How to Develop a National Challenge from Research Information

Like wind in the sails of a boat, I have seen how mission information has the power to move the Body of Christ to fulfill Jesus’ Great Commission to disciple all nations. Leaders desperately need this kind of information, but often they are too busy to gather the data and analyze it. You can provide a vital service by placing this strategic mission information in their hands.  As Bob Waymire, a highly respected leader in mission research, says:

The right information the right hands at the right time has a powerful effect.

This “right information,” because of its powerful effect, has been likened to a “prophetic message.” Here I explain how to develop a “prophetic message” or national challenge  from research information. I also created a short video that outlines this process.

The Prophetic Message in Mission Research

As far as I can tell, the term “prophetic message” was first applied to mission research by Jim Montgomery, who began his missionary career in the Philippines. In 1989 Montgomery published a significant book entitled DAWN 2000, which includes an entire chapter on “the prophetic message.” Although Montgomery was likely the first to apply the term “prophetic message” to church planting, he was standing on the shoulders of biblical prophets, other mission pioneers, and Jesus himself.

Jesus shows the way

The best example I’ve found of how to use research information to develop a prophetic message is found in Matthew 9:35-38. This passage significantly shaped Montgomery’s understanding of how to use research information to develop a prophetic message. Let’s familiarize ourselves with this passage.

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

In this passage we see Jesus taking three distinct “actions” regarding mission information:

First, we see Jesus gathering data about his ministry area. “Jesus went through all the towns and villages…. He saw the crowds.” Following Jesus’ example, while doing ministry, you can gather data that will be used to mobilize others in the Body of Christ. Gathering data is sometimes called Field Research.

Second, we see Jesus analyzing the data and drawing conclusions. I will say much more about this.

And third, we see Jesus communicating the “prophetic message” to his disciples, calling them to action.

Analyzing Mission Information

We will mainly focus on analyzing mission information as this helps us hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches (Rev. 2:7). Montgomery identified two categories of mission information, drawn from this very passage, that are building blocks for the prophetic message.

The Harvest Field: The Community or Country

We will call the first building block of information the Harvest Field. Note that is this comes from the last two words of the passage.

The Harvest Field represents the context for making disciples. I like to think of Harvest Field as a Community or Country – although I have some colleagues who have multi-national regions or entire Continents as their “Harvest Field.”

This Matthew 9 passage guides us in analyzing the Harvest Field. First, Jesus noted that the harvest was plentiful. How did he know this?  Well the previous verse mentions that “he saw the crowds”– multitudes of people were coming to Jesus. This indicates that they were receptive. It is important to determine how receptive people are to the Gospel. Realize that “receptiveness” can change over time and should be reassessed.

Jesus also identified the needs of the people in his “Harvest Field.” A colleague pointed out to me that Jesus met the people’s spiritual needs, as he taught in their synagogues and preached to them the gospel of the kingdom. He also addressed their physical needs (healing every sickness and disease), he was moved with compassion by their psychological needs (as they were harassed and helpless), and he saw their need for servant leaders (for they were like sheep without a shepherd).

So then, a second part of our analysis seeks to identify needs in the community we are seeking to impact with the Gospel. This reminds me of what Paul wrote to Titus: “Our people must learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, so that they will not be unfruitful” (Titus 3:14 NASB). Fruitful ministry meets people’s needs in a wholistic way – the same way that Jesus did.

In further analyzing the Harvest Field, we want to find out the population of a region, identify people groups that live there and their religious affiliation. We will also want to know about the cities, towns and villages in an area and their respective populations. This requires us to have up to date demographic information. Fortunately, this kind of information is widely available today.

The Harvest Force: The Church or Institutional Research

Jesus points to a second building block that we need to develop a prophetic message when he says, “The workers are few….” Montgomery also refers to “the workers” as the Harvest Force. We can also think of the Harvest Force as the Church – with a Big “C”. Our research about the Harvest Force begins with gathering information about local churches but goes deeper to include missionaries, Christian organizations, theological training institutions – all the human, material and organizational resources that potentially can be mobilized to make disciples.

When I assisted with the nationwide church census in Romania, we gathered information about the number of believers, average attendance, the church’s location, its denomination, the year the church started and contact information for the church’s leader. From this information we determined growth rates.  And we identified communities without a single church – over 10,000 in the whole nation. Alongside this information we also compiled a Directory of Christian Organizations and Christian workers. This information was very helpful in determining what resources were available in various parts of the county to make disciples.

