Kublai Khan, grandson of Ghengis Khan, was Emperor of the massive Mongol Empire, which today includes China, Korea, North India, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Russia and Hungary. In 1265, he was visited by Italians Niccolo and Matteo Polo and was so fascinated with their Christian religion that he requested they return with 100 teachers along with oil from the lamp at the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Returning to China 15 years later, they brought Niccolo’s teenage son, Marco Polo, along with two preaching friars sent by Pope Gregory, but the priests turned back when they encountered warring tribes. The Polos continued to China, where Kublai Khan employed them as envoys for the next 24 years. However, the request for teachers of the Christian religion, and the open door of opportunity was never fulfilled. Consequently, the empire embraced the teachings of Buddhist monks from India and Burma. Lands that lay along the western end of Khan’s vast empire adopted the religion of Arab merchants, and these trade routes became the means for spreading the Islamic faith instead of the Christian message.
In 1492, 200 years later, Christopher Columbus wrote the king and queen of Spain, “concerning the lands of India, and of a Prince who is called Gran Khan … how many times he and his predecessors had sent to Rome to seek doctors in our Holy Faith to instruct him therein, and that never had the Holy Father provided them, and thus so many people were lost through idolatries … Your Highnesses … devoted to the Holy Christian Faith and the propagators thereof…resolved to send me..to the said regions of India, to see the said princes…and the manner in which may be undertaken their conversion to our Holy Faith.” Columbus sailed that year for the “New World” and we know that led to his discovery of America and, with that discovery, he was instrumental in introducing our continent to the Christian faith and, as they say, “The rest is history.”
Alas, the Christian faith has fallen on bad times in our nation. America is now recognized as the third most unsaved country in the world, behind China and India. Reading International Mission Board President Jerry Rankin’s account of the failure to send missionaries to the vast Mongol empire stirs me to believe that our failure to share Christ across America has resulted in our decadent state. There is hope, I believe, on the horizon. When Frank Page became Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) president in 2006, he went to our North American Mission Board and challenged them to develop a national evangelism initiative. He reminded them it had been 25 years since Southern Baptists had participated in such an endeavor. Some 100 SBC leaders met, prayed, planned, strategized, and presented to our 2008 SBC Convention a 10-year plan to reach America called “God’s Plan for Sharing” (GPS), with the vision, “Every Believer Sharing, Every Person Hearing.” 2010 is the launch year for this decade-long endeavor.
Thirty-seven Missouri Baptist leaders met in January and began to formulate Missouri’s effort to reach our state with the GPS vision. The initial stage of our launch will take place in the first months of 2010, aiming toward harvest time, Easter, April 4. The PREPARATION Phase will be January and February, when each church will determine the areas around their church where they will prayer walk, as well as take steps to improve “first impressions” of church facilities, getting ready for company Easter Sunday. The PRAYER WALKING Phase (March 6 and 13 are suggested Saturdays) is the time for each church to prayer walk (or prayer drive in some cases) their community, asking God to bless families and open hearts to the Gospel. The DISTRIBUTION Phase (March 20 and 27 are suggested Saturdays) is the time for each church to return to the prayer walked areas and place a plastic bag on each door. It will contain only two items: A presentation of the Gospel, and, a brochure from that church, inviting residents to worship Easter Sunday, April 4. During this phase, a media campaign will be underway that will reinforce the message of the Gospel brochure. The FOLLOW-UP Phase will be conducted from Easter through Mothers’ Day (April 4-May 9), during which time churches will be following up on those who attended Easter Sunday and responded to the Gospel brochure. One reason we are using the Easter season to launch this Gospel outreach stems from a survey taken by unchurched people last year. A total of 82 percent indicated they would attend church on Easter Sunday if they were invited. Directors of missions and pastors are coming on board to say they want to participate in “GPS across Missouri 2010.”
I am receiving reports of “God happenings” within our state, which could be just preludes to what God is up to for next spring. Pastor Roger Easter called this week and excitedly announced that he baptized nine on a recent Sunday. Months ago he passed out 3-1-6 prayer cards, his people put the names of three lost friends on the back and committed to pray for them each day. Sunday’s baptisms represent the most recent harvest from praying by name for lost people. Union Hill, Holts Summit, just concluded a revival where 12 professed faith in Christ. Bro. Frank Whitney said praying for lost people was the key God honored to seeing those professions of faith. He too utilized the 3-1-6 prayer cards.
Jerry Rankin pondered the difference that could have been made in our world had the Gospel been taken throughout the Mongol empire in the 13th century. I wonder what God will do as we share the Gospel throughout Missouri? Remember, it’s only GOOD NEWS, if they hear it in time! (Gary Taylor is the Missouri Baptist Convention’s director of evangelism.)