Both/And (The Core – Part 5)

So I have my cake. And I’m gonna eat it too. I have a great big ol’ piece of chocolate cake, in my possession, right here, right now, and I’m going to eat it. Try and stop me. It will be down the hatch in no time flat and the only thing left, I’ll be licking of my smiling lips. Who said, “You can’t have your cake and eat it too?”

NPL is taking this approach. We are a Both/And (and More) kind of crew. We are going after those who don’t know Jesus and those who do. We share the gospel with lost people and train the saved to go after the lost. I’ll train people to make disciples who have been churching in a building that’s a hundred years old and I’ll train disciples who are churching in Starbucks. I don’t care. I’ll train your dog if it looks at me sideways! It’s important to share the gospel and raise up brand new disciples but it’s just as important to the movement to mobilize existing believers to share the gospel. It’s a two-pronged attack on lostness; 1) Share the Gospel 2) Train Believers to Share the Gospel. This is how we multiply our efforts. 

Now I’ve heard people take sides on this and it boggles my mind. One side says; “All you guys do is train believers.” The other side says; “All you guys do is share the gospel.”


Have you ever noticed how we tend to pit things (good things) against each other? I’ve done it, we’ve all done it (well, uh, except you, you’ve never done this). Let me give you a great example of a bad example. When I first started down the movements road I was all about “obedience-based” discipleship. We ought to be about “obedience-based” discipleship not “knowledge-based” discipleship. Obedience good. Knowledge bad. Until I read a scathing article from one of our critics. His premise was very simple; “Since when is knowledge a bad thing?” OUCH! I was rebuked! He’s right, knowledge is not a bad thing. In fact, it is essential. So it’s both obedience and knowledge. Can you see how I got into trouble there? 

I call this “reactionary theology” and this can lead to “pendulum theology” which usually leads to “bad theology.” We react and swing all the way over to one side or the other. We start pitting one truth or method against another. And, let’s be honest, in our culture today, people love a good argument and it plays right into Satan’s sticky little trap. Nope, we are a both/and movement.

I once asked Steve Smith a question; “Of the 200 movements of the gospel in the world (now there are over a 1000), how many are being led by people who were won to Christ in the movement? His reply, “2.” That means 99% of the movement leaders were existing believers and came from outside the movement. Training existing believers is a huge part of almost every movement in the world. But make no mistake about it, it’s all about reaching lost people. 

What Jeff and Angie Sundell did when they returned from Nepal is nothing short of genius. The Holy Spirit challenged them to do what they had been doing among the unreached in Nepal and India. So they started sharing their story and God’s story in Bugger Hollow, NC. People started coming to Christ. They also started training believers to share their story and God’s story and even more people came to Christ. And of course, these new baby believers needed to be discipled and gather together in church so they trained everyone to do that too. New leaders started to emerge and they trained them. They were getting so much traction in Bugger Hollow, churches around the United States started asking for training to reach the lost people in their communities. And now thousands of people in American are sharing the gospel, making disciples, planting new churches and reproducing new leaders. Eight years later over almost a hundred missionaries were sent to other countries. The NPL movement was born. And you know how? Through a both/and mentality. 

Jesus was a both/and kind of guy. He looked for followers by the sea, in the synagogue, a long the road, in the temple, and even in a cemetery. His primary target was the “lost sheep of Israel” but if you showed any kind of faith at all, He was on you like a duck on a Junebug. You could be a lost loose lady, a dog lady, or even a devil dude. (Jn 4, Mt 15:21-28, Mk 5.1-20) You could be an army officer, a lawyer, or even a seminary professor. (Mt 5.8-13, Lk 10.25, Jn 3) He was wuppin’ the kingdom on anyone and everyone who would listen. And let’s face it, finding fourth soil people is so hard. We better be engaging everybody everywhere. It’s going to take a both/and approach to engage the lost and get the saved engaged. 

So you have my permission; have your cake and eat it too.

Do you have a both/and mentality? Are you sharing the gospel on a regular basis? Are you casting vision to other believers to join in the Great Commission? Are you training existing believers to share the gospel? Is sharing the gospel a key part of your short-term discipleship? Can you see the value in celebrating differences in ministry?


  1. Supreme Allegiance to the King
  2. Big Vision
  3. Clear Path
  4. Simple Tools
  5. Both/And Mentality
  6. You Can Do It! (The Priesthood of the Believer) 

Tools for Everyone (The Core – Part 4)

Duct tape works for everything, right? We use to call it 100mph tape because that’s how fast it was used up. I mean people would use it for everything! But hey, it’s a great tool and when you find a great tool, everyone wants to use it! Our son had a little fender bender when he was just learning to drive. We actually used duct tape to hold the bumper on to the front end of the car. We called it “Alabama Chrome.” 

