Introduction: From One Egg to Another
This Book Can Help Us Hatch!
It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you can not go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. You must be hatched or go bad.
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (p. 169)
Lewis is right. Hatch we must! The question is how? One answer is given in this book: get out of our shells and move forward with God’s Son into the “gap.” In a sense, world Christians are eggs who have hatched like that. I think Lewis would be satisfied.
To say that In the Gap hatches eggs is not subtle hype, because its impact is related not to its “literary genius” but to its focus. In the Gap takes basic biblical principles and gives them a contemporary context. Then it helps us lay foundations, both individual and corporate, that insure exciting experiences with Christ in His global cause.
Who wouldn’t like to end each day, putting our heads on our pillows confidently, saying: “I know this day my life has counted strategically for Christ’s global cause, especially for those currently beyond the reach of the gospel.” Wouldn’t you? That’s really getting hatched, isn’t it? Well, the bottom line impact of principles found in this book has potential for doing just that.
“Don’t I know you from somewhere?” interrupted an unfamiliar voice in the United Airline’s lounge. I stared back at a willowy‐framed, blond‐haired youth. “I remember now,” he continued. “You’re David Bryant, right?” (Believe me, I never get asked that in airport terminals.)
“How do you know me?” I responded in surprise, feeling rather uncomfortable with my newfound popularity.
John introduced me to his parents, standing at each elbow, and then preceded: “I recognized your picture from the back of In the Gap. I read it four years ago, and as a direct result I have driven up from Indiana to Chicago today so that I could catch a plane to Peru. I’m leaving in the next hour to begin my first four years in mission work. And here you are! This is no coincidence.”
I was sure it wasn’t, too. Standing there I felt warm all over. Here was another hatched egg, just like me.
And yet, he was “going” and I was “staying.” How could the author of the book that set him toward the plane justify returning to a home in Madison, Wisconsin (not usually considered a mission field, in the technical sense)?
Simple. The issue is hatching eggs, not recruiting missionaries. Hatched eggs aren’t measured by whether they “go” or “stay,” but whether they live for Christ’s Kingdom in such a way that they end each day saying: “I know this day my life has counted strategically for Christ’s global cause, especially for those currently beyond the reach of the gospel.” They are freed to stand in the gap. They are growing as world Christians.
That’s what life had been for twenty‐six‐year‐old John over the previous four years. That’s what finally got him to the plane.
A Life‐style Priority
World Christians are day‐to‐day disciples for whom Christ and His global cause have become the integrating, overriding priority for all that He is to them, for them, over them, before them, in them, and through them. Like disciples should, they have actively investigated all that their Master’s Great Commission means, and then built a way of life that prepares them for action in it. Some may go, some may send. But all of them count strategically for the cause. And in doing so they have entered a freedom and dimension of life they wouldn’t trade for anything they experienced before.
It’s the life‐style Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians 10:31‐11:1: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God—even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (NIV ).
What does it mean to live for God’s glory? Certainly all of us want to do this. Paul says it means bringing the most practical aspects of our schedule—even eating and drinking—to bear on the advancement of the gospel. We become concerned that Christ’s saving work penetrate not only more deeply into the heart of believers, the Church, but in turn our neighbours and families, so very much like us socially and culturally (like the Jews were for Paul).
But, in addition, we want to walk daily in such a way that how we live constantly contributes to the penetration of the gospel among those who are very different from us (as the Greeks were for a Hebrew like Paul), especially where those differences (cultural, linguistic, social, philosophical, religious, etc.), have effectively cut them off from both God’s message and His messenger.
To live like this, is to be a world Christian. It is also to imitate the apostolic life‐style of Paul (though not necessarily his vocation). And this hatches us into imitators of Christ Himself. That’s living strategically for His global cause if anything is!
A Biblical Approach
Without the Bible world evangelization is impossible. For without the Bible we have no gospel to take to the nations, no warrant to take it to them, no idea of how to set about the task, and no hope of any success. It is the Bible that gives us the mandate, the message, the model, and the power we need for world evangelization.1
Some passages aren’t as concise on this as, for example, Acts 1:8. But key themes relating to that promise are found just about anywhere you open your Bible. Scores of words like “the nations,” “the peoples,” “sojourners,” or “the ends of the earth” can turn hundreds of passages into valuable commentaries on the world mission of the Church. Highlighting passages that record God’s interest in, plans for, and actions toward the nations convinced me that nearly half of my Bible addresses these issues.
