This is an article from the March-April 2020 issue: Movements: God’s Way of Reaching Entire Peoples

Rapid Mobilization: How the West Was Won

Rapid Mobilization: How the West Was Won

Editor’s Note: On page 15 of this issue we highlight the power of the Methodist Movement in Britain. That nation was transformed by John Wesley and the Methodists as people became members of mandatory small group “class meetings.” They came to know Christ, learned to read by studying the Scriptures and singing hymns, confessed their sins one to another and became frugal, hard working and sober. Through obedience to the Word, they became circuit riders and non-professional pastors to spread the gospel even further. They employed many of the characteristics of the Church Planting Movement methodology of our day to very remarkable effect. The following story tells of the similar impact the Methodist movement had in the United States as the country moved westward. Like the movement in Britain, the movement in the U.S. also began to decline when “class meetings” were no longer required and the Methodists began to require seminary education instead of allowing pastors to rise up from the class meetings. See the sidebar on page 17 for more on this.

When the 26 year-old Methodist pioneer, Francis Asbury, arrived in the American colonies in 1771, he believed he was called to fulfill a great destiny. He was right—although that destiny was far greater than he ever imagined. In 1771 there were only 300 American Methodists, led by four ministers. By the time of Asbury’s death in 1816, Methodism had 2,000 ministers and over 200,000 members in a well-coordinated movement. By 1830 official membership was almost half a million, and the number of actual attenders was six million. Most of these people had no previous church connection before they became Methodists.

Asbury, like his mentor John Wesley, modeled the commitment required to achieve such success. Throughout his ministry Asbury delivered more than 16,000 sermons. He traveled nearly 300,000 miles on horseback. He remained unmarried so that he could devote himself fully to his mission. He was often ill    and had no permanent home. He was paid the salary of an ordinary traveling preacher and was still traveling when he died at 70 years of age.

Asbury’s leadership and example inspired an army of circuit riders, many of whom followed his example and remained unmarried. There were no formal vows, but in the early days of the movement the majority of the riders lived by the three rules of the monastic orders: poverty, chastity and obedience. Methodism was a kind of Protestant missionary order under one leader, adapted to reaching isolated communities in harsh conditions across an entire nation.

Jacob Young, a typical circuit rider, was 26 years old in 1802 when he took up the challenge of pioneering a Methodist circuit along the Green River in Kentucky. Young developed his own strategy to evangelize the region. He would travel five miles, find a settlement and look for a family who would let him preach in their log cabin to interested friends and neighbors. Sometimes he found groups already gathered, waiting for a preacher to arrive; in one location he discovered a society run by an illiterate African American slave with impressive preaching and leadership skills. Young established class meetings wherever he went to be run by local leaders in his absence.

Circuit riders like Jacob Young began with limited formal education, but they followed the example of Wesley and Asbury and used their time on horseback for study. They spoke the simple language of the frontier.

They faced ridicule and even violence, with courage and endurance. Above all else they sought conversions. Within a year of his call, Young had gathered 301 new members; for his efforts he received just $30—a cost of ten cents per new member.

In 1776 only 17 percent of the American population was affiliated with any church. By 1850 that number had doubled to 34 percent. Most of the growth was as a result of the gains by the Methodists and Baptists on the frontier. Francis Asbury could never have reached a nation as vast as the United States, no matter how many miles he rode and no matter how many sermons he preached, without rapidly mobilizing young circuit riders like Jacob Young.

The Protestant mainline denominations (Episcopalians, Presbyterians and Congregationalists) failed dismally to keep pace with these Baptist and Methodist upstarts. Having succumbed to a more settled version of the faith and having lost the zeal for evangelism, the message of the mainline denominations became too vague and too accommodating to have an impact.

The clergy of the mainline churches were well educated and refined, drawn from the social elites. At least 95 percent of Congregational, Episcopalian and Presbyterian ministers were college graduates, compared to only 10 percent of the Baptists. As a combined group the mainline denominations had trained 6,000 ministers before the first Methodist minister graduated from a seminary.

Higher education lifted the mainline clergy above the social status of their congregations and turned them into religious professionals. Secularized theological education and social background influenced both the content of their message and how it was delivered.

The clergy preferred to educate their hearers rather than convert them. The clergy’s carefully drafted scholarly sermons did little to stir hearts; they were out of touch with the common people. There also weren’t enough of them; it was not possible to mobilize enough well-educated, well-paid clergy to respond to the challenge of the rapidly expanding frontier. If expansion had been left to the older denominations, American Christianity may have ended up today looking more like the church of Europe—theologically refined, but declining.

So the mainline clergy watched from the safety of the larger towns and cities along the Atlantic seaboard while the Baptists and Methodists moved west. On the frontier it was hard to tell Methodist and Baptist preachers apart. They were ordinary folk with limited education. They spoke the language of the people and preached from the heart about the need for salvation from sin. As they preached, the power of God was not only spoken about, it was experienced. Methodist pioneer Peter Cartwright recalled that, “while I was preaching, the power of God fell on the assembly and there was an awful shaking among the dry bones. Several fell on the floor and cried for mercy.”

The Baptists and the Methodists developed strategies that made it easy for gifted and committed laypeople to take up leadership and go where the people and the opportunities were. Deployment was rapid because very little upfront investment of resources and education was required. Methodist preachers, many of whom were teenagers, were trained on the job as “apprentices” by more experienced workers. They were expected to be continually studying as they traveled. They practiced lifelong learning and graduated the day they died.

The Methodists were centrally governed, whereas the Baptists believed in local autonomy. But in actuality, both movements planted self-governing congregations. The Methodist circuit riders did not have the time to settle down in one place and take control. Their role was to pioneer new works and mobilize local workers to continue the ministry in depth. These self-governing congregations were well suited to rapid multiplication in the frontier culture.

Methodism gave unprecedented freedom to both women and African Americans to engage in ministry. Methodist preachers called the converted to join a growing movement and offered them the opportunity to make a significant contribution—as class leaders, lay preachers or even circuit riders. Some women served as preachers, and many more served as class leaders, unofficial counselors to the circuit riders, network builders and financial patrons.

Large numbers of African American Methodist preachers emerged following the Revolutionary War. Some were well-known public figures. Harry Hosier, probably born a slave, traveled with Asbury and other Methodist leaders and preached to large crowds, both white and black. Methodists and Baptists, unlike the established churches, preached in a way uneducated slaves could understand and affirmed the place of spiritual experiences and emotion. African American preachers played a significant role in shaping the Methodist movement.

The Baptists and Methodists flourished because they mobilized common people to preach the gospel and plant churches wherever there was a need. The Presbyterians, Episcopalians and Congregationalists languished because they were controlled by well-paid clergy who were recruited from the social and financial elite. Early growth was dramatic for the Methodists—from 2.5 percent of the church-going population in 1776 to 34 percent in 1850, with 4,000 itinerant preachers, almost 8,000 local preachers and over one million members. This made them by far the largest religious body in the nation. There was only one national institution that was more extensive: the U.S. government. This achievement would have been impossible without the mobilization of ordinary people—white and black, young and old, men and women—and the removal of artificial barriers to their engagement in significant leadership such as class leaders, local workers and itinerant preachers. Unfortunately, the Methodist rise was short-lived. Whereas before 1840 the Methodists had virtually no college educated clergy among their circuit riders and local preachers, their amateur clergy was gradually replaced by seminary educated professionals who claimed the authority of the church hierarchy over their congregations. Their relative slump began at the same time; by the end of the 19th century the Baptists had overtaken them in numbers.


This is an article from the November-December 2016 issue: 40 Years of the USCWM/Frontier Ventures and the Unreached Peoples Movement

Vision for a Refugee Kingdom Movement

Vision for a Refugee Kingdom Movement

God is moving in unprecedented ways in our generation in the Muslim world. Too often Western believers are filled with fear at the pictures of refugees crossing the borders of Western nations. Such a view fails to look at this migration from an eternal perspective.

The current migrations are consistent with the ways God has moved throughout history to bring people groups to the knowledge of Christ.

And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. (Acts 17:26-27, ESV, emphasis added)

God has consistently changed the allotted periods and boundaries to bring people to know Him. We should praise the God of heaven in giving a myriad of Muslim people groups open hearts and greater access to the gospel, while at the same time weeping with them at the suffering they endure.

God’s heart is for a kingdom movement to flow through hundreds of refugee locations and then back into the home countries from which they have been thrust—some places difficult or impossible for missionaries to access.

Thousands of evangelists have descended upon Europe the last two years to purposefully bring the gospel to refugees resulting in many salvations. In the excitement of good evangelism, however, what emerges as the dust settles will determine if this becomes a lasting kingdom movement. God’s desire is for disciples and churches, not simply decisions, to multiply throughout the refugee populations, to the surrounding majority populations (e.g. Germans and Greeks) and back into home countries. Will we settle for good evangelism or press into enduring Church-Planting Movements (CPMs)? The latter is God’s heart.

A Case Study

My interactions with the refugee outreach have been to promote the latter (CPM) rather than the former (abundant evangelism). In one country, the Great Commission partners are doing an amazing job of reaching out to refugees with the gospel. They have hosted hundreds of short-term volunteers and the gospel has been shared thousands of times. They have been so busy hosting each team to do evangelism efforts that they have had little time to catalyze the next stages of a CPM—on-going discipleship training, church formation and leadership development. Their effectiveness in doing a good thing (evangelism) threatens the needed shift into the next stage (making disciples who can make disciples, resulting in multiplying churches.)

For three days we worked together on how to translate evangelistic fruit into a kingdom movement. Two weeks later, one Muslim-background believer immediately baptized 18 people and formed two groups into churches. He is making the shift to give enough time to the new disciples, churches and leaders.

What changed in him and others was a sense of the larger vision of what God is doing. Refugee believers have been particularly envisioned by the Joseph account (Gen. 37-50) and find almost exact parallels between Joseph’s journey and theirs. These new disciples stand on the edge of the refugee outreach becoming a Joseph movement.

The Joseph Movement

We may fail to recognize how much of the Genesis account the Joseph narrative takes up. Genesis is painted as follows in broad strokes:

Creation             2 chapters

Fall/Cain 2 chapters

Genealogies         4 chapters

Noah                 4 chapters

Abraham            12 chapters

Isaac                  2 chapters

Jacob                 9-10 chapters

Joseph                14 chapters

In sheer proportion the Joseph story occupies the largest amount of text—14 out of 50 chapters. We rightly accord huge emphasis to the critical stories of Creation/Fall, Noah and Abraham (the father of all who live by faith). But how often do we contemplate the message of the Joseph movement?

Refugee believers are drawn to Joseph because his story gives meaning to their story. It helps to explain what God is doing according to Acts 17:26-27.

The Joseph Movement Parallels

Joseph appears as a prophet in the Quran; Muslims are familiar with his name. But as Muslim-background believers learn the true story from the Old Testament, they find a number of parallels with their situation:

The salvation of many: The theme verse of the Joseph account is Genesis 50:20:

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. (Gen. 50:20, ESV, emphasis added)

From the comforts of Western Christianity, we quote “what was meant for evil, God meant for good.” But can we quote the verse’s purpose statement? The operative word is “to”. God has a purpose in turning evil to good—to save many people. In Western Christianity, we fear the invasion of our way of life in the refugee situation. Refugee believers see the overarching vision—God’s purpose is to save multitudes of people for eternity. The grand purpose of God is sovereignly moving people groups to bring His kingdom fully to them. God is answering the Lord’s prayer we pray regularly.

Embracing the uncontrollables: Joseph chose to embrace the goodness of God despite having no control over his situation and being moved against his will. Rather than bemoan his situation, Joseph embraced the uncontrollable as signs of God’s goodness and sovereign orchestration. Refugee believers are learning to celebrate the uncontrollables as God’s sovereign goodness to bring about the salvation of many.

Suffering: The uncontrollables included intense suffering for Joseph, even being blamed for things he didn’t do. Often refugees are lumped into the same category as terrorists. Often they are mistreated simply because they belong to a disdained group. Refugee believers see in Joseph an example about how to bear up under suffering and mistreatment in the midst of knowing God has a grander plan.

Dreams: The Joseph story is filled with dreams about God’s purposes. God gave Joseph the discernment to believe and interpret these dreams. When God moves in unprecedented ways, He often initiates them through dreams (even in the New Testament). Within the Muslim world, God is appearing to and speaking to people in dreams and visions. Refugee believers recognize that God is speaking clearly, tearing down defences and giving vision for the future to them.

Salvation of a new land:  Joseph was adopted into a new land (Egypt) and eventually became a source of blessing for that land in the midst of famine. He was the source of salvation to the majority population though he came from a despised minority—Hebrews (Gen. 43:32). In the hard soil of European evangelism, God is going to use Muslim-background believers to bring salvation to Christian-background lost people (Germans, Italians, etc). Refugee believers are learning that this is part of their calling.

The salvation of the old land: The purpose of the Joseph story, however, was the salvation of the old land/people. Joseph was not preserved alone by God but seventy others from the old land were saved that they might become a people of God. A vision is growing among refugee believers that God wants to both 1) save many refugees along the refugee road and 2) bring this movement back to the home countries. We must help believers in the diaspora to become movements that bring salvation to home countries from which they emerged.

Seasons of darkness: Doubtless at times Joseph felt forgotten by God, his family and friends. Yet in the darkness he did not despair but continued to trust God. The situation had to get very dark before it got better. Refugee believers take encouragement from Joseph’s faith while in dark places. They know that in time God will bring about His purposes.

A new hope: The Joseph story is one in which a new hope emerges, one Joseph could never have imagined despite the foreshadowing of his initial dreams in Genesis 37. From the darkness, a much greater purpose came to light. How shocked Joseph must have been years later when his brothers showed up to buy grain. In that moment, the greater purpose became clear:

5 And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6 For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. 7 And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. 8 So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. (Gen. 45:5-8, ESV, emphasis added)

Three times Joseph stated: “It was God who sent me here!” The purpose became clear—a new hope emerging from darkness. For the refugee evangelism efforts to become a kingdom movement, refugee leaders must embrace this new hope—they have been sent ahead by God for the salvation of many. If we fail to call them to a bigger vision or if we shrink back from calling them to suffer for a greater purpose, then we will likely reap a few hundred or thousand new disciples but lose a potential movement to rock the Islamic world.

Don’t compromise: During the dark times and light times, Joseph refused to compromise. As Potiphar’s steward, he refused to sin with Potiphar’s wife. As a prisoner in darkness, he refused to use underhanded ways to escape prison. As the second-in-command of Egypt, he refused to abuse the rank and privilege accorded him. Refugee believers identify with the need to remain true to God’s Word no matter their circumstances—to refuse to compromise or use underhanded ways to better their situation or seek retribution.

Expect helpers along the way: Joseph’s destiny was ultimately in God’s hands, but in the earthly realm was in the hands of others. He trusted God to guide the hands and hearts of the rulers toward God’s ultimate purposes. Along the way, God provided helpers in this journey—Judah to sell Joseph rather than let him be killed, Potiphar purchasing Joseph, the keeper of the prison giving Joseph privileges, the cupbearer bringing Joseph to Pharaoh, Pharaoh raising Joseph to his right hand. Refugee believers have to trust that God will provide advocates along the way to move them toward the destiny God has created for them.

Create relational networks along the way: The challenge of the refugee road becoming a movement is that relational networks change from week to week. Families are torn apart and new living situations present themselves each week or month. Joseph was torn from his family and moved from place to place. Rather than see only his blood family as his relational network, Joseph created new relational networks along the way—Potiphar’s household, the prisoner network and eventually the palace network of Egypt. Refugee leaders with a vision for a movement realize they must help new believers create and embrace new relational networks face-to-face, by phone, and online. As they embrace these new networks and disciple each other in these various forms, the movement is growing and finding stability. 

God’s favor will be upon you: God’s hand of favor was continually upon Joseph. The seed of saving his family planted in the dreams of Genesis 37 was watered all along the way. God’s promise was one of favor and purpose he could hold onto in dark times. Refugee believers frequently ask: “Why did God save me first rather than my brother or my cousin (or someone else)?” They find a growing sense that God’s favor is upon them to be the channel of salvation and this favor fills their hearts with gratitude.

God’s school of suffering: Years ago a greatly persecuted Chinese underground leader shared with me: “Prison is God’s seminary for me. It is when He lets me stop long enough to study my Bible more deeply, write and hear His voice more clearly.” God’s school of suffering. Suffering was Joseph’s seminary. It was the crucible of shaping Joseph into the man who could be the channel of salvation. The Joseph of Genesis 37 was not ready for the throne of Egypt; the Joseph of Genesis 40 was. Refugee believers must embrace periods of suffering as God’s seminary to prepare them for the greater works Jesus promised (John 14:12).

The Joseph Movement: A Vision

The story of Joseph is one of uncanny precedent that refugee believers can learn from. It is a biblical case study for a movement that can be repeated again today. The key will be refugee believers taking on the identity and vision of a true Joseph movement. Such a vision will be as costly to them as it was to Joseph. But if believers can identify this moment as a Joseph opportunity, then it may well become multiple kingdom movements intertwining their fingers both in the diaspora and back home in the sending countries. Will Muslim background believers take on this identity? Will they embrace the cost that comes with the promise?

And for Christian leaders around the world working with these precious brothers and sisters, will we embrace the same vision and communicate it with faith to them? Will we communicate it to our own churches? Will we reinterpret the unfolding events to demonstrate God’s amazing purposes?

If we do, then we are casting a vision of what is on our Father’s Heart.

And, in case you wondered how to cast vision in general, this article has been an example—bringing an encouraging and inspiring word to growing disciples based on Father’s heart.

This is an article from the May-June 2016 issue: Getting to No Place Left

Our Role in Hastening “No Place Left”

Excerpted from Hastening

Our Role in Hastening “No Place Left”

Used by permission of 2414 Ventures.

A few years ago Mission Frontiers featured David Platt’s Radical, a strategic book for mobilizing the church. We are delighted now to feature Steve Smith’s thriller “No Place Left” saga, designed to carry the Church further in the same direction. This excerpt is from Hastening (Book One).

“Congratulations, my imperturbable accomplice,” John said. “We made the Washington Post.”

Christopher sighed as he scanned the headline: L.A. Pastor Speeds Up the Return of Jesus. “Really, bro, you shouldn’t pay attention to these things.”

“They’re saying we think we can dictate when Jesus returns. They’re saying we’re taking Matthew 24:14 and 2 Peter 3:12 too far, as if the moment the last unreached people group is reached, Jesus has to return,” John said.

Christopher studied his longtime friend. “There’s more to it, though, isn’t there, bro?”

“Well,” John admitted, “I’ve had similar questions, lingering questions. We’re gaining a lot of momentum, so I haven’t wanted to rock the boat—especially since I often appear critical.”

“I’m not! I support you and this mission unreservedly! But, Christopher, what if they’re right? Are we trying to dictate when Jesus will return? How can we actually hasten Jesus’ return? This is the question that plagues me. Isn’t God sovereign? Hasn’t He set the date for Jesus’ return? How can we speed up the coming of that day?”

“Bro, I wish you had said something sooner,” Christopher commented. “Actually, I wish that I had said something. We’re getting a lot of kickback on this, so I’ve been studying it more deeply—making sure we’re not off base. And here’s the thing. Of course God is sovereign. And at the same time, we play a role in bringing about His sovereign plans. Think about it this way. Remember when you came to faith?”

“I was quite the rabid dog, wasn’t I?” John said, smiling. “Couldn’t shut up about my new life.”

“Well, not exactly. You were also really, really nervous about talking to your dad about it, remember?”

“Well, who wouldn’t be?” John said. “He was a Rhodes scholar. Tenured faculty. Twice the intellectual—and cynic—I am. And always finding fault with born-again Christians.”

Christopher nodded. “You kept praying, ‘Lord, send someone to witness to my dad, someone with the intellectual faculties to back him into a corner.’ Remember?”

John winced. “Yes, until that fateful day when I realized my dad was my responsibility. It was up to me to share the gospel with him.”

Christopher leaned back in his chair. “Now, think about it, bro. How long did you wait to open your mouth? Six months?”

“Yeah, but I finally got convicted to do something about it. Otherwise I probably would have waited six years, or perhaps even sixteen.”

John paused. “One of the hardest things I’ve ever done was buying that plane ticket to Boston. But you know, after we had spent a little time together and I shared my story, he just melted. I was speechless.”

“Bro, the testimony of your changed life and your love for him was more powerful than any apologetics someone else might have debated with him,” Christopher said, smiling.

“I—I guess so. I’m still amazed my dad’s a Jesus-follower. The cynic now an evangelist!”

Christopher leaned forward. “Now think about this, bro. You were the instrument God used to lead your dad to faith. You wanted to wait years and very well might have if God hadn’t convicted you to speed up the process.

“You and I know the date of your dad’s salvation was set in heaven before the earth was formed. But, in a way, you hastened that day by buying that plane ticket and witnessing to your dad. Perhaps if you had waited six years, he would have believed later, but you didn’t wait. You hastened the day, though from heaven’s viewpoint that had been God’s plan all along. Your motivation fit within God’s plans.”

“God destined my father’s day of salvation, but I became His instrument,” John repeated to himself. “From my vantage point, I speeded up that day by acting in faith sooner rather than later. Someone was going to win him. Why not me, and why not then? How was I to know it wasn’t to be his day of salvation?”

“It was the same when Church in the City sent our first short-term team to China,” Christopher said. “Remember the medical clinics we did in the villages? There were people there who might not have heard the gospel for many more years if we had not come. God knew when He created them when they would believe, but from our perspective, we hastened the day of their salvation.

“Look, bro. Fatalism drove those who opposed William Carey. They told him, ‘Sit down, young man. … When God pleases to convert the heathen, He’ll do it without your help or ours.’”

John chuckled. “Uh, yeah, I could have been one of them.”

Christopher continued, “All I know is that someday God will raise up a generation with the motivation, the wherewithal, and the perseverance to finish the task—the last generation. From earth’s vantage point—whether or not we become that generation—we are hastening that day by focusing on finishing the task. From God’s vantage point, He has chosen someone to finish the task and appointed the times and seasons of their final work. If we are the ones He has chosen, we’re not speeding God up; God is speeding us up to usher in the day He prepared long ago.

“Bro, we’re on solid biblical ground. Solid not just according to me but also respected theologians. Listen to Marvin Vincent’s hundred-year-old comments on 2 Peter 3:12.”

Christopher picked up an ancient tome, gently leafed to the appropriate page, and read:

I am inclined to adopt, with Alford, Huther, Salmond, and Trench, the transitive meaning, hastening on; i.e., “causing the day of the Lord to come more quickly by helping to fulfil those conditions without which it cannot come; that day being no day inexorably fixed, but one the arrival of which it is free to the church to hasten on by faith and by prayer.”

John contemplated these words.

“Will Jesus come back the moment the last UPG is reached?” Christopher asked. He glanced once more at the headline as he grabbed the paper again. “I don’t know. I just know that this is the mission He left us with, and that He said we would finish before His return. I want to finish the task He has given us.

He tossed it back down again and said, “He’s not waiting for permission from us to come back. Rather He is patiently waiting for us to do what He commanded, and He’ll come back when the time is right. …

“There will be a last generation. Why not us? Carey suggested his generation speed up the Great Commission by going. I ask why we can’t hasten finishing this task. By God’s grace I will lay down my life to see it completed. Perhaps God’s plan all along has been to raise up this generation as His vehicle for finishing the task before He sends Jesus on the day appointed from the foundation of this world.”

This is an article from the March-April 2020 issue: Movements: God’s Way of Reaching Entire Peoples

John Wesley’s Plan for Multiplication

John Wesley’s Plan for Multiplication

Growth phase—John Wesley and the Methodist movement

No one would have predicted that John Wesley would be among the great founders and builders of a multiplying movement. Wesley, the founder of Methodism, went to America hoping to convert the Indians. But he returned to England despairing of his own salvation, wondering, “Who shall convert me?”

On May 24, 1738, Wesley reluctantly attended a study on the book of Romans. As the leader was describing the change that God works in the heart through faith in Christ, Wesley felt his heart “strangely warmed.” He wrote in his journal, “I felt I did trust in Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”

Transformed by God’s grace, Wesley traveled Britain with a vision for the conversion and discipling of a nation and the renewal of a fallen church. His passion drew others to the cause. Wesley initiated the Birth of the Methodist movement and led it into Growth. Wesley showed how a movement leader in Growth turns vision into action while maintaining flexibility and control. He released authority and responsibility, and empowered the movement to embody the Methodist cause.

In March of 1739, Wesley knew it was time to act. He headed to Bristol, invited by the evangelist George Whitefield. Wesley was shocked by what he saw; he believed Whitefield was acting like an extremist and heretic by preaching in the open air to vast crowds. On a Sunday afternoon, Wesley watched Whitefield preach to 30,000 people. The fruit of Whitefield’s methods changed his mind. The next day Wesley preached outdoors. By September, he was preaching to crowds of 12,000–20,000.

The common people were less likely to attend church, so Wesley went to them, and he was gladly received. He preached to thousands, standing on a tombstone with the church behind him serving as a sounding board. He preached in market squares. He preached in public parks in the evenings and on the weekends. He preached at 5:00 a.m. before the workday began. Wesley adopted methods from other movements and shaped them to his purpose. Whitefield showed him how to reach the masses through open air preaching. The Moravians taught him how to gather them into disciple-making groups.

In the 1740s he explored and adapted Strategies and Methods that served a growing movement. These included field preaching, classes, bands, societies, itinerants, circuits, annual conferences, and publications. He borrowed from other movements, constantly implementing, adapting and evaluating. He combined the elements into a consistent whole that became Methodism.

Wesley’s flexibility with Strategy and Methods was tempered by his dependence on the authority of the Word, the leading of the Holy Spirit and his clarity of Mission. He loved church tradition, but for Wesley, the Bible was “the only standard of truth, and the only model of pure religion.” He said, “I allow no other rule, whether of faith or practice, than the Holy Scriptures.” This view of Scripture left him free to experiment by dispensing with church traditions that no longer served a purpose. He adapted his methods under the guidance of the Holy Spirit as he pursued the Mission of discipling a nation. Wesley experimented, tested, and refined simple but effective methods and structures, so the movement could expand but still remain focused once it moved beyond his direct control. His Spirit-inspired Adaptive Methods enabled him to mobilize leaders and workers in an expanding movement and still keep it on track.

Wesley was now preaching to crowds of thousands. But his mission didn’t stop with people who made decisions—he wanted disciples. He could have become the pastor-teacher of a great church, but he wanted to reach a nation. He needed a simple method for discipleship in a rapidly expanding movement. So wherever the gospel was met with faith, he set up Methodist societies. He formed the first of these in London in an unused cannon foundry.

Methodist societies were the functional equivalent of a local church. Society meetings included worship, Bible reading, a message, and prayer. The use of the term “society” enabled Wesley to avoid conflict with the state-sponsored Anglican church as he reinvented the nature of church. After Wesley’s death, Methodist societies became Methodist churches. Wesley divided each society into classes, which were groups of twelve with an appointed leader. The condition for membership was a desire to flee from the wrath and to come and show the reality of conversion through conduct. As class leaders visited members they discovered behavior incompatible with true conversion, such as domestic disputes and drunkenness. In response, Wesley turned the class meeting into a pastoral and disciplinary structure, which became the building block of a disciple making movement.

The purpose of field preaching was to gather those seeking salvation into the societies and classes. Most conversions took place in the classes, and those converted then joined bands, which were even smaller discipleship groups. The focus of the class was conversion and discipline. The focus of the band was the confession of sin and pastoral care. Through the system of societies, classes and bands, Methodists came together to encourage each other, confess their sins, pray for each other and hold one another accountable. The class leaders were the backbone of the movement. Wesley examined them to determine “their grace, their gifts and their manner of meeting their several classes.” Discipline and accountability were Wesley’s effective methods for dealing with an expanding movement.

Overwhelmed with opportunities, Wesley  experimented with evangelistic preaching that wasn’t followed up with new societies, classes and bands. It was a failure. Wesley observed, “Almost all the seed has fallen by the wayside; there is scarce any fruit of it remaining.” The awakened souls could not “watch over one another in love,” and believers could not “build up one another and bear one another’s burdens.”

Wesley could not disciple a nation alone. He multiplied himself through a system of circuits and circuit riders.

London and Bristol—the cities under Wesley’s direct influence—were the movement’s strongholds. Methodism was also springing up across the nation because of local revivals. It further expanded by adopting local groups and leaders from outside the movement. Inevitably, this added both momentum and new challenges, as the absorbed groups came with many theologies and practices—Calvinists, Moravians, Baptists, and Quakers. How would Wesley unite pockets of revival into a cohesive movement? Leadership was key. He and his brother Charles were constantly on the road both advancing and unifying the movement. In an expanding movement the founder must not depend on positional authority but on the authority of a life devoted to the Word, the Spirit, and the Mission.

Wesley learned from Jesus’ example as a founder. When Jesus left this earth, His disciples had the memory of His life and teaching. But they had more than a memory: Jesus led them into the same relationship he had with the Father and the Holy Spirit.

He told them it was for their good that He went away (John 16:7). His physical absence enhanced their leadership. Through the Word and the Spirit, His presence went with every disciple as they pursued the mission He gave them. Wesley brought others into the same experience of saving grace he encountered. He mobilized them into an army of committed followers who embraced the Methodist cause. They knew who they were, and they knew what to do. The movement had vitality and form, enabling it to surpass the direct control of its founder.


Put the idea to work: Ground the founding vision in effective action that produces the results for which the movement exists.

  • Balance flexibility and control: Utilize effective methods and functional structures that enable the spread of the movement.
  • Release authority and responsibility: Mobilize workers and leaders to consolidate and expand the movement.
  • Let go: Avoid the Founder’s Trap by empowering the movement to embody the cause.
  • Pursue Prime: Put in place the people and systems to achieve the results for which the movement exists.


This is an article from the March-April 2020 issue: Movements: God’s Way of Reaching Entire Peoples

3 Ways We Stifle S.W.A.P.

3 Ways We Stifle S.W.A.P.

Steve Smith’s book, Spirit Walk, moves many of his readers, including me. In his book, Steve presents a pathway to walk in the Spirit via the acronym S.W.A.P. As a quick reminder, S.W.A.P. stands for:

  • Surrender to His will and His every word
  • Wait on God in prayer
  • Avoid sin, and let God root out all unrighteousness
  • Pursue the promptings of the Spirit. As I read about the absolute necessity of surrender and waiting on God in prayer to aid us in walking in the Spirit, this question came to mind: How often in serving cross-culturally do we unintentionally stifle people’s ability to surrender completely, wait on God, and obey His promptings?

How could we possibly stifle our host cultural group’s S.W.A.P.? I desire to touch on three critical ways we stifle

S.W.A.P. among the nations we serve.

We stifle people’s felt need to practice S.W.A.P. by creating an environment in which it becomes their top priority to seek out foreign sponsors and then accommodate those sponsors. In some cases, what their sponsors want and what keeps the flow of money coming becomes their pathway to make decisions. In other words, they surrender to the outsiders’ agendas and accommodate to their prepackaged foreign forms, rather than seeking and waiting on God’s agenda and creativity for His will and word for them.   

We exercise our control by using our Western business models. In the name of partnership, as soon as we begin to fund local initiatives and fund salaries, we are perceived as the person who has the power and we naturally exercise control in the relationship to varying degrees. Money flowing one direction changes the power balance in the relationship.  We have to track return on investment and require reports for our home base. We must withdraw funding when we see missteps or lack of best accounting practices according to our Western systems. These types of influences give us a level of authority and control that disturbs a healthy practice of S.W.A.P.  

We artificially move the movement. Steve Smith, a dedicated practitioner of Disciple Making Movements, reveals to us the most critical way to experience fruit, growth, multiplication and movement — through walking in the Spirit via the process of S.W.A.P. The apostle Paul surely was someone who practiced S.W.A.P. faithfully; yet he faced persecution, opposition, and was ejected from many places. His growth came with the rhythms of the Spirit and realities of the environments he served. No one came along and said, “You would be way more successful if you let us inform you of better ways and even pave the way with money and resources.” The movement was the Spirit’s movement. It was at His pace and His way. But wealthy foreign Christians like to speed things up with their financial and expert intervention. Before you know it, we artificially infuse the local movement instead of allowing the Holy Spirit to drive it. If the Holy Spirit is generating the movement through the local believer’s S.W.A.P., do we need to artificially speed things along as we see fit?    

Raising local resources includes raising local disciples’ vision and ability to walk in the Spirit via S.W.A.P. In this case, they lack nothing. The Spirit will provide, lead, and move based on their practice of:

* Surrendering to His will and His every word

* Waiting on God in prayer

* Avoiding sin and letting God root out all unrighteousness 

* Pursuing the promptings of the Spirit.

Do you want to partner with existing and emerging churches around the world? Do you want to engage with unreached people groups? Focus on how to foster S.W.A.P.—and how to avoid stifling it.

Cheering people on, praying alongside them in the background, asking good open-ended questions (not hiding our solutions in the questions), leaving our Western systems and traditions at home and allowing necessity to be the mother of Holy Spirit-led invention are just a few ways to encourage local, indigenous S.W.A.P.

This is an article from the March-April 2020 issue: Movements: God’s Way of Reaching Entire Peoples

Toward the Edges

Tokyo 2020, and the History of Movements

Toward the Edges

In this edition of Mission Frontiers we include a look at the upcoming Tokyo 2020 event, and we are looking at the history of movements. I want to say a few words about each here.

Tokyo 2020

In 2010, a number of events celebrated and reflected upon the 1910 Edinburgh conference. The one most focused on what we refer to as frontier missiology was held in Tokyo that year. In a next edition we will be publishing an entire group of articles looking at Tokyo 2010. The articles will be written by those who presented papers in 2010, and each will be looking at how we see things ten years later. Stay tuned!

In this edition of MF David Bogosian and Obed Alvarez look ahead at the soon coming Tokyo 2020 event, which is also seeking to build from what began in 2010. Obed and David describe the call for a new reformation, and use the event of Luther’s posting of “theses” as an inspiration for the global church to gather and do the same, with representative leadership describing what needs to change.

This is a commendable enterprise, and we should all pray for its success. At the same time, I sense a gap. Since 2010 one of the dramatic realities in the progress of mission has been the phenomenal growth of movements to Jesus that are largely outside the realms of the churches being represented in Tokyo.

By saying this I am not only referring to socalled insider movements, but also to the growth of all sorts of movements that have expanded the Body of Christ but not generally within (or known to) better known church structures. Which leaves me wondering what sort of theses the leaders of these movements might post on a 2020 Wittenberg door?

Speaking of movements, that is the main topic of this edition of MF

Drinking from the Headwaters: the History of Movements

As an MF reader you are aware of how central the topic of movements has become for us in Frontier Ventures, and in a growing number of organizations engaged in the frontiers of mission. As I have noted before, we are in the midst of a “movement movement.”

Typically, our articles have focused on description and reporting. This edition focuses more on the historical perspective, and one thing that emerges is that movements are not a new fad or a recent trend. So, one hope in compiling the articles you have here is to make the point that, while there has been an increase in our awareness of movements, they are not new.

Another point is to suggest that we are in a season in which we are witnessing what very likely is an increase in the number of movements as compared to at least the general flow of mission history. I want to exercise some caution here, as there is much we simply do not know about the past, and our current language and definitions related to movements provide us with lenses for looking at history, but these are lenses our predecessors were not using, and thus there may well have been movements we do not know about at all, or the dynamics of which were not described in ways we recognize easily.

So, this edition seeks to paint at least a partial picture. Movements are not new. And indeed, one way to understand and read the New Testament is as a combination of case studies of the earliest movements to Jesus: the headwaters for all subsequent movements.

The New Testament is certainly more than that, of course. It is a source of doctrine and spiritual life and principles and ecclesiology and much, much more. But it is also, in addition, the collection of the true narratives (Gospels and Acts) and the behind the scenes, inner workings (epistles) of the earliest Jesus movements.

Reading the New Testament that way, as the first history of movements, what are a few things we can glean?

Authentic Movements are a Work of the Spirit

The combined narrative we have been given in Luke and Acts is filled with references to the work of the Spirit. Before the birth of Jesus, in the birth of Jesus, throughout the life and ministry of Jesus, and then beyond the ascension of Jesus: the Holy Spirit was the prime mover in the movements we see in the text. This statement could be misunderstood in at least two ways:

First, my words might be taken to mean there is nothing we need to do, or nothing we need to learn about practical realities or even practices that might foster movements, or might hinder them. I am not saying that at all. There is a crucial place for learning from other movements, whether those are contemporary to us, or historical, or (even more important in my view), biblical. We can and should learn and glean and apply what we learn and glean.

Second, my words might be taken to mean that I am saying everything that seems to be growing like a movement is a result of the Spirit at work. I don’t think anything is ever quite that neat and clean! The New Testament record of movements is already an antidote to the idea that anything that seems like a movement must be free of warts and foibles, as well as sin and brokenness. We see in Luke and Acts and even more clearly in the letters that the same movements I have said are empowered by the Spirit are also riddled with human sin, error, and foolishness.

A look at 1 Corinthians provides perhaps the most dramatic picture of the paradox I am pointing to, namely that movements are a work of the Spirit and yet also can be rife with folly and sin, and false teaching.

Readers will almost certainly be in mind of the profound level of brokenness in Corinth and of Paul’s passionate attempts to correct and heal. But, even so, even in this rubble of sin and error we know as the “church in Corinth,” Paul opens his letter with the apparently contradictory affirmations of the Corinthians as sanctified, enriched in every way, and lacking in nothing. Paul expresses his confidence that the Lord will continue to confirm them until the day of Jesus.

Movements are messy, and when we look under the hood they often need a lot of repair. Movements have certain dynamics and principles about which we can learn. But movements to Jesus are at the same time works of the Spirit of God. While we can and should learn how to better serve Him in the birthing, growth and ongoing development of movements, they are His work.

Authentic Movements Share Certain Common “DNA” Markers

Much of the discussion of movements has, understandably, focused on the quantitative elements: numbers of disciples or fellowships, generations of multiplication, timeframes within which things have taken place, etc. The Gospels and Acts also at times provide “numbers”: how many ate from the loaves and fish, how many disciples were sent in Luke 9, and then in Luke 10, how many were present in Jerusalem in Acts 2, or later in Acts as the movement grew, and even later when Paul returns and hears of “myriads” who follow Jesus among Torah loving Jews. But no one who is advocating or reporting about movements suggests that just those numerical markers provide the ultimate signs of health.

In our look at the history of movements, if we return to the New Testament as the headwaters, we see that far more attention is given to qualitative measures than to quantitative measures when it comes to describing what was happening, or correcting and encouraging and teaching the leaders and people involved.

I affirm the validity of looking at contemporary or historical or biblical examples of movements in order to draw principles and practices for our own ministry approaches and philosophies. The vast preponderance of biblical material addresses qualitative issues and there is very sparse material that could be defined as pragmatic “how to’s” for starting and growing movements.1

I am not sure if he was the first to note this but an early observer of the New Testament movements was Roland Allen, and he noted the nearly complete absence of anything like exhortations to grow, evangelize, make disciples, plant churches, etc. in Paul’s epistles, much less anything like instructions for how to go about those things. Instead, what the epistles are full of are exhortations, teaching, examples, prayers, and deep truths that are intended to describe and continue to shape the fundamental identity and community life of the recipients. The epistles provide primarily qualitative “DNA” markers and pathways.

I am not implying that Paul did not have practices and principles in his mind or work. And certainly we can discover hints of those, as for example in Acts 14 near the end when Luke describes some of the functions of Paul’s work: evangelizing a city, making disciples, strengthening disciples, and appointing elders. Paul certainly developed ways of doing those things, and those who accompanied him on his journeys would have seen those and learned from those. But, although we can glean such practical wisdom from Acts and Paul’s letters it seems to me that describing detailed prescriptions for our actions does not appear to have been the primary interest of the Holy Spirit when inspiring what we have been given in the New Testament.


My prayer is that this edition of MF will bless you, and that it will find its way into the hands of women and men who will be able to glean practical wisdom from the history of movements. May you be able to apply it to your own contexts and ministries whether you serve in the frontiers or in the land and culture of your birth.

I also pray that as you learn from the rivers of movement history we have sought to assemble here, you will also be encouraged to keep following those rivers, like the intrepid explorers searching for headwaters of the Nile, back to the fountainhead of all movements, and there drink deeply from the scriptures which are able to build you up and equip you for every good work.

  1.  1 There are practical, pragmatic commands given in Jesus’ instructions to the 12 and the 70, and in Paul’s admonitions to Timothy or Titus. However, Jesus’ admonitions must be carefully applied as they were originally spoken for very specific contexts and purposes, and Paul’s primarily related to leaders and correction of errors, not the explicit growth or expansion of movements. This does not mean that important principles cannot be derived and applied: one popular example being to find a “person of peace.” This has been a fruitful principle, but there are also examples of movements beginning apart from this, and it is unlikely that it was originally given with the intent of being a universal commandment in its specific, original form.

This is an article from the March-April 2020 issue: Movements: God’s Way of Reaching Entire Peoples

Four Stages of a Movement

Four Stages of a Movement

I stood in front of the American congregation and urged them to send short-term teams to my Asian people group. “On a two-week trip, you can win a household or two to faith and begin a church with them.” They were tracking with me until the word “church.” At that 400 sets of eyes glassed over.

I was stymied to figure out what had created doubt. When I saw some of them looking at the building overhead, I realized the problem. They thought I was asking them to plant a large-building church with the programs, equipment and full-time staff.

I rephrased my admonition. “How many of you have started a small group in your home?” Dozens of hands went up. “I would like to invite you to start similar groups in Asia. We will help those become churches that meet in homes.” Looks of relief spread around the room. Many nodded. This was something they could attempt.

What I encountered that day is a common stumbling block when we transport believers from a Phase 4 movement and insert them into a Phase 1 situation. Throughout history, most movements have gone through four phases or stages (and sometimes back again through grass-roots movements). Failure to understand these can create unreal expectations that are inappropriate for a given stage of a movement.

Years ago mission practitioners Don Dent and Nik Ripken spoke of similar stages. Mark Stevens, a CPM trainer in Southeast Asia, has then summarized these as four phases of a movement. Neill Mims, another trainer in Southeast Asia, has crafted this into a simple drawing. The drawing I present here is a slight modification of the work these men have done.

This paradigm tool has proven so helpful that many CPM (church planting movement) trainers now draw a simple diagram on a poster depicting this at the beginning of a training. We leave this up on the wall throughout the training to avert misunderstandings. What follows is an oversimplification but simplifying it clarifies the progression and why tensions arise at times. This historical progression from the Unreached Phase to Institutional Phase can take years, decades or centuries.

This tool is not aimed at criticizing believers and churches in any of the phases. I am a product of a stage four movement. Rather the goal is to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each stage and what we must navigate when we move from one to the other.

Stage One—Unreached Phase

In the beginning of a new mission work, the people group is unreached. Few believers or churches exist. Outsiders enter the context and lead people to faith. Persons of Peace are discovered and networks of relationships are opened up through those who accept Christ. It is not uncommon to find some who may multiply gospel acceptance 30 times, 60 times and 100 times in their circle of influence.

In this early stage of what might become a movement ofGod, usually all forms and methods are rather simple.  If they are not, then this mission work never becomes a movement.

• The number of Christians (represented by dots) is relatively small. The budding movement may be growing (represented by a line moving higher on the graph.) But most of the evangelism and church planting is being done by evangelists from outside the people group. Growth is still incremental.

• The few churches meet in informal places—homes, under trees or in other places already built (storefronts, offices, etc.). This is symbolized by a house. Again, most churches are being started by outsiders.

• An important step that must be taken is development of the concept of the priesthood of every believer (represented by “P”s). In this stage, though outsiders are initiating the evangelism and church planting, this budding work can become a movement if they instill in believers a strong concept of the priesthood of the believer. They must help believers not only to go directly to God but also to live out the priestly service of evangelizing and ministering to others. If they do not catch this concept, then the missionary work can remain in the unreached phase indefinitely— outside missionary experts doing all of the evangelism, discipleship, church planting and leading.

• Leadership development of local believers is very informal, usually happening in the churches or local context, just in time, mainly in the form of mentoring

• All of the forms are so simple at this stage, that with the right empowering and vision, the early stages may be fanned into a Church Planting Movement.

Stage Two—Movement Phase

At this stage, multiplication of disciples and churches is occurring primarily because indigenous believers are captivated by the vision to reach their own people group and beyond. The number of believers begins to increase dramatically because the concept of the priesthood of every believer takes off (the line begins to rise more rapidly).
As the Spirit empowers them through simple forms and methods, new communities are reached with the gospel.

Churches continue to meet in informal places such as homes, and multiplication is the norm for most churches as they live with these simple forms. Leadership development usually occurs in the context of churches. Locally connected leadership networks develop where leaders with more responsibility gain additional training in context.
Indigenous believers do not wait for outsiders to initiate evangelism, baptism, discipleship, church planting or leadership of churches. The movement grows because of their confidence that they are commissioned and empowered to do the work of ministry. Most believers and leaders do not see a great “clergy/laity” divide. A movement can remain in this stage for years or decades.

Stage Three—Formalizing (or Established) Phase

As the movement progresses, the number of believers continues to increase rapidly. A desire develops to standardize or formalize certain aspects of the movement (e.g. church formation, leadership development, etc.).  Leadership development existed in the earlier phases but it was done intentionally in context – essentially theological education by extension.

As the movement formalizes, some churches begin to meet in purpose-built structures while some continue to meet in homes. Brick and mortar (or bamboo and tin) buildings emerge. (This is represented by a building with a cross on top.) Some of these brick and mortar churches become much larger than the average church meeting in a home.

Leadership development becomes more formalized as well. Dedicated institutions (represented by a colonnaded structure) begin to emerge to train more leaders and to do it in a more systematic manner. Certificates and credentials begin to emerge in the process. Some very gifted leaders begin to stand out amidst the leaders (represented by stars on the drawing). They are highly gifted evangelists, preachers, teachers and administrators. Lay pastoral leadership becomes less common and a professional leadership becomes more common.

The result is that normal disciples can be intimidated from doing the work of the ministry. They do not have the abilities or specialized training/credentials of the professional leaders. Therefore, the concept of the priesthood of the believer (in terms of “every member a minister”) wanes. A smaller percentage of disciples continues in ministering to others. No one intends for this to occur, and many pastors will do their best in stages three and four to build up their church members as ministers and leaders, but the “clergy/laity” divide becomes more profound.

Stage Four—Institutional Phase

As the movement becomes more formalized, it inevitably moves to an institutional phase. Overall the movement may grow for a while due to the sheer number of churches and believers bearing witness. However, it is not uncommon for the movement to plateau, unable to keep pace with the birth rate

At this stage, multitudes of believers exist. Churches are very common and accepted in society. The majority of churches meet in purpose-built structures and the requirements for what constitutes a church become more rigid. For a church to meet in a home is seen as odd and “not real church.” Some churches become larger and some mega-churches emerge, though in many denominations, the vast majority of churches still average under a hundred in attendance.

Extremely gifted leaders emerge (represented by even larger stars on the diagram). Virtually all leadership development is now done in institutions – seminaries or Bible schools - and credentials are expected. A majority of leaders serve in full- or part-time capacities. Lay leadership is less common, or at least less visible. The upshot is that the concept of priesthood of the believer wanes drastically. Believers bring their lost friends to church rather than lead them to faith themselves. Professional leaders do the work of ministry and find it difficult to motivate the average person in the pew to serve in lay ministry.

Institutions by the church become common (seminaries, publishing houses, hospitals, mission organizations, etc.) and often effect great impact through the manpower and budgets they wield.

Stage Four Workers in Stage One

This whole process can take years, decades or centuries to develop. The early church does not appear to have entered this final stage until the Fourth Century A.D. Most movements progress through these stages. The difficulty comes when we lack this historical perspective and try to make sense of movements at earlier stages.

What happens when a missionary leaves a stage four church and tries to do evangelism and church planting in stage one? Inadvertently he tries to plant stage four disciples and churches because that is all he knows. One missionary in Sub-Saharan Africa expressed revelation upon seeing this diagram. He realized that when his organization pioneered work in his tribal people group, they attempted to start stage four churches from the beginning (complete with brick and mortar). He discovered that on average it took 22 years to plant a stage four church in stage one.

As Neill Mims was teaching a group of Korean missionaries, this question sparked an intense counseling session. Though a result of a mighty movement, Korean church culture is now extremely institutional. This chart gave these missionaries some understanding as to why their home churches and pastors expected them to start large churches or other institutions very quickly or be considered failures.

Leadership development also becomes a challenge. Local partners that I mobilized to reach an unreached people group in Asia needed one year of training-doing-retraining-doing retraining before they understood basic reproducible patterns for evangelism, discipleship and church planting. After one year they finally were following a stage one and two pattern.

But when it came time to choose leaders, they naturally reverted to seeing through stage four eyes. They could not find any believers from the harvest to appoint as pastors. The reason was not the lack of biblical qualifications. The problem was that they were envisioning leaders from back home (stage four) – extremely gifted, exceptional teachers, highly mature spiritual life, administrative abilities, etc. It was not until they grasped the basics of Scripture and abandoned stage four expectations that they could develop local leaders appropriately at stage one. These indigenous leaders would continue to grow and mature as they were trained in the years to come.

Stage Two Workers in Stage Four

What happens with believers from stage one or two who visit leaders and churches in stage four? A not-uncommon consequence is death of the movement phase and immediately entering the formalizing and institutional phase.

Leaders from an emerging CPM left their mountain homes and descended into the plains where stage four churches and institution had existed for decades. When the leaders saw the marvelous buildings, institutions and gifted leaders, they longed to have the same thing. They returned to their mountain churches and immediately instituted stage four requirements  for what constituted a church and who could lead. This effectively killed the progress of their movement.

Stage Four Leaders Watching a Stage Two Movement

When our whole frame of reference is stage four, it is easy to criticize what we see in stage two. We can easily label the house churches as “not real churches.” Or, we can require that leaders meet certain credentialing requirements before they can perform the ordinances. Or, as we feel compassion for pastors that are bi-vocational, we may dedicate money to fund them full-time, thereby creating a benchmark that is no longer reproducible. In all, we can kill a movement when we implement extra-biblical requirements that are a yoke too heavy into these early stages.

It is easy to ridicule such movements because we have no frame of reference for them. Recently, as I spoke to 400 pastors, seminary professors and mission leaders about launching Church Planting Movements in the American context, I encountered many such questions. The idea of every believer being trained to make disciples and potentially start churches was a foreign concept.

I read them an account of the number of believers and churches multiplying almost ten-fold over the course of twenty years in the States. Many in the group began to ask where this movement was occurring. I shared that this occurred in the American frontier among Baptists from 1790-1810.

I read the following quote from Baptist historian Robert Baker:
Baptist ecclesiology and doctrine were particularly suited to the democratic atmosphere of the developing western frontier. The Baptist gospel was simple, minimizing complex theological formulations, and emphasizing a life-changing confrontation with Jesus Christ. Like Paul, most of the frontier Baptist preachers were tentmakers in the sense that they provided for their own livelihood. The distinction between “laity” and “clergy” existed only in the fact that the latter had fire in their bones to preach the gospel in response to a divine summons.

The Baptist preachers lived and worked exactly as did their flocks; their dwellings were little cabins with dirt floor and, instead of bedspreads, skin-covered polebunks: they cleared the ground, split rails, planted corn, and raised hogs on equal terms with their parishioners.

The fact that each Baptist church was completely independent appealed to frontier democracy and eliminated problems of ministerial appointment and ecclesiastical authority. It is no wonder, then, that the Baptists played a large part in the significant frontier movement and made great gains from their ministry among the people on the growing edge of American life.

I announced to the group, “This is our heritage! This is the way we lived just 200 years ago. Let us embrace our heritage and ask God for a renewal movement.” Heads began to nod in the audience.

History is filled with this general story occurring over and over, nation by nation. It is also filled with stories of plateaued denominations in which fresh grass roots movements emerged by going back to principles of stage two.

The challenge is to keep a movement at the movement stage as long as possible and to not let the formalizing impede the progress of the kingdom. But when it does begin to slow down, going back to simple biblical processes and methods of earlier stages can spark a new movement.
Why not today? Why not in your context? 

This is an article from the March-April 2020 issue: Movements: God’s Way of Reaching Entire Peoples

Tokyo 2020:  A Global Call for Reformation 2.0

Tokyo 2020:  A Global Call for Reformation 2.0

If Martin Luther were alive today what might he nail to the door of the Church? This is the topic which global mission leaders will ask when they gather in May of this year in Tokyo, Japan. Ten years after Ralph Winter gave a call for the Tokyo 2010 Global Mission Consultation, the original organizers of this gathering are reconvening to ask a crucial question: In what areas do we need reformation today in order to see world evangelization in our generation?

Five hundred years after the Protestant Reformation and almost 2,000 years after Jesus gave the Great Commission, we still have a long way to go in fulfilling our global mandate. Two billion people remain without access to the gospel. Hundreds of thousands of communities are million evangelicals in the world, why are there still unreached people groups who have yet to receive their first missionary? Is there something inherently flawed in our discipleship, our ecclesiology and our leadership development that allows this status quo to persist unquestioned?

Tokyo 2020 is an open call to re-examine everything we without access to a church in thousands of unreached and frontier people groups. Over 3,000 languages still do not have the Scriptures in their language. In spite of these great needs, missionary sending from the United States and other Western nations is plateauing and even declining.

Why is that? What are the impediments that have kept this generation of believers from reaching every unevangelized person, place and people with the gospel? Although we live in the most gospel-rich era in human history, there are still vast areas of the world that remain without a witness. With an estimated 800 are doing both at home and abroad, both within the church and on the mission field. Leaders from every country are being asked to pray and seek the Lord. In what areas do we need to repent? In what areas are we doing well? Do those of us in the West have blind spots which the African church can see, but we cannot? Tokyo 2020 will be a summit to hear from God, but it will not end with the gathering itself. It is just the beginning of what will be a five-year global inquiry to hear what God is saying to his Church all over the world.

The genesis of this reformation survey began with the chairman of Tokyo 2010, Obed Alvarez, a mission leader from Peru. Following Tokyo 2010, Obed organized several international gatherings to mobilize and equip the Church to face the Muslim challenge. Obed was alarmed at the inroads Islam was making in his country and in Latin America. It seemed the Church was not prepared. He learned that Islam has bold and aggressive plans to evangelize his continent, as well as Africa and Europe.

The more he examined this, the more he realized the Church was asleep. At a time when the Church should be the most awake, with such incredible opportunity to reach the Muslim world, the opposite seemed to be happening.

Like Martin Luther, this issue revealed something deeper that was troubling. Luther’s original 95 Theses dealt with one major issue: papal indulgences. At the time it was more of an annoyance to Luther than anything else. He was still a faithful Catholic and an obedient priest. Yet this one issue struck a match to a reformation that has now impacted the entire world. Ultimately what Luther was contending for was the purity of the gospel, even though he may not have known the full weight of his inquiry at the time. In hindsight we can see that getting to this core issue changed everything. The gospel is the foundation for everything we do and everything we are. Recovering the gospel unleashed the power of the Church and the believer for global impact that has irrevocably altered the course of human history.

Are we in need of a new reformation today? It would seem God has been speaking to many leaders around the world about this very thing. When Obed gave the call in this last year to issue a new “95 Theses” for the global church, submissions began pouring in from every continent. It is evident God is speaking in many areas. Compelling themes are emerging. One area in particular should be of special concern to those of us in the West. There is growing unease, especially in the non-Western church, with what is happening to American Christianity. While we have been busy exporting our denominations, theological controversies and mega-church franchises to the nations, we have been losing an entire generation of young people to secularism, agnosticism and atheism. Could it be that after two hundred years of sending over 200,000 missionaries, it is now we in the West who are in need of some mentoring in disciple-making? Maybe we could learn a thing or two from the persecuted church, from our brothers and sisters in places like China and Iran.

No doubt, we all need to come to this table with humility. Like it or not, as Americans we represent the richest generation of Christians in history. We carry the most weight and have the strongest impact. Our “prosperity gospel” can now be found in every country of the world. We should not be surprised if the global church has something to say about it. We may not like it, we may even find it offensive, but we need to listen. If we have made the gospel subservient to our culture, it may take the global church to help us see it. That’s the beauty of global mission coming full circle. God still has his prophets, and we need to hear what he is saying through them.

Of course, this inquiry will not just be a critique of Western Christianity and its global impact. It’s about the whole church listening to one another. Like “iron sharpening iron”, Tokyo 2020 will be an opportunity for the global church to refine its message, purify its motives, and recover lost methods for world evangelization. It’s about Asians listening to Africans, Latinos listening to Indians, and Europeans listening to Pacific Islanders. From East to West, everyone’s voice will be heard.

Each participant and delegate to Tokyo 2020 is being asked to consider the following questions:

  1. What needs restoration?
  2. Why does it matter?
  3. How do we recover it?
  4. Who is responsible to pursue it?
  5. Where do we begin today?

 “The new believer’s worldview must be adjusted to a biblical worldview; his lifestyle changed to increasingly conform to the image of Christ; and his ethical conduct progressively marked by biblical morals. Ideally, this results in individuals applying the gospel of the kingdom to every sphere and pursuit of life— from government to economics, from education to health, and from science to creation care.”

This statement itself is quite reformational. In fact, it was something the Protestant reformers understood very well. They recognized what we seemed to forget along the way – that the gospel is not just about transforming individuals. It’s about God’s purposes in the whole world. We are called to proclaim the “gospel of the Kingdom” to all nations and to every area of society. Only then will the end come. In other words, it’s not just about our going everywhere that fulfills the Great Commission. It’s about the quality of what we are proclaiming and what we leave behind. It’s about teaching the nations to obey all that Christ commanded. It’s about God’s kingdom—not our denominational empires. It’s the gospel of Jesus Christ—not the gospel of the latest fad or ecclesiastical franchise.

We look forward to what will emerge as God’s people take a pause and listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches today. May we truly be a generation that seeks His will and His kingdom above all else. May those who gather in Tokyo be filled with His presence and blessed with His counsel. We eagerly await what God will do and how He will speak as His people seek his heart and mind.


This is an article from the March-April 2020 issue: Movements: God’s Way of Reaching Entire Peoples

John Wesley’s Church Planting Movement:

Discipleship That Transformed a Nation and Changed the World

John Wesley’s Church Planting Movement:

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.” The Methodists made such an impact on their nation that in 1913, historian Élie Halévy theorized that the Wesleyan revival created England’s middle class and saved England from the kind of bloody revolution that crippled France. Other historians, building on his work, go further to suggest that God used Methodism to show all the oppressed peoples of the world that feeding their souls on the heavenly bread of the lordship of Christ is the path to providing the daily bread their bodies also need.

Could Church Planting Movements of our day apply these same teachings with similar impact?

Personal Impact

Coming to Christ under the influence of the Wesleyan Methodists changed people by making Jesus the Lord of their lives. “Methodists” were given that name because they methodically sought to obey the Lord in all areas of their lives by obeying three main rules: • one, do no harm;

  • two, do as much good as you can; and
  • three, use all the means of grace that God has provided.

The resulting spiritual change affected their daily lives in four main ways, each of which improved the social and economic status of the new believers:

  • First, they abandoned sinful habits which had previously ruined their lives.
  • Second, they began a new life of holiness which led to health and wealth.
  • Third, by going to the Methodist meetings they learned to read, which gave them upward mobility.
  • And fourth, they developed a new view on money, which enabled them to profit from the technological innovations of their age.

Abandon Sinful Habits

To help Methodists obey the first rule, they gathered together into cell groups where they confessed their sins to one another and prayed for one another to receive self-control, which is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. They thus aided one another in gaining the strength to abandon sinful habits which had previously ruined their lives and consumed their resources.

In explaining the rule against doing harm, Wesley specifically mentioned drunkenness and fighting. When describing the change made by coming to Christ, he noted “the drunkard commenced sober; the whoremonger abstained from adultery and fornication.” Wesley may have mentioned the three sins of drunkenness, fighting and immorality because their effect was so obvious in his society.

Hogarth’s print, Gin Lane, shows the social decay of Wesley’s age. Gin had recently been invented. One-half of each year’s grain crop was turned into this poisonous liquid instead of being baked into healthful bread. A quarter of the houses in London were licensed to sell it and the police were powerless to stop the crimes of desperate drunken men.

The police were also overwhelmed by the fighting and killing of the mob. The law executed people for 169 capital crimes, but the regular march to the gallows did nothing to make the streets safe at night. Sexual immorality was common at all levels of society, and the nation was overwhelmed with illegitimate children.

When people got saved, they repented of their sinful lives. Forsaking drunkenness, fighting and immorality made obvious changes in their lives. Believers stayed sober and quit doing the crazy and dangerous things intoxicated people do. They stopped fighting and thus avoided the injuries and feuds that destroy productivity. They abandoned promiscuity and started valuing their families and raising their children. Simply renouncing these three self-destructive behaviors greatly improved the economic lives of the Methodists.

Begin a New Life of Holiness

While Wesley’s first general rule stopped the downward path of the Methodists, his second general rule, “Do all the good you can,” led them out of abject poverty. Wesley described this positive change: “The sluggard began to work with his hands, that he might eat his own bread. The miser learned to deal his bread to the hungry, and to cover the naked with a garment. Indeed the whole form of their life was changed: they had ‘left off doing evil, and learned to do well.’”

In his second rule Wesley said that Methodists should live with “all possible diligence and frugality” and “employ them [other Methodists] preferably to others, buying of one another, [and] helping each other in business.” These new lives of honesty and industry helped some Methodists succeed in business and others to become dependable and truthful employees. Besides raising their incomes, Methodism helped people curtail needless expenses and save their money for worthwhile endeavors. Wesley noted that the disciplines of the Christian life often lifted people from poverty: “For wherever true Christianity spreads, it must cause diligence and frugality, which in the natural course of things, must beget riches!”

