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What Does It Cost to Behold the Beauty of the King?

What Does It Cost to Behold the Beauty of the King?

By Dr. Pam Arlund and Dr. Mary Ho –

The gospel of the kingdom being preached over the whole earth is the hope and plea of every believer and the high point of Matthew 24. In fact, Matthew 24 answers one of the critical questions that God’s people have been asking since the foundation of the earth: What does it cost to see God’s name be made “great among the nations, from where the sun rises to where it sets?” (cf. Malachi 1:11, NIV). What will the generation that fulfills Matthew 24:14 have to endure in that last generation?In truth, we are privileged to be the generation that can say that there is literally no time zone in which Jesus is not worshipped. However, within each time zone, there are dark pockets where Jesus is not known and worshipped. This should not be so.Although we love Matthew 24:14, we tend to avoid the rest of the chapter. This is because Jesus makes it clear there will be many calamities in the earth leading up to when God is finally glorified among all the peoples of the earth. For example:War on a global scale (v.6-7) Famines and earthquakes (v.8) Persecution and being put to death (v.9) Hated by all nations (v.9) Many will renounce their faith (v.10) False prophets (v.11, 22-6) Increase of wickedness (v.12) Love of most grow cold (v.12) Multiplied lawlessness (v.12)Jesus makes it clear that this coming of the kingdom is not neat, easy, or tidy. However, in this same passage, He gives us at least five ways that believers are to have “true grit” so we can stand firm until the end (v. 13).Jesus tells us to be mobile and nimble. He points out that we must be able to flee at a moment’s notice (v. 16). This advancement of the kingdom will take us off guard. So, we must be ready for sudden opportunities and change our lives, priorities, and plans quickly. The current refugee crisis is one such opportunity. More Muslims have come to Christ in this century than in all previous centuries of Islam. Those who responded to the refugee crisis have seen many Muslims come to Christ. But many had to stop our regular work to respond to this opportunity born of upheaval. There will be other opportunities in the future, and we have to be ready to respond quickly to the move of God. In fact, it appears that these calamities might also create unprecedented opportunity for the establishment of Kingdom Movements, but only if the people of God are mobile and nimble.Jesus tells us we will have to flee but we can ask Him for mercy in the midst of our difficulties (v. 20). We are to be people of persistent prayer. This is not the kind of prayer that takes a few minutes. Nor will this be the kind of prayer in which we beg God to act. This will be the sons and daughters of the King militantly battling alongside their Heavenly Father (cf. Ephesians 6) against foes who are not seen but whose deeds are felt. This is the kind of prayer that is both hard and full of joy.Jesus tells us to keep watch (v. 42). This means being aware of the strategies that God is carrying out. We are warned to be aware of false prophets. How can we distinguish false prophets from real prophets? By knowing the heart of the King. He captures our heart, soul, mind, and strength. And, when He does this, we have the power to be bold, be brave, live differently, love the unlovely, love our enemies, and endure hardship. This 1 Corinthians 13 love is “…not a patient, resigned acquiescence, but an active, positive fortitude. It is the endurance of the soldier who, in the thick of the battle, is undismayed.”Jesus tells us to be good trustworthy servants (v. 45), to give to those in need of food. The passage does not seem to be literally about food, but an analogy. Unlike natural famines, where we respond with food aid to the neediest, we often send workers who are supposed to relieve spiritual famine to places where there is an excess of spiritual resources. This analogy helps us to understand why we prioritize the neglected peoples of the earth. We have to be honest and ruthless with ourselves to see whether our Great Commission workers are truly working where the spiritual need is greatest.Jesus tells us to not be attached earthly things. He points out that we should not go back and get our things (v. 17-18). Living this way is different than how our neighbors live. We live not for our own fleshly desires of entertainment, wealth, and beauty (cf. Romans 8:5). Instead, we live for the beauty of the King. This means spending less time for our own pleasures, but instead working harder for the welfare of others, giving away our time and money, and living for an unseen glory.To live for the beauty of the King will require sacrifice—extreme sacrifice, sacrifice that hurts. However, with the sacrifice, it says in Malachi 1:11, that in every place where His name is great among the nations, there is the fragrant incense of our pure offerings. No sacrifice is too great if it makes His Name greater among the nations.Jesus’ promise in Matthew 24:14 will be fulfilled. The gospel of the Kingdom WILL be proclaimed throughout the world as a testimony to all the peoples. Are we willing to make the sacrifices necessary to see this vision fulfilled in our generation?

Leon Morris, I Corinthians. Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 1988, 182. Mary Ho is the International Executive Leader of All Nations Family, which makes disciples, trains leaders, and catalyzes church movements among the neglected peoples of the world. Mary was born in Taiwan and first heard about Jesus from missionaries in Swaziland where she grew up. Her husband John’s family became Christians through Hudson Taylor’s ministry. Therefore, John and Mary are passionate about continuing to be part of Jesus being worshipped by all peoples. Pam Arlund is the Global Training and Research Leader in All Nations Family. Pam worked in an unreached people group of Central Asia for many years. To serve them well in disciple making and church planting, she also learned how to be a linguist and a Bible translator. She longs to be a worshipping warrior with Jesus.Edited from an article originally published in the January-February 2018 issue of Mission Frontiers, www.missionfrontiers.org, pages 42-53, and published on pages 307-310 of the book 24:14 – A Testimony to All Peoples, available from 24:14 or Amazon.

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An Agency Transition: From Church Planting to Disciple Making Movements – Part 2

An Agency Transition: From Church Planting to Disciple Making Movements – Part 2

By Aila Tasse –

In part 1 we shared how God led us in LifeWay Mission to shift to a new paradigm in mission. Here are some of our challenges, fruit, and keys that have sustained us and brought that fruit. 

Challenges in the Transition

Not everyone agreed with our change in approach. Some people felt what we were about to do was shallow, because it had no focus on church buildings or programs happening at that building.  Some Christians from a historical church background thought we didn’t focus enough on the church as an institution. Some leaders from a theological background felt we were going against traditions the church had kept for many years. Some people working in cities felt afraid that a disciple-making approach would not work to reach urban people. 

We had learned from David Watson the descriptions of elephant churches vs. rabbit churches, which some people considered too critical of traditional churches. Some people accused us of just learning things from Americans, which wouldn’t work in Africa. And some workers just didn’t want to change; they liked what they were already doing. They said, “LifeWay is growing and we’re indigenous. God has helped us overcome all kinds of challenges. Why should we change direction?” Other workers feared losing something. They thought maybe this would become a back door to introduce something they wouldn’t like. 

I needed a lot of patience at that time because not everyone saw things the way I did. I had already pushed back against David Watson and had those arguments. I had already gotten angry with Dave Hunt as he coached me through my experimental steps with applying CPM principles. Others were still wrestling through the paradigm while I was moving ahead with it. One of my top leaders was very resistant to the new model. He didn’t see why we should do that.

When we started shifting toward a CPM approach in 2005, we had about 48 missionaries, working in two East African countries. Twenty-four of them served as full-time church planters; the others served as catalytic bivocational church planters. In 2007, as we were making the shift, a denomination came and took 13 of our workers, from an area where the movement was expanding rapidly. They offered them good salaries and positions. I lost my two top guys, which really hurt. It was also discouraging that within two years the work in that previously fruitful area came to a halt. The years 2008-2010 were quite discouraging because we lost some of our best people during the transition.  

Fruit Since the Transition

Since we shifted to CPM (DMM), we have started focusing on God’s Kingdom rather than our ministry. We no longer think in terms of our name or what’s “mine” (my vision, my ministry, etc.) It’s God’s Kingdom and his work. As we catalyze movements we’re moving away from our needs, and looking instead at Kingdom advance. God has brought marvelous growth in last few years. From our beginnings in Kenya, we are now catalyzing DMM in 11 countries in East Africa. 

Since 2005, close to 9,000 new churches have been planted in the region of East Africa. In one of those countries, the movement has reached up to 16 generations of churches planting churches. In another country, the work among various tribes has reached 6, 7, and up to 9 generations. The Lord has enabled us to engage more than 90 people groups and nine urban affinity groups in this region. We stand in awe of His work in birthing thousands of new churches and hundreds of thousands of new followers of Christ.

We have engaged all of the UPGs in my original vision and gone way beyond that. We’re now talking about reaching 300 unreached people groups as per Joshua Project. We work at it every day, country by country: praying and finding who is least reached and least engaged. 

DMM is not just one of our many programs; it’s the main thing, in the middle of everything we do. Whether it’s compassion ministry, leadership development, or serving the church, DMM is always in the center. If anything doesn’t lead to DMM, we don’t do it.

Our priorities include reaching new and unengaged areas, while sustaining existing work. We’re continually starting, multiplying, and sustaining movements. Before starting ministry in a new area, we do research and prayer walks, as we seek God for his open doors. For sustaining the work, we hold DMM strategic consultations every four months. Country leaders from all over East Africa attend those for ongoing equipping and encouragement.

Keys That Have Sustained Us and Brought Fruit

  1. Prayer has really been my greatest resource.
  2. Staying in the Word of God all the time. What I do is sustainable if it’s based on the Word of God.
  3. Developing leaders. God has really helped me with this and made it clear: it’s not all about me. 
  4. I have always aimed to indigenize our ministry. Local people have to own it. If they own it, it costs me less because it belongs to them. 
  5. Networking and collaboration with people doing the same thing. As long as God helps us make disciples it doesn’t matter whose name is on a ministry. We don’t worry about that. We jump into any opportunity to contribute what we have learned about disciple making. Because the most important thing is finishing the task Jesus has given us. 

We see God using other people and other groups, and we delight to partner and collaborate with them. We need work together with the Body of Christ, to learn from others and to share what we have learned. We praise God for how he has led us and the many ways he is advancing his Kingdom among the unreached through Disciple Making Movements.

Dr. Aila Tasse is the founder and director of Lifeway Mission International (www.lifewaymi.org), a ministry that has worked among the unreached for more than 25 years. Aila trains and coaches DMM in Africa and around the world. He is part of the East Africa CPM Network and New Generations Regional Coordinator for East Africa.

This was originally published in 24:14 – A Testimony to All Peoples, available from 24:14 or Amazon, pages 278-286.

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An Agency Transition: From Church Planting to Disciple Making Movements – Part 1

An Agency Transition: From Church Planting to Disciple Making Movements – Part 1

By Aila Tasse –

In August 1989 I began ministering among some Muslim groups in Northern Kenya, and in 1992 I started doing outreach into a wider area. In 1994-98 I started researching unreached people groups (UPGs), and LifeWay Mission became organized as an indigenous mission agency in 1996. 

Around that time our group grew significantly. We had people joining who could speak the local languages of a large number of the tribes we wanted to reach. We also had members of unreached people groups reaching out and serving as part of our ministry. So I established a small mission school, and started teaching them. I was going to seminary so I made my own training for them out of what I was learning. We trained the young people and sent them back to their areas. They were the ones on the front lines, reaching out to people and leading the churches. 

A big turning point came in 1998, when I started implementing my larger vision. I gave assignments to the local people I was training. I said, “The best thing will be if we find people from the local community.” So they would go out for a month, start reaching out to people, and find key leaders within that month. When they came back they brought those leaders to our training center. We trained those key leaders for two months then sent them as would-be leaders for the strategy. The workers who had originally connected with them remained as coaches. I didn’t exactly learn these things; I was making things up as we went along. We were seeing things happen, but didn’t have material to learn from. So most of our ministry and programs came out of needs I saw in the field. I was teaching a lot of what later turned into CPM.

Considering a New Paradigm

Between 2002 and 2005 I started hearing about Church Planting Movements. But at that point I hadn’t come into contact with training involving other African CPM leaders. Our mission had touched all the unreached people groups in our focus region, but we didn’t have anything like a movement. I had written a dissertation on church planting and read all kinds of books on the subject, including David Garrison’s book Church Planting Movements. But a big challenge to my thinking came in 2005. 

I met a West African brother who was starting a training, and the main trainer was David Watson. That was when I started to really grapple with the idea of a movement. But I had a difficult time with what David Watson was saying.  He was telling me, “You need to do this and that,” based on what worked in India among Hindus. 

I said, “You’ve never been a Muslim. I am a Muslim background believer and I already have experience and fruit working among African Muslims. Things may not happen the same way in this context.” My big obstacle was that I wanted to defend my own work. I felt successful in planting churches among Muslims. So I pushed back. 

But the most important thing for me was, “How will I finish the task among these people groups if not through something like a CPM?” God had told me “Multiply yourself into the lives of many people.” And he expanded my vision from just the tribes in my home area, to a vision for reaching all of East Africa. I didn’t know what that would look like, but I knew God had spoken to me about it. That began my serious journey into movements. I felt the task was more important than the method. I wanted whatever would help do the task in shortest time, in a biblical way that glorified God. I felt ready for something radical – like the man who sold everything to buy the field containing hidden treasure. At all cost, I wanted to do the best thing for God’s glory among the unreached.

Around 2005 I started speaking about CPM and organizing for reaching UPGs. I had a passion for frontier mission, and I wanted to plant more churches. I had already been doing a lot of things that could be called the DNA of CPM, and the 2005 training gave me more tools and connections.

At the beginning, I wasn’t focused. But over the next few years I started implementing CPM principles and doing trainings with Dave Hunt. He played a big role by coaching me and answering my questions. He gave me a lot of encouragement in my journey. Without knowing much, I invested my energy in applying CPM principles instead of arguing about it, and it began bearing fruit. I found most of the CPM principles in the Bible. We began experiencing CPM and training and sending people. As I continued learning about movements, the strategy became very clear to me. And the movement start taking off at the beginning of 2007.

One major shift happened when I started looking at church differently, asking: “What is a church?” I had previously wanted church to be just a certain way, which was not very reproducible. Now I became serious about applying a simpler pattern of church, which was much more reproducible.

Two other key factors revolutionized my thinking:

  1. helping people discover truth (instead of someone telling it to them) and 
  2. obedience as a normal pattern of discipleship.

I saw the radical difference these could make toward ministry that would rapidly multiply. 

Paradigm Shift in LifeWay Mission

As this shift happened in my own mind, I didn’t push anyone in LifeWay to move toward CPM. I focused on one big question: “How can we finish the remaining task? We’ve seen some churches started, but will our current methods reach our goal? Has God called us to a certain method or to finish our task – the Great Commission?” I believe God can use any method he wants. We need to pay attention and see what method(s) he is using to seriously move us toward the goal. Jesus commanded us: “Make disciples, and teach them to obey.” That’s the heart of the Great Commission. It’s what makes the Great Commission Great. Unless we really make disciples, we can’t call the Great Commission Great. So whatever method we use, it has to be very effective at making disciples who obey. 

I started casting vision to my coworkers. I started leading from the front, demonstrating things and changing things slowly. I started showing them practices and principles, rather than forcing them. I wanted them to buy into vision rather than my putting pressure on them. I gave them my example by starting groups that multiplied. I opened the Scriptures and started showing them the biblical principles. As obedience became our lifestyle, that helped my people understand. It became clear to us that this was the way to go. I didn’t apply organizational pressure or exercise authority to bring the change. It wasn’t a top-down process. Some of our workers learned very early and started applying CPM principles; others were slower. For those moving more slowly, we said “Let’s move graciously and gradually.”

That process started in 2005 and continued for a couple of years. In October 2007 we made a complete change as an organization. We clarified that our goal was not just reaching the unreached, but catalyzing Kingdom movements. Lifeway Mission had started with a vision of Kingdom growth in Northern Kenya. The key thing was engaging unreached groups and reaching them with the gospel. 

Now it became clear that our work was not just engaging the UPGs with the gospel, but facilitating and catalyzing Kingdom movements among them. Our focus is still reaching UPGs, but now we’re doing that through DMM (Disciple Making Movements – the term we now use most commonly, to stress that our focus is making disciples). October 2007 was a turning point for all our teams. We changed our mission statement, our details of partnership, our networking and collaborations. 

We now explicitly aim to make disciples who multiply and become churches that multiply. A Disciple Making Movement helps us finish the task Jesus has given us. We don’t focus on a method. But if DMM helps us reach our goal, we don’t need to argue. We’re aiming for Kingdom movements among UPGs, to finish our portion of the Great Commission in the region God has entrusted to us. In 2007 we used the term “CPM.” And the key to CPM is making disciples. So since that time we have emphasized making disciples – bringing the Muslim peoples of East Africa to become obedient disciples of Jesus.

