Pray for Ukraine

Dear Lord,

We bow down before you to worship you, to praise you and acknowledge You as our God and King. We would like to thank you for the freedom to preach Your Word in Ukraine. The Harvest Festival has become a culmination. When was it possible for nearly 500 thousand believers to gather in mutual praise and joy to celebrate your abundant blessings in the very heart of our capital?!?

Lord, we are thankful to you for your limitless provision. Though it is war in our country, a lot of people suffer, many lost their houses, many lost and continue losing their loved ones, others are in constant fear for the lives of those, who protect our peaceful sleep at the borders, the church is united in this need. We are not aside. Learning from you, a lot of chaplains are at the front among the soldiers to support and mentor, the caring hands of volunteering Christians reveal the merciful and healing touch from you, our Heavenly Father, for many injured and wounded in the battles or bring food for cut off villages and minister to the elderly. Please, refill us with your love and raise our tired hands to keep up!

Father, Ukraine is in the process of integrating to Europe, which, again, is a serious challenge for the church, will the church be strong enough to stand against the new European values, will it be able to influence and protect the normal family life values? Tolerance leads to apathy and depresses initiative in ministry. We always lacked dedicated active ministers and now we need them even more. Please, send workers to your field to do the work, to teach, equip and strengthen the believers, to be burning. Protect us from becoming lukewarm.

Our historic background is that Ukrainians do not trust the government, treat it as a repressive apparatus. Whereas, now we are in a desperate need to use our state and civil rights and freedoms for more effective preaching of the Gospel. Father, please change our minds to fulfill your will for our lives. Bless Ukraine. Bring peace to our land. Let us kneel before you in humbleness, trust and rest that all our lives are in your loving hands.

May You be glorified in our lives, churches and country.

Amen

The Purpose of World Evangelization

Last week I shared Ed Dayton’s expanded definition of world evangelization.

Because world evangelization is a task, it is essential to have a clear understanding of the goal of that particular task.

The nature of world evangelization is communication of the good news.

The purpose of world evangelization is to give individuals and groups a valid opportunity to accept Jesus Christ.

And the goal of world evangelization is the persuading of men and women to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and serve him in the fellowship of his church.

Then we discussed the nature of evangelization, defining the good news we want to communicate. I ended the blog with the summary:

Ideally, the good news we want to communicate begins with the inner change brought about by transferring our allegiance to God through Jesus Christ; that’s salvation. It continues with a renewing of our inner selves and the process of growth to become like Christ; that’s sanctification. It should then touch those around us through our lives and overt testimony, beginning with our families, then extending to touch and improve our own society and, ultimately, the world. This might be summed up in Paul’s words from Ephesians 2:10, “. . . we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

With that background, there are two important thoughts in Dayton’s next statement, “The purpose of world evangelization is to give individuals and groups a valid opportunity to accept Jesus Christ.”

In the West, we tend towards individualization. We think and act as individuals, often with little concern for how our thoughts and actions affect those around us. We make decisions as individuals. That’s neither good nor bad, just the way it is.

We often presume on individualism when offering salvation. When witnessing one-on-one, we want to bring a person to the individual decision to follow Christ. When we give a group invitation, as in evangelistic services, we call on individuals to make a decision. Granted, people come sometimes as couples, families or other groups. Last week I was blessed to see a small family group in our church responding together, but the call is usually for individual decisions to follow Christ. Again, there’s nothing wrong with that – in our culture.

In many cultures, individuals do not make such life-changing decisions on their own. In tribal or family-oriented cultures, an entire group makes the decision to accept or reject Jesus’ call. I know of specific instances where an individual within such a group wanted to follow Christ, but did not because the group did not.

I’ve also had the joy of hearing a tribal leader say “We (all) want to follow Jesus.” I heard the words, then witnessed the change and growth in the village as a whole and the individuals within the group. It’s unbelievably exciting to be part of such a people movement.

