I talked to a Bangladeshi Christian leader who was deeply concerned about how his people were attached to the western forms of church that had been handed down to them.
He told me how they learned to think it’s of upmost importance for them to build nice white churches with crosses on top, which were a big offense to the hostile Muslim community around them.
They would build these churches, and then would suffer bombings, or attacks. The buildings would be destroyed, and then would persevere in building more buildings, only to face more bombings and danger. They were holding on tenaciously to that nice white steeple church that they learned from the foreigners to build and establish, and it was wearing them out.
This Bangladeshi leader said he was always trying so hard to get his people to see that they didn’t need to build these expensive, offensive buildings. It was enough for them to be the church and meet together. But it was so hard for them to understand and accept this, after being conditioned by the years of missions work before.
“They can bomb and destroy those buildings in 5 seconds,” he would tell them, “but they can never destroy the church.”
The treasured trappings foreign workers carry with them, whether they be buildings, programs, or cultural forms, often become heavy burdens the locals bear painfully for generations.
Jesus brought something simple, so let’s carry something simple forward.
In some places, believers sit in solitary confinement, praying for the grace to forgive, love, and share the gospel with the one guy who’s torturing them every day.
They pray fervently to be able to make good use of tiny bit of freedom and opportunity they have.
Here in the West, we pay hundreds of dollars to go to conferences with thousands of people and scores of speakers to help us figure out how we can use our tens of thousands of dollars worth of education.
How much are we praying to make use of this boundless freedom and opportunity?
What are we doing to lose our lives for the gospel?
“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” (Luke 12:48)
“I want to go overseas and live for Jesus, but what can I do?”
“I want to go serve, but what will my role be?”
In Mark 3:14 it says that Jesus chose the 12 disciples, the ones he later sent out to the nations,
to be with him,
to be sent out to preach, and
to have authority to drive out demons.
Let’s break down that job description and look at their roles and responsibilities… and let’s see how people can do these same things today.
to be with Jesus
Know Jesus, spend time with him in prayer, and love God with your whole heart, soul, and mind. Enjoy the presence and direction of the Holy Spirit in leading, and just be God’s friend.
to be sent to preach (tell people stuff)
Go out to where the people who don’t know him are, to learn to speak their language and talk to them, and talk about Jesus. Explain the truth about Jesus as he sends you into different situations and places. Just tell them what you believe, who Jesus is, and how he died and rose again from the dead.
to have spiritual authority over evil
Break down strongholds in minds and hearts with the simple word of Christ. Cast out demons, heal the sick, and raise the dead.
Jesus picked his disciples to do these things, and the Father is still sending people today to finish the task of getting the good news told in every language and people group. (Matt 24:14) There are still a few places where people have no contact with a testimony of Jesus. He’s sending people to go and be that testimony.
Really, is it that simple?? Well, it often takes all kinds of work and planning to get into and live in these unreached places where no-one knows Jesus. And it’s vital to have a good team or partner to help us get there and stay there well. But yes, the work we do, the job description we have, can be this simple and straightforward:
Be with Jesus, talk about Him, and demonstrate the Kingdom.
“Really??” people might ask, “Is that enough to do with my life? Don’t I have to be doing something more official and intentional like ‘church planting’ or establishing a ‘ministry center’ ?” “Can I just be a person sent to know him and follow him?”
Yes you can! After all, this is the job description that Jesus gave his disciples in Acts 1:8. He said, “You will be my witnesses (ie. my people who can talk about me) in the farthest places of the earth.” Let’s not let the the job description that Jesus gave his disciples become questionable, lame, or deficient in our eyes. Let’s not start thinking that we need to have bigger and better plans than simply knowing him and making him known.
After all, it is the knowledge of Jesus that saves, not anything else that we can establish or set up. Paul talked about the gospel, the news about Jesus, bearing fruit and growing in the whole world (Col 1:5-6). So people should feel free to give themselves fully to this, and be confident that they’re doing something worthwhile.
People often worry about finding the right, effective ministry that they can join. I know I did for a very long time, acting as if everything depended on finding the perfect, successful ministry to be a part of. But if Christ is living inside of you, you are a walking ministry. It was enough for Jesus to walk into places for God to do mighty works. And guess what? He’s inside of you, walking with you! So that’s all you need. It’s not about what you think you can do. It’s about trusting that he is living inside of you and preparing good works for you to do. (Eph 2:10)
you can live a life of simply:
getting somewhere where people don’t know Jesus
learning the language and figuring out how to talk to people
telling people about Jesus, and doing his miracles
teaching and encouraging the ones crazy enough to believe to love and follow Him (in other words: making disciples)
He leads us forward with the good news of Jesus. He gives us opportunities to share the good news and make disciples. And he will build his strong, stable, unshakeable Church.
