A sermon giving at Hillsboro Mennonite Brethren Church on the strategies and process of Jesus in Luke 10:1-24.
It’s been a while since I’ve put together a post for the 7 Series and so today I want to share seven articles that have been a part of shaping a great commission heart in me and in thousands around the world. I’d encourage you to take some time in the coming month to read each of these articles and then pray about one or two friends at your church to whom you can send the article with an encouragement for them to read it as well.
Most of these are the bread and butter articles from the Perspectives course and so while many were written a generation ago, they continue to impact the church in powerful ways. I hope they will challenge and inspire you and remember, pass them on to others.
Be sure and stop back by and share your reaction to the articles you read in the comments below. We'd love to be able to learn from one another.
And share this article you love with the friends you love.
It was a cold day in January of 1942.
My then seventeen year old grandfather had cut class and walked down to the local draft office of his small Michigan town. With resolve and determination he walked in and requested to volunteer with the army. There was a war going on - the Pearl Harbor attack was still fresh in the minds of the country - and my grandfather wanted to do his part to end it.
The gentleman behind the desk wisely sent my grandfather back to school with instructions to return after graduation in May. He did that and by early June had joined a mass of other young men at boot camp in Southern California. There he was trained as a soldier first and then as a radio operator, learning morse code and radio maintenance. He was part of the United States Army and the following fall would sail to Europe where he would be part of the liberation of France and the Buchenwald Concentration camp and of the ending of the war.
My grandfather had taken his place in the story of World War 2. He had risked his life for a cause that was bigger than himself. He had joined millions of young men who felt that this war was worth any sacrifice. But it wasn’t just the young men who thought this war was worth any sacrifice.
My grandmother was then sixteen, still in high school, still living at home. She and her family saw the need to sacrifice for the war effort as well. They spent their hard earned money to buy war bonds and they willingly accepted the rationing system on gasoline, coffee, sugar and other foods. She told of the day that her entire school skipped classes and drove throughout the county in large farm trucks to collect any scrap metal they could find. As they drove back into town after a hard days work, they came upon the owner of the bank. He was drenched in sweat, cutting his wrought iron fence down with a hack saw. There was a war going on and they were going to do their part to win it. Everyone had a part to play.
Everyone had a sacrifice to make.
Everyone had taken their place in the story.
History looks back on that generation and remembers them as the greatest generation. They lived with a wartime mentality. They did not ask what they wanted or what made them happy. They simply asked what they could do to help win the war. I am forty six and my generation is often known as the “me” generation. For the most part my generation has focused on how we can be happy, on what brings us fulfillment, on how we can live the life that we want to live.
World War 2 was a result of the brokenness of man and the tyranny of Satan. He is a thief who has come to lie, kill and destroy. Today there is a war going on that is cosmic in proportion and the consequences are eternal. Well over 5 billion people on earth, if asked, would say that they are not Christians. Their destination is an eternity separated from God in hell if something does not change.
Over 2 billion in our world have never even had an opportunity to hear the gospel. Many of them are Muslims, trapped in a religious system that tells them that they have to earn their way to heaven.
There is a war going on. It involves billions more souls than World War 2 and for all of them, eternity is at stake. There is a role for every follower of Christ in this story. Some will be soldiers on the front lines. Many more will stay home and do their part from there.
But they will all be part of this greatest story.
For Christians it is a question of legacies. Which legacy will we step into? Will we look at the redemptive story of scripture, at the Father’s heart and the brutal facts of lostness and decide that there is no sacrifice too great to be a part of that story?
Will our legacy be like that of the greatest generation or of the me generation?
God loves Muslims.
He really does. He came to earth as a baby, lived a perfect life and went to the cross because he loves Muslims and he desires both relationship with them and worship from them. It's what he desires for all of us.
He loves them so much that he has begun to do an amazing work in the Muslim world. More Muslims have come to faith in Christ in the last fifteen years than in the previous 1,400 years combined!
God is on the move in the Muslim world.
Of the 1.8 billion Muslims in the world, the percentage who have come to faith is still extremely small. Even if the number were tens of millions, in order to reach 10% of the world’s Muslim population, there would need to be 180 million Muslims come to faith in Christ.
There is still so much work to be done!
And here is the challenge. The vast majority of Muslims in our world today live in places where there is little to no gospel witness. Turkey for example is a nation of over 80 million people and the number of Muslims who have come to faith in Christ is less than 10,000. Of the country’s 81 provinces, 18 of them have no established church.
