A Noah in every family

world's largest wooden ship, Al-Hashemi-IIIn the Cross-Cultural Impact article, Confessions of a Failed Church Planter, I related the following story of an incident during our ministry in Pakistan:

Nathaniel (not his real name) told me one day of his favorite chapters in the Bible.  Most of them were the expected ones (Ps 23, Rom 8, 1 Cor 13, etc.), but then he said Genesis 7.  I was a little taken aback as I recalled that this was the chapter in which God destroys the entire world and I asked him why such a chapter would be so important to him.  He replied, “Just as God chose Noah to save his family, God has chosen me to save mine.” On the basis of this, rather than challenging him to be involved in a “church plant”, I encouraged him to focus on being an active and intentional believer within his family.  Thus he is fulfilling a mandate that he believes is from God.

His efforts are all within a given societal structure (family) and as a result the conflict of authority and control which occurred in the church plant I attempted are nonexistent.  Relationships are established on social grounds, not on the basis of a common faith, and within this context biblical teaching is given the opportunity to influence the members of the family.  Moreover because the family unit is ongoing, so is the influence of the gospel.  Such a model is also reproducible when the patriarchal heads of the family are targeted.  As a result of Nathaniel’s efforts a number of family members have come to Christ and worship services are a regular occurrence within the family context.

the story of Noah has become a metaphor or motif for the spread of the gospel among the Sindhi people

Recently, I had opportunity to remind Nathaniel of the incident of the “favorite chapters.”  He laughed and said he remembered.  He then went on to say that the story of Noah has become a metaphor or motif for the spread of the gospel among the Sindhi people.  Rather than trying to form congregations with those who have become believers, the focus is on discipling believers in cohorts so that they can be equipped and challenged to bring Christ as Lord within their extended families.  In the words of Nathaniel, “We want a Noah in every family, someone who will build a boat so that the whole family can be saved.”