The Purpose of This Blog

In response to the challenge by the Southern Baptist Convention that churches take on the task to share the gospel with unengaged unreached people groups, the missions team of Harmony Pittsburg Baptist Association felt the need for a way to focus prayer on the task. This blog is intended to facilitate prayer for those contemplating their role in fulfilling the Great Commission. This on-line prayer guide may prove useful to those exploring a call to missions involvement as well as to those who have sensed a call to pray for those who will go to the front lines.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


FEW WOULD QUESTION that our churches (and we as individual believers) are not as effective as we would like to be in seeing lost people find transformed lives in Christ.  When we read the Book of Acts, we marvel at how the first disciples were able to make such an impact when they had much less than we do in the way of resources.  However, when we look at Jesus’ parable of the seed and the sower, we see that only four things are needed for a fruitful harvest.
GOOD SEED:  This factor seems easy.  Jesus says the seed is the Word of God (Mark 4:14).  But Neil Cole in Organic Church (p.66) points out that many times we give people a “seed substitute”—tracts, quarterlies, sermons, books, fill-in-the-blank study guides.  We give them messages about the Word rather than the pure Word itself.  The Word is “quick” (alive) and “powerful.”  We need to get back into the Book and once again become a “people of the book.”
GOOD SOIL:  Jesus’ parable (Mark 4:1-20) is sometimes called The Parable of the Soils because the response to the Word seems to depend on the type of soil.  Only the good soil produces fruit.  What is good soil?  According to Cole (p. 72), the Bible says the following kinds of people are more likely to respond to the Gospel:  bad (immoral) people (Lk. 5:32); poor people (James 2:5); young people (Matt. 18:3); those searching for God, perhaps in the occult and in other religions (Matt. 7:7); uneducated and powerless people (1 Cor. 1:27); and the insignificant, the discriminated against, and the nobodies (1 Cor. 1:28-29).  On the other hand, the Bible classifies the following people as bad soil for the Gospel:  intellectuals, people of influence, and those of high social status (1 Cor. 1:26); good “moral” people (Lk. 5:31-32); and the wealthy (Lk 18:24-25).  With which type of people are we investing our time and effort?
GOOD SUN:  I am using “sun” to mean “climate” (I needed a word that started with the letter s).  Even good seed in good soil will struggle in bad climate.  For example, conflict is bad climate (Ps. 133; John 17:20-23).  Look at the three things in the parable that made the seed among thorns unfruitful.  Good climate focuses on Jesus.
GOOD SOWERS:  Years ago it dawned on me that one of the reasons for meager harvests is the lack of planting.  We reap what we sow.  But if we don’t sow, we won’t reap.  One key to church planting movements is abundant gospel sowing.  The more people spreading the Word, the more seed planted, the more likely it is that we will have an abundant harvest of lives transformed.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Gospel Debt

The Apostle Paul explained his desire to preach the gospel in Rome in these words:  I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise (Romans 1:14).  In what sense did he owe a debt?  The kinds of people named -- the civilized and the uncivilized, the educated and the uneducated -- had not done anything for Paul that required him to return a favor.  It would make sense for Paul to speak of his debt to the Jews for the instruction in the Scriptures they gave him.  Even more logical would be for Paul to say that he was indebted to God (a sense taken by many modern translations who put the verse in terms of being under an obligation).  How could Paul owe both those who were part of the Roman empire and those of the tribes beyond its borders who spoke unintelligible languages?

We owe a debt when we possess something that belongs to another.  If someone loans me money, I owe him money or its equivalent in return.  When I receive electricity from the power company, I owe them payment for having possessed and used what was theirs.  Whenever we possess something that belongs to another, we are their debtor.  In this sense, when we are given something to pass on to someone else, we become debtors.  We owe them what is theirs.

As Americans, we usually see the gospel in terms of personal salvation.  The individualism of our culture causes us to miss the global or universal aspects of the gospel.  As someone recently put it, the gospel is not what Jesus has done for me but what He has done for all.  My story is just a small part of His story.  My testimony confirms the truth of the gospel which is for all peoples everywhere.  After all, Jesus is not just the propitiation for my sins but for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2).  Anyone who believes in Him has eternal life (John 3:16).

The gospel is more than a personal possession.  It is a treasure meant to be shared.  It belongs to others also.  I am not to hoard it to myself.  Since it is meant for others, I owe it to them.  I am in their debt until I have shared it with them.  I am debtor to them because I hold what is theirs.  They may be near or far, like me or unlike me, but I owe them what is theirs.

In the U. S., one's credit score has become very important.  The higher one's score in his or her credit report, the lower his interest rate and the easier it is to receive further credit.  The way to a higher score is by faithfully paying off one's debts.  Recently I asked myself the question, "I wonder what my credit score is with God?"  Let's pray that we will be faithful in paying our gospel debt by seeing that the nations get the gift God has given us not only for our benefit but also to give to them.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Blessed to Be a Blessing

Years ago, a well-known televangelist was sentenced to 44 years in prison for taking the money sent to his organization for use in ministry and using it to support his own lavish lifestyle.  (I have not used his name because he has served his prison time and also publicly confessed and repented.)  To use for oneself what was given for others is stealing.  It is illegal, unethical, and immoral.  It is reprehensible.  But how often do we do this with God's blessings to us?

