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.
Nik Ripkin has a way of speaking with prophetic power to the North American church. If you have not heard his Liberty University talk, I'd encourage you to do so [watch here].
Nik was the featured speaker at this weekends Heart For Muslims conference in New York City and he once again delivered two great talks that were powerful, challenging and full of faith. There is much that he shared that I'd like to write about and will probably revisit with coming articles but with this article I wanted to share Nik Ripkin's three simple steps to helping your church develop a great commission, sending culture that is focused on reaching the nations.
At every child dedication in the church pray a prayer of dedication that includes a dedication to raise the child up to serve the Lord among the lost with all of their hearts no matter where it takes them. Pray for parents to have hearts bent toward sending their children into the harvest among the world's 2.1 billion unreached. And then give every child a Bible and commit to teach them to read and obey the word of God.
At that child dedication, give every child a passport application and have parents commit to keeping their passport renewed and ready to use.
At that child dedication, give every child a savings account with $200 in it as a beginning fund for their first missions trip to be taken as a teen. Have the family and church commit to adding to that account at birthdays, Christmas and other special occasions.
That ought to about do it.
I want to encourage you to consider reading Nik Ripkin's books, The Insanity of God and The Insanity of Obedience.
(check out the movie too)
When I first received training and began working to apply the principles and strategies that would lead to multiplying movements of disciples-making-disciples and churches-planting-churches, I thought I had it figured out.
After all, I'd sat through a few hours of training and read the book, T4T: A Discipleship Re-Revolution.
I quickly realized that the way I'd always done things and learned to do things - my old paradigms of ministry - were well worn into my life. Like a deep rut in a country road, these paradigms kept sucking me back in. I'd think I was applying the principles of multiplication only to find out I'd slipped back into old habits.
What I needed was a way to continually refresh and re-form and recast vision. If vision leaks, I needed a way to constantly be refilling the vision.
24:14 - A Testimony To All Peoples is just that sort of resource. A collection of articles and testimonies from movement practitioners around the world, it provides a great source of inspiration, testimonies, new ideas and a clear vision for finishing the task.
The book is built around Jesus' words in Matthew 24:14, "And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come." It has forty three chapters, all easily readable in five to ten minutes.
The old saying goes, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away." With this book I'd reframe that old proverb and rather say, "A chapter a week keeps the vision refreshed."
>>> Find 24:14 Here (FREE)
“In no other way can the believer become as fully involved with God’s work, especially the work of world evangelism, as in intercessory prayer.”
Prayer is the one resource we have as followers of Christ committed to the completion of the great commission that is truly without borders. It is the work that travels from everywhere to everywhere. It is not bound by time or location and as Samuel Zwemer so aptly pointed out, "the history of missions is the history of answered prayer."
Mobilizing prayer is then an important work with eternal significance. With today's article we want to share a few resources to help your church pray more for the nations so that you can better partner with our missionary God through prayer.
These are but four simple resources to mobilize more prayer from your congregation. But they will mobilize nothing if you don't take them and share them with others and invite others to join you in using them to pray for the nations.
Will you join the Everywhere to Everywhere community in mobilizing more prayer?
Before moving to Central Asia in 2008 I was fortunate to spend time at Mission Training International (MTI) in Colorado doing some pre-field training. This included two weeks of language training with Dwight and Barbara Gradin. We were not learning our target language but rather receiving training to be more effective and efficient language learners.
That training set the stage for becoming a language coach and the writer behind The Everyday Language Learner. The goal was to help as many people as possible be successful language learners and in the process create a location independent business which would allow continued work throughout the Muslim world regardless of whether we lived there or not.
When we returned to the states in 2012, my goal was to continue to grow this online business model. Traffic grew. Influence grew. But I lacked the business acumen to really make a go of things. And so in 2014, The Everyday Language Learner went away. I moved on and see now all that God was doing to prepare me through those years for the work I'm doing now to mobilize and train the church into the harvest.
