"(The rulers, elders and teachers of the law) called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus." -- Acts 4:18
There are countries where it is not possible for an expatriate (or foreign) missionary to get a visa. There are countries where church activities are greatly restricted. There are countries in the world where open evangelism by Christians is unlawful. Churches in areas where they have to meet in secret are sometimes referred to as Underground Churches. Some people have been tempted to think that these countries -- many of which have Islamic or communist governments -- are unreachable.
While fulfilling the Great Commission in those countries can be challenging, it is not impossible. Closed to missionaries does not mean closed to the gospel. That's where the use of the phrase "creative access" comes in. Because the Good News spreads most easily through relationships, there are opportunities for evangelism in even the most difficult of circumstances. Relationships in which the gospel can be shared can be developed by:
Some years ago we talked about various places as "closed" countries. On the surface, it did look like those places were unreached by missionaries. Today's mission strategists use phrases like limited access, restricted access, or creative access areas since, as has been noted, no country is really closed. Even though a country may be on someone's list of "closed countries," the gospel can get in through a variety of ways.
It's hard to come up with a firm list or number of closed or creative access countries. One reason is that any listing of the names of limited-access countries by a mission board raises that mission board's visibility to the power structures of those particular countries. As a result, most mission boards working in such countries never talk about them by name nor do they even publish lists of those countries they consider to be creative access areas (whether they are working in them or not).
However, I have seen a figure of about 60 countries. These range from the largest country in the world to most of the countries where Islam is the majority religion.
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Howard Culbertson, 5901 NW 81st, Oklahoma City, OK 73132
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