A Pastor's Heart: An Apostle's Vision

Desiring God 1996 Conference for Pastors

The Pastor and His Study

This is the only church where the introductions are better than the sermon. Thank you brother. The pastor and his study. Hasn’t this been enjoyable and stimulating? I’ve been so helped. John is right, ideas do have consequences. We’ve been challenged this week and we need to continually challenge one another in this area for the sake of careful, prayerful, and serious reflection on Scripture, so that we can be serious students, good pounders, and bold preachers of the whole counsel of God.

A Pastor’s Heart, an Apostle’s Vision

I find it’s interesting that one of Paul’s last commands is to Timothy, and he says, “Bring me the books and the parchments.” Paul was a student till the end, pounding the text till the end. And that’s stirring because Paul was not only a model student, but he’s also a man who models the kind of vision we need. This morning I want to talk about the pastor’s heart and the apostle’s vision. Paul the apostle not only had a great vision of God, but he had a vision for the nations. And that’s my prayer for each of you, that before I’m done today that your heart would be stirred to be better pastors. But like Paul, you would have an all-peoples passion in your lives.

Now, Paul asked for the books and we’re not sure what those books or parchment were. It was probably Scriptures and some other things. The point is that he was a student, but where was his study? I believe his study was in prison. Now, I’ve never been to prison and I’m sure most of you haven’t, but I have a lot of friends that have been in prison with Frontiers. You see, working in the Muslim world is a little different than working in America. As Tom Steller said, I’m the US director of Frontiers and our battlecry is Muslims. Muslims, it’s their turn; Muslims, it’s all we do; Muslims, whatever it takes. And I believe that if Paul were alive today, you know where he’d probably be serving? He would probably be among Muslims.

Now that’s probably, but there’s a good reason for that. And the reason is in Romans 15:20. We have Paul’s heart. What does he say? His aspiration is, “I aspire to preach the gospel where Christ is not named.” If there’s any place in the world where Christ is not named, it’s the Muslim world.

The Perspective of Frontiers

John has asked me to preach because in a sense we at Frontiers come from things at a different angle. We are basically all about what Paul was all about. We’re into pioneer church planting, so we do bring a slightly different perspective. For example, last week I was training some of our workers from Indonesia and from Egypt. One of our couples just got kicked out of Egypt for preaching the gospel, and we’re in Kazakhstan and Morocco. And then one of the couples was from Afghanistan. How would you like to have a vacation there in war-torn Afghanistan?

Then a few weeks earlier I was in Mauritania, and I had the privilege of both preaching the gospel and strengthening some young converts in this Arab hell-hole. And then even a few months earlier, I was in Yemen, another place where Paul would have longed to go because Christ is not named in these countries. Now, as I said, my prayer and desire is to encourage you to continue with a pastor’s heart, but to have that apostles vision, the vision for all peoples of the earth.

Studying the Word and the World

Now we’re here to study and our study is predominantly or preeminently the word of God and books, but we do need to study the world and I need to give you an update. You don’t pull in a director of a mission to Muslims without saying a few things about Muslims. What pops into your mind when I say the word Muslim for most of you or at least your congregation? It’s probably something like this. We think of the terrorist, the Arab terrorist, but I us this phrase: The only good Muslims, are most Muslims.

Muslims are just like you and me. The media has given Muslims a terrible caricature, and I’m here to say that Muslims struggle with the same things your people struggle with, but there’s one difference: they do not have the opportunity to know about Jesus. One fifth of humanity are Muslims. One billion people wake up every morning with no church, with no Bible, with no one to tell them about the way, the truth, and the life, and that’s why God has raised up our mission Frontiers. As I said, our passion is Muslims. We believe it’s their turn.

Now, Frontiers has an amazing diversity. I’m the US director of this group and it’s very challenging theologically because we have from Pentecostals to Presbyterians, and I get to oversee this group. This Pentecostal brother was sharing with Greg Livingstone in the early days of our mission and Greg said, “Tell me what’s your vision? What’s your strategy to reach these Muslims?” He said, “I’m going to raise the dead.” Greg said, “Well, do you have a plan B?”

But just so we don’t pick on our Pentecostal brethren, I talked to one of our Presbyterians, and I said, “What is your strategy? How are you going to reach Muslims?” He said, “We’re going to take over the government and turn it into Calvin’s Geneva.” So if you think it’s hard to raise the dead, try taking over Riyadh or Mecca or something along those lines. Now we need to study.

Looking Through the 10/40 Window

How many are you aware of the 10/40 window? Okay. Oh, what an informed group. Is that because of last year at the pastor’s conference? The 10/40 window is where we have the poorest of the poor, the world’s great religions, the least reached peoples, and the smallest number of missionaries. You can see that the majority of people in the 10/40 window are Muslims. I served in Indonesia, which is outside the window. I’m going to write a book called Look Out the Window because there are groups that we need to reach outside of this window.

The exciting thing about Muslims and the 10/40 window is that God is doing a new thing. He’s putting the Muslim world on the heart of the church. I just think what has happened politically in the last number of years has to do with that. In 1979, what happened in Iran? A revolution. Ayatollah took over, and all of a sudden America was aware of Muslims, especially fanatical Muslims. In Desert Storm, what happened to most Americans? Their eyes were opened. We got to interact and see Saudi Arabia and then there was this people group, the world’s largest people group without a home: the Kurds. Then we got into some more war in the political situations with Somalia, and then there was Bosnia and the Palestinians.

