November 20, 2012

Ministry in a closed country

by Jesse Johnson

Clint and I recently returned from a ministry trip to a country in the Himalayas that is officially closed to the gospel. The government there does not recognize Christianity, and believers are actively persecuted. There are Christians in jail, and leaders of the Buddhist monasteries are known to beat those they suspect of being Christians.


Despite the opposition, there is a first generation church there. Of the hundred or so believers that we met, few were raised in a Christian home. When a person there comes to faith in Christ, they receive a new name–a biblical name. Thus, people in the church can recognize other believers, simply by their names. It was a precious picture of faith and of the church as a family.

The church there is obviously facing challenges. There are zero seminary trained pastors in the entire country, nor are there any pastors who are paid for their ministry. The entire endeavor is led by lay shepherds, who spend much of their time working their day jobs, followed by visiting other believers in jail. The Bible has been translated into the main language of the country, but is not published. The result is that they use a translation from a neighboring country’s dialect, which is close enough to convey the meaning, but far enough away that a lot of confusion develops.

Nevertheless, this nation’s believers have been protected from much of what has damaged evangelicalism in the West. There are no Catholics in the country (that we know of), and the charismatic movement is only beginning to creep in. All of the believers are baptistic, premillenial, and evangelical—and they arrived at those positions without any real influence other than the Scriptures.

Clint and I were able to attend a meeting of most of the country’s church leaders. We taught on marks of a godly leader, some basics of sanctification, the joy of heaven, and persevering through trials. Clint wrote more about that here.

The goal from our trip was to encourage the church leaders, and gauge the potential for some sort of pastoral training in the future. There are a few tangible ways other can support the ministry there. If you would like information on how you or your church could minister to the people in this country, email me at

Jesse Johnson

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Jesse is the Teaching Pastor at Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, VA. He also leads The Master's Seminary Washington DC location.
  • This post made my heart leap! Yes, of course they are up against seemingly insurmountable odds, but that is how the early church was, and clearly God’s hand was on them. In fact, you practically described what I read in Acts. I’m so grateful for getting to read this, and envious of your recent trip. Here’s wishing them the best!

  • This is the message that needs to be read by all believers, particularly the comfortable western Christians who become soft to the fact that persecution is active and real in other lands…

  • Karl Heitman

    Thanks for sharing this, Jesse. I think this statement says a lot: “All of the believers are baptistic, premillenial, and evangelical—and
    they arrived at those positions without any real influence other than
    the Scriptures.” This speaks volumes to the level even Protestants lift
    up tradition over a simple, plain reading of the Scripture, don’t ya
    think? I’m reminded of a time when Pastor John told a story about going
    to a foreign country where there were very few, if any, trained leaders (Russia?) and being told, “We believe what you
    believe.” All they had was their Bibles and nothing more, nothing less. As Clint alluded to in his post about your trip, we can learn from them just as much as they can learn from us.

  • Heather

    Thank you so much for sharing this and Clint’s article on the same mission trip. Hearing testimonies as these never cease to utterly humble me, sadden me, excite me, and lead me to cling tightly to the Vine, our Lord Jesus Christ. As exciting as it is to hear of those pastors enthusiasm, it is still so sobering to me to know how many people in that part of the world will die without ever hearing the gospel. I know those pastors must be doing all they possibly can to spread the gospel, but they are so drastically outnumbered. We have so much abundance here, and I’m not talking about money or possessions. The believers are so abounding but the laborers are so few, it’s astounding. I wonder how many believers, right now, the Holy Spirit is calling out to that part of the world? And how many of them will hear His voice and see His leading? How many will obey and how many will ignore Him? It is very testimonies as this that our hearts and ears should be open to the Holy Spirit to hear His leading. I know you didn’t say what country you went to, but I have a guess, and I’ll pray for them, for those pastors, and for the Lord to send laborers, (even myself if He chooses, even though my heart is set on an Islamic country, but I’m willing to go anywhere. How could I ask the Lord to send my brothers and sisters to a persecuted country if I’m not willing to go myself?). Jesse, will you have some sort of web page about that part of the world on you church website or something? So people can know what to pray for and see updates? I believe praying fervently is more valuable than even giving money…but money is easier to give. How encouraging it would be, Jesse, to mobilize people here in the US to at least PRAY hard for that country? For me, it has always been through praying fervently for something/someone that my heart became sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit…maybe people’s hearts just need to become sensitive to the Holy Spirit for this part of the world?
    Again, thanks for sharing this, and thank you to you and Clint for obeying the Holy Spirit and going to encourage those pastors….so beyond encouraging to me this morning.