UNREACHED

Sweeping The Porch in Uzbekistan with Pastor Brad Thomas

June 12, 2024 UNREACHED Season 2 Episode 12
Sweeping The Porch in Uzbekistan with Pastor Brad Thomas
UNREACHED
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UNREACHED
Sweeping The Porch in Uzbekistan with Pastor Brad Thomas
Jun 12, 2024 Season 2 Episode 12
UNREACHED

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Can deep, personal discipleship transform your spiritual journey? Brad Thomas, Pastor of Austin Ridge Bible Church, certainly believes so. Join us as we explore Brad's inspiring 18-month discipleship curriculum designed for small groups. Brad shares the significance of vulnerability, authentic connections, and living transparently in front of others. Discover how these principles, influenced by Howard Hendricks, have shaped the church's approach to fostering spiritual growth and meaningful relationships.

Understanding Scripture and forming deep relationships within a community can have a profound impact on your life decisions and spiritual growth. We dive into Tim Keller's "Prodigal God" and the teachings of 2 Timothy 2:2 to highlight the transformative power of discipleship. Through communal Bible study and scripture memory, we emphasize moving beyond Bible ignorance and bringing the Great Commission to life. Experience the joy of sharing faith and the ripple effect it creates, leading to lasting spiritual legacies and stronger communities.

From Saul's preparation in Tarsus to sharing the gospel in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, this episode takes you on a journey of church planting, missions, and prayer. Understand how even one believer can signify a church's presence in a city. Hear powerful stories of spreading the gospel and the impact of missions in various parts of the world. We conclude with a heartfelt prayer, seeking divine intervention and encouraging listeners to embrace their role in God's mission. Dive into this episode for an enriching conversation that will inspire and challenge your spiritual walk.

Follow @unreachedpodcast on Instagram for more!

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Send us a Text Message.

Can deep, personal discipleship transform your spiritual journey? Brad Thomas, Pastor of Austin Ridge Bible Church, certainly believes so. Join us as we explore Brad's inspiring 18-month discipleship curriculum designed for small groups. Brad shares the significance of vulnerability, authentic connections, and living transparently in front of others. Discover how these principles, influenced by Howard Hendricks, have shaped the church's approach to fostering spiritual growth and meaningful relationships.

Understanding Scripture and forming deep relationships within a community can have a profound impact on your life decisions and spiritual growth. We dive into Tim Keller's "Prodigal God" and the teachings of 2 Timothy 2:2 to highlight the transformative power of discipleship. Through communal Bible study and scripture memory, we emphasize moving beyond Bible ignorance and bringing the Great Commission to life. Experience the joy of sharing faith and the ripple effect it creates, leading to lasting spiritual legacies and stronger communities.

From Saul's preparation in Tarsus to sharing the gospel in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, this episode takes you on a journey of church planting, missions, and prayer. Understand how even one believer can signify a church's presence in a city. Hear powerful stories of spreading the gospel and the impact of missions in various parts of the world. We conclude with a heartfelt prayer, seeking divine intervention and encouraging listeners to embrace their role in God's mission. Dive into this episode for an enriching conversation that will inspire and challenge your spiritual walk.

Follow @unreachedpodcast on Instagram for more!

Dustin Elliot:

In Revelation 7, john shares his vision of heaven with members from every tribe, tongue, people and language standing in the throne room before the Lamb. Yet today there are still over 7,000 unreached people groups around the world. For the last six years my family and friends have been on a journey to find, vet and fund the task remaining. Come journey with us to the ends of the earth as we share the supernatural stories of God at work for the men and women he has called to reach the unreached. Hello friends, dustin Elliott, here your host. 21, 22 episodes into this.

Dustin Elliot:

We're kind of through the meat of the second season and we've probably got the most special guest on the planet for me, the man that really grabbed a hold of me in my early 30s and discipled me and took me down a path of really getting to know God, getting to know God's will, getting to know God's word, getting to know God's word, getting to understand how I fit in this beautiful big-picture narrative, what I've been given, my gifts, my time, talent and treasure, and how to harness those and leverage those and use those for the nations. Today we have pastor of Austin Ridge Bible Church, mr Brad Thomas. Great to be here with you guys. We're so happy to have you. God's done so much through Brad through the years.

Dustin Elliot:

I know 2017-18 is when Brad took me through a discipleship group 18 months long, six or eight guys. You do this kind of every year to two years you get a new recruiting class of guys and you've got a curriculum. And let's just start there. Let's talk about discipleship and just the heart of discipleship and how that plays a role in all this.

Brad Thomas:

Absolutely. One of my heroes of the faith is a man named Howard Hendricks. He's a professor at Dallas Seminary and he used to say this. He said you inspire people from a stage, you impact them up close. And that hit me so hard because here I was wanting to preach in front of a lot of people and then I had to realize Jesus came and started a small group. That's right, three-year ministry, small group, 12 guys, and it changed the world.