Learning to Read

A third way in which salvation changed the economic life of Methodists was by teaching them to read. One of the means of grace which Methodists used in obedience to Wesley’s third rule was attending Methodist meetings. At these meetings Methodists were urged to read the Bible and taught to sing the hymns of Charles Wesley. As illiterate people learned to sing these hymns, they also learned to read.

Charles wrote thousands of hymns for the people called Methodist, who usually learned them by singing them one line at a time as they were called out by the song leader. This “lining out” of the hymns enabled the singers to memorize the songs they sang. When John later published the hymns and sold them cheaply, people could match the words they knew by heart with the printed words on the page, and thus teach themselves to read. Since the Methodists usually sang five hymns at every meeting, each gathering functioned as a thirty-minute adult literacy session.

Because literacy was the admission ticket to the middle class, Methodism provided the means for the upward mobility of thousands of poverty-stricken people.

A New View of Money

Finally, Methodism gave people a new view of money. Wesley often preached on this topic; his most famous message on money made three points: Gain all you can; save [economize] all you can; give all you can.

First, Methodists were to make as much money as they possibly could. Wesley said that despite its potential for misuse, there was no end to the good money can do: “In the hands of [God’s] children, it is food for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, raiment for the naked. It gives to the traveler and the stranger where to lay his head. By it we may supply the place of a husband to the widow, and of a father to the fatherless. We may be a defense for the oppressed, a means of health to the sick, of ease to them that are in pain. It may be as eyes to the blind, as feet to the lame: yea, a lifter up from the gates of death!” Wesley urged Methodists to gain wealth through honest wisdom and unwearied diligence. “Put your whole strength into the work. Spare no pains,” Wesley exhorted. “But make sure the work does no harm to oneself or to the neighbor. Thus Methodists must avoid work with dangerous chemicals or in unhealthy environments. They must also not endanger their souls by any work that involves cheating or lying. Likewise, any trade that hurts the body, mind, or soul of the neighbor is out of bounds.” Thus distilling liquor, running a tavern, or peddling patent medicines were forbidden to Methodists.

Wesley’s second injunction, “Save all you can” had many practical implications: save all you can by refusing to gratify the desires of the flesh. “Despise delicacy and variety and be content with what plain nature requires.” Refuse also the desire of the eye with superfluous or expensive clothing, and reject the pride of life, buying nothing to gain the praise or envy of others. Wesley pointed out that gratifying such desires only increases them, so if people were to throw their money into the sea, they would be doing themselves and others less damage than if they bought needless goods.

Finally Wesley told Methodists to “Give all you can.” He pointed out that all money comes from God, and that people are not the owners, but only the trustees, of God’s money. He said that God wants believers to make sure that they and their families have adequate food, housing, clothing, tools, and savings to do all the work which God has appointed for them to do. He then stated that any money beyond these necessities must be given to the poor. “Render unto God not the tenth, nor a third, not half, but all that is God’s (be it more or less) by employing it all on yourself, your household, the household of faith, and all mankind in such a manner that you may give a good account of your stewardship.”

Altogether, this advice stirred Methodists to become “early adopters” and to benefit from the new opportunities the Industrial Revolution afforded.

Wesley’s teaching to pursue wealth in order to use it for good was not without its danger. Toward the end of his life he gave increasing attention to the dangerous temptation to justify buying whatever we can afford.

Discipling the Nation

Coming to Christ through the Methodist movement changed the lives of a million people in Britain and North America in the eighteenth century. As in other cases of “redemption and lift” through the power of the Gospel, most of these people and their children moved from the desperation of hand-to-mouth poverty to the security of middle-class life as they made Christ their Lord and experienced the impact of His power on their economic lives.

As these people moved up the social ladder, they began to influence the political life of their nation. They helped to transform Britain from an eighteenth-century kleptocracy— where the powerful used the government to fuel their lives of indulgence by exploiting the poor, into a nineteenth century democracy—which abolished slavery and used its empire to enrich the lives of every subject of the crown.

For Further Study

Here are three worthy efforts to summarize Wesley’s influence and/or his perspective on money:

  • England Before and After Wesley by Donald Andrew is a distillation of John Wesley Bready’s 1939 book by the same title.
  • “Four Lessons on Money From One of the World’s Richest Preachers” is my own more detailed analysis of Wesley’s teaching, model and observations
  • What Wesley Practiced and Preached About

Money is adapted from my “Four Lessons on Money”


This is an article from the March-April 2020 issue: Movements: God’s Way of Reaching Entire Peoples

Patterns in Long-Lasting Movements

Patterns in Long-Lasting Movements

As I write, millions of acres are burning in Australia. Most attribute the fires to winds and climate change, but authorities have arrested over 180 people for starting the fires, 27 deliberately.1

Movements in history are similar. While they are propelled by the wind of the Holy Spirit, God uses people to start them and plans to spread them. To see what long lasting movements have in common, I have begun studying over a dozen movements in history that lasted over 100 years and impacted hundreds of thousands of people. Here is what I have found so far.

Five patterns in Lasting Movements:

They were started by a person called by God and compelled by the Holy Spirit.

Each individual continually sought God for a specific unfolding plan to spread the vision widely. 3) The plans resulted in highly committed groups with the same vision that were small and self-replicating. 4) The groups engaged in transforming both the individuals and their broader community. 5) Institutionalizing or aligning with powers seemed to slow or stop movements.

 No people group or nation has become identified with Christ without a movement taking place among them at some point, with the gospel spreading faster than the growth of the population. But these movements don’t just happen.

A Person with a Plan

Paul set out with his companions to tell the diaspora synagogues of the Greek world about the Messiah Jesus. But, under the compulsion of the Holy Spirit, Paul realized God was calling him uniquely to spread the gospel in the Gentile world, leaving behind communities of faith with designated elders.2 When movements to Christ had been started in one region, he moved on to the next, leaving teammates behind to finish the work of establishing committed communities. 

Successful movements have been mostly started by individuals called by God and then directed by the Holy Spirit to slowly develop an organized plan. These individuals were either already a part of the people group or they learned the language and culture very well and were quickly joined by native coworkers. Their unfolding plans included a concern to establish apostolic teams or small groups with the same calling over a large geographic area, always pushing into areas with no witness. The founding individuals continued in their calling for the rest of their lives, sometimes supported by spouses, but often single or not supported by their spouses. The role of Bible study should not be discounted; however, it was not personally available in most of these movements as it is in modern movements.

In the 5th century, St Patrick was called to Ireland, not only to win the Irish to faith but to instigate the extensive Celtic missionary movement, which sent bands of disciples to set up monastic evangelistic outposts throughout central Europe, bringing many people groups to Christ. Likewise, in the 13th century, St Francis was compelled by an encounter with the Holy Spirit to follow the example of Luke 10, where Jesus sent his followers out from town to town to places he planned to come later. The Franciscan movement resulted in three lasting monastic traditions (male, female and married) and evangelized hundreds of thousands in both Europe and around the world. After an encounter with the Holy Spirit in the 18th century, having previously failed as a missionary, John Wesley started the lasting “evangelical awakening” movement, by setting up small-group accountability bands and classes based on James 5:16. (“Confess your sins one to another and pray for one another, that you might be healed.”) He rode thousands of miles to establish groups all over England.

Sometimes the Holy Spirit used analysis and demographics to convict and compel. In 1792, William Carey sparked the entire Protestant mission era not just with vision, but with statistics and a call to use “means” (organized endeavors) to send the gospel to completely unreached nations, which began the era of the Protestant mission agencies.3 After others’ abortive attempts to reach the Chinese, Hudson Taylor was compelled by the Holy Spirit to take up the challenge (1849). Concerned with China’s vast inland areas with no witnesses, he made sure that there were at least two witnesses in every province in China, eating, dressing and speaking like them, 800 workers in 300 stations, startingschools and Bible studies.

In these long-lasting movements, the founder sought the ongoing guidance of the Holy Spirit for a self-sustaining plan that emphasized small, active groups and geographic coverage. Many people, though filled with the Holy Spirit, have not started lasting movements. For example, evangelist George Whitefield, contemporary of Wesley, had no plan and famously lamented that the thousands he had won to the Lord were like “a rope of sand.” 

Committed Small Groups Changing Society

Lasting movements seem to have invariably had small committed communities with a sense of unified destiny to spread their transformational message to other communities. Large gatherings, like Jesus and the thousands, or Pentecost, were not the backbones of the movements, and in most cases special buildings were not erected or important to the movements.

From the beginning, movements to Christ spread most rapidly when they were person-to-person, almost “underground,” bringing hope in a way often perceived as subversive to the powers that be, as can be seen in Jewish or Roman society. The early Christian movement became quickly known for rescuing children from infanticide, healing and caring for sick and widows, taking in plague victims, and other remarkable counter-cultural endeavors, outlined by Rodney Stark in the Rise of Christianity.

Conversely, while being organized into small groups seems beneficial, being institutionalized seems to counter the effectiveness of movements. As Ralph Winter wrote: “Every single denomination in this country that has evolved a required formal, extensive graduate professional training for ordination is now going downhill. There are no exceptions in the whole world.”4

Movements to Christ have been hurt when they have become, or seemed to be, aligned with political, economic, or ecclesiastical powers, especially foreign powers. Faith in Christ spread in all directions for the first 300 years, before becoming overly aligned with the Roman Empire during the 4th century, when the enemies of Rome, like Persia, massacred thousands of Christians. State-sponsored councils resulted in anathemas placed on leaders of other movements to Christ and in the first military attacks on outlying Christian communities, like the Donatists. The spread of the gospel by military might met with resistance and was largely superficial and ineffective.

While dedicated believers in Roman “Christian” society began to hunker down in monasteries, the Celtic missionaries from powerless Ireland became the most successful starters of movements to Christ in Europe for the next 200 years. Patrick’s Celtic movement stood against the constant violence in Irish, Scottish, Gothic and Roman cultures, and some famous Celtic leaders set off as missionaries as penance for violence.

Later missionaries were often more successful in sparking movements to Christ when they challenged instead of aligned with colonial powers—maintaining their commitment to be ambassadors for Christ alone. Their compassion for their people group included fighting against things destroying their families, whether from without or from within. Hudson Taylor’s missionaries sided with the Chinese against Britain in the centurylong fight to free China from opium-pushing British merchants, earning undying gratitude from the Chinese.

Those coming to Christ, now members of a heavenly kingdom, supported one another in their deliverance from sin as well as banding together to stand against earthly injustice. For example, the Wesleyan groups fought generation after generation against slavery and also against alcohol, which was destroying the poor in England and America. Greedy economic interests of global companies still deal ruthlessly with unreached people groups, enslaving them as laborers or customers for the alcohol, tobacco and other drug industries--addiction forcing the sale of their children into the sextrafficking industry.5

Even a long-lasting secular movement bears out these patterns. Karl Marx had a vision for changing the “League of Justice,” a semi-Christian utopian socialist group in Europe (1830s). The group’s stated goal was “the establishment of the Kingdom of God on Earth, based on the ideals of love of one’s neighbor, equality and justice” and their motto was “All men are brothers.”6 Marx and Engel joined this “Justice League” and changed the name to “The  Communist League” with the new motto “Workers of the world unite!” They turned a dying organization into a lasting global movement, by issuing The Communist Manifesto (1848) and by copying the card-carrying accountability cell groups structure of Wesley’s movement. The Communist cell groups focused on indoctrinating and developing members into committed revolutionary “comrades.” The small groups “are Communism’s cutting edge…a Communist may belong to many cells…Wherever you have three or more Communists, there you have a Communist cell. They are expected to work together in an organized way in the interests of Communism,…a body of activists with welldefined aims, a single mind and purpose.”Even though the Communist movement is a false hope, destroying the lives of many, it has tapped into people’s desire to be part of a committed community and a movement of hope to make their world a better place. 

We should not fear, but welcome, committed groups of Christ followers bringing their force to bear against whatever is destroying their families. This activism shines the light of God’s love in their communities, even when they cannot publicly share their faith due to persecution. Movements to Christ throughout history have been moved by the Holy Spirit to pull their people groups out of everything from violence, slavery, and idolatry, to infanticide, cannibalism, promiscuity and addiction. Why let the Communists, socialists, or fascists try to claim the high ground of social transformation, with skewed priorities, when historical movements to Christ have been exceedingly more successful in bringing peace, health, and brotherly love to communities?

As we seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance in sparking lasting movements to Christ, it is important to recognize the importance of Bible-centered, transformative small groups, where believers learn to listen to and be led by the Holy Spirit. In addition, it is important for them to understand they are part of a spreading movement of hope, rescuing their people group, and even the whole world, from Satanic forces and false hopes.



  2. 2  Allen, Roland, A Roland Allen Reader, The Compulsion of the Spirit, Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1983.

  3. 3

  4. 4   Ralph D. Winter, “The Largest Stumbling Block to Leadership Development in the Global Church,” in Frontiers in Mission: Discovering and Surmounting Barriers to the Missio Dei, 4th ed., ed. Ralph D. Winter (Pasadena, CA: WCIU Press, 2008), 64.

  5. 5 For the full story on this, see the PDFs of the recent Mission Frontiers issue (Sept/October 2019): Making a Killing: The Global Death Industries and Missionary Response.

  6. 6 Volkov, G.N., et al., The Basics of Marxist-Leninist Theory. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1979.

  7. 7 Hyde, Douglas, Dedication and Leadership: Learning from the Communists, U. of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, Indiana, 1966, pages 143-146.

This is an article from the March-April 2020 issue: Movements: God’s Way of Reaching Entire Peoples

The Slippery Slide of Starting Movements

The Slippery Slide of Starting Movements

I saw a funny video some years back. The clip showed a kid trying to run up a slippery, wet slide. He would back up, get a running start and go for it with all his might. A few steps up the slide, it would get the best of him. Down he went. Watching him go down, spinning, and flailing was hilarious (it’s a little sick, but we seem to enjoy watching others fall grandly). Undeterred he attempted to go up the slide again. He’d shake himself off and giggle loudly. Lowering his head, with a running start, he attacked the challenge ahead. Finally, after a mad dash at it, he somehow made it to the top. There, hands raised in the air, his high-pitched voice screamed with the thrill of victory!

I can still see his joy, even in the many attempts it took to get to the top. He was determined, unfazed by failure and thoroughly loved participating in this test of the will.

Enjoy the Challenge

Jesus admonished us to be childlike in our faith. As we pursue Disciple Making Movements we should learn from the kid in that video. Learn to laugh. Enjoy the attempts, even when they don’t produce success. There is joy in the DMM journey! Starting a movement can be a thrilling challenge.

I coach and train many disciple-makers. During calls or visits, they often express frustration and disappointment. They’re stuck in the “messy middle” of this audacious God-sized goal.

We don’t often hear failure stories. This is true even when learning from those failures was the very thing that catalyzed the movement. More often, we hear stories of victory, breakthrough, radical multiplication, and organic growth. In the DMM tales, I confess, even the ones I tell, it sounds so easy. Almost always, however, behind the success story is a back story, one that involves numerous lessons learned from failures.

Some Plants Are Fragile to Get Started

I love gardening and playing with plants. Some plants are beautiful but require quite a lot of care to get them growing. Once they are rooted and established, they flourish. In the seedling stage, it’s easy to kill them. DMMs can be like this too. Once they are up and running, with the DNA firmly established, there is no stopping them. In the early stages, however, they are easy to kill.

It’s not impossible to start a Disciple Making Movement. Not at all. We can see this from the rising numbers on the front of this magazine. More and more movements are springing up across the globe. It’s an exciting time to get on board with what God is doing through DMMs.

Count the Cost and Go For It

Jesus told a parable about a man who built a tower and couldn’t finish it. He also told of a king who went to war.

28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it— 29lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’? 31Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Luke 14:28-30 NKJV.

Every follower of Jesus is called to engage in multiplying disciples (Matt. 28:18). When groups of disciples embrace this truth, movements can begin. There is a price to be paid though, a cost to count, when pursuing this dream.

Expect to experience failure as you go after a DMM. Don’t be surprised by it. Gain understanding from difficulties, then move on. Learn, adapt, change, and even laugh at yourself as you slide back down that slippery slope! Keep at it and one day soon you’ll get to the top.

Ten Common Failures

Below are ten of the most common failures. See any of these in what you are doing now? Or have done in the past? Don’t be dismayed. Laugh (or at least smile), learn, change and try again.

1—Failure to Simplify.

How we love to complicate things! Simplicity is not only beautiful. It multiplies easily. Resist the temptation to create structure or complex systems. In reporting, training, evangelism, story-telling or story-crafting approaches, keep it simple.

While working in South Asia we realized the process we were using of crafting stories and creating story sets was too complex. Our indigenous workers struggled with it, even with significant training. If we wanted our method to reproduce, we had to simplify. It took hard work to find new, simpler ways. We had to let go of some ideals and desires to keep things simple.

A rule of thumb is: if it takes more than an hour or two to train someone to do it, it’s too complicated. If a fourth or fifth grader can’t learn it, it’s not simple enough.

2—Failure to Contextualize.

We often apply methods and practices without considering the context. It’s human nature.

We want a magic formula for success. We watch a movie, or visit a DMM that is multiplying well, and come back enthused. “I am going to do things exactly as they do it there!” we declare.

Don’t try to reach Hindus, Muslims, and Buddhists with the same approach. It doesn’t work! World-views are too different. The same story or Bible study set you used for high caste Brahmins in Bali will likely not work well in Chicago with Polish immigrants.

DMMs are rapidly growing in poor, rural communities. They also are accelerating in places with significant levels of persecution. Your context may be quite different. What those movements do may not work in your place, with the people you are trying to reach.

That doesn’t mean a movement can’t happen where you are. It just means that you have to contextualize your approach. Adapt principles but adjust methods. Experiment and observe.

There may be someone working in your people group who is not necessarily applying DMM principles but is seeing great success in evangelism. What can you learn from them? How could you adapt it to fit DMM principles? To make it more reproducible and organic?

Some things simply can’t be transplanted or adapted. They are too foreign. If I try to grow a tropical plant in Minnesota, it will likely die. The climate is too different.

3— Failure to lay a Strong Foundation.

We sometimes expect rapid results without building strong foundations. We hear about how quickly movements multiply, but that can give the wrong impression. Once they are moving, they do indeed grow quickly. What we fail to realize is that getting the first groups started can take some time. This is particularly true when working cross-culturally and in a resistant context. It can also be true when there are many traditional churches nearby.

It takes an investment of time to learn the culture and worldview of the people you are reaching. It can take time to find a Person of Peace, to lay a strong foundation of prayer and intercession.

I have seen movement leaders and trainers who started movements relocate to new places. They know how to start a DMM and have done so before. Still, it takes time for them to start another one in a new place. This is not uncommon. It shouldn’t be a surprise. Digging the foundation, establishing yourself spiritually and relationally in a new community is slow work. These strong foundations will lay the groundwork to sustain future growth and the radical multiplication God wants to bring. If you are an insider to the culture, this does accelerate things significantly. Still, there is a foundation that must be laid.

4—Failure to Humbly evaluate.

Success can become our greatest problem. When we see significant growth, it is easy to grow smug. The temptation to over-report to please donors creeps in for many. I’m not talking about having an optimistic outlook here. Many leaders have that. What I’m referring to is a lack of integrity in reporting due to laziness or letting financial donor pressure get the best of you. Along with this comes the tendency to under-evaluate what we are doing because we haven’t tracked things properly and honestly. Pride and busyness cause issues that can lead to the movement’s failure if left unchecked.

5—Failure to localize Financial ownership.

Finances are needed to grow movements among the unreached. No doubt about it. Great caution must be taken though in whether, if ever, you bring in outside funds. It is easy to kill a movement with money.

It destroys local ownership, initiative, and sustainability. Outside donors begin to control decision making rather than the indigenous leaders.

6—Failure to persevere.

Learn to “fail forward.” Perseverance is a crucial characteristic of every disciple-maker’s life. This is particularly true in those who’ve chosen to pioneer DMMs among the least reached peoples of the world. Don’t give up and don’t give in. If what you are doing isn’t working yet, and you are prayerfully evaluating regularly, just keep going. Persevere.

God will bring it about as you refuse to give up. (Gal. 6:9)

7—Failure to multiply and train leaders.

Movements can fail due to a lack of trained leaders. By this, I don’t mean seminary graduates. I mean those who have been mentored in the field. Movements that give focused time to leadership development can sustain growth. Those that fail to prioritize this are unable to.

8—Failure to diversify giftings.

Some years ago, I read that a characteristic of movements is that they have a charismatic leader. I’ve seen this to be true. Movements that are sustained, however, do not depend on one apostolic leader. It is not easy for powerful leaders to move into the background. Many fail to release control and authority. They love being in the limelight, getting the glory for the growth happening. Many enjoy the perks of being flown around the world to speak or attend conferences and share about the multiplication their movement is experiencing. This is a significant danger. Charisma can get things started, but only when there is a strong team of elders and trainers who work together are movements sustained. One man shows don’t multiply.

Suffering and movements go hand in hand. It is easy though to under-estimate the spiritual warfare and traditional church opposition that is normal when a movement takes off. Many don’t adequately count that cost and grow timid or confused when this happens.

Physical persecution from both the church and the world are normal when the radical growth of God’s kingdom takes place. The Apostle Paul experienced it and so will we.

Are you willing to be misunderstood? To suffer loss and walk through pain? This is particularly hard for us Western Christians to embrace. We don’t have a theology of suffering and are plagued with prosperity teachings. That may be true of some African churches as well.

Financial hardship, spiritual attack, sickness and threats are going to water the growth of the movement. As Paul said to Timothy, “Endure hardship as a good soldier of Christ.” (2 Tim. 2:3-4)

10—Failure to Quickly learn from our mishaps.

Entrepreneurs know that if you want to start a successful business you have to be willing to try a few ideas and fail. Fifty percent of small business attempts fail within the first five years.1 It’s not that different when church planting or attempting to start a multiplying movement. I’ve said it before but will say it again. Make failure your friend and don’t let it get you down. Learn from it. Expect it. Make changes and adjustments and try again. Roy Moran in his excellent book “Spent Matches” talks about failing quickly. I agree with him. Don’t waste time moping around or condemning yourself. Failure is a success if you’ve learned from it.

All Heaven Will Dance

The above list is not exhaustive, but ten is enough to think about. No matter what you do, you can’t avoid some mistakes on this DMM journey. Almost no one gets to the top on their first try. The great news is that God is cheering for you, laughing with you and helping you have the strength to go after it yet again. Enjoy the slippery slope and celebrate grandly when by some good luck and God’s sovereign grace you reach the top. All Heaven will dance as thousands come into the Kingdom…when you multiply disciples effectively among the least, last and lost.

This is an article from the March-April 2020 issue: Movements: God’s Way of Reaching Entire Peoples

24:14 Goal: Movement Engagements in Every Unreached People and Place by 2025 (70 months)

The Church Involvement Continuum

24:14 Goal: Movement Engagements in Every Unreached People and Place by 2025 (70 months)

Since the release of our book, From Megachurch to Multiplication, we’ve had the privilege of training hundreds of pastors from across the country, and even some from around the world. Through the process, I constantly see pastors wrestling with how to implement DMM in their churches.

Do they leave the church alone and just do this DMM thing on the side? Do they implement some of the principles in their church? Do they take their church through a major transition? Do they just move on from their church and do this somewhere else?

Very early in the training I usually start to get these questions from the pastors. I’ve found myself responding in a similar way each time, so I put together a Google Doc called “Church Involvement Continuum”to present some various ways the Spirit might lead a pastor and church to implement DMM.

Let me say first: The absolute most important thing for you to do is listen to the Spirit and do whatever he tells you to do. We shouldn’t look at a continuum like this and pick the commitment level we like best. We shouldn’t bring our team together and take a vote. We shouldn’t pick a commitment level because it seems easiest. The Spirit still speaks to churches! He’ll show you what to do!

In Revelation 2-3, Jesus says one thing to all seven churches: “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches” (Rev 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22, NLT).

How might this apply to us? We must listen to the Spirit and understand and obey what he is saying to the church. The Spirit still speaks! Do you know what the Spirit is saying to your church?

As you begin to process what DMM might look like in your church, you need to listen to the Spirit! The involvement continuum is not exhaustive. It represents just some of the ways that other churches have responded to the DMM vision.

Be encouraged that the Spirit will speak to you and your leadership if you have ears to hear what He wants to tell you. To be honest, though, when I look at many of the churches in movements overseas, they make the American church look prayerless and lukewarm. No wonder they hear so clearly from the Spirit about what they’re supposed to do. They spend a ton of time listening to Him!

Do you and the leadership of your church spend a lot of time listening to the Spirit? If you do, He’ll speak to you and you’ll know just what you should do. I find that so encouraging! Start praying today, “Lord, what do you want us to do? We are listening! And when we hear you, we will obey!” My guess is that what the Holy Spirit will tell you to do with DMM may not be what you would’ve picked. It probably won’t be the safe, easy, comfortable option. But the Lord’s plans for your life and your church are better than yours.

Way #1—Bless

The first way the Holy Spirit might lead a church to be involved with DMM is to pray for it and Bless it when it begins to make an impact in your city or area. This path doesn’t require any church-wide commitment to embrace DMM. This is simply understanding and supporting DMM in your area and not resisting it.

This is a very important step. As I’ve talked to people connected to movements overseas or read some of their writings, I continue to hear something very surprising. They often say that their greatest resistance in making more disciples comes from “traditional Christians.” By traditional Christian, I think they just mean Christians who go to traditional churches and think everyone should do things the way they do things. The truth is that traditional Christians often resist what they don’t understand or don’t like.

The first way a church might be involved in DMM is to bless the movement and pray for it!  For a traditional church to bless and pray for a movement, even if they aren’t a part of it, is a great contribution to movement work in an area. It keeps movement workers from being burdened by opposition from traditional churches. And it encourages movement workers to know the churches are praying for them.

Almost any pastor can lead their church to bless DMM work in their area, without pushback from the church. Nothing changes within the church. No one has to get on board. The proverbial “boat” isn’t being rocked at all. It’s simply a pastor leading his/her church to bless, not curse, DMM work in their area by supporting the workers and praying for the work.

My prayer is that every church would at least engage in DMM at this level. It requires no commitment and no cost. And it makes a significant contribution to DMM work in an area because it creates less opposition and more partnerships.

Way #2—Release

The second way the Holy Spirit might lead a church to be involved with DMM is to Release some of the “radicals” in the church. Release them to be trained by a DMM trainer/catalyst and sent out from your church to your city or area.

This builds on the first way of blessing and praying for movement work in your area. Like the first way, this doesn’t change the direction of the church. The vision stays the same and the programming stays the same. This is more of an underground, behind-the-scenes strategy that mainly affects the few radicals you send out.

The way this works is that a pastor or leadership team first identifies some people in the church who are “radicals.” These are the people so fired up that we have trouble containing them in our churches. They are like caged lions ready to break out and take the world by storm for King Jesus. They know there must be more than just the activities of the church and they would be excited to be trained and released to make disciples outside the church.

Many churches have a few people like this, but usually not a lot. They’re not antagonistic toward the church. They’re just discontent, but in a good way. They love their church but they know there’s got to be more.

After you identify the radicals, you cast vision to those radicals and release them to be trained by a DMM trainer/ catalyst. That trainer would show them how to multiply disciples and churches among the lost of your city or area: those who would probably never attend a traditional church like yours. According to statistics, that’s probably 90% or more of the people around you. We’ve got to open our eyes and see that most people aren’t coming to our churches. Most aren’t even interested in coming. We’ve got to release some people to “go” and pursue the lost, much like Jesus instructed in the Great Commission.

After training with a DMM trainer, the radicals might want to form a “DMM team” with other radicals to start “going and making disciples” in the most difficult parts of your city or area. If so, you and the leadership team would gladly bless and send them to do so. They would be analogous in some ways to missionaries sent out by the church – in this case to reach nearby people who would likely never go to a traditional church.

This doesn’t change much at the mother church. It just encourages some of the “radicals” in the church to chase the Romans 15:20 ambition (preaching where Christ is not known) God has put on their heart: to see your whole city or county reached.

I expect most pastors would need leadership approval (elders, deacons, or whoever governs the church) to implement this approach, since some of the radicals you send out might well be among your best givers or volunteers. This requires a little more commitment and risk on the part of the leadership than just blessing and praying for movement work in your area.

Some might ask: Can we release the radicals and still have them come to our church, so they can keep volunteering and giving? You could, but I wouldn’t recommend it – for the same reason you don’t recommend that people attend two different churches. It’s too difficult to get deeply involved in more than one church.

If these radicals stay involved in your church, they likely won’t get very involved in their DMM team (often formed into a DMM church seeking to start DMM churches among the lost). Do you continue to expect the same level of involvement from the missionaries your church sends overseas? Of course not. Besides the fact that they don’t live in your area and couldn’t attend anyway, you wouldn’t want them to come because you want them focused on their mission — reaching people who haven’t yet heard or responded to the gospel. The same applies here.

Would these radicals still be connected to your church? Absolutely! Would they still come on occasion to give reports of what God is doing? Absolutely! Would they be sent and supported by your church? Absolutely! There would still be a strong partnership and they would remain a part of your church family. You would be sending them out similarly to the way you send missionaries. In this case their focus would be the lost people in your city or area, who would never come to a traditional church.

This approach clearly requires a higher level of commitment than the first way, because you could lose some of your best givers and volunteers. But isn’t that a small sacrifice for your church, in order to potentially be a part of a movement of God that impacts the lost in your city or area?

We at Experience Life certainly thought so.  On our 10year anniversary, we laid hands on and commissioned our first 50+ “radicals” to be sent from our church to form DMM teams (which became DMM churches) to go and reach our city. It was very exciting and our whole church was involved. You don’t have to send them out as publicly as we did, but we definitely wanted to free up our radicals to go and reach the people in our city who our church would never reach — the 90% who need Jesus!

It’s been two years since we sent them out, and we’re so glad we did. They haven’t had to pass out bulletins at the door, watch kiddos, usher people to their seats or anything else like that at the mother church. We removed every potential distraction from them and told them we supported them and were cheering for them as we sent them out. I think they would all say it’s been much better being fully involved with their DMM church than being partially involved in their DMM church and partially involved in our traditional church.

Since we released our radicals two years ago, they’ve prayed for hundreds of hours, shared with thousands of people, and seen over 150 Discovery Groups started in multiple streams to the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and even 5th generation. They share totally amazing stories of God’s work in advancing his kingdom! We’re so glad we released them! God has used them to bring more gospel light into the great darkness around us.

Way #3—Hybrid

The third way the Holy Spirit might lead a church to be involved with DMM is through a Hybrid approach. One of my friends and mentors, Roy Moran, wrote a whole book on this topic called Spent Matches. I highly recommend you buy and read it. It’s fantastic!

He borrows the hybrid analogy from the car industry where some cars have both an electric motor and a gas engine. He compares DMM to the electric motor and the traditional church model to the gas engine. Both run under the same hood and work together to boost performance and create better fuel economy.

The hybrid approach to DMM allows you to keep doing what you’ve been doing and add an additional DMM track in your church that you publicly promote and invite people to join. Whereas the previous two ways talked more about a private approach to DMM, things become more public with the hybrid model.

According to Roy, the hybrid approach can take different forms. In his book he talks about how his church has different small group tracks: one for those inside the church, and one geared for those outside the church (using DMM principles). He recently told me about another church that used a hybrid approach by implementing DMM in their college ministry but not with everyone else.

Hybrid simply means you publicly integrate DMM principles into some part of your church while everything else remains the same. It’s like adding an electric motor to a car already running on a gas engine.

In Spent Matches, Roy writes, “The hybrid car became a metaphor for Shoal Creek [Community Church]. On one side is the old attraction model—gas engine—inviting people each week to come discover a life they’ve always wanted. On the other side a gospel planting model— electric engine—that equips people to move into their neighborhoods, workplaces, and relational networks with the life-changing truth of Jesus.”

While a hybrid strategy may initially sound preferable to some because it sounds like the best of both worlds, it’s not for the faint of heart. Roy acknowledges that there will almost assuredly be a cost to implement it. But, for some, this may be how the Holy Spirit leads your church to be involved in DMM.  As I said at the outset, make sure you let the Holy Spirit choose for you rather than deciding what’s most convenient or what you or your church may like the best.

When I explain to pastors these various ways a church can be involved in DMM, I tell them that with the hybrid approach and the remaining two ways (mentioned below), you’ll have to count a cost. These approaches require sacrifice, courage, and faith to implement. Don’t let that dissuade you. Often what the Lord calls us to do requires sacrifice, courage, and faith. Perhaps the Holy Spirit will lead you and your church to implement a hybrid approach like Roy’s church did and ours did as well.

With the hybrid model, the church becomes publicly committed to DMM and more people can get involved. DMM is now officially inside the church and positively affecting certain areas and ministries of the church. And most likely those areas will become more outwardly focused and more intent on making disciples among lost people, which is awesome!

Pursuing the hybrid builds on the other two ways to get involved. It allows you to bless and pray for movement work in your area. It allows you to release radicals who want to be sent from the church to do this exclusively. And it involves the entire church in the process by implementing DMM principles into various ministries in the church.

I encourage you to begin praying for the Lord’s best, with these three ways in mind. God’s Spirit may lead you to something even more radical, with even greater potential to reach the lost around you. If you’re interested to explore further, I invite you to read about two more possibilities on my blog.

Way #4 – Transition

A fourth way the Holy Spirit might lead a church to be involved with DMM is through a “transition” to a singular DMM focus. Instead of having two visions you’re running alongside one another, like with “hybrid,” you decide to make DMM the primary vision. While you may continue to do many of the things you’ve done before, like weekend services, you leverage everything in the church to help accomplish the primary vision of catalyzing a movement in your city/region. Read more at

Way #5 – Relaunch

One more way that the Holy Spirit might lead a church to be involved with DMM is through relaunching as a network of DMM churches. Honestly, one year ago, I probably wouldn’t have even included “relaunch” in the list. Not because it didn’t belong in the list but because I wouldn’t have even known it existed until I got to witness what the Holy Spirit has done in our church over the last six months. It’s been remarkable! Read more at and read the articles in the Jan-Feb 2020 issue of Mission Frontiers.

May the Lord lead you into his best as you listen to and follow the voice of his Spirit.

This is an article from the March-April 2020 issue: Movements: God’s Way of Reaching Entire Peoples

The Story of Movements and the Spread of the Gospel

The Story of Movements and the Spread of the Gospel

Luke begins the book of Acts by telling us that what Jesus began to do and teach, he now continues to do through his disciples empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Luke’s story of the early church is the story of the dynamic Word of the gospel that grows, spreads, and multiplies resulting in new disciples and new churches. We get to the end of Acts and yet the story doesn’t end. Paul is under house arrest awaiting trial; meanwhile the unstoppable Word continues to spread throughout the world. Luke’s meaning is clear: the story continues through his readers who have the Word, the Spirit and the mandate to make disciples and plant churches.

Throughout church history we see this pattern continue: the Word going out through ordinary people, disciples and churches multiplying. While the Roman Empire was collapsing, God was calling a young man named Patrick. He lived in Roman Britain but was kidnapped and sold into slavery by Irish raiders. Alone and desperate he cried out to God who rescued him. He went on to form the Celtic missionary movement that was responsible for evangelizing and planting approximately 700 churches throughout Ireland first and then much of Europe over the next several centuries.

Two hundred years after the Reformation, Protestants still had no plan or strategy to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. That was until God used a young Austrian nobleman to transform a bickering band of religious refugees. In 1722 Count Nikolaus Zinzendorf opened his estate to persecuted religious dissenters. Through his Christ-like leadership and the power of the Holy Spirit, they were transformed into the first Protestant missionary movement, known as the Moravians.

Leonard Dober and David Nitschmann were the first missionaries sent out by the Moravians. They became the founders of the Christian movement among the slaves of the West Indies. For the next 50 years the Moravians worked alone, before any other Christian missionary arrived. By then the Moravians had baptized 13,000 converts and planted churches on the islands of St. Thomas, St. Croix, Jamaica, Antigua, Barbados, and St. Kitts.

Within twenty years Moravian missionaries were in the Arctic among the Inuit, in southern Africa, among the Native Americans of North America, and in Suriname, Ceylon, China, India, and Persia. In the next 150 years, over 2,000 Moravians volunteered to serve overseas. They went to the most remote, unfavorable, and neglected areas. This was something new in the expansion of Christianity: an entire Christian community—families as well as singles—devoted to world missions.

When the American War of Independence broke out in 1776, most English Methodist ministers returned home. They left behind six hundred members and a young English missionary named Francis Asbury who was a disciple of John Wesley.

Asbury had left school before he turned twelve to become a blacksmith’s apprentice. His grasp of Wesley’s example, methods and teaching enabled him to adapt them to a new mission field while remaining true to the principles.

Methodism not only survived the Revolutionary War, it swept the land. Methodism under Asbury outstripped the strongest and most established denominations. In 1775 Methodists were only 2.5% of total church membership in America. By 1850 their share had risen to 34%. This was at a time when Methodist requirements for membership were far stricter than the other denominations.

Methodism was a movement. They believed the gospel was a dynamic force out in the world bringing salvation. They believed that God was powerfully and personally present in the life of every disciple, including African Americans and women, not just the clergy. They also believed it was their duty and priority to reach lost people and to plant churches across the nation.

American Methodism benefited greatly from the pioneering work of John Wesley and the English Methodists. Freed from the constraints of traditional English society, Asbury discovered that the Methodist movement was even more at home in a world of opportunity and freedom.

As the movement spread through the labors of young itinerants, Methodism maintained its cohesiveness through a well-defined system of community. Methodists remained connected with each other through a rhythm of class meetings, love feasts, quarterly meetings and camp meetings. By 1811 there were 400-500 camp meetings held annually, with a total attendance of over one million.

When Asbury died in 1816 there were 200,000 Methodists. By 1850 there were one million Methodists led by 4,000 itinerants and 8,000 local preachers. The only organization more extensive was the U.S. government.

Eventually Methodism lost its passion and settled down to enjoy its achievements. In the process it gave birth to the Holiness movement. William Seymour was a holiness preacher with a desperate desire to know the power of God. He was the son of former slaves, a janitor and blind in one eye. God chose this unlikely man to spark a movement that began in 1906 in a disused Methodist building on Azusa Street.

The emotionally charged meetings ran all day and into the night. The meetings had no central coordination, and Seymour rarely preached. He taught the people to cry out to God for sanctification, the fullness of the Holy Spirit, and divine healing.

Immediately, missionaries fanned out from Azusa Street to the world. Within two years they had brought Pentecostalism to parts of Asia, South America, the Middle East, and Africa. They were poor, untrained, and unprepared. Many died on the field. Their sacrifices were rewarded; the Pentecostal/charismatic and related movements became the fastest growing and most globally diverse expression of worldwide Christianity.

At the current rate of growth, there will be one billion Pentecostals by 2025, most of them in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Pentecostalism is the fastest expanding movement—religious, cultural, or political—ever.

Jesus founded a missionary movement with a mandate to take the gospel and multiply disciples and churches everywhere. History is replete with examples of movements just like in the book of Acts; I have named only a few. Three essential elements are necessary for Jesus movements: His dynamic Word, the power of the Holy Spirit and disciples who obey what Jesus has commanded.



This is an article from the March-April 2020 issue: Movements: God’s Way of Reaching Entire Peoples

The Birth of a Movement

The Birth of a Movement

Birth phase—Francis of Assisi and the Franciscan movement

He went out half-naked in his hair-shirt into the winter woods, walking the frozen ground between the frosty trees; a man without a father. He was penniless, he was parentless, he was to all appearance without a trade or a plan or a hope in the world; and as he went under the frosty trees, he burst suddenly into song.

—G.K. Chesterton

Francis’ father was furious. He had endured his son’s wild living, but Pietro Bernardone would not allow Francis to squander the family’s wealth on the poor. He dragged Francis before the Bishop of Assisi for a ruling. As a rich silk merchant, Bernardone had plans for his son to one day take over the business and become a leading man in the city of Assisi, but Francis disappointed him.

In AD 1201, Francis left his home seeking adventure as a soldier. He fought with Assisi’s forces against the city of Perugia and was captured, imprisoned, and later ransomed.

On the way to his next battle, he heard a voice ask, “Is it better to obey the servant or the Lord?” When he answered, “Lord, what would you have me do?” he was told to return home and wait. As he waited, Francis became overwhelmed by the emptiness of his life. Looking for answers, Francis made a pilgrimage to Rome, and on the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica, he exchanged clothes with a beggar and begged for his dinner.

After Francis returned to Assisi, he was praying in the broken-down church of St. Damian when a voice spoke to him from the cross: “Go and restore my house.” Taking the command literally, he rode to his father’s store and loaded his horse with fine fabrics. Selling the cloth and the horse, he used the money to minister to the needy and restore the church at St. Damian. Furious, his father brought him before the bishop for a ruling. The bishop sympathized with Francis’ generosity but ruled the money was not his to give away. Francis responded by stripping naked and laying his clothes at his father’s feet. He renounced his family ties and inheritance, declaring his trust in his heavenly Father to provide. Bernardone gathered up his son’s clothes and left, while the bishop wrapped his cloak around a trembling Francis. So began the Franciscan movement.

Rejected by his father, Francis begged for stones to restore ruined churches in the countryside around Assisi. In the chapel of Portiuncula, he read Jesus’ instructions to his disciples:

“As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give. Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts— no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep.” (Matt. 10:7–10)

Through his struggle, Francis found God’s calling: He would do what Jesus commanded and proclaim the message of the kingdom of heaven, trusting God to provide everything he needed.

Exchanging the mission of Jesus for wealth and security, the monastic orders had abandoned poverty to live in comfort. Francis of Assisi refused to accept the gap between the monastic ideal and everyday reality; eventually, thousands followed his example.

Francis’ dream was to live life like Jesus and his disciples did—as an apostolic brotherhood with no distinction between clergy and laity, living in obedience to God’s leading, and without the hindrance of possessions. The motivation for this was a passionate love for Christ. Bonaventure, a follower of Francis, described him as “completely absorbed by the fire of divine love like a glowing coal.” Francis’ response to the decline of settled monasticism was the birth of mobile missionary bands of friars (brothers). Wherever they went, they preached the joy of repentance, and trusted God for their needs. Francis and many of his followers came from wealthy and noble families, but they made the poor and the outcast the special concern of the Order. This was part of Francis’ commitment to reach people for Christ outside the walls of the cloister and the borders of Christendom.

Francis of Assisi was true to his calling, and his life drew others who were willing to lay down their lives. The people of Assisi couldn’t decide if Francis was a saint or a madman. A few chose to believe he was a saint. Bernard of Quintavalle was a wealthy and prominent man, yet he sold his possessions and gave away his fortune to the poor, joining Francis as a beggar. Next came Peter Catanii, a lawyer. Within a year, Francis had eleven followers. As the numbers grew, Francis organized his followers into small traveling bands who preached repentance. The Franciscans preached in the open air, on street corners, in the market places, and in open fields. Speaking in the ordinary language of the people, their vivid messages inspired and moved people to repentance and joy before God. Francis was never ordained as a priest. Similarly, those who followed his lead were ordinary, untrained men, resented by the clergy for their success.

Like Francis, founders inspire others to act. They win the trust of followers by putting their lives on the line for the cause. They demonstrate the unconventional tactics that will achieve a movement’s purposes and they protect it from those who bring their own agendas.

Francis of Assisi excelled as a founder and lived what he believed. His authority flowed from his uncompromising commitment to Christ. He had little time for organizational structures and external requirements. He excelled as a visionary but struggled to ensure the movement adapted to its meteoric rise. Regardless, he remains one of the most endearing figures of Christian history.


  • Wrestle with God: Surrender to God to bring clarity of vision.
  • Fuel discontent: Raise awareness of the gap between the ideal and reality.
  • Dare to dream: Know where you are going, even if you don’t yet know how you’ll get there.
  • Commit to action: Show how the vision can be turned into reality.
  • Build a team: Call people who are willing to lay down their lives for the cause.



This is an article from the

Word, Works, Signs…

Word, Works, Signs…

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about some of the things that shaped my life. I guess I’m at that age where you reflect and focus more on passing things on to those who will follow you. 

One “shaping” element that I am very thankful for is that I grew up under leaders in a church who loved God’s Word. They studied it diligently, taught it well and passed a love for it to me.

 I wouldn’t change any of that. 

But I fear that in my living out of what I learned, is that I tend to focus on the Word – sometimes with pride-fullness – and minimized “works.” When I teach, I emphasize the need to “do good works” based on Ephesians 2:10. We all know and memorize Eph. 2:8-9 but verse 10 is as important: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (ESV, here and below.)

 There is, of course, the long-running debate on this issue from the 1930s if not before. Perhaps the best (or worst?) characterization of that debate is between the social gospel and evangelism. I’ve always thought it was a false dichotomy. I understand some concerns from both “sides,” and I’ve tended towards the importance of sharing the Word – hopefully flowing from good works. 

Paul wrote about both, as Eph. 2 suggests. He also wrote about this in Romans 15, where he is explaining what he has been doing. Remember most of those involved in the Roman fellowships (there are several, see chapter 16) haven’t met Paul. He is on his way to visit and raise money! (See 15:24) In 15:16 he describes the idea of “priesting” the gospel and boasts of what Christ has done. Then, in Romans 15:18-19, he uses an idea from Romans 1:5, which says: “…to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations….” Verses 18–19 says, “For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ…." 

When I preach on this missional passage, I focus on that last phrase and explain what I believe Paul meant by having “fulfilled the ministry.” I don’t usually talk about HOW he did that. Do you see it? • Word • deed • by signs and wonders • by the power of the Spirit….

It is clear that the Spirit of God is the one doing it. We all know that neither Paul or you nor I could anyway. But still, somehow, in my desire not to debate issues related to gifts and the Holy Spirit, I avoided the “signs and wonders” part. It may be that today, signs and wonder have little if anything to do with spiritual gifts. Yes, some of the N.T. gifts included things which were “signs” to point to the Son and the work of God. The key thing I need to relearn and live out is that Holy Spirit can work in any time and in any way He wants. We need to pursue God, moment by moment listen to His Spirit and then watch Him work through us everywhere, especially in and among the unreached. 

Many have said the unreached are unreached because they are the harder to reach. Others say that “great religions” of the world don’t see our western Christianity as a great improvement. Both are generalizations. Perhaps it is because we haven’t actually sent anyone to try and connect with the people and communicate gospel truth in a way that they can understand. Others say we haven’t prayed enough, but as I see huge prayer movements globally with many focused on the remaining unreached I am encouraged that we may be close to breakthrough. Many efforts are increasing prayer for and engagement with Frontier People Groups – these are Unreached People Groups with no known movements with less than one in a thousand being a Christian of any kind.

We know that the reaching of these cultures is dependent on God’s timing and the work of the Holy Spirit. Are we listening to Him as we reach out to people of other, very different perspectives?




This is an article from the March-April 2020 issue: Movements: God’s Way of Reaching Entire Peoples

Movements are Showing the Way to Reach All Peoples

Movements are Showing the Way to Reach All Peoples

Movements to Christ have always been the way that God has reached entire peoples. While movements have become much more frequent in our day, they are not new. They have been a continual reality for two millennia as God has worked according to His sovereign will to reach entire peoples with the gospel. We highlight a few of these movements in this latest edition of Mission Frontiers.

There is, however, something quite new and unique about the movements taking place in our present day.

The movements that used to occur “by accident” with the combination of a visionary leader and his empowerment by the Holy Spirit, are now happening more purposefully as godly leaders learn how to cooperate with the Holy Spirit. In our lead article starting on page 8, Rebecca Lewis, identifies the common elements and patterns that are characteristic of both past and present movements. These movements are a combination of visionary leaders led by the Holy Spirit with a plan or strategy for success.

 Our mission “technology” continues to grow as our understanding of how to catalyze movements to Christ increases with every new movement that is born. We now have over 1,035 movements that we can learn from on an ongoing basis. The study of these movements increases our ability to start more of them. 

While we know so much more about how movements are started and grow, it is still not as simple as A+B=Movement. There is always the indispensable and non-quantifiable factor of the Holy Spirit. The analogy of the sailboat (see page 11 of the Jan.–Feb. 2020 issue) is applicable here. We need both good methods, plans and strategies and the power of the Holy Spirit in order to start a movement. It is not one or the other, but both. In order to see movement, a sailboat needs its sails and other equipment set properly for the maximum potential movement. Sailboat races are won or lost based on how skillfully the boat is prepared and guided to most effectively catch the wind. But if the wind of the Holy Spirit is not blowing, you will not see movement no matter how well the sails are trimmed. Again, we need both good strategies for multiplication and the Holy Spirit. Our job is to do all we can with wisdom and knowledge to pursue movements and to listen to and pursue the Holy Spirit. The research done by Rebecca Lewis confirms this. So we are now without excuse. We know how movements start and how to grow them in cooperation with the Holy Spirit. There should be smooth sailing from now on, right? Unfortunately, another factor is creeping into this picture with rough seas ahead. 

A Victim of Our Own Success

While we should be able to train movement catalysts and deploy them to every unreached people with the knowledge we now have of how movements work, the enemy is sowing confusion in our ranks. For the longest time, those of us who have believed in the power of Kingdom Movements to reach all peoples have worked tirelessly to convince the mission world that these movements are the real deal and the most biblical way to reach all peoples. There are still lingering pockets of skepticism, but we have succeeded in making movements the new popular thing in missions. The good news is that many more people are interested in learning how to start movements among the unreached and believe that a movement in their people group is possible. The bad news is that some are watering down what a movement is and what it takes to start and grow one. They take their own ministry preferences and slap a “movement” label on it, even though it bears no resemblance to the 1,035 Known Kingdom Movements taking place all over the world. In order for us to continue to make progress in fostering movements in all peoples, we need to align ourselves with the core elements that make movements work. Some of these are identified in our lead article. To fail to do so, could mean a halt to future progress and a corruption of existing movements as confusion spreads. A clear understanding of what a movement is and what it is not is essential for future progress.

Four Marks of a Movement

In order for a movement to be considered a movement, it must include at least the following: 

  1. 1. Disciples making disciples one generation after another. A move-ment is not about gathering a lot of people together to listen to a speaker. As wonderful as Billy Graham and his stadium crusades were, it was not a movement because those coming to Christ were not effectively trained to make disciples one generation after another.

    2. Churches planting more churches, generation after generation past the fourth generation in multiple streams. Each time a church plants another church that is one more generation. When there are four or more streams of church planting four generations or more deep, that is the initial threshold of becoming a Kingdom Move-ment. Each of these streams will have multiple streams itself. Rebecca Lewis mentions that historically movements have consisted of small groups of committed believers. Our modern day movements are still built upon small groups of committed believers that eventually turn into churches. These small groups are often called Discovery Groups.

    3. The priesthood of all believers is the foundation of all movements. Martin Luther taught this
    doctrine and it is becoming a reality in our day through DMMs, CPMs and Kingdom Movements—all names for the genuine movements flourishing in our day. The priesthood of all believers means that every Jesus follower has the biblical authority to baptize, serve communion, evangelize, make disciples and start new churches. Jesus gave us this authority in Matt. 28:18-20.

    4. Simple, biblical and reproducible means of training and leadership development. The DNA estab-lished at the start of a movement will determine whether that move-ment will grow or die. The greater the requirements for making a disciple, the less likely that a disciple will be able to reproduce that training in another, thus stalling or killing the multigenerational nature of these disciple making movements. At their core these movements are engines of leadership development.

There are many other things that char-acterize the Kingdom Movements of our day such as extraordinary prayer, accountability and listening to the Holy Spirit, but without at least these four elements you cannot call it a movement. As the frontier mission movement moves forward, let us learn from past and present movements and set our sails for the unreached.

Join Us as a Mission Frontiers Vision Caster

Mission Frontiers exists to cast the vision and provide the resources to foster Kingdom Movements in every people and place so that every person may have access to the life-saving gospel of Jesus Christ as soon as possible. But we cannot do this without the partnership of you, our readers. Producing Mission Frontiers six times a year is not inexpensive. There are fixed costs that must be met regardless of how many subscribers we have. Subscriptions and advertising do not cover our expenses. We need people who believe in what we are doing and are willing to come alongside us in the following ways. 

Pray: We need people to pray for the success of our mission to mobilize the global church to focus on fostering Kingdom Movements in all peoples and places. I need your prayers for strength, wisdom and godly insights for each issue of MF. The enemy of our souls would like to silence us because our message is a direct threat to his territory among the unreached peoples. 

Donate: We need your donations— both large and small—if we are to cover our costs and then go on to expand this ministry into other languages. We need committed regular support from the many readers who believe in this work. But even if you can only afford $25 or $30, every little bit helps. To give, please go to http://www.frontierventures org, .click on the Donate button and put MA 030 in the dialog box. 

Share: The farther the material in MF spreads, the better it is for accomplishing our mission. We give free permission for people to reprint material that originates with MF and is not reprinted from another source. We only ask that you give us source credit and that you provide a link back to the MF website when reprinted material is posted online. On our website at we have PDFs of each article and issue. Please download these PDFs, print them and share them with others. Every time you do you help to accomplish our mission.

Thank you. 

This is an article from the January-February 2020 issue: Catching the Vision for Movements

Walking Through Open Doors

Walking Through Open Doors

In I Kings 8, Solomon prays at the dedication of the temple. Verses 41–43 reflect Solomon’s understanding of  God’s purposes to bless all people. He prays,
Foreigners, who do not belong to your people Israel, will come from a distant land because of your reputation. When they hear about your great reputation and your ability to accomplish mighty deeds, they will come and direct their prayers toward this temple.

Then listen from your heavenly dwelling place and answer all the prayers of the foreigners. Then all the nations of the earth will acknowledge your reputation, obey you as your people Israel do, and recognize that this temple I built belongs to you. (

Remember that when Solomon was younger and had just become king, he prayed for discernment—literally “a hearing heart.” God answered, “I…give you a wise and discerning mind superior to that of anyone who has preceded or will succeed you.” (1 Kings 3:9 & 12)

Like Solomon, all those who follow Jesus must always, in every place, take opportunity to extend and reflect God’s great reputation and glorify Him.

Here is one example of ministry that demonstrates that heart:  An increasing number of mission organizations have located offices in Malaga, Spain. Many years ago, organizations came because the location was a great base for supporting work in North Africa. But it also made for easy communication with all time zones and was very convenient for travel to much of the world.

For similar reasons, businesses often locate their European HQ in this area, since it is less than a three-hour flight from most major cities of Europe and the cost of living is much lower than much of the rest of Europe.

Recently, new missions have moved into the area to engage the refugees as well as the local business, arts and government communities. A driving force for this is the refugee crisis, including the relocation of North African and Syrian refugees into Spain. Malaga is the main port of entry into the country for refugees. Italy, Greece and others have radically reduced the refugees they allow to come.

Four years ago, Christar International located its offices in a Business and Innovation Center (BIC) in Malaga. A BIC is a network of “centers” located throughout Europe that seek to help start-up/incubate businesses. They are happy to have Christar there because of their refugee work and the business experience and global connections of their staff.

More broadly, there is a push in the city/region to make Malaga a “hub” for technology for all of Spain and much of Europe. The Malaga BIC is situated in a large “tech park” where Accenture, Huawei, Ericsson, IBM and many others have a significant presence. The entire tech center has some 600 companies and some 17,000 employees.
Because of the pressure by the European Union (EU) on businesses (and individual countries) everyone is interested in effective projects that help integrate refugees effectively. There is great interest among well-known multi-national companies to deal with Europe’s practical issues with refugees.

Now, more than eight mission organizations, several smaller organizations and independent workers are engaged in various aspects of this migration opportunity.

Working with the BIC (the business world) the government (the EU) and three NGO partners, Christar staff help identify, assess and equip an entrepreneur in the immigrant community and incubate and accelerate his/her micro enterprise that will hire 10 unemployed immigrants. The process then will repeat and be used to create new local, regional and global enterprises that eliminate unemployment. Another program they use helps refugees navigate government and other systems in their newfound world.

Want to come and help? There is a need for business trainers and business mentors (some from a distance), digital media experts, web designers, trauma counselors (with refugee immigrants), administrators, grant writers, communication experts, legal advisors for start-ups in various countries…these and other skills are needed now. In some cases, language skills are necessary but not all. If you are interested in more info, email: [email protected] They will connect you with the partner that fits your interests.

Let’s pray that this kind of opportunity will be maximized for Jesus and His Kingdom.

This is an article from the January-February 2020 issue: Catching the Vision for Movements

The Rise and Fall of Movements:  A Roadmap for Leaders

Book Review by Dr. George G. Robinson

The Rise and Fall of Movements:  A Roadmap for Leaders

On the back cover of this latest release Addison describes a movement as “what God can do when you let go of control and multiply disciples and churches.” With just over 200 pages, the book is organized around eight chapters using what Addison identifies as “the lifecycle of a movement.” He summarizes his central premise, “at every stage of the movement lifecycle the way forward begins with returning to Jesus, the apostle and pioneer of our faith. His example is foundational. His leadership was centered on obedience to the living Word, dependence on the Holy Spirit, and faithfulness to His Mission.” (34) In his introduction Addison makes the point that all of human history is dotted with movements that, “for good or for ill,” have gone through common phases: birth, growth, maturity, decline, decay and in some cases, rebirth. (23)

Chapter one of the book, Why Movements Rise and Fall, sets the stage by highlighting what Addison has identified as “seven characteristics of multiplying movements.” These foundational characteristics are taken from Jesus’ example of how His identity was grounded in obedience to the Word, empowerment by the Spirit, and faithfulness to the Mission. Subsequently, strategy builds upon that identity and depends upon pioneering leaders, contagious relationships, rapid mobilization, and adaptive methods that are “simple, reproducible, sustainable and scalable.” 

Chapters two through seven are each devoted to a phase of the lifecycle and illustrated with a historical case study. Highlighting movements started by Francis of Assisi and his monastic order (Birth), John Wesley and the Methodist movement (Growth), George Fox and the Quakers (Maturity), the Roman Catholic Church in the Reformation Era (Decline), the rise of theological liberalism on the heels of the Modern Missionary Movement of the 19th and early 20th centuries (Decay), each emphasizing a different phase. The final phase follows the Moravians’ impact on the Reformation by providing somewhat of a re-birth that was built upon century long prayer and missions movement. Because each of Addison’s historical case studies go through the entire life cycle, they collectively serve as a potent reminder for us today as to what we must prioritize. For this reason, Addison chose to close his book with what he refers to as a “rebirthing” missionary movement among declining and decaying Western churches in our day. His case study for that chapter centers on the “No Place Left” movement that transcends organizations and denominations. This movement is emerging and catalyzing growth by its return to the seven characteristics highlighted earlier in the book. The Appendices include sample resources utilized by the “No Place Left” network that emphasize the foundational Identity that yields their Strategy and Methods.

The movement mentality that Addison advocates in Rise and Fall is not without its naysayers. As a seminary professor  and a proponent of reproducing disciple-making that leads to multiplying churches.  I constantly find myself in conversations with skeptics. Movements like those the author writes about tend to be explosive in their influence. This leads many to question them on the basis of a desire to insure that health isn’t sacrificed. While it istrue that humans grow when cells multiply, when those same cells multiply too quickly the diagnosis is cancer. As a reviewer I don’t want to flippantly dismiss what may be legitimate concerns about possible unhealthy outcomes when movements spread. At the same time, one must concede that the New Testament documents just such an explosive movement and doesn’t shy away from addressing the good, the bad and the ugly.

Like Addison seems to advocate, growth is never without risks, whether slow or rapid. What is really at stake isn’t health—it’s our own ability to control people. A movement mentality demands that we release authority and empower every disciple of Jesus to be a disciplemaker. And because we are dealing with fallen imagebearers, the results are sometimes disheartening. Yet I maintain, and I think Addison would agree, that messiness is inevitable. Thus, a large number of disciples yields more messes, but also more disciplers to address the mess! Rather than bottleneck the growth by making every decision gain the approval of a few professionals, Jesus unleashed “uneducated and ordinary men ” (and women!) who had spent time abiding with him. Peter made plenty of mistakes. His doctrine was way off at times (see Matt. 16:22-23); he had to be corrected for being prideful and ethnocentric (Acts 10:34-35); he was hot-headed (John 18:10); he was so fearful of man that he outright denied Jesus (Luke 22:34); and he was prone to discouragement, nearly dropping out altogether (John 21:3). Yet for all of his messiness, Jesus used him and a bunch of other ragamuffins to start a movement that sometimes looked more like Peter in his weaknesses than Jesus in his glory. And I for one am glad that Jesus is building his Kingdom out of “the least of these.”

Recently I invited Steve Addison to come and conduct a one-day symposium on this book at Southeastern  Seminary where I teach. Several things he said there stood out to me. First off, he reiterated that “movements rise because the Word does the work.” So while movements may be messy, they must be Word-focused. And that means that missionaries and pastors must sit under the Word in dependence alongside those we minister to, rather than stand over the Word as its guardians conveying that we alone can interpret and apply it properly. In both the book and in his presentation, Addison emphasized that movements are birthed when a sense of spiritual brokenness leads to desperate dependence upon hearing from God in the wilderness. Movement catalysts turn that desperation into action, which brings renewal and change even in the face of opposition. Movements really spread when the average follower feels empowered to innovate and advance the cause. This is the crucial point in which leaders’ protectionism can neuter the growth and lead to decline. Once the movement mindset is lost, those who advocate for renewal and change are often treated as enemies. This unfortunately leads to splinter groups forming new movements, while what they left behind slowly decays. Neither Addison, nor any of the movement catalysts that I know within the “No Place Left” network, desires to start anything new and disconnected. Rather, we are praying for and working towards “re-birth” by looking back at our Christian roots found in the New Testament. Addison profoundly stated, “Movements lower the bar on who can be a leader, but raise the bar on who can be a disciple.” That is precisely how both breadth and depth can be achieved..

