Meet the Gateway People to the Muslim World

A few years ago at a conference, I held a large banner that read: “Azerbaijanis: God’s gateway people to the Muslim world.” One quizzical individual pondered a few minutes before asking me whether this was a real place.

Azerbaijanis get that a lot.

They are one of the few peoples that span numerous countries with different linguistic and cultural contexts. The Republic of Azerbaijan is home to 9 million Azerbaijanis, but its low profile on the world stage leads many to underestimate its significance. While the exact number of Azerbaijanis worldwide is unknown, it ranges from 30 million to 50 million. Their largest concentration is found in Iran, where estimates range from 18 million to 30 million.From the mountains of Ararat and the Azeri region of Naxchevan (named from the old Azeri words Nuh chixan, “where Noah came out,” based on Genesis 8:4), to the highest echelon of power in Iran (the supreme leader, Ayatollah Khameini, is an Azeri), Azerbaijanis are a people who shouldn’t be ignored.

Dispersed Among the Nations

Until the beginning of the 19th century, Azerbaijani homelands were part of the Persian Empire. Following war and treaties with Russia, the Persian Empire ceded to Russia what is now Azerbaijan and, along with it, significant Azerbaijani populations in the city of Derbent became Russian territory.

At the beginning of the 20th century, many Azerbaijanis fled and resettled in the eastern provinces of Turkey. Current estimates of Azerbaijanis in Turkey are between 500,000 and 600,000. In the country of Georgia, their numbers range from 240,000 to 500,000. In Russia and the former Soviet Union, 1 million Azerbaijani form a significant minority. And in northern Iraq, a people called the Turcoman, who speak Azerbaijani, are estimated to be 2.5 million. These Azerbaijani of the dispersion speak Azerbaijani, Farsi, Turkish, Russian, Arabic and many other local languages.

Although national boundaries present challenges to Western workers, they aren’t so problematic to Azerbaijani believers. Natives from Azerbaijan go to Iran and share the good news of Jesus. Pastors from Baku go to northern Iraq and are welcomed as brothers rather than foreigners. Azerbaijanis from Baku share their faith in Georgia, having freedom to do so without government intervention.In 2009, the translation of the Bible into modern-day Azerbaijani was finalized, at last making the whole of God’s Word accessible to believers in their mother tongue. Moreover, the first Azerbaijani study Bible was published last year. With God’s help, these resources will help Azerbaijani believers grow in the gospel and take it to the nations.

Least-Reached People Reaching Other Peoples

The Azerbaijanis are considered a least-reached people group. Estimates of the number of Azerbaijani believers worldwide range from 7,000 to 14,000. Yet a growing number have recently come to faith in Christ. Many understand the unique role they have in reaching their own and other peoples.

Brother Idris, for example, grew up into a life of violence and crime in Azerbaijan. As he was poised to commit a serious crime, Christ appeared to him in a dream, exposing his life and the consequences of his path. He informed the gang he’d changed his mind about committing the crime; they thought he was crazy and went ahead without him. All were arrested. Idris gave his life to God, and over the years God has used him to pastor a network of small churches reaching his own people as well as Azeris in Georgia, Iran, and Russia.Another brother, Feridoon, grew up as an atheist Marxist in Iran. He believed God was a crutch for the weak-minded. A believing classmate challenged Feridoon to read the New Testament and, not wanting to look scared, he did. The words of doubting Thomas struck him. That night Jesus appeared in his bedroom and showed him his nail-pierced wrists. Terrified, Feridoon fled to a well-known local believer’s house, where he was encouraged and counseled. Over the course of a few days, he began to realize Christ is indeed real, and he gave his life to him. Since then Feridoon has led many to the Lord in various nations. He has translated the Bible into several languages, and he speaks to thousands about Christ by radio and TV programs—all because a friendly student challenged him to read the New Testament.

God is at work among the Azerbaijani people.

New Challenges

Events of the past two years have brought new challenges and diminished the free flow of people and ideas in the region: renewed persecution in Iran, local fears and insecurities prompted by the growth of ISIS, unfavorable news reports about the unjust policies of Azerbaijani leaders, and the threat of renewed hostilities between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. An increasing focus on nationalism has led to legislation and business policies that have prompted some expatriate workers to leave.

Nevertheless, we continue to see growth and maturation in Azerbaijan’s church. In many ways, they really are God’s gateway people to the Muslim world.

How You Can Pray

Would you join in prayer for your Azerbaijani brothers and sisters?