Facts, Factors and Future Trends

Once we have the FACTS for the Harvest Force and the Harvest Field, we can compare information for different regions or denominations and begin to see where there is greater fruitfulness. Sometimes as I’m doing analysis, I exclaim, “Wow! I wonder what is happening here to produce so much fruit?”

Unfortunately, the FACTS alone are not sufficient to answer these deeper questions. We need to discover the FACTORS that help or hinder growth. To discover these GROWTH FACTORS, it is necessary to talk to the people closest to the situation and find out what they are doing – or better put, what God is doing. How exciting this is to hear their stories and discover how God is at work!  We also discover what fruitful practices or methods workers are using.  What we are doing here is known as a case study.

Sometimes people have effectively used FUTURE TRENDS to clarify what to do. For example, in the Philippines, church leaders projected that there would be 50,000 barangays in the country by the year 2000. (A barangay is the smallest administrative area in the Philippines).  Establishing a church in every barangay became their national challenge.

What Does God Want?

Once we have identified facts and factors for the Harvest Field and the Harvest Force, we want to seek God’s Perspective. Lay the information for the Harvest Force and the Harvest Field side by side with the Bible and ask: what does God want? Meditate on the data. Pray over it. Call out for insight. The goal is to see the Harvest Field and the Harvest Force the way God sees them. This is powerful. Doing so brings new insights. Needs emerge. Compassion is stirred. People are motivated to act. Which leads to…

The Call to Action

Note that Matthew 9 concludes with a specific call to action. “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his Harvest Field.” In this context, strategic prayer represents the next step Jesus’ disciples needed to take. Prayer is always a good place to start. But it is not the only thing we must do.

The “call to action” has also been called the “prophetic message” or the “national challenge.”

The Call to Action emerges as leaders of the Body of Christ wrestle with “what is it going to take” to accomplish what God wants. Oftentimes the call to action involves setting goals for a specific number of churches planted – or better yet, the number of localities or people groups to impact – training workers or sending out cross-cultural workers.  If you have not done so already, bring together leaders of the body of Christ, to learn what insights the research uncovered, then to pray and to wrestle with what it is going to take to do what God wants.

As leaders come to a consensus of what to do, it is time to share this call to action with the Body of Christ. Many have found it that articles, reports, booklets, prayer guides or short videos have a big impact. Publishing lists of locations without any church or maps are powerful ways to share needs with the Body of Christ and her leaders.

A Deeply Spiritual Process

Discovering the “national challenge” or “prophetic message” is a deeply spiritual process which drives you to God. Recently I was impressed by this verse in 1 Kings: “God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore.” (1 Kings 4:29 NIV)

When you know the facts, you have understanding.

When you identify factors, then you have insight.

When you know what to do, then you have wisdom.

In Solomon’s case, God gave all this to him because he asked. And God can give all of this to us if we ask. As James 1:5 reminds us: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (NIV)

So, ask God to show you the great things he wants to do in the Harvest Field (Jer. 33:3). “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Rev. 2:7).

Helpful Resources

I have briefly shared how to use research information to develop a prophetic message or national challenge. As you start to implement what you have learned, I believe you will find it helpful to have other resources to guide you.

First, the Global Research Team of One Challenge, on which I serve, is available to help you understand the times and know what to do. It is our dream that God would raise up a team of mission information workers in every nation of the world to provide the Body of Christ with accurate, up-to-date information to guide Kingdom Impact on a permanent basis. Perhaps you will be a part of one of these teams. Toward this end, we offer training, consulting, coaching and mentoring. Write us at research@oci.org to explore how we can work together.

Second, our website, www.OCresearch.info provides additional tips and tools to gather and analyze information to develop effective ministry strategies. This article links to resources that I have found most helpful in using research information to develop a prophetic message.

May God give you wisdom, insight and vast understanding as you provide Body of Christ and her leaders with the strategic information needed to make disciples in His harvest field.

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Key Insights from the 2017 National Church Planting Process Survey

Not all saturation church planting or disciple making processes produce equal fruit. What makes the difference? If we have limited resources, which emphases are most fruitful?

