Stop Trying to Reach the World

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Deep Impact

Making an impact

There was a time when I thought God’s desire for my life was to make the biggest impact in the world I possibly could. I remember preaching a sermon about that idea, where I used the scene in the movie Deep Impact when the asteroid hits the earth to illustrate making an impact in the world. I now see how stupid that illustration was, since the impact of the asteroid only created destruction and devastation. But I digress.

Making disciples

I am beginning to receive the Great Commission as a great relief. God has not called me (or you) to save the world. Jesus did not say, “Go and make disciples of the whole world.” He said, “Go and make disciples of every people [ethne or people group].” (Matt 28:19) I am not denying God loves the whole world. We all know John 3:16. But we are not God. His mandate is more personal and specific. Let me try to explain.

Mission as project

It is easy for me to approach the mission as a project. Jesus was clear that the mission was to real people, in real places (Acts 1:8). Andy Crouch recently wrote how mission gets put in faceless, impersonal terms of “engaging culture”. He says, “Our mission is not primarily to ‘engage the culture’ but to ‘love our neighbor.’” (CT July/August 2016 page 34). Mission as a project to engage the culture becomes so murky. How do we really know if we are making a difference?

Let God make a difference

We are not called to make a difference. We are called to make disciples. Real, flesh-and-blood people, in real places, at this particular time in history. That is why I am glad the mission of The Alliance says nothing about reaching the world. We have agreed to work at the mission Jesus gave us: to make disciples. As Stephen Freeman wrote, “Let God make all the difference in the world.” The part of the mission God has invited us into is with people. He will work out the cosmic redemption himself.

Fostering inaction

This is where we as mission mobilizers have to be so careful. If we communicate mission as a global project, I believe they can become overwhelmed and paralyzed about what to do. Presenting a vision of reaching the world can actually foster inaction. I am reminded of C.S. Lewis’ words about global, impersonal worry becoming an escape from personal charity. This is why partnerships with the international workers who are present in the places we are not, become so important. We are to do the work we can and support those (real people) doing what we can’t.

Fulfilled together

Be encouraged that God does not expect you to impact the world. You are fulfilling his mandate as you are faithful in making disciples of real people in real places. None of us can accomplish the mission alone. By God’s design, it can only be fulfilled together.

Title Signature Screenshot Cartoon 2015

So Big You Can’t Miss!

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Domino Effect

No use trying

When the giants of global missions are considered, they can seem so big that it is easy to conclude there is no use trying. Perhaps we aren’t tempted to totally give up, but at times wonder what difference our tiny part can make.

Vision to match the problem

I have been reading between Psalm 65-68 the past couple of weeks. The global vision of the Psalmist has stood out to me from these Psalms. All the earth and all the nations are spoken of. Global giants require a vision of a global God.

It’s so big

Nicky Gumbel says, “There are two possible attitudes when facing a giant. One is to say, ‘It’s so big, there’s nothing I can do.’ The other is to say, ‘It’s so big, I can’t miss!’” I love that perspective!

Domino effect

That kind of perspective reminds me of an experiment by physicist, Lorne Whitehead. He figured out a single domino can topple another domino 50 percent bigger. Apparently it’s physics, that’s why it took a physicist to figure this out! I’ve seen the schematic and I still don’t understand how it works.

To the moon

Starting with a single, two-inch domino, the 10th domino would be as tall as Peyton Manning. The 18th would be as tall as the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The 23rd would be taller than the Eiffel Tower. The 31st would be over Mt. Everest. The 57th would get you to the moon.

Knock down giants

Never think your tiny prayer has no effect. Never think the amount you give to the Great Commission Fund makes no difference. Never think the work you are doing isn’t doing anything. The Lord can take our little dominos and knock down giants that we never could have imagined!

Sure to hit

There is no denying how huge the mission is, but that just means when you come up against it and lean your domino into it, you are sure to hit it!

Title Signature Screenshot Cartoon 2015

3 Reasons You Need to Name the Hard Part

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In your role what is the hardest part? What is the hardest aspect of the project you are working on right now?


People rafting on a class V river know what the hard part is: the rapids. They dress for them. They brace themselves as they approach. Their attention and focus peaks as they enter the rapids.


A person running a marathon knows what the hard part is: mile 22. Or for someone, maybe it’s mile 19 or 16. For me it would be miles 3-26. In training, so I’m told, a person learns where the hard part is and devises measures to tackle it.


You are trying to make an impact, cause change, create something. Whatever it is you are trying to accomplish in your role or with that project, there’s a hard part.


Here are 3 reasons I see why you need to name the hard part:


  1. You will intuitively avoid it. You gravitate toward what you love and what comes natural. Few are Renaissance Men (or Women) that can do everything start to finish. It will be natural for you to avoid the hard part by occupying yourself with something else.
  2. You will not brace yourself for it. It is called the “hard part” because it’s hard. When we encounter it by surprise it can do greater damage than if we were geared up and poised for the blow. Name the hard part and do what you need to do to get ready.
  3. You will not give it priority. Often the hard part is the important part. It is difficult because it’s significant. If you can’t name the hard part you won’t invest the attention it deserves.
There are things people accomplish that we find remarkable. We praise the achievement. We tell someone else about it. We stand in admiration. Easy things aren’t remarkable. Easy things are common. It was hard and someone still did it.


Name the hard part and do what it takes to get it done.


You can read a few more short thoughts on this idea here, here, and here.


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Scattering Gold Dust

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Bering Sea Gold is a show on the Discovery Channel about dredging for gold. Have you seen any episodes? I had not heard of it until I read about it in a book my wife is reading about motherhood. (Don’t judge me. It’s a good book.) These guys dredge for gold using scoop equipment and big hoses to suck up sand and sediment from the sea floor. Screening through all the sediment they somehow draw out the flecks of gold, melt it down, and collect their fortune.

Hearing about this, one wonders why everyone doesn’t get into this business. However, before each segment a warning is given that reads: “Offshore dredging for gold is not a get-rich-quick opportunity. It is expensive and dangerous. Most people who try, fail. Some have died. You do not want to dredge without extensive knowledge and training.” After watching part of an episode, I believe it.

The author of the motherhood book uses this for an illustration about parenting. But I thought how this connects to ministry too. Living in the midst of a community being formed in Christ is like spreading gold dust on a silty seabed. One hopes after these lives are unearthed and fiery trials assault the mud and dust strewn around that something of real value emerges–the life of Jesus.

As we work in the church we like to try to drop hunks of gold onto people. We attempt to deposit in big lumps. But the life of Christ is not dropped on people like that. The gold of Jesus comes in flecks and dustings. It is the short prayer. It is a personal note. It is an unscripted comment in a sermon. It is a phone call. It is a breakfast meeting. It is an affirming word. It is an acknowledged wrong. It is the conversation after church. It is the challenge. It is a pointed question. It is remembering. It is being confronted. It is consistency. It is knowing people. It is life.

So keep scattering gold dust. Working in the church is not a get-rich-quick opportunity. It is costly and hazardous. A lot of people fail. Some have died. You don’t want to do it without knowledge and training and the power of the Spirit. But if we keep at it we’ll end up with something pretty valuable.