Fathering a Pioneer Mission Ministry

Desiring God 2008 Conference for Pastors

The Pastor as Father & Son

I’m preaching to 1300 pastors. I’ve spoken to 17,000 students at Urbana, but they didn’t know anything. They didn’t know the relevance of the hina clause in the book of Hebrews, and talking to people like you with all your background and knowledge, I feel very much like a lion in a den full of Daniels. I’m going to confess right away that I’m not systematic. When the angels were coming around passing out systematic-ness, I must have been in the men’s room. But I do stand before you as a person that is just feeling so privileged because God has opened my eyes, and I hope that you are just wrapped up in a sense of privilege.

It’s the privilege that you know who Jesus Christ really is. Think about it. I estimate maybe 10 percent of the people, men and women walking on the earth today, really understand what we’ve been singing about and have been taught about. And you know. Most of you do. You know who Jesus Christ really is, and that he’s the center of it all. And secondly, my eyes, your eyes have been opened up to know what the Bible really is. We’re in great danger of forgetting that we hold in our hands authentic communication from the creator.

Imagine how many people on the earth really believe that. I sometimes wonder how many pastors really believe that when they’re so excited about this new book, that book, this book and not very excited about Galatians. But we know what God wants, what God’s priorities are. We can know the mind of Christ through his word. We are so privileged.

And then thirdly, I hope the Lord has opened your eyes to understand that you’re on the earth to seek first the kingdom of God. Now, the Bible doesn’t want and God doesn’t want us to quote these kinds of things like religious poetry. It’s either true or it isn’t true. So you ought to be asking all the time, “What does it mean for me to seek first the kingdom of God? What are the implications of that for me? And for my children? And for my children’s children? And for my flock?” Would you like to be in heaven one of these days and have some of your flock come up to you and say, “Wow, I didn’t really get this from you. What I was doing wasn’t all that important.”

To Live a Life That Counts

I have a deacon in my church in Aspen, Colorado, where I found the Lord. His name is Dell and he was 72 years old and he was so excited about the fact that he had a train. Not a model train. He had a railroad car from yesteryear in his backyard. And I said, “Dell, what are you going to do with that train?” Which of course involved a lot of money. He said, “Well, one of these days I’m going to fix it up.” I said, “Dell, you’re 72. One of these days you’re going to be in the presence of the Lord Jesus. What are you going to say to him? ‘Hey Lord, you want to see my train?’” We laugh, but there’s a lot of trains out there. There’s a lot of “trains” out there, and you’re going to wonder, “How did I get so excited about something that didn’t really count for the kingdom?”

I am hoping, I am praying, that increasingly there will be among you persons who’ve had their eyes opened the fourth time to know God’s priority for the peoples of the world, the ta ethne. Remember that the nations we sang about are not political, geographical borders. They are peoples. India, for example, is said to have 3,000 peoples within its political borders. God has opened your eyes to say, “I want my life to count. I want some significant role in seeing Jesus worshiped and loved like we do here among people that today don’t have any clue that God’s ever visited the earth or that Christ has died on that cross, that don’t have any Christian friends.”

Dreams of Spiritual Reality

I have dreams like everybody, but my dreams are usually missing the boat, missing the plane, or preaching in my underwear. And my wife Sally says, “I’m going to pray that you’re going to have some spiritual dreams.” I said, “Please do. I really get tired of these other kinds.” So I’ve had two. Most of my dreams are while I’m awake, but I had a dream about two Muslims who died and they found themselves in utter darkness. They weren’t screaming, but they were just stunned because they had been told, like 1.4 billion people walking on the earth today, “Jesus is not God. Jesus did not die on the cross. God did a switcheroo and put Judas there at the last second. The Bible, the Old Testament has been changed by wicked Jews. The New Testament has been changed by wicked Christians, and so it’s rubbish. It’s not worth anything. It’s not the word of God.”

One out of every five persons on the earth is getting that message from being a little baby that, “Mohammed is the way, the truth, and the life.” Does that bother you? I hope that bothers you. I hope that bothers you so much you can’t sleep until you say, “Lord, what do you want me to do about that?” Because I’m assuming you are mostly very, very good pastors. But I hope you have a hunger not just to be a good pastor, but to be great in the Lord’s eyes, to be someone who wants to be a both/and person. Most people mis-exegete Acts 1:8. I don’t know why pastors, even great Bible teachers, do this. They think Acts 1:8 says, “You shall be my witness first in your hometown (Jerusalem), and then after that, you can go to Judea (maybe the rest of your state or the rest of the United States), and then of course, somebody ought to go to Samaria (maybe take some Bibles over to Mexico), and then there’s some really crazy strange people. I don’t know how it happens to them. They’re walking along and God says, ‘Go to Libya,’ and so they come around and they want some money from you.”

