This is an article from the March-April 2020 issue: Movements: God’s Way of Reaching Entire Peoples

Rapid Mobilization: How the West Was Won

Rapid Mobilization: How the West Was Won

Editor’s Note: On page 15 of this issue we highlight the power of the Methodist Movement in Britain. That nation was transformed by John Wesley and the Methodists as people became members of mandatory small group “class meetings.” They came to know Christ, learned to read by studying the Scriptures and singing hymns, confessed their sins one to another and became frugal, hard working and sober. Through obedience to the Word, they became circuit riders and non-professional pastors to spread the gospel even further. They employed many of the characteristics of the Church Planting Movement methodology of our day to very remarkable effect. The following story tells of the similar impact the Methodist movement had in the United States as the country moved westward. Like the movement in Britain, the movement in the U.S. also began to decline when “class meetings” were no longer required and the Methodists began to require seminary education instead of allowing pastors to rise up from the class meetings. See the sidebar on page 17 for more on this.

When the 26 year-old Methodist pioneer, Francis Asbury, arrived in the American colonies in 1771, he believed he was called to fulfill a great destiny. He was right—although that destiny was far greater than he ever imagined. In 1771 there were only 300 American Methodists, led by four ministers. By the time of Asbury’s death in 1816, Methodism had 2,000 ministers and over 200,000 members in a well-coordinated movement. By 1830 official membership was almost half a million, and the number of actual attenders was six million. Most of these people had no previous church connection before they became Methodists.

Asbury, like his mentor John Wesley, modeled the commitment required to achieve such success. Throughout his ministry Asbury delivered more than 16,000 sermons. He traveled nearly 300,000 miles on horseback. He remained unmarried so that he could devote himself fully to his mission. He was often ill    and had no permanent home. He was paid the salary of an ordinary traveling preacher and was still traveling when he died at 70 years of age.

Asbury’s leadership and example inspired an army of circuit riders, many of whom followed his example and remained unmarried. There were no formal vows, but in the early days of the movement the majority of the riders lived by the three rules of the monastic orders: poverty, chastity and obedience. Methodism was a kind of Protestant missionary order under one leader, adapted to reaching isolated communities in harsh conditions across an entire nation.

Jacob Young, a typical circuit rider, was 26 years old in 1802 when he took up the challenge of pioneering a Methodist circuit along the Green River in Kentucky. Young developed his own strategy to evangelize the region. He would travel five miles, find a settlement and look for a family who would let him preach in their log cabin to interested friends and neighbors. Sometimes he found groups already gathered, waiting for a preacher to arrive; in one location he discovered a society run by an illiterate African American slave with impressive preaching and leadership skills. Young established class meetings wherever he went to be run by local leaders in his absence.

Circuit riders like Jacob Young began with limited formal education, but they followed the example of Wesley and Asbury and used their time on horseback for study. They spoke the simple language of the frontier.

They faced ridicule and even violence, with courage and endurance. Above all else they sought conversions. Within a year of his call, Young had gathered 301 new members; for his efforts he received just $30—a cost of ten cents per new member.

In 1776 only 17 percent of the American population was affiliated with any church. By 1850 that number had doubled to 34 percent. Most of the growth was as a result of the gains by the Methodists and Baptists on the frontier. Francis Asbury could never have reached a nation as vast as the United States, no matter how many miles he rode and no matter how many sermons he preached, without rapidly mobilizing young circuit riders like Jacob Young.

The Protestant mainline denominations (Episcopalians, Presbyterians and Congregationalists) failed dismally to keep pace with these Baptist and Methodist upstarts. Having succumbed to a more settled version of the faith and having lost the zeal for evangelism, the message of the mainline denominations became too vague and too accommodating to have an impact.

The clergy of the mainline churches were well educated and refined, drawn from the social elites. At least 95 percent of Congregational, Episcopalian and Presbyterian ministers were college graduates, compared to only 10 percent of the Baptists. As a combined group the mainline denominations had trained 6,000 ministers before the first Methodist minister graduated from a seminary.

Higher education lifted the mainline clergy above the social status of their congregations and turned them into religious professionals. Secularized theological education and social background influenced both the content of their message and how it was delivered.

The clergy preferred to educate their hearers rather than convert them. The clergy’s carefully drafted scholarly sermons did little to stir hearts; they were out of touch with the common people. There also weren’t enough of them; it was not possible to mobilize enough well-educated, well-paid clergy to respond to the challenge of the rapidly expanding frontier. If expansion had been left to the older denominations, American Christianity may have ended up today looking more like the church of Europe—theologically refined, but declining.

So the mainline clergy watched from the safety of the larger towns and cities along the Atlantic seaboard while the Baptists and Methodists moved west. On the frontier it was hard to tell Methodist and Baptist preachers apart. They were ordinary folk with limited education. They spoke the language of the people and preached from the heart about the need for salvation from sin. As they preached, the power of God was not only spoken about, it was experienced. Methodist pioneer Peter Cartwright recalled that, “while I was preaching, the power of God fell on the assembly and there was an awful shaking among the dry bones. Several fell on the floor and cried for mercy.”

The Baptists and the Methodists developed strategies that made it easy for gifted and committed laypeople to take up leadership and go where the people and the opportunities were. Deployment was rapid because very little upfront investment of resources and education was required. Methodist preachers, many of whom were teenagers, were trained on the job as “apprentices” by more experienced workers. They were expected to be continually studying as they traveled. They practiced lifelong learning and graduated the day they died.

The Methodists were centrally governed, whereas the Baptists believed in local autonomy. But in actuality, both movements planted self-governing congregations. The Methodist circuit riders did not have the time to settle down in one place and take control. Their role was to pioneer new works and mobilize local workers to continue the ministry in depth. These self-governing congregations were well suited to rapid multiplication in the frontier culture.

Methodism gave unprecedented freedom to both women and African Americans to engage in ministry. Methodist preachers called the converted to join a growing movement and offered them the opportunity to make a significant contribution—as class leaders, lay preachers or even circuit riders. Some women served as preachers, and many more served as class leaders, unofficial counselors to the circuit riders, network builders and financial patrons.

Large numbers of African American Methodist preachers emerged following the Revolutionary War. Some were well-known public figures. Harry Hosier, probably born a slave, traveled with Asbury and other Methodist leaders and preached to large crowds, both white and black. Methodists and Baptists, unlike the established churches, preached in a way uneducated slaves could understand and affirmed the place of spiritual experiences and emotion. African American preachers played a significant role in shaping the Methodist movement.

The Baptists and Methodists flourished because they mobilized common people to preach the gospel and plant churches wherever there was a need. The Presbyterians, Episcopalians and Congregationalists languished because they were controlled by well-paid clergy who were recruited from the social and financial elite. Early growth was dramatic for the Methodists—from 2.5 percent of the church-going population in 1776 to 34 percent in 1850, with 4,000 itinerant preachers, almost 8,000 local preachers and over one million members. This made them by far the largest religious body in the nation. There was only one national institution that was more extensive: the U.S. government. This achievement would have been impossible without the mobilization of ordinary people—white and black, young and old, men and women—and the removal of artificial barriers to their engagement in significant leadership such as class leaders, local workers and itinerant preachers. Unfortunately, the Methodist rise was short-lived. Whereas before 1840 the Methodists had virtually no college educated clergy among their circuit riders and local preachers, their amateur clergy was gradually replaced by seminary educated professionals who claimed the authority of the church hierarchy over their congregations. Their relative slump began at the same time; by the end of the 19th century the Baptists had overtaken them in numbers.

 

This is an article from the November-December 2016 issue: 40 Years of the USCWM/Frontier Ventures and the Unreached Peoples Movement

Vision for a Refugee Kingdom Movement

Vision for a Refugee Kingdom Movement

God is moving in unprecedented ways in our generation in the Muslim world. Too often Western believers are filled with fear at the pictures of refugees crossing the borders of Western nations. Such a view fails to look at this migration from an eternal perspective.

The current migrations are consistent with the ways God has moved throughout history to bring people groups to the knowledge of Christ.

And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. (Acts 17:26-27, ESV, emphasis added)

God has consistently changed the allotted periods and boundaries to bring people to know Him. We should praise the God of heaven in giving a myriad of Muslim people groups open hearts and greater access to the gospel, while at the same time weeping with them at the suffering they endure.

God’s heart is for a kingdom movement to flow through hundreds of refugee locations and then back into the home countries from which they have been thrust—some places difficult or impossible for missionaries to access.

Thousands of evangelists have descended upon Europe the last two years to purposefully bring the gospel to refugees resulting in many salvations. In the excitement of good evangelism, however, what emerges as the dust settles will determine if this becomes a lasting kingdom movement. God’s desire is for disciples and churches, not simply decisions, to multiply throughout the refugee populations, to the surrounding majority populations (e.g. Germans and Greeks) and back into home countries. Will we settle for good evangelism or press into enduring Church-Planting Movements (CPMs)? The latter is God’s heart.

A Case Study

My interactions with the refugee outreach have been to promote the latter (CPM) rather than the former (abundant evangelism). In one country, the Great Commission partners are doing an amazing job of reaching out to refugees with the gospel. They have hosted hundreds of short-term volunteers and the gospel has been shared thousands of times. They have been so busy hosting each team to do evangelism efforts that they have had little time to catalyze the next stages of a CPM—on-going discipleship training, church formation and leadership development. Their effectiveness in doing a good thing (evangelism) threatens the needed shift into the next stage (making disciples who can make disciples, resulting in multiplying churches.)

For three days we worked together on how to translate evangelistic fruit into a kingdom movement. Two weeks later, one Muslim-background believer immediately baptized 18 people and formed two groups into churches. He is making the shift to give enough time to the new disciples, churches and leaders.

What changed in him and others was a sense of the larger vision of what God is doing. Refugee believers have been particularly envisioned by the Joseph account (Gen. 37-50) and find almost exact parallels between Joseph’s journey and theirs. These new disciples stand on the edge of the refugee outreach becoming a Joseph movement.

The Joseph Movement

We may fail to recognize how much of the Genesis account the Joseph narrative takes up. Genesis is painted as follows in broad strokes:

Creation             2 chapters

Fall/Cain 2 chapters

Genealogies         4 chapters

Noah                 4 chapters

Abraham            12 chapters

Isaac                  2 chapters

Jacob                 9-10 chapters

Joseph                14 chapters

In sheer proportion the Joseph story occupies the largest amount of text—14 out of 50 chapters. We rightly accord huge emphasis to the critical stories of Creation/Fall, Noah and Abraham (the father of all who live by faith). But how often do we contemplate the message of the Joseph movement?

Refugee believers are drawn to Joseph because his story gives meaning to their story. It helps to explain what God is doing according to Acts 17:26-27.

The Joseph Movement Parallels

Joseph appears as a prophet in the Quran; Muslims are familiar with his name. But as Muslim-background believers learn the true story from the Old Testament, they find a number of parallels with their situation:

The salvation of many: The theme verse of the Joseph account is Genesis 50:20:

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. (Gen. 50:20, ESV, emphasis added)

From the comforts of Western Christianity, we quote “what was meant for evil, God meant for good.” But can we quote the verse’s purpose statement? The operative word is “to”. God has a purpose in turning evil to good—to save many people. In Western Christianity, we fear the invasion of our way of life in the refugee situation. Refugee believers see the overarching vision—God’s purpose is to save multitudes of people for eternity. The grand purpose of God is sovereignly moving people groups to bring His kingdom fully to them. God is answering the Lord’s prayer we pray regularly.

Embracing the uncontrollables: Joseph chose to embrace the goodness of God despite having no control over his situation and being moved against his will. Rather than bemoan his situation, Joseph embraced the uncontrollable as signs of God’s goodness and sovereign orchestration. Refugee believers are learning to celebrate the uncontrollables as God’s sovereign goodness to bring about the salvation of many.

Suffering: The uncontrollables included intense suffering for Joseph, even being blamed for things he didn’t do. Often refugees are lumped into the same category as terrorists. Often they are mistreated simply because they belong to a disdained group. Refugee believers see in Joseph an example about how to bear up under suffering and mistreatment in the midst of knowing God has a grander plan.

Dreams: The Joseph story is filled with dreams about God’s purposes. God gave Joseph the discernment to believe and interpret these dreams. When God moves in unprecedented ways, He often initiates them through dreams (even in the New Testament). Within the Muslim world, God is appearing to and speaking to people in dreams and visions. Refugee believers recognize that God is speaking clearly, tearing down defences and giving vision for the future to them.

Salvation of a new land:  Joseph was adopted into a new land (Egypt) and eventually became a source of blessing for that land in the midst of famine. He was the source of salvation to the majority population though he came from a despised minority—Hebrews (Gen. 43:32). In the hard soil of European evangelism, God is going to use Muslim-background believers to bring salvation to Christian-background lost people (Germans, Italians, etc). Refugee believers are learning that this is part of their calling.

The salvation of the old land: The purpose of the Joseph story, however, was the salvation of the old land/people. Joseph was not preserved alone by God but seventy others from the old land were saved that they might become a people of God. A vision is growing among refugee believers that God wants to both 1) save many refugees along the refugee road and 2) bring this movement back to the home countries. We must help believers in the diaspora to become movements that bring salvation to home countries from which they emerged.

Seasons of darkness: Doubtless at times Joseph felt forgotten by God, his family and friends. Yet in the darkness he did not despair but continued to trust God. The situation had to get very dark before it got better. Refugee believers take encouragement from Joseph’s faith while in dark places. They know that in time God will bring about His purposes.

A new hope: The Joseph story is one in which a new hope emerges, one Joseph could never have imagined despite the foreshadowing of his initial dreams in Genesis 37. From the darkness, a much greater purpose came to light. How shocked Joseph must have been years later when his brothers showed up to buy grain. In that moment, the greater purpose became clear:

5 And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6 For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. 7 And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. 8 So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. (Gen. 45:5-8, ESV, emphasis added)

Three times Joseph stated: “It was God who sent me here!” The purpose became clear—a new hope emerging from darkness. For the refugee evangelism efforts to become a kingdom movement, refugee leaders must embrace this new hope—they have been sent ahead by God for the salvation of many. If we fail to call them to a bigger vision or if we shrink back from calling them to suffer for a greater purpose, then we will likely reap a few hundred or thousand new disciples but lose a potential movement to rock the Islamic world.

Don’t compromise: During the dark times and light times, Joseph refused to compromise. As Potiphar’s steward, he refused to sin with Potiphar’s wife. As a prisoner in darkness, he refused to use underhanded ways to escape prison. As the second-in-command of Egypt, he refused to abuse the rank and privilege accorded him. Refugee believers identify with the need to remain true to God’s Word no matter their circumstances—to refuse to compromise or use underhanded ways to better their situation or seek retribution.

Expect helpers along the way: Joseph’s destiny was ultimately in God’s hands, but in the earthly realm was in the hands of others. He trusted God to guide the hands and hearts of the rulers toward God’s ultimate purposes. Along the way, God provided helpers in this journey—Judah to sell Joseph rather than let him be killed, Potiphar purchasing Joseph, the keeper of the prison giving Joseph privileges, the cupbearer bringing Joseph to Pharaoh, Pharaoh raising Joseph to his right hand. Refugee believers have to trust that God will provide advocates along the way to move them toward the destiny God has created for them.

Create relational networks along the way: The challenge of the refugee road becoming a movement is that relational networks change from week to week. Families are torn apart and new living situations present themselves each week or month. Joseph was torn from his family and moved from place to place. Rather than see only his blood family as his relational network, Joseph created new relational networks along the way—Potiphar’s household, the prisoner network and eventually the palace network of Egypt. Refugee leaders with a vision for a movement realize they must help new believers create and embrace new relational networks face-to-face, by phone, and online. As they embrace these new networks and disciple each other in these various forms, the movement is growing and finding stability. 

God’s favor will be upon you: God’s hand of favor was continually upon Joseph. The seed of saving his family planted in the dreams of Genesis 37 was watered all along the way. God’s promise was one of favor and purpose he could hold onto in dark times. Refugee believers frequently ask: “Why did God save me first rather than my brother or my cousin (or someone else)?” They find a growing sense that God’s favor is upon them to be the channel of salvation and this favor fills their hearts with gratitude.

God’s school of suffering: Years ago a greatly persecuted Chinese underground leader shared with me: “Prison is God’s seminary for me. It is when He lets me stop long enough to study my Bible more deeply, write and hear His voice more clearly.” God’s school of suffering. Suffering was Joseph’s seminary. It was the crucible of shaping Joseph into the man who could be the channel of salvation. The Joseph of Genesis 37 was not ready for the throne of Egypt; the Joseph of Genesis 40 was. Refugee believers must embrace periods of suffering as God’s seminary to prepare them for the greater works Jesus promised (John 14:12).

The Joseph Movement: A Vision

The story of Joseph is one of uncanny precedent that refugee believers can learn from. It is a biblical case study for a movement that can be repeated again today. The key will be refugee believers taking on the identity and vision of a true Joseph movement. Such a vision will be as costly to them as it was to Joseph. But if believers can identify this moment as a Joseph opportunity, then it may well become multiple kingdom movements intertwining their fingers both in the diaspora and back home in the sending countries. Will Muslim background believers take on this identity? Will they embrace the cost that comes with the promise?

And for Christian leaders around the world working with these precious brothers and sisters, will we embrace the same vision and communicate it with faith to them? Will we communicate it to our own churches? Will we reinterpret the unfolding events to demonstrate God’s amazing purposes?

If we do, then we are casting a vision of what is on our Father’s Heart.

And, in case you wondered how to cast vision in general, this article has been an example—bringing an encouraging and inspiring word to growing disciples based on Father’s heart.

This is an article from the May-June 2016 issue: Getting to No Place Left

Our Role in Hastening “No Place Left”

Excerpted from Hastening

Our Role in Hastening “No Place Left”

Used by permission of 2414 Ventures.

A few years ago Mission Frontiers featured David Platt’s Radical, a strategic book for mobilizing the church. We are delighted now to feature Steve Smith’s thriller “No Place Left” saga, designed to carry the Church further in the same direction. This excerpt is from Hastening (Book One).


“Congratulations, my imperturbable accomplice,” John said. “We made the Washington Post.”

Christopher sighed as he scanned the headline: L.A. Pastor Speeds Up the Return of Jesus. “Really, bro, you shouldn’t pay attention to these things.”

“They’re saying we think we can dictate when Jesus returns. They’re saying we’re taking Matthew 24:14 and 2 Peter 3:12 too far, as if the moment the last unreached people group is reached, Jesus has to return,” John said.

Christopher studied his longtime friend. “There’s more to it, though, isn’t there, bro?”

“Well,” John admitted, “I’ve had similar questions, lingering questions. We’re gaining a lot of momentum, so I haven’t wanted to rock the boat—especially since I often appear critical.”

“I’m not! I support you and this mission unreservedly! But, Christopher, what if they’re right? Are we trying to dictate when Jesus will return? How can we actually hasten Jesus’ return? This is the question that plagues me. Isn’t God sovereign? Hasn’t He set the date for Jesus’ return? How can we speed up the coming of that day?”

“Bro, I wish you had said something sooner,” Christopher commented. “Actually, I wish that I had said something. We’re getting a lot of kickback on this, so I’ve been studying it more deeply—making sure we’re not off base. And here’s the thing. Of course God is sovereign. And at the same time, we play a role in bringing about His sovereign plans. Think about it this way. Remember when you came to faith?”

“I was quite the rabid dog, wasn’t I?” John said, smiling. “Couldn’t shut up about my new life.”

“Well, not exactly. You were also really, really nervous about talking to your dad about it, remember?”

“Well, who wouldn’t be?” John said. “He was a Rhodes scholar. Tenured faculty. Twice the intellectual—and cynic—I am. And always finding fault with born-again Christians.”

Christopher nodded. “You kept praying, ‘Lord, send someone to witness to my dad, someone with the intellectual faculties to back him into a corner.’ Remember?”

John winced. “Yes, until that fateful day when I realized my dad was my responsibility. It was up to me to share the gospel with him.”

Christopher leaned back in his chair. “Now, think about it, bro. How long did you wait to open your mouth? Six months?”

“Yeah, but I finally got convicted to do something about it. Otherwise I probably would have waited six years, or perhaps even sixteen.”

John paused. “One of the hardest things I’ve ever done was buying that plane ticket to Boston. But you know, after we had spent a little time together and I shared my story, he just melted. I was speechless.”

“Bro, the testimony of your changed life and your love for him was more powerful than any apologetics someone else might have debated with him,” Christopher said, smiling.

“I—I guess so. I’m still amazed my dad’s a Jesus-follower. The cynic now an evangelist!”

Christopher leaned forward. “Now think about this, bro. You were the instrument God used to lead your dad to faith. You wanted to wait years and very well might have if God hadn’t convicted you to speed up the process.

“You and I know the date of your dad’s salvation was set in heaven before the earth was formed. But, in a way, you hastened that day by buying that plane ticket and witnessing to your dad. Perhaps if you had waited six years, he would have believed later, but you didn’t wait. You hastened the day, though from heaven’s viewpoint that had been God’s plan all along. Your motivation fit within God’s plans.”

“God destined my father’s day of salvation, but I became His instrument,” John repeated to himself. “From my vantage point, I speeded up that day by acting in faith sooner rather than later. Someone was going to win him. Why not me, and why not then? How was I to know it wasn’t to be his day of salvation?”

“It was the same when Church in the City sent our first short-term team to China,” Christopher said. “Remember the medical clinics we did in the villages? There were people there who might not have heard the gospel for many more years if we had not come. God knew when He created them when they would believe, but from our perspective, we hastened the day of their salvation.

“Look, bro. Fatalism drove those who opposed William Carey. They told him, ‘Sit down, young man. … When God pleases to convert the heathen, He’ll do it without your help or ours.’”

John chuckled. “Uh, yeah, I could have been one of them.”

Christopher continued, “All I know is that someday God will raise up a generation with the motivation, the wherewithal, and the perseverance to finish the task—the last generation. From earth’s vantage point—whether or not we become that generation—we are hastening that day by focusing on finishing the task. From God’s vantage point, He has chosen someone to finish the task and appointed the times and seasons of their final work. If we are the ones He has chosen, we’re not speeding God up; God is speeding us up to usher in the day He prepared long ago.

“Bro, we’re on solid biblical ground. Solid not just according to me but also respected theologians. Listen to Marvin Vincent’s hundred-year-old comments on 2 Peter 3:12.”

Christopher picked up an ancient tome, gently leafed to the appropriate page, and read:

I am inclined to adopt, with Alford, Huther, Salmond, and Trench, the transitive meaning, hastening on; i.e., “causing the day of the Lord to come more quickly by helping to fulfil those conditions without which it cannot come; that day being no day inexorably fixed, but one the arrival of which it is free to the church to hasten on by faith and by prayer.”

John contemplated these words.

“Will Jesus come back the moment the last UPG is reached?” Christopher asked. He glanced once more at the headline as he grabbed the paper again. “I don’t know. I just know that this is the mission He left us with, and that He said we would finish before His return. I want to finish the task He has given us.

He tossed it back down again and said, “He’s not waiting for permission from us to come back. Rather He is patiently waiting for us to do what He commanded, and He’ll come back when the time is right. …

“There will be a last generation. Why not us? Carey suggested his generation speed up the Great Commission by going. I ask why we can’t hasten finishing this task. By God’s grace I will lay down my life to see it completed. Perhaps God’s plan all along has been to raise up this generation as His vehicle for finishing the task before He sends Jesus on the day appointed from the foundation of this world.”

This is an article from the January-February 2024 issue: On the Move with Nomadic Peoples

The Testimony of Tambaya Ibrahim

The Testimony of Tambaya Ibrahim

Article is used with permission from AfriGo.

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This is an article from the January-February 2024 issue: On the Move with Nomadic Peoples

My Final Word to the Church

My Final Word to the Church

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This is an article from the January-February 2024 issue: On the Move with Nomadic Peoples

Who Will Go?

Who Will Go?

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This is an article from the January-February 2024 issue: On the Move with Nomadic Peoples

Let Nomads Move You!

Let Nomads Move You!

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This is an article from the January-February 2024 issue: On the Move with Nomadic Peoples

Herders and Their Amazing Economic Impact

Herders and Their Amazing Economic Impact

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This is an article from the January-February 2024 issue: On the Move with Nomadic Peoples

The Nomadic Peoples Network (NPN) A New Breed

The Nomadic Peoples Network (NPN) A New Breed

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This is an article from the January-February 2024 issue: On the Move with Nomadic Peoples

Nomad Connect

A Learning Journey

Nomad Connect

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This is an article from the January-February 2024 issue: On the Move with Nomadic Peoples

Unreached of the Day JAN/FEB 2024

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This is an article from the January-February 2024 issue: On the Move with Nomadic Peoples

Innovation Among the Unreached

A Journey with Nomads

Innovation Among the Unreached

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This is an article from the January-February 2024 issue: On the Move with Nomadic Peoples

Changes in Central Asian Nomadic Life

Changes in Central Asian Nomadic Life

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This is an article from the January-February 2024 issue: On the Move with Nomadic Peoples

The Tale of Two “Brothers” A True-Life Story

The Tale of Two “Brothers” A True-Life Story

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This is an article from the January-February 2024 issue: On the Move with Nomadic Peoples

M4M: Local Media, Bibles, and Worship for the Next Billion Believers

24:14 Goal: Movement Engagements in Every Unreached People and Place by 2025 (24 Months)

M4M: Local Media, Bibles, and Worship for the Next Billion Believers

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This is an article from the January-February 2024 issue: On the Move with Nomadic Peoples

Elastic Church

Developing a Different Paradigm of Church for Nomads

Elastic Church

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This is an article from the January-February 2024 issue: On the Move with Nomadic Peoples

Searching for New Pastures

Searching for New Pastures

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This is an article from the January-February 2024 issue: On the Move with Nomadic Peoples

Mobilizing Every Believer to Make Disciples

A Call for a New Paradigm

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This is an article from the January-February 2024 issue: On the Move with Nomadic Peoples

Redeeming the Starving Shepherds

Redeeming the Starving Shepherds

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This is an article from the January-February 2024 issue: On the Move with Nomadic Peoples

Desert Births

Desert Births

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This is an article from the January-February 2024 issue: On the Move with Nomadic Peoples

Beautiful Feet Bringing Sweet News

Beautiful Feet Bringing Sweet News

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This is an article from the January-February 2024 issue: On the Move with Nomadic Peoples

Disappearing Kyrgyz Villages in the Pamirs

Three years after COVID-19, what has changed?

Disappearing Kyrgyz Villages in the Pamirs

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This is an article from the January-February 2024 issue: On the Move with Nomadic Peoples

When Bible Training Falls Flat

October 20, 2023, on a flight from CNX to BKK

When Bible Training Falls Flat

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This is an article from the November-December 2023 issue: Movements Accelerating through Crisis Response

The Power of a Decentralized Gospel

The Power of a Decentralized Gospel

In our world today, we are used to hearing about big bureaucratic organizations: Big Tech, Big Pharma, Big Agriculture, Big Government and Big Churches. We tend to think that big problems require big organizations to solve them. But big organizations also come with big negatives as well. Big organizations tend to be impersonal with one-size-fits-all solutions to the needs of people. Big organizations want people to adapt to their policies and procedures rather than adapting to meet the needs of individuals. They tend to be inflexible and slow to adapt in rapidly changing circumstances. When interacting with these big organizations, people often feel like they are not being heard and that they are getting “the run around.” Is there a better way to solve problems, make disciples, plant churches, and deal with crises when they occur?

The Power of Small Groups

For 13 years now, I have talked about the power of Disciple Making Movements to reach the unreached peoples as disciples make disciples and churches plant new churches one generation after another. These churches start out as small “discovery groups” where people are introduced to the Gospel and the Bible. They begin to follow Jesus and learn how to make disciples who will disciple others and start new churches. These discovery groups become churches as they begin to perform all the functions of a healthy church. One of those functions is ministering to the needs of those in the church.

If one member of the group has a need, another member may be able to meet that need or help provide the funds needed. Or someone in the group may know someone who can help. Instead of looking to a big organization to meet this need, they are looking to the Lord and each other. It is a very personal way to meet needs without the top-down control or bureaucracy of a big organization. If the need is more widespread, as in the case of a crisis or disaster, many groups or churches in a network can come together to help meet the needs within the wider community. These groups possess the love of Christ, a wide range of skills, and a dynamic flexibility that can be employed when disaster strikes.

As seen in our lead article starting on page 8, these small groups are transforming the way people respond to crises. In the process, Jesus is being exalted and lives are being saved, both physically and spiritually. The crises that are occurring around the world, among the unreached peoples, are providing fertile soil for a viral response to the Gospel as these small churches meet the needs of their neighbors during a crisis. In some cases, former persecutors of the Church come to faith in Jesus when they see the loving response of believers to their needs during a crisis. Small churches filled with trained disciples of Jesus are the most effective responders in a crisis, because their response is personally tailored to each person or family. This does not mean there is not a need for a response from larger organizations. It does mean that there is no substitute for trained disciples who are the neighbors and friends of those in need during a crisis. It is more likely that a person who is of the same culture will be able to reach their neighbor with the Gospel than someone from the outside.

This issue is all about how God is using crises of many kinds to soften the hearts of the unreached peoples while using small groups/churches to meet the needs of those who are suffering. In the process, God is causing movements of discipleship and church-planting to grow among the unreached. We wish that crises would not occur, but they are a sad reality of living in a fallen world. But God is using these crises to bring people to Himself through the power of multiplying movements of discipleship and church-planting.

The Amazing Progress of the Gospel

With all the bad news that floods the airways each day, it’s easy to think that we are losing the struggle to reach every people with the Gospel. The enemies of God seem to be gaining strength and power all over the world. It is easy to lose hope and become discouraged. But if we step back and look at the span of history and not just the last few years, the statistics portray a much brighter picture—one of progress and hope. Carefully study the graphic above from Robby Butler and be encouraged. We still have a lot of work to do, but we know from the Scriptures that God’s promise to Abraham, that all peoples on earth would be blessed through Abraham’s seed (Jesus), must be fulfilled. He is in the process of doing just that through movements.

Take note on the graphic that between 1980 and today, the number of Frontier Peoples has gone from 60% of the world population to just 25%. In 1980, there was one believer for every 10 who lived in a Frontier People Group. Now, there is one believer for every two people who live in a Frontier People Group. The remaining task of pioneer work in every Frontier People is easier than ever before.

One of the reasons for this wonderful progress is the revolutionary new focus over the last 20+ years on fostering Disciple Making Movements within every people. The tremendous power of disciples making disciples and churches planting churches one generation after another is key to helping people deal with crises, as well as providing access to the Gospel to every person living within every people group. Movements always have been the way that peoples have been reached and they still are today. If we continue to pursue movements within every people, I believe we will continue to make great progress toward reaching all peoples and fulfilling God’s promise to Abraham.

This is an article from the November-December 2023 issue: Movements Accelerating through Crisis Response

Partnering with God: Prayer as a Crisis Response

Partnering with God: Prayer as a Crisis Response

God invites all of us to join in crisis response through prayer. In recent years, prayers for unreached and unengaged peoples have increased, along with crises and disasters in many of the same places. We don’t pray for crises to happen, yet the increase in man-made and natural disasters has caused millions from unreached peoples to become refugees in places with Gospel access and openness.1

We don’t presume a direct cause-effect relationship in the following story, which has been peer-checked and cross- checked by trained local researchers. Yet, we can say that the prayers of the righteous do have a mighty impact.

Hakeem, a Syrian carpenter, was working 16 hours a day to feed his family and maintain the property built by his father. He shared, “The earthquake destroyed our house and killed my wife and four of my five children. We lost everything.”

With tears in his eyes, Hakeem continued: “One night, I was sitting over my destroyed home, looking up to the sky and talking with Allah. I said, ‘Why did this happen to me and thousands of people here?’ Inside, my heart was screaming. For the next hour, I stared into the night sky and kept asking this question.

“Suddenly, I heard a voice say, ‘Hakeem.’ I turned around but did not see anyone. The voice spoke again, ‘Hakeem, I am Jesus.’ Then I saw a face as bright as lightning talking to me. He said, ‘Your house is in heaven, not here on this earth; don’t be sad.’ As He said this, I felt like a child being hugged by his father. My body felt at peace for the first time in a long while. Then He left. I thought, ‘It was a dream.’ My soul said, ‘No, it’s true.’

“Two days later, some people came to help us. They were feeding children and caring for us in the pain, and I felt the same feeling of a hug from these people! So I shared with them what I had seen. The team said, ‘Tonight come to where we are gathering and we will tell you more about what you have seen!’

“I waited eagerly for the night to come, and I took my only remaining son with me. They showed us the Jesus Film. In the middle of the film, I shouted, ‘Stop the film!’ and asked how to accept Jesus. The face in the film was the same one who had spoken to me two days previously.

“This is how the Lord Jesus accepted me into His kingdom. Now, my son and I are meeting with all my tribe and my wife’s tribe. We are spreading the news of what happened to me and encouraging everyone to watch the film and follow Jesus. Please pray for us.”

Through prayer and Kingdom-Movement efforts uniting globally, more than 100 million believers have come together to pray for people in the Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish, and Hindu worlds to turn to Jesus. Following the earthquake last February in Turkey and Syria, many felt disillusioned, discouraged, and without hope. Yet through this tragic event, many thousands have come to Christ, and healthy, reproducing churches have been planted. Hakeem’s story is not an isolated example. Numerous similar accounts have come from new believers among Unreached People Groups after they have experienced disasters.

Walking the streets of Lebanon after the blast in 2020, I (Mary) felt like I was walking along the shore of an ocean of miracles every day, as people’s prayers were being answered 24/7 in unexplainable ways. Local people closest to the blast recounted how they had mysteriously survived, thanks to a God they did not know. John Robb, a disaster-response intercessory leader with World Vision for many years, shared that through reconciliation prayer, he and his teams have seen at least nine civil wars cease among people previously far from God. People have testified how miraculous powers of intercession have led to peace, through repentance and people turning back to God during crises. During several crises, prayer has literally changed the front page of national news headlines overnight!

As disasters continue to occur, prayer can play several strategic roles. From stories like Noah, Joseph, and the church in Jerusalem, we see that prayer can lead us prophetically in how to prepare for things to come. Genesis 6 describes God’s order to Noah to prepare for a coming disaster. So make yourself an ark… (Gen. 6:9-22). Jesus referred to that event in warning His followers to be ready for His return as well. As the days of Noah were (Luke 17:26). After a long journey of highs and lows, Joseph began preparing for a disaster because of a dream God gave to the leader of a nation. Joseph spent seven years preparing an entire nation, then seven years leading the nation through the disaster response, which also led to reconciliation with his family.

God uses disasters and crises to build His Church. The church at Antioch was birthed from believers who fled because of persecution in Jerusalem. Then, when the church at Antioch became aware of an impending disaster, they sent money to other churches to prepare before the crisis happened. They led a regional disaster response from Antioch (Acts 11:27-30). Many more accounts in Scripture instruct us about preparation. Consider Proverbs 6:6-8; Isaiah 40:3; Matthew 24:42-44; Mark 13:32-33; Luke 21:36; 2 Timothy 4:2; and Hebrews 11:7.

Whether or not people are prepared, disasters strike and many are left with an overwhelming number of decisions to make in a short period of time. A useful response strategy can be birthed from prayer, as prayer bathes the entire effort. We see in 2 Chronicles 20 an occasion when multiple nations waged war against King Jehoshaphat. Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. All of Judah came together, with entire families, including the children and little ones, to pray. In response to their prayer, the Lord prophetically gave them a unique strategy: to put worshipers at the front of the army. As they praised God on the frontlines, God caused the armies of the enemies to turn on one another and for the news to spread to all the surrounding nations. Such victories continue to happen today! Prayer leads to strategic insights into how to respond, as nation [rises] against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, with famines and earthquakes in various places (Matt. 24:7)—which happen to be taking place 24/7 and in need of 24/7 prayer.

We currently have a kairos moment, as we witness an acceleration of wars, rumors of wars, plagues, famines, and earthquakes in various places as Jesus predicted. Could this acceleration be one of the ways God answers our prayers for the last remaining least-reached peoples? As snapshots of disasters appear on the news, specific prayers can be increased for the nations. Many local Kingdom Movement leaders said the increased attention on the Middle East after 9/11 led to increased prayer, which fueled breakthroughs among Muslims across the region. Global media attention can spotlight those the Lord wishes to reach and showcase His wonderworking power.

How then shall we pray for those who are suffering? God can use suffering to shape individuals and also to bless, contingent on their response. Praying through Scriptures on suffering can change the world. As Isaiah describes it, The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary (Isa. 50:4). A helpful guide is the Prayer Cycle on Suffering that facilitates one hour of prayer in 5-minute increments. This can be used to pray for others in suffering, crisis, or disaster, or when you are in that season yourself. Several other resources are listed below. Equipping God’s children to pray for those in crisis, disaster, or suffering simultaneously disciples them for their own response to suffering when it comes.

Whether we pray as one affected in the middle of a crisis, as a prayer strategist on a crisis response team, or from afar, we know that The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit (Ps. 34:18). Brokenness is often felt most acutely during disasters. Those may be some of the greatest moments to experience God at work, as He comes close to the brokenhearted. Paul wrote to Titus, Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good in order to respond to urgent needs and not live unfruitful lives (Titus 3:14). May this ring true of all we do, including our prayer, that we may effectively respond to urgent needs, and not live unfruitful lives.

Further resources:

Pray using live maps of disasters taking place globally: GodinCrisis.vision/m247 (click around the map for more details to inform prayers for the disciples and churches that live in or near the crises).

Suffering Blog Series by Curtis Sergeant, with Scriptures on suffering to use in prayer.

www.prayerstrategists.net—for prayer strategists embedded in crisis-response teams.

www.110cities.com and www.10days.net are some of the global prayer movements that include prompts for interceding on crises, disasters, and Kingdom Movements.

www.prayer.global—a website and app that is interactive with location-specific prayer fuel for all 4,770 states in the world, including Scripture prompts to pray for disciples’ response to suffering.

Endnotes
  1. See “Movements Responding to Crises” article.

This is an article from the November-December 2023 issue: Movements Accelerating through Crisis Response

Organizations Shifting: Crisis Response and Movements

Organizations Shifting: Crisis Response and Movements

From interviews by Dr. Mary Roberts with: John Heerema (BigLife, CEO), Forrest Head (BigLife, COO), David Palusky (Renew World Outreach, Founder), Larisa Edmond (Renew World Outreach, Director of Partnerships), Linda Epeards (Team Expansion, Project Fulfillment Specialist), Doug Lucas (Team Expansion, President)

“The Torch stopped the bullet!” exclaimed a Ukrainian chaplain from the frontlines of the war. One of the soldiers had found a Torch (solar-powered audio Bible with light features and phone charging capabilities) lying in the rubble after bombs had been dropped on a small town. It was scorched and burned from the explosion, but lodged in the front was a bullet. Later the chaplains confirmed that the device belonged to a woman who had found herself caught in the crossfire and miraculously survived. After Renew World Outreach was urgently prompted by the Lord to not forget their calling to engage in disaster response, they sent thousands of Torches to Ukraine, not knowing what to expect. Soldiers and civilians were receiving hope through audio Scriptures and local music, while also being able to charge their cell phones. As a ministry that makes technological tools to take the Gospel and Bibles to remote places, little did they know that decades after their founding, God would call them to equip others with these tools for disaster response.

This call from the Lord to include disaster and crisis response in their disciple-making and church-planting efforts has happened among many ministries in the last few years, including BigLife, Team Expansion, and Renew World Outreach. BigLife watched God redeem dire situations to fuel movements—among Pakistani day laborers starving from food shortages and among persecuted believers sharing the little food they received with their Muslim neighbors. Hundreds of thousands of newly baptized believers joined the kingdom, multiplying churches and transforming communities, with hundreds of locally- led schools, medical camps, and micro businesses.

In a similar vein, Team Expansion has pursued loving people well by responding to crises in several nations. They have built bridges for churches in the U.S. to partner with special projects in disaster-response efforts—led by local partners with long- term visions to multiply disciples and churches. Linda Epeards, coordinator of Team Expansion’s responses, shared: “The call to make disciples is the call to love, not just through the immediate need but through recovery and rebuilding, as we respond to needs and make disciples as we go.”

I interviewed leaders from these three organizations concerning their journeys to rapidly respond to disasters and crises with a long-term movement vision. Here are some of their responses:

Why have you shifted as an organization to rapidly respond to disasters with a long-term movement vision?

BigLife: For us, it’s a matter of loving God, loving people, and making disciples. As we looked in the mirror, we thought: “We love God and make disciples, but are we really loving people?” We were buying a lie that if we made disciples, the quality of life would rise for everybody. However, the harder part is to love people concretely when crises abound. There is no bait and switch; it’s all one package.

We would never consider ourselves a humanitarian organization; our focus is always disciples making disciples. Historically, we saw humanitarian relief open doors in various parts of the world. However, the pandemic taught us that chaos opens opportunities. The last few years have been the greatest opportunity in our lifetime to reach Afghans—who have been through the chaos. Evacuating and relocating 53,000+ Afghans, we saw God’s movement break out during the follow-up, with Afghans helping Afghans and Pakistanis helping Pakistanis. We were able to serve the movements responding to disasters, with no Westerners involved on the ground.

Team Expansion: We are called, first of all, to love. Loving, as disciples and churches, means meeting the immediate relief needs of people who have lost their homes and families and are looking for shelter and community after disasters. By partnering with local workers in or near disaster zones, we have become a bridge for prayers and funds from U.S. churches to neighbors in need around the world. We have seen churches multiply along the way.

By helping people recognize and leverage their own resources during recovery and rebuilding, we have enabled people to rebuild communities in God’s redemptive ways of restoring it better than it was before. In the Philippines, a cyclone recently wiped out entire communities. By coming alongside local disciples, we invested in micro-loans to help fishermen get new boats. Repayments of the loans became a community fund that helped others get their local businesses back up and running.

Renew: The Holy Spirit made it really clear to our team that we needed to be able to engage. We saw the unprecedented openness in times of crisis and the redemptive opportunity for rebuilding from a kingdom perspective. Coming alongside the provision of clean water, mental health, medical clinics, and other humanitarian aid with the tech tools has led to miraculous stories of breakthroughs!

Gospel advancement involves serving physical and emotional needs as well. We are seeing multiple uses for our tools and the variety of content that can go on them for different response phases. In responding to the war in Ukraine, the earthquake in Turkey, and the Afghan refugee crisis, we have seen this more fully than we had first realized. We discovered ways to serve inside those challenges and how that aligns with our calling.

Have you experienced pushback on humanitarian work? Or concerns about mission drift?

Team Expansion: We are first and foremost a disciple-making organization. However, before we are even that, we are Christians called to love others. We see it not as either/or, but rather as both/and. When Jesus engaged communities, He met concrete needs. By loving people through physical, emotional, and spiritual care, we have seen many of those impacted become disciples. Equipping local believers in trauma care that pairs with spiritual tools has led to new believers in trauma-healing groups that are multiplying.

BigLife: We were concerned at first that too much crisis response might negatively impact multiplication. We have seen the very opposite. Responding to crises has given movement practitioners much greater opportunities to respond in love. Seeing lives transformed by God through disciple-making is addictive. We have been able to also pass that on to other disaster-response organizations, training them to multiply disciples and churches, who transform communities together.

Renew: Some people’s natural pushback is: “We need to wait for the Word of God.” Yet we have repeatedly seen and heard of the power of engaging in disaster response together with giving access to hear the Word of God. If we don’t wrestle with everything God says, as messy as it is, we have a lopsided solution. Jesus called us to make disciples. The discipleship process is both spiritual and practical, not one or the other. A crisis situation always involves spiritual elements: knowing “Who is God in the midst of this?” Partnering with local churches also can help provide part of the solution. One challenge is that there never seem to be enough resources to sustain all the phases of a crisis. Yet Renew’s mission is not just to make tools but to provide strategies that harness tools.

What have you learned since starting to engage in disaster response with movement vision and principles?

Team Expansion: We are always asking the Lord, “Where is the need?” and asking for wisdom on how to respond. We’ve been blessed with people who consistently pray, listen to God, and obey. Those impacted by the disaster see who God is through their experience with us, and many have come to Jesus. We focus on getting into communities where relief has not yet reached. Over time, as people recover, baptisms have occurred, and new churches have formed after all the disasters we have engaged in thus far. We are honored to partner with disciples who have become frontline workers.

BigLife: Chaos brings ministries together to collaborate. We want to be prepared moving forward, helping others learn to collaborate and including crisis response opportunities in our budget ahead of time. Anything we do is temporary, but disciples on the ground can continue walking with people along the entire way. For example, persecution in many areas has escalated; we’ve lost a lot of our leaders. Yet local leaders have asked, “Please don’t pray for persecution to stop. Pray we have the endurance to get through it because it always leads to opportunity.”

Some of the barriers we have to overcome:

ï     Persecution killing leaders

ï     Moving money around

ï     Tariffs on materials coming from nearby areas

ï     Doubt: “Why haven’t we heard of it?” or “Is this a funding ploy?”

ï     Pride (which we combat by not having our name on anything, consistent with Psalm 115:1)

ï     Spiritual warfare

Renew: Every crisis provides a unique opportunity to work together. It also allows ways to innovate: not just in the moment but in long-term community. We all have so much to learn. The biggest challenge is to discover how to do it together—knowing we will all see things we haven’t seen before. For example, Renew has been connected to humanitarian networks for years, and areas such as clean water often seemed separate from evangelism and discipleship in tangible ways. Yet, as ministries like Crisis Response International (CRI) used our tools, we saw the learning multiply through sharing stories and ideas with others. By facilitating across relationships, we became more intentional in reaching out to our partners concerning crisis opportunities. This raised our excitement about what God is doing on Earth around crises and how we can be a part of it.

