Covid-19 is an unprecedented world event that is unlike anything anyone now living has ever seen.
It has interrupted life. It has caused hardship. And if the Surgeon General is correct, it's going to get worse. As followers of Jesus there is much that we can and will do in the coming weeks and perhaps months to be His hands and feet, to demonstrate His love, to share the truth and hope of the Gospel.
But the most important thing we can do, is to abide in him.
Last week I sent an email out to a number of pastor friends asking if there were any specific ways I could be praying. As responses came in it became increasingly apparent that these leaders were stepping into uncharted waters. Life was getting crazy as they tried to figure out what to do about Sunday morning services, how to shepherd well despite social distancing and how to care for their own families.
And of course it's not just pastors. Everyone is struggling to make heads or tails of our current situation. Across the globe the Coronavirus is wreaking havoc.
And so more than ever before, as the people of God we must turn to Jesus for guidance and help, and according to Jesus in John 15, we have only two choices:
And so with today's article we want to share a three resources that we have found helpful to help disciples abide in Christ.
Cornerstone Reading Plan: Any reading plan will do as long as it gets you reading the word of God. This particular plan will have you read four chapters a day and allow you to immerse yourself in the whole story of the Bible.
S.O.A.P.S Bible Reading: As you are reading the Bible, the S.O.A.P.S reading tool will help you to interact with the word, obey it and share with others.
Prayer Wheel: The prayer wheel will give you a process to pray for one hour, five minutes at a time, prayerfully interacting with God in a number of ways. This particular resource is a pdf with three bookmarks so be sure and share it with a couple of friends as well.
There are many helpful resources to help us abide in Christ. But above any particular resource, we must follow the example of Jesus who often withdrew to lonely places to be with the Father.
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!
One of the really cool tools on your smartphone is the You Version Bible App. It's a great resource for reading the Bible but also offers some really helpful reading plans and devotional plans which you can use to grow. One really helpful aspect of many plans is the ability to read through them with others and to interact with one another and the content of the plan.
Come, Let's Go! Discipleship and Evangelism is a new plan that was recently created by the folks at Zume. This is a seven day reading plan. Each day has a short devotional reading which includes a short teaching video from Zume. Then there are a number of Bible passages to read. Finally, there is an opportunity to talk it over, answering the question,
"Based on today's reading, what is one thing God is saying to you?"
(If you do not have the You Version Bible app you can get it at your app store on your phone or learn more here: www.youversion.com/the-bible-app)
Starting tomorrow, anyone who would like to join from the E2E community will begin reading through and interacting with this study. You can sign up now, but we'll start reading tomorrow, October 2nd.
Here's How It Will Work
Everyone is being discipled by something.
All the time.
The messages we hear, the words we read, the shows we watch - all of it is shaping us. Drip by drip our worldviews and beliefs are being formed and these shape the way we think and the actions that we take.
The dominant messages in our lives will shape us. There is no way around that. If we listen to talk radio all day long, guess what - we will begin to think and process our world through a lens shaped by the message of the radio shows we listen to.
If we watch prime time television and late night talk shows daily, guess what - we will begin to think and process our world through a lens shaped by the messages of the shows we watch.
What we watch, listen to and read are all shaping us.
We have no power over the shaping but we do have the power to chose what will shape us.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
What is shaping you?
I’ve been enjoying Paul Kroeker’s book In The Way of Jesus. It is a book I’d easily recommend to anyone concerned with the state of the church and disciple making today.
One part of the disciple making journey is humility.
Kroeker relates a story of a time he took a group of young adults to inner city Chicago for a week of ministry among the urban poor. Their first day of action found them serving at a soup kitchen where they washed dishes most of the day.
The second day found them back at the soup kitchen and back at the dish washing. When the third day rolled around and they found themselves headed back to the drudgery of the dishwasher, the group became visibly upset.
When asked about it one young man replied, “I didn’t come all this way just to do dishes. I could do that at home. I thought we were here to do something more exciting, like ministry.”
The response from the leader of the ministry was this:
“Until you can do dishes to serve the poor, I’m not sure we can use you anywhere else. Humility is the posture of Jesus. When we see that quality in you, we know we can ask you to serve anyone, anywhere, at any time.”
What does true humility look like though? The anointed and future King David gives us a picture of humility in 1 Samuel 19.
Once more war broke out, and David went out and fought the Philistines. He struck them with such force that they fled before him. But an evil spirit from the Lord came on Saul as he was sitting in his house with his spear in his hand. While David was playing the lyre, Saul tried to pin him to the wall with his spear, but David eluded him as Saul drove the spear into the wall. That night David made good his escape.
I’ve most often been drawn to the spear in this story. It’s hard to miss Saul trying to pin David to the wall with it. But in this passage we see the true character of David.
