Lessons from the Church in Pakistan: Boldness
Q: What are some tools you use to make disciples in Pakistan?
I have a small group in my home, where we pick a Bible book and go through it verse by verse. This is because we want people to know the whole Bible, not just picking and choosing. We take references from here and there.
In America, they have a lot of intellectual, philosophical issues to deal with. In Pakistan, it’s not like Darwinism or universalism that people deal with; it’s Islam. So we have to be very well-equipped on three or four questions. For example: Why do we believe Jesus is the Son of God? Why are the Muslim God and Christian God different? Why do we believe the Bible is the trustworthy Word of God? These are the big, basic, biblical questions we need to figure out to lead Muslims to Christ.
Q: You grew up in Pakistan and you lived for a time in the US during your schooling. Are there any differences in the ways people read the Bible in the two countries?
In America, Christians will often deal with a difficult verse by trying to make it figurative. Even sometimes when it comes to miracle passages. In Pakistan, people believe that God has done miracles and that He can do miracles today. If you go soft on convictions like these, it wouldn’t make sense around here. If you don’t believe God is doing anything anymore, then how do you make it through the hard circumstances? You have to believe in a supernatural God who can save you and help you.
You don’t have a lot of safety over here. So whom are you going to depend on? God, and that’s it. If you don’t think God is going to do anything the way He used to, then it will be very difficult to live in those kinds of circumstances. You don’t have very good medical facilities, you don’t have a very good security system, you can be easily marginalized, you can be killed for your faith. After all that, if you started to believe that God doesn’t do anything nowadays, then there’s simply no hope for you. You have to believe there is a supernatural God, and that He can still save you and help you.
Q: We have a lot of fear in the US, but you have a lot more things to be afraid of in Pakistan.
In America, you can have people who are scared of certain parts of their city. I ask, “Why is it so scary?” But they are so scared that they won’t even drive in those parts of the city. But for me, this is totally normal for me. When I am in America, I feel just like I’m in heaven. When I drive, I feel so safe. I can sleep in my home. It surprises me about America. They have the best kinds of food and security, and still not feel comfortable.
I will be honest. For the first week of coronavirus, I was feeling afraid. We don’t have the resources over here. I was feeling uncomfortable because it is a third world country, a poor country. What if we run out of food? People are going to come into the streets, and they’re going to start killing each other. Because no one wants to see their kids dying at home. I was praying to God, “God, I don’t know what’s going to be happening.”
So, after one or two weeks, something happened, and I started to feel at peace. I remembered, Oh yeah, I don’t have enough power to turn my hair black or white. So why am I worried about these things? Instead of obsessing over the news and how many people are going to die, I decided I’m going to trust God. Every day is a good day for me. I will do my role in this day. I pray for God to protect the people of Pakistan and to glorify His name.
You don’t have a lot of safety over here. So whom are you going to depend on? God, and that’s it.
Q: What is some advice for Christians in the American Church?
The American church needs to not act like the secular world. Not to be afraid like the secular world. For example, during coronavirus, you need to be careful, but if nobody is going to help a particular person, I think that is the responsibility of Christians. If somebody needs help, we Christians need to step out, not just coop up in the house. We need to act differently from the secular world. We need to look around and see who is needy. I think this is a great time for Christians to prove their faith.
Q: Let’s say you’re given an opportunity to speak to a group of pastors in the US. What do you drive home for the American audience?
I would encourage Christians to rethink the way we did church before coronavirus. We don’t want to be the church that has so much resources, as much as the church which has so much faith. We want to prioritize our concern for other people. We want to prioritize our connection with other people. Our strong relationships with each other. We don’t need to focus so much on a huge building, but focus on the real church: the people. Those big buildings will not help us to make a strong church. I honestly wish we had smaller churches, but everywhere. More personal interaction with each other. Instead of just putting on a performance, it should be a real church.
Q: COVID-19 seems to force us to stop thinking about the building and to spread out more. Being in quarantine has made us want strong connections. We have begun craving the personal interaction. Do you think this could help us value the things which are truly important?
During this time, I realized life isn’t all about the resources. We are often focusing on the things which don’t really matter to God: buildings, resources, facilities. For the past few weeks, I have been preaching in the street. And I never really preached this passionately in the building. I’m preaching now more than ever about repentance, about responding to the Word of God through your action, not just listening and absorbing knowledge.