These are some of the questions posed at the beginning of the 2017 National Church Planting Processes Survey. This first-of-its-kind study aimed at assessing the effectiveness of whole-nation disciple making process, sometimes referred to as Saturation Church Planting (SCP) or DAWN Initiatives.

The results of this research exceeded expectations, yielding more significant findings than anticipated.

Here are seven key Insights found to advance nationwide disciple making processes:

  1. The “ideal” DAWN strategy is effective. 
  2. National Church Leadership is the most significant factor for developing a whole nation church planting process.
  3. “Seminars and Consultations” is the second most significant factor contributing to an effective national-wide disciple making process.
  4. Relationships are foundational to a fruitful national process.
  5. Refine the process.
  6. Think critically about it is going to take to disciple the whole nation.
  7. Success requires a long obedience in the same direction.

These insights, which when acted upon, can guide the development of effective nationwide disciple making processes.

A more thorough explanation of these seven insights is available here, including practical applications of how this research guides the development whole-nation disciple making processes as we move toward AD 2050.

See my earlier posts for other perspectives on this study.

 

The Vital Role of National Leadership in Advancing National Church Planting Processes

Earlier this month I was in Nairobi Kenya for the 8th Lausanne International Researchers’ Conference. It certainly was highlight for me to arrive in Nairobi on my birthday — my first time in Africa — and to present a paper on “The Vital Role of National Leadership in Advancing National Church Planting Processes. You can view the paper here.

This paper is based on the 2017 National Church Planting Process survey that I conducted. I was very surprised to discover that “National Leadership” was the most significant variable related to an effective National Church Planting Process and that leadership was the most frequently mentioned  theme in response to the question,“What would you consider to be one or two of the most significant lessons (positive or negative) that you have discovered about facilitating a national church planting process?”

My research provides an empirical basis for what evangelical leaders have been saying for some time. For example Bill Hybles asserts, “The local church is the hope of the world, and its future rests primarily in the hands of its leaders.” And John Maxwell points out, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” So when it comes to advancing a national church planting process, indeed “everything rises and falls on leadership.”

What we are learning about effective National Church Planting Processes

Not all national saturation church planting  processes produce equal fruit. What makes the difference? If we have limited resources, which emphases are most fruitful?

For the last nine months I have been studying questions like these by surveying over 100 high level church leaders from every continent.  Several of our presuppositions were confirmed, but there were also significant surprises! This first-of-its-kind report is available here.

If you have been significantly involved in a national church planting process would like to share your insights, you can participate in the 2018 survey through this link.”

Earlier I provided an overview of the research project here.

Exciting Study on National Church Planting Processes Forthcoming

61NCPPcountriesIn 2017, a key ministry partner requested my help to evaluate the effectiveness of National Church Planting Processes on a global scale.  With the help of my co-workers on the Global Research Team, I created an online survey, and over 110 workers with significant experience participated.  In February I will travel to Berlin to interact with a group of global church planting catalysis to share the major findings of this study and new insights pertinent to advancing national church planting processes around the world.  In addition, I’ve planning a series of additional reports focused on related topics. Reports and updates will be posted at www.OCresearch.info.

I consider this the most significant research project I’ve been involved with to date. It has been a super opportunity to collaborate with experts in the field of mission research as well as those with significant experience in advancing national church planting processes. If each person who completed the survey has just of ten years experience (highly likely), this totals over a millennium of experience!

A National Church Planting Process is based on the DAWN vision, which became a major strategy for world evangelization in the 1990s. DAWN, an acronym that stands for “Disciple A Whole Nation,” has biblical roots in Matthew 28:19-20.  The DAWN vision, akin to “Saturation Church Planting”, grew out of Jim Montgomery’s experience in the Philippines as an OC missionary.  In the 1970s Montgomery, along with Donald McGavran, played a key role in motivating and mobilizing Philippine church leaders to set a goal of establishing an evangelizing congregation in every small community of the country by the year 2000.  Projections estimated that this would require 50,000 churches, quite an audacious goal when there were roughly 5,000 evangelical churches in the country! But by 2000, the Philippines had more than 50,000 evangelical churches – though not every small community had an evangelizing church.

