Jesus gave his disciples the charge to “go and make disciples of all nations” as in Matthew 28:18-20.  In 1 John 4:14, John says, “the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.” Jesus said in Mark 16:15  “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.”

It is very clear that Jesus’ charge to the church is for disciples to go into all the world —  locally and globally. The first century Christians who were persecuted and were scattered certainly understood this charge clearly.  Acts 8:4 says they “preached the word wherever they went.

Some of these persecuted Christians, as Acts 11:19-21 says, traveled to far away places from Jerusalem to places like Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, telling the message to the Jews and even to the Greeks and the scripture says that “a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.” As disciples living mostly in much more comfortable and less challenging circumstances, we should make every effort to keep the world missions focus alive. If this is what Jesus died for, how can we live for anything else? The church that is truly the body of Christ will place priority on the “discipling of the nations” in word and in deed. ¹

Let us face the global facts of the world we live in..

  • World population is 6.6 billion people and multiplying.
  • Every second while 4 new souls are born into this world, 2 souls die and leave. That means just in just 10 seconds, we have 40 new borns and 20 deaths! In one minute 240 newborns and 120 deaths!
  • Out of every 5 marriages, one ends in divorce.
  • 90 abortions happen every minute.
  • Every 30 seconds someone dies in an accident.
  • Every 30 seconds someone commits suicide!

Heaven weeps at the cries of earth’s children! Is our heart aching? How many of these people heard the gospel? How many were reached out to? Who is going to preach the good news to the young souls being added every second? Romans 10:14 says “how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” and Romans 10:15 says“how can they preach unless they are sent?”  Who is going to preach and who is going to send them to preach? Do we have a plan? Are we asking the Lord of the harvest? What are we doing about it?  As someone said, “Don’t just sit there, do something!” The words of Keith Green’s song “Asleep in the Light” are a wake-up call for us as disciples and for our churches in these times. As hee died in a plane crash, the words of his song are haunting..

Do you see, do you see
All the people sinking down
Dont you care, dont you care
Are you gonna let them drown

How can you be numb
Not to care if they come
You close your eyes
And pretend the job’s done

Oh bless me lord, bless me lord
You know its all I ever hear
No one aches, no one hurts
No one even sheds one tear

But he cries, he weeps, he bleeds
And he cares for your needs
And you just lay back
And keep soaking it in
Oh can’t you see it’s such a sin

Cause he brings people to your door
And you turn them away
As you smile and say
God bless you, be at peace
And all heaven just weeps
Cause Jesus came to your door
You’ve left him out on the streets

Open up, open up
And give yourself away
You see the need, you hear the cries
So how can you delay

God’s calling and you’re the one
But like Jonah you run
He told you to speak
But you keep holding it in
Oh can’t you see its such a sin

The world is sleeping in the dark
That the church just can’t fight
Cause it’s asleep in the light
How can you be so dead
When you’ve been so well fed
Jesus rose from the grave
And you, you can’t even get out of bed

Oh, Jesus rose from the dead
Come on get out of your bed

How can you be so numb
Not to care if they come
You close your eyes
And pretend the job’s done
You close your eyes
And pretend the job’s done

Dont close your eyes
Dont pretend the job’s done

The words of this song cut through our hearts. As we look around, we just cannot pretend that the job is done. The work has just begun…..

Let us also face the facts of our churches in our movement³..

  • After 30 years we have 560 churches with a collective membership of 90,130
  • We are in 147 countries and we need to still reach approximately 47 more countries
  • Of the 147 countries we are in, only 24 countries have churches with a combined membership of 500 or more.
  • In 35 countries, the combined membership is about 100-499.
  • In 88 countries the combined membership of all churches is fewer than 100 members!
  • The number of full time ministers has shrunk
  • The number of singles in the full-time ministry are very few.
  • The amount of money we raise to support mission work has also reduced considerably.
  • Number of missionaries of foreign origin are a handful now in the foreign field who in the past had inspired many others to be missionaries!
  • Some churches actually do not regularly donate to missions.

 How are we going to see many new churches planted and watered in a rapid way? How are we going to sustain the workers we send out into the harvest field? How are we going to help the churches that have been planted to grow and be built up into a sending church? Do we have the vision, passion and the conviction to see this fulfilled? We need to find answers to some of these questions in our hearts and our congregations.

