Our guest today, Mark Aspinwall, shares about his ministry, which seeks to plant churches and small groups throughout the world. Having practiced law for about twenty years, Mark felt called by God to leave his career and enter into ministry.

He first served as a missions pastor for ten years, and he now commutes as a country director for a ministry known as e3 Partners. He travels to Indonesia and Cuba in order to train local Christians how to better spread the Gospel and plant churches throughout their nations. Mark shares his struggles and lessons from ministry and encourages us to disciple those around us.

What we talked about

Detailed Show Notes (click to read)

Getting to know Mark Aspinwall


Our guest today, Mark Aspinwall, spent nearly twenty years as an attorney in the United States until God called him into ministry. After hearing God’s command, he left his job and took on the position of missions pastor in a local church. Now, he works as a country director for a ministry called e3 Partners in which he trains Indonesian Christians in how to evangelize to the Hindus and Muslims in their country. He lives as a “commuting missionary” with his wife of 36 years and his four college-age daughters.

Meaningful quote and application

About ten years ago, Mark heard a message from a missionary that greatly changed his perspective on a common verse among missionaries, Matthew 28:19-20, which says, “Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

Rather than focusing on knowledge, he learned to focus on obeying God by making disciples who would know how to obey God and do the same. Hearing that sermon greatly motivated him to spend time with fewer people in order to impact and disciple them. He found that effective discipleship begins with sharing Christ with unbelievers and ends with those previous unbelievers, now following Christ as their Lord and Savior, sharing the Gospel with unbelievers.

Bringing methods together

Mark shares his perspective on the common church method of teaching sound doctrine as a way to protect against heretical ideas or concepts. He believes that, historically speaking, high institutions for theological learning tend to produce, rather than prevent, heretical thinking.

Rather than using hierarchical formatting and teaching of sound doctrine as a shield against false teaching, we should, Mark proposes, meet in small groups and seek what the Bible has to say about theological issues. By being in smaller groups, people can be held accountable and be corrected if they state something that is heretical or false. Mark states that training disciples to look at the Bible as an authoritative writing defends against theological problems and false teachings.

Process of transition

After being in corporate law for about twenty years, Mark felt called to leave his job while on a short term missions trip with e3 Partners in Prussia. During the trip, he saw eight people come to Christ who then formed a small home group there. He believed that involving himself in discipleship and church planting would be an investment in the most exciting thing going on in the world. He and his wife made plans, and three years later he quit his job and became a missions pastor for ten years. During that time of pastoring, he had the opportunity to be mentored by Curtis Sargent, a guru of church planting and discipleship training. His success inspired Mark to do the same through e3 Partners.

Does this method work everywhere?

Mark speaks about the difficulty of the method he uses to plant churches, and although the process can be difficult, it does in fact work, regardless of what country you’re in. Mark discusses the need to understand discouragement and how as someone in ministry he faces discouragement and rejection quite often. Many who hear the Gospel reject it, and the few that accept can easily fall away. Only a few who receive the Good News become multipliers in the Kingdom. Although that can be discouraging, Mark has learned how to accept rejection and find joy in the few that come to Christ.

Engaging Missions Leadership MInute

Scott McClelland of FX Missions shares about loveless leadership and manipulation. Listen to discover what happened during some missions training exercises and what you can do if you have failed similarly.

If you have a question about leadership that you’d like to have answered on the show, email it to feedback@engagingmissions.com.

About the ministry

What is your ministry?

Mark primarily commutes to Cuba and Indonesia in order to train Christians there. He teaches them how to better share the Gospel and plant small groups in their own countries. By doing so, those Christians can then form churches and expand the knowledge of Christ throughout their nations. Mark also practices what he preaches by starting small groups in south California.

Challenges of ministry

As Mark attempted different methods and processes in ministry, he found that some endeavors failed. Those failures could be extremely discouraging, but Mark learned that any action at all, even if unsuccessful, would be better than inaction or apathy. Instead of seeing failure as a form of discouragement, Mark began to see that failure leads to learning how to act successfully.