So God is waking up an ethnocentric church, a church that has tended to be preoccupied with itself, and it’s saying Muslims are here. In fact, yesterday I was working out at the hotel and I met one of the pastors here who was doing friendship evangelism with a Muslim here in America. I was very excited about that. Now, Frontiers came into existence to work with Muslims about 14 years ago, and since that time God has raised up over 500 missionaries in over 30 countries. We’ve seen thousands of converts and we have over 40 churches of varying levels of maturity throughout the 10/40 window. It’s an exciting time to be alive. God is making his move on the Muslim world.

Communism and Islam

Now, when I was growing up, the great giant challenging the church was the giant of communism. Do you remember that? No one can remember that. You’re just as old as I am. Some are older. There’s a few younger ones here. Communism was a suppressive, atheistic ideology, and it ruled a portion of the world for how long? It was approximately 70 years. How many people were converted in that 70 year period? Millions upon millions came to know Jesus in that 70 year period.

Now let’s compare this with Islam. How long has Islam been around? It’s been 1,400 years. Now, how many converts have there been in that 1400 year window? Well, historically, until just recently, you’re talking hundreds, maybe thousands. In other words, communism is a lightweight compared to the heavyweight of Islam. Islam is the real final frontier. Islam is the last of the giants, the largest block of unreached peoples in the world, and until recently we have been losing the battle.

A mission exec friend of mine was in Morocco recently and he went to the graves of the missionaries of Morocco and he said, “These missionaries buried more of their children than they saw converts.” There’s been a lot of suffering, a lot of seed sowing. Basically in the past to take on the Muslim world would be a commitment to one lifetime, one convert, and thus how many pastors are excited about that?

But God has been not only putting Muslims on in the mind at least, or the forefront of people’s thinking in America, but he’s been stirring the church and in the last 25 years, through Frontiers, through Pioneers, through various mission agencies and various churches. More Muslims have come to Christ in the last 25 years than the entire history of missions combined. God is doing a new thing. You should have at least smiled at that. Do we need some coffee? Can we take a coffee break?

Breaking Through the Barrier

God is doing a new thing. I think of Iran. This symbolizes the most fanatical type of Islam in the world. In 1979, Ayatollah took over and you need to know that Ayatollah did one of the greatest things he could do for world evangelization. Do you know that? His fanatical regime turned many Iranians to the Lord. Many became open, many left and fled, and today over 30,000 Iranians know Jesus since 1979. The church is growing rapidly. I got a chance to see a video of Iranians worshiping Jesus. It’s a powerful thought when you consider the fanaticism of this country, and yet the very man who brought that video went back and was martyred soon after. So I also got a chance to meet my first martyr. I’m telling you the good news, the reports, the breakthroughs, but Muslim ministry is still hard.

The favorite verse of most people working in the Muslim world is “where two or three are gathered . . .” (Matthew 18:20). One of the things I learned in ministry is that I learned to dance. It’s called the Sunda Shuffle. We worked among the Sundanese and it’s three steps forward, two steps back. That reflects Muslim ministry, and after I shared this with our people and our international council — our other brothers and sisters working among Muslims — over the next few months I saw a prayer letter and it said “The Sunda Shuffle Comes to Casablanca.” And then the next year our brother from Turkey said, “Well, yes, we had a church last year. We have nothing this year. We are learning the Turkish Two Step.” So Muslim ministry is difficult, but there are breakthroughs.

We see it in Iran and in Bangladesh, right over here. Our team leader got a chance to meet an imam. An imam is the priest or pastor of the mosque, and this imam came to know Jesus and he went back to his village and won 800 to the Lord. Any of your churches got 800 this year? Praise the Lord. He met another imam who came to Christ. He went back and only got 500 to Jesus. Praise the Lord.

I was reading in an Egyptian newspaper about Bangladesh and it said from a Muslim perspective, “The Tragedy of Faith in Bangladesh.” Why was that? They said, from a Muslim perspective, it was a tragedy that a hundred-thousand Bangladeshi have come to Christ in these last number of years. They thought, “What are we going to do?”

In 1986, Albania was described as Europe’s most closed country and least evangelized land, and they proudly claimed to be the world’s first atheist state, yet also Europe’s only Muslim state. Now think about that. They were Muslim-atheist. They’re very creative thinkers. They were true Barthians, I guess, in terms of the dialectic. But they can do it. I’ve met Muslims that were atheists.

Today since the fall of communism, there are over 500 missionaries in Albania. In fact, Albania has more missionaries per capita than any country in the world. Over 80 churches have been established in this time, and a couple summers ago one of our teams went from village to village showing the Jesus film, and they said the only persecution they experienced was from a nun who threw a rock through the screen when they were showing the Jesus film. That’s Albania.

Gospel Growth in Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan, how many people do you have in Kazakhstan now? There are two families going with one more couple going. Kazakhstan is an amazing story. Our team leader arrived a few years ago and Campus Crusade beat him there. Now what is Campus Crusade famous for? You know it’s not Reformed theology. They’re famous for evangelism and they were out there preaching the gospel. They won a hundred Kazakhs to the Lord and they said to our team leader, “How would you like to begin your church planning career in the Muslim world with a hundred converts?” Well, he didn’t have to fast and pray over that.

