The video below was originally published on the Verge Network.
The video below was originally published on the Verge Network.
The following post was written by Scott James and originally published on October 22, at Canon and Culture.
Christians within secular academic institutions have always had to navigate varying degrees of hostile waters as they seek to live out an active faith. While it is certainly a fertile harvest field, the pluralistic university environment can also pose a real hindrance to open Gospel proclamation. Add to that the recent trend of creedal Christian student groups losing campus privileges under the pretext of non-discrimination policies and it’s easy to see why many followers of Christ perceive an antagonistic climate within their universities.
Having spent the better part of my adult life on university campuses as either a student or faculty member, I can attest to the intimidating nature of this environment when it comes to religious expression. The new tolerance has shown itself to be decidedly intolerant if you intend to hold your beliefs tightly. Sadly, I cannot say that I have always responded to the challenge in faithful obedience. Fearing man more than God, the outward expression of my faith has at times been remarkably silent. Under the guise of professionalism and prudence, I convinced myself that a bold witness was simply not possible in the hallways and courtyards of my university. In doing so, I built an artificial barrier between sacred and secular, compartmentalizing my faith and ministry into a realm distinct from academic life.
But God has proven Himself faithful despite my reticence. As He has patiently worked in me, there is one thing in particular He has used to catalyze my understanding of what it means to be an authentic witness in an adversarial environment: global missions. I have had the privilege of being a small part of God’s work in countries that are closed to the Gospel, teaching and evangelizing in contexts with very real restrictions and very real consequences. And yet, through dependence on His Spirit and application of some basic cross-cultural strategies, I was able to boldly proclaim Christ and fuel the long-term disciple-making efforts in these countries. But despite seeing God’s astonishing work on these trips, when I returned home to my university appointment I would slide right back into a spirit of timidity. One day, the absurdity of the situation struck me—I was willing to fly to the other side of the world to proclaim the good news in an incredibly difficult context, yet unwilling to do it on my own campus! God used this fresh (and painfully obvious) conviction to show me that it was indeed possible to live out a winsome faith in a hard place.
So, if you are a Christ follower living, studying, or working within the increasingly difficult context of secular academic institutions, I offer 5 ways of applying the cross-cultural framework of global missions in the hope that it will help you as you seek to make disciples:
Mission fields are not limited to places abroad. The simple fact is that if you do not perceive yourself to be on mission at your university, it’s unlikely that you will consistently engage in disciple-making efforts there. Take ownership of your school’s community as a people group to which you have been sent to serve. In your daily interactions with classmates and colleagues, you have the privilege of being a part of a diverse community filled with lost people in need of a great Savior.
It’s important to realize that God has placed you where you are for a reason. No matter how gifted an evangelist your pastor may be, he will not normally have access to the classrooms, laboratories, departmental offices, and hospital wards in which you spend your days. God has given you this unique sphere of influence—use it for His glory. Pray for and engage your people group.
I once attended a faculty orientation in which an administrator made a very practical request. She said, “Walk with your eyes up.” You see, our campus is sprawling and can be a difficult place for visitors to navigate, so her simple appeal was that we not walk around campus with earbuds in and noses buried in a book, oblivious to the needs of people around us. In essence, she asked us to serve our visitors by having a heightened awareness of opportunities to help people in need. As Christians we should also be attentive to what is going on around us.
Part of being an effective cross-cultural worker is simply having the spiritual sensitivity to see what God is doing and the willingness to set your agenda aside to join in with His work. Even if your environment is openly hostile to expressions of Christian belief, trust that God is at work under the surface and be on the lookout for where that might be. Much in the same way that missionaries pioneering gospel proclamation among unreached people groups will often find evidences of God already moving within the hearts of the people, we are likely to find that He is already stirring in unexpected ways within our university communities. Be alert to opportunities in which He is calling you to be a part of His work. As you go about your campus activities, walk with your eyes up, sensitive to where those opportunities might be.
