Last September, Kathy and I set up a table with our resources at the International Orality Network conference (ION). A man from Africa came by and I said, “Let me guess where you are from . . . Ethiopia!” He said, “How did you know?” A few hours later, we saw him sitting by himself, and we asked him to join us. Then, we had lunch together. God was putting on my heart to spend time with this man and learn about him.
He was born into an Ethiopian Orthodox family, and as he grew up, he was groomed for significant leadership in that Church. Then, he met the living Christ, began boldly proclaiming the Gospel, and was thrown out of his house by his family!
Undaunted, he continued proclaiming Christ, founded a church, and now, 25 years later is the founder and president of Church Multiplication Gospel Mission (CMGM) which is taking the Gospel to every part of Ethiopia, including unreached tribal people.
During the ION conference, we had a private mini-conference. We shared with him about teaching the Bible as a story, using the 6 Cs – Creation, Catastrophe, Covenants, Christ, Church/Commission, and Consummation. We showed him our video, The Renewal of All Things, and God worked deeply in his heart.
350 Attendees, 15 Nations, 1 Goal
On April 27, Mezgebu Tsemru, will officially launch CMGM, and I will be there to help him. This event will be attended by 350 Church, Ministry, and Denomination leaders from 15 African nations. He will share the vision for Ethiopia and beyond.
One key component for his vision is our video – The Renewal of All Things. He said, “Your video is powerful, dramatic, clear, and concise. It is a shortened version of the Jesus film. We can use it to bring many to Christ, quickly, in Ethiopia.” He will show the Amharic version on April 27, explain his vision to use it in his country, and encourage others to translate it for their nations.
Mezgebu has asked me to join him in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for the official inauguration of CMGM and to meet ministry leaders from these countries. We will go, and we have also committed to help with the costs for this great event. Many of those coming are poor, and there is much expense for their travel, food, lodging, and materials.
Will you join me in prayer for this event on April 27 and ask God is he would have you share a financial gift? WGS has committed to raise half the expenses for that evening – about $5000 – which will ensure a successful night of vision casting for all who attend. This night will accelerate the spread of the Gospel in Ethiopia and beyond.
You can mail a gift to WGS – PO Box 90047 – San Antonio, TX 78209. Be sure to mark your check for Ethiopia. You can also give online at www.WGSministries.org/product/partner-with-wgs-ministries/. When you check out, in the Notes box, indicate that your gift is for Ethiopia. We need your help!
A Happy Ending
There is a happy ending to this story. Even though Mezgebu was thrown out of his house, he continued to love his father and mother. Today, with his wife and three children, they live together! God is the God of healing and reconciliation.
We are grateful for this opportunity to help this man who is well-connected with leaders from around the world, and especially African countries. He is committed to and part of the Disciple Making Movement and the Church Planting Movement. Our desire is to assist him as he works with his evangelistic and church planting teams to see such movements take hold in his country and beyond.
Thank you for your prayers and sharing that will help us reach the people of Ethiopia and other countries.
Jonathan Williams – President, WGS Ministries
It is rare to find someone who does not admire Jesus. After all, he has given the world the highest ethical teaching and world-shaping, unforgettable stories like The Good Samaritan and The Prodigal Son.
But a pernicious problem plagues this high respect for Jesus – people don’t know who he truly is – or, they don’t want to know. Do people want to honor Jesus as a great teacher? Absolutely. But he is much more. Do people want to follow his example of love? No doubt. But he is much more. Do some people think him to be a prophet? Yes! 1.5 billion Muslims revere him as a prophet. But he is much more.
The Gospel presents him as the world’s Savior and the true Lord of heaven and earth. Jesus is Lord of all.
“But wait! In recent years new Gospels have been discovered – we can now read the Gospel of Judas, the Gospel of Philip, of Mary Magdalene, and Thomas. They present a different Jesus. Why do you insist on Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John?”
These kinds of questions and issues form the third challenge the Church faces today. I call it “The Mystic Messiah.” This is the challenge that relativizes the uniqueness of Jesus and reduces him to a mystic like other mystics and teachers of “timeless truths.”
We have combated this spirit of syncretism by quoting a few key verses:
- I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but by Me (John 14:6).
- And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12)
- For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5).
These are great words and potent weapons. But let me suggest a far more powerful weapon – the weapon of connecting the story of Christ to the greater story of the Gospel of the Kingdom. Let me explain.