Brad Thomas:

And so that's when I started trying to figure out how can I impact men one-on-one. And I started by a question. My question was what is the excuse that men give not to make disciples? And I thought of two things. I don't know enough. I don't know what to do. So I set out, dustin, that curriculum I took you through and some guys to develop some material that not just would be teachable but it would be reproducible in other men's lives. And so since I was discipled by a man my senior year in college, I have determined and set aside in my life that the main importance of my life is to always have a group of guys that I am pouring my life into, because that's what the gospel does.

Dustin Elliot:

I love that In Matthew 28,. It doesn't say just go evangelize to the nations, just go tell them the good news. It says to make disciples of all nations, and so you live that out. And then our church has really embraced that concept. You've been here for almost 20 years, 20 years. This week Is it really? Oh, let's go. We better figure out a way to celebrate. Discipleship. Ministry is at the absolute heart and core of our church. In fact, we have a discipleship pastor. We have a notebook that men or women can get. You can go through a group and then it's the way you would say it. It's just some train tracks, right? It alleviates that. I don't know what to do. It's like no, no, no. Here. Here's a schedule, here's a syllabus, here's the materials. All you got to do is get some guys and have a consistent gathering.

Brad Thomas:

Just show up and go through the material, tell us about the material that you've kind of curated over the years. Yeah, so someone discipled me back in college and I didn't even know what that word means. What does it mean to disciple someone? It feels heavy, it feels mentor, it feels you know. Our culture uses life coach. What does it mean? And all it means is to live your life in front of someone else so they can see Jesus in a fresh way. And I've often thought that discipleship is mainly asking good questions. You take a guy to lunch and you ask questions like hey, man, how you doing? That usually doesn't get a response from a guy. Then you ask how's your marriage going? Then you ask what's something you're struggling with right now, what's something I can lift you up and encourage you with today? And you just you talk about things other than stocks and weather and work. You just talk about issues that actually matter. It's wanting to be known and it's also knowing that you know some other people really well, and that's what discipleship is.

Dustin Elliot:

And so you talked about doing that at lunch okay, which I can appreciate, how that is kind of maybe the onboard ramp to a BTD group, okay. But what I think is different is when you are in a group with six or eight guys and you ask a hard question to a guy in the group and there is a trust tree in that room that you know I can be vulnerable, and one guy takes that first step forward into vulnerable space and says I'm struggling with lust, I'm struggling with alcohol, I'm struggling with an addiction, I'm struggling with whatever the case is. As soon as that happens right in that 1 Corinthians 10, 13, that temptation that I face is no different starts to hit that room. Everything changes yeah.

Brad Thomas:

I firmly believe that a definition of a leader is someone who leads, and what I mean by that is I've got to be the first guy to open Pandora's box. If I'm not going to share, why should I expect anyone else around the table to share? And so I don't start the first week by opening up my heart about everything. It would freak guys out. They wouldn't come back. So we actually build in our curriculum, our content. We spend several weeks together before we start talking about real intimate things. So by the time we get to it we feel like we know each other and we feel like we can be intimate with each other. But it always starts with the leader, and so we we get to know each other. We share lifelines.

Dustin Elliot:

Lifelines. Yeah, that's the first exercise. So for the first six or eight weeks every guy gets uh, he gets the mic for 20 or 30 minutes. Highlights and lowlights of your life, five or 10.

Brad Thomas:

And I start as a leader. I do the tool first. So I did my lifeline first and all a lifeline is I was born here, raised here, went to school here, got married here, got a kid here. You're just telling the events of your life and it's not threatening, it's not too personal, it's not intimate, because we're not trying to freak guys out on the front end. Everyone shares their lifeline.

Brad Thomas:

And then when I've heard six or eight lifelines, then I start the lunches and I take a guy to lunch and I say, hey, I noticed on your lifeline that your mom left your dad when you were 11. Unpack that for me. What were you sixth grade? Tell me about that. What impact did that have? And then all of a sudden the guy will sit there and he'll share for 30 or 40 minutes at lunch and I'm over there eating my quesadilla and he thinks this is the greatest conversation I've ever had and I haven't said anything in 30 or 40 minutes. I've had guys literally at the end of a lunch pouring their heart out saying thank you so much for pouring into me over this lunch and I didn't say much at all.

Dustin Elliot:

All I poured was the queso.

Brad Thomas:

So these tools that we talk about, they're just keyholes. They just open the door, and then the Spirit of God does what the Spirit of God does.

Dustin Elliot:

I'm going to stay on this thread because I want other people that have done groups or are doing groups to hear this. So lifelines are consistent with Scripture. Memory, that's another discipline. I'm going to probably quote you many times, dick, but you once told me the two most important things that I could do was to date my wife. I didn't date her to get her. I got her to date my wife. I didn't. I didn't date her to get her, I got her to date her. That's a Bradliner. And memorize scripture. Yes, so take us through. You say, guys, if you'll do this with me, you'll know 60 or 70 verses at the end of the group and we always start with we start with.

