE SPIRIT OF GOD
The Holy Spirit is the chief executive of the mission of God on earth. He is the one that chooses The Who, What and Where of missions.
They passed through the Phrygian and Galatians region, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia; and after they came to Mysia, they were trying to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them;Acts 16:6-7
So we see from scriptural experiences that the Spirit of God allows some and forbids other missionary destinations. Therefore, those who go without His guidance are subject to failure.
But an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip saying, “Get up and go south to the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a desert road.)Acts 8:26
The Bible emphasizes that Philip already was in the midst of a revival in Samaria but God pulled him out and sent him to one man, only one man, and where? … In the desert. So the possible unviability of a destination is no excuse before God in choosing where to GO or not GO.
Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and the Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” And the Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called straight and inquire at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying.Acts 9:10-11
Ananias understood the risk involved in this assignment because he was one of the expected victims of Saul’s mission to Damascus. Yet he obeyed and went. Therefore we learn that risks and dangers are no excuses before God in going wherever he sends us.
WHERE IS THE LORD LEADING US NOW IN HIS MISSION?
A. MUSLIM COUNTRIES.
Islam is surely the greatest challenge to the spread of the Gospel in the world today. It appears to be the last giant that the Church must conquer before Jesus Christ returns. Muslims comprise about 2,854 of the worlds over 7,000 unreached people groups. In fact, it is said that there is only one Christian missionary for every 405,000 Muslims.
Islam occupies a huge stretch of the world’s map, from Morocco in the west to the Far East and going north into Central Asia and south into North Africa and Southeast Asia. God is leading us today to invade the Muslim countries and draw souls to Jesus Christ not minding the difficulties and the risks.
B. GO NORTH.
Several years ago I inquired of the Lord where He would have my Missions Team concentrate our work. He said, “Go North.” Those two words have seen my team and I traversing Northern Nigeria with the gospel at great risks to our lives.
In Kaffin Koro, Niger state, in year 2008, this writer was arrested by the Directorate of Security Services (DSS) and detained for several hours by the State Director in Minna for “coming from Lagos to preach in a Sharia State.” Released after over five hours of detention and interrogation, he was given a stern and repeated warning never to preach anywhere in Niger State again. However the voice of God that said, “Go North’’ proved to be more frightening than the voice of the DSS Director that warned repeatedly: “Do not ever preach anywhere in Niger State again.” So he moved from the DSS office back to the crusade arena and continued the soul winning events for three more days. On that third day, that great last day of the outreach, as the man of God was about to mount the rostrum to preach, guess who he saw coming into the arena and making his way to the front. It was the same DSS officer that arrested him three days earlier. He was afraid, remembering the stern warnings he was given. However when the DSS officer reached him, the drama was beyond expectation. The officer asked for forgiveness for arresting the man of God previously. He asked for prayers so that God would not punish him. One can only imagine his swagger up the rostrum to declare that Jesus is Lord, after the man of God finished praying for the repentant and kneeling DSS officer.
In Damaturu, Yobe state in 2012, this writer and the team he serves with were on location to plant a church amongst the Muslims in that northern community. Along with his team, they rejected the sound advice from caring community leaders not to preach outside of New Jerusalem (the only area where Christian activities are allowed by the State Government) and went into town to preach to Muslims, understanding that this is where the Spirit of God was leading them to. The result was a large harvest of hundreds of Muslim converts who followed them back to New Jerusalem area where a new church was planted. The success of this mission was so blazing it was not a surprise that this church was amongst the first to be bombed by Boko Haram as soon as they entered Yobe State. (It may be important to emphasize that the moral in this story is not for missionaries to ignore security warnings but for them to ensure that they are hearing and obeying the Holy Spirit in taking decisions.)
So, God is leading Christian Missions to Go North; especially missionaries who are from the north themselves. Such missionaries would consider the locations we love to call ‘North’ as their own Jerusalem or Judea.