  • Pray that God would embolden and empower Azerbaijani believers to reach others for Christ.
  • Pray for growing unity among the few Azerbaijani churches in Azerbaijan, and for local believers and leaders to be strong in faith and patient in trials.
  • Pray that believing workers who bring needed skills and professions to Azerbaijan would benefit the country and be given gospel opportunities.
  • Pray for missionaries and church planters to the Georgian Azeri minority, and for ministries mighty in prayer for spiritually dark places.
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Secret to Building a Soul-Winning Church

by Charles T. Crabtree, Pastor and soul-winner.

Among my friends in Springfield is a rather wealthy businessman who claims to have visited Bass Pro Shops only once or twice because friends wanted to see it. He is not the least bit interested in fishing, so the new equipment he could buy stays on the store’s shelves. The sleek new bass boat he could purchase stays on the showroom floor. And the fish he could catch in nearby lakes continue to swim unmolested.

 

Another friend who also lives in Springfield is not nearly as well off as my other friend, but no fish is safe anywhere in the region. He is a dedicated fisherman who does not let the lack of new equipment stop him from catching fish. He goes to Bass Pro Shops on a regular basis to buy what he really needs and to drool over what he cannot afford.

Both of my friends live in proximity to a major supplier of fishing equipment and wonderful lakes full of fish. Both could be effective fishermen, but only one chooses to catch fish. Therein lies the secret to a soul-winning church.

It was not by coincidence Jesus began to build His Church initially by choosing a number of disciples out of the fishing industry. His call to these men included a promise which interested them: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” Matthew 4:19. He was saying to them, “Your motivation and skills in fishing are the dynamics I am looking for in a new kind of fishing industry.”

Every believer should follow the Master and become a soul winner. Since the Church consists of believers who are called to be witnesses, it is logical to expect every church to be a soul-winning church. Sadly, this is not the case. Far too many believers, including clergy and laity, are apathetic to the opportunity for soul winning. If Jesus promised to make His followers fishers of men, it raises a question whether those who choose not to win souls are closely following the Master.

SOUL-WINNING DESIRE

The soul-winning church begins with the want to before it can move to the how to. My friend who does not fish could be scolded over and over for not fishing, or he could be instructed against his will in how to fish and what equipment he needs for fishing; but it would do no good. The want to has to be born in his heart. Fishing has to become a desire. It must become a significant factor in his life.

How can I possibly make my disinterested friend become a fisherman? How can I motivate believers to become soul winners? How can leaders create a soul-winning church when there is no passion to reach the lost?

It all begins with the birth or renewal of desire. Somehow, soul winning must be seen as a joy, not a drudgery; a passion, not a duty; a thrill, not a downer.

SOUL-WINNING MOTIVATION

We would do well to remember that the joy of the Lord is our strength. This principle is at the heart of soul-winning motivation.

When Jesus said, “I will make you fishers of men,” He was offering His followers a better way of life. Before Jesus came, they had been satisfied to catch a certain kind of fish. Their lives revolved around the fishing business so they could exist. Jesus came to them with a new basis for living so others could live.

No pastor or spiritual leader will ever motivate believers to become soul winners by making them feel guilty, pressured, or coerced. The only way believers will become soul winners is if they can experience the joy and fulfillment of leading someone to Christ.

Believers will only be motivated to become soul winners by soul winners. My disinterested friend will never get into fishing by himself. He is only going to get interested when somebody he cares for begins to testify about the thrill and satisfaction of catching fish. He will never head for the lake with fishing tackle if simply told he should by someone who does not fish. He will not get the urge to buy a boat if he hears horror stories about fishing—no nibbles for 8 hours, the one that got away, the boat that went aground, and everyone got motion sickness.

The main reasons we do not have enough soul winners are:

  1. We do not have enough soul-winning pastors and leaders. If soul winning is not a passion and joy in the life of leadership, it will certainly have no place in the lives of those who follow. People are not interested in theoretical truth.
  2. We drive people by guilt rather than leading them by an excited and effective role model. A lot of people are turned off by preachers and teachers who shout mandates, but leave out the promises.
  3. Soul winners talk too much of their failures and have no record of effectiveness. You can just imagine how motivated new believers will become when they hear about doors being slammed, testimonies being refused, and statistics showing how few who pray the sinner’s prayer really become true believers. It reminds me of the proverbial ineffective broom salesman who knocked on the door with the question: “You don’t want to buy a broom, do you?”