Brad Thomas:

The first verse we start with is first Corinthians 10, 13. No temptation seized you except what is common to man. But God is faithful. He won't let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted he'll provide a way of escape so you can stand up under it. The reason I start with that verse is every guy struggles with some similar things and that verse is applicable to anything a guy will struggle with. Here's what I'm trying to do. I'm trying to trick them long enough and get past their myths that they think they can't do this. So by the end of this time together they have memorized anywhere from 40 to 60 verses. And I tell them if you have 40 or 60 verses memorized, let's say you memorize one verse a week. Let's say you do that for the next 10 years. That's 500 verses. If you have 500 verses in your heart, you know more Bible than most pastors who stand by in pulpits. You cannot not change when you have 500 verses in your heart.

Dustin Elliot:

And.

Brad Thomas:

God's word will change your heart.

Dustin Elliot:

We'll stay on the D group but we'll segue as well. That's maybe a good place to kind of jump in here. Our very first launch episode we had Todd Arendt the mission of God, the mission of the Bible. What does the Bible say? The Great Commission didn't start in Matthew 28. Jesus repeated it. So it goes back to Genesis 12, but really it goes back to in the beginning. So, brad, tell us a little bit from your perspective. How do you start walking through the Bible and understanding kind of how God set this thing up?

Brad Thomas:

Yeah. So with my guys I do what I call a walk through the Bible and I really do Genesis, 3, nehemiah, because that is chronologically the beginning, end of the Old Testament. I find that another excuse we use is we don't know enough Bible and because of our Bible ignorance we make some of the biggest mistakes in our life, some of the biggest struggles we cause in our life. And I think if we just knew our Bibles better, our life would be better. And so I do the walk through the Bible as I do these tools. Now, the other excuse people have is I don't know what to do, meaning I don't know what book to read, I don't know what book to study, I don't know what the curriculum should be. My focus is never curriculum. My focus is relationship. The curriculum comes alive under relationship. Relationship is what opens up content to matter.

Brad Thomas:

And so, as we do the walk through the Bible, we do the scripture memory. So now, all of a sudden, we're several months together. These guys are memorizing scripture, reading their Bibles, they're praying and they're actually sharing their heart with other men. If we stop the group after three months, their life would already be changed, because that is the essence of what the great commission does Baptize them in the name of the father, son and spirit, teaching them all that I command you, and doing it together in community. That's what the great commission is about. It's about bringing more people into the family, the household of God, so they can encounter Jesus, just like we have the first book that we read with you as well was Prodigal God, tim Keller.

Dustin Elliot:

We do a couple of Keller books. We do counterfeit guides as well, but rest in peace, tim Keller. What a great teacher and so much great wisdom he put on paper for us to use. But prodigal God, I mean even for most guys coming into a group and typically these are guys that have had a lot of church in their life, they've heard a lot of sermons but I think when we think of the prodigal son story, we think it's all about the younger brother, right? And then you get into that book and you're like, hold on a second, that's not the main character. Yeah, you realize you're both brothers, right, you are, you are actually both brothers. You're not only the older brother or the younger brother, but you've got some of the same, some of the context of both in your own life, right?

Brad Thomas:

Yeah, and there's no victim in that story. But everyone thinks they're a victim in that story and there's only one hero, and that's the father. That's why that book is so good.

Dustin Elliot:

What is a disciple, though? We said to disciple, but a disciple is.

Brad Thomas:

A disciple is someone who learns and follows and reproduces their life in another person. So someone who's a learner, following Jesus, doing what he tells them to do, and then reproducing that in someone else's life. And again, that's when Christianity gets fun, not when you're sitting in church, not attending church, not listening to a sermon. When Christianity gets fun is you get to do what the big boys in the Bible did. You get to do what Peter and Paul did. You get to share your faith. You get to be an evangelist. You get to reproduce your life. You get to actually have a spiritual impact. That's when this stuff gets real and it's when it gets fun. I believe most people are born in church because they never experienced what we're talking about.

Dustin Elliot:

You're a basketball guy. You played basketball Absolutely. And the basketball, the pick and roll of the church, the unstoppable play of the church, the heart of your discipleship group ministries is 2 Timothy 2.2.

Brad Thomas:

2 Timothy 2.2. Paul says to Timothy, an older man discipling a younger man, the things which you've heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these things, timothy, entrust to other men, faithful men, so they can teach others also. Things, timothy, and trust to other men, faithful men, so they can teach others also. You got four generations of Christians right there Me, you, men, others. When that happens in the church, the church is not a Rotary Club, it's not a community gathering or a junior civetan organization. It is a force that becomes unhinged, separated from the world, empowered divinely by the Lord himself, and is unstoppable. That's what the church becomes.