We had grown up with a pretty good discipleship toolbox. We had used, adapted, and reproduced our tools in a military setting and they were great. But now that Deb and I had shifted to the civilian sector and were trying to reach a city, we found our discipleship tools didn’t translate well. We had to go back to the drawing board. 

It was about this time that we met Jeff and Angie Sundell. They had been missionaries in India and Nepal and had seen several movements among unreached people groups. They began to share “best practices” from around the world that translated across cultural, gender, age, ethnicity, and religious boundaries. And behind every tool was the mantra “It has to be Biblical, Simple, and Reproducing.” 

It had to be Biblical in the sense that they were principle-based. They could stand on the bedrock of the Scriptures. Many of the tools found their foundation in Jesus’ ministry. Like storytelling for instance. Have you ever noticed how many stories Jesus told in order to convey a spiritual truth? Some were so simple that even guys like me could understand (with my crayons in my hand). 

And that brings us to the next point, simplicity. Normally in American culture, we are always adding something to stuff. We keep adding and adding until we can’t add another thing and then we duct tape something else to it. Now it’s so complicated Einstein couldn’t figure it out. We were being taught to leave the “Good Idea Fairy” at home and KISS it (Keep It Simple and Scriptural). The challenge was to strip the tool down until it was at its irreducible minimum. If a six-year-old could understand and reproduce it, it was a good tool. We’d keep that one. But if it required a G.E.D., sorry, too complicated. In the trash, it would go. 

Our gospel presentation is a good example of the principle of simplicity. We train people to share their story and God’s story in a minute or less. We’d have them take out a piece of paper and draw the gospel. This was the middle of their story; God loves us so much He sent His Son Jesus to the earth, He lived a perfect life and then died on a cross for all the messed up stuff we’ve ever done. And then He rose from the dead on the third day proving He was the King of kings. Then we would ask them to write down two words on the left side of the cross that would describe their life before Jesus. And then two words on the right side describing the change Jesus has made in their life. Next, we help them put these elements of their life into their story and God’s story with a question at the end;

There was a time in my life when I was angry and afraid and then I heard the story about God loving us so much that He sent His Son, Jesus, to the earth, He lived a perfect life and then died on a cross for all the messed up stuff I had done. And then He rose from the dead on the third day proving He was the King of kings. I asked Him to forgive me and started following Him as my King and I’ve had peace and courage ever since. Have you ever asked God for forgiveness and made Jesus your King?

Now we could probably write a book longer than “Moby Dick” on the gospel and not reached the depths of the grace, love, and mercy that it contains. But this is a simple way to train people to share their testimony and get the conversation started. NPL has equipped thousands and thousands of people with this simple tool and it is absolutely mind-blowing how many people are actually sharing their faith now.

But just a story about how hard this is for Americans. We had a friend visit us in San Antonio and Deb took her to dinner. She was telling Deb how she had recently learned how to share the gospel the way we share the gospel. WHAT?! That is so cool! We are reproducing! So Deb was excited and said, “Awesome! Why don’t you share it with the waitress when she comes back.” The gal started squirming and looked at Deb like she had a third eye. Deb noticed this right away and took the pressure off. She said, “Well, why don’t you share it with me?” 

An hour and twenty-five verses later she had produced a napkin dripping with ink and looked like the *Girvan–Newman algorithm (*I have no clue what that means. I just Googled it). Nope, we are not reproducing. The 2nd generation needed to soup things up a bit and now it was so high speed we couldn’t simply share the good news with a waitress in under a minute to see if she was interested in learning more. We can’t resist, can we? But it’s costing us. Our creativity is killing reproducibility. 

We like to ask the question “Is it reproducing?” We prefer this question over, “Is it reproducible?” At first glance, this may not seem to make a whole lot of difference. But on closer examination, it makes a huge difference. The Space Shuttle is “reproducible.” They made four of them. And given a hundred years and a billion-dollar budget, you and I could probably figure out how to reproduce another one. But you see the point. The Space Shuttle is not reproducing. 

When we develop a new tool for discipleship, we are watching it very carefully. Is it actually reproducing generationally downstream? Has one person passed it on to another who has passed it on to another, who has passed it on to another in a short period of time? That would be four generations. Take for example our 4-1-1 tool. It’s used to teach new believers how to share their faith. It is reproducing all over the world. In Japan, we saw it jump three generations in one day. 