In part 2 we will share some challenges in the transition, fruit since the transition, and keys that have sustained us and brought fruit.

Dr. Aila Tasse is the founder and director of Lifeway Mission International (www.lifewaymi.org), a ministry that has worked among the unreached for more than 25 years. Aila trains and coaches DMM in Africa and around the world. He is part of the East Africa CPM Network and New Generations Regional Coordinator for East Africa.

This was originally published in 24:14 – A Testimony to All Peoples, available from 24:14 or Amazon, pages 278-283.

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What is a CPM? Part 1

What is a CPM? Part 1

– By Stan Parks – 

A Church Planting Movement (CPM) can be defined as the multiplication of disciples making disciples and leaders developing leaders. This results in indigenous churches planting churches. These churches begin to spread quickly through a people group or population segment. These new disciples and churches begin to transform their communities as the new Body of Christ lives out Kingdom values. 

When churches reproduce consistently to four generations in multiple streams, the process becomes a sustaining movement. It may take years to begin. But once the first churches start, we usually see a movement reach four generations within three to five years. In additional, these movements themselves often reproduce new movements. More and more, CPMs are starting new CPMs within other people groups and population segments.

God’s Spirit is launching CPMs around the world, as he has done at various times in history. After a few of these modern movements began in the early 1990’s, a small group of the initial movement catalysts gathered to discuss these amazing works of God. They coined the term “Church Planting Movements” to describe what God was doing. It was beyond what they had imagined.

As these modern movements have emerged, God’s Spirit is using a variety of models or strategies to start CPMs. Terms used to describe these models include Training for Trainers (T4T), Discovery, Discovery Bible Study (DBS), Disciple Making Movements (DMM), Four Fields, Rapidly Advancing Discipleship (RAD), and Zume. Many movements are hybrids of these various approaches. Many movements have also developed indigenously outside of these training models.

The global leaders who formed the 24:14 coalition chose CPM as the most helpful and broadly inclusive term. Sometimes the term “Kingdom movement” is used, meaning essentially the same thing as CPM. These Kingdom movements resemble what we see in the New Testament.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
(Acts 1:8)

All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them…. Utterly amazed, they asked: ‘Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!’
(Acts 2:4,7-11)

But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand. (Acts 4:4)

So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.
(Acts 6:7)

So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.
(Acts 9:31)

But the word of God continued to spread and flourish.
(Acts 12:24)

The word of the Lord spread through the whole region. But the Jewish leaders incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. So they shook the dust off their feet as a warning to them and went to Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
(Acts 13:49-52)

When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.
(Acts 14:21-22)

And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women…. Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men…
(Acts 17:4, 12)

Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized. And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, ‘Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.’…
(Acts 18:8-11)

This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.
(Acts 19:10)

In these modern movements we see similar dynamics to what God did in the early church. Part two of this post will describe these dynamics and the characteristics of a CPM.

Stan Parks Ph.D. serves the 24:14 Coalition (Facilitation Team), Beyond (VP Global Strategies), and Ethne (Leadership Team).  He is a trainer and coach for a variety of CPMs globally and has lived and served among the unreached since 1994.

This material is taken from pages 35-38 of the book 24:14 – A Testimony to All Peoples, available from 24:14 or from Amazon; reprinted from the July-August 2019 issue of Mission Frontiers, www.missionfrontiers.org.

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24:14 – The War That Finally Ends

24:14 – The War That Finally Ends

– By Stan Parks and Steve Smith – 

A renewed war has been quietly waged for the last 30+ years. At first, it began as a quiet insurgence by a few “freedom fighters” unwilling to see billions of people live and die with no access to the gospel. Radicals, not accepting that so many lived in bondage to the “ruler of this world,” laid down their lives to see Jesus set the prisoners free.

This is no return to the horrific Crusades of earthly battles waged falsely in the name of Jesus. This kingdom is invisible, as Jesus declared:

“My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” (Jn. 18:36, ESV)

This is a battle for the souls of people. These soldiers have chosen to believe that disciples, churches, leaders and movements can multiply as movements of the Spirit, just as they did in the early church. They have chosen to believe that the commands of Christ still carry the same authority and Spirit-empowerment as 2000 years ago.

Church-Planting Movements (CPMs) are spreading again today just as they did in the book of Acts and at various times in history. They are not a new phenomenon but an old one. They are a return to basic biblical discipleship that all disciples of Jesus can emulate as 1) followers of Jesus and 2) fishers for people (Mk. 1:17). On every continent, where it was once said, “A CPM can’t happen here,” movements are spreading.

Biblical principles are being applied in practical, reproducible models in a variety of cultural contexts. God’s servants are winning the lost, making disciples, forming healthy churches and developing godly leaders, in ways that can multiply generation after generation and begin to radically transform their communities.

These movements are the only way we have found historically for the kingdom of God to grow faster than the population. Without them, even good ministry efforts result in losing ground.

The tide of this renewed effort is surging forward with unstoppable force. This insurgence is no passing fad. With 20+ years of reproducing churches, the number of CPMs has multiplied from a mere handful in the 1990s to 1360+ as of May 2020, with more being reported each month. Each movement’s advance has been won with great endurance and sacrifice.

This mission—to take the gospel of the kingdom to every unreached and under-reached people and place—comes with real casualties of persecution. This is a struggle to the end to see the name of Jesus prevail in every place, so He is worshipped by all peoples. This mission costs everything, and it is worth it! He is worth it.

After almost three decades of resurgence of movements in modern times, a global coalition has arisen, not by boardroom brainstorming, but by leaders within and alongside movements banding together to fulfill one overarching objective:

And this good news of the King’s reign will be heralded throughout the whole world as a testimony to all peoples, and then the end will come. (Mt. 24:14, author’s translation)

As God draws multitudes of new believers from every tongue, tribe, people and nation into His kingdom, we yearn: “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rv. 22:20). We cry out:

Your kingdom come! (movements)

No place left! (fully reaching all)

Finishing what others have started! (honoring those before us)

Through prayer, we as a coalition felt God gave us a deadline to increase urgency: We aim to engage every unreached people and place with an effective kingdom movement (CPM) strategy by December 31, 2025.

We have subordinated organizational and denominational brands to greater kingdom collaboration to accomplish this mission. We call our open-membership, volunteer army by the verse that inspires us: 24:14.

We are not a Western-centric initiative. We are composed of house church movements from South Asia, Muslim-background movements from the 10/40 window, mission sending agencies, church planting networks in post-modern regions, established churches and many more.

 

We are a collaborative community for those catalyzing, multiplying and supporting church planting movements to urgently engage every unreached people and place globally.

We are inspired by a call for a wartime mentality (see this article: http://www.missionfrontiers.org/issue/article/finding-my-tribe) to sacrifice alongside brothers and sisters, to see the gospel proclaimed throughout the world as a witness to all peoples.

Is this revolution any different than hundreds of other plans that have arisen over the centuries? We believe that it is (see this article: http://www.missionfrontiers.org/issue/article/why-is-2414-different-than-previous-efforts). We are a community of relationships that came from the grassroots of the movements themselves, captivated by the same vision and willing to work together to make it happen. This 24:14 vision could well be the culmination of these historical and current efforts by helping engagements fully reach their targets.

There will be a final generation. It will be characterized by the global spread of the kingdom, and will advance in the face of global opposition. Our generation feels strangely like the one Jesus described in Matthew 24.

We can see an end to a 2,000 year spiritual war. The enemy’s defeat is in sight. “No place left for Jesus to be named” is on the horizon (Rm. 15:23).  God is asking us to pay the price and deeply sacrifice to be the generation that fulfills Matthew 24:14. Are you in?

Edited and condensed from an article originally published in the January-February 2018 issue of Mission Frontiers, www.missionfrontiers.org, pages 7-12, expanded and published on pages 174-181 of the book 24:14 – A Testimony to All Peoples, available from 24:14 or Amazon.

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Jesus’ Coverage Principles and Strategies: Transferability and Reproducibility

Jesus’ Coverage Principles and Strategies: Transferability and Reproducibility

– By Shodankeh Johnson – 

I’m the team leader of New Harvest Global Ministries, based in Sierra Leone, West Africa. I am also connected with New Generations, and I do training globally for New Generations, based in the United States. I’ve been involved in DMM work and church planting for my whole adult life, and I am thankful to the Lord for that opportunity and experience. 

I would like to share with you about Jesus’ Coverage Principles and Strategies: Transferability and Reproducibility. By following Jesus’ transferable and reproducible coverage strategies, indigenous churches can reproduce multiple movements. Jesus applied a few basic strategies and principles throughout his ministry. Knowing these things helps us tremendously in obeying the Great Commission and reaching out to UUPGs around the world. 

As Jesus entered the arena of his mission, he had a commission from his Father. He had the end in mind even before the beginning. He thought very strategically about easily reproducible coverage principles and strategies. Among those was a vision of the kingdom and the harvest. Of the kingdom, he said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matthew 4:17). The kingdom of heaven was very important to Jesus’ ministry. He wanted his disciples to clearly understand what the kingdom was about, so he spoke often about the kingdom. 

This was not the mission of a denomination. It was not the mission of a church. It was the mission of the kingdom. So Jesus clearly enunciated kingdom principles. If we want to see multiple movements happening among UUPGs, we have to clearly teach, coach and preach about the kingdom. Let people understand what the kingdom is. Understanding the vision of the kingdom makes the work simple. People need to know that their motivation for doing the work is not to be paid money. It’s also not about titles. It’s all about the kingdom of God. So we need to teach the kingdom very clearly. 

Jesus also spoke about the harvest. He said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Matthew 9:7-38). If we want to see UUPG’s reached, we need to clearly understand and present the kingdom and the harvest. We need to impress the vision of kingdom and the harvest on the hearts of the people we teach and coach. This will help avoid the temptation and the traps many people are falling into. Things like, “It’s all about my denomination.” “It’s all about my church.” “It’s all about my own empire.” It’s all about the kingdom and the harvest! 

The next principle Jesus enunciated was abundant prayer. Prayer was very critical to Jesus’ ministry; he knew that prayer is the engine on which movements run. Without abundant prayer, a culture of prayer, the church is just taking a walk. Jesus himself did a lot of praying, even before he started his ministry (Luke 4:1-2). He prayed before choosing his 12 disciples (Luke 6:12-13). He also prayed every day before starting his day (Mark 1:35). And he prayed often (Luke 5:16). Jesus also taught his disciples how to pray (Luke 11:1-4). Jesus was a praying man. He prayed before raising Lazarus. He prayed for his disciples in John 17:1-25. He prayed before performing miracles. He even told his disciples to pray for their enemies (Matthew 5:44). He prayed three times when he was facing death. His first word on the cross was prayer and his last word on the cross was prayer. 

He was a praying man; prayer was a powerful coverage principle of Jesus. It is easily transferable and reproducible in any culture; it can lead to multiple churches in any community. God’s people need to spend time in prayer and fasting. We should coach and teach our disciples to pray. We should pass on this message on to our disciples: to pray and fast as Jesus did. Even though he was God in the flesh, he prayed before he started his ministry. If Jesus prayed so much, we need to also pray so much. If we hope to see any success among UUPGs, we need a praying ministry. We need praying disciples. As we keep praying and raise up disciples to fast and pray, we can hope to see multiple movements. Remember that prayer is the engine of a movement. Just as Jesus had a clear vision of kingdom and the harvest, he had a vision of abundant prayer. 

Another of Jesus’ coverage principles was the principle of ordinary people. Jesus empowered people, empowered every believer. That is how ministry becomes scalable and reproducible: through ordinary people. When we read Matthew 4:18, Matthew 10:2-4, and Acts 4:13, we see how Jesus placed emphasis on ordinary people. Ordinary people were Jesus’ plan A and only plan. They still are Jesus plan A and only plan. Ordinary people are going to get the job done. As we coach and disciple people, we need to emphasize looking for ordinary people. This is transferable and reproducible. Wherever you go around the world, you can find ordinary people. We have huge numbers of ordinary people sitting in the pews. 

Jesus knew he was not looking for professionals. He was looking for ordinary people. As we look at all the people around Jesus, every one of them was an ordinary person. He put his emphasis on ordinary people. Coaching them and training them and enabling them to become what he wanted them to be. So if we are going to see movements happen around the world, if we intend to reach UUPGs, let’s do it with ordinary people. Wherever we go – in every community, in every culture – look for the ordinary people, just as Jesus did. The coverage principle and strategy of ordinary people was key to the ministry of the Jesus, and it can lead to multiple movements around the world. 

The next coverage principle Jesus spoke about was making disciples who make disciples. Jesus said, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them…and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20). Jesus told his disciples very clearly: they needed to go into to the world. He wanted them to GO! But when you go, what is the key thing? What is the key strategy? As you go, make disciples. Making disciples is very key to the coverage strategies and principles of Jesus. He was not interested in comfort; he was interested in disciples. Because he knew that making disciples is transferable and reproducible. Disciples that make disciples will lead to multiple movements as they obey. He did not just want knowledge-based disciples. He wanted obedience-based discipleship. That’s why Paul wrote to Timothy: “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit the same to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2). I want focus on what Paul wrote to Timothy: the teaching that you had, the coaching I’m giving you, the training I’m giving you – it is very important that you heard it from me among witnesses when I was doing this. You need to now invest in disciples making disciples. You also turn around and commit to faithful disciples who will then equip others. This is the multi-generational coaching and training that Paul imparted to Timothy, who also committed it to other faithful disciples. Jesus made obedience-based disciples. If we want any chance to see multiple movements, we need to teach, preach, coach, and model obedience – the way Jesus did it and taught it to his disciples. 

The next principle was the person of peace, as we see in Matthew 10:11-14. When Jesus sent out his disciples, he told them: “Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave. As you enter the home, give it your greeting. If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it. If it is not, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.” He told them: “Go out and look for worthy person.” We call this a person of peace: somebody God has prepared ahead of you in the community. The person of peace is the bridge into the community. The person of peace is the person of influence who is willing to receive you and listen to your message, and most times becomes a follower of Jesus Christ. Jesus knew very well that his movement would be a movement of people already inside each culture. The person of peace principle shortcuts all the barriers and culture and religious red tape that we have today. If we want to see movements happen among UUPGs, we need to apply the person of peace principle. It is less expensive. It is also very easy. Because when you have a cultural insider, they don’t need to go and learn all the languages. They already know the languages. You don’t need to spend so much on the insider. Because that is already their culture, they have a passion. They know the area and they understand the culture and world view and can easily relate. The insider already has relationships in the culture. That’s why Jesus anchored proclamation on the principle and strategy of the person of peace. This is transferable and reproducible in any culture. 

Another of Jesus’ coverage principles is the principle of the Holy Spirit, as we see in John 14:26; 20:22 and Acts 1:8. Jesus emphasized the Holy Spirit. The Holy spirit plays an important role in sustainable movements happening all around the world. The Holy Spirit is the source of living water in the life of disciples and disciple makers, as promised in John 7:37-38. The Holy Spirit is the helper and the teacher in the process of DMM. We read in John 14:26; 16:14-15, 32 that the Holy Spirit is the indwelling power that qualifies us to be witnesses for the Kingdom. In Acts 1:8 Jesus told his disciples: “Do not leave Jerusalem, until you receive the power of the Holy Spirit, and then you will be my witnesses.” The Holy Spirit worked uncommon miracles and emboldened even the most timid disciples, as we see in Acts 4:18-20; 9:17. The Holy Spirit can use even the most unlikely people to open doors for rapid multiplication. In Acts 10:44-48 we see that the Holy Spirit is not just for people in the past; he is for all of us today. We will never see a sustainable disciple making movement without the sustained power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus emphasized this coverage principle because he knew your location around the world really doesn’t matter. The Holy Spirit can reach you wherever you are. This principle is transferable; you can take it anywhere. You can reproduce it anywhere. If we want to see this work happen, we need to do it the Jesus way. The Holy Spirit is essential for this work. He is important for every indigenous church, every disciple and every disciple maker. 

