Does prayer make a difference? (Part 2)

Sometimes it takes a story to help us realize just how much of a difference prayer makes.

We have friends in India who picked two villages to visit. One of the villages they prayed for and the other they did not. When they later went in to proclaim the good news of Jesus, the village they had not prayed for threw them out. In the other village, the one they had prayed for, 45 families became believers.

We so easily take prayer for granted without realizing its incredible potential power.

Indian village


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Suspended in a hammock: contextualizing the good news

Photo credit: SadieMaeGlutz (Creative Commons)

We have friends in India who are seeing large numbers of both high-caste Hindus and people from other religions become followers of Jesus. They use the sacred books of those religions to point to Christ. When they have clearly demonstrated Christ within those books, they can then point them to the Jesus of the Bible. They are contextualizing the Gospel in a way that makes it understandable to those they are trying to reach.

There are pointers to Jesus in every culture.

The book, Bruchko, describes the extraordinary story of 19 year-old Bruce Olson, who sought to bring the Gospel to a murderous tribe in the South American jungle. These people had no words in their language that could express some of the concepts of a belief in Jesus. Bruce used some remarkably creative ways to bring across these ideas.

For example, there was no word to express "faith" in the Motilone language. The Indians used to sleep on hammocks suspended from the rafters of their communal homes. The best word for faith that Bruce found was the word that meant to "tie in one's hammock." It beautifully expresses faith as suspending one's life from Christ and the people instinctively understood its meaning.

Some years ago we started a church in the low income housing projects. One day, a good friend from England, Norman Barnes, visited. He clearly demonstrated the efficacy of the blood of Christ in forgiving sins to our friends there. He had them each write down the things they had done that were bad, that they were ashamed of, or issues they dealt with like anger, onto a sheet of paper. When each one had completed their list, they put their papers into a pan. He covered it with a red cloth symbolizing the blood of Jesus. He took the pan outside, removed the cloth and set fire to the paper. Then he asked them to pull their sins out of the pan. Of course, they were just ash.

The kids talked about how the blood of Jesus dealt with their sins for weeks after that. Every time a person wore something red they would remind each other: "She's wearing red: do you remember how the blood of Jesus covers the things we've done wrong."

How can we contextualize the good news for the people we come across day by day? How can this be used to reach out to other cultures too?

Four ways simple/organic churches are actively involving in cross-cultural mission


Photo credit: Themikelee (Creative Commons)

How are people in simple/organic churches currently actively engaging in cross-cultural missions?

  1. People move with their job. Because they already are familiar with simple church principles of mission (find a person of peace and start something around them), it is natural for them to make disciples and start churches in their new location.
  2. People go with a traditional denominational entity or other mission sending agency. They are supported financially in full or in part by their local simple/organic church or network of home churches. Again, they understand missional principles from their experience at home.
  3. People within organic church organize teams to go on short-term mission trips. This provides invaluable experience to those who have never had cross-cultural experience, particularly of third world countries.
  4. There are a number of us who go to other nations and train local people in disicple-making and simple church principles. These people then train and work with others. This is the most effective missions I have seen. If someone local spreads the Gospel, it is not seen as a foreign religion and the news about Jesus can spread rapidly and widely. (Obviously, the Holy Spirit is the one responsible.)

What other ways are you aware of that simple/organic churches involve in mission?  (I'll cover finances in a separate post.)

Was the Great Commission given only to the eleven disciples?

Reach out
Photo credit: Alvaro Canivell (Creative Commons)

What does Jesus think about missions?

The Great Commission was given by Jesus to the eleven disciples after his resurrection. Here's the Matthew version:

Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matt 28:18-20)

The Mark version:

And then he told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.  Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned.  These miraculous signs will accompany those who believe…:  (Mark 16:15-18)

I've heard some people say that the Great Commission was only given to the eleven disciples. It doesn't include us. Our lifestyle together should be enough to attract others. The verses that people use for this argument are ones such as John 17: 23

I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.

There is something incredibly attractive about a group of Christians relating well together. But if we believe that is all that is necessary, it gives us a great cop out. We are no longer commissioned to reach out to those who don't yet know him. 

It is dangerous to selectively omit verses that were given only to the disciples. If we applied that principle consistently, we would lose many of the teachings of Jesus recorded in the Gospels.

Personally I  I believe we need to be witnesses too. Here is some of my reasoning:

  1. Earlier in the passage in John 17, Jesus says this:  Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world…  I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message.  I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. 

            It is clear that Jesus is sending not just the eleven disciples into the world but also those who             believe in him through their presentation of the Good News.

          2.  In Peter's exposition of the Gospel, he says this: Then you will receive the gift of the Holy           Spirit.  This promise is to you, and to your children, and even to the Gentiles—all who                 have been called by the Lord our God.”  (Acts 2:38-39)

According to Jesus, one of the reasons the Holy Spirit is given: But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere— in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

I believe that all of us are called to be ambassadors, those who represent the Kingdom of God to the rest of the world. Obviously, how we do it, and what motivates us is important too.

What do you think?