We are not interested in the “theory” of reproduction. We want to see the discipleship tool reproducing. I love how the Apostle Paul describes himself as a wise master builder;

“According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. (1 Cor 3.10-15)

Paul did not just build it to last a lifetime. He’s built to last generations and pass the test of eternal value. He was a wise master builder and learned his trade from the Master Himself, Jesus.

So Deb and I have a new toolbox. Tools that are reproducing in the civilian sector, in different cultural contexts around the world, and ironically, in the military too.

What tools do you have in your Discipleship Tool Box? Are they Biblical? Simple? Reproducing? Do you have tools for engaging lost people? Sharing the gospel? Basic discipleship? Healthy church? Reproducing leaders? Abiding deeply in Christ? Are you being mentored or coached by someone who has a full toolbox of proven generational discipleship tools?


  1. Supreme Allegiance to the King
  2. Big Vision
  3. Clear Path
  4. Simple Tools
  5. Both/And Mentality
  6. You Can Do It! (The Priesthood of the Believer) 

A Clear Path (The Core – Part 3)

I use to make a living stumbling around in the dark. Part of my job as a Ranger Instructor in the US Army was to train students to move through densely vegetated mountainous terrain during hours of limited visibility. Simply put, we would walk around in the woods at night in pitch blackness getting poked in the eyes with sharp sticks. Now doesn’t that sound fun? But I have found that many people do the same spiritually (and I’m not just talking about lost people). Jesus is trying to make it easier on us. He said He is the light (John 8.12) and that we too were the light of the world (Matthew 5.14-16). That’s a whole lot of light in the world! And yet, sometimes, we find ourselves walking in darkness (even in our ministry to others). And that’s what I want to focus on in this post. I want to shed a little light on a clear path for ministry. 

I actually started learning this early on in the Navigators. They had this thing call the “Six Critical Factors.” Pure genius! These were principles plucked from the Scriptures that gave us a comprehensive guide to ministry. A road map, if you will. A clear path. 

1) Laying the Foundation 

2) Going to the Lost 

3) Discipling our Generation 

4) Community 

5) Laborers and Leaders 

6) Spiritual Generations

Like I’ve said before, I need crayons with my tools, so this was right up my alley. Super simple. 

So when we started hanging out with the NoPlaceLeft peeps and saw the same principles expressed in an illustration called the Four Fields, I was like, “OK, even I can do this.” 

Jesus taught using a lot of agricultural parables so I’m going to do the same to explain the Four Fields Illustration. I’ll tell you a simple story and see if you can pick out the six guiding principles. (By the way, don’t get this mixed up with the Parable of the Sower. It has some parallels but it’s not what I’m talking about)

A farmer goes out into an empty field and sows seed. As the seed takes root and begins to grow and mature the farmer nurtures it. And then at the right season, the farmer gathers the crops together in the harvest. The work is so great he enlists the help of fellow laborers to help him in the fields. He is also completely dependant on God to provide the right weather for the crops to grow. 

Did you identify the six principles? Here they are:

  1. GO – Empty Fields – Engaging Lost People
  2. GOSPEL – Sowing the Seed – Sharing the Gospel
  3. GROW – Nurturing the Crops – Making Disciples
  4. GATHER – Gathering the Crops – Healthy Church
  5. GUIDE – More Laborers – Reproducing Leaders
  6. ABIDE – Dependance on God – Abiding Deeply in Christ

Super simple right? Now that’s a clear path! But the thing I like about the Four Fields is that it comes right out of Jesus’ playbook for making disciples.

Engaging Lost People

As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. (John 17.18) 

You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. (John 15.16)

Sharing the Gospel

Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people. (Matthew 4:23)

Making Disciples

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28.18-20)

“A disciple is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher. (Luke 6:40) 

Healthy Church

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18) 

Reproducing Leaders

And He appointed twelve, so that they would be with Him and that He could send them out to preach (Mark 3.14)

And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. (Luke 10:2)

Abiding Deeply in Christ

I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. (John 15:5) 

Now that’s a very clear path! I know what to do; I’m going to engage lost people with the gospel. And when they receive it, I will disciple them and gather them into the community that the Bible calls church. I will be a leader and train others to lead because the work of the kingdom is so great. And because kingdom work is both great in its endeavor and scope, I will completely depend on Jesus to see it grow. Jesus had a clear path for ministry and now, I have a clear path for ministry. No more stumbling around in the dark.