There is no doubt that the Devil has built trenches for himself in the Northern Regions of most countries and continents. So, God is leading Christian Missions to Go North to rescue those in the bondage lockers of the enemy. Such an assignment may not look safe; however, soldiers do not ask for safety; they ask for what has been commanded!
In Ghana, in the Northern and Upper West Regions, we have the Nanumba and Wala people groups who are part of the nineteen (19) unreached people groups there. Other UPGs in Ghana include the Hausa, Kantosi, Wala and the Vagala.
In Nigeria, of about 52 UPGs, the largest three are: Fulani: 15.5 million, Hausa: 30.2 million and Kanuri: 7.12 million. God is sending Christian Missions to these significant unreached people groups. Reaching them will help us finish the task more quickly and ensure that our Lord Jesus Christ suffers no loss.
C. THE 10/40 WINDOW.
First, it was known as the unoccupied Fields. Then, it was renamed the Resistant Belt; and then in 1990, Luis Bush coined the term, 10/40 Window, to refer to those regions located between 10 and 40 degrees north of the equator.
It is an area purported to have the highest level of poverty, low quality of life, lack of access to Christian resources and unreached people groups. Roughly two-thirds of the world population live in the 10/40 Window, and it is predominantly Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, animist, Jewish, or atheist. Many governments in the 10/40 Window are officially or unofficially opposed to Missionary Christian work of any kind within their borders. However, this is one of the destinations where God is asking us to focus our missionary efforts.
D. LOCAL UNREACHED IN OUR JERUSALEM AND JUDEA.
Irrespective of popular data on UPGs in several countries, there are hidden people groups who are yet unreached even in our saturated Jerusalem(s) and Judea(s). We owe it to God to find these hidden UPGs, unmask them and engage them.
However, the bigger drama about reaching the difficult unreached people groups is that God has now relocated millions of them from their northern abodes to our Jerusalem(s) and Judea(s) where we have no more excuses about reaching them. Many of them have even learnt our local languages and are even marrying our girls and converting them to Islam. The irony of this debacle is that while we consider them a difficult mission field, they actually are turning out to be missionaries themselves and are doing wonderful spiritual work in converting our own people to Islam. We have heard so much of the massive Islamic mission work happening in Afikpo, Nsukka, Okija and similar other locations in our own Jerusalem and Judea in South Eastern Nigeria.
Can the church really keep quiet while this continues to happen? It is time for action. No more excuses!
E. WHERE THE MANPOWER CAN BE DEVELOPED.
The need for harvesters is evident in our Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria and in the uttermost parts of the earth. Sometimes God may not be sending you to the actual Unreached People, but to a location where new harvesters or missionary goers could be engaged and trained. Those who find themselves involved in such collateral work must understand that it is God that has placed them in such a strategic assignment. One of the greatest difficulties in 21st century missions is the dearth of manpower. So the Lord would lead some of us to locations from where the manpower would be sourced.
It is becoming a disturbing fact that though Christian Missions is at its highest performance ever in this 21st century, the statistics of reached and unreached places globally is not changing as fast. This is because missionaries today are choosy about where to go and where to avoid. Eventually, the already reached locations become more popular targets because they are safer, easier, and more rewarding. However, none of these ‘because’ has God’s backing as a motivation for choosing missionary destinations. Instead, the word of God confirms that we can GO correctly only when we FOLLOW the leading of the Holy Spirit.
It is my prayer that our Mission and Denominational leaders would pray more, listen more, hear more, and make the Church follow more in order to ensure that our mission is not in vain and that when our work shall be tried by fire, we shall not suffer grievous losses. As the Word of God says in 1 Corinthians 3:13-15:
Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abides which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
SO HELP US GOD!
Written by Dr. Emmanuel Nwachukwu. He is the Regional Coordinator of MANI, Nigeria, the Director of Missions in the Charismatic Renewal Ministries, and the founder and Executive Director of Missions Aid International, an International Missions NGO. To contact him: www.emmanwachukwu.org, firstname.lastname@example.org.