Excerpt from David Putman’s newest eBook
I was in a remote location deep in Central Africa. On a previous trip, the children who were plagued with sickness and disease struck me. We hadn’t been there long when I noticed it. We were conducting a Bible School under a large Baobab tree that shielded us from the African heat. Most, if not all, of the children had what appear to be upper respiratory issues. Their breathing was labored, their eyes were bloodshot, and their noses were crusty with mucus.
On the way back to our camp that evening, I noticed a group of kids gathering water from one of their favorite waterholes. The animals were drinking and defecating from that same waterhole. No wonder they were sick. Like so many parts of Africa, they had a water problem. I knew then that we would have to return.
On our return trip, we were completing a water project that would potentially address the sickness we first saw in the children, and transform the entire area that consisted of three villages. It was our last day, and it was now time to dedicate the Well. People came out in droves. The village Chief joined me on the hillside as we celebrated our new friendship and the potential for a new and healthier future. I asked for permission to share with the people. Chief Waya graciously granted.
I spoke from the passage found in John 4 on living water. I contrasted the benefits of water with the gospel. Giving my best Billy Graham invitation, I invited the village people to drink from His Living Water, and then I waited. Nothing happened. No one responded.
I walked off the mound of dirt perplexed. What had happened? I had spoken on other occasions in various parts of Africa, and dozens, if not hundreds, always eagerly embraced the message of the gospel.
As I stood there praying, asking the Lord what had happened, the Chief sent for me. He and the elders were requesting a private meeting. I made my way back to them, unsure of what to expect.
That's when, through my interpreter, the Chief said, "The words of Jesus have strangely warmed our hearts. We want to know more." I shared the gospel the best I knew how. God did the rest. Their hearts did open, and they received Him. That day they began to drink from the Well that never runs dry.
As we prayed together, our driver came to let me know our flight back to the USA would be leaving shortly. It was time to go. With so much to tell them, this caught me off guard. We had worked all week for this moment. The Chief and his elders had just embraced the gospel, yet they knew so little about it. There was so much I wanted them to know.
I didn't know what to do or say. I looked at my interpreter and said, "When we get to the city, we will buy Bibles, and when you go back to the village, start with the Sermon on the Mount and teach them more about Jesus and His ways." And with that, I was gone. I never even took into consideration that most of the village, including the Chief, were illiterate.
Since that encounter in central Africa, I've asked myself a question. If I only had one hour to disciple someone, what would I want him or her to know? After spending many days, and now even years, reflecting on this question, here’s what I would like for them to understand. I would want them to be able to answer three questions. I believe these questions form a foundation for everything they need to know to begin the journey as a Christ-follower. They are:
1. What is the gospel?
2. What is a disciple?
3. What is the church?
These three questions, answered in this specific order, form the bases of a gospel-centered worldview they would need to navigate their new world. It is also the same three questions we need to navigate our new world. Jesus refers to this new world over and over again as the Kingdom of God.
When we change the order in which we ask these questions, it always distorts our view. The gospel is our foundation, and we must begin with a good foundation. Our mission of making disciples follows this foundation, and when we make gospel disciples, healthy churches are formed around those disciples. One question builds upon the other. In practice, we plant the gospel, make disciples, and form new churches or communities around those disciples. As you work your way through these three questions, remember this order matters.
Welcome to the journey of rediscovering the simplicity of Jesus and His ways!
David Putman is the founder of Planting the Gospel and a Senior Lead Navigator with Auxano the category leader in vision clarity. When David isn't writing or consulting he enjoys staying fit and competing at Crossfit.