Making Disciples

In John 17:4, Jesus prayed to the Father, “I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.”  Jesus knew what the Father had called Him to do. But do we know what the Father has called us to do?  There seems to be a great deal of confusion in the Church about what is and what is not the mission that God has given to us. And if the leaders are confused, then how can the average church member possibly understand what God has called us to do? The more ominous question is whether the Church as a whole has adopted the wrong mission and as a result we have not fulfilled what God has intended. 

This Month's Articles

What Is Our Mission? Editorial

What Is Our Mission?

In John 17:4, Jesus prayed to the Father, “I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.” Jesus knew what the Father had called Him to do. But do we know what the Father has called us to do? There seems to be a great deal of confusion in the Church about what is and what is not the mission that God has given to us. And if the leaders are confused, then how can the average church member possibly understand what God has called us to do? The more ominous question is whether the Church as a whole has adopted the wrong mission and as a result we have not fulfilled what God has intended.

Tags: discipleship, evangelism, mission

John Wesley’s Church Planting Movement: Feature

John Wesley’s Church Planting Movement:

Discipleship That Transformed a Nation and Changed the World

When John Wesley was born in 1703, four million out of Britain’s five million people lived in absolute poverty—unless they found enough food for that day, they would begin to starve to death. When John Wesley launched a Church Planting Movement in this context, he not only changed the eternal destinies of an estimated one million people who came to Christ through his ministry, he changed their economic status as well. Not only did the Methodists he led get saved, they got out of poverty and became a powerful influence in discipling their nation. Wilberforce and other “spiritual sons” of Wesley honored him as the “greatest man of his time.”

Tags: church planting, discipleship, methodists, movement, poverty, wesley

Blessing as Transformation Feature

Blessing as Transformation

God’s promise to Abraham was effectively a promise to the world. In Genesis 12:1-2, God declared that He would not only bless Abram (his name at that time), but that Abram would become a blessing. The next verse reveals the amazing magnitude of that blessing: “In you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” How was it possible that one man would become a blessing to all of the families throughout the earth? Even though Abram obeyed God, it’s unlikely that he grasped the global implications right away. The complete promise, as Abraham heard it repeated in the years to come, had three parts: land, family and blessing. The first two parts about land and family probably made some sense right away. But what probably remained a mystery was the promise that somehow through his family, blessing would come upon every nation on earth.

Tags: abraham, blessing, family, nations

William Carey Feature

William Carey

A Missionary Who Transformed a Nation

When Englishman William Carey (1761–1834) arrived in India in 1793, it marked a major milestone in the history of Christian missions and in the history of India. Carey established the Serampore Mission—the first modern Protestant mission in the non-English-speaking world—near Calcutta on January 10, 1800.1 From this base, he labored for nearly a quarter century to spread the gospel throughout the land. In the end his triumph was spectacular. Through his unfailing love for the people of India and his relentless campaign against “the spiritual forces of evil” (Eph. 6:12), India was literally transformed. Asian historian Hugh Tinker summarizes Carey’s impact on India this way: “And so in Serampore, on the banks of the river Hooghly, the principal elements of modern South Asia—the press, the university, social consciousness—all came to light.”

Tags: nations, transformation, william carey

Disciple Making & Church Planting Feature

Disciple Making & Church Planting

God’s Way to Transform Nations

Jesus bypassed the cumbersome religious structures and irrelevant worship practices of his day, and started something living and organic. The word “organic” is a good one to describe a spontaneously reproducing simple church movement because it describes something that grows naturally, without artificial additives. It consists of elements that exist together in natural relationships that make growth and multiplication possible. That is how a simple church movement grows: it is not a top down hierarchical organization, but a movement held together by people who share the same vision and values. I have observed that successful churches in the conventional church model can actually be a hindrance to a simple church planting movement. Notice the way Jesus got the disciples exercising gifts of leadership from the outset, before they were “ready.” Jesus didn’t wait for disciples to be born again, baptized, trained theologically and supervised under a safe religious system with guaranteed controls before He was involving them in leadership. He got them out telling others about Him within a few weeks of being with Him (Matt 10:1–14). He led the movement He began from underneath, very quickly involving the disciples in leadership assignments without mentioning positions or titles. He had a radically different paradigm from that of the religious leaders of His day, and of our day as well. He was training them to lead before they were actually born again, in our evangelical understanding of what that means. After all, the journey of discipleship doesn’t start when a person comes to faith in Christ, but long before.

Tags: church planting, discipleship, nations, transformation, ywam

Feeding the Wolves Feature

Feeding the Wolves

The intensifying pace of world evangelism is feeding the wolves. Sheep are dying at an ever-increasing pace. The problem? Decisions are taking precedence over discipleship. In the process, there is an increasing gap between the numbers who are deciding for Christ and the numbers who are being trained as disciples. The wolves are eating the difference. Is it time to slow the pace of evangelism and to increase the pace of training and discipleship? “But, you’re knowingly leaving the masses in darkness and the prospect of eternal damnation.” Is it any worse to offer Christ to people, who, after having decided for Him, lose their faith for lack of training in Christian living, Bible study, sound theology, and apologetics? Could this be the point of Jesus’ story in Luke 11:23-26, where an evil spirit, having been cast out of a person, rounds up seven more spirits to re-inhabit the poor man? “And the final condition of that man is worse than the first.” Matthew’s account adds this application: “That is how it will be with this wicked generation” (Mt. 12:45b).

