Declare His Glory, ch. 1

Declare His Glory Among the Nations

Chapter 1

FIRST THINGS FIRST

What is your part in telling the nations about God’s wonderful deeds?

While there are tens of passages in the Bible that could be used to develop this theme, here we will focus on one Old Testament passage – Psalm 96. This is one of the clearest and most amazing mission passages in the entire Bible. In fact, it has been called “the missionary psalm.” From this Psalm we will discover five major themes that will help us clarify our part in God’s plan to glorify his name among all peoples.

It is helpful to know that Psalm 96 is divided into two parts: verses 1-6 and 7-13. We will see that themes introduced in the first part of the Psalm are repeated and further explained in the second part. So let’s begin with the first theme, which is found in verses 1 and 2 and repeated in verses 7-9.[1]

Worship the LORD

Part 1: Psalm 96:1-2

Sing to the LORD a new song;
Sing to the LORD, all the earth
Sing to the LORD, bless His name…

Part 2: Psalm 96:7-9

Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples,
Ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
Ascribe to the LORD the glory of His name;
Bring an offering and come into His courts.
Worship the LORD in holy attire;
Tremble before Him, all the earth.

What do we see in these verses? In the first part, we see that “Sing to the LORD” is repeated three times. In part two, “Ascribe to the LORD” is also mentioned three times. In addition, part one adds “bless his name” and part two continues:

Bring an offering and come into His courts.”
Worship the LORD in holy attire.”
Tremble before Him, all the earth.”

What do all these have in common? Worship. In all there are eleven commands involving seven different aspects of worship. Thus the first theme of Psalm 96 is worship.

Who is Called to Worship?

It would be tempting to stop here, being pleased with our discovery about worship. But by doing so we would miss the most significant part of the message. There is another important question that we need to answer, namely, who is called to worship the LORD?

Look closely. What more do we see about who is called to worship?

v. 1    Sing to the LORD a new song; Sing to the LORD, all the earth.
v. 7    Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples,
v. 9    Tremble before Him, all the earth.

So who is called to worship the LORD? “O families of the peoples.” “All the earth” (mentioned twice). Thus all people everywhere – all the inhabitants of the earth – are called to worship the Lord! Does it surprise you that all peoples, even in the Old Testament, are called to worship? It does me! Why is this so? Psalm 96 gives us a “clue” why the nations are called to worship.

“O Families of Peoples” – The Abraham Connection

Let’s take a closer look at the phrase “families of peoples” found in verse 7. Following this clue takes us to the first book of the Bible, Genesis. The phrase “families of peoples” is first found in Genesis chapter 10. After the tower of Babel, the peoples were divided into 70 “families” or nations. Then in Genesis 12:1-3, God called Abram. God made a covenant with Abram, giving him seven promises.

Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you; And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”

Especially note the last promise that through Abraham God would bless “all the families of the earth.” For those who lived in the Old Testament times, it was a great mystery how God would bless all the families of the earth. But even though how the promise would be fulfilled was a mystery, the psalmist confidently looked to the future when God would keep his promise and bless all the families of the earth. In anticipation, he calls the nations to worship.

For us today, however, this mystery has been made clear.[2] The New Testament reveals that through Jesus Christ God fulfilled his promise to Abraham to bless all the families of the earth. Peter first brings this mystery to light in Acts 3, where he highlights the fact that Jesus first of all fulfills God’s promise with regard to the Jewish people.

“It is you who are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘AND IN YOUR SEED ALL THE FAMILIES OF THE EARTH SHALL BE BLESSED.’ “For you first, God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.” Acts 3:25,26

In Galatians the Apostle Paul points out how God’s promise to Abraham, fulfilled by Jesus, also applies to the Gentiles.

The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “ALL THE NATIONS WILL BE BLESSED IN YOU.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us–for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”– in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.   Galatians 3:8, 13-14

Thus we can follow how God’s promise to bless all families of peoples, first to the Jews, then to the Gentiles, is fulfilled through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

Something to Sing About

 Anticipating the time when God would fulfill his promise to Abraham to bless all peoples (Genesis 12:3), it is no wonder that the psalmist begins with “Sing to the LORD a new song.” He expects that God is going to do something so extraordinary that it must be celebrated by all peoples.

From our perspective, we know much better what the nations have to sing about: For example the last book of the Bible, Revelation, gives us a glimpse of heavenly worship.

 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God, with Your blood, men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. Revelation 5:9

 What is the theme of this new song? The redemption of all peoples. So what the Old Testament anticipates is fulfilled in the New. God has provided salvation for all peoples through the sacrifice of his son Jesus Christ on the cross. God has fulfilled his promise to Abraham to bless all families of peoples. Now that is something to sing about!

Worship: The Culmination of History

History is moving toward the point where all peoples will come and worship the Lord.

The Psalms prophetically anticipate this. For example:

 All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations will worship before You. For the kingdom is the LORD’S. And He rules over the nations. Psalm 22:27-28

All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord, and they shall glorify Your name. Psalm 86:9

 The Old Testament prophets also give witness to this same theme.[3]

 I have sworn by Myself, The word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness and will not turn back, that to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance. They will say of Me, “Only in the LORD are righteousness and strength.” Isaiah 45:23,24

 “All mankind will come to bow down before Me,” says the LORD. Isaiah 66:23

 There before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. Daniel 7:13,14 NIV

 And it will come about in the last days that the mountain of the house of the LORD will be established as the chief of the mountains. It will be raised above the hills, and the peoples will stream to it. Many nations will come and say, “Come and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD and to the house of the God of Jacob, that He may teach us about His ways and that we may walk in His paths.” For from Zion will go forth the law, even the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. Micah 4:1-2

 Then it will come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of Booths. And it will be that whichever of the families of the earth does not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, there will be no rain on them. Zechariah 14:16-17

 “For from the rising of the sun even to its setting, My name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense is going to be offered to My name, and a grain offering that is pure; for My name will be great among the nations,” says the LORD of hosts. Malachi 1:11

 Again in Revelation we see how what is anticipated in the Old Testament is fulfilled in the New.