I want to share with you a few resources that were created during that season. The three resources below are ebooks that you can downloard for free. I hope that they will help you learn another language so that you can more effectively share the gospel.
Enjoy and share them with others.
Before You Move Overseas: This workbook is a blueprint for the weeks and months BEFORE you board the plane. In it you will find actions that, when implemented, will help you prepare for the language learning journey. This workbook is filled with the actions I wish someone had encouraged me to take in that year before moving. The bulk of this guide then is made up of ten actions you can take over the coming months before you move. [Read it Here]
Activities and Strategies for Everyday Language Learners: This ebook is a collection of 56 articles from the Everyday Language Learner blog focusing primarily on practical, hands-on activities you can do in your personal study time, with a language helper or out in the community. This is a 243 page ebook! [Read it Here]
The Everyday Language Learner's Guide to Getting Started: This is the most robust guide I wrote and in it I give all the information needed to be a self-directed, independent language learner. [You can download a zip file from the bottom right of the Resource Page]
Most cross cultural work will require the learning of another language. It is essential to be able to effectively communicate the gospel. I hope that these resources will help you on the language learning journey.
“The Bible has been changed.”
It was an assertion I’d heard before. I’ve heard it from nearly every Muslim friend I’ve talked about the gospel with and so I wasn’t surprised when my new friend John tossed it into our conversation.
We’d been talking and as is often the case, something he’d said reminded me of a story from the scriptures. For probably the fourth time in our conversation I’d gone to the Bible and shared a passage or a story, a proverb or a psalm.
There are a number of helpful responses to the claim that the Bible’s been changed. Indeed, the ability to defend the validity of scripture is a necessary skill that all involved in Muslim ministry must acquire. Thankfully there are great resources for equipping believers in this skill [see Fouad Masri’s small booklet “Is the Injeel Corrupted”]
And perhaps in a later post I’ll unpack a few of those.
It has often been said that one can win the argument but loose the person. It seems there are times when this is used as an excuse for shoddy theology and weak-kneed gospel proclamation, but it does reflect Jesus’ instruction to do unto others as you would have them do unto you (Matthew 7:12).
Abdu Murray is an example of someone who does this well. His winsome proclamation and defense of the gospel is a living example of 1 Peter 3:15 where believers are exhorted to “honor Christ the Lord in our hearts as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”
In his hour-long presentation at the Defend Apologetics Conference, Abdu begins with an encouragement from Paul’s letter to the Colossians.
Colossians 4:5-6 says, “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”
Murray points out that Paul does not say, ‘each argument'. Arguments are plentiful and they deserve answers, but as followers of Christ, filled with the Holy Spirit, we are encouraged to answer ‘each person’.
My friend John is a person. He is fearfully and wonderfully made. He was created in the image of God, a God who knows every hair on his head and who willingly went to the cross for him.
And so we must take care not to dehumanize our non-believing friends into caricatures of the arguments they espouse. While rude caricatures and gross mischaracterizations are the tenor of these days, as disciples of Jesus we must love non-believers as Christ loves them.
We must have the First Corinthian’s thirteen kind of love that is patient and kind. We must not envy or boast or be arrogant or dishonor them. We must not insist on getting our own way. We must not get angry easily or hold grudges and we can’t rejoice in their wrongdoing but rather must rejoice in the truth. And we protect our non-believing friends, trusting with a deep hope that never gives up.
Because love won’t fail.
And yes, because the god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, we must be prepared to help remove those blinders with sound teaching, good questions, gentle rebuke and prayerful perseverance.
But we must do all of this first and foremost, in love.
Here is Abdu Murray's talk.
This week I'll be co-teaching a workshop on refugee outreach at Crescent Project's National Conference. My colleague James will begin that workshop with a short devotional from Luke chapter 7 where Jesus is asked to heal a centurion's servant.
It's a story that has caused me a fare amount of conviction the past few weeks as I've meditated on it. I'll hope it does the same for you.
