Three Delicious Dishes and a New Friendship

*Danny and *Holly were at their favorite Thai open-air market on Christmas Day. When they gave the market’s parking attendant some gingerbread biscotti, he was very confused. Still new to the language, the couple tried their best to explain that gingerbread was a popular flavor in their home country at this time of year. They explained that the cookies were good with coffee and wished him a Merry Christmas.

The attendant was utterly confused. Why were these people giving him a gift on this “random” day? Thankfully, his daughter, *Botum, who owned a nearby stand at the market, came to explain. Learning she spoke perfect English and noticing the Christmas music coming from her stall, Danny and Holly asked if she celebrated Christmas. Botum explained, “I am a Buddhist, but I celebrate Christmas.”  

When visiting the market a few days later, Danny and Holly learned that Botum’s father had never received a Christmas gift before and had happily shared the biscotti with his grandchildren. Botum sent them home with some of her delicious food and even offered to teach Danny and Holly to make some traditional foods.

The following week, Botum’s cooking lesson produced three delicious dishes and a new relationship. Please pray for these new friends and that Botum and her family will want to hear more about Jesus and become his followers.

*pseudonym

Go Small to Go Big

For years, three Muslim-background followers of Jesus lived and ministered together in the same Muslim community. The three friends would gather large groups and share Bible stories, but they never had any fruit.

Then, about three years ago, God told them to separate. They obeyed, and each man gathered a smaller group in which they were the only follower of Jesus. It wasn’t long before they all began to see fruit.

The three friends realized that they used to spend a lot of time discussing what each knew about the Bible and what they had learned at some Christian conference or retreat. But when they separated, the new groups’ discussions became centered around what God was doing. The Lord began to use His Word and His Spirit to speak to and guide the Muslim seekers.

These groups have now become over 175 baptized followers in more than 29 house churches. The groups recently came together twice to baptize over 60 new followers, as their Muslim community watched from boats and the shore. These events have led to many conversations and some tensions within the community. Still, the disciples see this as an excellent opportunity to share their testimonies about what it means to follow Jesus with their friends and neighbors.

No Place Left as the Benchmark

By Steve R. Smith

I was walking with Church Planting Movement initiators during an outing at a conference. One of the most fruitful ones sidled up and asked, “Steve, is CPM all there is?”

He was experiencing second- and third-generation churches, and perhaps even some were fourth-generation. The kingdom was growing by leaps and bounds. New reproducible churches were being formed. My friend was rapidly becoming a poster child of CPM breakthrough in the Western world.

I said, “No, a movement is just the beginning. The movement is not the goal. The goal is what Paul declared in Romans 15—no place left for the gospel to be proclaimed. Every people group, neighborhood and ethnic segment with multiplying disciples and churches among them.”

Relief spread across his brow. “Whew! I’m glad. I knew there must be something more.”

What registered with my friend was critical in whether or not the movement in his city would move toward the end-vision of the whole city being reached or plateau out. He realized that a movement is not the end; it’s just the beginning!

Seeds of Movements
In all likelihood, Paul’s mind [in Romans 15] was ringing with Jesus’ parables of the mustard seed and leaven. That handful of churches he and his partners planted were the mustard seed in each region. As they began to multiply, Paul felt free to move on. Movements were starting with sufficient life and momentum to carry the proclamation of the gospel to every nook and cranny.

Paul didn’t have to plant every church—just a few church-planting churches with a vision for their region and beyond.

Recovering the Real End-vision
The danger my friend faced was succumbing to the wrong end-vision: movements, rather than no place left. Paul could have stayed to build upon the foundations, but that was not the role of an apostle. The eyes of an apostle are on the horizon, where Christ has not yet been named.

An all too present temptation is for movement catalyst(s) to pull out before there is sufficient momentum to get to no place left. The astounding numbers within a movement so thrill us that we lose sight of the bigger vision: every community reached with the gospel and embraced by life-giving, multiplying churches.

The temptation to slow down and not finish the task is great amidst an explosive movement within a city or people group, but greater still is the same temptation globally.

Getting to No Place Left Globally
Paul sensed a divine urgency associated with his apostolic stewardship. He seemed compelled to bring all Gentiles as an acceptable offering to His Lord (Rom. 15:15-16).

He and other believers vigorously gave themselves to Jesus’ mandate (Matt. 24:14, 28:19-20). They pushed the frontiers of the gospel from province to province and from district to district.