The next principle is simplicity of the Word. In Matthew 11:28-30 and Luke 4:32 we see that Jesus was not only welcoming in his character; he was also simple in his teaching. The crowds loved his teaching because of its simplicity. Jesus makes complex things simple and he makes simple things even simpler. If we want to see breakthrough among UUPGs, we need to follow this transferable coverage principle of Jesus: making things very simple

The next coverage principle Jesus used was access ministry, or what some call compassion ministry. We see that in Matthew 9:35; 14:17; Luke 9:11; 11:1; Mark 6:39-44. Jesus used healing as the access ministry in Matthew 9:35. In Luke 9:11 Jesus again used healing as the access ministry. He also used food as access ministry (compassion ministry). We should learn from Jesus and hold with an open hand whatever God has blessed us with, for the advancement of the Kingdom. 

The next principle Jesus used was asking his disciples to depend on God for the resources (Matt. 10:9-10; Ps. 50:10-12). Every one of us should adopt this coverage principle. It’s transferable and reproducible. And if we adopt it, it will lead to movement. Jesus’ message was very clear: “Go with nothing and depend on God for the resources.” We know that God has supported his work in the past, and he will always support his work in the future if it’s done his way. The global church cannot in any way bankrupt a global God. His resources are unlimited. We can depend on God for his resources. When we cry out to him, he will supply the resources. Jesus knew that if we apply this principle, we will see an explosion. We will see multiplication and reproducibility. This is so transferable – in any culture, among any indigenous church. If we do it the way Jesus did it, we can come back to what we saw in the Acts of the Apostles. What happened in the early days of the church can begin to happen again in our churches. It can surely begin to happen among UUPGs. But if we don’t do it Jesus way, we are wasting our time. This is God’s business, so if we want to succeed, we have to do it Jesus’ way. This is his coverage principle. It’s his plan and he will not change it for anyone. 

To summarize, I want to remind you again about Jesus’ vision of the harvest and the kingdom. About abundant prayer. About ordinary people. I want to remind you about these coverage principles: Disciples making disciples who make disciples, and the person of peace. I also want to remind you about the coverage principle of the Holy Spirit and simplicity of the Word. And don’t forget access ministry (compassion ministry) and depending on God for the resources. We need to keep these in our minds. 

I assure you that when we do things God’s way, he is always faithful, as he has always been faithful in the past. The world is changing and will continue to change, but our God will never change. You will never bankrupt God by asking for anything in prayer. I believe God can use you for great things in seeing a movement. Let’s pray to the Lord of the harvest that he will send forth laborers into the harvest field. Let’s also pray that wherever people go with the gospel the door will be open for them. That they will be able to bring this gospel to people who are lost and dying. Let us also cry out to God for the resources for the work. Let us pray for persons of peace – that God will open doors and identify the persons of peace. 

These coverage strategies are transferable and reproducible in any culture. Indigenous churches can use them to lead to multiple coverage movements. This is not theory. This is what I have lived for, what I’m working for and what (if need be) I would die for. I encourage us all that this can be done. Put these things in your heart and pray for them. It can be difficult at the beginning. But trust that God will give you the breakthrough. He has done it for us as we have seen multiple churches all over. The same can happen for you. So I encourage you to be strong. Amen.

Categories
About Movements

Launching Movements among Buddhists – 2

Launching Movements among Buddhists – 2

Case Studies of Best Practices 
– By Steve Parlato – 

Edited from a video for Global Assembly of Pastors for Finishing the Task
Part 2: Fruitful Tools and Approaches

To speak into the Buddhist worldview, this vastly different understanding of reality, myself and others have developed some tools. These tools communicate the gospel, contextualize the message, in a way that’s getting a lot more traction among Buddhists. One of those tools is “Creation to Judgment.” A second tool is what I’ll call “The Four Noble Truths of Jesus.” This tool was developed in Myanmar by a Buddhist-background believer and an expatriate working together to really wrestle with the meaning of the gospel and the meaning that needs to be communicated to local Bamar Buddhist peoples. “The Four Noble Truths of Jesus” has seen a lot of traction: a lot of Buddhist-background believers coming to faith. The tool was then taken to Thailand and Cambodia. We did see some traction in Cambodia, but not as much in Thailand, (partly because not many people used it). It wasn’t used widely enough in Thailand to really see its effect. But in my own experience in the Thai context, many Buddhists I talked with didn’t know the terms. They weren’t familiar with the contrasts being made using the tool. I as the messenger started to explain to them Buddhist concepts that they weren’t at all familiar with. 

In the Myanmar context, it seemed the average person is very familiar with these terms and an immediate understanding could be forged. In the Four Noble Truths of Buddha, Christians can totally agree that life is full of suffering. Not only is it full of suffering, we know exactly where it came from. You can quote things from the first three chapters in Genesis. We ca totally agree that there is thunha (desire). We see the flesh – the evil nature inside of humans – coming together and creating societies that are broken: full of suffering and creating suffering. So suffering comes from sin and disobedience, and a broken relationship with our creator. We can make the same observation that life is full of sin and its origins are very much in desire. Lastly, there is a place of no suffering. They call it nirvana, we call it the Kingdom of God. 

If you use the word heaven, you will immediately have a communication problem. Buddhists already have seven levels of heaven, so they don’t need a Christian heaven; they’ve already got heaven. What we mean by heaven is something completely outside the Buddhist worldview. It is to break free of karma: your sin, karma and its effects. The Good News in Jesus is that you can be free of your sin and your karma and enjoy eternal life with him. The fourth point of the Four Noble Truths is that you attain salvation through perfect implementation of the eightfold path. In Christianity, we just have one path: follow Jesus. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life; nobody comes to the Father except by following him. The gate is narrow and the way is long that leads to life; that gate and that long path is Jesus. So we have one path not eight. 

The other tool, “Creation to Judgment,” I’ve personally seen be very effective at communicating meaning with Buddhists. I’ve trained many hundreds of others to use the tool, and they in turn have trained others. And many of them are reporting good success in using the Creation to Judgment explanation. In Thailand, our Creation to Judgment tool takes about three and a half minutes to tell and it goes like this: 

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and he created the earth. In heaven he created angels: many, many angels who were there to serve and worship God. On earth, he made people. He made a man and a woman in his likeness to be with him. And between God and man there was a close relationship like a good family. Everything God made was really good. But a problem happened. In heaven, one angel and his group rebelled against God. They wanted to be like God, so God threw them out of heaven down to earth, which led to another problem. The people God had made did not obey God, so the close family relationship between God and humanity was broken. At that point, death came into the world; suffering came into the world and has continued until this very time. Everything was a terrible mess. But God, who loves people, did not leave things in that situation. He promised there would be a deliverer, a helper who would come and restore the relationship between people and God. That helper, that deliverer, is Jesus. Jesus lived a perfect life; he never sinned. He had the power to heal sickness, to help blind people see, and help the deaf hear. If people had demons, he was able to cast them out. He even brought back to life people who had died. But despite living such a good life, the religious leaders of Jesus’ day were jealous and made a plan to put Jesus to death, death by nailing onto a cross. They arrested Jesus and nailed him to the cross. After he died they took his body down and put it in a tomb, in a cave. God looked down on the sacrifice of Jesus and he was pleased. To show his pleasure, he raised Jesus back from the dead on the third day. In the Bible it says that whoever turns from their sin and places their faith and trust in this helper Jesus, they will be able to break free of their sin – karma. They will be given the right to become a child of God and live forever. And they will receive the Holy Spirit so they will have power to live a life pleasing to God. After Jesus had come back from the dead, he spent about 40 days with his disciples. Then he ascended and went into heaven. But Jesus said he’s coming back. When he comes back, all the people who have ever lived, in all generations, in all places, will appear before God’s judgment seat. Each person will go forward, one at a time, to account for their deeds, the good and bad that they have done. Those who have put their faith and trust in Jesus will live forever with him in his kingdom. Those who did not already put their faith and trust in Jesus will be forever separated from him. [Person’s name], I am a member in God’s family and God loves you and he wants you to be a member in his family. Is that something you want to pursue today?” 

In actual field practice we share this tool with many, many people. We almost never get all the way through. People stop us and ask questions. They want an explanation: What do we mean by this? Is it like that? Is it like something else? It’s always important to pause and deal with their questions. If it takes you a half hour or two hours to get through the whole thing, that’s a great sign. 

These two tools – the “Four Noble Truths of Jesus” and “Creation to Judgment” – are contextualized tools that help get the message across. The Church in the Buddhist world has primarily followed Western practices and has created church structures that are very Western in form. Wherever church planting has been fruitful in the Buddhist world, you’ll see there has been a level of contextualization. We might use a simple thing, like a gizi bell in Myanmar to send our prayers to heaven, or some local terms for amen. These things help. Using local indigenous music and using oral Bible stories for preferred oral learners: these are really important elements of how we do church together, so that church looks as familiar and normal as it can in that cultural setting. Coming up with church structures suited to a local setting is a conversation that needs to take place with Buddhist-background believers from that culture. They, wrestling with Scripture, maybe with the help of an outsider or outside missionary, come up with those forms. 

Our world, our cultures, are in massive change. No culture is static, so creating indigenous church structures does not mean preserving some picture of history in the past or some idealized ancient music form. In all of these Buddhist countries, they’re going to different kinds of music, so you indigenize into the forms that make sense today. That way the church forms don’t destroy people’s identity in their ethnicity or their nationality. They can fully be Christians within their national context. Local Buddhist-background believers need to think critically about the actual forms and terms that get used. They need to think carefully, so they don’t just look at existing churches and say, “Oh, they do it that way; we need to do it that way.” Or “I saw this on YouTube; we’ve got to do it that way.” 

A great and helpful role of outside workers is to help local Buddhist-background believers think carefully about what they’re communicating and that they don’t inadvertently perpetrate a Western form. Adoniram Judson was a fruitful missionary to Buddhists in Myanmar. In his memoirs we can see some things that characterized him and his ministry and its fruitfulness. First, he had a passion for the lost. He is known for translating the Bible into Burmese, and that’s one of the key outcomes of his ministry life. But it was a tremendous struggle for him to not be out engaging the lost with the message of Christ, and just translate the Bible. But he received that as his call and he translated the Bible. Yet he was characterized as a person with a passion for the lost. He desired for everyone to hear; he had a vision for all Buddhists in the whole country to know Christ. This “no place left” vision was very much in his heart and soul. 

He also released local people to lead very early. He allowed lay church leaders, emerging new church leaders, to perform baptism and then lead their church services. He had an effective system for releasing local people into leadership in their churches. He also had a vision to disciple entire families. You can see in his memoirs: gathering whole families together, where he would identify a key leader in the family unit, whom God had touched. Through that person, they would gather their extended family together and they would have lengthy conversations to present the gospel. 

Lastly, I believe certain spiritual warfare topics are unique to the Buddhist world. The first one that myself and others have encountered is miscommunication. Often when one team member explains something to another team member, the listening team member hears something quite different than, even opposite of, what was said or meant. I have noted family conflict when we go into a Buddhist situation, unlike we saw when we were working with Animists or in other parts of the world. There seems to be almost a demonically inspired barrier that inhibits good communication. We talked about that some with the failure to contextualize the message, but even when the message was spoken clearly, there’s some kind of wall – almost like a barrier to hearing what’s being said. A second theme we’ve noticed is a lot of cross-cultural workers having terrible dreams: violent dreams of death. There seems to be a spirit of death involved with those who reach Buddhists. 

I pray that some of what I’ve shared will equip you to better launch a disciple-making movement among Buddhist people, wherever you are in this world. Whatever version, whatever mix of Buddhist philosophies are present among the people you’re reaching, just receive them as they are. Use the universal language of love to bring them to full understanding of the true liberation and ultimate truth that’s in Jesus. Never present yourself as another messenger of a religion. Our faith is the ultimate truth, explaining all of reality, all of our future. It is the ultimate hope for all people everywhere. It’s never to be back-pedaled or embarrassed about. 

I understand there has been minimal progress among the Buddhist world for various reasons: the great gulf of understanding, differences between Buddhist and Christian teaching, failure to contextualize the message, failure to contextualize our methods and church forms, failure to follow biblical multiplication principles, and a lack of awareness about some of the spiritual warfare issues involved in reaching Buddhists. As you go on your journey, you may be able to add to that message. I trust that you will, and that you will build on this small humble foundation of reaching Buddhists and make it better for the next generation. God bless you in all that you do.

Categories
About Movements

Launching Movements among Buddhists:

Launching Movements among Buddhists:

Case Studies of Best Practices 
– By Steve Parlato – 

Edited from a video for Global Assembly of Pastors for Finishing the Task
Part 1: The History and the Challenge

My mission agency, Beyond, is part of a global network called 24:14 which seeks to catalyze movements in every people group and place of the world. I’d like to share with you some of the issues in catalyzing disciple-making movements among Buddhists. Two centuries of Protestant mission work have brought only minimal progress among Buddhists. Buddhism has seen the least response to the gospel of any major world religion. If just sharing Jesus with Buddhists has been met with such little response, catalyzing a disciple-making movement among Buddhists seems even more elusive. My perspective comes out of my own efforts through 30 years of making disciples among Buddhist people, and from case studies of others who have done this as well. I hope I can help you become better equipped at making disciples among Buddhists and catalyzing disciple-making movements. 

Many Buddhists are genuine spiritual seekers. So why wouldn’t Buddhists embrace the truth of Jesus? I can give you at least five reasons for the slow uptake. 

First, Buddhist and Christian teaching are very different. There’s nothing we can do about that. 

Second is a failure on the part of Christians to contextualize the message. In many cases, we’ve gotten the words right, but have failed to communicate meaning. 

Third, Christians have tended to use Western methods and have planted churches following Western structures. Among Southeast Asian peoples, Buddhist identity is wrapped up in their ethnicity or national identity. For example, to be “Bamar” is to be Buddhist; to be Thai is to be Buddhist. This makes it awkward for Buddhist-background believers to be incorporated into a primarily Western church structure.

A fourth reason is a failure to use biblical movement-friendly practices in discipleship and church planting. 

Lastly, there are some specific spiritual warfare issues in reaching Buddhists, and many cross-cultural workers have not been entirely prepared for those challenges. Except for the first point, the great difference between Buddhist and Christian teaching, we as messengers of Christ can do something about the other points. 

CONTRAST OF BUDDHIST AND CHRISTIAN THINKING

Let’s take a look at Buddhist thinking and see how it differs from Christian thinking. First, for a Buddhist, there is no God. No God to be accountable to, no God to offend. But there’s also no God to have a relationship with. There’s no divine source out there to help you on the journey of life. You’re entirely on your own to make merit: to do good or do evil. The practice of Buddhism is entirely your personal liberation journey. Second, Buddhists believe in karma. Karma simply means actions. However, when most Westerners use the word “karma,” what they actually mean is the law of karma. The law of karma is a summary of both one’s good and bad actions. The law of karma is an impersonal force which determines the course of a person’s life and all future lives. 

A third difficulty is that Buddhism readily mixes with other beliefs. It even brings in beliefs from other religions that are contradictory to its own system, forming a mixed folk Buddhism. Christianity has a written orthodoxy. A biblically defined faith and practice oppose syncretism.

HISTORICAL SPREAD OF BUDDHISM AND SYNCRETISM

India was the birthplace of Buddhism, about 2560 years ago. But it wasn’t until much later, during the reign of the Indian emperor Ashoka (268 to 232 BC) that Buddhist missionaries were sent out around the world. The spread of Buddhism illustrates how it syncretized with existing beliefs.

Buddhist missionaries went to Central Asia: places like Pakistan and Iran where they started a version of Mahayana Buddhism. Nowadays, Buddhism only remains in this region in archaeological digs. When Buddhism entered China it overlaid onto Taoist philosophy and ancestor worship. Buddhist missionaries who went to Sri Lanka started the Theravada school of Buddhism. The Theravada school were the first to write down the teachings of Buddha, about 30 AD. The first Theravada school temple was started in Myanmar in 228 BC. The Theravada school spread from Sri Lanka to Thailand, Cambodia and then to Laos. Lastly, Ashoka sent Buddhist missionaries into Nepal, who then went on to Bhutan, Tibet, Mongolia and up into the Buryat peoples in Siberia. Buddhism in these regions overlaid itself onto the animistic Bon religion. This resulted in the Vajrayana or Tibetan school of Buddhism.

