Imagine a closed, restricted country with a people group that are lost, with no hope, no gospel and no one to reach them. Who is able to learn not just one language, but two, or three? Who is able to set up a business as a way to build a platform for communicating the word of God? With the government opposed to everything that you are there to do, who is able to make the gospel understood in a foreign land, with a foreign culture? Who is able to do all of that whilst keeping their marriage strong and their kids faithful?
Who is able to do this alone?
The answer is no one. No one in our churches are able to do this work without the power and might of our God in heaven who sits on his throne and is more sovereign and in control than all powers and dominions of this world.
What we need to understand about church planting cross-culturally is that this impossible work has nothing to do with you. However, it has everything to do with God and his glory and his grace being poured out on a people group.
This is Jay’s story. Working with the Chon people in North Asia, he says ‘It has nothing to do with me at all. We can’t measure success by a number of believers or how many daughter churches you’ve planted or what percentage of a people group come to Christ. It is not in our hands. It is in the Lord’s hands.’
“All of our teammates had left. We were the only people there. At that point we didn’t have any hope that the gospel would even spread. It didn’t look like there was going to be any fruit. People were really closed before we started teaching and there was just no interest in the gospel at all. We thought we would be there until we died, thinking ‘We’ll never see a church established here’.”
However, Jesus’ words in the New Testament read, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
After learning language in 2006, Jay started using a Chon translation of the Bible and began preparing nearly 40 lessons on the narrative of the Bible to use with the Chon.
Jay started teaching these narrative lessons to three friends. By the time Jay had completed lesson four, the three Chon people that were coming to the studies started sharing God’s truth with their cousins, roommates, friends and family members. They began growing a courageous fervour to share boldly of God’s story with people in their circles and communities.
With more and more people being invited, Jay recalls that in the next year the group expanded to six different groups meeting, with around 50 people attending in total.
When the first believers came to faith, they had a deep desire to see the rest of their people group come to know Jesus. They decided to go to villages on the North Asian border where foreigners aren’t allowed to go, leaving Jay behind. They were given permission by the government to tell these stories in what’s called a ‘culture house’ where people gather. However, as they began sharing these stories, the government became suspicious of their teachings because they seemed religious.
The government then held them in prison overnight. These new believers were Christians only for two or three months. However, when they were released, they were filled with so much joy because they were able to be counted worthy for His name.
‘If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.’ – 1 Peter 4:14
After some hardships and learning difficulties with Jay’s son, Jay’s family had to reconsider their options for ministry. They had to leave North Asia and come back from the field.
“That was really hard for me because at that point the church was two years old, we had a bunch of new Christians and almost all of the believers had been believers for less than 5 years. It was really challenging for me to surrender to the Lord and to leave this in His hands.”
“I never would have said this out loud but honestly my belief was that the church can’t survive without me and I am necessary for the church to grow here. But the Lord really rebuked me and showed me how foolish that was.”
Jay shared how they had been back in their home country for a few months, filled with anxiety and wondering whether the church would fall apart and thinking about how much they had sacrificed for that work just to leave it all behind. However, one day a teammate sent through a picture of twelve people being baptised. These people were new believers who Jay hadn’t even known personally and had come to faith through no help from Jay.
God taught him through these experiences that Jay could see exactly what God was doing, that His work is far beyond him, His work is special and, in his words, ‘never had anything to do with me but had everything to do with God.’