For example, did you know the Great Commission is first issued in Genesis 1:26‐28? Essentially, God’s assignment to Adam and Eve to populate the earth with covenant‐keepers is captured by Christ’s directive in Matthew 28:18‐20. It’s repeated in many other places, such as God’s promise to bless Abraham so he might be “a blessing to all the families on earth.” The New Testament simply explains the original mandate more fully, colours and expands it, detailing it in the light of Christ’s finished work. Throughout the whole of Scripture this basic commission is issued to every generation, with binding authority.
Or, take Solomon, who “excelled all the kings of earth in riches and wisdom” so that “the whole earth sought the presence of Solomon” (1 Kings 10:23‐24). He became the Old Testament’s high water mark. The prophets borrowed from his ideal reign to paint pictures of all God would yet do with Israel. In New Testament times one “greater than Solomon” appeared, more gloriously global in scope. The shadows of Israel’s golden age faded before the worldwide reign of the ultimate “Son of David.” Have you ever followed this thread through the Scriptures? Have you discovered its amazing implications for world missions today, and for your life right now?
The New Testament believers certainly did. They applied all of Scripture to their growing vision of the breadth of Christ’s reign and His wider mission. For them, the ancient biblical records assumed global dynamics. Raised, ascended, and present by His Spirit with power, Christ opened up the whole world to them. He showed them His worldwide purpose in a way Abraham or Samuel or Amos never saw it. They awoke to tremendous possibilities through Christ for completing the grand design. Their vision stretched beyond their own kind, Israel, to a world full of people without Christ. They thrilled at their world‐sized part in God’s mission because of all Christ would do through them.
Becoming a world Christian insures consistency with commitments Scripture has already led us to make. Our mission strategies can be justified only as they move us toward a more thorough biblical life‐style. But when this happens, we become “hatched” people!
After all, two things last forever: the Word of God and people. Our calling is to get God’s Word about God’s Son into people. That is precisely what the world mission of the Church is all about: getting God’s Word about God’s Son into people of every tongue, tribe, nation. Through it God will erect a permanent temple out of living stones—biblical disciples—excavated from thousands of languages and culture groups among Hindus, Muslims, Chinese, Buddhists, Animists and other major blocks of the human race where that Word has not yet penetrated.
Christ Is Supreme as Lord of the Nations
You’ll soon discover that In the Gap knits Christ’s saving work in our own lives to His mission among the nations. He is presented as supreme in at least two dimensions: Lord of our lives through His Word; also, Lord of our lives through His cause. Our commitment is, first of all, not to a task but to the Task Master. It’s impossible, however, to belong to one and not the other, to love Christ and not obey His commission.
Actually, His mission to the world is the prelude and prototype of our own. The same redemptive drama we find in the Gospels multiplies and intensifies at a world level through the Church, which is His body; and we are members of His Body. So, the more we know of the cause of Christ the more we know of Him. And, conversely, the more we learn of Him the more we’ll be led directly into a mission like His for the whole earth.
Simply put, our union with Christ makes us fit for the mission of God, and His union with us makes us fit into the mission of God. We can’t have one without the other. In the Gap keeps Christ the focus of our lives by magnifying His supremacy by His Word and by His cause.
Taking Missions Seriously
In one sense In the Gap is not just about “world missions”. It’s about something much larger: Christ’s global cause. Missions is only part of that wider movement, although a very critical part.
I define “missions” as “the intentional, sacrificial penetration of major human barriers by a global Church through specially sent cross‐cultural messengers of the gospel, in order to plant communities of responsible disciples of Jesus Christ among groups of people where none have existed before.” But you’ll soon discover, “missions” is just one dimension of God’s worldwide purpose which is one of four major strokes in the overall picture which I call “Christ’s global cause.”