This might sound kind of weird to our western brains. That’s why we need someone like Ed Dayton to help us adjust our mindset and mission strategizing to accommodate both individual and group evangelism and growth.

The same is true with the second half of his sentence, “. . . give . . . a valid opportunity to accept Jesus Christ.”

I know of an American missionary in India who befriended a Hindu woman. The missionary wanted her friend to follow Christ, but went slowly in unveiling the gospel. One day her emotions got the better of her and the missionary blurted out, “I wish you could be born again and have eternal life.” The Hindu burst into tears, exclaiming, “I thought you were my friend. Why would you say something so horrible to me?!”

The American was using the right western and even biblical words to communicate the gospel, but they were not received well by the Indian. The Hindu associated being born again with reincarnation. She did not want to be reincarnated over and over again (i.e., eternal life). Instead, she wanted to reach the end of her spiritual journey and cease to exist as an individual.

From the American’s point of view, she had presented a valid opportunity for the Indian to accept Christ. From the Indian’s point of view, it was anything but a valid opportunity, because she did not understand it.

I don’t want to get bogged down in theology here. I don’t want to discuss how much a person needs to understand in order to make a valid decision to follow Christ. I just want to point out that the validity of such an offer has to be seen from the perspective of the individual or group which receives the message. If they cannot understand the offer, for any reason, it is not valid.

That means missionaries (and all evangelizing Christians) must take the time to understand their target audience as they present the good news. We must present the gospel in a language people understand; we must present the gospel with words whose meaning people understand (or, at least, don’t misunderstand); we must present the gospel in thought patterns people can follow; we must present the gospel in such a way that people understand they have a choice; we must be ready to present the gospel over and over again; we must be prepared to have people consciously reject the gospel, though we sincerely hope they choose the better way.

You know we can’t force people to follow Christ. That’s their decision. But we can be trained, prepared, and equipped to cross cultural boundaries in such a way that people who receive the gospel from us can make that very important valid decision with clarity and understanding.

Pray for Nepal

This week's prayer comes to us from Ms Shanti Lama, a citizen and resident of the Asia country of Nepal. Nepal, best known as the home of Mt. Everest, has a long-standing Hindu identity. Over the past several decades, the church has grown to be a significant minority within this small nation. In the following prayer, you can feel Ms Lama's love for both God and her country, and the church within her country.

If you would like to know more about this beautiful country, we recommend you follow this link to Operation World's overview of Nepal.

Most who read this will not be Nepali. Nevertheless, please take time to join Shanti in prayer through this coming week by reading the prayer aloud as your own. 

Dear God,

I thank you that I get to be a citizen of Nepal. You have blessed this country with so many good things.  Thank you for all the natural beauties: all the mountains, rivers, animals, and of course! the beautiful people. You are wonderful and creative. Thank you for creating us in your own image and you love all your sons and daughters. As John 3:16 says, You sent your one and only son Jesus Christ so everyone who believes in Him have eternal life. I know that you want all your children to have eternal life in you. Thank you Lord that you love the people of Nepal and you want us all to receive the gift of life.

God, I pray against the power of darkness that prevails in this place because of the presence of false gods and idol worshiping. Lord, you have the power to break every chain and set your people free. I pray against the chain of poverty, pride, greed, corruption in this nation. Lord, I pray that you would soften up people’s hearts and open their eyes so they see and come to an understanding of your Love. I pray for the political leaders of this nation. I know that they are appointed by you and only you can change their hearts and minds. I pray that you would put love and care in their hearts for the citizens so they work for the interest of the citizens rather than their own selfish desires.

I want to lift up your church, your bride of this country. Lord, I pray that we would rise up and take stand for truth. I pray that our hearts would be full of passion for you and your work. Please give us hunger and thirst for you. Help us to be good citizens and work for the best interest of our nation and expand your Kingdom in the process. Thank you for being so kind and gracious. As your word says in Mark 16:17, signs and wonders would follow us as we believe in you so that the people around us can see your power and your greatness through our works.

