You Don’t Need Permission To Preach the Gospel – part 19

You do not need permission to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If you want to make disciples in closed countries, or closed people groups, you do not need to ask their permission. You do not need a visa for that matter. The sixty most closed countries of the world are not going to give you a visa to be a Christian missionary. Most missionary agencies will require you to get a visa and this presents a problem.Ironically, hundreds of thousands of people are migrating illegally with no visas or papers of any kind while the Christian missionary movement continues to ask for a visa into a closed county. You would be surprised to know that many missionaries are on the field without a visa. So what do you do? Your mission agency typically requires you to get a visa as a missionary under the cover of doing social work, linguistic work, or something else. They want you to enter under a cover in these closed countries supposedly to protect you when you intend to really be doing evangelism and discipleship. This has not worked very well.

Only one-third of the people groups who need discipleship in their language have had a Bible translator. About half of all people groups are still waiting on their first missionary. This information comes from years of analyzing the data and merging many sources that have not revealed many people groups that they knew existed in India and the countries surrounding India. I will go into detail about this in the section on Research and Statistics.Still, your agency, denomination, or independent church or group of churches will want you to enter with a visa using some kind of a pretext (or a cover story) because this is what has commonly been taught. The premise is that you are trying to keep yourself from being expelled or keep yourself out of harm’s way. But for all practical purposes and Biblical missiology entering under a pretext or cover is not a good idea. So, again, what do you do?

Should a missionary get a visa into the country where they will be working?

Most countries also require people to have visas to enter their borders. The problem arises when you want to go to a country that prohibits missionaries altogether. Most of the unreached people groups in the world do not have access to the Gospel message because they live in countries that restrict missionaries from preaching and discipline or so we are told. They restrict you, “the missionary,” by their law from preaching the Gospel there. 

I propose that the unreached Bibleless people groups do not have missionaries because no one in the Body of Christ has gone to them. Not because of the laws or prohibition of missionary activity. Think about this for a minute. Whose law is higher?

Most countries also require people to have visas to enter their borders. The problem arises when you want to go to a country that prohibits missionaries altogether. Most of the unreached people groups in the world do not have access to the Gospel message because they live in countries that restrict missionaries from preaching and discipline or so we are told. They restrict you, “the missionary,” by their law from preaching the Gospel there. 

I propose that the unreached Bibleless people groups do not have missionaries because no one in the Body of Christ has gone to them. Not because of the laws or prohibition of missionary activity. Think about this for a minute. Whose law is higher?

Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. 20 For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” 21 After further threats they let them go.

(NIV Acts 4:18-21)

If getting a missionary visa is not possible, and going under a pretext (social, medical, education, business, or something else) is not a good idea, do we just let the unreached peoples die without Christ? Why is social work, medical work, business as mission not working? Because most of this kind of “missionary” work is short-term. Or let’s just say that it is not long term enough to learn a language, translate a Gospel, and produce stories and recordings. The people groups who don’t have access to the Gospel need the Word of God AND to be disciples. So the second problem with social, medical, or other work is that you do not have the time to learn language and disciple people. You will have to go doing what Jesus told us to do, making disciples. This will put you in harm’s way, it will be dangerous and is against the law of the country and so after all your social, medical, or business ventures you will, in the end, be breaking the law.

In most of these extreme pioneer situations, if you are caught making disciples, you will be put in jail, expelled, or even put to death. You won’t find that information on their government’s website; in fact, their law may state otherwise. Officially, the country may proclaim that there is freedom of religion, but it may not be true. If their law states that proselytism and conversions are not allowed, they will punish you for breaking their law, if you get caught. There is not any easy way around this. 

Proselytism is preaching or sharing about your religion. You can also get in trouble for sharing the Gospel in private. What really gets you in trouble is making converts. You might get away with discipleship in secret until your disciples want to convert to Christ. So, what do you do then? Do you choose another place if you are expelled? You can. It is the teaching of Jesus that you should choose places to disciple and evangelize where they receive your message. But even if a small group of people wants to become followers of Christ and be baptized you should help them. This is the goal of all missionary work. You may pay the price with your life, but you will have completed the task. God is just going to have to protect you until you get in trouble.

And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them.”

(NIV Mark 6:11)

There are people in completely closed situations who will receive your message. There could be people in a closed unreached people group who are waiting for you. They might have even had dreams previously that someone was coming to tell them about God or present them with salvation. It’s against the national law to proselytize, but the people group within that nation may be open to you. A small percentage of the people group could be open, and the rest may not. You will never know until you go. You may be in a very large people group of hundreds of thousands of people, and it could be that only a small percentage of them will respond to Christ.

If the country is closed, and the people group is closed to outsiders and resistant to your message it is clear what we should move on. It would be wise to have several groups in mind in case one or two are completely closed. You won’t know until you are being led to those few men and women of peace who will receive you. If there are none, do what Jesus says: shake the dust off your feet and go on to the next inhabited place.

If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town.

