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We Can’t Without It /

If we were given the Word so “that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work,” then we can’t teach disciples from all nations to observe all that Jesus has commanded without it (2 Tim 3:16–17, Matt 28:20).

Jonathan, “Your Calling Is to Proclaim the Word,” (May 19, 2015)

Have a controversy in your missions organization or committee? The apostles settled matters from the Old Testament. James appealed at the Jerusalem Council to the book of Amos and “the words of the prophets” (Acts 15:15).

The first century Jewish believers were experiencing the grafting in of the Gentiles. Genesis through Malachi was a sufficient foundation for understanding the mission.

J.D. Payne, “Amos and the Great Commission”.

Paradigms in Conflict /

I wish David Hesselgrave’s 2005 book, Paradigms in Conflict, was available as an ebook. I could spirit it here, to “where there is no bookstore,” or to other laborers abroad. I first found it on a cast-off clearance shelf not long after it was published. I’m glad to have stumbled across it; most Christian bookstores don’t even have a missions section. If we avoid tough questions in missions, it should come as no surprise that it remains in conflict.

Hesselgrave is a former pastor, missionary, missions administrator and professor. He asks “10 key questions in Christian missions today,” as it says in the book’s subtitle (and listed below). He is discerning and brave in writing Paradigms. He not only perceives the issues spot on, he is not afraid to give thoughtful and biblical answers. There is always the temptation when in conflict to be defensive, complacent or agnostic.

Many missionaries and theologians talk past each other because of a difference in underlying assumptions. The confusion is even more-so when proponents defend their views using Scripture verses. We need grace and help to understand and apply “the whole counsel of God” to missions together. Which of these 10 questions can Paradigms help you think through?

  1. Sovereignty and Free Will: An Impossible Mix or a Perfect Match?
  2. Restrictivism and Inclusivism: Is This Missions Trip Really Necessary?
  3. Common Ground and Enemy Territory: How Should We Approach Adherents of Other Faiths?
  4. Holism and Prioritism: For Whom Is the Gospel Good News?
  5. Incarnationalism and Representationalism: Who Is Our Missionary Model — Jesus or Paul?
  6. Power Encounter and Truth Encounter: What Is Essential in Spiritual Warfare?
  7. Amateurization and Professionalization: A Call for Missionaries or a Divine Calling?
  8. Form and Meaning: How Does the Inspiration of Scripture “In-form” Contextualization and Make It “Meaning-full”?
  9. Countdowns and Prophetic Alerts: If We Go in Force, Will He Come in Haste?
  10. The Kingdom of God and the Church of Christ: What on Earth Is God Building — Here and Now?
A Few Questions from John Piper about Missions, Orality, and the Bible /

Have you read this short article by John Piper, “Missions, Orality, and the Bible: Thoughts on Pre-, Less-, and Post-literate Cultures”? He puts the orality movement into perspective then characteristically challenges its underlying assumptions and encourages immediacy of the Scriptures. Piper published the article near nine years ago but it should still add to the current discussion.

Whether you aspire to serve across culture and language or to preach the Word in your own, consider what responsibility you have to bring the written Word to unreached oral learners. And then consider what responsibility you have to bring oral learners to the written Word.

Faith, Hope, Love: A Brief Description of Our Discipleship Process /

“Faith, Hope, Love” is the outline of our discipleship process. We implemented “Faith, Hope, Love” when we were using the practical three-thirds plan of T4T (“Training for Trainers”) by Ying Kai and Steve Smith. Although “Faith, Hope, Love” looks like T4T, we wanted our training to align more closely with Scripture. We were also informed by The Universal Disciple Pattern by Thom Wolf, who introduced us to the idea that faith, hope and love can be a part of a framework for discipleship. You could say that we mashed-up one “fruitful” and one “faithful” idea.

Faith, Hope, Love is based on a pattern the apostles used (see Rom. 5:1–5; 1 Cor. 13:13; 1 Thess. 1:3, 5:8; Col. 1:3–6; Heb. 10:19–24). It’s a summary of Christian health, a paradigm that helps us to evaluate and encourage the growth of the gospel. Faith, hope, and love are the biblical measures of missions.

