For nearly 20 years Al Janssen worked closely with Brother Andrew, the Founder of Open Doors. Together they traveled to Muslim countries, wrote six books, met with political leaders and spoke to ministry donors. This blog tells the story of their friendship and some of the many lessons Al learned from this beloved mission leader.
Brother Andrew preached from Jonah in the heart of militant Islamic countries.
I have a confession to make: When I preach, I sometimes steal material from my friend Brother Andrew.
Now, he knows I do this and even encourages my plagiarism. Once when I had less than an hour’s warning that I was to deliver a sermon at Gaza Baptist Church, Brother Andrew pulled me aside and suggested that I preach on Mark 10:17-22. That’s the passage about the rich young ruler who walks away from Jesus after he was challenged to sell everything and follow the Lord.
Andrew even gave me the outline for the message. I followed it and got a nice response—though certainly not as great as the author would have received in person.
One of my favorite sermons is from the four-chapter book of Jonah. I’ve heard Andrew preach on this short book several times. We wrote our first devotional, Operation Nineveh: 39 Days with Jonah, after completing our work on Secret Believers, the story about what happens when Muslims believe in Christ.
Most recently, I preached the message in Indonesia to a church planted in the midst of a Muslim neighborhood. I invited the congregation to open their Bibles and read with me: “The word of the Lord came to Jonah, son of Amittai, saying ‘Arise, go to the city of Mosul and preach against Islamic State, for their wickedness has come before me.”
Now, of course, that is NOT what Jonah 1:1 says. But immediately I explained: the ancient city of Nineveh was on the outskirts of modern-day Mosul, and the Assyrians who lived there were the most feared terrorist group of their day. Jonah was from northern Israel where the Assyrians were making raids. He could very well have seen his village burned, perhaps his parents killed or his sisters raped. I understood why he would want to run away and buy a ticket for a Mediterranean cruise.
However, Jonah should have been pleased to learn that the wickedness of Nineveh had come to God’s attention. Jonah believed the Assyrians should be judged for their brutality. Jonah’s solution: Go … and kill them!
But God had a different assignment: Go … and WIN them.
It’s certainly easier to identify with Jonah than with most prophets. Many of them are so holy. Jonah is so much like us.
God says: Go ye!
Jonah says: NO!
Jonah’s basic problem: he had too much love for himself. He thought: God will make a fool of me. I’ll lose face. He refused to be a fool for Christ. He wanted God, but not God’s Kingdom. He wanted blessing without responsibility. He was not making people ripe for hell. He just allowed them to go to hell. He had no compassion for the lost.
Jonah ran because he saw opportunities as an enemy instead of the enemy as his biggest opportunity.
Brother Andrew preached from Jonah in the heart of militant Islamic countries. Now that he can no longer travel, I wonder: whom is God calling to go and preach to our enemies?
Is He calling me?
Maybe He’s calling you?
Read the first three posts in this weekly series:
Photo: Brother Andrew often preached during his travels. The photo captures him as he shared a message during a trip to Asia.