Tags: discipleship, evangelism, salvation, training

Our Shrink-wrap World Marginalia

Our Shrink-wrap World

I was shocked recently with my first-ever purchase of a flat-screen television. Expecting a hernia-inducing effort not unlike the intense strain of an Olympic power-lifter, I was amazed at how much smaller and lighter it was. My “clean and jerk” television-carrying method was no longer needed. Personal computing has gone from desktops to laptops to netbooks and now tablets, and cell phones have now become computers of sorts with a remarkable array of computing/connecting services. While our communicating devices are smaller, the amount of time we spend communicating with them is shorter. With the advent of Facebook and Twitter, we actually read incredibly brief statements of our friends and believe that in so doing we are keeping up with them. Conversations have turned into “tweets” and meaningful dialogue has become a “chat.” We live in a shrink-wrap world where most things have been made smaller.

Tags: mobilization, strategy

Projecting Poverty Where It Doesn’t Exist Other

Projecting Poverty Where It Doesn’t Exist

I have been in relationship with the Waodani since 1956, when they killed my dad Nate and four of his friends. My relationship continued through the time my aunt Rachel lived with them beginning in 1958 through her death in 1994. I most recently lived with the Waodani beginning just after Aunt Rachel’s death in 1994 until later in 1997, maintaining a house and spending about one quarter of my time with them until 2008. When people visit the Waodani, they look around and think, “Wow, these people have nothing!” People from the outside think the Waodani are poor because they don’t have three-bedroom ramblers with wall-to-wall carpeting, double garages so full of stuff the cars never fit and, I guess, because they never take vacations to exotic places like Disney World. So, on speaking tours I began describing these jungle dwellers as “People who all have water front property, multiple houses and spend most of their time hunting and fishing.” The most common response I have gotten when describing the Waodani this way is, “Wow, would I ever like to live like that!” I agree completely.

Tags: poverty, short-term mission

Salvation & Societal Edification Other

Salvation & Societal Edification

Linking personal salvation with societal edification is our duty. I recall that some Sawi tribesmen who worked for me or brought me food, firewood, etc. wanted to be paid with colorful beads or tobacco. Unlike Roman Catholic priests in the region, I declined to be a bead or tobacco merchant on the grounds that steel tools, salt, fishing line, fishhooks, soap, nails, etc., would benefit the people much more than baubles and smoke (though these latter items of course would have cost me much less, especially in terms of air freight). I dispensed medicine free of charge to the ill but strengthened the remarkable work ethic the people already had by requiring them to work for everything else they wanted from me. Learning that a Roman Catholic priest in another area was reputedly doling out goods free of charge to anyone who asked, three Sawi men asked me, “Can he do that because he is richer than you, or is it just that he loves the people of that other tribe more than you love us?”

Tags: evangelism, salvation, sawi

Raising Local Resources

Raising Local Resources:All Without Money

In mission circles, I hear the question: “How much money is it going to take?” more than I hear “How much of the Holy Spirit is it going to take?” Jesus knew what fulfilling the Great Commission would take: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water but in a few days you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:5). Luke, the writer of Acts, describes the day that 3,000 people joined the 120 believers (Acts 2:41). Money was not mentioned as the “deal maker.” Actually, money did not enter the equation at all. What or who did play a role in this people movement for Christ? The Holy Spirit! The Holy Spirit empowered Peter to speak the gospel with boldness and clarity. The Holy Spirit moved upon people’s hearts with conviction. The Holy Spirit, using Peter, did this all without money.

Tags: holy spirit, money

The Stuff of Basic Evangelicalism Further Reflections

The Stuff of Basic Evangelicalism

Earlier today John R. W. Stott died at the age of 90. I can’t think of another evangelical theologian who would come close to Stott, both in the depth of his diligent scholarship and in the breadth of his unifying work in the global Body of Christ, especially through the Lausanne Movement. I first heard him at Urbana in 1976 while I was still in college. That is where he delivered his message “The Living God is a Missionary God,” which is the lead article for Lesson 1 of the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement course. Later, I spoke with him briefly during a meal at Billy Graham’s Amsterdam 2000 gathering. Almost an octogenarian by then, Stott moved slowly but preached powerfully; the contrast was startling. It is probable that his involvement in guiding and crafting the masterful Lausanne Covenant (1974) will be the most enduring single thing for which he will be remembered. As a part of the Statement Working Group at Lausanne’s Cape Town 2010 meeting, I can say that we knew well that we were not trying to replace that document—which is amazingly timeless in many respects.

Tags: john r. stott, lausanne, urbana