Indonesia (MNN) – Muslim Indonesians interrupted a church service in Sumatra again on August 6. The same church has been disrupted and forced to cease worship several times since May even though Indonesia’s laws guarantee the right to worship and freedom of religion. In July, a disruption by protesters was recorded on video and shared across social media.
The protestors claim that the church does not have the correct permits. The Communion of Churches in Indonesia (Persekutuan Gereja-gereja di Indonesia) has called on the regional government to mediate and protect the rights of the church members to worship.
Bruce Allen with FMI recently visited Indonesia, which has the world’s largest Muslim population. FMI partners with local church planters and pastors in Muslim-majority nations.
“The country is typically known to be more moderate in its expression of Islam than, let’s say, countries like Pakistan or Bangladesh, where FMI also develops partnerships,” Allen says.
“But there are pockets of persecution, discrimination, intimidation.”
Earlier this year, Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo affirmed constitutional protections for religious freedom, including the right to gather for worship. At the same time, Widodo instructed regional leaders not to allow local authorities to overrule the national laws. Even this support from the president has not been enough to entirely stop oppression of religious minorities.
Sent out with the Gospel
Despite the challenges, Allen says church planters persevere in outreach and discipleship while also pastoring local churches on various islands. Over 30 of these leaders gathered for further training during Allen’s recent visit.
“We were able to hold a three-day conference for our partners, in which we provided them with a reusable evangelism tool that was designed specifically for use in Indonesian culture,” Allen says.
The tool is called Snapshot and includes a stack of photo cards to guide Gospel conversations. The photo cards are different for each culture. Since the tool has only photos, it can be used in any local language and isn’t dependent on literacy. It is small enough to carry in a pocket and easy enough to train any believer to use. FMI partners already successfully share the Gospel with the Snapshot tool in other countries.
Snapshot is also unique to each individual and doesn’t use a script beyond five consistent questions. As the leader asks each question, the participant chooses one of the photos to represent her answer and explains why she chose it. This conversational process helps the participant to describe her spiritual needs and creates a bridge for the leader to introduce how Jesus meets those needs.
“What this tool will do [is it] will enhance your ability to listen to their answers and to understand their hearts, because unless you’re willing to listen to them, why are they going to listen to you?” Allen says. “It really is a fun engaging, and simple way to quickly get at the hearts of people.”
The church planters in Indonesia began to immediately use the simple tool and report positive responses to the Gospel. During the conference, a small group of leaders decided to practice with it at a local café. There, two employees asked if they could take a turn answering the questions.
“Within about 20 minutes, both of those employees were ready to place their faith in Jesus Christ,” Allen says.
Pray for the leaders as they use Snapshot in their own communities and train their church members.
“We’re really trusting the Lord to see a great harvest in the months ahead, because all congregations from youth to adults can be mobilized to use this tool,” Allen says.
Pray for the scattered congregations facing opposition to be encouraged and respond to the culture around them with forgiveness, gentleness, and respect. May they effectively reach their neighbors with the Gospel and grow across Indonesia.
“The intimidation, the persecution, even any political barrier, that is no barrier to the work of the Holy Spirit,” Allen says. “So let’s trust God to continue to grow His church.”
FMI plans to partner with eight more church planters and reach two additional islands by the end of the year. Learn how you can support an Indonesian church planter at ForgottenMissionaries.org.
Header photo courtesy of FMI on Facebook.