A Two-Rail Model for Existing Churches to Reach the Unreached – Part 2
– by Trevor Larsen & a Fruitful Band of Brothers –
In Part 1 of this post we shared the development and pilot project of the two-rail model. Here is how God worked, through four years of applying this approach.
Year One: Training and Filtering Participants
During the first year, we provided training consisting of sixteen topics. This was done during a full day of training every other week. I agreed that half the training topics would grow the “Rail 1” church. This helped them see that we wanted to serve the above-ground church. But my priority was the other half of the training topics – designed to equip the “Rail 2” group. These focused on serving Muslims outside the church and discipling them quietly in small groups.
The initial training year of training focused on character and eight basic skills of leadership. One of these skills is “Egg Management.” This is what we call our report using circles (like eggs) to show small group multiplication. We manage based on fruit, not activity. On the field, we want to find workers who use a variety of strategies and tactics. But we mainly want to evaluate the fruit being produced by their activities. So we explain to field workers the markers of progress. After they agree to those markers, we do regular evaluation together.
These eight basic skills are important for field workers reaching Muslims. At each evaluation, we wanted to know which trainees had applied the eight skills. The active trainees started to emerge as the ones who applied these skills. If they weren’t applied, why not? We supervised the trainees, motivated them, and evaluated them based on these eight skills.
Of 50 adults in the church, 26 were trained for both rails with the sixteen training topics. After a couple of months, only 10 felt God calling them to reach and disciple Muslims outside the church. These 10 people (about 20 percent of the adult church members) selected themselves for discipling Muslims.
During our quarterly evaluations, we saw that six of these 10 chose to continue serving inside the church (Rail 1). They focused on doing the church’s ministry, training its members, and connecting with other churches. Only four of the 10 were active in reaching the majority people. Some trainers might become discouraged at this point, but these four people represented eight percent of the church, which is a high percentage for many churches. These four showed a special calling to disciple Muslims in the majority population.
Years Two through Four: Coaching and Support for Emerging Field Workers
We mentored only the four people who emerged as active in ministry. The mentoring of these four was done by believers in a third generation small group under our mission team. These were Muslims who had believed and who lived nearby.
The four were sent to serve Muslims in nearby regions. They each chose an area where they wanted to pioneer, within 25 to 30 kilometers of the church. This church of 25 families began to support these four families who dedicated themselves to Muslim ministry. Beyond their own offerings, church members did this by raising funds with donors outside the church. They contacted former church members who had moved away to cities and now had higher incomes.
We focused our coaching on these four. The key in this ministry is not the initial training, because most people forget their training before they can apply it. The initial training serves as a filter to find the people called to active field ministry to Muslims. The key to coaching toward fruitfulness is regular dialogues between mentors and people active in ministry. Mentors discuss with trainees what they are facing in the field. They also review “Fruitful Practices” discussed in training, and help the active field people get these training points working in their contexts. Many people need regular coaching to better apply their training in the field.
Inspired by the commitment of these four people, the church increased their commitment to this “Two-Rail” project. They agreed to provide these four with funds for community development ministries. Community development is an important way to love Muslims who have low incomes. It gives evangelists social access to be able to start small groups. We spent much time discussing security issues with the church and the four active field people. This helped all become more discerning.
Much Fruit in Four Years
Now, after four years, the ministry fruit initiated by these four church members has reached around 500 believers. This fruit in the underground “Rail 2” church (in small groups) is much larger than the fifty adults in the above-ground “Rail 1” church (in a building).
They have developed small discipleship groups in which Muslims have come to faith. These in turn have also started and are leading other small groups of Muslims who have come to faith. The pastor has kept this news of joyous fruit very quiet.
Obstacles Faced, and Vision Reaffirmed
These four field workers have now become overseers of much fruit in four areas. I recently met with them and the new pastor of the above-ground church. We discussed what to do if an emergency arises due to conflict with the growing number of fundamentalists influenced by ISIS. We agreed that our believers in small groups will try to handle the problem without mentioning their connection to any other small group. But if the problem is very difficult and someone else has to be sacrificed, they agreed to “sacrifice” the above-ground church by referencing their connection. This is a wonderful commitment in a country where many churches don’t want to reach Muslims to avoid endangering their church. By sacrificing the above-ground church, the risk will be limited to the church, and will not involve the much larger number of believers in the “Rail 2” underground church. The registered church might receive the protection of the law, whereas the underground church would not.
So as much as possible, small groups will handle any conflicts as an “independent cell,” so as not to endanger others. The four field leaders will train the grassroots believers in small groups to handle things in this way. They will not be identified as (Rail 1) church members. This will help keep them out of harm’s way. The younger church pastor who replaced the older one agreed to take this risk, to protect the underground church.
We are honest with the churches we train in this “Two-Rail” model. They need to see not only the benefits but also the risks of this ministry to Muslims. The churches we train must agree to keep our reports secret. They cannot be shared with their church members or other Christians. Because of this, we carefully select which churches we train and which members we mentor.
We have had security challenges in this two-rail approach, but our greatest challenge has been the attacks of some church leaders. They criticize us, assuming we will not take care of the sheep if they do not go to a church building. However we train a plurality of elders over each cluster, to shepherd the sheep. We ask that each small group leader nurture an environment of mutual care between the small group members, so they care for one another. Some church leaders also criticize us for not reporting our fruit to the police, which would give it official status as a church. However we are not concerned about official status. We focus instead on maturing the body of believers so they become like the church we see in the New Testament. Those churches did not have an official status, but grew organically and biblically. This is our vision.
This Two-Rail model has three keys:
1) use training as a filter to find a small number of well-selected people;
2) negotiate healthy conditions beforehand with the church for developing those people, so the church does not interfere while they adopt a new ministry paradigm;
3) give ongoing coaching support to those who enter ministry to Muslims.
Trevor Larsen is a teacher, coach, and researcher. He finds joy in finding apostolic agents God has chosen and helping them maximize their fruit through sharing fruitful practices in bands of brother-leaders. He has partnered with Asian apostolic agents for 20 years, resulting in multiple movements in Unreached People Groups.
Excerpted and condensed from the book Focus on Fruit! Movement Case Studies & Fruitful Practices. Available for purchase at www.focusonfruit.org.