Do you have a clear strategy for practicing the Great Commission? Is this more than just theory and you’re actually doing it? Are you training others in a clear path for ministry? Are you constantly going back to Jesus for His example and guidance?


  1. Supreme Allegiance to the King
  2. Big Vision
  3. Clear Path
  4. Simple Tools
  5. Both/And Mentality
  6. You Can Do It! (The Priesthood of the Believer) 

A Big Vision (The Core – Part 2)

WOW! Deb and I’s vision has exploded over the last 10 years. Initially, we just wanted to reach a few soldiers for Christ. As Jesus challenged us to grow in our faith we shifted to the entire Army and then to a city and then to the world. We see the same pattern in Jesus’ ministry as He challenged His men. At first, it was very simple;

“Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4.19)

Their vision got a little bit bigger when He commanded them to go and 

“Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. (Matthew 10.5)

And by the end of His ministry the vision He was casting had expanded to encompass the whole world;

And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” (Mark 16.15)

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” (Act 1.8)

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28.18-20)

Increased faith means increased vision and increased vision will mean an increased faith. That’s one of the things I love about the NoPlaceLeft vision. But first a little history lesson. When Steve Smith was training missionaries in Asia to use movement strategies to reach the unreached, he used the Apostle Paul’s statement in Romans 15.19-24 to cast vision to reach Asia;

“In the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit; so that from Jerusalem and round about as far as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. And thus I aspired to preach the gospel, not where Christ was already named, so that I would not build on another man’s foundation; but as it is written,



For this reason I have often been prevented from coming to you; but now, with no further place for me in these regions, and since I have had for many years a longing to come to you whenever I go to Spain…”

Now that’s an incredible statement! By the time the Apostle Paul penned the Book of Romans he was a seasoned missionary with some 20-30 years under his belt. He had strategically spread the message of Jesus Christ in such a way that millions of people heard the gospel from modern-day

Israel to Croatia. He was confident that he had finished the task in that region (some 350,000 square miles). 

He is basically telling the church in Rome, “There’s no place left in these parts for me to work. I must move on to where the gospel has yet to be preached.” Now, wait a minute! All that happened through the efforts of Paul’s ragtag band of missionaries in that short time?! I’m sorry but I’m dumping any other evangelistic strategy for the one Paul used! (Which, oh, by the way, was the exact same strategy Jesus modeled, Duh!) 

Well as Steve was teaching this idea of a No Place Left strategy the IMB missionaries (Jeff Sundell, Nathan Shank, Jared Houk) in Nepal and Northern India coined the phrase as their vision statement for their region and the whole of South Asia. We were sending guys over to observe the movements among the people of Nepal and Northern India and James Harvey brought the vision back and pinned it on a logo. Troy Cooper hashtagged it and started posting it on Facebook. We made logos for cities, states, and regions. The mantra took off. And today there are thousands of people who have joined the NoPlaceLeft vision. All over the world people are being captured by a dream to finish the Great Commission of Jesus in our generation.

But think about the genius of this vision. First, it’s Biblical. It comes out of the pages of the Scriptures as not only as simple statement but one that is loaded with the Master’s Methodology. Second, it’s scalable. We can start as small as “There will no place left in my family. Everyone will hear the gospel.” to NoPlaceLeft my neighborhood, state, country, continent, the world. The NoPlaceLeft vision grows as we grow in faith. And lastly, it’s the Father’s endstate. “The glory of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the seas.” (Habakkuk 2:14)

NoPlaceLeft is a big vision. It can be expressed in many ways; 24:14, Finishing the Task, The Joshua Project, Every Person, World Vision, etc… But make no mistake about it, NoPlaceLeft is a vision, not an organization or a denomination. We are a coalition rallied around the vision of reaching every man, woman, and child with the gospel. We are committed to doing this in such a way that we can stay ahead of population growth and are unhindered by resources or extra-biblical traditions that impede the viral spread of the gospel. How do I join the NoPlaceLeft vision? Very simple, share the gospel, make disciples, plant churches, reproduce leaders and abide deeply in Christ. If you’re doing one or all of these things, whether you like it or not, you’re a part of the NoPlaceLeft vision, more accurately stated, you’re a part of Jesus’ Great Commission. 🙂

Have you reached NoPlaceLeft among your family and friends with the gospel? Are you praying for NPL in your neighborhood? Are you praying for your city, state, nation, and the nations? Are you going to join us in prayer and fasting during January 2020 as we beg God to reach the unreached of the world? Are you making disciples and planting churches that multiply? Are you casting a big vision for your Timothys?