(NIV Matthew 10:14)

Of course, you should not go to Yemen and pass out Bibles on the street yelling, “Repent, the kingdom of God is near!” Or maybe you should; obey what God tells you to do. You might be thrown into jail or worse. What I am saying is that you should not pay any attention to the laws of these countries that prohibit us from preaching and teaching Christ crucified and resurrected. Use common sense and wisdom. Courage is not the absence of fear. It is doing what Jesus said in spite of your fear. The fact that Jesus is the resurrected Christ is more important than your fear of any law or persecution. We are to obey God above all earthly laws. You can be careful, and, when they try to catch you, run, just like Jesus did. 

When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another.

(NIV Matthew 10:23)

When I was a young missionary, I was working in a town of about 10,000 inhabitants when revival broke out. It came after a miracle and a radical act by the new believers who expressed their commitment by burning their idols in public. When new believers start burning idols, you can be assured that persecution is right around the corner. At that time, it was against the law to preach or hold Christian meetings unauthorized by the government in that country. I was breaking the law of the land. I also did not have a visa to be a missionary. The federal police were looking for me. I had to be careful to avoid them. This was not fun, and it was tense, but God gave me the courage to keep going and the wisdom to keep low. God will turn heads and allow you to slip through the hands of the worst persecutors. Avoiding the police was much easier than dealing with the townspeople, who were persecuting the new believers for burning their idols.

Pay no attention to persecution. Persecution is a natural byproduct of preaching the Gospel with power. If you are not ever persecuted for preaching the Gospel, you might need to review what you are preaching. You might not be facing persecution, because you’re preaching might not be followed by miracles, signs, wonders, and conversions. Miracles demonstrate that your message is true and your God is the one true God. However, as you preach and teach, if you don’t find any listeners, move on.

Much of our modern missiology has been invented because we want to preach the Gospel without the demonstration of the power of God through miracles, signs, and wonders. God wants to heal and deliver the nations. We have to get aligned to what God wants, not what we want. More of our modern missiology has been invented because we are trying to protect ourselves from any kind of persecution and because we don’t intend to stay long enough to see a group of believers grow. The next best thing we can do, which is not long-term and keeps us safer is medical and social work. But that has little fruit if any in totally unreached people groups who do not speak a national language.

A young missionary who is working in northern India told me that you could teach and share the Gospel with little persecution until people’s lives begin to be transformed by Christ. Then, look out! He didn’t say go home or move to another place. Just, get ready for persecution. You might have to move around if they start to hunt you. In the country where I live, there is one state where they offer a bounty of $300.00 US dollars for the head of any evangelical pastor. It is also a place of revival. Persecution is a part of the package that comes with revival.

“I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the Gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields–and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

(NIV Mark 10:29-31)

Much if not all of the New Testament is written for missionaries — those who are going. Even the sermon on the mount is full of teaching for those who are going and talks about the persecution you will face. (Matthew 5:10) Most Christians don’t get it. If you do get it, you will have to go where the Gospel has not been taken, into harm’s way, or live your life feeling like you should be some higher level of missionary. If you are compelled to go to Yemen, go to Yemen. I guarantee you that you will not be granted a missionary visa, so don’t even ask for one. Be wise; don’t openly preach and draw attention to yourself. Keep moving around until you find the people of peace. Eventually, someone is going to have to take the Gospel to these peoples and places. Why not you? It is a given that some missionaries are going to have to pay the price with their lives in Yemen. It’s part of the deal. The Gospel requires that some pay the price with their lives. In war, some soldiers are not going to make it. Remember too that when you go, you will not be coming back

You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. 17 All men will hate you because of me.

(NIV Luke 21:16)

It’s OK to die for teaching and discipling for Christ’s sake. Your blood will cry out that the Gospel is the true message and that Jesus is the Christ, and the Messiah, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. It will be your blood that gives credibility to the message you shared. There is a difference between open proselytizing and personal discipleship. Discipleship is done naturally and many times, one on one. But if the time comes and the Lord moves on you to do something in the open, you should obey and be ready to die. God may not ask you do to such things until you have made some disciples, but I cannot say what God would do. You will know.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.

(NIV Matthew 16:24-24)

Obedience to God for the extension of his kingdom is more urgent than for you to save your own life. His agenda is more important than you are. You are expendable. Some of you have never heard these sorts of things before, but can I assure you that there are many places in the world where Christians are being martyred every day. They don’t show up on the Christian’s websites tracking these statistics. A martyr is one who chooses to suffer death rather than renounce God and stop making disciples of Christ. If they have you cornered or captured and you know you are about to die, look up to heaven. If you can get away, run. If God provides a way out, take it. 

In 2020, a missionary was killed the mountains not far from where we live. The indigenous men from the village where he lived kept telling him over and over that they were going to kill him. He did not listen to them, and they killed him in front of his wife and children. I have thought about this many times wondering what I would have done. I would imagine that if you are very sure that they are coming to kill you, you should probably do what Jesus told you to. (Matthew 10:23) If his wife and children went home, they made a mistake. They should have at least kept going to other villages and kept the testimony of Christ intact. 

I live in a place where Christians are martyred fairly frequently. By martyred, I mean killed. They die not because they share their faith but because they are making converts and disciples. Discipleship means that eventually they will be baptized and start to change their behavior. Jesus tells us to baptize them. If you follow Christ, you need to be baptized. (Matthew 28:18-20).