This process reminds us to build up each other in these three major areas. We spend a third of each discipleship meeting focused on love for God and one another; a third on faith in learning God’s Word; and a third on hope in preparing to obey. This pattern can be followed in thirty minutes or three hours, in a one-on-one setting or large church gathering.

Faith, Hope, Love activities. These three outline Christian growth in general and so guide our discipleship meetings in particular. Here are activities we have used to build up faith, hope and love.


  • Worshiping God
  • Thanking God
  • Listening to one another
  • Caring for one another’s needs
  • Reporting and being accountable
  • Inviting and welcoming others


  • Preaching and hearing God’s Word
  • Reviewing and retelling God’s Word
  • Studying God’s Word
  • Believing God’s Word
  • Singing God’s Word
  • Sharing God’s Word


  • Casting vision
  • Blessing and warning
  • Applying God’s Word and planning obedience
  • Equipping and practicing to disciple others
  • Committing and commissioning
  • Praying

The order of activities may not matter and they can weave together (as seen in the overlap of faith, hope and love in some epistles). Various people can facilitate activities and discover or apply their spiritual gifts. When we meet, we put Love first because it’s the greatest (1 Cor. 13:13) and it builds on the Faith and Hope of the previous meeting in terms of review, accountability and care (see figure below). It happens that much of what we do first, in Love, looks back and last, in Hope, looks ahead.

Faith, Hope, Love movement. The discipleship process links together meetings and supports obedience. We meet to hear the Word (Faith), prepare to obey (Hope), and check in (Love) when we meet again.

Besides encouraging spiritual growth, Faith, Hope, Love is also a diagnostic tool to evaluate it (as seen especially in 1 and 2 Thess.). This is another good reason we put Love first. We listen to others in love and discern which Scripture we need to teach or re-teach in Faith. As an example, if we listen and learn that believers are not sharing the gospel, we know to teach Scripture that builds faith, before commanding obedience; if they are not serving their families, we know to build love; if they are intimidated by persecution or temptation, we know to build hope. We know this because of how the apostles address problems in the New Testament. You can know a tree by its fruit; you can grow a tree by its root.

We aim to build faith, hope and Love with God’s Word in cooperation with his Spirit. The Faith, Hope, Love process does not replace good teaching and Bible study. We use the process early on with a set of Bible stories or lessons about the gospel and God’s kingdom. Then we continue with it as we study Mark, Acts, Ephesians and beyond. It makes obedience-based discipleship more healthy by strengthening the roots of obedience, and Bible studies and story sets more healthy by putting the products to work and cultivating the fruits of obedience.

The Faith, Hope, Love discipleship process is a simple (not easy) plan to equip believers for ministry. It works when we plan on God’s Spirit to work according to his Word. We have seen disciples grow and multiply, across languages and cultures. Notably, the disciples are themselves changed and have caused others to take notice. Personally, it’s helped my own growth in Christ and in ministry to others in many discipleship contexts: in Bible studies and Sunday school classes, as an outline for prayer and songs for worship, in conversations and letter writing, and in personal and family devotions.

In short, we meet regularly and be accountable to each other for what God taught us in his Word. We look for obedience that is grounded in faith, filled with love and inspired by hope. We celebrate when this happens and patiently warn, encourage and help each other when it doesn’t (1 Thess. 5:12). We model this process to equip others to make disciples. We aim to fulfill Jesus’ command together to, “Go… make disciples of all nations… teaching them to obey all that I commanded you” (Matt. 28:20).

Homes Have Languages /

Many minority languages are endangered. When are they a strategic priority?

Photo by Steve Evans
Photo by Steve Evans

We’ve been learning the trade language, or lingua franca, of the eastern Himalayas. Learning the trade language is important not only for getting around and shopping in the market but also for catalyzing work across the area. We interact with speakers of minority languages through a language of wider communication (LWC) just as they do whenever they are away from their community. We can work widely in a trade language but not always deeply. We’re trying to communicate spiritual things to a person’s heart through language meant for business.