Want to go do this? Find a group that will help you go and live out this simple job description. Find people or a team who will walk with you and help you go forward into these places.
And he promised to take care of us and be with us until the very last day. (Matt 28:20)
How can God use single girls in the Muslim world, in places where people don’t know Jesus? Check out this amazing story from my friends!
We met the girls in the evening at the cafe. I felt like we should talk and share with them, but we were all dead tired. We decided do breakfast in the next morning. They were up early getting ready for us. After one told a historical story about her cities castle with a sad ending, we asked if they like stories with happy endings. “I like stories with right endings,” said Z “Whether or not it is happy it should be right.”
“I know a story that if you look at one way the possibility for it to have a just AND happy ending looks impossible,” we said, “But if you look at it the other way, it is the most beautiful story where Justice and Love meet. Would you like to hear it?”
They eagerly leaned forward to hear the story. We explained from Adam and Eve to Abraham to our own situation and how God is just and must punish sin, but at the same time He loves us SO much and wants us to be with Him. What a dilemma! What can He do?
The girls discussed it among themselves then one girl said, “the only way God can be just but also true to His deep love for us is if he takes our punishment Himself.”
Exactly! Then we explained how God became human, how He was the perfect sacrifice for us and how we have a relationship with God closer than our closest friend. As the girls mulled it over, we asked, “Would you like to have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ?”
One girl looked us in the eyes and said, “Yes! I want a close relationship with God whether through Jesus or our prophet… But if you’re forgiven though Jesus, then aren’t you free to sin as much as you want?”
“Grace doesn’t give us an excuse to sin, grace gives us a reason not to sin. Like the love of a father– you would do anything you could to not hurt him. Because of grace we don’t want to sin” one of us explained. We showed her Romans 6 and she read it out loud and then was quiet.
“I don’t have words to describe the feeling inside of me,” our friend said. “I read the New Testament two years ago, but when you opened it up and showed me these verses, the words spoke to me in a new way! I need to read it again.”
We started bringing the dishes to kitchen preparing to wash them because we would be picked up 20 minutes later. “Leave them!” They said, “We don’t have much time, and we want to keep talking.”
Back at the table all four girls leaned in and asked, “Can you tell us another story? Tell us another story about Jesus!”
We told them about Jesus healing and honoring the woman with the issue of blood. They gasped in surprise when we told how Jesus revealed His identity as Messiah to the woman at the well. Then we prayed for each of them individually.
“Please can I keep this book?” Z asked. Really feeling her hunger for the truth and justice she had tasted that day, we gave her the book. Pray for her and her friends to devour God’s Word ravenously and to drink deeply from God’s living water.
If you spend your years on behalf of a people hungry for the gospel, if you waste the prime of your life in a place where people are cut off from the good news, then this promise applies to you:
“The Lord will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
When we pour out our lives in difficult, dark places, God pours out his love and goodness on us.
When we hear the word of the Lord, when Christ pushes us forward to a person, to a people, to a place, something happens… When we know we’re setting our steps to be working with him, in exactly the time and space that he wants to be with us, we come alive.
It’s something like how the children felt when the Beaver from Narnia mentioned that Aslan was on the move.
“At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump in his inside. Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer.”
There’s a childlike excitement and drive that propels us forward in knowing Christ, in prayer, in cross-cultural work, language learning, and talking to the lost. It sometimes is very trying and difficult, it often requires perseverance and resolve, but it shouldn’t always feel like a dry straining.
“To many Christians the thought of a life wholly abiding in Christ is one of strain and painful effort. They cannot see that the strain and effort only come, as long as we do not yield ourselves unreservedly to the life of Christ in us.” (Andrew Murray)
Yielding ourselves unreservedly to the life of Christ in us… I think this is the kind of surrender and yielding that Paul described his own “work” as. He was propelled ever forward by the desires of the Spirit inside of him.
“We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.” Col 1:29
It’s not trying to work up a bunch of motivation and work hard with that. It’s about emptying ourselves and receiving his ambition. It’s not about working up the courage to go do something scary, it’s letting go and trusting that he’ll be with you in that scary place. It’s about yielding ourselves to the life and passions of Christ, wherever they may be. They could be among flocks of Muslim families in a park during Ramadan, or in another more difficult country that he’s calling us to, or in sweet communion with the Father in a prayer closet.
The lion of Judah is roaring and charging forward inside of us. We’re just trying to keep up.
Make sure you’re knowing him, knowing his voice, and don’t settle for anything less. Get on your knees, and get his heart for the people. Get his heart for whoever he wants you to go to.