GRAPEVINE, Texas (BP) — God brought it all together that day in the pickup. Nathan Lorick was driving back to Malakoff, Texas, wondering how in the world he could do the job if the Lord called him to it, yet he was flat-out stoked by the bigger-than-Texas-sized challenge of it all.
Twenty-six million people, 300-plus languages, urban, suburban, rural and all shades of ethnicities. And mostly lost.
Two years earlier on a mission trip to Thailand, Lorick had witnessed to a Hindu Sikh in that man’s language using a video testimony and had used it several times to share the Gospel when communication broke down. Now, as Lorick was driving, that experience began to mesh with the challenge of venturing into evangelism strategies for an increasingly melting pot culture.
Turns out, the Lord did call. Last year, the 31-year-old Lorick left the pastorate of First Baptist Church in Malakoff to lead the evangelism initiatives of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention — a task that calls for a statewide strategy to marshal the efforts of 2,400 congregations to share the Gospel message statewide, from Pecos to Paris, and beyond.
What God laid on Lorick’s heart debuted March 5 as the “1Cross” app — a free download for mobile devices that allows users to access three-minute Gospel testimonies in video form using native speakers of 40 languages so far, with a goal of every known language spoken in the United States being available. By year’s end, Lorick said he hopes to have 100 language testimonies uploaded.
“God has given us a gift in that He is bringing the world to us. It’s a huge missionary opportunity,” Lorick said.
According to the Washington, D.C.-based Migration Institute, 2011 Census data shows 35 percent of Texas residents age 5 and up speak a language other than English, with about 90 percent of immigrants speaking what missiologists call a “heart language” other than English.
Some estimates say more than 300 distinct languages and dialects are spoken among the 26.5 million Texans, with large metro areas such as Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth having nearly all of those represented. And the people keep coming.
So far, the app has been downloaded about 2,500 times with very little promotion. Lorick said he is praying the tool will be used to share the Gospel not only in Texas but worldwide as word of the tool spreads.
Inside the app, if a user chooses a language from a video menu, he will see a professionally videotaped testimony in black and white, three to four minutes long, from native speakers of Spanish, Arabic, Japanese, several dialects of Chinese, Farsi, French, Vietnamese, Burmese, Russian, Hindi and various others. Each speaker, after sharing a personal testimony, offers a simple prayer of faith and repentance if a user is led to pray along. The converted are encouraged to register their faith stories so that the SBTC may help them connect with the nearest church of their language.
The day after Lorick announced the app at the Texas convention’s Empower Evangelism Conference in Irving, a pastor called the SBTC office to tell how a church member who downloaded the 1Cross app already had led a woman at his workplace to Christ after he shared with her in Spanish. As the woman watched the video testimony in her heart language, tears began to form in her eyes. She had been pondering a relationship with God, the pastor told Lorick. The video was an answer to her yearning.
“Many Christians out there are uncomfortable sharing their faith, but I really believe people generally desire to share their faith. This is a tool whereby anyone can share the Gospel with anyone else regardless of background, language or nationality,” Lorick said. “This app gives them the opportunity to have the power of the Gospel at their fingertips so that we can see people of many nations come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.”
Several users have left positive reviews at the iTunes store. One person wrote: “Love this app. I use my iPhone to connect and communicate with people all day long in many different ways. This app enables me to use it to communicate the gospel to people in many different languages and connect them with Christ.”
Another said: “I love this app in so many ways. I have a close friend from the Philippines and I now can tell her more about our God. She doesn’t speak English very well. Thank You!!!”
“When you survey the different languages,” Lorick said, alluding to the app’s name, “there is only one cross that can transcend all language barriers with the saving message of Jesus.”
“Our prayer is that pastors would engage with this technology and mobilize their members with the ability to share the Gospel regardless of language and cultural barriers,” Lorick said. “There are people out there all around us who need the hope we have. What’s stopping us from sharing it?”
By late March, the app had been downloaded in 10 countries, including three in the Middle East and also the Philippines, Argentina, South Korea, Spain and France.
The app is available for iPhone devices and for Android. To download, visit 1Cross.com.
Jerry Pierce is managing editor of the Southern Baptist TEXAN (www.texanonline.net), newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.