When God promised to bless Abraham, He made it clear that the blessing was not just for his own benefit.  "I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. ... And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (Genesis 12:2, 3).  The Psalmist makes it clear that this pattern applies to all of us, not just Abraham:  "God be merciful to us and bless us, and cause His face to shine upon us that Your way may be known on earth, Your salvation among all nations. ... God shall bless us and all the ends of the earth shall fear Him" (Psalm 67:1-2, 7).

Both the words to Abraham and the lyrics of the psalm make it clear that the blessings we receive from God are meant to reach all the peoples of the world.  We are stewards of whatever He places in our possession, managers of His estate for the purpose of making His glory known throughout the earth.  To use His gifts for our own comfort and pleasure without thought of how to help others know Him and reverence Him is as surely a crime as that of any embezzler.

The first impulse of the child of God is to share generously.  "Freely you have received; freely give," Jesus told the disciples as He sent them out to preach and heal (Matthew 10:8).  When Jesus fed the five thousand, He gave the pieces of the five loaves and two fishes to the disciples who in turn gave to the crowd with the result that all were fed with plenty left over.  And God was glorified in Jesus!

We are blessed to be a blessing.  Let us pray today that God would make us as generous as He is.  May we use what He has given us to make Him known among the nations.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Another Look at Acts 1:8

Various attempts have been made to apply the geography of Acts 1:8 to the personal situation of Jesus' disciples.   A common view is to see "Jerusalem" as the city/town/village where one lives, "Judea" as the state/province/district, "Samaria" as the nation, and the "uttermost parts" as the world.  The writing of missiologist David Mays has given me another way of understanding these levels.

Mays points out that we can classify the peoples who need our witness as either "like us" or "not like us."  "Like us" may include similar factors such as language, ethnicity, culture, socio-economic status, or even age-group.  When we don't share one or more of those factors, we tend to see others as "not like us."  Usually, that means that there will be some barrier to get over in order to share the gospel.

Mays further points out that peoples are either "near us" or "not near us."  This distinction is based solely on geographical location.  Some, regardless of the other factors already mentioned, are right around us, readily available for contact and conversation.  Others will require us to make a journey or relocate in order to develop a relationship with them.  Again, there is a barrier to cross--simple geographical distance.

Combining these two types of distinction yields four classifications:  (1) like us and near us; (2) like us and not near us; (3) not like us and near us; and (4) not like us and not near us.  Applying these four categories to Acts 1:8, we see Jerusalem as those both like and near us; Judea, like us but not near us (that is, not so close); Samaria, not like us but near us (that is, not so far); and the uttermost, not like us and not near us.

As pointed out in a previous post ("Both ... And"), we are not to think in terms of progressing through these levels sequentially.  We are to address them all simultaneously.  It is not logical to ignore the lost around us to take the gospel to the ends of the earth.  It is heartless to neglect those in lands with little access to the gospel while repeatedly evangelizing those around us.  And while it may be more comfortable and pragmatic to share with those of our own kind (think "homogenous unit" principle of church growth), it would be utterly selfish to save our own at the expense of Jesus' "other fold" (John 10:16).

Let's pray that we will be complete in our obedience to Jesus' instruction.

Monday, April 9, 2012

A False Dichotomy

To insist that churches and believers must focus their missions efforts on unengaged unreached people groups (UUPGs) is not to suggest that other efforts are wrong or unimportant.  All efforts to make disciples of those without Christ have merit.  We just have to be careful not to neglect those who have the least access to the gospel.  We must not allow good things to so occupy us that we fail to do the thing that Jesus most clearly commissioned us to do.

It is comparable to Jesus' teaching on tithing.  When He rebuked the scribes and Pharisees for their rigorous approach to tithing while neglecting the more important heart attitudes, He said, "These ought ye to have done and not leave the other undone" (Matthew 23:23).  In other words, it's not a question of one or the other; do both.  What they did was not wrong; it was what they had failed to do that brought His condemnation.

Preachers often contrast one activity with another in order to emphasize their point.  I have a book in which a prominent evangelist seems to say that soul-winning is more important than discipleship.  What he really means is that there are some faulty approaches to disciple-making that focus on those who are already saved and omit presenting the gospel to those who are lost.  True discipleship begins with the first witnessing relationship.  He would be the first to agree that those who are won to Christ must be discipled.  He would also agree that discipleship  must include evangelism.  After all, one cannot be a disciple unless he makes disciples.  We should not separate things God has put together.

The examples of false dichotomies make for an extensive list:  social ministry versus evangelism; local evangelism versus global missions; mass evangelism versus personal evangelism; church planting versus soul-winning; praying versus doing; and so on.  I am sure that you readers can add your own examples to this beginning of a list.  However, in almost every case, it is not a question of either/or but of both/and.

In missions, we should not have to stop current efforts in order to focus on UUPGs.  A church should not cut back its support of established missions through prayer and giving in order to take mission trips.  Appointing career missionaries should not be curtailed in favor of extensive use of volunteers.  We don't have to quit working alongside incarnational missionaries in order to embrace unengaged unreached people groups on our own.  We need to do all of these things.