As Buddhism spread historically, it acted as an overlay on the pre-existing culture, philosophy and religion of various area. Like a cloth, it took on the landscape of philosophies that existed when it came. As in this picture, you know there’s a chair underneath the cloth. Because Buddhism readily incorporates all beliefs into its system, it is difficult for Buddhists to accept any fixed exclusive claims of Christianity.

Here is a personal example. I shared Christ over a two-year period with a Thai policeman who was a good friend of mine. One day he came to me and said, “Hey Steve, I’m a Christian like you now.” 

Being a little more than skeptical I asked, “What do you mean by that?” 

He pulled out his necklace, filled with amulets and talismans, and said, “See, here I’ve tied on the cross and now it’s one of my protective spiritual amulets.” 

So you can see how easily a Buddhist can say: “Oh, I believe that,” but really all they’ve done is syncretized some of what you’ve said into what they already believe.

PROBLEM OF APOLEGETICS

When Christian missionaries first witnessed to Buddhists, they took an apologetic approach. They attacked logical inconsistencies in the Buddhist system, hoping to win Buddhists over to a more cohesive and (as some would argue) logical set of truth. For example, a missionary might argue: “You Buddhists believe in reincarnation but then you also say that people are nothingness (anata). So if my ultimate reality is nothingness, then what’s being reincarnated into the next life?” Missionaries would try to find what seemed to be logical fallacies in the system, then present Christ as the better system. This has been a massive failure throughout history, and almost always led to conflicts.

WORLDVIEW GULF

Cristianity and Buddhism. Sinclaire Thompson Memorial Lectures, fifth series. Chiang Mai Thailand.

In the 1960s, a number of interfaith dialogues took place between Buddhists and Christians in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Much of those dialogues were apologetic presentations. After those Buddhist-Christian dialogues, a very famous Thai monk of the time wrote a book to explain Christianity to Buddhists. In it he said that God is ignorance (avijjā)

and that God is the source of the broken world of suffering that we are caught in. Very clearly, even after dialogue between Christian and Buddhist scholars, massive misunderstanding remained concerning the most basic concept: Who is God? and What is the source of suffering?

So let’s take a look at the worldview of Buddhists to further understand the vast difference between Buddhist and Christian thinking. The Thervada Buddhist worldview has seven levels of heaven and different levels of hell. Here on earth, Gautama was born as a prince in the 6th century BC and at age 29 he left his protected palace life to go on a journey to seek spiritual truth. Gautama noticed that we live in a world of suffering. Specifically he noticed that people are born, then as their life proceeds they get old. He next observed that people get sick. They face various kinds of illnesses, then as their life goes on they die. He didn’t stop there; he also said that people, after they die, are born into another life. That is, they are reincarnated. This whole system is called samsara. Samsara simply means wandering. People are caught in this cycle of being born, getting old, getting sick, and dying. Reincarnated, around and around, wandering, like lost souls caught in an endless cycle. So you may have a life here on this earth and maybe it doesn’t go so well. It’s discovered that you’re an adulterer so you have to go down to hell, a hell specifically set up for adulterers. Maybe things go well for you as you live out a lifetime in hell, then you’re born back as a person on this earth again. You get old, you get sick, you die. Maybe things go well and you make it up to one of the levels of heaven, then back down to earth, then up to a higher level of heaven, then maybe back down to earth, then back down to hell. This cycle could carry on for potentially thousands of lifetimes. 

So we can see that Buddhists have their own concept of eternal life. It is sadly an eternal life of suffering. The goal in Buddhism is to break out of this cycle of suffering, to somehow escape out of it to a place where there is no suffering. Given the many traditions of Buddhism in the world, you might get very different explanations what nirvana means. Some will explain it’s like a drop of water that flows back into the sea, losing its identity. Others will say it’s the golden celestial city and a place of great joy. But one thing is similar in all the traditions of Buddhism: nirvana is a place with no suffering.

The Buddhist worldview can be summarized in the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. The first noble truth is that all of life is suffering (tuk). From birth, to getting old, the process of dying, and everything in the middle: it’s all suffering. The source of suffering, the second noble truth, is desire – like internal lust from inside (thunha). The third noble truth is that there is a way out of suffering (nirot). The fourth noble truth is that if people want to break out of this cycle of suffering, they need to perfectly live out the Eightfold Path (mak).

Buddha discovered the Eightfold Path. Each of these eight paths are described with the word “right,” like “right understanding.” But the word “right” could also be translated “perfect” or “complete.” So if you have the perfect or right understanding, then you have the perfectly correct view of reality. The second pathway is having right intent: That is you have a complete or perfect commitment to the path. Third, you have right or perfect speech: you have total care with all your words all the time. Fourth, you have right or perfect actions: you live a completely moral life. Christians and Buddhists find many similarities in right speech and right action. Fifth, you have the right livelihood. The profession you choose needs to respect all life. For example, a good Buddhist cannot be a butcher, nor could they manufacture and sell weapons. Sixth is right effort: being steady and cheerful in all things. Seventh, you have right or perfect mindfulness: perfect awareness, able to live in the moment perfectly. The final pathway is right concentration: you have a perfect and focused life of meditation. If somehow you could do all eight pathways perfectly, you may experience enlightenment. 

The Mahayana school holds a belief in reincarnated Buddhas. Buddhas are people who have reached enlightenment and then are reborn on this earth for the specific task of helping certain people along, to succeed in their journey. In the Theravada school, there are no reincarnated Buddhas; each individual is entirely on their own to do this. These are some of the huge differences in the teaching of Christians and Buddhists. 

Now in comes the Christian messenger and things are exceedingly ripe for misunderstanding. Let’s take the most simple, seemingly safe explanation of the gospel: John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whosoever should believe in Him would not perish but have everlasting life.” Virtually every word in that sentence will need additional explanation if your Buddhist friend is going to understand its meaning. You may get the words right, but you still need to get the meaning across. 

First of all, they believe there is no God. So if you say “God so loved the world,” your Buddhist friend is already suspicious of you; you’re deluded because there is no god. And if God loves the world (all the people in the world), he must have desire. Therefore this god is caught in the samsara cycle; he’s caught in the cycle of death and birth and rebirth. “Whosoever believes,” so you’re saying that through faith one can be saved. But for the Buddhists, it’s all about what you do; religion is all about the practices and things you do. So there’s already a disagreement: it is not through faith; only self-effort can save. “Will have everlasting life”: in their mind that means samsara. They think: “I don’t want that. As a Buddhist, I’m trying to get out of the eternal cycle (samsara) of suffering. So why would I follow Jesus, to just be caught in the cycle of birth, aging and dying?”

None of them will tell you all that analysis out loud. All you’ll hear is, “It’s irrelevant.” Or something like, “All religions teach people to be good,” which means “I’ve got my religion; you’ve got yours. Yours is irrelevant; I don’t need that. End of discussion.” Buddhists are very tolerant, so they may politely say, “Yes, Jesus is good and we’re all exactly the same,” but they can’t see any unique claim there. The whole conversation is dismissed as irrelevant.

This gulf between Buddhist and Christian teachings and worldview has been one of the major contributing factors to little response to the gospel among Buddhists. But in our day, the Lord has allowed his children to discover some tools that can help bridge the gulf. We will look at those in Part 2 of this case study.

Categories
About Movements

Movements in the Bible

Movements in the Bible

– By J. Snodgrass –

Movement. In the world of missions, the word brings strong reactions. Is it, as advocates would say, the future of the Great Commission? Or is it simply a fad, a pragmatic pipe dream among certain crowds of church planters? The most important question is, “Are movements biblical?”

Luke’s account of the amazing spread of the gospel in the book of Acts sets the standard for what we mean by “movement.” In Acts, Luke records the spread of the gospel from “Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth (1).” When those cut to the heart by Peter’s sermon at Pentecost were baptized, 3,000 were added to the faith in a single day (Acts 2:41). The church in Jerusalem grew as “… the Lord added day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). As Peter and John were “proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead,” “many of those who heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand” (Acts 4:2, 4). A short time later Luke states that “more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women” (Acts 5:14). Then, “the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem” (Acts 6:7). 

This growing and multiplying continued as the gospel spread beyond Jerusalem. “The church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied” (Acts 9:31). When those scattered by the persecution of Stephen came to Antioch, they spoke to the Hellenists there, “And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord” (Acts 11:21). Back in Judea, “… the word of God increased and multiplied” (Acts 12:24).

When the Holy Spirit and the church in Antioch set apart Paul and Barnabas for the “work,” they preached at Pisidian Antioch, the Gentiles gladly heard and believed. “And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region” (Acts 13:49). Later, on Paul’s second journey with Silas, they revisited the churches of Derbe and Lystra, “So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily” (Acts 16:5). During Paul’s Ephesian ministry, he “reasoned daily” in the Hall of Tyrannus, “so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks” (Acts 19:10). As the gospel grew in Ephesus, “the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily” (Acts 19:20). Finally, upon Paul’s return to Jerusalem, the elders there inform Paul “how many tens of thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed…” (Acts 21:20 ISV). 

By the end of the missionary journeys, the body of believers had grown from 120 gathered in Jerusalem (Acts 1:15) to thousands spread throughout the north-eastern Mediterranean basin. These believers assembled in churches that were multiplying in number and in faith (Acts 16:5). They were also sending their own missionary laborers to join Paul in his apostolic church-planting work (Acts 13:1-3; 16:1-3; 20:4). All of this in a matter of roughly 25 years (2).

This is movement. Acts records the initial movement of the gospel, and the disciples and churches that resulted from it. What can we say about that movement? And what does it mean for our work today? 

First, it was the work of the Holy Spirit, who: 

  • began (Acts 2:1-4)
  • propelled (Acts 2:47; Acts 4:7-8, 29-31; 7:55; 10:44-46)
  • directed (Acts 8:29; 13:2; 15:28; 16:6-7; 20:22), and
  • sustained (Acts 9:31; 13:52; 20:28; Rom 15:19).

Second, the movement advanced through proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ and the conversion of sinners to God (Acts 2:14-17a, 21-24; 3:12-26; 4:5-12; 7:1-53; 8:5-8, 26-39; 10:34-43; 13:5, 13:16-42; 14:1, 6-7; 16:13, 32; 17:2-3, 10-11, 17; 18:4; 19:8-10).

The gospel carried with it an innate power to bring salvation (Rom 1:16). It “continued to increase and to prevail mightily” (Acts 19:20) and propelled the movement into new areas. 

Third, it produced new churches in new places across a large geographic area: “Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum” (Acts 14:21-22; 16:1, 40; 17:4, 12, 34; 18:8-11; 19:10; 20:1, 17).

These churches participated to varying degrees in God’s work as they became “obedient to the faith” (Rom 15:19). 

Based upon this picture from the book of Acts, we offer a definition of a biblical movement as follows: A dynamic advance of the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit through multiple localities or peoples. This includes large in-gathering of new believers, vibrant transforming faith, and multiplication of disciples, churches and leaders.

The picture we have traced here inspires the question: “Why not here and now?” Are there any compelling biblical reasons to believe that the elements of movements are no longer available to us? Or that movements like the one described in Acts cannot happen again today? We have the same Word and same Spirit. We have the record of the movement in Acts and we can claim God’s promise: “whatever was written in former days was written for instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Rom 15:4).

Dare we hope that the kind of movement described in Acts might come to life again today? In fact it already is! We now see hundreds of movements around the world!

  1. All Scripture quotations from ESV unless otherwise noted; all italics in Scripture quotations used for emphasis.

  2. Eckhard Schnabel, Early Christian Mission, 2 vols. (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic), 2:1476-78.

  3. Snodgrass has lived and served as a church planter and CP trainer in South Asia for the past 12 years. He and his wife have assisted church plants and trained in movements among Hindus and Muslims. He is completing a Ph.D. in Applied Theology.

J. Snodgrass has lived and served as a church planter and CP trainer in South Asia for the past 12 years. He and his wife have assisted church plants and trained in movements among Hindus and Muslims. He is completing a Ph.D. in Applied Theology.

Edited and condensed from an article originally published in the January-February 2018 issue of Mission Frontiers, www.missionfrontiers.org, pages 26-28, expanded and published on pages 156-169 of the book 24:14 – A Testimony to All Peoples, available from 24:14 or Amazon.

Categories
About Movements

How God is Sweeping Through South Asia – Part 2

How God is Sweeping Through South Asia – Part 2

– By the “Walker” family –

In part 1 we shared the unfolding of a CPM in South Asia, from our vantage point as expatriates, and the vantage point of our key partner Sanjay. Here are a few of the many lessons we learned in the process:

  1. Matthew 10, Luke 9 and 10 offer an effective strategy for connecting to lost people. 
  2. Miracles (healing and/or demonic deliverance) are a consistent component of people entering the Kingdom.
  3. The easier the Discovery Process is, the more effective. Thus, we simplified the tool several times. 
  4. Training from God’s Word is more powerful, effective, and replicable than human made tools and methods.
  5. It is better to go deep in empowering people who are applying CPM principles than focusing on doing more trainings.
  6. Everyone is to lovingly obey Jesus, and everyone is to pass on the training to someone else.
  7. It is vital to point out when someone is following tradition rather than the Word, but only with cultural sensitivity and growing trust, not as an attack. 
  8. It is vital to reach households, not just individuals. 
  9. Use Discovery Bible Studies (DBS) for both pre-churches and churches. 
  10. Empowering illiterate and semi-literate disciples to do the work yields the most fruit. To that end, we provide rechargeable, inexpensive speakers with story sets on memory cards to those who can’t read. Roughly half of the churches have been planted through the use of these speakers. Disciples sit together, listen to the stories and apply them to their lives.
  11. Leadership circles provide sustainable and reproducible mutual mentoring for leaders. 
  12. Intercessory prayer and listening prayer are critical.

The movement has consistently reached beyond the 4th generation of groups in many places. In a few locations, it has reached 29 generations. In fact, this is not just one movement, but multiple movements, in 6+ geographical regions, multiple languages and multiple religious backgrounds. Only a handful of churches use special buildings or rented space; nearly all are house churches, meeting in a home or courtyard, or under a tree.

Our Roles as Outside Catalysts (Expats)

  • We offer simple, replicable, biblical paradigm shifts.
  • We provide strong prayer support as a team, and also mobilize strategic prayer support from abroad.
  • We ask questions.
  • We train nationals to train others.
  • We provide guidance if/when the next step is unclear.
  • We are very careful when facing an issue about which we might disagree with Sanjay and John. We consider them as more important than ourselves. They are not our employees, but co-laborers seeking to obey the Lord together. Thus, we encourage them to not just take our word for any issue, but also seek the Lord personally to see what He is saying.
  • We sometimes invite our personal DMM mentor to meet with Sanjay and John so they can hear from someone who has seen and done more than we have.
  • We strive to decrease their feelings of dependence upon us. We actively choose to get out of the way as quickly as possible.
  • We provide tools for discipling leaders (Bible trainings and leadership growth trainings), and tools for discipling churches (Discovery Study).

The Role of Women in the Movement

Female leaders have emerged in disciple making streams facilitated by male leaders. Female leaders have also multiplied and developed other female leaders. In fact, female leaders make up a key component of the work, possibly up to 30-40% of the core leaders of the movements. Women, even young women, lead house churches, plant new churches and baptize other women.

The Role of Key Inside Leaders 

Nationals are the ones who do the “real” work. They walk the dusty roads, enter homes, and pray for miracles and deliverance. They are the ones who start Bible studies with simple farmers and their families, staying in their homes and eating their food, even when it’s over 100 degrees (F) and there’s no electricity or water. They do the work and are thrilled about the fruit they are bearing! Their stories fuel the rest of us to keep going.