Today there’s probably the largest gathering of Muslim background believers in the world in Kazakhstan, in the capital city Almaty. There are 400 to 500 people gathered regularly to worship. It’s like the Jesus movement of the late sixties and seventies. It’s an amazing phenomena. In fact, the government there is so open to the gospel that they’ve asked our people to distribute Bibles and between Frontiers people and other connections. There are 200,000 Bibles that have been distributed, and the Department of Education says they want Bibles in all of their schools. Now just internalize that that’s better than America. How many of your schools are asking for Bibles? The closed Muslim world is opening up. God is shaking the nations.

Light to War-Torn Lebanon

In war-Lebanon right there in the Middle East we have some exciting things taking place. Because of the diversity of our teams, every team has its own strategy and we give people freedom to try different things. One of our team leaders linked up with this European brother, and this European brother had a vision and he bought this tent and he set up a tent in the south of Lebanon where the Shiites are, where Hezbollah is as well. These are the fanatics, very much like that overhead. The fanatic Shiite Muslims are in the south, and this European brother set up this tent, made a brochure, and he said, “An American is coming to preach to you about Jesus.” And then he showed it to our team leader and he said, “What’s the tent for?” He said, “Read this.” The American said, “Who’s this?” And he said, “You.” Who says Europeans aren’t bold, right? As long as the Americans preach.

Well, this guy stood up before 250 Shiite Muslims. They showed the Jesus film and he stood up and he said his knees were fellowshipping, but the Lord said, “You need to give an altar call.” Sorry, where’s Reverend Murray? You need to be creative in the Muslim world and this diversity thing. He hasn’t been to this conference. But anyway, he challenged people to repent and come to Jesus. A number of them stood up and he said, “I’m sure they don’t understand.” He said, “Please sit down again.” And he preached another sermon about following Jesus and discipleship. He challenged them again and they stood up again. He said, “No, you must understand.” They went up and down a number of times. So it was much better than a normal altar call you see. They kind of got the whole counsel of God, but a number repented. He was amazed.

Then they did it again, and then it started raining. And when you’re having tent meetings in the rain, it can get messy, and they were getting depressed. So they looked across the street — talk about a vision — and they saw a mosque and connected to the mosque was a fellowship hall they called the Hasania, and they asked the head of the mosque if they could have their meetings in the fellowship hall. And he said yes. They were evangelizing in the mosque. Praise the Lord.

During this time a couple men came up to our team leader and they had their AK-47s. That’s typical in many Muslim countries. But he said they looked more AK-47-ish than usual when they walked right up to them and said, “We want you to leave. You cannot preach here any longer. Our leader says that you must go.” What happens when the Holy Spirit comes on people according to the book of Acts? Boy, don’t ask this group, right? If it were Baptists, everyone would say, “They witness.” If they were Charismatic they would say, “Signs or wonders.” One thing I think we could all agree on is that boldness is at least one sign of the Holy Spirit. Can we say amen, or whatever you do in your church? You can shake your head or just sit quietly.

Boldness in the Face of Threat

When the spirit of God comes on us, boldness is one of the signs of the Spirit of God. And the Spirit of God came on this guy. There’s really a fine line between boldness and being crazy, and our guys kind of go back and forth on that. But in this case, this was an anointing from God and he stood up to this guy and he said, “No, I’m staying here. God has not told me to leave. I must preach the gospel.” So then they left.

They came back in a couple hours. They said, “Well, you know what our leader said? He said, ‘Good answer.’” And then they walked away. Why did they say “good answer”? It’s because Muslims understand commitment and sacrifice and a willingness to die for their faith, and it’s going to take that kind of sacrifice for us to reach Muslims. And we can say all we want about the sovereignty of God, about the supremacy and the glory of God, but unless we’re willing to lay down our lives, unless we’re willing to go to these people and boldly preach Christ, our theology is empty.

And this man knew the boldness of God, and they were impressed. He kept preaching and then they said, “Look, I don’t know if you can keep evangelizing in our mosque. You must get permission from the spiritual leader of this whole area.” So he took two or three more hours, found a spiritual leader, and he said that this leader made Ayatollah look young and friendly. And the first thing this leader said was, “You’re going to hell. Now sit down.” So our team leader talked and finally he got up with enough boldness, and he said, “Can we have permission to speak at your mosque?” And he said, “Yes.” Then this European friend who also has boldness got a better idea. He elbowed our team leader and said, “Look, ask him if we can preach in all the mosques of Lebanon.” See, the Spirit of God is bigger than our cultural background. I love it. He got permission and the man said, “You’re going to hell, now leave.”

Hey, I don’t care if they say we’re going to hell as long as we can preach, right? They preach the gospel and I have the privilege of going there. Lord willing, I’ll be going there next year to be working with them and stirring things up and preaching the gospel.

A Lack of Vision

But they told me one other story as they were preaching the gospel door to door. I don’t even think that’s a wise thing to do, at least in some countries, but people were hungry. That’s what the Lord was telling them to do. And they told a story of an old Shiite Muslim. That’s one of the sects within the Muslim faith. And this Muslim had tears running down his eyes. He said, “Why? Why has it taken so long? Why haven’t you come before?”

And I ask you, why? Why hasn’t the church sent workers? Why haven’t we gone? I say the reason we haven’t is we lack apostolic vision and where are we going to get that vision? I’m challenging you to get it through studying, and specifically through studying the Apostle Paul. My challenge this morning as we turn to the word of God is to challenge you in your thinking regarding Paul the apostle. Now if we’re really honest, Reformed theology is Pauline theology. We love Paul. Paul is the window into the word of God for those in the Reformed camp.

