At a Bible study in my home for English learners, I once asked the group to turn back to the first book of the Bible, intending to make a point about Adam. I said, “Let’s go to the beginning, back to the story of the time when God created the earth.” A mainland Chinese woman looked up at me and said with utter astonishment, “He did?” She had no concept of a creator God, much less of a Savior named Jesus. Months later, she came to Christ and was discipled by an Indonesian believer here at MBC Tysons. Now years later, she is a disciple-maker back in China.
That experience has helped me recognize that discipling the nations is about involvement both here and there. You can’t separate what God has brought to your doorstep here in the Metro DC area from what He is doing overseas. My interest and involvement in China and what God was doing there increased my credibility with my new friend. Without that, she may never have attended a Bible study. Without training from believing nationals, I would not have known the needs or ways to communicate effectively with new friends from other cultures. I was later to learn of her contacts back home that had been faithfully praying for her salvation.
“A failure to disciple that Chinese woman at my kitchen table would have been a failure to support her praying Christian friends in a distant part of the Body. We are all dependent on each other within the Body; it is all tied together.”
Many internationals here are emotionally and financially tied back to their home countries. We in the Body here are also all connected in purpose and empowerment with other believers there. It is not just here or just there. It is both.
Our local church has a huge diversity of ethnic groups represented. We have been blessed to have believers from other cultural heritages, to worship and minister within our church. They have made it a place where international visitors feel at home in our services. We have Latinos and African Americans, Persians and Koreans rubbing shoulders with third generation Italian-Americans, tenth generation German-Americans and with new Jewish believers. We have people from places we know nothing about and fail to ask. We sit alongside people visiting who are from unreached people groups on the other side of the world. Are we intentional about partnering with their family members or neighbors who have been praying for them for years, but they are still not yet reconciled to Christ? Now they are here sitting next to us in church, or living next door or sitting in a nearby office cube. Will we reach out to them, discipling and equipping them? Will we support them in prayer if they return to that far away community where the name of Christ is not yet known? Will we be intentional about discipling all nations, here as well as there?
A missions pastor of a local church in Arlington told me that they had adopted a people group in Azerbaijan. They have been intentional about making connection with ministries there and are meeting needs and sharing the Gospel. Two weeks later, a young Azerbaijani man walked into our own English class registration here at MBC Tysons. We immediately referred him to the Arlington church to receive his English instruction there. We found a connection for him and pray that our intentional unity across churches testifies to God’s sovereign care for him. We pray for his salvation and for his impact to aid that church in being fully equipped to minister to Azerbaijanis both here and there.
“And he made from one, every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times, and the boundaries of their habitation, that they should seek God…though He is not far from each one of us.” Acts 17:26-27