Ramadan is a month in the Islamic lunar calendar but it isn’t just any month. Ramadan is the month in which - according to Islamic theology - the first revelation of the Koran was revealed to the Prophet Mohammed and it is during this month that all Muslims across the globe are required to abstain from all earthly pleasures - food, water, cigarettes, sexual relations - from sun up to sun down. Fasting like this during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam and it is one of the most important religious and cultural holidays for Muslims. This year Ramadan runs from May 6th through June 4th.
Below is a short video explaining Ramadan. It is a few years old so the dates are wrong and it was created by a secular news source.
Ramadan is a tremendous opportunity to learn, pray and build relationships with Muslims in your community. God is on the move in the Muslim world. More Muslims have come to faith in Christ in the last fifteen years than in the previous 1400 years combined. He is doing a new work and with today’s article I want to offer a number of ideas of how you can be a part of that work during the upcoming month of Ramadan.
Ramadan Prayer Guide
Since 1993, the 30 Days Muslim World Prayer Guide has been helping to both educate and lead Christians into a season of prayer for the Muslim world. This guide is a great resource to help you spend a few minutes each day praying for God to move powerfully. Each page has a few paragraphs about the day’s topic and three ideas to help you focus your prayer. Order one for your family or consider ordering more and enlisting others to pray as well.
Prayercast also has a 30 day prayer email series which you can learn about at this link.
Wish Your Muslim Friends a Happy Ramadan
An easy way to wish your Muslim friends a happy Ramadan is to say “Happy Ramadan.” It's really that simple but you could also say “Ramadan Mubarak” which is a simple way to say happy Ramadan in Arabic and is a greeting used across the Muslim world.
Read a Book or Two
Ramadan could be a great month to choose a book about Islam or the Muslim world to read. An even better idea would be to gather a group of friends to read a book together. Here are a few suggestions:
Show a Prayercast at Your Church
Many in our churches are struggling with how to respond to the world of Islam. There are many voices vying to shape the narrative around how we should think about Muslims. Prayercast is a great resource to help shape that narrative in ways more reflective of the heart of Jesus. You could show the Prayercast Islam video or Prayercast videos from any of the Muslim majority countries in our world at your church on a Sunday morning. Each video is just 3-4 minutes in length.
Attend an Iftar Meal at a Local Mosque
If you live in a city with a local Islamic Center you may be able to attend a community iftar meal. Many Mosques in North America use Ramadan as an opportunity to invite people in for this breaking of fast meal with the Muslim community. They usually set aside one evening of Ramadan for this. Check the website of your local Islamic center to see if they have a community iftar meal.
[Mosque Visit Purpose and Etiquette]
Make a Friend Online
Across the Muslim world people are getting online in search of friendship and language partners. Embassy exists to connect Muslims and Christians so that bold and honest conversations about Christ can happen. They would like to help you get started today.
You too can be a part of Greater Things.
Host a Movie at Your Church
There are a lot of great movies that have been made to help you and your church grow in your love and concern for the Muslim world. Consider having a movie night to watch one of these movies together with others from your church.
Pray for a Muslim People Group
Pick a particular Muslim people group and spend the month of Ramadan learning about them and praying for them. Here is a list of unreached Muslim people groups from Joshua Project - there are over 3,000 groups making up 23% of the world’ population.
[See the List]
Host a Ramadan Prayer Night
Another great opportunity is to host a Ramadan prayer night. We’d love to help you make this happen if you’d like to do this. It could be as simple as gathering friends in your home to pray or you could organize a community wide prayer event at your church.
Get More Training
Maybe you are wanting to dive in deeper, to get more training so you can be better prepared. Crescent Project has an intensive training event every summer called Sahara Challenge.
Whatever you do, do something. Do it in love and do it in prayer.
And we'd love to hear about it so share your Ramadan plans and actions in the comments below.
When I first connected with Musa* online, I was the first follower of Jesus he had ever met. I initiated the first conversation about Jesus that he had ever had. I helped him read the first chapter of the Bible that he had ever read. And I am probably the first true follower of Jesus who has ever committed to praying for his salvation.
Musa lives at the widest end of the gap.