I remember talking to John Piper about this, and he was very proud that he was this very strong, Reformed theologian, and he hasn’t read Calvin’s Institutes yet. I don’t mean to get you in trouble. And he said that because he was asking, “Where did I get my Reformed theology, my Calvinism?” It was from Paul, from exegeting proposition upon proposition — the Book of Romans, the Book of Galatians, the Book Ephesians, etc. So Pauline theology is really Reformed theology.

But John sees something that most Reformed theologians don’t see and it breaks my heart, and this is the challenge I’m going to give to you this morning. I’m going to argue as a lawyer from the Scriptures and I’m praying the same prayer that Jesus prayed, that the Lord would open your eyes to understand the Scriptures. What does John see that’s different from most Reformed theologians? What does Paul see that is different from most scholars and theologians today? You know what it is?

Look at these four banners. Most Reformed theologians would just be ecstatic and exult in the first three banners, which say “spreading a passion for the supremacy of God in all things.” And then there would be a period in most people’s theology. That’s most people’s perspective, in terms of a Calvinistic or Reformed theology. But the last banner is crucial. That last banner reflects true Pauline, biblical theology. It’s for the joy of who? All peoples. It’s for all the people groups of the world.

A Hole in Reformed Theology

Don’t we enjoy Paul’s product, his letters? We love this product. We seek to understand this word. We enjoy the product, but we know so little of Paul’s real passion, and we fail to grasp Paul’s purpose. Now, when you go to seminary, or most schools, you learn that one of the major keys to interpretation, one of the major keys to hermeneutics, is context. You need to understand the context in which something is written, and I would argue that you and I cannot understand Pauline theology without understanding Pauline missiology, that Pauline theology is distorted and emasculated when we extract it from his missions perspective and missions orientation.

Now, if you look at Paul’s letters, there are 50 references to the Gentiles, which can and should be translated nations. At least 40 of those refer to what we would call people groups. Get out your computer or get out your concordance and look at how Paul deals with the issues of the nations. But most theologians miss it. Ridderbos has written a book over 500 pages this thick on an outline of Paul’s theology. Does anyone have that? I have that. Look carefully for the missions section. There’s nothing on missions. That’s unbiblical. It’s sub-biblical at least. They don’t know. No one appreciates apostolic vision.

A Great Missionary Support Letter

Let’s turn to Romans. I want to argue from Romans that we misunderstand the apostle if we don’t understand his goal. We misunderstand true Reformed theology if we don’t have that last banner, if not hanging from our church, at least burning in our heart.

Romans is one of the greatest, most cogent, comprehensive expositions of the gospel in the history of the church. It’s been one of the most powerful documents in the history of the world, and theologians wrestle with what the purpose of Romans is. There are many purposes to be sure, but what’s the one purpose that most people miss? Romans is really a missionary support letter. What is Paul trying to do? He wants to go to Rome, build them up, and fellowship with them. Why does he want to do that, ultimately? What’s the big purpose? In Romans 15, he says wants to go to Spain. He wants to preach the gospel where Christ is not named. This is not just a theological treatise or disquisition. This is a pioneer missionary trying to raise support.

Now it’s a good model of a support raising letter, especially to pastors like you, right? You’d give a lot of money if your missionaries could write like this, but we miss the context and the purpose, and thus we lose the passion of Paul’s great theology if we don’t see this mission. It’s a missionary support letter and he begins in Romans 1:5, which says:

Through [Jesus] we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations (ethnos) . . .

This is Paul’s Great Commission. He starts off and says, “We received grace and apostleship.” This is the means to fulfill the Great Commission through spiritual gifts. In this case, Paul is talking personally. He says, “We have received it.” He’s talking about he and his team, but there is a giftedness that God gives to the church and his pastors. You have a responsibility to discern the giftedness of your people. The Great Commission is fulfilled through gifted people. In this case, “grace and apostleship” refers to the gifting Paul has received, and then he begins by setting forth the qualitative goal of missions.

The Goal of Our Gifting

He says, “We’ve received grace and apostleship.” Why? What is the first goal, the qualitative goal? It’s to “bring about the obedience of faith,” which means obedience stemming from faith and obedience arising out of a trusting relationship with Jesus. There’s the qualitative goal, and then look at the last phrase. Here’s the ultimate motive for missions — the ultimate, greatest, and strongest motive. Paul says it’s “for his name’s sake,” or for the sake of his reputation, for his glory, for his fame. There’s the ultimate motive.

We have the means, the giftedness, the qualitative goal, and there’s the motive. But most Reformed theologians and too many pastors miss one important phrase. What is the phrase that I missed, purposely of course? The obedience of faith is to be promoted where? Here’s the quantitative goal, if you will: “to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles,” who are all the nations of the world. Too many of us miss the important connection between the glory of God and all the nations.

I think it’s important for us not to talk about the glory of God in the abstract. Paul the Apostle was driven by a passion for the glory of God, but he wanted to see that glory promoted and spread among all the nations of the world. His target, his vision, was clear. He begins this letter, with an all-peoples perspective, all people. Many commentators call this verse (and I believe it’s true) the programmatic verse summarizing what this book’s all about: “the obedience of faith.” If Paul were here today, he would talk about future grace, which is another way of talking about the obedience of faith. But it’s not just the obedience of faith here in America. It’s among all peoples. That was the passion of God’s heart and the passion of Paul the Apostle. There’s the first part of Romans.

Doxology and Purpose

Let’s turn to the end where there’s this great doxology in Romans 16:15–27. This is one of those passages you have to pound a few times. I’m sure there’s more riches than I will be sharing with you this morning in it. So I’ll encourage you to pound this on your own. Paul concludes with a doxology. Before he can get into more things about God, he gets caught up in God’s great purpose and what does he say? He says:

Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ . . .

