Out of over forty countries I’ve visited, there was only one place where I felt an impenetrable layer of spiritual darkness––where Satan’s minions seemed to have grasped all control. It’s not a place in Central Asia nor even Saudi Arabia. It’s a small region of Russia in the North Caucuses called Chechnya. While I was there, very few people were on the streets of its capital city Grozny, no smiles on people’s faces. Dissidents have been routinely kidnapped and executed by the local warlord. Russian laws don’t work there, and there is a history of Christian martyrs.
Yet there are faithful brothers and sisters who keep finding ways to minister in that region. So it is with every other closed country in the world. Bringing the gospel to closed countries through missions has always been a profoundly Christian endeavor, and so it will continue until Christ’s return. It’s not that only Christian churches have courageous men and women, who want to please their God. It’s that no other religious group has a message about their God so precious that it’s worth all the risk and sacrifice that’s involved in missions.
No other religious group has a message about their God so precious that it’s worth all the risk and sacrifice that’s involved in missions.
So why should missionaries go to closed countries today? Let me offer you three reasons.
We Go to Closed Countries Because Christ is Worthy
The good news about Jesus, the King and Savior, is so good that no one who truly tasted his goodness can contain it to himself. Christ is worthy of all praise because by his own blood, he ransomed a people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation (Revelation 5:9–12). The ultimate reason why some of those who were ransomed by Christ will go to closed countries at their own risk is because Christ is worthy of all the risk.
This reason is fundamentally different from man-made religions. You can’t help but pity the Jehovah’s Witnesses whose missionary activity is motivated by a desire to make sure they are among the elect. Christ’s elect gladly take radical steps to make their Savior’s name known among the nations! Christians don’t become missionaries in hard places because they want to secure their salvation, but because they are so secure in their Saviour.
We Go to Closed Countries Because Missions are the Means to Worship
So Christ is worthy of worship, but why multinational worship? A king who is loved and praised among one nation is of some worthiness. A king who is loved among all peoples and nations and is praised in all languages is of much greater worthiness. No missionary effort can truly reflect the worthiness of King Jesus, but we want to see a dim reflection of heavenly worship on earth, so we take the good news of Christ to closed countries.
Christ purchased a people for God from all tribes and nations, and he prescribed the means of drawing his people into his kingdom. He calls Christians to cross political, cultural, and linguistic boundaries to make disciples of all nations. This is established through missions. As John Piper put it, “Missions exist because worship doesn’t.”
While modern means of communication can be a helpful tool in the hands of missionaries, they will never substitute missionaries who go to closed countries. People do not only need to hear the gospel, but also need to be discipled. Someone can hear the gospel online and believe, but God’s design for every Christian is to join a local body of believers and grow together. If there are no local churches or they are too few or too unhealthy, then it is a missionary’s task to plant a church.
We Go to Closed Countries Because This Will Glorify God
So far, everything that I’ve shared is true of all missionary activity, not just missions to closed countries. So, why should missionaries go to hard and unwelcoming places in particular? I believe such missionary endeavors bring special glory to God.
Have you wondered why billions of people happen to live in countries that we’d call “closed” where the governments want to prevent Christian missionaries from entering and staying? We know that the king’s heart is in the hands of the Lord (Proverbs 21:1). We believe that God could have all human governments show favor to Christian missionaries, but he doesn’t.
I believe the main reason God doesn’t make missions easy is because he will get more glory if his people go to closed countries. This way, in spite of all sorts of opposition and risks and dangers, God’s name will be magnified because he will accomplish his mission of bringing many sons and daughters to glory.
Pray that the Lord Would Use Missionaries in Closed Countries
Why would an Iranian or a Chechen or a Somali citizen put his trust in Jesus? Not because he will gain something in his country. He will only do it if he becomes convinced that Christ is better than life. Let’s pray that the Lord would use the living testimonies of those who went a long way to share the gospel to prove that Christ is indeed more precious than life.