Key Factors in Progress

  1. Listening prayer. Praying is our job. The Lord has changed and adjusted our approaches many times through prayer. Listening is an important part of prayer. There have been so many changes along the way. So many questions: What’s next? Shall we work with this person? We’ve hit a “roadblock”; what Scriptures shall we use for the next training? Is this a good use of our funding? Is it time to release this brother who’s not applying the model, or shall we give him one more chance? Should we continue training in this city or is this a dead end? We, the entire team, have learned to sit and wait for God’s answer, no matter what the question.
  2. Miracles. The movement has grown primarily along relational lines through miracles. We have seen many healings and deliverances from demons. Miracles not only open doors for a DBS, but news about miracles spreads along familial and relationship lines so that other households open. For instance, a disciple might find an opportunity to pray for a demonized person. When the person is delivered, the word spreads throughout their family, including relatives who live in other villages. Those extended relatives ask the disciple to also come pray for them. When the disciple and newly delivered person go and pray, very often a miracle happens for the relatives, too, and another DBS starts. In this way, simple, uneducated people – including those barely in the Kingdom – are seeing God’s Kingdom grow. 
  3. Evaluation. We ask a lot of questions: “How are we doing? Will our current actions get us to where we want to go? If we do _____, can the nationals do it without us? Can they replicate it?”
  4. We are very cautious about the use of funds.
  5. We adapt our material. We are selective about the materials we use. If a new resource we’ve been given doesn’t quite fit, we adjust it. There is no one formula that works for all.
  6. We are centered in Scripture. Any “good teaching” we might give would never be as effective as what the Holy Spirit can impress on people’s hearts through the Word. So every training we conduct has a strong scriptural basis. During trainings, everyone makes observations, asks questions, and digs deep.
  7. Everyone shares with others what he or she learns. No one is a pond; we are all rivers. Disciples are expected to pass down every training they receive to their own discipleship chains.

We praise God for the great work he has done since our team began focusing solely on the command to make disciples of all nations.

The “Walker” family began cross-cultural work in 2001. In 2006, they joined Beyond (www.beyond.org) and in 2011 started applying CPM principles. They were joined by “Phoebe” in 2013. Phoebe and the Walkers moved countries in 2016, and have been supporting the movements from a distance.


This is expanded from an article that appeared in the January-February 2018 issue of Mission Frontiers and includes material excerpted from the book Dear Mom and Dad: An Adventure in Obedience, by R. Rekedal Smith; published in full on pages 121-129 of the book 24:14 – A Testimony to All Peoples, available from 24:14 or Amazon.

Categories
About Movements

How God is Sweeping Through South Asia – Part 1

How God is Sweeping Through South Asia – Part 1

– By the “Walker” family –

Our team consists of a married couple, another expatriate, and two national coworkers, Sanjay* and John* (Sanjay’s younger brother). We are co-laborers. There’s no sense of “us” or “them.” We are all just disciples of Jesus, people trying to listen to Him and do what He says. Whenever one of us senses a need for a change or a new approach in the work, we present it to the rest of the team as humbly as possible, and then seek the Lord for confirmation in His Word.

We expatriates didn’t come to the field with this perspective. We spent many years on the field spinning our wheels. We were busy but unfruitful. In 2011, we attended disciple making trainings sponsored by our agency. The trainings changed our lives. For two weeks, we studied God’s Word. We didn’t read books about missions or study modern patterns in missions. We simply opened our Bibles and looked for answers to questions such as, “Did Jesus have a strategy for reaching lost people?” 

God used the trainings to shift our paradigms. Most importantly, we faced this question: “What if, instead of focusing on what we can do (engineering, teaching, administration, communication), we focus on what needs to be done?” In all the years we’d been on the field, we had concentrated on using our skills. What if the question had never been about our skills, but rather, “What needs to be done in order to save the lost?” The answer to that question would necessarily include skills we don’t have (like befriending strangers, praying with unbelievers, and following the instructions given in Luke 10). What a relief to realize that obeying Jesus’ command to make disciples (Matthew 28:19) doesn’t revolve around our methods, personality types or intelligence levels. Jesus didn’t invite His first disciples to follow Him because they were the best or the smartest. They were uneducated fishermen, vile tax collectors and oppressed underdogs. But they obeyed Jesus.

We were so excited. For the first time in our lives on the field, we began to focus on God’s desire that none should perish rather than on our skills. We began trying new things, including: 

  1. personal obedience (searching for people who would open their households to the gospel),
  2. increased prayer (no longer just a personal, devotional time activity; prayer became part of our job description), 
  3. casting vision to existing believers to partner in this endeavor, 
  4. training interested Christians, and
  5. receiving coaching from those ahead of us.

A few months after receiving training, we ran across an acquaintance named Sanjay, a man we hadn’t seen for several years. What follows is Sanjay’s perspective of that meeting.

———————————

I was born into a Christian family. We followed the Christian traditions. When I was old enough, I received four years of Bible training, and then became a Bible teacher. Over time, I started 17 different churches in rural areas over a large geographical area of my country. 

In December 2011, I met Brother Walker on the road in Delhi. He asked if I would like to come to his house for training in church planting. At that point in my life, I was a very proud man. I had a large ministry. I had started a school and a Bible training center. I thought, “What can this guy teach me?” I decided not to go.

However, a month later I called him to wish him a Happy New Year. When I called, he said, “I spoke with before you about a church planting training. Why don’t you come?”

This time, I gave in. I said I would come and bring some friends.

When we arrived, he gave us water to drink and thanked us for coming. Then he gave us paper and pens and said, “Today, we are going to study Scripture. I’m going to go make chai for everyone. While I do that, all of you please copy Matthew 28:16-20 from your Bibles onto your piece of paper. Next to the passage, write how you are going to apply it to your life.”

I thought, “What kind of training is this? All he did was give me a piece of paper and a pen!” I already had Bible college training. I had completed 12 years of very successful ministry. But, in 10 minutes time, I was a changed man. 

I read in Matthew 28 that Jesus said we must go and make disciples. I wrote that down. Later, after I shared what was on my paper, Brother asked me, “Sanjay, you have a very large ministry, but do you have any disciples?”

I thought, “I don’t have a single one. In 10 years, I have done nothing for Jesus. He said to make disciples, but up to this day, I have none.

The next month, I came back to visit the Walkers again. We sat together and studied God’s Word. I decided that from then on, I would leave behind all other things. I returned home with one desire – to do nothing less, nothing else, than disciple making. I resigned from the school I had started, my position with the international ministry that paid a good salary, and my job as president of the Bible training center. I left everything. Since that time, I have focused on obeying Jesus’ command and nothing else. And God has faithfully provided for our every need.

—————-

We began meeting roughly once per month with Sanjay and 15 friends he invited from various districts in his state. Most were Christian-background believers, while a few were Hindu background believers. Those who applied the CPM principles began to quickly see fruit. Sanjay was the head coach and cheerleader for this group.

  • By December 2012, there were 55 Discovery Bible Groups, all consisting of lost people.
  • By December 2013 there were 250 groups (churches and Discovery groups).
  • By December 2014 there were 700 churches, and an estimated 2,500 baptized.
  • By December 2015 there were 2,000 churches, and an estimated 9,000 baptized
  • By December 2016 there were 6,500 churches, and an estimated 25,000 baptisms.
  • By December 2017, there were 21,000 churches and it became impractical to try to count baptisms.
  • By December 2018, there were 30,000 churches.

In part 2 we will share a few of the many lessons we learned during this process, the roles of various people involved, and key factors in progress.

The “Walker” family began cross-cultural work in 2001. In 2006, they joined Beyond (www.beyond.org) and in 2011 started applying CPM principles. They were joined by “Phoebe” in 2013. Phoebe and the Walkers moved countries in 2016, and have been supporting the movements from a distance.

This is expanded from an article that appeared in the January-February 2018 issue of Mission Frontiers and includes material excerpted from the book Dear Mom and Dad: An Adventure in Obedience, by R. Rekedal Smith.

Categories
About Movements

Biblical DMM/CPM Practice

Biblical DMM/CPM Practice

– By Nathan Shank –

My wife Kari and I have lived and served in South Asia since 2000. We’ve been privileged to see many expressions of the Kingdom of God, the multiplication of churches among many unreached people groups. You realize the Finishing The Task effort brings us together to celebrate 20 years since Amsterdam 2000. Hundreds of leaders from missions organizations, various church and denominational backgrounds, gathered in Amsterdam to celebrate the fruit of the Lausanne Congress and the AD 2000 Movement. But ultimately to seek to discern how far we’ve been able to come in the Great Commission pursuit over 2000 years of Great Commission history. 

At that same meeting it was recognized that many thousands of the world’s people groups remained unengaged with the gospel. Of course, that’s unacceptable. It gives birth to the vision that we might finish the task of reaching every people group – every nation, tribe, people and language that will ultimately be represented before the throne of God – that within our generation we might see them engaged with the gospel. As my wife and I have been privileged to see churches multiply around South Asia, we also have become aware of not just unreached peoples but also the unengaged. Even in some cases hidden in our very neighborhoods. 

Over the two decades since Amsterdam 2000, Finishing The Task and other efforts like FTT have been primary catalysts in the engagement of more than 2,500 people groups for the first time in Great Commission history. I want you to think about that with me. Two decades of time, in the context of 2,000 years of Great Commission history. If my math serves me correctly, that’s 1% of Great Commission history. These last two decades, the decades of the FTT movement from the year 2000 till today, represent 1% (20 of 2,000 years) of Great Commission history. What we celebrate today is the fruit of efforts like FTT over those 20 years: almost a hundred people groups, on average, engaged for the first time since the tower of Babel. Having opportunity to know about the Messiah who has given a sacrifice for their sins. 

We have much to celebrate. We are living in a Kairos generation: approximately 20% of the world’s people groups engaged for the first time in 1% of Great Commission history. We’ve often taught that engagement is in some ways like the starting pistol at the beginning of a race. If engagement is like the starting pistol of a race, we recognize that we steward the laps of the race that must be completed. That’s what we’re here to talk about today. 

The point of this session is to ask of the Scripture: “What are the critical components? What are the laps of the race after engagement?” We want to see not only churches established among peoples, indigenous expressions of the Kingdom of God in local contexts and local cultures all over the world. We want to also see those churches reproducing, owning the task, owning the Great Commission effort in the midst of every people group and place. We want to see churches give birth to churches, that generations of churches might multiply, as we anticipate a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language gathered around the throne. We’re in the midst of an enormous task: all the peoples of the planet! Even in the midst of a Kairos generation where so many have been engaged for the first time, we would be deceiving ourselves if we thought our plans, our strategies, and our abilities were sufficient. Not one of us can assume to be the answer. Not one of us can assume we have in our minds, our thoughts, even our plans, a strategy sufficient to finish the task. Ultimately, we have no choice. Praise God, we have no choice but to run to his word and ask the word of God: “How do we run the race that has begun?” 

Would you join me for some Bible study? When we consider fidelity to the doctrine of the New Testament, we often use the term “orthodoxy.” What we mean is that we draw our doctrine directly from the word of God, from the first things of New Testament teaching. In the same way, when we consider mission, it’s important that we pursue orthopraxy. Especially in the pioneer context where we’re crossing cultures or barriers for the sake of engaging new peoples and places for the first time. We have no better place to go for orthopraxy than the pages of the New Testament. For that reason, as we sit down together, I want to ask you to open your Bible to the book actually titled “Praxeis.” You might know it by its English name: the book of Acts. 

As you open your Bible to Acts 13, where we’ll read together, we remember that across the book of Acts, Luke continues to follow those concentric circles of expansion and Kingdom impact outlined in Acts 1:8. Our Savior, on the day he ascended to heaven, instructed his followers to remain in Jerusalem to await the promised Holy Spirit. For when he comes, Jesus said, “You will receive power and you will be my witnesses first of all in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and even to the ends of the earth.” 

As we read through the first half of the book of Acts, we begin to see the Jerusalem phase of ministry, then the Judea and Samaria fields engaged through evangelists like Philip and Peter. Then we come to Acts 13 and find the intentional sending of Barnabas and Saul from the Church of Antioch, establishing and solidifying the “ends of the earth” phase of mission among the ethne. Please read with me Acts 13. I’ll begin in verse one. “Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers,” and we have five names listed here. Verse two: “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ So after they had fasted and prayed they placed their hands on them and sent them off.” This is often termed the beginning of the first missionary journey of Paul. Of course we see that it wasn’t only Paul but rather Barnabas and Saul, his name before the first journey here. They were identified based on the calling, the setting apart, by the Holy Spirit of God. 

There are several reasons we would turn to this passage and consider it a matter of orthopraxy in the sending of missionaries. For one, in this passage, Luke gives us the first time we see intentional sending. That originated from this Antioch church. The church then gathered its leaders in the midst of prayer and fasting, a posture of abiding. They were able to hear the Spirit’s voice and respond by releasing those sent ones into the work of mission. Perhaps more than any other reason we would highlight this passage, is the simple fact that this is one of the few places in all the Bible where the third person of the Trinity is quoted. This is that Spirit that was hovering over the waters in Genesis 1 as an agent of creation, when God said, “Let there be light.” The same Spirit who, according to 1st Peter, picked up and carried Old Testament prophets, who would give to us by inspiration the very words of God. This Holy Spirit is often silent; it’s rare that we can quote the Holy Spirit. 

This passage is unique in that for the first time in all of Scripture, including post-Pentecost, we have the Holy Spirit of God speaking, being quoted an instruction to the church. What is that instruction? “Set apart for me these two: Barnabas and Saul, for the work to which I have called them.” Luke is introducing a section of Scripture here, with the quotation from the Holy Spirit of God. We realize the Holy Spirit initiated this Spirit-empowered mission, and he will be seen directing the steps of these missionaries at every turn throughout their missionary journey. But we see this same section of Scripture come to a conclusion in Acts 14. Would you turn one page with me in your Bible? 

In Acts 14:26, the work initiated by the Holy Spirit is here again mentioned by Luke. Acts 14:26 says “From Attalia they (Barnabas and Saul, now called Paul) sailed back to Antioch, where they had been committed to the grace of God for the work they had now fulfilled, completed, accomplished.” Luke is using a literary device here. It’s called an inclusio. It amounts to a set of brackets around a passage of Scripture. In this case, the brackets are the work. Acts 13:2 quotes the Holy Spirit saying, “Set apart Barnabas and Saul for the work which I’ve called them”. In Acts 14:23, Luke concludes the section with the second bracket. They returned to where they had been committed to the grace of God for the work they had now fulfilled, completed, accomplished. By putting brackets around this first missionary journey, Luke is telling us to read these two chapters as a textual unit, to read them together. 

If we were missionaries sent out to engage the ethne, the peoples at the ends of the earth in our generation, and we wanted to pursue orthopraxy (to have fidelity to the first practices of mission, most especially in the pioneer context – the ends of the earth where we might be sent), it would be natural, in fact maybe necessary, that we revisit the book called Praxeis and find ourselves here in the center of the book of Acts: looking at a textual unit designed around the work of mission. It seems appropriate then, if our desire is to finish the task, the work the Lord has a assigned, that we would come to such a passage and simply ask the question: “What was the work that Paul and Barnabas put their hand to?” Secondly, “How could the work they put their hand to be described as ‘fulfilled, completed, accomplished’?” Evidently, the work they had done had been done with integrity. 

Now this passage is not new to any of us. Some of us have read this same first missionary journey hundreds of times. What’s interesting as we consider the work that Barnabas and Saul, (soon to be called Paul) were commissioned and sent to do, is that once again it was initiated, empowered, directed by the Holy Spirit. We see these two sent ones, these two apostles, in Acts 14:14. These sent ones are pioneering in otherwise unreached and unengaged provinces and cities. Pioneering – the itinerant ministry of Barnabas and Paul across these two chapters – leads them to encounter not only language barriers like that in Lystra (the Laconia language), but also all sorts of pagan idolatry. In several cases, as in the transition from the Jewish synagogue (as we’ll see in Pisidian Antioch), we see a turning consistent with Paul’s statements of calling to the ethne. We see them pioneering in and across the whole of the island of Cyprus coming to Paphos. We see Sergius Paulus the proconsul hearing the word of the Lord and coming to faith. Then other challenges later in Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe. 