Oh no, not another missionary asking for money. We’re kind of short here, sorry. But that’s not what it says. It says, “You shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria and . . .” Aren’t you glad some old boy’s come along to tell you the will of God for your life? Here it is. The will of God for your life is to be a both/and pastor, not an either/or. God loves you so much and he’s so excited about you, he wants to give you a ministry way beyond anything you’ve ever imagined. And if your feet never leave U.S. soil, he wants the devil to pay a high price for you staying on U.S. soil as you multiply your life all over the world. That’s God’s will for you. It’s that you might be great in his eyes.

Known Before Our Birth

Well, you probably don’t feel very great. You probably don’t feel very adequate. This probably sounds like a challenge that doesn’t have anything to do with your real life, and I can understand that. Our three speakers talked about their wonderful heritage, their fathers, and their grandfathers. I tell you, I was really fighting envy. I know, however, that many of us come from quite a different story and quite a different path and that certainly flies to me.

I never knew my father. He was a Jewish Harvard graduate who met a singer down at some nightclub and they had a tryst. She got pregnant. Abortion wasn’t very available in 1939. So she had the baby. For some reason, she didn’t give me away for adoption, but she did put me in foster homes. It was one foster home after the other, after the other. She married again. That lasted a couple of years, and she married when I was 14. She was an alcoholic and a barmaid by then and she ran off with a bartender when I was 14 and I lived alone. So if you think I’ve come from a dysfunctional family, you have that right. Do you think God uses people from dysfunctional families? I really appreciated Crawford saying, “You don’t have to go through 20 years of counseling before you can serve Jesus.” Jesus has always used messed up people of whom I might be chief.

In Frontiers, we say, “We only accept applications from struggling sinners. So if you’re not one of those, don’t bother to apply.” Look at your Bibles. Look who God has used, people who wanted to be used badly enough. My story is Jeremiah 1:5. That’s the real story. Jeremiah 1:5 says:

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.

Isn’t that exciting? I was absolutely a wanted baby, not by my father, not by my mother, but by the One who really counted. So every one of you is an ordained, wanted baby as well for whom God has great purpose.

A Coworker of God

As I grow older, I become younger. I walked today as a toddler along the Calvary Road. I just love to see these little toddlers with their hand up in their daddy’s hand walking down the street because it’s right there in the Psalms. When they stumble, they don’t fall because their daddy’s got their hand. I’m so glad that I can have childlike faith in my daddy and that I have the most wonderful Father in the world. I am the most privileged that he would allow me to get in on what he’s doing. Can you imagine?

Here’s a pop quiz. Take your choice. A, you will be chosen for the Olympic team to represent the United States at the Olympics. B, you will become a senator of your state. C, you can become a coworker with the living God. Is there a choice? How can anything be compared to the privilege we have that God is allowing us to be coworkers with him to accomplish his purposes in our generation? I tell you, brothers, we are privileged. May your eyes be opened to that.

Well, it wasn’t always that way for me. I grew up, of course, in these foster homes. I grew up very bitter, very angry. Some of you might be old enough to remember that student at the University of Texas who went up in the tower with a rifle and in the middle of the noon hour, when it was just covered with thousands of students, he began to shoot and kill as many as he could. I actually grew up with the same fantasy. I wanted to do that. I don’t know why God made me a missionary. I don’t like spicy foods. I don’t like to travel, and I don’t like people. Well, actually, the Lord did something about the third thing. The Lord loves to use people with no or little potential in their own eyes.

I grew up very bitter. I wanted to be a lawyer. I was going to go to Princeton and go to law school. I decided I was going to be a lawyer for the mafia. After all, they had the most money. We were talking about our heritage. My mother did give me a bit of a parent script. She said, “Get them before they get you.” That’s really healthy, huh? You don’t think the Lord Jesus has done something in my life? The Lord Jesus knows how to bring people who’ve had struggles, who’ve got problems, who’ve got sinful impulses. He knows how to make you into a good servant of the Lord.

I would tell you, pastors, if you’ve got some crazy kid that’s just been saved out of a really rough background and he’s zealous and he wants to just change the world, listen to me. Don’t balance him too soon. As Crawford said, “We can balance people so much that they’re nothing but plain vanilla and never tackle anything for God.” Life will balance people soon enough. But you have to remember that we’re not running a car without oil. You can run a car without oil for a while and then it’ll seize up. But with this walk with the Father, with this presence of the Father, with this love life with the Father, you can keep going.

