Contacting and communicating with churches about their vision and missions policies is part of our daily work during our pre-field ministry. We contact hundreds of churches across the country every week. The large majority of the time, we are turned down for an opportunity to present our ministry. It’s just a fact of life. For every 100 churches we contact, only about 2-3 will schedule a time for us to visit their church.
Most of the time, these rejections are fairly reasonable. “I’m sorry Brother Freeman, we don’t have any room in our budget this year.” “We are a young church plant and cannot afford to have you come.” “We are fully booked for this year.” “We do not agree with your mission board” or sending church, or whatever other reason they might give.
But every now and again we get responses that just baffle me. I shared one of those responses a few months ago (“Our church doesn’t support interracial marriages”). More recently, we’ve been receiving the response “We are only interested in unreached people groups.”
This response can come in a variety of ways. They might only be targeting one specific country, religion, people group, or region of the world. At first glance, that might sound reasonable. What’s wrong with having a goal of reaching, say, India or China? Nothing is wrong with that goal. What confuses is me is their singular dedication to reaching that country that they fail to consider actually reaching the people from that country.
Is not the goal of missions to reach people? If these people are moving to different countries in droves, is it really out of the scope of their goal to reach these same people wherever they are living? If the intention is to really reach these people, then considering missions to places like Sydney should be open for discussion, yet they are not.
If I am trying to reach the Chinese, does it really matter where I am, so long as I am reaching the Chinese? If indeed the point isn’t to reach Chinese people, but, instead, to get missionaries into China, then their goal seems to be misplaced. What is more important, gaining access to a country or reaching the people?
The fact of the matter is that Australia is a wonderful place for sharing the gospel with unreached people groups. 25% of the population of Australia were born in a different country. That means they are first generation immigrants. Did you know that the national average of immigrants in America is only about 14%? But in Sydney, that number is a staggering 45%!
Some of the largest pockets of people groups are actually Chinese, Indian, and Vietnamese. All three of these being closed or hostile countries. That means it’s dangerous for a missionary either because of the oppressive government or animosity from the people/religious groups.
Yet in Australia, we will have religious freedom and the wonderful opportunity to reach these people without the threat to our lives. I’m not saying that closed countries don’t need missionaries, or that any missionaries currently there are risking their lives unnecessarily. I’m simply saying that we have a tremendous opportunity in Sydney that is largely untapped and underappreciated.
Shouldn’t, then, Australia be considered in the various policies and plans of churches seeking to reach unreached peoples? Yes! But sadly it is not.
I was recently introduced to a relatively new (to me anyway) mission agency called Global Gates. I know very little about the organization, so this is not necessarily an endorsement. The premise of the organization is reaching unreached people groups in gateway cities around the world. Sydney being one of those gateway cities and New York City being another.
These cities are the places where immigrants are moving, and then they tend to settle in groups and create areas of town that are distinctly Chinese, Indian, etc. Global Gates is focused on reaching those unreached people in their home away from home.
That’s the attitude and approach our churches need to keep in mind. It’s not just about reaching a country specifically, but finding where the people from these countries are living and reaching them wherever they are.
What Can You Do?
You can help by sharing this article on Facebook and telling your friends about it. If you think they’d rather watch a video over reading an article, feel free to share this short video (1 min) I created instead.
The more people who understand the value of gateway cities, the greater potential we have to changing the faulty line of reasoning present in our churches today.
If you have a position of leadership within your church, whether you’re a pastor, deacon, or missions committee member, I encourage you to bring up this subject in future planning meetings and seek to be the change in your church today.