Even in settings where verbal proclamation of your faith is unwelcome or restricted, you are still able to express real and true things about God through the way you live. In Titus 2:7-10, Paul says that we should “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior” by the way we carry ourselves in society. He prescribes things such as good works, integrity, dignity, sound speech, submission to authority, and living with a general respect for those around us. In short, Paul is exhorting us to be good students and good employees. Strive to be excellent in everything you do because it commends the Gospel and because, ultimately, we are working as to the Lord (Colossians 3:22).
But what are we really trying to accomplish with our excellence? Are we seeking to earn the respect of others so that they’ll want to follow our God? Is this merely lifestyle evangelism? No, we strive for excellence in all of our interactions with others because it honors God and because we love people. In love, we build friendships with classmates and colleagues and it is within those relationships that we are truly able to serve them well (including the ultimate service—pointing them to Christ).
When you think about sharing your faith on campus your mind might immediately populate with the faces of antagonistic persons with whom religious talk is a non-starter. It’s that thought process that so often paralyzes our witness, and understandably so! Approaching a person like that can be quite daunting. But even in a setting where many people are known to be hostile to Christianity, not every person is equally so. There are always people who remain open to spiritual conversations, even if they are not followers of Christ. Identify those persons of peace within your campus circles and begin developing safe relationships with them.
One benefit of engaging persons of peace is that it lowers the threshold for having spiritual conversations. It’s an open door to Gospel conversations in a difficult place. Not only is it of direct benefit to the person with whom you are conversing, but it also creates a splash-over effect on those around you as they hear you openly discussing the things of God. It’s not that you are sneaking the Gospel to them, but it can lead to future conversations in which a person approaches you and says, “I heard you talking the other day and I was wondering about something you said.” In this way, people with whom I’ve had difficulty engaging in spiritual conversations have actually approached me on their own to discuss Scripture. When we cannot see a way in, sometimes God opens the door for us.
At some point, Gospel demonstration must lead to Gospel proclamation. Unfortunately, evangelism is often relegated to a presentation event, as if an uninterrupted 5-minute monologue is a normal thing in adult conversation. Viewing evangelism primarily in this way creates an unhelpful barrier in closed environments where proclaiming the Gospel is already difficult. But while the prospect of cornering a person to present a Gospel spiel may not seem feasible, we must also avoid choosing silence as the alternative. This is where the concept of sewing Gospel threads is particularly useful.
Rather than waiting for the perfect opportunity to uncork a presentation on someone, seek to build healthy relationships and allow the themes of the Gospel saturate your normal conversations. The basic concept of Gospel threads is that we are swimming so deeply in these glorious Biblical themes that they can’t help but overflow into our everyday language. If we are tuned in, we will see opportunities to weave Gospel threads all around us. Thinking through a classic framework such as God–Man–Christ–Response or Creation–Fall–Redemption–Consummation can also help you keep the big picture in mind (the whole tapestry, so to speak) as you underscore particular threads of the Gospel. Even in a highly secular environment, themes of creation, beauty, brokenness, yearning, salvation, and hope are pervasive. God has placed these refrains in each person’s heart. In our everyday conversations, we can resonate with these longings and, even better, we have the privilege of pointing people to their Author.
Now, in making this comparison to ministry in a closed country, I do not want to minimize in any way the persecution of our brothers and sisters living in those difficult places. My pluralistic university atmosphere is not on par with the threat of imprisonment and death that many believers face every day. My prayer, rather, is that as you seek to make disciples amid the very real obstacles in your setting it will fuel your awareness of their persecution all the more. Let the example of their sacrificial service compel you to pray for and support them, but also let it lead you to trust that God can work through the adversity you face at your university. He is faithful.
Scott James is as an Elder at The Church at Brook Hills, a Research Fellow with the ERLC Research Institute, and an Assistant Professor of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
The below excerpt is from Pastor David’s book, Follow Me: A Call to Die. A Call to Live (88-90).
Following Jesus necessitates believing Jesus, and believing Jesus leads to proclaiming Jesus. Consequently, a privatized faith in a resurrected Christ is practically inconceivable. Yet privatized Christianity is a curse across our culture and the church today.