Dustin Elliot:

And there you go. There's today, there's living proof of it biblically from 2000 years ago. We're living it out today. And what's so cool about a relationship, once you get into one of these kind of trees and you're branching off of the vine, if you will is Brad. I'll see Brad and he'll go tell me about your guys, how are your guys? And then somebody in my group will go run another group and somebody two or three down will run into Brad and go hey, I'm in so-and-so's group and so-and-so was in so-and-so's group and he was in Dustin's group and Dustin was in your group and they're like your great, great, great grandkids.

Brad Thomas:

And what's really cool is here at the Ridge and we've done it, dustin where we're sitting there and we've got the great, great spiritual grandfather, the grandfather, spiritual and the spiritual father of that kid being baptized yeah, because I impacted him, he impacted him and this guy's being baptized because of it.

Dustin Elliot:

It's awesome. Let's talk about that, because it also says in the Great Commission to baptize them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. So, biblically, what is that talking about?

Brad Thomas:

Yeah, baptism is not salvation, it's not conversion. Baptism is an outward symbol of something that's already happened inwardly. Jesus Christ did not need to be baptized to be saved because he was sinless. So that's not about conversion. And babies can't make decisions. Right, they can get wet, they can't make decisions.

Brad Thomas:

Baptism is me going public with my faith. We always say here at the Ridge that your faith is always personal, it's never private, and so one of the greatest ways to take a step of faith publicly is baptism. It's a public proclamation that I'm all in with Jesus and for the rest of my life I'm following him and I want all my friends and family to know that I am going to walk with the Lord. It's drawing a line in the sand Now for us in America. It's not quite the same land as other people in other places, where being baptized means you may die. Being baptized means your family may never speak to you again, but all of it's building up to the same persecution that's going to be worldwide before it's all said and done anyway. So if we can't do that small step publicly, then we're probably not ready to be persecuted.

Dustin Elliot:

There you go, step publicly, then we're probably not ready to be persecuted. There you go, segway to the nations right there. So, through the work with the Ridge and the work with Bless and what we've got to be a part of for the last seven, eight years now, one of the things we were doing we had kind of a beam the gospel off a satellite strategy. The Western American church cannot go to certain nations and hand them their pastor card and get in right, right, and so there are certain places where we're not allowed. And one of the cool things America, the Western church, does have is we have a ton of training, we have a ton of written content and we are able to equip pastors and church leaders in other nations that can get there, leaders in other nations that can get there. So, way before Russia-Ukraine war ever started, one of the things we did was we were equipping Ukrainian pastors who were able to go into other nations that we couldn't, and I remember, I'll never forget we got an email and pictures of 22 baptisms in Iran in like 2018 through Ukrainian pastors, through content that was kind of created and curated and built here, and that is today's picture of the global church at work.

Dustin Elliot:

I want to hit on this baptism and discipleship component again, though, because I want to bring this back to my own life.

Dustin Elliot:

I met the Lord when I was a teenager. I got baptized when I was 17, but shortly after I went to the University of Texas and I got in the fraternity scene and into the business school and into working in college and chasing cocktail parties and girls and things that I got distracted from focusing on the Lord and I didn't have anybody grab me and pull me back in, take me into church, take me through the Bible I didn't have anybody disciple me really. Take me into church, take me through the Bible I didn't have anybody disciple me really. My salvation moment and then my sanctification journey had a delay, a pause. Now I can look back now and see God very active through my life. I can see pivot points. I can see where he was saving me from myself and turning me in certain directions. Talk about the importance, brad, of being in a community. Post your conversion moment, post your salvation moment and your baptism and all that, what should you do next?

Brad Thomas:

Yeah, I think the Christian life is very difficult. It's impossible by yourself. I think community, the context of community, the power of community is hey, I may not be able to get through today, but if you're with me I can, because you will encourage me. We bear each other's burdens, we walk the path together. You know it's interesting.

Brad Thomas:

This Sunday I'm preaching in Acts, the book of Acts. We've been in there for a long time and in this book Barnabas goes to these Gentiles and Barnabas sees everyone getting saved and he's like I need some help. Then he goes and finds in Tarsus. He finds Saul, who's not Paul. Yet Well, saul gets converted back in chapter 9. Most scholars think it was between 8 and 10 years that have passed and he's in Tarsus and he's not doing quote anything.

Brad Thomas:

And you look at that season going. What was that about? Why did I get converted? And I felt like I got shelved spiritually for years. You weren't shelved spiritually for years. Who was he around in Tarsus? What kind of people? Gentiles. Who is God going to use Saul to reach for the rest of his life? Gentiles, he's Jewish. He's going to reach Gentiles.

Brad Thomas:

I'm going to set you in this little town in the middle of nowhere unknown and you're going to be surrounded by the very people that I'm going to grow a heart during that season for your heart toward those people, and you don't even have a clue what I'm doing yet. And then one day Barnabas knocks on the door. Hey Saul, all these folks in Antioch, which was Vegas of the day, are getting saved and the Spirit's filling them. I need some help. Barnabas goes 100 hundred miles just to find him in Tarsus, brings him back, says I need some help. You never know when that knock's going to come.