And then Paul links his passion for the gospel with the bigger purpose. He says:

According to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed . . .

So Paul is saying there was this great mystery in the Old Testament. God wanted to reach all peoples and it’s in accordance with the gospel. He says, “It’s now manifested through (dia) the Scriptures of the Prophets” (Romans 16:26). In other words, the prophets do point toward this all-peoples perspective, as we’re going to see in a moment, because Paul was a student of the Scriptures. He went back to the Old Testament and saw the all-peoples perspective there. That’s a little word from our sponsors. We’ll get back to that.

And all that is rooted in what? It’s rooted in the gospel. This mystery in the Scriptures, in the Old Testament, is rooted in the commandment of the eternal God. Behind this, you see maybe in chapter one that you could say, “Well, that’s Paul’s personal commission. I’m a pastor.” We can dodge certain passages. We can say, “I’m not apostolic,” but here Paul is saying this whole book is rooted in the gospel, which is rooted in the mystery and ultimately the Scriptures and the commandment of the eternal God. And what is the ultimate purpose of this command of the eternal God, according to the last part of the verse? It’s about promoting “the obedience of faith” among all nations (Romans 16:26). Dr. Piper says it like this:

The mystery is the purpose of God to command all nations to obey him through faith.

So Romans begins and ends with the goal in mind: his passion is all peoples, all nations.

The Glory of God Among the Nations

Now let’s back up to Romans 15. Remember we already established the fact that Paul wanted to go to Spain. This is a missionary letter. He begins and ends with apostolic vision, all peoples, and then in Romans 15:8–12 he says:

For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs . . .

He makes two points. Number one, it was to confirm the promises given to the fathers. In other words, it was confirming the truth of God and showing that the promises of God are fulfilled. Number two, it was so that “the Gentiles would glorify God for his mercy” (Romans 15:10). In other words, the second purpose of Christ coming is that all the nations would glorify God.

Then what does Paul do? As a student of the word, he substantiates his all-peoples perspective through the Old Testament. He says:

As it is written,

“Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles,
     and sing to your name.”

And again it is said,

“Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.”

And again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles,
     and let all the peoples extol him.”

And again Isaiah says,

“The root of Jesse will come,
     even he who arises to rule the Gentiles;
in him will the Gentiles hope.”

What Paul does here is he quotes from all three divisions of the Old Testament — the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings. Now, remember he didn’t have his concordance, and he didn’t have his computer. What does that mean? He had wrestled with the Scriptures. He had memorized these all-peoples passages and they were determinative for his ministry, programmatic for his purposes. In other words, Paul went back to the Bible, back to the word of God. Yes, he had a dramatic supernatural conversion. But as we’ve been learning and as you know, experience is not enough. Where did that experience push Paul? It pushed him back to the Book. And what did he find as he studied? He said this all-peoples stuff is everywhere, rooted in the Old Testament, and ultimately rooted in the commandment of the eternal God.

The Nations Blessed Through the Gospel

I’d like us to look at a few other passages that moved the Apostle Paul. There are two other passengers in particular that determined Paul’s perspective and fired Paul’s passion. Quickly, let’s turn to Galatians 3:8, which says:

And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles (the nations) by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.”

If you read his argument, if you understand Paul, he’s quoting from Genesis 12, and we’re going to look at that in a second. Genesis 12:1–3 is the Abrahamic covenant, something that is prized and loved and cherished among Reformed theologians. But again, they miss the all-peoples perspective rooted in this passage that drove the apostle Paul.

We see in Galatians 3:8 that Genesis 12:1–3 was a pivotal passage for Paul’s ministry. We’re going to look at that in a second. Another one is found in Acts 13:47. Paul is being persecuted by the Jews and in Acts 13:47, he quotes from the Old Testament and he understands it as follows. He says:

For so the Lord has commanded us, saying,

“I have made you a light for the Gentiles,
     that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.”

So Paul in his ministry of the Gentiles is being persecuted by Jews and then he reflects back. He says, “I need to focus on the Gentiles because it is written. In fact, he says, “Thus I’ve been commanded.” He saw this passage in Isaiah as being programmatic for his purposes to fulfill the Great Commission.

The All-Peoples Perspective of the Old Testament

Now let’s look back. That’s Paul quoting Old Testament passages. Let’s look back at the original context starting in Genesis 12:1–3. It’s the pastor in his study and the apostle Paul in his study. Let’s go back to the Book. Let’s make sure that our vision is in line with the Book. Paul described this in Galatians 3:8. Here’s the gospel beforehand. He uses an interesting phraseology: “the Scripture, foreseeing that this was going to take place . . .” In other words, God, through his word, knew that he was going to reach the Gentiles, the nations of the world. In Genesis 12:1–3 it says this:

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

In the three other passages quoting the same verse, he says, “All the nations of the earth will be blessed.” Now what’s going on here? First of all, what’s the context? What happened in Genesis 1 to 11? You have creation, fall, flood, and Babel, and you basically see, in the context for Genesis 12, the disintegrating effects of sin, the downward spiral of moral depravity. In other words, Genesis 1 to 11 says, “Here’s the bad news.” Genesis 1 to 11 is the bad news. Starting in Genesis 12, we see some good news. We see God’s sovereignty and we see God’s plan. And what does he do?

