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.

No Sign of Christmas

Christmas of 2020 was different for many of us. It was for *Charlie and *Sarah too. They had recently moved to a new country to serve God through BEYOND

The tropical heat and humidity were unusual, but the thing that stood out most significantly was the lack of any signs of the Christmas season. 

“It really grieved my heart,” Sarah shares. “It was almost as if Christ had not come. There was no celebration, no acknowledgment that He came, that there is victory over death, that our sins have been redeemed, that He reconciled us to the Father.”

Yes, over two billion people in the world still live in darkness — as if Jesus never graced the earth with His presence. 

We rejoice that Jesus came to reconcile us to our Father and that, through the faithful obedience of thousands of disciples, tens of thousands are celebrating their first Christmas this year. But so many still need to hear the Good News.

You can help bring the Light of the World to the darkest places.

READ ANOTHER STORY FROM CHARLIE AND SARAH

*pseudonym

Rediscovering God’s Heart and Vision

One of the most beautiful aspects of working toward movements of disciples who make disciples (a Disciple Making Movement) is the joy of taking other believers back to the Word to rediscover God’s heart and vision. All too often, the meaning and significance of Scripture get taken for granted, simply overlooked, or never applied.

But what a joy to open the Word with sincere brothers and sisters and ask, “What does God want to tell me through this Scripture, and how will I obey?” Those simple questions — those remarkable thoughts — have changed many lives already!  

Take, for example, the simple verse 2 Timothy 2:2:And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.” (NIV)

What do you notice about that verse?  Did you catch the number of people mentioned at each step along the way: “of many witnesses . . . people. . . others”? They are all groups!  What does that indicate? Have we overlooked something important about discipleship?  What would happen if we focused on discipling groups rather than individuals? 

We are inspired and given new ideas when we go to God with his Word and then purposefully understand, apply, and obey it!

 

We Walked as He Parted the Waters

Having recently visited three villages, Charlie* and Sarah* were excited to hear that nearby areas had enthusiastically received the new Jesus Film in their language. 

“We knew we needed to join what God was doing by taking the Jesus Film to the people we had visited and beginning to look for persons of peace,” Charlie said. So they gathered a team and got permission to camp on the village beach for just one night.

On the way, they visited a spiritual landmark commemorating the arrival of Islam exactly 400 years prior. They also learned about a strange phenomenon where a strip of land forms during low tide, allowing passage across the ocean on dry sand to reach their destination. 

“We sensed God telling us to walk across the sand as He parted the waters,” Charlie says. “Just as God delivered the Israelites from 400 years of slavery, we knew He wanted to deliver the people from 400 years of bondage to Islam. We prayed Exodus 14 and 15 as we walked over the dry sand, then we watched the waters cover the sand as we arrived on the other side.” 

A young village chief and his father, the local mosque’s imam, were the first to see the video. As it began, the chief’s jaw dropped, and his eyes widened. “That’s our local language!” he exclaimed. A few hours later, a counselor at a neighboring village school had a similar reaction. “That video was amazing!” 

During their visit, the team collected many phone numbers, left copies of the Jesus Film to be shared, and found out about other villages to visit for future ministry. They praise God for the opportunity to proclaim His name in places that have never before heard the name of Jesus.


*pseudonym

They Burned Their Amulets

Disciple-makers Rafi* and Nabila* regularly travel by motorbike through thick jungle to the home of an elderly Muslim couple. They first met Iqbal* and Tasya* while passing out food supplies at the start of the pandemic. 

Since then, Rafi and Nabila have made the two-hour trek several times to visit the welcoming couple. Though they speak different dialects, they share who Jesus is through Bible stories of His power over nature, sin, and death. Then the couples discuss what is revealed about God in the Word. 

During their latest visit, Rafi and Nabila shared stories from the Gospel of Mark about Jesus’ ability to heal, and His power and authority over demons. As a result, Iqbal and Tasya said they believed that Jesus had the power to protect them from evil spirits. Furthermore, they wanted to let go of the amulets they had trusted in for protection. 

So they burned the amulets, and Iqbal and Tasya prayed on their own with their beginners’ understanding  — huge steps toward becoming disciples of Jesus!