It’s nothing special to live in a place that is resistant to Christ and which has little access to the Gospel. The majority of people in the world live in this situation. Christian persecution and martyrdom will become a normal thing to you if you live in remote unreached people groups. If people are not being killed for their faith where you live, you need to change your geography.

When I talk about persecution, I’m not talking about being bullied or made fun of for being a Christian. I know that people are being bullied for being Christians, but they are also being bullied for many other non-Christian things. They might even be beaten for being a Christian, but I would not consider that persecution. When I refer to persecution, I’m talking about blood spilling, broken bones, stoned, imprisoned, with the intention of killing you for being a Christian. The persecution we see in the New Testament was primarily with the intention of killing them. This kind of persecution eventually killed Jesus and the majority of the disciples.

I was at a mission conference talking to a young lady who is a missionary in India. I asked her why she was back home. She told me that they didn’t renew her tourist visa. She said that to legally be in that country she needed a visa and had to leave every six months and return to her origin. I said, “But aren’t you there to make disciples and lead people to Christ?” “Yes,” she replied. I said, “Well, being a missionary in India without a missionary visa is illegal. You cannot legally be leading people to the Lord and teaching them the Bible on a tourist or student visa.” I told her that she might as well stay in India when her visa expires. She was lying to the government telling them she wanted to do tourism. If you get a tourist visa, go do some tourism and then go as far as you can and don’t come back. She would only have had problems if she were to try to go in and out of India. She did not need permission to be in India discipling people. She needs to go as far as she can, find a house where they receive her and say “peace to this house” learn the language, and make disciples. (Luke 10:5). If persecution arises, the kind where they intend to kill you, flee and find another house.

If you go into a closed country to make disciples, it is wise to stay and not come out so that you can learn the language and make disciples. You will need to blend in quickly. Unfortunately, India requires that tourists return to their country of origin after their six-month visa expires and stay six months before returning. All missionaries in India on tourist visas can no longer go out to Bangladesh and then back into India again on a new tourist visa. By Indian law, they have to go all the way home, and they cannot come back in for another six months IF they go out trying to come back in on a renewed visa. They may be allowed back in. You cannot stay in India for more than six months at a time as a tourist. If you obey this law, you will never be able to be a missionary to India. You would have to fly home every six months and stay home for six months. So, if you can get over having to come home, just go to India and get lost in the crowd. Get your visa one time to gain entrance, go do some tourism and then disappear. I would imagine that half the people in India don’t even have a birth certificate. I don’t know, but many people in the world do not have any kind of identification papers at all. If you can get a visa to legally be a missionary in a country, do it if you want to go through all the paperwork and trouble. However, if the government changes its stance on missionary visas, and you go to renew it, you won’t be getting another one. I am not suggesting you follow all these things as a formula. What I am saying is that God wants the people in India to be disciples and know Christ, He will make a way if you follow that He says. His missiology works. 

The problem with having a missionary visa (if you can get one) is that you have to renew it. This is where people get hung up. Where I live you can get a legal document to be a missionary, but I do not recommend it to anyone. It is too costly, there is too much paperwork, and no one will ever ask you for it. I spent ten years renewing a completely worthless missionary visa. I did not need permission to preach the Gospel, nor did I ever get stopped or have to show my missionary visa. The only benefit was that I was eventually allowed to become a citizen. This would be the only good reason to get a visa. I am a citizen now, and they cannot throw me out even if their laws change and they no longer accept missionaries. If you get kicked out of the country where you are a missionary, turn around and go back in. Millions of people are immigrating illegally to other countries every day and learning to establish themselves and find work without visas or any special permission. They don’t have a problem with it, so why should missionaries? The most technologically advanced countries in the world with a video camera on every corner cannot keep out the illegal immigrants. Why are we asking for permission and special papers to bring Christ to the unreached? If you live in a county, obey the laws of the land, except one: the one that prohibits you from leading people to the only person who can save their souls.

A pastor from a large denomination told me that many of their missionaries are losing their visas to Turkey. The government is not renewing them; however, the missionaries are not coming home. If you can get a tourist visa or work visa to get into a closed country, do it, and just don’t renew it. Don’t ever go back to the immigration office. This will only work if you don’t ever come out of the country and you go far enough into the mountains to find your man of peace. One day, when you are walking out in a field, lose your visa. If someone asks you for your papers, because you are in a big city, or have not learned how to blend in, tell them you lost it. If you can easily get a tourist visa into the country, get one. Then, once you are in the country, stay there. If you try to come out, you might not get back in. Just stay and become part of that culture. Learn enough of the language to say, “I have no papers,” or “I lost my papers.”

Brother Andrew (Andrew van der Bijl) was a famous missionary who smuggled thousands of Bibles into communist countries during the height of the Cold War. He said, “God will open any door to any place you want to go, as long as you are willing to never come out again.” He also said, “We believe that any door is open, anytime and anywhere…to proclaim Christ.” This is why his ministry is called Open Doors.