The task seems impossible for us, but with God all things are possible. The Holy Spirit has been working since the day of Pentecost as we see in the book of Acts and He is still at work today. He wants to see our churches multiply and the number of disciples grow.  We are not the only disciples, but we must take responsibility as disciples of Jesus.

What is it going to take?

Here are a few things to consider about our churches :

  1. We need a renewed evangelistic zeal to spread the gospel of God’s grace by planting new churches. We have often criticized our own past over-zealous approach to plant churches in all the world in our generation, but we also need a reality check.  When was the last time your church send out a new planting. Are you sending to missions regularly? Are people in your churches sending out any missionaries to preach the Word? We see the zeal of the apostles and Jerusalem disciples evangelising and establishing churches in Judea, Samaria and Galilee [Acts 8:25; 9:31].  Also we see that in spite of persecution and scattering, the Jerusalem disciples kept preaching the word wherever they went and never gave up making disciples. Eventually these newly baptized disciples got organized into new churches [Acts 8:1-4; 11:19-23; 13:1-3].
  2. We need churches and leadership who are committed to providing leadership and money to support world missions. [Acts 13:1-3]
  3. We need to help strengthen existing struggling churches so that eventually they will become a sending church. [Acts 14:41; 15:4-5; 18:23]
  4. We need to encourage the cooperation of existing churches in geographic regions with pillar churches [Acts 19:10; 1 Thess 1:8] spearheading the evangelism of that region as we see the Jerusalem church doing with the  apostles and disciples evangelising  throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria [Acts 8:25; Acts 9:31] establishing new churches.  Being organized is not a sin.
  5. We need to give vision, training and support to young missionaries, the “young guns”, of our churches. [Acts 16:1-3]
  6. We need a plan for each church planting to become self-supporting by raising up and  appointing local leadership and become financially self-supporting so they can become a sending church and the supporting church can send out other church plantings. [Acts 14:21-23;1 Cor 16:1-3; 2 Cor 8:1-6; 9:1-5]
  7. We need each church to remember our core convictions to stay connected to God and to each other.  We need to maintain the connection between the churches, between the sending church and the church that was planted. Many churches have forgotten the fact that the reason they have a church is because there was a church that sacrificed to send a team, financially supported it, provided leadership for many years and helped them to become self-supporting. Paul and the early church leadership understood that without the Jerusalem church and its leadership and its efforts they would not have become a church. The early church made efforts to stay connected with each other in spite of many issues they faced that could have separated them [Acts 15:1-4; 15:22-31; 16:4-5]. The New Testament churches were connected regionally as we see the New testament talking about the Judean churches [Gal 1:22], the churches of Galatia [Gal 1:2; 1 Cor 16:1], churches in the province of Asia [Rev 1:7; 1 Cor 16:19] and  the Macedonian churches [2 Cor 8:1]. 

We need to beg God to show us all possible ways to see new churches established in all nations as we see in the first century. We need to have a united plan and hearts for how we are to see churches planted in the remaining 47 countries. How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news![Rom 10:15]. Let us take the good news to all nations.

Where do we go from here?

In only 30 years as a movement, we have seen God’s great miracles among us.  Hundreds of thousands of lives changed.  560 churches in 147 nations.  Almost all led by nationals.  Disciples willing to go anywhere, do anything and give up everything for Jesus. Maturing churches on every continent that have been through testing fires.

 What we need now are churches moved by the Spirit of God acting for God locally  believing that God will use it globally.  That will bring about a “butterfly effect” in our movement — believing that the flapping of butterfly wings in Brazil will create [or prevent] a tornado in Texas. We have seen this effect in the past.  God built what happened through the Boston Church in the late 70’s into a “world evangelism storm” spreading around the world in just 30 years! The same effect has to be felt again in our movement in the world now. It could start in one of our churches and its effect could be felt all over the world, just like it started with the Jerusalem church in the first century and its ripples were felt aroung the world. Where is it going to start? What if it started in one church on every continent?  In every region?  Let a new revolution begin for God and the gospel!

1George Gurganus, Guidelines for world evangelism

2most of the information in this paragraph has been taken from the website

3most of the information in this paragraph has been taken from the article “International Churches of Christ, 2007 Membership Survey: Report and Analysis” by Mission Memo and Disciples Today.