Pursuing unreached peoples with the gospel as a family requires simple obedience that leads to a life of kingdom service.
As we commit to “become all things” to unreached peoples living near us, we expose virtually every aspect of our lives.
Marital peace, behavioral expectations, social acceptance, financial stability and time management are open to constant and random disruptions. Facing these challenges by faith requires understanding the life of a harvest laborer, properly valuing the family and worshiping Jesus.
Understanding the life of the laborer
Laboring in the harvest field of unreached peoples is not a career — it is a calling that requires sacrifice.
Jesus bluntly describes obedience to Him as carrying crosses through death and to victory (Luke 14:27). When we obey Christ by beginning to love, pray for and share the gospel with strangers from other lands, ethnicities and languages, we begin a life of loss.
We lose dreams of popularity, health, property, retirement, personal space, personal time and self-satisfaction. Married couples lose time with each other due to travel and disciple-making opportunities. Children lose health, friends and comfort as the family moves to be closer to the people group they are ministering to. The entire family is exposed to the suffering of the lost, and we often join in that suffering.
Yet Jesus taught that if a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it bears much fruit (John 12:24). The further we progress in this life of losing, the more we see God’s Word changing lives, the more happiness we feel in how He is with us in our loss and the more we trust His control over our family.
Properly valuing family
The same Lord who calls us to this life of sacrifice describes our place in the kingdom and our relationship to God in familial terms. Our spouses and children are worthy of care, not neglect.
As we embrace our families as a gift from God while working among the unreached, Jesus stretches our knowledge of His love. Birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, funerals, sick days, growing pains and emotional crises may arise when an unreached family is coming for dinner, one parent is travelling overseas or friends have an immediate need.
While we strive for nurture and discipline, sacrifices made in service to others remind us how much every soul is worth to King Jesus. It also reveals the strength of Christ’s love that can nurture both our biological families and the children He is adopting from all the nations.
In Scripture, Jesus spoke of prizing Him to the extent that love for the family would look like hatred in comparison (Luke 14:26). The sacrificial life of the laborer among the unreached often leads to choices that appear reckless but are driven by simple love for Jesus.
Laborers for Jesus often trade dreams of success for a vision that the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord. We give up the desire for prosperity for the desire that none would perish and all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:5).
We make the crazy decision to guide our family into a life of loss because Jesus did the seemingly crazy thing of dying and coming back. When our whole family sinks in exhaustion, we can rest in a Savior who is so strong that He took away the sins of the world. We get up knowing that the world lives next door to us and needs to know the Savior’s name.
Making disciples should not just be another trend but must be the focus of the church.
Jesus preached the gospel message to everyone, including commoners, religious elitists, politicians and more. This is how the early disciples made followers of Jesus as well.
Acts 14:21-22 says, “They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. They then returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging to remain true to the faith.” The disciples preached the gospel and then invested their time in discipling and nurturing the early believers to become followers and disciple-makers.
A pastor has an opportunity to ignite the disciple-making process in a church by modeling it through his preaching and what he does after it. Starting with the pulpit and the sufficiency of the Word, the whole church is empowered as a gospel-centered force, impacting every sphere and arena of influence in which they live.
Though Christ engaged the masses, He equipped the twelve disciples for the work of the ministry. He taught them how to preach, teach, serve and make disciples. He then sent them out two-by-two as apprentices to experience what Christ was doing himself. Similarly, pastors should preach and then invest in the lives of a few with the expectation that they too will multiply as disciples of Christ.
For preaching to be an effective process for disciple-making, the following must take place:
- The preaching must be intentional
Every message should include a presentation of a gospel and listeners should have an opportunity to respond. It is the tilling of the soil for the gospel seed to be planted, harvested and re-planted.
- The preaching must be relational
The sharing of the gospel hopefully leads to a person coming to know Jesus, and then to be invited into a disciple-making relationship for accountability, nurture and equipping for the ministry.
- It must be incarnational
The gospel message must lead to a changed and transformed life. This is the basis for a beautiful testimony — one that can be used in sharing the gospel powerfully with others so that they may come to know Christ as Lord.
The way to view success for a pastor in the ministry is not attendance numbers, annual budgets, or building size, but by how many disciples are being made that are making other disciples. This is the model of multiplication that will reach this world for Christ. That was God’s plan when He gave us the Great Commission and it’s how we bring glory to God in our preaching.