Written By JB.
JB (name change) is a sent one serving in Asia among a Himalayan people group. He has a passion for seeing the local church grow where it hasn't taken root before.
I live in Asia, working to reach Himalayan peoples. For the past few months I have found myself more and more involved in a fledgling church full of new believers. I've spent time teaching, hanging out, going on retreats, praying, and watching them grow in love for one another. One of them is my Himalayan roommate, Nate.
About a week before Easter my roommate and I had three of his friends over for dinner. We had hosted them a few times before and it usually goes like this: I cook pork-burgers (because they’re cheaper than beef), we eat, we have a good conversation, we go on a walk, and then the night ends.
This night was about the same, except during our walk Nate used the upcoming holiday as a springboard to share about Jesus’ death and resurrection. Two of his friends listened attentively. The third walked off right after the story and began doing Buddhists chants. That’s how Himalayans sometimes react to hearing the gospel.
The Purpose of Community for Advancing the Mission
Nate and I were able to embolden each other to share that night. We encouraged each other, and without each other’s presence it would have been harder to initiate that conversation. This is why being a part of God's family in community is so critical. We spur each other on to obedience. Furthermore, after being discouraged by the rejection of our Lord that night, both Nathan and I had a grace-filled community to return to and be reminded of Father's love for us.
It is the church that makes the manifold wisdom of our Father known to the world, not the Pope, not Tim Keller, not even great evangelistic preachers like Billy Graham. God's family working together to make disciples is the medium through which He has chosen to make Himself known. Paul made this clear in Ephesians 3:8-10:
To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.
The Importance of Unity for Maintaining the Mission
Just yesterday I got to sit down and hear from a couple who have been in Asia over thirty years. They retired here. The topic was longevity on the field. When I asked the reasons people go home after only a few years, one of the answers was rigidity, especially in the church. Many workers come to Asia and can't get over some of the stylistic preferences of the very locals they’re trying to reach. After fighting for change their first few years and seeing none, the workers often leave in frustration. After telling us this the husband said, "I am becoming more and more convinced of the importance of unity in the body."
Now I'm not saying that if there are major theological problems or wolves among the flock we need to look the other way. But if the issues at hand are a matter of personal preference or theological differences other than primary or secondary ones, maybe we need to lay aside our sword for the sake of unity. We need to love our brother by enjoying their preferences with them. The whole “first will be last and the last will be first” thing—it’s super hard. Trust me, I know. But we must endlessly love those in our own family, who have been chosen by God, destined for eternal life with Jesus Christ.
I'm convinced the local church is how Himalayans or any unreached people will be reached in the long-run—by witnessing the unified community a local body represents; by seeing people put aside their needs and desires to serve their brother or sister in Christ; by realizing true identity is found only in the context of the people of God.