It is true that the good can become the enemy of the best.  When good things crowd out the best thing, adjustments must be made.  But where possible, it is preferable to give the best its proper emphasis without diminishing our support for and commitment to the good.

Let's pray today for wisdom as to how to do the highest that ought to be done without leaving the other undone.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

A Point of Practicality

Making it our aim to plant healthy reproducing churches in unengaged unreached people groups is the only way to assure the completion of the Great Commission.  Any other aim will always come up short of full completion.

In one way this fact is obviously true because the mandate is to save some from every people group, not just to save as many as possible (see the post "A Matter of Obedience").  Preaching to the Southern Baptist Convention, David Platt illustrated this point by asking the audience to imagine a company of rescue teams sent out to help victims of several towns hit by tornadoes.  When the whole company reaches the first town, they find more devastation and victims than they could ever help.  He asked, would it make sense for the company to send teams on to other towns, knowing that doing so might mean that some victims at the present location would not be reached in time?  He pointed out that getting to other towns would require travel time, time that could have been used in rescuing people.  He added that some of the other towns were even known to resist help from others even to the point of attacking and killing outsiders.  So would it be logical for the company to send teams to those other towns instead of focusing on the first one?  His answer was NO, unless the commander had ordered them to save some from all the towns, not just save as many people as possible.  That is precisely what our Commander has ordered us to do.

Think of a large farm with various fields, some with grains, some with berries, and some with trees bearing different fruits and nuts.  In a particular year, the harvest is so plentiful that the workers cannot get the whole of any one field harvested.  So the owner sends the laborers into the various fields to get as many from each field as possible because he wants at least some of each variety.  Such a situation is comparable to what the Lord has ordered us to do.  (Of course, another solution is more laborers--the subject of a different post.)

There is another point to make.  Practically, we don't know for sure that sending workers to UUPGs will lessen the number saved.  One of those groups might turn out to be particularly responsive.  One of those groups might prove to be the key to reaching many other groups.  We can't know for sure how the Lord of the harvest has planned it all out, so it is best if we do it His way, not the way that seems best to us.

Another comparison for our task would be to the taking of a long, multiple-choice test (one like students take for getting into a university or graduate school).  A strategy recommended for the best results is to avoid taking too much time with any one question.  It is better to go completely through the test answering the questions that one knows the answer to and then go back to the ones that require figuring out.  In that way, the student answers as many questions as possible with the added bonus that sometimes the answer to a later question might help answer an earlier one.

Unless we get the gospel to all the people groups as the Lord has commanded us, we will not know how He has provided for things to work out.  There may be another Billy Graham or Hudson Taylor in that next people group to be reached.  The way to reach the most people is to do what He has commanded--make disciples of all nations, i.e., people groups.

Let's continue to pray for all those who are embracing unengaged unreached people groups.  Let's pray that many more will join them.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Issue of Strategy

The previous two posts have presented two reasons for stressing the need to "embrace" unengaged unreached people groups even though there are many other lost people who could be evangelized.  First, I urged us to consider that although other peoples may be just as lost as those in UUPGs, those groups at least had some access to the gospel and had someone already working to get the gospel to them.  Second, I reminded us that the Great Commission commands us to make disciples of all people groups not to make all people disciples.  There will always be more lost people that we could evangelize, but someone has to stay focused on those peoples who have not yet heard.

That leads us to a third reason for making the effort to reach UUPGs our highest priority.  Such a focus is the most strategic way to assure that as many as possible have the chance to hear the gospel and be saved.  Any other definition of missions' ultimate goal will lessen the likelihood that the lost will be found.

One of the ways that the concept of people groups has been explained is that a people group is the largest social unit through which the gospel will spread without encountering significant barriers.  Since the gospel spreads fastest within homogeneous units, establishing a witness within each unit is essential to seeing the greatest number of people saved in the shortest amount of time.  Cultural insiders face less resistance than cultural outsiders.  Establishing a group of multiplying disciples within every people group is the best way to see as many come to Christ as possible.

The sower scatters the seed.  He does not pour the seed into a limited area and wait for the developing plants to reproduce and cover the field.  He has an optimal plan for broadcasting the seed over the whole field so that the harvest will be as bountiful as possible within the growing season.

I once attended a church that served the Lord's Supper to more than 15,000 worshipers every weekend.  Each person took the juice representing the blood from a small plastic cup that was passed by ushers to congregants on trays.  I couldn't imagine how long it would take to fill that many cups one by one.  Then I discovered that they had a machine that filled an entire tray of cups at a time.  In a way, I am saying that the fastest way to fill the world with the gospel is to change our thinking from the goal of discipling every individual (fill each cup) to the goal of discipling each people group (fill each tray).

In His wisdom, the Lord instructed His followers to get the gospel to all nations, the socio-ethno-linguistic cultural units that make up the world.  Once each unit is "infected" with the Word, it will spread to each individual more quickly.  His strategy for saving as many individuals as possible is to plant indigenous churches within each people group of the world.  Let's make that our prayer today.