SOUL WINNING BY EXAMPLE

The soul-winning church begins with an excited, influential soul winner. No person in the church is more influential, than the pastor. Pastors can have soul-winning churches if they are soul winners themselves—in the pulpit and outside the pulpit.

Believers are weary of being told what to do. They want to be shown what to do. They must be shown how to be effective witnesses and soul winners in the marketplace. A revival of soul winning in the church will take place when spiritual leaders become fishers of men outside the pulpit and then share the joy and fulfillment of these new experiences from the pulpit.

The most effective motivation in creating soul winners is not preaching about soul winning but telling about it. I saw this over and over in my own ministry. When I was pastoring, I would often preach about soul winning, but I was most effective when I could tell the congregation about a soul I had led to the Lord that week. What a joy I felt when people I was baptizing turned to me and thanked me for leading them to Christ at their workplace or in their home. In those moments, my congregation was able to relate to me as a witness of Christ as well as a pastor. As an under-shepherd, I was able to say to them with authority, “Follow me as I follow the Lord, and I will help you become fishers of men.”

KEYS TO A SOUL-WINNING CHURCH

  1. The soul-winning church has soul-winning leaders. They create a hunger in others to become effective witnesses.
  2. The soul-winning church makes room for those who win souls to share their joy and testimony with the congregation. Pastors would do well to have a witness box or a soul-winning window—time set-aside in the service—to give opportunity for others to share the joy of fishing for men.
  3. A soul-winning pastor will give opportunity for souls to come to Christ service after service. Altar calls are a priority in a Pentecostal church. If no one comes, it is still a victory because the opening of the altars reminds people why the church exists. Of course, when someone responds, the joy on earth becomes the joy of heaven.
  4. The soul-winning church has effective altar workers. The training of altar workers creates soul winners. If people learn how to lead people to a saving knowledge of Christ at an altar, they will be able to do the same in a car, in a cafeteria, and in the corner of an office.

Some time ago, I was preaching in a soul-winning church that had a wonderful choir. I learned that a person wanting to join the choir had to attend one musical tryout and three training sessions for altar ministry before they could take their place in the choir. When I gave the altar call, choir members streamed out of the choir loft to meet those coming to Christ. It is no wonder this particular church is flourishing.

 

used by permission

Averaging 3,000 souls a week!

But needing to average 87,000 to obtain our goal. And so we continue!

I may be repeating this, but it Blesses me and I wanted to make sure this story was included.——-

Have you heard the one about the Chinese Christians who go to difficult places? Two couples at a time go and open a shop or restaurant and then one of the men goes on a street corner and starts preaching the Gospel. “Don’t you know that you will be arrested?”, and with a smile comes the startling answer, “Yes, that is the idea!”. So, in jail, they can teach and preach and evangelize the other prisoners, who will in turn tell their family members and so on. The other couple is a support to the wife and children who are now alone. and to the guy in jail, because many of these places will not feed a prisoner, they must rely on these friends and family.
Who, besides Jesus, does this?     Amazing!

A Vision 2020 Perspective

I remember Pastor Rob talking with me in the early days as we were finding out what the Vision was. We were trusting God, that it was even possible, as we figured out the dynamics of raising money to win souls. We went to pastors meeting, after Pastors meeting, again and again, looking for like minded people to walk with us in this Vision, “We don’t need another program” some would say and others would tell Pastor Rob what an amazing idea it was then step back into the isolationist mentality that we have condoned in our church life.
We reached out to evangelist and other soul winners, and a few let us partner in their harvest, as they partnered in ours. Most allow us partner with them, but, to count only the souls that we were able to pay for, because, out of fear of offending others who had been a part of that harvest. Because of that, they felt like they were unable to partner with our Vision (i.e, so, if we were able to fund 1/3 of a crusade so we got to count 1/3rd of the souls saved). With that, we were just a purchasing agent, trying to find the highest yield for the money we had raised, the biggest bang for our buck, winning the mostest with the least-est amount of money. AND, It seemed fine over the years, as we believed and still do, that we will see large sums of money come into our hands to win large sums of souls for Christ. But, that anointed place of unity is more amazing, wholly holy and it is a powerhouse pulsing with life for the lost. God bless you Pastor,… Evangelist,… Apostle,… Teacher,… Prophet, who loves souls and saw that the synergy of working together, will indeed change the world! With every avenue available, let us be able to say (honestly… selah) that we will reach the lost at any cost.   -SF

Enjoy this missed post from January!