Why should we believe, for example, the Gospel of John over the Gospel of Thomas or the Gospel of Mary Magdalene? Today, many advocate giving equal weight to them all and speak of the different versions of Christianity in the ancient world. If one Gospel is as good as another, why would John 14:6 take precedent over a verse, say, in Thomas?
Here is how we answer this question. We ask, “which Gospel connects to the Narrative of Power in a cohesive way? Which Gospel completes the story begun in ancient times with the stories of Abraham, Moses, David, and the prophets? Does Thomas complete the story? Does Luke? John? Which ones?”
When one examines the Gospel of Thomas, one discovers there is no narrative at all! It is just a collection of sayings; some identical to the traditional Gospel statements, some roughly similar, and some completely different. But because Thomas has no narrative, one can take a “Jesus saying” and place it within whatever framework he likes to tell whatever story he likes! Actually, the sayings in Thomas do tell a story of sorts, or, at least provide a perspective, but it is not Christian. It is a Gnostic work providing a strange conclusion to a centuries long story that was headed in another direction.
This is more apparent in the Gospels of Mary Magdalene and Judas. The Gospel of Mary Magdalene provides some narrative, but when we examine it, we discover that it is telling another story – the Gnostic story – which has a different approach to life, a different worldview, and a different destiny than the controlling narrative of Scripture – the kingdom of God. Imagine telling your children the story of the three pigs as you tuck them into bed at night. You build up the story line and you get to the climax of the big bad wolf trying to blow down the house of bricks, but as you do so, you suddenly start telling the story of Jack and the Beanstalk. He climbs down the beanstalk with the giant who steps on the house smashing it to pieces and the wolf, who turns out to be hero, gobbles up the selfish pigs. You start with one story line but end with another. Your kids would look at you and say, “What are you doing? You are messing up the story!”
The other Gospels so many hear about today are doing exactly that – they are messing up the Story! When we understand the sayings and events in the life of Jesus within the history long narrative of the kingdom of God, we put it in its right context and have a bulwark against the spirit of syncretism that relativizes Jesus and reduces him to a teacher, example, or prophet only. Failure to put the Gospel of Christ within the larger Story line of the Kingdom of God opens us to dire consequences.
Without the overarching Story, we can more easily reduce Christ to another religious teacher with timeless words of wisdom about the mystery of life. The uniqueness of his message and identity are lost. Without the Story, we can synchronize Christ’s words with eastern religions or incorporate them into other religious tales that present a vastly different view of reality, the purpose of life, and how people return to God. But with the Story, we can confidently affirm the biblical Gospels over today’s trendy embrace of these other Gospels that tell a different tale.
Jesus was no “Mystic Messiah,” no “teacher of timeless truths.” He came with the urgent message of the kingdom of God that would transform people and will eventually transform this world. He died for all, rose on the third day, and is enthroned as the world’s true Lord.
Equip yourself and learn these vital truths to share with your friends.
You know about fortune cookies. You are at a Chinese restaurant. You have enjoyed a good meal with friends, but there is a ritual to perform at the end of the meal. Your server brings you a small tray with the bill and a fortune cookie for all. Everyone eagerly tears off the wrapper, breaks the cookie, reads their fortune, and shares it with others – a fitting and fun end to a great meal.
Unfortunately, that’s the way many Christians approach the Bible. It has become a book of “sayings,” “promises,” “principles,” and “commands” – only. Kind of like fortune cookie sayings. We read them, memorize them, pray about them, claim them, and sometimes obey them – all good. But too often we don’t realize these individual sayings are pieces of a larger narrative that exists to change people … and the world. Far too many Christians treat the Bible as a book of “Fortune Cookie” sayings. Their faith never rises above individual statements and never connects to the history-long, world-shaping narrative of God’s plan. They go their merry way with their spiritual Fortune Cookie saying for the day.
The Gospel of the Kingdom of God is a powerful remedy to this problem for it tells us that our Gospel connects to a world-wide and history-long story. The Story tells of a God who created a beautiful world and placed image bearers to live in it, to cultivate it, and to manage it for his glory. But the story took a dreadful turn. The image bearers rebelled against the King and in spite of his loving efforts to restore them, they continued to rebel and set up defiant kingdoms in the world and created offending caricatures of the true God. The world plunged into darkness.