DAWN became a highly significant world evangelism strategy during the final decade of the 20st century. In 1985 Montgomery founded Dawn Ministries to promote national church planting processes in other nations. Montgomery’s book, DAWN 2000: 7 Million Churches to Go, published in 1989, was key in spreading the vision globally. In the 1990s the DAWN strategy was championed by the Lausanne Movement, the World Evangelical Alliance as well as the AD 2000 and Beyond Movement.  DAWN Report #21, a special AD 2000/GCOWE edition, lists 68 countries with active projects and mentions 68 additional nations seriously considering a DAWN-type project. A 1998 report disseminated by the World Evangelical Alliance for the Ibero American DAWN Congress ’98 provided information about DAWN projects for more than 60 countries.  In 2002, Dr. Steve Steele, then Dawn Ministry’s CEO, presented a paper at The Billy Graham Center Evangelism Roundtable. Steele mentions “150 or so DAWN national Projects.” Roughly a million new churches were planted in the 1990s as a result of these projects. Thus DAWN had a significant impact on world evangelization in the 1990s, which continues into the third millennium, even though Dawn Ministries has essentially ceased to function.

Although numerous studies of particular DAWN country projects have been undertaken, we were not familiar with meta-evaluation of DAWN initiatives. Thus we undertook the challenge of a multi-national evaluation of DAWN initiatives.

In 2018 we continue to gather insights from those involved in national church planting processes.  If you have been or are currently involved in advancing a national church planting process, you are invited to participate in this online survey.  We value your input. The survey should take 10 to 20 minutes to complete and your responses are confidential. Click here to participate in the 2018 National Church Planting Process survey.

A Tribute to one of My Heroes: Chuck Holsinger

Chuck HolsingerOn September 13th, Cathy and I attended the memorial service for Chuck Holsinger, one of the early workers with our mission, OC International.  I don’t believe I’ve been at a memorial service where there has been more laughter as numerous people shared humorous anecdotes about Chuck. He had a great sense of humor; he also had great love for God and his country.

We first met Chuck in 1991 in California when we were checking out OC. I remember what he shared in the seminar about support raising “I don’t raise support. God lowers it.” This piece of wisdom has stuck with me ever since and on several occasions I have passed it on to others.

Chuck was the Europe Area Director who opened Romania as an OC field. The first time he visited Romania Chuck remarked, “Romania reminds me of Taiwan in the 1950s. We should have purchased an office then when property was inexpensive. But we didn’t. Then the economy took off, and we were never able to purchase an office. We aren’t going to make that same mistake again.”

Chuck shared this need with two of his friends in business and received gifts to purchase an apartment for our team to use as an office, which was a tremendous blessing not only to our team but to the many other Christian groups, including a church plant, which used the office for meetings and office space. And Chuck was right! The economy did take off in Romania, and if we had not purchased an office when we did, we would not have been able to so so latter on.  It was an especially lovely moment for us when we hosted a group from Taiwan at our office during a vision trip to Romania.  It was like the Taiwan-Romania connection had come full circle.

Chuck and his wife Betty visited Romania about a week after we first arrived in country. He had connections with a Pastor in a city on the Black Sea. So we all went to visit this Pastor in Braila. This was our first ministry trip, which involved a three hour train trip – cultural experience in itself. I was Chuck’s roommate. As we were getting to know each other, I mentioned that I began my education at Penn State. Chuck mentioned that he had a friend who was on the Board of Trustees at PSU back in the 1970s, who was praying for revival on the campus. Upon hearing this, I became excited to share with Chuck how God had answered his friend’s prayers.

During the 1970s and early 1980s, one of the largest Campus Crusade chapters was at Penn State with about a thousand students involved. Other Christian groups such as InterVarsity and Navigators were also strong on campus. Little known to me when I arrived on campus in the fall of 1979, there was a “revival” going on among the students with strong foreign missions spirit.  In the spring of 1980 Ralph Winter came to Penn State and held one of the early Perspectives Courses. The vision he cast took root among the students. I too caught the mission vision and left Penn State the following year to prepare for missionary service. Those who have closely followed the movement at PSU say that well over 100 students served overseas. One group of students went on to start Caleb Project, which mobilized a generation for missions. I am in touch with several who are still serving today, and I know many more that have a great heart for missions and are serving as senders. So it was a pleasure for me to share “the other half of the story” with Chuck.

In retirement Chuck and his wife Betty settled in Upland, Indiana. That town might sound familiar, because this is where our family also landed five years ago.  Chuck had quite a ministry in our little town. He regularly went to the Circle K gas station in the mornings to get a coffee and a donut – but his real motive was share a word of encouragement and the love of Christ with the people who came into the store. Chuck had a knack of turning fact conversations into faith conversations.