However, In the Gap emphasizes the world missions movement over other parts of the larger picture because for one thing, missions is an aspect of the cause most often neglected or misunderstood by the Church at large. And yet missionary outreach is so pivotal to the future of the larger Cause. Of course, every world Christian will be concerned with issues like world hunger, economic exploitation, political repressions, nuclear proliferation, terrorism, and more. That’s why I place Christ’s global cause, and not just the missionary enterprise, as an overriding factor for our life in Christ. But, our missions involvement remains key. Most other needs of the world can be more effectively met once responsible communities of disciples develop within cultural and geographical reach of everyone on the face of the earth.
You see, God isn’t taking a worldwide opinion poll on who wants to become a Christian. He’s at work creating communities of sons and daughters within every cultural womb of earth to populate His Kingdom and love Him forever. World evangelization creates possibilities for God’s Kingdom to break through in places where it has not yet come. It is sowing the gospel through new congregations of believers who grow into redemptive forces. In turn, they will overthrow the status quo of the world system and transform the human condition within their own situation.
In the second century, a world Christian named Justin Martyr recorded of the Roman world: “For there is not one single race of men, whether barbarians, or Greeks, or whatever they may be called, nomads, or vagrants, or herdsmen dwelling in tents, among whom prayers and giving of thanks are not offered through the name of the Crucified Jesus” (Dialogue with Tryphomus). Seeing this drama realized on a grander scale throughout all nations in all parts of the earth is a driving dream for world Christians today. And, the more we’re pro‐missions in our dreams, the freer will be our involvement in all aspects of Christ’s global cause.
Larger Dimensions in Practical Discipleship
Every missionary extension needs behind it a missionary movement of similar vision, commitment, and sacrifice. The early Church’s apostolic bands usually surfaced wherever there were missions‐minded congregations to launch them. Faithfully engaged in a global cause, local bodies teamed up to do the most strategic thing they could find to do as senders and penetrators of unreached peoples. Spiritual growth was linked to serving an expanding mission for their generation. Ultimately theirs was discipleship that put no limits on how far God would go with them or whom He would touch through them.
More than ever we need, in the words of Carl F.H. Henry, “creative disciples who know the world outside and Christ inside and who can bring them together in an authentically Biblical, intellectually compelling and spiritually powerful way.” That means discipleship without limits. That means our disciple‐making programs must be adjusted so that maximum finding of lost people occurs through each disciple who emerges.
The tragedy is that few trained Christians have been discipled with vision and strategy for reaching to the ends of the earth. How many of us are able to come to the end of each day and say: “I know this day my life has counted strategically for Christ and His global cause, especially for those currently beyond the reach of the gospel”?
Now, admittedly, the primary thrust I suggest for discipleship entails only three major concerns: learning about, telling others about, and getting involved with those currently beyond the reach of the gospel. This is not to suggest that world Christians avoid other issues within the Church or society that affect God’s purposes for the whole earth. But for someone, somewhere, discipleship must lead into primary concern for those totally cut off from God’s good news. If not you and me, who?
One of the book’s primary objectives is to help each of us develop a personal strategy that involves us in a daily discipline of (initially) only fifteen minutes a day. I often call this the “5‐4‐3‐2‐1 Plan.” It goes something like this:
Build Your World Vision
5) Spend five minutes some time each day in personal devotions discovering something of what Scripture teaches about Christ’s global cause.
4) Spend an additional four minutes reading current world‐related literature, such as a magazine article.
Reach Out to the World in Love
3) Every day take three minutes to carry out a mission to the world through intercessory prayer, using what God gave you in the previous nine minutes of building your vision.
Give Your World Vision to Others
2) Sometime each day in personal conversation with another Christian (such as your family at evening meal, or in a Bible study group, or in a letter) share for two minutes what God has given you in the previous twelve minutes of building your vision and reaching out in prayer.
Invite Christ to Enable You
1) Finally, before retiring at night give to the Lord Jesus one more minute of complete quiet when He can speak to you about who you’re becoming as a World Christian, based on the other aspects of your daily discipline.
Fifteen minutes a day. Anyone can do it! Is it a significant discipleship approach? Consider this: It means you average ninety hours a year! All other things being equal, what kind of increased impact will your life have on Christ’s global cause a year from now as a result of those additional ninety hours of world Christian discipleship?
