When I first began to follow Jesus as a high school student, I was dying to lead someone else into a relationship with Him. The way I saw it, I had been given a precious gift so I had to pay it forward. It wasn’t anything I had to do in order to win favor or acceptance from Jesus. On the contrary, I had been given that acceptance freely so I was motivated to show Him my gratitude and love in a way that would really honor and bless Him. And the way I saw it nothing could bless Him more than people, so I had to lead a prodigal home. Surely He would love that. I finally led one of my friends to Jesus my Senior year but it oddly, it didn’t feel like I thought it would feel. Sure I was really excited about my friend’s new life, but I ultimately didn’t do much. I just sort of invited him to Bible study and talked to him about Jesus every once in a while, and really just continued to be his friend because he was a good dude and I genuinely liked the guy, but in terms of “leading” him to Jesus, I didn’t really do much. It felt more like he sort of led himself to Jesus really. So I decided evangelism wasn’t enough. I had to do more.
College was an exciting time for me. I got involved with Antioch and for the first time an older dude began investing in my life. I had never had a mentor before but I began to realize that this is just how Jesus spent his time. Sure, he would preach to the crowds and all, but he spent most of his time building up his small group of disciples. I decided that discipleship was what I wanted to do for Jesus. If I could just disciple one guy really well, then I can rest easy knowing I’ve given Jesus that special gift. Eventually I began pouring into a guy named Zach who was really hungry to know Jesus more. In fact, Zach was so hungry that he thrived in discipleship. I actually felt like I was doing a pretty bad job most of the time, but he kept growing more and more mature in his faith. He eventually surpassed me in college ministry leadership and wound up in leadership over me! I guess I thought it was a little weird at the time, but looking back I am so happy about how things turned out. Isn’t that what we all want from the people we invest in? That they would surpass us? I’m glad to say Zach is now serving as a missionary overseas so you could say it was a job well done, but you know what? Once again, I really didn’t do much. Zach was genuinely propelled by his own desire for the Kingdom. So what could I do to give a love offering to Jesus now?
After college I took part in Antioch Discipleship School, a year-long program that offers informal religious education for people who want to take a year digging deeper into who God is and who He says we are. During that time, we were trained in a method used by missionaries in China called T4T (training for trainers). The goal of this method is not just to make new disciples of Jesus and plug them into a church, but to actually plant new house churches by identifying a POP (person of peace) and encouraging them to gather their friends into a small group. Aha! I thought. Evangelism and discipleship turned out to not be enough, because really I never had to do that much work to make those things happen. Church planting… Now that sounded hard. Surely I could bless Jesus by planting a new church. Well, the Discipleship School concluded that year with an outreach to Haiti and Emily (this really pretty girl I had just gotten to know!) and I managed to successfully plant a church. But you’re never going to believe it: We didn’t do much. As it turned out, Emily met Violet, a crazy Haitian woman who was on fire for Jesus and we encouraged her to gather a group and gather she did. We would meet in her tent and try to run this little church and as soon as the language barrier got in the way, Violet would take off, preaching the Gospel in Haitian Creole. The lost were saved, the sick were healed, it was everything Church was meant to be. But now what could I do for Jesus? I had lead people to the Lord. I had discipled men. I had planted a church. But I couldn’t genuinely say I had much of a hand in any of it. What now? What could be a better gift for my great Father and King than to plant a new church? Well…
Emily and I are now in Antioch Church Planting School as we prepare to move to India. One of the things we’ve really been enjoying about our time in the school is learning about CPMs (Church Planting Movements). A CPM can be defined as a movement a rapid and multiplicative increase of indigenous churches planting other churches within a given people group or population segment. In other words, when a church plants other churches who plant other churches (and so on and so forth), and the folks doing the church planting are not foreigners, you’ve got a CPM. St. Paul did this. We see in the book of Acts that Paul traveled from place to place leading people to Jesus, discipling them, organizing them into house churches, and then teaching them to do the same thing. In this way, he reached not just people or cities, but entire regions for Jesus. It was his movement that laid the foundation for the Christianization of Rome that in turn led to the Christianization of Europe, which led to the Christianization of America, which led to me knowing Jesus and you too, if you are an American Christian reading this. Wow! These days I must confess, it’s a CPM I really want to give to Jesus. But by now, I’ve learned a few things:
- It’s not about me. Every time I’ve ever set out to do something incredible for Jesus, He does it for me, through the Holy Spirit. And for some reason, I have this feeling that He’ll give me credit for it when I reach Heaven. He’ll look at all my attempts to advance His kingdom, even though they became so muddled by selfishness and laziness. Then He’ll look at all the great stuff He did that I just happened to be standing around to see. And He’ll say “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” This is what the doctrine of Grace is all about; He pays the price, and we get the reward.
- It’s about them. I’m pretty good at messing up. You might even say I’m an expert at it! And I can tell you, all the times when I’ve messed up the most is when I’ve convinced myself that the person I’m investing in cannot do fill-in-the-blank as well as I can. What a lie! What a deception! When Paul planted a church in Pontus, he didn’t consider it his church, he considered it Aquilla and Priscilla’s (1 Cor. 16:19)! So the question we should be asking ourselves when we are on mission for Jesus is, “am I trying to do this or am I empowering them to do this?”
- It’s worship. As I stated earlier, I’ve always been driven by this desire to love on Jesus. It’s never been about striving, though srive I have at times. I’ve mostly known all my life that I have already been freed from the question of how good or bad of a person I am. That has never mattered because whatever kind of person I am, I am an accepted person. So when I think about advancing the Kingdom, I think of it more as an act of worship than anything else. Jesus has been so good to me, and I know He longs to be good to others too. So, if I can offer my life to play some small part in that, then I will live happily and die fulfilled one day.
So to wrap this up, I hope you’re as encouraged as I am about how advancing the Kingdom works. I for one am excited to find that the weight of ministry was never meant to rest on my shoulders. At the end of the day, the forces of Hell are pushed back the less we are ambitious for ourselves, and the more we are ambitious for others and for the Kingdom of God.