“Heart language” is an expression to describe the language that matters most to a person. It’s a useful refrain of Bible translation. But for our purposes it might better be called “home language.” Sociolinguists observe that this one factor more than any other is what makes a language vital: that it’s spoken at home, by parents to children. It is, in fact, a mother tongue.

Consider also that our church planting work centers around the home. From “person of peace” (see Luke 10) to house churches, we look for homes that welcome God’s message and messengers. Many missionaries use the Greek word for ‘household,’ oikos, to emphasize the significance of these homes in the biblical accounts and in their strategies.

We train the members of this kind of home to spread the good news across its network of relationships. We look for opportunities to get the message into the language of the home, even if we ourselves don’t speak it. Every community already has communication paths and patterns to bring outside news in.

It may not be strategic for outsiders to learn minority languages (though it shouldn’t be beneath us). It’s not even a possible task for one person or team — there are at least thirty spoken in our vicinity. But it is a priority to make room in our strategies for the good news to get from trade languages into “home languages.” For both Bible translation and church planting, the home is at the heart of our concern.

May All the Peoples Praise You, O God! /

Psalms 67
For the director of music. With stringed instruments. A psalm. A song.

1 May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face shine upon us,

2 that your ways may be known on earth,
your salvation among all nations.

3 May the peoples praise you, O God;
may all the peoples praise you.

4 May the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you rule the peoples justly
and guide the nations of the earth.

5 May the peoples praise you, O God;
may all the peoples praise you.

6 Then the land will yield its harvest,
and God, our God, will bless us.

7 God will bless us,
and all the ends of the earth will fear him.

Psalms 67 is a prayer inspired by God’s gracious promises and provision. God had promised Abraham that through him all the peoples of the world would be blessed (Gen. 12:1–3, 15:1–6). His descendants became the Jewish people. God’s promises shaped the hearts and thoughts of some of these descendants, and they prayed that foreigners would have the same joy in belonging to God. It is a prayer that has been answered. God blessed the world through his Son, the Savior. Now we who were once outside God’s family as foreigners, we for whom Psalms 67 was prayed, are brought near to God through Jesus Christ. We who believe in Jesus become Abraham’s descendants, children of God’s promise (Eph. 3:6, Gal. 3:14).

All good blessings in this world — wealth, home, family, work, food, play — serve the best blessing: Jesus. All the things we possess and do — the things with which God has blessed us — bow down to the purpose for which they were given: “that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations.”

We make God’s purposes our purposes.

With the Son on our faces, we prayed on Sunday to send off M—— and J——. Family members were in attendance as we met outside to worship, and we sent them “in a manner worthy of God” (3 John 6).

We are not sorry for those who give up some blessings in order to bring the Best Blessing of All to the nations. They have all that is necessary for complete happiness: “the love and fellowship of our Lord, and a real purpose in life that keeps material things in proper perspective” (Frank and Marie Drown, Mission to the Headhunters).

We stand by their side in prayer. Our church meeting this Sunday (May 25) will be a special prayer service for our church’s missions in Louisville and for our missionaries. Also, when you bow to thank God before each meal, thank the Father also for sending Jesus, and pray that the nations would be blessed through what God has given you. And if necessary, pray in your own heart that God would soften you towards the nations.

We are ready to go ourselves at a moment’s notice. Stay alert so that you don’t waste one of your blessings — your summer. Get on the ball with memorizing Philippians. Men should prepare themselves for the men’s meeting. Give finances to support the church’s ministries. If you give money to Crossroads designated to “disaster relief” we will send it to ministries working in Myanmar or China. Build up others in the church and carry their burdens. Keep ready with the message, “Have joy in belonging to God!” and “Have real purpose in Jesus.” Fulfill your ministry.

I thank God that I am part of a church that prays big prayers to impact all peoples, a church that seeks to ignite a passion to reach the nations through Jesus Christ. I also thank God that we send out our best, and we pray for more to rise up in their place. Thank God for his promises and for the answered prayer of Psalms 67! God will bless us, and all the ends of the earth will fear him.