Asia (MNN) — The World Economic Forum recently released an infographic map showing the layout of religions in each country. When you look to the West, there is already a heavy Christian influence. But the farther east you go, particularly in Asia, the more religious diversity you see – everything from Hinduism and Buddhism to Islam and Atheism.
“The vast majority of other faiths are headquartered or predominant in these nations,” Joe Handley, President of Asian Access says. “[Christians] are really hungry for a breakthrough of a Christ-centered focus in their nations.”
Asian Access serves in 15 countries across the continent and may expand into seven more countries by 2020.
With such religious diversity in Asia, there can’t be a “one size fits all” approach for presenting the Gospel.
“Each context we’re in, we have to take those rock-solid principles from the Bible, and yet apply them in a different way.”
Asian Access began ministry in Japan, and each time they move into another country, their staff use different contextualized practices for communicating God’s hope and love.
“This year, in fact, is our 20th anniversary of our first country outside of Japan. In that case, it was also a Buddhist country, but a Buddhist country that had a strong kind of atheist-agnostic core because it was a part of the former Soviet influence world that was Mongolia,” Handley explains.
“Moving from a ministry focused in Japan to one that was also adapting to Mongolia required significant cultural adjustment and adaptation and kind of experimentation. Every country that we’ve gone into now, we’ve had to do some form of adaptation. So when we move from Japan and Mongolia to, say, Sri Lanka or Myanmar or India, we had the shift.”
Explaining the godhood of Jesus looks different when you are talking to a polytheistic Hindu versus a monotheistic Muslim. And for an atheist in China, faith and biblical truths have different challenges than they would for a Buddhist in Japan.
Handley points out this idea of contextualized practices for ministry is nothing new.
“You think of the Apostle Paul becoming all things in order that he might reach some. Similarly, I think most ministries that are in the Asian sphere have to do this — adapt as you go.”
Asian Access also supports the local Body of Christ in all the countries they minister. Handley says they have a significant need right now for spiritual mentorship and encouragement.
“There are lots of opportunities particularly with Asian Access to come and serve as teachers, faculty members, and mentors. Because the Christian population is so small in most of the Asian continents, most of those who are Christ’s followers are hungry for veteran leaders — people who have had some significant experience behind them that can come in and provide mentoring and coaching.”
“One of our leaders once said, ‘Joe, please send me seasoned veteran leaders. We have no spiritual fathers.’ Let that sink in a little bit. If you’re out there in the West and maybe you’re a retired pastor, maybe you’ve been in business and you’re thinking, ‘What do I do next in life?’ You’re the kind of person that if you have a strong background in your faith in Christ, there are leaders all over Asia that are hungry for people like you to come and just build relationships with them.”
It can be anything from a weekend visit to a full week trip or longer. Handley says anything to connect believers across borders and continents will be an encouragement to our Christian brothers and sisters in Asia.
Even if you can’t go, something every believer can do is pray.
Handley asks, “Please pray for places like Japan, the second largest unreached people group in the world; or Bangladesh, the number one; or places like China and India and other countries where you have increasing persecution and pressure either from government or religious fanatics.
“In addition to praying for them, I would suggest that one of the things you can do is be a generous giver. The needs of this part of the world for the Gospel are immense. It’s not just Asian Access. It’s all of those of us that are serving in Asia or similar places. We need the resources in order to reach these unreached people groups. So please pray, please come and serve, and please be a generous giver.”
Header photo courtesy of Pixabay