Multitudes of professing Christians say (or at least think), “Jesus has saved me. Jesus’ teachings work for me. But who am I to to tell other people what they should believe? Who am I to tell others that their belief is wrong and my belief is right? Even more, who am I to tell them that if they don’t believe in what I believe, they will spend forever in hell?”
I completely understand this feeling. I remember standing one day in a sea of people in northern India. If you’ve never been to India, just think people. Lots and lots and lots of people. Approximately 1.2 billion of them, to be precise, over 600 million of whom live in northern India. Crowded streets and urban slums are surrounded by seemingly endless villages that span the countryside. Economic disparity runs rampant as more people live below the poverty line in India than the entire population of the United States put together.
But India’s poverty is not merely physical; it’s spiritual, as well. The church partners with whom we work in India estimate that approximately 0.5 percent of the people in northern India are Christians. In other words, 99.5 percent of the people in northern India have not believed in Christ for salvation.
Knowing this, I looked around me one day in that crowded sea of people and thought to myself, Who am I to travel all the way over here to tell these people what they need to believe? Who am I to tell them that all of their gods are false, whether they’re Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh, or any other gods, because Jesus is the only true God? And who am I to tell 597 million non-Christians who surround me at this moment that if they do not turn from their sin and trust in Jesus, every one of them will spend eternity in hell?
It felt extremely arrogant, completely unloving, and uncomfortably brash to claim that 597 million Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, and Sikhs around me at that moment would go to hell if they didn’t trust in Jesus. And absolutely, such a claim would be arrogant, unloving, and brash–unless it is true.
If Jesus were just another religious teacher on the landscape of human history, offering his thoughts and opinions regarding how people should live, then it would definitely be arrogant, unloving, and outright foolish for me (or anyone else) to travel around the world telling people they need to either follow Jesus or face hell. But Jesus is indeed more than just another religious teacher, and Jesus is indeed the resurrected God, Savior, and King who alone has paid the price for sinners and paved the way for everlasting salvation, so telling people everywhere about Jesus is the only thing that makes sense. It is the height of arrogance to sit silent while 597 million Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, and Sikhs go to hell. It is the epitome of hate to not sacrifice your very life to spread this Good News among every person you know and every people group on the planet.
Chan is the best-selling author of books including: Crazy Love, Forgotten God, and Erasing Hell, as well as the host of the BASIC.series (Who is God & We Are Church). He has also written children’s books: Halfway Herbert, The Big Red Tractor and the Little Village, and Ronnie Wilson’s Gift.
Currently, Chan is working on a church planting movement in inner city San Francisco. Recently, he joined with Pastor David Platt to co-author a new book Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples (David C Cook, 2012), and to launch a nationwide discipleship movement called Multiply (multiplymovement.com). Chan is also the founding pastor of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, California, and founder of Eternity Bible College. He lives in northern California with his wife, Lisa, and their five children.
What inspired you and David Platt to start the Multiply Movement?
I was traveling with my family, and we were pretty set on living in Asia. I was in Hong Kong after we were looking at apartments and schools for the kids, and I had a strong sense that the Lord was telling me I had not finished what I started in America and needed to go back and complete that before going anywhere else.
That work relates to discipleship and the way we do church. Currently, people expect their pastors to lead their friends to the Lord and for the church staff to disciple them. Meanwhile you have this whole army of people who attend services and Bible studies but aren’t out doing evangelism or discipleship.
I felt led to help equip people to make disciples. It was a massive vision, but I didn’t want to go out in the flesh and find people to make it happen. I asked the Lord to bring people to me so that I knew it was really from him.
One of the first guys I met when I came back was David Platt. We had read and were impacted by one another’s books, so there was an instant connection. I asked him what was on his heart. It was the exact same thing on my heart — making disciples who make disciples.
The more we talked, the more we thought, “Why not do this together?” That was the start of the Multiply Movement.
How is the Church doing in discipleship today?
Bluntly, we’re doing terribly. When Jesus said go make disciples of all nations, he wasn’t saying form circles and disciple one another. There was a world of people who had not heard of him. His point was to get to them. Jesus wants his story known all throughout the world. He gave us that responsibility.