Brad Thomas:

But I can assure you this that whatever season you're in, you think it may not be useful. You think God's not at work. People were discipling you during that time, dustin. Your heart just wasn't ready yet to be discipled in that way. But there was a season happening spiritually in your life, preparing you for you sitting at this table with me today. And if you had not gone through that season, you would never have the understanding of sin and the struggle and the darkness and you would never be as effective as you are right now, reaching non-Christians for the glory of God. Because you've been there, so you've been places I haven't been, you can say I know what you feel like that is powerful. So, no matter how dark your testimony is or where you've been, use that for the glory of God. Don't shove it, don't act like, well, I can't talk about that. That was my bad past. No, that past is where the glory of God started in your life.

Dustin Elliot:

You just thought you went to the University of Texas, but you went to the University of Tarsus, my friend. That's where you were. It was more like he was in Antioch. That's why Clint's here. So what happened in Antioch? Let's just talk about the faithfulness of Barnabas and Paul. In that season they go and plant one of the first churches in the New Testament, the first church plant.

Brad Thomas:

Yeah, and in Antioch they worshiped this goddess named Daphne, and Daphne was, the story goes. This man would rush and run after Daphne through this garden every day and basically pursue her sexually, and that's where people would go. Like I said, it's the Vegas of the day, that's where people would go to be immoral, and so it's interesting. God says you know what? That's a great place for a church. Yeah, let's just go there. Yeah, what do we do? We sit sometimes, we're in there.

Brad Thomas:

Every ismasm and spasm is in Austin and sometimes you wonder why are we here? Why don't we go somewhere where people actually want to hear the gospel? Dead people don't know what they want to hear. So we've got to love dead people so they can hear the gospel. And what better place to be in Antioch? What better place to be in Austin? What's amazing is God sent probably three of the most powerful preachers in the history of the world to Antioch Barnabas, the son of encouragement, then you've got Saul, who becomes the greatest teacher, maybe of all, and you've got Peter, who comes there as well. So it's amazing. God says you think you're Vegas? I can get the most powerful preachers in your hometown and I will make people talk about Antioch 2,000 years later in Austin, texas.

Dustin Elliot:

So you talk about the guys, the trio, the power team that got sent to Antioch. But when the church was getting started the early church, antioch being the first church plant, to your point, church plants were starting to pop up as well. Soon after, I mean, paul's, 40% of the New Testament mostly is letters, where he's planted a church and then he's traveled to the next city to go plant his next church and then somebody journeys to him with a letter and says hey, we got some problems, there's some stuff, there's some heresy, there's some false teachers that have shown up, and he's writing a letter back. He couldn't hop on a jet and fly back over and correct it, right. So he's writing a letter back. And that's what we've been given.

Dustin Elliot:

We've been given this New Testament, which is this series of letters from a pastor pouring out his heart for his congregations. But the big three didn't go start all the churches. In fact, the church in Rome we don't know any big name that was there that started the church in Rome, right? So that tells me for the everyday listener to this podcast and the everyday Christian, global Christian in the world God can use you to plant a church in a new place. You don't have to have a big title or be a varsity Christian to do it. You just have to be faithful.

Brad Thomas:

Yeah, and the reason is is because if you're there, you are the church, the church is there. If you're a believer in a city, the church is there. You know what's interesting too when you look at the Bible. Ever in the Bible leading up to the New Testament, in Acts, where we start to see the gospel go to the city, the city is seen as a dangerous place. You start with the city of Cain, you have the city of Babel, and then you have the city called Sodom and Gomorrah, where Lot gets in trouble, and then you have the great city, nineveh, where Jonah is a missionary, since Already God's got a heart for the mission of the city. And then you don't see it until Acts, where Saul becomes Paul. He goes to Philippi, he goes to Thessalonica, he goes to Corinth, he goes to Antioch, he goes to Greece, he goes to Rome.

Brad Thomas:

What do all those places have in common? They were all lost, they were all dark, they were all anti-Christian, and that's where the gospel goes. So all of a sudden in the New Testament, instead of the Christian being part of the problem, the Christian becomes this heat-seeking missile, with the gospel being used as a bullet from the chamber of the gun of God. That's what we get to do, and the city now is a place of revival. Then fast forward all the way to Revelation. The city of Babylon, the last bad city, goes down in the Bible and then the city of God raises up and the city of God stands for eternity. We're going to be in a city, but God is going to purify that city first.

Dustin Elliot:

We talked about memorizing scripture and you know I love Ephesians six. If you get up and read anything every morning, man, let it be Ephesians 6. If you can't think of something else to do, Strap on that helmet, get your belt, get your shoes, get your shield. But here's the thing you can be a totally decked out warrior standing on a battlefield with no sword if you don't know your Bible. Talk about the importance of that.

