I've found the story of Jonah to be a helpful starting place for the North American church when it comes to exploring our attitudes and actions toward people from groups other than our own - Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Atheists or the LGBTQ community.
Jonah is at best, the reluctant prophet. His reticence to go along with the mission of God to save the Ninevites becomes almost a distraction to the main message of Jonah's book: the heart of God to save. But God does save the Ninevites who repent and believe and turn from their wicked ways.
Meanwhile, Jonah heads out to a hill beside the city in hopes that fire will still fall. It's there that the curious event with a shade plant growing and then dying occurs.
Jonah had gone out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. Then the Lord God provided a leafy plant and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the plant. But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the plant so that it withered. When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.”
Jonah was concerned about the plant and the comfort that it afforded him.
The heart of God however was to save.
The heart of Jonah was somewhere else, focused on something he thought he was loosing. Something he thought was important but that God didn't think was important. At least not as important as saving the Ninevites.
This particular point in the story has had me thinking lately about the plants in my own life that I elevate above the mission and purposes of God -- the old wine skins that Jesus is inviting me to let go of in favor of new wine skins.
Jonah is not a Bible character that we should emulate. His is not an example to follow. God seems to place the story of Jonah in the scriptures first and foremost to demonstrate His heart for the nations - even nations bent on evil.
But there is an important opportunity in the story of Jonah to reflect on our own hearts.
Take fifteen minutes to read or listen to the story of Jonah and then answer the following questions:
Feel free to interact with these questions and the E2E community in the comments below.
The Gospel of Mark is an action packed biography of the life of Jesus. The very first chapter begins with John the Baptist preparing the way, Jesus getting baptised and then heading into the wilderness for forty days of fasting and temptation from Satan.
By verse fifteen Mark jumps straight into ministry as Jesus comes into the region of Galilee announcing, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
Jesus calls the twelve to follow him at the sea and then heads into the town of Capernaum where he preaches in the synagogue, heals a man with an unclean spirit and later heals Peter’s mother-in-law.
Verse 28 tells us that “immediately his fame spread everywhere throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.” Before the day is out, people are lined up at Peter’s door wanting to see Jesus, to be healed and to be set free from demons. I imagine this went on late into the night.
Not a bad first day of ministry. Exhausting let’s assume, but good.
If we were to stop the story there and pretend we didn’t know what Jesus did next, how would we finish the story?
I think I would probably sleep in the next morning. It was a long, hard day of ministry and I’d need to be good and rested up. Once I did get up, I’d probably start looking for a big hall to rent knowing that the crowds are back. I’d maybe print up some flyers to let everyone know when and where we’d be meeting again and I’d encourage everyone to invite all of their friends.
But of course this isn’t the path of Jesus.
He rises very early in the morning to head out and spend some time in prayer with the Father (verse 35). When his disciples find him, all excited about the crowds that are already forming (verse 37), Jesus’ response must have seemed just a bit counter-intuitive. “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out (verse 38).”
And that is exactly what Jesus did. “He went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons (verse 39).”
From the very beginning of his ministry, Jesus defaults toward going. We see this over and over again in the ministry and teachings of Jesus.
Here are a few examples from the book of Mark:
Jesus prepares the disciples to go and expects them to go (Acts 1:8). It is his prayer that as he has been sent into the world, he will send his disciples into the world as well (John 17:18).
And the commission given to his disciples in Matthew 28, “to go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything he had commanded”, is the strategy of Jesus.
Making disciples who make disciples is His plan A.
Jesus promised he would build his church. We are to go and make disciples.
We are to be church. To do that, we must gather. It is the example that the first church gives us (Acts 2:42-47; Acts 4:32-37) and is clearly taught in scripture (Matthew 18:20; Hebrews 10:25; Colossians 3:16; Ephesians 4:11-13).
But the purpose of church is not to gather. The purpose is to gather so that we can scatter, so that we can go and make disciples, proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ and make him famous all over the earth.
Jesus’ invitation to us is to follow him. And Jesus is on the move.
So let’s go.
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.
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:
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.
We are excited to announce that we have three Everywhere to Everywhere (E2E) training events scheduled for this spring!
This three day training event will prepare you to make disciples who make disciples among the unreached.
You can learn more about the event by reading the program description and looking at a sample schedule a the Program Page.
You can find all your registration, training dates and pricing information at the Trainings Page.
I've been a Christian all of my life and this is the most practical training about sharing my faith that I have ever received!
E2E Training Location and Dates:
Wichita, Kansas - March 9 - 11 (register here)
Sioux Falls, South Dakota - April 26-28 (register here)
Sioux Falls, South Dakota [E2E Family Training] - May 31 - June 2 (learn more)
Help Spread the Word
Will you help us spread the word about these great training opportunities. Please take a moment to share this post on your favorite social media platform.
Feel free to print off a few of these flyers to hang up at your local church. [E2E Flyer]
Thanks so much!
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.
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.
Learn about Perspectives
The Rock Community Church
Here is a question for you: Are you training or teaching your disciples?
You may be wondering, is there a difference?