By now it should be obvious that all Christians are born again into the Gap between God’s world-wide purpose and the fulfillment of it. But there’s more than one kind of response to that Gap. Some are asleep, some are on retreat, and some are determined to stand in the Gap particularly at its widest end where billions await the opportunity to hear of Christ for the first time.
David Bryant’s book Into the Gap introduces two ideas: the world Christian and the gap. With today’s article I want to explore the latter.
Every person in the world stands in the same sized gap between their brokenness and their salvation. Jesus Christ is the only way to be saved and that remains the same whether we we are the son of a preacher in Colorado Springs or of an imam in Islamabad.
The distance between death and life, between darkness and light is the cross of Christ.
But there is another gap that Bryant explores; the gap in our ability to hear the good news of the cross of Christ.
In my small Midwestern city, there is never a time when a person is more than a quarter mile from a true follower of Jesus. There is never a place that is more than a mile or two from the nearest church. Twenty four hours a day Christian radio programming runs on multiple stations. A drive down any main boulevard passes multiple billboards advertising churches or Christian schools.
The gospel is accessible. The gap is quite narrow.
But travel into the 10/40 window and the picture changes. The 10/40 window is the area of the earth between latitudes ten and forty degrees north of the equator. It is home to the majority of the world’s Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Animists and Unreligious (China) peoples. It is home to the majority of the world's nearly 7,000 unreached people groups - nearly 3 billion people - who have never heard the gospel. A person living in the 10/40 window would be hard pressed to find a church within 100 miles of their home. They would most likely live their entire life without ever encountering a follower of Jesus. They may never hear a Christian radio broadcast or pick up a Bible. The distance between a person who does not know Jesus and the opportunity to hear about Jesus is enormous.
This is the widest end of the gap.
At Everywhere to Everywhere, our heart is to accelerate movement toward the widest end of the gap. We work to equip and encourage everyone everywhere to proclaim the gospel and make disciples among the unreached locally, nationally and globally.
In the past, the only answer to the wide end of the gap was to send missionaries into it. That is still an answer and the body of Christ throughout the world must send more. 3 billion lost in darkness demands it.
But the context of that gap has changed. Technology has opened up new opportunities to connect with people there. Globalization and world crisis have brought millions out of the 10/40 window and into gospel saturated countries. We live in a new day of world missions and because of that we must be equipped to respond to new opportunities.
I have seen, at different times, the smoke of a thousand villages - villages whose people are without Christ, without God, and without hope in the world.
The smoke of a thousand villages is drifting in through your window. You only need follow it and you will find yourself in conversation with someone like my friend Musa, someone who has never known a follower of Jesus and never heard the gospel. Someone whom you can befriend. Someone with whom you can begin to share the good news of Jesus and to pray for.
Your journey into the widest end of the gap has never been closer.
Will you go?
Help E2E and share this article with your friends.
*For security reasons, names have been changed.
In the great commission, Jesus commands his disciples to “teach them (new disciples) to obey everything I have commanded.”
Here is a question for you:
What is the first command that you would teach a new believer in Jesus to obey?
Teach them to obey?
If you’re like me - someone who grew up in an American evangelical church - then maybe that phrase sounds interesting, legalistic or even a bit funny.
Shouldn’t the question rather state, “What is the first thing you would teach a new believer to know?”
It’s an interesting distinction but to be true to scripture, Jesus doesn’t command us to teach them to “know” what he has commanded. Knowledge seems secondary - important, but secondary.
If we are to become a people who make disciples who make disciples then this is a distinction we must understand. We must move toward teaching and modeling obedience to Jesus.
And if a push toward obedience sounds interesting, legalistic of funny then either Jesus got it wrong or we have gotten it wrong.
What do you think?
“If you love me, obey my commands.” --Jesus
*I've added this great video from Curtus Sergeant.
What is it going to take to reach all of Jefferson High School?*
This was the question being asked by students working with Collision, a local ministry focused on catalyzing movements to Christ within every school in their city. One student leader shared a plan to identify every relational group within the school: football players, skaters, the theater crowd, cross country runners, Latinos, Somalis, Nepalis, etc. They were wrestling with the idea of entry strategy.
In the four fields to kingdom growth framework, understanding how to identify and enter fields of lostness is a key concept of the first field.
