Throughout history, the Gospel advances in the face of opposition. Governments crack down on churches, and the church grows significantly through the opposition.
Around the world, more than 300 million Christians suffer persecution for following Jesus, but this too often leads to more evangelistic fervor among believers. The COVID-19 pandemic is just the most recent example of how the advance of the Gospel cannot be hindered by anything that comes against it.
In a year that saw many things slow down and shut down, God’s people veered toward new, creative methods to reach lost people. When the world locked down, it became clear that typical services, Bible studies and events were no longer viable for the church, but from this new need came great opportunity.
Beyond online services, virtual Bible studies and COVID-19 relief efforts, the global church continued to advance.
Southeast partners with a ministry in Central and Eastern Europe called Josiah Venture, which reaches youth through camps, sports and events throughout the year. Instead of taking a year off when these things were shut down, one missionary in Latvia adapted to the circumstances and began running online virtual sports tournaments, complete with evangelistic devotions and optional Bible Studies. They knew people were spending time online in lockdown, so that became a new platform.
Since this program started, this missionary has had many incredible spiritual conversations. As a result, two young men decided to follow Christ and joined their church.
In Croatia, a Josiah Venture team had a different idea. They decided to take some of the funds that would normally be used for events and launched a national study of the youth in the country on how they view God, the church and Christianity. They created ads offering 20 Euros for a two-hour interview about religion.
This not only gave this team amazing new insights into what the youth of Croatia think about religion, but it gave them hundreds of opportunities to talk about Jesus with youth who were hungry for conversation during the lockdown.
Many didn’t even take the 20 Euros at the end of the meeting because they enjoyed the time so much. It is clear that the fruit from this creative pivot will continue for many years to come.
These are just a couple of the encouraging stories from around the world of believers living in new margins that allow them to think outside the box to reach lost people. Though many church buildings have been closed and traditional ministry methods shut down, the global church has continued to advance. This shouldn’t surprise us since we are made in the image of a creative God!
Josiah Venture’s mission is to equip young leaders to fulfill Christ’s commissions through the local church. In 2020, Josiah Venture invested in 680 churches and trained nearly 5,400 leaders. Throughout the year, 3,475 nonbelievers heard the Gospel during evangelical events, with 353 making the decision to follow Christ.
In the Czech Republic, more than 13,500 students were impacted by Josiah Venture’s Gospel to Schools program. Josiah Venture also led more than 6,800 young people in disciple-making activities. To learn more, visit www.josiahventure.com.
Ben Thornley is Southeast’s international and U.S. missions team leader.