The vast majority of Muslims in Turkey will live and die without ever meeting a true follower of Jesus or having an opportunity to respond to the gospel. The story repeats itself across the Muslim world.
This list represents nearly half a billion people in just twelve of the largest Muslim people groups. These twelve people groups are just one quarter of the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims, most of whom live within the 10/40 window, the region of the earth between 10 and 40 degrees north of the equator in the eastern hemisphere.
Are Muslims hard to reach?
Are they resistant to the gospel?
The reality is that we don’t know because the global church sends so few missionaries to the Muslim world - just one missionary for every 405,500 Muslims in 2015. The only thing we know for certain is that vast majority of Muslims across the globe have never had a chance to respond to the good news of Jesus Christ.
As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news." - Romans 10:11-15
What can you do this week to ensure that more Muslims have an opportunity to respond to the gospel and be connected to a true follower of Christ?
Here are a few ideas:
As you begin to share the gospel regularly with friends, family and strangers, there are several predictable responses you will receive to your efforts. Three of these responses can be seen in scripture. Let’s look at Acts 17:32-34.
They heard Paul talk about the dead being raised. Some of them made fun of this idea. But others said, “We want to hear you speak about this again.” So Paul left the meeting of the Areopagus. Some of the people became followers of Paul and believed in Jesus.
While Paul has just finished sharing with a large group of intellectuals, politicians and philosophers in Athens, the response that the message receives will be much the same regardless of the audience.
Some wanted to learn more.
Some repented and believed.
There is a fourth response that you might also run into - you’ll share with someone who already is a follower of Jesus. Outside of that, not much has changed in the 2,000 years since Paul shared in the Areopagus. The responses Paul got in Acts 17 are the same sorts of responses that we will get when we share the gospel today. If we get out into the harvest and share the gospel abundantly, some will reject the message, some will be curious to learn more and some will repent and believe - Jesus said that the harvest was plentiful after all.
That the harvest is plentiful was and is a statement of fact.
The Stoplight Tool
A helpful way to think about these four response is to think about a stop light with its red, yellow and green lights. This is a tool that comes out of the No Place Left Coalition and is helpfully articulated by Troy Cooper in the video below.
A red light is when the person you are trying to connect with simply says no. They may say it with a door closed in your face. They may yell at you. Most often they politely let you know that they aren’t interested in where the conversation is going. Of the hundreds of doors I have knocked on to offer prayer and look for opportunities to share the gospel, I have never been yelled at, never been beaten up and, as of yet, I’ve never been stabbed. Most red lights have been pretty gentle. They have been red, but they have been civil.
A yellow light is when you begin to share with someone who is interested. Something you’ve said or done has struck a chord. They recognize some need they have but they just aren’t sure or they’re just not ready to jump into giving Jesus lordship over their lives. They often welcome prayer and are encouraged by scripture and if you ask, they’ll be more than willing to have you stop back by again. They haven’t said yes to Jesus, but they haven’t said no either.
A green light is when God leads you to someone who He has prepared to hear the gospel. In John 6:44 Jesus tells his disciples that no one comes to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. This person has been drawn by God to Jesus and when you share the gospel with them, they say yes.
The final person you’ll run into as you share the gospel is the follower of Jesus. They are already a Christian and are trusting in Jesus for their salvation.
While it is helpful to understand the four main responses to a gospel presentation, what is more helpful is to know how we can respond to those responses.
Red Light Response
So the person you are talking with makes it known that they really aren’t interested in hearing about the good news of Jesus. They shut the conversation down. They close the door.
Move on. Say a prayer of blessing as you leave, and move on. The God prepared person is out there and so we keep moving, keep proclaiming, keep offering prayers, keep searching for the person who God is calling to Jesus.
If this is a person from your relational network - a family member, friend, neighbor or co-worker - then you begin to pray every day for them and you wait for the Holy Spirit to move. As much as you might want to “shake the dust from your shoes”, God has placed you in their lives for a reason and your only response can be patient, persevering love and prayer.
Yellow Light Response
Most of the people you interact with will most likely exhibit yellow light responses. They won’t say no. They have some interest - perhaps in the message, perhaps just in you. And so if you’ve ministered to someone in prayer and in sharing the gospel, ask if you can stop back by their house in a week to visit some more. You may ask them if they would be willing to get their friends and family together to discover what the Bible has to say about living a life of purpose, peace and joy.
I rarely ask anyone to come to church. Most won’t. But many are open to studying the Bible in their own homes. Start a discovery Bible study using a series of stories that leads them from Creation to Christ or perhaps helps them discover Jesus in the scriptures.
