“We want to focus on indigenous people hearing the gospel, but anyone can be sharing,” he explained. Physical location can create “invisible barriers” and does not always represent where ministry is actually taking place, Clayton said.
“So often you think about the resources of missions being the ‘insiders,’ missionaries on the ground, but that’s such a small pool of people, and they’ve only got so many hours in the day.”
In order to learn how to best utilise technology, social media and globalisation, Clayton developed a four-box model to write down what he saw happening among Gulf Arabs and to provide a resource for future ministries among Muslims.
“It gives you clarity in terms of thinking about non-traditional ways of doing ministry,” he noted.
Those living inside a geographic footprint reach indigenous people within the same footprint. This model reflects the traditional “missionary” approach. Any worker living in the AP has opportunity to meet and share with locals through work, school, leisure activities and everyday life.
“My daughter is growing up with all sorts of local girls,” one OM worker shared. She became friends with a few local girls in her school class, who invited her to visit their homes. During the visits, the worker’s wife had opportunity to share with the mothers.
Another OM worker volunteers at a bookshop that sells Christian literature. “A young local lad visited for the fourth time (having found no one there the previous three occasions he visited it), looking to purchase a Bible,” the worker shared. The young man told the worker how he had wandered into a Catholic church near where he lived, looking for something. “What he found was Jesus, a peace in his heart and a desire to learn more about Christ,” the worker said.
Those outside a geographic footprint reach back inside to the indigenous people within that footprint. Radio, television, internet and social media have provided ways to broadcast truth into the AP without workers in the country. By using technology, foreign believers and indigenous expats can connect easily with seekers and new believers inside the AP.
Long-term worker Jared* lived in the AP for several years before relocating to the UK with his family. Nonetheless, he reaches out daily to friends in a Gulf country by sending Scripture verses to a small group on a smartphone messaging application. In fact, the group functions as a week-long electronic Discovery Bible Study (DBS) with prayer, practical application and sharing aspects. “I did some basic discipleship classes. Basically now, they’ve taken it over. They’re administering it each week; I just contribute as a member,” Jared said.
All types of satellite/media ministry follow this model as do focused social media ads, Clayton emphasised. From hundreds of thousands of video downloads to individuals using video chat, the opportunity is vast for believers outside the AP to connect to those searching for truth inside the region.
Those living inside a geographic footprint reach indigenous people in the diaspora of their people group living (or visiting) beyond that footprint. Most locals in the AP face safety risks for sharing their faith openly where they live. Still, many have come to Christ and share their testimonies abroad via the internet.
Within one people group from the AP, a thriving church has developed among its spread-out diaspora. “The way this church has got off the ground is online,” Clayton said. Members of the people group live around the world, some believers and some not, but a few who share truth still live in the AP. An online forum for religious seekers “attracts anyone,” Clayton explained. The local believers living in the AP “witness to people, but they veil their identities.”
Those outside a geographic footprint reach indigenous people in the diaspora of the people group living (or visiting) outside that footprint. Globalisation has changed the way Arabs study, vacation and do business.
Workers serving in the AP talk about meeting Arab foreign exchange students whilst in their home countries on furlough. “There is a whole ministry focused on Arab students, and lots are coming to Christ,” Clayton said.
Another OM partner ministry reaches out to Gulf Arabs vacationing in Europe. Volunteers seek to start spiritual conversations with AP nationals on holiday, helping them discover Christ in an open environment.
A national worker who heads up similar outreaches shared multiple stories of people from the AP turning to Jesus abroad. Once he met a Gulf businessman on a business trip to the UK. “After having a long conversation…and answering all his questions about Christianity, he gave his life to Jesus and asked to join discipleship training,” the worker shared.
Pray for believers in and outside of the Arabian Peninsula to find creative ways to share with Gulf Arabs. Pray that many locals from this region would come to know Jesus as their Lord and Saviour.
Nicole James a writer for OM International, passionate about publishing the stories of God’s work among the nations and telling people about the wonderful things He is doing around the world.
Published: Wednesday, 03 May 2017
Credit: Nicole James