Mark Weible, church planting director for the Greater Orlando Baptist Association (GOBA), hopes that one day “Orlando would be known more for Jesus Christ than Mickey Mouse.”
In a February 6 seminar hosted by GOBA, Weible pointed to Acts 19:10 to introduce his vision to see every person in central Florida reached for Christ. And reaching every person in central Florida will help spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth, he said.
Orlando, like most major metropolitan areas in the US, is home to many internationals, and many of the world’s Unengaged, Unreached People Groups are represented there. When believers share the Gospel with people who have come to the US, they will pass the Good News along to their family and friends in their home countries, he said.
The seminar introduced tools and strategies that churches and individuals can use to more intentionally reach their international neighbors.
Look around you
One problem identified by the presenters and attendees was the tendency for Anglo Americans to be blind to the international populations around them. The first step to reaching immigrants is to notice them, said Phil Cohn, founder and president of Christ for All Peoples. Always have an icebreaker ready, Cohn suggested, and be intentional about engaging the people around you. Asking about the person’s country of origin and family are good places to start. Once you begin a conversation, you can transition easily into a Gospel presentation or gift of the “JESUS” film.
Use the “JESUS” film
The “JESUS” film has been a hugely effective outreach tool around the world, especially in countries with low literacy rates where orality is an essential strategy, Cohn said. “JESUS” has been translated into more than 1,400 languages to date, and has been viewed billions of times since its release in 1979, according to the JESUS Film Project website.
Internationals are often excited to receive the gift of a film in their own language, Cohn said. He suggested carrying a few copies of the “JESUS” film DVD in your pocket or purse the way you might carry printed tracts. The film is also available in a free mobile app from Jesus Film Media.
Chris Cooper, president of the Mapping Center for Evangelism and Church Growth, spoke about tools available to those who want to more strategically pray for their neighbors. Pray4EveryHome.com, in partnership with the Mapping Center, uses publicly available information to generate a personalized prayer list so you can pray for your one hundred closest neighbors by name. See more information in this article.
Cooperation is key to outreach efforts. Connect with ethnic congregations and other churches in your neighborhood, Cohn suggested. Work with your local association as well as other local and regional ministries.
Cohn challenged attendees to encourage their pastors, small groups, Sunday school classes, or missions leaders to engage with immigrants.
Witnessing to Muslims
Ashraf Ibrahim, founder of Lift Your Eyes Ministries, shared some suggestions specific to reaching Muslims.
First, he said, you must prepare your own heart to guard against the things that may prevent you from witnessing effectively, like fear, mistrust, or lack of love.
Islam is not just a religion, but an ideology, he said. When a Muslim starts following Jesus, it affects far more than just their religious beliefs. It is important to understand the personal and relational challenges a Muslim might face when they respond to the Gospel.
Jesus is the water of life, and people are dying of thirst, Cohn said. Muslims often pray for guidance and to be shown the right path. For those Muslims, “you’re an answer to prayer,” he said.
Ultimately, Cohn said, “The most important thing we can do with our lives is help people understand who Jesus is.”