Mechanics of Evangelism: Strategies for Proselytizing in Non-friendly Environments and Closed Countries
Seven Hundred Plans to Evangelize the World by David B. Barrett and James W. Reapsome lists down broad strategies for conversion activities in non-friendly environments and closed countries – where conversion is formally disallowed. We present an excerpt from the book.
Ministry by Foreigners
There are eight possible types of foreign evangelizers in closed countries. First are four categories covering foreigners resident in the country.
- Tentmaker: This widely misunderstood term refers to a Christian worker who, because it is not possible to be a full-time residential, foreign Christian worker, takes full-time secular employment in the target country. He or she hopes to have numerous opportunities for Christian witness and service. Many agencies serve those who chose this option. Tentmakers International, Seattle, Washington, USA has a list of 15,000 secular job profiles, many in closed countries, for which they seek to recruit tentmakers.
The tentmakers basic problem, as far as world evangelism is concerned, is that he or she must in good conscience devote most of his or her time and energy to the full-time secular job. Tentmakers are not full time professional Christian workers. Usually, they do not have a large mission board or Christian Agency behind them for support and guidance. Though they may have fellowship with other tentmakers, they usually work as lone rangers. In most cases, tentmakers do not have the time to learn the local mother tongue in depth, which is the key to penetrating people’s souls, especially where understanding the gospel is concerned.
- Residential: A residential missionary is a full-time professional employee of a foreign mission board who obtains government permission to reside and work in an otherwise closed country. Usually this person is a doctor, agriculturalist, or some other technical specialist.
- Clandestine: A clandestine missionary is a full-time professional who resides in and operates in a country illegally. In many cases, this missionary may have started out legally, but because of a change in government, he finds himself pronounced illegal. Nevertheless he decides to stay back, hoping he will not get caught. He must carry on his ministry secretly.
- Mole: By mole, we mean a part-time Christian worker, an illegal, residential alien. He may have once be a clandestine missionary employed by his board, but later left his board and stayed on to follow his own interests without the restriction of the board. Or, a mole may have been a legal tentmaker who became illegal. Moles in missions have a long and noble history. In past centuries, many Morovian missions sold themselves as gallery slaves in Morocco so that they could evangelize across the Muslim world.
Next there are non-residential categories, covering foreigners who are not residents of the target country.
- Tourist: Every year more than 100 Million Christian foreigners enter countries closed to foreign missions, entering as tourists. While there, perhaps up to six months, they discreetly undertake witness in various ways.
- Courier: A courier is a visitor from abroad who illegally carries messages to, from, and between local Christians, clandestine workers, and so on. He may also take in documents and Bibles and bring out messages and documents. Hundreds of tourists are persuaded to act as couriers by Western agencies. Some of them have been caught, deported, or even imprisoned.
- Smuggler: The smuggler is the full-time professional and seasoned Christian worker who operates illegally as an itinerant. One of the most famous is Brother Andrew, author of the best-selling book, God’s Smuggler.
- Nonresidential: This person is a professional, full-time career missionary who operates legally, but who works from outside the country, distant from the unevangelized segment. Because his base is an open foreign country, it’s possible and safe for him to network extensively with other Christians, churches, agencies, providing documentation, information, names and addresses, and so on.
Ministry by Citizens
- Part-time: A Christian who takes a secular job and salary, to give opportunity for Christian witness and part-service in a particular target population.
- Underground: This person is the citizen equivalent of the foreign mole. Both patiently burrow into the residential situation and then emerge months or even years later to exercise a part-time ministry.
- Pilgrim: No country has been able to stop the mass movement of religious pilgrims within their borders, or even across their borders. The cases of Albania, China, the Soviet Union, and Ethiopia attest this fact. As a result, most governments do not even try and instead ignore this problem. Therefore large number of Christian citizens deliberately utilize the pilgrim mode (or international tourist mode) specially to evangelize target people. Their great numbers show the great potential. Domestic as well as international numbers now show 3,500 million tourists a year, more than half of them are Christians. A nucleus of these are genuine, earnest, full-scale Christian pilgrims visiting sacred sites. Determined citizens can blend with these masses and visit target populations.
- Messengers: Huge underground evangelizing networks exist operated by messengers utilizing solely word of mouth – no letters, no writing, no telephones, nothing except face-to-face messages.
- Guerrilla: The guerilla is a full-time professional worker who operates permanently as an illegal itinerant. Determined and committed, he often risks his life and many have died for the sake of Christ. Around the world there are many thousand guerrilla Christian workers of this caliber.
A Case Study of Illegal Work
To cite one of several examples of the illegal categories, we refer to Operation Pearl. The largest smuggling operation ever, it was organized in 1981 by Open Doors out of the Netherlands. Some 200 tons of Bibles, one million volumes in all, were landed illegally at night off Swatow, China. They were quickly taken away by some 20,000 Chinese Christians. Some analysts think that Operation Pearl is one reason for unusual growth among Christians in China from 15 million in 1981 to 52,152,000 by 1987. In our terminology this operation was masterminded by alien smugglers and citizen guerrillas, using a network of foreign couriers, citizen messengers, and clandestine workers from different countries.