May you be lifted up in this place; May your will be done in this place as it is in heaven, and May you be glorified through everything. I believe and expect great things for this nation through your power. I pray in Jesus name

Amen!

The Nature of World Evangelization

As I’ve had the opportunity to teach about missions over several decades, I’ve tried to include this expanded definition as often as possible. This brief definition, which I’ve borrowed from Ed Dayton, helps us get a better grip on the entire process of what Dayton labeled world evangelization, and we in Mandate generalize as missions.

As we begin, here is the entire quote, an introductory sentence followed by three steps toward world evangelization.

Because world evangelization is a task, it is essential to have a clear understanding of the goal of that particular task.

The nature of world evangelization is communication of the good news.

The purpose of world evangelization is to give individuals and groups a valid opportunity to accept Jesus Christ.

And the goal of world evangelization is the persuading of men and women to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and serve him in the fellowship of his church.

Dayton was brief, but we’re not going to be so restricted. I’d like to take his three main points and, over the course of the next three weeks, expand on each. Let’s get started with:

The nature of world evangelization is communication of the good news.

Good news is an oft-used English translation of the word gospel. In our English Bibles, the two terms are relatively interchangeable. If we ask an average group of American churchgoers to define gospel, though, they’ll probably talk about personal salvation, repentance and forgiveness of sin, etc., and they will not be wrong.

The Bible.org website puts it this way:

The central truth of the gospel is that God has provided a way of salvation for men through the gift of His son to the world. He suffered as a sacrifice for sin, overcame death, and now offers a share in His triumph to all who will accept it. The gospel is good news because it is a gift of God, not something that must be earned by penance or by self-improvement (John 3:16, Romans 5:8-11, 2 Corinthians 5:14-19, Titus 2:11-14).

Looking at Jesus’ own words in the books we label the Gospels, He often ties the words good news or gospel with the phrase kingdom of God (as in Matthew 4:23, 9:35, and 24:14). This seems to come into play when Jesus taught about the two greatest commandments, as in Matthew 22:36-40:

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.

And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

We can say from both of the previous illustrations that the gospel contains a vertical relationship (with God) and a horizontal relationship (with the world around us). Ideally, the good news begins with the inner change brought about by transferring our allegiance to God through Jesus Christ, which we call salvation. It continues with a renewing of our inner selves and a process of growth to become like Christ, which we call sanctification. It should then touch those around us through our lives and overt testimony, hopefully beginning with our immediately families (as seen time and again in the book of Acts), and extending from us to touch and improve our own society and, ultimately, the world. This might be summed up in Paul’s words from Ephesians 2:10, “. . . we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

That is the good news we must communicate to those who have not yet heard, and communicate it repeatedly even to those who have.

Pray for the United States

The apostle Paul, writing to his protégé Timothy, and to those who would follow in his footsteps, instructed all Christ-followers:

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1-4)

It seems difficult today to pray for the United States without descending into political or social controversy. This prayer, based on one voiced regularly in many American houses of worship, captures Paul’s admonition, the spirit and traditions of our country over these past two plus centuries, and our position of influence in the modern world.

May we suggest to our fellow U.S. citizens and residents that we join in praying this prayer aloud at least several times in the next week. We further suggest you make this or a similar prayer a regular part of your time with God.

“Our God and God of our ancestors: We ask Your blessings for our country — for its government, for its leaders and advisers, and for all who exercise just and rightful authority. Teach them insights from Your [word] that they may administer all affairs of state fairly, that peace and security, happiness and prosperity, justice and freedom may forever abide in our midst.

“Creator of all flesh, bless all the inhabitants of our country with Your spirit. May citizens of all races and creeds forge a common bond in true harmony, to banish hatred and bigotry and to safeguard the ideals and free institutions that are the pride and glory of our country.

“May this land, under Your providence be an influence for good throughout the world, uniting people in peace and freedom — helping to fulfill the vision of Your prophet: 'Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they experience war anymore'.”

