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.
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.
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.
I've been thinking a lot about the different phases of the growth of the church. In a place like Turkey where the church is small - well less than 1% of the population are followers of Jesus - the church looks different than it looks in a place like Europe or the United States - places where the church has been established for hundreds, even thousands of years.
When I came across the video below, I found it helpful as I struggle with some of the realities of my context in the U.S. where the church has largely been institutionalized and professionalized and is quickly moving into a post Christian reality. It was helpful as well as I thought about the many works we are helping to support in unreached areas of our world - places like Turkey.
There are some good lessons to be drawn from Ray Vaughn's explanation. Church historians will undoubtedly find flaws in the explanation, but I found it helpful to think about. As we consider the different contexts where we seek to be faithful to proclaim the good news and make disciples, there are lessons that we need to learn and apply.
This teaching is 30 minutes long. It is a basic overview of what missiologists have observed in each of the phases of the growth, expansion and decline of the church throughout history and throughout the world. It is descriptive not prescriptive, a backwards glance at what has happened, not theoretical thinking about what we should do. I'd encourage you to find some time to watch it with a few questions in mind.
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]
Zume is a small group training module focused on helping small bands of Jesus followers learn how to obey the great commission and to multiply.
And in that, it is not your average small group study.
Zume is an online training that has ten lessons of roughly two hours each.
Zúme means yeast in Greek. In Matthew 13:33, Jesus is quoted as saying, "The Kingdom of Heaven is like a woman who took yeast and mixed it into a large amount of flour until it was all leavened." This illustrates how ordinary people, using ordinary resources, can have an extraordinary impact for the Kingdom of God. Zúme aims to equip and empower ordinary believers to saturate the globe with multiplying disciples in our generation.
Gather a group of like minded friends and get started today!
Over the last decade I've been regularly learning about discipleship and particularly, the principles of discipleship that lead to multiplication and the rapid expansion of the kingdom of God. One of the sources of that continued learning which has perhaps had more influence than any other is the Movements Podcast by Steve Addison.
Steve regularly interviews practitioners from across the world who are applying these principles and seeing movements emerge. I'd encoueage you to skip over to Steve's website right now and find out how you can subscribe to the podcast.
Visit Movements.net Now
One of those practitioners who has been frequent guest and who is one of the leaders of the No Place Left movement across the world is Jeff Sundell. It is not without reason that Jeff, who hales from Bugger Hollow North Carolina and who spent much of his life making disciples in Asia, has been perhaps the most frequent guest on the Movements Podcast.
And so when the most recent episode of the podcast featured a report from Jeff and his wife Angie's summer in Athens, I queued it up on my phone to listen to right away. I was not disappointed and there were so many nuggets of insight in their reporting that I went back and listened again, taking notes of the things that seemed extra important.
And so with this post I'd like to share those insights and encourage you to find some time in the next week to listen to the interview for yourself (or you can watch now below).
Here are a five of the nuggets that I gleaned from their conversation. If there are any "nuggets" that you hear that I didn't mention, feel free to share them in the comments below.
1. The Gospel is worth it.
Angie started the inteview talking about the many times they heard heartbreaking stories from refugees who had lost everything. People whose homes were destroyed, who had lost jobs, who had lost everything and over and over again they would say, "It was worth it! It was worth it because when I came here I got to hear about Jesus." The Gospel is worth it!
2. Train everyone to be a disciple maker.
One of the adjustments that the disciple makers had to make as they worked with refugee populations had to do with the transient nature of the people. A new believer from a Muslim background might be in Athens for a year or they might just be there for a month or even days. The workers on the ground began to cast vision early and often for the great commission and to train everyone to identify lostness, to share their faith and to make disciples. Everyone they worked with was seen as a potential missionary carrying the gospel to the next location whether that was further into Europe or back to their own country. Train everyone!