  1. Supreme Allegiance to the King
  2. Big Vision
  3. Clear Path
  4. Simple Tools
  5. Both/And Mentality
  6. You Can Do It! (The Priesthood of the Believer) 

The Core – My Six Core Principles for Ministry

Supreme Allegiance to the King (The Core – Part 1)

Now we started this discussion talking about the tension between the Legacy and the 0-1 approaches to ministry. To this point you may have felt like this was an Infomercial for the 0-1 expression but that is far far from my intent. Our approach to investing in the kingdom of God should be determined by the highest principle; Supreme Allegiance to the King. If we can learn to do this one thing, we will join God in whatever He is doing. Jesus modeled this principle perfectly. 

Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner. (John 5.19)

Jesus did exactly what the Father was doing. He joined Him in His work. Normally, we do what we think the Father “might” do and then ask God to bless it. Not Jesus. He made sure that He only did what the Father was doing. Henry Blackaby would say; “Look for what God is doing and then join Him in that work.” I love Henry for shedding light on this principle for millions of modern-day disciples of Jesus. He simply tapped into the highest principle Jesus was practicing. This is what Ying Kai and Steve Smith call “The Father’s Heart.” We teach this in every Four Fields Intensive and expect it to be reproduced downstream. We ought to align our hearts with the Heart of God.

But Jesus went even further than doing what the Father was doing. 

So Jesus said, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am [He,] and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me. (John 8.28)

For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment [as to] what to say and what to speak. (John 12.49)

Jesus only said what the Father wanted Him to say. What?! Now there’s a challenge! Surrendering my actions to God is one thing but surrendering every word, my tongue?! Whoa, that’s a tall order, isn’t it?!

But it went much further for Jesus than just His actions and His words. He gave His very life for the will of Him Who sent Him. 

And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” (Matthew 26.36)

In the garden just before His death, Jesus offers one more plea to the Father for some other way to satisfy the wrath that our sin demands. There was no other way. Jesus demonstrated His supreme allegiance to the Father by “drinking the cup” and paid the price for our rebellion.

I remember the first time this came into crystal clear focus for me. I knew Jesus was calling me to be a chaplain in the US Army and I didn’t want to. I didn’t respect most of the chaplains I had met and I certainly didn’t want to go to college and cemetery, uh, I mean seminary. I had “ministry” to do. Not only that, I had to tell my mentor, a father figure to me, that I was going to leave his ministry to do something he had little respect for as well. The last thing in the world I wanted to do was disappoint him. The words were coming out of my mouth like molasses; “God has called me to be a chaplain.” He couldn’t argue. I had dropped the Ace of Spades. The words “God told me…” trumped anything he would say so he just stood there silently. But the expression on his face said it all! His disappointment was abundantly evident. Oh, I hated disappointing the man who meant more to me than my biological dad. But I could not allow him to get between me and my spiritual Father. This was my first real test of my Supreme Allegiance to the King, the highest principle. I did become an Army chaplain and enjoyed an incredible 10 years of ministry but the most important event that happened in that season was the first step in the journey. We have to be willing to do what Jesus tells us to do even if people disagree or are disappointed in us. And make no mistake about it, God will test our loyalties.

And that is what must determine your expression of ministry. Has God called you to do a Legacy expression of advancing the kingdom? Then you better get there lickity split and stay there. Settle in, you’re going to be here a while. Has Jesus commanded you to be a pioneer and head for the frontier of loneliness and austerity? Head West young man (or woman), head West! This is what it means to “abide in Christ.” It’s much much more than having a good “quiet time.” It’s Supreme Allegiance to the King.

Is Jesus the King in your life? Is He calling the shots? What are you afraid of losing if you follow Jesus? What price is too high to pay? Are you teaching your Timothys to listen and obey the King? Are you ever disappointed when they do what Jesus told them to do?


  1. Supreme Allegiance to the King
  2. Big Vision
  3. Clear Path
  4. Simple Tools
  5. Both/And Mentality
  6. You Can Do It! (The Priesthood of the Believer) 

Was it Worth it? (NPL – Part 10)

I’ve been describing the struggles of our transition as we pioneered in a new ministry. Many others were going through this transition and we joined them in the “move out west.” But before we go any further I want to answer the question; “Was it worth it?”  Although the trail looked nothing like we imagined I would say it was more than worth it! Jesus has done some incredible things along the way and by no means have we reached the final destination. 