Chuck was also a decorated WWII veteran who served in the Philippines. He wrote a book about his experiences, Above the Cry of Battle. The book is really his testimony of how God protected him in battle and enabled him to forgive the Japanese for the atrocities which he witnessed. When he was at the Circle K, Chuck was known to go to his car, pull out his book from the box he kept in the trunk and give it to a veteran or any other person who needed encouragement.  I’ve heard many other stories of how Chuck was a light in our community.

The Pastor officiating Chuck’s memorial service shared Hebrews 13:7 “Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.” This is so true in Chuck’s case. He left us a wonderful Christ-like example of generosity, faith and service that we would do well to emulate.

Pursuing Jesus’ Vision for Ministry

It is well known that Jesus had an itinerant ministry.  A cursory reading of the Gospels reveals that he traveled extensively. As I pondered Jesus’ travels, the question occurred to me, “Was Jesus just wandering around in all these travels or was he pursuing a specific purpose?” Taking a closer look, I found several surprising answers, which I will point out here, as well as how these insights apply today.

Pursuing a God-given Purpose

In the early days of Jesus’ ministry in Capernaum, Mark records a saying of Jesus that gives us great insight into his ministry vision.  But to grasp full significance of his statement, we will need to examine Jesus’ saying in context.

When evening came, after the sun had set, they began bringing to Him all who were ill and those who were demon-possessed. And the whole city had gathered at the door. And He healed many who were ill with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and He was not permitting the demons to speak, because they knew who He was.

In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left {the house,} and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there. Simon and his companions searched for Him; they found Him, and said to Him, “Everyone is looking for you.” He said to them, “Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may preach there also; for that is what I came for.” And He went into their synagogues throughout all Galilee, preaching and casting out the demons. (Mark 1:32-39 NASB)

I’m initially shocked that Jesus would leave the interested and needy crowds to preach in places that had not yet heard the Gospel. That seems counter-intuitional.  Would it not make sense to stay and follow up on those who are open and interested? A closer reading of verse 38, though, reveals that Jesus had a clear vision of what he should do.

“Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may preach there also; for that is what I came for.” (Mark 1:38).

Luke provides a complementary perspective on the same event. There Jesus says:

“I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose.” (Luke 4:43)

This passage is even clearer in showing that Jesus was pursuing a God-given purpose.

Both Mark’s and Luke’s passages taken together give us additional insight into how Jesus’s vision directed his actions. In both passages, Jesus justifies his surprising action by referencing his purpose. So we can conclude Jesus was not just wandering around aimlessly. He was pursuing a clear, God-given purpose.

A further examination of the Gospel accounts of Jesus ministry provides further insight into Jesus’ ministry vision.

A Saturation Vision

Jesus’ Early Ministry in Galilee

Mark 1:39 shows how Jesus acted upon his God-given vision. “And He went into their synagogues throughout all Galilee, preaching and casting out the demons.”

Galilee in the Time of JesusMatthew’s Gospel also accentuates the scope of Jesus’ itinerant ministry. Matthew observes, “Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people.” (Matt. 4:23). Latter Matthew in chapter 9 repeats the phrase “Jesus was going through” and then adds additional detail: “Jesus was going through all the cities and villages… proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom.” (Matthew 9:35).

In the time of Jesus, Galilee was an area roughly 40 by 70 kilometers (25 by 44 miles), similar in size to a county.  Josephus, writing during the time of the Jewish revolt against Rome noted that “There are two hundred and forty cities and villages in Galilee…” (Life of Josephus, 45). Estimates for the population of Galilee in Jesus time range, on the low end, from 200,000 – 700,000 upward to 2-3 million inhabitants. If indeed Jesus’ purpose was to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom in each location in Galilee, he had a significant task ahead of him.

Note that in the second reference (9:35) Matthew adds the phrase “all the cities and villages.” This is significant.  Jesus could have established himself in one location, perhaps a major urban center like Jerusalem or Capernaum, and expected people to come to him.  But he did not.  Jesus’ approach was to take the good news of the Kingdom to people where they lived, not to expect them to come to him.

