No More Frontiers?
In just the last hundred years the world's frontiers have receded like a hairline. Daniel Boone went through the Cumberland Gap into the Kentucky "meadow" where he walked under trees seen by only a handful of Europeans. The Native Americans had followed the abundant deer and buffalo along the Ohio River for hundreds if not thousands of years, but had never settled down into communities much bigger than temporary hunting camps. European pioneers followed Boone's footprints and streamed through the Appalachian mountains into the American West. Now cement interstate highways crisscross the old hunting trails and Boone's expeditions.
The pioneer spirit is not immoral. No doubt, it has been abused through the centuries. People with all kinds of motives have pushed the boundaries of knowledge and geography. Columbus is sometimes blamed for imperialism. The Spanish poured into Latin America in search of gold, power and long life. Others have left the comforts of civilization in search of freedom. The Pilgrims left the cultured urban life of Amsterdam and risked starvation, disease and slaughter in the New World wilderness. Daniel Boone was driven by the most primitive urge, to go where no one else had ever gone.
Abraham had a pioneer spirit. God told him to leave everything and go to a new land. He packed his bags and left, not knowing even where he was going.
Pioneers have a certain kind of faith. They believe there is something more valuable about going rather than staying. They believe that there are certain treasures to be obtained that require greater risks and greater exploits. Pioneers who believe in God trust him to guide their path.
But there are no more frontiers today. Young people are forced to go in search of virtual adventure on their computers. They sit in a chair playing an "epic game", but that's an oxymoron. Only reality can be epic. So where can they turn?
Google Earth provides all one needs to sail around the globe, to travel to the North Pole, to plunge into the Congo. These days David Livingstone could sit in an easy-chair in a suburb of London and search for the headwaters of the Nile.
One of the most important truths about the world that Satan wants to keep hidden is that the Kingdom of God still has many frontiers. The Muslim world is a frontier. Folk Islam is a frontier. The Buddhist world is a frontier. The world of animism is a frontier. Secularism is a frontier. These frontiers do not wait for a European to be the first explorer. They wait for a Christian of any background. In northern Iran are a million Khorasani Turkic people who have no church and no witness. What pioneer will go to them with the gospel of Jesus? In the rugged mountains of Chechnya a million Muslims live on a gospel frontier. They need a pioneer.
From the Caspian Sea to the deserts of China, Central Asia is a vast frontier for the gospel. Hundreds of millions live under the shadow of Islam and other religious and philosophical systems. The Central Asian frontier has only recently come into contact with new Christian pioneers committed to taking the gospel and planting churches. With the fall of the Iron Curtain possibilities suddenly burst onto the scene. In two decades the church has taken root in many places along the ancient Silk Road, yet the frontiers are only just beginning to hear God's Word. With each new generation and with the arrival of competing spiritual forces, the effort has to be redoubled.
Living in Istanbul and having lived in Kazakhstan gives me a unique perspective on the Central Asian frontier. It is one of the most fascinating places in the world today. Cut off from the Western world until recently, Central Asia possesses the nostalgia of an older world. In some ways it has been blessed to avoid the influences of commercialism and Western secular culture. That is changing very rapidly. Furthermore, no amount of traditional folk life can solve the problem of human sin. The only remedy is Jesus the Messiah, brought to them through the preaching of the Word.
The frontiers await. The King commands. The church has the great privilege to go.