God was calling us to San Antonio, Texas with a big vision; 2020 by 2020 – 2020 disciple-making groups and/or churches by 2020. When we got to Texas we started a ministry on Fort Sam Houston and it looked very similar to what we had always done. Our Bible study went from five soldiers to thirty-five in the first four months we were here. But through the chaplain’s sermon, unbeknownst to her, I heard the Holy Spirit asking; “Do you want this post or do you want the city?” I said, “The City!” So we moved off post. We started partnering with some folks who wanted to see the city reached for Christ and planted a church with Brett and Abigail Wilson, John and Janelle Williams, Nacho and Sara Pecina, Bud and Denise Abbott, Jason Ross, and Ben Hanna. We called it the “Timothy Church.” It was twelve people strong. In our first two years we trained over 50 local pastors and saw 111 groups and churches using the disciple-making and church planting principles we were learning. As we grew in confidence and competence most of the Timothy Church members started training others in different countries.  (Some were already training in other countries) We were making disciples and planting churches all over the world. Not all those groups and churches lasted. Not all the people we trained stuck with it. Not all the “converts” continued in discipleship. But now, six years later, the leaders in that church are still working hard to reach the city and beyond. 

Deb and I began to assist the Sundells around the US and overseas. We trained in Australia, New Zealand, England, Germany, France, Ecuador, and Japan. The Abbotts joined us in our adventures. We were coaching and advising disciples of Jesus who had a heart to reach their own people with the gospel. During one of the trainings in Athens, Greece we were challenging the practitioners to pray and ask God for some big goals to reach their people. I was sitting in the back, kind of day dreaming and I had checked out because I was a trainer, and I didn’t need to pray and set any goals, right? Yeah, right! Of course, I snapped out of it and started praying. Once again, the Holy Spirit was speaking; “Do you want San Antonio or do you want the world?” That sounds crazy doesn’t it!? But that’s the deeper waters Jesus was calling us to. I said, “The World!”

We started seeing the online influence take off through Facebook, YouTube, and Video Conferencing. There would be online meetings where we would have 4-5 continents represented in so many time zones that one participant shows up at 1 AM. Thousands of people are sharing the gospel and making disciples. Many leaders are taking the training we put on video and running with it in their own cities and countries. Deb and I were influencing people for Jesus’ kingdom on six of the seven continents (and if the penguins would have listened, we would have Antartica too). We spent one hour with a couple from the Ukraine casting vision on the importance of church identity and they went back and planted 4000 churches. Let’s pull a “Addison” and cut the number in half because people tend to exaggerate. Ok, that’s 2000 churches! We’ve heard of 30,000 baptisms in Africa, training in 6 Balkan nations, 2000 Irainians reached for Christ, or even one Japanese person coming to Christ every week in some of the hardest soil in the world. Again, cut the numbers in half and it’s still amazing and that’s the tip of the iceberg. And Deb and I can’t take a bit of credit for any of it because we did it as a team and we just pointed people to Jesus and threw gas on their fire.

But I have saved the best part for last. Through all of this my relationship with Jesus as grown sweeter than it’s ever been. My prayer time is the best part of my day. I’ve seen things in the Word that has absolutely blown my mind. I saw things in my life that needed to change and He was giving me the grace to transform. You know it is not perfect but I’ve seen some of the “disciplines of the Christian life” turn into the “delights of the Christian life.” Walking with Jesus is the best part of this whole deal and if I had to do it again, I would, every bit of it.

This sounds like a big “Bragamony” and it is. I’m bragging on Jesus. He is the one Who has done every bit of this. As Dallas Willard used to say, “I was burning through grace like a 747 airliner burns through jet fuel.” Was it worth it? Oh yeah! And remember, it all started by saying “Yes” to Jesus and pushing through the challenges. Amazing grace, how can it be, that Thou my God should use a wretch like me. Thank You Jesus!

I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. (John 15.1-5)

For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. ‘Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. ‘You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29.11-13)

Do you believe that Jesus wants to use your life for His glory and to advance His kingdom? Are you willing to be pruned by the Master in order to see more fruit? Will you stay the course even during the tough stuff? Are you willing to give the credit to Jesus as the Vine and you are just one of the branches?

