A sermon given at Hillsboro Mennonite Brethren Church on the strategies and disciple making process of Jesus in Luke 10:1-24.
This week I'll be co-teaching a workshop on refugee outreach at Crescent Project's National Conference. My colleague James will begin that workshop with a short devotional from Luke chapter 7 where Jesus is asked to heal a centurion's servant.
It's a story that has caused me a fare amount of conviction the past few weeks as I've meditated on it. I'll hope it does the same for you.
Jesus has just finished teaching the masses when a group of elders from the Jewish synagogue show up to ask him to come and heal a Roman centurion's servant who has fallen ill. Roman centurion's were the senior officers of a legion of Roman soldiers.
Roman soldiers who are occupying Israel.
Roman soldiers who have brutalized and oppressed the Jewish people.
Already this story is a bit crazy.
But when these elders get to Jesus they don't just ask, they plead with Jesus saying, "He is worthy for You to do this for him, for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue."
Jesus goes with these elders and the story ends with the centurion telling Jesus he doesn't need to come, he just needs to say the word. The centurion understands authority and Jesus famously praises the man saying, "I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith."
This is the part that is most often the focus of the story but let's go back to the request of the Jewish elders. In every respect, the Roman occupation has been a terrible blight on the Jews in Israel. And yet here are the oppressed pleading the case of a man who is supposed to be their enemy.
Because he loves them. He has poured out his love in generosity. He has lived a life among them that has demonstrated extraordinary love.
And the question James challenges us with is this: Is your church living in such a way with the refugee and immigrant communities in your context that if the government came to shut your church down, would refugees and immigrants be the first ones to come and plead your case?
Would refugees in your community come out saying, "No, you can't shut this church down! They've loved us. They've helped us with extravagant generosity."
Do our churches have a centurion's reputation?
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I’ve had a great summer. One of the highlights has been connecting online with Ali, an Egyptian engineer. We connect every Monday over lunch and it’s been a joy to get to know him and his family. We have recently started reading through a creation to Christ overview in the Bible. Next week we’ll tackle Genesis 3 and the fall. Ali is Muslim. I am the first true follower of Christ that he has ever met and this is the first time he has read the Bible.
This summer I’ve also connected regularly with Mustafa, a young Muslim man in Syria and Mohammed, a Muslim college student in Lahore, Pakistan. It has been a joy to build a relationship with both of them.
I’ve been able to connect with them because of Embassy.
Hundreds of thousands of Muslims living in hard to reach countries speak your language and are going online to find friendship, language partners and answers to their questions.
Embassy exists so that they will meet a committed follower of Christ. Embassy offers training, encouragement and community and then helps you discover new Muslim friends online.
“Embassy volunteers use secular, public-access forums to connect with Muslims in closed countries who speak English. As men and women begin to read the Bible and engage in questions about Jesus, we invite them to include their friends and family in the conversation: small seeds growing to something great (Matthew 13:31-32).” *
Embassy is an amazing opportunity for the North American church to be on the front lines of the great commission.
What could God do through the local church?
Through your local church?
Imagine if you - yes you reader - were to go back to your home church and help form an Embassy Team.
Imagine if you could gather a group of friends who would begin reaching out individually online while also meeting regularly as a group to pray together, encourage one another and continue with ongoing equipping.
God is on the move in the Muslim world and this is an opportunity to join in that work.
Steps to Forming Your Embassy Team
“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."
Forming an Embassy Team is your opportunity to respond.
You can learn more about Embassy and sign up to volunteer at their website: www.thisisembassy.org
In John 4, Jesus talks with a Samaritan woman at well outside of her town. During this interaction, the woman begins to suspect and even believe that Jesus might be the prophesied messiah.
Leaving her water jugs, she rushes back to her community where she proclaims, “Come see a man who told me everything I did. Could he be the messiah?”
We don’t know a lot about this woman, but the result of this simple statement is that the people of her villiage come out to see Jesus for themselves and many believed.
Jesus spends two unplanned days with the townsfolk who end by saying, “We no longer believe just because of what you [the woman] said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.” [read the story here]
We have learned to use this story as a teaching tool at our E2E training events. It answers a few questions to help us share the gospel:
The woman goes back to her community; her friends and family and acquaintances. This is her relational network. And our own relation networks are who we can begin to share with and for whom we should be praying regularly [Read: Personal Prayer Strategy].
The woman shares two things. The first is a one sentence summary of her story. The second is a question pointing to the gospel. Those are two ways we see the good news shared in the New Testament: personal testimony and gospel presentation.
These are what we can share.
And when does the woman begin to share? After her seminary training? After her confirmation class or new members class? No. The woman begins sharing immediately! She has discovered good news and she will not be stopped.
With today’s article we want to look at that middle question: What do we share?
We’ve previously written about a helpful tool for sharing the gospel called The Three Circles. There are a lot of great gospel sharing tools, but this is one we train people to use at E2E events.
We also train everyone how to share their story in 15 seconds. This is just a smidge longer than the Samaritan woman’s testimony but the purpose is the same: to invite people to learn more about Jesus. This is something we’ve learned from the No Place Left coalition.
We use the diagram below as a teaching tool to help shape our 15 second testimonies. There is also a great training video that I’d encourage you to watch both to craft your own 15 second testimony but also to have as a tool to train others.
We aren't using the 15 second testimony to explain the fullness of the gospel. We use it to open up spiritual conversations that give us a chance to hear someone’s story and to invite them to come and discover Jesus for themselves.
[Read an example of how this was shared]
Crafting Your 15 Second Testimony
Watch the video below and allow Troy Cooper to train you to share your 15 Second Testimony.
