Feature

The Other Window

The eye of the needle

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Why does the Christian and Missionary Alliance still have missionaries in Latin America? Isn’t it an evangelized continent? These two questions are often insinuated and sometimes stated openly by missiologists and people focused on reaching the unreached. The drive to reach people in central Asia and the 10/40 Window is the focus of many church/mission groups today because most unreached people live there. Extending the Kingdom in these areas must be a priority for any mission that desires to have a part in completing the Great Commission. Our founder, Dr. A. B. Simpson, placed great importance on reaching areas where there was little or no access to the gospel. The C&MA today remains true to that vision, pushing back the darkness around the world.

Although the need is urgent in central Asia and the 10/40 Window, there is still much to be done in the Southern Hemisphere. Often, Latin America is labeled an evangelized continent. Although accessibility to the gospel, in terms of distance to a church, is widespread in Latin America, the percentage of evangelical believers is still relatively small in many countries. Unfortunately the percentages quoted in many studies lump together evangelicals, Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons and small cults. More precise statistics from the Joshua Project (www.joshuaproject.org) list the following: Peru, 8.7 percent; Colombia 4.8, percent; Argentina, 11 percent; Ecuador, 6.1 percent; Dominican Republic, 7.6 percent; Mexico, 6.7 percent; Paraguay, 4.8 percent; and Uruguay, 4.5 percent. These statistics more accurately reveal the portions of those populations that are eternally lost. The need is great even though most of the continent is open to the gospel. That is why C&MA missionaries are ministering in 10 Latin American countries, sharing the good news, planting churches and witnessing life transformations. Transition is beginning to take place in five of these countries as national churches mature and begin sending their own cross-cultural missionaries around the world.

While there are many lost people in Latin America, the group that is the most unreached is the one I refer to as “The Other Window: The Eye of the Needle.” Jesus stated in Matthew 19:23, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Professional people in Latin society exert influence far beyond their numbers, yet they are largely outside of the social and cultural reach of the majority of evangelical churches. In fact, in many of the countries mentioned in the statistics above, the number of evangelical Christians in this socioeconomic group would often be less than 1 percent of the population. This group has traditionally been highly resistant to the gospel, in part due to their self-sufficient mindset. Also, they have observed that the gospel has flourished principally among the lower classes and thus stereotype our evangelical faith as being for the poor and uneducated. These are the “eye of the needle” people of our time.

International workers from The Christian and Missionary Alliance have risen to this challenge, and are actively engaged in outreach to this socio/economic group. Projects are underway in Buenos Aires, Argentina; Cali, Colombia; Guayaquil, Ecuador; Santiago, Chile; Montevideo, Uruguay; Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, and several other cities around the continent to share the gospel with this group.

What are the obstacles to establishing churches in this important segment of Latin society? First, there is an ingrained prejudice against this group. Because the material needs of the professional class are so few in comparison with the majority of the people around them, Christians can easily be blinded to their desperate spiritual poverty. Those who minister to this group often are astonished at the dysfunctional state of the families and the hidden but deep longings for peace and significance that characterize these individuals. But these things are not easily observable to the outsider, for these people are very private and highly image conscious. It is interesting that short-term groups from churches in North America are eager to visit ministries that focus on the marginalized of society but don’t seem interested in ministries that target those in the professional class. Why? Could it be that they look so much like us that we don’t see them as lost?

A second obstacle to reaching this segment of the population is the resources that are needed to have significant ministry to this group. Professional people often live in gated or more exclusive communities where rent is costly. Missionaries need to live in close proximity to the people they are trying to reach so they can incarnate the gospel with their daily lives. Thus reaching this group requires a significant financial commitment. And what about the human resource factor? Most missionaries are not from the professional class in their own country. They do not easily understand the culture and idiosyncrasies of this group. They are not accustomed to moving in the social settings that are comfortable to this class.

Finally, a very significant obstacle is the lack of response international workers encounter when they begin ministry to “eye of the needle” people. Workers see churches established and people responding to the gospel in the other segments of Latin society, yet it may take years to establish relationships with and earn the confidence of professionals before they see anyone come to faith in Christ. It is difficult, and can be discouraging, to minister in a responsive continent to a resistant people group.

Jesus talked about the difficulty of the rich entering the Kingdom of God. “When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, ‘Who then can be saved?’ Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible’” (Matt. 19:25–26). Jesus wants all people to hear the good news and have the opportunity to come into a personal relationship with Him. “Eye-of-the-needle” people, as well as people from all other levels of society, deserve the opportunity to hear a clear presentation of the gospel that addresses their worldview issues in their own context. The “Other Window” is beckoning in Latin America. Will the church have the vision, commitment, perseverance and spirit of sacrifice required to reach this group with the good news of eternal life?

  • Pray for breakthroughs in projects among professional people around the continent.
  • Pray for patience, perseverance and the power of the Holy Spirit for missionaries ministering in these settings.
  • Pray and give so that our missionaries will have the ministry resources needed.
  • Pray for creative outreach ideas that will help facilitate contacts among the professional class.
  • Pray for business people who have professional platforms that facilitate contact with “eye-of-the-needle” people who will join teams with missionaries to impact this group.

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