Most of our new far from God friends have not rejected Jesus. They’ve rejected an idea they have created in their minds about what a Christian is. Most of us would reject that idea too! By taking them to the stories of Jesus we allow them to discover Jesus for themselves. Discovery Bible Study allows you to do this and is a great way to respond to our yellow light friends.
Green Light Response
Sometimes we’ll begin sharing and discover that the person is immediately ready to put their faith in Jesus. It’s as if they’ve been waiting for someone to share with them! [Watch an Example]
If you have the privilege and joy to be used by God to help someone step into a new life in Christ your job is to immediately begin to train them to be a disciple of Jesus. First train them how to share with their friends and family. Then set a regular time to begin to walk with them through a short term discipleship plan. If they are ready and you have freedom, baptize them immediately like we see in scripture. It is your job to help them become a disciple who has the tools to grow into maturity and to help others do the same.
I’m A Christian
When you find yourself sharing with someone who is a Christian, take them to Matthew 28:18-20 to cast vision for disciple making and then invite them into the harvest. First train them how to share with their friends and family. Then set a regular time to begin to walk with them through a short term discipleship plan so that they will be able to walk those they lead to faith through the same plan.
These are the four responses we’ll see as we share the gospel and the four ways in which we can respond.
Now get out into the harvest and put this tool into practice.
Growing up in a small, rural Texas town, Chris Clayman’s journey to West Africa and then to one of the worlds largest and most diverse cities may be surprising to some. But in light of God’s superplan, it makes perfect sense.
Clayman is the Co-Founder and an Associate Director of Global Gates, a mission organization focused on reaching the ends of the earth through global gateway cities. Superplan: A Journey into God’s Story is Clayman’s telling of his unexpected journey into the superplan of God. It is a book filled with encouragement and challenges readers to step into risk taking obedience to Jesus.
“Superplan” is a term a Bangladeshi brother in New York City coined in thinking about his own story and after hearing the of the circuitous journey on which God took Chris to bring him to Harlem where he regularly shares the love of Jesus with the very West African Muslims he had hoped to reach when he originally moved across the ocean.
"God’s Superplan is the redemptive story of God, rooted in eternity, recorded in the Bible, and realized even today. God’s Superplan transcends our strengths and weaknesses, victories and sufferings, ideas and efforts. In dramatic ways, God is drawing people into knowledge and love of him from all peoples and areas of the world. This redemptive story is one God does not keep to himself. Instead, he beckons us to leave our mundane, small plans to join him in his Grand Narrative." - Chris Clayman
Part memoir, part biography of former Muslims, part missiological treaties, Superplan is an excellent book. The book is also a lens into ministry among diaspora peoples in North America and is therefore both an instructive and helpful resource for anyone wanting to share the love of Jesus with immigrants and refugees.
Superplan is a vivid example that modern missions is truly everywhere to everywhere.
Buy Your Copy
As the new year approaches we all have opportunities for new beginnings. It’s a time of both reflection and of setting goals, and as we look ahead, we at E2E would like to offer 10 ways that you can invest more focus on the great commission in 2020.
1. Start The Year In The Word
If you have not yet, we’d encourage you to find some time in the coming days to work through the Father’s Heart Bible study. It will help you to discover the desires of God for the nations. N.T. Wright reminds us that, "Mission is not something added on to 'biblical theology.'...The story of Scripture, focused in the Gospel events concerning Jesus, is about mission from start to finish." Here are a few other studies and resources that will help you immerse yourself in God’s word to begin the new year:
2. Start The Year In Prayer
Prayer is the foundation of every move of God. When we pray, God begins to shape our hearts toward those things that we are praying for and so if you want your heart to grow in its commitment to the great commission, to the mission of God, then prayer is one way to do that. Here are a number of resources that will help you pray more for the nations and God’s mission:
3. Subscribe to a Podcast
Listening to interviews, missiologists, on the ground practitioners and prayer warriors on podcasts is an easy way to fuel your missions focus. Subscribing to a podcast or two ensures a regular dose of great commission inspiration.
4. Eat Out with Friends
One simple way to both enjoy time with friends or family and inspire a heart for the great commission is to eat out at ethnic restaurants. Not Taco Bell or Panda Express but a restaurant owned and operated by an immigrant family.
5. Watch a Movie
Movies are a great way to spend time with friends and family and can also be a great tool for inspiring and motivating people towards a great commission focused lifestyle. Watch one of these movies at home or gather a group from your church for a movie night.