The Lord Jesus promised, “He that would follow me, I will give fathers and mothers and sisters and brothers a hundred fold with tribulations.” We usually like to leave that last part out, and so the Lord gave me the ringles. I was just this bitter kid, high school kid, and I fell in love with this girl and I’m so glad that I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to go to movie theaters because she invited me to the movies. But what I didn’t know was that the Baptist church was meeting in the movie theater and there wasn’t any movie. This cowboy came out with a podium in one hand and a big black book in the other, and he started talking about God. Whoa. The only thing I knew about Jesus at that point at 16 was that he lived a long time ago and he wore a white robe and he carried a sheep around. I must have seen a picture or something. I could imagine a dirty old sheep. That’s about what I knew.

And that Sunday, I heard that God had visited the earth, that God had sacrificed himself on that cross. I couldn’t believe it. I thought God has to be stronger than Superman. The bullets should bounce off his chest. And then he said God did that for me, and the Holy Spirit just touched me. I thought, “Nobody has ever done anything for me, and how can the chief honcho of the universe have done that for me? And I gotta know if this is true. I’m sure it’s rubbish, but I gotta know if this is true because if this is true, as C.T. Studd said, ‘Nothing I do could be too much for him.’”

A New Sense of Love

Well, it took about six weeks of them getting me through the gospel of John and doing the old quiz, “Talk to God and ask him if this is true.” And I said, “Lord, I don’t know if I’m talking to the light bulb or if you’re really out there, but if you’re really out there I want to know.” And I got a disease. At least it felt like a disease. I had an emotion that I had never experienced in my life and it scared me until I found out what it was. You know what? Really something totally new. I wanted to help people instead of step on them. Where in the world did that come from? It’s coming from being born again, and I didn’t know anything about Pentecostals, but when I used to mow the lawn, the big noisy gas-fired lawnmower, I was jumping and praising God that he would take me in, take the orphan in. Are you full of a sense of privilege?

Well, he gave me the ringles and told me, “Instead of going to Princeton, there’s a school in Chicago that has a thousand Christian girls called Wheaton College.” I felt strangely led, and I got there and my big brother said, “Are you a-mill or pre-mill?” I said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about, but I’m here to study the Bible,” and they put me in remedial Bible. I thought there were classified ads in the Bible. It says, “Job,” right in the middle. I made it through somehow. Except I was still planning to be a lawyer.

I did not want to be a missionary — snakes and spiders? I didn’t want to marry a lady that had her hair up in the bun with a doily on the top. I already told you I didn’t want to travel and I certainly didn’t want to be a pastor. Give me a break. This guy has to stand out there and smile at people he thinks are real jerks. He says, “Oh, it’s so nice to see you.” Come on, let’s get a real job.

An All Night Prayer Meeting

But I was walking along the campus and the guy came up to me the second year and he said, “Hey Greg, how would you like to go to an all night prayer meeting?” I said, “Wow. What have you got to pray about that takes all night?” My little Baptist church, we had a prayer meeting, which was really a Bible study with 10 minutes of prayer tacked on to the end. It was the weekly health report. And the pastor would say, “All right, any prayer requests? Yes, Suzie? Oh, your grandfather fell down and hurt his hip. All right. And what about you Joe? Oh, you have an exam coming up. You’re nauseous?” And we kind of prayed like the Buddhists do. You know how the Buddhists pray? They take prayer requests and they stick it in the windmill and it whips around and they hope something happens. We didn’t expect anything to happen. If Suzie’s grandfather jumped up and said, “I’m healed,” we would have kicked him out of the church.

So I said, “What do you got to pray about that takes all night?” Now this is 1959. He said, “The Muslim world.” I said, “Right. Muslim, that’s a white cheese cheesecloth, isn’t it?” Muslim? Well, he said it was down at Moody Bible Institute. I’d never been to Moody Bible Institute, and I thought, “Wow, I’ll meet some nice girls and get some coffee and donuts. This will be exciting.” So I went off thinking, “I’ve got to show him I can pray as long as he can,” and I walked into the room, no girls, no coffee, no donuts, just these guys on their knees on hard wooden floors, hovering over maps of Muslim countries. I was 19. This skinny little guy, George Verwer (20 years old), was there. I went up to shake his hand. I said, “Hi, my name is Greg.” And he didn’t shake my hand. He stuck his finger in my face and he said, “What country are you claiming, brother?”