I’ll conclude this brief review with a rationale for why Steve Addison’s newest book is so needed in such a time as this: “You need to know where you are on the lifecycle and align yourself with God’s purposes revealed in Jesus Christ. We know how Jesus founded and led an expanding missionary movement. We know how he dealt with declining and decaying religious institutions … We know how, throughout the biblical story, God renews his people in mission through his Word and the Holy Spirit.” (29) The Rise and Fall of Movements is a timely guide to help us self-diagnose and hopefully experience the grace of renewal and rebirth … until there’s “No Place Left” where whereJesus isn’t known and worshipped.



This is an article from the January-February 2020 issue: Catching the Vision for Movements

Toward the Edges

What does Genesis 1–12 have to do with Movements?

Toward the Edges

In this edition of Mission Frontiers you will read about a large church that decided to redeploy itself around multiplying disciples for movements. As you know, disciples and movements are both major topics in MF on a consistent basis, and the story of such a church is a fitting and noteworthy focus of our attention.

I want to connect that to Scripture, in a perhaps surprising section of the Bible, and also to the frontiers of mission.

An Ear to the Edge

One of our core values in Frontier Ventures is to “live at the edges.” This can mean a variety of things, but one thing (at least) is that we want to listen to and learn from the men and women who are following Jesus at the edges of where the kingdom seems to be advancing among the least reached.

On a regular basis I have the privilege to sit with leaders of movements to Jesus which are growing among a number of Muslim people groups. The leaders themselves were all born Muslim and come from a variety of countries and contexts. Some of the movements are large and longstanding (one is now more than 40 years old, another more than 20), some much smaller and newer (one is perhaps two years since inception) and most of these movements are birthing or have birthed a number of other movements as well.

Each time we meet we select a “big chunk” of the Bible to study inductively together as a part of our mutual learning and encouragement. “Chunks” have included Nehemiah, Galatians, Luke (the whole book) and more. A year ago we selected Genesis 1:1 to 12:3.

An Ear at the Edge, Listening to Genesis

Here is a sketch of some of the themes that we discovered, but greatly abbreviated:

In Chapter 1 we learn that people are made in the image of God, and then blessed to be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth. This implies a spreading out and movement, a dispersal that is actually tied to the original blessing,

In chapter 9 we are reminded that humans are made in the image of God, and again are blessed to be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth. That theme is repeated as God, in a very real sense, begins again.

Then in chapter 10 we see a description of the process that involved as a record of clans and languages and families are actually filling the lands and nations. Not just a promise and a blessing but a description of the fact: filling the earth in keeping with the blessing of God we have read about. It was promised before, now we see it unfolding.

But, chapter 11 opens a new twist in the story. The tower of Babel is an opposition to the plan of God to multiply and fill the earth. In the Babel story we find the desire of humans, in opposition to God, to consolidate, centralize, make a name and control.

All of this sets the stage for Genesis 12:1-3, where we find God restoring the blessing and the decentralizing we saw in the original promises. After listing all the nations in Genesis 10 and the dispersing of the peoples in Genesis 11, Genesis 12 clarifies that His purpose was the blessing of all the families of the earth.

So, Genesis and Movements?                                                       

This reading of Genesis seems to suggest that a decentralized approach to extending the blessing to all

peoples is woven into the original plan. And that does, it seems to me, have implications for decisions about how we multiply disciples, including the strategic shift undertaken by the church described in this edition. 

Other Edges?

One of the ways Frontier Ventures is pressing our organizational ear to the edges  is the formation of “Hubs” including one that will launch in Asia in January 2020. The purpose of such FV Hubs is to redistribute our classic functions of collaboration, mobilization, training, and innovation closer to the edges of where the kingdom is moving into new peoples.

 An example of this, related to innovation, is the multiplication of transformation collaboratives, or what we call T. Co. Labs. This process involves intentionally connecting good strategic planning models, systems thinking, spiritual discernment and more in a collaborative process that brings together key leaders and thinkers from multiple organizations and disciplines around a “barrier.” 

In December, 2019 we did a T. Co. Lab in South Asia with a number of movement leaders and adapted the process for a cross-cultural, multilingual context. It was another effort at getting our ear closer to the edges. 

And a Quick Follow Up

I have mentioned in prior editions of MF that we are beginning to reconnect with the faithful partners who gave to the “Last Thousand Campaign” years ago (LTC). We have been cleaning up and integrating the older data (some of it still in paper form), and laying plans for a wider communication close to Thanksgiving (an appropriate season!).  

Some of our LTC partners asked us when they sent their gifts if we would re-designate those to another ministry, of their choosing, once we reached our goal. As we are able to identify such requests we are fulfilling them. We sent the first such fulfillment several weeks ago.

This is an article from the January-February 2020 issue: Catching the Vision for Movements

Interview with Pastor Chris Galanos of Experience Life

An Interview With Chris Galanos (CG) Questions Asked by Mission Frontiers (MF)

Interview with Pastor Chris Galanos of Experience Life

MF: How did you go about casting the vision for disciple-making to your church members?

CG: We started by introducing the concepts through two sermon series at our church. The first sermon series was called “Meltdown: The Decline of the American Church” and it was based on the book,  The Great Evangelical Recession by John Dickerson. In order to cast a compelling vision for disciple-making, you first need to establish that you’re either not doing it or not doing it very well. If people assume they’re already doing it well, casting vision for it is more difficult because they’re already convinced they’re doing what you’re casting vision for. This book by Dickerson does a great job looking at trends in the American church and calling out our lack of focus on disciple-making. I believe this series stirred our church to recognize that there was a problem and we needed to find a  solution. A few months later we did a sermon series on the solution to this problem. We called it “Miraculous Movements,” based on the popular book by that same name by Jerry Trousdale. We took several weeks to tell the stories of disciple-making in these movements in Africa. We introduced movements as the solution to the problem we discussed in the Meltdown series. Then a few months after that, on our 10 year anniversary, I shared with our church the prayer we felt led to pray for the next 10 years, namely that we’d see 1,000,000 disciples made through implementing a Disciple Making Movements (DMM) strategy. We’ve been pursuing this vision ever since. 

MF:  How difficult was it for your large body of church members to catch the vision for making disciples?

CG: I  think, generally speaking, people like the idea of growing as disciple-makers. If you ask a crowd on Sunday morning to raise their hands if they’d like to make more disciples, I bet you’d get a majority of people to raise their hands. But, when you start talking about the details of how to go about making disciples and what we’d need to do, the interest will usually begin to wane. Here are a few examples. In order to make disciples, we know we must go out among the lost and engage them. I’ve found that many Christians are not very interested in doing that. Another big part of making disciples is meeting together to pray and asking God to open hearts of lost people and give us boldness as we go out. I’ve found that many Christians are not very interested in doing that either. And there’s no question that a lifestyle of making disciples requires some big changes to our calendar. I’ve found that many Christians are very busy and aren’t interested, at this point, in making the changes necessary to create the time to make disciples.

As we began to cast vision for making disciples at our church, we had some people catch the vision and get excited and others that weren’t as interested. The ones that caught the vision went through a DMM training with us and many of them are now in DMM churches making disciples among the lost each week. Others loved coming on Sunday mornings but the idea of going out from the church building to make disciples in this way was probably not what they were looking for and, as a result they’ve moved on to other churches in our city.

MF: As you have relaunched eLife as a more missional form of doing church, talk about those who have come to join you.

CG:  In any church, there’s a small group of people that are hungry for more. They read the New Testament and they want to experience what they’re reading. They want to be a part of a Book-of-Acts-like movement in our day. When you start casting vision to people like that they get fired up and are excited to begin. I’d say a majority of people who have joined us  could be described that way. We could always tell they were the “radicals” in our church that were eager to be sent out to reach many for Jesus. MF:  Share some statistics for the glory of God. Where are you today in the number of people who have gone through trainings? How many people have been baptized, churches birthed and so on?  

CG: W e feel like we’re still just getting started, but we’ve seen God do some amazing things over the last year and a half.

We’ve taken 474 people through our DMM training, many of whom were pastors and church leaders. Quite a few of these churches that went through the training have decided to join us on the journey toward catalyzing movements in America.

We’ve seen God start 15 “Generation 0” DMM churches. These are churches of believers that have been planted by our church or through our training and who are seeking to start Generation 1 churches among the lost. One of these Generation 0 DMM churches has seen a Generation 1 church started from these efforts.

11 more Generation 0 DMM churches are in formation.

We’ve started 161 Discovery Groups with lost people. 40 of these DGs are still active (DGs becoming inactive is a common pattern in DMM – along the lines of the 4 soils parable). Of these 161 DGs, we have had one stream reach 4th Generation and several other streams reach 2nd Generation.

We’ve had more than 5,200 spiritual conversations (likely more, this is just the number we’ve tracked).

We’ve had more than 2,600 hours of corporate prayer (likely more, this is just the number we’ve tracked).

We’ve had right around 90 half-night prayer meetings (four-five hours of prayer through the night).

We’ve sent 11 long-term workers to Thailand with six of them still actively serving there with us. They are working toward catalyzing movements while we’re working to mobilize many more to join them long-term. The vision we cast to our church about five years ago is that we wanted to send a tithe of our church to the nations which was 500 people at that time. We are still praying to send 500 to the nations long-term and feel they will be much better equipped to catalyze disciplemaking movements overseas because they will have been working toward it in America before they leave.

MF: What has been the most difficult part for your members to learn to make disciples?

CG: I  think the most difficult part for all of us is that we’re accustomed to a typical American Christian’s schedule and that usually doesn’t include much time for making disciples. We’re busy doing many other things. We’ve all realized that if we want to be effective in making disciples, it will require an overhaul of our lives and how/where we spend our time. Like most Christians, we realize we spend most of our time around saved people, but we recognize we can’t be effective in making disciples until we spend a lot more time strategically around lost people. We’ve been talking a lot about starting over with our schedules. We want to put disciple-making on the calendar first since it’s most important and then schedule other activities around that. If we put all of our activities on the schedule and see if there’s room for disciple-making, there usually isn’t. Instead, we’ve said it’s best to just start from scratch and put the most important things on the calendar first. This mindset has been a huge help, but it will also require sacrifice. Many of us realize we’re going to have to stop doing some things we enjoy in order to make room for things we enjoy more, like making disciples.

MF:  What was it that surprised you in this whole process of transition and relaunch?

CG: I  think what surprised us the most is how much impact a few devoted disciples can have. In our heyday as a church, we’d have 100-200 first-time guests come per weekend, many of whom were lost. It took a megachurch staff, budget, and resources to draw this many people in and what I realized in the transition is that one DMM church alone, with no budget, buildings or resources, can share with about this many lost people all by themselves in a week fairly easily. Multiply that over our 26 churches and I believe our impact already is far greater than our megachurch could’ve ever had. When you start going to the lost rather than expecting them to come to you, you can engage with a lot more people. That probably shouldn’t have been a surprise, but the American church model is based on doing whatever it takes to get lost people to come to church. What pastors realize after a while is most lost people aren’t interested in coming to church. So, if you’re going to reach them, you’re going to have to leave the church and go to them. This realization alone has helped us see how 1,000,000 could truly be reached.

MF:  What has been most “costly” to you and your church in making the switch? How has it been worth it?

CG:  I think the most difficult part of a journey like this is persevering even when everyone thinks you’re crazy - haha! When we first started Experience Life 12 years ago, people thought we were crazy in how we were doing church. I was 25 years old and people weren’t sure I could be a senior pastor at my age. We met in a skating rink and people weren’t sure how church could actually happen outside a church building. The list went on of things people thought were crazy. It took a while for people to understand what we were doing and to see the impact it was making. I feel, in some ways, we are back at that stage since we’re choosing to do “church” in a different way again. I’m sure many think we’re crazy, but we’re doing our best to make sure we’re listening to Jesus and staying focused on what He wants us to do. We want to follow Him regardless of the cost or how crazy it may seem to others!

MF:  What suggestions would you have for any other church that wants to start doing DMM?

CG: You need a coach! I can’t recommend anything more strongly than that. Stan Parks was our primary coach and we probably would’ve given up early in the process if it hadn’t been for his wisdom, guidance and coaching. Movements are truly a “foreign” concept in the US and you shouldn’t trust that you can navigate trying to catalyze one on your own. We need to be trained and coached by men and women who have seen these happen in other parts of the world and can help us make sure we understand the overarching principles so we can apply them effectively in our context.

MF:  What are some must-reads to help those who want to learn DMM and apply it in their own church?

CG:  These are the must-reads that I list in my book:

  • The Great Evangelical Recession (John Dickerson)
  • Miraculous Movements (Jerry Trousdale)
  • Spent Matches (Roy Moran)
  • Church Planting Movements (David Garrison)
  • The Kingdom Unleashed (Jerry Trousdale)

Also, if you’re an American pastor, you should read Francis Chan’s new book, Letters to the Church. It’s not about DMM, but it’s about the status of the American church and it helps you to recognize that we must begin looking for a solution. The DMM books will give you the solution.

MF: T alk about how you have empowered the kids in your body to do DMM. Do you have a short story?

CG:  Students have loved applying DMM. Here is a recent story of God using an unlikely young person to do something extraordinary. First, let me give you a little background.

As we’ve been leveraging every area at our church for DMM, our youth pastors also made changes in our youth ministry. One of the things they’ve done is begin to expose the students to movement principles and cast vision to them for reaching the 40,000 students in the area. They use the DBS process in their small groups. They’ll often spend their corporate gatherings sharing testimonies and praying or going out on prayer walks rather than doing an attractional service like they’ve done in the past. They’ve been casting vision to the students that God can use them to make disciples and plant churches. They’ve been encouraging them to start groups at their schools. They even have what they call a “catalyst group” which is a group of students that they have taken through the DMM training and are deploying in schools. It’s been amazing to watch! Recently a teacher at one of those schools sent me a message on Facebook. This is what she said:

Hey Chris! I wanted to share with you that one of my 7th grade students who is in the eLife youth group has started a Bible study in my room before school one day a week. He is a quiet young man who doesn’t fit in socially (and seems to be fine with it). I was amazed as I listened to him read a portion of Scripture and say, “We are going to talk about what this says about God, what this says about people, and who we would share this with if we had the opportunity.” He then went on to say that that is what they do in his youth group and that he had been encouraged by his youth leader to start that group. Wanted you to be able to share this with your staff. Good stuff!

Wow! A 7th grader starting groups!

Notice how the teacher described him. “A quiet young man that doesn’t fit in socially.” Sounds like just the type of unlikely person God would use to catalyze a movement! Can you even imagine the boldness it takes for a student like this to start a group with friends at school? That only happens if God fills you with his Spirit and you’re on fire for him!

God loves to use unlikely people!

This is an article from the January-February 2020 issue: Catching the Vision for Movements

ZÚME Update

ZÚME Update

Here’s a report from the frontlines on the Zúme Project. As you read this, we’ll be going into year three of this mission to train reproducing disciples and planting multiplying churches around the world through free online training designed for “non-professionals” and delivered in the languages of the nations. As we write this, we’re about two and a half years post-launch.

In these beginning years God has been more than faithful at every step. So many good things have taken place that we have already lost count. We have seen the product launch, early adopters, first non-English languages launched, and first trainings held. We have seen first disciples multiplying, first churches planted, heroic programmers, faithful donors. We have an all-volunteer global team that has, somehow, been able to meet face-toface multiple times each year and by video almost every week since launch.

Through it all, God has also been faithful in every valley. And there have been lows. We have missed deadlines, re-structured our curriculum, and re-platformed our product (twice!). We have struggled delivering features we consider core to the mission, put work on hold as we waited for funding, put languages on hold (sometimes for years) as we waited on translations, and felt discouraged at difficulties in identifying language “champions” to help spread the training after launching those languages.

We have changed a key leadership role at least four times, shuffled seats as we tried to (re)discover our competencies and giftings, had effective leaders step off the team, and lost at least one beloved colaborer when God called him home far earlier then we were ready to let him go.


In the United States our target is one training and two simple churches planted for every geographical area of approximately 5,000 people. By the most conservative measures that’s 65,000 trainings and 130,000 churches. Globally, our target is one training and two simple churches for every area of approximately 50,000 people. This means at least 140,000 trainings and 280,000 churches.

We are still trying to develop the ability to track the churches planted. Since transitioning to our third iteration of our platform, we have had 1,522 registered training groups with participants from 105 countries who have logged over 40,000 training hours. We are still seeking for ways to track the many offline training events that    don’t report. As of this writing there are fifteen languages completed and we are halfway to our goal of thirty          languages we expect to be completed by the end of 2019. Another ten languages should be added in 2020. Clearly this progress is just a drop in the bucket toward our overall goals, but we are excited at some major upgrades that are coming soon and will allow us to greatly accelerate our progress.

But here are some of the very good things we’ve seen on the way:

In early 2018 I first heard about Zúme.

It had been a long time since college Greek class, but I was intrigued by the name even though I had forgotten what it meant. I registered on the Zúme site and within an hour I had a call from Jordan Valdere, a Zúme coach. That half hour call was a game changer for my ministry, my church and my future. Jordan flew out to Maryland a couple months later and led a two day Zúme workshop for about 14 of our leaders. In each heart, something was sparked. A fresh desire to actually make disciples rather than simply do church ministry was restored. Following that May workshop, I began teaching Zúme across the mid-Atlantic to interested churches. Large group training was hosted at churches ranging in size from 30-1300. Over 1000 people were trained in the next 8 months. We looked for those who applied the tools and discipled them further. Groups by the dozens were birthed. People came to Christ. Baptisms   surged in congregations that had seen few baptized in recent years. The gospel took root in places once feared to enter. God’s Kingdom expanded in several hot spots where obedience flourished. And a buzz began to be heard that lay people could actually be trusted to lead a movement that truly moves. One local church pastor in Maryland almost lost his job because of his pursuing of Zúme. A battle erupted over his constant talk about reaching lost people. It unsettled content church people who merely wanted to “be preached happy” but wanted nothing to do with impacting lostness. A critical meeting was held where only one group would be left standing. Yet all day, the Prayer Cycle (Lesson Two) was prayed through and when the meeting was held that evening repentance came, tears flowed down once hardened faces and today that church is growing by reaching into the harvest. A church in Florida down to 22 senior adults went through Zúme(21 showed up for training) and today those seniors are out sharing Jesus, discipling people and seeing revitalization break out in their church family. A Maryland church frustrated over stagnant evangelism has adopted Zúme as their primary ministry and as of this writing over 250 of its 500 attendees have been trained in Zúme. Groups are forming in hard places, baptisms have increased and a fresh joy has permeated the church as new believers become a part of the family of God. Zúme has radically moved individuals and churches to do the last command of Jesus, “Go...make disciples....” Our goal now is to train 10,000 people in the next decade to live as disciple-makers. Multiplication is the flag we wave. Making heaven fuller and hell far less full is our passion. We are grateful for Zúme coming to us in the Mid-Atlantic 18 months ago. We are “all in” for a multiplying movement that like a pebble in the pond ripples across our nation. —Ron Larson Pastor, The Crossing


In places like Louisville and the state of Maryland there are efforts gaining traction to saturate geographic areas.

AFRICA—When one of our team was headed out on an outreach to Somalis in Africa, he was up against some of the toughest security situations for ministry on the planet. He utilized SD cards with the version of Zúme that we are preparing for the mobile app to make training accessible to some local believers. The result was a number of new churches and dozens of baptisms among Somalis within a very short time frame.

NORTH AFRICA—A team in North Africa has been laboring diligently for many years and has been frustrated by the lack of fruit. Since introducing Zúme to the small local community of followers of Jesus, they have been amazed by how quickly those local believers are owning the vision and work of multiplying the gospel through their country.

In addition to geographic breakthroughs we are seeing progress in high schools, prisons, and other settings. Many times these are not recorded in our system, but we frequently hear about people using the site in their ministries.

Finally, a number of people have been finding Zúme useful to reinforce and retrain people who have previously had training in multiplicative ministry approaches. It has also helped people quickly become comfortable in training others as they use the site as “training wheels” to assist them until they become comfortable enough to train people without it.


Our goal has always been accessibility. It’s the key reason the training is unbranded, multi-language, and distributed online to groups, trainers, missional agencies, and churches at no charge. But accessibility often means being willing to go in a different direction than we originally planned. Here are some of the key initiatives we’re currently working on and some of the ways God is stretching us most to share training with more people in more places:

Zúme Mobile App—One of the biggest challenges we face delivering an online training product is that the trainers and trainees we are targeting are often in areas with little or inconsistent online access. We’re investing heavily in a Zúme mobile app that will allow those we serve to download our free training materials to their mobile device and deliver it wherever they go, regardless of signal strength or cost of service.

SD Cards—This approach is what was described above in the work in Somalia. It has served as a proof of concept for the Zúme mobile app as well.

YouVersion—The same innovative leader that worked in Somalia has pushed for more and greater delivery channels from the very beginning. Recently, he reached out to YouVersion to see if they would be willing to host and distribute some Zúme-themed Bible studies to help build awareness of multiplication and available training. This single channel has quickly resulted in more than 16,000 individuals subscribing to Zúme reading plans. These don’t show up in our statistics but we believe they will soon result in wider awareness and usage of Zúme.

Zúme Pieces / Gamification—Since launch, we’ve had numerous requests for access to individual topics in our training (Person of Peace, Prayer Walking, Duckling Discipleship, etc.). Because we view the curriculum as a whole system of discipleship development, we were very reluctant to break it apart and share it out piecemeal. The requests kept coming, so our leadership team kept exploring the possibilities. By the time you read this, most (or all) of the individual Zúme training topics will be available for direct access and sharing. We’re working hard to ensure that our platform and delivery encourages users to explore more and more topics until they are fully trained (what technologists call “gamification”).

Zúme Playbook—We are in the process of creating the Zúme Playbook, a compilation of how faithful practitioners have actually modified and delivered Zúme training successfully and fruitfully in the field. Each “play” consists of a brief overview and description of the intended targets for discipleship (students, prisoners, traditional church members, etc.) and then a detailed plan-of-action for how others can follow these steps to share training in this way. As a team, we never could have come up with all of the variety and creativity that these plays represent, but it’s a relatively simple task to assemble and share them so they can multiply.

Additional Website—Finally, we are preparing to launch a companion site to the training site in 2020. The current site will be accessible at the current URL (Zú or at http://www.Zúme.Training The n.ew site will be http://www.Zúme.Vision It wi.ll host the playbook mentioned above as well as interactive maps which will help people track the progress toward the saturation goals in their town, county/district, state/province, and country. It will also house coaching functions and specialized communities of practice.

LEADERSHIP—- Our plan has always been to make this work a completely free resource not owned or controlled by any organization but also 100% voluntary in terms of those who would serve and lead. Along the way, we’ve had paid vendors who have built and delivered key elements, and we’re grateful for their (often discounted) professional and faithful work. But our core team has always been unpaid volunteers who travel and work at their own expense. Some of our team are supportraised missionaries serving in the field. Some are staff at local churches. Others are involved in “marketplace ministry.” All volunteer by carving out time from other important and fruitful projects. God has created this ministry from the margin, and we are thankful.

We are always looking for other faithful workers to join us. Maybe you’re one of them. If some of what you’ve read above has resonated with you, we encourage you to read through our Vision, Mission, and Values statements below and then visit Zú to explore more of the training and our mission.

If, after prayer and consideration, you’re still interested in learning how you can join this effort to multiply disciples everywhere, just drop us a line and share your heart at [email protected]ú

This is an article from the January-February 2020 issue: Catching the Vision for Movements

24:14 Goal: Movement engagements in every unreached people and place by 2025 (72 months)

Can We Hasten the Lord’s Return? Clarifying Some Misunderstandings about 24:14

24:14 Goal: Movement engagements in every unreached people and place by 2025 (72 months)

People around the world are excited about the 24:14  Coalition.1 Leaders and catalysts of movements across the globe have begun working together to identify unreached people groups (UPGs) and places. Fresh efforts are developing to bring gospel witness among those peoples and places. But while some rejoice, others protest, seeing 24:14 as a shallow bandwagon—long on zeal and short on missiological depth. In weighing the apprehensions, both scholarly and popular, it appears many of the concerns arise from misunderstandings. In this article, I hope to clarify some that recently appeared in print.

Clarification #1: The 24:14 Coalition has never set a date by which we expect (or are predicting) the Lord will return.

In the most recent issue of Themelios journal, C. J. Moore2  implies that the 24:14 Coalition has launched a countdown to the date of Christ’s return. He writes: “A modern example of the eschatological motivation for missions is being developed in the Mission Frontiers magazine, through their3 24:14 Coalition based on Matthew 24:14. They include a new countdown, as seen in the title of the January/February issue of 2018: ‘Are You In? 24:14: The Coalition to Foster Movements in All Peoples by 2025.’”4 He later comments: “man should not believe that he can expect or suspect when this day will come (e.g. the year 2000 or 2025).”5

We anticipated this concern and penned a clarification in the lead article of that same issue of Mission Frontiers.

In “24:14—The War that Finally Ends,” Stan Parks and Steve Smith stated: “2025 is not the end. It is just the beginning of the end. We need CPM teams in every one of these 130,000 segments sacrificially committed to the war effort of spreading God’s kingdom through movements. Once a team is in place (between now and 2025) the fight has just begun to evangelize the lost and multiply disciples and churches to see a kingdom transformation of those communities.”

For the sake of any who might have missed or misunderstood this, a year later, in the January-February 2019 issue of Mission Frontiers, Tim Martin and Stan Parks penned this among their answers to FAQ:

Are you setting 2025 as the year that all nations will be reached?

No, our goal is to engage every unreached people and place with an effective kingdom movement strategy by December 31, 2025. This means that a team (local or expat or combination) equipped in movement strategy will be on location in every unreached people and place. We make no claims about when the Great Commission task will be finished. That is God’s responsibility. He determines the fruitfulness of movements.6

We hope that by once again publishing these clarifications, we can diminish misunderstanding.

In the same article, Moore also claimed: “many who hold to this view [eschatological motivation for missions] believe that once they complete the task of world evangelization, Christ will immediately come back, as will be examined in the next section. In other words, all He is waiting on is us.”7 And, “those with this motivation have often been proponents of ‘countdowns’ to the completion of world evangelization, which to this day, have proven unsuccessful.”8 Such claims do not match anything written by the 24:14 Coalition. Predicting when Jesus will return is not in any way the purpose of 24:14. Rather, it is a call to action for God’s people.

Clarification #2: We believe 2 Peter 3:12a is best translated as “hastening” the day.

In context, the verse reads: “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God” (2 Pet. 3:1112a, ESV). All other New Testament uses of any form of the Greek word speudō9 clearly intend the concept of hastening (and are consistently translated as such in those places). The other possible meaning of speudō (“to desire earnestly”) is only cited from non-biblical sources.10 All major Bible translations11 translate speudontas in 2 Peter 3:12 as “speed” or “hastening.” The context of this verse also clearly grapples in numerous ways with the issue of timing. Verse 4 quotes an accusation that while time goes on, God is not fulfilling the promise of his coming. Verse 8 clarifies that God’s timetable is different than ours. Verse 9 explicitly states: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise” (NIV, emphasis added).

Numerous commentators accept and expound on speudontas in this verse as meaning “hasten.” I will cite just three. Michael Green12 writes:

Wonderful as it may seem, we can actually “hasten it on” (NEB)….In other words, the timing of the advent is to some extent dependent upon the state of the church and of society. What a wonderfully positive conception of our time on earth…. It is intended to be a time of active cooperation with God in the redemption of society…. Evangelism is one way in which we can be said to hasten the coming of the Lord (cf. Mark 13:10).

Dick Lucas & Christopher Green write: “The Old  Testament prophecies of the hastening of God’s return (e.g. Isa. 62.11) have a new force following the first coming of Jesus, and Jesus underlined that it is within the control of God either to shorten or to lengthen that interim period as he sovereignly wills.” (Mark 13:20; Luke 13:6-9)”13

Edwin Blum14 writes: “But how can Christians hasten what God will do? Peter would probably answer by saying that prayer (Matt. 6:10) and preaching (Matt 24:14) are two principal means to bring people to repentance.”

As these commentators have noted, the concept of hastening the day of Christ’s return fits well with other Scriptures and serves also as a wonderful and appropriate motivator to passionate godliness and ministry. Attempts to avoid this more likely meaning of 2 Peter 3:12 fall short of credibility.

Clarification #3: The concept of hastening the day is entirely compatible with God’s sovereignty.

As reflected in the title of D.A. Carson’s book     Divine    Sovereignty and Human Responsibility: Biblical Perspective in Tension, these two factors fit together in a marvelous way. This age-old tension, portrayed throughout Scripture, impacts our understanding and our action, especially in matters of prayer, evangelism and missions. In each of these realms, the role of human action vis-à-vis the will of a sovereign God work together in mysterious ways that defy simple human analysis. As Carson writes: “It seems to me that most (although not all) of the debate can be analyzed in terms of the tendency toward reductionism...attempts to resolve the tension may only serve to distort the balance which the Bible preserves in its treatment of the tension.”15

Moore’s article “Can We Hasten the Parousia?” claims that “since there is no date revealed to man concerning when Christ will come back, then any talk of quickening or hastening that coming is nonsensical.”16 He also states, “the notion that we might ‘hasten’ a day that the Lord is sovereign over is somewhat absurd. God, in his omniscience, knows when the Parousia will be; that day will not change. Man cannot surprise God with efforts that supposedly quicken a day that is already set. As well, man should not believe that he can expect or suspect when this day will come (e.g. the year 2000 or 2025). It will certainly be a surprising day for all of mankind. Moreover, to believe that the Parousia can actually be “hastened” might logically lead to the heresy of open theism (though one could argue that this is the extreme, logical conclusion).”17 This claim seems to reflect a shallow understanding of the interplay between divine sovereignty and human responsibility. Objections of this sort are answered not only in Carson’s book but also in J.I Packer’s classic: Evangelism & the Sovereignty of God, in which he writes: “The belief that God is sovereign does not affect the urgency of evangelism.”18

Hundreds of years before Carson and Packer expounded this mystery, Jonathan Edwards described it extensively. He employed the phrase “use of means” countless times in his careful and detailed descriptions of the mysterious interplay between divine sovereignty and human responsibility. For example, in Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God he wrote: “It is surely no argument that an effect is not from God, that means are used in producing it; for we know that it is God’s manner to make use of means in carrying on His work in the world.”19

John Piper and Justin Taylor note that “Edwards’… more general emphasis on a proper use of means is reiterated by many other Puritans.”20 Clearly, the theme of human means accomplishing what God has sovereignly decreed has a long history among Reformed and other Protestant writers. Sadly, the abuse of God’s sovereignty as an argument against earnest human effort in missions also has a long history. John Ryland Sr., the chairman of William Carey’s Baptist denomination, enunciated it most notably in 1787 by when he replied, “Sit down young man. You are an enthusiast! When God pleases to convert the heathen, He will do it without consulting you or me.”21 The charge of shallow “enthusiasm” still lingers, aimed at those passionately pursuing the reaching of all ethnē. Yet we best honor God’s sovereignty by earnestly using all means He has given us to disciple all nations.

Clarification #4: Hastening the Lord’s return is just one among many biblical motivations for ministry among those who believe in it.

Moore claims “proponents of the eschatological motivation not only believe they can quicken the coming of Christ, but they also have this primarily in mind with regard to their work. Therefore, they often do whatever possible to achieve this end, which leads to missional malpractice” (emphasis added).22 Contrary to his claim to know others’ minds, he misrepresents the intent and actions of these fellow believers. To the best of my knowledge, every missiologist, missionary and biblical scholar who believes mission activity can hasten the Lord’s return holds that belief as one among many noble motivations for ministry. Other commonly mentioned motivations would include God’s glory (e.g. Ps. 86:9), salvation made known to all nations (e.g. Ps. 67:2), obedience to Jesus’ final command (Matt. 28:18-19); love for the lost (e.g. 1 John 4:19), bringing reconciliation (e.g. 2 Cor. 5:18-20) and preparing Christ’s bride for his wedding feast (Rev. 19:7). We have a wealth of noble motivations for proclaiming the good news.

Clarification #5: Believing that mission activity can hasten the day increases missional diligence, not missional malpractice.

To note just one example of increased effectiveness: since the 24:14 Coalition began only two and a half years ago, greater mutual trust has yielded better collaboration among agencies and better understanding of gaps in engagement among UPGs. These in turn have already led to fresh sending efforts among dozens of UPGs.

The allegation has been made: “the eschatological motivation for missions has often led to practices that are outright dangerous.”23 Also, “In particular, the countdown itself has led to malpractice; because certain workers want to complete the Great Commission by a certain date, they often do whatever works to maximize the number of converts.” This accusation is buttressed with a quote from the Perspectives reader: “Peter Wagner has even stated that ‘setting goals for world evangelization … requires a degree of pragmatism.’” He goes on to say that workers need to stop or change what they are doing if people are not substantially coming to Christ.”25 But what Wagner actually wrote conveyed more nuance and wisdom: “If we are investing resources of time, personnel and money in programs which are supposed to make disciples but are not, we need to reconsider them and be willing to change the program if needed” (emphasis added).

Moore presents Jim Montgomery and the DAWN effort as a Case Study of “The Danger of the Eschatological Motivation for Missions.” “Montgomery … had the year 2000 in mind and went well on his way to pragmatism: ‘Unless [workers] are armed with a vision of multiplying churches, they can easily fall into the trap of using familiar methodologies that produce little or no growth when other methods might produce a great harvest.’ Montgomery and others like him assume that if a methodology is not producing immediate and quantifiable results, then it should be disregarded.”27

Granted that Montgomery’s insight could be misapplied, we need to ask: “Is there  in fact a missiological danger of “using familiar methodologies that produce little or no growth when other methods might produce a great harvest”? Based on over two decades of missionary experience, I would say “Yes, absolutely!” But Montgomery’s potentially helpful insight is then twisted by the addition of interpretive words: “immediate and quantifiable results.” I know of no CPM methodology claiming “immediate and quantifiable results.” In fact, numerous CPM trainers use the pithy “Go slow to go fast” to counsel slow and careful laying of the foundation for a hoped-for movement. Back in 2013 Ted Esler wrote: “A critique of CPM has been that it is all about speed. This is actually not a fair assessment because the original stages, as put forth in the theory, are slow-growth stages and large-scale growth does not occur until later on.”28 It appears the danger here lies more in the critic’s misunderstanding than in the methods being criticized.

After admitting that “the overall goal behind this [DAWN] strategy is sound,”29 Moore claims to know Montgomery’s (problematic) thoughts better than Montgomery himself. [Montgomery] “often claims he did not mean the goal had to be completed by 2000, but it seems apparent that he had this in mind” (emphasis added).30 We prefer to honor our brothers’ and sisters’ expressed intentions rather than publicly accusing them based on attempted mind-reading of their true intentions. The next paragraph after that quote presents good questions about the fruit of the DAWN efforts (i.e. “Were these churches really healthy?”). But no evidence of answers is offered, one way or the other. The questions function as innuendo, followed by a speculative negative conclusion: “Not to mention, Montgomery may have been misguided by his interpretation of certain passages” (emphasis added).31 Yet no evidence at all is offered of any misguidance or misinterpretation.

Moore admits that noted missiologist David Hesselgrave “stated there was no harm in setting [the year 2000 as a] specific goal.” Yet Moore continues, “However, this traditional understanding of the eschatological motivation for missions has, again, often led to pragmatic methods that should have been avoided.”33 The prime example cited of this egregious behavior might surprise many: A.B. Simpson and his legacy (the founding of the Christian Missionary Alliance). His main complaint with A.B. Simpson’s approach was that he “rushed church planting with a notable lack of reverence for biblical ecclesiology. Rather than ‘adopting complex doctrinal formulations that polarize,’ Simpson sought to start churches ‘with a few distinctive points about Christ on which many [would] readily concur.’”34 This leads to the indefensible claim that “Simpson essentially promoted unity without truth” (emphasis added).35 Simpson is also criticized for sending mission recruits to a Bible college, in order to more quickly get mission candidates to the field, “foregoing the more traditional model of seminary education.”36 Readers can decide for themselves whether the 130+ years of global ministry by the Christian Missionary Alliance constitutes missional malpractice.

Other cases of “Eschatological Motivation for Mission” cited include the AD 2000 movement. Related quotes include: “The attendees of the Lausanne II Congress on World Evangelization, an ecumenical movement for reaching the whole world with the gospel, affirmed the following together: ‘There is nothing magical about the date [2000], yet should we not do our best to reach this goal? Christ commands us to take the gospel to all peoples.’” It appears any mention of dates or goal setting can become fodder for criticism, even when those are explicitly not directly tied to claims of Christ’s return.

Other than this questionable criticism of the Christian Missionary Alliance, the only other example cited in “Can We Hasten the Parousia?” which sounds at all like “missional malpractice” comes from the nineteenth century: shallow conversion of Jews by a group called LSPCJ. Over 100 years have passed since the events described (by a secondary source). A representative of CMJ (The Church’s Ministry among Jewish People—the current name of the former LSPCJ) comments37 on this characterization: “CMJ…does not adopt any one particular eschatological framework” and the article cited “fails to give any evidence as far as I can see to support such a strong and critical view.”

So in spite of repeated claims that eschatological motivation for mission results in missional malpractice, the case seems to consist mainly of innuendo, a dubious 100+-year-old example, a claim of mind-reading someone who died 13 years ago, and an attack on one particular denominational founder of over 100 years ago. Missiological malpractice does exist today, but “Can We Hasten the Parousia?” fails to identify any current cases, much less to substantiate repeated accusations against those believing their efforts can “hasten the day.”

Clarification #6: Gospel proclamation becomes more fruitful with awareness of diversity of contexts.

The Apostle Paul described his diverse approaches to different groups, specifying Jews and Gentiles: “Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible….I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some” (1 Cor. 9:19, 22b, NIV). His diverse methods of gospel proclamation among different groups are well illustrated in Acts 13, 14 and 17. Those aiming for maximum cross-cultural fruitfulness study and apply Paul’s contextual principles and examples.

Moore, in contrast, offers this simplistic suggestion: “What if the method is simply the proclamation of the gospel, ordained by God as the primary means to salvation (Rom. 1:16)? Should this, then, be changed?”38 Not only the biblical texts of 1 Corinthians and Acts, but also the history and present case studies of missions show clearly that not all methods of proclamation are equally fruitful. No method guarantees fruit, as the harvest belongs to the Lord and salvation is a work of his Spirit. Yet a methodological recommendation of “simply the proclamation of the gospel” invites missiological ignorance and counterproductive efforts. Countless examples could be cited, along the lines of this video: “Preaching outside largest market in Indonesia” https://


The way of wise missiology follows the Psalmist’s path of acknowledging and learning from the glorious works of our mighty God. “Great are the works of the Lord; they are pondered by all who delight in them” (Ps. 111:2, NIV). By considering the Lord’s great works in bringing many to salvation through movements, we can glean much. We can learn not only about God’s mighty power at work today, but also about various proclamation approaches that have been more (or less) helpful in various contexts.

The same scholar claims: “There is no way for mankind to know what God considers ‘reached’ and what he considers ‘unreached.’” The Apostle Paul disagreed. He wrote:

“It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation” (Rom. 15:20, NIV). For our current application of this verse, we can easily distinguish (for starters) between those individuals who have made a credible profession of saving faith and those groups who, to the best of our knowledge, have no known believers and no known gospel witness. We need not be tightly bound by estimates of 1%, 2%, 5%, etc. But if we are serious about the gospel being proclaimed to “every tribe and language and people and nation” we rightfully distinguish between those who have already heard and those who have never heard. A small strategic step further asks who has abundant opportunities to hear and who has very few. This constitutes responsible stewardship toward completing the commission Jesus has given us—to make disciples of all nations.


Can we hasten the Lord’s return? Responsible exegesis leans toward a positive answer, while no one we know of in the 24:14 Coalition claims a specific date for that return. Mission effort is not the only factor in God’s sovereign determination of the end of this age, but it’s clearly a relevant factor—and the only one over which we have any control. We choose— and invite others to join us in—diligent and responsible collaboration and mission effort to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom, as soon as possible to as many as possible. May God be glorified through these endeavors.

  1. 1 24:14 is an open-membership community committed to four things:
    1. Fully reaching the UNREACHED peoples and places of the earth
    2. Reaching them through CHURCH PLANTING MOVEMENT strategies
    3. Engaging them through movement strategies with URGENT SACRIFICE by 2025
    4. COLLABORATING with others in the 24:14 movement so we can make progress together.
    For more information about this Coalition, see

  2. 2  In his article, “Can We Hasten the Parousia? An Examination of Matt 24:14 and Its Implications for Missional Practice,” Themelios 44.2 (2019), 291–311

  3. 3 Contrary to Moore’s use of “their,” the 24:14 Coalition neither was started by nor is owned by Mission Frontiers. MF simply makes its readers aware of this coalition.

  4. 4 Ibid, 295

  5. 5 Ibid, 310

  6. 6 In “24:14 FAQ: Clarifying Some Misconceptions,” 38-40. Both these articles are now included as chapters in the book 24:14—A Testimony among All Peoples, edited by Stan Parks and Dave Coles

  7. 7 Ibid, 293 

  8. 8 Ibid, 293 

  9. 9 Luke 2:16; 19:5, 6; Acts 20:16; 22:18

  10. 10 Some sources, such as Strong’s Concordance and Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, list Isaiah 16:5 (LXX) as an example of the meaning “to desire earnestly.” However, the meaning “hastening” is preferred there—not only by The Septuagint Version: Greek and English, by Sir Lancelot Brenton (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1978), 851; but also by modern Bible translations, such as ESV, NIV, NRSV, NKJV, and MSG


  12. 12 In The Second Epistle of Peter and the Epistle of Jude: An Introduction and Commentary, 153

  13. 13 In The Message of 2 Peter & Jude the Promise of his Coming, Downers Grove: IV Press 1995, 146

  14. 14 In “2 Peter,” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol 12, 287

  15. 15  Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility: Biblical Perspective in Tension, (Atlanta, John Knox Press, 1981), 220, 221

  16. 16 Ibid, 309

  17. 17 Ibid, 310

  18. 18 Evangelism & the Sovereignty of God, (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 1961), 98

  19. 19 In The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol 2. (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1986) p. 263

  20. 20 In A God Entranced Vision of All Things:  The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards, (Wheaton, Crossway Books, 2004), 242

  21. 21 “William Carey: A Baptist Page Portrait” acces,sed 9/4/2019

  22. 22 Moore, ibid, 292 

  23. 23 Ibid, 292 

  24. 24 Ibid, 293

  25. 25 Ibid, 292-293

  26. 26 “On the Cutting Edge of Mission Strategy,” in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, 4th Ed., ed. Ralph D. Winter (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 2009), 578

  27. 27 Ibid, 293

  28. 28 “Coming to Terms: Two Church Planting Paradigms,” International Journal of Frontier
    Missiology, 30:2 Summer 2013, 71

  29. 29 Ibid, 293

  30. 30 Ibid, 294

  31. 31 Ibid, 294

  32. 32 Ibid, 295

  33. 33 Ibid, 295

  34. 34 Ibid, 295

  35. 35 Ibid, 296

  36. 36 In private email correspondence dated August 21, 2019

  37. 37  “Coming to Terms: Two Church Planting Paradigms,” International Journal of Frontier Missiology, 30:2 Summer 2013, 71

This is an article from the January-February 2020 issue: Catching the Vision for Movements

From Big to Small— for a Big Movement

From Big to Small— for a Big Movement

If you were to walk into our church during the first 10 years and then walk in now, you’d probably feel as if you’d entered two totally different churches. And you’d be right.

The focus of this story played out in my book, From Megachurch to Multiplication. This is a story about our church’s journey from being one of the fastest-growing churches in the United States to a church now focused primarily on catalyzing movements.

At our first meeting, we had 12 in our living room. We prayed that the Lord would allow us to help 10,000 people commit their lives to Christ in 10 years. On our 10 year anniversary in September of 2017, we celebrated 13,337 people who indicated they had committed their lives to Christ and 6,756 who had been baptized.

During year eight, I started asking the Lord, What do you want our vision to be for the next 10 years?

That’s when I stumbled upon WIGTake.

As I was reading David Garrison’s book Church Planting Movements: How God Is Redeeming a Lost World, these two sentences leaped off the page at me. “In the years that followed, Langston was joined by Calvin and Margaret Fox. Together they planned what it would take to reach all of the Kui with the gospel.” 1

According to the Joshua Project, (http://www.joshuaproject net) .a website that breaks down each country into its  many different people groups, there are 1.6 million Kui. They were developing a plan to reach all 1.6 million!

I started asking the Lord, “In the next 10 years, do you want us to develop a plan to reach our whole people group with the gospel, as Langston and the Foxes did?”

I kept reading in Garrison’s book, and I continued to see this pattern of aiming to reach an entire people group. “In the late 1980s, three missionary families gathered a few Maasai believers and began to develop a plan to reach all of them.”2

David Garrison introduces the WIGTake question that these missionaries were clearly asking. He credits David Watson with initially forming the question for his work among an unreached people group in India. David Watson asked, “What’s it going to take to reach everyone in the people group?”

Even the disciples were told to develop a plan to reach entire people groups in Matthew 28:18–20.

Needless to say, the WIGTake concept, combined with Matthew 28, rocked my world. Eventually these conversations with God led to a complete change in the direction and vision for our church for the next 10 years.

This central WIGTake question led our Leadership Team into a season of prayer and fasting about the direction of our church for the next 10 years. According to the Joshua Project, the United States has 488 people groups who live here.. The two largest people groups listed are the ones most Americans belong to, and the total of those two people groups is approximately 225 million.3

We knew that aiming to tell the good news of Jesus to everyone in our people group is what John Langston and the Foxes would aim to do if they were sent here as  missionaries.

What would it take to reach the 200 million in our people group in 20 years (assuming 25 million are already believers)? I remember the day we sat down as a Leadership Team and talked about this and sought to develop a plan for the next 10 years!

Our WIGTake became: What’s it going to take to reach 1,000,000 in the next ten years so that we’re on track to reach 200 million in 20 years? As we thought about the number of campuses, buildings, staff, and money that would be required, we tried to come up with a calculation.

The average cost per baptism in the typical American  church is $1.5 million. Feel free to gasp in disbelief.

We calculated that each baptism at eLife costs $5,000. Using our current model, we realized that it would cost: $5,000 X 1,000,000 PEOPLE = $5,000,000,000
(5 billion dollars)!

It took us about 30 seconds to toss that idea.

Based on his research, John S. Dickerson concludes in his book The Great Evangelical Recession, 6 Factors That Will Crash the American Church and How to Prepare: “If we want to rebuild and restore a culture of discipleship, we have no choice but to release the way American church was done in the 20th century.”

Looking at our “1,000,000” number that we had written on a whiteboard, we asked if there was a strategy that could reach all of these people? As our team sat there, we knew…we had heard the stories…we had been reading books about them for months. We had even visited some of these places. But the stories weren’t from America. They were from India, Africa, and China.

Millions were coming to Christ. We couldn’t help but ask, Could God do the same thing here?

I remember receiving the annual report a few years ago from one of our church’s mission partners in India. According to the opinion of an outside research team, this movement had grown to between eight to 12 million baptized believers meeting in hundreds of thousands of house churches over the last 25+ years.

Remember the cost per baptism in the United States? $1,500,000. Guess what the cost per baptism is in this movement—66 cents.

During this process of prayer and fasting, I asked the Leadership Team to read three books. The Great Evangelical Recession, Spent Matches and Church Planting Movements. With these books and stories in mind, we knew there was a strategy that could take us to the million. It’s the strategy Jesus encouraged in the Gospels and the early church implemented in Acts.

DMM stands for Disciple Making Movement. This is a strategy that can lead to seeing God start a Church Planting Movement (CPM). Those who implement a DMM strategy measure success differently than the typical church in the West does. Success can be summed up in two words: generational discipleship. They measure whether disciples are making disciples who make more disciples who make more disciples. They don’t plant churches hoping to get disciples (which is what I did). They make disciples, and from those disciple-making efforts, churches are planted. It’s multiplication, not addition.

There are more than 1,035 active movements in the world today, and the average size of these movements is more than 75,000 believers.

The average size of a church in these movements worldwide is 18 believers, according to Justin Long of Beyond.

What are DMM churches like? One leader in a movement overseas said that he’d put these churches up against any church in the West, in terms of commitment to God’s
Word, church health, courage in the face of persecution or any other category.

Beyond, a missions-sending organization, has posted a series of videos corresponding to the CPM steps, which I’ve found helpful in giving an introduction to this strategy. You can see them at

After much prayer and discussion, the Leadership Team was united in the belief that the Lord wanted us to pursue a Disciple Making Movement strategy in the next 10 years. The next step was announcing it to the entire church at our upcoming 10 year anniversary service on September 10, 2017. We decided in the months leading up to the anniversary to do a few sermon series that would help the church understand the reason for this vision shift.

I told the church about our friends around the world who are seeing millions come to Christ. I emphasized that DMM invites every ordinary believer, not just pastors, to be a disciple-maker and church planter. I explained further how believers often refer to themselves as church planters in these movements around the world. They’ll say, “I’m a taxi driver to provide for my family, but I’m actually a church planter.” Or, “I’m a schoolteacher to make a living, but I’m actually a church planter.” They see it as their job to make disciples and to see churches planted.

Elephants vs. Rabbits

Imagine you have been asked to feed a village that is running out of food. Would it be better to give the people in the village two adult elephants or two infant rabbits? What would you say?

Rabbits reproduce so quickly and elephants so slowly that elephants could never produce as much food as the rabbits, not that you’d want to eat either, though!

Now think about this in terms of church strategies. Elephant churches are traditional American churches. They’re big, usually have a building, require lots of money and a staff. They are hard to reproduce. Rabbit churches are small, often meeting in homes. They are led by ordinary believers.

DMM author Jerry Trousdale said, “God bless elephant churches; they serve wonderful functions. But from every strategic perspective, mega-churches and even average-sized churches will never fulfill the Great Commission without a goal and plan to launch thousands of rabbit churches. Only a rabbit church has the ability to reproduce rapidly, thrive in a dangerous environment, and naturally facilitate obedience-based discipleship within every member.”

But that left us asking, What do we do with the elephant?

The weekend after our 10 year anniversary, I shared with our church the desire to leverage every ministry in our church to help accomplish this new vision. That meant things were going to change!

I remember getting on my knees one Saturday afternoon and saying to the Lord, “What do you want us to do on the weekends? We know that weekends aren’t essential in DMM, but could our weekends be helpful? You’re our Senior Pastor, and we want to hear from you!”

Prayer and Testimony

The first thing he brought to my mind was what I’ve heard over and over again during the la 20 years. Henry Blackaby, author of Experiencing God, has said it, and my
dad reminds me of it all the time: prayer and testimony are the fuel of revival.

Obedience-Based Discipleship/Training

The second thing God brought to my mind is this: movements don’t happen unless people are reading, obeying, and sharing the Word of God. Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 28:20: “Teach these new disciples to obey.”In movements overseas, it’s called obedience-based discipleship.

In our context, the word teaching doesn’t have the connotation of obedience at all. A better word, perhaps, if we want to communicate that we desire to teach to obey, is the word train. Training implies obedience or application.

I’d encourage you to think about this: We in the West move on once we’ve heard a Bible passage, regardless of whether anyone has obeyed it. We move on once we’ve learned, not once we’ve obeyed. That’s knowledge-based discipleship. With obedience-based discipleship, you don’t move on until you’ve obeyed.

As I was praying that day about how to leverage our weekends, prayer, testimony and training were three of the things I sensed the Lord saying to me. Our Campus Pastors agreed with this emphasis and began to design their weekend services around these elements.

A DMM Coach

As eLife began venturing into the world of DMM, I knew I needed a coach. I met Stan Parks and we knew he would be able to help us get started, avoid common mistakes
along the way, and answer our questions as we ran into difficult situations.

We asked Stan what he wanted us to do first. He said he wanted to take us through a 12-week DMM Catalyst Training. This training was based on principles God had used around the world, and Stan would just pass on biblical lessons the Holy Spirit had taught him through David Watson, Victor John, many other movement catalysts and personal study of Scripture. (See “Believing for the “Impossible”on this page.)

I said, “Great! Can you send it to me?” He said, “Nope.”

I asked, “Why not?”

Stan made it clear that this training was not information to be transferred but biblical principles to be obeyed. Because I come from a knowledge-based culture, my tendency would be to read the twelve lessons and think, Okay, I’ve got this; let’s move on. But, again, this wasn’t information; these were biblical principles he wanted to coach us to obey! That means you don’t even need to look at lesson two until you’ve obeyed the passage from lesson one. Stan told us that the Holy Spirit would speak to us as we took a fresh look at these Bible passages; he didn’t want to interfere with what the Holy Spirit wanted us to hear and obey.

Stan wanted us to see the DMM principles in Scripture so we’d be dependent on God, not on him.

Stan introduced the notion of the seven elements of “raising the sails” in our DMM training. He explained that these elements are found consistently in the lives of
ordinary believers who are successfully making disciples in these movements all over the world. 


Multiply Extraordinary Prayer

One element in “raising the sails” is Multiply Extraordinary Prayer. Stan said, “Your prayer life now is ordinary for you. Add something to it to make it extraordinary for you. Keep repeating the process.” So I issued a challenge. In a message to our staff, I said, “Let’s start praying every weekday for an hour rather than just once a week, much
like they started doing in the 1857–1858 Prayer Revival under the leadership of Jeremiah Lanphier.” After that, we started praying for one hour through lunch every day and for four to five hours every Sunday night.

Jerry Trousdale, author of The Kingdom Unleashed, wrote,

If we are going to see movements in the Global North, we will need to see a new, ongoing commitment to serious, intense, persistent prayer for God to open heaven, to raise up disciple makers and church planters, to guide us to His people of peace, and to empower our work. Without that, there will be no movements.

Go Out Among the Lost

Another element in “raising the sails” that Stan introduced to us is Go Out Among the Lost. Inspired by a story in Steve Addison’s book What Jesus Started, I contacted a friend of mine who was a Lubbock police officer and asked, “What neighborhoods are known to be the most dangerous in our city?” We were prompted to ask this question because one of the DMM principles we learned is to expect the hardest places to yield the greatest results and Steve shared a story about this in his book. We started prayer walking one of those difficult neighborhoods. See the story, “Knocking on Doors” in the article “Reaching the “PIPSY” People.

Casting Vision

Nine months prior to our 10 year anniversary, we started casting vision to people in our church whom we thought might be interested in participating in DMM training.

One of the great tragedies of the American church model, and it’s happened at our church too, is an attitude that results in suppressing the gifts, ambitions and callings of
ordinary believers. Churchgoers don’t typically hear the term disciple-maker and think, “that’s me!” or hear the term church-planter and think, that’s me!”

A great example comes from one of eLife’s DMM Church Planters. We cast vision to him, trained him, and then sent him out to train his team. Once he trained the team,
he and his team left our church and began to function as a DMM church. I asked him later how it was going. He said, “I feel like we were set free.”

We’ve got to recover the “culture of empowerment” of ordinary believers that was evident in the first-century church. Pastors and leaders, I implore you to join me in setting believers free to make disciples and plant churches!

The Transition: Counting the Cost

Transitioning a church to DMM is going to cost you. Just as Jesus encouraged the crowd in Luke 14 to count the cost before deciding to become his disciple, you need to
count the cost before engaging in DMM.

In The Kingdom Unleashed, David Broodryk, a pastor who embraced DMM, describes the process of pursuing DMM this way:

I really do think that entry into DMM is a death experience: unless the seed falls to the ground and dies, it can bear no fruit. But the problem is, you can’t risk failure without that; risking failure in itself is a sort of death experience. If who you are is dependent on whether this thing works or fails, then you will never take a risk. But if your identity is in Christ, then you say, “I’m going to try this; if it works, great, He gets the glory; and if it doesn’t work—well, it didn’t work, but I am still secure in Him.

Our entire staff experienced an identity crisis.

Pursuing DMM will cost you financially too. A ton of money walked out of our church.

I never thought I’d lead a church where we’d be celebrating people leaving. But, in truth, sending people out on a disciple-making mission is far more exciting than seeing
people sit comfortably in a chair each weekend, far from the people who need Jesus the most.

While losses can be painful, the good news is: God is pruning you so that you can bear more fruit. You will struggle with doubt, and likely face discouragement when people you’ve done ministry with for years decide to move on.

Jerry Trousdale warns us of the opposition that can come when we follow the Lord into a disciple-making vision: DMM practitioners have been ostracized from their denominations, have lost friends, have been vilified and slandered, all from within the Christian community.5

After casting vision for DMM and training people, we sent them out among the lost to places where Jesus had led them to go. Our DMM churches use the acronym PIPSY (derived from Matthew 25:31-46) to describe the places Jesus often leads us to go.

Going to PIPSY Places

The first P stands for “poor.” The I stands for “international.” The second P stands for “prisoner.” The S stands for “sick.” The Y doesn’t stand for anything— it just turns PIPS into an adjective.

Our teams have borne the most fruit going to PIPSY places to make disciples. See the article, “Reaching ‘PIPSY’ People.” Here is one story of what Jesus
has done through our outreach to PIPSY people.

The Sick

Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 10 and Luke 10 that when they entered a new area, they were to heal the sick and announce that the kingdom of Heaven was near.  Some of our teams have gone to hospitals to pray for the sick.

On one occasion, while doing this, one of the teams got lost while trying to get back and ended up in the burn unit. They met a family who had a loved one in that unit and the family wanted our team to pray with him. One of the family members pressed the button to get in and convinced the nurses to allow our team to come in to pray with the patient. They knocked on his door and more family members were sitting at his bedside.

The burn victim was in his sixties, and he had been injured a few days earlier in some kind of grease fire in his kitchen. The fire resulted in major burn wounds on his chest and arms, so bad that he couldn’t move his arms.

One of the members of the team, said, “I believe Jesus Christ has the power to heal you, and we’d like to pray for you. Is that okay?” The man nodded his head. They gently put their hands on the bandages on his arms and started praying. After the prayer was finished, one of the team members asked him, “How does it feel?”

The man lifted up his arms and started moving them around, and the family collectively gasped. Then he raised his arms above his head, and family members began crying right there by his bedside.

The Relaunch

When we announced the 1,000,000 in 10 years vision on our 10 year anniversary, all I could really even envision was “transition.” We were a large church and we were
transitioning to a new God-sized vision that would leverage everything at our church to reach the million.

And what happened in the two years following our “transition” is that people caught the vision we were casting! Hundreds went through our DMM training and some of those began to form DMM churches that met in their homes (much like the 50+ church planters we sent out on the 10 year anniversary). And those that we sent out began to pursue the lost, not by inviting them to Experience Life, but by inviting them and their family/friends to read and apply the Bible together in their home. The hope was that these Discovery Groups would commit their lives to Christ together and that many churches would be planted.

On the other hand, many others in our church prayed about it and sensed the Lord leading them to join other great churches in town. And by the way, we didn’t consider this a loss.

As a result of this “transition,” we were getting to both directly and indirectly “send” many people out from our church to the next assignment God had for them.

In the years following the 10 year anniversary, we began to realize that a day could come soon where our “leveraged” elephant ministries wouldn’t be needed anymore. They had accomplished the purpose for which they were leveraged. Namely, raising up workers to join us in making disciples and planting churches to reach the million!

We realized about 1.5 years into the “transition” that the Lord was, unbeknownst to us, actually using the “transition” to help us “relaunch” Experience Life as a network of DMM churches across the country. This wasn’t really on our radar at the beginning. While we thought it could be a possibility one day, it wasn’t something we were aiming for or setting goals toward. And we thought “one day” might be 10 or 20 years from now or more. We were just trying to follow the Spirit’s leading in making a “transition” and trusting that He’d then show us the next steps to take. And He did!

In the month before our 12 year anniversary, almost two years into the transition, our leadership met and we believed the Lord had made it clear that He wanted us to
“relaunch” soon. In order to do that well, we wanted to once again reorient the way we did our weekend gathering to give everyone the opportunity to come along. Instead
of sitting in rows of chairs, we put out tables and had a staff member sit at each table. And for six weeks, during the Sunday morning gathering, we modeled DMM church
and cast vision for being sent out together to form DMM churches across our city. Those six weeks were so powerful!

We were determined that if the Lord was leading us to “relaunch,” we were going to make sure everyone had the opportunity to understand the vision, ask questions, take time to pray and join us for the journey if that’s how the Spirit led. After those six weeks, we “officially” relaunched into DMM churches across our city and ceased having gatherings at our Downtown Campus on Sunday mornings. There were still many of us “gathering,” just not in a church building. Rather, we were gathering across our city in many homes. And these DMM churches weren’t just “gathering” in the traditional sense to sing some songs and hear a sermon. Their “gatherings” were more like missionary strategy meetings where they were praying, devoting themselves to Scripture and strategically planning how to take thegospel to parts of our city who need it most with the hope of seeing reproducing churches planted there.

One 16-year old girl that attends one of these DMM churches was asked by someone to describe the DMM church meeting. I loved her response. She said, “It’s a lot like the Book of Acts. Just go read that and you’ll understand.” There’s a lot of truth in that, though, from my own experience of being involved! In addition to gathering in homes on a regular basis, all of our DMM churches gather together at our Downtown Campus for prayer, testimony and training to encourage one another and celebrate what God is doing across our city (although not weekly, and not on Sundays).

During those six weeks of preparation for “relaunch” meetings, we were also encouraging our staff to begin forming or joining DMM churches. Many of them had not been in one yet because we still had gatherings on the weekends and most of the DMM churches met on Sunday mornings.

As our staff got involved in different DMM churches, you should’ve heard their reactions:

“How have I missed this all of my life?” 

“How could I ever do anything else?” 

