Unequal pools of access

29 Sep 2023

I found myself musing this week on an increasing trend of countries disconnecting access. As I put together this week’s Roundup, and reflected over stories like Turkish Christians helping Moroccan believers in the wake of the earthquake, I again thought about this idea of “unequal access.”

On the one hand, it’s true the world seems to be “de-globalizing.” Patrick Johnstone recently wrote eloquently about this trend. From travel to visas to finance, the connections between the West and other countries, in particular, are becoming more cumbersome. This week’s story about France pulling out of Niger, not to mention a few stories I didn’t focus too much on (like the alleged assassination brouhaha between India and Canada) illustrate some of the growing wedges.

On the other hand, there are avenues of access, often economically-driven, between non-Western regions. The Turkey-Morocco story is one example. China’s Belt & Road projects are another. Thailand is opening up special visa access for Chinese tourists, trying to drive a bit more of its economy. China is offering a special work visa for Myanmar laborers. Nurses are going abroad.

There are “pools of Christianity” in many of these regions—like the Turkish believers—who may have some form of access to other nearby regions which Western believers will never have. In conversations with various Christian leaders, I’ve been reminded of this: “white faces couldn’t go in there,” said one. And another: “you only get a week’s access, and it would take more than a week to walk into that area and out.” Western access to Xinjiang or Tibetan areas is yet another example. But Christians in nearby places can get into those places.

As these pools of Christianity grow in what previously appeared to be unlikely places, and grow with an interest in the Great Commission and the nearby places as part of their spiritual DNA, there will be more believers interested in getting into unreached places where Westerners can’t. Then the question arises: how can the West best help those believers do that task? Can we help at all? Will we just get in the way? What’s our role?

This is a challenging question that has not yet been satisfactorily answered, although there have been some good, healthy attempts at models. Resources, money, and training seem to be the most obvious ways to help, but they seem the most obvious perils as well. One approach may be to look at categories of answers—moving from the “how can we partner” category, to answers in the “if we truly are brothers & sisters, what would we do” category. Questions about credit, money, accountability, love, support all change when that happens.

Whatever the answer may be, one thing to think about: access to the unreached may very well become again one of the big questions in the next half century. There remain peoples and places on our planet with very little access to the Gospel. Solving this challenge may face obstacles from many people in many different walks of life who say “that’s too risky—if God wants it done, he’ll do it in his own way—so sit down, young man.” But when people are dying, this is not the time to sit down. It’s a time to say, how can we join hands across the globe, to reach more?