I wasn’t even claiming my tuition. I didn’t know what “claiming” meant, but I didn’t want him to know that. So I said, “Well, what’s left?” He said, “Libya. You got Libya.” I said, “Right. I know it’s one of those islands off Florida. Just give me a minute here.” This could happen to you. We prayed. We obeyed the Lord who said, “Pray the Lord of the harvest to send forth workers into his harvest.” Is that a prayer that you would hear in your church, week after week? Are there people saying, “Lord, there are whole peoples without any church, without any witness. Send workers from our church to that place”? Well, I made a big mistake. I obeyed and I prayed, “Lord, send laborers to Libya,” and you can figure out the rest of the story, can’t you? I had the old tap on the shoulder. “Well, how about you Greg?” I thought, “Lord, you know I’m not the missionary type,” but he opened my eyes that evening, that very evening.

I realized that my ambitions, my aspirations, were too small, that God was so great, he could even use me with all my — we called them complexes in those day — screwed-upness, all my immaturity if I wanted to be used badly enough. And I’ve never turned back. Not any credit to me. I give a lot of credit to the brothers who fathered me. George Verwer, though only 18 months older than me, was a father. And I think I’m standing here today not having fallen by God’s magnificent grace that he provided through brothers to whom I was accountable, with whom I had a covenant to tell me I stink when I stink, and they were faithful. When I got a vision that was, “I’m sure this is of the Lord,” they might say, “Where?” and the bubble would burst. That’s accountability. It’s people pushing you on to become the man of God you deeply aspire to be. You better have those brothers. You better have that father in your life if you really want to accomplish everything that God wants to do.

Fathers in the Faith

Well, these guys were pretty rough and I needed something in between and God provided chaplain Evan Welsh. Now, I’m sorry that you probably have never met Evan Welsh, but you will when you go home. If you can imagine Jesus Christ with a crew cut, that was him. To this day, I’ve never met a person of which I’ve thought more, “This must be what Jesus is like.” Evan Welsh had three prayers for me. He took me in. He said, “I’m going to help you get a wife,” and I was interested in this New York girl who wanted to be a lawyer. And he said, “I think you ought to think about Sally who is studying to be a doctor to go to the Muslims in Pakistan or Egypt.” And he said, “I’m going to pray you’re going to marry Sally, I’m going to pray you become a missionary, and I’m going to pray you become a Presbyterian pastor.” Well, as a good brainwashed Baptist, I certainly wasn’t going to become a Presbyterian and start dunking those babies.

I’m now an ordained minister in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. Well, we won’t touch that subject. The point is that Evan Welch loved me. Evan Welch believed in me. Evan Welch saw beyond the immaturity of this kid and said, “He can be used by God.” He fathered me. There’s people who want to do that for you.

We all need people who believe in us, who believe that we can accomplish what God wants to accomplish through us. I had the privilege then of spending time with Francis Schaffer in L’Abri in Switzerland. To be very honest, I was ashamed of the gospel before I went there. I thought, “Well, it helps me, but it’s really not going to hold up against real intelligent intellectuals.” I went in there with that kind of idea. I wasn’t too sure about everything in the Bible. I tell you, I came out like a lion. I came out absolutely convinced that it was the non-Christians who were putting their head in the sand.

Of course, plenty of Christians are too, but the word of God stands. I just never have doubted it since then. The Muslims will say, “How could this be the word of God? You have letters to a lady, 3 John. You got all this very human stuff between people, writing to people about all their sins and everything. You’ve got prophets who are committing sin. It doesn’t feel and smell like a holy book. Have you noticed that?” Now when man writes a book pretending to be very spiritual, it sounds very spiritual, very flowery, and very holy. God doesn’t need to show off. He wants to communicate to real people, the farmers in Bangladesh, the coal miners in Ireland, and us. So thank you, Lord, that you put it in language we could understand that fits with everyday reality. What a God.

So I came out so built up by Francis Schaffer. You want a definition of mixed emotions? He said, “Greg, you’re not an intellectual, but I’m very fond of you.” I’m so fond of him, I named my third son, Paul Zwemer Schaffer Livingstone. I figured every time he signed a check, he’d get convicted.

Examples in the Faith

Then the apostle Paul has been like a father to me. Do you ever think of that? Do you ever think that the men of God in the scriptures, even though you’ve got to do it through their writing, they can father you? I don’t pray to him, but I listen to him because he said, “What you heard from me, practice,” and thank you Lord that you’ve given me an older brother. Thank you for giving me a father in Paul, whom I am so looking forward to meeting face-to-face as well as the Lord Jesus.