“How could we ever go back?”

“How do we help everyone experience this?”

I think I can speak for most people who are involved in DMM churches by saying it’s one of the most unbelievable things I’ve ever been a part of. In so many ways it’s what I’ve always longed for in church. Not that I didn’t love our church, I did! It’s just what I pictured when I read the New Testament but felt like I’d never experienced. It’s what I heard about overseas but never truly understood. 

On an average week, just my DMM church alone will talk to almost as many lost people as our megachurch would receive as first-time guests on a weekend in our heyday. And there’s just 35 of us (including kids). It’s amazing what a small group of sold out, on fire disciplemakers can do when they strategize together and go out among the lost to make disciples and plant churches.

After forming my own DMM church and experiencing it for a few months now, I can say I better understand why the Holy Spirit would’ve used our transition to lead us to “relaunch.” I can see now how a church like Experience Life could make more disciples and plant more churches by focusing on training, coaching, and resourcing a network of many churches rather than trying to build one big megachurch of our own (Eph. 4:11-12). And that’s what we’re up to now. We’ve started churches not only in Lubbock, but also in other West Texas cities, other cities throughout Texas and even other cities around our country.

In the two years since our transition, we’ve had the privilege of training hundreds of pastors from across the country (and even in other countries). And many of these pastors sense the Spirit of the Lord leading their church on a similar journey and many are joining us. We could never have dreamed this up! People’s hunger to experience (and obey) what they’re reading in the New Testament is growing. So many feel convicted, like us, that it’s time to take the Great Commission seriously and not just talk about it, but get out and do it!

It’s so exciting having many churches join us for the journey. It affirms so much of what the Holy Spirit has told us to do because He appears to be speaking to many other churches in the same way.

And in looking back, of the 12 years that Experience Life has existed, I really believe these last two have been the most exciting and impactful!

I hope our story will inspire you to be led by the Spirit because He will take you to better places than anything you could’ve dreamed up. And you may not even have a framework for where He’ll take you now. But if you follow Him, He’ll show you just what to do. And chances are, He’ll do infinitely more than you could ask or imagine (Eph. 3:20-21). Just like he continues to do with us.

Our vision to see 1,000,000 disciples made in 10 years was never just about eLife. We know it is going to take many churches and organizations joining together to reach the million and ultimately the 200 million in our people group who need Jesus. If God is giving you a vision for movements in America as well, then let’s serve together! If there’s anything we can do to help you or your church with the journey you’re on, email us at [email protected] We’d be glad to help. Wouldn’t you love for a movement to break out in your region?

  1. David Garrison, Church Planting Movements: How God Is Redeeming a Lost World (Midlothian, VA: WIGTake Resources, 2004), 40.

  2. Garrison, 89.

  3.   Joshua Project, Country: United States, accessed September 26, 2018,

  4. Jerry Trousdale, Miraculous Movements: How Hundreds of Thousands of Muslims Are Falling in Love with Jesus (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2012), 116.

  5. Jerry Trousdale and Glenn S. Sunshine, The Kingdom Unleashed
    (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2018), 345.

This is an article from the January-February 2020 issue: Catching the Vision for Movements

Reaching “PIPSY” People

Reaching “PIPSY” People

Working Through the Schools

A teacher we knew in a school connected us with the social worker on-site who works with each of the families. I told her we were looking for families in the neighborhood whom we could serve. She was excited about our desire to help and said she had many children at the school whose families were deeply in need. She asked me, “How many families do you want?” She was willing to give us as many as we wanted to serve. I could hardly believe it.

I told her we’d like to start with five. Then I told her that we’d like to meet each family in their home, listen to their story, and see how we could help. All five families she contacted were eager for us to come and see them. They were PIPSY, after all.

We visited each family in their home, listened to their stories, asked them what their needs were and then we prayed for them. Our team would get together and brainstorm how we could best serve them and  then we’d start meeting needs.

As we met each family’s needs, we tried to gauge their spiritual interest. We knew their greatest need was a relationship with Jesus, and we tried to be discerning as to who was open to that.

For those who were spiritually interested, we would offer to train them to lead a Discovery Group with their family and friends.

We found that connecting with the school and getting into the homes of needy families in the school was by far the most fruitful means we had found for seeing groups start in that area.

Once we finished with the first five families, we asked for more and she eagerly gave us more. We never pressured anyone to do a Discovery Group. We were there to simply serve people, meet their needs and see who was interested.

Knocking on Doors—In the Worst Neighborhood

Another way we’ve gained access successfully into some of these PIPSY neighborhoods is by knocking on doors offering to pray for people. The schools were closed for the summer, so we needed a new point of entry.

My team would be the first to tell you that when I shared this idea with them they didn’t love it.

I told them I thought we should start with a certain apartment complex. It had the reputation of being one of the worst in the area. In fact, several people told me that it was where they used to buy drugs before they started following Jesus. They said, “You can get any drug in town in that place.” I thought  it seemed like the perfect place to start!

After we prayed together, before beginning to knock on doors, something happened that affirmed immediately we were supposed to be there. Carol pulled up. I recognized Carol immediately. She had stopped me at a gas station about a year ago and told me she had seen me on TV and asked me to pray for her. I prayed for her right there and didn’t figure I’d ever see her again.

She rolled down her window, and I walked up to the car and said hello to her. Surprised, I asked her, “Do you live here?” She had lived there for more than 10 years. I told her what we were doing there. She started telling us more about it and was able to point out the notoriously dangerous apartments. She said, “Do you guys see that apartment over there?” We said, “The third one from the left?” She replied, “Yes. That’s a drug house. People come in and out all the time buying drugs.”

We thanked her for the information, and my friend and I decided to knock on that door first. We were nervous, but DMM training taught us that the hardest and scariest places often yield the greatest results. We wanted to go to the hardest place in the apartment complex first. When we knocked on the door, Billy answered.

Billy had just gotten out of prison. He was in his sixties. We told him we were praying in the area and wanted to know if we could pray for him in any way. He stepped outside and told us that we could pray for him to get back on his feet again. We prayed for him and then continued to chat with him. We learned that the apartment actually belonged to Billy’s son, Joe. He was staying with Joe until he could get on disability and get his own place. My friend and I exchanged glances when we realized it was the son, not the dad, who was the gatekeeper in that apartment complex and possibly the chief drug dealer. We told him that we usually go out praying for people on Thursdays and that we’d come and see him again the next week.

Every Thursday morning, upon our arrival, Billy would see my car through his window and come outside to ask us to pray for him. We almost never had a chance to make it to his door. He’d chat with us for a bit, and when we’d ask him if there was anything we could do for him, he’d never ask for anything but prayer.

Each time we met with Billy, we tried to ask him more about his son, Joe. He’d tell us that his son was on the wrong path and that he wanted us to pray for him to get back on the right path. I asked him once if we could go and pray for his son, and he said that his son didn’t believe in God and probably wouldn’t be open to that.

One day when we visited the complex, Billy didn’t come right out, so we knocked on his door. Joe answered. He said his dad was in the shower and that he’d send him out when he was finished. Since this was the first time I had met Joe, I asked if we could pray for him. He turned us down but assured us that he’d send his dad out shortly.

Billy came out and had us pray for him. I continued to ask more about his son. I knew that we looked out of place in that apartment complex, so I asked him one day, “Is Joe okay with us being here on Thursdays?”

Since I knew Joe was probably the gatekeeper, much like a tribal village chief, I wanted to know what he thought about our presence. Billy told us that his son was cool with us being there, so I asked him to reassure Joe that we’re not the police and that we’re just there to be a blessing to the apartment complex.

We honestly believed that if someone gave us trouble Joe would come to our defense. Why? Because we made sure his dad was taken care of. Thanks to that relationship, it seemed we had Joe’s blessing to be there.

Once this relationship had continued for some time, we asked Billy, “What would you think about us training you to lead a Discovery Group in your home? We can help you, Joe, his wife and everyone else who comes  through your door to learn to discover more about God by reading, obeying and sharing his Word.” Billy seemed interested in doing that but told us he didn’t think Joe would feel the same way.

Also, Billy couldn’t read very well.

We told him, “How about this? We’re going to get you a speaker that will play the Bible, and then we’ll come on Thursdays and sit outside your apartment, listen to a passage with you, and teach you how to listen to God and obey him. How does that sound?” He said that sounded great.

Then I said, “Maybe you can invite some others from this same apartment complex to join us, and we can all listen to God’s Word and obey it together.” Billy agreed and mentioned some people he wanted to have come.

A week later we started the Discovery Group with Billy, and each week the group has grown. First it was just Billy. Then Billy and his neighbor Terry came. Then his other neighbor Tony came. Then his two other neighbors, Bob and Linda, came. Then others. In the first few weeks we taught the group the seven-question DBS process so they could eventually lead it on their own without our assistance. It is very exciting to watch the group begin to obey God together and share his Word with others. We regularly cast vision to this Discovery Group that God wants to use them to reach their entire apartment complex.

Even though Joe isn’t receptive yet, we still have a sense that he may be a Saul who is going to have a Paul-like conversion and that he will be instrumental in seeing that apartment complex follow Jesus, especially as he witnesses firsthand the radical transformation in his father’s life.

Carol connected us to Billy. And Billy connected us to his oikos to begin a Discovery Group. And it all resulted from knocking on the most dangerous door in that complex.

Henry Spreads DMM in Prison

In 2014, we launched our first Freedom Campus in the Lubbock County Detention Center.

After our 10 year anniversary, instead of just trying to draw men to a worship service on the weekend we started casting vision to them and training them to be disciple-makers. We’d suggest to them that they “go out among the lost” and start Discovery Groups. Perhaps those groups would become churches, and perhaps people in those churches would catch a vision to go back to some of their rough neighborhoods upon their release to make disciples and start churches there too.

Henry caught the vision to be a disciple-maker and go through our DMM training. Henry and the others in his training were challenged to go back to their pods and begin implementing the training. Soon after, Henry and one of the other inmates started a DG in pod 4D. This was done without assistance from us. We trained them and served as their coach but let them do the “work of the ministry” (Eph. 4:12).

One Sunday morning in the worship gathering, Henry stood and shared about how the DG was growing and their prayer times as a group were very powerful. He said there was only one problem. They couldn’t seem to keep their group meeting time under four hours!

Henry’s group meets every single day in that pod, and lives are being transformed. They’re so hungry and they just can’t get enough of hearing and obeying God’s Word and praying with one another.

In fact, Stan said one key hindrance to growth in movements is if the church gets the idea that they are only “supposed” to meet once a week.

Push Week

The eLife staff decided to devote a whole week to prayer, fasting, going out among the lost looking for Persons of Peace, and seeing Discovery Groups started. We called it a DMM Push Week. In those four days alone, our four teams were able to have 424 spiritual conversations, extend 121 DG invitations, and start 29 new groups. We were so encouraged we also decided to schedule even more DMM Push Weeks in the future.

Kasey’s Answered Prayer (Push Week)

We prayed together for two hours on Sunday night and then for another four hours on Monday before going out. We also fasted together as a staff all day Monday, prayed together for another hour each day and then had a testimony time on Friday from 1 to 2 p.m. to tell stories of what God did.

In addition to prayer and fasting, on Tuesday through Friday we went out among the lost for at least two hours each day. Every team went to a different area of town where we had already been working in previous weeks and mapped out a plan to blitz the area over the four days.
My team went back to Billy’s neighborhood.

I was teamed up with Phil, the finance director on staff at eLife. We went to the first apartment complex assigned to us and began to engage people in spiritual conversations.

In one of the apartment complexes we visited, we met a woman named Kasey. We had knocked on her door and when she answered, I introduced Phil and myself and then asked our usual question.

Kasey seemed excited we were there and then said to us, “You’re never going to believe this.” That got our attention. She said that she was talking to her mom just the day before about how she felt that they needed to “grow closer to God.” She said she went to her room later that afternoon and said a prayer. She told us that she prayed, “God, if you’re real, and if you care about my family, would you send me a sign that you’re real and that you care?” After telling us about her prayer, she pointed at us and said, “You are that sign.”

I was speechless. She had literally been waiting for us. She asked for a sign from God and He sent us to her front door the very next morning to offer to pray for her. She was eager for prayer. Then when we asked her about bringing her friends and family together for a DG, she started telling us who all she’d bring. We saw an oikos opening right before our eyes. We planned to start the DG the following week.

When we left Kasey’s apartment that day, I praised God for her responsiveness, but I felt a strong conviction from the Holy Spirit along the lines of Matthew 9:37–38: “Then He [Jesus] said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’ ”
People all over the world just like Kasey are the plentiful harvest Jesus talks about in these verses. They are ready to be harvested. They are spiritually open. They would be excited to receive the gospel if someone presented it to them. They’re waiting for workers to come and tell them.

Andrew and Kristin

Kristin and her husband, Andrew, are some of eLife’s most effective disciple-makers. They went through the first round of DMM training in the spring of 2017 and we commissioned them and sent them out as church planters at our 10 year anniversary. As of this book’s publication, they and their church have started several first-generation Discovery Groups, and they’ve even seen one second-generation Discovery Group started—and all of this in just six months or so.

In a recent coaching meeting I talked to Andrew and Kristin about going out among the lost and looking for Persons of Peace. What they told me blew me away. They said they’ve been going to Walmart twice a week to pray for people.

They do their personal shopping at other times, and the two weekly trips they mentioned are times they go with the sole intent to pray with people and try to find Persons of Peace.  I was surprised to hear that they go to Walmart a few extra times each week just to talk to people. I asked them how long they typically stay there praying for people. They told me they stay about two to three hours each time.

I almost fell out of my chair. Andrew and Kristin are ordinary people with full-time jobs. I asked Andrew and Kristin how many people they can pray for in a two to three-hour period. They said they typically pray for 45 people before they leave and that they’ve taught their daughter to pray for people too. With her help, it is easier to get to the 45.

I started laughing out loud! I was thinking, Who do they think they are, disciple-makers of Jesus or something? They said they just greet people at random and let them know that they are out praying for people. Next, they ask if they can pray for the person in some way.

They said that almost everyone responds positively and wants prayer. They told me that having gone through the DMM training, one thing they now ask people after they pray for them is, “Would you be interested in getting your family and friends together to discover more from the Bible about God and His plan for your life?”
I then asked how most people had responded to this question. Andrew said they have only started asking that question recently, but many say they’d love to. Then they exchange phone numbers.

I asked Andrew and Kristin what inspired them to start going to Walmart? They said that Phase One training was really instrumental in getting them out among the lost and that DMM training helped them see their time among the lost as an opportunity to find Persons of Peace and start Discovery Groups.

Andrew also said that he and Kristin try to take people with them as often as they can so they can train their friends to do this as well. Andrew said he’ll say to his friend, “Here, watch me do it, then you can do it next.” He said his friends are usually pretty nervous, but after they see him do it a few times, they’re usually open to trying it.
Andrew and Kristin are ordinary people who are fired up about Jesus, motivated by the Holy Spirit and trying to obey everything they read in God’s Word. 

This is an article from the January-February 2020 issue: Catching the Vision for Movements

Learning to do Church from the Mission Field

Learning to do Church from the Mission Field

The vision for Disciple Making Movements, powerfully demonstrated by over 1,035 of these growing movements, is now bursting forth from the mission field and impacting the ministries of existing churches around  the world. An amazing example of this is our cover story this time, namely, Experience Life, a church in Lubbock, Texas. The wonderful stories of growth and vision coming from Disciple Making Movements in various places around the world directly impacted the vision of Pastor Chris Galanos and his ministry team at eLife. Led by the Spirit and guided by wise counsel, they took the incredibly courageous step of transitioning their “very successful” megachurch to focusing on equipping their people to be disciplemakers and church-planters with the vision of reaching 1,000,000 people in their area over the next 10 years. Their ultimate goal is to partner with many others to catalyze movements that will ultimately impact over 200 million people in the United States. They are firmly convinced that God can launch  movements like this here. Read their amazing story starting on page 8. 

The American Dream for the American Church 

The dream of most American pastors is to achieve exactly what Chris Galanos did at Experience Life. Chris grew his church in just a few short years from 12 people  in his living room to a weekly attendance of thousands. He was at the pinnacle of success according to the generally accepted way that Americans do church. It is all very rational. With this growth came a commensurate financial blessing that would allow them to start all sorts of new programs to “minister” to many more people in their area. With all these new programs, the church would be able to attract even more people to “minister” to. They had found the “formula for success.” All they had to do was keep from messing up the formula and the future would be bright. It is the American Dream for the American church. And because this formula is so “successful” here, we should package this up and ship it off to every tribe, tongue and unreached people group. That is our job as Evangelicals, right? Well, unfortunately, this is exactly what the Evangelical movement has done. We have taken a Western form of doing church that doesn’t even work here and spread it all over the world including the unreached peoples. By going in with a Western form of doing church, we have all too often alienated the vast majority of people we have come to reach with the good news of the gospel. See our March-April 2018 issue for more on this. In addition, there is an inherent problem with our American model of doing church that is causing problems here too. 

Movements: The Only Way Forward

The problem, as Chris Galanos and his team discovered, is that no matter how effective a pastor is, this American form of doing church is simply incapable of reaching everyone within a people group. To reach an entire people with the gospel you need an approach that focuses on training disciple-makers and church-planters in exponentially increasing numbers to go out to the lost, not to wait for them to come to us. Our focus in the West is on how many spectators, audience  members and passive/dependent people we can attract on a Sunday morning. These people are generally not being equipped to effectively reach others as disciple-makers. When you have an exponentially growing number of disciple-makers and multiple streams of reproducing churches past the fourth generation, we call that a movement and only movements can effectively reach an entire people group. A relative handful of pastors gathering as large a group of spectators as possible simply cannot get the job done. As Chris recounts in our lead article, on average every baptism in the U.S. costs $1.5 million. In at least one Disciple Making Movement surveyed, it’s around 66 cents. There is just not enough money in the world to reach every person in every people group using our Western methods. The global Church needs to realize as Chris and his team did, that we must embrace DMM methods of ministry if we are to have any hope of providing access to the gospel to every person within every people group. Disciple Making Movements (a.k.a. CPMs and Kingdom Movements) are the only way it can be done.

God led Chris and his team to believe that it was possible to reach 1,000,000 people in their area because they had seen what God is doing through some of the 1,035 Known Kingdom Movements we are tracking today. May these movements also inspire the rest of us to  bold action on behalf of Kingdom Movements in every people and place, including here in the U.S. 

DMM: Not for the Faint-Hearted 

As C. Anderson makes clear in her marvelous article starting on page 23, Disciple Making Movements require an all-in commitment to make them work. DMM is not just a new way to do Bible study or lead a small group. It requires an all- consuming vision for multiplication of disciple-makers and church-planters that is pursued with unstoppable  determination. This is why Chris Galanos and Experience Life have seen success in their DMM efforts. They have a God-sized vision and they are pursuing it with everything they have. They refuse to let go of their vision for a movement. One lesson of movements is that many fail in their first efforts. Anderson says in her article, “Most people who have successfully launched DMMs have had numerous failed attempts.”

This is great encouragement for those who have struggled to start a movement to not give up. Keep pressing forward believing that in time God will bring the fruit. There is nothing easy about starting a  movement and it may require more than a lot of us feel we are able to give, but the reality is that if we want to see every person in every people group have access to the gospel, there is no other way that will work. 

A Vision Reborn

eLife’s decision to completely change their model of doing ministry was not a sudden decision born of passion. It was a conviction that God had begun building in pastor Chris Galanos’ mind and spirit over many years. As a young man in college he took the Perspectives course. God was,  even then, beginning to lay a biblical foundation for his ministry. Pastor Galanos describes the evolving process this way. 

“In my last semester of seminary classes I took a class called Church Planting. One of the first books we read in the class was called Starting Reproducing Congregations. Later that semester our class attended a church-planting conference. As they talked about “simple churches” at this conference, I was astonished. The leaders of simple churches were ordinary people. You didn’t even have to have a seminary degree. I was shocked because I had been under the impression that a seminary degree was necessary to do anything in ministry. Simple churches were reproducible and could multiply quickly. 

I remember sitting there at that conference and hearing the Lord whisper to me, ‘I want you to start a church like that.’

We moved back to Lubbock in March 2007 and started a small group meeting in our home. Soon we outgrew our home and moved into multiple homes. Then we started meeting monthly in a skating rink.

Although the church started pretty simply, and was therefore reproducible, as time went on things began to shift.  Our small church went from simple to anything but. As we moved out of houses and into the skating rink, crowds showed up. The explosive growth was exciting, but it wasn’t simple. The church had lost its ability to reproduce easily.”

God did not give up on Chris Galanos when his church ceased to be reproducible. God had already laid the foundation and Chris was available and listening to the Holy Spirit when He began to direct eLife back to the original vision He gave Chris in seminary. As you read our lead article, you will see that God used various books and people to lead his church to a new vision. It was rooted in what God had already revealed years before, but it was also new and fresh—founded on the “new thing” God is doing through movements today. Chris was faithful, available and teachable by the Holy Spirit. And that is what made this massive shift possible.

Now, eLife and its network of DMM churches is an inspiration to all the churches out there that want to make disciples who disciple others and dream of movements in their midst, not just getting enough people through the doors so they can pay the salaries and keep the lights on. If you would like to start your own journey to DMM and would like some help, feel free to e-mail Chris Galanos and his team at [email protected]

Praise God for Wonderful Progress—1035 

Have you been watching that number on our cover? Have you noticed that it has continued to increase? One year ago there were 661 Known Kingdom Movements. Today there are 1,035 of them. That is a 56.5% increase in just one year. Pray with me that God would use you and me and millions like us to help catalyze movements to Christ in every people and place.

This is an article from the January-February 2020 issue: Catching the Vision for Movements

DMMs—More Than a Fad or Amazing New Strategy

DMMs—More Than a Fad or Amazing New Strategy

I’m a little concerned that DMMs are becoming a fad … a popular idea lots of people get excited about without having any idea what is involved in launching and sustaining one. “I’m doing DMM!” they declare before understanding what that means.

It’s not that I don’t want more people to start DMMs. On the contrary! I would that every Christian understood DMM principles and began applying them in their lives, that every church worked to morph into a multiplying movement of disciples making disciples.

Starting a DMM is no cakewalk though. It’s a lot more like running a marathon than a stroll in the park. Determining in your heart that you are going after multiplication growth requires deep commitment and no small portion of perseverance.

That is not to say we shouldn’t go after them. We must. But we need to know what we are getting into. We need to be crystal clear on our motivations. It’s got to be a lot more than because it sounds cool, or that we’re dissatisfied with our current expression of church.

In a previous issue, I wrote an article entitled, “Zealous for the Things That Matter.” I began addressing this issue there. Let’s unpack it further from a different angle.

Failed Attempts and Painful Losses

Most people who have successfully launched DMMs have had numerous failed attempts. They’ve suffered painful losses. The compelling vision to start a movement of Jesus followers has transformed them into people who live on their knees in prayer.

They’ve been tempted to give up on this dream time and time again. Experiencing betrayal, persecution, and opposition from within and without, they’ve wanted to quit. They cannot. They keep going, keep pursuing the dream of seeing thousands swept into the kingdom in a supernatural, organic way. Until, almost by surprise, it begins to happen.

They turn thankful hearts upward in an offer of praise to God. Is this taking place? What we’ve dreamed, cried, and prayed for?

DMMs are a God thing. Only He can make them happen. We must understand, however, that they require a lot of those who decide to partner with God to see one released too.

What Is a DMM Anyhow?

Let’s make sure we’re talking about the same thing. What is a DMM anyhow?

Some people seem to think a DMM is a Bible study group. I’ll be honest. This misunderstanding annoys me. A DMM is a lot more than a small group that meets weekly to study the Word. A DMM is a grass-roots movement. Thousands of indigenous disciples making disciples, passionately on fire for God, transformed and “in love” with Jesus, training others to know, love and follow Him too.

For a more technical definition of DMM see my website or various other resources.

Before You Sign Up - Count the Cost

My husband and I are runners. We’re not good runners. No hopes of being written up in any runners’ magazines or offered any sponsorships. It’s unlikely we will ever win awards or prize money. But we’ve finished many races. We’ve run with endurance the races set out before us.

That is enough for me. That’s success. As a distance runner, you need to know your why. Otherwise, it’s easy to quit. You start well. You buy fancy running shoes, download the running app on your phone and declare, “I’m going to run a marathon!” Months of pounding the pavement later, you wonder, “Why am I doing this again?”

Before my husband and I sign up for a race, we count the cost. How much are we traveling in the months before the race? Can we put in the training time needed to be successful? Starting your DMM race means counting the cost (Luke 14:28-29). We must ask ourselves, are we ready to do what it takes to partner with God in this incredible (though rewarding) task?

A Divine Partnership

DMMs are indeed a partnership between God and us. He invites us into His purpose and passion. The Lord places a vision in our hearts to see the multiplication and growth of His Kingdom among the unreached. He will do incredible miracles. We will have divine appointments with Persons of Peace. He will convict of sin and transform lives.

We do the hard work of abundant gospel sowing, prayer and being willing to change our paradigms. Adjustment in our ways of working into something simple, reproducible, indigenous and organic will be needed. We love sacrificially, pouring our lives into people. Stepping out of our norms, we learn to do things differently. As we do this, God breathes life into our feeble attempts to make disciples who will make disciples.

It’s a partnership. God works a lot, but so do we.

Five Necessities as We Partner With God to Run this DMM Race

  1. Our motivation must be clear.

As mentioned above, you absolutely must know why you are doing this. Be sure it is more than just a desire to be involved in something different from the norm. That will be there for sure, but it won’t be enough. A passion for God’s glory must pulse in your veins. A love for lost people, placed there by Him, will motivate you to press through the messy middle every movement effort has.

  1. Our conviction must run deep.

Along with the clarity of motivation, as we partner with God to start movements, we need a strong biblical understanding of how the gospel spread in the New Testament. It is the Word of God that brings deep conviction in our hearts. If you are convinced that Scripture commands us to make disciples who obey all of Christ’s commands, including the Great Commission, you will be able to stand. All God’s people reaching all peoples is a biblical imperative. The priesthood of every believer must be more than an idea to you. It can’t be a philosophy or theory. You must believe it and put it into action in how you disciple others.

  1. Our commitment must be unwavering.

I often tell those I train that the most important quality in a church-planter or disciple-maker is perseverance. On the road to launching a Disciple Making Movement, your commitment will be regularly tested. How much are you ready to give up to see this happen? What sacrifice will you say is just too much?

When other pastors call you a heretic, will you quit? When persecution increases and your most promising emerging leader is martyred, will you throw in the towel? When you prayer walk for weeks, months, or even years without yet finding the Person of Peace, will you decide enough is enough?

Your endurance will be tested, as it was with every other movement leader before you.                                    

  1. Passion must burn until it drives you to take risks.

Without faith, it is impossible to please God. (Heb. 11:6). Without risk-taking, faith is rarely demonstrated. I once heard a speaker say faith is spelled R-I-S-K. I couldn’t agree more. Our faith must be demonstrated by action.

Starting a movement will require you to step out of the familiar and into new territory. It will mean a willingness to step forward into new things and to experience God in new ways.

  1. God wants the glory. Humility is necessary.

I am continually amazed at how God works through weak and broken people. He works in spite of us. Yet it is so easy, when success does come, to begin to think it’s because of us. We did this right, or applied that principle better than the other guy. That’s a sure-fire way to destroy a movement. God is zealous for His glory. He deserves the praise for every breakthrough. Every forward step you are able to make is because of His grace. Are You Sold Out?

I coach people at various levels of DMM engagement. My online course Getting Started in Disciple Making Movements: Even if You are Busy, Can’t Speak the Language Well and Have No Money lays out a step by step approach to beginning that first group. I train people in the basics needed to get started. Follow the steps and put them into practice and you will certainly move forward.

Some who have taken my course are just beginning their first groups. Some have yet to find that Person of Peace. Others I coach and train are seeing many generations of groups multiply. They face complex issues with emerging leaders: groups that start and fail, spiritual and physical opposition or persecution. Everyone I’ve trained has faced, or will face, moments of great challenge.

I’m not trying to discourage you from DMMs. I do want you to count the cost. They are more than a fad or nice idea. They aren’t for the faint of heart. DMMs are for radical, sold out, deeply committed Jesus followers who are ready to lay down their lives for the sake of seeing thousands of lost people come into His arms of love.

Are you willing to do what it takes? To be transformed by this glorious effort to bring His kingdom to places where it isn’t yet established? If your answer is “yes,” by God’s power express that to God right now. Join me and breathe a prayer saying, “Here I am Lord. I’m in! Use my life to release your purposes. I’m crying out to you. Launch a Disciple Making Movement through me.”







This is an article from the November-December 2019 issue: What Happens When Everything is Missions?

When Everything is Missions

A Review by James Mason

When Everything is Missions

“You keep using that word; I do not think it means what you think it means.” Any respectable connoisseur of American film recognizes this quote from Inigo Montoya in the 1987 romantic comedy The Princess Bride. Throughout the movie, the Sicilian boss and hot-air artist, Vizzini, repeatedly describes the unfolding events as “inconceivable.” Eventually Montoya, the personable swordsman, points out the obvious—when you keep using a word in so loose a fashion you eventually stop making much sense!

Much like the intelligent Montoya in The Princess Bride, Denny Spitters and Matthew Ellison in their book When Everything is Missions, bring to the surface the state of confusion surrounding the term missions and its variations. They observe that a rampant embrace of “missional” language in the Body of Christ, while helpful in some regards, has led to an unfortunate or even tragic disconnect from the biblical mandate to make disciples of all peoples and plant churches cross-culturally. Words and definitions matter. Unless we are clearer about our words and definitions, we risk making the tragic mistake of missing the specificity, and by default, the priority, of God’s essential purpose.If we’re going to be missional, we’d better learn what it means that God has a mission! Spitters and Ellison point out that this is an innately biblical pursuit. When we’re not biblical in our broadest frame of reference, our activity boils down to personal passions rather than God’s revealed purpose or direction. The many varieties of Christian activity such as personal evangelism, helping the poor and serving the local church are all biblical but are not God’s central purpose. Rather, they are outcomes of his purpose, of His mission. God’s mission is to be known and worshiped among all peoples. This purpose is worked out through the sending of His Son who is to be declared among the nations.

While the authors do embrace Christian ministries that pursue social transformation, they see true transformation as dependent on the prior existence of Christ followers in every culture. Spitters writes:

To cross the barriers that missions requires, we must bring significant focus and special emphasis in the Church to making disciples resulting in churches. Without this regular and specific emphasis on “making disciples of the nations,” the needs and outreach of the local church will always, quite naturally, receive the greatest attention of our efforts…while the voices of those with no access become a distant memory until next year’s “Mission Sunday.”

In other words, fully equipped disciples in every nation is the priority outcome.

The priority outcome! This one concept alone stands in contrast to ministry activists whose mandates for action might, if we’re honest, be derived from rabid passion for quick success stories and adventurism. The pursuit of the priority outcome often requires a long obedience in the same direction. Unfortunately, many pastors and churches find it much easier to pursue project-based strategies, both locally and cross culturally, whose benefits are far more for the success of the church and credibility of the church leaders. If we can say “we’re global,” “we’re missional,” “we help people,” then we are good pastors, good churches and good Christians. This cannot be our goal. If we are passionate about transformation, our ultimate pursuit must be the gospel within every people. Spitters and Ellison remind us that when the work of missionaries has focused on the priority outcome—one centered in seeing obedient, worshiping communities of Jesus followers emerge where they didn’t previously exist—we see the most overall transformation. This includes economic development, health improvement, infant survival, societal justice, literacy, benefit to women, and local ownership of problem solving. Truly, “making disciples who birth the local church is the key to both evangelism and social transformation.”

While some will certainly be uncomfortable with the narrow specificity of missions defined in this book, the inflated distortions of biblical mission are potentially far more devastating. Ellison spends well-placed effort illustrating the detrimental effects when Christians with weak concepts of missions encounter organizations or leaders who peddle equally weak frameworks. In one example, we see finances directed to schemes which pay “native missionaries” who aren’t even missionaries! Aside from the devastating dependency this creates, it also wallows in an ideology of “proxy” mission where comfortable Westerners exempt themselves from the biblical identity of being “the sent out ones.” Ellison provides numerous other examples of so-called mission activity, some of which are clearly unethical or deceptive, such as calling something global when it’s clearly local. Other activities such as children’s outreach or Christian radio can be applauded and supported, but should not be confused with the essential task of discipling the nations. Conflating all ministries into the missions bucket leaves a massive imbalance of effort and prioritization applied toward those without any access to the knowledge of Jesus.

When Everything is Missions leaves us with the exhortation and fundamental tools to pursue the critical soul searching required of thoughtful, caring and biblical Christians. This soul searching is multi-faceted. Inwardly it calls each of us to be an audience to our own motives and passions which unexamined may or may not line up with the desires and passion of God. Soul searching also includes evaluating the soul of the Church itself. We are defined by our priorities which are expressed in what we actually do. The church must be evaluated by its faithfulness to God’s priorities and by its tenacious stand against mission drift. Spitters and Ellison leave us with practical ways to pursue and live out a well prioritized mission vision. These range from the somewhat inward disciplines of prayer, repentance and reclaiming mission but they also include practical alignments with God’s mission—embracing ministries such as mobilization, giving, training and organizing.

Above all, soul searching must include the pursuit of biblical clarity and obedience. In one excellent example, the authors discuss the “deadly sin of sequentialism” or our tendency, based on a misinterpretation of Acts 1:8, to exempt ourselves from cross-cultural or “ends of the earth” efforts. We do this, because we believe we must first focus on “our Jerusalem” and miss, or disregard that “the vision for a ministry to all nations was to be a part of all discipleship and church-planting efforts from the very beginning.” In compelling fashion, Spitters and Ellison exhort us to

renewed and reinvigorated commitment to the biblical, apostolic, missionary model and vision that fueled the apostle Paul, Barnabas and Silas and that has propelled the expansion of the Church throughout the last 2,000 years – that the gospel must reach those who have never heard (Rom. 15:20).

In a world of tribal knowledge and utilitarian confusion about missions, Spitters and Ellison provide us with a conceptual and practical grounding in the beautiful essence of God’s missional heart and activity. If shared with  Christian leaders and passionate believers, it will be a meaningful contribution to the great cause of seeing God worshiped and followed in every place and people on earth.

These thoughtful writers and leaders also embrace the difficult conversations that still must take place in missions. Certainly, we would all benefit from more clarity on the pros and cons of church-based sending and the role of agency partnerships in a culture that some missiologists evaluate as containing excessive and culturally bound church localism. We should also study pressure of success models that Western churches and pastors experience. This may help relieve us from the trap that missions, however people like to define it, is often a password that gives us a distorted credibility. Spitters and Ellison welcome these conversations and many others. They’ve even created a publicly viewable platform for discussion with top mission leaders—check out The Mission Table at www.

When Everything is Missions is an accessible little book that, like Inigo Montoya, remind us that words should mean something—particularly the word missions. But this book does much more. It gently exposes a sensitive issue—Christians are missing a biblical paradigm to guide our motives, our understanding and our strategies. Biblical paradigms don’t come through practical utilitarian plans to fix the world; they are revealed to us in the outworkings of a God who is fulfilling His mission. Our greatest need is to be formed and molded in this paradigm. We need to be discipled. Few Christians take the time to explore in depth the idea that we have a great God, who is fulfilling a great purpose, to form a great people from among all peoples, for His ultimate glory. Maybe the Church needs to slow down its missional activism just enough to reacquaint itself with this foundational story. Once we encounter and respond to this revelation, we will be blessed and we will be a blessing.



This is an article from the November-December 2019 issue: What Happens When Everything is Missions?

Year of the Frontier Prayer Calendars

November-December 2019

Year of the Frontier Prayer Calendars

To download the Year of the Frontier Prayer Calendars, select the pdf icon within this article.

This is an article from the November-December 2019 issue: What Happens When Everything is Missions?

How to Keep the Unreached Peoples…Unreached?

How to Keep the Unreached Peoples…Unreached?

I want to thank Rebecca Lewis for her marvelous work on the Sept. Oct. 2019 issue of MF dealing with the “Death Industries.” She did a great job of research that will give fuel to evangelical efforts to rescue those perishing at the hands of these malevolent global forces.

This topic is very personal to me because I am one whose life has been deeply impacted by these “Death Industries.” Like many families around the world, alcohol and tobacco have done incalculable damage to my family and my wife’s family. My mother died prematurely from smoking and my twin brother and I have suffered with eyesight problems all our lives because my mother smoked while pregnant with us. My wife suffered verbal and physical abuse and neglect while growing up with a single, alcoholic mother.

The carnage wrought by the “Death Industries” needs to stop. We as followers of Jesus must do whatever we can to stop the suffering and death of millions of precious individuals as we work to bring the gospel to the lost, both locally and globally.  Again, many thanks to Rebecca Lewis for her landmark work in this area.

The Greatest Threat to the Mission of the Church

The most critical issue facing the mission of the Church today is the lack of clarity and understanding of what Jesus has asked us to do in Matt. 28:18-20, often referred to as the Great Commission. Answering the critical question of what is the central missionary task will determine what progress can be made.

According to George Barna’s research, (see pages 14–15 for a summary of his research) a whopping 51% of all church goers have never heard of the Great Commission and only 17% can correctly identify the passage and its meaning. This is appalling! Even more troubling is that this ignorance is growing with each successive generation of believers. Only 10% of millennial believers have heard of the Great Commission.

This massive ignorance is crippling the mission of the Church. Every pastor should start teaching the Matt. 28, “Great Commission” passage, and not stop, until the majority of believers understand what Jesus has called us to do. Our central identity as followers of Jesus is inextricably tied to what Jesus has asked us to do. As Jesus followers, our true identity is as bearers of Christ’s mission to disciple all the peoples of the earth. Of course, there is a catch; this assumes that the pastors themselves understand what this passage means. Unfortunately, many do not, and that is what this issue of MF is all about.

This ignorance along with the continually shifting definitions of what “missions” means, have resulted in many church leaders saying that, “Everything is missions and every believer is a missionary.” I am sure that these leaders mean well and are sincerely trying to get their congregants to take seriously the need to reach out to the lost in their midst, but a lack of clarity about the mission Jesus gave us is killing the Church’s ability to clearly focus its efforts and resources upon the critical task of fostering Kingdom Movements of discipleship and church planting within all peoples. When these leaders say that “everything is missions,” then any clear definition of the remaining missionary task becomes impossible, because everyone has their own definition centered upon that particular ministry they care about, not what Jesus has called us to do in Matt. 28.  If everything is missions, then nothing is missions.  If any destination will do, then any road and any vehicle will get you there.

In our lead article renowned author/pastor David Platt talks about what happens when pastors equate missions with their own local outreach or evangelism. “An emphasis on ‘your mission field’ can cause unhelpful tunnel vision such that you focus on the people/place right around you to the exclusion of people/places far beyond you. If we all just focus on ‘our mission field’ right around ‘our churches,’ then over 2 billion people will continue to be born, to live and to die without ever hearing the gospel. We need to see the world as our mission field.” In order to put local ministry into its proper context we need to understand what that larger context is.  In Matt. 28:18-20 Jesus calls all of us to go and make disciples. All of us have been called to obey the Great Commission and be disciple makers—teaching them to obey all that Jesus has commanded, including the command to make disciples. Multigenerational discipleship is inherent in the Great Commission. All of us are to live “on mission” with God to make disciples wherever God places us. But that does not make us all missionaries. In Acts 13 the Holy Spirit called out Paul and Barnabas in Antioch for the specific purpose of going cross-culturally to Gentiles. The Holy Spirit sent them, not to their own people or culture, but cross culturally to peoples that were not Jewish.

Likewise, today the Holy Spirit is calling people to leave their language and culture to become disciple-makers and church-planters in people groups near and far. As they go and the rest of us faithfully support them in their efforts, we are all faithfully fulfilling what Jesus has asked us to do to in Matt. 28. But if the majority of believers have no idea what Matt. 28:18–20 means, then they will have no idea that missionaries going out to foster movements in the unreached peoples should be fully supported with their prayers and finances. They can become involved in local needs and neglect God’s highest priority, that He would be worshipped and given glory by all peoples. If we have a proper understanding of what Matt. 28:18–20 means, then we can put what we do locally into its proper context and it will provide the motivation to do both local evangelism cross-cultural outreach to the unreached peoples.

David Platt provides some helpful clarity to the task Jesus gave us.

He [Jesus] has clearly commanded us not just to make disciples among as many people as possible, but to make disciples of all the nations, among all the peoples (Matt. 28:18–20; Luke 24:47). This, after all, is the ultimate purpose of God in history: to save men and women from every nation, tribe, and tongue for His glory (Rev. 5; 7:9ff.). Therefore, every follower of Jesus and every leader in the church should live to see every nation reached with the gospel. If we’re not focused on reaching those not yet reached, then we are either disregarding or disobeying the Great Commission.

The best way to keep the unreached peoples unreached, is to keep calling all that the church does “mission,” and every believer a missionary and thereby keep people from understanding what the true missionary task is that Jesus has called us to obey.

We Need Your Ongoing Support as Vision Casters

Mission Frontiers exists to cast the vision and provide the resources to foster Kingdom Movements in every people and place so that every person may have access to the lifesaving gospel of Jesus Christ as soon as possible. But we cannot do this without the partnership of you, our readers. Producing Mission Frontiers six times a year is not inexpensive. There are fixed costs that must be met regardless of how many subscribers we have. Subscriptions and advertising do not cover our expenses. We need people who believe in what we are doing and are willing to come alongside us in the following ways.

Prayer: We need people to pray for the success of our mission to mobilize the global church to focus on fostering Kingdom Movements in all peoples and places.  I need your prayers for strength, wisdom and godly insights for each issue of MF. The enemy of our souls would like to silence us because our message is a direct threat to his territory among the unreached peoples.

Donate: We need your donations— both large and small—if we are to cover our costs and then go on to expand this ministry into other languages. We need committed regular support from the many readers who believe in this work. Just recently we received a donation of $10,000 from an individual who said, “You are changing the world.” Indeed, we are working on doing just that. A church who believes in what we are doing  also sent in $10,000. We need many more churches and individuals like this. But even if you can only afford $25 or $30, every little bit helps.  To give, please go to click, on the Donate button and put MA 030 in the dialog box.

Share: The farther the material in MF spreads, the better it is for accomplishing our mission. We give free permission for people to reprint material that originates with MF and is not reprinted from another source. We only ask that you give us source credit. On our website we have PDFs of each article and issue. Please download these PDFs, print them and share them with others. Every time you do you help to accomplish our mission.

Thank you.

This is an article from the November-December 2019 issue: What Happens When Everything is Missions?

Seeing from Another Perspective

Seeing from Another Perspective

Last Saturday morning, I was listening to a three-year-old chapel message from Dallas Seminary as I fixed one of the sprinklers in my yard. Célestin Musekura was there from Rwanda doing his PhD and spoke during their global missions week. He leads the African Leadership and Reconciliation Ministries, growing out of the Rwandan genocide in the 90s. As he shared stories about how the genocide unfolded, it was clear that it did not start in 1994. That is when the rest of the world heard about the killing of what was later estimated to range from 500,000 – 1,000,000. It started at least four years before, as extremists in the country, began to emphasize ethnic divides between Hutus (the ruling party) and Tutsis. These are not the usual folks we think of when we use the term “extremists.” But they did what extremists do when they hate another culture: they dehumanize them by stoking fears – in this case, on the radio. Day-by-day it became easier for one to kill those they considered non-human. This was even more painful when you realize that most of these are cultures that speak the same language, intermarry, live next to each other, work sideby-side and go to church together.

What? Did I mistype that? You see these extremists were “Christians.”

Almost 89% of the country are Christians, with 26.2% being Evangelicals. Among the Hutus, who led the killing, 90% were Christians (28% Evangelicals). Among the Tutsis—who were involved in retribution killing months later—it was 95% (20% Evangelicals).Célestin said many in Rwanda were merely “baptized pagans.”

A couple days before I heard from Célestin, I was listening to the President of Asbury Seminary, Dr. Timothy Tennent, who served in India and has ministered extensively around the globe. His observation from a global perspective was simple and clear: “Christendom has the ability to produce vast numbers of nominal Christians. That’s what Christendom does best. It’s like a huge, nominal Christian machine.”

I began to wonder about the latest mass-shootings in the U.S. Are we doing much better than Rwanda? In the U.S. we are 77.5% Christian – 26.82% Evangelical.

We have always known that many people who go to church may not be “true believers.” You cannot always determine it by “their fruit.” After hearing from Dr. Musekura I read in the L.A. Times about a church in California that praised the shooting and killing of 50 in the gay bar in Orlando. Their website says: “No sodomite (homosexual) will be allowed to attend or join xyz (independent) Baptist Church.”

Did you see that? Not even attend! I wonder if they will let in an adulterer? 

If those are the kinds of Christians we have, no wonder the world is confused by our message. It makes you ask the questions: What are believers from the U.S. or elsewhere taking around the globe? What are we producing?

Before this, I was preparing for a presentation about refugee work and how we can reach out to those among us. I looked again at 1 Kings 8, where Solomon prays to dedicate the temple. He prays a lot of profound, wise prayers for the people and in worship—read it again! In verse 41 he turns to the foreigner “who does not belong to your people.” At this point in the biblical story, Israel’s kingdom is at its height. The temple was just completed. Do you remember what Solomon prays?

He deeply desires that these nonIsraelites “will hear of Your great name and Your mighty hand and Your outstretched arm….” His prayer may have been lost in the sad history that followed and the ethnocentrism we see growing in the gospels. But note, he is praying for exactly what happened to you and me as the gospel flowed from Israel to us.

What would happen if we prayed and acted accordingly… all over the world? What would happen to any extremists if even they were treated lovingly? I pray that all true disciples of Jesus will follow His most basic summary of the OT Law: Love God and love your neighbor. That is the command…no matter what background that neighbor is from.


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This is an article from the November-December 2019 issue: What Happens When Everything is Missions?

We Are Not All Missionaries, But We Are All on Mission!

We Are Not All Missionaries, But We Are All on Mission!

Over years of ministry you regularly speak and declare the centrality of missions to unreached and unengaged peoples as the primary missions focus of local churches. What is the foundation of your prophetic challenge to the local church?

Jesus’ words. He has clearly commanded us not just to make disciples among as many people as possible, but to make disciples of all the nations, among all the peoples (Matt. 28:18-20; Luke 24:47). This, after all, is the ultimate purpose of God in history: to save men and women from every nation, tribe, and tongue for His glory (Rev. 5 7-9ff.). Therefore, every follower of Jesus and every leader in the church should live to see every nation reached with the gospel. If we’re not focused on reaching those not yet reached, then we are either disregarding or disobeying the Great Commission.

 For the past 50 years or more many believers have exited church doors and parking lots to a sign saying “You are now entering your mission field.” Can you give us the good, the bad and the ugly of that phrase?

The good: we are indeed commissioned by Christ to live on mission wherever we go, and that starts wherever we live, work and play.

The bad: An emphasis on “your mission field” can cause unhelpful tunnel vision such that you focus on the people/place right around you to the exclusion of people/places far beyond you.

The ugly: If we all just focus on “our mission field” right around “our churches,” then over two billion people will continue to be born, to live, and to die without ever hearing the gospel. We need to see the world as our mission field.

How has the identification of every sincere viable ministry of the church as “missions” and calling every disciple a “missionary” been unhelpful to global missions efforts? How might you describe or illustrate the difference between one’s daily witness as His disciple to those of a missionary? Since we are all “sent” (John 20:21) isn’t every believer a missionary?

Absolutely, every follower of Jesus has been sent, commanded, and empowered to make disciples of Jesus. In this sense, we should see every facet of our lives in the context of mission. We see this all over the New Testament (arguably all over the Bible!). We are all disciple-makers on mission in the world, regardless of where we live. And even local ministry should ultimately be aimed at global mission (seeing disciples made among all the nations).

At the same time, we also see a clear picture in a place like Acts 13 where the Holy Spirit sets apart some (not all...actually only a couple of people in the church at that time) to go where the gospel had not yet gone. Paul and Barnabas are sent out by the church specifically to proclaim the gospel and plant the church where the gospel hadn’t gone and the church didn’t exist. While the word “missionary” isn’t specifically used in the Bible, I believe it’s wise to call such people “missionaries.” Specifically, based primarily on Acts 13:1-4, I would define a missionary as a disciple of Jesus set apart by the Holy Spirit and sent out from the church to cross geographic, cultural and/or linguistic barriers as part of a missionary team focused on making disciples and multiplying churches among unreached people and places.

For this reason, I would not say, “Every Christian is a missionary.” Actually, to be completely frank, I have said that before! But I wouldn’t now, and here’s why. I appreciate the impulse behind this statement, wanting to emphasize how every Christian is on mission to make disciples. But that’s also the problem. As much as I want to encourage every Christian to be on mission right where they live, if that’s all we do, then thousands of people groups and billions of people will continue without even hearing the gospel. At some point, someone has to leave where they live to proclaim the gospel and plant the church where the gospel hasn’t gone and the church doesn’t exist. 

So let’s not call everybody a missionary. Yes, let’s be on mission, making disciples in the power of the Spirit right where we live. At the same time, let’s worship and fast and pray and ask God who He is setting apart from among us to spread the gospel among the unreached. And let’s call them missionaries as we send them to the nations. 

What should the priority of cross-cultural missions to unreached and unengaged peoples look like in local churches? Can every church be engaged—or does size matter?

By God’s design, every local church not only can be engaged, but must be engaged in spreading the gospel to the unreached. This just isn’t an option for any church that wants to obey the Great Commission.

The question, then, is what does this look like. Certainly this will vary among different churches of different sizes with different factors at play. But here are a few key things every single church should do:

Preach God’s Word, continually show God’s zeal for His glory among all nations and continually point to how God’s passion for His global glory should shape the purpose of our lives, our families and His Church.

Pray for the world. This, after all, is a command from Jesus (Matt. 9:35-38) — to pray for laborers to go into the harvest field. Every church should pray for unreached people groups to be reached with the gospel and for laborers to do that work.

Make disciples who make disciples of the nations. Biblical discipleship must always be accomplished in a global context (not disconnected from it) with a global goal (seeing disciples made among the nations). And the core competencies of disciple-making are consistent whether someone lives in the same town where they were born or among a global city where the gospel hasn’t gone. As a pastor, I am working to equip every member of the church I pastor to make disciples in such a way that God could pick them up and put them anywhere in the world, and they would know how to make disciples and gather as a church in a way that more disciples could be made and more churches could be multiplied. This is a high goal, but I just don’t think I as a pastor should aim for anything less

Send laborers. Every church, no matter what size, can ask who God is sending out for the spread of the gospel to the unreached and respond accordingly. In the church I pastor, we have an Acts 13-type weekend periodically, where we fast and pray and worship, and we all lay our lives down before the Lord and we ask who He is sending out from among us. Then when I preach that Sunday, I ask people who believe the Lord may be leading them to stand. I’ve never been in a gathering where someone didn’t stand.

Participate in short-term mission trips. Much could be said about the unhealthy pictures of short-term mission trips, but there are healthy ways to utilize short-term missions for long-term impact, both around the world and in our churches. Short-term missions will often lead to long-term missionaries (and missions engagement on exponential levels).

Give resources toward the global purpose of God. Where our treasure is, there our heart will be also (Matt. 6:21). If we want our heart to be with God’s heart for the nations, then we need to put treasure here. Every church should give financial resources for the spread of God’s glory among the nations

.I could go on and on...but hopefully this is a helpful start!

 We all realize the significant role and influence that pastors and key leaders, elders, etc. have in leading churches in missions vision. Why do they seem reluctant to do so?

I think many pastors and key leaders aren’t leading churches with missions vision (i.e., with a vision for how their local church can play a significant part in spreading the gospel to those who have never heard it) because those pastors and key leaders don’t have a missions vision themselves. Many (maybe most) pastors and key leaders think Jesus just told us to make disciples right around us yet don’t have a vision for how Jesus has commanded (yes, commanded) us to work to see disciples made far from us.

Then, when pastors or key leaders do get a missions vision, they will most certainly receive pushback in the church to that vision. You look through Scripture, and you see that the people of God have always pushed against the global mission of God. So it won’t be easy. It will be costly. That means any pastor or church leader must have not only the vision of Jesus, but His courage, as well.

We often observe pastors and leaders who are confused and disconnected about the mission of the church and her central role in global missions efforts. If “knowing comes before doing and shapes and informs the doing”— how might you encourage these pastors and leaders in their missiology and learning so they might rightly influence and lead their local fellowships?

There are many things pastors and church leaders can do to grow in this area; here are some good places to start:

  • Read. Pick up a copy of John Piper’s Let the Nations Be Glad. Read a missionary biography like To the Golden Shore about Adoniram Judson. Study through “God’s Heart for the Nations” (a resource by Jeff Lewis available at As you read, pray for your heart to be conformed to God’s heart.
  • Go. Spend time spreading the gospel where it hasn’t yet gone. Lead the way in missions by being involved in missions. The key is: don’t go where the gospel has gone. Go and spread the gospel where it hasn’t yet gone.
  • Come. We are about to start hosting Radical Intensives where we bring pastors and church leaders together to help one another think through how to shepherd, serve and lead the local church for global mission. Stay tuned for more information at
  • See. Look for the relationship between local ministry and global missions. For example, when I preached last week on marriage and divorce encouraging our members when it comes to all the challenges they’re facing in marriage, I showed them the relationship between our marriages and mission. Our marriages are designed by God to display the gospel in the world. Marriage is not an end in itself. Marriage is designed by God, yes, for our good, but ultimately for His glory in the world. So let’s see this tie not just in marriage, but across every facet of the Christian life. Pastoral ministry is about shepherding disciple-makers among the nations.

How does having a robust missions sending culture to unreached peoples impact the health of a church?  Can a church be healthy and NOT engage in “go and make disciples of all nations?”

No. Simply put, a church will not be healthy (or biblically faithful) if it is disregarding or disobeying the Great Commission. And the converse is true. We can trust that when we are obeying and giving ourselves to the Great Commission (working to make disciples of all the nations), we will be a healthy church. We need not worry that obeying the Great Commission will make us an unhealthy church.

 During the first 300 years of church history it seems that its structures were very nimble and organized for mission rather than being structures of command and control. How can our churches including pastors and leaders reclaim, simplify and return to a missions-centered paradigm? What needs to change?

I’m a bit hesitant to assume a “golden age” of sorts in the early Church, particularly when it seems from the New Testament that they had a lot of struggles from the start, and I assume those struggles continued in subsequent centuries. I’m also hesitant to say that the most significant problems in the Church today are structural and organizational. I think more significant challenges include consumerism, materialism, unbiblical views of the Church’s mission, a lack of conviction about the gospel and a lack of zeal for God’s glory.

Consequently, I would say that the challenge for any church leader in any age is to serve and lead the church with zeal for God’s glory among the nations, deep conviction about the gospel (including the need for Christ to be proclaimed among all peoples) and radical surrender to be and do all that Jesus calls us to be and do in this world. As we do this, we then prayerfully ask God for wisdom to know how best to organize structures to support making disciples and multiplying churches among the nations. And as God grants wisdom, we pray for courage to do all that He is calling us to do.



This is an article from the November-December 2019 issue: What Happens When Everything is Missions?

Zealous for the Things that Matter

Zealous for the Things that Matter

“I was trained by David Watson,” my friend said over lunch. “My mentor in Disciple Making Movements was so and so,” I replied. A bit later I added, “I also learned under Ying and Grace Kai.” George Patterson was another person whose name came to my mind. Was I name dropping? Or sharing my journey? I confess. Sometimes I don’t even know my own heart.

In the DMM and CPM world, there have been many important voices. These people paved the way. They pioneered and championed the cause of multiplying disciples among the unreached. We’ve all learned so much from them.

I’m so grateful for those I’ve had the privilege to learn from, either in person, or through their books. They have taken the time to write, train, and mentor others in the principles of starting multiplying movements of disciples.

It is easy to slip into a mentality that says, “I follow

Watson” or any of the other early apostles in DMM/ CPM thinking. Some might say, “I follow Ying Kai” or “I use Garrison’s principles.” Paul warned us against this in the book of 1 Corinthians.

For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings? What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 1 Corinthians 3:4-5 NIV.

Divided Over Secondary Things

Our world today is extremely divided. Whether politics or discussions about what type of computer you prefer, human nature wants to take sides. “I am a Mac person,” we say. Or, “I am a Democrat.” We’re more comfortable associating with those who think and believe the same things we do. Sometimes we disparage those who follow other paths. While we may not often verbalize our contempt, we tend to think – I’m right and they are not.

This narrowness of perspective cannot be allowed a place in our lives as movement practitioners. Instead, with open hearts and minds, we must keep the cause of reaching lost at the forefront – not being right in a strategy related argument! His cause, not our favorite leader or methodology, must be what burns within our hearts. It must be the urgency of reaching the lost that stirs us to fervent action.

Other Divisive Topics

Contextualization levels also divide us. Some are comfortable with a C4 or C5 approach. Others prefer C3.1 “Do you think it’s okay to redeem this practice? Or use this name for Jesus or God? I don’t!” we declare. Others are adamant that the only way to reach their target people will be through an insider movement.

There are likewise heated arguments about the appropriate role of women in DMMs. “Should women be allowed to baptize?” we ask. Too much time is wasted in debating these things. When we give our energy to these debates, we don’t have the same focus to give to the more important task of reaching lost people.

This is not helpful or healthy. It does not please God or further our cause. Our zeal is easily misplaced. Proud and disunified, we become a poor reflection of the bride of Christ to the world we are trying to reach.

As mission leaders and DMM/CPM practitioners, we need to stay focused on our why. This is where zeal and passion should be directed. Methods and strategies must be tried, evaluated, and held somewhat loosely. The cause of reaching the lost, however, we hold firmly, refusing to let go.

What is our why?

In his best-selling book, Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, author Simon Sinek addresses a similar issue. “Great leaders and organizations are crystal clear about their why,” he writes. Throughout the book he recounts stories of innovators, of visionary leaders like Steve Jobs, Walt Disney, the Wright brothers, etc. They inspired multitudes by being clear about the why, not the what behind their companies.

He tells how alongside each of these men were managerial partners. Those working with the leaders knew how to get the why done. The how are our values, principles and beliefs. After how, comes what. The what are our methods and practices.

We build trust, he writes, by showing integrity in the consistent application of our how to our why. Specific methodologies, practices, and products, change. These are constantly evaluated in light of the overarching vision. Customers are not loyal to the what. They are loyal to and inspired by the why.

How does this apply to Disciple Making Movements (DMMs) and Church Planting Movements (CPMs)? Our great cause…our why…is not the starting of DMMs or CPMs. We must recognize this. Our great cause is not to use a particular set of questions when we run a discovery group! Nor is it what name we decide to use for Jesus when we tell His story. Those things are the what.

We must be willing to hold our strategies loosely.

Jesus Knew His Why

In Luke 19:10, the mission of Jesus is described. It says, “the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” Christ’s passion was to do the will of the Father, to restore humanity to God. If this cost Jesus everything, He would give it. His why was clear. His love for God and His glory compelled Him to do whatever it took to accomplish His mission.

Like our Lord, we are called to seek and save the lost. It sounds simplistic, but this alone is where our zeal should burn. Our passion must be to see God’s glory fill the earth. Our world is broken, millions are lost and dying apart from Him. They march toward an eternal hell, and they live in a present one apart from a knowledge of God’s great love. We, who know Him, live with access to a God who loves, knows, and has redeemed us. We continually experience His ongoing healing of our broken lives.

The great injustice of millions who still wait to hear of this amazing salvation, who suffer under oppressive bondage to addictions, deceived by religious systems that offer no lasting hope…this drives us to our knees. It pushes us out the door to love, pray for, and share this message with our neighbors. It motivates us to suffer, sacrifice, face visa battles, and persecution. Our passion for Jesus, our deep longing to do His will on the earth, this is what we must be zealous about. His love for the lost and broken is our compelling why.

When Our Why is Clear

When this cause is clearly before us, we walk in unity with others, even if their what is different. Our colleagues may prefer a bit different missiological approach. We can champion them in what they do. Even if it is radically different from how we prefer to do things. They share our why. We celebrate their success and cry with them over disappointments. Instead of an “I told you so,” attitude, we give glory to God for whatever He does through them.


When our why is clear, we inspire a new generation to join us. Young people like new things. They don’t want to do missions (or anything else) the same way their parents did. New methods will emerge…and they must. Innovation in disciple-making will lead to greater multiplication in the future than we are seeing today. Indigenous and younger cross-cultural workers, free to experiment with new approaches, will discover better ways to multiply disciples rapidly in their own contexts. Will we champion those? Or give undeserved loyalty to our pet methods?

The new generation is notably more motivated by social injustice than by lostness. This is cause for concern. When the why begins to drift, we must take that seriously. While encouraging experimentation with the what, we must call people back to and champion the cause (the why) of reaching the lost, not just helping them in material ways. Lostness is out of fashion in highly tolerant Western societies. We need to find fresh ways to bring forth a passionate call to reach the unreached with compelling clarity. Will our frontier missions vision inspire this generation to lay down their lives?

The Problem With Fuzzy Vision

When our vision is fuzzy, our mission is in danger. If we focus on methods instead of doing whatever is necessary to disciple millions into God’s healing, restoring, lifegiving kingdom, we will lose ground. Though we may get our what right, with an unclear why, motivation to innovate or pay the price to try new approaches will wane.

Change is costly. To launch movements, we must see many significant shifts of paradigm and practice. When those we train are not sure why change is needed, they will only weakly apply what we teach. Discovery studies could be just a cool fad. They won’t lead to multiplication unless the why is crystal clear.