As they pioneer among these peoples and places over and over again, we hear on their lips the “word of the Lord,” “the word of the Lord,” “the word of the Lord.” It’s actually written nine times in two chapters that the word of the Lord is preached by the sent ones – the missionaries. They cared as they pioneered for sowing the seed of the gospel witness. In Acts 13, Luke commits no less than 25 verses to a single sermon in Pisidian Antioch. As Paul and Barnabas went about preaching, that gospel was not received everywhere. In fact, as we look at the end of chapter 13 (verse 46), the Jewish audience in the synagogue of Pisidian Antioch actually find themselves jealous of the response to the gospel. Verse 46 says, “Then Paul and Barnabas answered those who opposed them boldly: ‘We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you rejected and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the ethne. For this is what the Lord has commanded us.,” Quoting the Prophet Isaiah, Paul says, “I have made you a light to the ethne that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.” Verse 48: “When the ethne heard this they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; all who were appointed to eternal life believed.” Verse 49: “This same word of the Lord spread through the whole region.” 

So we don’t just see the pioneering missionaries engaging the field (in this case Pisidian Antioch), preaching the word of the Lord among the ethne. We see those same ethne, those who had been appointed to eternal life, immediately turning to the Lord. We see them across the whole region, carrying on and joining the same work of seed sowing. This is an important transition. In the first missionary journey, before the end of chapter 13, in verse 52, we see the word “disciples.” There in Pisidian Antioch, the disciples were filled with joy, and with this same Holy Spirit, so that where the gospel was preached, where the seed had been sown, we see new life emerging in the field, in the form of disciples. Before the end of the journey, in chapter 14, the word disciple will come up three additional times. In the Galatian cities of Iconium, Lystra and Derbe, even in Lystra where Paul had been stoned presumably to death, and his body dragged outside the city, the new believers gathered around him. The disciples gathered, and when they had prayed, Paul got up and went back into the city. It’s disciples in Derbe, Lystra, and Iconium, who are instructed by Barnabas and Paul that “through many hardships we must enter the kingdom of God.” Paul and Barnabas not only pioneered, not only preached the Gospel message, they also nurtured the new growth in the form of disciples in each of those cities, even returning to cities where they had been persecuted. (In Paul’s case even stoned presumably to death for the sake of encouraging this new growth.) 

If you have your Bibles open, look at Acts 14:23. On the return trip, revisiting all those same cities where they had sown the word of the Lord, where disciples had been made, we see that Paul and Barnabas go about appointing elders in all the churches. Evidently, they cared enough about church formation that they were willing to revisit and recognize local shepherds, local elder-overseers emerging from the harvest who could be appointed there to shepherd and steward the new flock. This missionary task, this first journey, described by Luke as “the work,” has these various components. The task of mission for us, to finish the task, requires that we pioneer. This task that begins with engagement. But realize, as sure as engagement is the starting pistol, we also need to run the laps of the race. Where we engage empty fields, we do so for the sake of gospel seed sowing. Where the gospel is sown, it is normal, natural – even partnership with the Holy Spirit of God – to follow up, to nurture the new growth in the form of disciple making. That’s where the harvest is gathered, so churches can be formed. 

Leaders might emerge not only to shepherd the flock locally, but (as in Acts 16:1 where we see Timothy emerging from this same church in Lystra) also that they might join us in pioneering and gospel seed sowing in the next empty field. Do you recognize this pattern? The work of mission in the book of Acts? It’s not just tied to the first journey. What is introduced here – the bookends of the work in the first journey – we see repeated in the second and in the third. We see them also taken up as stewardship among the churches left behind, as Paul and Barnabas (later Paul and Silas, including Timothy) continued toward a Macedonian call. Toward the Corinthian founding in the Achaean province, toward the founding of the Ephesian church in the province called Asia. 

In each case, through the ringing of the gospel, through disciple making and churches that plant churches, we see evidence of multiplication. We see evidence of resources coming from the harvest that lead to the harvest. I believe each component of this this pattern is essential. Where we are finishing the task of starting, the race is being run. Where we have engaged empty fields, we put our hand to the task of gospel seed sowing, disciple making, church formation and leadership reproduction that can carry on the process. 

Let us seek to steward well our life, our days, even according to Psalm 90: asking the Lord to teach us to number our days, that he might establish the work of our hands. The task, the task, the task. Seeing it finished, seeing the Lord’s return, remains our highest priority. To be found doing his work when he comes, is to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” according to Matthew 25. Consider the task he has called us to finish: mobilizing believers in our churches, our denomination, our sending organization. In each case, whoever that audience may be, it’s simply a matter of asking the questions, answering the questions, “Who do I share with? Who do I engage with the Gospel?” FTT stands ready to help you answer that question. As you discern a target, as you find your calling to the ethne, even perhaps to the ends of the earth, a second question arises: “What do I say? How do we go about carrying the integrity of the word of the Lord among those who haven’t heard?” A third question is, “What do I do if they say yes ? How do we go about making disciples?” If you can answer that question in the hearts and minds of your disciples, they can be mobilized to go and make disciples also.” A fourth question: “How do we form the Church? Beyond our preference, our cultural expectations, or even denominational traditions, what does the word of God have to say about the bride of Christ? How do we form them?” If we answer that question from the word of God, we might see our disciples even as church planters in the midst of pioneer fields. Finally, “How can we reproduce leaders who could go and do all of these same things: engage empty fields, sow the seed of the gospel with integrity, follow up in order to make disciples among those who say yes, form churches out of that harvest, then from the harvest raise up everything needed for the harvest, even raise up leaders who will go out again and multiply. This is the critical path to the multitude from every nation, tribe, people and language. 

The vast multitude described in Revelation 7 does require that we multiply at some point. Are you willing to give these same tasks to your disciples? Are you willing to see them released and sent out even among the ethne, the peoples of the world? Maybe the prior question: are you hearing the voice of the Spirit of God who continues to call out and to send laborers? 

To finish the task is to be found on mission. To finish the task is to send missionaries. “How shall they call on the one of whom they have not heard?” Romans 10 continues, “How shall they hear unless someone preach to them? How shall they preach unless they be sent?” To the local churches, to the denomination structures that might be listening in, the economy of the Kingdom of God begins with sending. And we are in the midst of a Kairos generation. 

A hundred years ago, a missionary hero of mine named J. O. Fraser, worked among the Lisu people in southwest China. He said this about missionary work: 

On the human side, evangelistic work on the mission field is like a man going about in a dark damp valley with a lighted match in his hand seeking to ignite anything ignitable. But things are damp through and through and will not burn however much he tries. In other cases, God’s wind and sunshine have prepared beforehand, the valley is dry in places and when the lighted match is applied, here a shrub, there a tree, here a few sticks, there a heap of leaves. They take fire and they give light in warmth long after the kindled match and its bearer have passed on. This is what God wants to see. Little patches of fire burning all over the world. 

Thanks to the Finish The Task effort, in two decades of this generation, there literally have been a thousand fires started all over the world. 20% of the world’s people groups engaged in the last 1% of Great Commission history. If engagement is like a starting pistol, if engagement is like entering an empty field, the laps of the race of the race must still be run: the gospel seed sowing, the disciple making, and the church formation. To use Fraser’s metaphor, like wood being put onto a small fire. 

As we move forward to engage the unengaged and run the race of church planting among them, be sure of this, brothers and sisters: those thousand fires that have been lit by organizations, efforts like FTT, all those fires are burning toward each other. Recognize with me that the inferno is upon us: the work of the Kingdom of God in our generation. Why couldn’t we be the generation that finishes the task? FTT stands ready not only to cast vision, not only to help you identify a people, but to equip and to train. To see you mobilize your church, your denomination, even your missions organization, so that gospel seed sowing might lead to discipleship and church formation. That from the fruit of those churches, we might see an ever-increasing multiplied labor force joining us in the task of mission. 

Let me pray. Lord God, by the Spirit, by your initiation, by your power, by your direction, Lord God as you led in the first century, we know, we trust, you’re at work in this generation. Do the work of calling. Do the work of sending among so many brothers and sisters who would respond to your call Lord God. Show yourself powerful. Show yourself mighty, show your wisdom among us. Lord God, where your word dwells in our heart, may we never run beyond your Spirit but in step with what you’re doing. Lord God, may we be found about your business until the task is finished. We love you and praise you. In Jesus’ name, Amen. God bless you.

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About Movements

Passion for God, Compassion for People

Passion for God, Compassion for People

– By Shodankeh Johnson –

Practical demonstrations of God’s love play an integral role in Church Planting Movements. They serve both as entry points for the good news and as fruits of kingdom transformation in people’s lives and communities.

Access ministries are one of the pillars of New Harvest Ministries (NHM). Since New Harvest began, they have played a major role in showing God’s compassion, making disciples, and planting churches in more than 4,000 communities in 12 countries. These compassionate engagements have been key catalysts in shaping hundreds of thousands of new disciples, and more than ten thousand new Christian leaders.

Compassion is an essential Kingdom value found in the DNA of every Disciple Making Movement. We have dozens of different types of access ministries. Each one plays a unique role in helping us advance God’s kingdom in Africa. Most are not expensive, but with God’s help, they make a great impact. We partner with local people in every ministry. They often provide leadership, labor and materials— things present in the community that can help meet needs.

Heroic Compassion

New Harvest serves many countries from our headquarters in Sierra Leone. When Ebola struck in 2014, we could not stay in safe places and not engage the disaster all around us. The crisis hit many Muslim villages especially hard, as the burial rites caused the epidemic to explode there. Suddenly, because of Ebola, people could not even touch dying parents or children. In that context, several New Harvest leaders volunteered in the most hazardous places. Some survived, but several lost their lives serving others— mostly Muslims.

The Muslim chief of one community was discouraged by people trying to escape his quarantined village. He was amazed at seeing Christians coming to serve. He privately prayed this prayer: “God, if you save me from this, if you save my family, I want us all to be like these people who show us love and bring us food.” The chief and his family did survive and he kept his promise. Memorizing passages from the Bible, he began to share in the mosque where he had been an elder. A church was birthed in that village, and the chief continues going from village to village, sharing the good news of God’s love.

Discovering Felt Needs, Engaging Lostness

For NHM, access ministries begin with assessing the felt needs of a community. When we complete a needs assessment, the partnership with the community must develop mutual respect and trust. After a while, the relationship leads to story-telling and Discovery Bible Studies (DBS). Access ministries let them see the love of Christ and powerfully touch their hearts.

The On-Ramp to Kingdom Movements

Prayer is the foundation for everything we do. So once an assessment is done, our intercessors begin to pray for:

  • open doors and open hearts
  • the selection of project leaders
  • open hands by locals
  • a supernatural move of God
  • the leading of the Spirit
  • God to provide needed resources.

All our prayer centers know the communities being served. They fast and pray for each of them. And God always opens the right door, at the right time, with the right provision.

Prayer is the most powerful and effective access ministry. It has caused a cascading effect throughout the movement. We are convinced beyond any doubt that strategic fasting and prayer consistently leads to the defeat of dark powers. Sometimes praying for the sick opens wide a door for access. Through persistent prayer we have seen very hostile communities opened, unlikely Persons of Peace identified, and whole families saved. All the glory goes to the Father who hears and answers prayer.

Prayer undergirds everything we do. I tell people that the three most important elements of access ministries are: first—prayer, second prayer, and third prayer.

Every Project Makes Our King Famous

We do whatever it takes to get the gospel to people so Christ receives glory. Our work is never about us. It is about Him. We make Him known with a strategic focus on unreached people groups.

Education Team

When education is an obvious need, our intercessors take this need to God in prayer. While we are praying, we engage the community to discover what resources they have. We find out what they can provide to meet their own need. Often the community will supply land, a community building, or construction materials to build a temporary structure.

We usually encourage the community to pay part of the teacher’s salary. The teacher is fully certified and he or she is also a veteran disciple maker or church planter. Schools start with a few benches, pencils or pens, a box of chalk, and a chalkboard. The school may start under a tree, in a community center, or in an old house. We start slowly and grow the school academically and spiritually.

When a Person of Peace opens his or her home, it becomes the launching pad for DBS meetings and later a church. We have launched more than 100 primary schools, most of which are now owned by the community.

From this simple program God has also raised up 12 secondary schools, two trade technical schools, and Every Nation College. This college has an accredited School of Business and School of Theology. Contrary to what some might expect, Disciple Making Movements also need strong seminaries.

Medical, Dental, Hygiene

When we identify a health need, we send in teams of well-qualified medical practitioners with medicines, equipment and supplies. All our team members are strong disciple makers and skilled in facilitating the DBS process. Many are skilled church planters as well. While the team treats patients, they also look for a Person of Peace. If they don’t discover one on their first visit, they make a second visit. Once they discover a Person of Peace, he or she will serve as the bridge and the future host for the DBS. If they don’t find a Person of Peace, the team will go to a different community, while still praying for an open door into the previous one.

Ten church planters have been well trained, equipped as dentists. They are accredited by health authorities to do mobile dental extractions and fillings. One of them also doubles as an optometrist. He checks eyesight and dispenses suitable glasses. He does this at cost, to keep the process going and to avoid dependency. Other health team members provide training on hygiene, breast feeding, nutrition, child vaccines, and prenatal care for pregnant women.

A Most Unusual Access Ministry

We do all of this in a Christ-like manner, seeking to make God’s kingdom visible. God moves and makes His presence known. This often starts with one family or an unlikely community leader. In this way we consistently see ongoing multiplication of disciples, Discovery Bible Groups, and churches.

One large community in the Southern part of Sierra Leone had been very difficult for us to enter. They were extremely hostile toward Christians. People identified as Christians found it difficult even to enter that place. So we prayed for that town. But time passed and none of our strategies worked.

Then suddenly something happened! The national news reported a health problem in that town. Young men were becoming ill and dying. It was found that the infections related to the fact that the village never circumcised their boys. As I prayed about the problem I felt the Lord convict me that this was finally our open door to serve this town.

We gathered a volunteer medical team and went to the community with the proper equipment and medications. We asked if they would let us help them. We were delighted when the town leaders agreed. In the first day they circumcised more than 300 young men.

Over the next days the men were just healing. That gave us opportunity to begin Discovery Bible Groups during the healing days. We saw great response, and soon Kingdom multiplication began happening with churches being planted! Within just a few years a place where Christians could not enter was transformed into a place where God’s glory shone brightly. The compassion of God’s people, the power of much prayer, and the transforming Word of God changed everything.

Agricultural Team

Our first access ministry was agriculture. In places where farming is critical, agriculture becomes a great gateway to serve people. Most of the farming is subsistence farming, mainly for family consumption. Often no seed is saved for the next planting.

These situations led us to develop seed banks for farmers. As with our other teams, we trained nine agriculturists who are also trained church planters. These agriculturists/disciple makers educate the farmers. Their training and mentoring lead to relationships that result in DBS groups, baptisms and eventually churches. Today many farmers have become followers of Christ….

Planting Churches

About 90% of our attempted access ministries have led to a church. Very often one engagement results in several churches planted. As we revisit communities we hear many testimonies of individual, family, and community transformations. Compassion for people, making God famous!

Shodankeh Johnson, husband of Santa and father of seven, is the leader of New Harvest Ministries (NHM) in Sierra Leone. Through God’s favor, and a commitment to Disciple Making Movements, NHM has seen hundreds of simple churches planted, over 70 schools started, and many other access ministries initiated in Sierra Leone in the last 15 years. This includes churches among 15 Muslim people groups. They have also sent long-term workers to 14 countries in Africa, including eight countries in the Sahel and Maghreb. Shodankeh has done training and catalyzing prayer and disciple-making movements in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the United States. He has served as the President of the Evangelical Association of Sierra Leone and the African Director of New Generations. He is currently responsible for global training and prayer mobilization for New Generations. He is a key leader in the 24:14 coalition in Africa and globally.

Adapted from an article originally published in the November-December 2017 issue of Mission Frontiers, www.missionfrontiers.org, pages 32-35, and published on pages 26-33 of the book 24:14 – A Testimony to All Peoples, available from 24:14 or Amazon.

Categories
About Movements

A Two-Rail Model for Existing Churches to Reach the Unreached – Part 2

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. 

  1. 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.

“Egg Management”

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. 

  1. 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. 

  1. 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. 

  1. 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.