3. Little happens if disciples of Jesus are not broken for lostness.
Again and again, they saw that the hearts of those who had found faith in Christ and who were sharing that faith boldly, were broken for the lost. Their families didn't know Jesus. Their people didn't know Jesus. That was a heavy burden on their hearts which compelled them to go and to pray and to share. All the methods and tools in the world will do little good if the people of God are not broken by the lostness around them.
4. Focus on the grandchildren.
This was one of the most interesting and powerful lessons from the interview. As the summer progressed, one of the changes they made in coaching and relating to the leaders in Athens, was to stop asking about how they were doing at sharing the gospel, discipling new believers and leading new churches and to begin talking with them only about how their grandchildren were doing at those things. In other words, they began consistently asking about their disciples' disciples. This shift lead to more concientious focus on training disciples to train disciples and resulted in better discipleship.
5. A Hub stategy allows for local, national and global mission to exist.
I had first heard the idea of a hub strategy from Steve Smith in a 2016 article in Mission Frontiers Magazine. That article caught my attention and over the last few years I have continued to think about what home hubs would actually look like. It was Troy Cooper's Great Commission Pipeline video about a hub strategy which was published in April of 2018 that really fleshed out the idea for me though. Jeff and Angie got to see the fruit of that kind of strategy in Athens and it is exciting to see it develop and grow.
Those are five things that I gleaned from the interview.
What about you?
Watch the interview below!
I have heard the sentiment from a number of different people over the last few years - usually from moms.
Aren't there any missions experiences or training events that we can do as a family?
Too often, in order to get trained or to go out on a mission trip, we have to find someone to watch the kids and yet we want desperately to model for our kids what it means to live on mission.
Not easy to do when we are forced to leave the kids at home.
Everywhere to Everywhere has always been an event that is open to families coming and we've worked to create an experiential weekend of learning and training that older kids can enter into along with mom and dad.
Our regular E2E training weekends are good for high schoolers and mature junior high students who come with a parent. The learning is often discovery based and interactive and much of the weekend is experienced outside of the training room at the local mosque, ethnic restaurants and in neighborhoods.
But it still hasn't been conducive to a family with elementary aged children. And so in May we will have our very first E2E Family Weekend.
The idea is to create a weekend of learning and ministry that the whole family can come to together. It will be for school aged kids and above. We still aren't ready for babies and toddlers but are working to create a great weekend that the whole family can enter into together.
We will continue to working on the details and adjustments that need to be made and even today I came across another challenge that we need to consider: early bedtimes!
Our family is working together to create a weekend that your family can enter into together. But we'd love your feedback as well. Stop by and read through the program description page and then share your ideas in the comments for adaptations and adjustments that would help create a family friendly E2E weekend.
The dates for the first E2E Family will be May 31 - June 2 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
It’s not often mentioned in the list of important qualities of disciples of Jesus but in our strung out western world, it may well be the most important gift followers of Jesus have to offer a broken and hurting world.
It is what Moses had when God called him to lead the people of Israel out of captivity. He was not a gifted speaker. He made bad decisions. He wasn’t very brave. But he was available and in his going back to Egypt he allowed God to work through him to rescue slaves unto freedom and to move God’s redemptive story forward.
Availability is what Gideon had when God called him to lead an army. Granted, Gideon was hiding in a winepress when God found him, and he wasn’t exactly excited to jump on God’s bandwagon. Once Gideon’s fleece was wet however, he obeyed even as God reduced his regiment to a hilariously small number that gave all the glory to God in victory.
And Rahab was available too.
She was a woman of ill repute, a foreigner and a prostitute who at the time we can assume knew very little of the God of the Israelites except what she has overheard; that He had been victorious in recent skirmishes and miraculously parted the Red Sea. She steps into God’s redemptive story when two of Israel’s spies step into her room and she risks her life to hide them.
If we survey the prominent characters of the Biblical narrative, few are chosen because they are highly qualified leaders. A few were of course – King Saul, Judas, Saul of Tarsus, but most of these didn’t work out so well. It seems the highly qualified often lean a little too deeply into self reliance and self reliance usually leads to trusting in man rather than trusting in God.