I’ve attended numerous discovery studies that were no more than an inward focused participatory Bible study. The final question, “What will we do to apply or obey this?” is answered, but there is no accountability the following week. “Who will we share this with?” may be asked as a matter of form, but no one in the group actually shares the story with anyone during the coming week. These groups do not multiply. They will not become movements with multiple generations, reproducing rapidly. They have lost the why behind discovery groups…reaching broken people and bringing them to the Savior.

Without the why burning in our hearts, we may learn to share our testimonies or the three circles approach or any other methodology. We then get too busy or shy to put it into our daily practice and lifestyle. It was just another cool evangelism approach.

When our why is diluted we divide into camps, instead of uniting around our common cause. We can not afford to do this.

Principles and Values—the How

Within each team or organization, it is important to determine not only the why but also the how. These are our values, principles and beliefs. For those pursuing DMMs or CPMs we have many shared values. For example, a belief in the priesthood of all believers is at the core of anyone wanting to multiply disciples among the unreached. Every disciple can and must also become a disciple-maker. This is not the same as the what, but it is the how.

Know your why and stay true to your how, but constantly evaluate and adjust your what. Always be looking for better ways to accomplish the why. Discover new, more effective ways true to your values and beliefs.

No Favorite Programs

It is time to let go of our loyalty to pet methodologies of doing church planting. If God’s shown you something and it’s bearing fruit, by all means, keep using it! But if it is not…if your context has changed, or it’s not working, think outside the box. Create an environment where field workers can try new things. Keep experimenting until you find a method that works to multiply disciplemakers among your people group. Be willing to let go in order to go forward. Keep learning, evaluating and listening to your  colleagues. Stay humble and observant. Ask questions and learn when others do things differently from you.

Passionate for What Truly Matters

Debating of strategy has its place. There is value in presenting the pros and cons of the various approaches. We need to test these methods against Scripture and check their theological soundness. But when we spend more time and energy debating mission strategy than we spend reaching lost people, we have lost our way. When our zeal for a particular approach, or our passion to see everyone in missions do things the way we think is most effective, consumes our thoughts, we must take a step back and think again. If we are more zealous about business as missions (for example) being a vital part of missions strategy than we are about sharing Christ with the Muslim sitting on the plane next to us, we need to prayerfully reconsider. Are we passionate about the things that truly matter? The things that God is passionate about?

Let’s be zealous for what’s important.

This is an article from the November-December 2019 issue: What Happens When Everything is Missions?

ReforMission: Churches that Changed Their Minds

Adapted from the When Everything Is Missions Podcast, Season 2, Episode 1.

ReforMission: Churches that Changed Their Minds

During the Reformation, the medieval church discovered that the gospel did not need to be redefined—it needed to be rediscovered. In the same way, our idea of missions need not be redefined, it merely needs to be rediscovered. Let’s hear from three churches that went through a process to rediscover missions. We interviewed:

Larry Hansen , Missions Pastor, Calvary Murrieta, Murrieta, CA

Andrew LaCasse, Assistant Pastor, Calvary Murrieta, Murrieta, CA

Michelle Thompson, Global Team Leader, Northview Christian Church, Danville, IN

Trent Hunter, Pastor for Preaching/Teaching, Heritage Bible Church, Greer, SC


Matthew Ellison: Charles Spurgeon said: “Every Christian is either a missionary or an imposter.” Michelle, I wonder if teaching that everyone is a missionary has ever been communicated at your church?

Michelle:  I would say as much as even 10 or 15 years ago I did hear that. And I really think a lot of it is because people don’t understand the difference between a missionary and an evangelist. Somebody who is supposed to be crossing cultural barriers or a language barrier is a missionary. An evangelist isn’t necessarily crossing any cultural/language barriers.

Matthew: What do you think the motivation is for calling everyone a missionary? What’s behind the idea from your perspective?

Michelle:  Well, we’re supposed to spread the Good News. I think it elevates that sense of responsibility in people’s minds. If they think of themselves as a missionary, they will maybe actually take the initiative and try to share with their friends and neighbors.

Denny Spitters: Trent, has this been an issue at all at Heritage?

Trent:  I think if you go person to person and you asked them about what missions is, they would start talking about the ends of the earth and the globe. I think if you were to look at our budget and answer the question, it might be answered this way: “It’s everything in terms of gospel advance outside the walls and the property of this church.”

We had all kinds of missions partners: a local child evangelist, a motorcycle ministry, a state side church planting. All that was under the rubric of missions. A fuzzy definition yields a fuzzy execution. Over time, if you don’t have a shared agreement congregationally it has consequences.

Denny: Larry, how about at Calvary?

Larry:  Maybe 20 years ago that philosophy was here. Currently, the majority of the folks here would not be thinking that everyone is a missionary. But it took several years for us to undo that kind of teaching and thinking. We really tried to help the folks understand that the value of being evangelistic and sharing Christ with your neighbor is the work of the Church and it is what we should be about. It’s different than being sent cross-culturally. We should also be about showing the love of Christ to our friends, family and neighbors. for sharing - we are cheering you on!

Matthew: Another factor here is that we’ve lowered our standards for what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. Feeding bellies, taking care of orphans, evangelism, are the work of every disciple at all levels in your own culture. Since that wasn’t happening, we said, “Well, let’s call everyone a missionary because they’ll take the job more seriously.

Larry:  And thank you folks who are out there actively doing that. We appreciate you. They’re motivated and showing Christ’s love in their own culture.

Matthew: That’s a great comment and something we should emphasize. It’s not either or. It’s both and. It’s neighbors and nations. But when you lump it all together, inevitably the nations get the short end of the stick.

Denny: Let’s talk a little bit more about forces, decisions, or circumstances that brought your church to a place where you recognized a need to reevaluate your understanding and definition of missions.

Michelle:  When I looked at budgets before I was involved, it was a lot of domestic campuses, Christian colleges, maybe one or two foreign ministries that were in Mexico or Europe. Most of our budget decisions were being made on what people’s pet projects were. Our short-term mission trips were anything that made us feel good about ourselves. We wanted to change that.

Trent:  We kind of backed up into the question of definition. There were a number of things in our church that were working for us and also working against us. Our church was founded by a group of really mission minded saints who had an aggressive, risk-taking aim of 50% of the general budget going to global missions. It never quite got there, but there was always this culture of watching that percentage. It also led to some “creativity” in order to increase the mission budget percentage. We found we had a hard time explaining why we’re making one decision and not another. Our difficulty was our definition of missions.

Denny: What is God’s Spirit leading us to do? What do we focus on? Churches often don’t wrestle with this and assume everybody is on the same missions page. What was the missions process like at Calvary?

Andrew:  I grew up at Calvary and I’m now on our missions board. I get to see things from a leadership perspective. I have seen the missions culture change. Missions was really a part of our church heritage; however, we gradually became more about the unreached and the nations. We had heritage and legacy, but our focus was lacking. We started asking some tough questions and had to kind of deal with the answers. The answers weren’t always what they should be, so we moved forward with a missions vision process and then a defining process.

Denny: What were the pain points?

Larry:  As we pulled our mission team together, there was confusion on definitions with just five leaders in the room. We recognized that if there was some confusion among us, there was confusion in the church body. What people heard first was that everything we had done for the last 30 years was wrong. We had to recommunicate our message to help people. We weren’t saying what we had done was wrong, but that we realized that we were working in areas that were 95% reached. There was a little pushback and confusion. Once we honed the message with coaching from 1615 and brought it to the church it was received very well.

Matthew: What I’ve realized is when you challenge the idea that not everyone’s a missionary, those are fighting words and people are thrown off balance. It’s a prayerful process that requires patience by saying, “Let’s let our mission definitions be shaped by the Bible, not by cultural trends, preferences, or prejudices, but by the God of all the nations.”

Michelle:  Within our team we were able to quickly come to a definition that we agreed on. That was because we had gone through some studies as a team before we ever started the coaching process with 1615. It didn’t take too much to get the team all on the same page. But where we really had difficulty was with our church leadership. There were places where our team wanted to clearly articulate our vision, but our elders said, “If you make it that specific, you are going to stifle the Holy Spirit. We have to be open to where the Holy Spirit is leading us.”

Matthew: I appreciate your transparency Michelle! I often hear folks saying “Listen, we want to be open to the Holy Spirit leading people wherever they want to go.” But as they look towards the least reached, the nations that don’t have the gospel, they’re afraid that they will be restricted. I often ask, “Do you mean the Holy Spirit is sending nine out of ten missionaries to places where the church has already been planted?” We need our moorings in Scripture and we need to allow the Bible to shape and inform our missions decisions and actions.

Trent:  We were invested in our process for about 18 months. It was prayerful. It was inclusive. We had our original missions committee plus key elders and deacons and a few others with missions vision. There was pain in the process. We found out how much alignment we had, but then we’d hear “Don’t we need to be focusing on local missions before we focus on global missions?” Or “God communicates through our good works.” This was a nod to humanitarian works without gospel witness. We no longer needed that conversation. Our new shared definition of missions is to proclaim Christ in order to establish reproducing indigenous churches among the world’s least reached peoples. This provides shared agreement for conversation in any given room regarding global missions, and gives us energy, especially at a core leadership level.

Matthew: I think a lot of churches don’t take the time to develop a biblical understanding and definition of missions. Their engagement in missions is not intentional, it’s reactive. They either respond to needs and requests or outsource missions through proxy. There often isn’t a proactive vision. Churches need to have that Acts 13 season of worshipping, fasting, praying and saying “God we want to be a church that follows in the footsteps of this audacious church in Antioch.” What sacred cows were exposed in this process?

Larry:  We reevaluated projects and people we supported to see how they line up with our values and our strategic vision. We began communicating with missionaries in the field. When we removed several from our financial support it actually went  better than we hoped. The field worker had a better grasp of the church and the direction we were going. Some were very supportive, others were hurt (including church members), but having those conversations was the start to dealing with  sacred cows. We were careful to differentiate between “reached” and “unreached” and began looking for likeminded partners. We were introduced to some very unique peoples and places where we now have an established foothold. Our pastor Brian, Andrew and I were with one of these groups. We were able to press in with a local pastor and do some physical care, life skills and evangelism and then came back and shared the experience openly with the church body. The church immediately responded prayerfully and financially.

Matthew: That’s really good! I think without intentional, biblical, proactive vision, you end up just responding to requests and that will not lead you to an intentional action. Trent, now that you have this biblical definition of missions that is shared, have you seen people suddenly start neglecting their neighbors and the community?

Trent:  Our love for our neighbors and our desire to see the gospel grow in our immediate community is obviously where the adoption of “everyone’s a missionary” comes from. It’s the reason why some are hesitant about such an immersive refocusing of our global missions. I can offer one anecdote where global intentionality seems to be breeding local intentionality. After our global mission series, one young mom has initiated a relationship with a manager at a local low-income housing development near our church. She’s very interested in ministering to single mothers in this complex and is now thinking, “If there is one thing I can do locally, I want to do this!” She’s now relating obedience to Christ’s missions mandate to her community as a responsible Christian. The international awareness it seems, is breeding some local awareness. As a pastor, missions intentionality and global awareness translate into muscle reflexes that also work locally.

Denny: At Calvary, what have you seen in this regard as the nations have been lifted up intentionally to your church body?

Andrew:  Globally we’ve had so many people who really want this vision. They were just waiting for us to offer them something that big and needed a channel to go through. They were so excited to be involved with that vision. A lot of people are already doing local ministry, but when we talked about the nations and focused in on unreached peoples, many people realized that there was something dire, urgent and larger in scope than just reaching out in our own community.

Matthew: What do you say to the church which has an “everyone is a missionary” philosophy, but sees a need to change?

Michelle: You’ve got a long road ahead. The transition is hard. It can be painful. It’s been a long process and we’re still not all the way there. There have been times I have just been ready to throw in the towel and say, “God, I am done.” But every single time I’ve been ready to do that, God does something. I take the towel and I wipe off my brow and my tears and I say, “Okay, He is worthy. I’m not going to quit. We’re going to try again. We’re going to go back and we’re going to scale this wall. God’s got to act but we’re going to do something because He is worthy.”

Denny: Larry, what word of encouragement would you offer to churches that are saying “everybody’s a missionary?”

Larry:  I would encourage them to celebrate the servants among them who are actively doing something for the gospel. We want to recognize those who are actually serving so that as you encourage them to move and change, you will build from a foundation of unity instead of a position of separation. We saw that happen and we’ve seen amazing and miraculous things accomplished due to that unity.

Matthew: That is a great word Larry. For a lot of people, change is perceived as loss and suddenly they might be realizing their understanding of missions was mistaken! They may take it personally or feel slighted. Unity is vital as is encouragement. Trent, you’re a teaching pastor. Speak to other senior and teaching pastors that have a very loose understanding of missions.

Trent:  The first thing is to soak in the Scriptures and let Scripture answer this question for you. In Luke 24 Jesus says, “These are My words. I spoke while I was with you, that everything written about Me in the law of Moses and the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.” And then He opened their minds and said, “It is written that the Christ should suffer, and on the third day rise from the dead. And that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in all nations beginning from Jerusalem.” Every nation, every people is in that redemption story. The gospel mission is embedded into the whole story of the Bible. Let the Word lead you; use the Word of God to lead your people.

Denny: We are so encouraged to hear you say that! We often try to find our missions strategy from other churches… not the Bible. We want a quick solution, so we ape missions like “they” do it. But each church has its own unique DNA in missions. Churches don’t do missions well because they don’t think about missions well.

Matthew: Here are two questions for a takeaway: “What is God’s position on missions?” How does He define missions? It is critical and essential to allow your church’s understanding to flow out of the answer to these two questions. Thanks to each of you.

This is an article from the November-December 2019 issue: What Happens When Everything is Missions?

24:14 Goal: Movement engagements in every unreached people and place by 2025 (74 months)

Are you “Out of Your Mind” or “Overjoyed”?

24:14 Goal: Movement engagements in every unreached people and place by 2025 (74 months)

What if God answered our prayers in such amazing ways they seemed unbelievable? Through the ages God’s people have grappled with the mystery of (apparently) unanswered prayer. But in Acts 12 we find Spirit-filled believers grappling with the mystery of answered prayer! As Luke reports it: “Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.” (v. 5)

Then, upon his release, Peter came to himself and said, “Now I know without a doubt that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me...” When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant named Rhoda came to answer the door. When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed,  “Peter is at the door!”

“You’re out of your mind,” they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, “It must be his angel.” But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. Peter motioned with his hand for them to be quiet and described how the Lord had brought him out of prison (verses 11a, 12-17a).

Their prayer had been gloriously answered! Peter himself knew it “without a doubt.” But these earnest intercessors remained determined to keep on praying – while the answer to their prayer was banging on the door to get their attention! Dear Rhoda, the servant girl, went to handle the interruption, maybe so others could focus on praying. Perhaps she was considered most expendable from the prayer meeting, so she was first to hear Peter’s voice and recognize the miracle God had wrought. She left Peter outside – not from lack of faith but from great joy and eagerness to share the wonderful news.

Her wonderful news, however, was skeptically received. We don’t know precisely what the believers had been praying. We only know they were “earnestly praying to God for him.” We can reasonably hypothesize that their prayers included requests for the sparing of Peter’s life. Less certain, but quite likely, they included prayers for his release. Yet the news of his arrival inspired at least two alternative explanations:

  1. Rhoda, the servant girl, had gone “out of [her] mind.”

It was easier to malign the messenger than believe the message. When that explanation failed to suffice (because “she kept insisting”), the group consensus shifted to…

  1. an explanation neither you nor I would probably have considered: “It must be his angel.” Verse 15 informs us a plurality of the gathering (“they said…”) reached this interesting conclusion. This is probably in reference to a Jewish belief at that time that a person’s guardian angel took on their appearance. It probably signified that they thought Peter was dead and his guardian angel had come to deliver the news.

We have the advantage of knowing that the one at the door was Peter himself, not “his angel.” So we quickly skip past the angel hypothesis to savor this prayer meeting’s irony: the earnest prayers continued while the answer banged on the door, trying to get their attention.

How easily we smile condescendingly at our brothers and sisters described in the pages of Scripture. Yet how easy it can be to display the same doubts when our prayers are miraculously answered.

Mobilizing earnest prayer for unreached peoples

Forty years ago, the hard core of the unreached world remained relatively unengaged and unresponsive. There were precious few examples of large numbers of Muslims coming to faith in Christ. More than 1400 years of world history since Muhammad’s time showed quite the opposite: millions of Christians becoming Muslims; almost never the reverse. Northern India was called the graveyard of modern missions and very few Hindus were being reached with the gospel. 200 years of mission efforts in Buddhist heartlands had produced little fruit. Some unreached pockets responded but both the total number and global percentage of the unreached continued to grow. Traditional approaches have failed to make disciples in a way that exceeds population growth.

However, the late twentieth century saw a significant increase in God’s people praying for the unreached peoples of the world. All the items mentioned below fueled and informed prayer and action on behalf of the unreached. (Forgive us for not being able to list everyone in the paragraphs below.)

  • Beginning their processes in Africa in the 1960s, David Barrett and the team of The World Christian Encyclopedia opened the eyes of many to the existence of Unreached People Groups. Their data sharing with Patrick Johnstone and the Operation World team mobilized specific prayer for these unreached nations and people groups.
  • Ralph Winter gave a clarion call in his 1974 Lausanne address on “Hidden Peoples,” and he and many others at the US Center for World Mission became ongoing advocates for reaching them. In 1978, Winter published a pie chart entitled “Penetrating the Last Frontiers.” Among other salient data, the chart showed the minuscule number of Christian workers among Muslims and Hindus in contrast to the number of Christian workers in the US.
  • In 1981, Perspectives on the World Christian Movement began promoting and popularizing a clear focus on contextual strategies for bringing the gospel to unreached groups. In the decades since then, the course and its derivatives have been completed by over 100,000 believers, inspiring them to become mobilizers, goers, senders, and intercessors for world evangelization.
  • In 1982, the Global Prayer Digest began as a ministry of the US Center for World Mission, focusing prayer on different unreached groups in each edition.
  • 1988 brought publication of David Bryant’s book Concerts of Prayer: For Spiritual Awakening and World Evangelization. The book’s pattern began guiding and encouraging major prayer initiatives for gospel advance among the unreached.
  • Beginning in 1991, the “Praying Through the Window” initiative has since focused the prayers of over 40 million intercessors from 120 countries and facilitated prayer journeys into all 67 countries of the 10/40 Window.
  • In 1993, the first edition of “30 Days Muslim World Prayer Guide” began mobilizing prayer for Muslims during the month of Ramadan each year. This guide is now used by millions of Christians worldwide and has inspired other similar guides for prayer for the unreached.
  • Prayer spurred by geo-political events also played a part. The Iranian Revolution (1979), the Gulf War (1990-91) the Algerian Civil Wars (1990s), the Asian Financial Crisis (1997), 9/11 (2001) and other events inspired many prayers from Christians around the world as well as prayers of disillusioned and desperate lost people seeking another path.
  • Another significant element was the growing emphasis on adopting UPGs for prayer and outreach. This was championed by the Joshua Project, the AD2000 and Beyond movement, Ethne, Adopt-a-People Clearinghouse, Call2All, Finishing the Task and others.
  • Numerous regional mission networks have significant prayer and engagement strategies including COMIBAM (Ibero-America), MANI (Africa), SEALink (SEAsia), IMA (India), SEANet (Buddhist World), Central Asia Consultation and Vision 5:9 (Muslim World).
  • UPG Prayer profiles, websites, and guidebooks were produced by on-the-ground teams in many countries and written and translated in many languages.
  • The International Prayer Council, the Global Prayer Resource network, the ETHNE Fellowship of Prayer Strategists, and too many other prayer networks to name have mobilized prayer for the UPGs of their nation or region. A new wave of UPG-focused prayer has spread through God’s people all around the world.

Apparent answers to prayer

We can never claim direct cause and effect between our prayers and God’s actions on a global scale. Yet we know God works through our prayers and undoubtedly something unique began happening in the 1990s. Reports surfaced in written form when David Garrison described this phenomenon in January 2000, in a booklet entitled “Church Planting Movements.” This 60-page booklet compiled field reports by Church Planting Movement practitioners in various parts of the world. Garrison followed this in 2004 with the book Church Planting Movements, How God Is Redeeming a Lost World, describing in greater depth the common dynamics found among numerous Church Planting Movements.

In 2011, Steve Smith and Ying Kai described one movement that reached 1.7 million new believers in ten years in T4T: A Discipleship Re-Revolution: The Story Behind the World’s Fastest Growing Church Planting Movement and How it Can Happen in Your Community! In 2012 Jerry Trousdale published reports of movements across Africa in Miraculous Movements: How Hundreds of Thousands of Muslims Are Falling in Love with Jesus. Then in 2014 Garrison added fresh insights in A Wind in the House of Islam: How God is Drawing Muslims around the World to Faith in Jesus Christ. In the years since then, the number of reported Church Planting Movements has increased from vague and unpublished estimates of 100+ to a more confidently asserted 1006. These movements are now reported in every major religious bloc and every region of the world. Missions researcher Justin Long describes this number as “the floor, not the ceiling.” (See below.)

In recent years, numerous additional books, articles and trainings have described these Church Planting Movements (sometimes labeled “Disciple Making Movements” or “Kingdom Movements”) and have begun to quantify the numbers of disciples and churches in these movements. At the same time, other articles and some church and mission leaders have questioned the veracity and/or helpfulness of these movement reports.

Some concerns

Admittedly, a few movement reports have misrepresented or exaggerated the reality on the ground. A few others have turned out to be bogus reports fueled by a desire for money from outside wealthy donors. And some movements have collapsed or been absorbed by pre-existing churches. These cases have been acknowledged and appropriately removed from lists of active movements. The 24:14 database, which at this writing lists 1006 movements, also lists 19 movements that have ended. Note two aspects of this statistic: (1) care is being taken to only count credibly reported and currently active movements; (2) the number of movements that have ended constitutes less than two percent of movements currently ongoing. The 24:14 leadership recognizes the significant difficulty of this research and shares this information with openness and a willingness to correct any wrong information.

Some critics, either on a local or global scale, boggle at the number and size of reported movements. 1006 CPMs with over 4.3 million churches and over 70 million disciples feels to them like wishful thinking. Neither they nor people they know personally have ever seen similar fruit, which makes these amazing reports hard to believe. Sometimes Westerners who live in or visit areas where movements have been reported say, “If this were happening I would know about it.” We could describe this attitude as closer to “Seeing is believing,” than “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29b, NIV).

Yet most of us don’t even know all that goes on inside the homes of neighbors on our own block, much less in a city of millions of people. Small churches meeting in homes, using local music and local terminology and patterns of interaction, would not be obvious. As they live in ways that minimize unnecessary persecution by those within their context, how much less noticeable would they be to any outsiders?

Some in the global missions world have heard or experienced cases of an exaggerated report and in response have chosen general caution (or skepticism) as the better course of wisdom. They prefer to believe only assessments done by teams of outsiders who have paid personal visits to a broad cross-section of any given movement.

This attitude overlooks a number of factors. First, the vast majority of these movements are occurring among unreached groups where those becoming followers of Christ often face great persecution. Foreigners visiting widely to ask about people coming to faith in Christ would hinder or possibly even destroy a movement. Security for Christ-followers remaining culturally among their own people makes thorough outside assessment untenable in many cases.

Second, those wishing for thorough and wide-ranging assessments have neither the human resources nor the funds needed to go visit 4.3 million churches. Some have suggested that reports of institutional churches are easier to confirm because “you can go and see the physical churches.” However this conflates “church” with “building.” Many of those church buildings have few in attendance. The churches in many movements multiply rapidly precisely because they don’t have a building.

Third, this attitude sometimes seems built on the assumption that established denominations’ reports of numbers of churches and church members are sufficiently trustworthy (despite many examples of overstated or misleading membership numbers for individuals, churches and denominations), yet reports from new movements of the same information are inherently suspect. We would do well to ask ourselves if any hint of paternalism might be implicit in our suspicion of reports coming from brothers and sisters in these new movements.

Fourth, the claim (implicit or explicit) that very fruitful reports are fabricated (or exaggerated) in hopes of receiving Western money does not stand up to scrutiny. Most of these movements are rapidly reproducing partially due to the fact that they receive little or no outside money which causes dependency. Any ministry dependent on outside funds (whether for pastors’ or evangelists’ salaries, buildings, or other resources) could not sustain rapid reproduction and multigenerational growth. No source has enough money to supply the exponential growth God is bringing through these movements.

Fifth, we also have the testimony of a great cloud of witnesses from a vast number of unconnected cultural and religious contexts around the globe. While each movement is unique in certain ways, the striking similarities of hundreds of different movements testifies to something far beyond what indigenous believers could have invented as money-making tales. The similar dynamics and growth, often reflecting the vitality and rapidity described in the book of Acts, offer reasonable corroboration, from one continent to another. As mentioned above, a few misreports have happened and been acknowledged. But our best research concludes those are a very small minority.

How do we prove movements?

A key question is, “To whom does the reality of Church Planting Movements need to be proven?” Who can claim they are entitled to have these movements proven to their satisfaction? Whose “imprimatur” do we need before we acknowledge these movements as valid works of God?

A related question is “How can these movements be proven?” For instance, outside assessments of the Bhojpuri movement in North India occurred in 1996, 2000, 2008, and 2016 including at different times researchers from the IMB, OM, City Team, ASSI, and Beyond. Some of these researchers admit they went thinking they would prove the movement was not happening.

All of these well-respected research teams concluded there are millions of new disciples as a result of God working through this movement. Yet some people serving in that region remain adamant that this movement is not happening. It appears impossible to verify movements to everyone’s satisfaction.

In reality, we will not know for certain until we get to heaven. So grace befits us all in discussing these matters. We invite those dubious of movements to suggest what type of movement research would be both realistic and credible. And we invite advocates of movements to be gracious in considering valid critiques, to see how our movement efforts could be improved.

At the 2010 Lausanne meeting in Capetown, one of the Bhojpuri movement leaders, Victor John, gave a report of what God has done in that movement. A former leader of the IMB stood up and essentially said, “I want to tell you that I used to reject that the Bhojpuri movement had happened and I concluded that Victor and other leaders were not being truthful. I want to say in front of this whole group that I was wrong and I ask Victor for forgiveness.”

Whose count can we trust?

Despite the disagreements, many of God’s children have a healthy and rightful interest in knowing about and rejoicing in the mighty works of God. One group having an arguably good reason for wanting to verify the presence or absence of movements is the 24:14 Coalition. Data on global movement engagement plays a key role in this coalition’s priority of finishing the task: “bringing the gospel of the kingdom fully to every unreached people and place.” By knowing where movements are, we can identify where they are not, and thus mobilize to the gaps yet to be filled.

Justin Long, Director of Research with Beyond and Research Team Leader for the 24:14 Coalition, clarifies the criteria used to accept a movement report as credible:

  1. We only accept data reports from established and trusted movement practitioners, many of whom have been working for 10 to 30 years. There are approximately 30 movement families (networks of multiple movements) with significant interrelationships of trust, training and accountability inside the family and sometimes between families. Most fellowship reports are cross-referenced between at least five generations of churches and leaders within the movement.
  2. The leaders from this network must be vouched for by a trusted movement practitioner or coach who is not a part of the network before they are counted in the global and regional totals.
  3. For larger movements, we as the global 24:14 movement generally round to the nearest order of magnitude, and often the movements themselves will intentionally undercount or reduce by certain percentages if they feel caution is warranted. Some outside assessments conclude that the reports are significantly undercounting what is happening. Thus, we feel confident what we report is a “floor” not a “ceiling.”
  4. Most movements report numbers on a semi-annual basis to the 24:14 research team via secure email.
  5. Occasionally, as warranted, movements will invite practitioners or researchers in to do an external audit. The main goal is to analyze the health and dynamics of the movement to help them improve, but it can also help verify the numbers.

If you have information that could increase the accuracy of these global assessments, please send it to [email protected].

In our day, the Lord is providing abundant and ever-increasing evidence that our prayers for gospel breakthroughs in major religious blocs are being answered. As the 24:14 Coalition reflects, this is not a time for triumphalism, but a time for pressing in with all earnestness toward completion of the Great Commission. It is amazing that people in these movements represent 1% of the world’s population, but that is still just 1%.

In light of the abundant evidence of Church Planting Movements reaching large numbers of people, could we move past a response of disbelief?

Such a response was evident when data about the many hundreds of known CPMs was being shared with a group of UPG-focused mission strategists at a recent meeting. Kent Parks (long-time UPG worker in the Muslim world and now CEO of Beyond) added to the presentation by sharing some of the key factors for such movements. After answering numerous skeptical responses, he said: “Many of us in this room have been championing and praying for 40 years or more for ‘people movements’ among UPGs. Now God is answering these prayers but you don’t believe it is true or even possible?!” He later reflected, “In this moment, I was startlingly reminded of how many of God’s people have joined in decades of UPG-focused prayer – and the astonishing ways God is launching movements around the world. The contrast between the great joy of movement leaders with whom I serve and the somewhat disbelieving questions in this meeting was overwhelming.”

How shall we respond?

Lord, we pray in concert from Ephesians 3 and ask that you do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to your power that is within us, and to you be all glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!

In Paul’s message to the Jews and Gentiles in the synagogue at Pisidian Antioch, he applied Habakkuk 1:5 to the wonderful news of forgiveness and justification through Jesus. He challenged them not to miss out on the astonishing work of God in their day:

Take care that what the prophets have said does not happen to you: “Look, you scoffers, wonder and perish, for I am going to do something in your days that you would never believe, even if someone told you.” (Acts 13:40-41, NIV). How many of us are following the footsteps of those who heard Rhoda’s news: earnestly praying yet refusing to believe the report that our answer is knocking at the door? While we need to be wise and careful stewards of information, may we also be among those who respond with delight to the mighty works of God in our day. May we welcome the answers to our prayers for great movements among the unreached. And may we do everything we can to invite such works of God to increase, and bring salvation to all the peoples of the earth!

  1. 1. See Mikeal C. Parsons, Acts (Paideia: Commentaries on the New Testament), Baker Academic, 2008, p. 171

  2. 2. This chart has been reproduced as the first page of an article by Rebecca Lewis, entitled “Clarifying the Remaining Frontier Mission Task” in International Journal of Frontier Missiology. 35:4, Winter 2018, p. 154. static/4f661fde24ac1097e013deea/t/5bcfe6b18165f5cc5f820e58/1540351671087/IJFM_35_4-Lewis.pdf

  3. 3. The Perspectives reader and study guide were released at Urbana ’81. Since 1981 the Perspectives course has been offered throughout the year at extension sites around the world. Over 80,000 people have taken this course in English, with thousands more taking it in other languages and through simplified “Perspectives Family” courses. For more details, see Over 80,000 people have taken this course in English, with thousands more taking it in other languages and through simplified “Perspectives Family” courses. For more details, see

  4. 4. See

  5. 5. As of this (November/December 2019) issue of Mission Frontiers.

  6. 6. In this article, as in 24:14 Coalition usage, we use the term “Kingdom Movements” as equivalent to “Church Planting Movements.” See, for example, in the article “24:14 Goal” in the September-October 2018 issue of Mission Frontiers, pp. 8-40: “A Church Planting Movement (CPM) is defined as the multiplication of disciples making disciples and leaders developing leaders, resulting in indigenous churches planting churches which begin to spread rapidly through a people group or population segment. These new disciples and churches begin to transform their communities as the new Body of Christ lives out kingdom values. When consistent (multiple-stream) 4th generation reproduction of churches occurs, church planting has crossed a threshold to becoming a sustainable movement.”

  7. 7. 24:14 is a global coalition of movement leaders focused on seeing movements among all unreached peoples and every place. For more information, see

  8. 8. Ibid.

  9. 9. Referencing a term popularized by Donald McGavran.

This is an article from the November-December 2019 issue: What Happens When Everything is Missions?

The Great Confusion

The Great Confusion

A March 2017 Barna survey revealed disturbing evidence that validates our deep concerns about the Church’s Great Commission confusion: 51% of Christians in North America do not recognize or know of the Great Commission. More alarming, of the 49% who say they do (when given five Scriptures, one of which is the actual passage of Matt. 28) only 37% could actually identify it!

Would it be fair to say the graphs in this article expose a level of biblical illiteracy in our churches that is not only profoundly alarming, but unmasks how far we have wandered off the path of gospel-centered, disciple-making missions? Has the pendulum swung so far that today the hole in the gospel is the authentic message of the gospel?

Jesus told us in Matt. 28:18-20, which we know as the Great Commission, to make disciples of all the nations. Now don’t think nation states (like India or China), think people groups with distinct languages and cultures. The Great Commission according to Jesus is not just about doing good works in His name, it’s not even about making disciples BUT it’s about making disciples of all the nations. The priority then of our Great Commission task is not to just win as many people to Jesus as possible, it’s not simply to do acts of kindness and mercy in His name—it is to plant the gospel in every nation, tribe and tongue.

Missions has historically consisted of international or cross-cultural ministry for spiritual purposes. But today in many churches, missions has come to include outreach ministries that are within our own community and culture and are often social or economic in nature.

This broadening definition of missions has inevitably led to a philosophy that says that every follower of Christ is a missionary and every good, altruistic or evangelistic work done in Jesus’ name is missions. Though perhaps well intentioned, might calling everyone a missionary and everything missions have unintended and dangerous consequences? Can the mission of the church be anything we want it to be? Stephen Neill said, “If mission is everything, then mission is nothing. If everything that the Church does is to be classified as ‘mission,’ we shall have to find a term for the Church’s particular responsibility for ‘the heathen,’ those who have never yet heard the name of Christ.”

The Potential Promise and Danger of Calling Everyone a Missionary and Everything Missions

The West is quickly becoming post-Christian and the shift raises important questions about what it means to do domestic ministry. Europe and North America have become more and more like a mission field—but a post-Christian, rather than a pre-Christian, field. For many people today the term evangelism carries some baggage of Christendom’s days when the general biblical worldview was prevalent enough in society that street corner confrontations and stadium crusades found more traction and produced more genuine converts.  But times have changed, calling for a new missions-like engagement and evangelistic holism, thus the emergence of the term missional (somewhat in place of evangelistic). This fresh thinking is a good development, but with it comes a danger. “The danger is that with the discussion about being missional and every Christian being a missionary, the pursuit of all the peoples by prioritizing the unreached can be obscured…” David Matthis.1


So, does the Bible provide a clear definition for missions given the word isn’t even in the Bible? Can we expect the Bible to tell us what it means? Eckhard Schnabel is considered one of the world’s leading experts on missions in the New Testament and author of two 1000-page volumes on early Christian mission as well as the 500page work Paul the Missionary. He says decisively,

The argument that the word mission does not occur in the New Testament is incorrect. The Latin verb mittere corresponds to the Greek verb apostellein, which occurs 136 times in the New Testament (97 times in the Gospels, used both for Jesus having been ‘sent’ byGod and for the Twelve being ‘sent’ by Jesus).2


Keeping Schnabel’s observations in mind, let’s take a closer look.

  1. Missio Dei translates as “mission of God” and is used to signify all that God does in the world and all that He is doing to accomplish His objective, the complete exaltation of the fame of His name: “I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (Ps. 46:10).
  2. Mission has a secular meaning; it often refers to either an underlying purpose (as in the term “mission statement”) or a specific campaign or objective (as in a military or diplomatic mission). But it is also used to define the scope of all that God has given His Church to accomplish within the missio Dei; it may include all that God has called the Church to do in the world.
  3. Missional, the most modern of the four terms, is an adjective used primarily to distinguish the ministry of the Church that happens beyond its four walls (as opposed to caring for its own). Some now use the term missional where they may have previously used mission or missions. This term has also been co-opted to describe a specific, progressive style of church which is intentionally outreach-oriented (a missional church or a missional community).
  4. Missions may be used as a synonym, perhaps a clunky or outdated one, for any of the terms above, and our British brothers and sisters are among those who prefer the more graceful term “mission” without necessarily a switch in meaning between the two. But missions also has a narrower meaning. It is used to refer to the work of the Church in reaching across cultural, religious, ethnic and geographic barriers to advance the work of making disciples of all nations.

Missiologist Gary Corwin, in his article MissionS: Why the ‘S’ Is Still Important, compares these four terms and one more: “In addition, establishing churches among those people groups and communities where Christ is least known has been distinguished over the last several decades as what frontier missions is all about.3 Despite the overlapping meanings, says Corwin, each has an important, particular emphasis, and when they are properly understood each serves a useful purpose. The problem arises when the terms are used interchangeably and these unique emphases are lost: “To say, for example, that either the missio Dei and the mission of the church is synonymous, or that the mission of the church is all that one needs to focus on or be concerned about, runs the very real risk of simply defining everything as mission.”4

We are unapologetic and ardent activists for a narrow, Great-Commission-focused definition of missions that will keep the Church on the path of making disciples of all nations. Maintaining a narrow definition of missions will be a more useful tool for the Church in fulfilling her mission, and the overall thrust of Scripture readily supports this emphasis.

To cross the barriers that missions requires, we must bring significant focus and special emphasis in the Church to making disciples resulting in churches. Without this regular and specific emphasis on “making disciples of the nations,” the needs and outreach of the local church will always, quite naturally, receive the greatest attention of our efforts, while the voices of those with no access become a distant memory until next year’s “Missions Sunday.”

Is it Just Semantics?

Just how much confusion is there in the Church about the meaning of the Great Commission? Our combined experiences in working with hundreds of churches aligns with the evidence from the BARNA report and points to massive confusion—and not just among churchgoers and members but church and missions leaders as well. If you were to do a quick survey of church leaders and mission-minded, missions-active people in your church, asking them just a couple of basic questions about the Great Commission, we are convinced that you would get many different and often conflicting answers. Sometimes the differences would just be semantic, but in most cases they would be fundamental.

In our missions coaching and consulting work we repeatedly encounter serious confusion and stifling disagreement among church and missions leaders about the purpose and goal of the Great Commission. Following are some questions that we have asked and are continuing to ask:

  • What is the Great Commission purpose Christ gave to His Church?
  • What exactly are we supposed to be doing?
  • What has He called us to accomplish?
  • What is the goal of the Great Commission?
  • What is it that we work toward?
  • What does the fulfillment of the Great Commission require of us?

Responses often reflect a seriously hazy understanding of the Great Commission. And if Christ’s followers are unable to state clearly and concisely their Great Commission purpose, we believe it will be nearly impossible for them to serve that purpose well.

A sound, biblical missions definition is crucial to the future of the evangelical Church. Defining missions in our relativistic, pluralistic era requires that we are committed to walk the path of God’s redemptive mission, culminating in the collective worship of the Lamb by all nations, peoples, tribes and tongues.

That is the bedrock path of missions to which we, His Bride, are called. No matter what process we use to define and carry out missions activity, this is the path our boots must travel if we hope to clear the fog of great confusion about missions and obey Jesus’ Great Commission imperative. 


  1. David Matthis is the Executive Editor for and a pastor at Cities Church in Minneapolis/St. Paul.

  2. Eckhard J. Schnabel, Paul the Missionary: Realities, Strategies, and Methods (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2008), 27-28

  3. Gary Corwin, “MissionS: Why the “S” Is Still Important,” EMQ 53:2 (April 2017),

  4.  Ibid.

This is an article from the November-December 2019 issue: What Happens When Everything is Missions?

What’s the Harm in Calling Everything Missions?

What’s the Harm in Calling Everything Missions?

About fifteen years ago, I noticed that an increasing number of church leaders were intentionally propagating a redefinition and broadening of what missions is and who the word missionary should be applied to.


Though well-intentioned, the view that everything is missions and every follower of Christ is a missionary comes with significant and unintended missionimpacting consequences. Here are just a few of them:

1.  It causes people to gloss over the pivotal, biggerpicture facts that are clearly described in the sweep of the New Testament, diminishing the attention and weight they deserve:

  • Jesus commissioned His church by way of the apostles to go and make disciples among every ethnic group, where those groups reside (Matt. 28:18-20).
  • The book of Acts is a record of the church’s diverse but unified efforts to take Christ’s commission seriously.
  • The book of Revelation unveils that the commission Jesus gave will ultimately be accomplished and that He will receive worship from representatives of every ethnic and linguistic group God created. This is His endgame plan for humanity.

Because these realities provide the overarching framework in which God unfolds His ultimate plan, the understanding and motivation for every Christian to contribute to its completion is missing.

2. I t provokes Christians to either ignore or reinterpret some of the key terminology that is plainly used in the New Testament:

  • Jesus is referred to as an apostle/missionary (Heb. 3:1).
  • He gave the title apostle/missionary to a small and select group of His disciples that He called to do something that would require a unique level of sacrifice and selfdenial (Luke 6:13).
  • All of those called to be apostles/missionaries were disciples, but not all of His disciples were given the calling and title of apostle/missionary.
  • The title apostle/missionary is applied to people other than the original twelve in the book of Acts and the rest of the New Testament, but not to all believers. The common denominator was their apparent willingness to be sent, crossing various boundaries for the sake of the gospel and the expansion of the kingdom.
  • When explaining the gifts given by the Holy Spirit, Paul lists apostle/missionary as one of them, and then uses rhetorical questions to make the point that not every Christian is given every gift and the title that expresses it (1 Cor. 12:27-31).

It’s noble and well-meaning to find creative ways to encourage Christians to live out their faith and share the gospel. However, if God designed diversity and distinctions and the language used to communicate them is blurred, then language used to describe other diverse and distinct areas that God designed will be more susceptible to also being blurred to accomplish other apparently noble purposes.

  1. It diminishes the desire to know and thus measure how much progress has been made toward the completion of the mission He gave to His people. And with that desire extinguished, the importance of becoming educated about the incredible ethnic, linguistic and cultural diversity with which He created humanity and how it reflects His glory will be neglected.
  2. I t quenches the passion of God’s people to pray for the remaining unengaged and unreached people groups, and the need to plead with Him to move churches and ministries to send missionaries to live among them and share the gospel.
  3. It minimizes the value and significance of advocacy within the Church on behalf of those who are still unreached and the missionaries and ministries that are engaged in trying to reach them.
  4. It diverts financial resources away from the small group of His people that God is still calling to relocate to places around the world that require that person to be funded from a source outside of the country where they live and serve.
  5. It nullifies and neutralizes the opportunities for people to participate sacrificially and financially in completing the ultimate task the church has been given.
  6. I t dilutes the need and thus the passion for each member to discover what they can do to partner and participate in meaningful ways with God and the missionaries He sends to complete the task.
  7. It dismantles the hard-wiring that God has placed within us to bestow gratitude, respect and honor upon those whose obedience to His calling requires an extraordinary level of self-denial, sacrifice and humility. 10.  It deprives people of one of the simplest methods God has established for making the mundane meaningful—that whatever we’re doing with crosscultural missions is actually making a significant contribution towards the accomplishment of a mission that matters, expecially for those who have little to no access to the Good News.


Although it may seem like the consequences I’ve listed are possible, but not likely to become a reality, I’ve actually encountered each and every one of them within the sphere of the churches and their members with whom I interact as part of my job.

Because I’m convinced that this new view of missions and missionaries is harmful to the successful completion of the mission God has given to His people, I point out some of the consequences listed above to those who have bought in to it.

If that doesn’t seem to get any traction or notice, I add these points:

  • We don’t say that every Christian is a pastor even though they do a few of the things that pastors do.
  • We don’t say that because every person is able to render some level of medical care to others that they should be given the title of doctor.
  • We don’t say that because every person in the Coast Guard knows how to swim, all of them should be called Rescue Swimmers.

It is very important that we understand the biblical context and proper motivation to encourage people to share their faith. Our reasoning is easily influenced by our hyper-individualistic extreme egalitarian culture. There is a dangerous tendancy to ignore the implications of redefining words like “mission” and “missionary.” We must be very careful not to bend the meaning of words and manipulate them into what we want them to mean. Descriptive titles have meaning! Pastors, doctors, and Rescue Swimmers identify specific people with unique roles. If we manipulate words to mean something else then we lose the power of their descriptive nature. Words have meaning.

This is an article from the November-December 2019 issue: What Happens When Everything is Missions?

The Rise & Fall of Movements

The Rise & Fall of Movements

The Council of Nicaea in AD 325 was the first worldwide gathering of Christian leaders. They represented the churches of North Africa, Europe, and the East as far as Persia.

The Emperor Constantine, robed in purple and adorned with jewels, entered and sat down on a chair of gold. Two hundred and fifty Christian leaders rose to their feet. As he looked out on the bishops he had assembled, Constantine saw empty eye sockets and mutilated limbs, grotesque reminders of the past. These men had been tortured by the empire he now represented. But after three centuries, Rome’s fury was spent. Persecution had failed to crush the movement that began with Jesus.

This missionary movement—founded by a crucified criminal in an insignificant province—was everywhere. In an empire of sixty million people, one in ten called Jesus of Nazareth “Lord.” Christianity was the most tight-knit and widespread organization in the most powerful empire on earth.

Constantine’s conversion was a mixed blessing for the Christian movement. According to Rodney Stark, imperial favor transformed the church into an elite organization, lavishly funded by the state bestowing wealth and power on the clergy.

The church lost interest in evangelizing the barbarians beyond the borders of civilization. Within the empire, coercion replaced persuasion as the method of evangelism. Now the church grew dramatically because of its favored position in society. By the end of the fourth century, the vast majority of people within the empire identified as Christian.

Meanwhile in the remote desert caves of Egypt the monastic movement was on the rise.

Here is the pattern of church history. Movements are born (Birth), and those that survive infancy become growing adolescents (Growth). They reach adulthood and survey their achievements. They become complacent and settle down (Maturity). Some find the will to return to their youthful zeal (Rebirth). Most play it safe (Decline). Declining institutions can linger for generations, slowly unravelling (Decay). Meanwhile, always on the fringe, new movements are emerging.


A missionary movement became a state religion at peace with the world.

1. Identity—Why?

When I was first drawn to the study of movements, I watched what they did, I discovered characteristics, and I observed Strategies and Methods. Years later I realized I was missing the most important thing: beneath the surface of observable activity is the why—Identity.

Two connected stories stand between Jesus’ life in Nazareth and his Mission as coming King — his baptism and wilderness testing. They reveal how Jesus lived and ministered out of his Identity as the muchloved Son—obedient to his Father’s Word, dependent on the Holy Spirit, pursuing his Mission.  When Jesus walked out of the wilderness and returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, he knew who he was, and he knew what he had come to do. Movements rise and fall to the degree to which they move toward and away from the life and ministry of Jesus.

2. Strategy—How?

Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit to launch a missionary movement. He expressed his Identity in strategic action. Strategy is how a movement operates. Strategy applies principles in pursuit of the mission. Jesus’ strategy had four recurring aspects:

  • Pioneering Leaders
  • Contagious Relationships
  • Rapid Mobilization • Adaptive Methods.

Multiplying movements display these same patterns.

Strategy must be grounded in Identity—our how must serve our why. It is possible to miss the importance of Identity (Word, Spirit, Mission) and view Strategy as the determining factor in movements. We apply the principles to get the results. We build the Tower of Babel to reach the heavens. But God has a way of tearing down our constructions and confusing our efforts to bring us back to the question of Identity.

3. Methods—What?

Strategy is a movement’s overarching how. Methods are what we do. Methods apply Strategy and they vary according to the context. They are the specific tools, systems, and processes we use to implement Strategy.

Our Methods put flesh on Identity and Strategy, but in the real world they are not always effective. We must continually evaluate our Methods, just as we need to make sure that our Methods align with the other elements of Identity and Strategy.


Every generation of disciples must return to be with Christ in his baptism and desert ordeal. Recall the disciples as Jesus found them after he had risen: they were done; the movement was over; its terrified leaders locked themselves in a room and shut out the world (John 20:19). The Jesus movement had risen and fallen within just a few years.

What did Jesus do? He brought them back to their Identity. He opened up the Scriptures to them and taught them from the Word of God (Luke 24:27, 45). He prepared them for the coming of the Holy Spirit in power (Acts 1:4–5). He explained their Mission, instructing them to go to the nations with the gospel of the forgiveness of sins, baptizing and teaching disciples to obey his commands, and forming them into churches. They were not to stop until he returns in glory (Matthew 28:16–20; Luke 24:45–49; Acts 1:1–8). The movement was reborn by a return to its Identity. Now it was ready for action.

For as long as you live and serve the Lord, you must never tire of returning to your Identity—the Word, the Spirit, the Mission. Jesus began the movement and He still leads the way.

This is an article from the November-December 2019 issue: What Happens When Everything is Missions?

Acts 1:8 Sequentialism

Acts 1:8 Sequentialism

As shocking as it may seem (at least it’s shocking to me),  many, many Christians are bored. They are dutiful in attending church, being good employees, raising their children, serving their communities in many wonderful and beautiful ways and yet, they are bored.  How can this be? How can followers of Jesus who appear to be doing  “all the right things” be bored?

I believe at least part of the problem is that they don’t understand who they are. They know that they belong to Jesus, but they don’t understand what that means. It’s true that believers are meant to attend church, build good families and serve their communities. The problem is that, although they were made for all of those things, they were also made for MORE than those things. One of the core identities of a follower of Jesus is to be a world changer. This can be seen from the earliest days of our father Abraham when he was told that all the nations on earth would be blessed through him (Gen. 12:3). When people begin to follow Jesus, they are then joined into this family of Abraham (Gal. 3:7-9, 14). This dream of all the nations of the earth being blessed is the foundation of our faith and also the ultimate culmination of our faith (cf. Rev. 5:9). The glory of the nations of the earth is a key building block of God’s own city (Rev. 21:24-26). From these passages, it seems that ALL believers are made to be a part of God’s global purposes.

Acts 1:8 helps spell out the scope of God’s global glory. For many, a misunderstanding of this passage has led to a misunderstanding of who they are. In Acts 1:8 Jesus tells us that we will need the power of the Holy Spirit to be able to be witnesses of the Good News of Jesus. Then Jesus says that the gospel will go to Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and the ends of the earth as His people serve as witnesses. Some have taken this verse to mean that the gospel will progressively move from Jerusalem then Judea and Samaria and then the ends of the earth. Although the conjunction in this verse is far more often interpreted as “and” than “then” in the Bible, grammatical arguments are not the strongest ones to look at.

The strongest argument that this verse was NEVER understood by the early Church as being sequential is the behavior of the early Church itself. If the early Church had taken this verse to mean that they would FIRST reach Jerusalem and then move on, then the Church would likely still be in Jerusalem today. It doesn’t take much of a walk around modern day Jerusalem to realize that there are many people there who are not following Jesus to this day. And, yet the early Church did finally send out a missionary team in Acts 13. There is no reason to believe that either Jerusalem or Antioch had 100% followers of Jesus at the time that the early Church sent Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey. So, how did they know when to send out their first missionary teams? When the Holy Spirit told them to do so. They prayed, He spoke, they obeyed. It would have been ridiculous to argue with the Holy Spirit that Antioch had not yet been reached and therefore they could not move on to another place.

So, how is it that many believers today say, “We have so many lost here. We can’t move on until we reach all the people here.” It seems to me that this statement is a fundamental misunderstanding of two things: how the kingdom grows (or doesn’t) and of who we are as children of Abraham and receivers of the Holy Spirit and His gifts. Jesus taught in the parable of the sower of the seed (Matt.3:123, 18-23, Mark 4:1-20, Luke 8:4-15) that only one of four kinds of soil bore any long-lasting fruit at all. This oft quoted idea that “there are still many people here that have not been saved and so we should not move on” is the same as staying to till the poor soil. People who have heard but have not responded positively are poor soil. We are still called to love them, but the parable also calls us to move on to other soil. Jesus never implies that believers should stay and till poor soil. In fact, it seems to be a truth of the operation of the kingdom that not all will respond to the sowing of the gospel seed.

It seems that there is a deeper theological issue with saying that a particular local church is called to ONLY local work. The rub is in the different gifts given to the local church. Often churches are led by someone who is a shepherd as listed in Ephesians 4. Shepherds are called to tend the flock and are usually called to a primarily local ministry. However, all of the ministries in Ephesians 4 are called to equip the saints for works of service (cf. Eph. 4:12).

To say that a particular local body has no global calling is to decide that NO ONE in that church will ever be called as an apostle. This is surely not what any local shepherd would want to imply. Local pastors understand that it is their job to “fan into flames” the gifts that the Holy Spirit has given to the members of the congregation (cf. 2 Tim. 1:6). No one should condemn some gifts as not welcome within their church. To do so is poor shepherding and crushing to the hearts of those who are given an apostolic gift from Holy Spirit.

For example, I have friends that are the first believers in a people group that has .01% believers. But when they prayed, they felt strongly that Jesus asked them to go to another people group that was not their own. Logically, it might not make sense. But it’s God who gifted them for global purposes and sent them out. They simply obeyed. Their own Jerusalem has almost no believers in it at all and yet they moved to “the ends of the earth” where there are also almost no believers. How did they know it was time for them to go? The same way they knew in Acts 13: the body prayed, the Holy Spirit spoke, and so they obeyed. To hold them to their own Jerusalem might have seemed logical but I am convinced that it would not have been obedience to Jesus.

I do not mean to imply that being involved in God’s global glory is only for those with an apostolic gifting. For some, they will be involved by sending as the Scriptures say, “How can they go unless they are sent?” (Rom.10:15) Declaring that a local body will only reach locally denies the calling on both Goers and Senders. Often what happens is that men and women with such a gift on their lives are in an environment that does not shepherd them in that global calling and leaves them feeling a lot of angst. Globally called believers will feel torn as they try to be obedient to their local shepherd who only believes in local ministry because they are not doing what they were gifted to do. And, so they serve in many, many ways but they begin to slowly die inside and wonder what they are missing. In addition, they are often told that they do not properly understand Acts 1:8 which only makes them feel worse. They wonder why they can’t just settle down and do local outreach like everyone else. It’s obvious that local outreach is important and something their church (like all churches) is called to do. Calling everything missions can actually destroy the uniqueness of the apostolic calling. Often such people feel torn between the Spirit in them and their local shepherd they long to obey. As a part of this global family of God, we have joy when we are connected globally. Local bodies that are praying for those who do not know Jesus, giving finances, personnel and resources to the other side of the world and establishing friendships globally do not die and do not lack local outreach. Quite the contrary.

If a local church is not reaching out locally, denying global outreach is not the way to get people to reach locally. In fact, beginning to call people to global purposes and awakening them to the purpose of the family of Abraham will also awaken people to local outreach. For the restoration of the global purpose is a repairing of the heart, even a healing of the soul of something that has been robbed of them. Not all of our local church members will be goers (missionaries) but all will use their gifts in one way or another for God’s global purposes and glory. Some will use their gifts of helps, intercession, babysitting, carpentry, etc. to achieve God’s aims on a global level. Some will go. Some will serve more locally while others serve almost exclusively globally.

Let’s not tell our congregants that they are too insignificant and too unimportant to be connected to the global body. This is not the message of Jesus. Every congregation, no matter how lost the world outside its own doors, is made for both local and global impact. Denying one or the other is a denial of who the family of Abraham was made to be. A people awakened to their identity in Christ will be awakened to this global identity and global belonging. To then limit their sphere of influence locally is simply not good shepherding or kingdom building. Let’s call the local church to its global purpose. Let’s call it to live again, to have significance, to live for more than itself, to transform communities and neighborhoods and to transform the whole world for Jesus.



This is an article from the November-December 2019 issue: What Happens When Everything is Missions?

Toward the Edges: Using the M Words

and an Update on a Completely Different Topic!

Toward the Edges: Using the M Words

I am grateful for the topic of this Mission Frontiers edition. The language we use and the way we use it, is of course, absolutely crucial.

Frontier Ventures has, for more than forty years, sought to help keep as clear a focus as possible on the “edges” between where the gospel is in fact taking root and growing and where it isn’t, and pressing into answers for the question, “why”?

The M Words: Mission and Missionary

For us that “why” question is the essence of frontier mission (as a focus of mission action and prayer and heart), frontier missiology (as a whole multi-disciplinary field of study), and frontier missionaries (those believers, from every reached people group, who specifically follow the apostolic and Abrahamic call to participate in God’s blessing of those nations where the good news has yet to take root and grow).

The central premise of our topic, “When Everything is Missions and All Believers Are Missionaries,” is that if we blur the sharp edges of the word “mission” and “missionary” we will begin to lose the needed clarity of focus on the unreached and frontier peoples. I agree with the effort to try to keep the word focused.

But let me for a moment take another tack. That is that there might be a problem with keeping the words at all.

Bear with me a moment, and I promise to return to the main point!

In Other Words

More and more, people are raising questions about using M Words (mission and missionary) from a different angle than our edition of MF is asking. Essentially, people are asking: “Can’t we find better words? Words less tied to a colonial era? Less tied to a paradigm of western dominance and style and finance and strategy?”

That is a different set of questions than, “How can we make sure we use the M Words to really just mean mission (instead of everything)?”

In the gathering of the International Society of Frontier Mission (Dallas, September 13-15) we addressed this issue from several angles, asking how to critique our vocabulary and potentially find alternatives.

Several proposed alternative English words. For example, Mike Stroope, author of the book Transcending Mission presented, and he has helped many readers begin to think more deeply about the issues of language and the paradigms of mission which can be carried by language even when we don’t know it.

I presented a paper sharing about vocabulary that believers in emerging movements among Muslims are using for things like “mission” and “evangelism” and “church” and more. That was an intentional attempt to hear some different voices, from different contexts and different languages, as they have sought to find words— words other than the M Words.

These are efforts which are tackling the problems of the M Words in a different way, from a different angle than this edition of MF. These are important, but I want to return to the issues others in MF are raising this time.

Keeping the M Words Focused

I am a realist. Even if we do find new words that do a better job of carrying more humble and incarnational missional paradigms, those new words will eventually be co-opted for many purposes.

In particular, we know by experience, that whatever new word might be selected to focus on the work of seeing the gospel take root where it is not currently flourishing, will eventually be used to refer to all sorts of other (good and vital in their own right) ministry efforts.

So, let’s solve that problem for the M Words as long as we still have them (which I’m sure we will for some time to come)!

If we begin to “fuzz” the edges of the meaning of mission so that it begins to mean everything we do, then it will mean anything we do, which ends up robbing “mission” of really any meaning at all. So we go from mission meaning everything to it meaning, essentially, nothing.

I believe, even as I am concerned for the effort to find new words, that we should fight for preserving the clarity and purpose of the words mission and missionary as used distinctly for all that is involved in seeing the gospel find soil and take root and thrive and grow as a movement within peoples and cultures least touched, least reached, by the gospel.

That is the main focus of this edition of MF. And as always, it is crucial that we are pairing this specific theme with the updates in every edition that share about movements that are spreading within unreached peoples. And an Update On an Entirely Different Point!

In a prior column I shared about our efforts to recover the data from the “Last Thousand Campaign” and to begin to reach out to those who decades ago helped us launch the movement that has seen such a sea change in getting unreached peoples on the map of global mission.

Many, many people helped us, and some requested that once we had raised the funds we sought during the LTC, we would pass the amount of their gift to another ministry as they designated.

We have the records and know of the just over 200 people who made that request. We are systematically reaching out to them to communicate, thank, and make sure we know their intentions correctly.

As I write, we are making arrangements for the first such gift to be forwarded to a ministry of Frontiers!

Thank you, also, to those of you who have written to me to express your support of what we are doing, and for asking us to keep the gift you invested all those years ago.

This is an article from the November-December 2019 issue: What Happens When Everything is Missions?

Currents of Change: How Did Everything become Missions?

Currents of Change: How Did Everything become Missions?

The Church has reached a point in history where missions means anything it does in the world.

Missions is multifaceted. There’s medical missions, relief missions, short-term missions (which includes a multitude of activities), missions to the elderly, orphan care missions, church planting missions, leadership development and educational missions, evangelistic missions, disaster relief missions, and construction missions just to mention a few examples. Missionaries can be teachers, church planters, farmers, seminary professors and engineers. We now live at a time when the Church does missions even if the gospel is never shared.

My assigned task is to attempt to answer the question: How did the Church get to this point? Everything did not become missions overnight. Our present reality has been a long journey. There is no single source that is the cause of such diversity. Rather, just as several tributaries flow together to create a river, there are at least five currents that brought us to the present situation.

Current #1: Problem of Language

While biblical concepts have been assigned to words such as mission, missions, and missionary, such are extrabiblical terms. Such words are not found in Hebrew or Greek, but derive from Latin. The earliest use has been connected to the Jesuits.

André Seumois notes that Ignatius of Loyola was using variations of missions in 1540.1 The language of mission and missions is used in Ignatius’ The Constitutions of the Society of Jesus which was first approved by the first General Congregation in 1558 with such terminology referring to being sent into the world “for the greater glory of God and the good of souls, whether among the faithful or unbelievers.”While God’s glory may have been part of the motivation behind such kingdom endeavors, a great deal of Catholic missionary activities became closely connected with European military and colonial expansion. Christianization and civilization were often two goals of both Church and country. The sacred and secular often had an intimate union.

Whenever the Church lacks exegetical support for its theology, then extrabiblical nomenclature can result in concepts with a variety of meanings. Church culture and context become most important as a defining factor of mission. Given this relativistic understanding, David Bosch was correct when he noted in Transforming Mission that “mission remains undefinable; it should never be incarcerated in the narrow confines of our own predilections. The most we can hope for is to formulate some approximations of what mission is all about.”3 Years later, Michael W. Stroope described mission as a “broad river in which there is space for many usages and meanings” and is a term “quite elastic in its meaning.”4 Such fluidity exists partially due to meaning and activity being socially constructed in the moment (or across an epoch).

The Latin (mitto) origin of mission, missions, and missionaries is not sufficient for the development of a proper biblical understanding of the Great Commission activities of the Church. Andreas J. Köstenberger, was correct when he wrote, “Any understanding of a biblical theology of mission must derive its contours from the biblical material itself rather than being submerged by extrabiblical definitions.”5 But what if mission is not found in the Bible?