It begins with war and glory. David leads the men into battle and once again routes the enemy. He is the top dog, the leader of men, the hero of the hour. He should be given the key to the city, a ticker tape parade, his picture on the front of The Jerusalem Times.
But rather than all of that, David returns to playing his lyre as a servant of the king.
He returns not to a hero's welcome but to step again into his position as one of the court servants.
David doesn’t dwell on what he deserves or what is the best use of his time. He skips all the questions of prestige and honor and his rights.
He has just one question to answer. It's a question we all need to answer:
How can I serve the King?
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 weird, legalistic or even a bit foolish.
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 learn to make. We must move toward teaching and modeling obedience to Jesus.
And if a push toward obedience sounds weird, legalistic or foolish 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.
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
He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”
Throughout the gospels, Jesus presents principles for ministry through parables. These principles are then modeled by Jesus and applied in his assignments for the disciples. This particular parable includes a number of important principles for discipleship and has been an influential part of shaping the Everywhere to Everywhere training weekend event. Nathan and Kari Shank, long term workers and movement catalysts in India, have unpacked the parable of the growing seed in their training manual Four Fields of Kingdom Growth.
[Download the manual for free HERE]
The Five Parts of the Four Fields
In Four Fields of Kingdom Growth, Shank points out that in the parable of the growing seed there are four contexts or fields. There is also a fifth element that is important in every movement of God. He offers a key question for each that focus both our kingdom work strategy and our training of new believers.
Field #4 - The Harvested Field - Eventually a season of harvest comes and the farmer is there to cut and bundle the harvest.
Key Question: How do I form a new believers into groups or churches?
Leader Multiplication - Generational Multiplication Potential - Out of the harvest comes both fruit for this year and seed for the coming growing season.
Key Question: How do I develop and multiply movement leaders?
Jesus says that this is what the kingdom of God is like. It seems then that the parable of the growing seed could be a helpful framework around which to build a life of discipleship and ministry. It is the framework that has shaped much of the training we do at Everywhere to Everywhere events across the Midwest. And within it are principles that have been observed in every movement of kingdom expansion throughout history.
Every disciple of Jesus should be trained and able to identify and understand how to enter the fields of lostness in their context, whether that be a Muslim village in Central Asia or their suburban neighborhood in Wichita or Fresno.
Every disciple of Jesus should be trained and able to proclaim the good news of the gospel with anyone, anywhere and anytime.
Every disciple of Jesus should be trained and able to disciple new believers into a mature, healthy and growing relationship with Jesus and into the lifestyle of disciple making.
And every disciple of Jesus should be trained and able to gather believers together as the body of Christ.
The final element, leadership multiplication, is an important part of healthy discipleship and kingdom growth. The Apostle Paul always had two to three disciples with him who he was training up and releasing into ministry.
Without the multiplication of leadership, the making of disciples will always come to a bottleneck. But as young disciples take what they have learned and pass it on to other disciples who will pass it on to others (2 Timothy 2:2), the kingdom will expand, our churches will grow and great commission discipleship will be a reality.
This is exactly what we see in this parable, in the workings of Jesus and in the unfolding story of the the growth of the early church in the book of Acts. This is what we see in the the great movements of kingdom expansion throughout history. And this is what we see happening in the kingdom movements spreading across countries all around the world today.
The Kingdom parables serve as a framework for understanding Jesus’ kingdom agenda across the gospel accounts. Jesus’ kingdom agenda serves as a working job description for both his disciples and our lives and ministries.”
The four fields framework also creates a helpful rubric against which we can assess our own discipleship journey. It is a bit of a diagnostic tool which can help us see the places where we need more discipleship and training so that we can become the kind of kingdom agents that Jesus has called us to be.
Just as he was sent, he is sending us into a lost and broken world to be his ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:20) and witnesses (Acts 1:8).
Work through the following questions to help you understand where you might need additional training in order to step into your role as an ambassador and witness.
If you answered “no” to any of these questions or just felt unsure of whether you understand what or how to step into these kingdom assignments, find your pastor or a trusted mentor and ask them to help you get equipped.
Reach out to your nearest Multiply regional mobilizer and ask them to come and do some training with your congregation.
Consider coming to an Everywhere to Everywhere three day missional training event or hosting one in your region.
And check out the great training opportunities at the No Place Left website.
However you respond, do something!
Amidst this need to learn to do the work of the kingdom, we must remember that applying the principles of this parable to the ministry of making disciples and planting churches demands dependency on the Holy Spirit.
It is the work of the Holy Spirit - the unknown doer in the parable - that causes the seed to sprout and to grow.