Yet, God continued to reach out to the world of men, promising through his people Israel that he would restore his reign upon the earth. Those rebels who submitted to his kingdom could find release from sin and the restoration of his image in them. God would create a people for his glory, and he would one day fill the earth with his glory – paradise would be restored.
This is a long ways from “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life!” Although a true statement and one that God has used to introduce countless men and women to Christ, it is only a crumb from the Master’s table when he invites the Church, and the nations through the Church, to his Gospel banquet. Or, to use the Story metaphor, he invites us to explore, learn, and tell the full story and not just a portion of it. We are part of a history-long, world-wide story! When God’s people learn and embrace this Story, the Narrative of Power – The Kingdom of God – they will find themselves letting go of Fortune Cookie Christianity for something far greater.
In my book, Changing the Stories of the World, I explain how large segments of the Church have truncated the Gospel by not connecting it to God’s kingdom plan. Jesus did not preach a Gospel of “pray this prayer and you’ll go to heaven when you die.” He proclaimed the kingdom of God. So did Peter, Philip, Paul, and all the apostles. The opening verses of Acts tells us that Jesus taught his disciples the kingdom of God during his 40 days after the resurrection. The last verse of Acts tells us that Paul was proclaiming the kingdom in Rome.
I hope you will get a copy of Changing the Stories of the World, deepen your understanding of the Gospel, and share your faith more confidently and fully for the glory of God in his world.
The Church, like ancient Israel, has always faced the enemy of false gods. To ancient Israel they looked like the faces of Baal or Astarte, gods and goddesses of fertility or like the faces of Bel and Marduk, the gods of Babylon who had conquered Jerusalem.
But the enemy has a different face today for it is telling its story in a new way. The new story is “your god is OK. My god is OK. Everyone’s god is OK as long as we believe. Right?”
And this is where we must humbly say, “No. Not right.”
We live in a country where 94% of the people claim to believe in God. Big deal! In Paul’s world, I would guess that 99.9999% of the people believed in God. An atheist was a rare commodity. The problem was that they believed in the wrong God, and the problem for us is that when people say they believe in God, they don’t have a clue what they mean about “God,” or, they have another version of God in their mind. This is why our message must include “the Gospel of God” – an explanation of who he is, his nature, his creative purposes, and his promises to restore the world to himself. When we do not present the Gospel of God to people, we may not be giving the proper theological context, worldview perspective, or narrative background for our presentation of the Gospel of Christ.
Today, the promotion of Generic Theism is in full swing. We hear of:
- The higher power of Alcoholics Anonymous
- The intelligent designer of academic debates
- The human-evolved-into-the-Father god of Mormonism
- The Great Mind or Soul of Hinduism
- The pantheistic god of new age spirituality
My guess is that these beliefs substantially pad the 94% of survey results. We no longer have the luxury of assuming that “God” means the God of the Bible to everyone. We certainly would not assume that in India. We should no longer assume it in the West. And for this reason, when we present the Gospel, we may first need to present the Gospel of God – the good news of who God is, what he is like, what he has done, and his call for absolute allegiance and solitary worship.
Would you like to learn more about the Gospel of God and changing the stories people believe about God, about the world, and about themselves? We hope you will get a copy of this important book, study it thoroughly and equip yourself to share the Gospel with clarity and conviction to the confused. Order here.
One year ago I revealed to friends something God put on my heart. I had kept it secret for months. I had not told a soul for fear that people might laugh at me or think I was arrogant. I believed God wanted to turn our radio program, Stories of the Master, into a dramatic television series.
When I finally shared this – no one laughed. And no one thought I was arrogant. Instead, they joined me in prayer for the impossible. It was impossible because I had no resources or contacts in the television industry.Yet, a few days later my wife and I connected with secular television executives who are believers and who became very interested in exactly what I was praying – turning Stories of the Master into a television show! They actually walked up to us and started talking to us! God brought them to us!
Now, one year later, my son Nate and I will meet again in Nashville, TN on February 23 with Peter Lamberti and Myron Nash of the award winning Lion Mountain Media to shape plans for a 2-season, 26-episode television series where we will tell the story of Jesus to the world. Our prayer is to present the biblical, kingdom-of-God, Jesus in four ways:
Dramatically – Accurately – Thoroughly – Excellently
God has powerfully answered these prayers for his glory to bring us to this point. Now, please join us in prayer February 23 and beyond as we shape Stories of the Master into a television show that will reach the world with the Gospel.
One or One Million – Both are a Privilege!