While such terminology is common parlance and near and dear to our hearts, it has been part of the process that has resulted in everything becoming missions. If there is no biblical word for mission, missions, or missionary who is to say that my definition is more accurate than yours?6

Current #2: Theological Shifts

Theological shifts in the 18th through 20th centuries moved the Church away from historic orthodox teachings regarding inspiration, theology proper, Christology, and personal and cosmic eschatology, just to name a few areas. The Bible was subjected to critical study with an anti-supernatural bias. Ethical monotheism was viewed as the result of societal evolution. Jesus became an example to follow, while the significance of His penal-substitutionary atonement and honor/shame removal act was relegated to the dustbin. Sin, judgement and hell were seen as psychological burdens and to be discarded as quickly as possible. The academy had created some of the greatest heretics who remained cloaked in ecclesial culture and language.

During this period, pluralism—and inclusivism—was growing in influence. For some, humanity became the center of mission. The Church, Jesus and God existed for the improvement of society. Missionary activities were to improve quality of life, but should “never violate the sanctity of human personality.”7 Religions became equals.

The publication of William Ernest Hocking’s ReThinking Missions revealed how humanism and liberal theology influenced missionary thought and practice in certain circles:

If the conception of hell changes, if attention is drawn away from the fear of God’s punitive justice in everlasting torment of the unsaved, to happier conceptions of destiny, if there is a shift of concern from other worldly issues to the problems of sin and suffering in the present life, these changes will immediately alter that view of the perils of the soul which gave to the original motive of Protestant missions much of its poignant urgency. Generally speaking, these changes have occurred.8

While many mission leaders spoke against liberal and neo-orthodox theologies, over time aspects of such theological systems began to trickle down from the academy and influenced local churches and mission agencies. Conversionistic missiology and the exclusivity of Christ were sometimes avoided for more palatable practices that encouraged more people to go, believing it was possible to witness through presence alone.

Current #3: Value of Instant Gratification

The western drive for quick results emerged from a value system that facilitated immediate and quantifiable accomplishments. A roof could be added to a church’s building faster than a church could be planted among an unreached people. Antibiotics could be distributed much more easily than the gospel could be shared in a different language.

In his research on short-term missions, Edwin Zehner notes that by the early 21st century, immediate gratification was a growing value among evangelicals: “Yet overall by 2007, especially in North America, there had been a subtle shift to new rhetoric and expectations, including greater interest in practical action and more realistic notions of what short-term offerings can accomplish.”9 If teams (short- or long-term) could do good activities in the name of Jesus and experience quick results, then why not develop and give more attention to methods and strategies to support such actions?

Current #4: Evangelism & Social Justice Debate

The evangelism and social justice debate had a long history in the 20th and 21st centuries. The tension was felt even as recent as Lasuanne III in Cape Town (2010) when during a plenary session, John Piper asked, “Could Lausanne say? Could the global Church say this: ‘For Christ’s sake, we Christians care about all suffering, especially eternal suffering.’?”10

The world has always been filled with areas of significant physical and spiritual need. Evangelicals have always been moved with the desire to take bandages and the gospel to the world. Such is the right way of the kingdom citizen.

However, faced with such global needs, the Church in the West does not naturally gravitate toward gospel proclamation, but drifts away from it and toward care for suffering. Our eyes and hearts are often more in tune with the immediate than the eternal. The Church must work diligently to be intentional about disciple-making.

John Stott was a leader in the area of global evangelization and also championed the Church’s responsibility of social justice. However, the language used in a section in his influential book, Christian Mission in the Modern World, creates an opportunity for the Church to neglect gospel proclamation due to the ubiquitous realities of suffering and social injustices. He writes:

To see need and to possess the remedy compels love to act, and whether the action will be evangelistic or social, or indeed political, depends on what we “see” and what we “have”.

This does not mean that words and works, evangelism and social action, are such inseparable partners that all of us must engage in both all the time. Situations vary, and so do Christian callings. As for situations, there will be times when a person’s eternal destiny is the most urgent consideration, for we must not forget that men without Christ are perishing. But there will certainly be other times when a person’s material need is so pressing that he would not be able to hear the gospel if we shared it with him… . If our enemy is hungry, our biblical mandate is not to evangelize him but to feed him (Rom. 12:20)!11

Such language communicates there are times when eternal matters are not ultimate. In his noble attempt to draw attention to the truth that the pain of suffering can rightly hinder one from hearing the gospel, he opens a door for missions to avoid identifying with proclamation. I cannot help but think many people have taken such words and thoughts to an unhealthy direction—one not intended by Stott. Instead of the Church expecting the “other times” as exceptional when urgent relief is necessary to save a life, it has come to view these times as expected, the norm and has adjusted its mission strategy and methods to support a multitude of activities at the expense of disciple-making.

Current #5: Good Intentions + Technological Advancements

Christians are called to maximize their talents, gifts, abilities and skills for the glory of God. It is natural for the Church to leverage such blessings at home. However, the world is our parish. Kingdom citizens began to recognize that any good they could do at home is something that should be done abroad. Communication developments, diminished costs and speed of international travel, and the safety of spending time in other countries resulted in large numbers of western Christians going to serve the nations.

The Church in the West recognized intercultural engagement could become the practice of the many and not something exclusively for the few. By 2005, 1.6 million U. S. adult church members were participating in international short-term mission trips.12 While many short-term teams do participate in evangelistic and church planting endeavors, a growing number go to serve in other areas. A. Scott Moreau found that a larger percentage of short-term workers, sent by U. S. agencies from 2001–2005, chose to participate in relief/ development and education/training rather than primary activities of evangelism and discipleship.13


Missions has come to mean a multitude of things to different people. This unclear understanding of the term (including its derivatives) and concept developed over time as several currents of thought and practice converged. Kingdom citizens should glorify God by serving the nations with differing skills and advocating for social justice issues. The Church needs more people to go! Wise stewards work with urgency and desire to know what is working to bring about kingdom results; life is a vapor (James 4:14), and the day approaches.

Clarity and distinction are needed. He gave “some” not all to be… (Eph. 4:11–12). An identifiable difference clearly existed in Acts 6:1–7. There is a variety of service and activities (1 Cor. 12:5, 6). Without neglecting its Holy Spirit designed diversity, the Church must articulate the uniqueness of its apostolic work in both biblical terms and understanding as it labors to make disciples of all peoples.

  1.  1 André Seumois, Théologie Missionnaire: Délimitation de la Fonction Missionnaire de L’Eglise (Rome: Bureau de Presse O.M.I., 1973), 9.

  2. 2 John W. Padberg, ed., The Constitutions of the Society of Jesus and Their Complementary Norms: A Complete English Transition of the Official Latin Texts (St. Louis, MO: The Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1996), 281.

  3. 3 David J. Bosch, Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission, 20th anniversary ed. (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2011), 9.

  4. 4 Michael W. Stroope, Transcending Mission: The Eclipse of a Modern Tradition (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic 2017), 4.

  5. 5 Andreas J. Köstenberger, “The Place of Mission in New Testament Theology: An Attempt to Determine the Significance of Mission within the Scope of the New Testament’s Message as a Whole,” Missiology 27 #3 (July 1999): 357.

  6. 6 Of course, some will say there is no biblical word Trinity either. However, a major difference is that the Church has a definitive understanding of the Trinity. Any definition that differs from this orthodox statement is considered heterodoxy. The Church has no equivalent standard for missions or missionary. 

  7. 7 R. Pierce Beaver, “North American Thought on the Fundamental Principles of Missions During the Twentieth Century,” Church History 21 #4 (December 1952): 352.

  8. 8 William Ernest Hoking, Re-Thinking Missions: A Laymen’s Inquiry after One Hundred Years (New York and London: Harper and Brothers Publishers, 1938), 19.

  9. 9 Edwin Zehner, “On the Rhetoric of Short-term Mission Appeals, with Some Practical Suggestions for Team Leaders,” in Robert J. Priest, ed., Effective Engagement in Short-Term Missions: Doing it Right (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 2008), 188.

  10. 10 Bible Exposition: Ephesians 3 – John Piper (Part 2) – Cape Town 2010; [on-line] accessed August 1, 2019,

  11. 11 John Stott, Christian Mission in the Modern World (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1975), 28.

  12. 12 Robert J. Priest, “Introduction,” in Robert J. Priest, ed., Effective Engagement in Short-Term Missions: Doing it Right (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 2008), ii. 

  13. 13 A. Scott Moreau, “Short Term Missions in the Context of Missions, Inc.,” in Robert J. Priest, ed., Effective Engagement in Short-Term Missions: Doing it Right (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 2008), 16.

This is an article from the September-October 2019 issue: Making a Killing

24:14 Goal: Movement engagements in every unreached people and place by 2025 (76 months)

Missiological Myths vs. Biblical Patterns

24:14 Goal: Movement engagements in every unreached people and place by 2025 (76 months)

Jesus tells us in Matthew 24 that before He returns, many calamities will come, including all kinds of natural and human disasters. Believers will be handed over to persecution, hated by all ethnē because of Jesus and even put to death. Many will turn away from faith in Jesus and betray and hate each other. Due to this increase in wickedness, the love of most believers will grow cold. Not a nice picture, huh?

He then says and (Matt. 24:14a) in the middle of all of that mess (rather than saying but or in spite of), two related things will happen. 1) Those who stand firm to the end will be saved, and 2) this good news of the kingdom will be shared publicly in the whole world as a sacrificial testimony to all ethnē – and then the end will come! In other words, all peoples will be given the “Jesus option” before the end comes. And that will happen in the middle of all the turmoil, not in spite of it.

Waves of persecution have happened throughout history and are nothing new. Two main responses have occurred: 1) believers get upset and surprised when it happens and advise each other to lie low so maybe they will not be targeted; and 2) some believers become wisely bold, yet pure in motivation. This latter group has made many disciples during these periods, often at great cost.

In the mid-1980s, about half the mission force from all organizations in Indonesia were forced out of the country. Many who remained or had just arrived realized a new urgency and took bold new steps to make disciples in spite of any risks they faced. Today, in several major countries, workers are under severe government scrutiny or getting kicked out. What will be our response? Will we succumb to missiological myths or follow biblical patterns? See what you think of the following.

Myth 1:  The safest place in the world is in the center of God’s will. Many interpret this to mean physical safety. If one is faithful, one will not suffer or certainly not die. Another version is “mission can be done in a safe way if we are careful enough.”

Biblical Pattern—We will suffer while in the center of God’s will. Jesus lived completely in the center of God’s will – and He was killed. In fact, He knew He would be killed and He risked His life willingly.


In 2 Corinthians 1:8-11, Paul describes how he and his team experienced pressure beyond what they felt they could endure. They despaired to the point they felt like their death sentence had been passed. Yet in that terrible situation they learned to depend on God and continued to impact people.

In 2 Corinthians 11:23-28, Paul lists his many sufferings: multiple floggings, shipwrecks, stonings, imprisonments, bandits, hunger, thirst, nakedness, danger in numerous places and from numerous types of people. Let’s be real. Proclaiming Jesus among the unreached can cause real pain, grief, despair, injustice, tragedy, etc. Let’s be more real. It will all be worth it when we see reproducing disciples with changed lives in Christ.

Myth 2: If we handle our identity carefully, have a good business platform, avoid “missionary” identity, and use very good electronic security measures, the governments and religious authorities of the world will let us continue to work and we might be effective.

Biblical Pattern—We should be bold witnesses even when watched by the authorities. People already know who we are and are watching us. So we may as well be wisely public. We want to be wise (and not get persecuted for acting foolishly), but we must not allow the powers of this world to push us into adopting a secular persona. No very cautious person has ever been known to catalyze a movement to make disciples.

Jesus said: “When [not if] you are brought before … the authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.” (Luke 12:11-12, NIV)

He calls us to continue to share, even under the threat of death. He invites us also to rejoice when we suffer disgrace for Jesus’ sake. ‘Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven.’ (Matt. 5:12a, NIV) The apostles modeled this boldness and this joy.

The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.” Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings!” (Acts 5:27-29, NIV)

The authorities were furious and decided to put them to death. Gamaliel convinced them not to kill them, so they just flogged them (!) and again commanded them not to talk about Jesus.

Did they stop? Not a bit. They never stopped teaching. They taught day by day. They did it publicly in the temple courts and from house to house. And they rejoiced they were counted worthy to suffer disgrace for the name! (Acts 5: 40-42)

Myth 3:  We, the outsiders, can escape suffering if we are careful enough, and still effectively help our local partners learn to be prepared for suffering.

Biblical Pattern—We must model willingness to suffer for Jesus. We rightly feel concerned when groups we help start do not multiply. A reason often given is that everyone in the culture is suspicious of others and thus hesitant to make disciples. Could it also be that we have not modeled a willingness to risk arrest and suffering for the sake of the gospel?

Let’s be willing and bold to risk in genuine humility. The Apostle Paul gave us a model and a challenge in this, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” (1 Cor. 11:1). Jesus’ example ultimately led to His great sacrifice – and the huge response which followed.

This is an article from the September-October 2019 issue: Making a Killing

Famine, Poverty & Violence

Three More Ways Drugs Cause Death

Famine, Poverty & Violence

Among the unreached peoples, especially the Frontier People Groups, the suffering that drugs cause to individual addicts is far outweighed by the misery caused to families and communities.  Millions of deaths are directly caused by addictions, but there are also millions of collateral deaths. Should missionaries merely call for prayer for those struck down by famines, poverty and violence, or should we follow the example of previous generations who discerned root problems and globally exposed the evils and destruction caused by the death industries of their day? Any attempt at development and poverty elimination must confront these issues:

1. Drug crops displace food crops causing famines.

The current famine in Yemen is risking millions of lives and may be the worst humanitarian disaster of this decade. Yemen’s annual production of “khat,” an addictive drug cash crop, has reached 190,000 tons and taken over 15% of arable land and 38% of agricultural water badly needed for food production.1 Food prices soar, burning profits made by growing lucrative drug crops instead. This problem is global, including hashish (marijuana) from Mexico to Morocco to Albania, coca (cocaine) in Latin America, opium from Afghanistan through Asia. All it takes is bad weather or war to trigger widespread famine. But it becomes extremely complex to return to other crops once a generation of farmers has only learned to raise drugs.

From 1700-1900, some 60 million people died of famines in India, where significant land area was used for opium and hemp/marijuana, reducing the state of Bengal from wealth to poverty.2 Some argued opium was helpful because it assuaged the appetite of starving people! Globally, billions of acres produce non-nutritive crops like nicotine (tobacco) and caffeine (coffee/ matte/tea). Increasingly, foods that could be eaten areused for alcohol production, including 98% of barley and 40% of corn grown in the USA,3 where also 85% of the profits from growing grapes come from wine production.4

2. Drugs impoverish whole families because they use up valuable income and make addicts unable to work productively.

Evangelical missionaries have often raised the standard of living and health of poor communities significantly simply by helping those coming to Christ get rid of expensive and debilitating addictions. Drugged family members cannot hold down jobs. Frequently 30% to 50% of the income of poor families goes to purchase tobacco, alcohol and drugs. Wives hide their money so their husbands won’t steal it and spend it on their addictions.  The founder of the Evangelical movement, John Wesley, quickly found that poor families were healthier and wealthier if their income was not spent on non-nutritive addictive substances.

3. Drugs increase violent crimes & collateral deaths.

It is hard to tabulate the number of deaths caused to the spouses or children of drug users due to neglect or domestic violence. Roughly 40% of all crimes in the USA are committed under the influence of alcohol— counting other drugs, over 60% (using urine tests).5 Tens of thousands are killed by drunk or drugged drivers and in other accidents.6

It is fair to say that, apart from abortion, addictive drugs are globally the greatest man-made cause of poverty, misery, and death. Evangelical missionaries have found that helping people groups to come to Christ must include helping them put off the very substances that are dragging their families to the grave.

This is an article from the September-October 2019 issue: Making a Killing

Missionaries vs. The Opium Industry

Missionaries vs. The Opium Industry

From the Editor: This historical case study proves that missionaries can provoke global change by challenging powerful industries and even their own government’s policies---and by coming alongside the hurting they open the hearts of the resistant to the gospel.

I am profoundly convinced that opium traffic is doing more evil in China in a week than missions are doing good in a year,” declared Rev. J. Hudson Taylor at the Centenary Global Missions Conference in 1888. Twenty-eight years prior, Taylor’s home country of Great Britain had just finished its second war to protect and enrich British opium traders in China. Taylor implored his audience to sign on to a resolution that would,

acknowledge the incalculable evils, physical, moral and social, which continue to be wrought in China through the opium trade, a trade which has strongly prejudiced the people of China against all Missionary effort.... [and repudiate] the position occupied by Great Britain, through its Indian administration, in the manufacture of the drug and promotion of the trade...[calling] Christians of Great Britain and Ireland to plead earnestly with God, and to give themselves no rest until this evil is entirely removed.1

Taylor and missionaries like him faced stiff opposition in their quest to banish opium from Chinese society. Many Britishers taken with Social Darwinism viewed the Chinese as an inferior people and so had no qualms selling them opium.2 Poppy farmers, opium traders and government officials, both foreign and native, all had financial incentives to maintain the status quo. Many pragmatic and opportunistic arguments were put forward in favor of continuing the trade: “we are only meeting a need,” “farmers earn more money from opium than from food crops,” “if we do not make money someone else will.”3  With so many powerful entrenched interests the problem appeared intractable. The missionaries were not dissuaded. Despite having much to do on many fronts they pressed on. Historian Kathleen L. Lodwick put it perfectly in her book Crusaders Against Opium: Protestant Missionaries in China 1874-1917:

The missionaries had many other serious concerns— conversions, translation of the Bible, religious literature, and music into Chinese; famine relief; improvement of the        status of women; anti-footbinding efforts—with which opium had to compete for their time and attention….The missionaries, especially a few vocal ones, were the publicists who constantly called the  government to task for policies the missionaries considered wrong….4 Any missionary who departed [from China] was urged to spread the word among the homefolk about the evils of opium and…supplied with all of the latest antiopium literature to aid him....5

Missionaries sought to change public opinion of opium. Many of the missionary doctors working in China had an intimate understanding of the tragic effect opium had on their patients. The anti-opium league in Great Britain worked with these missionary doctors to produce a pamphlet that would galvanize anti-opium sentiment. The pamphlet outlined the tragic consequences of opium use, the difficulty doctors had in helping their patients break the habit, the number of people committing suicide with opium and how Great Britain’s involvement in the trade damaged the reputation of the gospel.6  The Bishop of Durham in 1881 put it thusly,“It is no small hindrance to a Christian Missionary to have cast at him such a Chinese proverb as this: ‘You bring incense in one hand, a spear in the other;’ which is, being interpreted, ‘You bring us the Bible in one hand, opium in the other.’”7

The movement against opium found allies in Chinese students returning from studying abroad. Many of these students felt ashamed because the rest of the world looked down on China because of its opium problem. They had come to believe China couldn’t be a strong nation unless opium addiction was dealt a decisive blow. Churches in China worked tirelessly to rehabilitate addicts and prevent people from becoming addicted in the first place, so the Chinese increasingly saw missionaries as allies against the powerful opium industry and as people who genuinely cared for their people.

When at last the Chinese government made another attempt to ban opium in 1906 the groundwork for a successful transition had been made. Political attitudes in Great Britain were changing. Though opium had become fashionable in the 1870s, by 1906 many of the newly elected Members of Parliament were evangelicals who strongly opposed opium. Finally, after over a century of anti-opium agitation by missionaries, China and Great Britain came to an agreement to end the opium industry’s trade into China within 10 years. “The anti-opium forces [in Parliament], ‘a happy band of pilgrims’ who had fought so long to reach the goal now in sight, linked each other’s arms and marched down from the lobby to the street singing the doxology.”8

Editor’s Note: In 1909 opium was banned in the USA and other countries and an International Commission on Opium met in Shanghai to discuss ending non-medicinal opium production. However, heroin, invented by Bayer, Germany (1895) and distributed to cure opium addiction in the US, soon became a French industry, grown in French colonies in S.E. Asia and refined in Marseilles. There were virtually no Protestant missionaries in these areas at the time. By the 1950s, CIA anti-communist efforts, the opium industries and heroin refineries were all entrenched in the “Golden Triangle” with little opposition from the global community. Causing almost constant civil war, multiple attempts have been made since 1980 to restrict opium growing in Burma/Myanmar, with the Christian Kachin and other churches founding an antiopium activist network called“Pat Ja San” which has over 90 detox centers.9

The Way of Heaven

In 1840, a Chinese official Lin Zexu wrote a letter to Queen Victoria signed by the Emperor saying:
“Where is your conscience?...Since [opium] is not allowed to do harm to your country, then even less should you let it be passed on to the harm of other countries—how much less to China—[to be] careful of [their] own lives but careless of the lives of others.… Such conduct is repugnant to human feeling and at variance with the Way of Heaven…Men are like this all the world over: that they cherish life and hate what endangers life… the Way of Heaven holds good for you as well as for us, and your instincts are not different from ours; nor nowhere are there men so blind as not to distinguish what profits and what does harm….”

Queen Victoria never received the letter.1a


1729 China makes recreational opium illegal. 200 chests (14 tons)
1760s 1000 chests (70 tons)
1799 China bans opium imports and growing.
1820 Chinese emperor requires confiscation of opium “poison.” 10,000 chests (700 tons)
1838 4–12 million addicts
1840 First Opium War 1839–42 China cedes Hong Kong to Britain. 40,000 chests (2,800 tons)
1860 Second Opium War 1856–1860) China legalizes opium. 70,000 chests (4,900 tons)2a*
1880 95,000 chests (6,650 tons) with an equal amount being grown in China 2017 Under UN, British, and American oversight, Afghan production of opium and heroin production soared. 10,500 tons (9000 from Afghanistan), enough for 600–900 tons of heroin.3a

  1. 1 Lodwick, 50-51

  2. 2 Lodwick, 30

  3. 3 Lodwick, 9

  4. 4 Lodwick, 31

  5. 5 Lodwick, 50

  6. 6 Lodwick, 40,46,47,33

  7. 7

  8. 8 Lodwick, p 123

  9. 9
    Some are helping this effort through international publications.

  10. 1a War.htm

  11. 2a
    *Equal to the global production of opium in 2000AD,

  12. 3a

This is an article from the September-October 2019 issue: Making a Killing

Righting a Wrong-Side-Up World

A Kingdom Task

Righting a Wrong-Side-Up World
When Jesus’ disciples arrived in Thessalonica the people warned their rulers, “These who have turned the world upside down have come here too.” (Acts 17:6) They were not wrong. Jesus’ people were turning the world on its head. Rather, the Thessalonicans were mistaken in failing to see that the world was already wrong side up.
Today, we too struggle to see clearly. Our world is increasingly complex and our cultural baggage biases our perceptions. Wherever we go we hear competing messages of how the world ought to be righted. All around us, on the news, in schools and from politicians there is a conflict of visions. Cutting through the confusion lies with us, the light of the world. (Matt. 5:14)
The stakes are high. We must be mindful that the world’s visions are a sham. Only Jesus’ reign—only His vision for the world—will result in human flourishing. As we make disciples around the world, we shouldn’t fail to equip them to reorient their norms and challenge their institutions to more faithfully align with Christ’s reign.
We need the Spirit and we need each other in this task. Our sight is clouded by our culture. Peter, despite spending years living with and ministering with Jesus, did not grasp God’s heart for all peoples until Jesus sent His Spirit to Cornelius’ house. It was then Peter learned “God shows no partiality.” (Acts 10:34) He saw more clearly how Jesus purposed to create in Himself one new humanity from Jew and Gentile. (Eph. 2:15) This revelation ran counter to the voices that informed Peter’s Jewish community. When Peter was snared again by those voices he ceased eating with Gentiles. It took Paul’s bold words, the “wounds of a friend,” to restore Peter to Jesus’ way. (Prov. 27:6, Gal. 2:11) May we always thank God for our brothers and sisters in the Lord.
Jesus triumphed over the “principalities and powers,” freeing us from fruitless norms and practices. (Col. 2:15–23) When many in Ephesus came into Jesus’ kingdom they brought out their books of magic and publicly burned them—books valued at 50,000 drachma (millions of dollars in today’s currency). (Acts 19:19) Their new way of life greatly upset the economic order of the day, leading the idol makers to riot. (Acts 19:27) Their obedience is our example. As Paul taught the greedy Roman governor Felix about “…righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come,” (Acts 24:25) so we ought to humbly bear witness, in word and deed, to Jesus’ reign to a corrupt world.
Overturning cherished assumptions triggers resistance, but we will have help. Jesus warned His disciples, “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.” (John 15:18) The world that hates us is the same world for which God spared not His own Son. Jesus sends us as the Father sent him (John 20:21). For this task Jesus said it was better that He should go, for if He went He would send the Spirit and  “…when He comes, [the Spirit] will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment….” (John 16:8) And the body of Christ, “the temple of the Holy Spirit,’” will actively participate in this work. (1 Cor. 6:19) As we make disciples we must prayerfully, wisely and corporately help them to discern where norms and institutions diverge from God’s good intentions. Then, in the power of the Spirit, in word as well as deed, we will turn the world upside down.  

This is an article from the September-October 2019 issue: Making a Killing

Year of the Frontier

Year of the Frontier

This is an article from the September-October 2019 issue: Making a Killing

Hope in the World of Addiction & Sex Trafficking

Hope in the World of Addiction & Sex Trafficking

Frontier People Groups are heavily impacted by addiction and sex trafficking. The 2014 Global Slavery Index said two-thirds of the 36 million victims of trafficking come from Asia, with India, China and Pakistan at the top.1

There are more than 270 million addicts worldwide, and seven people die every minute from drug and alcohol addiction and abuse. That is more than 3.6 million per year. It is a daunting task to put hope within reach of every person struggling with a life controlling addiction in foreign countries. However, it is being attempted through collaboration of domestic and international missionaries through Teen Challenge (TC) ministries.

The hope is not just freedom from addiction but salvation in Christ. Each day these individuals are venturing into over 100 countries, in streets, sewers, mountains and valleys, rescuing people from the depths of despair and desolation. Where possible, Global TC trains indigenous leaders to carry out the call. These leaders are seeking new and innovative methods to save the addicted, hopeless, and desperate.

In the sensitive countries, it is increasingly difficult to share the gospel without government intrusion or regulation. Many face persecution or imprisonment for their efforts. However, recently some governments in the Golden Triangle have addiction problems so serious that they have asked for help from TC, even knowing TC will bring the gospel with them.

Drug addiction is foundational to human trafficking, both in trading drugs for children and in addicting and keeping the sex slave victims.2 It can affect multiple generations. Tina had been sold as a sex slave. After birthing two girls, Tina contracted AIDS and died. A TC facility took Lula and Lisa in and cared for them. Today, Lula has a college education and serves the Lord by seeking out women and children in the red-light districts, offering placement in a center and helping to legalize the adoption process for abandoned children.

Whole families are victims of the drug and slave trade. One TC director studied 11 tribes in one country with a significant death rate due to HIV/AIDS. He learned it is culturally acceptable for children to be prostituted within their own homes, often facilitated by addicted male family members, as the children become the source of income for the entire family. The younger the girl or boy the more can be charged. The result of these horrors is a rampant spread of sexually transmitted diseases, brokenness, addiction, and death. Now TC graduates and staff go into these villages teaching and providing HIV/ AIDS testing, prenatal/postnatal care and education to prevent further transmittal of the diseases when a baby is born. Building rapport within the tribes facilitates sharing the Word of God and provides opportunities for intervention and a bridge to recovery.

Some would say most addiction recovery programs are reactive but never get to the core of the hopelessness. All over the world, TC programs are proactively seeking to put hope within reach of everyone devastated by addictions. Staying true to its DNA, TC staff and students evangelize and seek to save the lost. Putting hope within reach is not just a motto. It is the action of sharing Christ and making disciples who make disciples around the world. (Matt. 28:19-20)

  1. 1 Enos, Olivia (2014-11-20). “Nearly Two-Thirds of Human
    Trafficking Victims Are from Asia”. The Daily Signal.

  2. 2

This is an article from the September-October 2019 issue: Making a Killing

The Addiction Industries:  Reform Efforts and the Unique Role of Missionaries

The Addiction Industries:  Reform Efforts and the  Unique Role of Missionaries

Frontier People Groups live in the areas of the world heavily impacted by illegal drug industries. Drug use has become epidemic in South Asia, SE Asia and Central Asia including Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. Drug use in India is skyrocketing where 89% of drug addicts are educated and 99% are men, but children ages 9–10 are already using tobacco and alcohol, with twelve-year-olds starting on hashish and opium or heroin.1

Missionaries have long found that discipling people to Christ was thwarted unless lives were delivered from addictions. With addiction rates so high, any opposition may seem hopeless. It took over 100 years of protest, mostly by evangelical reform groups, to fight the opium/ heroin and alcohol epidemics of the 18th and 19th centuries. We are naïve to think it will take less determination to fight today’s epidemics.

Since missionaries do not profit from the drug industries, they can uniquely act to expose harms. Just as medical missionary doctors in China eventually led the way in proving the harm done by the opium industry, so missionaries today can document impacts of drugs, tobacco and alcohol on their communities, and expose the truth to the world.

Epidemics and Revivals Spark Reform Efforts

David Courtright writes, in Forces of Habit: Drugs and the Making of the Modern World, that five things have provoked drug reform movements: “Direct harms, social costs, sinful conduct, deviant groups, and anxieties about collective future….”2  He points out that “direct harm to innocents is the most morally forceful argument against drug use and the one that cuts across all cultures.”3   Revivals are also a key factor. “Revivalism…pressed Christians toward social duty…thousands of evangelicals on both sides of the Atlantic sought to apply the teachings of the Bible to every arena of life.”4  Two major awakenings in the 19th century pushed forward widespread opposition to the drug industries on three continents: North America, China and India. In all three cases, epidemic use of drugs and/or alcohol were seen as destroyers of families, causes of crime and immorality and leading causes of disease and death.

Tobacco was the glaring exception. Because it was seen as healthful until the mid-1800s, both Catholic and later Protestant missionaries spread tobacco use globally along with secular traders and it was used as currency in some parts of the world.

Reform Wars in the USA

No country has as extensive a history of the war between reformers and addiction industries as the United States. Although many expressed concerns about tobacco’s addictive nature, when it was shown to harm health, revivalist and new health-oriented denominations took a determined stance, like the Wesleyan Methodists, Baptists, Mormons and Seventh Day Adventists.5  The cigarette rolling machine (1880) increased daily output by 500 times, and children as young as five became addicted. The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) campaigned for laws banning sales of tobacco to minors (under 18-21) and between 1895 and 1921 fifteen states banned cigarette sales entirely.6  The tobacco industry reacted with heavy lobbying and bribes to have cigarettes included in soldiers’ rations in WWI, to have bans overturned and to addict minors by making everything from candy cigarettes to pushing down age limits for legal purchases, knowing 90% of lifetime smokers start before the age of 21.Addiction rates soared again, reaching 41% of adults by the 1960s.8  Late 20th century anti-smoking campaigns have met with some success while the industry pushes nicotine addiction in other forms—gums, e-cigarettes, patches and vaping.

Christians did not oppose alcohol (merely its abuse) until manufactured distilled spirits became ubiquitous and alcoholism became epidemic in England and the US. Women’s movements protested alcohol’s effects on society and the harm being done to families and children. After pushing for moderate use of distilled liquor proved ineffective at freeing people from alcoholism, “temperance” morphed in the late 19th century into “T-total” abstinence. 

Education and publication were the key to reform. In the 1880s, the WCTU, supported by the US government, successfully established a national Scientific Temperance Instruction movement to teach the dangers of alcohol in public schools and get children to sign abstinence pledges.9  Campaigns like these, and thousands of activist local temperance societies, led to a constitutional amendment and national Prohibition of all industrial alcohol from 1920-1933.

Contrary to myths propagated by the alcohol industry, Prohibition successfully dropped addiction rates from 5% in 1910 to an average of 2.6% during Prohibition, returning to 4.5% by 1950.10  The alcohol industry had fought back using movies to normalize drinking in homes, house parties and events instead of in saloons. Re-legalization in 1933 killed the temperance movement and the rate of alcoholism increased steadily; by 2017 alcoholism rates in the USA had surged to a shocking 12.7%, according to the Washington Post.11

By 1923 the USA also set up a Narcotics Division to the U.S. Treasury Department which banned opium and heroin. This ban stuck, because far less Americans were addicted to opium than to alcohol, and alcohol provided significantly more tax income to the government.12  Marijuana was banned in 1937, but laws have been increasingly overturned since 2000.

To this day addiction rates are significantly less for illegal drugs than for legal drugs, with some 14% of Americans addicted to tobacco, 12.7% to alcohol, 10% to pharmadrugs (painkillers, stimulants, tranquilizers, sedatives, antidepressants), 1.3% to marijuana and only 0.5% to illegal drugs. Most of the non-addicted are non-users.13

Drug Reform Efforts in India  

Recognizing harms and social costs, in 1925 Mahatma Gandhi called for banning opium and alcohol in India, and temperance became one of the platforms of the Indian nationalist movement. “In his call for prohibition Gandhi hoped for support from most Muslims and high caste Hindus but recognized he might face opposition from India’s British rulers, who depended heavily on revenues collected from the production and sale of alcohol.”14 But in the 1947 Constitution, prohibition goals were delegated to the state governments, implemented in some, but repealed in others due the government’s need for alcohol tax revenue. Indian women gained their voice and leadership in the temperance movement, spurred on by the World Women’s Christian Temperance Union. In the 1990s, Indian peasant women got alcohol sales banned from worksites in Andhra Pradesh.15 In 2016 the women of Tamil Nadu, blaming alcohol for domestic abuse, elected a woman who shut down 500 liquor shops her first day in office.16 Indian states that prohibit alcohol sales have significantly lower male alcoholism and less crimes against women.17 But are Christian missionaries continuing to help these Indian women in their reform efforts?

Drug Reform Efforts in China

In China, anti-opium Christian missionaries had reached every province by 1860. One wrote, “(Opium’s) history is a Christian crime, a Christian shame.”18 When opium became epidemic in China, missionaries instituted an extensive international literature campaign, while the opium industry fought back with pro-opium arguments. The Chinese, very anxious about their collective future as a nation and global reputation, finally persuaded England in 1906 to join with them in reducing opium production by 10% per year. I believe the missionary fight against opium opened the hearts of the Chinese people to recognize that God was their father, too. However, progress was not fast enough to avoid revolution.

Convinced that opium was poisoning their nation, the Communist Revolution resorted to massive destruction of crops, execution of dealers and compulsory treatment of 10 million addicts under Mao in the 1950s which virtually eradicated production and consumption of opium in China.19  Replacing their opium crops with tobacco, thought less dangerous at the time, China is approaching 50% of the global tobacco yield, using most of it themselves, killing nearly two million per year but generating $16 billion in tax revenue for the government at the cost of $5 billion in health problems.20

Unfortunately, there has also been a surge of synthetic opioid use in China in the 21st century. In an ironic reversal of history, China has become the leading producer and distributor of illegal fentanyl-type opioid drugs, killing tens of thousands yearly in the West. Starting May 2019, China has added dozens of fentanyl-related drugs to their narcotic control laws to hopefully cut production, trafficking and smuggling from their country, pledging also to “put an end to international drug mafias and their trafficking networks.”21

Losing the Drug War Among the Frontier People Groups of Central and South Asia

With less coming from India and China, opium growing spread elsewhere. Western military forces unfortunately protected and assisted drug lords, first in S.E. Asia (the “Golden Triangle”) to get their help in the fight against communism, and later to get help against terrorism in Central Asia (the “Golden Crescent”).

Today the Christian tribal peoples of Burma/Myanmar have over 100,000 involved in the anti-opium Pat Jasan movement. “All we wanted is to stop poppy production and drug addiction among young people,” said Tang Gun. “We are losing our society and this is why we are campaigning against poppy production.22 They have helped reduce Burmese production of opium to a fraction of what it was previously.

However, during the same period, Afghanistan’s opium production rose from 100 tons annually in the 1970s to 9000 tons by 2015, 93% of the world’s opium. In May 2001 the Taliban had managed to eradicate the opium crop in Afghanistan in one year, dropping world production by 75%,23 but production resurged with US intervention against the Taliban and opium now funds the Taliban.24 Meanwhile, addiction in Pakistan increased from near zero in 1979, to 1.3 million in 1989, to 4.3 million in 200425 with 80% of Pakistani addicts wanting help but unable to afford it.26 Neighboring Iran developed the highest per capita opium addiction in the world, affecting three million people.27 What if believers became the primary helpers in a grassroots effort to rescue these frontier peoples from drugs?

Providing Alternatives to Drugs

Historically, the primary forces of reform against drugs have been outraged citizens acting collectively while educating and persuading society there is a real problem. Many missionaries, evangelicals and other Christians have globally stood against mind-altering, family-destroying substances, and they are often joined by Muslim, Buddhist and other community leaders. However, unless their efforts against drug industries were met with cooperation by governments, progress in reducing the drug industrial complex was short-lived. So alternative sources of income, and alternatives for social recreation, must also be addressed by reformers.

Early on evangelicals saw the need to provide alternatives to drugs. The 18th century revival societies pushed for clean municipal water, so alcohol would not be needed
for water purification. They held large temperance tea parties promoting boiled tea to replace alcohol.28 The rising manufacture and distribution of new non-alcoholic drinks had an impact, especially as soda fountains, tea and coffee shops provided direct competition to bar “hang-outs.”

The YMCA (started in London, 1844) established drugfree temperance youth hostels for youth coming into the cities, complete with housing, Bible studies, sports and healthy entertainment. The need was so great that within just 10 years the YMCA had spread to multiple countries with hundreds of locations. An explosive movement, soon thousands of semi-autonomous YMCA and YWCA (1855) hostels arose in over 100 countries, spreading the gospel, clean living, peace activism and education in moral, social and environmental responsibility. With surges of poor men into the world’s cities today, it is unfortunate that the YMCA has largely given up its hostel ministry. The Salvation Army, however, continues its over 130-year global fight to help the poor and addicts with hostels and/or rehab centers in 90 countries, emphasizing abstinence, clean living, and hard work, including a small network of care centers in Pakistan.29

Action Steps

Drug addictions are increasing alarmingly in Frontier People Groups and around the globe, causing not only large numbers of premature deaths, but poverty, abuse and trafficking of women and children and destruction of families. Many closed countries might welcome believers coming to help families escape the addiction trap. What better way to bring the love of Christ into desperate households, like a light on a lampstand? 

Missionaries arousing public outcry has worked in the past. And today missionaries also need to lead the way in helping narco-economies find alternative income crops or industries, revealing net costs to governments of abetting addiction industries, heading off addictions before they begin through educating the young, drug rehabilitation and fighting public acceptance of the inevitability of “recreational” drug addictions. “Compassionate” drug companies push to normalize addictions, providing drugs to addicts or alcohol to alcoholics, and lobby to decriminalize all drugs, which may empty prisons but offers no hope to families.

Helping families should be our primary goal. But fighting the global drug industries is a crucial part of that. Things missionaries have done to help end addiction epidemics before can still be done: publicizing testimonies of former addicts showing harm caused to them and their families; suing companies for false advertising; exposing statistics of the deaths, injuries, poverty, homelessness, abuse and sexual assaults due to drug and alcohol use; picturing child victims of their parents’ addictions; boycotting industries; exposing the huge profits being made by industries and governments at the expense of their people, and shaming government officials for their collusion.

What cannot continue is apathy toward the number of families and lives being destroyed by ruthless companies marketing addictive substances and ignoring the resulting deaths as inevitable. Missionaries are uniquely positioned for championing the causes of their people groups and helping to rescue them from destructive forces.

  1. 1

  2. 2 Courtwright, David T., Forces of Habit: Drugs and the Making of
    the Modern World, Harvard University Press, 2002, page 173.

  3. 3 Ibid, page 168.

  4. 4 Smith, Timothy, Revivalism and Social Reform, American
    Protestantism on the Eve of the Civil War, Whipf and Stock
    Publishers, Eugene, OR, 2004. P.5

  5. 5 Hayes, Terrence E.,Tobacco in History and Culture: An
    Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, p.362;

  6. 6

  7. 7

  8. 8
    . pdf

  9. 9
    temperance-teachings/ NOTE: Knowledge of
    alcohol’s role in the body was small at the time and both the
    temperance and anti-prohibition forces promoted “scientific”
    facts about alcohol that later proved at least partially untrue.

  10. 10 Estimated Alcoholics and Rate of Alcoholism in the United States,
    1910–1953, Quarterly Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 1955.

  11. 11 August 11, 2017. One in Eight
    American Adults is an Alcoholic.

  12. 12 Levine, H. G. (1984) The alcohol problem in America: from
    temperance to alcoholism. British Journal of Addiction 79, 109–119.

  13. 13
    marijuana/marijuana-addictive, NOTE: These statistics
    do not factor out non-users, such as the 30% of Americans
    that do not drink alcohol and another 20% that take less than
    7 drinks per year, and 20% more who drink less than ½ a drink
    per week. This means that the 12.7% of adults addicted to
    alcohol are actually 42% of the third of adults who drink more
    than 2.17 drinks per week, (if you assume drinking less than that
    would not result in alcoholism).

  14. 14 Fahey, David M. and Padma Manian, “Poverty and Purification:
    The Politics of Gandhi’s Campaign for Prohibition” The Historian
    Vol. 67, No. 3 (FALL 2005), p. 489

  15. 5 Tschurenev, Jana and Harald Fischer-Tine, Indian Anomalies:
    Drink and Drugs in the Land of Gandhi, January 2014
    page 6–7.
    of_gandhi Unfortunately, in India drinking alcohol and eating
    beef is associated with Christianity.

  16. 16 Thekaekara, Mari Marcel (25 May 2016). “Why Tamil Nadu’s
    women want alcohol banned”. The Guardian.

  17. 17 Thekaekara, Mari Marcel (13 November 2017). “Indian women
    are pleading for prohibition”. New Internationalist.

  18. 18 Courtwright, page 182.

  19. 19

  20. 20 (

  21. 21 Beijing Review, April 11, 2019, page 4.

  22. 22

  23. 23

  24. 24

  25. 25

  26. 26

  27. 27

  28. 28 Rappaport, E. (2013). Sacred and Useful Pleasures:
    The Temperance Tea Party and the Creation of a Sober
    Consumer Culture in Early Industrial Britain. Journal of British
    Studies, 52(4), 990-1016. doi:10.1017/jbr.2013.121

  29. 29

This is an article from the September-October 2019 issue: Making a Killing

Toward the Edges

Life & Death Issues

Toward the Edges


One of our core values in FV is to live “at the edges”, meaning that, consistent with our heritage of seeking to understand and promote frontier missiology, we intentionally want to pursue the cutting edge between what is and what is not yet.

There are many ways to look at those edges. Of course, our particular “edge” in FV and WCIU is the edge between where the Good News of life in Jesus is known and not yet known, experienced and not yet experienced, transforming lives and communities and not yet transforming lives and communities. That edge includes edges of thinking and imagination, edges of social and cultural distance and edges of spiritual opposition. Thus, I plan to try to highlight how this issue of Mission Frontiers is directing us all toward those edges.

Life and Death Issues

The lead editorial by R. W. Lewis gives an overview of the historic connection between evangelicals, revivals, social transformation and addressing evil. She outlines four specific “death industries” which will, in various ways, be discussed in this issue of MF. I won’t repeat what she says there or try to do my own overview. Instead I want to come to this from a slightly different angle.

Why is MF talking about this?

FV is focused on the least reached. Our vision is tied to seeing movements to Jesus and expressing the fullness of the Kingdom within all peoples. Why is MF giving a whole edition to drugs (including legal ones)? Alcohol? Abortion? 

There is a direct line between the “industries” described here and the frontier peoples.

While not all the articles draw the line as directly as our readers might be looking for, let me describe the line as I see it. And let me use a death industry that is not described in these articles, just by way of illustration.

I lived and worked in South Asia among Muslims. I was involved in an attempt at integrated aqua and agriculture, as a business. We had a real farm with real fish and real crops—and a lot of very real work!

Chemical insecticides and fertilizers initially made a huge difference in crop production and survival, and in the subsequent economic blessing for farms (not farmers, but that is a whole different topic).  However, there was a consequence: increasingly barren soil, depleted of nutrition.

That is a form of death. Pesticide companies and chemical fertilizer companies were (in my context) death industries. And they succeeded because they seemed to work so well.

This disturbed me, so I began to experiment with organic approaches to both fertilizing the soil, so that crops could grow well but the soil could be safe, and also so that in the water the algae eating fish could benefit from protein rich green water. Local people told me about a tree oil that could be used in protecting crops from predator insects.

The farms I either managed or was consulting for were surrounded by villages, in which people from two different unreached people groups lived. This engaged me in almost daily interaction with those villagers, opportunities to share the gospel and pray for people and opportunities to grow in language and culture acquisition. It also seemingly gave the opportunity to bring blessing to these peoples.

I felt that this “green” approach to our farming was full of brilliant ideas and plans, and was a perfect fit for our desire to be a spiritual blessing as well. We had reasonably good execution. But these wonderful things only caught on at my farm, where I controlled the approach and values.

I will come back to this in my third question:

Now what do we do?

Are there other life and death issues?

I am sure you are already assuming I will say yes, based on the above. Of course there are.

Death industries can be overtly in our face, as is the case with most of those highlighted in this issue. But they can also be beguilingly subtle. And the fact is that, in a fallen and broken world, almost every human enterprise has unintended, negative and even deadly, “butterfly effects.”

For example, Is it bad to try to make food convenient to purchase and prepare? I would argue it isn’t. But observe the slippery slope from convenience to fast food and junk food and obesity (arguably an epidemic in the USA in particular.) And we all know the connection between obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and more, as well as the disturbing impact of all of this on our children.

Thus, is the convenience food industry potentially a death industry? What about the automobile?

I don’t mean traffic accidents, but the increasing consumption of fossil fuel, increase of polluted air and the consequential health issues. All of which, if unchecked, are going to kill people.

I see someone raising their hand wanting to ask, again, about the connection of these things to reaching the unreached.

Both of these examples are major exports to the major cities located within the major population centers of the largest unreached and frontier peoples.

A concern for seeing movements to Jesus among them, in which discipleship and obedience to Jesus and the fullness of the promised Abrahamic blessing don’t include a concern for the health impact of such issues, hardly fulfills the great commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves. In fact, you will notice that within this issue focused on various death industries, we are still including our normal articles dealing with movements to Jesus among the least reached, and disciple multiplication in particular. In a sense this combination incarnates an important point: these two concerns belong together.

Now what do we do?

This is the hardest part, admittedly. And this is perhaps the most challenging aspect of this issue of MF.

If I might be permitted here to take off my FV General Director hat and don my field worker and WCIU

President hats, perhaps I can offer some thoughts.

I won’t comment here on the important role of Jesus’ people in standing against evil and combating the sort of issues outlined in the articles. I would hope that within our own country new organizations and networks might arise, and that repentance in all sorts of forms might take root in deep and profound ways.

I want to address how this might be thought of in the field and from the field. First with my field worker hat on:

If I could transport myself back to our own field contexts again, I would tell myself first to seek to walk alongside those I was hoping to reach, prayerfully listening and seeking together to understand how they saw issues, and which issues they saw, that were counter to the fullness of life and blessing He intends. There might be a whole different take on “death industries” and on which to press against and how and with what resources.

Which leads me to my WCIU hat:

WCIU’s degree is an MA in International Development. Critical to the whole process of development is to work with communities as they identify what issues are the most disturbing and troubling, which solutions seem most compelling, what resources of expertise, experience, skills, advocacy (if they have “voice”), finance, and others. In WCIU’s case it’s to do all this through biblical, historical, and cultural frameworks, which shape strategic action and response.


My hope would be that somehow from this issue of MF there might be two prongs of response.

One might be called the “big system” response. By this I mean the sort of big picture, long term effort at gospel and blessing-rooted reform such as what the earlier evangelical revivals included and which played a great part in the end of the slave trade.

The other might be called the “local system” response that I have tried to describe near the end of this contribution to our discussion. Working down, alongside and in the nitty gritty of day-to-day and person-to-person life “in the field.”

It is the latter which might more directly bear fruit in Jesus movements, expressing the fullness of the kingdom.

This is an article from the September-October 2019 issue: Making a Killing

Challenging the Death Industries: Duty or Distraction?

Challenging the Death Industries: Duty or Distraction?

Mission Frontiers magazine exists for the purpose of  advancing the kingdom on earth, specifically at the frontiers “where Christ has not been named.” Effective proclamation of the gospel is the guiding principle, so why focus MF issues on poverty, urbanization, or “death industries,” whose products directly cause the deaths of millions? Do these issues distract from MF’s purpose? Or are they crucial to address when considering unrecognized barriers preventing breakthroughs in the remaining least-reached Frontier People Groups? We seek to address these questions in this issue.

Why these “Death Industries”?

Recently the American secular news has reported on epidemics of drug deaths and an increasing struggle over the abortion of children. But news reports do not even begin to reveal the global scope of these kind of problem—the shocking death rates around the world and the power of the global industries behind them.

The “death industries” are a handful of global industries that together directly result in almost two-thirds of global deaths. Yes, two thirds of all deaths every year, and these particular deaths are fully preventable. Having lived on five continents from Latin America to North Africa to India, I have personally seen that millions of people God loves are being dragged down to death by these lucrative industries. 

Unfortunately, missionaries and other believers with no money in the game are often the only ones willing to take a stand  against them. We hope to encourage all believers to repent, pray and have the courage to bring a gospel of both hope and freedom, as has happened in the past. We also hope to galvanize expat evangelical workers to confront issues that cause so much suffering in the people groups they serve and to help families avoid misery and death.

The articles Hunting the Lion and Missionaries vs. the Opium Industry highlight past mission work against death industries, while When Doing Good is Controversial, How to Save a Life, and Hope in a World of Addictions and Sex Trafficking highlight current global mission work against abortion and addictions.

Four articles focus on alerting the church by exposing the global statistics about death causing industries: What’s Killing Us? focuses on the statistics of four main death industries: firearms, tobacco, alcohol and abortion, which is further addressed in The Abortion Industry and the Gospel of Life. Two additional articles cover deaths due to the global drug epidemics, Making a Killing: How Mild Local Drugs became Global Epidemics and Famine, Poverty, and Violence: Three More Ways Drugs Cause Death. One more highlights reform efforts and proposes action steps: The Addiction Industries: Reform Efforts and the Unique Role of Missionaries.

Righting a Wrong-Side-Up World emphasizes the need for the Spirit-led community of believers to engage in this kingdom task. Instead, evangelicals today seem to be losing moral authority by withdrawing from personal and societal transformation, having similar rates of divorce, addiction and even abortion as the world. Taken from a seminar in 2003, in The Puzzling Power of Group Self-Deception Ralph Winter asks, “if we cannot recognize evil in our own cultures, how can we adequately engage in the global kingdom task of wrestling with principalities and powers and rulers of this dark world?” (Eph. 6:12)

How Do People Become Apathetic to the Mass Killing of Human Beings?

Apathy toward mass killing is one result of cultural group self-deception. People can even believe they are doing good, as shown starkly in an interview of a former guard at a Nazi concentration camp. He spoke of the camp directors picnicking with their families on the hills above the camp—upwind so that they did not have to breathe the smoke from the crematoriums where never-ending piles of bodies were burned day and night. Recently, an American private abortion provider mentioned in an interview that her clinic killed over 30,000 babies, but she never thought of them as children until she herself had a late term abortion and regretted it.

In both cases, the people involved thought they were doing good for mankind and saving the planet. The Nazi guards spoke of saving the world from the “insidious menace of the Jewish people and other genetic undesirables.” The abortion clinic owner spoke of saving women from unwanted children and the world from over-population. Both knew they were killing human beings, but thought it was for a good reason. In both cases, few Christians even complained.

But what about the tobacco executives who have known for decades that their addictive product causes millions of deaths per year? Each year they kill as many people as the Nazis killed in their death camps. What is their excuse? The World Health Organization reports they systematically cover up addictions and death because “Nicotine addiction destroys the industry’s PR and legal stance that smoking is a matter of choice.” Today the magic death-industry word is “choice,” exemplified by the global “free to smoke” campaign, and by the abortion industry’s slogan “my body, my choice”—equating abortion with freedom while ignoring better choices that prevent unwanted conception.  Individual people must be free to choose, even if it ends up causing their own deaths or the deaths of others. 

“Death industries” are unique in that they spend billions of dollars on aggressively marketing deadly choices as if they were harmless. They disregard those regretting having been coaxed into an abortion or the years of suffering caused by addictions: deaths, crimes, poverty, domestic violence and disease.

Who will help take down these Goliaths of industry, killing millions? Who will dare to take a stand against them saying, as David said, “I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.” 

Historically, missionaries have spread the gospel while simultaneously fighting the Goliaths of their generation, the giants attacking families and communities with no one to oppose them. Ralph Winter wrote about The Future of Evangelicals in Missions in MF in 2007. He emphasized the evangelical heritage of personal transformation coupled with societal transformation.

The latter was eclipsed in the 20th century following the rise of secular utopianism, Darwinian socialism and the “social gospel” which divorced personal heart conversion from societal improvement and stripped out the foundation of transformation.

Ralph Winter hoped that in the 21st century a “fourth evangelical awakening” would result in such a passion for personal transformation that it would once again spark societal  transformation, being the salt in society and the light defeating darkness. John Wesley, a founder of the evangelical movement, famously said, “There is no holiness apart from social holiness,” meaning that holiness, or lack thereof, is always played out in relationships and  community. If we are going to fight these global Goliaths, we need to reclaim a personal transformation that includes societal transformation. The whole world is watching.

  1. “The Truth About the Tobacco Industry in Its Own Words.”

This is an article from the September-October 2019 issue: Making a Killing

What’s Killing Us?

What’s Killing Us?

Click on PDF link to see print version with additional charts, graphs and graphics

Editor’s Note: There is no greater sorrow than seeing a loved one die. A bridge of compassion and gospel witness between mission workers and the unreached and Frontier People Groups has often been built by helping them escape the very things killing them and their families. This author seeks to clarify four leading causes of untimely death worldwide today, three of which are fully preventable. Other articles address solutions.

Should We Accept All Deaths as Part of God’s Plan?

If only one man dies of hunger, that is a tragedy. If millions die, that’s only statistics.” —Joseph Stalin

“Only statistics.” It’s a morbid sentiment but, in a way, Stalin was not wrong. People tend to ignore issues they see as too big to be addressed. Studies have shown many people who would otherwise donate time or money to a humanitarian cause are much less likely to do so when presented with statistics detailing how widespread the problem is.1 But we must keep in mind that no problem is too big for God, even one killing millions of people every year. As the bearers of the Good News to the least reached frontiers of the world, we recognize that part of that good news is that many causes of suffering and death can be stopped. We can share our hope in the power of Christ to stop this suffering in a world without hope.

Our confidence in the power of God over death is well founded in both Scripture and history so we sometimes forget death is still an enemy. Some Christians come to accept death as inevitable, even in cases when it isn’t, thereby discounting death as a factor in human suffering. I once knew a young Christian whose mother had recently died of cancer. The prevailing words of comfort they had received from their church were “It’s sad, but your mother’s death is a part of God’s plan.” The young person was depressed enough by this to consider suicide (0.7% of all deaths are suicides).Once I traveled to a closed country with an experienced missionary. We were visiting a tribe known for wearing brightly colored clothes; however, in their camp everyone was wearing black. Invited into the main tent for dinner, our team’s leader asked the assembled tribal leaders why they were not wearing their traditional brightly colored garb. They explained that the patriarch of the tribe, the local leader’s uncle, had died the week before and they were in mourning. Without missing a beat, our leader replied, “Unlike you, we believe in Jesus Christ. So, when our loved ones die, we celebrate, because we know we will see them again.” Technically true, perhaps, but not very compassionate. 

Every People Group Fights Death

Death is something almost everyone in every people group doesn’t want to happen, especially not to their loved ones. With global health organizations already pursuing their own agendas in tracking global trends of deaths, for the first time in history believers have access to a global picture of what is really killing humanity. Mission workers have increasing opportunities to understand the sin patterns of a culture and how it is destroying its people. Globally, the majority of deaths are not caused by outside circumstances like natural disasters or disease, but by human choice. As we work out what it means to “love our neighbor as ourselves” we should carefully consider the forces that drive our brothers and sisters and their friends and families into the arms of death prematurely. 

How Death Statistics Obscure Causes

Douglas Adams wrote “It’s not the fall that kills you; it’s the sudden stop at the end.” Most global mortality databases only look at the “sudden stop.” Death certificates list as the leading causes of death things like cardiovascular diseases, cancers and respiratory disease. But they give very little insight into the behaviors or actions that led to the death. Was the respiratory disease caused by years of smoking or by the air in New Delhi? Was the cancer caused by standing too close to the microwave or by drinking wine?3

Behaviors, conditions, and circumstances that most frequently result in death are called “risk factors.” The leading risk factors tracked in global deaths are: high blood pressure (10.44 million), smoking (8.32 million), high blood sugar( 6.53 million), high body-mass index— obesity (4.72 million), outdoor air pollution (2.94 million) and alcohol use (2.84 million.)4

This type of categorization also has flaws. For example, if you are smoking and drinking while speeding away from police and you drop your cigarette into your vodka which lights your car on fire which then causes you to crash and die, was the death caused by smoking, alcohol use, fire, road accident, or police intervention? Frequent overlap confuses the causes, and some deaths may even be counted twice, so the numbers are not exact.

Deaths Due to Bad Choices

Of these risk factors, two stand out in particular. While many behavioral, genetic and dietary factors can lead to obesity or high blood pressure, smoking tobacco and consuming alcohol are both specific activities. Let’s take a detailed look at these two activities alongside two others; medically-induced abortion, which is widely ignored in death statistics, and lethal violence, which is widely reported globally and thus holds a prominent place in the public imagination of the causes of death. Lethal violence uniquely shares a quality with abortion—namely that the deaths in both cases result from values and beliefs that lead to the conclusion that killing another person will somehow improve your situation.

Fighting Untimely Deaths

I chose to take a detailed look at these four causes of death (lethal violence, alcohol, smoking and induced abortion) because not only do they directly cause over 60% of all global deaths between them but three of them have a pretty straightforward solution. If people would stop drinking, smoking and killing their babies, that alone would impact nearly two thirds of all the deaths on earth.



Lethal Violence: 560,000 Deaths Annually

Lethal violence gets more global news time and a greater share of the public consciousness than alcohol, smoking and abortion combined. That isn’t really surprising because of the kinds of deaths lethal violence includes: homicide (385,000), war (99,000), accidental homicide and legal interventions by law enforcement (76,000). Images of the victims of violence and the suffering that surround them are easy to sympathize with and to sensationalize. Tragic events often garner intense negative media coverage and global condemnation is the norm.

Reports of violent events can paint a hopeless picture of the global state of humanity. Mass shootings, bombings and other terrorist events occur seemingly every month. As of this writing, there are at least 37 ongoing wars.5 However, the truth is that we are probably living in the most peaceful time in recorded history.6  There has been a significant decline in global deaths due to violence since the end of World War II. Although lethal violence includes almost all the ways people choose intentionally to kill each other (abortion notably not included), the global number of deaths is surprisingly low, only 560,000 every year.7  For context, mosquitoes kill on average 780,000 people each year. When compared to major causes of death the difference is stark: alcohol causes five to six times as many deaths annually while smoking causes almost fifteen times as many deaths as violence.8  Abortion kills one hundred babies for every one person who dies due to all other forms of violence at the hands of another person.9

Most importantly, all of these four things are socially acceptable on the global scale except for lethal violence. The global community responds to violence, even civil wars, with trade sanctions or military intervention. Widespread condemnation is expected. Arguably, it’s this condemnation and the freedom people have to express this through democratic action that has contributed to the global decline of violence.10  Ultimately, the majority of people who die due to violence don’t die because violence is acceptable, but because someone wanted to kill them.

Alcohol: 2.8 Million Deaths Annually

In the western Christian context, alcohol is a difficult subject to talk about. For many Christians the consumption of alcohol goes beyond merely being a morally neutral activity to the point that for them drinking represents taking a moral stand against legalism. For many other Christians alcohol represents the pain caused by a loved one who drinks too much or the loss of a child to a drunk driver.

However, few are aware of the number of deaths actually resulting from alcohol consumption. There is a widespread misconception that alcohol is only harmful in the extreme case of alcoholism. But the fact is that most people who die from the consumption of alcohol aren’t even considered alcoholics. For example, in Russia as many as a third of all deaths are attributable to drinking, but only 4.73% of the population is considered to even have an alcohol use disorder.11  Likewise, in the US, one source says only 6.2% of the adult population have an alcohol use disorder, but notes that 26.9% of all people age 18+ and 13.4% of people aged 12–20 (who aren’t even legally allowed to drink) have engaged in binge drinking within the last month.12  Alcoholism is rarely reported in Muslim countries, but alcohol consumption doubled in the Middle East between 2001 and 201113 and doubled in India between 2005 and 2016 (Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health, WHO, 2018).