What is a missionary?

Can we define the word missionary?

I’m sure we can, but there are so many subjective definitions out there, which one would we choose? The task is even more difficult when we realize the word missionary is not even found in the English Bible.

So, if missionary is not in the Bible, where in the world did it come from?

The word apostle is in the Bible. Seeing it, we generally think of the 12 men who followed Jesus throughout the gospel histories. Usually referred to as disciples, Matthew, Mark, and Luke also called them apostles.

Eleven of these men went on to become the apostles of the early church, as recorded in the book of Acts. We most often think of them, and their title, in this context. They were the appointed leaders of the new church after Jesus returned to the Father. In the minds of most people, apostle became both a role and spiritual gift. Most Christian traditions today think this way and believe the role of apostle ceased with them.

Let’s go back up a couple of paragraphs, and center in on Luke 6:13, where [Jesus] “called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles . . .” The original word Jesus used was a form of apostle, which basically means “one who is sent.” That fits the context of this passage, in which Jesus began preparing His disciples to be sent out on His behalf.

Later in the life of the church, Latin took the place of the widely-used Greek of New Testament times and writing. The Latin word missio replaced the Greek work apostolos in common usage, both meaning one who is sent. I’m sure you just picked up on the connection between the Latin missio and the English missionary. The general meaning of the word also expanded from just the original twelve sent ones to anyone sent by the church to bring the gospel to others in need.

In modern times, missionary can subjectively mean anything from a Christian who walks out of his church after a service, to local workers at a homeless shelter, to people who work among non-Christians in other countries without ever declaring their faith, to people who set out to establish new churches in areas where there are few or no Christian believers.

If we can’t objectively define missions for every situation and to everyone’s satisfaction, maybe we can go back to the question which started this series a few weeks ago, “what does a sent one?” Or, even better, “what did the original sent ones?”

From the New Testament we know that most of the apostles originally stayed in or near Jerusalem until God used the killing of James and subsequent persecution to push the other apostles, and many laypeople to spread out to evangelize and establish churches throughout their known world.

These apostles, sent ones, missionaries, went out from their homes to different countries, different languages, different cultures, all having one thing in common – there was no established church in these areas strong enough to evangelize their own people.

Paul, of course, was the primary cross-cultural worker of Acts. He was not alone. Peter was the first of the apostles to bring the gospel to the Gentiles, possibly the most extreme cross-cultural ministry of his time. Both Peter and Paul ended their lives as martyrs in Rome, a city neither would have visited for any reason other than expanding the kingdom of God.

Because of my special love for Ukraine, I also have a special fondness for Andrew, who went to what was then called the "land of the man-eaters," on the Ukrainian side of the Black Sea, even coming within sight of what is modern day Kyiv. He also preached in Asia Minor, today’s Turkey, and Greece, where he is said to have been crucified.

Thomas was probably most active in the area east of Syria. Tradition has him preaching as far east as India, where the ancient Marthoma Christians revere him as their founder. During my most recent visit to India, I was privileged to meet some leaders of the church founded by Thomas almost 2000 years ago.

Philip is thought to have had a powerful ministry in Carthage in North Africa and then in Asia Minor, where he converted the wife of a Roman proconsul. In retaliation the proconsul had Philip arrested and cruelly put to death.

Matthew, the tax collector and writer of a Gospel, ministered in Persia and Ethiopia. Some of the oldest reports say he was not martyred, while others say he was stabbed to death in Ethiopia.

Bartholomew had widespread missionary travels attributed to him by tradition: to India with Thomas, back to Armenia, and also to Ethiopia and Southern Arabia. There are various accounts of how he met his death as a martyr for the gospel.

James the son of Alpheus, one of at least three James referred to in the New Testament, is reckoned to have ministered in Syria. The Jewish historian Josephus reported that he was stoned and then clubbed to death.

Simon the Zealot, so the story goes, ministered in Persia and was killed after refusing to sacrifice to the sun god.