Brad Thomas:

Yeah, you have to know your Bible, because otherwise it's just your opinion. So I decided a long time ago I'm going to preach the Bible verse by verse. And if we spend a year in Acts, we spend a year in Acts. Well, every pastor told me you will kill the church. People cannot. You know, they have 23 minutes of a show with seven minutes of commercials. They can't handle it. I beg to differ because I believe people want to hear the Word of God being taught and I believe our hearts leap up toward the word of God. And so when I think about teaching the word of God and again, this is why this podcast exists If you're one Christian somewhere, you mean God entrusted that whole city to you.

Brad Thomas:

What an amazing privilege. You mean God entrusted that whole family to you. He put you as the truth in a family, and then you get to be a part of changing the genealogy of a whole family lineage. So I want to encourage all your listeners right now. If one of your listeners is looking around the office, they're like I'm the only Christian here. What an amazing opportunity to be in that mission field. You see, if you're a Christian, you're a pastor. If you're a Christian, you're a missionary If be in that mission field. You see, if you're a Christian, you're a pastor. If you're a Christian, you're a missionary. If you're a Christian, you preach a sermon every day. The question is do you believe what you're preaching and the only way you're going to?

Dustin Elliot:

believe it is. You got to know your Bible. You've got to be in the word of God. You've spent 20 years in Austin, south Carolina, before that, but you've traveled a good bit. So part of what we love to do on the Unreached podcast is to share some stories. Maybe tell us a little bit about where you've gone, where you've been, what you've seen happen, kind of among the nations.

Brad Thomas:

Like I said, god's already working in you before you even realize. He's working in you and he's doing things to prepare you for things that may happen years later in your life. I went to some mission trips in the United States, but my first international experience was 1996. I was a student at Dallas Theological Seminary and I went to a place called Uzbekistan. Now I had never been in any Russian communist country in my life. I go to Uzbekistan. No one told me it was going to be February. So I get to Uzbekistan. I was there for three weeks and what I did in Uzbekistan was I taught homiletics, how to preach to a group of 25 Russian pastors, and now I realize that half of that class were Uzbek. We talked about Uzbekistan Uzbek pastors from the Ukraine. I didn't realize that then, and so, as I spent three weeks in Uzbekistan teaching Russian pastors many of which were Ukrainian pastors how to teach the Bible, 1996, I was 26 years old and here's what hit me as I walked around the city I was in Tashkent.

Brad Thomas:

When I walked around Tashkent, here's what struck me. Everyone seems very sad. I didn't see anyone smile for three weeks, except the pastors I was with. It was gray and cloudy. I've never lived in Seattle or Portland I think of that being rainy. It was gray and cloudy and rainy and cold every day. And here's what I noticed People were sad and they had this desperate look on their face Like I would watch.

Brad Thomas:

I'd walk by this one woman. She would sweep her front porch it was like a eight by six foot front porch and she had a makeshift broom she had made and she was sweeping it. Every morning for three weeks she was sweeping it. When I walked by, when I walked back, she was sweeping it. That was her whole world, that porch. She can't control anything in this gray, cold world, but I anything in this gray cold world, but I can control this little porch, this slab being clean.

Brad Thomas:

And then it hit me when you don't have Jesus, why would you have joy? When you don't have Jesus, why would you have hope? And so I was literally in the middle of a city that was hopeless and joyless because they had not encountered Jesus. Communism would promise something we'll take care of you, we'll provide health care, you'll have money to live by, but you can have all that and not have anything because you don't have hope. And so that's what I saw my first missionary trip. As I look back, I saw that the gospel is not just content, it's not just words. It is hope and joy for a heart that desperately is looking for it.

Dustin Elliot:

Yeah, I've said this before that I think I've fallen somewhat victim to this mindset that the places the gospel is not yet don't want the gospel. That's right, and so you have to kind of break through the political barrier and all that to get the gospel there. But the more we've interviewed people on the ground in this podcast, the more we found out it's completely not true Like the people want it. The people thirsty for living water. They are starving for the bread of life. They want somebody to come and tell them the good news, right? So what happened? You taught how to preach, by the way, I know you've got like a one, two, three, right, it's like read the Bible with Brad is observe, interpret, apply, right.

Brad Thomas:

So observation, interpretation, application.

Brad Thomas:

What do I see? What does it mean? So what? And a lot of pastors will tell you what they see and they tell you what it means, but they won't tell you what matters on a Tuesday, if you can't apply the scriptures, why use the scriptures? It's for application.

Brad Thomas:

So I'm walking around the city and I'm getting just a burden for people because I agree, dustin, I think people want to know the good news, but they also need to see the good news, and to see the good news, you have to interact with a Christian, and when you're the only Christian somewhere, there's no other Christians. You don't see another Christian, maybe for years of your life, maybe ever. But I also believe this I know the sovereignty of God, that God can get the gospel anywhere he wants, anytime he wants, any way he wants, and he uses unlikely people like us to do things only he can pull off, and the reason is he gets all the credit, he gets all the glory. So I'm a 26-year-old nobody walking around Tashkent, uzbekistan, freezing to death, thinking God, you have as big of a heart for that woman, sweeping her slab as you did for me ever in my existence, and you know her as well as you know me and just as intimately. And that gave me all of a sudden a compassion for that woman Didn't know her name A compassion for that woman because I realized that she too can encounter Jesus and is creating the image of God.