The question for our generation is whether we will finish the race that others have started and run so faithfully. With over 3,000 people groups, both unengaged and unreached with the gospel (UUPGs), it is easy to become complacent and stop running. Instead, we have the opportunity to increase our pace and run the final lap. We have the resources but do we have the resolve?

The finish line is in sight. Sacrificial effort could result in the completion of the original mandate. In two thousand years, a multitude of people groups have been reached. We are in that number. But the benchmark is no place left. Will we take up the baton to get there?

Set an Urgent Deadline
In getting to no place left, setting a deadline seems to galvanize believers toward a sense of urgency. It is as though we realize that time is running short and faith-filled efforts must be employed.

Will our generation rise up with new urgency? If we resolved to bring the gospel fully to the remaining 3,000+ UUPGs by a date such as 2025, what effect would that have on our efforts? Would great sacrifice match a great effort? Would it move us toward a spiritual wartime footing in which we called every believer to be part of a global effort to eradicate areas devoid of the gospel?

A Costly Deadline
The remaining UUPGs are in the most difficult-to-reach and most overlooked places. Getting to no place left in any generation—ours or another—will come with a great price. Jesus declared and demonstrated the path toward fruitfulness. It requires death—death to self and, not infrequently, physical death.

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. (John 12:24, ESV)

He is Worth It
A clue to Paul’s motivation in settling for nothing less than no place left (Rom. 15:23) is found in the same chapter: But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. (Rom. 15:15-16, ESV)

Paul, filled with gratitude, longs to bring every ethné back to his Lord as an acceptable offering. In this way, he could declare the Son’s unique worthiness.

Throughout history, great pushes toward finishing the task have been matched by great sacrifices. We cannot have one without the other.

The end is in sight in individual movements, but let us not rest until we reach no place left.

The end is in sight in bringing the gospel to the remaining 3,000+ UUPGs, but let us not rest until there is no place left.

The commission is worth it.

He is worth it.

This article was first published in Mission Frontiers. It was edited with permission.

Empowered Disciples

Zaul,* an Indonesian movement leader, partners with Bret,* a BEYOND movement servant. 

During COVID, Zaul has been visiting a local prison. There he formed relationships with some radical Muslims and sought to bring God’s truth and love to them. As a result, a number of these men began to study God’s Word and eventually bowed to the sovereignty of our Heavenly Father. One of the men, Berkah,* wrote a letter to his whole family telling them of this great change in his life. He asked Zaul to deliver the letter to them personally. 

Even though Zaul is comfortable in many settings, he was very nervous about delivering the letter. Nevertheless, he stayed close as Berkah’s family read it. 

After they had finished reading, they asked if Zaul was a spiritual leader. “Yes,” he responded. Then they asked if he would be willing to more deeply discuss the things their son expressed. 

“No,” Zaul responded. “But your son would be happy to walk with you as you read from the Holy Book.” 

By handing the responsibility and privilege of sharing the gospel over to Berkah, Zaul is empowering a new disciple to immediately become a disciple-maker. This key component allows for the rapid multiplication of new believers in new households and regions.

Trading Tradition for Multiplication

Samir* liked to talk with people about Jesus. So, noticing Frank’s* social media account, he left a message and hoped this stranger would reply.  

Frank did. After several conversations, he discovered that Samir and his father, Nuh*, have planted several churches and want to reach many more people. Since spring, Frank has been casting vision with Samir about what it would look like to see their whole nation reached with the gospel. They have had many discussions about the importance of being disciples who make disciples, who make disciples.  

A few weeks ago, Samir and Nuh led a man to faith in Jesus. Samir remembered conversations with Frank about reaching whole families and helping people become disciple-makers. So instead of inviting this man to join their traditional church, they told him to gather his family and friends to learn about God together. 

When Samir and Nuh entered his village, they were surprised to see that he had gathered around 50 people! They immediately began to share the good news. Fifteen people became followers of Jesus, while others wanted to keep studying the Word. That day a new church was established in the village!

Shortly thereafter, Samir asked Frank to coach him on using multiplication principles in his ministry. Frank agreed to coach Samir if he first found others who would commit to be trained and apply the principles that Samir would pass on to them. Samir gathered some people, and he and Frank have already had their first “official” coaching session! 

*pseudonym