Cost of Discipleship

Stories from Frontiers field workers

“Sometimes we wonder if it’s worth it.”

Roger spoke softly as he fought off tears.

We who consider Jesus worthy of following eventually face the cost of discipleship. Obedience to the call demands perseverance and patience from us.

Every day, Frontiers workers testify to Jesus’ worth as they persevere in the countries God has called them to. It comes at great personal cost. But eclipsing this cost is the joy of serving our loving Father who uses us to make Him known among those who have not yet heard the Good News.

The following paragraphs offer glimpses into the lives of Frontiers workers—many of whom serve in some of the hardest places in the world—who are living witnesses that Jesus is worthy of following.

Roger and Elizabeth’s Story

Roger and his family are Frontiers workers who live in a conservative and politically unstable Muslim nation. For almost a decade, they have been trying to reach one of several unengaged Muslim people groups in the country, pouring themselves into the task of finding those whose hearts are primed for the Gospel.

Life in this country demands extraordinary tenacity and endurance. Roger’s family has endured scorching summers and harsh winters, threats on their lives, political unrest, and the near constant fear of civil conflict. It is a place where even the strongest of character, emotional stability, and faith gets severely tested.

“We have seen other people who have had to leave because of security, stress, or attacks on their lives,” Roger’s wife Elizabeth said. “We have had enough of our own security incidences to be pretty amazed that we are still able to live here. It’s a privilege to be able to stay in spite of all of this.”

“All the workers here have all had to deal with some sort of trauma,” Roger admitted. “We are all tired.”

Their endurance has yet to pay off with much visible fruit. They have only seen a handful of people show interest in the Gospel.

"It would be so easy to pack up and leave at any moment."

But what keeps Roger and Elizabeth going is their deep sense of expectancy for God to do great things among the people they are reaching. “They are desperate and afraid because of the chronic instability in the country,” Roger explains. “There’s a lot of questioning of society and religion going on. That creates opportunities for us to share truths from God’s Word.”

Amid the degradation of security, many locals are seeking ways to leave the country. “That means that they are even more intrigued by our presence,” says Elizabeth. “They look at us and ask, ‘What in the world are you doing here? Why are you here, when we are all trying to leave? It would be so easy for you to pack up and leave at any moment.’”

Roger and Elizabeth sense that these questions are rooted in deep cultural shifts that, if they continue to develop, have the potential to result in a great spiritual earthquake. This gives them real hope for the spiritual breakthrough they have been praying for. When that breakthrough comes through, they want to be there to help bring in the harvest.

Roger and Elizabeth tell their local friends, “We don’t believe that God wants one place in the world to be peaceful and another place to be constantly at war.” They are quick to share that they have great hope for the healing of the nation—healing which comes through Jesus, who is Good News for the poor and brokenhearted.

“It would be easy for us to give up. But among the three million people we are trying to reach, we are the only ones who speak their language and who are trying to bring the hope of the Gospel to them.”

John’s Story

Much of John’s adult life has been spent reaching unengaged Muslims in Africa.

“When I first went to Africa,” John says, “I was clueless about the spiritual wrestling I’d have to engage in.”

John and his family’s journey has involved living in 6 countries and 12 international moves over the past 4 years. Each move has come about due to circumstances largely outside of their control—from war to government expulsions to illness.

“You go to the field,” John explains, “and everything seems to go wrong. Everything unexpected happens.”

“You set up a business, and then,” John sweeps an outstretched arm in front of him, loudly and theatrically obliterating the structures of an imaginary business. “Then, the government regulations change. Then, the president gets ousted.” Another sweep of his arm eliminates political stability. “Then, a worker gets arrested. Then, we all get kicked out. Then, you move to a neighboring country and there is war.” With each event, he sweeps aside illusions of control, stability, and good planning—all of it annihilated in a moment.

John pauses, catching his breath.

“But then,” he quietly resumes, “somewhere, fit into all the crevices of these traumas, there are the good things—like my friend Ali, a Muslim-background follower of Jesus whom I disciple. He planted five house churches and personally saw 40 people come to faith—which eventually turned into 100 new believers—while I was away helping my family go through one of our transitions. Somehow, God is superintending His purposes into all of our trials and wrestling.”

Paul's Story

Paul and his family moved to Iraq after the fall of Saddam in 2003.

“As followers of Christ, we have all of eternity to enjoy security and stability,” Paul observes. “By God’s grace, we should be able to endure instability for a few decades.”

Reflecting on this tumultuous post-Saddam era, Paul states, “It is an unstable and poorly governed country. Welcome to the world! But what we have received is an unshakable Kingdom. Jesus has made us holy and righteous. That means we can live fully in this world, demonstrating the power of God’s Kingdom. Our security is promised to us in eternity.”

Amy and Joe’s Story

“God gives us grace just when we need it,” said Amy, a Frontiers worker and mother of three young children.

After a few years of living in the country God had called them to, Amy, her husband Joe, and their children were forced to leave due to the increasing threat of conflict.

They considered a return to America. Instead, they followed the trail of people in their host country who fled as refugees and asylum-seekers in a neighboring country.

“Before the exodus, our relationship with locals was from a platform of power as their benefactors; now we are their peers.” Like their refugee friends, Joe and Amy have lost jobs, home, and security in fleeing their host country. These are losses that they grieve in the good company of their friends.

The notable difference in their grief, however, is their hope in the new heavens. Joe and Amy share the good news that, in Jesus Christ, “we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.” (Hebrews 13:14)

“We know that we have eternity to rest in comfort and safety. As followers of Jesus, we are to move toward those who are suffering … and that communicates the Gospel.”

Moving toward those who are suffering on this side of heaven comes at a cost. For Amy and her family, it has brought about personal suffering: distance from the social support of family, church, and friends; the stress of moving a young family through transitions outside of their control; and the lack of comforts and diversions.

The great joy for Joe and Amy and their children is discovering how God comes through in their times of need.

“I have found that God gives grace for whatever hardship I am facing,” Amy says. “He promises to give His grace so that I can endure. But He often gives it just when I need it—not before.”

"God superintends His purposes into all of our trials and wrestling."

Every Frontiers worker wrestles with this challenging reality as they face the cost of being Jesus’ disciple among Muslims.

It is a reality that every disciple of Jesus must wrestle with. Is the cost of following the Suffering Servant worth it?

We affirm that, yes, Jesus is worthy of following. With Paul, we “count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord … in order that I may gain Christ.” (Philippians 3:8)

Jesus is so worth following that we endure loss in order to make Him known, swinging wide the gates of the Kingdom so that all who call upon His name may enter in. We “do it all for the sake of the Gospel, that [we] may share [with them] in its blessings” (1 Corinthians 9:23).

These accounts come from long-term workers. Names have been changed for security.

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