As these students made their lists, they were beginning to do just that. Remember, their vision was to reach ALL of Jefferson High School, one of the biggest schools in the state.
Theirs was a God sized vision!
They started by identifying each relational group in their school. They then moved on to the second half of the entry strategy concept: How do we enter those fields?
How do we ensure that every person, in every group has the opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel?
Exploring Entry Strategy
As we work to raise up disciples who will make disciples, we must train entry strategy. If our disciples are going to obey Jesus and make disciples then we must teach them tools and strategies that they can employ and teach others to employ.
Entry strategies should lead to opportunities to share the gospel. If our only entry strategy is to ask disciples of Jesus to invite the lost to come to events so someone else can share the gospel with them, we are inadvertently communicating to them that making disciples is someone else’s job.
But movements aren’t built on the expertise and charisma of a few but on the priesthood of all believers equipped and released to make disciples who make disciples.
At the start we must teach entry strategies that challenge the faith of new believers and release responsibility to them. Anything else will lead to passivity and stagnation.**
Entry Strategy Examples
There are hundreds and thousands of entry strategies. These strategies allow us to get in front of people who are far from God. Almost all of them are valid and almost all of them produce fruit and lead to salvations.
Sat 7 broadcasts the good news of Jesus all across the Muslim world.
Billy Graham shared the good news of Jesus to stadiums filled with people.
Tracts have been left on windshields in the Walmart parking lot.
And we all know someone who was invited to church where they heard the gospel and came to faith. God has and will continue to use these types of entry strategies.
But if we want our disciples to become disciples who make disciples, then they must be empowered and released to enter new fields, to proclaim the gospel and to disciple new believers.
We must raise the expectations on what it means to be a disciple and equip everyone to be active participants in God’s work rather than just mere consumers. Anything less leads to passive faith, stunted growth and soon becomes a barrier to kingdom expansion.
The students at Jefferson high school could have looked outside for a special speaker that Collision could bring in. They could have planned a large rally at a nearby church and invited every student to come.
Their job then would have been to hand out flyers and invite students. And some would have come. Some would have heard the gospel and some would most certainly have come to faith.
But then these young disciples would not have had the opportunity to be Christ’s ambassadors.
They wouldn’t have needed to know how to share their faith or how to lead someone to Christ.
They wouldn’t have needed to enter into the mess of students’ lives.
They would not have needed to know how to disciple new believers.
They wouldn’t have needed to obey Jesus and make disciples.
And most at Jefferson high school would not have heard the gospel because most would not have come to a large rally.
The vision was not to reach some of Jefferson High School. The vision is to reach ALL of Jefferson High School.
And so these students are wrestling with discovering entry strategies that will allow them to reach ALL of Jefferson High School.
They are beginning in prayer and listening to the Holy Spirit for guidance.
They are themselves becoming disciples worth multiplying.
They are starting with their relational networks, praying for those they know who don’t yet know Christ.
They are learning about the person of peace and praying that the Lord will lead them to such people in each of the groups that they identified.
They are coaching new believers to gather their friends together to discover the truths in God’s word.
They are finding creative ways to serve and meet other students.
They are asking Wig-Take questions.
They are setting goals and prayerfully holding one another accountable to reach those goals.
Each week new students are coming to faith. Each week new groups are starting on campus.
God is on the move because a group of students believe that God wants to use them on their campus.
In Matthew 10, Jesus sends out the twelve two by two with a number of instructions. Verses 9-10 in the Message read this way: Don’t think you have to put on a fund-raising campaign before you start. You don’t need a lot of equipment. You are the equipment, and all you need to keep that going is three meals a day. Travel light.
The students at Jefferson High School have come to believe that they are the equipment that God wants to use and their example should encourage you.
God has placed you in a job, in a neighborhood, in a group of friends and in a family because He wants to use you there. Your relational networks is your first entry strategy.
You also live in towns, cities and regions filled with people who are far from God, people you do not know.
How will they hear?
Begin to prayerfully discover the entry strategies that will allow you to share the good news of Jesus in these places.
**Nathan Shank, starting on page 29 in Four Fields of Kingdom Growth, offers a helpful list of questions for evaluating tools and methodologies.