Jesus’ Later Ministry

Jesus’ saturation vision is also evident in the last phase of his ministry and his post resurrection appearances, but here we will see it applied at a new level. Earlier we saw how Jesus pursued his saturation vision regionally in Galilee. In the later phases of Jesus’ ministry we will see how the saturation vision is applied universally. We will start with three passages in Matthew that indicate how Jesus intended his vision for geographical saturation to be carried out universally.

“This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14)

“Truly I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.” (Matthew 26:13)

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

Other post resurrection accounts also show Jesus describing the end goal of his saturation vision:

“”Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” (Mark 16:15). 

Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. “You are witnesses of these things. “And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:45-49)

He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” (Acts 1:7-8)

Note prior to the resurrection, Jesus’ spoke descriptively about the Gospel of the Kingdom being preached in the whole world. It is only after the resurrection that Jesus speaks prescriptively, that is to say, he gives commands about communicating the good news to the whole world. Contemplate: prior to the resurrection Jesus shared the good news of the kingdom; post resurrection there is the Great News of salvation.

To summarize, early in Jesus’ ministry we see his saturation vision applied regionally. At the end of his ministry we see it applied universally.

A Multicultural Vision

There is another aspect of Jesus’ ministry that is often overlooked: the cross-cultural aspect. A careful reading of the Gospels shows that Jesus came to be the Messiah, not only of the Jews, but also of the Gentiles. The prophets foretold that the Messiah would be for both Israel and the Gentiles (see for example Isaiah 42:6; 49:6; Luke 2:32; Acts 13:47; 26:23). Is it not surprising, then, to find Jesus ministering not only to Jews, but to Samaritans and Gentiles? Matthew points out that Jesus began his ministry in “Galilee of the Gentiles” (Matthew 4:15). Then Matthew shows Jesus ministering simultaneously to both Jews and Gentiles that came to him in Galilea from Syria, Decapolis and beyond the Jordan (Matthew 4:24-25). On other occasions we see Jesus ministering to non-Jews, for example, a Samaritan, who was one of one of ten lepers (Luke 17:11-19) and the Roman Centurion’s servant (Luke 7:1-10).

Palestine in the Time of JesusJesus did not just minister to non-Jews that occasionally crossed his path (that is to say, people who sought him out), but he also intentionally traveled across geographical barriers to minister to non-Jews.  In John 4 Jesus went to Samaria. (Note John’s interesting comment that Jesus in John 4:4 that “He had to pass through Samaria”.) His ministry to the woman at the well affected the entire village, who exclaimed, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world” (John 4:42). Jesus also traveled to the Gentile regions of Decapolis, Tyre and Sidon and ministered there. Here are a few other examples of Jesus’ ministry among the Gentiles:

  • The exorcism of demoniac in Gerasenes who then preached in Decapolis (Mark 5:1-20);
  • The healing Canaanite woman’s daughter from Tyre and Sidon (Mark 7:24-30);
  • The healing of a deaf man in Decapolis (Mark 7:31-37);
  • The feeding of the 4,000 took place in Decapolis (Mark 8:1-9 cf. 7:31).

Jesus ministered to the Gentiles because he understood that he was the Messiah for all peoples.  Jesus shows this understanding when he declares, “I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd” (John 10:16). Jesus came to be the Messiah of all peoples.  Should it not be surprising, then, that he intentionally ministered to both Jew and Gentile?

A Multiplication Vision

Jesus’ vision was larger than he himself could fulfill.  So from the beginning of his ministry he intentionally called others to follow him and sent them forth to preach (Mark 3:13-15– Even earlier See Mk. 1:16-20). These Jesus equipped, empowered and sent forth in ministry (Matthew 10:1,5ff). Jesus did this first with the twelve and then with the 70 (Luke 9:2; 10:1). Finally he charged his apostles to make disciples, following his example (Matthew 28:18-20; John 20:21; 13:15). Comparing our ministry to Jesus’, let us ask: are we trying to do everything ourselves, or are we mobilizing, equipping and sending forth others, multiplying workers for the harvest field? Also, as we follow how Jesus selected, trained, empowered and released the Twelve, there is a process or strategy that we can also follow. (I intend to write more about this Jesus Multiplication Vision in the near future).

