Steppe of Faith

Mojic Baldandorj is a Mongolian Christian leader who has served as General Secretary of the Mongolian Evangelical Alliance, as founder and director of the Mongolian Mobile Training Centre, and who is currently pastoring a church in Mongolia and lecturing on Old Testament Studies at Union Bible Training Centre in Ulaanbaatar.

In world history, the Mongolian Empire is considered to be the biggest land empire the world has ever known. In the 13th century the Mongol Empire extended halfway around the world, stretching from Korea to Hungary under the leadership of Chingis Khan. Historians today acknowledge that during the Mongol Empire there were many Mongol Christians in the royal families and royal court. The famous historian, Marco Polo, tells us that 200 Christian missionaries were requested to come and evangelize the whole empire under the reign of Hubilai Khan but the Pope failed to respond to this request. With the fall of the Mongol Empire, Buddhism was introduced from Tibet and the remaining three centuries saw the saturation of Tibetan Buddhism in every family and clan of Mongols until the country became the second communist country in the world in 1924.

During the communist regime, Mongolia remained closed to the outside world for the next 70 years. Known as “the end of the world“, it was totally impossible for Christian missionaries to enter the country until the fall of communism in the former Soviet Union in the late 1980s. In 1990, Mongolia entered into a new page of history, freedom and democracy.

Taking advantage of this new freedom and democracy, the first Christian missionaries arrived in Mongolia in early 1991. They could only get into the country as English language teachers in those times. It is recorded that the first Christian gathering was founded in spring of 1991 with students from an English class. Three churches separately formed by the end of the same year with 40-50 local Christians coming to worship on Sunday. For just under three years, the passionate new believers spread the Good News day and night. Through street evangelism, home visits, and showing the “Jesus“ film, the Good News was proclaimed to the newly-opened country. Revival came to the land. The Spirit of God brought new spiritual freedom and revival to thousands of Mongolians who were thirsty for eternal truth.

It is estimated that by 1996, in less than 4 years since the first Christian church was established, almost 60 local churches had been born with over 6,000 adherents of Jesus coming to those local churches. Then by 2002, over 200 churches had been planted literally in each and every of Mongolia’s 21 provinces with 25,000 followers of Jesus in Mongolia. Today, 19 years later, the country is home to 550 evangelical churches with over 50,000 adults, plus thousands of children coming to worship the one true God.

We believe that it is only the power of God which has brought this great breakthrough. The whole nation is experiencing the move of God in real ways in peoples’ lives. The message of Jesus is not only preached from the pulpit, but its real life-changing power is seen in the lives of many. The church of Christ is being built in this nation gradually but surely.

Many national leaders today feel that the young Mongolian church is reaching her “teenage” period. We feel that the excitement of being “young” is gradually over as the church is facing many new challenges. In this article, I would like touch on one issue which is very important for future church growth in Mongolia.

The explosion of rapid church growth creates a leadership shortage. Suddenly we realize that many new-born local churches lack Christ-like, servant leaders, whose personal life and character mark them out as a genuine disciple of Jesus. We have seen in the past that churches can be planted in a relatively short time with many different resources from the West or Korea. However, we have discovered that that is not the end of it. The church needs a good leader. To make a good and godly leader, it takes a long time.

In recent years, unfortunately, a considerable number of pastors and leaders have resigned or have been forced to resign from their ministries due to sexual sins, unfaithfulness in handling offerings, and personal character issues. Sometimes, their position and ministry are regarded as more important than their spiritual growth and personal encounter with God. We see, unfortunately, that many “good“ leaders fall through the hole, committing sins, and some of them giving up on their faith. When a leader falls, the name of Jesus also falls with it. Of course, developing leaders into godliness is not a one-off event. It is a lifelong process. There might be many ways to develop leaders in other parts of the world, but in the Mongolian church context, the following two practices must be essential steps in developing leaders: personal discipleship and role modeling mentorship. It is my own experience and observation in the Mongolian context that it usually takes as long as 7-10 years or more of personal discipleship and mentorship to see a committed young leader emerge.

I believe that our brothers and sisters in the Western world have a lot to offer for future leadership development in the young Mongolian church. It is estimated that there are over 600 Christian missionaries from many parts of the world working and living in Mongolia. Some of them teach at Bible schools and many work for social projects, but it is my sincere wish that we could work together hand in hand to develop national leaders into Christ-like leaders. We could sit together to discuss real life issues of leadership and promote national leadership development programmes. We could provide personal mentorship for those young leaders. We could work together for training countryside church leaders in their local context. I am not saying that there is no partnership at all. What I am saying is that what we do today is not sufficient and efficient.

Over a hundred years ago, God’s faithful servant, James Gilmour (1843-1891) from the London Missionary Society tried to reach our ancestors for Christ. He ministered to Mongols over 20 years, but saw no converts at all. His precious prayer is passionately noted that,

‘If only the truth can be made to reach their understanding, it is not to be doubted that God will in His own time and way, even among the Mongols, and notwithstanding all difficulties, apply it with living power to the hearts of men, and call out from among them those who will confess Him before their countrymen, and smooth the way for those who afterwards shall follow their examples (Gilmour, 1882:219)’

God has granted His time. It is now time to cooperate and train, mentor, and disciple these young leaders for the powerful transformation that God will bring to our nation.