Jesus instructed his followers - which includes us - to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to observe all that He had commanded.
It was the last instruction that he gave to his first disciples and as they obeyed, the gospel quickly spread out from Judea and into all of the surrounding regions and it kept going.
In the process of moving out, the disciples who carried the gospel, quickly began to cross linguistic and cultural barriers and they began to wrestle with how to communicate the gospel well. This has been an ongoing challenge for every generation of disciples as they strive to obey Jesus.
It is a challenge for our generation as well.
Doug Birdsall says that, "The Great Commission is for every church in every culture in every generation. There are no exclusions. But . . . every church in every culture in every generation must determine the way in which they respond to this responsibility -- in a way that is appropriate to time and context."
Here are seven books that I think you will find helpful for learning how you should respond as you have opportunities to cross cultural barriers with the gospel.
Last week I listened to an interview with Justin Long on The Missions Podcast. The topic was a discussion of what is meant by the term “Unreached.” Justin is the Director of Global Research at Beyond. He’s a missiologist, researcher and statistician whose handle on the numbers of lost in our world is quite helpful.
I wanted to share something that Justin challenged the listening audience with. There are nearly 3 billion unreached peoples in our world today. Despite this reality, the majority of missionaries and mission spending continues to go into work in countries and among people groups where the church is already established. This leaves the nearly 3 billion unreached with very little access to the saving news of the gospel.
Here was Justin’s challenge.
If there is so little effort put toward reaching the 3 billion unreached in our world then one of a number of options must be true.
The first option does not reflect the heart of God and so we are left to wrestle with the second options.
The interview is one that I want to invite anyone involved in mobilizing the church toward work among the unreached to listen to. It will do much to bring clarity to our understanding of unreached, a term that is increasingly being used in all sorts of context. Justin and the hosts do a great job of teasing out the nuances of what we mean when we talk about the Unreached.
It was noon and I was meeting my new friend Musa* for an hour over my lunch break. We’d decided to meet at our favorite coffee shops to connect. I’d first met Musa when he had reached out looking for someone to practice his English with. He’d had a lifetime of classroom instruction in his home of Cairo, Egypt* but had few native English speakers with whom he could practice.
The first time we met we covered the bases of getting to know one another. Where are you from? What is your family like? What do you like to do in your free time? The sounds of Arabic were all around him in the busy Cairo coffee shop where he sat.
I then asked Musa what he did for a living. He is a young guy, in his early twenties and had just gotten started working as a mobile phone app developer.
Then he returned the favor and asked me what I do. I’m in full time ministry so this is always an interesting question to answer. But I dove in.
I help people in churches in America understand and follow Jesus. That is pretty broad but it involves teaching, training, coaching, encouraging and casting vision with leaders and regular people. I'm not going to get rich, but I do find tremendous fulfillment in doing the things that I believe that God has made me to do. I bet that sounds a little crazy, but that's what I do and really it's who I am.
I could tell He didn’t completely understand what I was talking about so he asked a few more questions but then moved on, wondering if I’d been to Turkey. He’d recently visited Istanbul and loved the city. I told him of our four and a half years living there and how much we loved the people we knew there.
We meandered in and out of topics and then he asked a serious question, “I hope to hear an emotional situation you have been through?”
I thought for a few minutes and then told him about a recent struggle I’d been facing and about how our family had spent time praying for God’s wisdom and healing. It was good to be transparent with my new friend even though it felt a bit hard and I wasn’t sure he was following everything. Musa’s English is good but he hasn’t had a lot of experience talking about personal topics.
When I was finished, I said, “What about you? Have you been through any hard situations in life?”
Musa was contemplating his answer when he looked at his watch. He gave me a wry smile. “I’ll have to tell you next time. I’ve got to go now. But let’s make sure and meet again.”
As Musa left, I wondered about our conversation. Had I said too much about what I do? Should have I asked more questions about his faith and beliefs? Should I have offered to pray for him before he left? What if I had said something wrong?
I spent some time praying for our time together asking the Lord to use it for his glory and to reveal himself to Musa.
And then I removed my headphones and shut down Facebook Messenger on my laptop computer. I got up from my seat in the corner of my coffee shop in South Dakota, grabbed my mug and headed up to the counter for a refill.