Conclusion

In addition to the groups interviewed, several others have begun rapidly responding to crises with a long-term vision for Kingdom Movements. Beyond and e3 Partners have been serving alongside local partners in Ukraine, India, and other places—pairing disaster response with making disciples and planting churches. Jeff and Angie Sundell, who serve with refugees across Europe, often have mentioned, “Where there is smoke and fire, God is at work,” as they mobilize disciples to respond. As a network of church-planting churches, Antioch Movement-Waco has reignited its Acts of Mercy disaster and humanitarian response arm in recent years. Mobilizing various professionals from within their churches, they pursue disaster response with a vision for movements.

More examples could be shared of this pattern. God has shifted several groups, in the last few years, to combine responding to needs during crisis and disaster with long-term movement efforts. Should we perhaps give more attention to this pattern? Might there be some reading this whom God is prompting to explore joining what He is doing through this approach?

In each of the above examples, the goal is not traditional relief work. It is caring—physically, emotionally, and spiritually— for those affected by the disaster. Loving, equipping, and walking alongside them with the long-term vision of multiplying disciples and churches who transform their communities. God is displaying His grace and mercy by advancing the light of His kingdom through the loving deeds and Good News carried by His children in times of crisis. Let’s join God in crisis!

If you are interested in learning how to respond to disasters toward movement as a church, network, or organization, you can contact [email protected] to get connected with others who are making the shift.

This is an article from the November-December 2023 issue: Movements Accelerating through Crisis Response

Insights from Movements for Effective Crisis Response

Insights from Movements for Effective Crisis Response
When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ.
Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some.
I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings. (1 Corinthians 9:22–23 NLT)

Trials and tribulations, including natural and man-made disasters, are part of our earthly reality. Our world has been broken by sin, and as a result, nature has been distorted. Our response to crises needs to combine compassion for hurting people with an awareness that those without Christ desperately need the Gospel.

The following are some insights I have gained from many movement disciples in their crisis responses—ranging from the 2004 Aceh tsunami to the recent COVID-19 pandemic.

1. Embrace a Kingdom Perspective. Understand that the kingdom of God can expand during a crisis. Uncertainty and turmoil often create a willingness for people to consider the Gospel. Approach disaster response with faith and hope, seeking God’s guidance and trusting in His provision (James 1:12).

2. Be Prepared. The question is not if but when crises will happen. Disciples in a movement have the right DNA of loving God and loving their neighbor. In a crisis, they rise to the occasion. But we can do a better job of preparing to be like the five wisely prepared virgins of Matthew 25. This includes equipping more disciples with practical training, such as how to “shelter in place” and provide basic first aid.

3. Be Strategic. We need to integrate crisis response with discipleship. Maximizing strategy and coordination between first, second, and long-term responders can make the most of relationships and opportunities at each stage. Crisis response must become a long-term opportunity to plant and multiply congregations.

4. Prioritize Prayer. Recognize that God is the ultimate healer and provider. Organize concerted efforts of prayer within the community and from the global Church. Ask God to be the designer and leader in the response efforts.

5. Fight the Real Battle. Ultimately, crises are a symptom of a broken world. The crises of wars, disasters, and pandemics only intensify the difficulties and tragedies of life. Amid the stress and trauma faced by responders, they need to remember their true enemies are the spiritual powers of darkness (Eph. 6:12) and use the weapons God has put at their disposal for pulling down strongholds of resistance to the Gospel (2 Cor. 10:3-5).

6. Demonstrate Compassion and Love. God is close to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18). We must be God’s sheep that help the hurting (Matt. 25:35-36). Many times, as our family was part of the Aceh tsunami response, we found the most helpful and welcome things we could do for people were to listen to them, grieve alongside them, and pray for them.

7. Be Wise and Patient. In a crisis, people will often say and do anything they feel will help them. We must be very careful not to manipulate them into “professing faith” because they think we will give them more help. Often, the seeds we sow in the immediate aftermath of the disaster will not be harvested until months later, when survivors can begin to respond with a clearer mind and without any feeling of coercion.

8. Be Committed for the Long Term. Most crisis responses are highly concentrated in the first few months, and then outsider helpers return to their lives or move on to the next crisis. While you might personally be involved only for a period, it is important to be part of a larger network that has a long-term plan. If your network continues to help when others leave, you will have far greater influence moving forward.

9. Partner with the Local Body of Christ. The greatest resource in these crises is the local and/or nearby body of believers. Many times, they are already responding, so we need to ask, “How can we empower, equip, and resource them, as they are the long-term hands and feet of Christ in their locality?”

10. Partner with the Global Body of Christ. We need to collaborate well, to identify and communicate with first, second, and long-term responders—both locally and globally. (Some are doing this, such as IDRN1 and RUN.2) We also need to work on preparing and caching supplies ahead of time.

11. Partner with Other Responders.

ï   Collaborate with existing Christian networks and organizations who may have a different plan.

ï   Collaborate with secular networks and organizations when possible.3

12. Conserve Your Resources. Many organizations will spend a lot of money early in the crisis. You can help direct those funds and make use of their other resources—such as information, transportation, and supplies. By “surfing” on these resources, you can preserve your funds and resources to use for long-term impact when most others have moved on.

13. Maintain Integrity and Accountability. Act with integrity and maintain financial transparency. Ensure that resources are being used wisely, honoring both the givers and the recipients.

14. Be Impartial. This can be controversial. Some Christians feel we should prioritize helping Christians. I would agree this is the case when their Christian identity is being used against them—such as in persecution or when a government blocks aid to Christian families and communities. However, except for anti-Christian situations, it is important to give aid with no distinction for a person’s faith.

15. Serve the Responders. Often those responding do not realize the toll that they are paying. They are driven to respond to the great need around them and often internalize the trauma. Since they are helping those with greater need, they may feel they cannot take time or attention for themselves. As a larger team, we have to be aware of the cost and impact on responders and help them receive the care and support they need, lest they become casualties themselves.

16. Prioritize Sustainability. Focus on long-term solutions that empower local communities to recover and thrive. Invest in discipleship training and leadership development that builds resilience and fosters spiritual growth.

17. Celebrate God’s Sovereignty. Recognize and proclaim the goodness and sovereignty of God even in the midst of chaos. Allow the response to disaster to be a testimony to God’s grace, mercy, and love.

In embracing these principles, we must remember the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 8:28: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. That purpose is to conform both responders and survivors into the image of Jesus (Rom. 8:29).

Endnotes
  1. International Disaster Response Network, idrn.info.

  2. Reaching Unreached Nations, http://www.runministries.org

  3. This would include the United Nations and national governments, when possible.

This is an article from the November-December 2023 issue: Movements Accelerating through Crisis Response

Trauma Healing in Crisis Response

Trauma Healing in Crisis Response
“Trauma is perhaps the greatest mission field of the 21st century.” —Diane Langberg, Suffering and the Heart of God

The word trauma has a variety of connotations in the West. However, much of the world does not have a word for it in their language, though they are not strangers to the concept and its effects. Trauma is “an emotional response to a stressful event or series of events that cause(s) a variety of negative consequences, including mental and emotional difficulties, and sometimes physical symptoms.”1 A single event or a series of events can have the same physical, emotional, and mental impact.

According to the Trauma Healing Institute, trauma creates a barrier between people and their understanding of the Gospel. The physiological impact of trauma can hinder a person’s physical ability to hear and understand the Gospel unless a way is made for them to understand. But listening to their story can open up a way for the Gospel to travel in. However, trauma psychologist Diane Langberg notes that if people have been living with ongoing trauma, they need community before they can tell their individual stories.2

A crisis or disaster, whether man-made or natural, shakes up people’s existing community or exposes their lack of community. A crisis also becomes a season where people hunger for community in ways they never have before. That hunger can be met at the deepest levels through healthy community. We define healthy community as small groups of ordinary disciples who love God, love others, and make disciples, pointing them to Jesus.

Many psychologists have observed3 that the majority of people who have experienced trauma do not need professional counseling but rather need a healthy community. Christian trauma-healing practitioners would say that community needs to be centered around God’s Word and listening well. Though professional counseling can help for a season, it does not replace the lifelong need for community, for which God created us.

Ironically, a crisis can harm community at the very time when community is most needed. From Bible times to the present, we have seen God at work during times of crisis in and through healthy community. For example, as the Muslim call to prayer sounded through the window last month, several ladies in the Middle East sat on the floor, sharing about communities that had been created during a past disaster response, and how, years later, the groups still continue to multiply. After beginning with trauma healing a few years ago, the discipleship groups are now spreading into surrounding countries. Their husbands, who are unbelievers and actively involved in Islamic leadership, have told them they will not allow their families to change locations because of the transformation they have seen in their wives as they participate in these healing communities.

How can we foster an environment of healthy community from the very moment a crisis occurs? Awareness of the average trauma-healing journey enables believers to more effectively love and disciple those impacted by trauma. As we disciple those impacted by trauma, they learn to walk alongside others who are hurting. Learning this skill also builds resilience in their own lives. Ultimately, this kind of discipleship plants emotionally healthy seeds in new disciples, ensuring that good things multiply (like healing) rather than bad things (like the effects of unresolved trauma).

More information on application of this graph can be found in the P.R.E.P.A.R.E. article.

In the phase of acute or event-based disaster response, we can layer the average physical and emotional timelines with potential spiritual windows. Keep in mind that every person follows this sequence at their own pace. Timelines and rate of healing are often highly influenced by the existing community (or lack thereof), past trauma, and physical environment.

Physical relief often parallels the average timeline of the first emotional phase of anger and denial. As physical relief dissipates, emotional processing frequently shifts to hopelessness. Eventually, over time, people begin to rebuild both physically and emotionally. They experience “new beginnings.” As people impacted by disaster experience the overlap of these two timelines, we see perhaps one of the greatest windows God has given us to love and build community among people receptive to Bible stories, leading them to Jesus. This window occurs as people slide into the stage of hopelessness, as relief efforts wane and non-profits leave the site. If we reach people in this window and facilitate healthy community, the “new beginnings” they experience as they rebuild physically and emotionally tend to be stronger than even before the disaster.

As people slide into the stage of hopelessness, they crave the community we’ve described. If we, during that season, give them an opportunity to experience community that facilitates physical, emotional, and spiritual healing (in a context centered around God’s Word), we also have facilitated a contagious environment. We see this described in Acts 2:42–47, as disciples met together during the difficult circumstances of their lives. Their activities of helping each other physically, teaching, and fellowshipping together created a community to which each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.

If we read Scripture through the lens of crisis and trauma,4 we note that in Acts 4, Peter and John experienced a crisis of getting thrown in jail. As soon as they were free, they went back to their community and shared their experience.

The community listened, was strengthened, and spoke God’s Word with boldness and love. We, as ordinary disciples and churches, can respond to crises as the Church in Acts did.

How do we facilitate the kind of community that responds well to crisis? By facilitating the essential foundations for any healing: community, faith, and purpose. These are needed in the journey of walking people through the stages of healing as outlined above.

The first step in healing is creating a loving and healthy community through listening. We can listen by asking three significant questions to help people process, either one-on-one or in small groups:

1.   What happened?

2.   How did you feel?

3.   What was the hardest part? [or the best part?]

The second step in healing is establishing faith, based on a relationship with God and His Word. These same listening questions can be used to guide healthy lamenting with the Lord, sharing with Him, as the ultimate listener, the responses to the questions. We can then close with a statement of who God is in the midst, “I believe [or I want to believe] that you are [insert truth from Scripture].” Examples of lament in the Bible include Psalms 6, 22, 38, 44, 60, and 130. Stories from God’s Word provide the foundation for lament and learning. Because trauma impacts the brain in ways that make it difficult for people to interact with written text, oral stories, and activities centered on the truth and healing of God’s Word play a critical role in healing.

The third step, purpose, is foundational for creating a “contagious” environment. People find purpose when they understand that they also can share the healing and truth they have found through God’s Word.

As they experience healing through listening and loving each other (healing community), deepening their faith in God (faith), and intentionally sharing God’s Word with others (purpose), they form a strong, multiplying group. Such a group can sustain itself through the joys of “new beginnings,” and weather the next crisis that comes their way.

As the Middle Eastern women previously mentioned sat on the floor eating together, they reminded each other of the storms they had weathered together. One member of their group had died. Another woman’s family had experienced kidnapping in their home country. Another had experienced abuse. But the community remained strong. The women talked about how they had seen God’s grace and faithfulness through the way the community remained united through every hardship. This community, which began out of a momentary crisis, has remained strong three years later, consistently growing in number and in depth of relationship with Jesus.

These ladies remember well the vision of simple trauma-healing groups. Could we come to see things the way Joseph did, who said to those who had hurt him: Do not be afraid. You meant to harm me, but God used what has happened for good–not just for me–but so that many other people could be saved (from Gen. 50:20)?

Resources: www.GodinCrisis.vision/articles www.MultiplyingHope.org

Endnotes
  1. New Hope Manual, http://www.multiplyinghope.org

  2. Lanberg, Diane 2015 Suffering and the Heart of God: How Trauma Destroys and Christ Restores.

  3. Hermann and Langberg, “New Hope: A Theodramatic Approach to Trauma Healing,” in New and Old Horizons in the Orality Movement: Expanding the Firm Foundations, ed. Steffen and Armstrong (Pickwick Publications, 2022).

  4. Macinnis, Adam. “Study: Trauma-Informed Bible Reading Reduces Depression, Anxiety, Anger.” http://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2021/may/ bible-reading-study-trauma-ptsd-covid19-mental-health.html.

This is an article from the November-December 2023 issue: Movements Accelerating through Crisis Response

50 Examples of Movements in Crisis Response

Compiled by Dr. Mary Roberts and Dr. Curtis Sergeant, with contributions from numerous local movement leaders across the globe.

50 Examples of Movements in Crisis Response

Crises create opportunities for access, collaboration, creative problem-solving, and new initiatives. They provide opportunities to love people well in their deepest moments of need—by joining the Lord, who is close to the brokenhearted (Ps. 34:18), in the midst of the crisis.

Sometimes just hearing a few ideas can help someone get started. While engaging in crisis and disaster response as ordinary disciples and churches may be a daunting task, we can share many examples from Kingdom Movements. These span diverse experiences in loving God, loving people, and making disciples during the limited window of opportunity following a crisis. The Apostle Paul wrote to Titus, Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to respond to urgent needs and not live unfruitful lives. As disciples and churches around the world have lived Titus 3:14, we can glean from these recent examples to kick-start the brainstorming of possibilities:

Wars and Conflicts

1. The Taliban conflicts in Afghanistan created the opportunity for a ministry serving Kingdom Movements to handle evacuation of nationals paid for by the U.S. government. That, in turn, allowed the ministry to evacuate believers in imminent danger and provided a deep level of access to many Afghans over time, resulting in many coming to faith.

2. Refugees in areas surrounding conflicts in Sudan were engaged through collaboration by a coalition of partners who would not have connected previously.

3. In an ongoing war in Sudan, the inability to have brick-and-mortar schools led to the creative development of an entirely oral-based seminary program. This paved the way for multiplication of mobile Bible storytellers, creating a growing edge for the multiplication of churches.

4. Conflicts in Myanmar led believers to find creative ways of getting supplies into high-risk areas. By working mostly underground, they were able to respond with physical, emotional, and spiritual care. After seeing the believers willing to take major risks to love people, many turned to Jesus, got baptized, and began to share with others.

5. War in Ukraine led to equipping disciples with awareness of what to watch out for in human trafficking, how to be prepared to leave as refugees, and use of preexisting sports networks to provide aid in Jesus’ name and see many thousands become disciples.

6. War in Ukraine created opportunities for believers to equip churches in surrounding countries to respond. They set up basecamps to receive the refugees, to care for them physically, emotionally, and spiritually. As refugees turned to Jesus, they multiplied new disciples while continuing their journey to find asylum.

7. Civil war in West Africa led believers to have open doors to share with “hard-soil” people, who became believers when faced with their own brokenness. Over time, a movement was launched out of the crisis.

8. Civil unrest in the Middle East created a bond between former persecutors and persecuted people from two neighboring people groups. Due to governmental conflicts, the underground churches multiplied quickly. Many of the same people who formerly opposed the believers and persecuted them became believers.

9. Terrorist attacks in the U.S. led to increased attention and prayer for the Middle East, which brought movement breakthroughs, such as had not been seen before. These movements continue to multiply to this day.

10. Refugees sharing about Jesus with their friends and relatives back home led practitioners to connect with existing movement leaders near the refugees’ home culture. They sent disciples to follow up with relational connections in the home country of the newly believing refugees. As the refugees shared with their families and nearby disciples within the country followed up, hundreds came to faith and were baptized, and disciples continued to multiply.

11. The scattering of North African refugees led believers to open doors to care in crisis. They formed migrating churches among the families of the refugees so the church would migrate together as the peoples moved around, multiplying as both harvest and harvest force were dispersed.

12. As disciples in Europe cared, physically and emotionally, for refugees from unreached peoples and places, the refugees eagerly asked spiritual questions. This led to Gospel conversations and discipleship breakthroughs.

13. Eritrean refugees in the Horn of Africa prompted believers to equip others in how to listen well to people, to care for their trauma. This led to new teams forming and equipping others in developing trauma healing that multiplied, producing new disciples and churches.

Earthquakes

14. An earthquake in Turkey created an opportunity for collaboration between some above-ground and underground workers, which in normal circumstances had been uncomfortable.

15. Earthquakes in Nepal led to the use of relief to bring reconciliation among persecuted believers as they brought help to those who had beaten and exiled them. Persecutors repented and the believers forgave, leading to multiplying churches during the recovery.

16. After earthquakes in Nepal, believers began to create go-bags to store on their roofs. Then, when the next disaster hit, they could get the go-bags with extra supplies after homes collapsed and help their families and others through the chaos and relief.

17. Large earthquakes in Southeast Asia led disciples to create a phased approach, seeing thousands in medical clinics and helping with immediate food, water, tents, and portable toilets. The team followed up with trauma-healing conversations and Discovery Bible Studies, leading to house fellowships of baptized believers in previously closed communities.

18. An earthquake in Indonesia created opportunities to form small groups. Each group helped others make bricks to rebuild their homes, using supplies and skills they shared as a group. Several of these groups clustered together to be coached by a professional construction worker. By working in groups, the supplies and supervision extended further than if each family had needed their own professional help.

Lockdowns and restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic

19. Lockdowns in Myanmar moved more disciples to connect online using Zúme. This led to multiplying disciples and groups online while people could not leave their homes.

20. Limited market times led to an increased willingness of believers in Myanmar to exercise their priesthood in Christ and remove their own idols because other believers could not come to their homes due to the restrictions. They shared these testimonies in the markets as they went, leading many new believers to do the same.

21. Lockdowns in India led to believers discovering creative ways to distribute rupees for relief supplies in small portions, with trackable accountability. This led to breakthroughs, with several Kingdom Movements multiplying significantly.

22. Lockdowns globally led to many disciples learning and using previously resisted technology. This opened creative and catalytic ways to train, coach, and communicate, such as Zoom and WhatsApp. Zúme also increased by tens of thousands of users during the lockdowns. Believers used various technologies to advance movements, expanding relationships and launching new streams of multiplication worldwide.

23. Government restrictions led to connecting with others in new ways. For example, many pre-existing churches asked for training in house-church models, increased media ministry, and Bible studies accessible via phone.

Pandemic and epidemics

24. Aila, a leader stewarding a network of movements, testified: “I looked at what has happened in the last 15 years of our movement in East Africa, and 2020 was the peak,” as churches that met in buildings could no longer meet, so they met in homes and the groups in homes began to multiply.

25. COVID-19 response in Pakistan resulted in the opportunity to provide job training for indentured slaves, many of whom came to faith and began to labor for God’s kingdom.

26. During COVID-19 in Southeast Asia, movement leaders asked, “Not what can we do but what needs to be done?” While suffering, they worked toward their end vision by equipping believers in basic medical care and trauma healing. These opened doors to find households of peace that were searching for Jesus, leading to baptisms and multiplication.

27. An epidemic in North Africa led disciples to volunteer in hazardous places with many losing their lives to serve Muslims. A village chief watched the Christians love, to the point of giving up their lives, and prayed for God to spare his family. When this happened, he became a believer, sharing from the Scripture in mosques, and started churches, going from village to village after the crisis.

28. An Ebola outbreak in West Africa led to believers learning trauma response using movement principles. They took a strategic long view in their short-term response to the crisis. Discipleship groups then cared for people’s practical and emotional needs, leading to an even greater harvest in the long run.

Floods and tsunamis

29. Floods in India led to believers’ homes being relocated. As they started over, they shared with new neighbors, and the ministry multiplied through their relocation.

30. Flood response in Pakistan allowed for aid and access to people in poverty, who turned to Jesus as the source of their help in times of need. This Good News then spread to others.

31. Floods in Laos led to the use of motorcycles to access hard-to-reach places with food. This opened doors to care for people who had little access to supplies. Many became new believers, establishing simple churches among unreached peoples.

32. Floods after a drought in East Africa led to many leaders and families losing all their income. After prayer, they called one another to encourage each other and shared the very little they had. This led to a multiplication of sacrificial kindness towards one another.

33. A tsunami in Southeast Asia opened up places that had been entirely closed off to access. This answered prayers people had been praying for years and led to making new disciples and multiplying churches.

34. The same tsunami in Southeast Asia led to an outpouring of finances that were stewarded across relief, recovery, and rebuilding for several years to come. This will sustain catalysts who were led, through the response, to a long- term vision of disciples who make disciples.

35. Floods in Bangladesh led to chronic unemployment. This opened opportunities for microenterprise development, equipping believers to work as rickshaw drivers and allowing them to access people with the Gospel and provide income for their families. This enabled a movement in a large urban area to continue growing significantly.

Famines and food shortages

36. Famines in East Africa created opportunities for food relief and equipping people with sustainable farming. This led to groups working together, resulting in multiplying discipleship groups.

37. In Nepal, believers provided personal assistance in the fields to farmers having trouble during planting and harvest seasons. This opened those farmers to the Gospel and helped identify Persons of Peace, thus providing a foothold in resistant areas.

38. During food shortages in India, some disciples sacrificed one meal a day to give that food to someone in need. They then shared the food and asked people if they also wanted spiritual food. This catalyzed ministry among unengaged and unreached peoples to whom they previously had had no access.

39. After a locust swarm in East Africa, believers were encouraged by the reminder that crises create opportunities for the kingdom to advance. They shared food in portions that allowed for frequent follow-up to check on people. This demonstration of love shown in a difficult time opened people up to hear the Good News and led to increased fruitfulness.

Economic hardship and persecution

40. In many countries, economic hardship has made it challenging to take care of children. As a result, some disciples have engaged children with games that introduced kingdom principles to them and their families. This has often provided a foothold for kingdom multiplication in new communities.

41. Economic hardship and labor-avoidance issues have opened many opportunities for cross-cultural tentmakers to gain employment in unreached locations where they are called to catalyze Kingdom Movements. This has led to new movements on a large scale in regions such as the Middle East and China.

42. Extreme poverty, coupled with under-developed financial structures, has opened up opportunities for microenterprise development, ASCAs (Accumulating Savings and Credit Association), ROSCAs (Rotating Savings and Credit Association), and CHE (Community Health Education) in many nations around the world. The training aspects of these tools can be used in conjunction with Gospel truth and disciple-making tools and principles. These approaches have been particularly helpful in Africa, Bangladesh, and much of Southeast Asia.

43. In Pakistan, unemployed day laborers created opportunities to distribute food and the Gospel as they shared with the people around them. When people asked why they shared, when they had next to nothing, they shared about Jesus. As a result, the kingdom grew by hundreds of thousands of new disciples and churches.

44. Compassionate ministry among persecuted Muslim minorities in India resulted in many coming to faith and being equipped to multiply disciples. These disciples have continued to minister among other Muslims, and the community of Jesus’ followers has grown steadily.

45. When believing leaders were martyred in the Middle East, hundreds of disciples stepped up to take on leadership roles, fueling exponential movement growth in the wake of persecution unto death.

Other natural disasters

46. Mudslides in India led believers to work across movement networks to find creative solutions. They learned to build shelters faster and rebuild homes stronger, opening doors that previously had been closed to Gospel access.

47. Wildfires in Central Asia led ordinary believers to respond because they loved God and wanted to love others who were hurting. This led to new relationships and skills, building a crisis-response network in the movement that continues to grow after each disaster.

48. A plethora of natural disasters in Indonesia led believers to shift to a Luke 10 mindset in their disaster response. This enabled them to find Persons of Peace among unreached peoples. Walking alongside them through physical, emotional, and spiritual transitions brought multiplication at a faster rate than normal.

49. Cyclones in Southern Africa led to disciples from a nearby movement working with neighbors to rebuild homes out of compassion for those hit by the disaster. This led to new relationships and finding Persons of Peace, which resulted over time in a multiplication of disciples and churches.

50. A volcanic eruption in Central Africa spurred disciples to learn trauma-healing tools via WhatsApp. This enabled them to listen well to people as they arrived at relief camps. This, in turn, led to new networks of relationships and follow-up, forming discipleship groups that multiplied through the camps.

This is not an exhaustive list! To connect, communicate, and collaborate in strengthening Kingdom Movements in disaster and crisis response, please email [email protected].

This is an article from the November-December 2023 issue: Movements Accelerating through Crisis Response

Welcome to the Ralph D. Winter Research Center Website

Welcome to the Ralph D. Winter Research Center Website

The Ralph D. Winter Research Center has just launched a new website! Check it out at: rdwrc.wciu.edu. The website is specifically designed for two things:

First, we will be a source of current missiological reflection to serve both the newest globally interested believers, as well as mission leaders and engaged practitioners around the world.

We are working hard to find or create cutting-edge, frontier-focused reflections to advance the Gospel globally. We also are curating materials posted or published by others. We are excited to point to great resources deemed helpful for mission at the edges of the Gospel. We are encouraging others to write for our blog or post book briefs, or full book reviews. You can sign up at the website to be notified when we add new posts.

In the process of exploring and seeing how God is working today, we also want to:

Second, keep in sight the lessons the mission movement learned in the past.

One way the new website does this is through posting a range of ideas and reflections from key mission leaders in the past, such as those by Ralph D. Winter and Donald A. McGavran.

This is an outgrowth of my own experience. I was interested in missions and was helping mobilize at my church while in college back in the 1970s. I had a copy of Operation World from 1976 when it was only 208 pages (it is almost 1,000 now!). Later that year, I first heard Ralph Winter speak at a student mobilization event and I was shocked by the information he shared about peoples and places without any Gospel witness!

A few years later, after seminary, I joined the USCWM (now Frontier Ventures). That was 41 years ago. Until his death in 2009, Ralph was part of my daily routine. Most of us on staff saw, and usually heard from him, Monday through Friday in our Bible study and prayer times. When he asked me to become the Director in March 1990, my time with him increased.

But the thing that most staff remember were our weekly meetings, especially the ones each Thursday evening, when Winter would “wrap-up” after missionary speakers would share from a certain part of the world or a particular kind of ministry. His sharing usually did not last more than 10 minutes, but was very insightful. Over the coming months, we are planning on posting as many of those as we can. Right now, you can listen to one of those “wrap-ups,” an audio recording of Ralph’s now-famous plenary address from the Lausanne Congress in 1974 or a video recording of his reflections on Isaiah 49…just to mention a few.

Ralph carefully kept records of his writings, letters, events he attended, and organizations he was tracking. After his death, we found additional materials from the time he and Roberta served in Guatemala. This includes audio recordings from the 1960s. We also were given Donald A. McGavran’s library and the archives from later in his life.

In 2009, with all this information in hand, it was only natural to establish the Ralph D. Winter Research Center. It was started to encourage a creative approach to solving problems with the global spread of the whole Gospel. That was his focus.

The Research Center includes materials that illustrate and document the thinking that captured a generation of mission leaders. We are regularly adding digitized documents and audio and video recordings to the new website. We have a trea- sure trove of materials, including:

ï     Ralph Winter’s archives (165 Bankers Boxes) and 8,500 volume library.

ï     A portion of Donald A McGavran’s archives (58 Bankers Boxes) and library—about 2,000 books.1

ï     A unique, focused South Asian collection (8,000 volumes) on Christianity and other faiths in that region.

ï     A specialized missions collection (10,000 volumes).

ï     Already, we have had researchers visit from the University of Notre Dame, Cambridge University, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and from India, Korea, and the U.S.

Ways you can get involved:

ï     Visit the site at: rdwrc.wciu.edu

ï     Sign up so you can download materials and engage in the discussion on new posts.

ï     You can search all four book collections here: https://latourette.on.worldcat.org/discovery.

ï     Researchers can come to see specific books and archives at the Research Center. Write to us through the website to see if your research focus is a fit for us.

ï    Volunteer—in Pasadena or virtually. We have digital work that can be done anywhere.

Endnotes
  1. The earlier McGavran materials are at the Wheaton College Archives.

This is an article from the November-December 2023 issue: Movements Accelerating through Crisis Response

Rapid Response in Seasons of Receptivity

Rapid Response in Seasons of Receptivity

When a news flash interrupts your feed with the latest catastrophe, it’s not just information, it’s kingdom “intelligence.” Invisible to most, it’s God raising His voice for those paying attention. He’s pointing to a new front line—waiting for us to follow Him into the fourth-soil chaos.

On Christmas night in 2004, my young grandson Mike and I were on the way to our family Christmas celebration. Suddenly, the radio interrupted the Christmas music with news of the tsunami in Banda Aceh with potentially tens of thousands dead. I blurted out: “Something just shifted in the heavenlies,” to which Mike responded—“Huh?” Prayer for that region of the world had been intense—prayer that God would break down the spiritual resistance. God was answering our prayers for open hearts and access.

Compassion and aid flowed quickly from every corner of the earth, and rebuilding lasted for years. Questions linger as to how prepared Christ’s Church was to capture that season for more than the crisis-relief phase.

Since then, Lebanon has experienced a devastating explosion, Myanmar has seen ethnic cleansing, and the COVID-19 pandemic has killed millions. Ukraine has been invaded, an earthquake has destroyed Turkish towns, and tomorrow will bring a fresh calamity of some sort.

As we track human tragedies, most can be overlaid with a map showing where prayer and/or years of sowing have been focused on peoples in need of the Gospel. Unaware, they still wait in darkness for the Light.

RECEPTIVITY

When normal life for people and places has been suddenly and brutally disrupted, a high density of new receptivity usually arises—for a short season. Any event that forever alters a person’s future leaves them in immediate shock: traumatized, in a state of disequilibrium, and often short of personal agency to bring stability to the coming days, weeks, months, and sometimes, years. In the new season, victims face fresh vulnerabilities to hunger, weather, abuse, violence, corruption, and/or injustice. While they process their forever-loss of friends and family, jobs, homes, and way of life, they often are severed from their physical and emotional anchors, and they experience aloneness like never before.

For some, their religious belief systems are shattered, and they find formerly rock-solid answers insufficient for the new questions and circumstances. They become open to re-processing their life, its meaning, and their future.

SEASONS

Seasons of receptivity do not last long. They can come for a few moments or last a few months, until something or someone fills the vacuum. This is especially true regarding the limited window of receptivity at the heart level. In this state of disequilibrium, sufferers feel driven to find answers and stability as quickly as possible. It is both a brain and a heart issue. Humans need cognitive closure to the new questions and their heart aches for a return to peace. They become receptive, not just to the Gospel but to anything or anyone that will quickly fill the void. For cognitive closure, wrong answers can be tolerated better than the vacuum they experience.

We know that the best filler of that vacuum is the Lord, who longs to be with them in their suffering and speak to their pain. At a gathering in Lebanon during the Syrian crisis in 2018, Miriam Adeney helped answer the question: “Where is God in the Crisis? Making Sense of Crisis and Suffering.” Among other things, she reminded us that:

a)   Humans are more than sinners; we are created in the image of God. We are never just sinners or even victims. In God’s image we are gifted, resilient, and creative.

b)   God enters our/their pain. A wounded God can speak to our/their pain.

RAPID RESPONSE WITH SENSITIVE HEARTS

That is why we must quickly be about our Father’s business. From a kingdom perspective, it seems to make sense that the crisis and disruption of others would challenge us to consider disrupting our own lives as we follow our Savior. The good Samaritan comes to mind. In urgent seasons, we need to be open to adjust our budget and calendar—even our policies and processes—in light of the sudden arrival of short-lived, high-density receptivity that we’ve prayed for. There is no time for business as usual when the harvest is fully ripe.

When the epicenter of the Arab Spring demonstrations landed in Syria, it displaced more than half her citizens, both internally and to many nations in Europe. In the midst of that turmoil, many ordinary European believers responded quickly and powerfully to the flood of refugees. They rearranged their lives to rapidly respond, bringing practical aid, healing, hope, and the Gospel. We now know of movements to Christ among some of those who fled war and tyranny in that season.

Katy was one of the go-ers. She had no special mission credentials—but she had her church behind her, and she had ears to listen and a story to tell. One afternoon, Katy glanced at something—a someone. The glance became a gaze because something was not right. Under a shady tree on a green hillside, in an almost deserted park, on a hot summer afternoon in Frankfurt, Germany, sat a distraught woman, all alone. She was across the street from a refugee intake center where new refugees were processed. Katy felt prompted to talk with this obviously displaced woman, even though she felt terrified, not knowing what to say. What she heard coming out of her mouth in English was, “I want to hear your story.”

It didn’t take long before the two pain-filled eyes met a stranger’s two eyes—and sensed compassion. Nadira was a recent arrival. She had started running the night ISIS fighters broke into the apartment where she lived with her brother, demanding money they didn’t have. Angry, they beheaded her brother in front of her. Soon they pulled her newborn twins from her arms and threw them out the window to their death below. “I started running, because that’s all I had had—my brother and my babies.”

Katy and Nadira wept together. Slowly, Katy was able to share that just months before, she also had lost a child, though not as tragically. In her case, it was a miscarriage that led to the most painful experience of her life. She shared a story of where and how she had found hope to move forward with Jesus. As Katy shared, Nadira sobbed. Katy asked if she could give her a hug. Nadira immediately grabbed her and held her—long and tight. Katy says she will never, as long as she lives, forget that hug.

The two strangers shared their human condition, including indescribable pain and increased hope. Because of the pain, although in differing degrees, each had something to give as well as receive. A glance. A gaze. A step. A story. A connection. A hug. A knowing. And HOPE!

POSITIONING FOR ACTION

Might we adopt the athletic, army, and agricultural model of 2 Timothy 2:4-6? Those holding each of these jobs prepare themselves long before the game, the battle, or the harvest. Then, at the right time, they rapidly deploy to the stadium, the front lines, and the ripe fields.

In human crises, early response usually includes medical and trauma healers; specialists in search, rescue, and logistics; compassionate listeners; and connectors. Christians also add intercessors, evangelists, and those apostolically gifted. Many agencies specialize, but Church communities around the world constitute a large latent workforce with the specialties needed, just waiting for activation into the chaos. And any believer going in the power and authority of

Christ our Lord can be used. To get ready, here’s what I recommend:

1.   Position now for the fourth-soil seasons—at home and abroad.

ï    Activate prayer teams to intercede, prophetic see-ers to spot, early on, God’s openings, and mobilizers to mobilize other mobilizers throughout your church community.

ï    Identify all possible assets—visible and invisible.

◊   Visible are the specialists already equipped, funds already designated, current partners and language capability you know about, etc.

◊   Invisible are the resources you will need to discover among your people and within their connections. Go find the hidden treasure. Look for distinctive life experiences and unique connections. Encourage additional equipping opportunities in skills like trauma healing, search and rescue, crisis logistics, intercession, setting up refugee resettlement centers, meal stations, children’s programs, appropriate cultural engagement, cross- cultural listening skills, and peace-making (often needing application within the team itself in the midst of battle).

2.   Run interference when necessary. Make sure your systems and processes do not unnecessarily block your kingdom-advancer types from running quickly to the fourth-soil places and spaces.

3.   When the news flashes come:

ï    Listen for the “kingdom intelligence” behind the details. Ask the Lord what He has in mind and explore the kingdom possibilities now that could not have been conceived of a few hours ago.

ï   Then, respond with the speed worthy of our King, who at that very moment will be opening hearts in the chaos to be with Him forever.

This is an article from the November-December 2023 issue: Movements Accelerating through Crisis Response

Displaced and Redeemed: The Story of God’s People According to Stephen

Displaced and Redeemed: The Story of God’s People According to Stephen

“… you reside in my land as foreigners and strangers.” (Leviticus 25:23)

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references in this article are from the NIV version.

How would you describe Stephen in the book of Acts? As a servant waiting on tables (Acts 6:3–6)? As an evangelist preaching to those responsible for Jesus’ crucifixion (Acts 7:2–53)? Or (perhaps the most vivid picture) as a martyr seeing a vision of the glorified Christ (Acts 7:54-60)?

In this article, we will consider Stephen the historian.

Did you know that Stephen’s speech constitutes the longest monologue in the book of Acts? Acts 7 is certainly apologetic. In fact, Stephen’s account of Israel’s history hit so close to home for its audience they chose to execute him.

Stephen’s summary is simultaneously the history of redemption and that of a displaced people. Stephen begins in Mesopotamia (Acts 7:2) and proceeds through God’s calling from the land of the Chaldeans via Harran to the vision for a promised land for Abram. Yet, the Lord gave him no inheritance there, not even enough ground to set his foot (Acts 7:5). Even while having neither land nor heir, Abram was somehow comforted by God’s promise, For four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, they will be enslaved and mistreated (Acts 7:6). Besides a promised land, God led Abram to accept the promise of slavery and suffering.

In the story of redemption, we don’t assume opposition came from outside. It was the “patriarchs” of Israel who sold Joseph into slavery (Acts 7:9). Because God was with Joseph, opposition resulted in deliverance. As famine drove the sons of Israel to Egypt, Joseph was ready as God’s provision (Acts 7:8–16). As we read from Joseph’s own lips, the evil intended by Joseph’s brothers God intended for good to accomplish…the saving of many lives (Gen. 50:20).

For many generations Israel multiplied; so did the Pharaohs' oppression. Stephen used words like “treacherous,” “oppression,” and “forced labor” to describe the plight of God’s people (Acts 7:7–19). In all this, God was not absent. He told Moses, I have indeed seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their groaning and have come down to set them free (Acts 7:34). Yet the mighty deeds God enabled Moses to perform were accompanied by 40 years of wandering in a wilderness (Acts 7:36). Israel was homeless, aimless, rebellious, yet guided by the “living words” received by Moses and passed to the people (Acts 7:38–39).

Even though Israel settled in the promised land, Stephen reminds those who inherited the tabernacle and the temple system, the Most High does not live in houses made by human hands. For Heaven is my throne, and the earth my footstool. Though God’s own hand had made all these things, the Holy Spirit led Stephen to rebuke those clinging to a house prepared for God. Like Joseph, the prophets, even the law of Moses, the Righteous One was rejected and betrayed (Acts 7:48–53).

Israel possessed the promises of God, yet they were often treated as strangers and foreigners. Israel’s history was marked by oppression, slavery, and groaning. They were “resident aliens” displaced by famine and warfare. According to Stephen, each generation played its part—whether Jacob digging another well, un-named Israelites baking bricks made with or without straw, or Moses stretching his staff over the Red Sea. Each generation, willingly or unwillingly, had a role in accomplishing God’s purposes within His mission. And throughout its history, Israel was plagued by rebellion from within the camp. At the appointed time, Israel mistook the redemption wrought by God’s own hand.

They crucified the very Redeemer sent to fulfill the promises of God.

As you read Stephen’s account of Israel’s history, are you struck by the intense irony?

Having recounted the history of his own people—displaced, mistreated, sold, and even murdered—Stephen took his place among the oppressed and the redeemed. Full of the Holy Spirit, Stephen fell beneath the stones hurled at him. Yet as he looked to heaven, he saw his Savior standing at the right hand of God (Acts 7:55–60).

You know what happens in the following chapters of Acts. God’s purposes are revealed again and again amidst suffering and injustice. Saul the persecutor, after approving the murder of Stephen, becomes the catalyst for a scattering of the disciples (Acts 8:1–3). As Saul sought to destroy the Church house to house…those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went (Acts 8:3–4). God’s orchestration was again demonstrated as men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the Good News about the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord (Acts Acts 11:20– 21). Within the providence of God, both Stephen’s suffering and Saul’s evil intent served to establish the very Church which later sent the same Saul on mission (Acts 13:1–4). Do you see irony? I see God’s purposes made perfect in the faith of His followers across history.

According to Stephen, the story of Israel is the story of pilgrimage. Stephen’s speech is the story of God choosing and leveraging Israel for redemption. This history is a pathway of suffering, oppression, and groaning (Acts 7:34). Yet, such circumstances are perfectly in step with God’s providence and promises. In the midst of mission, one might anticipate a reward for leaving everything to follow the Lord’s calling. Yet, the biblical precedent remains. We should not be surprised that injustice and the mistreatment of God’s people continue today. We should not be surprised by the stirring and displacement of nations in keeping with the plan of redemption. Even now, such circumstances propel the Great Commission to the ends of the earth.

As it was with the story of redemption, so it is in the ongoing unfolding drama of the Great Commission. We have the promised Spirit of God, complete with His power compelling us to witness. As we accept and embrace the promises of Acts 1:8, let us be prepared to accept the precedent of scattering established in Acts 8:1.

This is an article from the November-December 2023 issue: Movements Accelerating through Crisis Response

RALPH D WINTER LAUNCH LAB

A Catalyst for Mission Innovation

RALPH D WINTER LAUNCH LAB

What’s In a Name? 

Despite what its name may suggest, the Winter Launch Lab (WLL) is not a center for win- ter sports. Named in honor of Dr. Ralph D. Winter, this dynamic team operates within Frontier Ventures and serves as a dedicated laboratory for mission innovation.

Who We Are   

Comprised of a diverse group of innovators, each member contributes their own specialized expertise towards a singular goal: bringing the Gospel to the least-reached communities around the world. The WLL unites people with varying backgrounds and passions, allowing for a broad spectrum of innovation that can’t be found elsewhere.

Our Areas of Focus    

Our projects range widely but are deeply rooted in the concept of frontier missions. Key areas include:

·       Health: Catalyzing solutions to complex global health challenges where they’re most needed.

·       Bitcoin in Missions: Exploring how cryptocurrency can serve global missions.

·       The Spirituality of Innovation: Understanding how innovation and innovators intersect with Jesus-following communities, spiritual life, and spiritual practices.

·       Nomadic Outreach: Developing approaches to share the Gospel with mobile and isolated communities.

·       Midwifery: Uniting frontline midwifery workers in the art and science of midwifery.

·       Entrepreneurial Businesses: Supporting business startups in regions where Frontier Peoples (sometimes called UUPGs and FPGs) are to sustain long-term outreach as well as being successful midsize businesses.

How We Help Others   

The WLL doesn’t just innovate in-house; we provide several platforms to assist other mission workers, agencies, and networks in overcoming their challenges:

1.    Unstuck Peer Consultation: This service is aimed at providing new perspectives to tackle leadership and mission-related is- sues, helping participants feel “unstuck.”

2.   Jumpstart Workshops: These sessions help teams define challenges, encourage prayerful reflection, and design fresh strategies for impact.

3.   Transformational Collaborative: This is a longer-term commitment, typically 1-3 years, focused on using innovation and spiritual discernment to break through significant barriers to the Gospel. Participants find themselves, as well as their ministry paradigms, transformed through this intensive process.

Our Community    

Our core team collaborates with an extensive network of partners, expanding our reach and impact. This network brings our total team size to around 40 people, all of whom share the conviction that more indi- viduals and groups should be involved in this vital work.

The Unique Spirit of the WLL    

The need to deliver the whole Gospel to the whole world isn’t just a chal- lenge—it’s a sacred calling. And it’s one we approach with relentless dedication and joy. We deeply value your prayers as we continue to press forward in this exhilarating, and at times challenging, landscape of global missions.

If you’re interested in mission innovation, the WLL stands as a strong, creative and strategic team. It’s not just an exciting place to work; it’s a transformative community to be part of.

This is an article from the November-December 2023 issue: Movements Accelerating through Crisis Response

P.R.E.P.A.R.E. to Respond to Crisis

P.R.E.P.A.R.E. to Respond to Crisis

“What we do is not because there is a need, but because there is a God.” 

—Dr. Alicia Britt Chole

When walking the streets after disasters in several nations, including my own, I often asked people: “Was there a time when you cried out to God?” Time and time again, they would say “Yes.” In their darkest, scariest moments, people are often shaken to realize there may be more to life than what they have been living. When we share stories about God and the Gospel, it answers their desperate prayers with Good News—from the God to whom their inmost being had cried out.

How can we position ourselves to be ready for the opportunities God gives us? How can we join Him in caring for people through the phases of disaster response, for the long-term advancement of His kingdom through multiplying disciples and churches who transform communities?

One way is to P.R.E.P.A.R.E. to recover God’s designs out of disasters: knowing Him, making Him known, and living by kingdom principles according to Scripture. Whether our focus is across an ocean or across the street, we can prepare locally, regionally, and/or globally to increase effectiveness to be able to love others well in Jesus’ name.

Posture | Research | Equipping | Processes |

Assessment | Response |

Establishing multiplying disciples & churches

Walking through Scriptures, stories, and scenarios as we P.R.E.P.A.R.E. can make a significant difference. It may be as simple as changing the questions we ask, as phases, information, and circumstances change. From micro (individual) to macro (network) levels, it is important to get the basics in place in order to lead to the long-term vision of movement efforts. Caring for an individual experiencing a crisis is then multiplied to caring for entire communities, nations, and regions experiencing crises. While large-scale responses contain added dynamics of complexities, the same basics exist at the smallest fractal level.

We must be led by Scripture and the Spirit, not the demands of urgent needs or the deception of feeling better if we help just one more person. Scriptures sustain us through suffering when strategies or stories alone fall short. Our response to suffering should be formed before we experience it, in order to effectively see and join God in crisis. Action is crucial, but so also is heart response, and the way we do what we do.

One of the greatest gifts we can bring to those suffering and afflicted is a sense of, “Peace, be still.” Into the pain of those searching desperately, we have the privilege of offering the peace that only Jesus can bring—while we do whatever we do.