Greetings!

 
We have amazing news to report from the TV Broadcast that Vision 2020 sponsored. But because the number was so high, I want to assure you that we have been very conservative with the numbers in order to protect the integrity of Vision 2020. So,…
*Of 5 mil. possible viewers, the TV Station said, conservatively there were 1-1.5 mil. viewers,… we counted 1.3 million.
*We paid for the national broadcast, but, are credited for every broadcast. (2 broadcasts, plus others reported and several remote areas are now targeted.)
*In the 8 cities that John Smithwick held crusades, 65% of the people received Christ, we counted 50%.
*They had a Nepali male vocal artist and Female vocal artist on first, then the Gospel message and alter call, then the female artist gave her testimony of losing her voice, being suicidal and a relative inviting her to church, where she received Christ,… and was healed. After sharing her testimony, she also gave an invitation to receive Christ Jesus! (Awesome!)
*A fuel shortage, and rioting Maoist’, added to the trust that the viewing numbers were much higher.
 
We counted 700,000 Nepali people, thus, doubling our numbers and crossing the 1 Million souls mark!
——— the last souls of 2015
2-Winfield Working men of Christ 12-21
700,000- Nepali TV program that was Vision 2020 sponsored.
——– the first souls of 2016
1- WOLSouth service, 1-3-16
7- Vincent Martin, youth, WOL North
16- youth, Larned correctional, 1/3/2016
3- Working Men of Christ, Zach Teague
26- Larned Maximum Security,1/3/2016  … Many running to the front and asking for prayer to get the demons off.
5- Winfield correctional 1/4/2016

Updates on what is Upcoming:

-February 24–28, 2016 Crusades in Kakata City, Liberia and March. 10—13 in Monrovia

-Congo is being pushed into April due to political unrest expected during Ugandan elections. Pray for peace for this region and for wisdom for the people planning this event.
A Vision 2020/Unity for the sake of souls book will be available in April with many of the colorful stories of how we started and how we are winning people to Christ with every dollar we sow. An opportunity to pre-buy books will start at the All Campus Service, on January 31st.
 

At the end of 2015,…1,328,422.

(822,970 souls won in 2015!)

We added 58 this year!

Hahahaha!!! Isn’t God Awesome!!

When I finally get a clue to what is going on,… when the devil is exposed and God’s plan revealed, what a joy I have, even in times of stress or hardship. So, maybe it all started with our church merging last week, with a church that we already know and love. We love each other, but we were experiencing a great deal of stress, misunderstandings and heightened emotional outbursts, unquantified distrust,… what a mess?                              What is this Lord?

Oohhh!! Simple really, God is doing a very wonderful thing in our midst and the devil is coming against it with all he has, …Baahahahaha!!! which isn’t much!

________________

I recently told the Lord that I wanted to be stirred up for the unreached, so I piled 5 books on my coffee table next to my Bibles, and each morning, I ask God what he wants me to read. So, this morning as I spent time with God, He lead me to read in a “Perspectives reader” from the life changing, 15 week missiology course. (www.perspectives.org) and I came to a wonderful article called “The Kingdom Strikes Back” by the founder, Ralph D. Winter. So here is the MUCH abbreviated synopsis:

Historically, missions started with Abraham, who was told to move to a land that HE,(God) would show him, and HE would Bless Abraham and his seed, to be a blessing to ALL nations. They had only small breakthroughs in reaching other peoples for God, but then, although it wasn’t intentional missions, Joseph ended up in Egypt and was THE key to saving the nation and the peoples surrounding Egypt.

Gen. 41:38 And Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God?”    39 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has shown you all this (the dream and the plan of action), there is none so discerning and wise as you are. 40 You shall be over my house, and all my people shall be under your command. Only in regards to throne will I be greater than you.”

Sometimes, when God sends out a missionary, HE opens the door of ministry beyond what we could think or imagine. And not only that!!

57 Moreover, all the earth came to Egypt to Joseph to buy grain, because the famine was severe over all the earth.  

What the devil meant for bad, GOD used for an amazing opportunity for good.

________________

The degradation over the next 1600 years saw the decline of God’s rule But, where possible, God accomplished His will through some voluntary obedience and where necessary, through involuntary missionary outreach; like Jonah to the Assyrians, Naomi to Moab due to famine, the nation of Israel in captivity, one being a young servant girl who told her master Naaman, a Syrian with leprosy, that the God of Israel would heal him. Or, the queen of Sheba came “voluntarily”, attracted by God’s blessing-relationship with Israel.