Increasingly, alcohol consumption is seen as a part of “coping” with daily life, especially for women. As a result, alcohol related fatalities for women in the US increased by 85% in the decade between 2007 and 2017 alone.14  One mother put it this way, “It’s so socially acceptable. Even if you drink a lot, it’s not seen as weird—it’s normal to drink as a parent, we celebrate it. There is a culture that says, ‘Moms, this is your right. You have earned this. You actually need it.’”15  This is not an exclusively American phenomenon. Many other countries also have increasing societal expectations for drinking daily and for women drinking heavily.16

The normalization of alcohol consumption as a part of daily life largely resulted from a concerted effort on the part of the global alcohol industry since at least the prohibition era of the early 1900s, an industry with an annual revenue of over 1.5 trillion dollars globally.17

The effectiveness of this approach to advertising is why the majority of people who die due to alcohol use drink what is considered “normal” amounts of alcohol. Because of this societal blindness to the effects of “normal” alcohol consumption, alcohol is the leading cause of death globally for people age 15–49.18 Furthermore, despite the widespread belief that moderate alcohol consumption is good for your health, the only amount of alcohol consumption that doesn’t carry a significant risk to your overall health is none.19

These facts do not even begin to touch on the other fatal and non-fatal results of alcohol consumption that are socially or morally destructive. While an estimated 35% of women globally have experienced some sort of sexual violence,20 half of all sexual assaults are attributed to alcohol consumption.21 Additionally, alcohol use causes more than half of 1.35 million traffic fatalities every year22 and is involved in the majority of homicides, cases of domestic violence and child abuse.23
We need to rethink what we consider an acceptable amount of alcohol consumption. In the face of the global weight of harm done by alcohol we must carefully and prayerfully consider how we relate to the alcohol industry and use of alcohol on the field and in the lives of those to whom we witness and work alongside.

Smoking Tobacco: 8.3 Million Deaths Annually

While nicotine is not the most intoxicating drug, tobacco is the deadliest, killing over 8.3 million people per year.24 Despite downward trends of usage, tobacco is still the leading preventable cause of death in the USA (not counting abortion). Tobacco causes 20% of US deaths, including multiple forms of cancer, heart, and lung problems even through second-hand smoke.25 More than twice as many people die every year globally from secondhand smoke as are killed by violence (1.22 million people in 2017).26

So why do people keep on smoking? Well the simple fact is that it’s very, very addictive. According to a 2010 report prepared for the European Union (EU), tobacco has a substantially higher risk of causing addiction than heroin, cocaine, alcohol, or cannabis.27  One researcher testified in a trial that “there’s a greater likelihood that a person who starts smoking will become dependent than a person who starts using heroin...”28  Globally, over 100,000 children start smoking every day,29  and even though it is estimated that half of the smokers in the USA try to quit smoking every year, less than 6% manage to quit smoking completely.30 This massive influx of new smokers and tobacco’s addictive qualities have resulted in the smoking of over 3 million cigarettes every minute in China alone. Globally 15 billion cigarettes are sold every day and over 5 trillion every year.31  Tobacco use has turned into a global pandemic with one billion addicts, half of whom will die from smoking, and 80% living in lower-income countries.32

Despite the growing global trends, in the United States social condemnation of smoking and the resulting legal changes have been effective in curbing and even reversing the rates of smoking. Following public condemnation of the health risks of smoking, cigarette ads were banned on TV and radio starting in 1971 and smoking in restaurants began to be banned in 1995. The rate of smoking for American adults has dropped from 42% in 1964 to 14% in 2017.33  This trend is hopeful because it shows that public outcry can move society and government support  against even industries as powerful as tobacco with products that rank among some of the most addictive in the world.

Abortion: 56 Million Deaths Annually

“Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God.” —Bob Pierce

If you think the unborn are humans, then abortion in the modern world is nothing short of the greatest atrocity in the entire history of humankind. There have been more than 1,539,585,000 abortions globally since 1980.34  That’s one and a half billion in the last 39 years. That puts the number of people intentionally killed before birth somewhere upward of 1.5 times the total number of all the people killed in all known and estimated wars in all of human history.35

No other cause of death even comes close to the number of deaths caused by abortion. Not the Black Plague, which killed 20% of the world’s population, nor the Spanish flu which killed more than 50,000,000 people in only 2 years, nor even smallpox which killed over 300,000,000 people. And abortion isn’t a plague or a natural disaster. It is human choice combined with stripping the status of human from the unborn. If they aren’t people, their deaths don’t matter. Thus, the greatest cause of death in human history is socially acceptable.

Humanity has a long and sordid history of deciding certain groups of people aren’t people at all. From the Nazi’s dehumanization of Jews, gypsies and homosexuals to the slave-markets of ancient Sumer to every slave owning society in history, the reduction of some group of people or another to less than human status had always been used to justify stripping people of their basic human rights and thus enslaving and murdering them. The same narrative continues today, compounded by the fact that in the modern world access to abortion has become a symbol of women’s rights.

In the twisted postmodern worldview of the West the ability to have sex without any (perceived) consequences has come to be seen as a basic component of human rights. And as such, it’s often the Western-educated social elites—doctors, teachers, etc.—who are telling people that the best option is abortion; ironically in the only century when safe and inexpensive contraceptives are widely available and very effective at preventing unwanted pregnancies. It is in part this crazed notion that saving people from the consequences of their actions (or other people’s, in the case of rape) is one of, if not the ultimate good which drives much of the fervor on the pro-abortion side of the issue. I suspect that most of the killing that has been done over the bloody course of human history was done in the name of saving someone.

Death may be the last enemy to be defeated, but we can’t let it run roughshod over more than 50,000,000 babies every year while we work toward that day. So don’t be timid about speaking up and letting people know that God loves them and their unborn babies. Show them that love. Simple offers of help and encouragement can save lives and love lived out can change the world. 

The Role of the Missionary

The role of a missionary is a difficult one. Even as imperfect stand-ins for the Savior of all humanity there are many causes, projects and people demanding (and deserving of) our time. So when we start talking about working against the sources of 60% of all deaths, that can sound like a task too big to even start. But the chances are good that every one of us is already in a relationship with someone whose life is being affected by one of these death industries. How we respond to those people will be different in every context, every relationship and every situation. Only God knows what the right response will be. Fortunately, we can ask Him.

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  27. 27 SCENIHR, Addictiveness and Attractiveness of Tobacco
    Additives, 2010.

  28. 28 Evans v. Lorillard, 990 N.E. 2d 997 (Mass. 2013)

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  35. 35 Hedges, Chris, What Every Person Should Know About War,
    Copyright © 2003 by Chris Hedges

This is an article from the September-October 2019 issue: Making a Killing

Making a Killing

How Mild Local Drugs Became Global Epidemics

Making a Killing

Click on PDF link to see print version with additional charts, graphs and graphics

Unfortunately, merchants of death have reached the remaining Frontier People Groups before any missionaries. Deadly practices among unreached tribes are not new, such as feuding, infanticide, and cannibalism; however, finding the people groups already crippled and dying due to lucrative international drug industries only began in the 19th century.

Realizing that addiction is a major barrier to successfully discipling people in the Lord, evangelical missionaries fought against these death industries for 100 years (1820– 1920) and evangelical believers became globally known for clean living. But powerful modern drugs are spreading again at an unprecedented rate with significantly less resistance from the missionary and church communities. So drug profits and global addiction epidemics soar. “The drive to maximize profit—individual, corporate and state—underlay the explosive global increase in drug use,” wrote David Courtwright in Forces of Habit: Drugs and the Making of the Modern World.1

But how did the drug industries create a global explosion of addictive drug use, both legal and illegal, killing millions annually? Relatively mild addictive drugs have been locally available for centuries. However, there was no means of mass production or distribution and abuse was neither affordable nor acceptable. As relatively mild local drugs became concentrated, mass produced and globally distributed, they became more profitable. Powerful drug industries arose and invested in propaganda to change public perception of the use of addictive drugs from reprehensible to recreational and respectable. Increasingly they are concentrating their efforts on Asia, where 25% of the world’s population that are Frontier People Groups mainly live.

Over the last 200–300 years, four components of drug epidemics have come together in a perfect storm: availability, affordability, acceptability and addictability. The drug industries have been diligently increasing all four components using global manufacturing and distribution, mass media propaganda, spurious denials of harm and development of increasingly concentrated and habit-forming drugs. The industrial, transportation and chemical revolutions have made this possible.

TOBACCO: 300 Years of Denial

Because it does not cause intoxication, deaths due to tobacco were invisible to even missionaries for over 100 years. Now it is clear that of all of the addictive drug industries, tobacco causes the most deaths globally, and after abortion is the leading cause of preventable deaths. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), tobacco causes more than eight million deaths per year worldwide and brings serious illness to 30 times as many people.2 In the USA, where tobacco use has been declining, tobacco is still responsible for 40% of cancer deaths3 and 20% of all deaths.4 The CDC notes that “In 2017, $9.36 billion was spent on advertising and promotion of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco combined—more than $1 million every hour,” adding that smoking costs the USA $300 billion per year, or $34 million per hour.5  Meanwhile, WHO tries to beat the global tobacco epidemic with laws that merely list warnings and promote smoke-free spaces!6

The Native American tribes discovered the addictive stimulation of tobacco, but the British colonists were the first to grow huge fields and figure out how to effectively dry and ship it to an ever-expanding global market. Since then, a series of factors have contributed to tobacco use becoming a worldwide epidemic.  First, slave labor made both the crop and production affordable, followed by the cigarette-rolling machine invented in the 1880s. The invention of matches in 1900 made use easier and cigarette vending machines in the 1920s greatly increased availability, along with railways, powered ships and airplanes. Acceptability became widespread through advertising, fundraising to donate cigarettes to allied troops and Hollywood movies glamorizing smoking for men and women.7

Despite increasing evidence in the first half of the 20th century that cancer of the mouth and lungs resulted from smoking cigarettes and tobacco chewing, global consumption of cigarettes continued to climb.8  The tobacco industry refused to concede the reality of tobacco hazards until the late 1990s. Instead, the industry sought to target physicians and others with its message of “no proof,” using subtle techniques of deception, including the funding of spurious research, duplicitous press releases, propaganda efforts directed at physicians and the employment of historians to construct exculpatory narratives.9  It was not until 1996 that the tobacco industry executives admitted that tobacco was even addictive, much less dangerous!

A pattern of willful deception is seen in all of the industries profiting from addictive drugs.

The tobacco industry is concentrated in a handful of large companies who cover up the fact that their product causes 15% of all male deaths and 7% of all female deaths globally.10  Despite setbacks in some countries, the 500 billion dollar tobacco industry continues to expand with impunity, increasing production by 16% in the last decade.11

Unfortunately, while evangelicals have opposed the spending of resources on addictive tobacco, very few missionaries have realized the full danger of smoking enough to oppose it. As Ralph Winter wrote,

     When the Bible does not speak about a specific problem, such as the U.S. pushing off cigarettes on the whole world, then theology should come to the rescue to make           application of Biblical truth to the new circumstances. Again, it was not a theologian but the World Health Organization that pointed out that the U.S. kills more people in         the country of Colombia by our government-subsidized nicotinelaced cigarettes than are killed in the U.S. by hard drugs from all foreign sources put together. What does       the Bible want us to think and do about this?12

ALCOHOL: From Helpful to Harmful

In the mid-1700s a missionary named David Brainard walked from tribe to tribe in New England seeking to share the gospel. Everywhere he went the Indians were drunk almost every day, so much so that he often despaired of talking to them. Finally communicating to one tribe that God loved them and wanted to deliver them from alcohol, the tribe wept for days, both in sorrow for their people and in hope of deliverance. God answered their prayers and Brainard writes of their amazing transformation:

A principle of honesty and justice appears in many of them, and they seem concerned to discharge their old debts, which they have neglected….Their manner of living is much more decent and comfortable than formerly, having now the benefit of that money which they used to consume upon strong drink. Love seems to reign among them…they rejoice with joy unspeakable.13

But Brainard began to receive intense opposition from the colonists who depended on the addiction of the Indians to trade rum for furs. In helping unreached people groups escape addiction today, missionaries should also expect intense opposition.

However, believing Native American tribes created “sobriety circles” in the 1750s led by tribal leaders, 150 years before Alcoholics Anonymous.

Recovery circles and abstinence-based cultural movements included the Delaware prophet movements, the Christian Indian revivalists who used their own lives as proof Christian conversion and worship could cure alcoholism, the Shawnee Prophet and Kickapoo Prophet movements, Indian temperance societies, the Indian Shaker Church, and the Native American Church.14

When older Christian denominations (pre-18th century) were formed, common alcoholic beverages were quite weak, produced through natural fermentation. However, they became deadly when machines for mass distillation were invented. Until 1600, diluted wine or beer with 1% to 5% alcohol were commonly consumed in Europe and helped to sterilize polluted water. The maximum “strong drink” through natural fermentation was 14% alcohol.

But the Industrial Revolution changed all that. By the mid-17th century distilleries sprang up in Europe, Britain and the New World colonies, mass-producing distilled alcohol from sugar and grain with 30% to 50% alcohol. American colonists not only decimated Native American tribes by trading rum for furs, they used rum to buy slaves from the African tribes resulting in widespread addiction, poverty, sickness and death in Africa, too.

Gin became so popular in London that it caused an epidemic of social disintegration. In the first half of the 1700s, annual production of spirits in England went from 500,000 gallons to 11 million gallons.15 England attempted to cut alcohol consumption with taxes and regulation, but without much success. As an unfortunate side effect, the government became dependent on alcohol tax revenue. As increasingly efficient distilling machines increased addictiveness, the global transportation revolution of the 19th century made concentrated alcohol ever more widely available and affordable.

Societal acceptance or rejection is a key factor in drug and alcohol abuse. Only the Evangelical Awakening’s opposition to spirits and promotion of tea instead helped to rein in England’s “gin craze” epidemic in the 18th century. The Awakening was not so much a revival of religion as a revival of focus on godliness and holiness in the life of committed believers. It is admitted that Wesley changed the spirit of the age in which he lived. It is impossible to estimate the magnitude of that change unless we form some idea of the condition of England at the time when the great evangelist did his revolutionary work.16  Every wide-spread revival of evangelical faith in the USA since then has opposed the use of drugs and alcohol. For 200 years, evangelical missionaries took abstinence to a global level, helping countless tribes struggling with drug and alcohol addictions.

The Alcohol Industry Fights Back

However, the alcohol industry has fought back with an extensive propaganda campaign to glamorize and normalize recreational alcohol consumption in movies and media, even during Prohibition in the US (1920-33).  They pushed acceptability while simultaneously increasing affordability and availability. So today, instead of buying alcohol only by the expensive glass or shot in bars, people buy inexpensive quarts and multi-packs in supermarkets and corner stores and take them home. Movies have progressively normalized drinking after work, at family and sports events and even normalized binge drinking for fun. One out of six adults binge drinks at least four times a month, according to the CDC,17 or 40% of those who drink, globally.18

Since 1900, alcohol has gone from a justified reputation of ruining people’s health, lives and families to the glamorous position of being the foremost recreational drug on the planet through relentless media propaganda and cover ups. Alcohol is arguably the most destructive and most lucrative drug on the planet, killing over three million directly but doing far more damage to the health, relationships, families and communities than any other drug including tobacco. The global alcohol industry brings in $1.5 trillion annually.19

Muslim people groups are somewhat protected from alcohol by the prohibition in the Qur’an, but most Muslim countries do not ban alcohol. Pakistan, who bans it for Muslims, has an increasing alcohol problem, even among the young.20  The British set up the first modern alcohol distillation factories in India and Pakistan (1860), and three of the largest tax-paying companies in Pakistan are alcohol industries.21

Every slum in the world reveals alcohol’s devastation to families. Data on alcohol’s harm is widely available but largely ignored. A study of 195 countries concluded that alcohol directly kills 10% of all adults aged 15-49.22  Death rates are actually much higher for drinkers since only 38% of the global population drinks alcohol.23

Additionally, alcohol is causally implicated in 60 more diseases and a factor in 200 other diseases24 (causing 5.8% of all cancers, according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, 201725). Alcohol is also known to be a significant factor in crime, domestic violence, child abuse and divorce.

Without any remaining visible opposition from missionaries or churches, the alcohol industry markets alcohol with impunity. Now it also profits from alcohol addiction treatment programs. Along with private providers, the treatment industry earns close to 35 billion dollars in the USA alone, with less than a 5-10% cure rate.26  Unfortunately, the lives of addicts are often permanently damaged even if they become sober, and most of those who die from alcohol-related causes never considered themselves “alcoholics.” 

From OPIUM Wars to OPIOID Epidemics

Today Frontier People Groups are heavily involved in opium and heroin production, including terrorist groups. According to the UN Office of Drugs and Crime, global opium production increased by 65% in ONE year, from 2016 to 2017, reaching 10,500 metric tons ($1.6 billion), the highest on record, with 9000 alone coming from Afghanistan.27 For comparison, at its height, British merchants shipped 6000 metric tons of opium per year just to China (c. 1880).28

 Having learned that addictive drugs are a lucrative way to ensure continued markets and to balance trade, 17th century British merchants introduced China to smoking, first of tobacco and later of opium. In the name of “free trade” the British fought two opium wars to block Chinese attempts to stop their illegal smuggling of opium into China! In the 1830s before the Opium Wars an estimated three million Chinese were addicted to opium, but after forcing legalization (1880) that number climbed to approximately 15 million by 1890 and 21 million by 1906.29 Opium was destroying Chinese families as addicts would even sell their wives and children to purchase more. Missionaries to China fought for over 100 years to help end the opium epidemic.

Meanwhile, opium was spreading in more addictive forms. Morphine, first distilled from opium in 1803, was easier to transport and ten times stronger than opium. Touted as a medical treatment for opium addiction, Western doctors were also thrilled with its pain alleviating properties, assuring acceptability. An estimated 400,000 soldiers in the American Civil War became addicted,30 triggering an epidemic in America. Opium became the cure-all which essentially cured nothing but masked all forms of pain, even in children. The accidental addictions of the 19th century later became industry-marketed addictions in the 20th century through pharmaceutical opioids.31

Thanks to the work of 19th century missionaries, temperance societies and churches in America, opium use is less widespread today and still illegal; however, opium has developed extreme concentrations and more synthesized forms than any other drug. As a result, the deaths due to opium/opioids, are due to overdoses not drug-induced diseases.

Heroin, 30 times stronger than opium, was invented by Bayer (c.1900), and first prescribed to cure morphine addiction. But it proved even more addictive, especially when injected with the newly invented syringe, and quickly became a serious global problem.32

Next, strong synthetic opioid pain killers, products of the chemical-drug revolution, became widely available (such as Demerol, Tramadol and Vicodin). Legally marketed through doctors who were falsely assured they were not very addictive, by 1998 OxyContin ushered in the modern opioid epidemic. Making over $25 billion on just opioids in 2018, pharmaceutical companies have continued to invent and market new opioids many times stronger than natural morphine (see graph on pdf version). 33 By 2010 over 13 million people were addicted to opioids and opium derivatives worldwide, despite the fact they were highly controlled.34

Opioid addictions are not only lethal but horrific for family members. However, so far deaths due to illegal drugs pale in comparison to the deaths caused by tobacco and alcohol, with the UN reporting global overdose deaths due to the majority of trafficked drugs (including opioids, cocaine, amphetamines, sedatives, marijuana, ecstasy) running a mere 190,000 (to 250,000).35 Most opiate deaths are overdose related, 118,000 per year—78,000 of those in the USA.36  Global deaths due to illegal drug use climb to 450,000 if you include deaths due to HIV and Hep C transferred by non-sterile syringes.37 Illegal use of legal synthetic opioids are fueling the modern epidemic.

Addictive PHARMACEUTICALS: Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing?

Missionaries have traditionally been on the side of pharmaceutical drugs, which have saved lives and alleviated pain. And no one can deny the great help to mankind of pain-killing opioids, along with many other pharmaceutical drugs. But recently pharmaceutical companies are being called to account for their reckless over-production and relentless promotion of opioids and other addictive drugs. In many developing countries, these can be easily bought without a prescription from multiple pharmacies and doctors who are quick to drugs for every ailment with no apparent awareness of interaction dangers.

Millions of people worldwide have become addicted to doctor-prescribed medications, some moving on to illegal drugs. Western drug companies lead the way with ever younger children being prescribed addictive medications. In the USA, as of 2017, over 100,000 children under the age of one are on psychotropic medications and over 500,000 under the age of five.38

In addition to opioids, the pharmaceutical companies also produce hundreds of other addictive mind-altering drugs, including tranquilizers, sedatives, anti-depressants and stimulants. These are intended for lifetime use and are often mixed in “cocktails” of untested combinations when one drug proves ineffective, especially lethal when combined with alcohol.39

In 2015, the total number of individual prescription medications filled at pharmacies was just over four billion. That’s nearly 13 prescriptions for every man, woman and child in the United States, according to the 2015 census. It’s little wonder that overdose deaths caused by prescription medication have taken off to such a degree.40

Prescription drugs are now the third leading cause of death in America and Europe, after cancer and heart disease, totaling nearly 400,000 per year41  (tobacco and alcohol were not included in the study). Increasingly deaths of those on medical prescriptions are viewed as unavoidable and therefore acceptable because, unlike other drugs, prescribed drugs are considered necessary, not recreational.

Pharmaceutical companies, like drug inventors in the past, regularly invent and market new miracle drugs as safe and healthy without adequate testing for difficulties in withdrawal. Most shocking is the exponential growth of new psychoactive substances (NPS), with the UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) World Drug Report of 2017 showing between 2009 and 2016 there were 739 new psychoactive substances created.42

The pharmaceutical industry is rapidly spreading its drugs around the globe, making them available and affordable in even the poorest nations. One study of 500 products from 150 drug companies showed they regularly market drugs to the third world by grossly overstating their benefits and obscuring dangers.43  It is extremely profitable to treat but not cure illnesses, requiring lifetime-use of drugs and putting heavy financial loads on families. Alarmingly, there is a higher death rate in areas with the most prescription drug advertising.44

Who will call the pharmaceutical companies to account? Today the pharmaceutical industries control public perception by heavy advertising through mass media. Their money ensures that the news sources do not publish anything against their products. Despite rare fines for deceptive advertising, their tactics continue. Drug companies lobby for government funding of prescription drugs which will increase affordability, acceptability and availability. The global pharmaceutical industry revenues have reached 1 trillion dollars per year, with a 5.8% annual increase.45

Will Legalizing MARIJUANA Help?

Opioid addiction is so quick and strong that historically other drugs have been proposed to help people escape the addiction without success. The latest drug to enter this cycle is marijuana, with a low chance of death by overdose.

Causing an intoxication that is distinct from alcohol, marijuana has been used for centuries by Frontier People Groups in India and Muslim countries with a reputation of sometimes triggering psychotic episodes, paranoia and schizophrenia. These reports were long questioned but finally statistically verified by a number of recent rigorous studies done in Sweden, Holland, New Zealand, Australia and Britain. “The scientists estimated that cannabis use might be responsible for as much as half of the serious psychosis in previously healthy adults,” after controlling for many factors including the use of other drugs.46 Also, multiple recent studies in peer-reviewed psychiatric journals link repeated cannabis use, especially by teens, with development of permanent psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia that are independent of genetic factors.47

But, has medical marijuana saved people from opioid addiction as hoped? After some first hopeful studies by pro-legalization scientists, by “July of 2017 the Journal of Opioid Management found that cannabis laws were associated with a 22 percent increase in age-adjusted opioid-related mortality between 2011 and 2014. Worse, mortality increased as time passed.”48 The death rate from opioids in the USA is now triple that of the UK, though it used to be the same in 2000. The UK did not legalize marijuana, even for medical purposes, but many states in the USA did.49 So while marijuana legalization itself may not be causing many deaths, it is certainly not preventing deaths by opioids.

Legalization Increases Addiction, Epidemics and Deaths

Some Christians wonder if legalization will help stem the drug problem here and abroad. Legalization has a number of proponents. Legalization of illegal drugs makes drug production and sales more transparent, taxable and profitable to governments and reduces enforcement costs. It also puts crime based illegal drug cartels in direct competition with legal drug industries, making it more difficult for them to stay in business. People thrown in prison for drug trafficking and possession could be released. Some also argue that people will use drugs anyway, but if they are made legal, they will use them in safer ways or in safer company.

Many of the Frontier People Groups live in countries that partially or completely ban some drugs, like alcohol or opium, though most have robust black markets going. The West has vacillated between banning and legalizing addictive substances. Let’s look at the results of legalization:

Legalization Greatly Increases the Four Factors

Four factors were crucial to turning a mild local drug into a powerful global addictive money-maker: availability, affordability, acceptability and addictability. Legalization greatly increases all four factors as well as the power and profitability of the related drug industries, which greatly expand. Also, governments, now profiting through taxation, have little motivation to stem the tide or expose any problems. Media, movies, ads and campaigns for legalization all try to romanticize and normalize usage. Once legal, advertising becomes ubiquitous. People assume it is relatively safe and so it becomes a socially acceptable form of recreation or coping with life. For example, 1960s movies successfully normalized binge drinking for (under legal drinking age) students, especially during spring break; however, as a result the annual death rate just during spring break became 1800 US students, with 600,000 injured and 100,000 sexually assaulted. Though most are under the legal drinking age, some 40% of college students regularly binge drink, demanding it as a right. Trying to educate students instead of enforcing the legal-drinking-age laws has totally failed.50

Legalization also makes drugs more available and affordable. Legal drugs, tobacco and alcohol are sold in multiple outlets on every corner. Opioids are dispensed from many local pharmacies. The legal drug industries entice young people into lifetime use by marketing cheap and fun versions of alcohol and tobacco, and now marijuana, even though it is illegal for young people to use these drugs. Candy and cookie flavored e-cigarettes, “vaping,” and nicotine-containing e-liquids have proven very popular among middle and high school students and start them on the nicotine addiction path, by design, while being promoted as safer.51

Legalizing a formerly illegal drug, like marijuana, has made young people see it as safer and significantly increased their usage, even though it was still illegal for them.52 The false perception that marijuana has “no risk of harm” has gone up 270% since states began legalizing medical marijuana according to the UN Office of Drugs and Crime.53 Well-funded marijuana advocacy groups used deception to persuade the US public to legalize “medical use” of marijuana, though it was never approved by the FDA and many studies failed to show any medical benefit. “Medical use cards” now allow unlimited purchases at marijuana dispensaries, without even a specified disease, unlike any other prescription drug. Partial and full legalization has resulted in doubling the usage rate of marijuana54 and creating an 80 billion dollar business,55 but it has not diminished illegal production or the crime associated with marijuana.56 Predictably, plants with increasingly concentrated amounts of the psychotropic THC have been bred (pre-1990 2-4% THC and now 20-30% THC).57 And more concentrated forms of the THC drug are being invented with no control over dosage. 100% THC tinctures, powerful edibles including “candies,” and odorless vaping are now more socially acceptable than smoking.

Legalization Promotes Invention of More Addictive Drugs

Legalization motivates the industries to invent even more addictive drugs, as lifetime use is highly profitable. Since the early 20th century, chemical and pharmaceutical companies have led the way in inventing and patenting thousands of new addictive synthetic drugs as well as strengthening existing ones. But earlier reform movements quickly found out that concentrated addictive substances cannot be used in moderation by most people. Nevertheless, the medical establishment is increasingly referring to “use disorders” rather than “addictive substances,” putting the blame on the person’s habits rather than the drug, though they are increasingly designed for addiction. But after decades of trying, research has found no personality traits consistently associated with addicts nor abstainers.58

The only consistent predictors of drug epidemics are the four factors: availability, affordability, acceptability, and addictability, which lead to trying the drug and beginning regular use—and the inevitable rewiring of our brain to need that repeated pleasure stimulation. David Courtwright points out that organized opposition is the only thing that has worked to expose and reign in the industrial purveyors of addiction, in his 2019 book Age of Addiction: How Bad Habits Became Big Business, including things like gambling and pornography.

Black Markets and Crimes Continue After Legalization

 Addictive drugs are not subject to usual market forces because addicts will do anything to get their next dose. So black marketing of drugs is not eliminated by legalization
either. Concentrated drugs are cheaper and easier to transport illegally. Vast amounts of pharmaceutical drugs end up on the black market, bypassing the legal controls, greatly increasing the sales of the pharmaceutical companies who ignore the problem.59 Legalizing drugs only makes formerly illegal drug-pushing safer and easier and  fuels illegal distribution to avoid taxes. Crime is not reduced by legalization because most crimes committed in relation to drugs are due to being under the influence, and these crimes increase after legalization because usage increases.60

Industry-backed Solutions Avoid Abstinence

Modern solutions proposed by some, especially the drug companies, have given up the goal of keeping people off drugs entirely. Instead they propose things that have already failed in history, for example: making supposedly less addictive opioids widely available; setting up “safe” drug consumption sites; legalizing less dangerous drugs, even though they have been gateways to stronger drugs; establishing stricter laws to prevent accidents under the influence; including larger warning labels on dangerous substances; and providing more clinics to treat people who are addicted.

Notice, all of these “solutions” do not propose to keep people off of drugs or alcohol but instead to actually facilitate their use with hopefully less destructive consequences. And they preserve the income of the drug industries and governments! They do not take into account the ongoing consequences to families of drug addicts, to society with non-functioning members, and to the addicts themselves who lose decades of their lives trying to get off and stay off of these drugs. The drug industries push legalization as a  “solution” because it increases the number of drug users and greatly expands both legal and illegal drug businesses, as marijuana legalization has most recently shown once again.61 Having cheap addictive drugs available on every corner makes sobriety extremely difficult and greater epidemics inevitable.

A Message of Hope and Freedom to Frontier People Groups

Unlike governments and media, only missionaries and other believers with no profits to lose can expose the deceptions marketed by the drug death industries. Revivals have repeatedly shown that people long for freedom from their addictions and for the “natural high” of Jesus, who came to give people Spirit-filled abundan life, full of faith, hope and love. Every evangelical revival in the last 300 years, since drugs and alcohol have become so powerful and widespread, has shown the power of the Holy Spirit and shared sober fellowship to free people from drug and alcohol addiction. Globally, evangelical churches, wherever they have grown up, by the power of Jesus, have pulled addicts out of their addictions into loving social sober fellowships. This transformation was awesome for me to see as a child growing up in a Mayan tribe. I long to see this powerful gospel come to the hurting families I knew in the shanty towns of North Africa and South Asia, where every family was being beaten down by addictions.


  1. 1  Courtwright, David T., Forces of Habit: Drugs and the Making of the Modern World, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 2001, page 206. Be sure to check out his new book Age of Addiction, May 2019.

  2. 2

  3. 3

  4. 4

  5. 5

  6. 6 And also see
    WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2017.

  7. 7 US Congress Office of Technological Assessment: Technologies
    for understanding and preventing substance abuse and addiction.
    US Government Printing Office, Washington DC, 1994. Pg. 59

  8. 8
    . html

  9. 9

  10. 10

  11. 11

  12. 12 Frontiers in Mission, pg. 69.

  13. 13 The Journal of David Brainard, Nov. 1745 entry.

  14.  14

  15. 15 Chapter 3:

  16. 16  Ibid, Chapter 2.

  17. 17 Binge drinking is defined as five drinks for a man or four for a woman within two hours or one event. A drink = one oz of spirits, four-five oz of wine or 12 oz of beer. Many cocktails equal two to three drinks, and a cup of wine is equal to two drinks.

  18. 18

  19. 19

  20. 20

  21. 21

  22. 22

  23. 23

  24. 24

  25. 25 Cancer and Alcohol: A Statement of the American Society of Clinical Oncology: DOI: 10.1200/JCO.2017.76.1155 Journal
    of Clinical Oncology 36, no. 1 (January 1 2018) 83-93. www.

  26. 26

  27. 27 (p. 28)

  28. 28

  29. 29

  30. 30

  31. 31

  32. 32

  33. 33

  34. 34
    . html

  35. 35

  36. 36

  37. 37
    GLOBAL.pdf (p. 23)

  38. 38

  39. 39

  40. 40

  41. 41 These pharmadrug
    deaths include deaths due to drug interactions, drug
    side effects and drug overdoses, but do not include physician
    error, illegal usage or medication deaths that cause heart
    attacks, strokes or suicides.

  42. 42

  43. 43

  44. 44

  45. 45

  46. 46 Berenson, Alex, Tell Your Children the Truth: The Truth About Marijuana, Mental
    Illness and Violence, Simon and Schuster, NY, 2019., pp. 94-97.

  47. 47 Berenson, pp. 121.

  48. 48 Berenson, pp. 112.

  49. 49 Berenson, pp. 118.

  50. 50

  51. 51

  52. 52

  53. 53 (an
    executive summary of UNODC 2017 report)

  54. 54

  55. 55

  56. 56

  57. 57

  58. 58

  59. 59

  60. 60 Gorman, Myths of Legalization,

  61. 61

This is an article from the September-October 2019 issue: Making a Killing

Year of the Frontier Prayer Calendars September October 2019

Year of the Frontier Prayer Calendars September October 2019

Please see attached .pdf files for the calendars.

This is an article from the September-October 2019 issue: Making a Killing

How To Save a Life (or Thousands of Lives)

How To Save a Life  (or Thousands of Lives)

From the Editor: This case study from Zambia is an example of the type of ministry that is badly needed but sorely lacking in the Frontier People Groups of Central, South and Southeast Asia.

In May 2009, more than 400 people gathered in Kitwe, Zambia, for a training conference hosted by LIFE International. As a result, 67 ministries were founded, each with the aim of upholding the value of human life, of all people—people like Joyce.

My mother and father died of AIDS. I was alone. Relatives were picked to adopt me, but soon I was abused. My uncle forced me to have sex. When it was discovered that I was HIV-positive and pregnant, my aunt was so angry. She started punching me and said I was not worthy to live. ‘Just go throw yourself in the river. You are nothing. Just go kill yourself.’ I was chased out of their home like a dog. I was abandoned. I was powerless. I thought, ‘It is better to have this child die.’ It was better for me to die than to live.

Joyce was orphaned, homeless, pregnant, penniless, and HIV-positive. Any one of these factors would lead to despair; all of them would threaten to crush even the strongest person.

In my village there is a very deep and strong river. There is a place where often you hear of people being eaten by crocodiles. I was there, crying near the river. I was thinking of jumping into the river to die. But a woman came. I didn’t even know her name.

Iness had come to the 2009 LIFE International conference with a vision, and she left with the tools she needed to found the Khumi Children’s Village in 2011, an organization dedicated to bringing hope to children who despair of a better life. The center sat near the path to the river, where Iness watched Joyce pass.

Iness followed me up there and held me and said, ‘What are you doing here? This is very dangerous!’ I started crying; I could not even talk. She still just held me. She said, ‘I cannot leave you here. Let me take you to the children of God so you and the baby can survive.’ She brought me to the Khumi Center. I was rescued and I decided to change my mind, to live and to have my baby live.

God became Joyce’s hope, became her refuge and strength, an ever-present help in her time of trouble (Psalm 46:1). Iness joined God in His life-giving outreach to Joyce, and her life—along with the life of her child—was saved.

The day the baby was born I named him Abraham. Now I love this child. I want him to be a man of God. I know that Abraham will grow, with the help of God, to help my country. I was empowered and now I am able to start a business, have a home, and raise my son. I thank God for bringing me to the center. Without it I would be no more.

Holistic life-giving ministries like Khumi Children’s Village recognize the complexity of needs faced by suffering people: spiritual, physical, emotional. Iness didn’t just tell Joyce about Jesus then send her on her way. She cared for her—like the Samaritan on another longago roadside—seeing her need and showing her mercy.

Even though you may not live near a crocodile-infested river, desperate people are passing you each day on their way to an uncertain, possibly even despairing, future. Lives are being devalued in your neighborhood, in your city, and in your nation.

On which path has God placed you?

Who will be your Joyce?

This is an article from the September-October 2019 issue: Making a Killing

Do Short-Term Teams and Disciple Making Movements (DMMs) Mix?

Do Short-Term Teams and Disciple Making Movements (DMMs) Mix?

“I see waves of young people spreading the gospel across the whole world,” said Youth With a Mission’s visionary pioneer, Loren Cunningham.  In 1960 when he said this, the concept of short-term missions was revolutionary. Many thought the idea at best, naïve, and at worst, destructive. In that era, missions were only done by longterm workers who dedicated their entire careers to serving as missionaries. What could young people do? “Much damage!” thought many experienced field practitioners.

This vision, however, was from the Lord. Loren walked forward in persistent faith and obedience. He rallied youth from around the world to answer God’s call to the nations. As short-term missions gained both popularity and credibility, other agencies also began programs to send young people into the world’s harvest fields.

Today, Youth With a Mission (YWAM) has grown into a large missions movement with tens of thousands of long-term staff working in thousands of teams in over 1,000 locations. YWAM workers come from nearly every country in the world, including places like Indonesia, Nepal, Mozambique and Colombia.

Many of those missionaries (we call ourselves YWAMers) today serve as career missionaries. We are also not so young anymore! In addition to lots of youth, there are now many grey heads among us.

YWAM Frontier Missions Begins

In the mid-1980s, a group within YWAM felt led by the Lord to pioneer a specific emphasis within the broadbased mission to intentionally focus on planting churches among unreached peoples. This part of YWAM became known as YWAM Frontier Missions (YWAM-FM).

For YWAM-FM staff, we recognize short-term missions as a big part of our broader mission’s ethos. With our specific focus on starting DMMs, we are often faced with the question of what to do with short-term teams. Can teams make a positive contribution to starting a Disciple Making Movement? Or will they hinder the emerging of sustainable indigenous movements? Not a Unique Question

This question is not unique to YWAM’s Frontier Mission field workers. In today’s mission scenario, many supporting churches expect to send short-term teams to help. Receiving teams, from time to time, can feel necessary to ensure that supporting churches continue to invest in our ministries.

We must carefully weigh the risks and benefits of bringing short-term teams into an area where we are attempting to launch a Disciple Making Movement. There are indeed risks. But there are also benefits both for the receiving workers and the team that comes. To reap these benefits, there must be careful team preparation as well as buy-in to the broader DMM vision and values.

Disasters, Distractions and Financial Issues

When we lived in South Asia, many, many short-term teams came. Where we were living attracted teams due to its beautiful mountains, rugged landscape and warm people. In the 1990s we (YWAM in that country) had a full-time person who facilitated the many, many teams that would come. Operation Mobilization (OM) did something similar. We were flooded with foreign young people wanting to make a contribution.

It was good…and it was bad. Long-term workers who were trying to focus on discipling new believers were continually pulled away from that work to care for the needs of cross-cultural “newbies.” Though attempts were made to give orientation, cultural mistakes were made. Crisis situations including accidents, and even deaths of short-term team members, took much time and energy from the long-term staff.

I remember one team that came. They strongly believed they should go and share the gospel in front of a significant religious monument. They were insensitive to the culture and norms. This angered locals, creating rather than removing barriers to the gospel. We were glad to see them go when they finally boarded the plane home! There were other issues too.

Some of our local staff who spoke English well were recruited to help the teams. It became known among the South Asian staff that if you needed support, the answer was to host a foreign team. “Having them come may or may not be helpful to the work,” it was thought. “But it will allow you the opportunity to build relationships with those who might give you money.” Unhealthy dependency was often the result of having foreign teams. A Better Question

These things were sad to watch. Teams sacrificed greatly to come work among the unreached. They raised money, traveled far, made great sacrifices and came hoping to make a significant contribution.

A few days ago, while running a webinar on Disciple Making Movements, I was asked a question. “Can shortterm teams start a Disciple Making Movement (DMM)?” It was immediately apparent to me that the person asking had only a shallow understanding of what a DMM was. Otherwise, the answer would be obvious.

A Disciple Making Movement is something that (while growing rapidly) takes a significant long-term commitment. It requires years of sacrifice and investment. An absolute minimum commitment of two or three years is needed, and for many places where DMMs happen, those who start them invest for their entire lives.

It was a worthy question though, and I think I understood the heart behind it. A better question would have been, “How can a short-term team assist and contribute to the starting of a Disciple Making Movement?”

Four Much Needed Gifts Short-Term Teams Bring

There are some wonderful things that short-term workers can contribute. Long-term field workers must be careful not to be too cynical and miss out on these wonderful blessings.

1. Faith

Short-term teams come with fresh faith and courage. They have been praying and preparing. The team is expectant that God will work powerfully. A fresh injection of faith to discouraged workers in hard places can make a big difference! They may have been laboring for years without fruit or breakthrough. Instead of calling the short-termers naïve, receive and feed off of their enthusiasm and God-given faith.

2. Boldness

Young people and teams in general, can be quite bold. Granted, sometimes they are too bold for the liking of long-termers. They can make us feel uncomfortable. Yes, they do need orientation, but bold witness is a vital characteristic of a Disciple Making Movement. Encourage and make room for them to be courageous in witnessing, in praying for the sick and in asking God to bring a breakthrough in your area.

3. Enthusiasm and Energy

Weariness is common for long-term workers in difficult places. Daily living can take its toll and missionary life in the frontiers can be quite grueling. Again, allow the team’s enthusiasm to ignite you rather than repulse you. Years ago, you too had that same enthusiasm and energy. Invite them to pray over you and minister to you. Let them refresh your spirit. Don’t be cynical or critical of their excitement.

4. Man-power

Abundant gospel-sowing and extra-ordinary prayer strategies require many people. Take advantage of the freely available man-power of short-term volunteers. Let them go into new places where you haven’t had time to go. Let them do prayer walks, distribute literature and Bibles (if appropriate) and get the gospel out! It is often helpful to give teams a combination of things to do.

Three Strategic Activities Short-Term Teams Can Effectively Help With

1. Prayer

Teams can come alongside missionaries who are trying to start a movement by helping with prayer saturation. Several long-term DMM focused teams in India use shortterm teams very effectively this way. They train the teams to engage in prayer, intercession, spiritual warfare and worship. The impact of these teams has been tremendous! They have helped to break up the hard spiritual ground so the seeds of the gospel can be sown. After the team leaves, be sure to invite those short termers to become key intercessors who will regularly pray for a breakthrough in your area.

2. One-on-One Evangelism

Language is an important factor. Much depends on whether the team can communicate with the people you are trying to reach. One option is to utilize translators. Another good strategy is to use short indigenous evangelistic films the team can put on their smartphones. When they meet someone who seems open, they can offer to show that person a short film in their own language. These types of films are available for free download at in many languages.

If the short-termers speak the language, they can help you sow the gospel seeds in an even more abundant way. Send them out, as Jesus did, in pairs of two or three people to share their testimony, pray for the sick and look for receptive people who are open to hearing more about Jesus.

While foreigners are good at attracting a crowd, this can be counter-productive in sensitive areas. It may reinforce a negative understanding of the gospel as a “foreigner’s religion.” We generally discourage openair and street meetings where dramas, songs and other “shows” attract crowds. This may be appropriate in some places but in many unreached and resistant areas it can cause unhelpful attention. It highlights what you are doing and can even result in unnecessary persecution after the team has gone. Instead, encourage teams to look for ways to have real conversations with people one-on-one or in smaller groups.

3.  Finding Persons of Peace and Starting New Groups

As they share their testimonies or gospel stories, God may use the team to reveal the Person of Peace in a community. Be sure to train the team in what to do with someone who seems open; how to offer to start a discovery or story group with them, and how to follow up. Then, be ready, after the team goes, to continue to meet with those people.

Three things Short-Term Teams Should Avoid

If you are a field worker, you may want to pre- discuss the following things before welcoming a team. Most teams will look to you to give adequate orientation and they will follow your lead (if you communicate clearly ahead of time.)

1.  Avoid Doing Anything that Will Not Be Reproducible

Avoid bringing in evangelism or community development tools that will not be easy to obtain after you leave. Tent crusades, expensive bands and outside equipment are all a risk to the movement’s DNA.

2.  Avoid Funding Projects with Outside Money

It has become very popular for outside teams to fund projects like buildings, wells, clinics, etc.

While you may have good intentions, these kinds of projects often create an unhealthy dependency rather than local ownership. It hampers sustainability and reproducibility in the future. If, after you go, those things cannot be carried on by the local people themselves then you may unintentionally be causing harm. 

3.  Avoid Coming in as Experts Instead of Learners

Many short-term teams come with a God-complex. They believe God has sent them to “save the heathens” or something equivalent to that. As the team prepares, be sure to help those coming to see themselves not as saviors, but as learners and guests in a new environment.

Four Key Ways That Teams Can Prepare

Jean Johnson, who contributes to this magazine and is the Director of Five Stones Global, has an excellent book called Go Light! Go Local! A Conscientious Approach to Short-Term Missions (available on Amazon). This book does a fantastic job of preparing teams who want to work in an effective way. I highly recommend it for a fuller treatment of this important topic. Let me just give you a few things to consider to get you started.

1. Could You Leave Someone Behind?

Consider either working with someone on the ground who has a DMM vision already, or being prepared to leave people behind to follow up. From the team’s first pre-trip meeting, sow the seed of responding to God’s call to not just go, but to stay (or come back). Make a commitment as a team that if you see a response, someone from among you will stay back to continue to disciple those who come to faith.

2. Embrace a Long-term Mindset and Vision

You may be short-term in your time commitment, but be long-term in your mindset. See yourself as part of the bigger picture of what God is doing in that area. Make your contribution to that bigger picture well. Don’t isolate what you are doing from what God did before you came and will be doing after you go.

3. Return and Repeat

Consider sending several teams over several years to the same location, rather than going to a different place each time. If there is consistency and the same team leaders return for each trip, the team has a much better chance of growing, learning and building strong relationships with the field workers and local people. Ultimately they will have a much better impact.

4. Practice at Home First

Be sure to practice DMM activities in your home country first rather than experimenting on people cross-culturally. If the people on your team have never shared their testimony or used an evangelism approach like the 3 Circles in their own city, what makes you think they can do that effectively through a translator? Build into the team’s preparation time opportunities for prayer walks, evangelism and sharing Bible stories in their own context.

Consider Saying “Yes”

For those who are wanting to launch Disciple Making Movements, don’t be afraid of short-term teams. You may not want to have them coming every month, but when you have an opportunity to partner with someone who wants to send people short-term, consider saying “yes.” That group of crazy, young, bold foreigners could end up being the catalyst for a breakthrough. As farfetched as it may sound, God delights in doing just those kinds of things through those who step out in faith and obedience.

This is an article from the September-October 2019 issue: Making a Killing

The Bride

The Bride

What would you think if you heard people making fun of a bride? Imagine they were detailing her failures…and this was happening years after she got married! Her husband dearly loves his bride. He can see her shortcomings too, better than anyone else, but he loves her so profoundly that he is willing to do anything for her—even give his life—like many husbands would (we would hope).

You probably figured out that I’m talking about the bride of Christ— His body, the Church. We know many amazing truths about this from the N.T. A few that are important for my point today, including:

  • The Church has local, regional and global implications.
  • The Church is not specifically clearly “defined” in the N.T. Rather, it is expressed in several ways with several Greek words.I urge you to study Romans 16 and look into the Greek words to see the range of meaning from fellowships in homes to the church in the region.
  • It can be confusing to grapple with the difference between the local expressions and the regional or global body of Christ.
  • We do know that a key part of the Church is to be light and salt —both to the rest of the body and to the world.
  • There is much more that could be said. Indeed, the concept of the body of Christ is a foundational biblical study, both the N.T., historically and globally today.

I want to focus on how we talk about the Church. I have written before about a pattern in the history of the Church—that some believe they are more committed than others—which often results in the “serious” smaller groups spinning off to start a new group that they feel is more in line with what God is calling them to.

The problem comes when we turn our understanding about what we believe God is calling His Church to and start judging others—especially for those of us with a global focus. I understand first-hand the passion that mobilizers have, which can sometimes move us to being judgmental. Do you go into church each week wishing people were more committed to reaching the unreached peoples of the world? I do, and that is OK. Pastors also want their people to be more committed.

The question is what do I do with that? Do I critique and teach and lead people toward a globally aware vision? Or do I judge? I confess, I have to watch my heart when I “switch” from full-time ministry at Frontier Ventures to my involvement as an elder at my church or with any local church.

Sometimes this kind of passion causes us to call for a new model of how to do fellowship as the body of Christ locally. Some have left their local churches out of frustration.

Actually, I don’t have a problem with  calling for and starting a new approach. The “way” we do church needs to be evaluated, as I have said many times. New approaches should be tried to reach new cultures and generations. But we do not have to put down what others are doing in order to argue for our new model. When we do, we are acting like the world does today when it argues political opinions.

We need to remember all valid N.T. expressions are the bride of Christ—right now—imperfect as we are. He is the head of the body, not us. He is sovereign, not us. He is leading His Church and is also in charge of the timing! I have begun to wonder about some of our mobilization approaches. For example, there are those who say, “It’s been over 2,000 years and there are still people who haven’t heard.” I get the point. It breaks my heart that so many have not heard a clear message about Christ, that is why I’ve been on Frontier Ventures staff for 38 years! Successive generations go into a Christ-less eternity among the unreached. But we must learn to balance resting in Jesus’ timing, even as we challenge everyone we can to press forward in the task He has given us.

If you are casting vision for a new kind of church or ministry, focus on your vision for it and what you are doing about it. Call people to that, not what you are “against.”


  1. 1 The word church is from the German, kirche, not N.T. Greek. A very interesting church history story to see how that idea influenced what the church is, in Europe, making it much more formal and “institutional.” This influences “how” we do church today. There is an entire issue of the IJFM on oikos, which you can download for free at: www. IJFM_34_1-4-EntireIssue.pdf

This is an article from the September-October 2019 issue: Making a Killing

The Abortion Industry and the Gospel of Life

The Abortion Industry and the Gospel of Life

Click on PDF link to see print version with additional charts, graphs and graphics

For believers, abortion is not just another bad thing. Rather, it is the greatest tragedy of all time. Each year, 56 million children are intentionally aborted globally—153,000 per day, 106 babies every minute.1 Roughly 90% of the world’s abortions take place outside the US,2 64% in the Frontier People Group countries from the Middle East through East Asia,3 with India alone responsible for one-fourth of the world’s abortions.4 We are often unaware of this steady, quiet genocide5 that happens behind closed doors, and the world does not realize it has been robbed of unique human individuals.6

If missionaries do not seek to stem this evil tide, who will? Babies are increasingly seen as unwanted life, threatening prosperity, and abortion has become viewed as a necessary evil to solve the problem. Ironically, this narrative has come from the “Christian” West, which champions sexual promiscuity and self-centered materialism. Currently almost half of all pregnancies in the US are unplanned,7 revealing the total failure of organizations like Planned Parenthood to promote responsible behavior and choices.

By legalizing the killing of preborn babies in 1973, the United States made itself the standard bearer in women’s “reproductive rights” internationally. Western “Christian” nations now dole out aid based on a country’s willingness to agree with the agenda they set, promoting abortion as women’s healthcare. Since the 1980s, global abortions have skyrocketed, peaking in the 1990s and have since decreased slightly in developed nations but remain constant or increasing in developing countries.8 Russia and Romania have the highest rate of abortion, with more than half of the babies conceived killed before birth.9

Abortion And Global Christian Response

Christians are the only hope of changing the anti-family, anti-child narrative spreading globally. Few evangelicals support abortion, but the devastating evil of abortion remains marginalized in the majority of Christian churches. Only 2% of US churches have their own pro-life ministry of any kind, and less than half of denominational pastors have talked about the issue of abortion in their church.10

Help for mothers in unreached people groups without churches is practically non-existent. Of all the prolife dollars raised within the US, 90% are spent on US ministries,11 funding an estimated 6000 full-time personnel who staff Christian pregnancy care and pro-life activism/education ministries.12 One map of faith-based pregnancy help centers around the world reveals many regions completely devoid of any pro-life work.13

The Abortion Industry

Organizations such as the International Planned Parenthood Federation and Population Council use compassionate medical rhetoric to make their role in the murders of millions of babies seem virtuous. Abortion groups receive billions in donations and federal grants to champion “women’s health” and put tens of millions into fundraising, keeping their message trendy and appealing.14 Planned Parenthood alone received about half a billion tax-payer dollars from US government funding in 2015.15 But contraceptives are widely neglected or misused.16 For each adoption referral, US abortion clinics perform 117 abortions!17 They cover up the ugly effects of abortion on the mother: emotional trauma, mental health problems18and long-term physical health risks.19 A 2013 Gates Foundation study revealed that nearly 15% of all maternal deaths resulted from abortions.20

The industry argues the cost of the abortion (emotional, physical, monetary) is much lower than the cost of delivering the child and raising her, getting the baby adopted or having social services raise her. Every abortion is income for the industry and the later it is in gestation, the more profitable it is (the average cost of abortion in the US is $350 and late-term abortion is upwards of $3,000), so abortion providers are incentivized to encourage women to have more abortions rather than none.21

The industry additionally profits off the sale of infant body parts to meet the market demand for fetal organs and tissue used for research,22 a demand created and sustained by abortion.23

Opposing The Industry by Living The Gospel

If a woman seeks help for a crisis pregnancy in most parts of the world, she will find the same response wherever she turns: get an abortion. We know God has the best answer to her struggle, but how will this woman hear that message? She will only hear it from a follower of Jesus who displays God’s pro-life ethos in every area of life. In 2011, a newlywed missionary couple embodied this ethos beautifully while working for a hospital in India.24 During one of their shifts, a baby with severe genetic deformities was born and was rejected by his mother. The couple promptly adopted the infant to the shock and bewilderment of their Indian neighbors and coworkers. The precious boy lived just four years, but his short life brought joy to many and international attention to a family living out the gospel’s message of life.

It is the Church’s job to care for the vulnerable and to give compassionate help to their families. But in Frontier People Groups, where the Church is not yet, then who else is there to shoulder this burden but the missionaries, first witnesses of the gospel to a people?

It is no small thing for missionaries to position themselves to be an answer for women facing unplanned pregnancy. Knowing the industry data on the prevalence and frequency of abortions, prayerfully, we will be prepared to face the horror of abortion with compassionate love wherever we are called.

May we not forget, Christ puts Himself in the place of the most vulnerable when He said, “…whatever you do unto the least of these, you do unto me.” 

  1. 1

  2. 2

  3. 3

  4. 4 Estimate of 15.6 million abortions occurred in India in 2015

  5. 5 An exhaustive article on abortion as genocide.

  6. 6 Detailed descriptions, photos and videos of an embryo’s distinct humanity at every moment of development:

  7. 7

  8. 8

  9. 9

  10. 10 “Views of Pastors on abortion and involvement of Churches in the Pro-Life Movement”

  11. 11 Estimate provided by LIFE International.

  12. 12 Estimate provided by Center for Bio-Ethical Reform.

  13. 13 Search by country and find the nearest pregnancy help clinic to your location.

  14. 14 In this Planned Parenthood annual report, $102,200,000 was spent on fundraising in 2018. http://www.plannedparenthood org/u.ploads/filer_public/80/d7/80d7d7c7-977c-4036-9c61b3801741b441/190118-annualreport18-p01.pdf

  15. 15

  16. 16

  17. 17 From the Planned Parenthood annual report, page 25, there were 332,757 abortions done and just 2,831 adoption referrals at PP in 2018.

  18. 18 Post-abortive women have 81% increased risk of mental problems. journals/the-british-journal-of-psychiatry/article/ abortion-and-mental-health-quantitative-synthesisand-analysis-of-research-published-19952009/ E8D556AAE1C1D2F0F8B060B28BEE6C3D

  19. 19 List of recent medical studies showing numerous harmful risks associated with abortion. FactSheets/RecentResearch.pdf

  20. 20

  21. 21 Alveda King, niece of Martin Luther King, Jr. on genocide and abortion industry profits.

  22. 22 Guttmacher article on negative perception of fetal tissue research hurting the cause of abortion. gpr/2016/fetal-tissue-research-weapon-and-casualty-waragainst-abortion

  23. 23 “Opposition to abortion and opposition to embryonic stem cell research go hand in hand. facts/stem_cell_research_and_abortion/

  24. 24 Read the beautiful details of the Paulraj family’s adoption story.

This is an article from the September-October 2019 issue: Making a Killing

The Puzzling Power of Group Self-Deception

The Puzzling Power of Group Self-Deception

Seminar excerpt, February 7, 2003

What we could call “group self-deception,” is a type of culturally reinforced delusion. Missionaries are legitimately fearful of destructive cultural practices entering into the Christian movement, and of the puzzling power of group self-deception. However, we deceive ourselves if we think our own cultural tradition is devoid of group self-deception.

I want to address a major killer in much of the Westernized world which our society does little about. This is a cultural tradition that is very deep and strong in the Western world. I speak of the role and deeply rooted function in our society and churches of an addictive and dangerous drug called alcohol.

We are dealing with a culturally reinforced delusion that pervades both secular society and the cultural tradition of Christianity. Compare an evangelical writer on this topic writing in Christianity Today, with a secular author writing in Newsweek. The evangelical author mentions the alternatives of total abstinence and limited use, but he goes on actually to recommend limited use over abstinence:

Christians who do not commit to a principle of total abstinence should follow a guideline that would represent both discernment and Christian freedom by allowing limited use.

Totally lacking in the article is any awareness of the inevitable tragedy for many of those who follow its suggested social use of alcohol.

The secular author, unrestrained by the evangelical panic to conform to this world, says,

Booze and beer are not the same as illegal drugs. They’re worse. … Alcohol is a factor in more than half of all domestic-violence and sexual-assault cases. In 1995 four out of every 10 people on probation said they were drinking when they committed a violent crime, while only one in 10 admitted using illicit drugs. … But when members of Congress tried to pass legislation that would make alcohol part of the purview of the nation’s drug czar, the measure failed. The argument is this: heroin, cocaine, and marijuana are harmful and against the law, but alcohol is used in moderation with no ill effects by many people.

But here’s the counterargument: there are an enormous number of people who cannot and will never be able to drink in moderation.

Years ago Upton Sinclair, a social prophet of his time, observed that few home owners would keep a dog around if it leaped upon one out of ten dinner guests and dragged them down by the throats to their deaths, yet that is what we do when we serve a deadly drug that does not seem to harm nine out of ten who use it, but condemns one out of ten to years of difficulties, often leading to violence, crime, child abuse, wife abuse and highway deaths of others who are totally innocent.

Our basic commitment to doing the will of God and glorifying Him must lead us to a serious reevaluation and questioning of both our theology and practice. This is the definition of mission: what is necessary to glorify God? And if “what is necessary” is more than merely becoming aware of Him, but coming alongside Him in the conquest of evil—then we have a huge mission to attack.


This is an article from the September-October 2019 issue: Making a Killing

Hunting the Lion

An Historical Case Study of Missionaries Fighting a Death Industry

Hunting the Lion

“Take courage,” Livingstone said to them, “I will help you get rid of the beasts.” Dr. Livingstone was speaking to the men of the Bakhatla tribe in Africa about a pride of lions which were attacking their cattle in great numbers, with no fear of man, leading the tribe to starvation. The tribe thought the lions were bewitched so they were too afraid to hunt them. Dr. Livingstone hunted and attacked the pride of lions, miraculously surviving a deadly bite to his shoulder—causing him to be disabled in one arm for the rest of his life.1

 Dr. Livingstone’s response to the tribe in need gets to the heart of the power of the gospel and the missionary response to evil. In this specific case, Dr. Livingstone came to Africa with the purpose of sharing the gospel, but he found a people under attack and he was willing to risk his life to fight for their safety.  

This story boldly illustrates the common pattern in mission history of going to the field to share the Good News of Jesus only to find a lion in the midst of the people we have come to serve. How the missionary responds to these lions can greatly impact the gospel going forward. After Dr. Livingstone dealt with this beast, soon another more destructive lion, the slave trade, reared its head and he spent the rest of his life fighting that beast.

Historically, the global missionary effort was united in sharing the gospel and in fighting the big industries of their day which were profiting off the destruction of the very people the missionaries had come to serve. A valid historical model of mission includes helping the people groups “get rid of the beasts” killing them. This successful precedent should inform the missionary response to the modern death industries of our day.

Dr. Livingstone spent his missionary efforts teaching men, women and children to read, so that they could understand the Bible for themselves. Winning a village to Christ only to have the tribe’s women and children stolen into slavery was a huge hindrance to the gospel going forward. The lion of the slave trade that Livingstone encountered horrified, sickened, and haunted him in his sleep. For many years, he felt powerless to fight it. He knew God wanted this evil to end.

After years of hunting the lion of slavery, Dr. Livingstone found a way to attack it. In 1852, Livingstone realized that if there was a proper road through Africa, then the slave trade would end. Dr. Livingstone risked his life in a trek through the Kalihari desert to find a route for the British to use to make the Arab and Portuguese slave trade less profitable, in hope of ending slavery entirely. The plan worked. Livingstone successfully catalyzed the building of a road into the interior making the foot trails used for the slave trade unprofitable compared to the new road for commercial goods. The road he made not only broke the monopoly of the slave trade, hastening its demise, but was also used by missionaries to bring the gospel into the interior of Africa enabling millions of people to come to the Lord. The slave trade was ended shortly after his death.2

Dr. Livingstone was not alone in blessing people through hunting the lions he found; it was a part of a global trend in the missionary effort of the day. In a groundbreaking article in The American Political Science Review, titled “The Missionary Roots of Liberal Democracy,” the author Robert Woodberry gathers a wealth of data from the colonial era. He makes a compelling statistical case that the actions of the conversionary Protestants were part of a unified global pattern of societal reform. Woodberry argues that these actions of “conversionary” missionaries like Livingstone greatly increased the stability of the later democracies that formed.

What were these actions? The same things that Dr. Livingstone focused on:

  1. Promoting religious liberty and education of every man, woman and child so that the people could read God’s Word, which brought greater stability and a shared moral code
  2. Mass printing (which included calling attention to the vices and corruptions in their communities by comparing them to God’s Word leading to repentance)
  3. Calling people to meet, discuss and volunteer, which brought change to neighborhoods 
  4. Challenging the Church to care about the burdens of their “neighbor” on the other side of the world and to share in their struggles
  5. Fighting the lions that came with the missionaries, or as Woodberry put it, “publicizing the abuses of colonialism.” These actions not only let the gospel go forward in new ways but brought stability to whole countries3

Given what Jesus says about the yeast of the kingdom, it should come as no surprise to us that following the simple kingdom principles of sharing God’s Word and teaching the people ALL that Jesus taught us changes the course of history and blesses more than just the people who take up their cross.