Though we were half a world away, Musa and I had enjoyed a great cup of coffee and better conversation.
We continue to connect regularly, oftentimes just texting back and forth, sometimes hopping on a video chat to say a quick hello and at other times, setting aside an hour to grab a cup of coffee for an extended talk.
To my surprise, Musa had quickly moved into questions of faith. I’ve introduced him to Discovery Bible Study and we are slowly working through a creation to Christ story set. We read a passage of scripture - I paste it into Messenger and he reads the Arabic and I read the English. We then ask some simple questions to help us discover what the story says about God, about people and about how we should live our lives.
It’s been slow because Musa often brings up his own questions - questions that are stretching me and forcing me to dig into my own faith and theology. We started with his questions about the Christian idea of a triune God. We’re now pressing into the validity of the Bible. And those conversations are packed in between talk of family and culture and food and movies and dreams for life.
It’s a whole lot of fun.
I am the only true follower of Jesus that Musa knows. I’ve been able to pray for him and continue to pray for him regularly. Musa is one of many young guys that I am connecting with online all across the Muslim world and someday, I hope I will be able to meet all of them in person, if not in this life, then in the eternity of heaven. That is my prayer for each of them.
There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world today and collectively, Christians are sending one missionary into the Muslim world for every 405,000 Muslims.
This has to change.
John Stott has said, “We must be global Christians with a global vision because our God is a global God.”
Because of advances in technology and the globalization of our world, millions of people throughout the Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Animistic and un-religious worlds are working to learn English. They are going online to try and find people with whom they can practice speaking.
A new door of missionary activity has opened and it is open to everyone who is a follower of Jesus and has an Internet connection. Geography is no longer a barrier to your relationship with a Muslim like Musa.
C.T. Studd said, “If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.”
Will you sacrifice an hour a week to invest in a relationship with a young man or woman in the Muslim world who is looking for friendship and someone to practice English with?
*For security, names and places have been changed.
1 - http://www.thetravelingteam.org/stats
Let Us Help You
I had the privilege of being interviewed on the Engaging Missions Podcast hosted by Bryan Entzminger a while back and today it was posted to the web.
I encourage you to stop by the Engaging Missions podcast and have a listen and while you are there, make sure and subscribe to his podcast. He has some amazing interviews with some pretty amazing people.
Check out the interview here:
And be sure and check out a few of my favorite interviews from the past:
How Many Loaves Do You Have?
It is an interesting question that Jesus asks his disciples. After all, they are standing amidst a crowd of 4,000 hungry people who have been with Jesus for three days and don’t have any food. They find themselves in a remote place, far from any eating establishments or bakeries.
But Jesus has something he wants to accomplish and so he asks them, “How many loaves do you have?”
It’s a familiar story, one of many similar stories recorded in the gospels. Jesus takes what resources the disciples have, seven loaves and a few fish in this case, and miraculously multiplies it to feed the whole crowd, leaving seven basketfuls of leftovers for them to deal with when the day is done.
This story reflects an important principle in the kingdom of God. The resources are in the harvest.
Think of the parable of the growing seed. Where did the seed come from that the farmer was scattering in the empty field? It came from last year’s harvest.
Think of Jesus giving his disciples the great commission. One of his greatest Apostles was not there with Jesus to hear the commission. He was still in the harvest. He was Saul but God would use him in mighty ways after he came to faith.
Jesus demonstrates this principle when he sends out the disciples. In Luke 10 he sends the seventy two into every town and place where he was about to go. First he instructs them to pray for more harvesters.
Where are those harvesters going to come from? From the harvest!
Then he instructs them to find the house of peace and stay there. Don’t move around from house to house. My thinking would say, “I’m the Christian. I have to be the one to tell everyone about Jesus.” It seems however that Jesus is asking me to take off my superman cape and realize that the one he will use is in the harvest. So he instructs the disciples to stay.
Stay and invest in this household. They know the context of their village. They have the relationships. They will be the ones to plant the church in their home.
The Apostle Paul also sees the resources in the harvest. He doesn’t take teams of twenty believers to plant an already functioning church. He and a few of his guys enter a town, preach the gospel, invest in new believers and then leave. He encourages them from afar through letters, sends back his young Timothys to equip and encourage and comes back for a visit to encourage and help appoint elders.