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About Movements

Two Important Lessons on Prayer

Two Important Lessons on Prayer

– Excerpted with permission from the highly recommended book – 

The Kingdom Unleashed: How Jesus’ 1st-Century Kingdom Values Are Transforming Thousands of Cultures and Awakening His Church by Jerry Trousdale & Glenn Sunshine. (Kindle Locations 701-761, from Chapter 3 “Praying Small Prayers to an Almighty God”)

There are two lessons that we have learned from our fellow believers in the Global South. First, the church in the Global North does not pray enough. Second, when we do pray, our priorities tend to not be the same as God’s priorities. Let’s consider both of those lessons in this chapter. Prayer was central to Jesus’ life and ministry. As a rabbi, Jesus prayed at least three times per day using standard liturgical prayers. But the Gospels frequently tell of Him also withdrawing into the wilderness for prayer, often spending the entire night praying, such as when He needed to make decisions about the direction of His ministry (e.g., Mark 1: 35– 39) or before appointing the Twelve. This raises the immediate observation that, if Jesus needed to spend extended times in prayer— He who was in full and unhindered communion with the Father— how much more do we need to do the same if we are going to have the Spirit’s guidance and power? 

The Amidah

Observant Jews in Jesus’ day prayed the Amidah (also known as the Eighteen Benedictions) three times per day. They understood this to be a sacred obligation, and failure to do so was a sin. These prayers took a good amount of time, however. Rabbis and other “professionals” could be counted on to recite them regularly, but praying the entire Amidah three times per day could be a burden for the average person with a job and a family. Students thus asked rabbis for a more concise version of the prayers that would be more practical for them to say to fulfill their religious obligations. 

This context helps explain what was happening in Luke 11 when Jesus’ disciples came to Him and asked Him to teach them to pray, the way that John the Baptist taught his disciples to pray: the disciples wanted to find the core of the Amidah that they could recite three times daily. Jesus’ answer was to give them the Lord’s Prayer, which is remarkably similar to some of the shortened versions of the Amidah that survive from the period.  

For Jesus, then, the Lord’s Prayer was the distilled essence of what prayer should be. He intended it to be recited, but it also reflects His priorities for prayer, making it a model for how we should pray all the time. It is also a summary of His entire ministry and message. 

Many Christians often repeat the words of the Lord’s Prayer and yet, when we pray in our own words, we generally miss the prayer’s key themes. This is both remarkable and lamentable— yet a closer look at what Jesus said will help us see what He was focused on. Let’s look more closely at the Lord’s prayer in order to discover Jesus’ top three priorities concerning prayer: 

  • That the Father’s name would be glorified in the world around us 
  • That His Kingdom would be ushered in with power 
  • That the people of the world— and particularly His followers— would obey the Word and will of the Father. 

Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name 

Jesus’ first priority is God’s glory. His intent in this petition is something like: May the holiness and glory of God in heaven be manifested where I live! 

Your Kingdom come 

The second thing that Jesus asks us to pray for is that the Kingdom of God will advance on earth. May the reign of God in heaven be established where I live! 

Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven 

It is likely that the phrase “as it is in heaven” actually applies, not just to “your will be done,” but to all three of the preceding petitions: “Hallowed be your name, as hallowed on earth as it is in heaven. Your Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. And may the perfect will of God be established in me as fully as it is established in heaven— and among all the peoples of the world!” Do you see a common theme in the first three petitions? Out of a heart of gratitude they are a plea that: 

  • God’s glory may be revealed to people where I live 
  • God’s Kingdom reign and authority may advance where I live 
  • God’s will may be established in perfect obedience where I live 

Before moving to the next petitions, it is worth asking how closely our top three prayer priorities align with Jesus’. Are they God’s glory, God’s Kingdom, and God’s will, or are they more about us than about God? 

Give us this day our daily bread. 

May the resources of God’s Kingdom sustain our needs day by day. 

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors 

May the Lord be merciful to me, a sinner, and may I generously extend that same forgiveness to others. 

And do not lead us into temptation

May God’s Spirit keep my heart, my feet, my eyes, and my ears from places of temptation. 

But deliver us from the evil one. 

May the Holy Spirit enable me to resist Satan’s temptations, and empower me to be effective in redeeming people unto God from the kingdom of darkness. May the power of evil be voided where I live. 

For Yours is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. 

This passage is almost certainly not a part of Jesus’ original prayer, but it is in keeping with the prayer’s spirit. It provides the entire reason for this prayer, and indeed all prayers. Prayer is intended to bring God glory. In modern English, this closing sentence might mean something like this: “We are asking these things because it is Your Kingdom that is being built as You answer these prayers, and it is Your power— and Your power only— which will accomplish these things, and Your answer to our prayer will bring You glory forever.”

Jesus had much more to say about prayer, of course. In fact, He taught more about prayer than about any other subject except the Kingdom of God. We also know that both He and the early church prayed the Psalms, and the great prayers that we find recorded throughout the centuries are saturated with the words of the psalter. We find profound and powerful prayers recorded elsewhere in Scripture, such as in Paul’s epistles, but in all cases they reflect the petitions and priorities of the Lord’s Prayer.

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About Movements

Discipleship Material Development – Transferability and Reproducibility

Discipleship Material Development – Transferability and Reproducibility

– by Aila Tasse – (Edited from a video for Global Assembly of Pastors for Finishing the Task) – 

I’m the President of Lifeway Mission, based in Nairobi. Kenya. I also serve as Director for New Generations East African region. I’d like to share about the importance of developing discipleship materials. When you make disciples, you need to have content that will help in that process. Many churches and mission organizations have attempted to obey Jesus’ command to “Go make disciples.” But some of these ministries are ineffective at making disciples because they lack fitting materials for making others into Jesus’ disciples. I want us to explore together the process of developing discipleship material that can help us make others into Jesus’ disciples. 

I see three stages in developing discipleship material. The first stage is preparation. This stage addresses the things we need to know before we start developing discipleship material. The second stage is organizing our materials into sessions and topics that address the needs of new disciples. The third stage involves developing the content. We will look at principles for developing discipleship material, focusing in on preparation. 

Preparation involves four activities that anybody who wants to prepare discipleship material needs to do. First is prayer. A disciple-maker needs to pray for God’s leading in developing materials that fit the new disciples. We need to know the mind of God, the leading of his Spirit. The Spirit will lead us to the best content – the best food we can give a newborn baby. Because a new disciple needs to learn new things. If we can’t pray effectively, we will not know God’s mind and the leading of the Holy Spirit in this area. So the first step is to engage with God in prayer. 

Second is getting to know your audience or your target people group. In reaching unreached people groups, we can’t just feed them bowls of solid food when they’re newly coming to saving faith in Jesus. We need to get to know where they are in their spiritual journey. What do they know? What they don’t know? What is their level of education? What is their economic situation? What are their challenges? Are they from a Muslim background or Hindu background? How old are they? We need to know all these things before we start thinking of developing discipleship material. That is why any disciple maker who wants to develop discipleship material needs to understand their audience. I’ve seen too many people taking material from one place or group and thinking it can apply directly to a different group in just the same way. This will not work effectively. For example, we have people who are oral learners and others who have significant education. If you don’t really understand your audience, it will be very difficult to develop effective discipleship material. That’s why the second step in preparation is so important: get to know the audience we are discipling, as individuals and as a group. We need to know them very well. 

The third activity is to develop a team that will work on developing the discipleship material. This team has to consist of people who have experience working among the target people group or community: the kind of people you want to disciple. This team can brainstorm, think together, and pray together. They can get to know the details of the focus group. A team is critical to the process because one person sitting alone cannot come up with all the issues that will need to be addressed in the discipleship of this focus people group.

I’ve seen people around the world going online and downloading material that sometimes doesn’t address or even fit a people group’s issues. We can sometimes borrow ideas from other tribes or other people groups, but that doesn’t mean the issues in that tribe are the same issues that this tribe has. That’s why it is critical that this team have knowledge and understanding of this specific people group. 

The fourth activity is analysis. This team comes together to look at issues and start analyzing issues they need to address in the discipleship process of this people group. The team will collect information and look at all the issues and challenges the focus group has. What are their world view issues that the Scriptures need to address? What beliefs do they have that the discipleship process needs to work on? 

That is how you can choose your topics and sessions in the discipleship material. If you are not able to collect and analyze information about the beliefs and practices of the people group, you will come up with something you think fits them, but it may not. Many discipleship materials being used today do not address either the spiritual needs or the physical needs of the people groups. That is why we need to have a team of people who can analyze and develop the topics needing to be addressed for each tribe or people group. These activities are important in this first step of preparing yourself to develop discipleship material. You don’t need to rush into this. The more time you take, the more you will understand the needs of this people group. This will enable the development of materials effective for making disciples of Jesus within their own context.

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About Movements

A Two-Rail Model for Existing Churches to Reach the Unreached – Part 1

A Two-Rail Model for Existing Churches to Reach the Unreached – Part 1

– by Trevor Larsen & a Fruitful Band of Brothers –

Our country is very diverse. Many areas have no believers in Christ. Yet some regions have established churches. Some of these churches have potential to reach Muslims. However, most churches in majority (90 to 99 percent) Muslim areas have not added Muslims as believers for years. They often fear a reaction if some were to believe. In many majority Muslim areas, churches hold on to Christian cultural traditions. They don’t connect with the unreached peoples in their communities. Cultural practices of the visible (“above-ground”) church, and reactions to it, make it difficult to connect with Muslims. The culture of above-ground (“first-rail”) churches differs greatly from the culture around them. This increases social obstacles for spiritually hungry Muslims. We propose a different model: a “second-rail” church. This underground church comes out of the same “station,” but meets in small groups and is not easily noticed by the community. Can a traditional church in a majority Muslim area start a “second-rail” (underground) church? Can they disciple Muslims in small groups, while also protecting the “first-rail” ministry of the church? 

Many Pilot Projects Testing a “Two-Rail” Model

In nominal Muslim areas of the country, most denominational church growth has slowed or declined over the last ten years. In these same ten years, an underground model of multiplying small groups has grown rapidly among unreached people groups. 

Some churches ask us to train them in small group multiplication to reach Muslims, yet they want to keep their existing “first-rail” church. We have piloted a “Two-Rail” model in twenty diverse types of churches in different regions. Four of these pilot projects have finished a four-year pilot project period. This chapter presents the first of four experiments with the “Two-Rail” model. Additional insight and the other three experiments can be found in the book Focus on Fruit! See end note for details.

Case Study: Our First Two-Rail Church

Zaul completed a four-year “Two-Rail” pilot project in a 90 percent Muslim area. This area has many nominal Muslims and also many fundamentalists. Zaul explains what they learned from this first “Two-Rail” model. 

  1. Careful Selection of Church and of Trainees 

A good model requires selection. We wanted to start with churches likely to succeed, so we chose carefully. I selected Church A for a pilot project because the elderly pastor expressed great interest in bridging ministry to Muslims. Church A is part of a denomination from Europe but has included some features of local culture. They use local language for worship, but are otherwise very similar to churches in Europe. Fifty-one years after it started, this church had 25 families attending regularly. 

I had known the pastor of Church A for many years. We had many small groups multiplying in the area around his church, started by workers from our local mission team. The pastor liked the fruit of our ministry, and wanted to learn from us how to reach Muslims. 

  1. Memo of Understanding 

As this pastor showed interest, we began discussing the terms of our partnership. We wrote what we had agreed to into a Memo of Understanding. I felt that a letter of agreement would decrease misunderstandings and make success more likely. So we signed an MoU between our mission team and the church pastor, describing the roles of the two parties in the partnership. 

First, the church agreed to provide ten trainees willing to be “sent” out to minister to Muslims in the community.  We discussed the criteria they should use to select the trainees, so they would be more likely to succeed in ministry to Muslims. The church promised a training location, budget for food, and the full support of the pastor. The pastor also invited some other area pastors to the training. 

Second, the church agreed that field direction would be done by our team. The pastor’s role with the trainees was limited to broad oversight. He agreed to not interfere in our mission team’s decisions about field ministry. He also agreed that the ministry patterns of the existing church did not need to be followed by his trainees in their ministry to Muslims. They agreed that the focus of the “second-rail” model would be on unbelieving Muslims outside the current church. The underground rail of the church would be free to operate with contextual patterns. 

The church agreed that any fruit among Muslims that came from this partnership would be kept separate in small groups as a “second-rail” church. The new believers would not be mixed with the above-ground church. This was to protect the new believers from being westernized as well as to protect them from a backlash against the church from fundamentalists. 

Third, we, the mission team, agreed to provide training for a period of one year. We promised to give training and mentoring to those active in ministry. I agreed to facilitate the training. We provided the budget for the training materials. We also agreed to provide coaching for a period of four years, for the most active trainees. 

Fourth, we, the mission team, agreed to provide a percentage of funds for the underground rail of the church to do community development ministries during the first year. We integrate our community development work with our model of multiplying small believer groups. The church agreed to provide any living or travel expenses of the field workers, as well as a percentage of the community development budget. 

Fifth, a report would be made every three months. This would include finance, ministry fruit, and character development of the trainees. 

My long-term friendship with the pastor both allowed this partnership to begin and strengthened it. The two tracks were designed to produce two separate churches that would look very different, but have a common leadership. The church agreed that the trainees would provide data on their fruit to me as facilitator, and that they would not interfere. As facilitator, I agreed to provide a summary of fruit data to the church leaders. They, in turn, agreed that they would not publicize the data to the church nor report it in their community.

In Part 2 of this post we will share the fruit God brought in four years of applying the two-rail model, along with obstacles we faced and future  vision.

 

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.

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About Movements

Surrendered: Movements Start Movements in the Middle East

Surrendered: Movements Start Movements in the Middle East

– By “Harold” and William J. Dubois –

When the encrypted message came across my phone I was stunned by its simplicity and boldness, and humbled again by the words of “Harold,” my dear friend and partner in the Middle East. Though a former Imam, Al Qaeda terrorist and Taliban leader, his character has been radically transformed by the forgiving power of Jesus. I would trust Harold with my family and my own life – and I have. Together we lead a network of house church movements in 100+ countries called the Antioch Family of Churches. 

I had sent Harold a message the day before asking if any of our former Muslim, now Jesus-following brothers and sisters living in Iraq would be willing to help rescue Yazidis. He replied:

 “Brother, God has already been speaking to us about this for several months from Hebrews 13:3 (NLT) ‘Remember…those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies.’  Are you willing to stand with us in rescuing persecuted Christians and Yazidi minorities from ISIS?” 

What could I say? For the last several years our friendship had bonded into a deep commitment to walk the same path with Jesus and work together toward fulfilling the Great Commission. We were working feverishly to train leaders who would multiply our passionate surrender to Jesus, carrying His message of love to the nations. Now Harold was asking me to take another step deeper into rescuing people from slavery to sin and the horrific crimes of ISIS. 

I responded: “Yes, Brother, I am ready. Let’s see what God will do.”

Within hours, teams of trained, experienced local church planters from the Middle East, volunteered to leave their posts to do whatever it would take to rescue these people from ISIS. What we discovered changed our hearts forever. 

God was already at work! Broken by the demonic, barbaric actions of ISIS terrorists, Yazidis began pouring into our underground secret locations we called “Community of Hope Refugee Camps.” We mobilized teams of local Jesus-followers to provide free medical care, trauma-healing counseling, fresh water, shelter and protection. It was one movement of Jesus-following house churches living out their faith to impact another people. 

We also discovered that the best workers came from nearby house churches. They knew the language and culture, and had the heartbeat of evangelism and church planting. While other NGO’s who registered with the government had to restrict their faith message, our non-formal church-based efforts were filled with prayers, Scripture readings, healings, love and care! And because our team leaders had been lavishly forgiven by Jesus, they lived completely surrendered and filled with courageous boldness. 

Soon letters began to pour in: 

I am from a Yazidi family. For a long time the condition of my country has been bad because of war. But now it has become worse because of ISIS. 

Last month they attacked our village. They killed many people and kidnapped me along with other girls. Many of them raped me, treated me like an animal and beat me when I didn’t obey their orders. I begged them, “Please don’t do this to me,” but they smiled and said, “You are our slave.” They killed and tortured people many people in front of me. 

