We desperately need more people willing to go to some of the hard places in the world to help take the gospel to those who have yet to hear, but we can also play a part in reaching the unreached here in the U.S.
That’s because God is bringing them to us. Immigrant and refugee communities from unreached nations are growing not only in urban settings, but in rural areas across the nation, too.
Responding to this opportunity can offer a glimpse of the every-tribe, every-tongue heavenly scene spoken of in Revelation 7:9: Among the 120 or so who worship with us at Light of the Nations (Denver Foursquare Church) in Colorado, you’ll find around 15 nationalities and 10 languages. Some come from Hindu and Muslim backgrounds.
This kind of multiethnic community of faith—we call ourselves “A Denver Mosaic of the Family of Christ”—doesn’t just happen, however. It requires an intentionality that for me is fueled by the sobering realization that there are people just down the street from us who have never really been told about Jesus. That leads to two questions: (1) What will happen to them if they never hear the gospel? and (2) Maybe we’re the ones to make sure they do?
Through 10 years at Light of the Nations, I’ve learned that we have to be patient and persistent in this endeavor. Stories of people from non-Christian backgrounds having dramatic encounters with God are inspiring, and we’ve experienced miracles that have brought people to Christ. But for many, the revelation of God’s love is a slow unfolding rather than a sudden burst.
At the heart of this process is offering true friendship—relationship that is not dependent on whether a person responds to what we share about Jesus, as the opportunity presents itself. Genuine friendship creates the environment in which real conversation can occur. People can tell whether your interest in them is based on an overt affection or a covert agenda.
One of the best ways we have found to express friendship is through hospitality, but not in the way you might expect—in receiving it, not giving it. Of course, we invite and welcome people to our homes and church, but often the bonds are best woven when we go to them. Sitting in their homes, eating their food, learning about and expressing joy in their culture says, “We accept you.”
Something else we have discovered: Having a focus on reaching the unreached doesn’t mean ignoring those around who have already heard about Jesus but, for whatever reason, rejected Him. Rather, we have found that we pick up some of the disaffected and disenfranchised along the way. Some of our members are nonbelievers or former Christians who had drifted away but who saw our efforts to reach out to immigrants and refugees, and found a compelling vision of what faith could be.
All of this is anchored, naturally, in a dependence on the Holy Spirit to lead us, to move in the hearts of those we are trying to reach, and to draw us all by His power and presence.
The Africa-to-Asia region that is home to most of the world’s unreached peoples has long been known as the 10/40 Window. It continues to need our focus, but I believe we mustn’t miss the window God has opened here by bringing many from those parts to us. Let’s do all we can not to miss what is an opportunity—and a challenge—never known before.
This article was written with Andy Butcher, a freelance writer in Santa Rosa Beach, Fla. Senior pastor of Light of the Nations (Denver Foursquare Church) in Colorado, Andy Millar grew up in Ethiopia, where his parents were missionaries. Founded in 2009, Light of the Nations has planted three Nepali-speaking Bhutanese churches.