Jesus has just finished teaching the masses when a group of elders from the Jewish synagogue show up to ask him to come and heal a Roman centurion's servant who has fallen ill. Roman centurion's were the senior officers of a legion of Roman soldiers.
Roman soldiers who are occupying Israel.
Roman soldiers who have brutalized and oppressed the Jewish people.
Already this story is a bit crazy.
But when these elders get to Jesus they don't just ask, they plead with Jesus saying, "He is worthy for You to do this for him, for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue."
Jesus goes with these elders and the story ends with the centurion telling Jesus he doesn't need to come, he just needs to say the word. The centurion understands authority and Jesus famously praises the man saying, "I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith."
This is the part that is most often the focus of the story but let's go back to the request of the Jewish elders. In every respect, the Roman occupation has been a terrible blight on the Jews in Israel. And yet here are the oppressed pleading the case of a man who is supposed to be their enemy.
Because he loves them. He has poured out his love in generosity. He has lived a life among them that has demonstrated extraordinary love.
And the question James challenges us with is this: Is your church living in such a way with the refugee and immigrant communities in your context that if the government came to shut your church down, would refugees and immigrants be the first ones to come and plead your case?
Would refugees in your community come out saying, "No, you can't shut this church down! They've loved us. They've helped us with extravagant generosity."
Do our churches have a centurion's reputation?
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How did you learn to ride a bike?
Did your dad sit you on the couch in front of the TV and say, "Here, watch four hours of the Tour de France. That will do the trick."
You most likely did watch older brothers or sisters ride bike however. It looked fun and if you were like most kids, you wanted to ride too.
Learning to ride bike probably looked more like your dad - or in my case, older brother - running along beside you, one hand holding firmly to the back of your seat to help you balance as you started pedaling and getting the feel of things.
That firm grip was released and those first rides certainly included a crash or two followed by comfort and the encouragement to get back in the saddle.
In short order, you mastered the art and skill of bike riding. You may not be ready to race in the Tour de France but you are more than capable of a ride across town.
You have achieved unconscious competence in the bike riding department.
Our journey toward bike riding stardom highlights the basic training principles that are required to make disciples who make disciples.
We call these the MAWL principle.
Model, Assist, Watch and Launch. This is the basic process through which we all learned to ride bike and it is the model of training that we see Jesus using and later Paul. This basic principle is applied in all good training that leads to actual competence and reproduction, to disciples having the confidence and competence to obey Jesus and make disciples.
Modeling requires us to set the example by actually doing what we want others to do. We see Jesus doing this in his ministry - he is preaching, healing, casting out demons, abiding with the Father, praying, setting strategy. He has taken the disciples with him and they are watching his example, asking questions and asking for deeper teaching.
Nathan Shank in Four Fields of Kingdom Growth comments that "What a disciple does in the first three months of faith, he or she will reproduce throughout their walk. If the disciple is asked to passively observe the work of the church, passivity will likely be the "DNA". If the disciple is expected to aggressively pursue friends and loved ones, reproducing what has been trained [modeled], multiplication is set in motion."
What we model is important.
Assisting requires to release our disciples to actually do what it is we want them to do by themselves. We have to put them on the bike. We assist them but they are doing the work. Again we see Jesus doing this with the disciples. Who is going to feed the 4,000? They are. Jesus is going to assist, but they are going to go out and serve the food. Who is doing all the baptizing? They are. Jesus is there and even gets blamed for the baptizing, but the Bible is clear that it is actually his disciples who are doing the work.
Assisting can quickly shift into watching. For some things, assistance might take longer than others and there is rarely a clear line of when we shift from assisting to watching, but shift we must. Our disciples must recognize our release of control so that they are empowered to do the work themselves.
In Paul's second letter to Timothy he says, "And the things you've heard me say in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to reliable people who will be qualified to teach others". Paul is watching from afar, hearing reports and coaching Timothy to continue to do what he is doing.