Pray that our team can find a translation of the Bible in this couple’s heart language. And join us as we pray: “May the God of hope fill [Iqbal and Tasya] with all joy and peace as [they] trust in him, so that [they] may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

*pseudonym

Give Up Your Way: A Key Component of Disciple-Making

Joyo and Anita, national partners of James and Sharon, were ready to move. Together the couple had sought the Lord on where they might live to be most effective in making multiplying disciples. And the Lord had answered.

They felt led to move to a new area and start a ministry that would open the region to the gospel for the first time. By seeking the Lord themselves, the couple was honored and able to “own” the discovery that the Holy Spirit had given them. 

Through persons of peace, Anita has since started four groups that are using the Discovery Bible Study method. And a second generation of seekers has already been formed!

This is a key component of disciple-making movements: Only when leaders like James and Sharon humble themselves, trust the Father, and fully release younger disciples to follow the direction of the Holy Spirit can we see the plan and the fruit the Father has in mind. 

As Jesus taught in Matthew 16:24, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me.” James and Sharon have seen it first-hand, “Death to self and submission to life in Christ is always a great idea.” 

*pseudonym

“I Would Be a Christian if I Could”

A fruit vendor named Seng* lit up when she realized Trisha* could speak Thai. Seng peppered her with questions: “Where do you live? How long have you lived here? Are you safe?” Trisha answered, then asked about Seng’s business. Seng admitted that she had very few customers.

“I will pray to God,” Trisha said, “and ask for His blessing on your life. I will ask God to protect you.” When Seng’s face brightened at this, Tisha asked if she went to church.

“I am a Thai person. I must be Buddhist.” Seng replied. “But my sister-in-law lives in Germany. Her husband is German, so she can be a Christian.”

Looking at some nearby taxi drivers, Seng quietly confessed, “If I could choose, I would be a Christian too.”

“If you want to know more,” Trisha responded, “God says we can know Him by reading the Bible. I can show you how! Then, He can help you decide whether to follow Him or not.”

Through spiritual statements and questions, Trisha discovered Seng’s spiritual hunger and invited her to discover the truth of who God is. Pray Seng would be willing to read the Bible and become a follower of Jesus. 

*pseudonym

A Family Affair

Harto* is a Muslim man who encountered Jesus through a discipleship process with Shawn*. Harto was interested in becoming a disciple of Jesus and was even considering being baptized.

Then Harto’s family found out about his studies. He has not met with Shawn since they found out.

Harto’s story illustrates why it is so important for seekers to bring their family and friends to hear what the Bible says about Jesus. That way, no one is removed or ostracized from their closest relationships. Instead, whole relational groups (oikos) explore together. 

And it’s biblical! The book of Acts records over 30 instances of people becoming followers of Jesus; only three describe a person coming to Christ as an individual. In all the other instances, a large or small community became followers of Jesus as a group.

If a person’s oikos is not willing to engage with the Bible, the seeker should show love and be patient, letting their testimony be a witness of God’s goodness and power to save.  

This is why movements are often slow to begin but can then experience rapid growth as entire families come to Christ. 

*pseudonym

From Religion to Stories of Jesus

One day, Karly* and Allison* went to the park to meet people. When they arrived, they saw their Muslim friend Yasmin* who introduced them to some women she knew. “These are my friends Karly and Allison. They study the holy books and the prophets.”

Then Yasmin shared a story about Isa (Jesus). This prompted one woman to remember that her son had asked about Jesus. He had seen videos on YouTube and TikTok about the end times, one of which included a story about Isa. As a result he became very afraid and could not sleep. She and her husband also became troubled. “We sent our son to study more religion so he might understand and not be afraid.”  

Suddenly, one of the women turned to Yasmin. Motioning toward Karly and Allison, she asked, “Who did you say these women are?” 

Yasmin told the women they should talk with Karly and Allison if they wanted to study stories from the holy books. 

“I want to know the stories,” one woman said. “I know Jesus will come, but I don’t know how.”  

Later Karly and Allison talked with this woman. “When are you coming again?” she asked. “Next time, come to my house so we can study the stories.”

Obedient disciples can train reproducible groups to study the Word from the start. Spiritually hungry people immediately learn that, no matter the setting, they can hear what God is saying to them because the Holy Spirit is their teacher. As Jesus said in John 6:45, “It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me.” 

Pray that these women will meet Jesus as Karly and Allison obediently model how to learn from God’s Word directly from the Father Himself.

*pseudonym