As Christ’s disciples, there is a path laid out in the parable for how we can join in the work of the Spirit, but it is the Spirit that brings the growth. This was the understanding of Paul, who in 1 Corinthians 3:6 says, “I planted, Apollos watered but it was God who made it grow.”
There are things that Paul and Apollos need to do and to train others to do, but spiritual fruit is always because of the power of God.
My hope is that this parable will help you discover some of the places where you need more training or encouragement to become those who go and make disciples.
This Christmas break our family visited the Cosmosphere in Hutchinson, Kansas and learned all about the race to the moon. The men and women who worked on that program were asked to do what seemed impossible. They had to work toward answers to questions that they did not yet know existed. They needed to develop systems that were not yet developed. The vision to put a man on the moon was far bigger than their own capacities and yet they did it. They worked with a determination that would get their men to the moon.
“. . . but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus.”
- Luke 5:19
If you are not familiar with the story of the paralytic whose friends would let nothing stop them from getting him into the healing presence of Jesus, I’d encourage you to stop and read the short story in Luke 5:17-26.
These were men whose determination would let nothing stop them from bringing their friend to the feet of Jesus. They were men of stubborn perseverance who knew their ultimate objective and were determined to achieve that objective no matter the obstacles and no matter the cost.
This is a theme Jesus brings us back to again and again in the book of Luke. A man loses a single lamb and he leaves the ninety-nine others to search far and wide for it. A woman loses a single silver coin and sweeps the house in search of it despite the nine others she has in her pocket.
Relentless searching seems to be the appropriate response in the kingdom of God to the reality of the lost. And celebration is the appropriate response to finding what was lost.
What’s It Going To Take
I first heard the term “Wig-Take” in 2007 in Chang Mai Thailand. Our trainer was telling of his work in SE Asia among an unreached people group numbering in the millions. He was sharing the plan that he and his team had developed to reach the entire people group. They had started in prayer with a simple question that he called a Wig-Take question: What is it going to take to reach this people group?
I’d grown up with questions like, “How can we get more people to come to our church?” a vision which suddenly seemed stunningly inadequate in light of his vision to reach an entire people group; a remote ethnic group of nearly 2 million people with no gospel access and no known believers and who were largely illiterate.
It began to seem even more inadequate as he shared stories of their work among these people and what God was doing.
This question presupposes a vision that is bigger than me. It’s presupposes a God sized vision, a vision I could never accomplish alone.
Pastor Chris Galanos writes about how he discovered the Wig-Take principles and explains it this way, “What’s It Going to Take to Reach Everyone in the People Group?” Not what can I do or what can you do. Not what have others done before us. Not what’s possible. No. What’s it going to take? That’s the question we must ask! We have to be willing to do whatever it’s going to take! [read the whole article]
Our trainer in Thailand challenged us with the statement, “If your vision is something you can accomplish by yourself, your vision is probably too small.”
I want to encourage you to begin to dream and pray for a God sized vision for your context.
Perhaps you live in a city: What is it going to take to reach everyone in your city?
Perhaps you live in a small rural town: What is it going to take to reach everyone in your county?
Perhaps you are working among a remote group of people in Africa: What is it going to take to reach ALL of them?
Pray to the Lord of the harvest for a God sized vision and then begin to ask yourself, what is it going to take?
Are we willing to do whatever it is going to take?
When a student says to me, "You're so talented, I could never do what you do." I shouldn't be flattered.
Transferability in the ministry context is the idea the that the tools, strategies and methods that we use in ministry could be easily copied and used by anyone we are working with. Another way of talking about this is to ask the question:
Is it reproducible?
Could my 14 year old son use a particular method or ministry tool? Could he do what I'm doing? And could he help someone else do it?
These are important considerations when we think about making disciples who can make disciples. When Jesus gave us the great commission, his command was to make disciples and teach them to obey all that he commanded.
In that regard, everyone who is a disciple of Jesus should be making disciples of Jesus. If the process has somehow become overly complicated, if our methods require so much knowledge or training or expertise that the average follower of Jesus can't obey Jesus, then we've got something wrong.
If we desire to see our disciples make disciples then we have to begin to examine what we are doing to disciple them and ask a few questions:
If the answer to any of those questions is NO then we may need to ruthlessly evaluate what we are doing and how we are teaching.
Movements are not built on the expertise and charisma of a few but on the on the priesthood of all believers equipped and released to make disciples who make disciples.
Disciples need faith, they need vision, they need to be released with authority to do the work. But they also need to be equipped with tools that they can use and teach others to use.
And to do that, we must evaluate the tools and methodologies we are using and determine if they are reproducible.
[check out Giving Up Control, a great ebook by A. J. DeJonge for $0.99 on Kindle]
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.