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Posts Tagged ‘Muslim world’

Low_Hanging_Fruit“Low-hanging fruit” is one of those business idioms that comes close to being a cliché which good writers would try to avoid. I assume it comes from working in orchards, where pickers have no trouble getting the fruit that hangs low on the tree, but that getting above their own reach requires much greater effort—even ingenuity!

I’m sitting here in Turkey thinking about this metaphor in reference to foreign missions among churches of Christ—just wondering if we as a fellowship have been guilty of generally going for the low-hanging fruit.

Before I go any further, I want to categorically recognize the personal sacrifice and commitment of every Christian who left his/her home to go to a foreign mission site. My thinking is more about us as a fellowship, not the individual efforts of our finest who have gone where they were called.

Individuals from Churches of Christ left the country before the turn of the 20th century, but not many, and they are less remembered than those that went to Japan and East Africa, names like McCaleb, Benson, Andrews, Shewmaker, Merritt, families whose work has been legendary into our own time. These first major efforts at foreign missions were a test not only for the individuals who went, but also for the still provincial churches that supported them.

The next great wave of missions was the post-WW II era, those many who went to war-ravaged Europe and Japan especially, preaching to thousands, feeding and clothing people who had lost everything. By the 1960s, these countries had re-emerged materially, which meant they were no longer receptive, so churches in the states became less interested in these fields and looked for new places to work!

Fortunately, South America especially, but also Central America captured our imagination.  The great Brazilian team effort became the new model and standard for foreign missions.  The strength of the churches in Brazil testifies to the quality of work done during the first twenty-five years.  Argentina, Venezuela, Guatemala, Honduras, Ecuador, these countries have stood out perhaps among the Latin American countries—but ask any of those who worked there if response is the same now as it was then. After you ask that question, ask if the interest among US churches in that part of the world is as great as it was then.  I do believe that these two questions correlate.

The 1990s saw the collapse of the Soviet Union. Christians and resources poured into all of Eastern Europe.  For all of the interest in these countries just two decades ago, only Ukraine continues to capture any attention in the States.  Yes, there are still workers in Hungary, Romania, Albania, Bulgaria, Russia, Kazakhstan—thank God—but very, very few and the work is very difficult. Reception is slow now, and so the interest of the American church has waned.

Our attention turns: CHINA!! I love working in China and we (LST) love sending people to China. The spread of the faith in China is dynamite!

And don’t forget Africa! Interestingly, all the reports are that Africa has become the most Christian continent on earth.  In 2010, Christianity Today reported 470 million Christians in Sub-Saharan Africa. One in five of all Christians live in Africa. So, does anyone else find it interesting that Africa continues to be the #1 mission site for American Churches of Christ?

I’m sitting here in Turkey wondering where we are? I’m wondering where the Church is that has a vision for the Muslim world.  It will need to be a lifetime vision—probably longer! Who is thinking about Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Algeria, Libya, Tunisia?  I just saw a CNN report that Morocco is one of the tourist-friendliest places in the world! Could that mean something for a visionary church?

Where are those who will have the same foresight as our brethren who formed Eastern European Missions or Continent of Great Cities (for South America) or China Vision to focus the Church’s attention on those sites.

I know I’m writing in huge brushstrokes and that there are individuals and individual congregations who have this kind of vision.

But, can we as a fellowship see beyond the low-hanging fruit? Can churches of Christ do the hard work in hard places for many, many years? Can we commit to sowing seeds that may not bear fruit for generations?

It’s not in our nature—but it is in our Spirit! 

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