Discipling World Christians

One of my key discipleship principles is based on Tom Steller’s quote: “Not every Christian is called to be a missionary, but every follower of Christ is called to be a World Christian.” As followers of Jesus, we are called to make disciples, and Scripture supports the view that every true disciple of Christ is a World Christian. Jesus cared about the entire world; therefore, so should we, as we follow his example. He called us to love our neighbors and go to all the nations. 

So, what is a World Christian? A World Christian knows God’s Word, loves God’s world, and participates in God’s work. To know God’s Word as a World Christian means understanding the grand narrative of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. In Eternity In Their Hearts, Don Richardson refers to the 4,000-year-old Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 12:1-3) as the “backbone of the Bible – the spinal column of special revelation.” One realizes that the command to proclaim the good news is not found solely in Acts. Rather, the theme of making God’s name known among all nations is found throughout Scripture – to reference only a few: Psalm 67, Isaiah 56:7, Habakkuk 2:14, Malachi 1:11, Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 1:8, and Revelation 7:9. 

To love God’s world, a World Christian needs to know the state of the world. To truly see the 8 billion people that cover the globe, one must understand that while the planet is home to about 200 countries (nation-states), the word nation in Scripture is translated from the Greek phrase, panta ta ethne, meaning “people groups.” Of the approximate 12,000 people groups around the world, about 7,000 of them are unreached people groups (UPG), which by definition is a people group that is less than 2% evangelical Christian and needs outside help to share the gospel. The vast majority of UPG’s live in the 10/40 Window, which is an imaginary window from 10 degrees north of the equator to 40 degrees north of the equator, stretching across Africa and Asia. In contrast to Christianity, UPG’s operate from a different worldview, or worship-view. Their religious affiliation can easily be remembered by the T.H.U.M.B. acrostic – Tribal, Hindu, Unreligious (or Chinese), Muslim, and Buddhist. 

To participate in God’s work, one must be a player, a payer, or a pray-er. With the same idea in mind, John Piper says every Christian is a go-er, a sender, or disobedient. In this context, we are referring to missionaries as players and go-ers, but as already mentioned, although not every Christian should be a missionary, or a sent-one, every disciple of Christ should be a World Christian who participates in God’s work of kingdom advance. Therefore, I always tell God’s people, “If you cannot fly to the nations overseas as a go-er, then you can SWIM to them.” 

  • Sender – a giver, or payer, who funds God’s global work
  • Welcomer – a host who loves their international neighbors, including refugees
  • Intercessor – a warrior, or pray-er, who fights the hardest battles on one’s knees
  • Mobilizer – a champion who waves the banner to promote world evangelism

World Christians know God’s Word, love God’s world, and participate in God’s work by being a go-er, sender, welcomer, intercessor, or mobilizer. And just like disciples who make disciples, World Christians develop other World Christians. What would the world look like if most church members were discipled into World Christians? I imagine the earth would look a lot more like heaven. May His kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:10)

Kristen K. White, PhD