Applying Jesus’ Vision for Ministry

Jesus vision for “saturation” and reaching the nations has inspired and guided many kingdom workers. For example in 1836 Robert Moffat, pioneer missionary to South Africa, shared in a meeting in England:

“Many a morning have I stood on the porch of my house, and looking northward, have seen the smoke arise from villages that have never heard of Jesus Christ. I have seen, at different times, the smoke of a thousand villages—villages whose people are without Christ, without God, and without hope in the world.”

I have seen, at different times, the smoke of a thousand villages—villages whose people are without Christ, without God, and without hope in the world." Robert Moffat

In the audience was young David Livingston, whose heart was captured by the vision of taking the Gospel into the interior of Africa.  Moffat’s words “the smoke of a thousand villages… the smoke of a thousand villages…” weighed upon his heart. Livingston would later marry Robert Moffat’s daughter and devote his life to opening the interior of Africa to the Gospel.  Livingston’s God-given vision drove him on. “I determined never to stop until I had come to the end and achieved my purpose.” “I’ll go anywhere as long as it’s forward.” In recognition of his accomplishments, Livingston is buried in Westminster Abby and it is said that his grave is one of the most visited in the Abby. (For other inspiring quotes by David Livingston see: http://www.azquotes.com/author/8949-David_Livingstone).

In more recent times, Jim Montgomery, when he was a missionary with OC International in the Philippines, received from God a vision of how to reach the entire nation by planting an evangelical church in every barangay (roughly translated village). In the 1970s, it was estimated that 50,000 new churches would be needed in the Philippines by the year 2000 to complete this goal. The Philippine Church leaders committed themselves to this process and by the year 2000, they exceeded their church planting goal. (The first part of this story is told in Montgomery’s book, DAWN 2000.) However they did not succeed in planting a church in every barangay. So the process continues on, but now with the vision to also send Filipinos out as workers to other nations and peoples who are least reached.

Montgomery’s vision led to a strategy called DAWN – Discipling A Whole Nation. It has also been called Saturation Church Planting (SCP). Montgomery left OC International to start DAWN Ministries in the 1980s, as there was great interest in establishing national church planting processes in outer countries. The DAWN strategy was also championed by the World Evangelical Alliance and the AD 2000 Movement in the 1990s. As a result National Church Planting Initiatives were birthed in over 100 countries.

With the opening of Eastern Europe after the Fall of Communism in 1989, the Alliance for Saturation Church Planting formed and began works to catalyze Saturation Church Planting Processes in the Post-Communist countries of Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union. This is where I got involved on the ground in Romania, when the Romanian Evangelical Alliance invited OC International to assist them in planting churches in more than 10,000 villages. We developed a strong partnership with the Romanian led Alliance for Saturation Church Planting team and many others as we pursued Jesus’ ministry vision.

Although DAWN Ministries and the Alliance for Saturation Church Planting closed their respective ministries about a decade ago, others continue to promote Jesus’ vision, the Global Church Planting Network being one example (www.GCPN.info).  We are encouraged to see a new generation of leaders catching Jesus’ vision for reaching their nation – and beyond.

Currently I am surveying those who have been involved in DAWN, SCP or national initiatives over the last 30 years or so to in order to gathering insights from leaders who have made significant contributions to national church planting processes around the globe. The insights from this survey will be incorporated into in Dr. Murray Moerman’s forthcoming book, National Church Planting Processes: The Next Generation and will be shared in various venues in 2018 and 2019.

From Jesus’ ministry in the Gospels we can conclude that his aim would be to see that the Gospel proclaimed in every city, town and village and to every people. Consider your own area.  How many people within a 10 mile radius of your church have not heard the Good News? How many locations within, say, 10 miles of your church do not have an evangelical church? What might God want your church to do about this?

Jesus would also minister to those outside his own people group. Here lies a great need. In the world today approximately 2 billion people, or 30% of the world’s population, have no opportunity to hear the Gospel because there is neither missionary activity nor a viable church among them. These too need the Gospel. What is your church doing to make disciples of all the nations?

When Jesus commissioned his disciples to “go into all the world and preach the Gospel”, or to “make disciples of all nations”, or to be his “witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, unto the ends of the earth,” Jesus never asked his disciples – or us – to do anything he himself did not do. Jesus was on the go. He made disciples of the Gentiles. He went to all cities and villages in his region to preach the gospel and went beyond his own cultural and geographical boundaries to preach the gospel to other peoples. Thus Jesus left us an example to follow.

How, then, will you and your church follow in Jesus’ footsteps beginning today?