Matthias was the apostle chosen to replace Judas. Tradition sends him to Syria with Andrew and to death by burning.

John is the only one of the original company generally thought to have died a natural death from old age. He was the leader of the church in the Ephesus area, which, though originally evangelized by Paul, provided more than enough challenge to grow and reproduce the church in, around, and from that great city.

Look at the map showing where these men worked (and often died). Think about what they did. True to the One who sent them, they went to places where people needed the gospel. They shared their own testimonies. Depending on the people they met, they taught from the Old Testament or even from the local culture to show that Jesus was God’s sent one to provide salvation to all peoples. They baptized and organized new Christ-followers into local church groups. They trained new leaders for these new churches. Then, in most cases, they moved on to repeat the process further and further from their own homes.

In light of the examples of these sent ones, perhaps we can draft our own subjective definition for missionary.

A missionary is one sent by Jesus Christ to peoples who will not hear the gospel except through an outside messenger. A missionary is one sent by Jesus Christ to explain the gospel to these people so they can understand enough to make a choice to follow Christ. A missionary is one sent by Jesus Christ to establish the church among all peoples. A missionary is one sent by Jesus Christ to teach God’s word to new believers. A missionary is one sent by Jesus Christ to train leadership to continue and expand the work he or she has begun through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Following in the footsteps of these who have gone before us is no easy task, but there are few more rewarding tasks than being a missionary sent by Jesus Christ.

Heavenly Father, I come to You today in the name of Jesus thanking you for placing me in Memphis, Tennessee. I thank You for this city and ask You to bless and prosper it in every way.

Please bless every church in Memphis that exalts the name of Jesus and proclaims salvation in His name. Bless every Bible preaching pastor. Place Your hedge of protection around them and protect them and their families from every scheme and attack of the enemy. Bless leaders in Your churches. Help the churches in Memphis to love You, love each other, and love those who are lost and without Christ. Provide for every church and help every church to be diligent to guard the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. May the churches in Memphis enjoy peace, be built up, go on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, and continue to increase.

Help each church to be a house of holiness, a house of worship and celebration, a house of giving and joy, a house of evangelistic outreach, and above all, a house of prayer. Take away formalism, fanaticism, liberalism, legalism, and traditionalism from every congregation. May the latter glory of the churches in this city be greater than the former glory.

Bless our civic leaders. Bless the mayor of Memphis and each member of the city council. Bless every judge and every other official. Bless their families also. Please give them your guidance. Help them to live godly lives and make wise, godly decisions that will help our city to prosper. Promotion comes from You, not man. You exalt one and put down another. Please place the people you desire into each position and office of leadership.

Bless our educational systems – our public schools, private schools, and each family participating in a home-school program. Bless the administrators, teachers, other workers, the parents of the students, and most of all, the students themselves. May the students in Memphis, like Jesus, increase in wisdom, stature, and in favor with God and man. Keep the children safe at each school, and protect them from violence.

Lord, please bless Memphis’ economy. Bring in godly, wholesome businesses to Memphis that will provide employment for people so they can provide financially for their families. Please help those who are able to work but are without jobs to find the right job opportunity so they can fulfill Your command to work. Please help us to reach out in love and compassion to those who are unable to work and meet their needs.

Bring about racial harmony in Memphis. Where there is bitterness, hatred, and resentment, replace them with forgiveness, love, and respect. Please help me to value and respect every person as You value them, because You created each of them in Your image and each of them is an eternal soul for whom Christ died to save.

Protect our city from violence and crime. Bless our law enforcement officers and protect them. Please remove and keep out any businesses that would encourage sin in this city, such as organized crime, gangs, gambling, strip clubs, and the trafficking of illegal drugs. Please send Your divine protection upon Memphis’ citizens and help us to have a peaceful city.