What if we read Scripture through the lens of crisis and disaster? God consistently transforms the most destructive moments into the most redemptive stories. In the New Testament, the movement of God thrived in the context of multiple crises, such as persecution (Acts 8:1), famines (Acts 11:28-30), urgent needs (Titus 3:14), death (Luke 8:49-56), sickness (Luke 8:43-48), riots (2 Cor. 6:4-5), and storms (Luke 8:22-25). The accounts of responses to disasters and crises were written to all the followers of Jesus. Still today, engaging in trauma healing and spiritual receptivity with reproducible tools is transferable across all cultures at the baseline level.

P.R.E.P.A.R.E

Posture—How can you build a scriptural foundation to stand on in the face of suffering? What Scriptures do you need to write on your mind and engrave in your heart, to have on your lips in the midst of a crisis (Deut. 11:18-19)?

Research—What types of disasters is your area vulnerable to? What skills and resources do the disciples, churches, and communities around you have? What supplies and skills do you all need to develop?

Equipping—What are the trauma-healing and physical-response skills that can be multiplied alongside the spiritual tools? In what ways can you equip small groups of people to hear, obey, and pass on these tools—for their own resilience and strengthening one another?

Processes—From individual to network-wide, what principles will shape how groups of disciples and churches will make decisions? Communicate? Problem-solve? What processes can you put in place ahead of time?

Assessment—What are a few simple questions that can help people assess the surrounding physical, emotional, and spiritual states? In what ways can continuous (formal and informal) assessment help?

Response—In what ways can ordinary people in churches join God at work in each phase of disaster response: readiness, relief, recovery, and rebuilding? How can you connect, communicate, and collaborate with various professional skills and resources, with the main resource being ordinary people?

Establishing multiplying disciples & churches What will be your plan to respond rapidly with a long-term vision? How will the disciples and churches sustain the response through the four phases?

What could your families of disciples and churches put into action and pass on to others to P.R.E.P.A.R.E.?

If you read the P.R.E.P.A.R.E. template with “you” as singular, go back through and read with “you” in the plural form: “we.” How does it change your response?

Understanding the response phases is foundational to any strategic-planning and decision-making processes. The more you can access real-time information on the ground, asking questions appropriate to the phases, the more helpful your response efforts can be.

 

More resources, including examples of P.R.E.P.A.R.E., can be found at: www.GodinCrisis.vision

To learn how to partner with Kingdom Movements serving in crisis/disasters, you can write to [email protected]

Endnotes
  1. See “Displaced and Redeemed” on page 24.

  2. See “Insights from Movements for Effective Crisis Response” on page 16.

  3. See “Movements Responding to Crises” on page 8.

  4. See “APEST: Roles for Equipping Everyone in Disaster Response” on page 29.

  5. See “50 Examples of Movements in Crisis Response” on page 32.

  6. See “Rapid Response in Seasons of Receptivity” on page 13.

  7. See “Organizations Shifting: Crisis Response and Movements” on page 21.

  8. See “When Crisis Rings: Digital Strategies Using Zúme” on page 38.

  9. See “Trauma Healing in Crisis Response” on page 18.

  10. See “Partnering with God: Prayer as a Crisis Response” on page 26.

This is an article from the November-December 2023 issue: Movements Accelerating through Crisis Response

Disciple-making Skills Without Mindset Shifts Won’t Produce Lasting Fruit

Disciple-making Skills Without Mindset Shifts Won’t Produce Lasting Fruit

Simon Sinek, motivational speaker and thought leader, is famous for coining the phrase “Start with why.” Indeed, our why is extremely important as we seek to expand God’s kingdom across the globe. Motivation comes before processes and methods. Agreed? As I look at Scripture, however, I see Jesus starting not with why, but with who. Who He is and who we are.

I am the vine, you are the branches. Abide in me and you will bear much fruit, Jesus said in John 15. He starts with identity. Who we are. He then tells us what to do. Finally, He shares a promised outcome. John 15:5 is perhaps one of the most important verses in the Bible for any missionary, church-planter, disciple-maker, or DMM/CPM practitioner to regularly reflect on.

We want to see greater fruit. We long for multiplication. It begins with who.

Start with Identity before Activity

A few weeks ago, I was reviewing some online training material created by another organization. I have a lot of respect for this group. They have done a great job of catalyzing many new movements and training people to multiply disciples. As I watched their videos, I deeply appreciated many things about their training content. I recognized numerous principles that I’ve also used to train disciple-makers.

One thing was notably missing, however. The who. They challenged people with the need to plant Gospel seeds and gather new people into groups. They talked about training leaders. But they started with the why and what and completely skipped the issue of who.

“Hmm.” I thought to myself. “If people don’t first know who they are, I’m not sure how fruitful this will be.”

It is common to skip the who and jump straight to the why or the what of making and multiplying disciples. Jesus spoke a lot about the who. He reshaped the identity of His followers. As they understood and began to believe who they were, and then spent time with Him, watching Him express who He was through what He did, they were transformed. Soon, they were acting like Him and doing the works of the kingdom.

Here are a few examples of times the Bible speaks to a disciple’s identity.

·     Chosen & Appointed to Be FruitfulYou did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last… (John 15:16)

·     An Extension of JesusI am the vine, you are the branches. (John 15:5)

·     Royal PriestsBut you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession. (1 Pet. 2:9)

·     Children of GodSee what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (1 John 3:1)

When we are training people to multiply disciples, it is good to teach them new skills and to challenge them with the Great Commission. No debate there!

If we want to see lasting change and transformation, however, there are a few important steps we need to take before jumping into skills and methodology. The trainee’s thinking needs to change about who God is and who they are.

In my new book, The Multiplier’s Mindset: Thinking Differently About Discipleship (released September 7th on Amazon.com) the first part of the book addresses mindset shifts about God and ourselves. We start with who. Throughout the book, the thread of identity surfaces often. This is because, without significant mindset shifts about our identity, multiplication may begin, but it will not be sustained.

Change Mindsets to See Changed Behavior

Have you ever trained a group of people and seen great enthusiasm at first, but the lasting impact seems minimal? I love just-in-time training and believe it is a key to catalyzing movements. We train people in skills they need now, then send them out to practice. This is fruitful. Much missionary training is too knowledge-based and has little skill training. We need to train people not only what to do but show them how to do it.

Having said this, if we train only in skills but don’t address mindset shifts, we still won’t see lasting results. Why is that? It is because our actions flow out of our beliefs. If our core beliefs about discipleship remain unchanged, even with skill training, we will continually default to old behaviors.

Let me give an example to illustrate.

Imagine you are training a group of people on how to share their testimony in three minutes. They learn the skill, practice it in the classroom, and even do fairly well with it when you send them out to share with people in the community. As long as you are there as the trainer and mentor, they are obedient learners. Everyone gets excited about the initial results.

A few weeks later, however, none of them have continued to share their testimony with others. What started out looking like a blazing fire that promised to bring much fruit has dwindled to a mere ember. The core reason could be the lack of a mindset shift regarding either openness (the harvest is ripe), or regarding enough (they don’t think they have the resources needed to share the Gospel). Without you there to help them, provide inspiration, and perhaps transportation costs to go out to a new location to share, they discontinue their efforts. Their core belief is that they need outside assistance to continue and that they don’t have enough money, people, training, or time to do what you’ve trained them in.

After years of working with thousands of DMM/CPM practitioners, I’ve come to firmly believe that alongside of skill development (which is very important), we also must work on mindset shifts related to core multiplication values and principles in Scripture. Once our thinking becomes aligned with God’s Word, actions become natural and automatic.

Let me unpack this a bit further. Return to consider the mindset I call “Open.” If we believe that Tibetan Buddhists are closed to the Gospel, no matter how many skills we learn about how to have spiritual conversations, share testimony, or do Bible storying, we won’t share frequently with new people. Why? We believe they are not open to hearing our message.

I see the same thing taking place in the West. We assume that people around us don’t want to hear about Jesus and will resist our attempts to engage in conversation related to our walk with Christ. There may be people around us who are open and even hungry to know more about Jesus, but we do not open our mouths to share because our core belief is that they are not open. Our thinking must be realigned with God’s Word and what Jesus said about the harvest being ripe. Only then, will we begin to share and share often with those around us, no matter how many skills we have learned or read about.

Keep Injecting Vision for the Transformation of Individuals and Communities

Another missing element in our efforts is the continual injection of vision into those we are training. Again, we so often focus on the what and how, but together with the who, we must continue to regularly remind people of the why. Cast a vision for what will happen one day if we are faithful to make disciples and train them to make more disciples. Talk about that dream often. Pray for it. Gossip about it. Imagine together what it will be like when it comes to pass.

My husband and I are training for a half marathon. The coach on the runner’s app we use often tells us to imagine ourselves crossing the finish line. What will it look like? Will we high-five each other? Will we do a dance? Lift our hands in the air? Imagining the finish line helps us keep running today. Keeping the vision in front of us gives the courage to persevere through the tough moments on the journey to the release of a rapidly multiplying movement.

Hebrews 12:2 says, for the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, disregarding its shame. It was the vision of the future, of the joy before Him, that helped our Lord endure and press on through suffering. Those we disciple need help to do the same. Remind them continually of the joy that lies before them.

What will it be like when you see Jesus, face to face? When He says to you, “Well done my good and faithful servant. You invested what I gave you. You were faithful. You obeyed my Word.”

·     What will it be like when you are in heaven and you look around and there are thousands with you from the tribe and people you devoted your life to reach?

·     What will it be like when one day tens of thousands of Jesus followers have joined together to pray for their nation? When instead of corruption and violence, godly men and women are honoring God and serving their communities with truth and integrity? This is why we continue to serve and to do the hard and messy work of making disciples.

Look for ways to remind people of their why and to cast a vision for the transformation of individuals and communities.

This issue of Mission Frontiers is about crisis response in fostering movements. God works through times of crisis and often releases new wine and new wineskins. When a crisis is happening in our lives or our nation, we are more open to changing our mindsets and beliefs. The crisis demands it. It forces us to consider new ways of working and new ways of thinking about our work. We are forced to change and innovate.

When the crisis subsides, it is easy to shift back to old methods and means. We see this with the pandemic. Many churches were unable to meet in buildings or sanctuaries. The church became a church without walls. People met in small groups or online. A major pivot took place for many. After the pandemic, have we retained the lessons learned or continued to utilize the new wineskins? The pull to return to the old is strong within us, especially if only our methods changed but our mindsets remained the same.

Identity and beliefs must change to release and sustain movements.

Interested to consider these mindsets further? I’d love to share a copy of my new book with you. Grab a copy at www. multipliersmindset.com today, or download a free sample chapter at www.dmmsfrontiermissions.com/multipliers- mindset-sample-chapter.

God has great things ahead for us as we continue to allow His Spirit to shift our thinking. Our identity in Christ comes into alignment and then our actions and outcomes will shift as well.

This is an article from the November-December 2023 issue: Movements Accelerating through Crisis Response

Movement Leadership in Crises: Applying Principles from Great by Choice

Movement Leadership in Crises: Applying Principles from Great by Choice

“10Xers distinguish themselves by an ability to recognize defining moments that call for disrupting their plans, changing the focus of their intensity, and/or rearranging their agenda, because of opportunity or peril, or both.”

― James C. Collins, Author of Great By Choice—

Written for leaders of leaders, Great By Choice by Jim Collins is perhaps one of the strongest books on leadership that can be applied to the subfield of leading change needed after disasters. The book puts forward the question: “During turmoil and change, how do an organization’s leaders help them survive and thrive?” Using the illustration of two teams racing to the South Pole, one team did better in really harsh conditions with turbulent times, where uncertainty was permanent and chaos was normal. Change was accelerating and instability characterized the area for quite some time, yet the team thrived. In similar contexts, how do we develop kingdom movement leadership so we thrive with the greatest gains possible for God’s kingdom—in the midst of uncertainty, chaos, and change, as consistently experienced in post-disaster areas?

After researching numerous companies that were 10 times more effective than their competitors, Collins defines five main principles:

1.              Fanatical Discipline

2.              Empirical Creativity

3.              Productive Paranoia

4.              Consistent Operating Principles

5.              Harnessing Returns on Luck (which we would describe as divinely orchestrated moments)

Leaders who excelled 10 times beyond their peers were more disciplined in preparing for crises and changed less in reaction to the changing world experienced within a crisis. It was not merely a matter of the response, but rather the kind of leadership set up beforehand. Principle-based discipline allows a team or organization to go into an area where they don’t yet have work going, while it’s still in turmoil, then apply the same consistent principles that were already in place, and find good results. This is often missed in crisis or leadership articles, yet these principles and illustrations have deeply shaped the kingdom movement God has entrusted us to steward.            

Fanatical discipline involves doing what is needed during down times and resisting the temptation to grow wildly during good times. Measurable growth can occur after crises, but it comes through doing the same disciplined things. The practice of discipline involves focusing on performance markers or milestones that show the way through self-imposed principles, or boundaries, that constrain us in good times to do the things that are best to do. For example, within our kingdom movements, a couple of our chosen boundaries in budgets include avoiding one-off gifts for ‘special’ projects that may pull us away from good leadership principles, and not accepting more than 16% from a single funding source, to avoid being put into crisis mode should a funding source diminish. We keep our focus on targeting what we have some ability to control, within intermediate timeframes of one to two years. We can predict that crises will occur at some point without having to jump to do anything wildly different.

Collins illustrates empirical creativity through the concept of firing bullets and then cannonballs. When two ships were in a war in the 1800s, they would first fire a bullet to calibrate their trajectory, range, and target before firing the costly cannon balls. In our kingdom movement application, our equivalent to firing bullets is facilitating creative experiments that are low in cost, time, risk, and distraction. We tell our leaders these criteria as we fund their low-cost experiments for a three-month period. They must provide a good rationale for their hypothesis and a plan for how they will pursue the outcomes, then report on the positives and negatives after the trial period. If they decide to continue for another three months, they must revise their plan based on what they learned in the first quarter. This can increase effectiveness for the next round of effort, after which we assess again, and then potentially invest more money, priority, and risk. Creative problem solving is very, very important in crises, but problem solving is more effective when built into leadership before, as well as during, crises.

Acting with productive paranoia to avoid the death line, the team that succeeded in the march to the South Pole had put buffers in place, with resources stocked at different mile markers – to get back to them if they had trouble. In our work, we try to have large amounts of cash buffers funded from within the kingdom movement. In a recent Zoom call, we had four people on the run from persecution, who had to be relocated to other islands and needed start-up money for new businesses. We need these kinds of resources and buffers in place in our kind of ministry, which is subject to many difficulties from evil people and the unseen demonic realm. Dark forces are unleashed as we break into unreached peoples and places that previously had no light in the darkness. This huge spiritual battle requires buffers, anticipating that bad things will inevitably happen.

However, we do frequent evaluations and make changes needed every quarter instead of waiting for the death indicators that have caused large organizations to fall, because they waited too long to make changes. During COVID-19, we had 3,000 leaders die and thousands lose their income. While we have tried several interventions, we are still experimenting to see what we can influence in the recovery. Shifting from being an entrepreneur startup to leading a movement of many thousands to thrive long-term, is a very difficult change. Making that shift requires a lot of leaders in coaching circles doing problem-solving to help reduce obstacles and turn them into opportunities.

Collins explores the fourth principle – consistent operating principles – with the example of Southwest Airlines. They have all the same airplanes and therefore all the same parts. They have simplified processes, such as a boarding procedure consisting of three groups without seat assignments. This reduces the hassle and work required for profit, while people get what they want for the money they want to spend.

In our kingdom movement, we have a standard operating principle of 30/3. When believers move to different areas and start new groups, the leaders can go visit when the group grows to 30 believers and three generations. They mentor online until the 30/3 mark and then don’t need permission to spend the money to visit because they know they can go, in accordance with the decentralized power structure. Our operating principles give a network of leaders’ teams a framework for making their decisions.

In similar ways, leaders from the kingdom movement know they have strategically planned for crises in their budget, with principles that anchor their actions in the core values. Collins describes the importance of specific, measurable, and consistent operations leading to the expectation of standard operating principles. We expect that a new endeavor, such as disaster response, needs to have a time frame, funding plan, initial phase plan, reassessment after the phase, and outcomes that are clear, even if revised after phase one.

Also, we only discuss the budget once a year so it doesn’t dominate relationships but rather includes lower-level leaders in a deep dive. We see this as consistent with the New Testament, which describes a plurality of leaders from the earliest points. Quick decisions made by higher-level leaders tend to centralize power, whereas movements seek to distribute and decentralize power. For that reason, we create frameworks for decisions to be made before crises happen, through a process that serves the core values. Although they are ambitious, highly effective leaders are also humble, not seeking a name for themselves, but rather creating greenhouses that facilitate growth in the direction they want to go.

Harnessing the wave of the unexpected good fortune God brings is part of recognizing unique opportunities, which Collins describes as engaging good luck when it comes. We see this several times in the Bible, such as Peter preaching on the day of Pentecost, and 3,000 people coming to the Lord. They didn’t know that would happen, but they were prepared for it. Ananias and Sapphira being killed by the Spirit led to the advance of the Gospel. That was unexpected, but they had to be prepared for it. When Paul was put in prison, it seemed tragic but became an all-expense-paid mission trip to Rome. A shipwreck and snakebite were not expected, but because Paul survived, he received an opportunity to share the Gospel.

Collins asked: How are we preparing to harness good and bad “luck”? Do we recognize opportunities? Seeing people moving away has now, for us, become adding new areas rather than losing key leaders. We don’t want good things to disrupt our disciplined decisions and our plans, but we also want to evaluate and understand what is happening, as God might be telling us something through the blessings.

We also want to be prepared to endure problems and obstacles, so I’ve asked myself many times, “What would be the worst things that Satan could do to our kingdom movement?” He could have all the foreigners kicked out of the country, have several of our leaders die, cause internal conflict, a sexual fall, and/or one of our leaders become a false teacher — because there are warnings about that in Scripture. I review how we would harness the good and bad “luck,” when it does come, for a greater return on our investment. That's the bottom-line nature of disaster response and what happens after it. These are a few of our applications of principles from Collins’ Great by Choice.

For further articles and resources by Trevor and the Focus on the Fruit team on crisis and disaster response: click here

This is an article from the November-December 2023 issue: Movements Accelerating through Crisis Response

Strategic Prayer for the Largest Frontier People Groups

Strategic Prayer for the Largest Frontier People Groups

Click on the pdf icon to learn more about how you can join others in praying for the 31 largest frontier people groups.

This is an article from the November-December 2023 issue: Movements Accelerating through Crisis Response

APEST: Roles for Equipping Everyone in Disaster Response

APEST: Roles for Equipping Everyone in Disaster Response

God designed the equipping of His Church to enable His people to not only endure but also to be fruitful in times of crisis, disaster, and suffering. What are some ways God sets up His Church for success in response to suffering? While in prison in Rome, Paul writes to the church of Ephesus and shares how the giftings of the apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd, and teacher were given for the equipping of the Church (Eph. 4:10-11). We can easily forget that this was written in the context of years of persecution, natural disasters, and political upheaval.

In a recent article in Mission Frontiers, “Equipping Disciples for Ministry as Kingdom Priests,”1 Curtis Sergeant described these five equipping roles:

1.   Apostles equip God’s people by empowering them to advance the kingdom.

2.   Prophets equip God’s people to hear and see God’s Word and work by the Holy Spirit and Scripture.

3.   Evangelists equip God’s people to show compassion by demonstrating and proclaiming the Good News in word and deed.

4.   Shepherds equip God’s people to build unity, and encourage and care for one another.

5.   Teachers equip God’s people to establish lifelong patterns of learning and teaching others.

The equipping of everyday, ordinary believers and simple churches in these abilities prepares them for crisis response. Before Paul went on his first missionary journey, while he and Barnabas were teaching the disciples in Antioch, a prophet came from Jerusalem. Through the Spirit [he] predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. The disciples, as each one was able, decided to provide help for the brothers and sisters living in Judea (Acts 11:28-29). The disciples helped prepare the churches across Judea in advance of the disaster, with the help of a prophet (Agabus), an apostle (Paul), and a shepherd (Barnabas), at the same time persecution was happening: the martyring of other leaders Stephen and James the brother of John, and the imprisonment of an evangelist—Peter (Acts 11-12).

Years later, after living through several crises himself, Paul writes an equipping reminder in his apostolic letter to Titus: Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good in order to respond to urgent needs and not live unproductive lives (Titus 3:14). From Paul (1st generation) to Titus (2nd generation), to the people Titus was caring for (3rd generation), to those who would be reached through their response to urgent needs (4th generation), the preparation to respond to the urgent needs of others multiplied in the fruitfulness of generations.

To facilitate effective disaster/crisis response by God’s people, the five-fold APEST gifts need to be fully functioning. Together, these gifts build up the Church in many ways: releasing the priesthood of the believers, facilitating decentralized structure, and discipling biblical responses to suffering. God has provided these gifts to equip His children to reflect the image of Christ amid the brokenness of this world.

For example, the Horn of Africa has experienced persecution, famine, war, tribal conflicts, and terrorism across many regions where the Church is multiplying rapidly. As people come to Jesus in this context, they are discipled, discovering their identity in Christ and their gifts, as they obey Jesus. As each person does their part, they are making an impact together. This has created a culture of honor and collaboration across the different giftings as APEST teams advance Kingdom Movements amid the crises.

Paul writes in 2 Timothy 3:12, Those who try to live a godly life because they believe in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. Suffering is the norm, not something unusual. Each of the APEST gifts are intended to equip the Church for getting into new places while suffering, hearing the Lord while suffering, sharing the Good News while suffering (1 Thess. 1:6-7), caring for others while suffering, and teaching the Word of the Lord while suffering (Isa. 50:4). Building up the Church toward unity and maturity doesn’t happen only in the absence of suffering or after suffering but also as we go through suffering.

Most believers around the world do not have the option to obey the Scriptures apart from suffering. Nearly all of today’s Kingdom Movements exist in contexts full of chronic and/or acute crises. We see the giftings of the Church to equip one another happen as Matthew 24:7 is fulfilled, with kingdom against kingdom, nation against nation, earthquakes, and famine. The Bible provides abundant examples of crises presenting opportunities to respond in ways that glorify God. Consider just a few: Noah’s flood, Joseph during Egypt’s famine, Jehosaphat heading into battle, many of Jesus’ miracles, and Paul in prison.

As APEST roles equip [God’s] people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up (Eph. 4:11), every disciple can get prepared during the readiness phase with physical, trauma-healing, and spiritual tools. Before a disaster hits, it is helpful to have a broad framework of the disaster phases to better understand the potential APEST roles. When an acute disaster hits, the relief phase aims initially at rapidly preventing more people from dying and stabilizing people and places in the first few weeks. It is incredibly fast-paced, with the most urgent needs and opportunities to collaborate. In follow up to relief, the recovery phase runs through the months following— processing the trauma, physically healing, getting things running in the new normal, and spiritually often searching for community. Rebuilding lasts through the years that follow—restoring what was damaged, preferably in redemptive ways with Jesus. As ordinary disciples and churches respond to crises, it impacts the reputation of Jesus and His followers in the affected communities, amid some of the most memorable and formative moments in people’s lives.

The issue of when to transition to the next response phase is critical to loving others well in Jesus’ name.

Transitioning well also helps to avoid common mistakes such as functioning too long in relief or not long enough in trauma recovery. The leadership of the APEST roles working together is crucial to identifying where the people and community are in the process, in order to love well in response.

In disaster contexts, APEST gifts can help in various ways:

Apostle

ï     Going to the unreached: gaps of people or places, through strategies adjusted to fit the phases of crisis readiness, relief, recovery, and rebuilding.

ï     Helping others identify where the gaps are and equipping them to care in trauma-informed ways to strengthen the Church’s response to suffering.

ï     Getting in first, together with the prophet, giving direction and laying the foundation for longer-term outcomes of disaster response (physically, emotionally, and spiritually), in the fast-paced urgency of the limited window of opportunity.

Prophet

ï     Discerning receptivity, spiritual warfare, and listening to the Lord on spiritual dynamics at work during disaster-response phases, to inform strategic intercession and direction.

ï     Helping others to hear God, to whom they cried out during the worst of the disaster.

ï     Warning of upcoming disasters such as Acts 11:27-28 where prophetic intelligence led to apostolic action.

Evangelist

ï     Offering compassion by sharing the Gospel with every person through word and action; helping them do the same with people around them to meet their needs in a trauma-informed, loving way.

ï     Sharing, and equipping others to share, in the window of receptivity with reproducibility before the situation renormalizes. (This is a shorter window than most think. However, trauma affects the body and mind, not just emotions. Often, sharing the Gospel—after the basic relief and emotional shock needs are met—can physiologically help people truly hear the Good News.)

ï     Rallying and mobilizing people to help both financially and in person to respond to the crisis.

Shepherd

ï     Caring for people and equipping them to care for others in the physical, emotional, and spiritual changes through the different response phases.

ï     Walking alongside people in trauma healing that multiplies into disciples and simple churches who care for the community.

ï     Providing hands-on help for people who have no place to go by finding homes and basic resources.

Teacher

ï     Teaching relief, recovery, and rebuilding skills—physically, emotionally, and spiritually—and helping others to teach those skills.

ï     Along with shepherds, caring by walking alongside people in the long journey to recovery and rebuilding; equipping the hurting to walk alongside others who are hurting.

ï     Helping analyze the damages and survey the needs to communicate to others in the response efforts.

It is important to note the ripple effect that happens or unintentional harm that can be caused, when the APEST roles function poorly in disaster readiness and response (such as going too fast or slow through the various physical, emotional, and spiritual needs). If APEST-gifted leaders don’t use their gifts to equip others, they will centralize disciples around their leadership, intentionally or unintentionally, as new communities form out of the disasters. Multiplying through equipping others in their gifting is a part of our obedience and purpose, which can help bring healing from the trauma. In fact, the APEST gifts don’t only equip disciples to respond to suffering. They also equip new disciples and churches from the disasters to grow in their giftings, as the Church locally, nationally, and globally.

The APEST equipping gifts, alongside all the other spiritual gifts listed in Scripture, work together through the phases of readiness, relief, recovery, and rebuilding—to recover God’s designs of redemption out of destruction as described in Isaiah 61. Equipping ordinary believers to respond to urgent needs with long-term efforts can establish new, multiplying, and sustaining churches out of disasters. The ability to equip disciples to respond can lead to some of the greatest opportunities to join God in crisis and the advancement of His kingdom.

This is an article from the November-December 2023 issue: Movements Accelerating through Crisis Response

Unreached of the Day

This is the new Global Prayer Digest which merged with Unreached of the Day in 2021

Unreached of the Day

Click on the pdf icon to view or download the Unreached of the Day Prayer Calendar for November and December 2023.

This is an article from the November-December 2023 issue: Movements Accelerating through Crisis Response

When Crisis Rings: Digital Strategies Using Zúme

When Crisis Rings: Digital Strategies Using Zúme

According to the World Economic Forum, as of 2023, “there are more mobile phones in the world than people,” 1 and over 90% of the world’s population owns one. In the life of a mobile phone, very few moments are comparable to the desperation of its owner clinging to the device when a crisis or disaster hits. Disasters burst open the digital doors of caring for people’s hearts and lives through the phones held tightly in their hands.
Spiritual receptivity and openness are frequently encountered on the ground while meeting physical and emotional needs. The same is true in the virtual space and can be reproduced rapidly through the phases of readiness, relief, recovery, and rebuilding. Readiness is the phase we live in before disaster strikes. Sometimes, we can anticipate an event such as a hurricane or monsoon season or conflicts stirring towards war; other times, disaster comes by surprise, such as an earthquake or insurgence. The readiness phase allows us to multiply disciples and churches, who can be prepared to steward the harvest in response to disasters and crises. We can follow the pattern Paul gave to Titus: Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good in order to respond to urgent needs and not live unfruitful lives (Titus 3:14).

In the relief phase (first few weeks) after a disaster, a person might make dozens of calls for help, mark themself safe on social sites, or incessantly check for updates to find out if others are okay. Phones serve as a lifeline in efforts to collaborate and get resources to the right places. They also can function as a way to set up connections for the relief, recovery, and rebuilding phases, when emotional, physical, and spiritual needs are immense. In the transition from relief to recovery, as relief organizations phase out, people often are looking for spiritual community, and they wrestle with the hopelessness of the physical and emotional devastation.

Whether people have a phone that survived the disaster or they get one again as recovery becomes possible, digital strategies can be utilized significantly to love others and make disciples—through all the phases of disaster response. Parallel to boots-on-the-ground ministry in the wake of crises, digital doors briefly open much wider as communications and coping efforts reach their peak. In times of extreme distress, coping mechanisms of all kinds can emerge, such as excessive use of social media and pornography. Yet simultaneously, hearts also often turn, for a limited time, to searching for answers to life’s bigger questions. Spiritual hunger naturally surfaces when people are faced with events that give them a fresh perspective on life. At such times, many people cry out to God—who they may not know but who created them to have a relationship with Himself.

Genuinely loving people well involves addressing their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs—caring holistically, especially in times of crisis, since The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit (Ps. 34:18).

When Hurricane Ian hit southwest Florida in the fall of 2022, a few of us rallied several on-the-ground collaborations and made a simple graphic entitled, “Looking for hope in the aftermath of the hurricane?” Through a quick social media ad, it reached 22,000+ people, yielding several hundred engagements in the blink of an eye. This enabled us to connect respondents with local disciple-making communities. Digital media-to-movements strategies like this not only find interested people but also facilitate connections with on-the-ground disciples and churches ready to minister to them. As part of the redemptive outcomes after a tragedy, many, who previously would not have been open, start actively searching for prayer after a disaster. Those seekers represent a host of untapped possibilities for multiplying disciples and churches digitally during times of crisis or disaster.

One great resource for facilitating the transition from online to in-person discipleship is Zúme, a digital training that aims to saturate the world with multiplying disciples in our generation. It presents 32 biblical principles, such as eyes to see where God’s kingdom is not yet and finding a Person of Peace. Ordinary people can apply these principles, through the different disaster-response phases, to reach people at their point of felt need.

During recent lockdowns due to civil conflicts in Myanmar, when travel was forbidden in or around the villages, disciples used Zúme over Zoom to grow in loving God, loving others, and making disciples through the chronic crisis. Several removed the idols in their homes, and shared the Gospel while in the markets during the government- restricted window. They also began discipling others over WhatsApp because they realized they couldn’t wait for other leaders to do it for them. God used the crisis to change how the local church engaged in discipleship follow-up after relief distributions. They encouraged ordinary believers to obey the Scriptures as disciples, applying verses that previously had been overlooked or viewed as just for professionals. This paradigm shift multiplied breakthroughs as disciples applied and passed on what they had learned through Zúme.

Because disasters will certainly continue to come, Jesus’ disciples need to be ready. Therefore, training in the readiness phase, as with Zúme, equips people to make disciples in every season of life.

During the relief phase (first few weeks), disciples need to be ready to respond to prayer needs. In the recovery phase (next several months), disciples need to be prepared to share the Gospel and disciple in trauma-informed ways. During the rebuilding phase (the years after), disciples should be ready to serve and coach those affected by the disaster to become leaders who disciple others in ongoing relationships. As we walk with people through these phases, we can share with them a vision for being a disciple who makes disciples and a disciple worth multiplying. Utilizing foundational Zúme principles such as these during disaster response can help lead to long-term fruit, as the Lord wills. We can multiply disciples who transform communities through the recovery of God’s designs.

Digital strategies can be used in both event-based and ongoing responses to crises. For disaster-response organizations, churches, and ordinary disciples, digital strategies facilitate the spiritual feeding of the countless crowds hungry for God. At any given time, refugees speaking dozens of different languages are pouring into several nations—many of them coming with physical, emotional, and spiritual hunger. Because Zúme is available in 43 languages, disciple- makers are utilizing it effectively as a part of loving and caring in person for refugees who have come to their hometowns. Beyond our own backyards, those ministering to the diaspora have placed Google ads, quoting pieces of Zúme in various languages, to find people searching for God, and to connect, using Zúme over Zoom. This approach can reach both those nearby and those in other nations as part of digital strategies in the wake of acute disasters.

Across the globe, when the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the world, tens of thousands of people added to the numbers of those making disciples who make disciples using Zúme on Zoom. Small groups went through Zúme’s 32 biblical principles as a pattern and paradigm for spiritual expression. This was especially valuable for those who had lost familiar spiritual patterns because of the loss of buildings or disruption of broader church relationships.

Gathering in small groups and going through Zúme during the recovery phase of a disaster or crisis event can provide much-needed relational connections with others, facilitate sharing resources together, and help meet the needs of those experiencing trauma. The 3-part discipleship pattern that Zúme trains can intentionally build community, faith, and purpose, which are necessary for recovering from trauma. Whether the disaster is acute or chronic, it’s important to lean into new ways to meet together and spur each other on in pursuing Christ and teaching others to do so.

With the vast majority of the world holding internet-enabled mobile phones, it’s important to know that Zúme is free and can be accessed online (http://www.Zume.training). But the content also can be utilized in numerous other ways, including in remote areas without internet or situations that arise during crises and disasters. Renew World Outreach provides Zúme content pre-downloaded on solar-powered projectors, micro SD cards, solar-powered audio Bible players, and Lightstream file-sharing hotspots. The Zúme book can be distributed and apps can be used on Apple and Android phones to download the content so it is accessible without the internet. All these ways and more can be found on http://www.Zume.vision/articles These. can provide access in areas where infrastructure has been destroyed and give the ability to distribute content to strengthen disciples and churches with ongoing multiplicative use.

Believers need to equip themselves to respond quickly to opportunities that crises bring. This also builds their own resiliency with a biblical response to suffering. Live training and Zúme coaches also are available across the globe to walk alongside people who have internet access. When crisis rings, Zúme disciple-making training can help disciples respond to the call, with digital strategies and on-the-ground principles that are rapidly multiplying around the world.

This is an article from the November-December 2023 issue: Movements Accelerating through Crisis Response

Movements Responding to Crises

24:14 Goal: Movement Engagements in Every Unreached People and Place by 2025 (26 Months)

Movements Responding to Crises

Screenshot of live map from October 1, 2023. Even more crises are being responded to live that are not shown on the map (due to politics) including in India, China, and others.

http://www.acaps.org/en/countries/

 

As you read this article, disasters and crises are pounding the unreached world, with people crying out. Even if you read this article days, months, or even years after the publication date, this is undoubtedly still true. Right now, dozens of significant crises are occurring—both chronic and acute, often with the greatest amount of destruction occurring in places with the least Gospel saturation.

Yet, ironically, many of these same places are experiencing accelerated kingdom multiplication. Overlaying live disaster response on a map with current locations of Kingdom Movements and remaining unreached peoples often highlights the same areas of the world. Kingdom Movements are beginning and increasing amid disasters. Disciples and churches are responding rapidly and lovingly with a long-term vision to care—not just through relief but also through recovery and rebuilding to sustainability.

Crises and disasters have increased significantly in the last few decades, just as movements have multiplied exponentially. A recent article in Forbes1 cites a United Nations statistic that five times as many natural disasters are occurring now as were occurring 50 years ago. U.N. peacekeepers on active missions for civil unrest and peace pursuits have increased nearly 10 times in the last 50 years.2 At the same time, Kingdom Movements have gone from a few known movements in the 1990s to 1,965 today, reaching more than 1.4% of the world’s population and still growing, according to the 24:14 collaborative research team. One researcher commented, “Movements are sometimes doubling out of crisis response efforts,” with the disciples and churches multiplying. As urgent needs have increased, so has kingdom fruitfulness. As Paul wrote to Titus, Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good in order to respond to urgent needs and not live unproductive lives (Titus 3:14, NIV).

www.2414now.net/resources (View the Dashboard Update or email [email protected] to connect.)

As we anticipate the fulfillment of Matthew 24:14, and this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world… (NIV), several verses lead up to the “and.” One of those is Matthew 24:7 which describes major challenges preceding the fulfillment of verse 14: Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. The 24/7 reality of disasters and crises currently being responded to can prompt us to pray 24/7 toward Matthew 24:14.

From Genesis to Revelation, we see that God frequently uses crises like the man-made and natural disasters mentioned in Matthew 24:7 to advance His kingdom, move His people around, and turn people back to Him. For example, the Exodus saga of God’s people journeying through man-made and natural disasters towards the promised land. Then the series of kings and prophets, as the wars they fought and the disasters they faced turned people back to God and gave Him glory. Similarly, Jesus’ miracles often took place in response to chronic or acute crisis moments in the lives of the disciples or community. This brings us to the Church in Acts and its responses to persecution, prison, famine, storms, and more as the Church grew and the movement Jesus started continues today. Crisis response has been an evident part of the Church historically since Acts. In our time, disciples have responded compassionately to urgent needs during wars, epidemics, and natural disasters.

As disciples in Kingdom Movements love one another, the biblical principles guiding their lives can easily be applied in a disaster context. As a result, in the wake of a disaster, they are finding receptivity paired with reproducibility. The movements are thriving even as man-made and natural disasters rise, with more than 115 million disciples in such movements globally, according to the current 24:14 Dashboard. During the recent COVID-19 pandemic, most (if not all) movements engaged in reaching out to the least, the last, and the lost in creative ways. Through follow-up during relief and recovery, out of love for God and people, disciples across the globe saw significant multiplication of fruitfulness. During the pandemic, Stan Parks (Church Planting Movements coach) wrote: “God is not surprised by this crisis. But we may be surprised by how He will use it.” Accelerated multiplication in the recovery and rebuilding phases did not happen immediately, but rather as a result over time of loving God and expressing love for others through concrete action. The pandemic sparked many to realize the potential and tangible impact when we have eyes to see God opening doors through a crisis, and we are willing to join in His work. 

Examples of crisis response by disciples in movements

Currently, disciples in Kingdom Movements are responding to disasters in various parts of the world—disasters that may be in the news for just a short time at the start or never make the news at all, including in their own countries. For example, Turkish and Syrian disciples continue to care for believers and those from other faiths, as the acute earthquake of February 2023 turns into a chronic crisis. Sudanese refugees flooding surrounding nations are being met by collaborative groups of disciples and churches seeking to help. They create within the camps small communities that care for one another physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Ukrainian and Russian disciples are caring for the wounded on both sides of the border, equipping would-be refugees for the journey before they flee. They are educating people on how to identify and avoid human trafficking as it sweeps their land and strengthening one another as the war rages on.

Pakistanis are coming to one another’s aid, and Indians around Manipur are visiting fellow believers after painful persecution. Nigerians are hosting in their homes fellow believers who have fled terrorism. Ethiopian and Somali believers are bringing food to one another during the famine. Burmese and Thai believers are finding creative ways to get aid to the least of society in the midst of devastating conflicts and cyclone damage.

These are just a few examples of ministry happening right now around the globe. As we eat, sleep, go to work, and come home, these crises and disasters are the “normal life” of a vast number of believers across the world, with acute crises consistently compounding the chronic crises and complexities. Practically the whole 10/40 window experiences perpetual natural and man-made disasters and crises.

Hebrews 13:3 (NLT) exhorts: Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies. How often does the empathy instructed in Scripture inform our strategies and responses? One local movement leader in Central Asia shared that they began responding to disasters because the people he was discipling came to him saying, “We need to go help those affected by the wildfires because they are hurting and we have been called to love and help one another.”

In Nepal, a movement leader echoed the reaction of Joseph in the Bible, who led a nation in disaster response during a chronic seven-year famine, telling his brothers, You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives (Gen. 50:20). This Nepali movement leader shared that through the 2022 earthquake, they saw the reconciliation of disciples with those who had persecuted and ostracized them. As they shared the little relief supplies they had, to help those who had hurt them, God used forgiveness and acts of kindness to touch the hearts of their former persecutors. As the stories of the disciples’ kindness spread, many others in the community began to follow Jesus. The local networks of these leaders now make go-bags with extra supplies from the means they have, in order to increase their resilience to be able to quickly help others. Shifting from reactive crisis response to a proactive approach, several Kingdom Movements are preparing to make the most of the next opportunities to come. In similar ways, many also have created basecamps (self-sustaining community areas) that serve as homes of refuge in times of disaster.

Kingdom Movements are engaging in relief that guards against dependency, in part due to sensitivity concerning when to shift from relief to recovery. Across the phases of disaster response, observation and timing are crucial. The relief phase typically lasts two to four weeks, focused on preventing more people from dying. Then the recovery phase lasts an average of six to 15 months, focused on putting resources and structures in place to function again in a new normal. Finally, the rebuilding phase can last for years or decades. (See graph in P.R.E.P.A.R.E. article).

From a disciple’s point of view, the goal is to recover glimpses of God’s design by applying kingdom principles to restore a community to a situation better than it was before. Examples of this might include multiplying cooperative businesses to sustain community transformation, and applying improved farming techniques, clean water, or hygiene into regular practice in the post-disaster community. These happen in tandem with multiplying disciples and churches who love God and love others.

Unique features of movement disciples’ response to crises

Kingdom Movements pursue not only multiplication of disciples but also being disciples worth multiplying. The depth of discipleship in life and community transformation cultivates quality in the character of the leaders being multiplied. In disaster and crisis response, this has been evidenced by the disciples as they have responded to hardship in ways contrasting with the world’s reactions to suffering. As a result, many have been drawn to the light of Jesus, as disciples have brought peace in the midst of chaos, given sacrificially while others hoarded, upheld integrity in the midst of corruption, shared hope amid devastation, and followed God’s redemptive ways.

A traditional approach to crisis management is no longer sufficient for today’s problems.3 Since Kingdom Movements are decentralized, they don’t respond to disasters in traditional, centralized ways. Multiplicative kingdom approaches address humanitarian response challenges in several ways. Their decentralized movement structure allows for a quicker response to disasters. As leaders and small groups respond, it also draws less attention than the large centralized groups. Research has found both a need and a challenge to increase community engagement in the system of responses.4 Kingdom Movements’ response consistently mobilizes a mass of volunteers, often from among those affected by the disaster. This becomes one of their major resources for building capacity, while maintaining a decentralized structure. Rather than a widespread individual focus, Kingdom Movements quickly form small groups and mobilize those affected as one of the greatest resources. This puts them ahead of the curve, according to some humanitarian-response research that shows a significant gap in research on mobilization from within a crisis context.5

Tackling crisis response through collaborative effort is not new. However, forming new small groups, networks, and collaborative tools such as leadership development during crisis response is now seen as a phenomenon for further study according to the research.6 The small groups formed out of one disaster response become the response team for the next disaster in or near where they live. They are then able to serve and equip across a network of regional leaders, creating a nationwide response force.

A disciple is someone who hears, acts on what they have heard, and shares it with others. Kingdom Movements mobilize ordinary people to respond to disasters and crises. They equip disciples, both from within the disaster area and from nearby, to join God in responding to a crisis in some useful way. While existing-church resources such as buildings, budgets, and paid staff can be helpful in crisis response, they are not required for responding to disasters in love, humility, and wisdom.

Disaster response calls for “all hands on deck,” including both centralized and decentralized structures that can partner together in various ways. For example, many times large organizations with supplies have partnered with a Kingdom Movement as the local distribution network on the ground. The context of a crisis intensifies the need to connect, communicate, and collaborate across structures, societal boundaries, and diverse experiences. Collaboration can accelerate and increase effectiveness through working together, and many movement leaders have learned that collaboration can happen at varying degrees with different groups. Not all groups are equally compatible and helpful as partners in the same ways.

Brothers and sisters in non-Western cultures often grasp well the biblical twin foundations of Great Commandment and Great Commission. In many unreached nations, following these two together constitutes a normal way of life, with minimal bifurcation between being Jesus’ hands and feet and proclaiming the Good News of God’s kingdom.

We need to note that disaster response is not neutral ground. Corruption advances rapidly, with some people wanting to take advantage of those who are vulnerable, isolated, and desperate. As Jesus said in John 10:10 (NIV), The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. This compels us all the more to bring God’s kingdom through multiplying disciples and churches that build community, faith, and redemptive purpose among those affected by the disaster.

Kingdom Movements respond to crises on the foundations of God’s Word and His Spirit, with a biblical perspective on suffering. No story or idea in the world can sustain people through the trials and temptations of disasters as effectively as knowing the word that sustains the weary (Isa. 50:4). In the metanarrative of the movement of God, disciples continue to respond to crises and disasters readily today, as seen throughout Scripture. We praise God for the many ways disciples in today’s Kingdom Movements are responding biblically by recognizing crises as door openers for demonstrating and proclaiming the kingdom of God. As brothers and sisters in other countries learn to devote themselves to doing what is good in order to respond to urgent needs (Titus 3:14), how ready are we to partner with them in their strategic work? And how ready are we to prepare ourselves for responding to unique opportunities, as crises happen in our own local contexts?

Endnotes
  1. Hart, Robert. “Weather-Related Disasters Skyrocketed Fivefold Over Past 50 Years, Says U.N. Weather Agency.” http://www.forbes.com/sites/ roberthart/2021/09/01/weather-related-disasters-skyrocketed-fivefold-over-past-50-years-says-un-weather-agency/?sh=2c9d895358e9.

  2. “Our World In Data,” United Nations peacekeepers on active missions graph, https://ourworldindata.org/war-and-peace

  3. Mitroff, I., “From Crisis Management to Crisis Leadership” in Business: The Mixed Methods Approaches, ed. J. Law (A&C Black, 2011).

  4. Sufri, S., Dwirahmadi, F., Phung, D., and Rutherford, S. 2020 “Enhancing community engagement in disaster early warning system in Aceh, Indonesia: opportunities and challenges.” Natural Hazards.

  5. Dos Santos, R. A. S., Mello, R. B.-, and Cunha, C. J. C. de A. 2016 “The Leadership Process During an Organizational Crisis.” Journal of Operations and Supply Chain Management.

  6. Aung, T. M., and Lim, S. 2021 “Evolution of Collaborative Governance in the 2015, 2016, and 2018 Myanmar Flood Disaster Responses: A Longitudinal Approach to a Network Analysis.” International Journal of Disaster Risk Science.

