October 2009


The International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention will be East Asiaconducting the East Asia Summit, November 4-6, in Shreveport, Louisiana.

The purpose of the Summit is to increase our awareness of the ministry needs and opportunities for the sharing of the Gospel with East Asian peoples.

I will have the opportunity to attend this meeting. There are three reasons that I will be going:

  1. I love East Asia and have a desire to learn and know more about what the Lord is doing there to reach people for Himself.
  2. I believe that what I learn at the Summit will help me to better minister to East Asian students that I know and minister with and to at Texas A&M University.
  3. I am praying that the Lord will allow me to connect with a church or ministry that is doing work in East Asia that we can somehow become involved with, either by spending time with them in ministry there or by serving them in a support role here.

Let me encourage you to prayerfully consider attending the East Asia Summit. I believe that we will all be blessed.

You can visit the Summit’s website here.

Many years ago, I asked my Uncle Homer, a man who had been a “lay preacher” for 5o years, what his favorite passage of Scripture was.

“Today’, he said, “Hebrews 11.”

You know the passage well. It is often referred to as the “Hall of Faith”.

I believe that the list of people with great faith who gain the Lord’s approval is continually being added to.

See my post on some of those people with an “other worldly” kind of faith at my other blog, tangiblethoughts.

If you are interested in Unreached People Groups (UPG), you will probably be interested in visiting the Joshua Project website if you don’t already know about them.

Joshua Project is a research initiative that studies and brings attention to the least evangelized and churched ethn0-linguistic people groups of the world. Joshua Project believes that “accurate, regularly updated ethnic people group information is critical for understanding and completing the Great Commission.”

As we seek to fulfill the Great Commission of the Lord Jesus Christ in our lifetime, Joshua Project helps us to answer many of the questions that are associated with the command to “make disciples of all the ‘nations’.” Three of those questions are:

  • Who are the ethnic people groups of the world?
  • Which people groups still need an initial church-planting movement in their midst?
  • What ministry resources are available to help outreach among the least-reached?

On the JP website you will find a wealth of information, for your head and heart, about the tremendous number of people groups and people who have yet to hear the saving news of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Joshua Project also provides us with definitions of many of the terms that are used, and that you will hear or read, when discussing the reaching of the “nations.” An understanding of these terms helps bring clarity and intentionality to our thinking and praying as we strategize how best to reach the “nations” for Christ.

One such term is “people groups.”

For evangelization purposes, a people group is the largest group within which the Gospel can spread as a church planting movement without encountering barriers of understanding or acceptance.”

Another term is “unreached”.

An unreached or least-reached people is a people group among which there is no indigenous community of believing Christians with adequate numbers and resources to evangelize this people group.

The original Joshua Project editorial committee selected the criteria less than 2% Evangelical Christian and less than 5% Christian Adherents. While these percentage figures are somewhat arbitrary, there are some that suggest that the percentage of a population needed to be influenced to impact the whole group is 2%.”

So, the question is now begged: “Just how many unreached people groups are there in the world today?”

Joshua Project reports that there are 16,344 People Groups in the world. Of those, 6,639, or 40.6% of the world’s People Groups, are unreached.

Joshua Project also reports that of the world’s 6.7 billion people, 2.74 billion are members of Unreached People Groups. That means that 40.9% of the today’s world population has not been reached with the message of God’s love and salvation in His Son, Jesus Christ.

What then will be our response to the Lord’s command to “Go  therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe (obey) all that I commanded you” ?

Let us pray that the Lord will send out laborers into His harvest fields, the harvest fields of souls that are ripe unto harvest. (Luke 10:2) May we be prepared to be the Lord’s answer to our own prayer!

Let us pray that the unreached billions will be reached and that myriads upon myriads will come to know Christ as personal Savior.

Let us pray for those who are even now serving as laborers in the Lord’s harvest fields of the world.

Jesus said:

 … this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations, and then the end shall come.”  Matthew 24:14

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Visit Joshua Project here.

International students + food = pot-luck party tonight!

About eight months ago I read Jaeson Ma’s book, The Blueprint :: A Revolutionary Plan to Plant Missional Communities on Campus.

The book, as the title suggests, is about reaching the different segments and population groups of students, or “people groups” as Ma refers to them, that are enrolled at the colleges and universities of our nation, as well as those of the world. Those segments would include, but are certainly not limited to, international students, sororities, fraternities, service organizations, professional organizations, and athletic clubs, just to mention a very few.

The other day I decided to flip back through the book and take a look at portions of it that I high-lighted as I read through it back then. I was particularly interested in scanning through Section Three, “Passion For Planting Simple Churches”, because ta ethne network has a vision for planting and multiplying organic churches at Texas A&M Univeristy in College Station, Texas and beyond.

These statements reflect much of what I believe, am convinced about and am thinking about church planting, organic churches, and planting organic, simple churches on university campuses.