How Deb and I joined the NoPlaceLeft Vision (NPL – Part 1)

The Perfect Storm (NPL – Part 2)

Some Nagging Questions (NPL – Part 3)

The Most Important Question (NPL – Part 4)

It was a Set-Up (NPL – Part 5)

The Book that Changed My World (Again) (NPL – Part 6)

Change Happens When Enough is Enough (NPL – Part 7)

Drinking the Cup (NPL – Part 8)

From a Wife’s Perspective – Interview with Deb (NPL – Part 9)

Was it Worth it? (NPL – Part 10)

From a Wife’s Perspective – Interview with Deb (NPL – Part 9)

CHUCK: So we are going back to the beginning when we first started movement stuff, and what it looked like to you as a wife and a teammate. Let’s talk about Steve Addison’s book, Movements that Change the World, and how that impacted you.

DEB: I think Steve’s book was one of the first non-fiction books I had read in a long time. Actually, that’s not completely true. I had read a couple of books on discipleship. You were pretty fired up about movements but I don’t think I really knew anything about movements. I mean maybe I did, but I didn’t really like know, know. 

CHUCK: When I started talking about these things and doing a little bit of experimenting what were you thinking?

DEB: Well, I think the biggest change for me was when you started sharing the gospel all the time. You were pretty bold talking to strangers before but actually sharing your faith was different. Now you weren’t just talking to strangers in random conversations. You were inserting the gospel. That made me a little uncomfortable, I mean we had been sharing the gospel when we would go to chapel and then invite people to lunch and share. But now you were sharing the gospel “out in the wild” so to speak. 

CHUCK: There was actually a point where I started dropping you and our son off at chapel and I would go and share the gospel. What was going through your head in that season?

DEB: I’m not a big “change” person. I always went to church on Sunday mornings. Even when we were on vacation we would do a family church service together on Sunday mornings. So just to throw that out the window didn’t feel super great to me.

CHUCK: How did I treat you during that period of time?

DEB: Oh, you were fine with whatever I wanted to do. You’ve always been very patient and not pushy. Even when we knew we were moving to San Antonio and you’d say, “Yeah, we’re going to go plant churches in San Antonio” my response was, “Don’t say that so loud, it sounds weird.” Because I was afraid that people in their minds were thinking that we were going to plant traditional churches. That wasn’t our intention but nobody had the framework for anything other than that so it just sounded weird. It sounds crazy.

CHUCK: So we started experimenting with storytelling and sharing the gospel up front with people. When did you start “liking” what we were doing?

DEB: I really liked the storytelling part, especially when we were going through head, heart, and hands. When we incorporated the heart, the emotions, it was a big big shift for us because most of our focus was always on the intellectual, logical, and knowledge. But when we started connecting to the heart it really changed things. We would ask the question, “How do you think Zacchaeus felt?” or “How do you think Jesus felt?” It was like, “Whoa, I’ve never thought about that before!” And “How does this story make you feel?” No one had ever asked me how a story in the Bible made me feel! I remember telling a gal the story of Zacchaeus and she was getting emotional about it. She teared up. So, it was like wow, talking to people about God’s Word and seeing that bring out emotions a lot of times.

CHUCK: There was a little bit of push back on talking about heart stuff. 

DEB: {Laugh} Yeah, that’s kind. There was a lot of push back from some believers and no push back from non-believers. 

CHUCK: How did we deal with that?

DEB: I think that was surprising to me. I remember we had a group and we were telling the story and were going through head, heart, and hands. And the guy that was leading the discussion was a believer. When it got to the part about heart and the emotions he literally lay down on the couch like he was in a psychotherapy session making fun of the fact that we were going to be talking about emotions. The ironic part of it was everyone else in the group were females. He just communicated to a room full of girls that it’s not cool to talk about your emotions. And number two, he obviously didn’t like this method. I remember thinking, “Why do we have to be that way? Even as believers. Why do we need to pushback when it’s not your thing. Why do we need to be so passive aggressive? We’re on the same team.”

CHUCK: You found yourself in an interesting tension at that time because people were scrutinizing me but you weren’t fully convinced yourself. How did you deal with that tension? 

DEB: I was uncomfortable with what you were doing but I wasn’t going to throw the baby out with the bath water. 

CHUCK: Did our experimentation ever cost you a friendship?

DEB: There was a time where I went to dinner with a friend. We had been friends for a long time. As we were wrapping up our conversation we got on the topic of church. She asked, “Why do you feel like you have to call what you’re doing church?” And all a sudden, I said to myself, “This is the end of this relationship. This is going to divide us.” My response was “I don’t know. I don’t even understand, myself. I just know the Bible calls it church so we’re just going to call it church and see what happens.” I was not defensive and I was almost empathetic to what she was saying. But to this day that person has never reengaged with me. I felt sad because she was a good friend.