Clearly, the closing years of the twentieth century demand a new dimension for Jesus’ followers. I’ve met so many evangelicals who are over‐trained but under‐employed and bored. In light of the tremendous needs, and since world Christians discover exciting adventures in life that won’t quit, we must move into discipleship without limits. To return to C.S. Lewis, the world Christian lifestyle allows us to hatch and fly before we (and the world) go bad. And that’s good. That’s essential.
The Author Is Learning to Hatch
This book surfaced (in 1979) out of almost twenty years of my own pilgrimage as a world Christian. It represents my attempts to understand where God has brought me in this adventure. Both for me and many I’ve met heading down the same road, it’s just the beginning.
It strikes me that my Christian metamorphosis has spiralled through three major cycles. The first six years I concentrated primarily on knowing Christ and His Word. Most of it was spent in college and seminary. The second six were my time for understanding the importance and potential of the Body of Christ, as I pastored in a church in Ohio. These past years have focused more on the work of Christ in the world. Beginning with studies at Fuller School of World Mission, I’ve gone on to serve as a missions specialist with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. Notice, if you will, that my three cycles form what some call the Christian’s “three priorities.” But it was only as I entered the third cycle that I “hatched” enough to soar into a world‐sized vision for my life, and for Christ and His Church.
My experience is probably not much different from yours. Every Christian experiences a three‐ part conversion: (1) a conversion out of the world to Christ; (2) a conversion out of ourselves into the Body of Christ; all tied into (3) a conversion with Christ and others back into the world. Unfortunately, my conversion with Christ back into the world—the third cycle—came long after the other two. If I had known at the beginning what I know now, how much more fruitful my life could have been. (I’ve detailed this painful but welcomed process in chapter 7.)
The point is, the process is finally coming full circle for me. I’m still neither a missionary nor the son of a missionary. I’m just a day‐to‐day disciple, like you, called into God’s plan for the nations, to establish Christ’s pre‐eminence among all peoples. My motivation for this is the same as yours: the Lordship of Christ; the reality of God’s yearning grace for a lost humanity; the right of everyone to know of Christ and have opportunity to come to Him; a biblical vision of Christ’s redemptive glory covering the earth as the waters cover the sea and the promise of God to bless me so that I become like Abraham, a blessing to the families of earth.
The questions I’ve wrestled with in writing this book aren’t peculiarly mine. I’ve met hundreds longing with me to dig for the answers. Maybe you’re one of them. For example, have you wondered:
- What is the scope and content of God’s purpose in Christ for history and the nations?
- How extensive should be the impact of that purpose as it moves forward?
- Why is the fulfilment of His purpose in Christ so essential?
- How has it progressed so far? How did progress happen?
- Where are we in that purpose right now?
- What is left to do?
- How will it get done?
- Who will be most affected?
- Where can I fit in most strategically as I follow His Son with all my heart?
- Of all earth’s Unreached, who are the people God wants me to give my life for?
- Of all the Christians, who are the people God wants me to give my life with, as I reach out?
- What kind of person does God want me to be as I give my life for others?
In the Gap shows you how I faced such issues and reoriented my life accordingly. Prayerfully, it will help meet a growing demand of other world Christians across the nation to understand what’s happening to them, where to go with it, and how to share it with others.
A Prayer for Those Ready to Hatch
Let me conclude this introduction “from one egg to another” with a prayer that fits the ideas and opportunities this book offers. It’s a prayer of thanksgiving, of praise, and, most of all, of desire—desire to become a world Christian, to move with Christ in love and faith, to serve His redemptive purposes in this generation—to the very ends of the earth. It’s a prayer for those who want to hatch.
Update Note: To explore how my thinking has expanded the past thirty years – in terms of how I see Christ, His global cause, the hope He sets before the nations, what it means to be a World Christian in today’s world, how to mobilize a renewed missions movement – be sure to look at my most recent book (by visiting www.ProclaimHope.com): CHRIST IS ALL! A Joyful Manifesto On The Supremacy of God’s Son (New Providence Publishers).
1 John R.W. Stott, “The Bible in World Evangelization,” Christianity Today, February 1981.