This is an article from the SEPT/OCT 2023 issue: Arts, Worship, and Mission in Today’s Church

Praying through 12 Common Characteristics of Disciple Making Movements

Reprinted with permission from EMQ January–March 2023 | Volume 59 Issue 1

Praying through 12 Common Characteristics of Disciple Making Movements

24:14 Goal: Movement engagements in every unreached people and place by 2025 (28 months)

Lord, lead us as we pray!

1.   Extraordinary Prayer. In every known movement around the world, prayer plays a vital role. Prayer must be the foundation for any plan to reach a people group. Thus, the health of the messenger’s personal prayer life is crucial. The new church and its leaders will imitate the prayer life they see in the messenger.

ï   Pray for God to enable laborers in the harvest fields to walk in intimate conversational relationship with Him, so they bear much fruit that remains, for His glory (John 15:4–8).

ï   Pray that God’s people will not grow weary in doing good: in this case, the good work of prayer (Matt. 7:7–11).

ï   Pray that God’s people will have His heart for the lost for whom they pray. This is Jesus’ pattern (Matt. 9:36–38).

ï   Pray for God’s people to pray boldly, as commanded in Luke 18:1–8.

2.   Authority of Scripture. In every known movement around the world, the Bible is the unquestioned authority and guiding force for the disciples—concerning everyday life, doctrine, and policy. This is true even in non-literate cultures, where the Bible is received and shared through oral storytelling.

ï   Pray that all who labor in the harvest will base their lives on Jesus and His word, being obedient doers, not forgetful hearers or hearers only (James 1:19–25).

ï   Pray for God’s Word to reach every people group in their own heart language. Pray that the Word would spread rapidly and be honored among all, because God’s Word is the source to thoroughly equip disciples for every good work (2 Thess. 3:1; 2 Tim. 3:16–17).

ï   Pray for laborers and disciples living and working among least-reached peoples to have their ears and hearts open to the Lord’s Word, so that when He shows them things to change, stop doing, or start doing, they will obey (Heb. 4:12).

3.   Abundant Gospel Sowing. In every known movement around the world, messengers and first disciples generously tell others about Jesus. They share boldly about Jesus and His goodness—with their families, neighbors, coworkers, and friends.

ï   Pray for God’s children living and working among the world’s least-reached peoples, to not grow weary in generously sowing Gospel seed among the lost (Matt. 13:3–8; 2 Cor. 9:6).

ï   Pray for God’s Spirit to enable all who labor in the harvest to boldly witness—in season and out of season (Acts 4:18–20, 29–30; 2 Tim. 4:2).

ï   Pray for priority to be given to proclaiming the good news (Luke 15:3–7).

4.   Intentional Gathering. In every known movement around the world, lost people are discipled in groups even before the movement begins, usually before they fully respond to the Gospel. Why? It is more effective to gather-then-win than to win-then-gather.

ï   Pray for disciples of Jesus to reach out to groups of people, no matter how small, instead of just individuals (Luke 10:5–7). Group decisions fit the common biblical pattern (Acts 10:24, 33, 44, 48;

16:14–15; 31–33) and provide strength (Ecc. 4:12).

ï   Thank God that where two or three gather in His name, Jesus is there with them (Matt. 18:19–20).

ï   Pray that disciples of Jesus will boldly ask lost people if anyone in their household or community of friends would also like to hear Good News (Acts 16:31–34).

ï   Ask God to show His children (including us) who in their lives might like to be discipled as a group, no matter how small.

5.   Every Member a Minister. Movements around the world emphasize and encourage the priesthood of all believers. Every follower of Jesus has gifts that he or she is expected to use, to strengthen others and extend the impact of God’s kingdom here on earth.

ï   Pray that disciples of Jesus in unreached places will obey His command to make disciples (Matt. 28:18– 20). This task is not just for a select few.

ï   Pray that disciples of Jesus in unreached places would boldly exercise the gifts God has given them (1 Peter 4:10; Eph. 4:11–12).

ï   Pray for the hundreds of thousands of “Paul-Timothy” relationships currently existing in unreached places, among both men and women. Pray that Timothys would quickly become Pauls, and Pauls would quickly become Barnabases (1 Timothy 1:2; Acts 9:27; 11:25–26).

6.   Bivocational Lay Leaders. Movements around the world rely on lay leaders who work “normal” jobs in addition to the work of ministry. This helps to prevent leadership shortages caused by relying on seminary- trained or highly educated leaders. Spiritual leaders are developed through on-the-job training rather than institutional learning.

ï   Pray for God to multiply Christ-following leaders in every time zone (1 Thess. 2:4–12).

ï   Pray for God to give energy and strength to His children (Ps. 29:11).

ï   Pray for God to give wisdom and diligence to His children as they do various kinds of work (Acts 18:3; Col. 3:23).

7.   House Churches. Most of the churches in Disciple-Making Movements are small, reproducible fellowships of 10–30 members. They meet in homes, stores, coffee shops, or under trees—the normal gathering places in their societies. Many small fellowships dispersed throughout a city or community have a greater impact than a large, centralized group.

ï   Pray for disciple makers to stop inviting lost friends and neighbors to Christian activities, and to instead plant God’s kingdom within households of lost people, as Peter did in Acts 10:22–48.

ï   Pray for God to multiply and strengthen house churches (simple churches) throughout UPGs, as we see in Rom. 16:5; Col. 4:15; and Philemon 2.

ï   Pray Romans 16:17–20 for house churches all over the world.

8.   Disciples Making Disciples. Biologically, shepherds can’t produce sheep. Sheep produce sheep. Disciple- Making Movements apply this biological truth spiritually. In the over 1,900 movements that exist today, local followers of Jesus (simple sheep) actively disciple their lost friends and family, planting new churches. How? When lost people become followers of Jesus, they quickly obey His command to produce more “sheep.” Thus, more laborers are found in the harvest.

ï   Pray for God’s people all over the world to follow the Good Shepherd’s example and step out of their comfort zone to pursue lost sheep (Luke 15:3–7).

ï   Ask God to forgive us, His Body, for relegating His disciple-making command and promise (Matt. 28:18–20) to trained and/or paid professionals. Pray for disciples of Jesus in both reached and unreached places, that we will all believe His promises and personally obey His command.

ï   Pray 1 Pet. 2:24–25 for the world’s UPGs.

9.      Sense of Urgency (Rapid Reproduction). In movements, maintaining focus on the task is essential. Jesus said the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few (Matt. 9:35–38). He then instructed His disciples to pray for more laborers to bring in the harvest.

ï   Ask God to forgive us, His Body, for getting distracted from the harvest. We spend most of our time, energy, and money where the harvest is already being harvested. Meanwhile, Matthew 9:37 remains true for 42.5% of the people groups of the world (joshuaproject.net).

ï   Ask God to give His children (both those living in reached places and those living among the unreached) boldness and courage to sow seed broadly, not sparingly (Matt. 13:3–8; 2 Cor. 9:6).

ï   Ask God to raise up many disciples in unreached places who will follow the example set in Mark 5:19.

ï   Ask God for Matthew 24:14 to finally be fulfilled in our lifetime.

10.      Simple Church. In the New Testament, being a church didn’t involve special buildings, seminary-trained leaders, or institutions. The church was (and is intended to still be) a group of Jesus’ followers who base their lives on Jesus and His Word. This involves encouraging each other to live lives of worship to Him, witnessing to the world, baptizing new followers, teaching and encouraging each other to obey all of Jesus’ commands, and sharing to meet needs.

ï   Pray for the Spirit to work in every gathering of followers of Jesus around the globe, that Jesus’ light might shine brightly throughout the earth (Luke 11:13).

ï   Pray that the house churches in movements would follow the example of the first followers in Acts 2:42.

ï   Pray for God’s protection over the churches that have started through movements, that they will continue to find unity in humility (Phil. 2:1–4).

11.      Enduring through Suffering. Disciple-Making Movements often emerge in places where following Christ is costly and may lead to suffering or even death. Followers of Christ understand that in the world we will have tribulation, but Jesus has overcome the world. Those who bear fruit are pruned, so they can become more fruitful for God’s glory.

ï   Pray that Jesus’ promise in Luke 22:28–30 would ring loudly in the hearts of all disciples suffering persecution today.

ï   Pray for God’s children to endure and have courage to persevere through trials (Heb. 12:1–3).

ï   Pray James 1:2–18 for all who are currently suffering for the sake of the Name.

12.      Signs and Wonders often Accompany Proclamation of God’s Word. All disciples of Jesus are com- manded to proclaim the kingdom in the authority of Jesus (Matt. 28:18–20). In current movements, as followers of Jesus boldly proclaim the Gospel, the Lord very often confirms the message with signs and wonders. This is one way God convicts lost people to believe in Him (Deut. 4:34–35).

ï   Ask for followers of Jesus in unreached places to boldly pray for manifestation of God’s kingdom, including signs and wonders accompanying Gospel proclamation (Mark 16:20).

ï  Pray for God’s children to be bold enough to ask for the “impossible” so that many will believe (Matt. 17:20; John 14:12).

 

Endnotes
  1. These characteristics overlap significantly with (but are not identical to) David Garrison’s “Ten Universal Elements” found in every Church Planting Movement. Church Planting Movements, How God Is Redeeming a Lost World (Midlothian, VA: WIGTake Resources, 2004), pp. 171ff.

This is an article from the SEPT/OCT 2023 issue: Arts, Worship, and Mission in Today’s Church

Unreached of the Day

This is the new Global Prayer Digest which merged with Unreached of the Day in 2021

Unreached of the Day

Click on the .pdf icon to read the Unreached of the Day for September-October 2023.

This is an article from the SEPT/OCT 2023 issue: Arts, Worship, and Mission in Today’s Church

Acts and the Movement of God:

An Interview with Author Steve Addison

Acts and the Movement of God:
Why did you write Acts and the Movement of God?

There’s a gap between the movement of God described in the pages of Acts and our experience, especially in the Western world. Luke wrote Acts to help us bridge that gap.

When Jesus rose from the dead, He encountered a band of disciples who were defeated and disillusioned. People just like us. Jesus took 40 days to turn them into a missionary movement that would go to the ends of the earth. He wants to do the same for us today.

What is the book of Acts about?

Acts is more than a book about the early Church. Acts is about God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Luke tells us that what Jesus began to do in His Gospel, He continues to do in Acts through His people (Acts 1:1). God is the main character of the story, and His Word and Spirit are the driving force propelling that story forward. Angels appear, prophets speak, prison doors open, houses shake, thousands believe, persecutors fall to the ground, the Scriptures are fulfilled—God directs this mission. He calls His people into what He is doing.

What’s God’s agenda in Acts?

The Father’s plan is centered upon His Son, whose obedience to death brought forgiveness of sins and a restored relationship with Him. Now risen and enthroned, the Lord Jesus rules through the Spirit, who empowers the disciples to proclaim this salvation to every people and every place. At Pentecost, the outpouring of the Spirit reached its climax in the proclamation of the Word to the nations and the formation of the Church in Jerusalem. As the Word goes out, the Spirit forms those who repent and believe into the new people of God who are witnesses to the ends of the earth.

We live in a very different world. Is Acts still relevant?

There’s no other book like Acts. It ties together the coming of Jesus and His continuing mission through His Spirit-empowered disciples. Acts is a book about the unchanging God. Its relevance cannot be confined to the past.

The church in every generation must return to the book of Acts and find renewal in its identity and mission or else risk settling down. 

You went looking for examples of the patterns of Acts lived out today. What did you find?

I found examples on every continent.

There’s a movement of disciples and churches in the red-light district of Mumbai, India. Every year, thousands of mostly Nepali women and girls are trafficked and forced to work as prostitutes. In the past four years, 300 women have been rescued from slavery by the Hilltop of Hope ministry. One hundred of them have been baptized and are following Jesus in simple churches. The churches are islands of hope, offering a community that accepts them and opens the door to a new way of life.

In the Middle East, two local workers were out praying for needs in a neighborhood controlled by Islamic militants. A man was healed and turned to Christ. Immediately, he started sharing his faith with friends and relatives. He met fierce persecution and had to flee, but everywhere he goes, he leaves behind small bands of new disciples gathering as churches.

What about in the Western world?

In London’s financial district, teams are heading out during their lunch break offering prayer and engaging people with the Gospel. About 200 people have come to faith. They meet for discipleship over coffee or lunch and workplace churches are forming and spreading from the city to the suburbs and to other global cities.

There are other examples in the book of movements emerging in Britain, Canada, and the United States.

How were you surprised by Acts?

In Acts, I was surprised how simple and concrete the mission of God is. Acts is all about the spread of God’s Word through the disciples, empowered by the Holy Spirit. The messengers are hard pressed, but the Word never takes a backward step. As the Word spreads, grows, and multiplies, the outcome is always new disciples and churches to the glory of God—every people, every place.

You see this on the day of Pentecost. The Spirit comes in power upon every disciple. The Word goes out and the fruit is disciples meeting across the city. Pentecost is not just the birth of a church but the birth of a missionary movement that is headed for the ends of the earth.

Why aren’t we heeding the lessons of Acts?

We all know there’s a gap between the movement of God in Acts and our experience. Facing that gap is uncomfortable; it implies radical change in our behavior. So we tell ourselves Acts doesn’t apply today. Our world is different. The tension is eased. We measure ourselves with ourselves and refuse to look into the mirror of God’s Word.

Acts was written to show us how God fulfills His mission in the world and how we are to play our part. We need to be disturbed about the gap between what we read in Acts and our current experience. Despair is a virtue if it drives us to the suffciency of God. He wants to inspire us to believe that what He did in Acts, He can do today. Around the world, it’s already happening.

 

 

This is an article from the SEPT/OCT 2023 issue: Arts, Worship, and Mission in Today’s Church

The Future of Ethnodoxology in Arts and Mission

The Future of Ethnodoxology in Arts and Mission

Ethno-WHAT? In the early 1990s, the term ethnodoxology did not exist. Coined by Dave Hall, its first appearance in print was in September 1997.1 As we launched the organization that became the Global Ethnodoxology Network (GEN), many people asked us, “Why would you want to use a word no one understands to describe what you do?” Our answer? We needed an innovative word for this discipline emerging from the intersection of missiology, ethnomusicology, worship studies, Scripture engagement, linguistics, and other disciplines.

The growth of the term’s use in the last 20 years has vindicated that choice. In the last year, for example, 2.5 percent of the people who found the GEN website (worldofworship.org) did it by googling the term ethnodoxology. And there were 1,367 views for the “What is Ethnodoxology” page (out of 11,835 total views for the site).2 The chart below from the N-gram site shows the growth of the term in publications archived by Google books through 2019.3 It is clear from the trajectory that, although it took almost a decade for the term to make its way into print, the second decade demonstrated exponential growth. In addition to an upsurge in the use of the term, the ethnodoxology approach has spread during that time as mission agencies, non-profits, and training institutions begin to incorporate ethnodoxology values into their thinking, methods, and curricula.

Given the rise of ethnodoxology values and methods and its expansion into the beginnings of a global movement, we wanted to explore this question: What might be the future of ethnodoxology as it intersects with arts and mission? Interviews with some global leaders in the GEN network revealed vibrant hopes and dreams for the next decade of ethnodoxology’s future. What follows is an exploration of some of their ideas.

Ethnodoxology and Social Innovation in Restricted Countries

Grace4 returned to her country in East Asia after receiving graduate level training in an ethnodoxology-related degree. She told me, “When I returned to my country, I was hit by a new reality. As the restriction of religious freedom tightened, many well-trained expats who were active in the frontiers were gone, and their work came to a halt. As a result, it left big holes in our field work. The intensifying persecution, however, was showing us that the traditional approach was not working. Instead, innovation was urgently needed. In the face of these new challenges, I felt a push from the Lord to explore a sustainable approach to mission.”

 
   

As Grace responded in obedience, the Lord opened an opportunity to work with a non-believing social enterprise centered on bringing ecological, economic, and cultural sustainability to marginalized mountain communities in the region. The people of this region excelled in producing beautiful and complex arts but had little chance to leverage them for financial sustainability. Her colleagues’ business is an example of social innovation (fostering the wellbeing of the community through social enterprise).5

Grace’s colleagues renovated some traditionally built architectural spaces that had become dilapidated, converting them into a school that soon began to attract students from all over the country and even beyond. Grace developed the curriculum for educational packages, allowing these students to study endangered but beautiful forms of Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) such as local embroidery styles. She arranged for local artisans to give lessons and teach skills, while incoming students learned how to do research into local art forms. In addition, the students coming also commissioned new works from the artisans.

Grace says, “Inspired by my working experience with the social enterprise, I felt an urge to mobilize the church to get out of the Christian bubble and connect to the society through integral mission. Meanwhile, I started to dream of creating an Arts and Culture Incubator for ethnodoxologists to leverage their training in arts and culture research, while connecting the needs of society to the market and providing economic thriving for communities. Along the way, believers can build deep relationships with people in communities where normally they would not be welcome. Grace hopes that this “Arts and Culture Incubator” model will provide inspiration for other fields to use a social innovation model, especially in restricted areas.

Ethnodoxology and Digitality

John Paul Arceno6 notes the future of ethnodoxology will be increasingly digital. He observes worship increasingly happening in hybrid and digital spaces. Furthermore, he believes digitality will affect more and more of our work in missions: “Digital communities can be real, embodied cultural people groups. We need to adapt our ministries to indigenously engage with these cultural groups in their own language [of digitality].”

Ethnodoxology Resources and Training in More Languages

Juan Arvelo Montero, a GEN board member from Venezuela serving with WEC’s Arts Release ministry in Spain, told me this: “When I discovered ethnodoxology, it was like a new world for me. I thought, why didn’t I learn about this before? My vision is to train Spanish-speaking ethnodoxologists. In 10 years, I would love to see a program established to train ethnodoxologists in Spanish and other languages.” He noted that the field of ethnodoxology was mainly developed in English, but now it needs further development in other languages. Juan is dreaming of more than just one program. He said, “I could see this starting at Dallas International University, but it needs to spread to other institutions as well. Initially, we need to provide education at the graduate diploma level, but in the long term we need a doctorate for Spanish speakers to study ethnodoxology.”

Drawing on Michelle Petersen’s article7 applying language development principles to the arts, Juan notes all three levels of development she outlines for arts are needed for training initiatives as well: status development, corpus development, and acquisition development. He says, “We need to increase the status of ethnodoxology in the Spanish speaking world, we need to create more literature, and we need to train more people.”

Juan is already working to partner with Spanish-speaking ethnodoxology colleagues Josh Davis (Proskuneo) and Jhonny A. Nieto Ossa (ALDEA) to plan a Spanish-language online course. Jhonny, a GEN leader from Colombia, also shares Juan’s vision, adding that the future of ethnodoxology will see a growth in workshop facilitators who can function in multiple languages.

Jhonny also dreams of the development of ethnodoxology applications for those with special needs. Other applications of ethnodoxology, such as multicultural worship and multigenerational worship are also growing and promise to play a more prominent role in the future of the field.

Retired professor and GEN Certification Committee member John Pfautz adds this vision for ethnodoxology education: “I envision a course that travels well to various regions of the world that will train teachers in educational centers, churches, and under the baobab tree. This course, adapted for each local situation, should teach appreciation for local arts and music, affirm local efforts, and provide encouragement as well as tools for support of local artists and musicians.”

Ethnodoxology & Polycentric Mission

Elsen Portugal, GEN board member from Brazil with the first PhD in Ethnodoxology wrote, “I believe one of the directions towards which the discipline is going is polycentric mission (from everyone to everywhere). Although we do not wish to deny or forget that mission was practiced typically from ‘us’ to ‘them’ for centuries, I believe that, through the interconnectivity of this world, ethnodoxology can truly support the global Church, mutually serving one another and building of the Body of Christ—to everyone from everywhere.” The board of trustees for the Global Ethnodoxology Network (GEN) already represents this reality (see https://worldofworship.org/about/board/), and even the contributors to this issue illustrate the global engagement of its members in ethnodoxology practice.

The implications of polycentrism extend beyond board composition and contributors to publications, however. John Pfautz expressed my own thoughts well when he wrote his dream for the future: “There has been enough buy-in globally that regional leadership in GEN will be mentoring a flourishing group of folks who not only engage via technology, but meeting face to face to share dreams, successes, and challenges unique to specific people in that specific part of the world. Administration, leadership, centers of education, will likely be experienced regionally.” The GEN Board shares this vision and is investing in those leaders already (our “GEN Global Advisory Council”). Their voices are increasingly shaping the future of ethnodoxology.

You can meet them at this GEN YouTube playlist, titled “I am an ethnodoxologist.”8

Héber Negrão (Brazil), PhD student in World Arts at DIU and GEN board member, integrates many of these ideas above into his vision for the future: “I foresee ethnodoxology becoming a required course in every center for missionary training in the next years. Ethnodoxology is essential to understand cultural ways of worship from different people groups. In the historical moment we live in today, missions are accomplished from everywhere to everywhere, and that scenario is here to stay. The imprint of Western Christianity will gradually abate, however ethnocentrism will continue as a marker of our fallen humanity. As missionaries from the Majority world take the Gospel to other countries, they will need to know how their intended audience uses their arts to respond to God. And they must resist the urge to use their own artistic expressions and cultural assumptions in their missionary efforts. Given the ruthless effects of globalization and the beautiful diversity God has created in all cultures, I am convinced that ethnodoxology is truly indispensable for the future of multicultural Christianity.” 

Where are we headed?

If there is anything the 2020s are teaching us, it is that global trends can be difficult to predict. But the future of ethnodoxology may well include the hopes of these GEN leaders, as we grow into 1) creative models of social innovation and holistic ethnodoxology ministry, 2) embracing digitality while not abandoning our commitment to regional in-person gatherings, and 3) polycentric leadership and teaching staff who provide ethnodoxology learning opportunities in a broad variety of languages in regional centers around the globe. 

In the final chapters of the Bible, we see the certain hope of a new heaven and a new earth, in which the New Jerusalem is flooded with the light of the glory of God. Revelation 21 describes the splendor, glory, and honor of the nations (that includes their artistic treasures!) that will be brought as tribute to the Lamb (Rev. 21: 24, 26). With that end picture in mind, we hope you will join us in working toward a future in which communities of Jesus followers in every culture engage with God and the world through their own artistic expressions, offering them to the Lord in the worship He is due.

Endnotes
  1. The term ethnodoxology first appeared in print in an editorial by Brian Schrag in EM News Vol. 6, No. 3, September 1997 (a quarterly put out by the SIL Ethnomusicology and Arts Group).

  2. Many thanks to GEN’s social media and website analytics specialist, Lindsay Oakley, for these statistics.

  3. To check on an updated database at the N-gram site, go to https://books.google.com/ngrams/ and insert the term ethnodoxology, adapting the dates to show 1997 to the present. This chart was generated with a smoothing factor of one, reflecting data only through 2019 but showing a clear trajectory.

  4. Not her real name.

  5. Social innovation has been defined as “the design and implementation of new solutions that imply conceptual, process, product, or organ- isational change, which ultimately aim to improve the welfare and wellbeing of individuals and communities.” See https://www.oecd.org/ regional/leed/social-innovation.htm and this article from the Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2015/04/the-traits-of-socially-inno- vative-companies.

  6. John Paul Arceno is a Digital Theologian with the World Evangelical Alliance Mission Commission. He is from the Philippines, now living in New Jersey, doing PhD studies with Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas. He serves with Indigitous (https://indigitous.org).

  7. Michelle Petersen, “Arts Development for Scripture Engagement,” Ethnodoxology: Global Forum on Arts and Christian Faith 5 (2017):A58– 86, https://artsandchristianfaith.org/index.php/journal/article/view/31

  8. The “I am an Ethnodoxologist” YouTube playlist features the GEN Global Advisory Council and shows the various ways that ethnodoxology ministry is expressed around the globe: https://tinyurl.com/GENglobaladvisors

This is an article from the SEPT/OCT 2023 issue: Arts, Worship, and Mission in Today’s Church

Spreading the Word

Spreading the Word

The story in the Bible begins with all-powerful God creating an amazing place of generous beauty, abundance, security, and provision. He creates humans to dwell in that creation with Him. He gives them instructions and responsibility to fulfill His plan—for them to be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it.

For reasons I cannot understand, that is not enough for them, so in direct disobedience to God’s command for their good, they decide to grasp for more. Death enters the perfect world, and all is thrown into a de- creation—bringing evil, ugliness, scarcity, insecurity, pain, and difficulty.

Yet God does not change His plan to dwell with us nor His plan for us to rule the earth. But there is an unsolvable problem keeping Him distant from us: He is holy and sin must be purged. So, He pursues working through people, empowering them, and sometimes tolerating them, for His purposes.

If we read this story, as if for the first time, we realize in Genesis 3 that there will be one who will be able to resist temptation and obey God. We read about those who walked closely with God and the amazing faith they lived out; ultimately, they all failed. The sin that entered the world now stains every person. So, we diligently look for that one who is different. Yet even the likes of Abraham… Moses… David… all exercise great faith and failure.

Finally, in the fullness of time (Galatians 4:4), God sends One to dwell with humans who does live a perfect life and does not grasp for more on His own. He will restore the relationship with God by giving His life as a ransom for many. In Luke 4, after quoting Isaiah 61, that one—Jesus, the Son of Man—announces that He is the one Isaiah talked about. 1 In some of the most powerful words ever spoken, in 4:21, He says, “…Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Far more than the amazing truth that the King has come is that He actually sees the fullness of the kingdom, where good news is brought to the poor, the broken hearted are healed, captives are released…mourners are comforted, beauty replaces ashes, oil salves the mourning, praise strengthens faint spirits. The pictures in those words speak to a profound transformation of our world, and Jesus sees it fulfilled even as He is about to live the perfect life that makes it possible! It is a re-creation back out of the de-creation caused by Adam and Eve’s sin. And we can see that reversal in Revelation 21–22. There will be a new heaven and earth, the restoration of all things, wiping away of every tear, and most amazing of all:

“Behold, the tabernacle of God is among the people, and He will dwell among them and they shall be His people and God Himself will be among them…” (21:3).

As believers, sharing the above message of God’s desire and plan to dwell with humans is what we are called to do. Telling the story like I have above is one way to present that Gospel; but no matter how we do, the truth of the biblical story must shape our purpose and calling. Yet often that witness gets clouded by other priorities. When people first believe and turn from sin, they become part of the Body of Christ. And, while never perfect, a local fellowship often becomes a “home” for people, a refuge from the world. This can be a good thing. And then, increasingly, we hang around people who agree with us on issues of faith. Pastors strongly encourage church members to “be there when the doors of the church are open” and even be together for Bible studies and prayer groups. Increasingly, churches start schools for Christian (only) students. Our training institutions prepare pastors to serve the church with gifts and calling that tends toward discipling, teaching, and otherwise caring and growing the flock to maturity. These are all good things, or they can be.

Yet the focus for announcing that good news outside the Body of Christ seems all too rare.

If you are a reader of MF, you know the problem is that even if believers spread their faith, a huge majority of the non-believers in the world do not live near enough Christians. Estimates say something like 87%+ of the Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists do not personally know a Christian of any kind. Even if that estimate is way off, it still represents a huge gap in spreading the truth that Jesus, the King of all Kings, has come and will come back. That is why we are here at Frontier Ventures. That is what we focus on in Mission Frontiers.

Endnotes
  1. The word “gospel” is used in other literature during the rule of Rome for an announcement of a king.

This is an article from the SEPT/OCT 2023 issue: Arts, Worship, and Mission in Today’s Church

The Astonishing Power & Progress of God’s Promise (Part 2)

The Astonishing Power & Progress of God’s Promise (Part 2)

Recap of Part 1: Four thousand years ago, God told Abram—an elderly, childless man—that all of earth’s family-lines would one day be blessed through his descendant. God even confirmed this promise with an oath. Two thousand years later, Jesus commissioned and equipped His followers to fulfill this promise. In 1980, this blessing was only spreading among an estimated 40% of humanity. Today—less than 50 years later—disciples are now multiplying among 75% of humanity. …

Of the total Frontier ethne population (2 billion), 80% (1.6B) are concentrated in less than 300 large groups (over 1 million each). Many of these Frontier ethne have been fruitlessly “engaged” by Christianity for decades or centuries, providing case studies for how our intuitions and strategies can go wrong.1

The Rise and Fall of Pioneer Work

In 1792, when William Carey published his Enquiry,2 roughly three-fourths of humanity lived in ethne that still needed pioneer work to establish the first multiplying households of believers. Carey’s Enquiry prompted the formation of many new teams,3 focused primarily on what today would be understood as Frontier ethne. These teams were largely successful, shifting gradually from pioneer work to partnership with the church movements they started.

Two hundred years later, followers of Jesus in these formerly-pioneer fields came to vastly outnumber followers of Jesus in historically “Christian” lands. And by the 1970s nearly all missionaries worked primarily in partnership with existing believers, while 60% of humanity still lived in ethne needing pioneer work.

Thus, by the 1970s, most ethne were again clearly divided between those with a strong Christian presence and those still needing pioneer work. This time Ralph Winter’s analysis and advocacy4 led to a new wave of workers to Frontier ethne.

By 2018 however, most pioneer work to “unreached” ethne was again shifting to partnership with new believers, just as Winter had foretold two decades earlier:

Frontier [pioneer] Mission outreach will dwindle to the extent that church-planting success is achieved within any one ethnic group. Missionary breakthroughs and the resulting marvelous, growing movements all around the world have diverted attention from additional frontier outreach just because the needs of a growing church do not diminish but seem to demand more and more help—dental work, education, medical attention, pastoral training, etc.

And, churches back home are so thrilled by the appearance of churches on the field that for a while this massive transition seems to be unavoidable. … But if every mission that breaks through (and most of them have) sits down and attends the new national church rather than continuing its original pioneering function, we will suddenly discover a massive fall off of new cross-cultural outreach. 5

Several additional factors further obscure the remaining pioneer task:

1.   In 1975 the term “Unreached” shifted from “needing pioneer work” to less than 1 in 50 being “Evangelical.” This obscured the essential difference between:

ï   Tight-knit Frontier ethne still with virtually NO followers of Jesus and NO sustained movement to Jesus (where pioneer teams are still needed).

ï   Other “Unreached” ethne, where believing families are less than 1 in 50, but multiplying and modeling how to follow Jesus in that ethne, such that teams can see rapid fruit working in partnership with local believers.

2.   A subsequent focus on “Unengaged” UPGs further drew attention from very large UPGs with no movements to Jesus—where more pioneer teams were still needed—to smaller and smaller “Unengaged” UPGs (where followers of Jesus might be multiplying but still less than 2% of the population).

3.   Many churches require the workers they fund to work with local believers, creating an additional barrier to missionaries doing pioneer work among Frontier ethne

The Bulk of the Challenge: 300 Mega-FPGs

Dramatic changes have occurred since Carey’s and Winter’s appeals stirred prayer and pioneering teams to pursue God’s promise. In less than 250 years, indigenous followers of Jesus have begun multiplying in thousands of ethne—establishing movements to Jesus among an additional 50% of humanity.

Today the bulk of the challenge is much more focused: 80% (1.6 B) of the global Frontier ethne population lives in less than 300 Mega-FPGs—each over one million in size. However, these Mega-FPGs aren’t simply a blank slate waiting to hear about Jesus. Most of them have been offended or alienated from Christianity by historic contact with Christians—the Crusades, Western “Christian” culture, which is the primary global producer of pornography, evangelism aimed at separating individuals away from their families and community, etc. Most of these Mega-FPGs have thus demonstrated a determination to protect their families and community from what they perceive as a harmful, western influence.

Most Mega-FPGs have been fruitlessly “engaged” by Christianity for decades or centuries, providing case studies in how our strategies and efforts can go wrong. This history has resulted in distorted impressions of who Jesus is and what it means to follow Him. And these Mega-FPGs are also likely under greater oppression from powers of darkness that have fled the growing light among other ethne.

To make matters worse, some Mega-FPGs have badly outdated Bible translations, using an ancient script or offensive religious terms of other religious groups. And yet updated translations are resisted by the economic interests of the publisher. For some Mega-FPGs, even the King James English Bible is more intelligible to the few believers than their own centuries-old translation.

Jesus movements are unlikely to be birthed among these Mega-FPGs through the traditional ministry strategies that have failed among them in the past. They thus need focused prayer, clear reflection on the challenges and opportunities, and new Spirit-led pioneering teams.

Fortunately, as this article goes to press a major consultation is being held on Pursuing God for Movements among the ~300 Largest Frontier People Groups. We welcome your retroactive prayers for this consultation to unite mission leaders in a new focus on prayer and collaboration toward the fulfillment of God’s promise to bless these Mega-FPGs.

New Avenues for Effective Pioneer Work

In past centuries, missionaries fruitfully combined proclamation with practical strategies for blessing the ethne they served—with medicine, literacy, education, etc. However most Mega-FPGs today are based in countries where medicine, literacy, and education are run by the national government and where missionaries are no longer welcome.

Yet God’s promise is sure, and He has confirmed it with an oath! The Holy Spirit is awakening many to new avenues for blessing ethne in pioneer work—through business, addiction treatment, regenerative agriculture, etc. Amidst the destructive agricultural practices and use of harmful chemicals that has swept the globe, and the global fear and challenges following recent lockdowns, microbiome science,6 orthomolecular medical science,7 and regenerative agriculture8 appear to be fruitful avenues for demonstrating the wisdom, goodness, and abundance of God, and equipping movement disciples to focus on multiplying God’s blessing—among their own ethne and among Frontier ethne.

This is an article from the SEPT/OCT 2023 issue: Arts, Worship, and Mission in Today’s Church

Unlocking the Potential of Bitcoin for Global Mission

Unlocking the Potential of Bitcoin for Global Mission

In our ever-evolving world, it’s critical that we adapt, innovate, and harness new technologies in light of the Great Commission. One such opportunity lies in the realm of digital currencies, especially Bitcoin, which holds immense potential for the global mission community.

The global financial landscape presents challenges, especially in developing nations. Even simple transactions can be cumbersome, costly, or potentially risky. Mission workers and ministries often grapple with cross- border payments, limited access to funds, and difficulties in raising capital, among other issues. The problem is amplified by the fact that a staggering 87% of the global population doesn’t have access to stable currencies like the dollar or euro, with 1.7 billion people unbanked altogether. The regions most impacted by these issues are also the most unreached with the Gospel.

The advent of Bitcoin presents a significant opportunity to overcome these obstacles. Bitcoin is a global payment network and a bearer asset. In the past decade, it has been instrumental in solving numerous financial problems in the Global South.

As a payment network, Bitcoin provides a practically instantaneous, cost-free platform for global monetary settlement, bypassing the need for banks or middlemen. It democratizes financial transactions, enabling anyone with a computer and an internet connection to transfer money worldwide and securely store wealth.

As an asset, Bitcoin, through robust encryption technology, guarantees a safe store of value that is immune to confiscation, censorship, or debasement. Its monetary policy and supply cap are transparent and unaffected by the political or economic policies of any nation. From zero value at its inception, Bitcoin has grown into a $550 billion asset class over 14 years, offering people without access to appreciating assets a chance to hold the best performing asset of the past decade.

While the Global Church and the developing world are already actively embracing Bitcoin, global adoption is still in its early stages. The mission community has the unique opportunity to leverage Bitcoin’s growth for Great Commission impact by acquiring knowledge and skills to navigate this new financial landscape and payment technology.

Some faith-driven entrepreneurs and organizations are already pioneering work in this space, exploring Bitcoin’s potential for community impact. However, there is a missing link connecting community economic development with explicit Gospel proclamation, discipleship, and church planting—a link we are determined to catalyze.

A small team from the Ralph Winter Launch Lab of Frontier Ventures received an innovation grant from Missio Nexus to explore the potential for utilizing Bitcoin as a tool for global mission. They plan to host design labs in Central America, Africa, and the Middle East to explore Bitcoin-based solutions to the complex economic challenges faced by those living in the developing world.

If you’d like to learn more about this project or participate in a design lab, email us at: [email protected].

This is an article from the SEPT/OCT 2023 issue: Arts, Worship, and Mission in Today’s Church

Why Arts and Mission Belong Together

Why Arts and Mission Belong Together

Arts and mission have not always been the best of friends. Many young people today and virtually all secular academics are quick to claim that Christian mission has too often dismissed, demeaned, or even destroyed local arts expressions around the world in an effort to impose the West’s imperial project of “The 3 Cs”— Commerce, Christianity, and Civilization. This is a harsh assessment, requiring a more nuanced analysis.

Some Gospel communicators have, in fact, given their entire lives to preserving indigenous languages through literacy work and Bible translation. Others have conducted music workshops or developed arts programs to encourage believers in producing new artistic creations deeply rooted in and inspired by locally embraced arts genres and aesthetic values.

But in too many instances, Western artistic expressions have been elevated and promoted over local ones. Commonly employed terms for arts of European origin, such as “fine arts” or “high culture” imply that some arts are better than others, superior in aesthetic content, quality, and performance, and perhaps even closer to God’s plan and desire for humanity. In many parts of the world, Western arts expressions have long played the privileged, authoritative role of defining, shaping, and judging local arts, labeled condescendingly as “folk arts” and thus as inferior, incompetent, and a grade below the Euroarts standard of excellence.

A growing number of Majority World pastors and church leaders are aware of this challenging situation and wish to change the current trajectory of things by rediscovering and embracing local artistic expressions in the daily life, worship patterns, and mission activities of the church. At the close of a 2006 music composition workshop in the Democratic Republic of Congo, workshop participants issued a “Declaration” in which they stated:

We have noticed with regret the remarkable absence of traditional music in our churches. This was caused by the arrival of the first missionaries, traditional music has been erased, leaving in its place modern music, which has given youth the feeling of being despised, wronged. Yet God wants to be praised with various musical instruments, Western as well as African (Psalm 150:3–4).

By the end of this workshop, we have been able to discover that we have incredible, multiple musical riches in our different African languages. Let us recognize that a song inspired and composed in one’s mother tongue touches the heart and can change the life of a person, console him, make him joyful and lead him to accept Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

May this workshop, the first of its kind, not be the last. We desire that the God who is the Master of time and circumstances open other opportunities so that this good initiative may contribute to the proclamation of the Good News and Salvation by songs in our heart languages, for our Lord is enthroned upon praises and adoration (see Revelation 7:9–10).1

Inspired by a similar vision, a group of Christian artists, coming from the disciplines of anthropology, missiology, visual arts, ethnomusicology, and worship studies, gathered in 2003 for the first Global Consultation on Music and Missions (GCoMM). Many participants at the consultation had experienced a lack of full support and enthusiasm for their arts-focused ministries from their own mission organizations and churches. They came hoping to find a kindred spirit with people passionate about the vital role the arts could play in Christian ministry and the rapid growth of faith communities around the world.

Emerging from that gathering, marked by invigorating camaraderie and fresh hope, a new network was born—the International Council of Ethnodoxologists (ICE), more recently renamed the Global Ethnodoxology Network (GEN). Combining two Greek roots, ethnos (peoples) and doxos (praise or worship), the ethnodoxology movement has focused from the outset on working toward a future in which communities of Jesus followers in every culture might engage with God and the world through their own artistic expressions. Not limited to any one art, GEN embraces the vast array of artistic expression and encourages local creativity through the arts in the church’s life, worship, and witness to others. In the words of Brian Schrag, an early GEN founder and supporter, ethnodoxology encompasses “all the arts, from all the world, for all of God’s purposes.”2

For the past two decades, GEN has worked to support and equip ethnodoxologists in local contexts and ministries around the world. Three primary activities characterize GEN’s principal contribution to the arts and mission world—networking, training, and resourcing. Networking has been key to GEN’s identity from the beginning through its free email newsletter (every four to six weeks at worldofworship.org/newsletter) and its members-only web-based email forum where several hundred associates interact regularly on wide-ranging arts-related topics and enjoy access to a Virtual Library of resources. To participate at this level of GEN engagement, one can sign up to be a one-year, five-year, or lifetime member (worldofworship.org/signup), with an option of sponsored membership for international scholars and practitioners from under-resourced countries. In addition to these virtual connections, “GEN and Friends” share networking meals and enjoy arts tracks at various global conferences, such as the Calvin Worship Symposium, the Global Consultation on Arts and Music in Mission (GCAMM), the Evangelical Missiological Society (EMS), and the American Society of Missiology (ASM).

The training aspect of the network has seen the development of two popular training courses—Introduction to Ethnodoxology and Arts for a Better Future (ABF)—both of which have been embraced and adopted by mission, arts, and educational organizations worldwide. The one-week ABF course has enjoyed particular growth with over 1,100 participants to date from more than 60 countries on five continents. Two-fifths of these participants have been from churches and ministries in the Global South, including Africa, Asia, the Pacific Islands, Latin America, and the Caribbean. To facilitate the growing number of training initiatives occurring in other-than-English languages, GEN has taught and developed course materials—in partnership with William Carey Publishing (WCP)—in French, Indonesian, Portuguese, Spanish, Chinese, and Korean, with Russian and Mongolian currently in process.

Resourcing is the third GEN area of activity. In addition to the course materials described above, the network has produced two larger volumes, likewise published by WCP—Worship and Mission for the Global Church: An Ethnodoxology Handbook and Creating Local Arts Together: A Manual to Help Communities Reach Their Kingdom Goals. The 580-page Handbook—featuring over one hundred authors from twenty countries— provides biblical and theological foundations for the ethnodoxology movement and offers global case studies, practical tools, and online materials with media clips, relevant books, journals, and other resources for arts and mission practitioners. In 2013, GEN developed a journal, Ethnodoxology: Global Forum for Arts and Christian Faith (artsandchristianfaith.org). This open-access, peer-reviewed journal features academic articles, working papers, and book reviews of interest to the network.

The GEN network is a dynamic movement and continues to learn with and from its many relationships around the world. The content of the current Mission Frontiers magazine is one such example. It celebrates the 20th anniversary of GEN and the ethnodoxology movement and features GEN’s “Seven Core Values for Arts and Mission” that have emerged after two decades of experience. The seven values presented in this issue— Christian Worship, Potent Arts, Historical Awareness, Human Agency, Locally-Grounded Methods, Academic Rigor, and Confident Hope—are accompanied by stories through the voices of ethnodoxology instructors and practitioners around the world. It is our conviction that the synergistic relationship between arts and mission has never been more relevant or more important.

As you read and reflect on the following pages, it is important to remember that the Incarnation is the ultimate example of the Gospel’s ability to be articulated, received, appropriated, and reproduced into an infinite number of cultural contexts. Benjamin M. Stewart writes:

The incarnation of Christ includes Christ’s honoring of local cultural patterns including dress, language, cuisine, time-keeping, gesture, and relationship with local ecology. […] The Church as The Body of Christ rightly honors each local culture in which it is incarnated by similarly assuming the givenness of local patterns, grounded in the scriptural memory that, in Christ, God comes to the world ‘deep in the flesh’ of local culture.3

          May the following stories inspire you to keep that scriptural memory alive!

 

 

 

Endnotes
  1. From a forthcoming article by Muriel Swijghuisen Reigersberg and Brian Schrag: “Ethnodoxology,” in The Oxford Handbook on Music and Christian Theology, edited by Steve Guthrie and Bennett Zon (Oxford: Oxford University Press).

  2. From Schrag’s preface to Creating Local Arts Together: A Manual to Help Communities Reach Their Kingdom Goals (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 2013), xv.

  3. Stewart, Benjamin M. 2014 “What, Then, Do Theologians Mean When They Say Culture?” In Worship and Culture: Foreign Country or Homeland, Gláucia Vasconcelos Wilkey, ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 46.

This is an article from the SEPT/OCT 2023 issue: Arts, Worship, and Mission in Today’s Church

Priority15:

Mobilizing a New Generation for Hard Places Through Community & Prayer

Priority15:

I didn’t expect to be “wowed” when I entered the Priority 15 (P15) Conference this past spring. I was curious, however, and my curiosity led me to interview several participants. The gathering boasted more than 200 young professionals, many of whom were Perspectives alumni. What I discovered was a culture of community and purpose that was strangely similar to the culture my husband and I experienced when we visited the awakening at Asbury University a week earlier.

P15 is a mobilizing entity. Its name comes from Paul’s Romans 15 commitment to relay the Gospel to those who have never seen nor heard (Romans 15:21). It exists to motivate, encourage, and collaborate with like- minded individuals committed to the last of the unreached and unengaged peoples of the world.

The P15 community gathers in three ways: an annual conference, weekly prayer groups, and goer cohort groups that meet bi-monthly. The conference is a missional on-ramp for young professionals (in training or in the marketplace) wanting to explore living, serving, and multiplying disciples in strategic restricted-access areas.

The Formation

P15 is the dream-child of a small group of physicians and residency administrators who recognized a different mobilization strategy was required for the aspiring global workers they were mentoring. The typical “go into missions somewhere” approach “was not inspiring prayer or actual going” co-founder J explained.

Co-founder T said, Several of us who had developed friendships and collaborative relationships began talking in 2013, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if we could get our students together for a weekend to help them collaborate and encourage each other?!’” J expressed a hope for their mentees to consider forming teams to go to one of the prioritized hard to reach places.

They expected 20–30 medical students to attend the first gathering. “We didn’t advertise, but relied on word-of-mouth, and 120 missional trainees and faculty showed up from eight US cities,” T recalls, still incredulous. He continued, “We didn’t know much about the unreached people groups we adopted, but we kept researching, praying, and casting vision. People groups were adopted, missional trainees started language classes, and eventually became goers to closed countries.”

Consultant and keynote speaker, Nathan J’Diim, provided an outsider’s glimpse of his early days with P15 Organization. “I’m an unlikely guest at the P15 Conference,” he began. Grinning, he shared his first exchange with P15 administrator, J:

“The first time I was invited to speak, I wrote back, ‘I’m not your guy.’ I let him know that I am only interested in groups willing to focus on skills that lead to movement!”

J wrote back, “That is what we want P15 to be.”

J’Diim confessed, “This gathering has become a very attractive place for me.”

Community

Whether I spoke to attendees of the P15 conference formally to interview or informally in a prayer group or during a coffee break, the sense of community was evident. Four impressions that most struck me were a sense of horizontal relationships, shared purpose, belonging, and shared risk.

