Multiplying churches are the future. When Jesus spoke to His disciples about reaching the ends of the earth, He started with their local mission field: Jerusalem. There is a logical progression. You have to first be able to reach your community before you can begin multiplying to the ends of the earth.
A tale of two cities
Every town tells the tale of two cities. There are two types of people you can choose to reach: people just like you, or people who are nothing like you at all. You can pick people who are just like you, or you can target people nobody else targets.
On Paul’s first missionary journey, he and Barnabas “went home” and reached people just like them. There’s nothing wrong with that; it is a good starting point. Paul targeted his fellow citizens of Turkey, and Barnabas the inhabitants of his native Cyprus. But on Pau’s second missionary journey, something shifted. Paul thought he had it all mapped out, where he would go, who he would reach, but the Holy Spirit kept frustrating his attempts to go places. Finally the Macedonian call brought him to Greece. That was the shift away from Paul’s own Jerusalem, and the beginning of the call to a specific people group.
In every epistle, Paul claimed that he was a “sent one” specifically called to reach the unreached Gentiles. J. Hudson Taylor felt called exclusively to the Chinese. Rick Warren claimed he was called to yuppies. During his three-year ministry, Jesus said, “I have been sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 15:24). Wherever you think your mission field is, it expands outward from your Jerusalem. It’s there that God will initially begin to use you, even if it’s the springboard to a different destination.
The good news is that you don’t need a passport to go on frontline mission. There is enough brokenness in your city to keep you busy for the rest of your natural-born life. Instead of a passport and airline ticket, Charles Spurgeon said the two necessary items to reaching people effectively are a love for God and a love for people. Monty Python missed this as the meaning of life, but the Holy Grail of truth from a biblical worldview is that we were made to love and be loved by God. It shouldn’t surprise us, therefore, that Jesus said loving God and others were the two greatest commandments.
I’ll let you in on a little secret: I naturally hate people. People laugh when I say it, but it’s true. When I grew up, I escaped the heartache in my home by traveling into the farthest corners of my imagination, represented by a plastic Mattel universe with five points of articulation made in Taiwan. Many Christians grow older without ever growing up, and Paul himself, the greatest missionary who ever lived, used the metaphor of “growing up” when referring to loving others, and putting childish ways behind him.
When I was saved, Jesus was telling me in the Bible that I needed to tell others about him. There was a part of me that rejoiced to do that, but a piece of me felt like Jonah: loathing to cross the room for the people I’d been called to. I just didn’t like them. It wasn’t personal. I didn’t like anybody! How was I supposed to bear the burden to tell everybody that Jesus loved them then? I was more a natural-born Son of Thunder than a transformed Apostle of Love. Like John in his early days, my evangelistic method would have been to “call fire down upon those people, Lord.” With first scoffer that ever mocked me for being a Christian, I employed the the Vikings “Convert or die!” program: I grabbed him the by the neck and slammed his back against a wall. Fist cocked back, I growled, “Think Jesus is funny now, wuss?” Tears moistened his eyes in humiliation and fear, and his quivering lip eked out, “No, I’m sorry. Just let me go.”
I realized pretty early I had a dilemma: Jesus was asking me to love people for Him, but I naturally feared, disliked, and hated the people He died for. I realized at a certain point that if I was going to love people, His supernatural love was going to need to trump my natural hatred. I just didn’t know how. We waste too much time pretending we love people when we don’t. In desperation, I broke down and did a crazy thing: I told God the truth. I confessed.
Instant people person
Acknowledging the truth to yourself and God is the first step to allowing Him to step into your place of brokenness and helplessness to fix your inadequacies. When we come to the end of what our natural man can do, the supernatural Holy Spirit begins to kick in. At least that’s how it worked in our justification. Why not our sanctification too? In our justification, we had to come to a place of utter helplessness in our ability to save ourselves before we cried out to Jesus to save us. In your struggles with sanctification you can’t tell God, “Thanks for saving me. I pretty much got it from here.” The Spirit rushes into that vacuum created by a spiritual bankruptcy where we’ve reached deep into the pockets of our own resources and come up with pocket lint and a paperclip, but no dice. At that moment heaven kisses earth, and the Spirit fills that vacuum and supernaturally loves people through you.
I’ve stood weeping, overwhelmed with love for the people I shared the gospel with, aware that, left to my own devices, I wouldn’t give a rip about them. It’s inexplicable. It’s what Paul naturally felt when he asserted that “it were as if Christ himself were pleading through us ‘be reconciled to God’” and said “the love of Christ compels us.” You don’t have to have the same love he has, you just have to let him love people through you. And with that, you win the T-shirt “Instant People Person – Just Add Holy Spirit”!
The Jesus Movement started with a 45-year-old Four Square preacher named Chuck Smith, who hated hippies. He ranted against them daily as they sat on the wall in front of his house on the coastal boardwalk in Newport Beach. Chuck would peer out the window at the unwashed, stinky, emaciated bodies invading his space and grumble. Then one day his wife stopped him dead by saying, “Chuck, why don’t we start praying for them?” As Chuck and Kay prayed for the hippies, God started to open his eyes to his “Jerusalem.” Without it, the Jesus Movement may never have had happened.
You can’t get any more “Jerusalem” than the front wall outside of your house. But the journey to reach our Jerusalem usually begins even closer … within our very own souls.
Excerpt from Peyton Jones, Reaching the Unreached: Becoming Raiders of the Lost Art (pp. 182-186). 2017 Zondervan.,
Published December 13, 2018