Five Ways Bin Laden Has Influenced Missional Church Planting (Part I)

[Note: My series on the sending church takes a twist with the news of the death of Bin Laden. Read on to see the relevance of Bin Laden to church planting.]

May Day brought with it eternal sunset for Osama Bin Laden.  U.S. special forces deadly blow means special justice for millions of people whose lives have been affected by this evildoer, not the least being men and women who have served in the armed forces and intelligence communities, their families, and the victims of 9-11.

One arena that has been affected drastically by Bin Laden’s treachery is that of world missions and church planting.  We’ve been reminded that behind blood and guts battles a spiritual battle is raging, led by spiritual troops commissioned by the Lord of hosts.  Cross-cultural church planters see first hand the devastation perpetrated by Bin Laden ideology.  Missionaries who serve among Muslim and other peoples fight the ultimate battles with weapons that “…have divine power to demolish strongholds…arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God…” (NIV, 2 Corinthians 10:4-5).

Like it or not, God’s use of warfare imagery in scripture awakens us to the fact that church planting is more than marketing and training conferences.  And let us not forget that Bin Laden died physically yesterday with a bullet in the head but his eternal disposition, with greater stakes, is now firmly in the hands of God.

Fort Kali Janga, Mazar i sharif - first major battle in Afghanistan

Bin Laden stirred up the entire world.  He also lit a fire under a band of brothers and sisters who care more about Jesus than they do jihad.  The world of mission operates differently today thanks, in part, to OBL, in five ways meaningful to our generation.

New Mission Fields Opened Up

Events surrounding 9-11 have opened the gates to the gospel to countries that were previously closed or difficult to enter.  Afghanistan is the obvious benefactor here but God has allowed additional focus from the War on Terror to enable the spread of his good news throughout the Middle East, North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, Central Asia and Southwest Asia.  New churches have been planted.  Tens of thousands of new followers of Jesus Christ have been welcomed into the kingdom.

During my visit to Afghanistan in 2003 I met with a hospitable warlord (he invited me to sit down, chat, and serve me tea) who has since protected Christians who moved to Afghanistan to bring hope, peace, and good news.  “What a strange life I live” I pondered during that wonderful cultural exchange.

warlord is big guy in middle, I'm on his right, my friend on his left

The next day an Afghani man approached me on the street with a look of concern on his face asking me, “are you an American?”  As I was surrounded by a crowd from the nearby market waiting to hear my reply, I mustered up the courage to respond, “yes, I am an American.”  Immediately, a sense of human dignity enveloped my heart when he responded, “America is a friend to Afghanistan.”

America remains a friend to Afghanistan, even as Bin Laden’s death creates some uncertainty.  What is known is that thousands of Christians have improved health facilities, educational systems, and infrastructure that provides clean water and electricity to millions of Afghanis.  Seeing girls in school uniforms and boys flying kites, both activities outlawed by the Taliban, warmed my heart to see that small changes can lead to larger ones.

Better Contingency Planning Among Mission and Church Leaders

Good things in Afghanistan and other countries have not come without cost.  A sister committed to Christ that I helped to mobilize into Afghanistan was murdered while on a rural medical mission.  My sadness and pain have been deep knowing I had a role in her sending.

A family I know has served in Afghanistan for over twenty years.  I interviewed and approved this family as a member of the missions committee of their sending church.  While they are a picture of courage for having returned to Afghanistan again and again through wars and turmoil, their family life has been lain on the altar of sacrifice.

Nevertheless, we have a greater awareness of what it takes to live and church plant in dire circumstances.  Mission agencies and churches are better in tune with contingency planning, how to handle evacuations, and debriefing missionaries after their terms.  We serve missionaries better because we have walked the tumultuous path with them over the past ten years.

Afghani men

Much more remains to be done in supporting missionaries so that they are effective in life and ministry.  The hardships created by Bin Laden and the War on Terror have mobilized the Christian community, committed to making disciples where none or few exist.

…Continued in Part 2

Highlights of Five Ways Bin Laden Has Influenced Missional Church Planting (Part 2):

  • there is more public awareness of the missionary church planter lifestyle
  • there has been a waking up among American Christians
  • in Bin Laden evil has been clearly delineated for all to see

Part 2 of Five Ways Bin Laden Has Influenced Missional Church Planting

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