The myth of 'closed' countries...

In the missions world, we hear lots about certain countries being “closed” to the spread of the gospel. This can be extremely misleading.

When they say a country is “closed,” what they mean that you can’t apply for a visa to stay and be a “missionary.” Or it means that you can’t buy a building and start a foreign-led, foreign-funded church plant. (Which is probably not a good idea anyways…) But there are many other ways that you can go there and live for the gospel.

Many say that since these countries are “closed,” the only other alternative is to go there and set up a business, get a full time job, or to stay out and fund local workers. This often isn’t true either.

You can get into many ‘closed’ and unreached countries as a language student, for instance. Or, in some cases, you can simply get a long-term residence permit. You can work part-time teaching English. There are a lot of different options if you’re willing to throw yourself out there and be creative. You can spend years learning the language, and then spend almost all your time getting out there, drinking tea and sharing the gospel. I know, because I and many of my friends have done it.

You can meet people, share the gospel, make disciples of a few that believe, and Christ can build his church.

It’s misleading to say that these last few unreached countries can only be accessed by working professionals, doctors, and businessmen. I’ve spent years in these places with almost no qualifications. I knew another guy who worked for years in these regions, and he was a high-school dropout! (I’m not suggesting you do that, by the way…)

So, why aren’t people getting to these millions of unreached people in the darkest places?

Most of the time it’s not becasue we’re not educated, enough, not skilled enough, and not professional enough. I think most of the time it’s because we’re not dead enough.

In most cases people are not being held back from these places not becasue they don’t have the right profession or career. They’re being held back because they won’t let go of their profession or career. We need more people who crucified their skills and plans and said, “Ok, I’m done. All I know is I need to tell people about Jesus.” And then we can work from there…

It’s not that we need to be smarter, braver, more well-equipped, and more strategic. We need to be deader, smaller, and more surrendered.

There’s a huge push these days to get lots of education and professional skills so we can get into these “closed” places. But from what I’ve seen, this often ends up being counter-productive because people get stuck pursuing these long careers instead of giving up their dreams and diving into the open doors. Or, when they get on the field they can face the danger of becoming consumed with making their career work overseas.

It’s easy to over-estimate our need for qualifications or education to move into an live in these ‘closed’ courntries. I know I’ve done it. When we move in with faith, we are often surprised how little we need the credentials we thought were so essential. This is especially true when it comes to relating to the people on the ground. We don’t necessarily need some great profession, business, or service to be able to relate to people in these unreached places. We just need humility and love. We just need time to sit with them. The people in these parts are far more friendly and open than you can imagine.

I know I have made a lot of gross generalizations here. There are a select few countries that are really tough to get into, and I’m not saying that we never need any skills or qualifications to get into these places. What I am saying is that the need for these qualifications is often highly exaggerated.

The door is open much wider than we think. But there are few people willing to get rid of their camels and crawl through the needle’s eye.

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