International (MNN) — Church planting in a Muslim nation is a dangerous proposition, and training is usually a luxury the faithful don’t have.
Most Christian nationals in Pakistan will never attend seminary or receive any sort of formal Bible training. But Bruce Allen of Forgotten Missionaries International (FMI) says these Christians are eager to reach out to each other despite the risks of being found together.
“Christian pastors are getting death threats from folks saying, ‘We know who you are. We know where you are. Prepare to die within a matter of days.’”
Such threats aren’t taken lightly. But Allen said he tells people who pray for pastors’ safety that they are more likely to be sidelined by the terrors of bacteria, parasites, and other sicknesses than by ISIS killers.
Seminars such as FMI’s “Identifying and Managing the Risks of Sharing Jesus” is offered every few years and helps ministry workers with the other issues that often affect them and their families.
“The risks aren’t just about terrorism or physical harm,” Allen says. “Sometimes, the risks are frequent loss of privacy, loss of personal control over agendas, and emotional wear and tear.”
Such issues affect pastors most anywhere, but the pressures that come in countries where the populace is hostile toward Christians can make church planting a much higher stress proposition.
“The pastors, the evangelists, the church planters are fully aware of the culture in which they serve,” Allen explains. While they understand the risk of spreading the Gospel, they also know the rewards. It is the amount of stress, built up over time, that has a deleterious effect on families.
“We need to pray for their stamina, their courage to continue in light of those things, because it is very wearing,” Allen says. “We really want to help fortify the people who are serving in those dark situations.”
In a secure, secret location, FMI holds conferences for their overseas partners. They go, with their spouses and their children, to meet with others who are trying to minister to a hostile homeland.
“The wives of the church planters are also getting nourished and are learning how to better support their husbands, how to do discipleship themselves among women,” says Allen.
The wives are often called on to teach the women of the church. In societies such as Pakistan and Bangladesh, the genders are separated. Even in the church, the segregation continues, so a wife of a church planter may be called on to disciple the other women. For them, there are special sessions at the conference, Allen says.
“Conferences like this are a great opportunity for them to hear the testimony from other church planters and what God is doing in their areas,” Allen says. “They leave feeling encouraged, strengthened, and emboldened to continue serving in their own area.”