I’ve gotten a lot of guidance from the one who said, “Whatever you have seen and heard in me, put it into practice.” That certainly beats Norman Vincent Peale. What’d they say? “Paul is appealing and Peale is appalling.” You guys probably don’t even know who Norman Vincent Peale is. Nevermind. After the Lord took Schaffer home, he gave me a younger brother to father me, someone who also believed in me, sitting right there, John Piper. And I can’t tell you how much that’s meant because John Piper has served as one who would stand around my trampoline. We picture serving the Lord sometimes in Frontiers as one who’s bouncing on a trampoline. Boing, boing, boing. And of course you keep bouncing, bouncing, if you’re not careful, sometimes you’ll bounce and you’re liable to go over the side. So we all need people around that trampoline of our journey who are going to catch us when we get beyond biblical parameters, when we’re listening more to men than God and push us back into the middle. I’m so thankful, John, that you do that for me. Who’s in your trampoline? Who’s surrounding your trampoline to keep you in the center of it all? If you want to be used by God, you better have such kind of people.

Being a Father to Others

Well, to whom have I been a father? Those are the ones that have been a father to me. Well, I have three sons. They were born in India, Germany, and Lebanon. They cost $40 each. I say with heartbreak that the two oldest sons are not walking with God today. One is a lawyer in northern California. The other is a professor in a university in the Czech Republic. Evan is named after Evan Welsh. David Livingstone is the other. He also should be convicted when he signs a check. Paul, our third one, is a sitar player who right now is playing with Indians in India, concerts, and he loves the Lord. He’s a great witness for the Lord, dedicates every one of his concerts to the Lord, and he was the one that drove us crazy. He drove us up the wall. The first two, anybody in a Baptist church would’ve said we were terrific parents because these boys obeyed. I never had to tell them twice. They obeyed. When we went from place to place, we said, “What do you think, boys?” They said, “Dad, if you think God wants us to do that, that’s fine.”

I’m just going to pass on this one little bit of parental advice. I don’t have much to pass on. I’m just going to pass on one point. Be careful about the ones who don’t complain. Be careful about the ones who aren’t sharing what’s going on inside. I found out years later they said, “How could we compete with God if God said you should do something?” So if you don’t know what your kids are really thinking, take the time to draw it out. Give them the freedom to feel safe, to tell you that they really don’t think the Bible’s right or they really don’t think Jesus is the only way to God. That’s what my sons have stumbled over, John 14:6. Some of you have doubts about that. Our so-called Bible believing churches are just full of what I call “emotional universalists,” and you’re not going to get missionaries if you’ve got emotional universalists. What do I mean by that?

I mean they would sign a church statement that they believe people who do not rely on what Christ did on that cross are going forever to be separated from God in eternal punishment. They’ll sign that if they have to to become a member. But then you say, “Well, what about the Jewish doctor that lives next to you? Have you witnessed to him?” They say, “Oh, well, he’s a really nice fellow.” Yeah? Do we really believe people are going to hell? You’re going to struggle with that. Schaffer said, “If you can talk about hell, if you can preach about hell and not have tears in your eyes, you don’t understand.”

The Need for Church Planting

I never finished my story about the two Muslims in hell, did I? These two guys found themselves in hell. They were stunned and they were speechless. And finally, one got a hold of his voice and he said to the other one, “Did you ever have a Christian friend?” And the other Muslim thought, “No, I never did.” He asked the first one, and that one said, “No, no, I never did.”

I have my best friend in Malaysia where I spent five years between 2001 and 2006. My best friend, Nasir, and I would walk every day. It was our exercise. We’d walk. He would talk about everything. He’d even say, “I think God sent you here.” He’s a Muslim, Muslim Malay. He was the chief accountant, CFO, of his big company. He had no problem with English. He used to use words like ostentatious, which I said, “Okay, there’s nothing wrong with his English.” When I challenged him about bowing the knee to Christ, he just said, “Greg, I don’t know one Malay that’s a follower of Christ. I just can’t get through that. I don’t see how I can be the first one.” Do you see why we have to see the church planted among every people and every city because we need Pentecost. We need a show and tell, “Hey, come along and see the difference that Christ makes in a Muslim’s life.”

They got to see it. That means we got to have churches. That means somebody’s got to be a pioneer where Christ is not known. Duh. Well, that’s why I left Operation Mobilization. Those are my best friends. Verwer is still my close, close friend, but we weren’t planting churches. We weren’t leaving churches behind with their own elders who could multiply, who could be a lighthouse to that area. I believe whatever good work you support — and I’m for all these ministries, for AIDS, for relief, earthquake relief, we get involved in all that stuff — but if it isn’t leading to leaving behind a fellowship of people who are going to be a lighthouse in that place after you leave, you’ve stopped short of the Great Commission. And that’s why we talk about church planting.