Sense of horizontal relationships

There was no dominant voice for the conference; leadership was shared. There were no flashy musicians. Both men and women spoke from the stage and in the breakout sessions. Young parents attended the sessions sitting in the back with their children playing around them. Multiple ages and ethnicities were present.

Sense of shared purpose

Shared belief in God’s worthiness to be worshiped by all the world’s people groups was evident among several conference attendees. One pregnant mother, who was preparing her family for an overseas move excitedly explained, “When I’m here, I know I’m with people who believe Jesus is WORTH it!!!”

Sense of belonging

S explained that he and his wife appreciate being with “people who talk our talk. We need people who think our passions are ‘not crazy.’” Indeed, on three occasions, I heard different individuals express that the conference was “a place where people don’t think I’m crazy!”

R, who is preparing to go to one of the 15 prioritized places, shared, “It’s always encouraging to be with like- minded people, because it can feel kind of isolating when you are pursuing this alone, but we are united in purpose.”

Sense of shared risk

Rick Donlon, a missional physician, led two break-out sessions titled, Suffering and Missions: Counted the Cost? I attended the second session along with at least 40 others. When the facilitator asked, “Why should good people expect suffering?” a young woman several rows behind me shouted, “Because we serve a suffering Savior!”

There was hushed reverence over the room. I was reminded of a young mother I had spoken with earlier in the day who said, “I look around and I see beauty in a room full of people willing to go and possibly not come back… people here don’t just talk the talk.”

Teasing out organizational culture

After the conference, I followed up with future goers, mobilizers, and prayer warriors to gain further understanding of the P15 culture.

The topic that came up most frequently was prayer. This sparked my interest: How was prayer commitment sustainable beyond the conference itself? Mission mobilizer Ryan Shaw explains attendees of globally focused gatherings typically return home only to be deflated. “Their vision for the nations is dulled because there is no ongoing mission fuel at the local-ministry level.”1

P15 leaders avoid this problem by inviting attendees to be involved in a weekly prayer group. P and her husband have been in one for more than two years. “We have been involved in churches but…involvement in the unreached wasn’t even on their radar,” she shared. The P15 prayer groups keep potential goers’ visions from dulling.

On the P15 website, two types of prayer groups are described:

Priority15 Prayer Teams meet virtually once a week for 30 minutes to pray the Scriptures over the P15 unreached regions of the earth.

Priority15 Goer Cohorts are for those focused on leaving their homeland as long-term career goers to the unreached within the next five years. We are all active on a weekly Priority15 Prayer Team and we meet virtually every two months.2

So, what is P15 doing right?

When I asked conference attendees what they perceived as pillars of P15, responses always emphasized prayer and/or a faithful, like-minded community. P offered three: “I think ordinary people investing time in prayer; praying for God’s glory to be made known where it is not yet known; and believing that interceding for the nations changes history.”

A and his wife are both in a prayer group and Goer Cohort. A and M say, “Prayer is a priority for us and praying through Scripture regularly with others for unreached people certainly is in line with what we feel God made us for.” A second priority is “meeting regularly with others who also believe Jesus is worth everything, including moving to difficult places and even suffering to make disciples.”

S, a preparing goer, explained, “P15 has a solid foundation because they seek to be a prayer movement more than being a people movement.” He enthusiastically shares, “In Luke 10:2, Jesus says the harvest is plentiful but workers are few, and praying is the answer to that problem! Our tendency is to start making things happen, but praying is to be our first response!” Smiling, he adds, “Although many of those prayers conclude with us asking, ‘What if we are the answer to our own prayers?!’”

A writes, “Since we were still in the U.S., I felt I needed fellowship and encouragement to continue focusing on unreached people and preparing to go.” M also expresses gratitude for their praying community and the relationships that are built through shared prayers and goal setting for Scripture memory. “Without prayer, strongholds cannot be broken. We pray for breakthroughs, laborers to be sent, and current laborer requests. These groups are so worth it.”

In Summary

M summarizes the emerging culture I found within P15 best, “We all have this innate desire to be a part of a grand adventure, this bigger story that God is writing, and we recognize that ‘missions as usual’ isn’t going to get us to these remaining people groups. Prayer is the strategy, and any of us going is just a bonus.” Prayer and consistent community with others who believe Jesus is worth everything are the distinguishing values of the P15 culture. I didn’t expect it, but I was wowed by a new generation of passionate followers of Jesus.

Endnotes
  1. Ryan Shaw, “Developing Mission Mobilization Movements in Local Ministries,” Mission Frontiers, Nov/Dec 2022, 9.

  2. https://priority15.org/partner

This is an article from the SEPT/OCT 2023 issue: Arts, Worship, and Mission in Today’s Church

Seven Core Values That Guide GEN

Seven Core Values That Guide GEN
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GEN’s Central Commitment

The Global Ethnodoxology Network (GEN) seeks to remain faithful to a biblical vision of the future by encouraging communities of Jesus followers in every culture to engage with God and the world through their own artistic expressions. GEN offers networking, training, and resources to support the growing movement furthering these goals. Sound theology undergirds each of the values summarized in this document.

Value #1: Christian Worship

GEN celebrates the stunning variety of Christian worship patterns in the global Church.

Ethnodoxology’s central focus is worship. Worship is the act of adoring and praising God, ascribing worth to Father|Son|Spirit as the one who deserves homage, allegiance, and faithful service. From individual to corporate devotion, worship denotes a lifestyle of being in love with God. The global Church exhibits an astounding array of worship patterns, demonstrating the enormity of God’s creativity and the diversity of the Body of Christ.

Grateful

JO-ANN RICHARDS GOFFE is a Jamaican Christian Cultural Advocate and member of GEN since 2003. Speaker, Author, and Singer/ Songwriter, she is Founding Director of CREW 40:4, a Jamaican based non-profit focused on culturally relevant expressions of worship.

I remember that 1996 July/August Mission Frontiers issue like it was yesterday. When I read Tom Avery and Jack Popje’s articles, light bulbs went off in my head. I immediately said to myself: “That’s what I want to do!” I had already accepted God’s invitation to join Him in global mission, but I had no idea specifically what my role was until I read those two articles.

Who knew that both writers would become my dear friends and supporters? When my home church commissioned me to serve with Wycliffe in Burkina Faso in 2002, Jack was Wycliffe Caribbean Director and spoke at my commissioning service, and Tom Avery, then-SIL Ethnomusicology Director, would become my mentor. That was more than twenty years ago!

Music is my passion, and worship music comes with lyrics. So, my field assignment, first in West Africa, and then in the Americas, was to work alongside translators, helping church musicians to write Scripture-based songs that incorporated both their own languages and music genres.

It wasn’t until I returned to Jamaica two years later that I realized I was equipping others to do what my own Jamaican people needed—to create church songs in our own language and music. Yes, we could always adjust the music to make it ours, but the language itself was an issue. Its associated stigma caused many to reject it completely, especially in the holy worship space.

My own Jamaican mother raised us to speak English only, and we were good obedient children. She even went as far as to fine us (yes, she charged us money) for speaking anything but “the Queen’s English”! I fell in love with the Jamaican language, Patwa, but for me, practically, I couldn’t get it to fit in with the worship experience.

But God had a plan. The Bible Society of the West Indies was working on translating the New Testament into Patwa. As I waited for my new assignment, I ministered in Jamaica using Patwa Scripture portions. The responses were powerful! My own mother got to see for herself how important, necessary, and powerful it is to receive the Scriptures in your own heart language, and through songs, too!

When my mother passed away in November 2021, she was reading through the Jamaican New Testament for the third time. She used it for devotions with her caregivers, and while she had the strength, she danced to the rhythms of the songs I had since produced: “Laad Yu Gud! [Lord You Are Good!]” and “Notn no De We Gad Kyaahn Du! [Nothing is Impossible with God!].”

The progress seems slow and sometimes discouraging, but more and more Jamaican worshippers are being set free to express their worship to God in Jamaican language and musical genres. Kom Mek Wi Worship!

Multicultural Worship

JOY KIM studied piano, church music, and music education before graduating from Dallas International University with a Master’s degree in World Arts. She currently works as an ethnodoxologist in Clarkston, Georgia, with Proskuneo Ministries. Joy works with diaspora artists from diverse backgrounds to engage in global mission through building multicultural worshiping communities.

“We’re all so different. We come from all these places and backgrounds. But nevertheless, we worship. It’s all in the nevertheless.”

What makes the worship in the multicultural Proskuneo community of Clarkston, Georgia, somehow richer? The diversity in their gathering, language, culture, generation, and religious background traditions, demands a higher and deeper sense of community of those present. When people bring all that they are into the worship space, give themselves to each other and to God, and feel safe to bring themselves, they can fully contribute, listen, receive, and create together. They share leadership and like to imagine what is possible with the wealth of perspective, language, and skill in their group.

The group started with two families gathering for potluck and worship together. From there, it grew organically until they asked themselves, “Is this worship? Are we a church?” They hadn’t intended to plant a church, but their relationships, shared context, and their response to each other birthed something special.

People might attribute this specialness to their refugee and immigrant context, but, more aptly, they are a third-culture space created by the interplay of different cultural influences. Proskuneo Ministries attracts bicultural people of all kinds, sympathetic to a life of moving around, who appreciate and navigate diversity in their lives, by choice or necessity. They share a sense of uprootedness, but that’s not “it” either. They are greater than the sum of their parts.

Most people prefer to worship within a shared language and culture, not with “others.” But this community leaned into each other because they had to. Their differences afforded them no presumptive common ground, except their desire to be together. “As we brought together the new ingredients, the process became ours and we felt we belonged to it,” Joy said. It’s unique, and each week’s service brings something new: a song they learn, a new language, nuance, or perspective on Scripture. Middle Eastern members highlight rich cultural connections in Scriptures too. Syrian and Ethiopian members bring their ancient church history. It’s their special embodiment of unity in diversity.

In each culture and language, God has imprinted His image. There’s just so much to learn about God. Art is kind of like breathing in and out—so integrated that they don’t even know who created what sometimes. “Whose song is it?” Joy asks. “It’s just ours.”

God is community in and of Himself. We must worship Him from all of ourselves. Joy is bilingual, so she can worship well in one of her languages, but rarely both at once. Joy’s community doesn’t simply sing a YouTube song in that language, but deeply looks at who is in their midst, and what is meaningful to them. This multicultural group brings more of themselves because they are both welcome and willing to.

Value #2: Potent Arts

GEN recognizes arts as indispensable to human thriving.

The arts are integral to personal and individual expression, and in initiating, transmitting, and reinforcing interpersonal and group communication. They permeate communities, marking messages as important, embedded in, and separate from everyday activities, drawing not only on cognitive, but also experiential, bodily, multimodal, and emotional ways of knowing. Arts instill solidarity, reinforce identity, and serve as a memory aid. They inspire people to action, provide socially acceptable frameworks for expressing difficult or new ideas, and open spaces for people to imagine and dream.

The Power of Arts in Mission

DAVID OLUSEYI IGE is a worship leader and a cross-cultural missionary. He is deeply committed to seeing nations worship the Lord in their unique and indigenous ways. He is an Arts Advocate and coordinates the Worship from the Nations initiative, a project of Declare Global Outreach Mission that seeks to produce 1,000 indigenous songs, 300 music videos, and 100 evangelistic films for 100 unreached people groups in the Sahel of West Africa. He has a Master’s in World Arts from Dallas International University.

On a bright, sunny, Sahel day, four university students came to visit John1 while the newly produced Fula song played from his phone. Intrigued, they were surprised to hear this story song. “Where did you find this? This is our song.” They asked more about this prodigal son mentioned in the song, and he invited them to learn more such stories from the Bible. Eventually, they became followers of Jesus and are baptized disciples today.

The arts powerfully and effectively communicate and transform. Particularly, music plays a significant role in various societies, from soothing lullabies to mournful dirges. In oral contexts in Sahel countries, I have seen that music conveys the truth of God’s Word in a non-threatening manner.

The arts connect people and foster understanding and acceptance. New missionaries of the past often downplayed or avoided artistic genres, or worse, condemned them as ungodly. Through these very arts, though, many oral-preference learners in the world now have received the Gospel, especially through technological advancement and accessibility.

Yoruba people believe that when words fail to communicate complex ideas or emotions, proverbs can step in to bridge the gap. Arts catalyze social change through their ability to challenge practices, provoking thought and inspiring action. Yoruba kings are addressed as Kabiyesi, or, “Who dare ask or challenge you?” But the poet may send coded messages to challenge the king or send an unpleasant message indirectly by means of socially acceptable artistic frameworks for expressing difficult or new ideas beyond mere words. Nathan’s parable so challenged King David in the Bible.

Additionally, arts serve as memory aids, reinforcing identity and helping people remember the message, as God commanded Moses to do in teaching a song to the Israelites, ensuring the message would be remembered by future generations. Arts also preserve cultural heritage and celebrate the unique identity of different people groups. Many countries have policies favoring the broadcast of local productions on national media platforms, including Christian content in local genres. This not only promotes the national culture and heritage but also provides an opportunity to share the Gospel. When the communication medium aptly fits a people, that people perceive the message as their own, and a significant hurdle in sharing the Gospel is overcome.

Visual Art and Spiritual Formation

SUJATHA BALASUNDARAM engages people with Scripture and in prayer using visual art, especially line drawing heavily influenced by folk and tribal art from India.

As a child in Indian school, Sujatha struggled with memorization. A friend encouraged her to draw her response and describe her drawing, and it worked! So, she drew all her subjects: History, Chemistry, Physics, Biology— everything. Soon, she drew to study Scripture and pray too. Ever since, she has encountered God through drawing.

Sometimes Sujatha starts drawing with no plan. When drawing “Tree”, she started with just the tree trunk on folded paper before she saw the impression on the other side and began to trace it carefully, in stillness. As she worked, she remembered Psalm 46:10: “Be still and know that I am God.” The free process taught her that reflecting God’s image requires stillness. Another improvised drawing “Eyes” brought to life Proverbs 15:3, “The eyes of the Lord, are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”

As a new mother, she’d grab a few minutes as she could between feedings and naps to connect with God by continuing a drawing on a napkin or scratch paper, each time picking up where she left off. As the children grew, she would put crayons and paper in front of them as she read to them. By the colors and shapes they drew, Sujatha realized they were processing what they heard. As they grew, she’d ask them about their drawings and saw familiar connections at work in them. Sujatha pondered her children’s drawings as an opportunity to sit with the Holy Spirit and sink deeply in those Scriptures. “We shouldn’t take that lightly. The power of art is very compelling,” she said.

She shared her drawings with other kids and parents. When others urged her to share them online, too, her online following surprised her. Some of the motifs Sujatha used resonated with a lady from Iran and when she asked what it meant, Sujatha was able to give a reason for her faith. In addition to aiding processing, Sujatha found art to be a powerful conversation starter, especially for spiritual themes.

Sujatha posts her works and devotional thoughts online in webinars. During COVID, a group formed a collaborative devotional in which they would begin some art on a name of God and then pass it around the group for each person to develop, discussing it each time. They learned from each other as they drew. The group created seven Advent devotionals with requests for more. Other contemplative Lenten devotionals are available for download at Artresponses.com.

During COVID, Sujatha developed a coloring activity based on some cognitive behavioral therapy exercises—processing what we’re in control of, and what we’re not—which helped several schoolteachers navigating mandatory online teaching. People seek ways to relax, and Sujatha says that increasing that space in God’s presence is our privilege.

In spaces where people are displaced or struggling, Sujatha hopes to see art direct those struggles to God. She works through various churches and ministries, keeping discipleship as the priority, and art as the means. We don’t learn from our experiences as much as we learn from reflecting on those experiences. Art enhances that reflection.

Finding Beauty in Local Fashion and Visual Art

YOUNHEE DEBORAH KIM is an art advocate and ethnodoxologist. She has worked in African countries since 2009 and in some European countries recently. Also, she is a director of Arts in Mission Korea, which is a mission organization that mobilizes and trains Korean Christians to use their artistic talents for God’s kingdom and cross-cultural missions. She joined Inspiro Arts Alliance in 2021 and is working as a short-term project manager.

The first time Younhee helped with a song workshop in Africa, she saw firsthand the power of local, authentic language and art to connect people to God and Scripture. After a few days of composing songs in the regional language, participants switched to their local language and music style which created a night-and-day difference. Authentic praise simply flowed. Since then, Younhee wanted to see that extend into the realm of her own fields, visual arts and fashion, especially in places like Africa with such vibrant and colorful fabrics.

The creative process happens differently at the level of local culture. Younhee led a visual arts workshop among women in Africa using fabric local to their rural setting. As they discussed the role of creativity in everyday life, the women struggled with the concept to perform their task of creating something with their local fabric, especially when it seemed to them quite ordinary. They thought of art as something that required a snazzier pattern like those in city fabrics of other people groups.

Younhee kept encouraging them, though. She asked, “What can you make with this fabric, apart from clothing?” The women began to think up various souvenirs, jewelry, bags, or hairbands to make. As they began to work with their own fabric, they discovered something important: beauty exists in what was theirs, too. When they discussed art—music and dance and fashion—they hadn’t considered that their own singing, dancing, and fabric could also be beautiful. That’s the power of art and creativity.

A 2012 arts camp in Benin featured a painting art camp for children and a fashion program for adults, mostly Beninoise young ladies, which culminated in a runway experience in which the women modeled their creations with their own bodies. They dressed in their own creations from head to toe, proudly presenting their art with newfound confidence and pride in their local designs as beautiful. In the future, Younhee hopes to help women to create small businesses with their fashion designs.

At a different workshop, regional Sunday school teachers in Tanzania studied Scripture in the mornings to create teaching songs, paintings, drawings, and fabric art, and taught them to children in the afternoon. Through teaching with their art, they discovered the high value that exists in arts of all kinds, not only music, and that the creative process brings life to learning, teaching, and engaging with Scripture.

Value #3: Historical Awareness

GEN situates its goals and activities within global, regional, and local histories and in their sociocultural dynamics.

We recognize the complex and constantly changing nature of every individual’s and community’s artistry and worship practices, including our own. Because Euro-American art forms have largely accompanied the spread of Christianity in recent centuries, local artistic traditions—especially those of ethnolinguistic minorities—often remain outside the church. Ethnodoxology seeks to redress this imbalance by retaining a robust engagement with representatives of local, older, often rural artistic histories. We also celebrate urban multicultural, multiartistic identities and creativity that mark more and more Christian communities, developing resources to help them craft unique worship practices.

Embracing Local Arts in India

DR. JACOB JOSEPH served 23 years at New Theological College in Dehradun and started the first university accredited indigenous church music program in North India. Presently he serves as the Dean of the School of Worship and Music at South Asia Institute of Advanced Christian Studies (SAIACS) in Bangalore. He is married and has four boys.

Vestiges of foreign missionary work remain in Jacob Joseph’s native South Indian church: benches, shoes inside, a Western organ, and translated Western hymns. The hymnbook does include locally written songs, albeit sung in hymn-style, but mostly the translated hymns are sung. The music, though dear to those who sing it, remains foreign. The church simply has not budged on its music, which is so culturally ill-fitting that secular comedy programs even ridicule the Western music and language of the church.

Jacob studied Western music abroad to train church leaders in India. His direction abruptly changed, however, after attending GCoMM where Chris Hale led worship in Hindustani styles. Jacob found himself completely wrapped up in worship, and he caught the vision for Indian worship. His study focus changed to indigenous music which he set out to implement back in India.

Jacob went to work planning a worship service at his college with Indian music and poetry to worship the Trinity with local dance and preaching style. The tambura drone opened the service, and some of Chris Hale’s songs followed. People began walking out, even from the front row! Dozens more exited during the dance, and by the end, only fifty people remained of four hundred. Students shouted, “devil!” and pushed on Jacob’s chest, calling shame on him in an uproar. The next day, classes were cancelled amid student protests demanding Jacob’s dismissal. Finally, the college founder and principal gathered the students to preach a long sermon on biblical foundations for local music, offer public support for Jacob and for more indigenous worship.

People calmed down, but the tides had not yet turned. Jacob recognized the bondage of colonialization that continued in his tradition when the most standard Christian songs put to Indian dance suddenly turned “devilish.” Throughout that year, Jacob incorporated indigenous worship into his Theology of Worship course and preached on the topic at every opportunity. He also invited ethnodoxologist Ian Collinge, whom he’d met at GCoMM, to India to present an academic paper and teach a course for the student community.

The next year, Independence Day fell on a Sunday, and a friend urged Jacob to try again with another Indian service. So, this time, worshipers removed their shoes before entering the chapel. Mats covered the floor instead of chairs, and marble chips outlined each state in a large map of India in the center. The service opened when a three-headed lamp was lit, symbolizing the Trinity. A newly composed folk song in a local dance style followed, and a student from every state of India that was represented in the community came forward, lit a diya (small clay lamp) from the three-headed lamp, and placed it on their state. The group sang “God is so good” in those twenty-eight languages in local musical styles and prayed together over specific requests from every state. No one walked out this time, and people even stayed afterward, weeping in prayer for their state around the map.

Since that remarkable day, Indian music is part of the curriculum and chapel service, and the college even offers sitar training for use in worship. As they go out to minister in unreached areas, they look for ways to incorporate local arts into their work.

“It doesn’t happen overnight,” Jacob said. “I’m not blaming the missionaries,” he insists, noting the immense work of love the songbook compilation and Bible translations displayed. It is time for the Indian church to take initiative to make church more Indian. New cross-cultural work attests that local worship is essential.

Indigenous Revitalization in Philippines

ROCE ANOG MADINGER serves with her husband at the Institutes for Orality Strategies. She also volunteers part-time for SIL Philippines as an Ethnoarts Specialist.

Among the indigenous groups in the Philippines that Roce has supported in ethnoarts, one Matigsalug story stands out. The story was six to eight years in the making, beginning with the work of the Holy Spirit through Tano, an encouraging mother tongue Scripture translator who was convinced of arts’ power to move people’s hearts. He invited Roce to conduct a workshop with her outsider voice, which can be heard differently.

The community went through quite a transformation. After an initial ethnoarts workshop, the church invited Roce back three times over the years for further workshops. The community worships using their attire, dances, instruments, and their own language. “We encourage and celebrate this. We affirm this. We want to provide spaces where communities can freely worship God using expressions that are closest to their hearts,” said Roce. They began to use their own arts and language more and learned to appreciate the role of culture in understanding and sharing the Gospel.

Their worship now vibrantly displays colorful indigenous dress, enthusiastic traditional movements, and the blended sounds of traditional songs in local language with modern instruments. From child to grandparent, the church connects to God, one another, and their indigenous identity across generations. This transformed church now reaches other indigenous communities with fewer language and cultural barriers to cross.

More than that, their creativity and innovation keep spinning. They sound both modern and traditional, integrating old and new together so members can connect to the worship honoring both past and future. They also feel free to adapt reggae music with their own twists of local language and movements.

Roce saw how elder Nanay (mother) Adelina modeled and taught the ulahing, a traditional spontaneous art-song for use in prayer. The young people didn’t know how to do it, but she patiently taught and guided them. The youth tried it out bravely, mistakes and all, laughing together, and rejoicing when they got it right.

One visiting urban pastor who witnessed the lively dancing and singing in worship said he wanted to bring his entire leadership team to come be inspired by the community. In his church, men usually don’t dance, but Romans 12:1–2 beseeches us not only to transform our minds, but also to present our bodies in living sacrifice. Roce felt invigorated to dance in worship in her own church back home after visiting this church and seeing their example. The urban church could learn so much from this group’s knack for crossing generational boundaries and creatively giving room for innovations. “We need more of this in the urban setting as well.

There’s so much freedom!”

Value #4: Human Agency

GEN respects the right and capacity of every individual and all communities to shape their own artistic realities.

Artistic products are made, appreciated, and given value by people. We endeavor to encourage the diversity of human artistic ingenuity locally and wheresoever these arts are exported. We acknowledge, honor, celebrate, and value the unique artistic creations and contributions of individuals and communities. Therefore we cultivate these gifts both in our own communities and in those we endeavor to encourage and collaborate with so that they can continue to explore their unique identities and giftings—the dynamic arts that are the heart of the people as individuals and in community.

Local Language Scripture Stories and Songs

VENI SETIAWATI

Veni Setiawati tells her ethnoarts story from Toraja, south Suluwesi in Indonesia. After Veni’s church hosted a Multi-Lingual Education project for children in partnership with a university, a Christian organization, and local government, the positive effects had the church asking for more Sunday school curriculum in the local language. The drastic change was evident in the children’s faces when they heard Bible stories in their own Toraja language as they listened enthusiastically and engaged with the lessons. As a result, the adults also began to engage with Scripture stories in their own language.

Later, the church invited an ethnoarts specialist to come train them and made a commitment to create songs not only for the adults but for the children too. After creating more than 70 songs and stories, they arranged to have a jamboree festival. Over 3,000 Toraja children came from all over Indonesia. A full Bible translation had been completed and accessible for 80 years in the regional language, but it was too difficult for Toraja children to engage with it. The Bible stories when told in the Toraja language were easier for the children to understand.

Local excitement from the jamboree paved the way for a Toraja Bible translation, and now they have completed Luke. Church leaders anxiously await an audio version of Luke as well and want local Toraja church schools to read the Scriptures daily in school. SIL arts specialists are working with the community to continue arts trainings.

Authentic Heart Music

ELSEN PORTUGAL

Elsen notes that life and art flow from historical interaction between cultures. In north-central Brazil, outside Brazilian missionaries have lived for over 60 years among the Xerente indigenous people preaching the Gospel, loving the community, and even acting to protect them from demise. The Xerente loved their friends and welcomed them and their strange cultural sights, sounds, and ways, mixing them with their own. But eventually, instruments and song styles—both Christian and secular—derived from inside, outside, and wider regional cultures blended, creating a contemporary Xerente reality. By 2010, Xerente music style settled into a fusion of all these influences. Christians among them worship authentically from these artistic places, although, to outsiders, the fusion likely sounds as if they were simply trying to imitate regional genres.

Enter the purist ethnomusicologists, trying to reverse colonialist history, advocating for indigenous worship with a passion as blind as the predecessors they criticize but now from the opposite angle. It’s tempting to criticize the intention of historical predecessors in mission, but two centuries back, people held a different perspective, and like us, were a product of their time. We experience intercultural richness they never knew and have learned things they didn’t know: that there is beauty in every culture, and culture is always in flux.

As Elsen studied this process, he delineated four signpost questions surrounding meaning, function, competency, and agency that help assess whether music, regardless of its origin, truly reflects local identity, or, in other words, is authentically theirs. Does the artistic form connect with real meaning to the community and its individuals? Does it fill a role in the community? Does the community have sufficient competent individuals to create, perform, and sustain the form? Does the community have the voice and ability to administer the form without external imposition?

A soundtrack of Xerente life truly includes fusions of the cultural influences that touch and shape it. The Xerente themselves name what is their music, which songs touch their hearts and resonate with their identity. Brazil is all about fusions like samba and bossa nova which arose from experimentation in sound and style mixes which stuck. That’s the story of artistic development around the world, and the increase in cultural movement and technological advance have amplified even more the diversity of sounds and fusions.

The Xerente respected the missionaries who had very much become a part of their community, but who also chose not to wield undue influence over artistic decisions that firmly belong to the Xerente. As Elsen researched the Xerente music world as an outsider, he acknowledged expectations that he would return having helped them create indigenous worship music. While his visits did indeed provide them with a biblical foundation for using arts and affirmed the value of their arts, he discovered that the creation of authentic indigenous music was already happening as they asserted their own agency to name what music was theirs.

This process beautifully exemplifies what can happen naturally as a community employs their own agency. Outsiders do well to encourage people toward something new and perhaps closer to the core of a community’s authentic self-understanding, but it is the community’s privilege and responsibility to name who they are and what parts of the many surrounding influences authentically reflects their reality.

Human Agency in Brazil

HÉBER NEGRÃO is the anthropology and ethnoarts coordinator at the Evangelical Missionary Linguistic Association (Wycliffe in Brazil) and he is a board member of the Global Ethnodoxology Network. He has been involved in ethnoarts ministry in Brazil for 16 years. Currently he is pursuing his PhD in world arts at Dallas International University. His passion is to see every people praising God using their own arts in a culturally appropriate way. He is married to Sophia, and they have two children.

In my years of ministry with ethnoarts, I have witnessed various forms of human agency. For example, the Bible translation team for the Paypa people in central Brazil had recently finished translating the Gospel of Luke. They wanted portions of it in an artform to engage the people with the recent work. To help them achieve that goal, I conducted a series of conversations using participatory activities that would facilitate detailed reflection on this project.

The team decided to create a video of the parable of the two builders (Luke 6:46–49) with contextualized visual art. They illustrated a good and a bad house following the cultural construction techniques. After that, we created a short video with those drawings, narrated in Paypa. In the process, the team also devised other goals for that artwork; they wanted to encourage people to trust God. Finally, they planned to create videos with different stories from Luke to share in villages throughout the region.

During a song-writing workshop for the Xerente people in central Brazil, Elsen Portugal and I noticed that the church leaders were hesitant to use the (rattle) because of its traditional association with shaman healing rituals. After conversations and Bible studies, the church leaders decided to dedicate the in prayer for use only in worship to God and subsequently even took it to other villages to use confidently in worship.

Sometimes, however, people decide to go in a different direction than we expect. Our role as arts facilitators is to point the way of cultural validation, like a flashlight that illuminates the way at night, showing what’s ahead. We cannot force people to go in a direction they do not want to go. When this happens, we must “respect the right and capacity of every individual and all communities to shape their own artistic realities,”2 as GEN value #4 states.

After walking a group of indigenous leaders in Brazil through a week-long course, “Indigenous Music to the Indigenous Church,” I encouraged them to compose new songs based on their newly translated Bible portions. I planned to record the new compositions so they could take them back to their villages. They hesitated, so I asked what they wanted to do. They preferred to record the existing Western songs of their translated hymnals. So, that was what we did.

In contrast, I conducted the same course in East Timor to a completely different outcome. The 25 seminar participants were from seven of the small country’s widely diverse language groups. After quick research on local song styles, they composed songs based on the same context as the songs they chose. The result was seven beautiful and impactful new songs in their language.

Value #5: Locally-Grounded Methods

GEN favors methods that amplify local agency and creativity.

We encourage the development of a wide variety of arts in the life and worship of the church, acknowledging the importance of local decision-making in the choice of art forms. Given our emphasis on individual and community agency, we choose participatory methods like appreciative inquiry in ethnographic research and sparking creativity. We esteem local categories and practices of artistry as primary, rooting our analyses in the practitioners’ worldview. This affirms the communicative, motivational, identity-strengthening power of locally-created expressive arts. In short, we embrace a “Find it—Encourage it” model of arts engagement rather than a “Bring it—Teach it” model.

Scriptural Bridges in Local Histories

JHONNY A. NEITO OSSA is director of ALDEA, Asociacion Latinoamericana de Etno-artes.

I directed a group of Field Methods and Research students into the Yanesha community of Peru. Through fielding questions about their artistic genres, community representatives analyzed their own forms and discovered how unconsciously they had been praising God in life and church. Art was everywhere, even in the lines of their suits and the color of men’s and women’s clothing. Even the local materials and the way their clothing was made reaffirmed their identity as a people, and itself directed others constantly to praise God.

We were amazed at all we had learned as outsiders, but the Yanesha also reveled in remembering their roots. A villager told us how the ancient Yaneshas had worshiped a true God but eventually followed others in worshiping the sun god Inti. Once, the community travelled west to meet the sun. They walked for days down the Andes mountains to the Peruvian coast just to see the sun set beyond Pacific Ocean horizon. They concluded that Inti would always be beyond their reach, whereas the true God of their previous worship had always been present among them, day and night. By remembering their stories and through critical reflection, they affirmed their identity as a people and recognized the power of their local arts to redirect their worship to the true God. Peruvian Yanesha worship Him still.

God is also present in the mythology of another group, the Amazonian Ticuna. Biblical typologies abound within local histories, like a Cain/Abel pair of brothers named Yoi and Ipi, and the huito, the sacred fruit of a tree of good and evil. Jesus’ call to be fishers of men connects to the story of a god who took fish from the Amazon to become men who inhabited the jungle like the first Ticunas. An eternal city with no pain or suffering also exists beneath the Amazon. Sound familiar? Myths I grew up hearing resonate with those I hear in every community I visit. This connection allows me to dialogue with the Ticuna as they examine their worldview and practices and their relationship to their celebrations at festivals, transition rites, and the daily art that characterizes everything they do.

Deep acknowledgement of Jehovah as the eternal God and Creator of the universe requires deep conversations over time. Here, the beauty of ethnodoxology enters as a discipline which allows us to get to the roots to appreciate the cultural wealth of Amazonian peoples. Discovering how God was already present in this community and how He has been working until now has not only reaffirmed their cultural identity with models of worship typical to the jungle. It has also opened a dialogue to construct local theology from ethnographic, theological, artistic, and missiological study, because within its legends lies even a typology of the Great Commission. The disciple Nathanael wondered what good could come out of Nazareth. The Ticunas should not have to ask, “Can anything good come out of the Jungle?” Like Jesus’ response to Nathanael, surely God can say to the Ticunas, “When you were under the huito tree, I saw you.”

Inclusive Creativity in Worship

NINOSHKA GELPI SALAS is a special ed teacher with a specialization in Autism and dance and body movement. She finished her master’s studies at Alliance University (Nyack, NY). Together with her husband, Jhonny A. Nieto Ossa, they run ALDEA (Latin American Association of Ethnoarts)

As a special education teacher, I always look for new and creative ways for my students to develop life skills. Art plays a crucial role in meeting their need. How can these children with special needs come to know the Gospel and choose to follow Christ as Lord and Savior? And how will they praise Him? How can they be included in the life and worship of the Church? My task is to help local churches to consider realities through conversations, talks, or workshops that allow the whole Body of Christ to worship in community, including special populations.

When I teach the Creating Local Arts Together (CLAT) method in the GEN course “Arts for a Better Future,” I share from my experience as a special education teacher to encourage participants to consider creatively how to engage not only the indigenous ethnic groups but all peoples who do not know God. In this way our students are more open to apply CLAT in community development.

What will it take to reach a people? It will take serious investigative work in ethnographic research and creativity in Bible translation, literacy, multicultural worship, church planting, and discipleship. Encouraging creative thinking is the largest part of my joint ministry with my husband as we teach in Bible translation schools in Argentina, Peru, and Paraguay, in churches in El Salvador, Colombia, and Puerto Rico, and in theological seminaries.

As mobilizers we teach the importance of communicating the Gospel in culturally relevant ways. In our Introduction to Missions course, we encourage students to learn from the mistakes of the past which underestimated local art practices in worship. In local worldviews, the communicative, motivating, and strengthening power of expressive arts, created locally, affirms that local identity.

In this way, as an ethnodoxologist, by combining my profession and my passion for art, I fulfill the purpose of praising God, and inspire others to praise Him by finding their identity in Him and creating from their own local experience for the glory of God. In other words, “Find it and Encourage it!”

Value #6: Academic Rigor

GEN carefully integrates insights and methods from the many disciplines that contribute to accomplishing its goals.

We value and develop resources that provide holistic views and positions from a variety of disciplines. Among others, these include performance studies; folkloristics; creativity studies; musicology; orality; anthropologies of arts—music, poetics, choreography, dance, theater, visual arts; along with missiology, worship studies, and other theological disciplines. In our research, writing, and practice we endeavor to maintain high academic standards as well as performances and products that best emulate the creative and representative attributes of the works generated by individuals and communities. Ethnodoxologists need not be professional academics, but they must plan and act informed by rigorous, nuanced, analytical ideas.

Scholarship as Love

ANYA EZHEVSKAYA is a recent graduate of Dallas International University with a PhD in World Arts. She serves as the assistant editor of GEN’s Ethnodoxology journal and as a Wycliffe volunteer while continuing her job as a translator and interpreter for NASA's Johnson Space Center, raising her two teenagers with her husband, and serving as elder at Webster Presbyterian Church. In her free time, she enjoys painting, dancing, climbing trees, camping with her family, eating tasty things, and exploring the world.

Since adolescence, I’ve been trying to combine my faith and my commitment to the life of the mind. This desire took different forms. For example, when I led a Bible study, I dove so deep into the exegesis of the Greek that I lost most members of the group. I went to a large, secular university but majored in Religious Studies. I marveled at God’s revelation in nature by exploring biology and the technical sciences. The list goes on. It all felt somewhat right but also—unsatisfying. When I joined Webster Presbyterian Church (my current church) and the pastor spoke of us Presbyterians “serving God well by using our minds well,” I felt I was on the right path. And when I learned about Dallas International University’s PhD program in World Arts, I felt like I had finally found an ideal combination.

The program brings together thorough training of theory and praxis as it pertains to the exploration of ethnic arts around the world and offers the students ample opportunities to apply gained expertise to the furthering of God’s kingdom on Earth. Humans across the globe use artistic means to relay the deepest elements of their identity and spirit to each other. From the lullabies a mother sings to her child to the ritual dances that send a loved one off when they die, creative means of self-expression bring individuals together across generations. Significantly, people are often best able to connect and relate to their Creator through the artistic media of singing, moving to music, recitation of sacred words, and more. By learning how to learn and understand various artforms from around the world, graduates in this PhD program learn to form connections, build bridges, lift up, encourage, and foreground communities. Graduates, like myself, can also walk alongside community leaders and help them tap into the power of their arts to reach important community goals.

As I went through the PhD program and am now, having completed it, looking for God’s guidance of where to apply my newly gained knowledge, I grow increasingly more confident of this: academic rigor integrated into a grounded faith is a powerful thing. Not only have I been able to use my skills already to do research, publish papers, and speak at conferences, but I have been able to serve as GEN’s Ethnodoxology journal assistant editor. Most importantly, though, I have understood that to learn about a community’s artistic expressions, to talk to individuals, to ask them about their experiences, and to seek to understand the depth of their traditions and cultural wisdom—this is an act of love. This is one way that we show care to each other. Listening and asking questions, leaning into, sitting quietly, reflecting back, and doing so with discipline, scholarly integrity, and commitment to accurate representation—this is scholarship and also, this is love.

Local Arts Training for Pastors in Cameroon and DRC

ROCH NTANKEH, PhD is an assistant professor at the Cameroon Faculty of Evangelical Theology where he teaches missiology and ethnodoxology. He is also an ethnodoxology consultant for several organizations with which he often leads composition workshops in Cameroon and French-speaking Africa.

Music has always fascinated Roch. For decades, he has studied, taught, and composed local African music. As he entered the arena of pastoral training, he worked with Brian Schrag and others in SIL Cameroon to establish ethnomusicology-based principles for application in the local church. Later, these courses integrated more theology to develop into ethnodoxology to supply the training they needed, that fit the reality and context, rather than Western notation courses. Roch also recognized the need in Cameroon to train church leaders to match the local leadership structure. The top of the pyramid has a voice; the bottom doesn’t. So, reaching the person on the top of the pyramid means that you have reached those at the base. Who better to train than future pastors who will go out and lead new churches with fresh ideas?

Roch’s courses led him to PhD studies abroad where he wrote on restoration of local arts, and later, the redemption of local arts. He says, “Just as our lives were changed when we heard the Gospel, so it is with our lives, our identity, and capacity. As we are new creatures now, so should it be with our arts. Gospel encounter offers our arts that same new identity and capacity, and our art then belongs to God—our instruments, our genres, everything.”

After Roch completed his dissertation, he continued teaching, training, and leading composition workshops and using biblical principles to advocate for traditional music in church. He took opportunities to talk with the Faculty of Theology in various institutions in DRC and Cameroon which paved the way to establish five-day intensive courses. Roch wants local Christians to understand that the Bible has nothing against local genres. His courses survey instruments in the Bible, beginning with Psalm 150. In places like Psalm 103:1, “Praise the Lord, my soul, all my inmost being,” the Bible commands our innermost expression of praise to God.

Roch began to translate published resources into French for his pastoral training courses, such as Music in the Life of the African Church3 and some articles from Worship and Mission for the Global Church4 among others. He continues to develop local training material in French. No training existed for Roch as a young church musician to develop his own local arts, only to learn foreign music. He continues to create courses to train both artistic local Christians and church leadership alike. Roch anticipates the day when more robust financial and personnel resources open the way for more widespread and frequent training courses.

Ethnodoxology in Research and Practice

MELANIE HENDERSON Melanie is a musician and arts advocate who has served cross-culturally in Southeast Asia and North America. As a multi-instrumentalist and church worship facilitator, she has served with congregations in Malaysia, Cambodia, and the US.

My journey into the world of ethnodoxology began a few years ago at a weekend workshop, not as an academic pursuit but as training for ministry in a multiethnic society. The two days were designed for local church members and artists. Among other topics, we delved into intercultural and multilingual worship, where ethnodoxologist Ian Collinge shared about his research to help Christian communities who desire to move toward multicultural worship.

Later, as a non-credit participant in the Arts for a Better Future workshop (one of GEN’s trainings), I was introduced to the trailblazing research and ministry of Dr. Brian Schrag. The outworking of this research, Creating Local Arts Together Manual, and its companion Worship and Mission for the Global Church: An Ethnodoxology Handbook (edited by Dr. James Krabill) are practical tools which were informed by academic research and innovative cross-cultural practices. These resources are deeply influenced by the realm of holistic community development work and lessons learned and best practices gleaned from a host of ethnodoxologists.

Now, as a world arts PhD student, I’m learning more about the foundational theories which undergird and help us to be effective as we work among the nations. We look up to scholars in our field, like Dr. Roberta King, Dr. Jean Kidula, Dr. Jay Moon, Dr. Robin Harris, Dr. Brian Schrag, Dr. James Krabill, Dr. Roch Ntankeh, and a host of the movement’s global leaders. Their research and contributions have led to the design and development of many resources and tools for ethnodoxologists, including ways to see and learn more about cross-cultural work and creativity—especially those arts that are unique to a community but unfamiliar to us. I have seen the value of this research for contributing to the restoration and redemption of endangered cultural forms that are part of God’s redemptive analogies and grace within cultures.

I cherish the interest and concern for the whole person and the whole community exhibited by the network of ethnodoxologists and its high value for interdisciplinary academic research and practice. We aim to recognize and explore (among other things) the connections between neuroscience and worship; the arts in worship beyond music; sociological and anthropological aspects of global migration; refugee movements and worship; trauma healing; and peace studies. We worship together, and aim that our academic pursuits also be submitted as acts of worship in our longing to see God’s kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven.

I have seen firsthand the commitment of the network of scholars and practitioners in sharing best practices and new theoretical insights, as we continue to explore the connections between worship and all of life, especially as displayed through culture and the arts. This commitment is evident not only through publications and at academic conferences worldwide, but also as shared worship with local churches and communities, and as mentorship and encouragement of Jesus-worshippers locally and worldwide.

Value #7: Confident Hope

GEN embraces holistic visions of better futures that all communities can work toward.

Ethnodoxologists nurture spaces that are life-enhancing and where people can imagine and plan for better lives. Kinds of ‘better’ include having more justice, health, artistic diversity, love, well-being, creativity, vibrant churches, vital spiritual formation, and awe-inspiring, transformational adoration of God.

Healing and Resilience in Hong Kong

HOILING POON is an Ethnodoxologist and PhD candidate in World Arts who strives to inspire and equip Asian churches and artists to embody and contextualize kingdom values into their worship and ministry. Alongside teaching intercultural studies, she enjoys singing, Chinese calligraphy, and art jamming with her nine-year-old daughter.

Two new training courses recently began in a Hong Kong seminary: Theory and Practice of Ethnodoxology, and Arts in Trauma Healing. Students in both courses discover what God has already given us in our hearts to use for God’s glory.

The Ethnodoxology course happened in a time of uncertainty, which pandemic restrictions exacerbated. Students shared with voices full of emotion how meaningful it was to use their artistic gifts to serve God’s kingdom. Sweet words also evoked grief that the church hadn’t yet accepted such willing and gifted servants, but the time seems to have come for a fresh wind to blow in the church in Hong Kong.

Arts in Trauma Healing also debuted in Hong Kong’s historical moment of economic hardship, social upheaval, pandemic confusion, and protests that jailed many church members and those connected to them. Amid Hong Kong’s shared suffering, the church has an opportunity to connect those suffering to Christ through the Gospel proclamation.

Christian psychologist Diane Langberg5 has suggested that the 21st Century’s next big mission field lies in trauma healing. God has laid on many hearts in Hong Kong a shared desire to do something, as the church, to bring people to experience God in suffering. We’ve long believed God is our healer, yet the church hasn’t been a place where people experience that healing. In a critical time of suffering, God has put this faith in the hearts of many. Christians want to bring people to experience God’s healing.

Arts in Trauma Healing course participants represented community workers from the areas of social work, arts, therapy, ministry, and medicine, all who themselves experienced healing during their training and want to serve the church. They eagerly embraced the notion that God has created us with a healing mechanism. When trauma shuts down logic verbal centers, artistic creativity can unearth pathways to healing. Facilitators walk through this process with co-journeying groups. The first training filled up quickly and a second is already scheduled. Over half of the first participants are now also being trained as facilitators. The need is great, and people are responding. As more people share their local healing stories, we can develop and contextualize the material even more to the Hong Kong setting.

We can be confident with hope in God. God hasn’t given up on Hong Kong, despite the shared difficulties. He is still working here, still calling people to respond to Him. Many in this new field of ethnodoxology have pioneering hearts to prepare the way for others. These courses can help activate people’s God-prepared healing mechanisms with creativity and community, exploring new ways to see God’s hope and healing in a suffering world. So, we can be confident that we can face challenges and suffering in our lives. We are well-equipped. We must discover this gift in our lives. We have confidence to walk with God to face the challenges for which God has prepared us.

Middle Eastern Hospitality and Shalom

JAEWOO KIM is a multi-cultural worship leader and songwriter. He serves in network relations and ministry development at Proskuneo Ministries which aims to bring nations together in worship on earth as it is in heaven. Jaewoo lives in Clarkston, Georgia, where over 60 languages are spoken in a 1.5 mile radius.