6. Read a Good Missions Book
Books are a great way to dive into the story of God’s mission to redeem the lost to himself. They are great gifts as well and so make sure you are both reading and passing along books to others. Here are a few lists of books to get you started:
7. Buy a World Map
Visual reminders of the world that God created and that we live in help us remember to pray for the unreached. Consider buying a world map to help keep you focused and inspired. Here are a few creative ideas:
8. Write an Encouraging Letter to a Missionary
As someone who lived cross culturally, there is little that brings more encouragement than a hand written letter from a friend or supporter. Do you support a missionary? Get their mailing address and send them a letter in the mail.
9. Give a Beginning of the Year Gift rather than an End of the Year Gift
Many end the year with a little extra end of the year financial gift to missionaries or mission agencies and that is amazing and super helpful for those raising full time support. But what would it look like if you started your year by giving an extra financial gift of blessing. It seems it might focus the trajectory of your heart and your year! And it would be a huge blessing to the missionaries you support.
10. Commit to serving Locally, Nationally and Globally
Most mission trips - whether they be local, national or international trips - take a fair amount of planning and preparation. Commit now to taking a trip this year! Here are a few organizations and trips worth considering:
As with any endeavor - if we want to grow - we have to invest. We have to invest time, energy, effort, thought and often, finances and when we do we find ourselves becoming the thing we wish to become. It is no different with developing a life shaped by and living for the great commission.
Take steps today to shape your life around the fulfillment of the great commission!
We hope this Christmas season finds you reflecting on the year that has passed, anticipating the year to come and drawing near to the savior. Our prayer is that this week may be one spent meditating on the coming of Christ into our lost and broken world. May his mission be our mission, his vision, our vision and may we be shaped by his love.
"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this."
It was 2008 when our family moved to a Central Asia. We were settling into life there, learning the local language and enjoying the adventure of new beginnings and new experiences. At the end of our first November however we began to encounter an eerie silence. We lived in one the world’s largest cities, bustling with noise and commotion and yet we could not avoid this silence. It was a Christmas silence.
This nation was over 99% Muslim and as we went about the dailiness of life, there were no discernible signs that the Christmas season was upon us: no Christmas music in stores, no lights, no Christmas trees, no manger scenes - nothing.
The silence became for us an ever present reminder that the light of Christ had yet to shine in that land - for most, the light of Christ had yet to be seen.
It was in that season of silence that we began to discover four attitudes, born in the Advent traditions of the church, that would help us fix our eyes on Jesus and live with intentionality for his glory.
If we look into the silence, the darkness and brokenness, we see that the prince of this world always fights to preserve the darkness. Satan is a tyrant unmatched in all history. He is the enemy of God and thus, he is all humanity’s enemy. Wherever the light of Jesus is pushing into places of darkness, he will oppose it. In much of our world that opposition comes in the form of brutal oppression and violence. At Jesus’ birth, he fought back through King Herod. Today it may be an oppressive government or violently radical religious groups.
But Satan doesn’t always use violence and brutality. Deception works just the same. He takes the truth of a Creator God, twists it and binds 1.7 billion Muslims in a false religion. He pawns pantheism and paganism and atheism and materialism as paths to a good life. The pursuit of the American dream works just as well for him as the ideological brainwashing of an atheistic Chinese regime.
The first coming of Christ has happened. 2,000 years ago Jesus was born as a baby, lived a perfect life and died for the sins of the world. Satan was defeated at the cross and the light of life is available to all who call on the name of Jesus to be saved. The second coming of Christ WILL happen. He will come again. He will make all things new. Satan will be cast into the pit and sin and death will be no more.
In the interim however, 5.4 billion people in our world are not experiencing the abundant life of Jesus. 2.2 billion live in places with no access to the gospel. But it's not just those tied up in false religions. It’s right here in our Christmas saturated society as well.
A recent article in the Washington Post wrote about the fact that the average lifespan of Americans has fallen for the first time in decades. It’s fallen not because older people aren’t living as long, it’s falling because of the drastic increase of mid life deaths of 20, 30 and 40 year olds. One researcher said, “There is something more fundamental about how people are feeling at some level – whether it’s economic, whether it’s stress, whether it’s deterioration of family. People are feeling worse about themselves and their futures, and it’s leading them to do things that are self destructive and not promoting health.”