The Opening of a Ministry Frontier

Well, I suddenly realized that the problem was not just qualitative. It was also quantitative. There simply were not enough people living among the Muslims, and therefore, Lord, you’ve got to raise thousands and thousands more, as Pastor Piper prayed, if we’re going to see these churches become a reality in every Muslim country and every Muslim city. I was so bothered that I walked the beach, Ventura, California, for three weeks. I prayed, “Lord, show me. Show me. What do you want to do?” And finally, after three weeks, he gave me the green light to found a new mission. Why would we need a new mission? Because there was no mission that was focused on all the Muslims, but nothing but Muslims.

Would I offer myself to the Southern Baptists? They have got a big wonderful mission, and I said, “Well, Lord, it’s not my flavor, but if you really want me to, ‘Thy will be done.’” And he said, “Okay, what about the Assemblies of God?” I thought, “Whoo, now you’re really asking for a lot, Lord.” And I had to get to the place where I said, “Even if you want me to go serve the Assemblies of God,” because they’re another great outfit that’s got a passion to get the word out to all peoples. And then he finally said, “Well, I’m just checking whether you’re doing this for your own ego. Go ahead and start Frontiers.” Well, a guy came along to me when I got back to Pasadena, California. By the way, don’t give me a lot of credit. I was fishing in a stock pond. Have you ever fished in a stock pond where every time you throw the line in, you get a fish? It’s usually the same fish after you throw it in.

I was at the U.S. Center for World Mission 1982. It was stocked with people who wanted to do something about hidden peoples. It was not difficult. A guy came up to me. He said, “I want to go to the Sudanese.” I said, “Great. I have a great burden for Sudan.” He said, “Ah, it’s not Sudan. It’s in Indonesia. There are 30 million people without a church.” I said, “Oh, yeah. Okay.” Another guy said, “I want to go to China.” I thought, “Oh, well, China’s down the block here. This is a mission to Muslims.” He said, “Yeah, I want to go to the Muslims in China.” I said, “There’s Muslims in China?” See, I’d been an Arab world man, and I didn’t know that beyond India or so there were Muslinms. Another guy said, “We want to go to the Soviet Union.” It wasn’t open then. Millions of Muslims are in the Soviet Union — Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, and all those other stans. And so let’s find a way to get in. And others said, “Let’s go to the Muslims in India.”

Invest in Faithful Men

Did you know that even though there’s such a huge Hindu population, that India may be the country with the second largest Muslim population in the world. Hardly anybody worked among them, and so God began to bring together people with vision, like brother Crawford was praying about, who said, “Let’s go do something for the people who’ve never heard.” I realized that what we were talking about here is what Paul talks about in 2 Timothy 2:2, which says:

What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.

This is my big missionary strategy. I can’t write a whole book, impress you with that one, because I didn’t get it. I got it from Dawson Trotman. Remember Dawson Trotman? Anybody know about Dawson Trotman? The Navigators? There’s one Navigator in the crowd. He was just a blue-collared guy who was a compulsive witness, trying to win one soul a night, but nothing was happening. Nobody was going on for Christ, and he finally got a hold of 2 Timothy 2:2 and realized that he had to invest in these people so that they could reproduce spiritually.

If I’ve got this right, it’s been a while since I’ve read his biography, but I believe it was at least the week where he died drowning in New York state, trying to save another girl in the water, that very week a Navigator landed on the last continent. He had prayed that his life would be multiplied and he would have a ministry on every continent, and that very week when God took him home to glory, The Navigators got on the last continent that didn’t have a Navigator ministry. Hallelujah. Can’t wait to meet old Daws. What about you?

Who are you investing in? Do you have at least five men that you are investing in, that you’re giving vision to, that you’re saying, “I’m praying that you’re going to go on and do something way beyond our church here”? Do you have somebody that feels you believe in him? You believe that he could really do something. He may be all screwed up.

I remember going to Cambridge and this kid came up to me at Cambridge and he said, “I think God wants me to go to India.” I said, “You don’t sound very happy about it.” He said, “I’m not. That’s the last thing I want to do. I just hate the idea.” I said, “And you think God wants you to go to India?” He said, “Yes.” I said, “Shh. Don’t tell anybody about your God. He isn’t worth knowing.” He’s going to give you joy in the assignments he gives you. He’s going to get you thrilled. It’s going to be what you want to get out of bed to accomplish. See, the problem with this kid was that he didn’t understand his heavenly Father.

