A Zone of Contention More Doable Than We Think
There is a zone in Africa that agriculturalists refer to as the tension zone. It’s a zone across northern Africa where arable land is giving way to an encroaching desert, reducing food production capability. This is causing economic instability and political tension. It is a zone where most of the world’s poorest countries are found.
This zone is also known as one of the most tension filled in spiritual terms. It is a zone where Christianity and Islam face off over a line in the sand. It’s a zone where there are few to no churches or Christians. It’s not an easy place to launch a mission effort. Besides strong spiritual opposition, living in this area requires dedication and sacrifice. A lack of water is a major problem. Drunkenness, violence, bloodshed, hunger, poverty, and corruption make it a difficult place to serve.
Those Who Risk It All
Many unreached people groups reside in this region, yet much of Western missions funding (about 94%) still goes to countries with significant Christian presence. Little is going to establish the Gospel in this tension zone. Why? Is it because most Western churches and mission agencies don’t really know how they would work in the region? Sending Western missionaries would require some uniquely qualified individuals. Yet, attrition would still likely be high and results slow coming.
The assumption is that Western workers are needed, but one Western mission organization is proving that theory wrong. Since 2003, New Covenant Missions has worked to see 4,040 locally sustained churches among 117 unreached people groups, the majority of which previously had no churches or Christians as neighbors. And now church growth is increasing as a result. In the first six months of 2021, 859 new churches have been established.
What is their secret? The answer shouldn’t surprise us in the West, yet it still does. New Covenant Missions understands that the best people to lead church planting work are the people who are from the regions where they serve. There are capable believers living in these places. Among them are people who feel God’s call to bring the Gospel to these hardest of places. All they need is some help to get trained and equipped.
Meeting Physical Needs as a Start
Starting a new church in a Muslim community begins with bridge-building. Not a physical bridge, but a bridge to relationships, trust, and understanding. Showing love in practical ways.
- Well-trained local believers going to serve the people
- Addressing the people’s most pressing needs
- Dialoguing with Imams, clerics, and other community leaders
This typically leads to community openness and acceptance of the church planters. It also usually produces the first believers. These workers are willing to endure the hardships and patiently sow the Gospel in the lives of their new friends.
Cost Effective Mission
It cost very little to train and support a local person to launch a church planting effort in these places. Many of them become self-sufficient. In fact, the trainers are also local people, so there is no need for a Western missionary to come and train as well. Western mission is spending billions of dollars annually on missions to places where the church is well established. Imagine what just a small percentage of those funds could do in a region like the tension belt! The church in the West should take advantage of the opportunity to finish the task by partnering with New Covenant Missions and other organizations like them.
Erik Laursen is President & CEO of New Covenant Missions.