I first met Dareen and Chadi at The Proskuneo School of the Arts in Clarkston, Georgia—a school that provides a safe and creative space for the children and youth in our town. Dareen and Chadi were living in Saudi Arabia when the civil war broke out in Syria in 2011. Soon they came to the United States and resettled in Georgia as asylees.

They found our ministry’s small arts school in Clarkston, Georgia, a city known as the most diverse square-mile in the U.S. for its accumulated number of refugees and immigrants resettled during the past 30 years. Here, the presence of many others from diverse backgrounds helped Dareen feel safe enough to serve as a volunteer voice teacher. Here, it was normal to hear heavily accented English. This space allowed and encouraged people to bring their cultural and artistic expressions. No one had to leave their culture at the door.

Then I met Chadi, Dareen’s husband, who was also an excellent musician and worship leader. They started to come to our weekly worship gatherings and soon our community was singing Arabic songs. When they found people in our community were open to learn and receive from them, they were eager to teach us not only songs but dance and other arts too. The more we spent time together, the more I became fascinated by their rich Christian history and tradition from Damascus, Syria. They shared story after story about abundant church life in the Middle East and often demonstrated their radical hospitality by welcoming people into their home with an overflowing feasting table.

We ended up writing many songs together in multiple languages including Arabic. When they read Scripture, pray, and sing in Arabic, they bring much more than just another language: a faith resilient to persecution, radical hospitality toward strangers with the aroma of a never-ending bounty of Mediterranean food.

When we co-write songs together, Dareen and Chadi often say salam, an Arabic word for peace. At first, they came to us as guests needing our safety and hospitality, but at some point, they became our host, serving us with their abundant cultural resources. In an authentic co-creating space, the host becomes the guest, and the guest becomes the host. As reciprocal exchanges occur, often mutual transformation follows.

Jessie Tang, a British-born Chinese ethnodoxologist, says it well: “As God’s people learn from one another, they also partake in one another’s cultural expressions, including singing each other’s songs, to create an organically evolving community, where when one member enters, the whole culture changes.”6 Because Dareen and Chadi became a part of us, now our whole community longs more for salam, and we’ve learned to worship the Prince of Peace with them.

Memorial Art

LYDIA HRENIUC’s parents immigrated to the United States less than a decade before the revolution in Romania. She grew up with many stories from that time. Lydia is currently a PhD in World Arts student at Dallas International University and an adjunct professor in California Baptist University’s architecture program. She also serves with SIL International and is a GEN member.
Endnotes
  1. (not his real name)

  2. Human Agency, in GEN Core Values, https://www.worldofworship.org/core-values

  3. King, Roberta, Jean Ngoya Kidula, James R. Krabill, and Thomas Oduro. 2008. Music in the Life of the African Church. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press.

  4. Krabill, James R, Frank Fortunato, Robin P. Harris, Brian Schrag, eds. 2013. Worship and Mission for the Global Church: An Ethnodoxology Handbook. Pasadena, CA: William Cary Library.

  5. Langberg, Diane. 2015. Suffering and the Heart of God: How Trauma Destroys and Christ Restores. Greensboro NC: New Growth Press, p. 15.

  6. Tang, J. (2021) S4E3: It’s rightly uncomfortable—with Rev. Anna Poulson by A Cross Culture. (online) Available at: https://anchor.fm/ acrossculture/episodes/S4E3-Its-rightly-uncomfortable---with-Rev-Anna-Poulson-e14gl20 [Accessed 22 May 2023].

This is an article from the SEPT/OCT 2023 issue: Arts, Worship, and Mission in Today’s Church

Why Is Indigenous Worship Essential?

Why Is Indigenous Worship Essential?

Have you ever wondered about the impact Mission Frontiers makes in missions? Our May–August 1996 issue of Mission Frontiers was the first time we featured the topic of Worship and Missions. Like every issue of MF, we trust God to take what we do and multiply it to change the course of world evangelization so all the unreached peoples may have access to the Gospel. In the case of this May–August 1996 issue, God has done far more than we could have asked or imagined. Unbeknownst to me for many years, people like Dr. Robin Harris and Jo-Ann Richards Goffe were reading this issue—and it greatly impacted their lives. They in turn have changed the course of mission history.

Dr. Robin Harris was the guest editor of our Sept/Oct 2014 issue, and she stated in her editorial at that time:

This issue of Mission Frontiers holds extraordinary meaning for me. Not only do I love featuring some of my favorite articles from the Ethnodoxology Handbook and Manual, but God launched my personal journey into ethnodoxology with the 1996 July/August edition of MF. In the late 90s I was beginning a decade of cross- cultural service with my husband and family in Siberia, and that MF issue, hand-carried to us on the field, rocked my world. Its seminal articles by pioneers in arts and mission served as a clarion call to service for me and others in this movement. The issue presented a vision for combining worship and local arts in ministry—an idea that changed our lives forever.

Jo-Ann Richards Goffe tells her story, starting on page 11, by saying, “I remember that 1996 July/August Mission Frontiers issue like it was yesterday. When I read Tom Avery and Jack Popje’s articles, light bulbs went off in my head. I immediately said to myself: “That’s what I want to do!” I had already accepted God’s invitation to join Him in global mission, but I had no idea specifically what my role was until I read those two articles.”

This new vision imparted to people like Robin and Jo-Ann led to the creation of what is now called the Global Ethnodoxology Network. With this current issue we celebrate their 20 years as a vital network of hundreds of practitioners who are working tirelessly to bring meaningful, heartfelt, indigenous worship to all peoples. This network has literally changed the course of world evangelization—and they are just getting started. At MF, we are overjoyed to have played a small part in the creation of this essential network. We look forward to seeing what God will do through GEN in the coming years.

Over the last 27 years since 1996, we have featured this topic two other times: Sept/Oct 2014 on “Ethnodoxology,” as mentioned above, and June 2001, “Worship that Moves the Soul.” Check them out and be inspired. Go to www.missionfrontiers.org and click on Past Issues to access these editions.

Should Everyone Worship Like Us?

As followers of Jesus, it is tempting to think that everyone should worship like we do. Because after all, we do it the right way, right? And so, shouldn’t missions be about taking that right way of doing things to every people? This is not just a western phenomenon. Every mission worker from every culture is prone to teach new believers to believe and do things the way the mission worker thinks it should be done. Certainly, there are basic doctrines of biblical faith that must be maintained. But the problem is we often confuse our culture with biblical truth. As we go to the unreached peoples, we often bring our “cultural baggage” as we are trying to bring the Gospel.

The classic example of this problem is the missionaries of past centuries who sincerely went out to bring the Gospel to the lost but taught the people to do church exactly as they did back home in the U.S. or Britain. Oh yes, they translated the hymns into the local language, but the music was still foreign to the people. But the people accepted it anyway, because that is what you had to do in order to be truly Godly. They built church buildings like the ones back home and the men were taught to wear suits and ties in the stifling heat. Women were taught to wear the style of long dresses that the women back home wore. No wonder some in these unreached people groups got the idea that the Gospel was a tool of colonialism and a “foreign import.” To this day, you can go to places in Africa and around the world on Sunday morning and see the tragic results of these practices play out in real time.

As we seek to obey Jesus and bring the biblical essence of the Gospel to every people, we must understand that we need to de-culturize the Gospel before it can become truly indigenous (normal and natural) to a people. This is the essence of the missionary task and ethnodoxology is a critical part of the process of making the Gospel indigenous to a people.

When new Jesus followers in an unreached people are permitted to use their indigenous arts and music, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, to worship Jesus, not only are the believers able to worship in a passionate, heartfelt way, but unbelievers are much more likely to be interested in learning more about Jesus and the Gospel. Evangelism is empowered and not hindered by foreign customs and music.

Regardless of the background culture of the mission worker, this process of de-culturalization must take place. When it does not, the Gospel is seen as foreign, and the Gospel does not spread virally as it should. Even worse, the people we are trying to reach can become hostile and resistant to the message of the Gospel. Our job is not to go into all the world and make every people worship like us. It is our job to enable every people to discover a normal and natural way for them to worship Jesus in a way that is meaningful to them.

This can be an uncomfortable process for us because an unreached people’s indigenous forms of worship are not natural for us—but they are for them, and that is what is important. Whether in our own culture or in the culture of an unreached people, we must all trust the Holy Spirit to guide us into the styles of worship that are pleasing to Him. New believers will sometimes have to make tough choices as to which form of worship is acceptable or not, but it is their choice to make—not ours.

Giving Jesus the Worship He Desires

In the familiar passages of Rev. 5:9 and 7:9, we see people from every tribe, language, people, and nation are worshiping Jesus. He is worthy of all our worship and praise, but what will that worship look like? Is there a standard hymnal for heaven? Will we all sing the same songs? Will all the distinctive cultures of the world’s peoples, their arts and music, etc. dissolve into a homogenous heavenly “culture” and worship? We can’t be certain, but it seems clear from Scripture the creation of the diverse languages and peoples of the world was God’s idea—and thousands of different tribes, languages, peoples and nations bring God more glory than if there was just one. Each people offers God something unique and special in terms of their worship. I believe the ethnodoxologists represented in this issue are helping prepare a symphony of worship and praise for Jesus that all of us will be able to enjoy for all eternity.

This is an article from the July-August 2023 issue: Mobilizing the Church to Reach All Peoples

The Astonishing Power & Progress of God’s Promise

The Astonishing Power & Progress of God’s Promise

 

Four thousand years ago, God told an elderly, childless man that all of earth’s family-lines would one day be blessed through his descendant, then confirmed this promise with an oath. Two thousand years later, Jesus commissioned and equipped His followers to fulfill this promise. In 1980, this blessing was only spreading among 40% of humanity. Yet today—less than 50 years later—this blessing is multiplying among 75% of humanity.

How central is this promise to God’s purpose?

The LXX/Septuagint—which translated the Old Testament into Greek before Jesus’ birth—helps us trace God’s promise through the Old and New Testament around the Greek word ethne (family-lines).

Of the five times God declares His promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, these two in the LXX read:

“… all ethne on earth will be blessed through him [Abraham]” (Gen. 18:18).

“… I swear by myself,” declares the LORD, “… through your offspring [Abraham] all ethne on earth will be blessed

(Gen. 22:18).

Hebrews identifies Genesis 22:18 as clarifying God’s purpose:

“Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of His purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, He confirmed it with an oath(Heb. 6:17).

Both times, God was angry enough to destroy the Israelites and start over with Moses; Moses appealed to this “Genesis 22:18 oath”:

“Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom You swore by Your own self(Exod. 32:13).

“If you put all [Israel] to death … the ethne … will say, “The LORD was not able to bring them into the land He promised them on oath …” (Num. 14:15–16).

Ethne appears nearly 700 times in the LXX, in virtually every book of the Old Testament, including:

•     Psalms:

“Ask me, and I will make the ethne your inheritance …” (Ps. 2:8).

“…proclaim among the ethne what He has done” (Ps. 9:11).

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the ethne …” (Ps. 46:10).

•     Isaiah:

It is too small a thing for You to be My servant to … bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make You a light for the ethne, that My salvation may reach to the ends of the earth (Isa. 49:6, cf. Acts 13:47).

In the New Testament, Paul calls God’s promise to Abraham both the “Gospel” and the “mystery”: 

“Scripture … announced the Gospel … to Abraham: ‘All ethne will be blessed through you’” (Gal. 3:8).

“I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery …: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the ethne has come in” (Rom. 11:25).

“… in accordance with my Gospel, … in keeping with the revelation of the mystery … that all the ethne might come to the obedience that comes from faith” (Rom. 16:25-26).

“This mystery is that through the Gospel the ethne are heirs … and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus”

(Eph. 3:6).

“… God has chosen to make known among the ethne … this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27).

Of course, Jesus’ concern for the ethne appears throughout His teaching, for example:

On My account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the ethne (Matt. 10:18).

This Gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all ethne, and then the end will come (Matt. 24:14).

And the Gospel must first be preached to all ethne (Mark 13:10).

… Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all ethne’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers’

(Mark 11:17).

Jesus’ concern for all ethne becomes especially evident in His commissioning of His disciples:

Therefore go and disciple all ethne, … (Matt. 28:19).

This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in His name to all ethne (Luke 24:46–47).

 What did the Holy Spirit do in those first followers of Jesus?

Like most people, Jesus’ first followers had deep prejudice against other ethne, and started off only in same- culture witness to other Jews (Acts 11:19)! Yet as they were led by the Holy Spirit, He:

•    Overcame Peter’s prejudice against other ethne (Acts 10).

•    Addressed the general prejudice of Jewish believers against other ethne (Acts 15).

•    Raised up Paul as the apostle to the ethne (Gal. 2:7).

This initial Spirit-led movement to Jesus recorded in Acts became the first domino in a long chain which may be finishable in our generation.

 How far have we come?

Those earliest followers of Jesus could not have humanly grasped the complexity of their commission. However, today we can estimate the challenge before them and see the progress to date, as summarized in the accompanying graphics, starting in 33AD1:

World population was about 0.25 billion, with virtually everyone isolated from the first multiplying followers of Jesus in thousands of distinct ethne.

•    Just 120 followers of Jesus drew together in prayer prior to Pentecost (Acts 1:14–15).

•    Thus for every one of these first followers of Jesus, roughly TWO MILLION lived in ethne needing pioneer, cross-cultural workers.

Today the global situation is much clearer.

•    Humanity now numbers eight billion, in 17,000 distinct ethne. Forty percent are “unreached” (less than  two percent Evangelicals), but only twenty-five percent (two billion) remain in Frontier People Groups (FPGs)—with virtually no followers of Jesus, no movements to Jesus, and still needing pioneer, cross-cultural workers.

•    Followers of Jesus have meanwhile multiplied to an estimated one billion (movement  disciples  have been doubling every three-to-five years, and now number 115 million. Another 900 million Evangelicals, Charismatics and Pentecostals are doubling every 20 years).

•    Thus for every one follower of Jesus, there are only TWO individuals living in ethne that need pioneer, cross- cultural workers.

 What’s Next?

Of the two billion in Frontier ethne, 80% (1.6 billion) are concentrated in less than 300 large groups (over 1 million each). Many of these have been “engaged” by Christianity for decades or centuries, becoming case studies in how our intuitions and strategies can go wrong.

United global prayer, leading to Spirit-led collaboration, must be our next step with these peoples. Join in at: GlobalFamily24-7Prayer.org.

Endnotes
  1. 1792 figures estimated from Carey’s 1972 Enquiry: WmCarey.edu/carey/enquiry/anenquiry.pdf 1980 data from Ralph Winter’s 1980 Hidden Peoples poster: JoshuaProject.net/1980pie 2022 data mostly from Joshua Project’s interactive map: JoshuaProject.net/ frontier/interactive

This is an article from the July-August 2023 issue: Mobilizing the Church to Reach All Peoples

Equipping Disciples for Ministry as Kingdom Priests

24:14 Goal: Movement engagements in every unreached people and place by 2025 (30 months)

Equipping Disciples for Ministry as Kingdom Priests

The Lord intends His Church to equip every disciple to listen to God and do what He says. This involves demonstrating and proclaiming the good news together as lifelong learners and teachers. Ephesians 4:11–13 shows this entails a cooperative effort by variously gifted leaders. First Peter 2:9 makes it clear this is for all followers of Christ. This is summarized below.

Train them to:

•     Listen to God (Prophets: reproducing hearing/seeing)

•     Do what He says (Apostles: reproducing empowerment/advance)

First prophets and apostles as a foundation (1 Cor. 12:27-28; Eph. 2:19-22) then …

•     Demonstrate and proclaim the good news (Evangelists: reproducing compassion)

•     Together (Shepherds: reproducing unity/care)

•     As lifelong learners and teachers (Teachers: reproducing learning/teaching)

The recent history of Church Planting Movements (CPMs) and Disciple Making Movements (DMMs) has been heavily centered on the ministry of apostles and evangelists. Prophets, shepherds, and teachers have been less evident. This partly has been because apostles shaped how movements were presented and their approaches were sometimes unpalatable to those with the prophet, shepherd, and teacher gifts. Also, the prophets, shepherds, and teachers who did seek to be involved often tried to do so in ways that were inappropriate for movement foundations and instead pursued more traditional ways to express their ministries.

An example of what a more balanced approach might look like can be seen in Neil Cole’s excellent book Primal Fire. Neil has been emphasizing balanced collaboration among the APEST (Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Shepherd, Teacher) gifts for many years. Neil is primarily gifted as an apostle. His ministry in starting or advancing work in new areas has often been in close cooperation with the prophet on the team he serves with. Careful and intentional involvement of individuals with each of the APEST gifts has characterized his ministry.

I want to note that currently the term “apostle” is popularly used in ways other than what I am describing here, and which do not reflect what I consider biblically accurate usage. Apostles tend to be low-profile and despised and may even appear as weak (1 Cor. 4:8–13). This is because they focus on empowering and lifting up others and focus on not creating dependency. In contrast, some people today use the term “apostle” to indicate a powerful and prominent role.

Ephesians 4:11–13 describes the proper focus for expressing all five of the APEST gifts. Most significantly, the proper focus is to equip all believers to serve well in the various aspects of ministry, so that each person can function effectively as a kingdom priest (1 Pet. 2:9). In movements, this typically takes place at the city or regional (network) level of a movement and above. This is the same level at which the elder and deacon functions are normally expressed as well. Most often, the elders and deacons will also function in APEST roles, but others who are not elders or deacons will do so as well. These functions are not as visible at the individual house- or simple-church level, where the focus is more on the basics of hearing God and doing what He says. The broader equipping priority implies, though, that there are regular connections, communications, and collaborations among the churches of a given network. This city or regional aspect of movements cannot be ignored if the movements are to be healthy and growing.

 
 

 

A movement ideally begins with apostles and prophets (1 Cor. 12:27–28). This is because they are critical to establishing the DNA of the movement and the principles and patterns upon which the church is built (Eph. 2:19–22). That DNA affirms that being a disciple or follower of Jesus means following the pattern of listening to the Lord and doing what He says. Once that foundation has been established, everyone also needs to be equipped to demonstrate and proclaim the good news together as lifelong learners and teachers.

Each of the APEST gifts plays a critical role in this process. In the biblical order, this is what it looks like:

1.      Apostles equip God’s people by empowering them to advance the kingdom.

2.      Prophets equip God’s people to hear and see God’s word and work by the Holy Spirit and Scripture.

3.      Evangelists equip God’s people to show compassion by demonstrating and proclaiming the good news in word and deed.

4.      Shepherds equip God’s people to build unity and to encourage and care for one another.

5.      Teachers equip God’s people to establish lifelong patterns of learning and teaching others.

In the kingdom as a whole in recent decades, people with different APEST gifts have tended to cluster in silos. This is understandable, since people with the same gifting tend to have similar styles and priorities. However, this is not how the Lord designed His body to work.

To establish new movements or to begin work among new people groups or in new places, A-P pairs are particularly important. The apostles tend to have a bias toward action, while prophets have a bias toward listening. This often means the apostles and prophets are irritated by one another. Taking action to advance the kingdom is essential, but it needs to be in the right direction. These two functions need to work closely together. Apostles are often a sort of “jack of all trades, master of none” and thus may set out on their own rather than waiting around for prophets, whom they view as too slow to move or act. Prophets may be very quick and bold to speak, but they tend to move much more slowly in taking action. From another perspective, prophets tend to be fulfilled simply by hearing from the Lord generally, whereas apostles constantly want “actionable intel” that they can implement immediately.

Sometimes, once the foundations are laid, the apostles are ready to move on to the next frontier before the superstructure of leadership at the city or regional level has been added. When this is the case, the long-term growth and health of the movement can be hindered. From a coaching perspective, I use the establishment of 10 simple churches in an area as a rough indicator that it is time to consider appointing elders (and potentially deacons) for the city or regional church. This point is also when patterns of equipping by the APEST leaders should be on the agenda for continued growth and development.

Especially in the early stages of a movement, many simple churches will not have anyone who meets the biblical qualifications to serve as an elder. Also, seldom if ever will all five of the APEST gifts be represented within a single simple church. Usually, by the time there are 10 or more churches, some people have emerged who qualify to serve as elders, and more people are coming to faith with a variety of the APEST gifts. At the city or regional level, these leaders can serve by equipping others in the larger expression of church.

What does it look like to equip all believers in a city or regional church in the various expressions of the APEST gifts? Most often, this takes the form of offering equipping opportunities across a number of simple churches. There may be short periods of field ministry accompanied by brief instruction or training workshops. Typically, members of various simple churches come together for these times of equipping and then take on some responsibility for equipping others in their churches, resulting in a trickle-down effect. This same trickle- down pattern remains effective no matter how large the network of churches becomes, because it is scalable.

Alternatively, there can be joint meetings of multiple simple churches explicitly for the purpose of equipping people in the APEST emphases. This can also be done electronically on any platform for ongoing communication within the larger expression of church (Zoom, Signal, WhatsApp, text messages, or a number of other options).

Moses’ organization of the people of Israel offers a good Old Testament parallel to this sort of city or regional structure. Leaders of 10 (families) were under leaders of 50, who were under leaders of 100, who were under leaders of 1,000, who were under the 70 elders, who were under Moses and Aaron. In movements, I advise having clusters of 4 to 12 at a given level. Leaders at each level can take responsibility for leaders below them and can also function as a peer support and accountability group with others at their level. In this way, no matter how large a movement grows, there can be both peer support and individual support from a leader above.

As a movement grows, the degree of trans-local equipping by APEST leaders can also increase. For this to   be effective, however, a robust pattern of connection, communication, and collaboration must be in place. Otherwise, the trickle-down approach will not be effective in equipping all believers. This connection and collaboration can happen at every level: local, regional, national, international, and even global. Those who are tested and proven over time can begin to serve at the higher levels. As leaders, these APEST equippers enable all believers to serve in these various ways. That is how the body both grows and matures (Eph. 4:11–13).

Only Jesus functioned perfectly and maturely in all five aspects of APEST. The rest of us are on a journey to become more balanced and mature in our expression of these gifts. For example, my natural predisposition would most closely align with the patterns of the apostle. Secondarily, I operate comfortably in the prophet and teacher roles. Over the years, I have grown in expressing the shepherd role. My weakest aspect would definitely be in the role of the evangelist. I hope to continue to grow in each of these areas, including shoring up my relative weakness as an evangelist.

When new work is being started, the functions of apostles and prophets should be dominant. Over time in a given location or movement, we can expect that the functions of the apostles would decrease and the functions of shepherds and teachers would increase. Likely, the functions of prophets and evangelists would remain somewhat consistent unless the percentage of disciples in the general population approached saturation, in which case the role of the evangelists would decrease as well. These changing levels of prominence could be apparent through different people coming into leadership, or else through the changing focus of the same leaders, if they have gifting in more than one of the APEST roles.

 Who are New Testament examples of each of these roles?

Apostles: Paul. His emphasis on expanding and extending the kingdom to new people groups and places was a major focus of his efforts (Rom. 15:18–20).

Prophets: John. In Revelation, he spoke God’s personalized message to several churches in Asia for that specific time (Rev. 2–3), as well as to God’s people generally in the book as a whole.

Evangelists: Peter. He was moved to share the good news with those outside the kingdom both in public (Acts 2:14ff. and 3:11ff.) and private settings (Acts 10:34ff.), in large and small groups alike.

Shepherds: Barnabas was used to unite and encourage God’s people consistently. Consider for example his work with Paul (Acts 9:26–27; 11:25–26), John Mark (Acts 12:25, 15:36–39), and generally in the Church (Acts 4:36–37; 11:19–23).

Teachers: Aquila and Priscilla. Consider how they taught Apollos to teach others (Acts 18:24–28).

 What do immature expressions of these gifts look like?

Apostles: Immature apostles may forget to ensure the firm establishment of work they have helped to catalyze. It is possible to be mobile without abandoning ongoing development work. Stewarding the fruit is important.

Prophets: Immature prophets may be tempted to pride because they hear from the Lord more clearly. They may also be so focused on hearing that they forget to take practical action in response to what is heard.

Evangelists: Immature evangelists may minimize the cost of discipleship in their communications, in order to maximize the number of people who respond to the good news. They can become conversion-focused rather than discipleship-focused.

Shepherds: An immature shepherd may compromise in failing to call people to change or grow in the interest of encouraging people and seeking to maintain unity. This can end up sacrificing growth for comfort.

Teachers: Immature teachers may be tempted to pride because of their deeper insights into Scripture. They can be tempted to view themselves as irreplaceable and may treat teaching opportunities as performances.

 What might it look like if we have only one of the APEST gifts functioning well in a movement?

Here are some extreme characterizations of the possible results:

Apostles: We would get (as we sometimes see today) continued but fragmented growth. United and cooperative action would be limited. Apostles acting alone may tend to only “move with the movers” and neglect people who are not actively engaged in advancing the kingdom.

Prophets: We would get a lot more listening and watching, but a lot less action. Growth would decrease significantly. Prophets acting alone can tend to listen far more than they act on what they have heard.

Evangelists: We would get continued growth, and maybe even faster growth for a while. However, depth of discipleship would suffer, and long-term growth would likely falter as well. Evangelists acting alone can tend to bring a lot of babies into the family who are then neglected.

Shepherds: We would have great morale, but growth would decrease dramatically. Everyone already inside the church would be well taken care of, but those outside would be largely neglected. Shepherds acting alone can tend to create an inward-focused ethos.

Teachers: We would have very knowledgeable disciples, not necessarily applying what they learned. Growth would slow dramatically, and pride would likely become a major problem. Teachers acting alone can tend toward a theoretical and academic approach as they teach about things that may go beyond relevance for the personal experience and application of their hearers.

 How are each of these gifts ideally interdependent with the others?

Apostles: Apostles need to seek counsel from prophets to direct their efforts. Once they get their work established, they need to involve evangelists in communicating the good news more broadly and effectively in their field of service. They need to rely on shepherds to provide deeper levels of care and unity as the work grows, since this becomes more difficult as the work scales up. They need to rely on teachers, not only to enhance disciples’ depth of understanding, but also to be more effective in passing on their insights and experiences to others.

Prophets: Prophets need to communicate with and be patient with apostles who have enthusiasm that may not always be aimed in the right direction. They must remember that without the apostles, new ground will not be gained effectively. They need to rely on evangelists, especially when they have a message for outside the church, because the evangelists are far more winsome in their communications. They need the shepherds for a similar reason when communicating within the church, because the shepherds can “translate” the message in such a way as not to discourage or divide the body more than necessary. They need teachers to help them communicate the truth they hear in a way that can be more effectively understood and passed on to others.

Evangelists: Evangelists need apostles to help establish foundations for them to build on as they reach out to new places or people groups who require more cross-cultural awareness and fluency. They need prophets to equip new followers of Christ in how to hear God more effectively on an ongoing basis. They need shepherds to provide ongoing encouragement and community building for those whom they bring to the body. They need teachers to help take the new believers to continue to grow in an ongoing basis.

Shepherds: Shepherds need apostles to help keep the church growing beyond the families of those who are already followers of Christ. They need prophets to make sure the hard-to-hear messages that lead to further growth in Christ are shared. They need evangelists to help bring others into the body and to equip others to do the same. They need teachers to ensure continued growth of the disciples in understanding and in passing on what they are learning to others.

Teachers: Teachers need apostles to establish patterns of faithfulness in disciples, so they will apply what they learn and pass it on to others. They need prophets to keep disciples alert to hearing from the Spirit of God as well as the Word of God. They need evangelists to ensure there will always be more new believers to equip. They need shepherds to care for the disciples so that these disciples will be in a position of health and thus better able to learn and teach others.

It is essential for us to build on the foundation of the apostles and prophets so the basic pattern of hearing God and obeying Him is the basis for all that is done. Once that is happening, each of the gifts remains important for the healthy advance and expression of the kingdom.

We need to pay attention to developing relationships within movements that lend themselves to ongoing practices of connecting, communicating, and collaborating—not just in silos based on specialization of spiritual gifts, but based on serving the entire Body of Christ. We then need to use these relationships to equip the entire Body of Christ in the whole array of APEST functions.

 APEST in Prevailing-Model Churches

More familiar models of church can also have imbalances in expression of the APEST gifts. Most often, teachers and pastors are far more visible, active, and influential in the ministry of such churches. In recent years, with the growth of megachurches, evangelists have also become more prominent in the local-church context. Prophets have typically been viewed as too politically incorrect, and apostles have been relegated to missions work.

This analysis raises some interesting possibilities for possible interaction between movement-oriented churches and prevailing-model churches. In general, the strengths and patterns of emphasis are somewhat complementary between these two streams. Movement-oriented churches have emphasized apostles while prevailing-model churches have emphasized shepherds and teachers. Both have tended to give some role to evangelists, and both have largely under-utilized prophets.

Perhaps movement-oriented churches could “provide a home” for apostles from prevailing-model churches. They could provide an opportunity to utilize their gifts in a context that would welcome their contribution   and an opportunity to work in a way that would seem natural to them. Since prevailing-model churches have already identified an abundance of shepherds and teachers, those having these gifts often find somewhat limited opportunities to actively utilize their gifts. Movement-oriented churches could provide an opportunity to be more actively involved in ministry. This would first require some retraining on how to minister in an equipping manner, and on the apostolic-prophetic foundation of listening to God and doing what He says. Prevailing- model churches seem to offer less opportunity for innovative interaction with evangelists and prophets at this time.

Prevailing-model churches could perhaps benefit from an infusion of some of the apostolic foundations, especially in empowering all believers to be involved in kingdom ministry and having more of an equipping focus for all ministry done in and by churches in all aspects of APEST. This could mean having their people receive equipping from outside apostles.

I believe leaders in all types of churches would do well to consider the APEST functions, and ways to maximize the ministry and effectiveness of all five in the ministries the Lord has entrusted to them.

This is an article from the July-August 2023 issue: Mobilizing the Church to Reach All Peoples

Our Mobilization Challenge Is Actually a Discipleship Problem

Our Mobilization Challenge Is Actually a Discipleship Problem

Jesus’ last words to His disciples and to us in Matt. 28:18–20 were to go and make disciples of all nations (ethne/ peoples), baptizing them and teaching them to obey all that Jesus has commanded us, which also includes this command. For 2,000 years, this command to make disciples should have been one of the first things taught   to every new Jesus follower after they repented of their sins and put their faith in Jesus for salvation. But unfortunately, this command has, too often, been forgotten and ignored by the Church. This is why we still have over 7,000 unreached peoples according to Joshua Project, and why we still have a challenge of mobilizing the Church today. It is as simple as faithful obedience to what Jesus has told us to do. It is not complicated. It can be done, and it must be done. Almost 2,000 movements of discipleship and church planting, often referred to as Church Planting Movements and Disciple Making Movements, are proving to the world that mobilization of new believers into active obedience to the “Great Commission” can be a normal reality in our day.

On each cover of MF, we present the number of “Kingdom Movements” taking place around the world. In these movements, we see disciples making disciples and churches planting churches one generation after another. How does this happen? It happens because as evangelism takes place, the new disciple is taught that the Gospel is not just for him or her, it is for their family members, their coworkers and all those they have contact with. They are taught about the command of Jesus to make disciples of all nations. Mobilization is a normal part of the discipleship process and the essential DNA of these movements. Because it is, there is multiplication of disciple-making and church-planting one generation after another. In these movements, we have rediscovered from the time of the book of Acts, the “secret sauce” of how movements work and how the Gospel should spread organically as God has designed it.

So, the reason we need mobilization efforts today is because outside of these movements just mentioned, we have lost touch with the biblical essentials from the book of Acts that make obedience to Jesus a natural part of our identity as Jesus followers. The Great Commission should be a central part of our identity as believers. The fact that the majority of so-called “believers in Jesus” in our churches do not know or cannot identify the Great Commission passage of Matt. 28:18–20 is an indication of how far we have missed the mark in our discipleship efforts. To effectively mobilize the Church into God’s mission going forward, we need to change the way we do church and adopt the vision and practices of these movements that are doing so well in casting the vision of the Great Commission to each generation of new disciple makers.

What Are We Mobilizing Jesus Followers to Do?

Whether inside or outside of these Disciple Making Movements (DMMs), we need to help Jesus followers to understand the nature of the unfinished missionary task before us and what Jesus has asked us to do. Even in DMMs where mobilization is essential to the DNA of these movements, the natural tendency is to focus on those within our own culture versus going cross culturally.

If we are not careful, mission mobilization can become “everything is missions.” As we pointed out in our Nov/ Dec 2019 issue of MF, we are all called to live on-mission with God, but that does not make us all missionaries. Every industry has its job classifications and so does the cause of Christ. Reaching out to your same-culture neighbor is wonderful and essential evangelism, but it is not missions. Missions involves going cross-culturally to those with no access to the Gospel. Mobilizing simply to reach our neighbors will not get the Gospel to all ethne as Jesus commanded us to do. There are currently around 5,000 Frontier Peoples with no access to the Gospel. Specific, targeted cross-cultural efforts are required to reach these peoples. It takes specialized skills and training to reach such people groups. These skills are very different form the ones required to reach your same- culture neighbor in evangelism. You would not equate a first-aid nurse with a brain surgeon, neither should you equate same-culture evangelism with cross-cultural missions to unreached peoples. It is a very different and essential step to go beyond reaching those you already have contact with inside your culture to reach cross- culturally to those with no Gospel access. Every believer needs to be “mobilized” with the vision of going where access to the Gospel does not exist. The missionary task cannot be completed until this happens.

A Case in Point

When I came to faith  in  Jesus  in  1978  through  the  ministry  of  a  local  church,  I  was  not  told  about the unfinished task  of  reaching  the  unreached  peoples  or  even  my  unsaved  neighbors  for  that  matter. It was all about my personal growth as a believer. I was not taught the Great Commission passage in Matt. 28:18–20. I knew nothing about missions. I first learned about missions through the Urbana ’79 missions convention sponsored by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. I attended one of their campus chapters while attending college. At Urbana ’79, I learned that as a follower of Jesus, I was responsible to obey what Jesus has commanded us all to do—make disciples of all nations. The reason for sharing this history is to make the point that I should not have needed to attend a specialized “mobilization” event called Urbana ’79. I should have been able to be taught this at my local church—as is done regularly in the churches that make up the nearly 2,000 Kingdom Movements that are multiplying all over the world.

Mobilization needs to become a regular part of leading people to Jesus. As soon as people come to Christ, they need to learn that they have become part of the “family business.” This “business” involves both reaching out to our oikos, family, friends, etc. in evangelism, but also going cross-culturally to those without access to the Gospel. This may include going cross-culturally ourselves, or supporting those who do. But we must get beyond the status quo in our churches where following Jesus is all about us being blessed rather than obeying Jesus and blessing Him with the worship He deserves from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation. That is, after all, the ultimate purpose of our mobilization efforts.

This is an article from the July-August 2023 issue: Mobilizing the Church to Reach All Peoples

Where Are We Now? A New Mobilization Era

Where Are We Now? A New Mobilization Era

God is working progressively in history, never doing everything at once. He is not in a hurry, having purpose in every era and century. There are ebbs and flows, seasons where particular foundations are laid, preparing for the next progression. As such, we want to consider where we are now in the mission movement, while  also observing foundations that have previously been laid, revealing a progression into a new era toward the culmination of God’s redemptive purpose being realized.

Three Helpful Grids for Interpreting Biblical and Redemptive History

Reflecting on Church history helps the global Church recognize how God has been gradually unfolding His master plan of redemption since initiating His far-reaching covenant with Abraham 4,000 years ago (Gen. 12:1–3).

To get the most out of Church and mission history, we need grids to help us interpret correctly. Careful study reveals in both biblical and redemptive history, from Abraham in Genesis 12 to the present, a brand-new, noteworthy shift, important element into God’s redemptive storyline, has occurred every 500 years without exception.1 From a historical standpoint, this is quite remarkable as it never fails to show up. Let’s quickly  consider these 500-year eras in salvation history:

• Abraham as the beginning point of Israel: 2000 BC

• Moses, the Exodus, and the Law: 1500 BC

• King David and the tabernacle of David: 1000 BC

• Post-exilic Jewish restoration: 500 BC

• Incarnation of Messiah, Jesus Christ: 0 BC

• Institutionalization of the Church: AD 500

• East and West division of Christianity: AD 1000

• Protestant Reformation: AD 1500

• Present day: AD 2000

In addition, the great historian Kenneth Scott Latourette offers a grid of dividing Church history into three large periods of time.2 At a macro level, these three follow the general pattern of the above 500-year eras:

1.      AD 100-500 (the first five centuries)

2.      The 1,000-year period called the Middle or Dark Ages

3.      The last five centuries (500 years)

 
   

 

These two grids indicate that around the year AD 2000, a shift to a new major era in God’s redemptive storyline may be happening.

The last 500-year era (AD 1500-2000) marked the gradual restoration of what was lost during the previous centuries (AD 100-1500) of spiritual decline. During these last 500 years, God has been accelerating His redemptive purpose, seemingly century by century. We find a unique dynamic during this era—the intertwining of revival, mission, and mobilization movements, together empowering the Church to progress in her calling.

It was during these last 500 years that the “modern mission movement” was catalyzed by the Spirit. Ralph Winter has helped the Church immensely with a third grid analyzing mission history since 1792.3 Winter points out there was a progressive mission emphasis bringing new understanding and strategic focus to the mission endeavor, highlighting three successive mission eras of modern Protestant mission history. Each era was catalyzed by a particular mission leader or leaders of the day. The first era (1792–1865) was to the coastlands (William Carey), the second era (1865–1935) was to inland peoples (Hudson Taylor), and the third era (1935– present) to unreached, hidden peoples (Cameron Townsend and Donald McGavran).

Adding to Winter’s Third Era

Now that the previous 500-year era, which included an almost unbroken century-by-century progression of  revivals, mobilization in the Church, and subsequent mission expansion is complete, what is the Spirit saying today? It has been debated whether a fourth mission era can be identified and added to Winter’s three eras of Protestant mission history.

To consider this, it is important to differentiate what Winter’s eras did and didn’t focus on. Winter’s eras highlighted target geographical strategy used in each progressive era to reach peoples—coastal peoples, then interior peoples, and finally a cultural, linguistic breakdown of ethnic peoples. There is no better strategic framework than the concept of ethnic people groups, distinguishing those who are reached (though unsaved) as opposed to unreached, in helping the global Church appropriately target those who have not rejected the Gospel, but have little access or opportunity to hear it. I dare not advocate moving on from this core missiological and biblical understanding of how to effectively reach peoples for Christ.

A New Era of “Who” in Sending

Having said that, Winter’s three eras focus on a target geographical strategy to reach people, overlooking “who” it was that was doing the sending. We can distinguish the missiological perspective of Winter’s eras with the mobilization, or “mobiological” viewpoint, of the three eras. 4 Doing so reveals not necessarily a new era missiologically but a different understanding altogether related to who is being mobilized and activated in the mission of God.

Who across the global Church was being mobilized and activated was taken for granted as an assumption, as “Western sending” was all that was known in those eras. Yet, the who is necessary to distinguish because this has been shifting over the last 50 or so years, guiding us into a new era “mobiologically.”

In the first mission era, William Carey sailed for India from Great Britain in 1792. The United States came into being in 1776, sending its first missionaries in 1812 (Adoniram Judson and team). Great Britain, the USA, and Canada were the primary mission senders for the next 150 years, including Winter’s second era with HudsonTaylor. With Winter’s third era (1934) targeting the hidden, unreached peoples, particularly the last fifty or so years in the era, an unmistakable mobiological trend of who was doing the sending emerged. The missiological necessity of reaching unreached peoples has not changed, but the mobiological emergence of who is being mobilized and activated informs us significantly.

As we are generally aware, over the last 50 to 60 years, emerging sending movements have come about from many non-Western, African, Asian, and Latin American national churches. As Jesus told Peter in Luke 5:4, launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch. The net of national churches emphasizing the Great Commission and raising up laborers is widening, and for the first time in recorded history, we have a truly global Body of Christ able to fulfill their assigned roles in the Great Commission.

The early days of the modern mission movement (1792–1865) reached the coastlands and Taylor and the student volunteers in the second era pushed inland, yet all that was done through the Western Church. Now,  in the latter part of the missiological era of reaching every subgroup of unreached peoples, the work is in the hands of a truly global Church, and for the first time, a potential mobilization thrust.5 If the global Church can be awakened to its core identity, through multiplying mission mobilization movements, the fulfillment of the Great Commission is realistic in our generation, culminating in Jesus’ redemptive purpose in this age. 6

The global Church will not be content allowing mission to remain merely on the periphery, sending few cross- cultural workers. God has a much greater vision of where He is taking His global Church—toward it becoming normalized for multitudes of local ministries educating, inspiring, and activating members. This becomes possible through restoring the central message of God’s redemptive purpose, and the Church’s role in it, among all humanity. This restored mobilization emphasis will, in time, produce the resulting scattering of a large percentage of a local ministry’s members (maybe even 20 percent) in message bearer teams to near and distant culture peoples. 7 The whole Church will be engaged in her corporate responsibility of scattering the Gospel of the kingdom among all subcultures of all ethnic peoples with power. This has never happened before in Church and mission history. Jesus will have a truly global Church engaged in His Great Commission, and effective and strategic mission mobilization is the key to seeing it realized. This is the era we are moving into.

A New Era—A Truly Global Mobilization Movement

For this reason, some mobilization leaders suggest we have moved into a new, remarkable mission era—not in geographical or cultural people focus (as Winters’ eras brilliantly highlight), but in the Great Commission being emphasized across the whole global Church, the growing mobilization emphasis within the Church taking root. 8 Steve Shadrach states, “If the third era is about taking the Gospel to all ethne, then the fourth era is about all the reached ethne remaining faithful to press on to finish the job. It could be that God is handing us a new template He wants us to operate from…in order to mobilize national believers to reach the unreached.”9 Shadrach then defines the goal of this fourth era, “A global mission mobilization movement in which the whole Church rises up to powerfully advance Jesus’ Great Commission to the ends of the earth. Each of us has a strategic part toplay.”10

This takes place through a broader, comprehensive understanding of mission mobilization than traditionally grasped. Not merely recruiting a few cross-cultural workers but equipping the whole Church to be educated, inspired, and activated in their assigned roles in Jesus’ Great Commission. We are in a transition period. For the first time in history, we have a truly global Church empowered by the doctrinal and experiential restorations of the revival, mission, and mobilization movements of the last 500 years. God has positioned His global people today for massive spiritual breakthrough among Frontier Peoples, if the mobilization emphasis can be realized among them.

Some argue the numbers of new traditional missionaries and the mission emphasis in national churches of traditional mission-sending nations are going down. Yet, the surge of growing mission awareness and vision among traditionally mission-receiving nations is increasing. This is only going to continue through comprehensive mobilization in the coming decades. This will also be affected as traditional Western finance models of mission-sending are tempered and transformed into biblical, Spirit-led sustainable means of scattering larger numbers of indigenous workers. Whereas most national churches don’t feel they can sustain sending the traditional (Western) way, they get excited when shown how to do so in ways even the poorest churches in the world can engage.11

I believe this eye-opening “mobiological” understanding will progress to cultivating mission mobilization movements across the spectrum of church denominations and networks within multitudes of traditionally receiving nations. Churches empowered to experience firsthand the restoration of the core identity of the global Church as “God’s missionary people,” prioritizing the Great Commission within their local fellowships, engaging every believer in their assigned roles. These results can take place through a reenergized, redefined understanding of mission mobilization as calling the global Church to her core identity.12 How is your ministry (network or denomination) progressing in this new mobilization era?

________________________________________

Author’s Note—This article has been adapted from the author’s book titled  Rethinking Global Mobilization: Calling the Church to Her Core Identity. The book lays foundations of a biblical missiology of mobilization while providing a practical framework to mobilize and equip the global Church in mobilization. The publisher, IGNITE Media, has given permission for portions of the book to be used in this article. Find more info about the book at RethinkingMobilization.com or search for it on Amazon.

Endnotes
  1. I am indebted to the careful research of Wes Adams as he laid out the 500–year epochs of biblical and Church history, 87.

  2. Latourette, Kenneth S. A History of Christianity, 1081.

  3. Winter, Ralph. 1992 “Four Men, Three Eras.” In Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, 3.
     

  4. A term coined by Max Chismon of Simply Mobilizing. See his article in this periodical titled “Mobiology—An Introduction.” As missiology is the study of how peoples come to Christ, mobiology is the study of how the global Church is mobilized and activated in the mission of God.

  5. Johnson, Todd, and Sandra Lee. 2013 In Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: A Reader (Fourth Edition) Pasadena: William Carey Library, p. 387.
     

  6. Learn more about multiplying Mission Mobilization Movements by obtaining a Facilitation Manual detailing their step-by-step development. http://www.globalmmi.net/product/mission-mobilization-movements-facilitation-manual
     

  7. “Message bearer teams” is an alternative term for “missionary” due to the baggage the term missionary has in many non-Western, Global South contexts.
     

  8. Shadrach, Steve. “On Mission Virtual Conference 2020.” In Missio Nexus, http://www.missionexus.org/onmission2020stephen-2/

  9. Shadrach, Steve. 2018 “Mobilization: The Fourth (and Final?) Era of the Modern Mission Movement.” In Evangelical Missions Quarterly, 54:3, 8–13.

  10. Shadrach, 2018.

  11. We are referring to enabling message bearers to use their professions, skills and entrepreneurial abilities to derive an income while multiplying Church Planting Movements among unreached peoples. Learn more on pages 211–217 in Rethinking Global Mobilization by the author.

  12. Learn more about this important subject in Rethinking Global Mobilization: Calling the Church to Her Core Identity (2022) published by IGNITE Media.

This is an article from the July-August 2023 issue: Mobilizing the Church to Reach All Peoples

Unreached of the Day July-August 2023

This is the new Global Prayer Digest which merged with Unreached of the Day in 2021

Unreached of the Day July-August 2023

Click on the .pdf icon to read the Unreached of the Day.

This is an article from the July-August 2023 issue: Mobilizing the Church to Reach All Peoples

“Go Where?”

“Go Where?”