Father, bless Memphis, Tennessee and its citizens indeed, let Your hand of blessing be upon us, and keep us from harm. Cause this city to become a center for spiritual awakening, prayer, and revival. Help Your people in Memphis to repent of our sins, humble ourselves before You, and walk in Your ways. Help us to be a blessing to the other citizens of Memphis. May Your favor and good hand rest upon Memphis. May the city of Memphis bring glory to the name of Jesus. We love You, and we love and pray for Memphis, Tennessee to be blessed in every way. In Jesus’ name, amen!

Have you heard of the Great Commission?

Have you heard of the Great Commission?

In the last paragraph of his gospel, Matthew wrote:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

If you pay attention to grammar, you might notice there are four verb forms in that passage: go, make disciples, baptize, and teach. Only one of those is what my high school English teachers would have called the main action verb. It is the word which gives direction to this commission. And, no, it isn’t go.

The main thrust is make disciples.

In this sense, a disciple is basically a student who commits to following a teacher, learning from that teacher, then carrying on the work of that teacher. In modern society, we might see this in the trade unions, where a worker begins as an apprentice, advances up the ladder to master craftsman and then takes on his or her own apprentices.

Isn’t that a great picture of what it means to be a Jesus-follower? We see it biblically in the lives of those very disciples who first heard that commission. They met Jesus through a variety of circumstances. They committed themselves to following, helping, and working together with Him. They learned by doing as He began sending them out to do it on their own. At the point of this passage in Matthew, the disciples were ready to carry on the work of proclaiming salvation as Jesus returned to heaven.

This is what we want to see in missions.

But we can’t stop there. We can’t be content to just present the gospel and bring people to the point of following Jesus. Neither can we be content with just seeing these new believers grow as individuals. If we stop there, we have created a situation where we have to re-evangelize every succeeding generation.

That’s why I consider the last two verbs of the Commission to be so important to the entire passage. Going gets us where we need to be; making disciples starts the process which leads into the next verbs.

Jesus told His that first generation of disciples to baptize and teach.

Throughout the book of Acts, which is the history of the first generation of churches, we note that baptism goes hand-in-hand with believing. Time after time, the word goes out “repent and be baptized.” Baptism, in that first century, as now, is a public identification with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In a very real sense, baptism was also incorporation into the body of Christ, which is the church. No, not necessarily a specific local church or denomination as it might be now, but identification with and incorporation into the body that includes all believers, of all time, everywhere.

Through the book of Acts and the epistles, we also see local bodies of believers, with specifically-gifted people raised up to watch over, guide, and teach those people who identified with them. These bodies became associated with specific towns and cities, such as Philippi and Ephesus. In time, the size of these city-wide churches grew so large that smaller bodies (local churches) formed themselves, sometimes identified by the private homes in which they met for prayer and worship.

The final verb Jesus gave was teach. As He had taught His disciples, they were to teach the next generation, and so on and so on . . . right up until our generation today. That first generation of disciples, directed by the Holy Spirit, collected and recorded the words of our Lord, then often explained them in culturally relevant and understandable ways to the many people who came into the church. As these writings (i.e. Paul’s letters) were compiled and shared, the local churches became the centers of this teaching.

It would be so easy now for me to rabbit trail into a church history lecture or discuss the function of the local church. But that’s not what I’m presenting today.

Think. instead to the Great Commission as a process, rather than a series of commands. The process begins when those who know Christ go to those who don’t, wherever they might be. Having gone, we find ways to communicate the gospel, help people to make real, conscious decisions to believe in Christ for salvation and then to commit themselves to follow him throughout their lives. As people come to Christ, we bring them together into local churches which guide and teach, helping believers live and mature according to the teaching Jesus gave directly and then the Holy Spirit gave through the writings we know as the New Testament.

If we do this right and well, these same churches will send the next general of missionaries, who will make disciples, organize local churches, train leaders, etc., etc.

