May 1, 2024 Barbershop Gospel

Can a barbershop be center of influence to share the gospel? With God’s inspiration, that’s exactly what Pastor Otniel Christian is doing in the Muslim community of Masamba in Sulawesi, Indonesia!

“When I got assigned to Masamba, I began to pray and search for a place to live, and also what kind of center of influence would be meaningful for this community,” shared Pr. Otniel. “The goal of my assignment here is to grow a house church. Even though it seems like a dream, and I still pray for it, I understand this area isn’t quite ready yet.”

The Masamba area is a Muslim-majority community, so holding traditional evangelistic meetings wouldn’t be effective without first building relationships and trust.

“I was inspired to start a barbershop,” said Pr. Otniel. “It’s a natural place to talk and get to know people, and I have a friend who’s a talented barber. So, we work together to build friendships with our customers. People seem to be open to talk while getting haircuts.”

Pr. Otniel lives in the apartment upstairs and has the barbershop downstairs. Everyday Pr. Otniel visits with customers and friends at the shop, and in the afternoons, he does visitations or coordinates community activities like playing soccer.

“I always try to talk about religion in our conversations, just sharing, learning about them too,” said Pr. Otniel. “But I don’t get into deep religious conversations right away. I just share that I’m Adventist, a particular type of Christian who has a different worship day, that we also don’t eat pork, etc. I try to focus on the similarities of our beliefs.”

“I really believe God is helping me, with each conversation,” he said. “Sometimes, it’s hard to read people. Sometimes, I don’t know what topics to talk about. Sometimes I feel blank. I pray silently and God helps me start the discussion and build the conversation. So, I really believe this is God’s helping hand in my ministry.”

Over a year, Pr. Otniel has built 10 good friendships with local Muslims. He also has good relationships with his neighbors too. There are regular customers and new customers—each one he sees as a future friend.

“Praise the Lord, sometimes my friends and regulars just want to visit and hang out. They don’t even want a haircut,” said Pr. Otniel with a smile. “I’m so happy they’re coming and comfortable to talk. Some of them even stay overnight if it gets late. It’s great to see God working through our friendships—that’s real progress.”

“I want to share about one customer, a good looking man who came for a haircut,” shared Pr. Otniel. “We talked about the usual topics, where he’s from, his work, etc. and then I was surprised—he initiated the topic of religion! I felt like the usual roles I had were reversed; he was interviewing me, even asking me directly, ‘what religion are you?’

“I told him simply, I’m a Christian, an Adventist Christian. And as usual, I started to explain a little bit about Adventist beliefs, our lifestyle, healthy diet, Saturday as our day of worship, and so on,” said Pr. Otniel. “But I was again surprised that he was ready to have a deeper discussion, asking me ‘Why do you think there are so many different religions in the world?’

“So, I shared my perspective with him in a simple way,” continued Pr. Otniel. “I explained that I thought the reason why we have so many different religions today, is because every person, every denomination, every church or religion has their own interpretation about God. They have their own perspectives, and convictions of how God wants them to live the life. So, my beliefs and life has led me to be a Seventh-day Adventist, and live a lifestyle in harmony with my faith.

“The man shared that didn’t know that Adventists were different from other Christians, said Pr. Otniel. “He had heard ‘Adventist’ before, but he didn’t really know who they were. He was impressed that we had also had dietary guidelines like Muslims. He’s come to our shop a couple times now, and I am excited to see how God will lead in this friendship.”

As Pr. Otniel shared these stories of making friends for Jesus, joy shines in his face and voice. He’s continuing to build community and Bible studies. He’s even had one baptism, which wasn’t easy considering his community’s Muslim context.

Will you pray for Pastor Otniel and the many other gospel workers around the world as they share the love of Jesus? Will you make friends for Jesus, wherever you are?

Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

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