“The Forgotten Holy Land,” is the way Behnan describes his country of Turkey.
Locations there are mentioned more often in the New Testament than Israel and it was a principal setting of Christianity for more than 1,400 years. Six of Paul’s 13 letters were directed to churches in that region. He spent more time there than in any other place and the impact of the gospel was profound. Luke tells us that, “all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks” (Acts 19:10) and later, “The word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily” (Acts 19:20).
Paul and his church planting team started no less than 10 churches. By the end of the first century, churches dotted the entire landscape of Asia Minor.
The long and rich history of Christianity in Behnan’s country reaches even to us today. What we recite as the Nicene Creed originated there. Much of our theological understanding of the Trinity and nature of Christ were first discussed in this area. For more than three centuries, the region was the focal point of theological reflection with discussions that thwarted the rise of many heretical teachings. God used the people in this part of the world in marvelous ways.
With the invasion of the Ottoman Empire in the 1400s, Islam quickly and successfully took the place of Christianity, often by forced conversion, death or exile. Today, Behnan’s country is one of the least reached of any country in the world with a Christian population of less than two percent. While 79 percent of the population believes religion is important, only 49 percent actually attend religious services.
Still, 73 percent believe God is active in the world. It is correctly characterized as a secular state with a minority who desire a more intentionally religious one.
God has been orchestrating events to show us an opportunity to join with Him. Atheism is growing among a disillusioned population. Terror threats are destroying the tourist industry. People are asking questions about their faith like never before. Syrian and Kurdish refugees are crossing the border where they are responding to the gospel in unprecedented ways. God is at work in Behnan’s country and we believe He wants us to respond. Our goal over the next 3-6 years is to establish 10 new churches.
This will not be easy, but the opportunity is now. We are praying for at least 10 churches in the United States who will see the need and rise up to the challenge to join with our brothers and sisters as God’s fellow workers in this unreached country. If you are a pastor or church leader whose heart is being stirred to join us, please contact me personally. We are praying that God will raise up partners to strategically participate in equipping and resourcing national believers to plant churches that God would use to transform lives and change communities.
With you serving Him,
Michael T. Cooper, PhD
President and CEO
Note: Due to the sensitive nature of this email, please do not share or forward this story.