CHUCK: Were you prepared for any of the experiences of those first days?

DEB: Jesus did tell you this was going to cost us. It was shocking and it was very very puzzling but because of the warning, because Jesus had given us a heads up, I understood, “Oh, this is what God was talking about.” 

CHUCK: So we’ve been doing “Crazy Church” for about ten years now. I think the thing I’ve liked the most is being able to hit the reset button and start over again with just the Scriptures. How about you, how are you feeling now?

DEB: Yeah, I feel a real sense of freedom. I mean like it was a lot of tradition that I felt bound to. Now we are free just to do what the Bible says and do it without the weight of culture and tradition. I love our church. It’s small but super simple. We even have the kids leading sometimes because it’s simple enough that they can do it. I really like the fact that we are majoring on actually trying to do what the Bible says rather than just talk about what it says. And I like the fact that everyone in our church is sharing the gospel.

CHUCK: What would you say to wives where their husband is kind of off the chain in this movement thing and they’re kind of going a little bit crazy?

DEB: Well you’re a team and you are the perfect helpmate for your husband. If your husband tends to be a little more apostolic, you’ve probably come to expect a little craziness from time to time. There are going to be some shifts and some of them may be major. And instead of getting a huge bucket of ice water and throwing it all over your husband and his ideas, listen and wait. Even if I thought it was a bad idea, I just had to watch and see what would happen. Pray and ask God about what He is doing. If it’s something that’s kind of weird, wait and see. Wisdom is vindicated by her children. And if it’s not something that God wants you to do, don’t start nagging your husband. I’ve learned that the Holy Spirit is a better nag than I will ever be. He’s the one that needs to change our hearts. If it is something we need to do as a team, than He needs to change my heart.  

CHUCK: What would you tell husbands?

DEB: Well definitely being patient and going slow, not being a bull in the china cabinet. Bring your wife along when you’re doing things. When we see families doing this together the wives really buy in, so to speak. We had some friends who recently did a training in their city and one of participants, a wife of a husband who was all fired up, came to the training but was very reluctant. She did not want to be there at all. But the first hours of the training each day was an hour of prayer and then they got into the Word. After a couple of days of that, she started to understand and became enthusiastic about what she was hearing. Even other people that knew her, were like, “Who are you and what have you done with our friend.” She had totally changed her mind and took on the identity of the Priesthood of the Believer. I feel like a lot of wives, especially if their husbands are crazy experimenters, feel left out or maybe left behind a lot. So when you show them in the Word that everybody is commanded to do these things, everybody can make disciples, everybody can baptize, everybody can be the priest, whatever the “priesthood” elements are, everyone can be engaged in all of this. That just allows so much freedom. I think because our Christian culture doesn’t allow women to practice the “Priesthood of the Believer”, they feel left out. In some ways, when you empower them, women get excited and get on board a lot faster. 

CHUCK: Let’s flip it around. What if the wife is the movement go-getter and a husband feels left out?

DEB: That one’s hard because I’ve seen it happen where the wife is the ministry person and the husband is more in the background. In most of those cases the husband is supporting and enabling the partnership. But if they’re against what you’re doing it’s a little more tricky. Now you have to trust God with changing his heart. That’s the biggest deal in my mind. And that could be the bigger miracle, watching God change his heart. Just do as much as God and he allows you to do under the circumstances and pray. When we see it as a partnership, regardless, husband and wife are doing this together, it makes a huge difference in the amount of multiplication that happens. In the same way, when the whole family is in it together. When you have your kids drawing their relational maps with their buddies at school and everybody’s thinking the same way, that creates a whole different dynamic than if just one person in the family is doing it. 

CHUCK: Hon, thanks for going on “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” with me. Thanks for being a woman of faith and a great teammate! I thank Jesus for you.

How Deb and I joined the NoPlaceLeft Vision (NPL – Part 1)

The Perfect Storm (NPL – Part 2)

Some Nagging Questions (NPL – Part 3)

The Most Important Question (NPL – Part 4)

It was a Set-Up (NPL – Part 5)

The Book that Changed My World (Again) (NPL – Part 6)

Change Happens When Enough is Enough (NPL – Part 7)

Drinking the Cup (NPL – Part 8)

From a Wife’s Perspective – Interview with Deb (NPL – Part 9)

Was it Worth it? (NPL – Part 10)