So, historically,    0-400 A.D.

the Roman empire was reached except it did not reach out to the Celts and the Goths. Perhaps as a penalty, the Goths invaded the western part of the Roman empire and it caved in.

400-800 A.D.

The Goths were Christianized, and added in, making the new, “Holy” Roman empire, but this new sphere didn’t effectively reach further north with the gospel.

800-1200 A.D.

Again, seemingly as a penalty, the Vikings invaded these Christianized Celts and Gothic barbarians. In the resulting agony, the Vikings too, became Christians.

1200-1600 A.D.

Let’s not talk about the embarrassing bit of Christian history where Europe, united under the banner of Christ,  thought it was a good idea to send crusaders to slaughter Muslims instead of loving and leading them to a loving God.

1600-now A.D.

Interesting note at this point,… the author died in 2009 and this is what he wrote: “Will the immeasurably strengthened non-Western world invade Europe and America just as the Goths invaded Rome and the Vikings overran Europe?”

WOW! Did he call it or what? Europe and America, whether we know it or not, are both overran with foreign cultures. But here is where I see the grace of God in this invasion.

We have an opportunity to win them now!

They need help, they are responding to kindness and ministry all over the world!! I have friends in Finland who have been reaching out to the refugees in Helsinki and leading many to Christ Jesus every week! and here is a testimony from Charisma magazine: Silas, a 25-year-old Iranian man who was reported by Charisma News to be one of these converts. When asked what really prompted him to change religion, Silas said his spiritual transformation came after he read the Bible that a friend lent to him. “When I started to read the Bible, it changed me. … At first, I didn’t want to be a Christian, I just wanted to understand it. But the more answers I got, the more I realized I was finding God,” he said.

Bottom Line,… It is ours to do. They are here in Wichita, We have a Pastor reaching out to the Swahilli speaking refugees with everything he has,… to love them and win them. Where are the refugees close to you? Is there a pastor reaching out to them? Can your church help him by donating food, clothes, housewares, bikes, furniture, money to fund language lessons? So they can better function here? There need is great! Will they find Christians who care? Or Crusaders who torment by their hatred filled glares and non-Christian comments?

If we refuse to go, what do we expect? -SF

Read more at:  http://www.prophecynewswatch.com/article.cfm?recent_news_id=130#BIPXqfYx0y3IW5B3.99

or

Christianity’s New Mission Field: Muslim Refugees

http://www.prophecynewswatch.com/article.cfm?recent_news_id=130

WOW! 1/6/16

I cannot tell you the elation that I feel as I post this! My last post talks of the extreme amounts of money needed to reach souls, then GOD shows Himself mighty and proves that he WILL have His way in the earth. WOW!

nepal salvation

So, Vision 2020 sponsored part of an outreach to Nepal, as well as helping several people who joined the efforts on these events. and we are thrilled to announce that 65% of the people who attended these crusades in 8 different cities across Nepal, asked Jesus to be their Lord and Savior! How could they not Love HIM? At every turn people were set free from oppression and healed of diseases! He’s Real! He’s Wonderful! BUT! This is the WOW part! The last day of the crusades, a man representing one of the national TV stations offered JSMI a spot during prime time on the following evening for 2.5K. John called us, we raised it and sent it, it played. This was a broadcast that featured two Nepali Vocal stars who each sang at the beginning of the broadcast, then it was explained that these great singers will be right back to sing their most popular songs after this message, the good news was shared, an invitation given to ask Jesus into their life, and then the female vocalist come on and gave her testimony. Five years prior, she had lost her voice and was told that there was no cure. She grew despondent and suicidal, thinking that her life was not worth living, and a relative invited her to church, where she gave her heart to Jesus, and she was completely healed! After this singer testified, she also invited people to ask this real and loving God into their hearts!  WOW! How wonderful is our God! This aired to up to 4-5 million people, actually multiple times, and will be re-aired in more remote regions. We chose to count a very, very conservative number of souls from these broadcast, but still it is 700,000 people! after 10 years of striving for, 1 person per dollar coming to Christ, God intervened and brought at least 280 people per $1 into the Kingdom.

Nepalcrowd

Vision 2020 is now at 1388,125 souls since January 2006! Let the harvesting always find GOD ways of reaching searching hearts!  -SF