In 1966, while in the United States Air Force stationed in Misawa, Japan, I had the opportunity of climbing the famous Mt. Fuji. It was a wonderful and memorable sightseeing experience. In later years, while serving with an international publishing and broadcasting ministry, I was invited to be part of some fact-finding delegations in a few foreign countries. I have reflected on those experiences and realized there are many valuable insights and lessons that can apply to witness and ministry efforts including observation and personal relationships.
Cultivating a Prayer-Care-Share Lifestyle
A few years ago we launched a prayer walking initiative, which is more than praying and more than walking. The purpose was to immediately activate and apply the training in real-life situations. The idea of cultivating a Prayer-Care-Share Lifestyle is about equipping followers of Jesus to be alert to the opportunities we have every day. Wherever we go, we can always be sightseeing and fact-finding. That is maintaining alertness to our circumstances and the people around us. We can connect with people, have conversations, establish rapport, which can often lead to spiritual conversations.
The Power of Observation
When it comes to sharing or communicating the love and message of Jesus, and making disciples, it’s often better caught than taught. Observation, engagement and personal conversations are more effective in most cases than lectures, books, instructional manuals or sermons. Those natural, spontaneous opportunities can happen regularly in our normal traffic patterns. We all live in a mission field, made up of our families, neighbors, co-workers or fellow students, and friends, as well as other connections we might have anywhere we encounter people.
Disciple-Making and Church Planting Movements are important topics of conversation among global church and mission leaders these days. Following are some important questions to consider:
- What does it take, and who is qualified to plant a church or make a disciple?
- What would a biblically-based, culturally relevant church look like in your community or city?
- What are the most important ingredients to begin a reproducing, multiplying church planting/disciple-making movement?
Based on Scripture, we know that every follower of Jesus can and should be a disciple-maker. Furthermore, properly understanding what a church exists for, that every follower of Jesus can be instrumental in churches (groups of Jesus followers) being planted. We are not actually commanded in Scripture to plant churches, but to plant the Seed of the Word of God, the Gospel. We are to communicate the Good News of Jesus to everyone and to make disciples of all people. I’d like to suggest that there are some simple, practical steps to get us on the journey of doing just that.
How the Gospel Spreads
Consider how the Gospel spread throughout the entire populated world in the First Century, before the invention of radio, television, the internet, or the printing press. Think about how God preserved the accuracy of His message (His Word) in predominantly oral cultures, before it became a written text. The more we understand about the early Church, the better we can understand about what it will take to communicate the Good News of Jesus and make disciples among the least and last unreached people of the world. Dr. Thom Wolf, a respected global missiologist, has said that the 21st Century Church may look a lot like the 1st Century Church.
Jesus, our best Model
Think about how Jesus communicated His message, gave instruction and trained His disciples? How the disciples reproduced His message that has now resulted in more than 2 billion on the planet who identify with the Christian faith? (Recognizing, of course, that many identify themselves as Christians, but still are not true followers of Jesus). I had a conversation with the leader of a large mission organization on these topics. One of his comments was, “I haven’t thought about that, no one has ever asked me those questions.” My immediate thought was, perhaps we should be asking those questions and having those conversations if we are going to be successful in completing the Great Commission.
Asking the Right Questions
Some important questions to consider, for those who are serious about obeying all the commands of Jesus, are “How do most people best receive, understand, respond to and reproduce the message and love of Christ?” These issues are vital to advancing the Kingdom of God and completing the Great Commission. More than 70% of the people of the world are oral learners, by necessity or by preference and will not be reached by modern, text-based methods of communication. The lessons we can learn from the rapidly reproducing disciple making and church planting movements (mostly in the global South) and from the early Church, are more relevant to spreading the Gospel today than much of the post-Reformation and modern Western methods.
Biblical, Understandable and Reproducible
From our experience, it’s encouraging to see people come alive with new excitement and vision for mission and ministry impact. Communicating the Good News of Jesus and making disciples are not as complicated as they have become in many Church traditions in North America and the Western World. Proper can equip ordinary followers of Jesus with oral skills that are biblical, understandable and reproducible to all places and every people group on earth.
Reproducibility is vital to fostering multiplication movements. A pastor in an African country participated in an orality training that helped him share the story of faith. The very next week back in his home community, he trained more than 30 other pastors in the orality methods he had just learned. A few months later churches in that region were experiencing more growth and reproducing church planting efforts because of the training he received.
Prayer and the Work of the Spirit
Foundational, of course, to the effectiveness within the story-telling movement is prayer and the work of the Holy Spirit. The same Holy Spirit that was at work 2,000 years ago is still at work today. Imagine how just a few changes of methods and strategies can greatly accelerate the growth of the Jesus Movement. Mass meetings, big events and the use of radio, television and modern technology all have their place in today’s church/mission enterprises. However, the importance of small, simple, reproducible systems and structures cannot be overlooked or over-emphasized. Jesus Himself focused on influencing the few, to impact the many.
Power of the Spoken Word
One of the valuable lessons we learn from the story of Jesus calming the storm, recorded in Mark chapter 4, is the power of the spoken word. Jesus rebuked the wind and spoke to the waves, and there was a perfect calm. We often ask, “Does His Word still have power today? Do our words have power? His Word actually has power in all forms and expressions. When followers of Jesus grasp the power of speaking His Word, they often have more confidence and boldness to share with others.
Great Stories to Tell
We don’t have to be great storytellers, because we have great stories to tell. When we tell the true stories from the Word of God, we can trust and expect the Holy Spirit to touch hearts and transform lives. Every believer can tell their own story or testimony and share God’s story in a natural and conversational manner. Asking questions, listening, and finding common ground for conversations are all simple and effective methods that anyone can use and can lead to life-changing experiences.