Everyone in the churches that Paul plants come out of the harvest.
Dependence on our own giftings, calendars and resources always limits our vision of what God can do. When we move into new or challenging contexts with the confidence that Jesus will provide all that is needed to see his Kingdom expand, we are able to enter into the God sized vision of making disciples among all nations.
And so we have to learn to look for the resources for completing the great commission out in the harvest.
Because who knows, your next church planter might be a crack dealer.
These are the types of people who you probably know. One of the challenges of sharing the gospel and making disciples is that the people who the Lord brings into our lives are from vastly different backgrounds. These differences create a need for discernment and understanding as we build relationship and communicate with each of them.
A conversation that goes well with one might implode into tension with another. It is these differences that create vastly different kinds and degrees of challenge for communicating the truth of the Gospel.
There are always barriers between us and the people we wish to reach. Those barriers could be simple or complex. Culture, language, worldview, religious background, and personal experiences are all part of the mix of barriers that can challenge our ability to share the gospel.
Missiologist Ralph Winter created a tool that helps describe these difference. It’s not a diagnostic tool to use on our friends or the new immigrant down the street but it does help us understand why our invitation to come to our church may be falling on deaf ears.
The tool is called the E-Scale. In Winter’s own words:
“The E-Scale helps compare the cultural distances that Christians need to move in order to communicate the gospel with others. E0 refers to evangelism of church-going Christians. E1 extends to the very same culture through one barrier, that of “church culture.” E2 evangelism presses into a close, but still different, culture. E3 evangelism pushes to very different cultures.” (read the original article here)
E0 - The people who are within the church walls. They may be backslidden and asleep but they are in church on a somewhat regular basis. They may be there because mom and dad drag them there each week. Regardless, they have a basic understanding of church culture and church language and have a mostly Christian worldview.
E1 - Those who have not ever entered the church but are part of the greater culture of the community or country where the church resides. These are the people who you work with and live by. They grew up watching the things you watched on TV, eating the foods you eat, reading the books in school that you read. They just don’t go to church and outside of an occasional funeral or wedding, never have. Church culture is mostly foreign to them.
E2 - Those who come from similar but different cultures. While there are some cultural similarities, significant barriers begin to emerge. They may speak another language. They may have grown up with significant worldview differences. They may be from a different religion. Church culture is foreign to them.
E3 - Those who come from cultures that are almost completely different. Where someone who is E2 may have one or two barriers, E3 represents the people where barriers are found in every major area of life: language, culture, worldview, religious background, etc. Church culture is utterly foreign to them and may be offensive.
It must be noted that this is not a grading scale to be used in an us versus them them sort of way. It is a tool for anyone who wants to go and make disciples. An atheist from New York would be an E1 for me but would probably be an E3 for a missionary from China.
It must also be noted that our E0 church culture is not what we should be trying to invite people into. We should invite them into a relationship with Jesus and then help them to form their own church culture, appropriate for their language and cultural realities.
If the E-Scale does anything for you, I hope it will help you see why inviting your friends to come to your church is not necessarily the best evangelistic method. Most people outside your church doors aren’t going to come to church.
Author and missiologist J.D. Payne recently said, “The Spirit can do anything. But unless another awakening occurs, I believe 25% is close to the maximum amount of the United States population that will be reached by our longstanding pastoral approaches to engagement.”
The default of the last few decades in the North American church has been the invite.
“Wanna come visit my church?”
God can and will use this. We all know someone who came for a visit and met Jesus.
But a far greater number of people won’t come. And they aren’t rejecting Jesus. They’re rejecting an idea they have about what church is - an idea that may or may not be based in reality because for most, they’ve never been in a church.
Traditional approaches to outreach and disciple making become increasingly less helpful as the people with whom we are trying to use them have no church background.
We need a new approach. And really we need to go back to an old approach, the original approach of Jesus.
Go and make disciples.
Go into your neighbor's home.
Go to the Muslim owned store down the street.
Go and ask questions and learn about their story, their language and their culture.
Go and pray and ask the Lord to prepare you to share his truth with the people you meet out in the harvest.
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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.