Craig Olive writes about the missing piece in many of our discipleship strategies – a heart for the nations.
While we may have learned some of the best practices of disciple-making, we still tend to leave off a key aspect of Jesus’ command. In Matt. 28:19-20, perhaps you haven’t noticed a central element of what Christ wanted from the discipling process… ALL NATIONS! Jesus has commanded us to “make disciples of all nations” by going, baptizing and teaching them to obey all that He has commanded. “Nations” in the Greek is ethne from which we get the word ethnic. Jesus is saying that we are to make disciples of all ethnic groups. That includes international students.
What are you doing to help your disciple understand, embrace and adopt God’s heart for the nations?
We have to understand that our God is a missionary God. Jesus died for all nations or ethnic groups. In Isaiah 49:6, He says, “It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations so that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
The goal is for us to raise up DISCIPLEMAKERS of ALL NATIONS. Wherever they land – whether it be overseas, the business world in America, or just in an average neighborhood – we want our students to undertake the task of raising up disciplemakers who will engage the nations through praying, giving, going and welcoming (international students or immigrants). With the increase of globalization, we can no longer think about missions in a compartmentalized way. The unreached people groups may be living down the street or in your dorm or apartment.
Here are a handful of ways you can help disciple students to have a heart for all nations.
1. Read strategic books. Here are a few that I find to be very helpful on the subject: The Fuel and the Flame, Let the Nations be Glad, In this Generation, and missionary biographies such as Bruchko, Peace Child, Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret, Hudson Taylor (A Man in Christ), and From the Golden Shores
2. Complete God’s Heart for the Nations by Jeff Lewis. This is an eight-lesson study designed to help readers discover God’s mission for all peoples.
3. Welcome international students. In Hebrews 13:2 it says ”Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.” Sadly, 70 to 80% of internationals NEVER enter an American home while studying in America.
4. Use your large group meetings/church services/discipleship groups to share the vision about God’s heart for the nations. You can have students share testimonies of past mission trips or call on groups like the Traveling Team to help cast vision.
5. Go on short term mission trips. These are key to exposing students to the need and beauty of sharing Christ among unreached and unevangelized peoples.
These things can be helpful in building vision and raising up “world Christians.” But it all starts with you. As we know, more is caught than taught. If you have really adopted God’s heart for the nations and the nations are on your heart, God will use you to spread that to those He has given you to disciple. If you are not there yet, confess that to God and begin doing some of the practical steps above while asking God to give you His heart for the nations. God longs to raise up disciple makers of all nations. God can use you to start a disciple making movement for all nations starting right with those you are discipling.
Special thanks to Brett Yohn who provided some guidance and editing for this article.