The Knowledge of Christ
Sharing the Gospel in a Spiritual Desert
by Lil Brooks
I showed up for training to become a Journeyman on Sept. 10, 2001. The world changed that next day. Never again would my parents be able to walk me to the gate at the airport. The planes stopped flying and the skies were eerily quiet. But I was embarking on a journey to a Muslim people group in Central Asia.
My first two years on the field were in more of an “office” job while my last one included a transfer to a place where the single-digit number of foreigners in a town of over 400,000 people was only a little intimidating. I was now a student. I wasn’t an expert and the things I could do didn’t make me “cool” anymore. I was now dumb and an oddball. I could barely talk and for sure couldn’t read as both the majority and minority languages had difficult scripts. I thought this “humbling” was what God was going to teach me — He’d already told me that He had things to teach me.
Humbling was definitely a part of it, but I can now see more clearly some of the things God was teaching me in those days.
There were very few believers in this town and those were all of the majority culture. As far as we could tell, there were no followers of Christ among the Muslim minority. The knowledge of Christ was not just anemic, it was non-existent among our peoples!
I grew up in a Southern Baptist church and knew that “Jesus Loves Me” and that “Jesus Loves the Little Children” (all the children of the world!). And I knew that individuals had to accept Jesus as their “Savior and Lord” to be saved from hell. Here I was in the middle of a spiritual “nowhere” and the task seemed overwhelming: “Prepare the way for the Lord.” That was our team’s goal. We wanted to get the barriers (culture, language, access, misunderstandings about the person of Christ) out of the way as much as possible so that when our friends finally heard the Gospel we’d been trying to tell them all along, they could believe.
The year began with alphabet study and shaping my mouth to make four different sounds that all had a similar letter and making my throat create almost hacking sounds that were key parts of words. My teacher was so kind and patient.
Soon enough, we began having conversations. It wasn’t long before I felt more than completely inadequate to be able to share this truth with her. I would wake up in the middle of the night sweating and frantically praying that God would equip me with words of Truth for our conversations and that He would, like Lydia in Acts 16, open her heart to understand those words.
For her, sin was just something you did. It had no basis in the attitude of the heart and it definitely wasn’t something you couldn’t just fix by doing works. But she was very interested in being justified before God. One day during class she asked me point blank, “Right now, how are you before God? What is your standing before Him?”
For me in this year, the Gospel became very clearly hinged upon Jesus. This seems kind of ridiculous now but then it was revolutionary. Jesus was the Good News of the Gospel. A better life, spiritual unity with believers, the ability not to fear things … these were all effects of the Gospel. To answer her question of my standing before God, I used words to a song I had just memorized in the local language: I could never be clean before God if it were not for Christ standing in my place. The Gospel was this and nothing more: Without Christ, I was unclean and unacceptable before God and doomed to a life of hell.
I remember where I was when I first articulated this new discovery. A friend and I were prayer walking in the neighborhood near where my teacher lived. We were praying that marriages would be healed, that men would not abuse their wives and that the minority people wouldn’t be oppressed. Suddenly I realized and said out loud, “God these people need Christ. They don’t need those other things as much as they need You!”
In the years since, I’ve definitely gone around on this one. I’ve thought that maybe people need to hear of the final justice of God or to know that rescue is coming and God will reconcile all the wrongs. But that year in that place where Jesus wasn’t known I learned that if it’s not Jesus, it’s not enough. If my conversations don’t help people understand their sinfulness, opposition to God and desperate need for Christ’s atonement, then my conversations are not enough. I also learned that the Gospel is the same for people in a Christian nation and people in a Muslim nation. Those who are apart from God, no matter where they live, must hear, believe, repent and trust God.
I had the blessing of knowing that I was in that place for a very limited amount of time and that anything I said could very well have been the only portions of the Good News she ever heard. That urgency helped me to look for opportunities to share as much as possible. And these things have never left me. It doesn’t mean I’m preaching on the street corners. It means I want to make sure there is no “unreached peoples” among my friends. I want them to all have heard the Gospel in words because, as Paul teaches us in Romans 10, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”