What we should take as a cautionary tale from the mission trends of the colonial era is that in the areas where there was rampant secularization of the Church, though the Enlightenment ideals seemed the same, the results were devastating. Without conversionary Protestant (missionary) actions, there was no one fighting the lions. Exploitation went unchecked, the society at large ignored the cries of the poor and led the people into chaos— all while having access to God’s Word, but no conversionary influence.

The missionaries were united in their fight of the major lions of their day. Their ability to rouse the people to be ready to fight the lions for the sake of the gospel seems to be a legacy unique to their movement. In the postcolonial era, missionaries are less associated with their governments, the global church is much more widespread, and global communication is easier, so tactics may vary, but the need for missionary involvement is no less crucial.

Today missionaries face huge industries, profiting from the death of millions of people, whose reach extends past any one government. Never before in history has there been so much money to be made in the destruction of human life. Never before in history has it been so important for missionaries to speak up against the lions boldly attacking human life in broad daylight with no fear. God sees the destruction and He has a response— may we be a part of that response.




  1. Hannula, Richard M., Trial and Triumph: Stories from Church History, Canon Press, Moscow ID, 1999, p.227.

  2. Livingstone, David, Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa.

  3. The American Political Science Review, vol. 106, NO. 2, “The Missionary Roots of Liberal Democracy,” by Robert Woodberry, 2012.

This is an article from the September-October 2019 issue: Making a Killing

When Doing Good Is Controversial

When Doing Good Is Controversial

When British missionary Amy Carmichael learned of the secret trafficking of little children in the temples of India, other missionaries opposed her involvement. Consequently, she worked tirelessly to rescue the children with minimal help. Similarly, pastors dismiss pro-life activists for being too concerned about abortion. Many are blinded to the dreadfulness of death by dismemberment, saying, “Aren’t the babies going to heaven anyway?”1

Today Christian higher education produces leaders whose ministry priorities bear little resemblance to the Good Samaritan, who did not pass by “on the other side” to avoid the victim. Seminaries don’t train pastors how to address abortion. Few Christians will grasp the extent of abortion or that abortion sacrifices children to gods of convenience, education, career or promiscuity. Killing innocent children is abhorrent to God; He punishes those who choose “to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, a thing which I never commanded or spoke of, nor did it ever enter My mind.” (Jer. 19:5)  In Asia, where most of the Frontier People Groups live and have no churches, two-thirds of unwanted pregnancies end in abortion.2

Therefore, as abortion spreads into unreached people groups, missionaries also need training in effective methods of helping parents value their pre-born children. The Center for Bio-Ethical Reform (CBR) has produced such a training by carefully studying the history of social reform, learning how God led Christians and missionaries previously to stop injustices. By applying these principles internationally, CBR’s educational strategy of using prenatal development and abortion photographs/ videos has proven to effectively change minds and save lives in such diverse countries as Sweden and China.

Photographs provide clear evidence of truth. Mark Twain satirized Belgium’s King Leopold II lamenting the loss of his rubber trade (which caused the deaths of nearly 10 million Congolese): “the incorruptible Kodak [camera]…. The only witness … I couldn’t bribe. Every Yankee missionary … sent home and got one.…” Professor Derrick M. Nault wrote: “The most prominent individuals taking such photographs were Alice Seeley Harris and John Harris, English missionaries who arrived at the Congo Balolo Mission in 1898. One broadly circulated photograph…” showed Nsala Wala staring at the severed hand and foot of his 5-year-old daughter, murdered by the Anglo-Belgian India Rubber Company.These missionaries recognized the biblical mandate to “do justice.” (Mic. 6:8) They and other reformers exposed the atrocity photos in “lantern lectures” to packed American and British audiences. Other missionaries remained silent, fearing ejection from the Congo if they spoke against the slaughter.

Exposing the atrocities of abortion is similar. CBR’s Genocide Awareness Project shows college students the commonalities between abortion and genocide, accepting any persecution. Tragically, Christian leaders fear that expressions of opposition to abortion will compromise their gospel proclamation. Worldwide, over 50 millionpreborn children are killed annually—each one created in God’s image. Christian missionaries must stand against this evil to help people see that Christ is real. 


  1.  1  Elliot, Elisabeth, A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael, Fleming H. Revell, 1987.

  2.  2

  3. 3 Nault, Derrick M., “At the Bar of Public Sentiment,’

This is an article from the July-August 2019 issue: 24:14 -  A Call to Foster Movements in All Peoples

24:14 Goal: Movement engagements in every unreached people and place by 2025 (78 months)

What is a CPM?

24:14 Goal: Movement engagements in every unreached people and place by 2025 (78 months)

A Church Planting Movement (CPM) can be defined as the multiplication of disciples making disciples and leaders developing leaders. This results in indigenous churches planting churches. These churches begin to spread quickly through a people group or population segment. These new disciples and churches begin to transform their communities as the new body of Christ lives out kingdom values.

When churches reproduce consistently to four generations in multiple streams, the process becomes a sustaining movement. It may take years to begin. But once the first churches start, we usually see a movement reach four generations within three to five years. In addition, these movements themselves often reproduce new movements. More and more, CPMs are starting new CPMs within other people groups and population segments.

God’s Spirit is launching CPMs around the world, as He has done at various times in history. After a few of these modern movements began in the early 1990s, a small group of the initial movement catalysts gathered to discuss these amazing works of God. They coined the term “Church Planting Movements” to describe what God was doing. It was beyond what they had imagined.

As these modern movements have emerged, God’s Spirit is using a variety of models or strategies to start CPMs. Terms used to describe these models include Training for Trainers (T4T), Discovery Bible Study (DBS), Disciple Making Movements (DMM), Four Fields, Rapidly Advancing Discipleship (RAD), and Zume. Many movements are hybrids of these various approaches. Many movements have also developed indigenously outside of these training models.

The global leaders who formed the 24:14 Coalition chose CPM as the most helpful and broadly inclusive term. “24:14 is a network of the world’s CPMs and CPM organizations collaborating with urgency, and calling the global church to join in similar efforts.”1

Sometimes the term “Kingdom Movement” is used, meaning essentially the same thing as CPM: “We aim to engage every unreached people and place with an effective Kingdom Movement (CPM) strategy by December 31, 2025.”2

These Kingdom Movements resemble what we see in the New Testament.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8

“All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them…. Utterly amazed, they asked: ‘Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!’” Acts 2:4,7-11

“But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand.” Acts 4:4

“So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.” Acts 6:7

“So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.” Acts 9:31

“But the word of God continued to spread and flourish.” Acts 12:24

“The word of the Lord spread through the whole region. But the Jewish leaders incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. So they shook the dust off their feet as a warning to them and went to Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 13:49-52

 “When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” Acts 14:21-22

“And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women…. Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men…” Acts 17:4, 12

“Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized. And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, ‘Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.’...” Acts 18:8-11a

“This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.” Acts 19:10

In these modern movements we see similar dynamics to what God did in the early church:

  • The Holy Spirit empowering and sending. One of the striking aspects of modern CPMs is the role of the “ordinary person.” God’s work is not restricted to trained professionals. Instead we see ordinary people being used by the Holy Spirit to share the gospel, cast out demons, heal the sick, and multiply disciples and churches. Non-literate people are planting many, many churches in these movements. Brand new believers are powerfully bringing the gospel to new places. They are ordinary people filled with the Spirit of an extraordinary God.
  • The believers praying constantly and showing great faith. Someone has said a CPM is always preceded by a prayer movement. CPMs are also marked by prayer, being “prayer movements” in and of themselves. This is because when we pray God works, and CPMs are an act of God, not a human work. Also, praying is one of Jesus’ basic commands. So every disciple realizes the need to pray and to multiply prayer for himself/herself and for the movement of which he/she is a part.
  • A powerful witness through the way these disciples treat other people. Many Christians and churches around the world have separated the physical from the spiritual. Some Christian groups seem concerned only about spiritual matters, while they neglect the physical needs of people around them. However, disciples in these movements focus on obedience to Scripture.

As a result they eagerly show God’s love to people.

Obeying Scripture leads them to love their neighbor. Thus people and churches in these movements feed the hungry, care for widows and orphans, and fight injustice. A biblical worldview does not separate sacred and secular. God wants all of our lives and societies holistically transformed by the good news.

  • The number of disciples increasing rapidly. Just like the early church in Acts, these modern CPMs multiply rapidly. This speed comes partly from a powerful move of the Spirit. It also comes from biblical principles being followed. For instance, those in movements believe that “every believer is a disciple-maker.” (Matt 28:19) This avoids leaving only a few paid professionals to make disciples. In these movements, disciples, churches and leaders learn that one of their main functions is to bear fruit. And they do this as soon and as often as possible.
  • These disciples becoming obedient to God.

Disciples in CPMs take Scripture very seriously.

Everyone is expected to truly be a disciple of the Word. All have freedom to challenge one another with the question: “Where do you see that in the text?” Believers give careful attention to hearing or reading the Word, both privately and in groups. God is the foremost teacher, through His Word and they know they are accountable for obeying the Word.

  • Households being saved. Just like in the book of Acts where we see households, multiple households and even some communities turn to the Lord, we are seeing the same thing in these movements. Most of these movements are happening among unreached groups, which tend to be much more communal than Western culture. In these cultures, decisions are made by the families and/or clans. In these modern CPMs we see the same type of group decision making.
  • Opposition and persecution. These movements are often happening in the hardest places and as a result there tends to be significant persecution. Unfortunately sometimes that persecution comes in the form of established churches reporting activities of these new movements, to avoid negative impact on themselves from religious fundamentalists or governments. Often the persecution comes from religious and/or government forces seeking to stop these movements of God. But the movements overcome this persecution by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony. There is a price to be paid and many people in these movements are paying that price.
  • Disciples being filled with the Holy Spirit and joy. Despite the opposition and persecution we see toward movements, the believers have tremendous joy, as they have come from the depths of darkness to the light. As a result they are very motivated to share the good news with those around them. In many instances those suffering persecution saying they are rejoicing that God has counted them worthy to suffer for his Name.
  • The Word spreading through the whole region. We see in Acts 19 that the gospel spread throughout the Roman province of Asia in just two years. That seems incredible! We see the same dynamic in these movements. Literally thousands and even millions of people in different regions are hearing the gospel for the first time in a few short years because of the tremendous rate of multiplication of disciples.
  • The gospel spreading to new languages and nations. Unless a movement fits its social and cultural context, it will fail. This begins with the first contact into a people group. The outsider looks for a man or woman of peace who then becomes the church planter. If the outsider is the church planter, they will introduce a foreign pattern of faith. If insiders are the church planters, the gospel seeds planted from the outside can grow freely. The good news will bear fruit in ways natural to that culture yet rooted in Scripture. Thus the gospel can spread more rapidly. Note, these movements normally happen within a people group or population segment. Crossing over into another group normally requires more teaching and people with cross-cultural giftings. Most CPMs today are happening among unreached people groups. This is partly because indigenous movements arise better in places that have not been (as) exposed to a prepackaged westernized gospel.


A CPM has certain characteristics.


  1. Awareness that only God can start a movement. At the same time, disciples can follow biblical principles to pray, plant, and water the seeds that can lead to a “book of Acts” type movement.
  2. Every follower of Christ is encouraged to be a reproducing disciple, not merely a convert.
  3. Patterns of frequent and regular accountability for obeying what the Lord speaks to each person. Also for passing on God’s truth to others in loving relationship. This happens through active involvement in a small group.
  • Each disciple is equipped for spiritual maturity.

This includes equipping to interpret and apply Scripture, a well-rounded prayer life, living as a part of the larger Body of Christ, and responding well to persecution/suffering. This enables believers to function not merely as consumers, but as active agents of kingdom advance.

  • Each disciple is given a vision for reaching their relational network and extending God’s kingdom to the ends of the earth. Priority is given to the darkest places, with a commitment to see that everyone in the world has access to the gospel. Believers learn to minister and partner with others in the body of Christ in every context.
  • Reproducing churches form as part of the process of multiplying disciples. A CPM aims for 1) disciples, 2) churches, 3) leaders and 4) movements to multiply endlessly by the power of the Spirit.
  • CPMs focus on starting movements of multiplying generations of churches. (The first churches started among a group are generation one churches, which start generation two churches, which start generation three churches, which in turn start generation four churches, and so on.)
  • Leaders evaluate and make radical changes as needed to grow. They make sure that each element of character, knowledge, disciple-making skills and relational skills is 1) biblical and 2) can be followed by other generations of disciples. This requires keeping all things very simple.

We are now seeing the gospel spread in many places as it did in the book of Acts. We long to see this happen in every people and place in our generation!

  1. Parks, Stan and Steve Smith, in “24:14 – The War That Finally Ends,” Mission Frontiers, Jan-Feb 2018, pp. 7-12.

This is an article from the July-August 2019 issue: 24:14 -  A Call to Foster Movements in All Peoples

Daring to Succeed

Daring to Succeed

Adapted with permission from The Growth Challenge: Do We Dare to Take an Honest Look?

By L.D. Waterman, Evangelical Missions Quarterly, Volume 55 Issue 1 (Jan-Mar, 2019)

I had been serving among a Muslim UPG for more than 15 years. During some of those years I had led a team of over 30 adult missionaries, pursuing what we considered to be a well-crafted strategy to reach that group. I had worked with a team of national partners to plant a contextual church with local leadership. Then a number of factors challenged me to ask: “Is what we’re doing really God’s best?” When I read David Garrison’s Church Planting Movements, I realized that some of what we had done had hindered the hoped-for reproduction.

My new watchword became “reproducible,” but my national colleagues wanted to stick with our original plans, so I phased out of that ministry. That little group still exists, but has never grown or multiplied.

In 2010, a conference workshop faced me with the challenge: “If we keep doing what we’re doing now, will we reach the goal? We might see enough fruit to share good stories in prayer letters, yet actually leave a group more unreached than before we arrived.”

This adapted illustration of a fictitious missionary couple brings the point home powerfully:

The Renaldos went to Ethiopia for two years of language study, then in 2010 began work among 150,000 Sudanese Arabs there. This people group was increasing through natural population growth at a healthy 2.5% per year (3,750).

The 1,500 Evangelicals among this group (1%), had become isolated from their Muslim neighbors. They also weren’t growing at all, as natural population growth of Evangelical families was offset by families emigrating out of the country.

After language study, the Renaldos began witnessing using a fast-track storying approach. Through much effort, they led 30 individuals to Jesus in one year, started a new church and sent home glowing reports. Their supporters were impressed, but at the end of the year the total number of Evangelicals had only increased by 2%, to 1,530.

During that same year, the Sudanese Arab population grew by 3,750 (2.5%) to 153,750. So despite the Renaldo’s fruitfulness that year, the people group in this fictitious scenario actually dropped from 1% to 0.995% Evangelical.

The Renaldos could continue leading Muslims to Jesus every month and hopefully starting a new church each year. Yet if their ministry continued with addition rather than multiplication, the Evangelicals among this people would have less and less impact as the number of lost people continued to outpace their ministry.

Through the original form I saw of this presentation, I realized a ministry that sounded pretty good to me could result in net negative progress toward seeing that people group reached. I realized that the ministry effort in which I had been involved for over a decade was likely losing ground compared to population growth.

I had to ask myself, and then my coworkers and those I was leading: “Do we dare to take an honest look—at our fruit and our projected fruit?”

Sadly, the practice of leading individuals to Jesus and forming them into a new church has been the experience of many ministries among unreached people groups. In fact, despite the faithful efforts of thousands of missionaries among Unreached People Groups (UPGs), the total number of lost people in UPGs has roughly doubled over the past 40 years.

I realized that we needed to shift to a ministry model that could rapidly reproduce disciples and churches among a UPG. I saw this as not just a theory or a wish, but a description of what God was actually doing among a number of UPGs around the world. Back in 2010, the best estimates claimed fewer than 100 Church Planting Movements (CPMs) globally. Now, in early 2019, the work of God’s Spirit and the sharing of known data has brought the number of recognized, consistent, fourth generation movements to over 700. These movements are thriving in a wide variety of geographic locations and religious blocks.

Applying a CPM-oriented strategy doesn’t guarantee “success.” God is the sovereign Lord of the harvest. He chooses what fruit will grow from our steps of obedience. A person could do everything “right” and never personally be part of launching a movement. But at this point we can undeniably say that some ministry approaches increase the likelihood of God bringing forth abundant harvest through a CPM. And some other ministry approaches consistently bring forth little (if any) fruit and actually hinder a larger harvest.

As Robby Butler has shown in his article “Movements in Every Peoples: How Peoples Become Reached,” “The Oneby-One Method” (reaching individuals and combining them in a single congregation where none existed) results in “a foreign, conglomerate church, alienated from the local peoples.” The alarming result is that “Extraction evangelism makes peoples more resistant. Extraction evangelism into conglomerate congregations hinders indigenous movements” (italics and bold font mine). Reaching numerous individuals among a UPG may feel like exciting progress, yet it is usually counterproductive. Research shows that this approach at best usually brings slower growth than population increase and at worst hardens much larger numbers toward the gospel.

David and Paul Watson describe the important distinction between extraction evangelism and Disciple Making Movements. They write: “Extraction evangelism is ingrained in Western Christian culture. Yet extraction evangelism techniques create too many barriers to the gospel to result in Disciple Making Movements. Period. Extraction evangelism techniques even inoculate people against receiving the gospel. Disciple-making, on the other hand, is part of catalyzing Disciple Making Movements around the world. If Disciple Making Movements are our goal, we have to make the jump from extraction-evangelism thinking to disciple-making thinking. Extraction evangelism thinking focuses on reaching one person at a time. Disciple-making thinking focuses on reaching one family or community at a time ....the minimum unit for disciple-making should be the household (family), affinity group, or community rather than the individual.”

If someone like the Renaldos wanted to catalyze a

reproducing Church Planting Movement, how could they shift their approach? While learning language and culture, they could:

  • Catalyze a prayer effort for a CPM among the focus people.
  • Work with others to prepare Bible Discovery materials appropriate to the focus people.
  • Learn to talk with unbelievers from their focus group about felt needs among individuals and communities.
  • Learn to verbalize (in the focus language) appropriate spiritual comments to see if they could find spiritually open people (persons of peace, Luke 10:6).
  • Meet believers from their focus group and share vision for a rapidly reproducing movement among the group.
  • Interact with near-culture Christians and share CPM vision while learning about relationships and attitudes between the cultures.

When their language ability allows, they could:

  • Enter deeper conversations with focus people who seem spiritually open, to ask if they would be willing to gather their family and/or friends to study the Holy Book
  • .Facilitate CPM training for near-culture and focus group believers. Offer ongoing coaching to believers who want to implement what they learn.
  • Meet intensively with any believers who catch the vision, to pray and encourage one another in looking for people of peace and starting Discovery Groups.
  • Make sure they don’t just reach isolated individuals who then become alienated from their family and network; rather always aim to reach families or groups.
  • Make sure to use a very reproducible Discovery approach in reaching and discipling groups, not a teaching approach that depends on someone with a lot of training and knowledge.

Let’s say within their first year after finishing intensive language learning, they host a CPM training led by an Arab CPM trainer from the Middle East with themselves as co-trainers. Fifty people attend: five believers from their focus group and 45 Christians from a near culture that lives in regular contact with this group. From that training, four people show significant interest. They include a married couple from their focus group, a married man from a near culture who actively serves in his local church, and this man’s pastor, who is favorable but too busy to actively engage in UPG work. They confirm the pastor’s willingness to “release” his church member for active focus on UPG ministry. They have the man confirm that his wife is favorable toward his engaging in this ministry (though she herself doesn’t plan to become involved).

The Renaldos begin meeting weekly with this man and couple. They pray, study Scripture together, follow the Lord’s leading and plan to find people of peace. Through a variety of creative approaches, within six months they have found six potential people of peace. Two of them never gather a group, one group starts but soon disbands, one group meets for a while, but then people drop out for a variety of reasons. Only two groups (each having six adults plus six teens and some other children) continue through 30 chronological Discovery Bible Studies from Creation to Christ, including steps to saving faith and baptism. During that time, six of the group members have also found other interested people and started additional Discovery Groups (second generation).

By the end of that year, two groups of six adults from the focus group (plus teens and children) have come to faith and begun moving toward functioning as house churches. At the end of the second year, those two house churches and six Discovery Groups have multiplied, becoming six house churches, 18 second generation Discovery Groups and 20 third-generation Discovery Groups, with a total of 80 baptized believers and 250 seekers studying chronological Bible stories. The Renaldos’ national partners have also started four additional Discovery Groups, two of which have come to faith together, yielding 16 baptized believers (10 adults, 6 teens). And those two groups have birthed six additional Discovery Groups.

At the end of the third year, the first stream has 50 house churches, 500 baptized believers, and 150 Discovery Groups (25 of which are fourth generation) with 700 seekers. The second stream has six house churches, 46 baptized believers, and 15 Discovery Groups, of which five are third generation. 

At the end of the fourth year, the first stream has 200 house churches (some of which are fourth generation) with 2000 baptized believers. The second stream has 20 house churches with 200 baptized believers.1 Both streams continue to multiply Discovery Groups. A third stream has also begun, having one house church of eight new believers and two new Discovery Groups begun.

Within four years, a pattern of indigenous multiplication has been established, yielding over 2,200 baptized believers. The 1,500 Evangelical believers have become 3,700. In the meantime, the population has grown at 2.5% per year. The 150,000 Sudanese Arabs have grown to 165,573 in those same four years. The 3,700 believers now constitute 2.2% of the group’s population. They have crossed the 2% threshold to be considered a reached group, having internal resources to keep spreading the gospel to their own people. And with good reason. A pattern of multiplication has been established, such that Kingdom advance can continue to exceed population growth.

God is doing amazing things in our day, in apparent answer to the prayers of his people and diligent application of simple reproductive approaches. Church Planting Movements (Disciple Making Movements) hold out the best hope we know of for all peoples to hear and receive the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In light of this, we do well to ask ourselves: “Will the approaches I am pursuing or supporting yield the results for which I’m praying? Am I doing the things most likely to bear maximum fruit for Christ’s glory among the nations?”

  1. If any reader considers this growth rate unrealistic, see for example the growth documented in “How God is Sweeping through South Asia” (a portion of “God is Using Movements to Reach the Unreached” by Dr. David Garrison) in the January-February 2018 issue of Mission Frontiers, pp. 18-19.

This is an article from the July-August 2019 issue: 24:14 -  A Call to Foster Movements in All Peoples

24:14—The War that Finally Ends

24:14—The War that Finally Ends

Dr. Steve Smith devoted his life to following Jesus and leading people to faith in Jesus and then discipling others to do the same. It was his great desire to see the Great Commission fulfilled in our generation. This article is an updated version of an article from January 2018 that lays out that challenge for us.

Finally, let the Lord make you strong. Depend on His mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor. Then you can stand firm against the devil’s evil plans. Our fight is not against human beings. It is against the rulers, the authorities and the powers of this dark world. It is against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly world.

 A renewed war has been quietly waged for the last 30+ years. At first, it began as a quiet insurgence by a few “freedom fighters” unwilling to see billions of people live and die with no access to the gospel. Radicals, not accepting that so many lived in bondage to the “ruler of this world,” laid down their lives to see Jesus set the prisoners free.

This insurgence has spread more rapidly and more broadly than the Arab Spring. It has enacted more lasting change than the fall of the Iron Curtain. Initial sparks have grown into a global firestorm. Millions of spiritual troops have arisen in this battle: to date, 73 million new disciples from within the harvest; prisoners of the devil in the past, steadfast proclaimers of Jesus today.

They advance the banner of Christ against demonic strongholds and despite human opposition.  Their chief “weapons” are the love of God and the gospel of Jesus. Their struggle is not against humans but against the spiritual forces of evil. (Eph. 6:12) They lay down their lives for Jesus, while forgiving and blessing their persecutors. They thrill at the salvation of multitudes in unreached areas, yet during dry spells and frequent suffering, they rejoice that their own names are written in heaven. (Luke 10:20)

Most are not “professional” fighters; they work regular jobs but wage spiritual war day and night. Some take jobs that pay less to have more time to serve their King. Some volunteer for dangerous missions to rescue the lost. All have a heart to share freely with those who enter their kingdom communities. This groundswell overwhelms every major obstacle to the King of Kings, by the power of the cross. Laying down all to follow the call to finish what Jesus began spreads and fuels the mission.

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven. It said, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God have come. The authority of his Christ has come. Satan, who brings charges against our brothers and sisters, has been thrown down. He brings charges against them before our God day and night.  They overcame him because the Lamb gave His life’s blood for them. They overcame him by giving witness about Jesus to others. They were willing to risk their lives, even if it led to death.”  —Rev. 12:10–11 NIRV

This is no return to the horrific Crusades of earthly battles waged falsely and dishonorably in the name of Jesus. This kingdom is invisible, as Jesus declared:

My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the  Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world. —John 18:36, ESV

They are in a war for the souls of people and are willing to ignore unbiblical restraints of human theological and denominational traditions. Unfortunately, sometimes they are opposed by some church leaders who have misunderstood their different expressions of how to live as authentic disciples of the King.

They believe that all disciples are empowered and commissioned to reach the world, not just pastors and missionaries. These disciples have chosen to believe that disciples, churches, leaders and movements can multiply as movements of the Spirit, just as they did in the early church. They have chosen to obey the commands of Christ and receive the same authority and Spirit-empowerment as 2000 years ago.

Church Planting Movements (CPMs) are spreading again today just as they did in the book of Acts and at various times in history. They are not a new phenomenon but an old one. They are a return to basic biblical discipleship that all disciples of Jesus can emulate, as:

1) followers of Jesus and 2) fishers for people. (Mark 1:17)

On every continent, where it was once said “A CPM can’t happen here,” movements are spreading.

Biblical principles are being applied in practical, reproducible models in a variety of cultural contexts. God’s servants are winning the lost, making disciples, forming healthy churches and developing godly leaders, in ways that can multiply generation after generation and begin to radically transform their communities.

These movements are the only way we have found historically for the kingdom of God to grow faster than the population. Without them, even good ministry efforts result in losing ground. (See the article, “Daring to Succeed,” starting on page 24.)

The tide of this renewed effort is surging forward with unstoppable force. This insurgence is no passing fad. With 25+ years of reproducing churches, the number of CPMs has multiplied from a mere handful in the 1990s to 950+ as of May 2019, with more being reported each month. Each movement’s advance has been won with great endurance and sacrifice.

This mission—to start kingdom movements in every unreached people and place—comes with real casualties of persecution. This is an ultimate struggle to see the name of Jesus prevail in every place, so He is worshipped by all peoples. This mission costs everything, and it is worth it! He is worth it.

After almost three decades of a resurgence of movements in modern times, a global coalition has arisen, not by boardroom brainstorming, but by leaders within and alongside movements banding together to fulfill one overarching objective:

And this good news of the King’s reign will be heralded throughout the whole world as a testimony to all peoples, and then the end will come. (Matt 24:14, translation by Steve Smith)

As God draws multitudes of new believers from every tongue, tribe, people and nation into His kingdom, we yearn: “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20)

We cry out:  Your kingdom come! (movements)

No place left! (fully reaching all Rom. 15:23) Finishing what others have started!

(honoring those before us)

We have subordinated national, organizational and denominational brands to greater kingdom collaboration to accomplish this mission. We call our open-membership, volunteer band by the verse that inspires us: 24:14.

Through prayer, we as the 24:14 Coalition were led by God to aim for movements in every unreached people and place.

We felt God gave us an initial goal and a deadline to increase urgency: We are praying and serving to see a kingdom movement (CPM) engagement in every unreached people and place by December 31, 2025.

We are not a Western-centric initiative. We are composed of house church movements from South Asia, Muslim background movements from the 10/40 window, mission sending agencies, church-planting networks in post-modern regions, established churches, intercessor networks and many more. We are a coalition of CPM practitioners not waiting for a plan from executive leadership (though many executives are on board).

We are inspired by a call for a wartime mentality to sacrifice alongside brothers and sisters, to see the gospel proclaimed throughout the world as a witness to all peoples.

This coalition is standing on the shoulders of those who have gone before us. We are reaping the results (where we have not sown) of millions of sacrificial intercessors and witnesses throughout the centuries.

There will be a final generation. It will be characterized by the global spread of the kingdom, and will advance in the face of global opposition. Our generation feels strangely like the one Jesus described in Matthew 24.

24:14 consists of movement leaders and people, organizations, and churches across the world committed to four things:

  1. REACH the UNREACHED: In line with Matthew 24:14, bringing the gospel of the kingdom to every 0unreached people and place.
  2. THROUGH CPMs: Fully reaching them through biblical Kingdom Movements of multiplying disciples, churches, leaders and movements.
  3. WITH URGENCY BY 2025: Doing so with a wartime urgency by the end of 2025 in the power of the Spirit, no matter what it costs us.
  4. We COLLABORATE with others in the 24:14 community so we can make progress together. 

We are in a spiritual war, though most believers seem to live as if in peace. As long as God’s people slumber, the enemy wreaks havoc in communities, churches, relationships and personal discipleship. Priorities, time and focus remain dissipated. No D-Day objective looms. No great mission prevails, so sacrifice remains minimal or nonexistent. Yet were the whole church to wake up to a wartime mindset, the gates of hell would quake! (Matt. 16:18) The 73 million (and growing) grassroots troops who have come to faith in these CPMs are spreading the good news globally. As stories of God’s breakthroughs trickle into churches around the world, reinforcements arise to go out into the battlefields. The slumbering giant of the global church needs to wake up. But this giant must not awaken with a peacetime mindset. This is no business model for comfortable church growth; this is spiritual warfare.

Our mission has three key elements. First, we need to discern the gaps where movement engagements are lacking. Second, the most effective troops to start new movements are leaders from existing movements. As a global church we need to prioritize prayer, personnel and funds to support existing CPMs in sending out messengers to unengaged areas to start new CPMs. Third, we need to help train, deploy, and coach new movement catalysts to the places and peoples that existing movements cannot serve.


Keeping these three priorities in focus will allow us to achieve the initial goal of movement engagement and overall purpose of movements in every unreached people and place.

Of the 17,000+ people groups and 7000+ unreached people groups, we estimate that about 2,500 of them are already effectively engaged with CPM strategies. That leaves the vast majority still needing purposeful CPM initiatives. But we need to look more closely than the macro-level of a major people group or city. We are utilizing a list of nearly 43,000 global districts overlaid with these people group lists. Globally, that may be as many as 80,000 geographical and ethnolinguistic segments of the world needing movements. As you read this, global researchers are compiling sensitive data from CPM practitioners to identify which population segments have movements and movement engagements and which still need them.

2025 is not the end. It is just the beginning of the end. We need CPM catalysts in every one of these 80,000 segments sacrificially committed to the war effort of spreading God’s kingdom through movements. Once catalysts are in place (between now and 2025) the fight has just begun to evangelize the lost and multiply disciples and churches to see a kingdom transformation of those communities.

Jesus didn’t intend his Great Commission for just a subgroup of his followers, but for everyone who knows him as their Savior. He calls every believer to play a role in finishing the task.

We can see an end to a 2,000-year spiritual war. The enemy’s defeat is in sight. “No place left for Jesus to be named” is on the horizon. (Rom. 15:23) God is asking us to pay the price and deeply sacrifice to be the generation that fulfills Matthew 24:14.

Which brings us to you. God is calling you to join this volunteer army. What could happen if the global church arose with a sacrificial seven-year push to engage every unreached place with a movement of God?

We invite you to be a part of the revolution! Here are some ways to join the battle.


See to learn more, watch vision casting videos and find on-ramps to join this wartime effort.


24:14 is tracking the engagement of around 80,000 targets of people groups and places that we will engage with a movement engagement by 2025. Help us understand the gaps by reporting where you are engaged and the progress there. (Visit


Prayer movements always coincide with Church Planting Movements. We have put together a detailed explanation of how you can be involved in prayer for the 24:14 Vision (


While 24:14 is a global band of volunteers, financial resources are needed for special initiatives, collaboration of movement catalysts, training leaders, and mobilizing national believers to cascade movements to new unreached areas. See projects we are working on (Visit give)


24:14 has a list of roles that must be filled in order to make the 2025 vision a reality. A complete list can be found at (Scroll to “How You Can Get Involved,” choose the option that fits you and navigate to the Be a Part of the Community page)


Get trained to effectively start CPMs, whether across an ocean or in your backyard. 24:14 has a network of home hubs and field hubs to provide a pathway for reaching a UPG, starting in your local context. Browsing 2414now. net/hubs will give you complete information on getting involved.

Most 24:14 efforts are not supported by outside funds. Outside funding for CPM catalyzation, and support comes via individuals, churches and organizations. Yet there are some central funding needs. See give for more information on supporting 24:14 global efforts.

This is an article from the July-August 2019 issue: 24:14 -  A Call to Foster Movements in All Peoples

The Marriage of Excellent Strategy and the Supernatural

The Marriage of  Excellent Strategy and the Supernatural

When we arrived at their home, his wife ushered us in. “Please sit down,” she said. The room was tiny and dark. We bent down to enter the low doorway and saw him lying on the bed. From the dark corner came groans of pain.

“What is wrong?” we asked.

His wife replied. “The doctor says he has a kidney stone. It’s been several days now. He is suffering so greatly!”

We shared with them both that Jesus is a God who heals. Laying our hands gently on him, we asked the Lord to help him pass the stone. We commanded his body to be made whole. After sharing a few words of hope, we left to visit another person in the community.

A few days later we returned to their tiny home. The man who’d been in such pain was sitting outside fixing a bamboo mat. “You look much better,” we said. He smiled broadly.

“The day you prayed for me in Jesus’ name, I was healed! Just an hour or so later, I passed the stone. Your God is very powerful!” he declared.

This man soon became a Jesus-follower, together with his wife. A weekly fellowship was started in the tiny courtyard in front of their home. Neighbors came to hear what God had done. Many began to listen in on the Bible story group that began. The kingdom was advancing!

Supernatural Miracles Don’t Always Lead to Movements

Jerry Trousdale wrote about the danger of secularism in the March/April 2019 issue of Mission Frontiers. One of the reasons the church in the West has not seen many Disciple Making Movements is because of anti-supernaturalism. The call to combat secularism and embrace a greater openness to the supernatural is needed indeed.

In Asia and Africa, this isn’t as much of an issue as in the West. People in the non-western world are far more open to signs and wonders.  It is much easier to integrate healing the sick and casting out demons into the life of a typical disciple. In quite a few countries, 80 or 90 percent of people come to faith through a healing miracle.

Even in those countries, however, the reality is this. Though we see dramatic miracles and even conversions through miracles, we don’t always see movements result. Often, these healings happen in crusades with little follow up. Even if they take place through a personal connection, without a strategy for multiplying disciples and disciple-making groups, dramatic miracles only result in limited growth.


It’s Both

Demonstrations of God’s power combined with a clear multiplication strategy for discipleship releases movements. One without the other will not get you there. In Jesus’ life, we see the beautiful blending of these two things: signs and wonders with intentional disciplemaking. It was not one or the other, but both/and.

Are We Following Jesus’ Model?

1. Jesus regularly demonstrated the kingdom of God through signs and wonders.

As we read the gospels, we “watch” Jesus perform many, many miracles. There are thirty-seven clearly recorded in Scripture. Demonstrating love and power was His every-day lifestyle. It was normal for Jesus to show people who God was through practical and supernatural acts of kindness (miracles).

Why do we hesitate to live the same way? Fear of failure is one inhibitor. We may have had past experiences where God didn’t do what we hoped for. These painful memories stand in our way. Or perhaps we fear turning people off by giving them hope for something we can’t make happen apart from God’s intervention. If God doesn’t do that thing, we feel responsible for their disappointment.

Let’s ask ourselves about the worst-case scenario here. What if we did pray and nothing happened?

When we demonstrate love and faith, we can believe God will act. But even if there isn’t a dramatic, instant miracle, when we pray for needy people, they encounter God. They sense His presence. These things open their hearts toward Him. And what if God did intervene and a miracle happened? Not only is their problem solved, but they are now fertile soil, ready for the seed of the gospel.

Chris Galanos in his book Megachurch to Multiplication, encourages those he trains to ask people this question, “If God could do a miracle for you today, what would you want Him to do?” Then, when they share, the disciplemakers pray for those needs.

We must not hesitate to involve God in what we are doing. We should anticipate Him demonstrating His love to people in supernatural ways! He is still the same God we read about in the Bible. As we step out in faith, God will show up and meet the needs of those we are praying for.

Community Development vs. Supernatural Miracles

Some who are uncomfortable with the miraculous instead look for practical human ways to meet needs. I am all for doing community development projects to serve the communities we want to reach. But we must admit that demonstrations of power are much more the biblical norm than setting up a medical clinic. I say, “Why not do both?” As we do what is possible for us (giving medical care for example), we also ask God to release miracles of healing.

When we worked in India we saw many people healed through a combination of prayer and medicine. Nothing wrong with that at all! The important thing is for people to see the love and power of Jesus clearly demonstrated through these efforts.

Mark 16:17 says, “These signs will accompany those who believe…” (NIV.) It doesn’t say might or perhaps. It says they will! Seeing miracles (big or small) happen through us is part of what it means to live our lives as Jesus followers.

When was the last time you prayed in faith that someone would be healed? What miracles are you asking Him for?

2. Jesus multiplied disciples. He chose, trained, and released his mentees quickly.

In the gospels, we read of Jesus’ brief ministry on earth. It is surprising, when you think about it, that He only played an active ministry role for three years. That seems a very short amount of time to see a ministry firmly established!

From the beginning of His ministry, Jesus knew He would leave. His long-term plan included intentional multiplication. He chose the twelve then invested in training them. Jesus interacted with the multitudes, but much of His time was spent in training His twelve disciples. He prepared them to carry on His work because He knew He would soon leave.

In Luke 9, Jesus gave an assignment to the 12. He told them to go to villages and tell everyone about the kingdom of God. They had been watching Him do miracles and minister. Now, it was their turn. When they returned, they were to report back to Him for feedback and further training.

Jesus taught His disciples in an up close and personal way. His discipleship was responsive, not random. He had clear goals and knew exactly where He was headed in developing these men. Shockingly, before any of us would have said they were ready, He passed the leadership baton to them. He not only stepped back temporarily but physically left so they could carry on the work. God believed in that rag-tag crew of fishermen and taxcollectors enough to give them huge levels of both authority and responsibility.

Movement leaders around the world follow Christ’s example. They intentionally raise up others and then release them to do the work. Strategic and intentional discipleship needs to be part of the plan.

Beyond Raising the Dead

Dan*and his wife are church planters in India. By God’s grace, they have launched a movement in their area. When I first met Dan, I was quite impressed. It was quickly apparent that he was a man of great faith.

As we talked further, he shared an incredible story. While pioneering in a new city, they prayed for a lady who had just died from a heart attack. Miraculously, she came back to life! Through this astounding event, many hearts were opened to the gospel message. Dan was welcomed into homes and invited to share the gospel in many places as a result. The work grew, but it was still stuck at only first-generation growth. This was true in spite of the great receptivity they experienced.

Seeing this, I was able to help Dan get further training in DMM principles. He developed a discipleship plan for multiplication. He learned how to train trainers and disciple-makers rather than doing all the work himself. Instead of praying for all the sick people himself, he trained every disciple to pray for those who were ill. As his trainees did this, they too saw miracles happen.

He also trained them how to start new groups of disciples. They learned what steps to take with new believers so they would quickly become powerful disciple-makers too.

Before having a plan, his discipleship was random. After he put a system in place for simple discipleship lessons and trained everyone to use them, things began to grow rapidly. Multi-generational growth began. (Read more of Dan’s story and an interview with him on

For Dan, raising someone from the dead was a great miracle. It definitely was a catalyst. But without a discipleship plan, the growth would have been limited to the movement leader’s availability. The movement would not have multiplied as it has.

Integrate the Two

Which comes more naturally for you? Praying for the sick and seeing miracles – including casting out demons? Or honing your “End Vision” statement, crafting discipleship materials, and other similar tasks?

Be willing to grow in both areas, even if it doesn’t feel natural. Ask God to help you develop in both faith and strategic planning. You can staff your weakness and recruit others into your team who are strong in areas you are not. Balancing and integrating these two is important in releasing and sustaining Disciple Making Movements (DMMs). Aim for an integrated approach. You will be amazed at what God does!



This is an article from the July-August 2019 issue: 24:14 -  A Call to Foster Movements in All Peoples

The Beginning of Another 40 Years: From 1979 and the US Center to 2019 and Frontier Ventures Centers

The Beginning of Another 40 Years: From 1979 and the US Center to 2019 and Frontier Ventures Centers

By now I am sure many of our Mission Frontiers colleagues and family have heard about the decision to sell part of the WCIU campus and a small portion of Frontier Ventures’ Pasadena property to EF, Education First ( The sale has now closed and includes the nearly 15 acres of the campus itself, the field we refer to as the soccer field and an additional 16 housing units that were right next to the campus. That leaves more than 130 housing units and Hudson Taylor Hall (HTH) still under the ownership of WCIU (the houses) and FV (HTH).

For some, among our colleagues, friends, and members, including people who gave funds for the purchase, there have been questions about our original purposes and whether this sale has moved us away from those purposes, or even whether the sale represents a fundamental violation of why we purchased the campus to begin with. Some among this group of stakeholders in our vision say that selling this portion of the property means we were selling out the vision.

However, other colleagues, friends, and members, including some who gave funds for the purchase of the property, have told us they see this as a wise and even natural step. Some have used the word “bold.” These friends see the decision as a response to changing conditions globally, in the mission world, in trends in collaboration, and in how organizations function today, more than 40 years after the original purchase and vision. Some in this group of stakeholders say that selling this portion of the property means we are investing in the continued future of the vision.

How does all of this line up with our past and the original vision for the USCWM (now Frontier Ventures) and WCIU? And what is our future?

Looking Back 40 Years to Look Ahead for Another 40

With the help of colleagues, I have compiled some of what Dr. Ralph Winter said about the campus and the founding purposes of our movement. Drawing from older Mission Frontiers articles stretching back 40 years to 1979, I have pulled some of Dr. Winter’s reflections about the purposes and vision of our movement. And I will weave around those comments statements about at least some of what we see as our purpose and focus moving forward.

While there are new elements in what I will share, there is a deep continuation of the original as well. I am inviting you to walk with me from the past into the future.

 From 1979:

Speaking of the original vision, Dr. Winter said it was to:

…establish a center in the U.S. which will study, evaluate, and assist all mission efforts in a constructive and helpful way, to move dynamically and decisively to push back the barriers limiting present efforts and penetrate the last 16,750 human groupings within which there is not yet a culturally relevant church.

The vision for refocusing the attention of believers in Jesus to see clearly the status of the least reached has always been and remains the central defining point in our vision and action.

Today we can give thanks that almost every major agency and many smaller and lesser known agencies, have as a central purpose reaching the unreached. The tide of awareness turned in a major way.

However, at the same time, as we have described in recent communications in MF and on the Joshua Project site, there remains a startling reality: what we are calling “Frontier Peoples,” those unreached peoples with fewer than .1% believers, and no known movements emerging among them.

One of our primary objectives is to form collaborative communities that will innovate and mobilize and train in such ways that movements will emerge in the 31 largest of these Frontier Peoples, including four such movements by July 2020.

That is a purpose that will continue beyond 2020, shaping our path for the next 40 years.

In the same writing, Dr. Winter referred also to “sister centers” and went on to say:

We are not presuming for a moment that Americans will be or should be the only answer to the unfinished task of missions. It is a wonderful fact that we can confidently assume that Christians in every land are as willing as we are to try and fulfill the Great Commission. This vision of multiple centers is something very much at the fore of our vision still. We have a goal of establishing at least three new Regional Hubs, which will be the locus points of what continue to be the hallmarks of our ministry: collaboration, innovation, mobilization and training.

We are already well under way towards a first Asia Hub, the first of perhaps many such hubs in Asia, and a Hub in the northeast USA. We are also reorganizing in Pasadena to form a Southern California Hub (a distinct group of our members from the normal operations located in Pasadena) focused on three main tasks:

+  selecting a UPG from one of the diaspora peoples here and collaborating with others to see a movement begin

+  forming a team to come alongside those in the area working on the frontlines with other UPGs

+  and encouraging ongoing research to learn more about the other UPGs here

We have always sought to mobilize the Body of Christ to focus on the least reached, and we continue now to do the same, including new devotion to mobilization closer to where the remaining unreached peoples are, mobilization focused on the newer sending movements we see in the majority world, and mobilization focused on the newer movements to Jesus emerging in proximity to remaining UPGs.

From our earliest days, we have had the vision of Pasadena as one of many “centers” and today we are pressing forward intentionally towards that end. Keeping a footprint here is necessary for that. Having a different footprint here is also necessary for that.

From MF in 1983:

Dr. Winter drafted an “Open Letter” in Mission Frontiers to answer a question he posed, “Why do you need a campus?” His first answers have to do with knowing Him and knowing ourselves more deeply through the process of the purchase:

Our struggling efforts to secure this campus as a frontier missions base have pressed us close to His breast, we better see His greatness, His majesty, His holiness, His sufficiency, His love for the nations, and His determination to bless the peoples through men and women He has earlier blessed.

And: Our growing knowledge of Him has provided us with the fresh opportunity to see ourselves…The experience has not always been pleasant, for we have discovered our weakness, our fickleness, our lack of discipline, and our sin, but He has been faithful…The cleansed community will be ‘an Instrument for noble purposes’, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.

This resonates deeply with me today.

In recent years, within WCIU and FV, we have been on a further journey into these two dimensions: knowing more of Him and more of ourselves. We are re-visioning what it means to be a missionary-religious order (one of Dr. Winter’s main aims for us) in this season of our life. For long we have been a very task oriented order, but we are being pressed closer to Him, and seeing His call to be a people who are formed and transformed, people whose very “beings” and not just “doings” are being made instruments for His purposes among the nations.

This emphasis is a key part in our training for new staff. There is a deep focus on the spiritual formation of our members within community. 

Speaking of those purposes, Dr. Winter went on to say:

Out of such lessons has come a new grasp of the purposes of God. Indeed, these purposes have grasped us. We press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of us. As sons and daughters of Abraham and joint heirs with his glorious descendant, the Lord Jesus Christ, we accept no mandate less than one to bless all the families of the earth, to make disciples of all nations. This dominating theme of Scripture has become our mainspring.

As in the past so now, this takes specific shape. In specific actions and programs.

Related specifically to this desire to press in to knowing Him more deeply, and ourselves more accurately, we are reforming our organizational life around what we call “covenant communities.” These are small bands of members and non-members, sprinkled around the world, who share the same values and who seek together to pursue spiritual formation as a bedrock from which our purposes among the unreached are pursued.

So far, we have formed seven such covenant communities, and our aim is for 15 by July 2020.

From MF in 1985:

Dr. Winter once again highlighted the vision of multiple centers:

… it is expected that if this Center succeeds, similar centers will no doubt spring into being in other countries (both Western and non-Western) where substantial resources and interest in missions exist, and it will be part of the mission of the United States Center for World Mission to encourage such centers and to relate to them.

I have already spoken above about these and our goal of Hubs. But I want to say more here about one of the main reasons for these Hubs.

We have always sought to be innovative and to do what others were not doing (also a legacy from our origins), but today our innovation efforts have a more intentional, spiritual, and developed process to them, given structure and form in the “Launch Lab.” The Launch Lab is an initiative devoted to an intentional, collaborative process of innovation in which a barrier to the progress of the gospel is identified, and new possible solutions proposed and launched in order to overcome that barrier.

How does this connect with our multi-centralization closer to the action among the least reached?

In April, we began collaborating with the leadership of a large movement in South Asia, working with them to identify barriers in reaching a proximate frontier people group, and develop new approaches to reach them.

In 1985 Dr. Winter also made reference to WCIU, as “…a university dedicated specifically to world need.” Thus, he was already signaling the shift from his earlier vision of WCIU as a “seminary in a suitcase” to a university offering high quality, distance based, degrees to enhance the effectiveness of scholar practitioners in the field of transformational development.

Dr. Winter always envisioned this as including BA, MA, and PhD levels. Currently we are working very hard to complete what it takes for the MA to be accredited.

WCIU has vacated the campus itself, but not Pasadena, shifting our academic team across the street to Hudson Taylor Hall. And we continue to pursue quality and innovation as a university.

For example, our Translation Studies focus is one of the few programs in the field rooted in the “cognitive inferential” theory of communication and translation. This program was developed with significant input from the field, not just field workers, but from leaders of movements who need such translations and whose leadership include those who need the training we are offering.

From MF in 1993:

In a series of questions and answers Dr. Winter touched on several areas.

When asked, “what was your founding purpose?”

he replied,

From the very beginning we have had no other purpose than to promote missions to the ends of the earth, especially where Christ is not named, and to do so by promoting the existing mission agencies, helping them in every way possible and mobilizing American churches behind them.

We still focus on mobilization in this vein but have now included as our foci, as we described above, some of the newer sending movements in the majority world and some of the emerging movements among unreached peoples. This is why we are pressing out to multiple centers globally, to be closer to where those movements are happening.

Dr. Winter was also asked, “How did you plan to do that?” He replied, 

We set out to buy a former college campus in Pasadena, California as a base, where missionary staff, on loan from many agencies, could work together and do many things in common, without duplicating efforts, serving the mission industry.

That collaborative vision, in its original form, faced unforeseen challenges as every bold step does. It is instructive to see how Dr. Winter reflected on those challenges 20 years after the initial launch.

From MF in 1999:

Dr. Winter expressed his recognition that to a great extent this collaboration vision of different organizations and loaned missionaries did not materialize.

The potential errors of judgment in the area of cooperation are best known to me in the area of the U.S. Center for World Mission and our own nearly-25-year attempt to catalyze all kinds of inter-agency cooperation… when we began we thought that for us to do ‘generic mobilization and research’ for all agencies would be an idea that would be instantly heralded and supported. Pastors and people in the U.S. were enthusiastic--and that is how we were enabled to acquire this campus. The agencies? We assumed agencies would lend personnel to work with us if we just got a large enough set of facilities. It did not fully happen the way we expected.

For a season, there were some organizations which came to the campus to collaborate, but over the years this became too expensive an option for most. Organizations began to depart for other cities. There have been more recent examples of attempts at collaboration, but with varied definitions of what the word collaboration means and expectations for how this related to a presence on a campus.

This is yet another reason that we have elected to respond to changing realities by repositioning ourselves globally.

We are not decentralizing as much as multi-centralizing.

We will remain with a large footprint in Pasadena where we continue to collaborate, innovate, mobilize, and train. At the same time, we need to adjust our organizational approach to respond closer to the action in places closer to the least reached (including where the unreached are within reach in diaspora contexts). Thus, our focus on a first Asia Hub.

Another reason for the original purpose was the desire to become self-sustaining through the income from the rent earned. While this is still viable for the housing we continue to own, over time it became less viable for the campus. The sale proceeds provide an endowment in a different form that still gives the same aim of a sustainable income stream, in a different and blended financial model.

And now…?

I have stated explicitly three of our main short-term objectives: four movements among the 31 largest Frontier Peoples, three regional hubs, and 15 covenant communities.

But of course, we are doing more. I will close with just one example.

I am very aware of a large group of friends, well-wishers, and stakeholders with whom we have not maintained the sort of ongoing communication that is deserved. This includes those who were part of the “Last Thousand Campaign” which enabled the final, miraculous push to complete the original purchase.

We made promises to those who gave in response to that push. And I intend for us to keep those promises. Towards that end, I am assembling a team and we are already at work synchronizing the databases we have so that we can begin to reconnect.

Meanwhile, if you were part of the Last Thousand Campaign, I invite you to communicate directly with me at [email protected].

Finally, I am aware that in our earliest years, everything we did was bathed in and offered up to Him in prayer. Please join me in continuing that high calling and priority as we turn towards our next 40 years.

This is an article from the July-August 2019 issue: 24:14 -  A Call to Foster Movements in All Peoples

In Memory of Dr. Steve Smith March 11, 1962–March 13, 2019

In Memory of Dr. Steve Smith March 11, 1962–March 13, 2019

After decades of faithful service furthering the gospel across the world, Dr. Steve Smith, 57, died on March 13, 2019 after battling liver cancer which may have been caused by a parasite he contracted while on the mission field.

He and his wife Laura served with the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptists for 18 years and spent a great deal of that time in Asia.  He began work with the IMB in East Asia, successfully fostering a Church Planting Movement. He also served as a supervisor and consultant for Church Planting Movements across the region. 

A prolific writer, Steve developed a number of publications for training and use among organizations advancing the gospel through movements.  Along with colleague Ying Kai and his wife Grace, he wrote T4T: A Discipleship Re-Revolution, a training guide in the biblical principles behind Church Planting Movements. T4T is short for “Training for Trainers” and is used around the world for purposes of leadership development, evangelism, discipleship and church planting. He also authored the No Place Left saga of two novels; Hastening and Rebirth. His most recently published book is Spirit Walk, The Extraordinary Power of Acts for Ordinary People, available on Amazon. Steve also wrote a regular column entitled Kingdom Kernels for Mission Frontiers magazine (

Upon his retirement from IMB, Steve served as the vice president of multiplication for East-West Ministries (, as a co-leader of the 24:14 Coalition ( and with Beyond as a global movement catalyst (

Steve was born in California at Hamilton Air Force Base and grew up in Lafayette, Louisiana.  He felt called to full-time Christian ministry shortly after high school and completed his undergraduate degree at Baylor University in Waco, Texas and his Master of Divinity at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. He also received his master’s and doctorate of theology degrees at the University of South Africa.

While still in school, he served as a pastor at Vaughan Baptist Church in Vaughan, Texas, and taught Sunday school at the Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth while he was attending the university and seminary. After finishing seminary, he and his wife Laura planted and he pastored the North University Park Church in inner city Los Angeles for 10 years.

Smith is survived by his wife and three grown sons: Cris, David, Josh and wife, Caroline, and twin grandsons.

His memorial service was held March 16, 2019 at WoodsEdge Community Church in Spring, Texas.

Honoring Our Friend and Brother, Steve Smith

 By Stan Parks

The things we loved about Steve Smith were reflections of Jesus in him. Our family had the privilege of becoming close friends with the Smith family when we all lived in Singapore and were part of a house church and lived life together. Our son, Seth, wrote this about Steve: “Through Steve I learned that Jesus’ truth was synonymous with His love. As I saw an unworldly, unnatural, amazing love pour out of Steve’s mouth and actions, I eventually saw the truth it stemmed from…. the truth of Galatians 2:20 hit me and I saw Steve, but more importantly I saw Christ living in him.”

Steve made the commitment in high school to surrender himself completely to God. He sought to live out the truth in Galatians 2:20 that, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (NIV)

The last thing Steve would want is for us to idolize him. He was very aware of his own failures and shortcomings. He knew that his worth came not from his accomplishments as a missionary, a trainer, or a writer, but from being adopted as a son of our heavenly Father.

As his son Cris said at the memorial service, Steve was the same at home as he was in public. He loved his family and friends well and he loved to serve them. He also loved God’s Word and often shared insights from the Scriptures that helped us better understand how God’s Word applied in different situations and at different times in our lives.

I also am touched by memories of seeing up close: the beautiful love between Steve and Laura; the amazing ways he mentored and loved his sons, Cris, Josh and David; his deep love for his daughter-in-law Caroline; and the great joy God gave him through his grandsons, Jim and Jack. 

Steve also loved well the lost and unreached people of the world – those without access to the Good News of Jesus who had changed his own life. He and Laura gave their best to bring the gospel to those they met in college and seminary and those they served in Los Angeles. When God led them from LA to the nations, Steve read the book of Acts over and over again. He asked God to do the same thing among the unreached people group they served in Asia. When Steve agonized over persecution of the evangelists and believers, God reassured him that this was their sacrifice for Him. Bringing the gospel and helping others bring the gospel to these remote communities was a time of great joy for their family.

After a book of Acts movement broke out among this people group, Steve transitioned to training, coaching and writing. He longed to help the global body give our best to see every unreached people group have an Acts-like encounter with God.

In 2010, Steve helped draw together 38 Church Planting Movement (CPM) Catalysts who were seeing God start amazing movements. For the first time we realized that perhaps movements could be more than just occasional phenomena. They could become a widespread reality around the world!

In 2017, Steve helped convene meetings of key CPM advocates: field catalysts, mission agency leaders, intercessors, and church leaders. As God spoke to these groups and others around the world, the 24:14 Vision was born.

Matthew 24:14 tells us that:

This good news of the King’s reign will be heralded throughout the whole world as a testimony to all peoples, and then the end will come. (Steve’s translation).

The 24:14 family consists of people all over the world who believe that Kingdom Movements are the best way God has given us to fulfill the Great Commission. The best way to make disciples of every people group (ethnē) is with His presence and authority. (Matt. 28:19)

Steve’s great desire was to see the Great Commission fulfilled. He longed to see Matthew 24:14 happen in our generation.

If you want to honor Steve but more importantly honor Jesus, the Lord of Lords and King of Kings, then Steve has handed the baton to you. Steve would invite you to join many of his brothers and sisters around the world to make the 24:14 COMMITMENT by doing four things:

1.         Commit to fully reaching the UNREACHED peoples and places of the earth

2.         Reach them through CHURCH PLANTING MOVEMENT strategies

3.         Engage them with URGENT SACRIFICE by 2025

4.         COLLABORATE with others in the 24:14 movement to do this together.

We rejoice that Steve is now with God, whom he loved with such a great love. We pray for his family and we grieve for ourselves as we miss him. But we look forward to the day we are reunited as part of our Father’s heavenly family. We want to hasten the day of the Lord (2 Pet. 3:12) that results in a new heaven and a new earth – when people from every tribe, tongue, nation and language join in worshipping God. (Rev. 7:9-12)

Following is a letter to Steve Smith from one life he impacted. 

Dear Steve,

We have never met face-to-face, but your life and your work have impacted me more than you could ever know.

About six years ago, I read T4T and it absolutely wrecked my life.  I’ve been living in India for about 11 years and had no concept of multiplication or movements until reading your book with Bro. Ying.  Since then, we have been running after movements as much as we can.  Although it’s not quite at the level of some others in the same amount of time, we’ve seen 2,566 new house churches started in five years.  Praise God!

Since reading T4T, I read the No Place Left series as well.  I cannot tell you how much that impacted the vision for my life and ministry.  Shortly after, I joined up with NPL and 24:14 and have been running hard after No Place Left ever since.

After reading your wife’s most recent update, I felt led by the Spirit to write you an email.

I know how much your heart bleeds for 24:14 — to see the return of Christ and to see the task completed. And you will, brother.  You will.  And it will be even more glorious from where you will be sitting.

I wanted to let you know that you have done an amazing job running with the torch of No Place Left.  You’ve done such an amazing job that countless thousands have been lit ablaze by the torch that you carried.  There are thousands across the globe that now carry the fire that you have in your heart.  And that fire will not stop.  This WILL be the generation that completes the task.  What started with your flame, will continue to spread from heart to heart, from village to village, and from nation to nation.  On behalf of all of the other NPLers out there, I just want you to know that we’ve got this.  We’re continuing the race.  We’re spreading the flame.  And we won’t stop until the job is done.  You can count on us.

Save us a spot near the throne.  It’s going to be crowded up there because of your work.  We want a good spot! grin

We love you brother and are eternally grateful for all you’ve done.

Rest easy, my friend.  Your work will continue… Until We Meet on the Other Side,


This is an article from the July-August 2019 issue: 24:14 -  A Call to Foster Movements in All Peoples

Dr. Steve Smith’s Extraordinary Vision and Legacy

Dr. Steve Smith’s Extraordinary Vision and Legacy

Early in the first decade of this century, the Holy Spirit guided and empowered Steve Smith in launching a Church Planting Movement among a minority people group in East Asia.

Steve then teamed up with Ying Kai to write T4T: A Discipleship Re-Revolution: The Story Behind the World’s Fastest Growing Church Planting Movement and How it Can Happen in Your Community! Steve went on to supervise and coach many others in starting similar movements.

Through these experiences Steve came to a deep conviction that with a return to biblical ministry methods and reliance on the Holy Spirit, our generation could play a key role in fulfilling the human side of Jesus’ promise in Matthew 24:14.

In November 2015, Steve released the first book in his No Place Left saga, a story he had written 20 years earlier as a young pastor—urging an all-out effort, with urgency, to fulfill the Great Commission by 2025.

Supported by a global prayer network, extraordinary trust relationships and collaborative learning, in its first two years the 24:14 Coalition has found that God’s Spirit has been moving well beyond what Steve envisioned. Over the past 25 years, nearly 1% of the world’s population have become disciples within rapidly multiplying movements of churches, mostly among unreached people groups.

Through the tireless efforts of Steve and others, the 24:14 Coalition is now wellestablished, and maturing rapidly into what may become the most fruitful network in history. Before God called him home, Steve fueled more fruitful reliance on the Holy Spirit through his final book, Spirit Walk: The Extraordinary Power of Acts for Ordinary People.

An anonymous poem in tribute to Steve’s impact is posted at, along with a complimentary copy of Hastening, links to many of Steve’s Mission Frontiers articles, and a one-minute video clip of Steve calling for a sense of urgency in running the final lap of history.

The following adaptation from Steve’s book Hastening, Book One of the No Place Left saga reveals much of the perspective driving Steve’s passion.

Christopher and Chara sat on the ancient sofa, knees and shoulders touching. It was dark outside, but a pair of lamps cast a warm glow across the room. They were grateful to be home with their closest friends—John and Renee on the well-worn love seat, and Nic and Stacy on the two folding chairs.

On the table in front of the sofa lay the precious photocopy of the Livermore dissertation that Christopher and Chara had gone to England to track down.

After a relaxed time of praising God, listening for His voice and asking for the Holy Spirit’s guidance, Renee leaned forward and read aloud: “‘The Collapse of the Military Metaphor in the Mission of the Early Church, and the Resulting Stalemate in the Advance of the Gospel.’ A dissertation by M. J. Livermore. 1898. Sounds interesting. Have you read it yet?”