Making disciples of Jesus from every tribe, tongue, people and nation is the most important job in the world. It not only transforms the lives of people here in this world but also for all eternity in the next. Few jobs are as difficult as this one—we have a powerful adversary who is working against our every effort. If this is true, should we not employ the most effective means available to prepare every believer in Jesus to accomplish this mission of making disciples who are able to disciple others?
Equipping the People of God for the Mission of God
This Month's Articles
The most significant problems for the Church originate in our becoming lost in earthly cultures. The net affect is that we attribute our cultures’ values and beliefs to God and, in essence, reinvent God in our own image. This process has changed our reading of the Bible, our understanding of the gospel and our perception of our place in the world as the Church and our duties as the children of God. We need to thoroughly rethink our methods and practices of pre-field training of missionary candidates with a focus on effective disciple making because if we do not, if discipleship happens at all, it will be to make disciples of American evangelical culture not of Jesus and the Kingdom of God.
Many who sense God’s calling might rightly question their own abilities. They have not been tested or trained in the environments they will face. They’ve sat in classrooms and learned how to read books, write papers, compete with classmates to achieve higher grades and pass exams. Some have become very skilled in “how they’ve been trained.” But training that has focused mainly on the mind in an artificial environment. The spiritual challenges, the issues of the heart, the relational, linguistic, and ministry skills needed have not been learned or experienced.
Confusion of massive proportions is taking place across the missionary enterprise. Great cultural change in the world has thwarted both young and old so that many are unable to engage successfully in cross-cultural church-planting. Political and religious opposition as well as emotional stress are partly responsible for this. But the greatest problem seems to be a lack of skill in cross-cultural church-planting. Some agencies report as high as 47% of their personnel leave the field in the first 5 years. Others stay longer but do not really succeed in planting churches. This is a tragic waste of outstanding and committed people. We cannot expect them to do a job they have never been trained to do, and that is exactly the case which I want to address in this article.
Imagine what would happen in life if you got the two processes mixed up in other areas of life. What would happen if NASA engineers added when they should have multiplied? What if Wall Street mixed things up and multiplied when they should have only added? The results would be problematic at best, disastrous at worst. So why do we confuse the two when it comes to something as important as reaching the world for Christ?
Ying was called by God to reach the twenty million people in this rapidly growing urban center where each day thousands of new migrant workers arrive looking for work and a better life. Ying knew that he would have to do things differently to reach Nandong. He knew that merely adding disciples and churches would not be enough; he had to tap into the power of multiplication. As Ying prayed, God gave him three insights for those who are called to make disciples.
What would an honest evaluation of our churches, mission teams, and church-planting projects show? Are we focusing on the kind of individual and corporate preparation necessary to see a growing discipleship movement? Are we using successful biblical models? Unfortunately, our typical method of discipleship tends to be primarily idea-based, and focused on passively listening to sermons, classroom instruction and reading, with very little practical hands-on instruction and life application in discipleship and church-planting.
Over the years Jeff and the leaders he trained equipped thousands of local believers to share the gospel and plant churches. Across the region tens of thousands of new disciples formed new simple churches—many of them in regions where there is official hostility toward Christianity.In 2009 the Sundells moved back to the United States and began applying what they had learned to their new situation. They moved to an old mill town in North Carolina that had been in economic and social decline since the 1970s. Unemployment was high, and drug and alcohol abuse was a problem. With help from the police, Jeff identified the three toughest neighborhoods in their county—Henrietta, Alexander Mills and Spindale—and chose them as his mission field.
The King’s ways in this world are counterintuitive. Intuitively we think His kingdom should follow a certain path or principles natural to us, but we find that it is quite the opposite. We are so accustomed to the power of education, resources and fortitude to change the world that we’ve become much too self-reliant and too little God-reliant. If we ask ourselves the question, “Am I doing anything right now that absolutely requires faith in the Spirit to sustain me as opposed to my own personal abilities?” we often find ourselves at a loss.
My research among Roma communities in the Balkans over the last year highlights a consistent yet strange irony found in missional praxis—a truth that first struck me when I read The Brothers Karamazov years ago. “I MUST make one confession,” Ivan began. “I could never understand how one can love one’s neighbors...One can love one’s neighbors in the abstract, or even at a distance, but at close quarters it’s almost impossible.”
Some may be surprised that the largest of the unreached Southeast Asian clusters is the Thai. Despite 185 years of Protestant missionary activity in Thailand, “only 0.3% of ethnic Thai, about 185,000 people, have become Protestants.” Thailand is made up not only of distinct “Thai” people groups, but also many different tribal groups, based mainly in the north of the country.
Across the vast Indonesian island of Sumatra, gospel seeds are sprouting from cities and towns among the tangled jungles and woven underbrush. Nurtured by prayer and intercession, believers in Christ are stepping out in new obedience and are searching for new believers among the approximately 45 million Muslims living in Sumatra.
Without the “fires burning” on the home front, things go cold on the frontlines. The first time I wrote about this in MF was in the 1990s. Over the years, I’ve written about the need for a...Read The Full Article