Does this work? You’re here, aren’t you? You, dear reader, are a product of your church, which was born from another church, which was born from another . . . No matter where we start, no matter our church or denominational affiliation, no matter our race or nationality, if we trace our spiritual family trees, we will all find ourselves together 2000 years ago on a Palestinian hillside with Jesus, hearing Him say, “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

Let’s keep this process moving ahead and actually get it done.

What does missions?

What does missions?

No, that’s not a typo. Typically, if we were beginning an academic study on missions, we might focus on a definition, beginning with the question “what is missions?” We could (and I have in various forums and lectures) go back to study the word missions/missiō which would take us back to the word apostle/apóstolos which would bring us to the modern English sense of “one who is sent.”

Many enterprises can better be described by what they accomplish rather than what they are. To put it another way, it is better to describe something by it’s doing rather than just being. Looking at missions from this angle, let’s look at a description by Ralph D. Winter and Bruce A. Koch.

The essential missionary task is to establish a viable indigenous church planting movement that carries the potential to renew whole extended families and transform whole societies.

We could certainly list the many good effects of missions and missionaries, including some of Mandate’s foci, such as community development, medical service, justice, agriculture, fighting human trafficking, teaching English and other specifics. These are all good and necessary.

However, Winter and Koch’s statement seems to best tie missions to the original words of Jesus Christ when He said, “Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations.”

The essential missionary task is to establish a viable indigenous church planting movement that carries the potential to renew whole extended families and transform whole societies.

Let’s break it down . . .

It is essential in that there is a bottom line. When all is said and done, this is what we want to see said and done.

It is viable in that, once started, it can continue to grow on its own.

It is indigenous meaning that it is not seen as foreign within the cultural, social, or geographical framework of the new church(es).

It is a movement in that it is not a one-time event, but a continuing process.

It renews families because the word of God should most often and easily move from one new believer to others within their own family or social group.

It transforms societies because, when individuals, then family/social/geographical groups, give themselves to Christ and adopt His standards, they cannot help but influence the world around them for the good.

The essential missionary task is to establish a viable indigenous church planting movement that carries the potential to renew whole extended families and transform whole societies.

Who do you love?

What might be the defining visible characteristic of one who follows Christ?

Interesting question, isn’t it? Many will automatically respond with faith, or having Jesus in your heart, or being faithful. But none of those, in itself, is a visible characteristic. All must be demonstrated by action.

Jesus and the writers of the New Testament recorded many characteristics of those who are today called Christians.  It seems to me that the single, most emphasized, characteristic mentioned over and over is . . . love.

Think about it.

Jesus used an Old Testament passage to teach about our obligation to love God, as in Mark 12:30. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”

Jesus redefined the relationship among his followers when he said, in John 13:34-35, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Sometimes that is not a very easy thing to do, but it’s not a choice, it’s a command.

As hard as that might be, love, according to Jesus, goes beyond the family of faith. While noting the command to love God is the greatest, Jesus said the second greatest is “love your neighbor as yourself.”

That raises the bar. But that’s not where it stops.

“I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:44-45).

In each of these examples, the Greek word for love is agapao. This is not a love of brotherly affection or emotional connection. Rather, agapao or agape love seeks the best for its object. This love is not based on feelings, but a determined act of the will, a deliberate joyful resolve to put the welfare of others above our own.

Isn’t this essentially what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13? “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

It seems to me that we might have forgotten that love is central to our Christian faith. Love for our God, love for our family of faith, love for those around us, and even love towards those we consider to be our enemies.

If Jesus said we are to love as he loved us, how then did he love? Looking at his interactions with others, we see that He willingly related with all kinds -- sinners, tax collectors, Pharisees, Sadducees, Romans, Samaritans, fisherman, women, children -- with no regard for society’s view of the respectable. Jesus loved these people and treated them out of that love.

No matter how we might feel about politics, race, religion, or the many other divisions in today's world, we must look past the issues to the people involved. We must love them and we must demonstrate that love in ways they can see, understand, and to which they can respond. Anything less is a deliberate rejection of the lordship of the God who “so loved the world that he gave his only son . . .”