Brad Thomas:

So I went and I literally for about a week every day, walking back and forth. I'd stop in the morning, I'd come back and by the nighttime I'd come back. She'd ask me if I wanted some tea. They drank hot tea at every meal. It was scalding and I remember sitting in her little one-room apartment and sharing the good news of Christ with her. She said why are you here? I said to watch you sweep.

Dustin Elliot:

And we drank tea. I'm studying brooms and the efficacy of removing dust.

Brad Thomas:

We drank tea for five nights in a row.

Dustin Elliot:

Come on.

Brad Thomas:

And I shared Christ with her. Her name was Elaine and I prayed for Elaine for years. I've obviously lost touch with her, but I know one thing she heard the gospel, and you know, you think well, what about the people who have never heard? What about the people over there? We always worry about people who have never heard. We don't worry about our neighbors. They haven't heard either. But Elaine got the gospel five days in a row and God can get the gospel any way he wants. But here's the question what if he wants to use you, the listener? What if he wants to use you?

Dustin Elliot:

That's the question we all have to answer. Yeah, I think there's a part of this. You've said this before If you list the five worst people you know and you're not in that list, you don't get it.

Brad Thomas:

You don't see it right, right, yeah. We have a phrase here at the Ridge, you've heard me say it You've got to get downwind of your sin. There you go. So here's what I ask people sometimes hey, name five or six sin struggles you had before you came to Jesus, and they'll name them. It's always lust, greed, envy, strife revenge Seven deadly sins.

Dustin Elliot:

Whatever, take your pick.

Brad Thomas:

Name your five or six struggles after coming to Christ. Same ones, right same struggles. So if we think God can save us and God can extend grace to us, but that person's not worthy of me to spend my time and energy to do the same thing, then I may not know God at all. Because here's the truth when you understand grace, you have to tell people. When you understand grace, you want more people to encounter Christ because you realize there is no reason why I should have grace extended to me. And we always say like never forget what it feels like to be lost. You've got to remember what it's like not to be a Christian.

Brad Thomas:

The Bible says you're dead in your trespasses. You're dead in your sin. Dead people can't do anything. Dead people can only do one thing be dead. And so until God brought life to my corpse, I was a dead man walking around and I thought I was a smart dead man. I thought I was a pretty good guy. But the truth is I was dead and I do what dead people do. So when someone hurts me, I expect that from dead people. I don't expect dead people to be righteous to me. I don't expect dead people to love me and care for me. I expect dead people to be dead, and so the truth is, once we start thinking that we deserve grace and someone else, you're not talking about grace anymore. That's not even the definition of grace. Grace is getting what you could never earn and was unmerited favor. It's a gift. And if it's a gift, then my behavior, my conduct, did not achieve it. My conduct can't keep it, can't lose it, didn't get it. And so why would I not have compassion for people? Conduct can't keep it.

Dustin Elliot:

Can't lose it didn't get it, and so why would I not have compassion for people? I love that. So you told us about 1996. Now, since then, god has taken your life and Courtney and your family and planted you here and he has grown our local church significantly. I brag on this church. What's happened here? But we have been involved in missions locally and globally the whole time you've been here. Maybe share a little bit about, let's say, padere and the work that's going on there, and maybe India.

Brad Thomas:

Yeah, even before Padere and India, my journey for missions at the time Westlake Bible Church, now Austin Ridge I went to China my first year as a pastor here. I went to China my first year as a pastor here, and when I went to China I did not realize that there were more Christians in China even at that time than we have in the United States right now. That China was the power that God, the Spirit, was waking up to be the missions agency sending throughout the world. And so I'm sitting in China back in 2004,. And we went to these factories, these just regular business factories. And you realize, a Christian would take a factory and buy it and he would become the CEO of that factory and then he would share Jesus with employees. They would make disciples. These disciples come to faith and then these disciples who didn't have anything would live there in the factory at night and live there on the weekend. And then that factory became a church on Sundays because the Chinese controlled their church. It was a government-run church, so the real Christian church goes underground. It was happening in the factories, it was happening at work, revival was happening at work.

Brad Thomas:

And I remember being in China thinking, okay, I was in Uzbekistan. I've seen God start to move in Uzbekistan, breaks down the wall of communism, and then now I see God, the spirit, coming through China and then all of a sudden he goes to India. What's he doing? He's going from west to east. The gospel started in Jerusalem. I saw it in the communist countries, now I've seen it in China, now I'm seeing it move to India. So I go to India. One out of every three people in the world live in China or India.