His first greatest encounter with difficulty came after three years of training over 3 to 4 thousand pastors and ministers and seeing little to no fruit. Although hundreds of people professed Christ during that time, no groups or churches were planted. After going through unsuccessful training, Mark learned that pastors and those in ministerial positions struggle starting small groups. That problem stems from the fact that they already have jobs, leaving not enough time to invest in those groups.

Also, pastors and other ministers tend to have few non-Christian friends, making evangelism more difficult. Mark also realized that training should be primarily directed to regular church members, especially new believers. Finally, Mark found that training seminars, although beneficial, lack lasting impact on people. Rather than just training believers for a few days and expecting them to maintain the information, Mark seeks to have mentors to continue the teaching and discipleship so that believers may be encouraged to persevere in doing good for the Kingdom of God.

Persevering in hardship

Through that season of difficulty and lack of fruit, Mark learned that God has the right to do what He wants with the ministry. Sometimes God’s vision of the ministry looks like thousands of churches being planted in a few years, and sometimes it looks like one church in that same amount of time.

Also, Mark learned to observe those struggles as tools for learning how to make his ministry more effective. His ministry includes multiple hurdles, beginning with the hurdle of people being afraid of sharing the Gospel, especially in other countries. During training sessions, Mark noticed how many people would pretend to talk to people rather than actually speaking with people about Christ.

After that hurdle came the hurdle of changing believers’ mindsets that after sharing the Gospel, they needed to bring the new Christians to church. Instead, Mark believes that Christians should encourage new believers to start small groups and Bible studies in their own homes so that they might bring the Gospel to their own families.

Finally, Christians face the hurdle of believing that if they start a small group or church, they themselves must pastor it. This concept slows expansion of the church, because if the person starting small groups takes the pastoral position, he or she will be unable to continue the process of church planting.

What fuels your passion?

“I guess for me, really, I feel like this is the most exciting thing happening on the face of the earth.”

Focus on YOU, the listener

Marketplace ministry

  • “One of the characteristics of church planting movements is almost all of the leadership is bi-vocational.”
  • “For a person here in the U.S. who has a normal job, you can be a church-planting movement person. You can put into effect these principles and I would encourage you to do that.”
  • “Following Jesus and making disciples is basically the same in the United States as it would be if you were a missionary in Kazakhstan, so you might as well start doing it now.”

How do you minister to unbelievers around you?

  • “It’s impossible for anybody to be saved unless God is at work in them.”
  • “I’m looking for people who God is working in, and so I’m constantly trying to say little things that let people know, ‘Hey, I’m somebody who loves Jesus!’ And I feel like if I do those things, I can quickly gauge, ‘Is this a person who’s open or not?’ If it’s a person who’s open, I’ll share the story of how I came to Christ and what Jesus had done in my life. If they’re still open, I’ll explain the Gospel to them.”
  • “Think through the questions you get asked every day. Maybe it’s, ‘How are you?’ Maybe it’s, ‘How are your children?’ Maybe it’s ‘What do you do for a living?’ And think about how you can answer those questions in a way that let people know, ‘This is somebody who loves Jesus.’”
  • “If you can figure out how to share a little bit of what Christ means to you in a transparent way, that draws people in.”

Book and internet suggestions

Contact info and parting advice

  • mark.aspinwall@e3partners.com
  • “If you’re trying to do it, I will help you.”
  • “We live in a great big world with billions of people going to hell. What could you possibly do to make that worse? And really the only answer is, the thing you could do to make it worse is nothing, so do something and then fix it.”

Questions, Topics, and Times

  • [00:26] – Introduction
  • [01:33] – Meaningful quote and application
  • [06:08] – Bringing methods together
  • [09:22] – Process of transition
  • [12:08] – Does this church-planting method work everywhere?
  • [15:29] – Engaging Missions leadership minute
  • [18:35] – What is your ministry?
  • [20:39] – Challenges of ministry
  • [29:13] – Persevering through hardship
  • [38:03] – What fuels your passion?
  • [39:42] – Marketplace ministry
  • [43:48] – How do you minister to unbelievers around you?
  • [47:39] – Book and Internet resources
  • [50:09] – Contact info and parting advice


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