 After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” Revelation 7:9-10

 Note who is present worshiping: people from every tribe, every nation, every people, every language! History culminates in all peoples worshiping the Lord!

 How Many People Are Worshiping the Lord Today?

Let us consider to what extent people are worshiping the Lord today. Since about one-third of the world’s population claims to be Christian, this means that at least two-thirds of the world’s population does not worship the Lord.[4]

worshippers bw

According to the Joshua Project, approximately four out of ten people in the world live in areas without viable churches and have virtually no access to the Good News.[5] They probably have never heard of Jesus and most likely don’t even know a Christian.

Percentage Xn BW

The majority of people who are not worshipers of the Lord have very little opportunity to know of his excellent greatness. On an average 86% of Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus worldwide do not even know a Christian; 82% of atheists or agnostics do not know a Christian. Of course in some countries the situation is worse, for example in Afghanistan, only 3% of the population might know a Christian; in Algeria, 6%; in Turkey, Iran, North Korea or Somalia just 7% of the population might know a true believer.[6] God has blessed these peoples abundantly. But they don’t know it. God merits their worship. But they have never heard of him. In fact, the way things stand now, they have very little chance to know the true God because very few message bearers[7] live among these peoples.

The Message Bearer’s Mandate

In order for people everywhere to worship the Lord, they first need to know about him. And for them to know about the Lord, someone needs to take the message of his salvation to them. As we look at the world today, we see that the majority of people who are not worshiping the Lord live in areas where there is very little opportunity to know the true God. Looking at the world today through this lens, we can conclude that where true worship is the least, the need for message bearers is the greatest. Following the simple logic of the command for all peoples to worship the Lord leads us to the Message Bearer’s Mandate: the imperative for true believers to go, live and serve among the least reached peoples of the earth, so that they too can know the true God and joyfully worship him. This command for all peoples to worship the Lord gives message bearers a sufficient mandate to go everywhere spreading the glad tidings of God’s greatness.

What can you do to see that those who have the least opportunity to hear of God’s wonderful deeds might come to know God? What can your church do? What steps are you taking to align yourself with God’s purpose to be worshiped by all peoples? Would you be willing, if God so wills, to go and live among the least reached peoples for at least two years?

 Putting First Things First

 As we begin to consider our personal involvement in God’s plan to bless the nations, it is important to keep first things first. Worshiping God – loving him with all of our heart, soul and strength – is our first response. Being a message bearer, we will see, is second. Our love for God, which first expresses itself in worship, also motivates our personal involvement in God’s mission. Where love and passion for God and his glory are great, there will also be a burning passion to tell others about his greatness. But where there is little love for God, there will also be little motivation to declare the glad tidings of his salvation. So our first response as message bearers is to become passionate worshipers of Almighty God.

Our primary motive to become involved in God’s plan to bless all nations is not because the peoples are lost, without hope and without God, but because God merits the worship of all peoples. In the Old Testament, God’s promise to bless “all families of peoples” provides a sufficient reason to call the peoples to worship. How much better reason do we have to call all peoples to come and worship our great and awesome God! Mission activity is not an end in itself. Mission is a temporary activity; but worship is forever. When people truly understand who God is and what he has done for them, they want to worship him. So our primary motive for involving ourselves in God’s plan to bless all nations is that God might be worshiped by all peoples, receiving the glory due his name.[8]

We began with the question, “What is your part in telling the nations about God’s wonderful deeds?” What have we discovered so far? Our first response is to worship the Lord with whole-hearted devotion. So let’s stop here and put first things first: Let us worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness, ascribing to him glory and strength.

GROWTH POINT

FIRST THINGS FIRST

What impressed you most about what you just read?

What further questions do you have about this material? About what would you like to find out more?

What sort of changes do you think you would need to make in your life to align yourself with the vision presented here? What about your church or small group?

  

What will you do?

Who will you tell about what you discovered?

 

 A prayer to pray: What do you want to tell God about what you have discovered about Him, yourself or the world?


[1] All biblical passages are from the New American Standard Bible® unless otherwise mentioned.

[2] Specifically see Ephesians 1:3-14 and 3:1-12 for how God has revealed the mystery of his eternal plan to include the Gentiles among his people.

[3]Just a few passages are listed as examples. Other prophetic passages having universal worship in view are: Isaiah 2:1-4; 12:4-5;42:10-12; 43:10-11; 66:18-23; Jeremiah 3:17; 17:19-21; Zephaniah 2:11; 3:9 and Zechariah 8:20-23.

[4] “Status of Global Mission, 2011 in Context of 20th and 21st Centuries.” International Bulletin of Missionary Research, Vol. 35, No. 1, page 29.

[6] International Bulletin of Missionary Research, Vol. 34, No. 1 January 2010. “Personal Contact Between Christians and Non-Christians,” pages 34-35.

[7] “Message bearer” is an alternative term for “missionary” that is promoted by the Student Volunteer Movement. Based on their research, many young people are turned off by the idea of being a “missionary.” However they quite open to the challenge of being a “message bearer.” Also believers in India use “Gospel Carrier” as an alternative for “missionary.”

[8] John Piper’s excellent book, Let the Nations Be Glad!, first drew my attention to the connection between worship and missions. Those who want to dig deeper will profit by reading this book. John Piper, Let the Nations be Glad! The Supremacy of God in Missions, Baker Books: Grand Rapids, Mich., 1993

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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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