Relying on his own gifts and abilities and education, Saul of Tarsus was hunting down followers of Jesus to have them arrested and thrown in prison. It was only when he left his highly qualified self behind that Saul became available to become Paul and the man whom God could use to build his church.
When we look through the hall of fame that is Hebrews eleven, the number one thing each of the faithful had to give to God was themselves.
They said yes. They were available.
And while Jesus is highly qualified in every way, he models the radical availability that allowed him to say, “the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does, the Son also does.”
And that is why Jesus’ ministry looks so vastly different than the successful ministries of today. His is the ministry of availability, of responding to the interruptions of the masses, of walking miles out of his way to heal a leader’s son, of inviting the little children to come to him.
Jesus’ model is not that of the best leadership style but of availability.
Jesus' avalibility in ministry begins as He models an availability to abide. Despite an incredibly full ministry, Jesus routinely makes time to be with the Father. He is part of the triune forever relationship of God and Son and Holy Spirit and this carries on into His thirty three years on earth.
He is a master of scripture, a mastery that most certainly came from years of immersion in those same scriptures. He is a master as well of prayer, of interceding on behalf of the sick and the demon possessed and the lost. There is authority in his prayers. And Jesus is the master at communing with God, of walking in a living relationship with the Father.
He is the master of abiding and he invites us first and foremost to do the same. And so while the immediate needs of the masses continually pressed in around him during his ministry on earth, we see the clear model that, “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”
When Peter and John were before the Sanhedrin in Acts 4, the characteristic recorded for all posterity is not that of highly qualified leadership skills or a refined speaking ability. It was that they had been with Jesus. The Sanhedrin note that while they were “ordinary unschooled men”, they had been with Jesus. Peter and John had become masters of abiding with God because it is the model that Jesus gave them.
And so at the forefront of the discipleship journey, we as followers of Jesus must learn to be available to abide with him. Despite the chaos of our frenzied western existence, we must learn to set aside time to be with Jesus.
Abiding is to be our first act of availability.
It was from this lifestyle of abiding availability that Jesus’ ministry flowed. And in his three years of ministry as recorded in the gospels, He models again and again the servant heart that makes him available to engage hurting, lost people – even when they interrupt him.
It seems an almost regular occurrence that Jesus responds to a pleading father, a frightened and sick woman or a shouting blind man. He is regularly going one way and then – in response to a need – heads another way. It seems at times haphazard and yet it’s not.
His ministry is focused.
He went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. There was purpose in his journeys. He trained up twelve men who would go on to launch His movement. He gave his followers what they needed – himself – to spread the good news of His kingdom.
Like Jesus we must live strategic lives of engagement with a clear goal in mind. But the way to do that – as modeled by Jesus – is first and foremost to be with God. To make knowing God our first priority.
And when we do. When we learn to discern the voice of God. When we begin to do only what the Father is doing.
Then we will be working in the ministry of availability.
Dyann was baptized just 5 years ago. She knew she was committed, but wasn’t sure what to do next. She decided to read through the Bible. On doing so she naturally evaluated her life against what she was learning about God and His people.
Coincidentally, her church was gearing up for an extended mission conference where there were many missionary guests. She was deeply moved by the whole-life surrender of the individuals and families she was meeting. She decided to take the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement course and had her entire world opened up before her.
What she learned is that her role was to reach her neighbors, whoever they may be, with the good news of the Gospel.
“It really is my job to get to share this.”
Perhaps the most precious thing about her testimony is her heart that is obviously broken for the lost who do not know the love of God.
Dyann has already received training to share her faith and has begun training others to do the same even as she shares her own faith regularly. She has also served cross-culturally in Argentina, Lebanon and next up, Mexico.
Do you want to see this kind of transformation in your life?
We'd love to help you. Join us for our next Everywhere to Everywhere training event.
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