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
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.
In John 4, Jesus and his disciples were walking toward Galilee and were passing through Samaria. Tired from the journey, Jesus sat down by a well while his disciples scooted off to a nearby town to pick up some food. A Samaritan woman came to the well to draw water and Jesus spoke to her saying, “Will you give me a drink?”
There is all kinds of background and context to this exchange but in the course of the conversation between Jesus and this woman, she comes to realize that Jesus is someone very special, the long awaited Messiah.
Once she realizes this, she leaves her water jug where it is, hurries back to her town and says to the people there, “Come, see a man who told me everything I did. Could he be the Messiah?”
And the people respond. They come out to the well to meet Jesus for themselves where they eventually are lead to say, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”
Making disciples begins with telling others about the good news of Jesus; the gospel. As we train people to make disciples, we find it helpful to answer a few simple questions to help people get started.
This story helps us answer the question of who. Who should we share with?
Who did the Samaritan woman share with? She went back to her town and shared with the people who knew her and by whom she was known. There is a relationship already established. And this is the place where we are all called to start making disciples.
In Acts 17, the Apostle Paul is speaking at the Areopagus in Athens and he says, “From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.”
Have you ever thought that you are where you are, that you have the neighbors and co-workers that you do because God appointed you to be their neighbor or co-worker or friend right where you are? Paul continues by telling us why this is so: “God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.”
Like the Samaritan woman, we have neighbors, friends and acquaintances who need to hear about the the good news of the Kingdom of God.
And it’s no mistake that you are in their lives!
God wants to use you to introduce them to Himself.
Our lives are busy! Too often we get going through our days and weeks and, without some intentional effort, we easily miss the opportunities that God is putting before us. I too often find myself with my head down and it’s go, go, go.
At our E2E events one of the training strategies we use is to have everyone take five minutes to pray about their life and think about the people in their life. We then have them make a list on a note card of everyone they can think of who they think is far from God. I’d like to challenge you to do this activity right now for yourself.
Here are the four steps:
If you can do this; if you can begin to pray daily, I can almost guarantee that God will begin using you. You’ll find your friends suddenly asking questions about God. You’ll find that you are more readily transitioning to spiritual conversations and that you conversations are more fruitful than you would have imagined.
God delights to answer these kinds of prayers for our lost friends and family members.
And then they won't believe just because of what we have said, but will believe because they have met the Lord Jesus!
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!
Driving through Mcpherson, KS on my way back from an Everywhere to Everywhere training event in Wichita, I pulled into a gas station to fill up for the drive back to South Dakota. Mcpherson is a small midwestern town of around 13,000 people with a small Christian college, a strong economy and a lot of churches.
But there behind the counter was an olive skinned man whose heavy accent belied the reality that he was not born in the U.S. With curiosity and expectation I asked where he was from and he told me his homeland was India.
I inquired further, "So if you are from India, you speak both English and Hindi, but you also probably speak a third language as well, is that right?"
Surprised by my interest, he smiled and said, "Yes, I also speak Gujarati."
While he was telling me this and ringing up the sale, I pulled out my smartphone and opened the Jesus Film App. Clicking on the "map" tab, I showed him the map of the world that opened up on the screen. Zooming in on India, I tapped the little red flag that opened up a list of over 200 languages that are spoken there.
I pointed at what looked like the language he had mentioned and he said, "Yes, that is it. That’s my language."
Ten seconds later the Jesus Film began playing in his native tongue - a language spoken by nearly 57 million people. The man smiled then and nodding his head happily said, "Yes! Yes, that is my language."
The Gujarati people are an unreached people group at less than 1% evangelical Christian. And there he was right behind the counter selling me gasoline and a coke as we listened to the beginning of the Jesus film in his native language.
But then he caught me off guard as he asked me a question.
"Are you a Christian?"
"Yes," I replied, "I am a follower of Jesus." I was giddy with anticipation, thinking that this was one of those God prepared moments, that perhaps he'd had a dream of Jesus and was going to ask me to tell him how to become a Christian.
It was indeed a God prepared moment, but the the lesson was to be for me.
Reaching beneath the counter and pulling out a magazine, the man said, "Another Christian was here a few days ago and gave me this." He held out the magazine for me to see.
It was a pamphlet from the Jehovah's Witnesses.
The least reached from the world are here. They are immigrating to our cities and towns. They are coming to our universities. They are looking for friendship and hope and truth and if we don't reach them, someone else will.
If it’s not the Jehovah’s Witnesses, it’ll be the Mormons or the American dream or secular humanism or radical jihadists or atheists.
Someone at some time will reach them.
The only question is who it will be and with what message. Let us not neglect God's call to reach the nations locally, nationally and globally.
We all have a role to play in God's global purpose.
We had been in Bang Chalong for months, and while we clearly felt God leading us to serve there, I often faced many feelings of inadequacy.
I had never planted a church before. In fact, I barely finished two years of Bible College! I don’t play guitar, so I couldn’t even use music as a way to draw people in. There were so many gifts that I lacked, so much that I could not do. Then God showed me that there was one thing that I could do. I learned this from the Book of Nehemiah. I saw that Nehemiah spent a lot of time in prayer before he ever built anything. I thought to myself, that’s something I can do! I can pray! So I began to do this.
We would rise early, at four in the morning, so that we could stand on a high bridge and see everyone going off to their jobs. We prayed over each person that we saw. Then we would walk the streets of Bang Chalong, praying for opportunities to meet people, to build relationships and to share the Gospel.
>>> read the rest of the story here
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