 Mission Mobilizers Give Direction

Mobilization at its simplest means getting people ready to move. If you mobilize a country for war, you take people from civilian life and put them in uniform, ready to move. Later, the generals can decide where to send them. That’s called “deployment.” Mobilization comes first, the deployment message comes next. But once God commissions us to be mission mobilizers then, in my view, a deployment message is a vital part of our toolkit. If we inspire people to action without direction, then our implicit message is they don’t need to deploy. They can just stay where they are. On the other hand, any convincing deployment message inspires its own motivation.

 God Gives Deployment Messages

As mobilizers, the Spirit of God is already speaking through us. We take it on ourselves to communicate where we believe God wants significant numbers of believers to deploy their attention, prayers, money, and maybe their very selves.

When Jesus mobilized His disciples, He included a clear deployment message. To begin, the simple “follow me” was enough. But as they got used to following Him, and as fame threatened His mission, He gave them an idea of His own deployment instructions. Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so that I can preach there also. That is why I have come (Mark 1:38). Then He sent the Twelve with the words, Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel… (Matt 10:5–6). Then Luke tells us that the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go (Luke 10:1). Finally, and most famously, there is the “Go” of the Great Commission which in different versions include the deployment instructions “all the world,” “all creation,” “all nations,” “beginning at Jerusalem,” and “in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”1

 Good Deployment Messages Are Informed by Data

In modern times, good deployment messages have always been informed and supported by data. At the heart of William Carey’s 87–page Enquiry of 1792 is a 24–page data table “containing a survey of the present state of the world.”2 Intrinsic to Hudson Taylor’s 1865 China’s Spiritual Need and Claims are several tables, charts and a map of China.3 Yet the data is not in itself the message. Both Carey and Taylor were careful to spell out the deployment message in words—with spiritual, rational, and emotional appeals to their readers. Some researchers and data people make the mistake of thinking that they can just present data. “It’s obvious!” they may say. But relatively few people can look at some data and understand what it means, still less what God is saying through it. Even those with skill and spirit may take months or years to craft a good deployment message. I believe that development of a good deployment message usually requires input in three areas: divine revelation, logical data processing, and some sort of “gut feeling” or “common sense.” We can see all three factors at work in William Carey’s Enquiry—his careful Bible exposition, the detailed data he had gathered about the world over years, and his passionate sense of what could be accomplished despite all objections.

As a data person, trained by God for 23 years in corporate data, and now sent into global Church information, I have used data to help craft several global and international deployment messages. I have some strong convictions about this area. One is that we should no longer expect to give the same deployment message to every Christian around the world. When most of us were bottled up in North America and Europe, it made sense to have messages which are today characterized as “from the West to the rest,” but no longer.

 The Data Screams Out the Need for Deployment

Some say that mission is now “everywhere to everywhere,” but that statement is of limited use. It is indeed very useful to help break that old mindset of “from the West to the rest.” And that surely still needs to be fully broken among us. But as a deployment message, it is completely useless. Telling everyone to go everywhere, gives no real direction at all. It will soon be taken as a suggestion that we may as well stay where we are. We can only accept “everywhere to everywhere” or “leave all mission in the hands of nationals” when faith is evenly spread around the world, but it is not. The data continues to scream out that this is far from the case.

Yes, it is true that the Church is now established in every country of the world. Yet more than half of all Christians live in a country where more than 70% of people are Christians. Many of those countries now are non-Western. Praise God! But meanwhile, more than half of all non-Christians live in a country where more than 90% of people are non-Christians.4 If we look at people groups, the situation is even more stark. More than half of all Christians are part of a people group where more than 88% are Christian, and more than half of non-Christians live in people groups where more than 98% are non-Christian.5

 We Need a Message from Beyond

This means that most Christians, whether Western or non-Western, intuitively feel the world to be largely Christian—because their world is indeed largely Christian. Only information from beyond their nation and people group can open their eyes to the real state of the world. We still need international mission, and even more, we need intercultural mission.

We can assume that life was quite comfortable for Nehemiah in Susa. It was a shock for him to learn that, Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire (Neh. 1:3). That information about the situation beyond his locality is what triggered all his fasting, prayer, planning, and action. Deployment messages are still needed and can be a powerful tool in the hand of mobilizers. Mobilizers should think, “What deployment message am I giving (whether explicit or implied)? How is it justified? Is it appropriate for my audience?”

 Deployment Messages Must Be Primarily Informed by Relative Need

Our deployment messages should be strongly informed by need. Who are the unreached or the unengaged? Where is there no church? Where is the Bible not available? Where do people have no Christian friends? William Carey spoke of those who do not have “the means of grace,” and Hudson Taylor of China’s “spiritual needs.” Based on relative need, we will not encourage the Central Asian Church to build capacity to evangelize North America. Now, the Spirit of God may well direct an individual to go from Afghanistan to the USA. We do well not to stand in their way. And nor should we despise those who follow Jesus’ command, When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another (Matt. 10:23). Yet as mobilizers, mobilizing North Americans to be part of God’s mission to Central Asia makes more sense because of the relative need in Central Asia for faith in Jesus Christ.

Note that, even based solely on relative need, appropriate deployment messages in today’s world will not be the same in all nations. As I said above, we should no longer expect to give the same deployment message to every Christian around the world. And there is a new opportunity that we have now that the Church is established in so many places and cultures.

 Deployment Messages Can Increasingly Be Informed by Affinity

The opportunity is to leverage connections or affinities between the workers and the harvest. Because the Church is spread out, and because we are culturally diverse, different ones of us are suited to tackle different parts of the whole. The current call to sub-Saharan Africa to “Go north!” takes them to North African countries that they can relate to as Africans, and often through a shared experience of Islam. I hear some in Ibero-America stressing their cultural and historical affinity to the Arab World. Affinities can exist for many reasons—physical proximity, historical links, shared language, trading blocs. Any of these and more can be a reason to adjust a deployment message and bring the task closer.

 But Globally We Must Keep an Eye on the Whole

However, we cannot allow affinity thinking to dominate all our deployment messages worldwide. If we go all out for “national workers” or “near neighbors,” we will miss the very neediest unbelievers who are unreached exactly because they are not very “near” to any of us.

Those who have the greatest riches of the kingdom may have an obligation to play down the idea of affinity for themselves and gear up to tackle the most remote fields. The statistics suggest countries like this may be USA, Brazil, Chile, and some highly Christian, island nations in the Caribbean or Pacific. Maybe churches in these nations still need to have their sights set on the least Christian people groups in the least Christian countries, regardless of proximity or affinity.

We need to ensure that our research and our global data are always ready to support us as we craft kingdom deployment messages to the churches.

Endnotes
  1. See Mark 16:15, Matt. 28:19, Luke 24:47, Acts 1:8

  2. Carey, William. 1792, “An Enquiry into the Obligation of Christians to use means for the Conversion of the Heathens: in which the religious state of the different nations of the world, the success of former undertakings, and the practicability of further undertakings, are considered.” Leicester: Ann Ireland, 38.

  3. Taylor, J. Hudson. 1887, China’s Spiritual Need and Claims. 7th edition, London: Morgan and Scott.

  4. Interpretation mine from data in Country_Regions_Book_Equivalent.xls from “Operation World Professional Edition DVD-ROM” Jason Mandryk, 7th Edition, 2010, GMI.

  5. Interpretation mine using PGAC (People Group Across Country) from Joshua Project data, joshuaproject.net/resources/datasets.

This is an article from the July-August 2023 issue: Mobilizing the Church to Reach All Peoples

Toward the Edges: What Next

Toward the Edges: What Next

Let me begin by saying this is my final column for Mission Frontiers! I will be stepping down as the General Director of Frontier Ventures at the end of June 2023, after 6 years as part of FV and WCIU.

In the year 2017, I came from leading a different organization and joined Frontier Ventures (originally, the US Center for World Mission) to be part of our leadership group, becoming General Director in 2019. Of course, prior to coming here, I had been aware of the more famous elements of the thinking of our founder, Ralph Winter. One of the most famous of Dr. Winter’s contributions to frontier missiology is the theme of this edition of MF: mobilization.

 Background

Even before coming here, I began to study Dr. Winter’s thinking more thoroughly, and one of the most notable aspects of his mind was the way in which he was continuously and actively reassessing his views, including his thoughts about barriers and mobilization.

 Lausanne 1974

We will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Lausanne movement in 2024. At the original event, Dr. Winter was invited by Dr. Graham to speak about cross-cultural evangelism as “the highest priority.” Much of the paper explained the so-called “E” scale, and focused on “E-3” as the highest priority. “E” represented “evangelism” and “3” represented the most significant cultural distance that would need to be negotiated for evangelism to be effective or possible. The presentation included statistics (and even more statistics were provided in his rejoinders to those who gave responses to his paper).

While numbers and data were presented to help define the reality of the scope of need, the main thrust was to paint clearly and starkly what would be needed for any sort of progress. And this served in large part as one of the major sources of inspiration for the mobilization movement: the effort to shift the way mission agencies determined the allocations of personnel and resources to give great priority to what came to be known as unreached peoples.

Dr. Winter’s thesis was not without its detractors! I won’t rehearse the nearly 50 years of ongoing debate, discovery, and development of his ideas and the initiatives that arose because of them. Suffice it to say that the development of databases to track UPGs (including our own Joshua Project), efforts to educate normal Christians (such as the Perspectives movement), prayer for UPGs (such as our own Global Prayer Digest), as well as publications and new organizations all arose as a result of a spark in 1974. That spark was actually ignited prior, but seemed to catch flame then.

And we are still talking about mobilization today, as this MF edition attests. I mentioned that Dr. Winter’s thinking kept progressing, and that is true of his thinking about our theme.

 2005: Dr. Winter Looks Back (and Forward)

In 2005, Winter wrote an article entitled “12 Frontiers of Perspective.”1 Almost exactly 30 years after the Lausanne paper, his thinking had matured, deepened, and changed. In this paper, he looked back and described his thinking, but he also looked forward. Of the 12 frontiers Winter discussed, I will focus on his comments about mobilization in particular.

In 2005, Winter restated his discovery of the Genesis 12 purpose of God to bless all people of the earth, a discovery of not just that text but of God’s purposes for all peoples as a—or—the—unifying theme of the Bible. Tracing the peoples theme through the Bible, and comparing that to the data about “people groups” is, in part, what gave rise to the focus in FV and in other organizations on “peoples”: reached, unreached, engaged, unengaged, lists, descriptions, prayer movements, etc.

In the FV world, our flagship programs and projects such as Perspectives, Joshua Project, Global Prayer Digest, much of what we publish in Mission Frontiers and IJFM, and a number of the titles in William Carey Publishing, have all been shaped by people-group thinking, flowing directly and indirectly from the missiological implications of the promise to Abraham.

But then, astonishingly, in 2005 Winter went on to say:

“But, of course, to recognize that all these peoples can be reached fairly readily now may have reduced that frontier to just sort of a need for further encouragement…we have our arms around the intermediate task of the unreached peoples. This is a manageable task…”2

In many ways, by that time his thinking had shifted to other frontiers.

Note his two comments: “just sort of a need for further encouragement” and “we have our arms around the intermediate task.”

He was not saying that the day of mobilization was over, but clearly he DID suggest it was well in hand.

 Discouragement? Or not?

I recently noticed a trend. When the first attempts to describe the need for mobilization were presented, several decades ago, the rough numbers were that about 1 in 20 workers sent as missionaries ended up among pioneer settings, unreached peoples. The same was roughly true for finances, 1 in 20 dollars. I used those stats, as did many, as a way to fuel motivation, in essence saying, “Look, all we need to do is move the needle, get more balance,” etc.

A few years ago, I saw updated statistics: roughly the same. And more recently again: roughly the same. After decades of mobilization, the needle did not move with respect to the percentages of workers and finances serving among the unreached. That could be discouraging. But I do not think it is, for several reasons.

 What I've Seen Encourages Me

In my own experience in the field, I have seen a very different, organic, and almost natural development as new movements to Jesus find ways to both grow among their own people AND to cross cultural borders into others. They are mobilizing, and doing so without charts, databases, prayer movements, courses, or personnel dedicated to the mobilization role. I am not saying those things should not be done, but it should encourage us in the face of much that could be discouraging. It should encourage us that as movements multiply, they may well carry within them the DNA of the ongoing multiplication of movements among more UPGs. 

 There are Good Seeds in Good Soil

While the percentages and ratios have not changed, and while it is also true that among those who do get to the least reached there are some who likely should not have been sent. It is true that among otherwise godly and wonderful people working among the unreached there are some who are less than fully equipped. The fact is that there are some who are gifted, called, shaped, and formed who have been used by God to catalyze movements which are catalyzing other movements organically, almost naturally.

 Mobilization is Not Lord of the Harvest

We know Who is! This does not mean, of course, that there is no need to listen and respond and say “yes” to whatever role or invitation Jesus brings to you and I. But thankfully, He does not depend upon us either.

 Next

I began by saying this is my last column and that I will step down as General Director the end of June. Next? My wife Susan and I do not know yet. But I do know that we will continue to listen, seek to say yes, and are eager to serve Him in the world He has created among the peoples of the world He so dearly loves.

Endnotes
  1. First published in Ralph D. Winter, Frontiers in Mission: Discovering and Surmounting Barriers to the Missio Dei. Third Edition. Pasadena, CA: William Carey International University Press, 2005, 28–40.

  2. How can he say that in 2005? Because by then the fruit of the missiological revolution set off by that fresh discovery of Genesis 12, had already significantly changed the world of mission: there was a growing number of agencies beginning to focus exclusively on the unreached, networks of agencies collaborating to engage every people on the list, and multiple lists. Even agencies that had not adopted “reaching the unreached” as their primary focus, had to account for the idea in their thinking.

This is an article from the July-August 2023 issue: Mobilizing the Church to Reach All Peoples

Challenges & Opportunities of Mobilization in the Post-COVID World

Challenges & Opportunities of Mobilization in the Post-COVID World

COVID-19 has no doubt reset our world in many ways, especially with respect to our practice of mission as well as in mission mobilization. This disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic requires new-wineskin thinking and re-strategizing on the part of the Church on how to creatively fulfill the mandate of mission mobilization in a post-pandemic world so that the good news of God’s reign will be proclaimed in all the world as a witness to all nations (Matt. 24:14). In examining the challenges and opportunities of mobilization post-COVID-19, this article will seek to envision mobilization in ways that are appropriate for a post-pandemic world, because to some degree, the survival of the Church and its mission during the next pandemics may depend on it.

“Through the COVID-19 pandemic, God appears to be orchestrating circumstances globally, preparing the optimal environment for the message of mission mobilization among His Church to be prioritized like no other time since the early Church.”1 Sometimes, in order to help us embrace change, God puts us into circumstances we would never choose, but, in His eternal wisdom, best aligns us with where He is leading.

But what do we really mean by mission mobilization? Mission mobilization refers to the strategic and intentional activity of believers to inspire, equip, and activate the fruitful engagement of other Christians in God’s mission. Essentially, it is the whole process of maturing followers of Jesus to know, to be, and to do all that Christ has called the Church to in the fulfillment of His mission. According to Steve C. Hawthorne, “Mobilization in its broadest sense is helping God’s people to move with God in His mission.”2 He further says that “mobilizing is the process by which people become fruitfully engaged in the mission of God to the world.”3 Ryan Shaw, on the other hand, says, “Mobilization is not a one-time event but a long-term process of putting the Great Commission at the center of every disciple and local ministry.”4 While Randy Mitchel opined that, “For the Church to mobilize begins with movement towards God and with God on mission.”5 How then does the Church fulfill its ministry of mobilization in a post-pandemic world?

 Global Realities Facing the Church & Challenges of Mobilization

Along with the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic, the global Church today is faced with exploding world population, migration and diaspora issues, poverty, hostile and dictatorial governments, militant religious beliefs, secularism, humanism, occultism, growing injustices, and more. For instance, Europe, which used to be the heartland of Christianity for such a prolonged time and in such an extensive way, is now the first continent to be de-Christianized, with the prevalent idea that life can be lived without recourse to God. While in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, the Church is breaking new ground and establishing new Christiancommunities, Europe—and the West at large—appears to be in retreat. With significant social trends in Europe and the West like secularism, migration, people trafficking, Islam, technology, and Brexit, coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic, the West is fast becoming the most challenging frontier for missions and missions mobilization. Moreover, technology and the Internet, computing, digital storage, artificial intelligence, and big data are some of the social trends shaping the world today and present their own opportunities.

During the pandemic, there was also the challenge of lockdowns and restrictions to movement. Churches in some places were unable to meet physically and mobilization events were unable to be held in conventional ways. This affected the entire process of mobilization in some ways. For instance, during the COVID-19 restrictions, we were limited to operating in small groups and had to cancel a big mobilization event we had planned. Moreover, we were limited in the deployment aspect of mobilization regarding a team we had enthused about God’s mission and trained in how to participate with God in His mission because the target people were in a no-go area.

 Opportunities for Mission Mobilization in the Post-Covid World?

With decreased mobility and increased digital connectivity, mobilizers need to re-envision how to mobilize the whole people of God to their shared calling and participation in the redemptive mission of God using digital tools. A major opportunity that the pandemic challenge opens up is the mobilization of young people, who are referred to as “digital natives” because of their digital literacy and ability to deploy their technological skills, to respond to the challenge of decreased mobility as well as funding of missions and mobilization work. This gives the youth a sense of belonging in the Church’s mission, thereby guaranteeing the future of such mission endeavors. Moreover, the opportunity of digital connectivity requires that mobilizers come up with snackable digital content to use as mobilization tools in order to awaken, empower, and activate the Church to move with God in His mission to the billions who are currently online. So the challenge creates opportunity for creativity and innovation.

Another opportunity for mission mobilization in the post-COVID-19 world is that of dynamic collaboration among mobilizers. The COVID-19 pandemic revealed our insufficiency in ourselves and our need for interdependence. This is what is referred to as dynamic collaboration. No single church denomination or ministry, however well endowed, can fulfill the mission mobilization mandate all by itself. According to Michael Oh, the Global Executive Director and CEO of the Lausanne Movement, “Disciples of all nations will be made when disciples of all nations are collaborating (Gen. 11:6).”6

With migration comes an opportunity for diaspora mobilization. However, it is migration from the Majority World that is seeing the most significant number of new diaspora churches being planted in the Global North and parts of the Global South.

“Latin-American migrants have planted thousands of churches in Spain, Portugal and beyond over the last thirty years. It is difficult to find a major European city that does not have a large Spanish speaking and/or Brazilian congregation. Similarly, Chinese churches can be found almost everywhere. The Chinese Overseas Christian Mission lists over 120 Chinese-speaking congregations in the UK and a further 150 in the rest of Europe, though that is certainly only a fraction of the actual churches that exist. However, it is the Black African churches that are the most numerous. African-initiated Pentecostal churches number in the thousands in Britain alone.”

To achieve the goal of a worshiping community drawn from all peoples of the earth, mobilizers must target diaspora churches and mobilize them for missions, to, through, and beyond the diaspora (Rev. 5:9, 7:9).

In order for the Church to survive the challenges of a prolonged pandemic and bring closure to the GreatCommission mandate, mobilizers must be strategic in their mobilization of all God’s people (including professionals, students, civil servants, business people, athletes, children and young people, as well as those in government, the entertainment industry, etc.) to target all the spheres of influence of society for the fulfillment of the Great Commission, beginning with their primary platform (Matt. 24:14). These people should be mobilized for kingdom impact in every sphere of society—the arts, media, science, technology, architecture, medicine, etc. We need them to fulfill the Great Commission.

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented the global Church with a paradigm shift in its practice of mission mobilization. Far from being a frustration to mission mobilization, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented a challenge for the Church to re-imagine how different parts of the Body of Christ function together to support the faithful, holistic witness of the Gospel. The in-person gatherings that have been at the core of church programs for centuries showed their limitations during the pandemic. Rather than planning to “get back to normal,” mission mobilizers need to plan for a more robust, hybrid way of being mobilizers and doing mobilization. Meanwhile, the digital world is here to stay as an integral part of the Church’s mission field. The lessons learned must not be lost, rather, the Church must now carefully look at the opportunities and be diligent to prioritize the most appropriate ways of doing mobilization in tandem with the realities of today’s world. The global Church must seize the opportunity of the moment to give a final major push to the Great Commission mandate through massive and creative mobilization of all God’s people. Let us rise with all that Jesus has made available to us through redemption to reach all unreached, least reached, and unengaged frontier ethnic people groups of our world so that the Son may receive the reward of His suffering and global glory may ascend to our God and the Lamb upon the throne.

Endnotes
  1. Shaw, Ryan. 2022 Rethinking Mission Mobilization.

  2. Mitchel, Randy. 2023 Handbook for Mission Mobilization.

  3. Hawthorne, Steve. 2015 A Global Mobilization Consultation Paper on “Mobilizing God’s People for God’s Mission.”

  4. Bendor Samuel, Paul. 2020 Covid-19, Trends in Global Mission, Participation in Faithful Witness Oxford Center for Mission Study.

  5. Memory, Jim. Europe 2021 “A Missiological Report.”

  6. Sanou, Dietrich, and Kern. Towards a Post-Pandemic Mission.

This is an article from the July-August 2023 issue: Mobilizing the Church to Reach All Peoples

Redefining Revival for a New Generation

Redefining Revival for a New Generation

 The Purpose of Revival

Many today are asking what is the point and purpose of revival? In light of our present consideration of a new era of mission mobilization in the global Church, this subject is important. Revival in God’s Church and mission mobilization of that Church for His purposes in the Great Commission go hand in hand.

The primary objective of every true revival is to heal and restore a broken relationship between God and His people. Revival is needed when God’s people forget about Him, stop seeking Him, or worse yet, when they seek Him only to get something for themselves. Revival is needed when we become hardened to the feelings and affections of Jesus, ignoring the promptings of the Holy Spirit. When such things become a recurring problem, God never abandons us.

 The Difference Between the Fruit and Root of Revival

Revival is a visitation of God’s power and presence that restores our love and worship for Jesus. Yet, sometimes the fruit and effects of revival become more desired than the presence of Jesus Himself. For example, the Great Awakenings in the 18th and 19th centuries were uniquely characterized by powerful preachers and large evangelistic meetings with thousands of converts. God used these revivals to restore and reawaken a zeal for evangelism and the Great Commission within His Church. However, some believers gradually began to define mass-evangelism and large crowds as the sum total of a genuine revival. Many today still make this mistake. Later, at the beginning of the 20th century, God began to restore the gifts and power of the Holy Spirit. Soon, much like the previous revival generation, people began to mistake the supernatural effects of revival for the actual heart of revival itself.

 The Three Phases of Genuine Revival

Isaiah 6:1–8 is a useful template to help define and track the purposes and progress of a biblical revival. All the great evangelical revivals throughout church history have followed a similar path and process.

 1)  Looking Up to See the King

I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim … And one cried to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy” (Isa. 6:1–3).

Genuine revival usually begins by awakening the Church to the holiness and majesty of God. We may know God as father, friend, and comforter, but when God comes down in our midst, we suddenly become more acquainted with the King upon the throne. Just like the angels in Isaiah 6, we begin to humble ourselves in worship and cry out holy, holy, holy.

 2)  Looking In to See Our True Condition

So I said: “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The LORD of hosts” (Isa. 6:5).

Verse 5 describes Isaiah’s response to his new, enlarged view of Jesus on the throne, radically changing the way he saw himself and those around him. Many today are consumed by themselves. “Me, myself and I” fills the horizon of their lives, crowding out God’s greater purposes. God’s manifest presence helps us come face-to-face with our true condition, so we can humble ourselves and turn away from the sin of self-worship. It is this self- examination that opens the floodgates of humility, brokenness, and true repentance during revival.

 3)  Looking Out to See the Harvest

I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: “Whom shall I send, And who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me” (Isa. 6:8).

Revival also turns our focus outward to a lost and dying world. To the same extent our eyes are opened to God’s character and the need for more grace, we begin to see and care about the needs of others. This new way of seeing prepares us to respond to God’s missionary call—“Who will go for us?” This is the ancient path of the great revivals. True revival sets us free from our own selfish heart, sending us out to love and serve others. As Erwin Lutzer so aptly stated, “Revival is the mother of missions.”1 Great revivals always produce a zeal for the Great Commission. If not, it’s probably not a true revival.

 Revival History Confirms this Pattern

This Isaiah 6 process has been confirmed throughout revival history. It is widely believed, in the missions community, that over the last 200+ years of Church history, more people have come to Christ than during all the previous 1,800 years combined. How do we account for such extraordinary spiritual growth? The answer is the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

 The 1st Great Awakening & the Evangelical Revival (1730s to 1790)

We usually refer to this remarkable season of revival as the Great Awakening. This move of God launched a transatlantic revival movement that mobilized God’s people on three different continents in united prayer for a fully revived Church and the finishing of the Great Commission. This revival transformed whole nations and influenced the spiritual and social values of an entire generation. It rescued all of Britain from a moral and spiritual collapse, and at the same time, watered the seeds of liberty, human rights, and democracy in the American colonies. Prior to this awakening, there was little zeal for evangelism at home and far less for the foreign field. The Great Awakening rolled away the Church’s stony heart and resurrected the Great Commission in a single generation.

 The 2nd Great Awakening (1792 to 1845)

Before long, the 2nd Great Awakening was pushing the American church to restore its apostolic vision to finish the Great Commission. This mighty revival impacted America for over 50 years in one part of the nation or another. It started after the renewed Concert of Prayer movement called God’s people into a season of humility, repentance, and monthly rhythms of united prayer. Soon God was pouring out His Spirit on America’s largest universities, and then it spread across the Alleghenies and into the western frontier of Kentucky. Methodist camp meetings were soon setting the rural countryside ablaze with the power of the Spirit. America was being awakened from one end to the other. Coinciding with this awakening also came the birth of the Modern Missions Movement through William Carey, Andrew Fuller, and a handful of other English Baptists. Then, in 1812, America sent out its first missionaries; Adoniram Judson, Luther Rice, and others left their families and homes to share the Good News with Asia.

 The Great American Revival (1857 to 1859)

On the heels of the 2nd Great Awakening came what some have called America’s Greatest Revival. Though  it lasted only two to three years, it’s conservatively estimated to have brought 500,000–1,000,000 converts to Christ. It wasn’t preaching that fueled this awakening as much as it was praying. Daily and hourly prayer meetings were the key and driving force behind this mighty work of God. Some say that within a six-month period, there were anywhere from 10,000 to 30,000 men and women out of a population of 800,000 praying daily at 20 different locations in New York City. Like our previous examples, this awakening realigned the heart of God’s people with God’s heart for the nations. It raised up a mighty missionary force called the Inland Missionary Movement. These young evangelists cast off their own culture, customs, and language so they could better embrace the unreached for Christ.

These are just a few examples of God’s larger revival purposes. I wish we had room to describe the mighty awakenings of the 20th century in Wales, Manchuria, India, Korea, and Azusa Street. All these revivals followed a similar path. Revival comes to call us back to our first love and back to the power and purity of the early  Church, and true revival always calls the Church to finish the Great Commission.

 Revival, Restoration, and Finishing

My recent visit to Asbury University was very encouraging. What I experienced there was much different from anything I’ve seen in a long time. No advertising, no promotion of special speakers, no celebrity worship bands, and yet the people stayed. They stayed to worship, they stayed to pray, and they stayed to repent of their sins. It didn’t matter who was leading worship or praying—no one seemed to notice because everyone was staying focused on Jesus.

God is saying something through this move of God to the whole Body of Christ, “It’s time to stop, be still and stay in His presence until we make things right.” God is getting this generation ready to go and finish something big. He’s getting them ready through staying and worshiping in His presence.

This recent move of God gives us reason to believe that something more is on the way. This generation has a passion for both the restoration of the Church and the finishing of the Great Commission. Something more is coming, and we need to get ready for it. God’s revival train has left the station, and it’s moving towards its destination. We’re not to the destination yet, so we need to stay where God stays, in the place of brokenness and humility, believing in the power of true revival to mobilize Jesus’ Church globally with His own heartbeat for the world.

For thus says the High and Lofty One …I dwell in the high and holy place, With him who has a contrite and humble spirit, To revive the spirit of the humble …” (Isa. 57:15).

Endnotes
  1. Lutzer, Dr. Erwin W. September 15, 1991 “Revival: The Mother Of Missions.” Reformation and Revival https://www.moodymedia.org/sermons/reformation-and-revival/revival-mother-missions/

This is an article from the July-August 2023 issue: Mobilizing the Church to Reach All Peoples

The Mobilization Index: A Strategic Mobilization Tool

The Mobilization Index: A Strategic Mobilization Tool

I’ll bet you’ve never heard someone say, “If we keep sending more missionaries to that country, we’ll be hurting them more than helping!” How could that be? More is always better, right?—No!

If we continue sending missionaries and resources to a country with a large population of Christians, it could reinforce the perception that they are (and always will be?) a needy mission field, when in fact, it is way past due for them to transform into a radical new missions force.

Some countries don’t need more missionaries, they need mobilizers—humble, cross-cultural believers who will serve the Body of Christ there. If you have a leadership role in a ministry that sends workers to other countries, consider whether each specific country (or people group) needs more missionaries … or more mobilizers. Imagine the multiplying impact your ministry can have by sending mobilizers to partner with the national believers.

Today, 80% of the evangelical church resides in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.1 So we at Via (formerly the Center for Mission Mobilization) kept asking ourselves, “What if there was a tool that could identify strategic countries with large populations of evangelical Christians who possess other favorable factors that could help them be effective in engaging, equipping, and connecting their believers to raise up and send workers to the unreached?”

That question resulted in the development of the Via Mobilization IndexTM (ViaMobilizationIndex.org). For over 12 years, Via has been working with respected missiologists and researchers from various countries to pull together a wide range of demographics for 118 countries, including the 57 countries that have 1 million or more evangelical Christians. This Index has been presented at the Global Mobilization Consultation, Missio Nexus, EMQ, and included in Radical’s Stratus project.

Information is powerful. Since 1964, Operation World has been informing and inspiring Christians around the world to join God in praying for the nations.2 For decades, the Joshua Project has helped awaken the Church by defining the unfinished task of the Great Commission among the unreached.3 Both of these excellent resources (and others like them) have contributed to mobilizing laborers, guiding mission strategies, and awakening countless hearts to God’s global purpose.

One of the main purposes of Via’s Index is to aid mission agencies and ministries globally to be the most strategic and effective in the placing of their personnel. We developed “deeper dives” country profiles, much like Operation World, to highlight the strategic opportunities each of these countries have to send missionaries to the unreached. Go to ViaMobilizationIndex.org to see the latest version. You can search through different countries and regional profiles, but you can also sort and weigh all the various data points in order to make informed strategic decisions based on your mission vision, resources, and opportunities.

The Via Mobilization IndexTM builds upon the strategic research of others, revealing countries’ mission-sending potentials and where the Church is the ripest for mobilization. You can utilize the user friendly “Sort and Compare’’ function as you search through these various sub-indices and others that make up the Index:

•     Number of Evangelicals versus Missionaries: The Index utilizes Operation World for two critical pieces of data: number of evangelicals and number of missionaries sent. While these numbers were published in 2010, they are the best researched and trustworthy to date. When credible current information becomes available, we update these figures with new cited research after careful consideration.

•     Regional Access to UPGs: We evaluated the physical distance or regional proximity from a country to high numbers of Unreached People Groups with data from the Joshua Project.4

•     Cultural Bridges to UPGs: To determine this, we use Geert Hofstede’s research into the six dimensions of national culture.

•     Prosperity: While generosity is not dependent on financial prosperity, research shows a correlation between the Legatum Prosperity IndexTM and the country’s number of cross-cultural missionaries sent externally and their ability to fund them. Legatum determines overall prosperity through what they call the “nine pillars” of prosperity that consider factors such as economic quality, education, health, and governance.5

•     Religious Freedom: Religious restrictions can potentially play a significant role in a nation’s ability to mobilize and send out workers to the unreached. The Pew Forum has researched government restrictions and social hostilities and how they interfere with religious beliefs and practices.6

Within the country profiles, we also highlight how God has uniquely and strategically positioned that nation in His plan to see every tribe, tongue, and nation reached by His people as quickly as possible. But why the hurry? It’s because we are faced with the greatest dilemma in the history of our now over eight billion world population. Jesus issued the Great Commission almost 2,000 years ago. Numerous countries have been sending out foreign mission teams for well over 200 years. Yet, with all our modern technology, travel, and entrepreneurship, four out of 10 people in the world are still cut off from the Gospel! Dr. Todd Johnson of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity released a disturbing research statistic: “86% of all non-Christians will never meet a Christ follower.”7 Since reading that, I have not been sleeping well.

If these statistics are even close to accurate, life cannot go on as usual, knowing billions of these precious souls will live and die, never even having the chance to hear of Jesus and His forgiveness. Indeed, we celebrate the significant Gospel advances over the years, but if we are to genuinely address this overwhelming need, a new approach is required. It is time to think outside the box. For the last 50 years, we’ve been diligently studying and documenting where all the Unreached People Groups of the world are. Maybe now it’s time to discover another major category of peoples—those huge swaths of believers across the planet yet to be mobilized but have some of the greatest mission sending potential!

As an example, the 13 English-speaking countries in Africa have more than 130 million evangelicals. But research shows they are sending less than 5,000 cross-cultural workers.8 That’s only one missionary for every 26,000 evangelicals, showing a significant mobilization gap. Instead of sending more missionaries into these Christian countries, what if we instead launched mobilization teams throughout that region, with a seemingly modest goal of raising up just one cross-cultural worker for every 1,000 evangelicals? Astonishingly, that would increase their missionary sending from 5,000 to 130,000 cross-cultural goers—the greatest missionary force in all of history!

Countries that haven’t had decades of experience in sending missionaries often welcome seasoned partners who can offer resources to help educate Christians on the biblical basis of missions and the dire spiritual needs of the unreached. They also may want assistance as they develop recruiting strategies, training programs, and member care structures for their own church planters within their own people group and missionaries to Unreached People Groups. While this Index can aid in the researching, planning, and discernment process, it is not intended to be the final arbiter of God’s will, dictating the location of your ministry assignments. Ultimately, prayer and the leading of the Holy Spirit take precedence over research and statistics.

The goal of the Via Mobilization IndexTM is simple: to see an increase in global mobilization that leads to more laborers being sent to the unreached to proclaim Christ until every tribe, tongue, and nation has heard. We believe that each of the nations on the Index has been commissioned by God to raise up and send out laborers for God’s harvest. It’s not a ranking of which countries are most important or which can send the most missionaries. Acts 1:8 applies to the Body of Christ in every country, so each nation on the Index has its own unique opportunities, challenges, missions, and sending potential as they seek to raise up and launch workers.

Application: Peruse and evaluate the Index to see if it can be a tool you and other mobilizers and ministry leaders can use to fuel prayer, encourage a greater commitment to the unreached from all believers, inform leaders  about the current state of sending, and to help guide the placement of future missionaries and mobilizers. Paul asks in Romans 10:14–15a, How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him, of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? Let’s work together as a global Body of Christ to mobilize, train, and send more missionaries across the world to fulfill the Great Commission.

For questions or more information, you may contact us at [email protected]. Visit ViaNations.org to find mobilization resources for churches, students, families, and mission agencies.

Endnotes
  1. CMM (Center for Mission Mobilization) staff researchers did the math based upon Operation World’s populations of evangelicals and sending numbers (https://operationworld.org).

  2. Mandryk, Jason. 2010 Operation World: The Definitive Prayer Guide to Every Nation. Downers Grove: IVP.

  3. http://www.joshuaproject.net

  4. Based on Geert Hostede's Cultural Dimensions and utilizing the Country Comparison Tool. https://www.hofstede-insights.com/country-comparison-tool

  5. "What is Prosperity" The Legatum Centre for National Prosperity, https://www.prosperity.com/about-prosperity/what-prosperity

  6. Based on the 2021 Religious Freedom & Restrictions report, Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/topic/religion/ religious-freedom-restrictions/.

  7. From Dr. Todd Johnson’s research at the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, Gordon Conwell Seminary.

  8. CMM staff researchers did the math based upon Operation World’s populations of evangelicals and sending numbers (https:// operationworld.org).

This is an article from the July-August 2023 issue: Mobilizing the Church to Reach All Peoples

MOBIOLOGY: An Introduction

MOBIOLOGY: An Introduction

Over recent centuries, the development and refining of missiology has helped the Church focus on the missional task at hand. It may have begun in the colonial context with a geographical focus but it has been considerably refined in recent decades to direct our attention to people groups and today to the more than 7,000 people groups which remain unreached.1 With these people being arguably the most resistant to the Gospel, missiology’s value to the Body of Christ, remains indispensable.

One of the longstanding frustrations missiology has faced is a lack of harvesters for the harvest fields of the world. To address this, mission agencies, which have modernly been the custodians of the outworking of missiology, have employed mobilizers to actively recruit personnel for cross-cultural ministry. Their efforts have been rewarded but, sadly, with fewer workers recruited than the ripened harvest fields of each generation have demanded. And worrisomely, these traditional recruitment methods are seeing fewer workers responding than in the past.

Mobiology, I would like to suggest, is the answer to this dilemma. Moving forward, mobilization must be seen as more than an activity. It must be seen as a sound biblical theology. This is where mobiology steps in.

So, what exactly is mobiology?

Mobiology is the study of the participation of all God’s people on mission with God and therefore every local church being a missional church. God on mission and God on mission with His people is seen through mobiology as the heart and soul of the Bible’s story! It spans both Testaments and ushers in God’s eternal age of a new earth where righteousness dwells.2

Through the lens of mobiology, God is accomplishing two very different purposes at the same time. As God engages His people with Him on mission, God reaps a harvest—people are saved from every nation, tribe, and tongue. At the same time, those involved as harvesters are being matured—essential preparation for His eternal age of the new heaven and a new earth (Phil. 1:6). Herein lies the genius of God. It is as we, God’s people, engage with God on mission that the wheels of our transformation begin to turn. We are learning to lay down our life, to take up our cross, to deny self—all of which are prerequisites for true transformation and growth into maturity and to the stature of the fullness of Christ (Eph. 4:13).

 Mobiology and Missiology—Two Complementary Theologies

Whereas missiology focuses on the harvest field, mobiology focuses on the harvest force. Missiology focuses on what God does through His people; mobiology focuses on what God does in His people through engaging them on His mission. Both missiology and mobiology have their eyes focused on the harvest of this age, with mobiology focused also on the “harvested” for God’s glorious age to come (Rom. 8:18).

Mobiology was always meant to be missiology’s indispensable companion. Without mobiology by its side, missiology has been like a single parent trying to attend to all the needs of the family on its own. With mobiology’s absence, mission agencies may have embraced missiology’s vital message, but local churches seldom have. A precious number of harvesters have been mobilized but seldom has all of God’s people. Mission departments have developed, but seldom have missional churches. Missiology has lacked the staunch support of its partner, mobiology, thus missing out on “a marriage made in heaven” and the full potential that such a partnership could achieve.

 Mission as Defined by Mobiology

The term “mission” has often been defined differently, adding to the confusion. Local churches tend to interpret mission by their local context, and mission people and mission agencies also defining it differently as cross- cultural ministry and often to unreached peoples. If we are to mobilize all of God’s people into living missional lives and to see every church become a missional church, then our definition of mission and understanding of mission needs a shared meaning within the Body of Christ. Like in any good marriage, this is an opportunity for all partners to grow in their understanding and positively influence each other.

So, from a mobiology perspective, and to provide a definition that all can embrace, I suggest that mission be understood in three distinct phases. The first phase is to reach unreached peoples. This could be defined as establishing an indigenous Church Planting Movement within an Unreached People Group. The workers engaged in this phase would be foreigners and cross-cultural workers as the people group is unreached and therefore lacks an indigenous Christian expression. The second phase is for indigenous workers (“insiders”) to evangelize their own people group, to plant churches, and to make disciples. The third phase is God’s people putting Christ’s kingdom on display through their transformed lives in both word and deed, for a witness or testimony to their nation. Interestingly, in reference to the Gospel becoming a witness or “a testimony to all nations,” Jesus concluded with, And then the end will come (Matt. 24:14).

Such a definition of mission, as described in these three simple phases, means every believer, church, mission agency, training school, and Bible school can be involved in meaningful and strategic mission. This “all is mission” perspective maintains the primacy of reaching unreached peoples as phases two and three simply can’t happen without a people group first being reached. Perhaps this is why Jesus said, the gospel must first be preached to all nations (Mark 13:10). I have found the writings of Chris Wright particularly helpful and have appreciated his more holistic defining of mission.3

 Recapturing Leadership in the Context of Mission

The Bible is God’s story of mission from cover to cover and flows seamlessly from the Old Testament into and through the New Testament. From the beginning, God appointed leaders such as Moses, Joshua, and David to help His people live on mission to grow and expand God’s mission agenda. Prophets also were appointed to keep His people focused. Prophets would call an often wayward people back to God and challenge them to live for the reason they were called to be God’s chosen people (Hag. 1:3–9). Mobiology identifies the leading of missional initiatives as apostolic and the missional motivation as prophetic. Viewed in this way, we can see the missional importance of both apostolic and prophetic ministries throughout both the Old and New Testaments (Luke 11:49). For this reason, in the New Testament we find Paul saying to the church at Corinth, And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets,... (1 Cor. 12:28). Missiology provides the framework for apostolic mobilization by focusing the Church’s attention on the missional task from Jerusalem to Judea, to Samaria, and into regions beyond (Acts 1:8; 2 Cor. 10:16) whilst mobiology provides the framework for prophetic mobilization, calling all God’s people to active participation with God on His mission.

In fact, mobiology sees all of the five leadership ministries (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers) in the context of mission. Failure to interpret these Body of Christ leadership ministries in the context of God’s mission has led to confusing trumpet sounds and a Church ill-prepared to live a life on mission with God (1Cor. 14:8). The people of God, in general, are not being prepared for works of missional service as ought to be happening and thus the bride is not making herself ready as she ought to be doing (Eph. 4:12; Rev. 19:7–8).

Should these leadership ministries catch this under-standing of the centrality of mission, we would see a revival of mission and of spirituality and holiness. This is what God designed wholehearted involvement with Him on mission to lead to. And, in my opinion, this is what the Church globally is increasingly hungry for. Mobiology makes even more sense when we realize that today’s Church is in every country of the world and often in significant numbers. We are the closest today to reaching the world’s remaining unreached and unsaved than in our entire history—geographically, culturally, and linguistically. The mobilization of all God’s people into mission with God and every church mobilized to be a missional church just makes so much sense!

 A Glorious Day Ahead for Mission

Imagine every church being a missional church, facilitating all God’s people into a life on mission with God. Imagine every church not just nurturing God’s people to be blessed but equipping them to be a blessing. Imagine all God’s people celebrating not just what they have been saved from but what they have been saved for. Imagine true followers of Jesus connected to the Head of the Church and to the Lord of the Harvest doing exactly what Jesus said they would do, My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me (John 10:27). As a result, the Lord of the harvest will send out workers into His harvest field on an unprecedented scale (Matt. 9:38). Imagine local churches and mission agencies meaningfully connected as these two redemptive structures were supposed to be connected.4 Imagine the harvest fields of the world reaped to His satisfaction and His bride having made herself ready!

This is the vision of mobiology!

Endnotes
  1. Joshua Project http://www.joshuaproject.net

  2. 2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1; Isa. 65:17

  3. Wright, Christopher J.H. 2006 The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative, Downers Grove: IVP; Wright, Christopher
    J.H. 2010 The Mission of God’s People: A Biblical Theology of the Church’s Mission, Zondervan Academic.

  4. Winter, Ralph D. 1974 “The Two Structures of God’s Redemptive Mission” Missiology, 2:1, 121–139.

This is an article from the July-August 2023 issue: Mobilizing the Church to Reach All Peoples

The Person Not the Method

An Essential Ingredient for Catalyzing a Movement

The Person Not the Method

We thought you might be interested in this is a newly uploaded article. It is a previously unpublished article from the July-August 2021 issue of Mission Frontiers. It can now be found in the archives. It is temporarily here for your convenience.....

The Person, not the Method: An Essential Ingredient for Catalyzing a Movement

 By Emanuel Prinz, with Dave Coles

Over a period of three years, I conducted empirical research[1] among effective movement catalysts to discover the traits and competencies possessed by pioneers effective in catalyzing a movement among a Muslim people group, and which traits they considered to have contributed to their catalyzing of a movement. This resulted in a profile of an effective movement catalyst, including eleven traits and competencies self-reported as exhibited by all participating effective catalysts.[2]

Leader Traits Verified to Fit 100% of all Catalysts

Hunger for God

Catalysts hunger for depth with God, yearn to love him more deeply; they seek to hear God’s voice and be obedient.

Expectant Faith

Catalysts expect that God will grow a movement among their people group and save many soon, and they have great faith that God will show his power through their lives.

Confidence

Catalysts feel confident in their spiritual gifts and skills, and exhibit a sense of confidence.

Drive for Responsibility

Catalysts feel responsible for the people they serve and for engaging them with the good news; they are motivated by a sense of responsibility.

Dependability

Catalysts are reliable and trustworthy; others can depend on them.

Persistence

Catalysts are tenacious in spite of challenges and amidst difficulties; they don’t give up.

Empowering

Catalysts empower and enable local people to be the key players by putting responsibility and authority in their hands from the beginning and by developing their gifts.

Confidence in the Holy Spirit

Catalysts are confident in the Holy Spirit and have faith in him to accomplish his intended work in the life of all God’s children, as they are enabled to obey his commands.

Confidence in the Bible

Catalysts have deep confidence in the Bible to be their CPM guidebook, and deep assurance in its power to accomplish what God desires.

Influencing Beliefs

Catalysts talk often about their most important values and beliefs, consider the moral consequences of decisions with people, and emphasize the importance of living toward the purpose for which one is created.

Inspiring of Vision

Catalysts articulate a compelling vision of the future, talk enthusiastically about what needs to be accomplished to see a growing movement, and express confidence that goals will be achieved.