Our world is a broken place. The thief comes to steal and kill and to destroy. That’s the bad news. Tish Harrison Warren recently wrote that “To practice Advent is to lean into an almost cosmic ache: our deep, wordless desire for things to be made right and the incompleteness we find in the meantime. We dwell in a world still racked with conflict, violence, suffering, darkness.”
Lament is our appropriate response.
It’s not the way things are supposed to be. It breaks the Father’s heart and it should break ours.
We move from lament to expectation because that is not the end of the story. Jesus was born. Harrod Failed. The true light which gives light to everyone has come into the world. Satan has been defeated.
In Matthew 24:14 Jesus told his disciples that "this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations and then the end will come." And we know this will happen because when John is given a peak into the future reality of heaven in Revelation 7:9 he says, “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes with palm branches in their hands and crying out in a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
Jesus is true to his word.
And as we move from Expectation to Celebration, it truly is the time to sing Joy to the world, the Lord has come! Like the wisemen, we sacrifice time and resources to come to Jesus and when we see him theirs is the only right response – to fall down and worship! We’ve been saved. We’ve been adopted into His family. We’ve been set free and made new and can live the abundant life of Jesus and we will reign forever with him in heaven.
More Muslims have come to faith in Christ in the last 15 years than in the previous 1400 years combined. The fastest growing church in the world today is in Iran. Syrians are coming to faith faster than Christians in Europe can handle and it’s bringing revival to the church there.
Because Jesus said that the harvest is plentiful, we live in eager anticipation of others experiencing the same gift of salvation that we have experienced.
Lament. Expectation. Celebration.
It’s an advent pattern that we discovered could help us keep our focus on Christ during Christmas.
And so as we fix our eyes on Jesus this Advent season, let us fix our hearts on the things that his heart is fixed on, on the reason that he came. Ever since Genesis 3, everything in scripture – everything in the cosmos - was pointing to the moment in time when God would send his son into our broken and dark world in order to reconcile all things to himself. The Bible is the story of rescue. Of mission.
And so to this advent pattern of Lament, Expectation, and Celebration it is important to also add Mission. Our appropriate response to Jesus, who came to seek and save the lost, is to join him on his mission. He is the light of the world and he called us to be light to the world as well; we are not to hide our light. He was sent into this dark and broken world and he says, as I was sent, so I send you. He leaves the ninety-nine to go after the one. He sweeps the house clean to find the lost coin and his last command to his disciples and to us was to go into all the world and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the father and the son and the holy spirit and teaching them to obey everything that he had commanded.
Christmas is the celebration of the mission of God. The God of the Universe loved us so much that he sent his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
That’s why Jesus came. That’s why we have Christmas.
Lament. Expectation. Celebration. Mission.
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus – mindful of the brokenness and darkness of this world – but filled with hope because the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.
As we do that, commit to taking some time to ask the Lord what he might want the next few weeks to look like for you and for your family.
He might just say, Stay the Course.
He might invite you into life altering changes, into a new journey of risk taking obedience to the King.
Lament. Expectation. Celebration. Mission.
This article is taken from a sermon preached for Advent. You can listen HERE (20 minutes).
I was sitting at my computer, sipping on a cup of coffee and working on a sermon I'll be sharing in a few weeks. I took a short break, checked into my Facebook account and saw a note from a friend. A friend of his, Pete, is working in Europe and had met a Muslim man who had been having dreams of Jesus. This man was from a particular tribe in Africa and Pete was wanting help in locating a follower of Jesus who spoke this man's native language.
In a world of nearly 8 billion people, how could I find a speaker of a tribal language who also happens to be a follower of Jesus from home in South Dakota?
It's simple really. I shared the request with a few private networks of practitioners; missionaries, trainers, pastors, missiologists and mission minded, great commission people.
Two days later a connection was made.
Will this African man come to faith because of these connections?
I pray so!
We may not know this side of heaven but we have opportunities daily to help point people to Jesus. It may be a simple connection that we help make. It may be that we get to plant a gospel seed. It could be a simple word of encouragement.
When Jairus, an official in the local synagogue, shows up a Jesus' door pleading with Jesus to come and heal his daughter who was sick, we don't often stop to think who it was that told Jairus about Jesus. There was probably someone who said, "Have you heard about Jesus? He can heal your daughter."
God is working. He wants to work through all of his followers. In his superplan, he often works in interesting and unimaginable ways. But He is always working to bring salvation and he loves to partner with us to do it.
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We are a collection of practitioners and trainers dedicated to equipping and encouraging everyone everywhere to proclaim the gospel and make disciples among the unreached locally, nationally and globally.