And of course your disciples will occasionally crash. Like the first time your dad released your seat and you scrapped your knee as you skidded sideways to the ground, those you are training will make mistakes. They will make messes. They will FAIL. And you will have the grace to pick them up, reassure them that they'll be fine and get them back in the saddle.
Don't worry, the kingdom won't fall apart with one mistake. Mistakes are the catalyst for maturity when treated with grace and love and Biblical application.
There then comes a time when we must launch our disciples out to run the race on their own. Jesus launches his disciples despite some of them doubting, to go and make disciples of all nations! We see Paul charging the Ephesian elders to stand up and continue the work without him as he heads back to Jerusalem for one final visit.
MAWL principles are as old as the Bible but our modern teaching techniques which sequester training in classrooms and pews make it difficult to apply them. Knowledge acquisition has in many ways trumped actual application and competence.
And so too often I've simply told people what they ought to do.
I've given hour long seminars. I've preached sermons. I've shared good ideas. But in the end, I've been discouraged by the results. The people I've taught walked away with a head full of knowledge but no real idea how to actually apply that knowledge come Monday morning or no confidence that they actually could.
The MAWL principle is what we see in the Bible. And it just makes sense. Everywhere in life where we want to master a skill, these ideas are the way to master them. If you wanted to become an electrician or a mechanic or a carpenter in the past you apprenticed yourself to a master. Modeling, Assisting, Watching and Launching were just what naturally happened every day that you showed up at the shop and worked alongside your boss.
If we want to see disciples become disciples who can and are making disciples who in turn can and are making disciples, then we must spend more time training with MAWL principles.
Who can you MAWL today?
Crescent Project’s National Conference is an annual gathering of leaders from all over the United
States, coming to be inspired, encouraged and equipped by Crescent Project.
National Conference presents a unique opportunity for equipping Christ-followers from around the country to connect with some of the most spiritually curious people on our planet: Muslims.
National Conference gives an inspiring snapshot of our changing times, demographics, and handles on understanding Islamic basics and identifying ways any church in any community can help lead the charge for cutting-edge outreach in their region, rallying other churches in the process.
The conference offers a wide assortment of workshops along with general sessions led by
experienced leaders and former Muslims.
National Conference is designed to equip Christians who are new to Muslim outreach as well as
those who have years of experience.
Event dates: October 22-24
Location: Church of the City, Spring Hill, TN
(Just 25 minutes south of the airport, Nashville, TN.)
Multiply: The Vision Summit
The Vision Summit is a discipleship event designed to cast vision and equip disciples for local, national, and global mission.
Through it, the Multiply team seeks to build upon the dreams, spiritual gifts, and passions God has placed in His people.
The weekend will be surrounding God's Kingdom coming, and how we are to take part in the advancement of His Kingdom.
If you are in the Midwest, don't miss this opportunity for training and equipping.
Event Dates: Fri, Oct 11, 2019, 5:00 PM – Sun, Oct 13, 2019, 3:00 PM CDT
Location: Cross Point at Oasis Church - 23813 West Trail West Road - Plevna, KS 67568
Gospel Conversation Training
Have you ever wanted to have a gospel conversation with someone but didn't know where to begin?
Gospel Conversations training explains not only why but also how to have these conversations across various contexts and we'll give you plenty of practice.
During this one day training, you will learn what to do and say to share the good news of the gospel with competence and confidence. This training includes a time for practice and follow-up processes for strategy and accountability.
Event Date: Saturday October 19, 9 am - 4 pm
Location: Mitchell Christian School, Mitchell, South Dakota
Heart For Muslims
Heart for Muslims’ mission is to equip Christ-followers and connect them for service, ministering to our Muslim neighbors in the Name and Love of Jesus Christ. The vision is to eliminate the fear of Islam and free believers to boldly minister to our Muslim neighbors.
Date: Saturday November 23, 9 am - 4:30 pm
Location: Calvary Baptist Church - 123 W 57th St, - New York City, NY
Do you know someone who could benefit from one of these conferences? Be sure and take a moment and pass this article on to them.
The E2E Community
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.