Genesis 10 and 11 climax at Babel. How many peoples were there before Babel? One. And after the judgment and curse, how many were there? I’ll let you Old Testament scholars figure that out, but the point is that because of sin, God judged the world at Babel and the world was broken up in languages and in peoples. And what is God’s strategy? Genesis 12:1–3 has to be pivotal to your understanding of the Bible in general and in Paul in particular. You see God’s strategy and God’s goal. He blesses one people. He blesses Abraham and his family. And what is the purpose of blessing Abraham? That ultimately all the families of the earth would be blessed.

The blessing of Abraham is that God promises to be our God. This is the blessing of knowing God and this blessing is to be spread to all the peoples of the earth. Is Genesis 12 determinative for your ministry? Do you see God’s plan from a Genesis 12 perspective? Paul did. That shaped his theology. That’s the broader context of his mission.

A Light to the Gentiles

Now let’s look at Isaiah 49:6, which we looked at in Acts 13:47 and it was also programmatic for Paul. This is not an obscure passage. It is alluded to three times in the New Testament. Isaiah 49:6 is alluded to three times, in John 8, John 9,and in Acts 26, and it’s quoted explicitly two times in Luke 2:32 and Acts 13:47, so it’s not obscure. It’s an important passage for understanding redemptive history.

The context of Isaiah 49:6 when it was originally written is the Babylonian captivity. Israel was on hard times. It’s not the kind of context that I would give the Great Commission in. They were in bondage. There was terrible sin and there were a lot of problems. And what does God say to his people in Isaiah 43:6? He says this:

It is too light a thing that you should be my servant
     to raise up the tribes of Jacob
   ​​  and to bring back the preserved of Israel;
I will make you as a light for the nations,
     that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.

Now, scholars differ as to who the servant was. Is this an individual point of Jesus or is this the remnant? I’ll let you work that out since it’s quoted in the New Testament and is clearly programmatic for redemptive history. The key here is not so much the servant because it’s applied to Paul and the church in Acts 13. The key to me is the task given, and there’s a two-fold task. What is the task given to the servant? I do believe this is the remnant, just like in the church. What is the first task of the servant? He’s to raise up and restore the people of God. What’s the second task given to the servant? He says, “I will make you a light to the nations.”

One of the great lies of the devil, one of the curses on the church, is either/or thinking. Now it’s important in certain contexts, but here God gives his mission to the church, his mission to his people and as we saw in Acts 13, and his mission to Paul, and it was a both/and mission. The purpose was to restore, to raise up the people of God, but also to be a light to the nations. We can’t choose. We are to do both. It’s a both/and perspective.

Peacemaking and the People of God

You need to know that I pastored eight years before I went to the field. Then, I planned a church among the Sundanese and I came back and then I pastored for a while before I became US director. So I empathize with the struggles and the issues you face, especially when I was pastoring in Indonesia. I thought it was going to be so hard to get these Muslims to come to Christ, but what was the hard part? The hard part was to get these new converts into communities and get them to become the church. It is hard to raise up and restore the people of God, right? It’s painful. It takes everything you’ve got to help people to love God and love one another.

It was so depressing. Once we got these converts, I thought it would be so great and I spent all my time trying to get them to reconcile. Can anyone relate to that? Pastors, I bet the majority of you in this room face broken relationships and it’s the major problem that burdens your heart. How do we get our people to love one another, to forgive one another? Can anyone say amen to that, or whatever you do in your denomination? I know you struggle with this. And the first part of this is to restore and raise up the people of God. This is something I learned the hard way. I was trying to get this little Sundanese fellowship to love one another. In fact, one of the most important verses in my life became Matthew 5:9, which says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.”

And why are they called sons of God? Because they’re like their dad. They’re like their Father, trying to make peace. I spent all my time making peace. I want you to know that I understand how hard it is. In fact, this became the biggest issue in our mission and I wrote this book and I want to encourage you with it. We have about 50 copies out there. It’s called Peacemaking, and it’s an inductive study guide you can use individually or with groups as you train your leaders. We use this with our church planters. This is not distinctively for missions. It’s distinctively biblical.

Do you know what we found? I use this syllogism to define the importance of peacemaking. The church equals community. Do you agree with that so far? And there is no community without peacemaking. Therefore, peacemaking is central to church life and church planting. Let me encourage you to get this. This has been very helpful to us and it reflects the struggle I’ve had with the first part of this verse, to raise up and to restore the people of God.

Restored for the Sake of the Nations

But we don’t determine our ministry just because something’s hard or it doesn’t feel right. We determine our ministry according to truth, and the calling here is to not only raise them up and restore them, but also to make them a light to the nations. In fact, look at the verse again. It says it’s too small a thing, or too light a thing, that you only build up the people of God. We are not fulfilling our purposes if we only do that. We’re lightweights from God’s perspective. That’s his wording, not mine. It’s too light a thing that we only build up and restore the people of God. He says, “I will also make you a light to the nations.”

The reality of both/and missions needs to be integrated in. Your Pauline theology needs that missions focus and purpose. Pastors, it’s too small a thing to raise up and restore your people. You also need to be a light to the nations. It’s too small a thing that you read Revival and Revivalism; you also need to read the book Serving as Senders. How can you send your missionaries? How can you support your people to be effective cross-cultural workers for the sake of his name among the nations?