So let’s take your average church, say of a hundred people. On any given week how many shared the gospel with an unbeliever? One? Maybe two? That’s terrible. Jesus was looking at the small group of people on the mountaintop — specifically those eleven disciples — and telling them to get this message to everyone on earth. He said he would fill us with his Spirit to do that, yet most go a whole year without ever sharing the gospel.
What’s is the lie, the stronghold holding the church back?
In a nutshell, we don’t expect people to do it. We’ve set up a system that says bring people to church and let the pastor lead them to the Lord. Bring your kids to church and let childcare workers teach them Scripture. Bring your youth to the church and let professional youth pastors guide them through their teenage years. It takes the responsibility off of people.
It got to the point that people were even asking me: “Pastor will you come to work with me and share the gospel with my friend?” And it’s like, oh, no. You do it. I know they’re saying, “I hear the way you speak, and you speak better.” But Paul said he didn’t come with eloquence for he didn’t want to empty the cross of its power. There’s something powerful about a simply spoken message.
I fault leaders like myself who at the time didn’t really think through how to equip the saints for works of service. Instead I just did it myself and hired a staff that would do it for them. Now that we’re trying to release the average person to go share the gospel, we find that there’s a lot of insecurity and people feeling ill-equipped for the job.
What’s the breakthrough that can cause a seismic shift in that thinking?
It starts with placing responsibility back on people. Just think, what if I had told my five kids, “Hey, you guys can just live here as long as you want. In fact, I’m going to build a swimming pool and batting cages and a golf course in the backyard.” As long as I allowed them to stay, without getting a job or their own place, they would likely take the path of the least resistance.
There’s a reason why God allowed the early church to be scattered. They made disciples everywhere they went.
We have to think through the structures we’re creating and the message those structures send. We must create new structures that require people to go out and launch new works, making disciples on their own.
Your book Crazy Love says the love of Christ compels us to go. Where’s the disconnect?
We are bombarded with messages urging comfort and safety. That’s what our flesh desires. We seek security through where we live or how much money we have in the bank. We’re so clouded by the world’s messages that we can’t see straight. We try to make American principles biblical principles. We’ve created a Christianized version of “the American dream.” We are tainted by the world, and it’s a fight every day not to conform.
People could read Crazy Love and for a moment say, “I want to live for eternity,” but they will hear contrary messages within a minute of putting the book down. Every day we’re pushed towards complacency and selfishness.
We’re pleased you’ll be speaking at CLA Dallas 2014. Do you have any closing thoughts for leaders who comprise CLA?
Probably a lot of these leaders are like me. We’re doers. We get frustrated at people who sit around the church and talk, talk, talk, but don’t do. It drives us crazy. Look at Christ (1 John 3:16–18). He came. He sacrificed. We should do the same.
But because I want to get a lot done, I can sometimes do that in the flesh. If I don’t rest in the Lord, and enjoy him as I should, my action doesn’t spring from my identity and enjoyment of Christ. When that happens, I end up getting the glory rather than Jesus. People say, “Oh, look at what Francis has done and what he accomplished.” People see only my actions. Instead, if I focus on Christ with thanksgiving, people see him. I would urge all leaders to be careful of that. Once we get away from time in the Lord’s presence, we are just doing things in the flesh. We are not abiding.
The second thing I would say is to make sure you absolutely, radically, passionately love and help build the local church. I can get frustrated with the church [universal], and sometimes want to do the work apart from her. Yet that’s not what Christ called us to do.
I would ask nonprofit leaders to stay close to and come under the leadership of the church. If all the workers just go off and do their own thing apart from the church, the church just gets weaker and weaker. However, Christ came to build the church. Let’s be the church’s champion.
On one hand, we were created by God to enjoy his grace. Apart from everything else God created, we were made in his image. We alone have the capacity to enjoy God in intimate relationship with him. The first word the Bible uses to describe that relationship is blessing. God blessed the human race not because of any merit or inherent worth in in us, but simply out of pure, unadulterated grace. God created humankind to enjoy his grace.
But that was not the end of the story, because on the other hand, God immediately followed his blessing with a command. “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.’ ” God gave his people his image for a reason – so that they might multiply his image throughout the world. He created human beings, not only to enjoy his grace in relationship with him, but also to extend his glory to the ends of the earth.