There is a difference and despite the differences, they are both used powerfully by God to raise up disciples. Both are valuable and important, but we too often try to teach things that we should be training.
Teaching is the passing on and receiving of information to gain knowledge.
Training is the passing on and mastering of skills.
Again, both are important.
But consider the picture above. A man is helping a younger person become a bicycle mechanic.
There are many ways to become a bicycle mechanic. My wife once bought be a book called "Bicycle Maintenance" and it gave instructions on how to fix all sorts of problems that happen with a bicycle. There were even lots of pictures.
Reading a book is one way to learn about fixing my bicycle.
But I never really became a bicycle mechanic - I had a lot of knowledge, but I didn't master the skills. That is because fixing a bicycle is more about learning skills than it is about gaining a bunch of knowledge.
To become a competent bicycle mechanic, what I need to do is spend time with a bicycle mechanic - like the boy in the picture above.
I need to change hundreds of bicycle inner tubes. I need to adjust hundreds of bicycle break problems. I need to take a apart and put back together hundreds of bicycles.
Because the only way to get competent at fixing bikes is to fix lots of bikes.
Some aspects of being a bicycle mechanic are really just about knowledge.
But most of the work of a bicycle mechanic is a skill. And there is really only one way to get competent at a skill.
Practice. Practice. Practice. Practice.
And it is that way in almost every area of life.
Anything that you do well, you do it well because you have done it a lot. You have mastered a skill.
So now let's step back and look at how we make disciples. Much of what we know to do in order to obey Jesus are actually skills that we have learned. We don't just know about prayer, we have become better at prayer as we have prayed and prayed and prayed and prayed.
We don't just know about reading our Bibles. We are a lot better at reading God's word and interacting with it and learning from it now than when we first began.
And with both, there was probably someone who modeled for you what prayer is and how to read your Bible and walked with you until you figured it out.
What are the things that disciples of Jesus do?
I would encourage you to make a list of five to ten things that you wish every member of your church was doing regularly as a disciple of Jesus and then ask yourself, "Have I trained them to do that?"
I'll give you one example that I am working to train as many disciples as I can in. We all know that as disciples of Jesus we are commanded to tell others about the gospel.
One way to do that is to share our personal testimony. Paul did this frequently in the book of Acts. In the video below you will see what we use at Everywhere to Everywhere events to train people how to share their testimony. We write out our testimonies and then we practice and practice and practice and practice until we have it memorized.
We won't be confident to share what we are not competent to share.
Learn it. Apply it. Share it. Today.
Last week we shared seven podcasts that we have found helpful to fuel the missions fire. Today we’d like to add to that list of resources and share with you seven video channels that will help you train unto the harvest and cast vision for the great commission. Some are focused purely on training and equipping the local church. Others are focused on helping the local church catch God’s vision for the nations. All have been inspiring and helpful and we hope they will do the same for you.
Everywhere to Everywhere (E2E) works to multiply healthy disciples and raise up missional leaders. We are challenged to inspire believers to cultivate a heart for the least reached locally, nationally and globally and to provide tools that will help them make a difference.
We hope that these seven video channels will support that effort.
At the bottom of the post, we’ve shared one video from each of these sites to give you a bit of the flavor of their content and we hope you will explore more.
[READ ALL OF THE 7 SERIES BLOG POSTS]
MB Mission believes in the power of story. Their videos will take you into the heart of mission all across the world, telling the stories of God’s engagement with and through his people. Powerful testimonies will encourage and inspire you.
Global Frontier Missions
Their GFM 101 series of videos have been especially helpful for casting vision with local churches and individuals. These short videos do a great job of unpacking the great commission and some key concepts that missionaries are wrestling with today.
Frontiers is one of the largest mission agencies focusing specifically on the Muslim world. These inspiring videos tell the story of God's working through his people across the Muslim world.
No Place Left Training
The No Place Left Network are a group of like minded individuals and churches who are working to see movements of disciples making disciples spread across the globe until there is no place left (Romans 15:23). In order to work toward that goal, they have been developing simple and accessible training tools. These they freely give to anyone who is interested in being a disciple who makes disciples and we have incorporated these tools into our Everywhere to Everywhere training events. The 411 Training module is a key component of E2E.
Curtis Sergeant Training for Multiplication
Curtis is one of the foremost trainers in movement methodology and has been a catalytic part of movements across the globe. His 28 multiplication concepts videos are a great first step into thinking about multiplication. They are accessible and easily understandable and at less than 10 minutes, each can be watched over a lunch break or after work.
Engage Africa has put together a series of five videos unpacking their work to see multiplying movements happen across Africa. Hosted by African pastors and practitioners, these videos allow us to learn from local leaders on the ground in Africa. Filled with powerful teaching and amazing testimony, these videos are a great tool for learning about missions and movement.
Pioneers is another large mission agency whose focus is on unreached people groups across the globe. Their videos do a good job of telling the story of what God is doing among the nations. They also have a series of videos to help train and equip sending churches - great for pastors and mission committees.
If you know of other video channels like these, feel free to share them in the comments below.
GLOBAL FRONTIER MISSIONS
NO PLACE LEFT TRAINING
CURTIS SERGEANT TRAINING
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.