It’s too small a thing that you read Desiring God, The Pleasures of God, and Future Grace. You also need to read Let the Nations be Glad, in order to be a light to the nations. How many of you have read this book from John? Some of you need to order this. I appeal to you, get this book. And if you’ve read it, apply it. This is the best book in missions theology available today. I usually go around selling it, and this is the only place I didn’t bring it. Of course it makes sense I wouldn’t bring it to John’s church, but you can sign up and get that in the back. The word of God calls us to a both/and perspective, to build up and restore the people of God, and to become a light to the nations.

Applying Pauline Theology

Now, how do we apply this? How do we apply this Pauline missiology? You might think, “How do I do this in my church, Rick?” Well, I have some suggestions. First of all, I want to challenge you in terms of your view of the church. Most pastors kind of view the church as a circle and here’s these little ministries, like Sunday school and preaching and worship. And then over here there’s a little missions thing. It’s what I call “the circle view” of the church. But I believe the Bible and Pauline theology would call us to an arrow view of the church with the ultimate goal being all the nations. If you will, this is our mission’s goal. This is evangelism.

Now in most churches with the circle view of the church, the various ministries you have going on aren’t necessarily related, they aren’t lined up, and of course none of you have problems trying to deal with the finances between the Sunday school department and worship and between the youth and missions, do you? One of the reasons for this is because we have a circle view. An arrow view of the church helps line up the various programs and ministries towards a goal for the joy of all peoples.

Now, I believe in every one of these — the Sunday school department and worship. These arrows refer to the near neighbor of evangelism. The arrow needs to be expanding. We need outreach where we’re at. Every one of the programs in the church need to be geared toward declaring his glory among their neighbors. But the whole church needs to be moving towards the bigger biblical goal of all the nations of the world.

Now, strategy and planning isn’t a part of many of our philosophies of ministry or our style. John said he just suffered through it this year and worked through a master plan. He said he’d rather be focusing on other things, but he suffered through it because ultimately he wants his church to become an arrow church. And I know that’s what they’re doing. But we struggle with strategy, and I want you to know that you aim at nothing and you’ll hit it. Too many of us are kind of like “ready-fire-aim” because we’re not thinking ahead. We don’t understand God’s goals and we haven’t prayed and said, “Lord, where do you want us to serve?” And I would encourage you not only to evaluate your church and ask if you are a circle church or an arrow church, but also in light of that, and in light of Pauline theology and Pauline missiology, I’d like you to look at the world.

If we broke up the world in people groups, these are crosses. These are peoples that have a witness. Approximately half the world has no opportunity. Half the world needs missionaries, and I want to challenge you to pray, to think. The commission is to make disciples of all peoples. As we read about the apostle Paul, it’s rooted in Genesis 12 and expressed with great eloquence in Isaiah 49:6 that we need to be a light to the nations. But that can be a little overwhelming, can’t it? It’s to all nations. But could you choose one? Could you adopt a people group? Could you say, “We are going to reach the Kazakh,” or, “We are going to reach the Madurese," and pray and choose a people group?

I think this is healthy for the church to get the big picture, but it’s also something we can all do. You’re not commanded to reach all nations, but the church is. You’re part of the church. So could God lead you to adopt one of these unreached people groups? We would love to work with you at Frontiers to partner. You send, we serve. Our goal is to do whatever we can to facilitate the glory of Christ among Muslim nations of the world. Could God be calling you to become an arrow church? Could God be calling you to adopt a people group? There’s some focus. John’s church, for example, has adopted a people group and they’re praying about adopting two more. So it’s not necessarily one. It’s okay to have a few targets.

Let the Nations Be Glad

I’d like us to stand and turn to Psalm 67, and I just want to pray. I want to pray for you. It is hard to be a pastor. Just a few minutes ago, some of us were enjoying the presence of God and we had to move the car. There’s a lot of distractions, a lot of issues confronting us, but I know biblically you want to make sure that your Pauline theology has Pauline missiology. I know that’s your heart’s desire and I know that your heart’s desire is not just to build up and restore the people of God, but to be a light to the nations. And I just want to pray.

I’d like you to follow me. I’m going to read this passage and then I just want to pray that God would do what he wants to do in you and your church. Just follow me as I read. There are too many different translations to read with me, but just listen to Psalm 67:1–7:

May God be gracious to us and bless us
     and make his face to shine upon us,
that your way may be known on earth,
     your saving power among all nations.
Let the peoples praise you, O God;
     let all the peoples praise you!

Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
     for you judge the peoples with equity
     and guide the nations upon earth.
Let the peoples praise you, O God;
     let all the peoples praise you!

The earth has yielded its increase;
     God, our God, shall bless us.
God shall bless us;
     let all the ends of the earth fear him!

Questions and Answers

Is there anyone working to plant churches here in America among Muslims?

Because Frontiers is into pioneer missions, we really focus out there. Although we are committed to training and working with churches here, especially as a training ground. Samuel Zwemer Institute in Pasadena focuses on training people, and they can work with you. Frontiers would be glad if you had some workers that might want to go long term and you’re thinking of an integrated missions program that would help you reach Muslims here and think in terms of a long term church planning strategy elsewhere. We’d love to work with you. More and more, I see God moving in the hearts of pastors and churches to reach Muslims here, and I function more as an advisor. We’ll be glad to talk with any of you in that area.

It’s exciting to see churches be established. I think the one thing I would say is that if you want to reach Muslims here, don’t feel like you need to link them into your church. Don’t necessarily bring them there. Start small groups and I think you’ll have more fruit in the long run and a greater ability to bridge back Inshallah (God willing), to the people that you are actually trying to reach. You can always get a few Muslims that are Westernized into your church, and then you can think you’re wonderful and rejoice, but I don’t think that has long term strategic impact. But it’s very exciting that you’re asking that question and you can get our literature, my card or whatever.