The Greatest Father

I want you to do a little routine with me right now that I do with kids like this. Are you ready?

Take your one hand and put it on your stomach and say, “This is the ideal human father — understanding, compassionate, listening to you.” It’s every attribute you would give to the ideal human father. We don’t have time for you to think about it. We all instinctively know what the ideal human father would be. Now take your other hand. This hand represents the God you actually live with these days.

How does the God you live with, the God you commune with, compare to the idealized father? I think you will find that the vast majority of people, and maybe you, actually have a God that you live with that doesn’t even match up to this ideal father. Oh, he does in theory, he does in your teaching, but emotionally it’s not the God you live with. And so you’ve got to move up the God you live with to get him higher than the ideal human father. Otherwise, you’re not living with the God that is.

Walking with Others Through Life and Ministry

Once you get yourself and you help others to know how wonderful it is to live with the heavenly Father, they don’t find his commands difficult. I’m so glad that I’ve come to know that kind of a Father, that it’s such a joy, that I have such a privilege to serve, and that’s true of the guys that I’ve been able to father like Joseph Cumming.

Joseph Cumming may be the most brilliant arabist missionary living on the earth today. I don’t like to tell him that too much because that’d be very dangerous. He’s incredible. But Joseph came to me when he was 19 years old from Princeton University. He said, “What are you doing about Mauritania?” I said, “Mauritania?” Somehow that one wasn’t on my map, and I was embarrassed by it. I said, “Where’s Mauritania?” He said, “It’s below Morocco. What’s your problem? There hasn’t been a church there in a thousand years. What are you going to do about Mauritania?” I said, “I’m going to help you do something about Mauritania. What shall we do about Mauritania?”

Well, this kid got some other students after he graduated from Princeton and he said, “I want to go on to do graduate work. I want to get my doctorate, but I made a vow to the Lord that I won’t go on and get my doctorate until I’ve planted a church among the Muslims of Mauritania.” I said, “I’m going to hold you to that,” and I did. And boy, if you want to know where the armpit of the earth is, there ain’t nothing there. I went down to visit him while he was there and they started a place to feed babies. They were feeding 14,000 mothers and babies because it hadn’t rained for 13 years and everybody was forced into the capital. So they had this feeding program. I went down to see him and there were incredible windstorms, sandstorms. We’re walking through the sandstorm and right next to each other, and said, “So Joseph, how are you!” I said, “Fine!”

I came and I walked with him and I walked with Dan Brown through 7 million people in Alexandria, Egypt, where there wasn’t any church for the 96 percent that are Muslim and said, “You can do it, Dan. You can do it. Even though you went to Fuller Seminary, you can do it.”

I had the joy of being with an Arab. Our main fruit from the Muslim world, Mazhar Mallouhi. Mazhar was a Syrian Muslim. He came to Christ through fundamentalists but didn’t get a very happy idea of the Christian life. He was a very angry person, very difficult, so people were always dropping him because he didn’t want to hang onto this hot potato. And God said to me, “You just love this guy, whether he turns out to be strategic or not.” Well, I’ll tell you, he turned out to be strategic. He produced 27 books in Arabic and he does it through a Muslim publisher and gets them distributed in every book story across the Arab world. I’ve seen people that are just cursing at the Bible and in 20 minutes, they’re just begging for a copy. And he says, “I’m not going to give it to you. Your hands are dirty.” And the guy repents and he says, “Well, okay, okay. I’ll give you the New Testament if you promise to read every page.” The person says, “I promise. I promise.” That’s to a guy that was an total enemy of the gospel 20 minutes before.

Do you think I’m not gratified having a ministry in Mauritania, across the Arab world, in Malaysia, in maybe 50 Muslim countries? Because “the things you’ve heard from me entrust a faithful man who will be able to teach others also.”

A Vision to Multiply

Pastors, get this vision. Multiply your life. Either set the pace and go yourself or believe that God’s going to send laborers from your church. Now I know what some of you are thinking. I know what some of you are saying: “Oh, that’s okay for you, Greg. You’re one of these mission dudes. And that’s not us. We’re pastors. We have a lot of other things to do. We really can’t get into it like you’re talking about.” Well, I want to tell you, there’s a pastor here this morning, Jay Childs from Midland, Michigan, and his wife Becky, who didn’t just adopt a people like some churches do and put it on their list somewhere, and there’s a few old people that pray for a couple of requests that come in from that country.

