Ziafat encourages churches to join Look Like Heaven initiative

FORT WORTH—Southern Baptists of Texas Convention President Jimmy Pritchard opened the “Look Like Heaven” report at the 2014 SBTC Annual Meeting by introducing Afshin Ziafat, pastor of Providence Church in Frisco.

Following a Look Like Heaven video, five individuals onstage prayed in five languages: Spanish, Hebrew, Swahili, Korea and English, before Ziafat encouraged the gathering of “fellow church leaders from across the state of Texas” to join the SBTC’s Look Like Heaven initiative.

Reminding the audience of the video’s emphasis on Revelation 7:9, Ziafat spoke of the “great multitude” from “all tribes and languages” loved by God. He urged pastors to encourage their congregants to get out of their “comfort zones to go out to other tribes, to people who do not talk or look or dress like us.”

Citing the examples of Abraham as the founder of a great nation and father of many nations as well as Peter’s witness to Cornelius in Acts 10, Ziafat reminded all that the Bible is the story of God’s redeeming a people to himself from every tribe, tongue and nation.

Referencing Ephesians 3:10, Ziafat expounded upon the meaning of “manifold” or “multifaced,” alluding to a diamond “with many faces that sparkles brightly” as an image of “God’s vision for the church” as a place for “every nation.”

Ziafat, an Iranian-American, recalled his own childhood experiences during the 1978 Iran hostage crisis, when his family returned to America from Iran and were spurned by others. A second grade tutor befriended him, giving him a New Testament with instructions to keep it and read it later.

“I am so glad that [she] got uncomfortable, loved me, and gave me that New Testament. I read it as a senior in high school,” said Ziafat, who trusted Christ afterward.

Ziafat also expressed gratitude to the Baptist church in Houston whose members discipled him after his father and family disowned him following his conversion to Christ.

“There are thousands more Afshin Ziafats all over neighborhoods around our churches,” Ziafat admonished listeners. “We must equip our people to get out of their comfort zones and go to the ends of the earth … to go and to love and to get uncomfortable as one person did for me.”

Outreach does not necessarily mean travel, Ziafat said.

“The ends of the earth have moved across the street,” exclaimed Ziafat, urging the audience to navigate the SBTC’s Look Like Heaven website for ways to engage the lost across cultural lines.

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