What is God doing in Bosnia, or is anyone going there? And how do we relate Calvinistic theology to Muslim theology, which do both have similarities?

First of all, we are praying that God would raise up teams for Bosnia. I know of churches that are doing a few things. If God would put that on your heart, we’d love to work with you in trying to see a team sent from your church to Bosnia.

Now, regarding Calvinistic theology, you do need to know that the first three strands of “spreading the passion for the supremacy of God in all things” is very similar to Muslim theology. The problem is they could never do number four. They could do the all peoples part but not the joy part, because they don’t have good news, and I think Islamic theology would be similar to hyper-Calvinism. So how do you deal with hyper-Calvinism here? That would be one suggestion.

Secondly, in pioneer church planting, you need to try to proclaim the gospel, whether it is a felt need and you might take a more Lutheran approach. You might start with justification or whatever before you move into full-orbed theology. But because Muslims have a high view, a very transcendent view of God, you definitely don’t need to start there. You could focus on other aspects of God’s character and the good news.

Some years ago the Lord led a man by the name of Derek Prince to particularly begin to intercede for the Muslim world, and the Lord was targeting the whole Muslim world. And this was before we had our hostages or anything like that happen. I’ve been intrigued to just observe what’s been taking place and seeing God move in that direction.

Jesus said he could only do what he saw the Father doing, and there’s a lot of indication that our Father in heaven is targeting the Muslim world. I don’t know if some of you get the National Religious Reporter, but they reported just this last month that there were quite a large number of Muslims who were receiving visions and dreams of Jesus and that there was a sovereignty of God breaking into their lives. For some of the mullahs and various other people in significant strategic places, God was breaking into their life and doing something there.

So it’s just a kind of a report of encouragement to see how God himself is working in that direction and how he is also initiating that in his people. And it’s an exhortation for us to continue to intercede before the throne of God and to bring forth and call forth intercessors particularly as we’re targeting that 10/40 window. And we’re seeing the answer to those intercessions beginning to take place.

Amen, yes. No question there.

Do you have any strategy for training national people to reach Muslims?

Sure. I wouldn’t say we have a strategy. We’re going to go and find all the fearful pastors near Muslims and train them. When God moves in the heart of our leaders and then a team is developed, we encourage them to develop the strategy that the Lord would lead them into. But in almost every case, we work with any national that wants to reach Muslims. The problem is in some or even many places where there’s a national church, they’re not that interested, or it’s a difficult situation. So it all depends on the receptivity of the national workers and how the relationships go, but we want to do that.

Rick, I’m interested in the team approach to deploying missionaries. I’d be interested in knowing what your experience has been, if you could critique that a bit including strengths and weaknesses, and tell how it’s going.

How’s a team approach working? Let me ask you, how are the teams in your churches working? Do they struggle sometimes? On the one hand, people are willing to go on a team. They’re willing to attempt great things for God as long as there’s a few other people there to encourage them on. Isn’t that true? That’s true of all of us, I think. On the other hand, our teams have had their fair share of struggle. That’s why I have written Peacemaking.

I just developed a paper focused on what I call the four stages of team life — forming, storming, norming, and performing. And where do most of the teams stay? Storming conflict and problems. So we are constantly trying to work with our people. We have found that character issues are the biggest problem we face, not competence issues so much, or strategic insights. So Frontier’s commitment is to work with the sending church. And if the sending church says, “We’re behind these people, they can do it,” then we work with them.

But we’ve found — just as you find in your churches — that team dynamics don’t come easily. There’s a lot of breaking, humbling, and a lot of growth that is necessary to be an effective team. And so we would appreciate as a mission that they get some battle scars here and show that they can both work under authority. Those in authority should not lord it over others, and those under authority should learn how to joyfully submit and work together with that overall commitment to peacemaking and the fulfillment of a certain task.

So we’re working hard at team dynamics and development because it’s too easy in churches and broader organizations to hide behind the organization. And when you are in an apostolic team, or when you’re in a pioneer church planting team out in the field and there’s only six of you, you have very intense relationships. So it takes real spiritual maturity. We’re growing up and we want to work with churches like you to grow more workers for the cause.

Do you have resources for particular areas of the world?

Yes. We’ve developed a bibliography of key books in different areas, so if you would just get with me, I could send you that. I don’t bring everything with me, but yes, we’d be glad to help them. And there’s another example. We need to be a greater resource and work with churches and people like yourselves to reach Muslims here. I’d be more involved in reaching Muslims in Arizona, but I’m asked to go around and speak and talk about Muslims.

Do you have any efforts going on during Ramadan or any particular strategies?

For those that don’t know it is now Ramadan. Ramadan is the month of fasting for Muslims. They don’t eat or drink from sunrise to sunset, and then they party hearty in the evening. They actually eat more food during Ramadan, the month of fasting, than any other time. I think Paul addresses that in Colossians about trying to subdue the flesh.

But we have a prayer campaign and prayer guides that we’re trying to get out to encourage our people to pray for our workers. We also have a prayer guide that we send out on an ongoing basis for areas of the world. I don’t think we have specific strategies. You see, Frontiers is not a top-down organization. We’re decentralized. We believe the best way to reach Muslims is to empower teams and work with teams and give them freedom. So different teams will have different strategies during Ramadan.

is a peacemaker, certified mediator, professor, and ordained pastor.