When they adopted a people, they said, “We’re going to start a sister church, not 15 miles down the road, but 15,000 miles down the road among the Malay Muslims.” And they said, “We’re so serious about this, we’re not only going to get people out of our own congregation to go there,” but Pastor Jay made all his elders go to Malaysia, walk the streets, pray there, find out everything they could, one by one by one. They all had to go, and their other leaders in their church and they went more than once. They keep going, and now they have a team of eight and they’re still coming. They also picked up one wonderful Chinese couple that are working among the Malay now. But the rest were from their church. It took a lot of work, it took a lot of money, and it took a lot of vision. I pray that God might give you such a vision. Oh, the thrill of starting a church where there are no other churches. May God put a hunger in your heart.

Now, I know it’s not easy to get people to go and be pioneers, especially in places like the Muslim world or the Buddhist world, the Hindu world. The two main reasons, just for your information, I’ve discovered are these. We were talking about men that are not very much in leadership. American men don’t become pioneer missionaries for two reasons. One, the fear of failure. You’ve got to give them freedom to fail. Say, “Hey, if you go out there and we don’t see a church started and you’ve done everything you can and we’ve got all the coaching you can and it doesn’t happen, brother, you have done something worth failing at. And you’re going to be a hero in our midst and we’re going to stick with you. We’re going to be there when you want to quit, and we’re going to pick you up and keep you going.” If they had that kind of backing from their church leaders, a lot more would go. Fear of failure is the first one, a fear of being looked down upon. What if I spend all this money from the church and nothing happens?

The second reason I discovered that American men and women don’t want to go to the mission field is their fear, “Who are they going to make me work with?” Well, we took care of that in Frontiers. We decided, “We’ll be the Burger King mission. Hey, have it your way.” I was listening to the Army ad back in 1982 and U.S. Army said, “Join the army and bring three friends.” I said, “What? Sally, did you hear that? They’re bribing people to join the Army by saying four of you can go to the same course, the same barracks, and the same everything with your buddies. You don’t have to go out and be with all strangers.” What do they know that I don’t know? So we said, “Okay, join Frontiers and bring your friends. You can work together as a team.” You might find out they aren’t as good of friends as you thought after you’re there.

Leadership and the Remaining Need Among Muslims

I loved the emphasis this week on giving strong leadership to men. Not only being there with compassion, but, pastors, you have to be a little bit like the boxer’s manager. I don’t know if you like boxing. I don’t like boxing, but we all know what boxing is. He’s got a manager outside the ropes, and the guy’s in there punching him. He’s staggering everywhere, and he comes back after the bell rings to his manager. He says, “Let me out of here, this guy is killing me,” and the manager takes a towel and wipes his face and says, “You’re doing great. I think the guy’s weakening. Go ahead,” and he pushes him back in for the next round. That’s a way to love people because you want to see them not quit like we’ve been hearing this week. You can multiply your life, pastors. You can multiply your life into many parts of the world. May God give you holy ambition to do so. What do you have to do? You have to just preach. Think, “ ’m looking for someone I can encourage, I can help, I can help train.”

Why should they even have to go to Bible schools if, really, you can give them a course on systematic theology. You can teach them how to do inductive Bible study. You can teach them how to share their faith. What a joy to be multiplying your life right there from your own church. But you have to obey and pray for laborers to go into the harvest, praying every day, “Lord, show me who to invest my life in, who to be a father to so that I can multiply my life.”

Can you imagine how I feel that there’s over a thousand adults out there in 50 Muslim countries and one of these days, I’m going home to glory. When I walk in the presence of the Lord, and that’s another sermon, but I suppose there’d be a queue here and I have to move over and let the next guy get a hug from the Lord. What’s the second most exciting thing that could happen to us when we go home to glory? For me, it’s going to be those Arabs and those Turks and those Kazakhs and those Kabilis and those Malay who are going to run up to me and they’re going to throw their arms around me and say, “Thank you, thank you, thank you that you obeyed the Lord and you lifted up your eyes and looked beyond your own location and you prayed laborers into the harvest and you went and visited them.”

I was 43 years on the mission field before one of my senior pastors visited us. It was a little bit slow. Mission pastors send out a copied letter, not even a personal one. Give us a break. How do you expect people to hang in there if you’re not there for them? And how do you expect people to go if they can see that you’re not going to be there for the people you send out? Thank you, Jay Childs, for modeling what it means to send your own people out.

There are 255 Muslim people groups with over 100,000 in their population. That’s as far as we can discern, and this is working with the Southern Baptist Convention and with many others doing a lot of data. There are no Christians, no churches, no workers from any agency among at least 255 Muslim people groups that are over 100,000 in population. Now, that’s not God’s will. Somebody has got to go.

is senior associate for missions advancement of World Outreach for the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.