Simple enough. Enjoy his grace and extend his glory. This is the twofold purpose behind the creation of the human race in Genesis 1, and it sets the stage for an entire Book that revolves around the same purpose. In every genre of biblical literature and every stage of biblical history, God is seen pouring out his grace on his people for the sake of his glory among all peoples.
– David Platt, Radical, p.65
Are you new to the Multiply Movement? Was the recent live stream your first real call to biblical disciple-making? Are you unsure about where to begin if you were to disciple someone starting today? Then this post is for you!
You can find all of the Multiply material on our website for free by going here. Not only do you have access to this material, but we have provided leader videos by Francis Chan and David Platt to assist you in the process!
The video below is the first of the Leader Videos that accompany the free Multiply discipleship material. Each of the 24 lessons contains a video with David Platt and Francis Chan aimed at helping you lead someone else (or a small group) through this material in the discipleship process.
In order to get to the videos, simply go to the Multiply website, click on the “Materials” tab, find the specific lesson you want, and then click on the “Read More” option to see the video and the lesson appear on the screen.
Read through the week’s lesson and then watch the corresponding video. Hopefully, you’ll find some questions answered and be encouraged along the way.
E-laine lives in the Philippines and has requested we pray for them in the tragic wake of Typhoon Haiyan. She specifically asked that we pray for Gracetoration Christian Fellowship in Coron, Palawan, Philippines, a church that has used Multiply as a tool in their disciple-making. Recently, we were able to ask her some questions to better guide our prayers.
How are you connected with Gracetoration Christian Fellowship in the Philippines?
The Pastor of this church, Pastor Paul Dignadice is a dear friend of our family. He used to pastor our church in Metro Manila, but the Lord touched his heart to go back to his homeland, which is Coron, Palawan. He organized a group called “Jesus’ Young Followers” – discipling young men and women who will give glory to God and will make disciples who will make disciples who will make disciples who will make disciples. I have volunteered as a Youth Leader under Pastor Paul’s leadership for 5 years but I am based here in Metro Manila.
Jesus’ Young Followers Facebook page is: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jesus-Young-Followers/192509407536603. We post updates on this page too.
How can the church here assist you? Include some specific prayer requests.
a. Pastor Paul’s house and other workers’ houses has been hit really bad by the storm – pray for provisions as they rebuild; pray for comfort, Strength (spiritual, emotional, physical), wisdom, and more love for the Lord as they continue to become living testimonies of Jesus’ love.
b. The church lost its roofing, walls, windows… pray for them as the church rebuilds.
c. The members of this church are taking care of others before themselves-their needs-their houses. Pray that the Lord will continue to comfort them, give them strength as they go around trying to help others.
d. They need provisions to do these things. please pray for provisions as they try to help others with food, clothing, shelter and provisions for their own needs.
e. Names of Pastors/workers there: they need prayers as they lead the congregation in sharing Jesus to those who lost their homes, businesses, and other possessions.
i. Pastor Paul Dignadice and family: (Pastor Paul’s facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/paul.dignadice?fref=ts)
ii. Pastor Boy Garcia and family: https://www.facebook.com/bhoy.kitgarcia?fref=ts
iii. Pastor Romy Cruz and family: https://www.facebook.com/raski13?fref=ts
You mentioned taking this opportunity to share Jesus’ love with others. How is Gracetoration Christian Fellowship doing this?
a. They opened the doors of their church to those who totally lost their homes. The church is being used as a “half-way” house right now.
b. They are going around and distributing food to those who do not have any.
I know they have more stories to tell… but im just asking for prayers for them as they face this difficult time.
c. Electricity has not been restored for the town– pray that they will get it back soon.
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As you pray for E-laine, Pastor Paul, and his team, also pray about potentially giving financially to the relief effort and the enormous material need it’s attempting to meet. We recommend giving to Compassion International, Samaritan’s Purse, and Baptist Global Response… all ministries that specialize in disaster relief and long-term development, and all ministries that are currently on the ground in the Philippines.