“We had a great weekend of ministry. People threw stones at us, but God protected us and we were able to complete the service. We really saw God move. Keep praying for us.”
Each week since my recent visit to Pakistan, I receive exciting ministry updates from a very special group of young Pakistani believers. Queser, Mahmoud, Haroun, Naitan, Sadiq and others are Bible college students who represent the leading edge of a movement of evangelists and disciple makers. They are redefining what it means to be missional in a country that seems to be so opposed to Christianity. They are planting churches, holding outreach meetings, praying for the sick, ministering to the poor, and caring for widows and orphans. They are practising and proclaiming the gospel with passion and energy. This wave of young mission-minded leaders is, to say the least, inspiring.
Protestant mission activity in what is now Pakistan goes back centuries. Mission work in the late 18th and 19th centuries established the foundation for the Pakistani church that exists today. When Pakistan was established as a Muslim state in 1947, the situation for the Christian minority became complicated. In the face of opposition, the missional priority became “Don’t let the darkness overcome the light.” Effort was given to preserving and protecting the Christian witness so it would not be lost. The faithfulness and dedication of church leaders are commendable. Many sacrificed a great deal. Day-to-day disrespect and abuse of Christians became common. Violence, including the memorable church bombings, symbolized the severity of the threat to the Christian community in Pakistan. The fact that the church remains active and continues to have a presence in the country is a testimony to the grace of God and the faithfulness of His church. Thanks to their resilience, there is still a church in Pakistan.
Currently it seems that God is doing something new. A new generation of leaders is emerging that intends to “be the light.” There is a courageous and bold desire to reach out, to fearlessly and faithfully proclaim and practise the gospel. These young leaders are seeking to engage and address the spiritual, social and physical needs of their nation. Where possible, they are eager to dialogue with those who fundamentally oppose their faith. Where dialogue is not welcome, they courageously continue to provide a faith-filled witness. Eric epitomizes this generation. He is a scholar, a musician, and a well-known worship leader. He is also the author of several frequently sung children’s songs known throughout the country, even outside of the Christian community, for the morality of the message communicated. He is at the front of this renewal of missional focus. For example, the common “hymnbook” of the Muslim and the Christian communities in Pakistan is the Psalms. Eric has been instrumental in engaging Muslim leaders in revitalizing the music and the singing of Psalms as part of true worship. The relationships formed and the opportunities that follow to engage in spiritual dialogue are spectacular. These kinds of experiences have inspired Eric to be instrumental in the effort to mobilize the next generation to missional focus and a more outward perspective to making disciples. This is where we found our opportunity to collaborate in mission. Through a providential connection to Eric, we were invited to collaborate in their vision.
During each of the past two years, we have engaged in a project called Impact Pakistan. We work closely with a group of interdenominational leaders representing 10 Bible colleges. We support mission work in Pakistan by consulting with these colleges to provide mission training and to host mission conferences for their students. Last year we sponsored and participated in the first gathering of the Christian colleges in Pakistan. Some of these institutions were established recently. Others, like Gujranwala Theological Seminary, our host for the 2019 conference, were established 150 years ago. The 2018 consultation was focused on establishing a meaningful network and identifying the strategic emphasis for the group. The decision to make the mission of God the focus of this year’s student conference reflects the sense of urgency that emerged at the 2018 consultation. At the student conference earlier this year, we had the great privilege of equipping over 100 Bible college students for mission impact in Pakistan. The theme was “Developing a Missional Hermeneutic for Pakistan.” Several international speakers, many representing the Christian Pakistani diaspora, spoke on a variety of topics focused on discerning God’s missional plan for Pakistan. Our contribution to the program was a four-part plenary session on Equipping for Missional Effectiveness. We had a blessed time together celebrating and learning from one another and forming strong connections that have grown through coaching communication since the conference. These are the emerging leaders who seek to remain connected. As they share what God is doing, all they ask for is prayer and more training. Pastor Rashid Akhtar, a victim of the Islamabad church bombing, shared the following observation: “What you are doing to equip our leaders is the very best thing you can do for the church in Pakistan right now.” What a privilege to partner with and support the church in Pakistan through our strength in equipping ministry.
Kirk Kauffeldt is the director for Global Ed, the equipping program of PAOC International Missions, which supports the work of PAOC theological education and leadership initiatives around the world.
This article appeared in the October/November/December 2019 issue of testimony/Enrich, a quarterly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. Photos © International Missions.