When considering the fact that on any university campus there are “many various kinds of student clusters,” it is important, says Ma, “to look at each student segment as though it was an unreached people group.” We should then apply missionary methods  and “plant a unique simple church for each of these unreached groups….We need to bring church to them, not bring them to church.” (p.201)

At Texas A&M University there are over 800 officially recognized student organizations that constitute “people groups” that need to be penetrated by the Gospel. There are certainly other groupings of students that have not formed into recognized organizations that need to be penetrated as well. Each of these “clusters’ could potentially have organic, simple church started “within” that reach the members of those “tribes’ and “clans” for Christ. The people within each of the 800+ groupings who become Christ-followers have relationships that extend into other relationship networks that need to hear the Gospel. It is along these relationship lines that the Gospel can travel and organic, simple churches multiplied into other segments of the university population.

Ma goes on to say that …

The power in the simple church-planting model is that students learn to do church where they are. They no longer see church as something they go to on Sundays, but rather, they see it as something they live out daily wherever they may be.” (p.201)

This does not mean that students should not go to local, traditional, program-based congregations in the community, but as the adage that we used to use in the late 1980s to mid-90s says, “new churches reach new people that established churches may never reach.”

Planting simple churches on university campuses is important because,

The campus is one of the most mission fields of our day. It is the greatest harvest field. The world-changers and history-makers of tomorrow are on our campuses today…. Also, as we reach the hundreds of thousands of international students in our colleges and universities, they will in turn reach their nations for Christ. If we can change the campus, we can change entire nations.” (p.203)

(Note: see some of my earlier posts on this blog regarding international students in the USA and at Texas A&M University.)

Ma responds to the spoken and unspoken questions that many in our traditional churches ask about the legitimacy of small, organic churches:

But is it (an organic, simple church) a church in the fullest sense of the word? Yes, it is a church in the fullest sense of the word. It is the basic church. You can have more than two or three and it is still a church, but it does not become “more church” because there are more than two or three. It only becomes a bigger church.”

Jaeson speaks about the essential DNA of an organic, simple church, and when he does, he uses the definition that I first read about in Neil Cole’s Organic Church. That DNA is commitment to:

  •  Divine truth (loving God)
  •  Nurturing relationships (loving each other)
  • Apostolic mission (loving the lost).

Ma also speaks about the four verbs that are found in the Great Commission: 

We are called to “Go” to the lost, not say, ‘Come to our church.’ We are called to “make disciples,” not converts. We are called to be baptizers, not wait to be baptized. We are called to “teach” others to radically obey God’s Word, not just receive more theory and theology.” (p.209)

Yes, this is what all churches are to be about, but Ma ‘s position (and that of Cole and Wolfgang Simon and Rad Zdero and Tony and Felicity Dale, John White, and many others) is that a “church” doesn’t have to be an incorporated entity that owns property and buildings and conduct a full menu of age-graded programs to be a “church” or engaged in the fulfillment of the Great Commission. Prime examples from the New Testament would the churches that met in the homes of Cornelius (Acts 10), Mary (Acts 12:12), Lydia (Acts 16:14,15), the Philippian Jailer (Acts 16:25-34), Crispus (Acts 18:8), Prisca and Aquila (Romans 16:5), Aristobulus (Romans 16:11), and Philemon.

In the chapter after the one from which the quotes above are taken, Ma addresses the subject of church planting movements and saturation church planting. He discusses the characteristics of Church Planting Movements that are taking place around the world (see my posts on the book Church Planting Movements by David Garrison here and here) and talks about how our understanding of CPMs can influence our strategies for planting churches on university campuses. He also talks about the need to saturate campuses with multiplying organic, simple churches if we are going to truly reach our student population groups with the Gospel. I am reminded of DAWN Ministry’s vision to plant a church within the walking distance of every 1,500-2,000 people in America.

There were many other insightful and thought provoking statements and subjects discussed in Jaeson’s book, The Blueprint, that I found encouraging as we pray about how to most effectively reach university students for Christ.

If you share our heart for Christ, the “nations,” and church planting, I believe that you will enjoy and benefit greatly from The Blueprint, Jaeson Ma’s contribution to the organic, simple-church planting discussion.

Ta Ethne Network

Ta Ethne Network is committed to the expansion of the Kingdom of God at Texas A&M Univeristy and beyond through the multiplication of disciples, ministry leadership development, and the start and multiplication of Authentic Faith Communities that will penetrate and saturate campuses, communities, and nations.

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Notes

1. “Ta Ethne” (Greek) is taken from Matthew 28:18-20. The word in the Greek means “the peoples” and can be interpreted to read “people groups.” The use of “ta ethne” speaks to the fact that we are endeavouring to reach of the “nations” (“people groups”) that are enrolled at Texas A&M University.

2. “Network” suggests that we are networking with students, other campus ministries and local churches, locally and elsewhere, to reach students for Christ, and that we will continue to network with students as they graduate and/or complete their research and relocate to other universities, communities, and nations.

3. “Authentic Faith Communities” refers to organic, simple churches that will meet for Bible study, worship, prayer, ministry, evangelism, and discipleship. AFCs will be homogeneous in nature and will have reproducibility built into their DNA.