The Mongol King

Seven hundred years ago, the Mongolian Khans had conquered most of Asia and extended their empire into parts of Europe. What started with the famous/infamous Genghis Khan ended with his grandson Kublai Khan, who started the Yuan Dynasty in China. Though their reign was relatively short, these Mongolian kings exerted a huge influence during their time of power.

Kublai Khan, like the other Khans, was open to the influence of different faiths, and he once sent the explorers Niccolo and Maffeo Polo (father and uncle of Marco Polo) to Pope Gregory X to ask him to send one hundred Christian missionaries to come minister to the people of Mongolia. Specifically, his request asked the Pope …

…to send 100 persons well skilled in your law, who being confronted with the idolaters (i.e. Buddhists) shall have power to coerce them, and showing that they themselves are endowed with similar art… When I am witness of this , I shall place them and myself to be baptized. Following my example, all my nobility will then in like manner receive baptism and this will be imitated by my subjects in general; so that the Christians of these parts will exceed in number those who inhabit your own countries.

It was an incredible and unprecedented request, but for whatever reasons, Pope Gregory X only sent two friars and some lamp oil. In fact, the friars never made it. Experiencing some warfare as they passed through Armenia, they turned back. Niccolo, Maffeo and Marco Polo continued on to deliver the oil, but it was an empty gesture.

Who knows what could have happened had Pope Gregory X sent the full 100 invited missionaries to win the hearts and minds of the Mongols. Christianity might have spread strongly throughout all of Asia.

Fast forward. Handfuls of missionaries and missionary groups tried to reach the Mongolian people over the centuries, but they experienced little lasting success. Mongolians were nomadic people, and it was difficult to reach them for Christ as they moved all around the vast country. Even today, Mongolia is the most sparsely populated independent country in the world, with 2.9 million people scattered over 1.5 million square kilometers.

The Communists eventually came into power in Mongolia and declared it an atheist nation. For approximately 65 years, the borders of Mongolia were closed to God and His followers….or so the government thought. Several seemingly unrelated events were taking place that would set the stage for massive spiritual change.

During the 1980’s, the government sent some party-loyal Mongolians to study at universities in other nations. During that time, several of these Mongolians heard about Jesus, and while they didn’t necessarily give their hearts to Christ at the time, seeds had been planted that would one day grow into faith.

At the same time, an Englishman by the name of John Gibbens was working on translating the New Testament into one of the Mongolian dialects. He was assisted by a woman named Altaa, a Mongolian university student, who later became Gibbens’ wife. They finished the translation in 1989, just as the walls of Communism were coming down. Then in July 1990, the first free elections took place in Mongolia, opening the door to religious freedom. Thirteen days later, the first 5,000 copies of the new Mongolian Bible were printed in Hong Kong, ready for immediate shipment.

Even the demographics of Mongolia were changing. More than one-third of the population of Mongolia had come over the years to reside in Ulaanbataar, the country’s capital city. With so many Mongolians so close together, it was much easier to establish churches and spread the Gospel.

The first Christian church (after Communism) started in Mongolia in 1991 with just a handful of believers. (Local Christians can name all four or five of them.) Since then, over 500 churches have been planted and over 60,000 people have given their lives to Christ. Mongolian Christians fan out over their large country taking the Gospel to its most remote places. Mongolian missionaries are even leaving their country to take the Good News into Russia, China, and the “-stan” countries (Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan…). All this has happened in just seventeen short years. It’s nothing short of a miracle!

Centuries ago, Pope Gregory X missed an opportunity to join God in this great work, but God is not dependent on us to accomplish His purposes. He is working powerfully in Mongolia and through the Mongolian people. They may again be on a conquest of the magnitude of the conquests of the Khans, but this time they will be winning spiritual territory throughout Asia and into Europe. I’m excited to say that there is once again a Mongol King, and His name is Jesus Christ!

Worship in Ulaanbataar - March, 2008

Worship in Ulaanbataar - March, 2008



Filed under christianity, Church, evangelism, growth, Mongolia, overcoming obstacles, spiritual warfare

8 responses to “The Mongol King

  1. With great interest I have read the article above. With most I was familiar but the clear writing indeed shows what a great opportunity the Roman Catholic Church has missed by the mistake we can say of Pope Gregory X.
    The current rise in newly Christened people in Mongolia is something that I experience with very mixed feelings.
    Although a Roman Catholic myself I must say that many of the Churches evolving in Mongolia are from a kind of radical Christianity that I personally cannot encourage at all to say the least. Also the fact that some of them clearly make use (or should I say abuse) of the poor conditions many people live in by connecting regular church visits to benefiting of good deeds, a kind of religious blackmail, doesn’t give me a warm feeling.
    Last but not least, in Mongolia is religion and culture very much connected making Christianity possibly helping to dissolve the traditional Mongolian culture.


    Thank you, Roy. Some interesting comments. It can’t be denied that Christianity (or what passes for it) has often abused people in the name of converting them. I personally feel that this is tragic and completely misdirected, because it’s the Holy Spirit who does the true work of conversion (and He doesn’t need any coercive tactics from us). However, I don’t know of any manipulation on the part of the Mongolian church members. All the ones I’ve met over the past year have been such warm and wonderful people, with a true heart for sharing Christ with selfless motives (or as close to them as we can come in our fallen state). It’s true that the Mongolian culture is changing, but I think it’s less the Church that is doing it and more globalization and the move to an urban environment.

    I appreciate your thoughts. Please keep the dialog going on this or any other post.


  2. Вот решил вам немного помочь и послал этот пост в социальные закладки. Очень надеюсь ваш рейтинг возрастет.


    Well, gonna take a risk here that this is something related to the post. Since it’s written in Mongolian (I think), I’m hoping it’s relevant to the Mongolian readers and not just an advertisement. If anyone feels the urge to translate for me, I would appreciate it.


  3. sea

    i ve been to church in Mongolia 2 times. And to tell you the truth I hated it. I don’t like the way they were teaching others.
    No sex until marry. If you have one night stands or have sex before you marry you re gonna be goin to hell.
    What the Hell I dont see christian people doing it

    • Hi, oyumaa_424. I appreciate the comment.

      Some churches do say that you’ll go to hell if you have sex before you marry (not just in Mongolia, but everywhere). It’s simply not true. Once you are a Christian, there is no way for you to lose your salvation. You couldn’t work your way in, and you can’t work your way out.

      But here is what I would say about sex before marriage. It’s not what it promises to be. Both my wife and I had sex with each other and with other people before we got married, and we regret it. We didn’t need to practice or to see what was out there, and we lost the opportunity to save the gift of sex for the one person we would commit our entire lives to in marriage. I have a blog post about this, and you can click on it here if you want to read more.

      I wish I would have waited. I wish I had been able to give my wife a gift on our wedding night that hadn’t been opened and used by someone else. I want my kids to be more successful than we were, and I talk to them frequently about waiting until they get married. I hope they make it, but even if they don’t, they won’t go to hell. They are sealed, and no one can take them out of the Lord’s protective hand.

      So, I’m really sorry about your experience with a few of the Mongolian churches. They aren’t all like that; I promise. There are some wonderful churches there and some wonderful people. I hope you get to meet them some day.


  4. Peter

    Thank you for your article. The Holy Spirit is at work in Mongolia and around the world. I am encouraged to know that it is the Holy Spirit that moves hearts and changes situations, I want to be used by the Holy Spirit to do these things.

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