Brad Thomas:

So where would God, the Spirit, want to start doing what only God could pull off? China and India. So we started doing work in India. We got involved with a great agency in India and, with Hindu danger in India and persecution going on, we got a part of a church movement, a church planting agency in India. So here's where our missions philosophy started to form, at Austin Ridge. We want to be about not just doing great things for people, not just helping people. We want to start churches and we want to train pastors, because we believe the power is in the word of God and we believe the church is the force, that is the mouthpiece for that power. So we started planning churches in India back in 2006, 2007. We've been a part of hundreds of churches in India and we've seen God move in India.

Brad Thomas:

So where did we see God move from India? We saw him start to move in Africa. So we thought here's what we do. We're not real smart here. Where is God moving? Let's go there. That way you don't have to reinvent the wheel, you just see where God's at work and you just join him.

Brad Thomas:

So we started seeing God move in the central part of Africa called Uganda, and so we got a part of a great agency there. We said where in Uganda do even your people not want to take the gospel? Where are the darkest places? And they told us about a place you mentioned. It called Padere. Padere was a war torn area of northern Uganda where drug lords and bad people came in and basically killed all the men in that whole area Trauma, children without families.

Brad Thomas:

And we started going to Padere. Honestly, the first time I went to Padere it took like two days to get there and it should have taken three hours. We rode bikes and buses and planes and all kinds of ways to get there. There was and I'm not exaggerating, there was nothing there. And again I saw the same thing I saw in Uzbekistan. Sadness, no hope. Why get up in the morning? Why work? Why do anything? It's interesting when people don't have any hope. It's the dirtiest places I've been. It's the trashiest place I've been. Why pick up the trash? If you have no hope, you have no joy. Christians actually come to a place and say we want to bring those things there. So we started going to Padere, uganda.

Brad Thomas:

We've now been involved in Padere gosh 15 years probably, and the first thing we did we're not going to build a church first. What we're going to do first is we're going to start to pay for kids to go to school. We're going to start loving on the kids. So if you go to school in Padere, you get shoes that's a big deal. You get books that's supernatural. You get clothes. You get three meals a day Unbelievable. So our church literally signed up to pay for every child in that entire region to go to school. That's how you change the community. Then we build a hospital, then we'll be the church. And now, when you go to Padere, this region is now the most bustling, amazing, awesome part of northern Uganda. Now they have started other churches outside of Padere. Matter of fact, when we opened the hospital in Padere we had some of the main leaders of Uganda come in and say what is happening here Of course, yeah what's going on and that's what the gospel does.

Brad Thomas:

So now we have people in Padere calling us asking us hey, what commentary should I read? I'm about to preach on Galatians and I get to tell the pastor here are the Galatians commentaries you ought to read for Galatians, and we're seeing them start churches. It's been unbelievable in Uganda.

Dustin Elliot:

Oh man, all right, look, I want to continue on this thread. I want to talk about the role of the church in local missions and global missions and what is missions, and I'd like to talk about more of your story, and we just don't have time, so we're going to have to cut this into two episodes. We're going to have to come back in two weeks Before we let everyone go today. Here's what I'd love. We always end a podcast with the guest praying for the listeners, and so, if you don't mind, would you pray for everyone? We're going to cut it off for today and we're going to come back in two weeks. We'd love to.

Brad Thomas:

Father, I probably don't know most of the listeners that are listening. I don't know where they are. I don't know what they're doing right now as they're listening. They may be driving, they may be sitting in a coffee shop, I don't know. But here's what I do know.

Brad Thomas:

I know that in everybody listening to my voice right now on this podcast with Dustin and Clint, that you are already at work in their life. I know that there's a story that's being created and they're not the main character. You are, and I know that you want to do something. Only you can pull off in their life. And, lord, I pray for whoever's listening right now that they would just do a simple thing. Today, as they're listening, as we close this time together, they would just say God, would you do something in my life that can only be attributed to you? Would you do something that would be a miracle in my life? Would you make my life count? Would you do something that I could give you the glory for and I could see you work?

Brad Thomas:

And I want to yield my heart to you today, father. I want to give my heart to you, I want you to be in charge. My heart to you today, father, I want to give my heart to you. I want you to be in charge. I'm the one person here and I don't know what I can do, but I know this I know you can do anything and I want to be a part of that power. Would you do that in my heart today, father, we pray that prayer for those that are listening, that you would do something, god, that would blow them away, and that you would be so powerful in their day and their days to come that they would know it's you, it's in your name we pray and lift our friends up to you. Amen, and amen.

Dustin Elliot:

Thank you for listening to Unreached. Our sincere desire is that what you've heard today will cause you to see the mission of God differently and your role in it more clearly. If this adds value for you and we hope it does would you please rate and review the podcast wherever you listen. Also, share with your family, your friends, your church, your life group, small group, d group, wherever you do life, and if you want to connect with us, find us on Instagram at unreachedpodcast, or email us at unreachedpodcast at gmailcom.

Empowering Men Through Discipleship Training
Journey to Understanding Scripture and Discipleship
The Power of Planting Churches
Sharing the Gospel Through Missions
Prayer for Miracles and Impact