16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Among all the feelings that arise in me as I read the Great Commission in Matthew 28:16-20, chief among them is this overwhelming sense of purpose. What a crazy, ridiculous, mind-blowing, and audacious command… reach everyone… everywhere…
And I get to be a part of it.
Talk about a vision that will ruin the average church attendee who has something deep in their spirit saying, “there’s more to this Jesus thing than what I’ve experienced.” Perhaps that’s where you are. Maybe you, like me, have read the New Testament and have had a hard time bridging the gap of what you read and what your church experience has been.
Or maybe you’re someone, like me, who has heard rumblings of what God is doing around the world, and have wondered, “why is that not happening here in America?”
Did you know that we’re currently tracking over 1,300 Church Planting Movements around the world (a CPM is generally defined by seeing 4+ streams of multiplication of new, indigenous churches out of new believers, resulting in at least 100 churches)? It’s like the book of Acts… one thousand times! No joke. It’s absolutely unbelievable what God is doing around the world.
Maybe you’re someone who has heard about these Gospel Movements around the world and God has given you a sort of holy jealousy… “I want that!”
Or maybe you’re just someone who loves Jesus and you realize that the vast majority of people you’re surrounded by don’t know him. Maybe you’re seeing legit spiritual hunger increase in the people you’re surrounded by, while at the same time you’re sick of them saying “no” when you invite them to church.
Maybe you’re someone who wants to make disciples of your friends, family, neighbors, or co-workers and you just don’t know where to begin.
Regardless of your backstory, it seems as if almost every single person with a Great Commission desire will get to the point where they say, “so, uhhmm, now what? I want to make disciples. I want to reach those who won’t go to church. I want to be a missionary in my neighborhood/network.
Where do I start???”
*Identify your Context
STEP 1. RADICALLY COMMIT TO A MISSION-FOCUSED PRAYER STRATEGY
A Great Commission Vision is so huge, so audacious, that our prayers need to match that level of audacity. When your vision is to see all people groups in a region reached, you better believe your prayers are extraordinary.
But it’s easy to forget that movement and disciple making is a work of God, not a work of man. Making disciples of not-yet followers of Jesus is something that flows from God’s heart. It’s not our mission, it’s his. We need to be people so connected to the vine, that when God gives direction, we know his voice and immediately respond in obedience.
Therefore, mission-focused prayer ironically begins with personal abiding in Jesus. Jesus promises us in John 15 that if we abide in him, we will bear fruit. So by beginning with abiding, we learn the necessary missionary skills of hearing the voice of God, and matching that with loving obedience. If we want to understand God’s heart for mission, we simply can’t miss this step. We must abide in him.
And then we join him.
In its most succinct form, mission-focused prayer is simply this: “God, where are you already at work and how can I join you?” We take up the posture of the neighborhood kid who is always trying to play with the older kids, “Hey, what you doing?? Can I come??”
If we want to see a movement of new disciples in new networks that multiply throughout an entire city, our prayer simply cannot be contained to the sanctuaries or prayer closets. An old pastor once told me that his church prayed for 10 years for their neighbors across the street before one day he suggested that they go over there and meet the neighbors…
So that’s the tension of mission-focused prayer. Our disciple making efforts have to start with and be empowered by prayer, but prayer alone, without feet to join those prayers, is not enough.
Two characteristics of mission-focused prayer:
Pray with Intention: The more general your prayers, the less focused your feet will be to join those prayers. Don’t just pray for your neighbors, but pray for them by name. Hear from God on their behalf. What’s the Holy Spirit telling you about what he’s already up to in the lives of those you’re trying to reach? Often he will direct you in the questions to ask and the next steps to take.
Pray with Authority:
Missionaries understand that prayer is not just asking God for things, but it’s actually an exercise in authority. As children of the most high God, we pray with power, knowing that we are ambassadors of God. This sort of prayer is anything but timid. The prayers of effective missionaries are aggressive and combative, acting like artillery fire that reigns down on the gates of hell. Authoritative prayer is couched within the supernatural, as we expect to see God show up in power, through signs, wonders, and deliverance.
If this is new to you, try out the BLESSING PRAYER, and begin to practice praying with authority.
2. KNOW THE RELATIONSHIPS and/or CONTEXT TO WHOM YOU’RE CALLED
If you don’t know to whom you’re called, you don’t know where to direct your prayer, your time, and your efforts. It’s as simple as that.
The broader your “target” is, the broader your intentionality will be as well. As you begin to search for spiritually hungry people, think sniper, not shotgun. Don’t spread your time over many contexts, but rather focus in on a place or a people..
Here are some helpful hints as you discern where God is sending you…
- Start with the places in which you have a reason to exist. Use a tool like THE CONTEXT MAP to help you think through where you spend time and who might already be in your life who is spiritually interested.
- Maybe you’re scattered about and don’t have a clear ‘context.’ For you it might be better to think about all of the individual relationships you have. Use a tool like this OIKOS MAP to help you identify the people in your life, and to see if God is highlighting someone to love, serve, and pursue more.
- Spend time in ripe environments. Stop spending time in the Christian coffee shop only. Hang out where people who don’t yet know Jesus hang out. Pray for persons of peace. Look for opportunities to listen and engage with the people in that place. Look to serve them. Pray for God to reveal persons of peace.
- If your context is cross-cultural, you must find and empower “insiders.” Cross-culture doesn’t just mean overseas, but perhaps God has burdened your heart for a specific network or affinity in your city (i.e. the homeless population, the incarcerated, migrant communities, single moms, teenagers, women affected by domestic abuse, etc…), but you aren’t in that community yourself. If you’re an “outsider,” then it’s vital you find an insider. Your role, then, is CATALYTIC above all else. Find those relational gatekeepers. Find those who do have a reason to exist in that community, and empower them to gather others to discover Jesus. Focus on finding the one who can reach the many.
3. FIND TEAMMATES
Disciple-making is a team sport. Jesus started his ministry by calling together a team and giving them a specific mission: “Follow me and I’ll make you fishers of men.” When Jesus calls people to follow him, it is a call to join him in mission and to learn how to become disciple-makers as we walk out obedience to him.
Don’t try to do that alone. Find a partner, or even better, a handful of partners. The form varies… maybe you’re a group of people who share the same missional context, or perhaps you scatter to other places. Maybe you meet weekly, or multiple times a week. Regardless, if you’re a lone ranger, you will not last.
Whatever form your team takes, it’s vital to implement these 4 activities:
- Pray together for the mission
- Serve together and find people of peace
- Equip one another (primarily through discovery) to be disciple-makers and effective leaders
- Encourage one another to pursue Jesus more
WHERE TO BEGIN: SUMMARIZED
The Great Commission beckons us to participate in the greatest work of reconciliation in the history of mankind. That’s a huge call, not to mention a huge vision, that somehow plays itself out in incredibly practical ways for the everyday follower of Jesus. Knowing where to start is tricky, because disciple making is not a formula or a checklist to live into, while at the same time it takes intentionality to actually implement in our lives.
With that being said, in order to begin your personal journey of joining God’s mission in your life and reaching people with the Good News of Jesus, here’s a good starting point:
- Mission Focused Prayer
- Know your Missional Context
- Find Teammates