One day they took me to another place to sell me. My hands were tied and I was yelling and crying as we walked away from the men who sold me. After 30 minutes, the buyers said, “Dear Sister, God sent us to rescue Yazidi girls from these bad people.” Then I saw there were 18 girls they had purchased. 

When we arrived in the Community of Hope camp we understood that God sent His people to save us. We learned that the wives of these men gave up their gold jewelry and paid for us to be free. Now we are safe, learning about God and have a good life.

(From a leader of one of our Community of Hope Refugee Camps.)

Many Yazidi families have accepted Jesus Christ and have asked to join with our leaders in working and serving their own people. This is very good because they can share with them in their own cultural way. Today, as Jesus-followers we are praying for the affected people that God will provide for their needs and protect them from the Islamic fighters. Please join with us in prayer. 

A miracle had begun. A movement of surrendered Jesus-followers from nearby nations – all formerly trapped by Islam – had been freed from their own sin to live for Jesus as their Savior. They were giving their lives to save others. Now, a second movement of Jesus followers has begun among Yazidis. 

How could this happen? As D.L. Moody wrote: “The world has yet to see what God can do with a man fully consecrated to him. By God’s help, I aim to be that man.” 


“Harold” was born into an Islamic family, raised and schooled to be a radical jihadist and Imam.  After his radical conversion to Jesus, Harold used his education, influence and leadership capacity to grow a movement of Jesus Followers.   Now, 20+ years later, Harold helps to mentor and lead a network of house church movements among unreached peoples. 

“William J Dubois” works in highly sensitive areas in which the gospel is spreading powerfully. He and his wife have spent the last 25+ years training new believers from the harvest to grow in their leadership capacity and multiply house churches among unreached people.

This is from an article that appeared in the January-February 2018 issue of Mission Frontiers, www.missionfrontiers.org, pages 36-37, and published on pages 192-195 of the book 24:14 – A Testimony to All Peoples, available from 24:14 or Amazon..

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About Movements

Launching Movements among Muslims: Case Studies of Best Practices – Antioch Family of Churches

Launching Movements among Muslims: Case Studies of Best Practices – Antioch Family of Churches

– By William J. Dubois –

I’m William J. Dubois, the Co-leader of the Antioch Family of Churches, a global alliance of indigenous Church Planting Movements. For the last 30 years, we have focused on building the leadership capacity of first-generation Christians who live in closed countries and helping them learn to multiply house churches. Today I will focus on launching movements among Muslim peoples. 

For the first 20 years of our work, much of our efforts were filled with missteps, mistakes, and failures. However, it was through a personal crisis in my own life that we learned to make adjustments that would lead to breakthroughs. In 2004 I was helping underground house church leaders from Iran learn and understand 2 Timothy. After this training was completed, I was poisoned by an Al-Qaeda operative and nearly died. A lot of people were praying for me, and after two and a half months of doctors’ and hospital visits trying to determine what had happened, I was miraculously healed.  I’m very grateful for that!

But the power of the story came later – years later as a matter of fact. I was co-hosting a church planting movement training for leaders from Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, and at the beginning of our time together we were introducing ourselves. I found out that one of our church planters there was the man who had commissioned my poisoning! 

At that moment I began to understand that multiplying movements requires much more than cross-cultural language and culture ability. The power of incarnation begins with learning about the soul of people. And in this case, developing a deep understanding of those who were radicalized for evil. The Lord put me on a journey to begin to understand the heart of what it would take to start movements among Muslims. 

Today that same Antioch Family of Churches has 1,225 movement engagements in 748 languages in 157 countries. There are 2.3 million house churches with 42 million adults. What God has started, in and among us, began with our brokenness, our missteps, and our misunderstandings. But after the Lord graciously allowed us to learn of some powerful tools and effective principles, exponential breakthrough has taken place. 

We focus on three priorities. The first one is rescuing people from slavery into sonship. That slavery may be human trafficking, but it’s always the slavery of sin. And it’s a life filled with discrimination, pain, and heartache. But when they enter into a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ, they become sons and daughters of the living God, and co-heirs. So our relationship, even with new believers, is not hierarchical. It’s like a family because we’re asking them to be baptized into Jesus, and then into the Church, and then into the world. We never ask anyone to join our culture before they find our Savior. We make sure they meet our Savior first. Then together we discover what church would look like in their own culture. So, the first priority is to rescue from slavery into sonship. 

The second one is to empower people to bring others to Christ. You may have heard the term “seeking out a man of peace.” In our model, we seek out a man or woman of influence. We call it the Cornelius Model, from Acts chapter 10. We ask the Lord to show us people who have incredible influence in their village or their community, or their country. By bringing the gospel to them, they in turn have the ability to spread that good news to all the people in their social network. Then, just like the Apostle Paul asked Titus to establish elders in every church, we ask these Corneliuses to help raise up leaders and establish elders in every house church. Our ministry, then, is from church to church. Not organization to church but a local church partnering with another indigenous house church to ask God what needs to be done and then work on it together. 

Then comes our third priority which is multiply. Second Timothy 2:2 says that the things we have heard from reliable people, we are to pass on to those who can share it with others. It’s a three-generation multiplication. We’ve found that if we focus on growing generations of leaders, we can multiply movements. Our leadership training is based on obedience, not knowledge. I’ll give you an example. Several years ago, we opened up a new ministry in a major city, and we found someone interested in spiritual things. One of our workers began having a conversation with them, and soon they were asking about Jesus. But before explaining the depth of the Kingdom, we asked that person to go find five friends. 

The goal was not to bring these five friends together into a house church meeting, but rather, have each one of them be mentored by this “Cornelius.” These five would begin immediately sharing with five of their friends, and those five friends would find five of their own friends. So from the very beginning, multiplication was embedded into the whole ministry. 

With these three things – rescue, empower, and multiply – we discovered that we can learn so much from people who are just coming to Christ. So instead of us teaching them with declarative statements, we begin by asking powerful questions. Here are the three questions that we ask. We ask, “Who is spiritually hungry? When are they spiritually seeking? And where are they spiritually attentive?” We try to find the cultural and spiritual rhythms of those to which we are ministering. 

For instance, Easter weekend isn’t going to be a high holy day for a Muslim because they don’t know Jesus yet. We found, actually, that Ramadan is the most important calendar moment when we can share the good news with Muslims. Why? Because that’s the month when they’re seeking God. Granted it’s not the same God. They’re not seeking after Jesus the Son of God; they’re just trying to find a way to earn enough credit that God might accept them. So instead of introducing them to our holidays first, we’ve decided to come alongside them, understand their spiritual rhythms, and pray for those who are spiritually hungry. We find where they’re hungry and what they’re attentive to. Then through spiritual conversations, we can find a Cornelius. We ask him to find his friends and the multiplication process begins. 

We have equipped our leaders with a translation of Scriptures or key verses. We often provide them Wi-Fi boxes, so that with the push of a button they can spread the JESUS film or portions of the New Testament, at least in trade languages. If the people group is unengaged, we provide our teams mobile backpacks, so that if they’re in villages they can show the JESUS film to as many as 300 people. And we give them lots of training in how to start spiritual conversations with people – so that people want to know the God who can rescue them, empower them and multiply their influence. They can meet God, Jesus, who can forgive them of their sins. 

In the midst of all of this, we found that if we come together and pray, if we build teams to intercede, there’s tremendous opportunity in these moments. There’s one special day, toward the end of Ramadan (the 27th day actually), called the Night of Power. On that single night, many Muslims all over the world believe that their prayers carry a thousand times the weight of other days. And on that night, they ask God for a revelation of who he is. They ask God for forgiveness of their sins, and they ask for dreams and visions. So we send our people in, to mingle with those seeking a God they don’t know, so we can share about the God that we do know. 

On May 19th, 2020, more than one billion Muslims gathered together in homes to fast and pray. For the first time since 622AD, the mosques were closed, because of the coronavirus. They prayed on this “Night of Power” for a special revelation from “Allah” and for forgiveness of their sins. At the same time, more than 38 million Jesus followers from 157 nations – all former Muslims – lifted their voices in prayer asking the one true and living God to reveal Himself through signs, wonders, dreams and visions to the Muslims around the world. They prayed that for the first time, through the power of the Holy Spirit, Muslims would understand the mercy, love, and forgiveness found only in Jesus Christ. And on this “One Miracle Night” God heard our prayers. 

When we agree together in prayer and go to the throne room of heaven, we ask Jesus to intercede on our behalf – so we’re going to have spiritual conversations at the right time in the right place. We can expect miraculous things to happen. I want to tell you a story that happened this year during the month of Ramadan. We sent teams from village to village during this time, asking the Lord to give us open doors and open hearts. One team went to a country (I apologize that for security reasons I am not able to share the details of the country), but they went to a village where no one received them. No one showed hospitality, no one opened their door. 

By the end of the day, the team was very discouraged. They went outside the village and all sat under a tree and built a campfire so they would be warm for the night. They began to pray and ask the Lord what to do, asking for a way to have a breakthrough in this village. As the night went on they fell asleep. Soon they were awakened and one of the leaders saw a blazing fire coming their way. It turned out to be 274 people with a fire torch in their hands, walking toward them. The team was initially filled with fear until one of them said, “Hey, we prayed that we’d have an opportunity to go to this village and share Jesus. Now the village is coming to us!” 

Just before they met these people, one of the 274 men stepped forward and said, “We don’t know who you are, we don’t know where you’re from, and we didn’t open our homes to you when you were in our village today. But tonight, every single one of us has had the exact same dream. And in that dream an angel appeared to us and said, “These people who came to your village are the ones who have the truth. You should go and ask them, and follow what they say.” 

That was the moment: spiritual conversations with the right people, at the right time, in the right place occurred. And before the night was over, 274 leaders of homes all made professions of faith and left their religion to walk in relationship with Jesus. That’s the power of prayer and having spiritual conversations in the right place. 

I want to leave you with one other story about launching movements among Muslim peoples. It comes not from the idea that the worker or the missionary is the one who’s supposed to do this. It’s about equipping and building leaders, a Cornelius, who will multiply the work. Several months ago, leaders came to me and said, “You know, we haven’t been able to reach certain villages and there’s no way to get to them using regular means. So we prayed, and we feel the Holy Spirit has asked us to set aside teams of people who will go across the desert and make sure that all of the unengaged people, all of those who are unreached and untouched, would hear the good news.” 

You and I have an opportunity to launch movements among Muslim peoples. It begins when we train local people who are living nearby and are near culture. We find a Cornelius, we invest in that person, and he helps us understand how to mobilize his friends to tell their friends. It can be as far away as the deserts of the Middle East on camels. If we empower local churches to take on the responsibilities God has given them instead of us being at the front, we become the Barnabas who supports these apostles and people who are sending. So I would say that our responsibility is to equip people with training and tools and to build trust. They appoint leaders and they send church planters to multiply other people who will then share the good news. 

In summary, I think we can look at launching movements among Muslim peoples in this way. First, a book of Acts culture can produce a book of Acts breakthrough. Second, we launch movements among Muslim peoples by adjusting our conversations, so the conversations are spiritually led with the right people, at the right time, in the right place. 

We ask people to be baptized into Jesus, then help them discover what their church looks like, rather than asking people to find their way in the culture of our church. We need to also ask God for a Cornelius, a man or a woman of influence, who will use their influence to multiply the Kingdom among the relationships they already have. I want to encourage you as you consider launching movements among Muslim peoples, to look for tools, to find quality training, and to build trust. One church, connecting with the nearby and near culture church, so that together you can go to unengaged, unreached peoples, and see a Cornelius multiply the Kingdom in partnership with you. God bless you.

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About Movements

God at Work During the Pandemic

God at Work During the Pandemic

– By Jon Ralls –

Amid a pandemic and uncertainty, God is still at work. His Spirit is moving in the lives of people all around the world.

As people have found themselves at home, at times alone, and with questions, many are seeking answers to the challenges and emotions they are feeling. One of the places that people are turning to for answers is the internet. The number of people online – searching on Google, watching videos on YouTube, making comments on Facebook, and more – continues to rise.

Facebook has over 2 billion users, and YouTube is the second largest search engine behind Google (which owns YouTube). This increase in social media users is also increasing opportunities for social media ministry and discipleship.

God is truly opening doors for the gospel for many who are seeking.

 

From One Comes Many

God opened a door to the gospel for Azzibidiin through an evangelistic ad he saw on social media. He responded to the ad and was connected with a local disciple-maker named Bishara. Bishara had come to faith a year ago and has enthusiastically shared his faith with anyone who will listen. As a result, 300-400 have come to faith, representing 30 unique communities of faith. Bishara has been greatly persecuted for his faith but has kept his hand to the plow and is currently discipling and equipping Azzibidiin for ministry.

 

You Are Not Alone

For college students in one Asian region, God opened a door to the gospel through video clips from the Jesus Film used in a social media ad campaign. One student responded to an ad with a message saying, “I thought I was the only person feeling so lonely during the pandemic, yet I hear of you Christians and your love for us.” This student was not alone in hearing the love of Christ. At least three people have accepted Christ after responding to these ads.

One ad campaign asked, “What kind of prayer would you ask God to answer?” Hundreds of students replied with statements such as “God, please forgive me.” “God, please help me with the things that make me afraid.” “God, please bring me someone who understands and loves me.” “God, please show me what choices to make.”

 

The Unreached Reaching Out

Social media is allowing many in unreached areas to connect with those who can share the good news. For example, a Facebook ministry page gained more than 1,800 followers from an unreached group in Southeast Asia. Local Christians have been connecting with those interested in the gospel, and at least one person has already been baptized.

 

Not A Coincidence

Through the use of targeted ads and organic (non-paid) content, people are hearing about Jesus. In a country that is 99.9% Muslim, this message arrived to a team using mass media to find seekers: “Everywhere on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube I always came across things about Jesus and so on. I don’t think this could be a coincidence. I wonder if … I can believe in Jesus. I wonder if I can see a miracle.”

 

Extraordinary Times and Tools

Since the beginning of the Church, people have been sharing the good news. We share the hope within us as we interact with people throughout the day in our work, schools, and elsewhere. With the power and scale of the internet, we now have tools and technology that allow us to reach out to distant locations 24 hours a day. Even as we sleep, God’s Spirit is at work drawing seekers to those who can share about His Son, Jesus Christ.

Digital outreach does not replace us personally living out a missional life, but it does allow for a radically different ministry paradigm as seekers reach out to Christian workers. These seekers are contacting people who can start a conversation with them (both online and then offline), which can ultimately lead to a disciple who can make disciples.

 

Not A Magic Bullet

Digital outreach is not a magic bullet. We cannot just run a paid ad and expect thousands to be saved. Much strategy, training, and thought is needed to best leverage these digital opportunities. But with those in place, this powerful tool can be used for God’s glory and the advance of his kingdom.

If you are curious or want to start finding seekers via mass media, several ministries offer coaching and provide resources for Christian workers using such media. A few are:

 

Media to Movements – The Media To Movements team equips disciple makers in media strategies to identify and engage spiritual seekers who accelerate a movement of reproducing disciples. They provide coaching and mentorship from the first steps through ongoing outreach. www.Mediatomovements.org 

 

Kingdom Training – This group has been doing digital outreach for years and has several excellent courses to help people get started. www.Kingdom.training 

 

Mission Media U – MMU is a mentored, online training platform designed to help Christ-followers be more effective in making disciples and establishing churches by using media, story, and innovative technology. www.missionmediau.org/foundations-of-media-strategy 

 

Kavanah Media – Specializes in helping mission teams and churches find seekers in their context. Specializing in training, media creation, management of campaigns, and coaching, they work with ministries to make the most of their advertising budget. They also host of a weekly media outreach podcast: “Christian Media Marketing.” www.Kavanahmedia.com 

 

A coalition of Media to Movements, Kingdom Training, and Mission Media U have put together  a great video reflecting what these teams are working towards. Watch the video What Is Media Outreach? to see a great example of collaboration.

 

The strategy that the above groups use all begins with the end in mind: reproducing disciples. The research-informed, creative, and culturally sensitive media content—videos and social media posts, combined with strategic marketing, invites people to explore and respond to Scripture. I pray that we might look at these times, and like the men of Issachar (1 Chron. 12:32) understand the times and use all possible means to see that all can know of Christ’s love, sacrifice, and forgiveness.