Most literature on the subject of catalyzing a movement has focused on spiritual traits of the pioneer leader combined with the right methodology. David Garrison emphasizes characteristics of CPMs as well as methodology. The subtitles of his main publications are telling, as both refer to methods in the word “how”: “How God is Redeeming a Lost World”[3] and “How God is Drawing Muslims around the World to Faith in Jesus Christ.”[4] Garrison makes his approach sound comprehensive and absolute when insisting, “If one of these components is missing, you won’t get the results you desire” (292). He ascribes a crucial role to the pioneer leader (255), stating that “God has given Christians vital roles to play in the success or failure of these movements” (26); however, it is beyond the scope of his work to explore their traits or competencies.

The Watsons[5] and Jerry Trousdale[6] emphasize right methodology as well. Watsons qualify the significance of the methodological elements of the DMM approach: “This book focuses on the strategic elements you need to get a movement started. If you remove any of these elements, you won’t have a movement, period. You may have some growth, but you won’t experience a movement.”[7]

Watson regards the role of the external leader as critical, since he is the one who sparks the process of a movement (2011, 114). The main trait Watson highlights, a good character, is not verified as such by my research, but intersects strongly with Inspiring Personality, a trait verified in my research (exhibited by more than 80% of all catalysts interviewed), as well as some of the other traits: responsibility, dependability, and persistence. The relevance of character needs further study. Most of Watson’s competencies are either verified directly in this research (radical learning) or appear under competencies identified by this research, including the ability to develop potential beyond boundaries, the ability to delegate (empowering), and listening skills (personal consideration). Another competency identified by Watson, the ability to build teams, is very broad but encompasses a number of competencies identified by this research.

Steve Smith[8] likewise emphasized methodology; he presented a comprehensive, branded package by the name T4T. Smith made no explicit claim that his comprehensive methodology would guarantee a movement. The comprehensiveness of the approach, however, could easily leave the reader with that impression. For example, in a case study of an emerging movement, Smith described how he counselled the catalyst: “It wasn’t a CPM yet, but was getting close. As we listened, it was apparent that some elements of the T4T process were missing. We counselled him to incorporate the lessons from the next chapter.”[9]

In a separate publication, the only publication so far addressing exactly the topic of this study, Smith also considered the person of the pioneer leader.[10] Based on multiple case studies of dozens of practitioners, Smith’s summary of the traits and competencies of effective catalysts was that “each of them possesses a healthy combination of a set of characteristics.”[11] Most of those characteristics were verified by the empirical data of this present research.

Among the traits and competencies verified fully are: knowledge of reproduction principles, knowledge of movements, knowledge of what catalyzes movement (all under movement knowledge), lifelong learning, faith, expectant prayer (expectant faith and fervent intercession), and mentoring. Several other traits and competencies suggested by Smith are included within traits verified by this present research, such as knowledge of the Bible (under Bible teaching), tenacity and perseverance (persistence), integrity and spiritual authenticity (inspiring personality), loving God (hunger for God), being led by God, having vision from God, and exercising faith (expectant faith), bold discipling (discipling), ruthless self-evaluation (innovation and radical learning), training (Bible teaching, discipling, and coaching), developing leaders (confidence in nationals, and coaching), and vision casting (inspiring of vision). Only a few traits suggested by Smith are not directly verified to be strongly exhibited by movement catalysts: passionate urgency, single-mindedness, and exercising accountability.

The data of my research suggest that the effective catalyzing of movements is not tied to any particular methodology, though all employed reproductive movement approaches. Different effective catalysts employ different ministry approaches, both in terms of their movement methodology and in their approach to contextualization. A quarter of the catalysts participating in this study skipped the question about their ministry approach, which points to likely hesitation on their side to put their approach “into a box.” In addition, more than half of those who answered the question used the “Other” option to describe their ministry approach in their own words. Often the description given was a hybrid of two or more of the other approaches. This means that the approach of most effective catalysts in this study is a hybrid of more than one ministry approach, which they have adapted to the uniqueness of their context. The research does not support any claims that one specific ministry approach must be followed precisely to lead to a movement.

With the exception of the approach of adding Muslim Background Believers (MBBs) to existing Christian Background Believer (CBB) churches, it appears that particularity of methodology does not correlate to success in catalyzing a movement. By definition, the traditional approach (planting a single church) is not conducive to catalyzing a movement. This could explain why the pattern of adding MBBs to existing CBB churches is not utilized by any of the effective catalysts. At the same time, 13% of the catalysts employed the approach of planting a new church comprised of MBBs. This single church then reproduced itself and grew into a movement. The difference in these two approaches is not methodological, but primarily sociocultural. The adding of MBBs to CBB churches involves the bridging of divides, whether sociological, cultural, ethnic, or linguistic. These barriers explain why adding MBBs to existing CBB churches is not an effective approach for catalyzing a CPM, whereas the planting of a new MBB church may be.

Still, only 13% of all movements examined have been catalyzed with such an approach. The overwhelming majority of movements were catalyzed with one of the various movement approaches. Although the approaches used by effective catalysts differ in certain aspects, it is important to observe that all the approaches were reproductive movement approaches. These approaches have certain principles in common, which include cultural contextualization, obedience-oriented discipleship, house churches, reproduction, training of multipliers, and reproducible resources.[12]

The overall emphasis in pioneer and apostolic leadership and movement literature has been on right methodology, with some attention to leader traits and competencies of the pioneer leader or leaders, particularly traits of a spiritual nature. However, the findings of this research go beyond the commonly established insights of Christian pioneer leadership. The data clearly suggest that a particular methodology is far less significant in catalyzing movements than may have been assumed or publicized. The data of this study clearly establish that certain pioneer leader traits and competencies are strongly associated with effective catalyzing of CPMs. This perspective has been voiced by only a few, most notably Neill Mims and Bill Smith, who formulated what are considered to be among the most significant insights of almost 20 years of research into CPMs: “At the end of the day, it is the man and woman of God and not the method that God blesses.”[13] Another of the few voices who have expressed this perspective is movement thinker Dave Ferguson who concluded: “the greater the missional impact, the more obvious the pioneering apostolic leadership becomes.”[14]

The person of the pioneer leader(s), not the method he or she employs, plays the greatest role in determining whether or not a movement will result. Bill Smith is again among the few who formulated this accurate conclusion: “If someone says to me, give me the method or give me the curriculum, I know that they have not understood that this [the catalyzing of a movement] is accomplished through persons rather than methods.”[15] The right leader(s) will employ the right methodology. A pioneer leader with traits such as radical learning, intelligence, complex thinking, innovation, and initiative, who then possesses the necessary socio-influential and transformational competencies, has the best potential to identify and implement the most effective methodology for the context in which he or she is operating. However, a person who receives a certain methodology, but lacks the traits and competencies identified in this study, will be unable to effectively apply the methodology. This stands in stark contrast to the conclusions of many publications on movements that center around methods and principles rather than on the person of the catalyst. I hope the clear data of this research will jolt a paradigm shift in the field of catalyzing movements.

What do YOU think?

We invite you to drop a note to [email protected].

Disagree? We would like to hear from you, to stimulate dialog about this topic.

Agree? We would like to hear your insights on person over method, and on the traits of effective movement catalysts. 


[1] A more in-depth discussion of the research methodology and conclusions can be found in my book Movement Catalysts: The Profile of the Leader God Uses to Catalyze Movements and in my chapter “The Profile of an Effective Movement Catalyst,” in Motus Dei, both forthcoming from William Carey Publishing. This research is ongoing, with an ever-growing sample of participants, and more findings to be published.

[2] The research identified a further list of traits of competencies exhibited consistently by most (defined as ≥80%) effective catalysts. This article, however, concentrates on those exhibited by all effective catalysts.

[3] Garrison, David 2004. Church Planting Movements: How God is Redeeming a Lost World. Midlothian: WIGTake Resources.

[4] Garrison, David 2014. A Wind in the House of Islam: How God is Drawing Muslims around the World to Faith in Jesus Christ. Midlothian: WIGTake Resources.

[5] Watson, David L. 2011. Gemeindegründungsbewegungen: Eine Momentaufnahme. 2nd edition. Schwelm: Deutsche Inland-Mission e. V. and Watson, David & Watson, Paul 2014. Contagious Disciple-Making: Leading Others on a Journey of Discovery. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[6] Trousdale, Jerry 2012. Miraculous movements: How Hundreds of Thousands of Muslims are Falling in Love with Jesus. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[7] Watson, 2014, 61.

[8] Smith, Steve & Kai, Ying 2011. T4T: A discipleship re-revolution. Monument: WIGTake Resources.

[9] Ibid, 119.

[10] Smith, Steve 2014. A profile of a movement catalyst. Mission Frontiers 36, 38-41.

[11] Ibid, 38.

[12] Betts, Trevor 2014. “Different Views of Essential Factors in CPMs. (Unpublished paper).

[13] Mims, Neill & Smith, Bill 2011. “Church Planting Movements: What have we Learned?” Mission Frontiers 33, 8.

[14] In Addison, Steve 2015. Pioneering movements: Leadership that multiplies disciples and churches. Downers Grove: IVP Books, 12.

[15] Ibid, 19.

This is an article from the July-August 2023 issue: Mobilizing the Church to Reach All Peoples

Finding the Hidden Harvesters

Finding the Hidden Harvesters

NOTE: Names have been changed to protect identities.

Helpful answers to our problems are often hidden in plain sight. Jesus said, The harvest is ripe but the laborers are few (Matt. 9:37). Where do we find those laborers?

Mobilizing cross-cultural workers takes a great deal of time, energy, and money. That is not to say we shouldn’t continue to call them forth. The Great Commission is for everyone, and all must be mobilized and challenged with this task. We also need to grapple with the reality that after they are mobilized, those who go cross-culturally need finances, visas, and significant training. New cross-cultural workers must learn the language and ways of the people they are reaching out to as well. My point in this article is not to say we don’t need more cross- cultural workers. It is important to state that there remain many people groups who will not be reached without outside, cross-cultural workers going to them. We have an important role to play.

But what if there were hidden harvesters, who lived near the harvest fields already, or were actually within them? What if we could identify, then mobilize those harvesters to start movements of disciples in culturally and linguistically near people groups? Or what if we could find people from that unreached group who know Jesus but have never been discipled to make disciples? They have never been challenged or encouraged to reach their own people in a multiplicative way. We must ask the “what-ifs” about this.

The harvest is ripe and the workers are few. We are to pray and ask God to send them out. How do we find those people who are in or near the fields?

A cross-cultural worker myself, let me say frankly—the most quickly effective workers are in or near the harvest— not those of us who come from afar. We need to find those in- and near-culture harvesters. Then we need to envision, equip, and enable them to fulfill the Great Commission. A key to finishing the task in our generation will be to find the “hidden harvesters.”

 Could She Be a Hidden Harvester?

Not long ago, we celebrated Easter with friends we’ve been doing a regular Discovery Bible Study with. They came to our home for a meal, games, and a time of worship. A new couple joined our group that warm April evening. We’d not had a chance to interact much with this couple, though I'd seen on a social media group  photo they’d attended while I was out of the country.

As they walked through our door, carrying food they’d brought to contribute to the meal, I immediately noticed they didn’t look like typical Thais. I wondered what ethnic group they were from as I arranged the delicious pomelo fruit they’d brought to our serving table.

Later, we got a chance to hear more. The wife was from a Muslim background. She shared her testimony of coming to faith. They were both from the southern part of Thailand. Her husband was Chinese Thai and had previously been a Jehovah’s Witness.

As she shared more about her testimony, a few questions circled in my mind—buzzing around like bothersome bees. Unlike the insects, though, these brought excitement not frustration. Could she be a hidden harvester? An undiscovered yet powerful resource for reaching the Muslims of Thailand? Could she be a key person called by God to reach her own people?

The Muslim Thai (one million + and zero percent Christian) and the Pattani Malay (1.5 million and .01% Christian) are unreached groups our mission had long attempted to begin work amongst. We have run mobilization campaigns and promoted the groups, trying to find cross-cultural workers to come and focus on them. Could it be that right here in my living room sat God’s answer to this mobilization need?

Perhaps she has never been envisioned, equipped, or enabled to reach her family and people. I’m going to soon find out!

So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields (Matt. 9:38 NLT).

 The Nature of Quickly Effective Harvesters

As we pray for harvesters (remembering that prayer itself is an important ministry), we must not stop there. We also must actively search for appropriate and quickly effective people that God is choosing to bring in the harvest. Who are those people? Above, I stated that the most quickly effective workers are in or near the harvest. Let’s unpack that a bit. Then we’ll look at what we need to do once we identify these potential people.

1.  The best harvesters may not yet be believers. To mobilize them, we must first reach them.

I constantly need to remind myself that God has prepared people to do His work from among the harvest fields. He is a great mobilizer, and He is working already! He has Pauls, Timothys, Priscillas and Phoebes out there waiting to hear His message, believe, and then be equipped to reach their own people groups and nations.

How does this play out in my daily life? When I meet someone who isn’t yet a Christian, I ask God to help me see them with His eyes. They may be a Buddhist monk offering sacrifices in a temple today. Tomorrow, they could be used by God to reach thousands. When I share Jesus with them, I’m not only thinking about them coming to salvation, I’m thinking about reaching their entire people group.

We have to train our eyes to see people as not simply unsaved people we are wanting to convert. We must see them as potential apostles for their people group. They are pre-disciples who may one day make many more disciples.

2.  We often underutilize and underestimate the ability of pre- and new believers for Gospel spread.

Again, we need to change how we think about where to find harvesters. Some of them may not yet be Christians. Yet they can be Gospel spreaders. In the New Testament, the Samaritan woman is a good example. She met Jesus, and before she’d fully decided if He was the Messiah, she called the entire village to learn about Him. Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah? (John 4:29 NIV).

Instead of leaning on trained professionals and cross-cultural workers, let’s intentionally look for ways to encourage and empower new believers and seekers to share the stories of the Bible and what they are learning about Jesus with friends and family.

3.  In-culture harvesters who are new to faith are effective because they already have natural bridges and relationships with lost people. Don’t remove those by extracting them.

Speaking at one of our supporting churches in the USA, I ran across a young Marathi (Indian) man who had become a believer. His parents, devout Hindus, were greatly disturbed by his recent conversion to Christianity. The church pastor asked me to meet with him and for input on how to disciple him.

While I was happy to know of a young Marathi who had come to faith, I also felt sad about what I saw happening. The church had pulled him into their social circles and extracted him from his own. They had unintentionally created barriers and obstacles that would make it difficult for his family to accept his new faith or in any way be attracted to it. Encouraging him to eat beef (an important prohibition for Hindus) and stopping him from attending Hindu festival parties for fear that he would compromise his faith were a few of the things they’d done. The family, I guessed, was quite naturally angry and hurt. They would feel the church was stealing their beloved son. If they’d been open to Christianity at all, this would cause them to resist any Gospel message in the future.

My heart ached at the lost opportunity for this church to have an impact not only on one young man but on an entire family and community of unreached people in their area.

4.  Near-culture harvesters need training, practice, and mentoring but can often quickly become effective.

With just-in-time training and the opportunity to practice disciple-making with a mentor, near-culture workers can quickly become fruitful. They live in the context already and have familiarity with the culture. A common language can be used initially while they are encouraged to also begin to learn the heart language of those they are reaching out to. Though there may be misconceptions and even some prejudice to address, once those things are dealt with, they can rapidly start making an impact.

The role of the foreign missionary, or as Ralph Winter called them, E3 workers, is to find these people and come alongside them by modeling, training, and through a loving, deep relationship. By doing this the foreigner also shares in their fruitful labor in very effective ways.

 Finding the Hidden Ones

Now that we’ve established the importance of finding these hidden harvesters, let’s look briefly at how to go about this task. Like a beach-comber sweeping the sand, we must get our tools ready and be willing to search in various places.

 Local churches

Hidden harvesters can sometimes be found in existing local churches. Talk to pastors and leaders in your area. Ask them if they have any believers or seekers in their congregation who are from the Unreached People Groups in your region. Form a cooperative effort of several churches to together adopt an unreached group and work together to find hidden harvesters. Don’t steal their members, but be upfront about the potential of equipping them to start a movement (separate from the local church that is of a different culture) among their own people.

 Divine appointments

As you pray for the unreached in your city and region, don’t be surprised if God answers your prayers by putting someone in your living room or bumping into someone in a shopping mall who is from that group. God is more committed to reaching the unreached and finding these harvesters than we are! Be watchful and take notice. Don’t miss the people He might be sending across your path.

 Social media and online training

As our ministry does with the Getting Started in Disciple Making Movements course, envision and equip local believers to reach out to the unreached around them. Our course offers a bonus module on how to invite Muslims to follow Jesus. Many Nigerians, for example, have found us on social media, been attracted to learning about discipleship, then had their eyes opened to how they could have an impact on the unreached in their own nation. If you are working in a Western nation with immigrants, join their social media groups and make friends. Look for those who are already interested in Jesus or have a relative who is a believer.

 Three Es—Envision, Equip, Enable

After you find them, there are three things we must do with these hidden harvesters. If they are not yet followers of Jesus, we must of course first evangelize them. Share the good news and invite them to read God’s Word with you. Start a discovery group with them and their friends and family.

1.  Envision

As they begin to study God’s Word and your relationship grows, cast a vision for what God is longing to do among their people. Many will not feel they are well enough trained or worthy. They may feel that ministry   is only for professional full-time workers. Fear also can be a factor preventing them from even considering reaching their own people. Teach them about the royal priesthood and who they are in Christ. Pray with them for their family and people to know the Lord.

2.  Equip

Use simple, just-in-time training to equip them to begin to reach out to those in their oikos (household or network of relationships). Often, if they have been extracted or persecuted, you may need to also equip them on how to reconcile with family or rebuild bridges that were torn down. Teach them how to share their testimony and help them gain confidence in sharing it with others in the common people group around them. Next, assist them in contextualizing their testimony so it will make sense to people from the target people group.

Another way to equip those who are in-culture and near-culture workers is by connecting them to contextual resources such as those made by Create International. They may not be familiar with what is available for sharing Christ in a relevant way.

3.  Enable

As these hidden harvesters begin to gain skill, confidence, and vision, be a partner not a leader for them. Release authority as well as responsibility. As the insider or close-cultural worker, let them “call the shots.” Enable and empower them by trusting them to be in the front leading the way forward while you assist in the background.

What can you do to find the hidden harvesters in your area? The harvest is ripe, the laborers are few. Let’s find, evangelize, envision, equip-and enable them!

This is an article from the July-August 2023 issue: Mobilizing the Church to Reach All Peoples

Mobilizing the Filipino Diaspora for Effective Missions

Mobilizing the Filipino Diaspora for Effective Missions

Can we finally fulfill the Great Commission in our generation? As we face the post-pandemic “age of artificial intelligence” for the next 10 years, can we look forward to better mobilization for more effective missions? More than a few of us are targeting “no people left undiscipled” by 2033, the 2,000th anniversary of Easter.

In the past 22 years, a significant segment of the Filipino church (mostly migrant laborers and immigrants) has been mobilizing our diaspora as tentmakers to fulfill our role in the Great Commission. The Philippine Missions Association’s (PMA) flagship program has aimed to raise the largest and hopefully the most effective Evangelical mission force among the nations from 2001 until now.1

What we have learned after having tried to equip a million tentmakers, largely consisting of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) by 2020 is to catalyze Kingdom Movements (KMs) through Disciple Making Movements (DMMs) among the Unreached People Groups (UPGs) in the world.2 We estimate that at least 650,000 OFWs have been trained to use our basic tool called “Company 3” to do DMMs wherever they go to live and work.3

Further, in the last four years since Lausanne’s Global Workplace Forum was held in Manila from June 26–29, 2019, Lausanne Philippines Partnership built on this mission mobilization program and expanded it to two slogans: “Every Filipino a blessing disciple-maker,” and “Every Filipino church an Acts 1:8 church.”4 Along with our PMA mission catalysts, we are mainly counting on others from the Star Grass Coalition (the Phil.  house church movement) and Micah Philippines (the alliance of Christian development organizations). We are praying and working together to mobilize the whole Filipino church to effectively share the whole Gospel with the whole world through our flagship program called Cooperatives as Mission.

Our Effective Missions

We have been holding mission training modules (called Kairos, a shortened Perspectives course) as our main tool to recruit more harvesters and mission mobilizers who can effectively catalyze KMs among the UPGs in the cities and villages of Asia and beyond. We believe that only KMs can realistically enable the Christian population to have better growth rates than their local population.

With Filipino Christian presence in almost all countries of the world today, we need to send mobilization teams that are experts in discipling and empowering local Jesus-followers (persons of peace or POP) to multiply disciples in their communities and workplaces, just like what Paul did from Ephesus in two years: All in Asia (Minor), both Jews and Greeks heard the Word of God (Acts 19:8–10). Each KM will have multiplied to at least four generations of disciples making their own disciples (cf. 2 Tim. 2:2).

Our Kingdom Vision

And what’s the outcome we aim to be the result of this effective mission strategy? Those who are in persecuted contexts like China have the advantage of already-mobilized believers who are actually multiplying disciple- makers underground in their localities, perhaps still out of necessity rather than strategy. We need some mobilizers to train and empower them to do incarnational (1 Cor. 9:19–23) and build non-extractive KMs (1 Cor. 7:17–20) intentionally for the conversion and discipling of whole families, communities, tribes, and nations.

These resulting Jesus-following communities will be contextualized and look more like sects of their dominant religion, like the Jewish background believers of “the Way” (Acts 24:14) and Gentile believers called “Christians” (Acts 11:19–21) were in the early Church. These local disciple-makers will manifest kindness, honesty, and diligence as well as expertise or entrepreneurship—valuable assets in any culture—and rise to become servant- leaders in their communities and professions with no need to build their own religious structures. In fact, we aim at “kingdomization,” where the socio-cultural and religious structures of each community are transformed into Christ-centered institutions and Christ-ward traditions that glorify God.

Our Strategic Plan

Thus, we use a three-pronged strategic plan. First, just like Jesus trained His disciples to go from village to village, our field teams were told to stay long enough to find and disciple local POPs who can lead the KM in their region or people group (Luke 10:1–17). To disciple is to model, assist, watch, and leave (M.A.W.L.). As these new local Jesus-followers become leaders of DMMs in their neighborhoods and workplaces, they will naturally rise to become elders of their communities and networks. At the same time, out of their networks will rise natural leaders with organizing and managerial talents to get the households, villages, and cities transformed into Christ-centered sustainable communities (preferably in the form of cooperatives or communes, where Isaiah 65:21–23 and Acts 4:32–35 are institutionalized) from the bottom up.

Second, to spread DMMs cross-culturally, our KM catalysts enroll in a graduate program, work at an expatriate job, or start a business in a foreign context (with a student, work, or business visa)—opportunities which will continue to abound in our globalized world. If faithfully implemented, they will have accomplished their goal of equipping a local team of POPs who will rise to become elders of the local, regional, or national KMs.

Third, there are already many diaspora Filipino Christians in the cities of many non-Christian majority populations, especially in Muslim, Communist, and Buddhist nations. Their second generations are bilingual and bicultural (they’re McGavran’s “bridges of God”). As our mobilizers train them to be cross-cultural disciple- makers among the locals, we can easily add thousands of new disciple-makers among the unevangelized peoples in the world today, and at zero-overhead missionary-sending cost.

Our Mobilization Challenge

The harvest is still plentiful, yet the workers are still few; so we must pray and work to send out more workers into God’s harvest (Matt. 9:37–38). We need to mobilize more KM catalysts to places where Christ is not yet known (cf. Rom. 15:18–20)!5 Even today about 86% of non-Christians still do not have Christian friends. Our challenge is to mobilize as many Jesus-followers as possible to do cross-cultural friendship evangelism to as many acquaintances as possible, and then to disciple their converts to become a POP to evangelize and disciple their circles of influence.

Even before the pandemic, many more opportunities arose for us to increase our mobilization efforts by just working from home. We have been building relationships online globally through group chats on social media, like Facebook Messenger, Viber, Telegram, WhatsApp, etc. As a result, many of us have formed new friendships with potential mobilizers globally and have become best friends as we personally disciple them online to do DMM and mentoring them as they work with their converts toward becoming POPs and elders of communities or networks in their people groups and beyond.

We’ve raised the standard high. We’ve insisted that we should not send harvesters who will slow down God’s work anywhere. We already have the training programs in place for those who want to be equipped to become effective KM catalysts and mission mobilizers. Many of us have been doing this with huge success. My humble mission agency has sent more than a hundred DMM practitioners to China. Our best mobilizer recruited professional teachers to train ordinary college graduates (from various professions) to go as educational tentmakers (salaried by the universities) in the gateway cities of China.

Recently a Korean mobilizer we previously trained told me that his two underground training centers in China went online in 2018 and almost all the students and alumni have seen exponential growth in their respective house-church networks during the pandemic.

Using the internet and their smartphones, younger generations (Gen Z and Millennials) are more interested in doing mission from where they are, rather than traveling somewhere else. They can still be mobilized for DMM (albeit differently than when traveling far), as they can build friendships online with those of other cultures and become cross-cultural ambassadors of Christ, perhaps even more effectively and more speedily.

May the global mission family learn from our paradigm of mission mobilization. Let’s focus on recruiting and training as many KM catalysts as possible, who can train as many Jesus-followers to gain expertise in making new friends with people of other faiths, one person at a time, to become persons of peace. Then, as a person of peace, they too disciple their friends and relatives in their communities and workplaces of their people group and beyond. Let them multiply organically. After all, DMMs start new DMMs.6

Finally, we also have learned that this paradigm of effective missions looks so radically simple and different for those who have been used to traditional mission mobilization. We know it is hard to make paradigm shifts. I plead for patience and understanding that we avoid criticism and conflict with each other, allowing both approaches to grow—at least for the next 10 years. Let us bless each other’s efforts to maximize whatever we believe God has called us to do. May God find us faithful and effective in accomplishing the Great Commission for His glory. Maranatha.

Endnotes
  1. At the Lausanne Forum at Pattaya in September 2004, the Filipino delegation publicly declared their commitment to deploy 200,000 missionaries (mostly OFWs as tentmakers) into the 10/40 Window by 2010, and in 2009 PMA extended it to 1,000,000 (that’s 10% of OFWs) by 2020.

  2. On the history of PMA and its tentmaker mobilization, see Lim, D. 2013, October “History and Ministry of Philippine Missions Association: Leading the Global Shift to Tentmaker Missions,” Asian Missions Advance 41, 2–6.

  3. Company 3 uses the oral Bible sharing format to learn from 30 chronological Bible stories. They can also download The Jesus Movie and film clips from http://www.jesusfilminternational.org and d,iscuss the clip’s relevance to their daily lives. Not many details can be shared due to security reasons.

  4. The Philippines is 92% Christian, with 82% Roman Catholics; and 88% of Roman Catholics and 94% of non-Catholic Christians (averaging 90% of the Christian population) consider themselves as those with “charismatic experiences.” Matheny, P. 2011, October “Ferment at the Margins: Philippine Ecclesiology under Stress,” International Bulletin of Missionary Research 25:4, 206.

  5. We’re keenly aware that in mid-2022, the 24:14 movement estimated that there were only about 8,000 KMs out of the 40,000 that are needed to reach all the UPGs.

  6. Coles, David. 2023 “Great News: Movements are Starting New Movements,” Mission Frontiers 45:1, 4–5.

This is an article from the July-August 2023 issue: Mobilizing the Church to Reach All Peoples

Growing In Mobilization Prayer

Growing In Mobilization Prayer

Many years ago, God called me to prayer for the nations in my early 20s. My local church had a prayer room devoted to praying for spiritual revival and the Gospel to be spread among unreached, frontier peoples. I spent countless hours in that prayer room. Through wrestling with God for breakthrough for the Gospel globally, my own heart was being touched and transformed. I was becoming aligned with the passion of Jesus for all peoples. A significant part of my journey of being mobilized was through such prayer for unreached peoples.

Over the last 20 years of involvement in mobilization ministry in over 70 nations globally, I have consistently observed the power of prayer as a dynamic mobilizer in the lives of individuals, local ministries, and even entire church networks and denominations. Faithful, dedicated intercession is a core purpose in God’s big-picture mobilization strategy of His global Church.

About 12 years ago, GMMI started its own prayer room, “The Global Harvest Prayer Room,” on our campus in Chiang Mai, Thailand, with daily corporate prayer. Prayer for the nations has always been an emphasis of GMMI as well as a core tool we encourage local ministries globally to implement within the life of their fellowships. Yet about eight or so years ago, the Holy Spirit began speaking about an aspect of prayer for the nations that we seemed to have overlooked.

He started speaking to me about praying less for the unreached, frontier peoples themselves and more for the necessity of the Church growing in spiritual maturity and depth, while being mobilized, aligning with Jesus’ redemptive purpose for the nations. He was nudging me to not just praying for individual disciples along this line, but for the whole corporate Church in a city, nation, and across the world. At first, the concept of praying primarily for the Church didn’t sit right with me. It felt awkward and seemed to run against everything I had believed about prayer and its primary emphasis—the unreached coming to Christ.

Around this same time, I started becoming aware of a startling biblical truth surrounding most of the recorded prayers in the New Testament. Jesus’, Paul’s, Peter’s, and John’s apostolic, recorded prayers generally focused not primarily on the lost but on aspects of spiritual development in believers’ lives and their churches corporately.1 Again, this realization shocked me. Whereas the recorded prayers in the New Testament definitely have an element of praying for the lost, the lion’s share of their content is focused on deepening discipleship within the Body of Christ, enabling Her to become the spiritually empowered vessel God has always intended, to reach the unreached, frontier peoples. We had tended to put the focus on the result (Church Planting Movements producing people movements to Christ among unreached peoples) while Scripture itself highlighted an emphasis on intercession for the vessel (corporate Church) to be prepared, deepened, enabled to rightly engage, and produce fruit among all nations.

I began to see a crucial, logical progression in God’s redemptive plan. It was His corporate people arising in wholehearted devotion to Himself, growing in obedience, faithfulness, perseverance, aligning their wills with His own big-picture, overarching will of redeeming all peoples. This process taking place in a growing dimension across the Body of Christ (among individuals, church networks, denominations, and organizations) would empower the Church to be mobilized and, in an increasing measure, influence unreached peoples with the power of the Gospel. The cause and effect were evident.

Prayer for the Church then directly impacts unreached, frontier peoples. This appears to be one reason the Holy Spirit deliberately included the recorded prayers of the apostolic leaders in Scripture: To inspire God’s people through the ages to spiritually contend for growth and breakthrough among the people of God themselves, which in time always overflows to unreached peoples. In addition, praying God’s Word assures us we are praying in line with the will of God while also encouraging faith that, in time, God will answer these prayers.

Yet I was simultaneously grasping that prayer and intercession for the spiritual development and maturity of the Church alone wasn’t enough. We also needed to pray specifically for the Church to rightly embrace Her core identity and calling as God’s multiplying, reproducing, scattering, missionary people among culturally near and distant unreached peoples. The combination of this truth being integrated into the hearts and lives of disciples becoming wholehearted and spiritually mature had explosive potential across the global Body of Christ.

We call this mobilization  prayer. It is prayer focused on standing in the gap for the global Body of Christ to become all God intends spiritually, overcoming all the shallow, complacent, compromise-filled outlooks, while simultaneously being mobilized, equipped, empowered, and scattered to impact both culturally near and distant unreached peoples.

While prayer for the unreached focuses on the result—the lost—mobilization prayer focuses on prayer for the Church to become who She is redeemed to be—a corporate people loving God with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength, while emphasizing the Great Commission at the center of the life of their local ministry, not reduced to the side somewhere. We need both types of prayer to progress effectively.

Based on these insights the Spirit was providing, we developed a model for our onsite prayer room that focused on three specific categories of prayer points. Each day we highlight a different country focus. This could be any country in the world.

We tend to focus on nations transitioning from being “mission receiving” nations to those becoming a mission force themselves in mission. Yet every national church (no matter how big or small) has a role in mission globally and can and should be the recipient of mobilization prayer.

1. We start by praying for the Body of Christ in that nation to grow in abandoned, wholehearted devotion. We apply the apostolic, recorded prayers of Scripture to the Body of Christ in that nation, contending for an increased depth of spiritual discipleship across the whole, not merely the leaders.

2. The second category of prayers for the Body of Christ in that particular nation is focused on growing mission mobilization and vision within the life of that national Body of Christ. We focus on the Great Commission being restored as a central message and point of emphasis across every local ministry, instead of a peripheral concept, if present at all. We pray for every believer to become activated in one or more of the six identified roles in the Great Commission2 and trained to be effective in the three levels of scattering.3

3. Third, we transition from praying for issues related to the Church to praying for the Unreached People Groups within that same nation. We seek God for His kingdom to come among them and God’s will through the planting of spiritually vibrant, simple, reproducing churches to be realized.

This shift impacted everything GMMI was doing related to prayer. We began to spend much more time contending for biblical discipleship and wholehearted devotion among Jesus’ body in every nation. Recognizing such an emphasis is foundational for developing mature, deep, mission clarity and understanding among those same people.

We changed the emphasis of our annual 21-day prayer campaign for the nations to emphasize the call to mobilization prayer, starting instead a monthly day of prayer for global mobilization taking place on the third Tuesday of each month. Learn more and find out how to participate in the CONTEND! Monthly Day of Prayer for Global Mobilization by scanning the QR code. (click in lieu of QR)

Through this growth process, we’ve observed how little prayer emphasis there is globally on issues related to mobilization itself. There are a growing number of prayer initiatives focused on the unreached (though we always need more prayer focused on this important category). But there is very little prayer emphasis, that I am aware of, that centers on intercessory prayer for the global Church itself to become all God intends while becoming a people rooted in and living from a Great Commission paradigm and identity.

Part of this is due to mobilization being generally misunderstood and even reduced and sidelined in importance from God’s intent. Yet, we believe the Spirit is restoring an emphasis on mission mobilization across the global Church, widening the Body of Christ’s experience and understanding of it. This will only increase in the coming years and decades as the Spirit brings us into a new era where mobilization is being prioritized as it ought. Where God is orchestrating the final processes necessary for the Church to become the vessel, She is redeemed to be for the literal fulfillment of the Great Commission.

Let us arise in faith, emphasizing mobilization prayer, looking to God to grab ahold of individuals, local ministries, church networks, denominations, and organizations for His global glory among all the unreached, frontier peoples.

Endnotes
  1. https://makhop.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Apostolic_Prayers_9.pdf

  2. The six roles in the Great Commission are highlighted in detail in the Handbook for Great Commission Ministries, by Ryan Shaw, IGNITE Media, 2019.

  3. Three levels of scattering are defined in the author’s book, Rethinking Global Mobilization, by Ryan Shaw, IGNITE Media, 2022.

This is an article from the July-August 2021 issue: Innovation in Missions

The Person Not the Method

An Essential Ingredient for Catalyzing a Movement

The Person Not the Method

Over a period of three years, I conducted empirical research[1] among effective movement catalysts to discover the traits and competencies possessed by pioneers effective in catalyzing a movement among a Muslim people group, and which traits they considered to have contributed to their catalyzing of a movement. This resulted in a profile of an effective movement catalyst, including eleven traits and competencies self-reported as exhibited by all participating effective catalysts.[2]

Leader Traits Verified to Fit 100% of all Catalysts

Hunger for God

Catalysts hunger for depth with God, yearn to love him more deeply; they seek to hear God’s voice and be obedient.

Expectant Faith

Catalysts expect that God will grow a movement among their people group and save many soon, and they have great faith that God will show his power through their lives.

Confidence

Catalysts feel confident in their spiritual gifts and skills, and exhibit a sense of confidence.

Drive for Responsibility

Catalysts feel responsible for the people they serve and for engaging them with the good news; they are motivated by a sense of responsibility.

Dependability

Catalysts are reliable and trustworthy; others can depend on them.

Persistence

Catalysts are tenacious in spite of challenges and amidst difficulties; they don’t give up.

Empowering

Catalysts empower and enable local people to be the key players by putting responsibility and authority in their hands from the beginning and by developing their gifts.

Confidence in the Holy Spirit

Catalysts are confident in the Holy Spirit and have faith in him to accomplish his intended work in the life of all God’s children, as they are enabled to obey his commands.

Confidence in the Bible

Catalysts have deep confidence in the Bible to be their CPM guidebook, and deep assurance in its power to accomplish what God desires.

Influencing Beliefs

Catalysts talk often about their most important values and beliefs, consider the moral consequences of decisions with people, and emphasize the importance of living toward the purpose for which one is created.

Inspiring of Vision

Catalysts articulate a compelling vision of the future, talk enthusiastically about what needs to be accomplished to see a growing movement, and express confidence that goals will be achieved.

Most literature on the subject of catalyzing a movement has focused on spiritual traits of the pioneer leader combined with the right methodology. David Garrison emphasizes characteristics of CPMs as well as methodology. The subtitles of his main publications are telling, as both refer to methods in the word “how”: “How God is Redeeming a Lost World”[3] and “How God is Drawing Muslims around the World to Faith in Jesus Christ.”[4] Garrison makes his approach sound comprehensive and absolute when insisting, “If one of these components is missing, you won’t get the results you desire” (292). He ascribes a crucial role to the pioneer leader (255), stating that “God has given Christians vital roles to play in the success or failure of these movements” (26); however, it is beyond the scope of his work to explore their traits or competencies.

The Watsons[5] and Jerry Trousdale[6] emphasize right methodology as well. Watsons qualify the significance of the methodological elements of the DMM approach: “This book focuses on the strategic elements you need to get a movement started. If you remove any of these elements, you won’t have a movement, period. You may have some growth, but you won’t experience a movement.”[7]

Watson regards the role of the external leader as critical, since he is the one who sparks the process of a movement (2011, 114). The main trait Watson highlights, a good character, is not verified as such by my research, but intersects strongly with Inspiring Personality, a trait verified in my research (exhibited by more than 80% of all catalysts interviewed), as well as some of the other traits: responsibility, dependability, and persistence. The relevance of character needs further study. Most of Watson’s competencies are either verified directly in this research (radical learning) or appear under competencies identified by this research, including the ability to develop potential beyond boundaries, the ability to delegate (empowering), and listening skills (personal consideration). Another competency identified by Watson, the ability to build teams, is very broad but encompasses a number of competencies identified by this research.

Steve Smith[8] likewise emphasized methodology; he presented a comprehensive, branded package by the name T4T. Smith made no explicit claim that his comprehensive methodology would guarantee a movement. The comprehensiveness of the approach, however, could easily leave the reader with that impression. For example, in a case study of an emerging movement, Smith described how he counselled the catalyst: “It wasn’t a CPM yet, but was getting close. As we listened, it was apparent that some elements of the T4T process were missing. We counselled him to incorporate the lessons from the next chapter.”[9]

In a separate publication, the only publication so far addressing exactly the topic of this study, Smith also considered the person of the pioneer leader.[10] Based on multiple case studies of dozens of practitioners, Smith’s summary of the traits and competencies of effective catalysts was that “each of them possesses a healthy combination of a set of characteristics.”[11] Most of those characteristics were verified by the empirical data of this present research.

Among the traits and competencies verified fully are: knowledge of reproduction principles, knowledge of movements, knowledge of what catalyzes movement (all under movement knowledge), lifelong learning, faith, expectant prayer (expectant faith and fervent intercession), and mentoring. Several other traits and competencies suggested by Smith are included within traits verified by this present research, such as knowledge of the Bible (under Bible teaching), tenacity and perseverance (persistence), integrity and spiritual authenticity (inspiring personality), loving God (hunger for God), being led by God, having vision from God, and exercising faith (expectant faith), bold discipling (discipling), ruthless self-evaluation (innovation and radical learning), training (Bible teaching, discipling, and coaching), developing leaders (confidence in nationals, and coaching), and vision casting (inspiring of vision). Only a few traits suggested by Smith are not directly verified to be strongly exhibited by movement catalysts: passionate urgency, single-mindedness, and exercising accountability.

The data of my research suggest that the effective catalyzing of movements is not tied to any particular methodology, though all employed reproductive movement approaches. Different effective catalysts employ different ministry approaches, both in terms of their movement methodology and in their approach to contextualization. A quarter of the catalysts participating in this study skipped the question about their ministry approach, which points to likely hesitation on their side to put their approach “into a box.” In addition, more than half of those who answered the question used the “Other” option to describe their ministry approach in their own words. Often the description given was a hybrid of two or more of the other approaches. This means that the approach of most effective catalysts in this study is a hybrid of more than one ministry approach, which they have adapted to the uniqueness of their context. The research does not support any claims that one specific ministry approach must be followed precisely to lead to a movement.

With the exception of the approach of adding Muslim Background Believers (MBBs) to existing Christian Background Believer (CBB) churches, it appears that particularity of methodology does not correlate to success in catalyzing a movement. By definition, the traditional approach (planting a single church) is not conducive to catalyzing a movement. This could explain why the pattern of adding MBBs to existing CBB churches is not utilized by any of the effective catalysts. At the same time, 13% of the catalysts employed the approach of planting a new church comprised of MBBs. This single church then reproduced itself and grew into a movement. The difference in these two approaches is not methodological, but primarily sociocultural. The adding of MBBs to CBB churches involves the bridging of divides, whether sociological, cultural, ethnic, or linguistic. These barriers explain why adding MBBs to existing CBB churches is not an effective approach for catalyzing a CPM, whereas the planting of a new MBB church may be.

Still, only 13% of all movements examined have been catalyzed with such an approach. The overwhelming majority of movements were catalyzed with one of the various movement approaches. Although the approaches used by effective catalysts differ in certain aspects, it is important to observe that all the approaches were reproductive movement approaches. These approaches have certain principles in common, which include cultural contextualization, obedience-oriented discipleship, house churches, reproduction, training of multipliers, and reproducible resources.[12]

The overall emphasis in pioneer and apostolic leadership and movement literature has been on right methodology, with some attention to leader traits and competencies of the pioneer leader or leaders, particularly traits of a spiritual nature. However, the findings of this research go beyond the commonly established insights of Christian pioneer leadership. The data clearly suggest that a particular methodology is far less significant in catalyzing movements than may have been assumed or publicized. The data of this study clearly establish that certain pioneer leader traits and competencies are strongly associated with effective catalyzing of CPMs. This perspective has been voiced by only a few, most notably Neill Mims and Bill Smith, who formulated what are considered to be among the most significant insights of almost 20 years of research into CPMs: “At the end of the day, it is the man and woman of God and not the method that God blesses.”[13] Another of the few voices who have expressed this perspective is movement thinker Dave Ferguson who concluded: “the greater the missional impact, the more obvious the pioneering apostolic leadership becomes.”[14]

The person of the pioneer leader(s), not the method he or she employs, plays the greatest role in determining whether or not a movement will result. Bill Smith is again among the few who formulated this accurate conclusion: “If someone says to me, give me the method or give me the curriculum, I know that they have not understood that this [the catalyzing of a movement] is accomplished through persons rather than methods.”[15] The right leader(s) will employ the right methodology. A pioneer leader with traits such as radical learning, intelligence, complex thinking, innovation, and initiative, who then possesses the necessary socio-influential and transformational competencies, has the best potential to identify and implement the most effective methodology for the context in which he or she is operating. However, a person who receives a certain methodology, but lacks the traits and competencies identified in this study, will be unable to effectively apply the methodology. This stands in stark contrast to the conclusions of many publications on movements that center around methods and principles rather than on the person of the catalyst. I hope the clear data of this research will jolt a paradigm shift in the field of catalyzing movements.

What do YOU think?

We invite you to drop a note to [email protected].

Disagree? We would like to hear from you, to stimulate dialog about this topic.

Agree? We would like to hear your insights on person over method, and on the traits of effective movement catalysts.

 


[1] A more in-depth discussion of the research methodology and conclusions can be found in my book Movement Catalysts: The Profile of the Leader God Uses to Catalyze Movements and in my chapter “The Profile of an Effective Movement Catalyst,” in Motus Dei, both forthcoming from William Carey Publishing. This research is ongoing, with an ever-growing sample of participants, and more findings to be published.

[2] The research identified a further list of traits of competencies exhibited consistently by most (defined as ≥80%) effective catalysts. This article, however, concentrates on those exhibited by all effective catalysts.

[3] Garrison, David 2004. Church Planting Movements: How God is Redeeming a Lost World. Midlothian: WIGTake Resources.

[4] Garrison, David 2014. A Wind in the House of Islam: How God is Drawing Muslims around the World to Faith in Jesus Christ. Midlothian: WIGTake Resources.

[5] Watson, David L. 2011. Gemeindegründungsbewegungen: Eine Momentaufnahme. 2nd edition. Schwelm: Deutsche Inland-Mission e. V. and Watson, David & Watson, Paul 2014. Contagious Disciple-Making: Leading Others on a Journey of Discovery. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[6] Trousdale, Jerry 2012. Miraculous movements: How Hundreds of Thousands of Muslims are Falling in Love with Jesus. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[7] Watson, 2014, 61.

[8] Smith, Steve & Kai, Ying 2011. T4T: A discipleship re-revolution. Monument: WIGTake Resources.

[9] Ibid, 119.

[10] Smith, Steve 2014. A profile of a movement catalyst. Mission Frontiers 36, 38-41.

[11] Ibid, 38.

[12] Betts, Trevor 2014. “Different Views of Essential Factors in CPMs. (Unpublished paper).

[13] Mims, Neill & Smith, Bill 2011. “Church Planting Movements: What have we Learned?” Mission Frontiers 33, 8.

[14] In Addison, Steve 2015. Pioneering movements: Leadership that multiplies disciples and churches. Downers Grove: IVP Books, 12.

[15] Ibid, 19.

This is an article from the May-June 2023 issue: The Gospel Goes Digital

Digital Outreach

Learning to Do Many Things Well

Digital Outreach
Steve Jobs is famous for saying, “Do not try to do everything. Do one thing well.” 
 
I agree with that principle for many things in life, including ministry. Great feats can be accomplished when a person focuses their effort on one thing. However, not all ministries have that luxury. Those of us involved in digital evangelism are being forced to diversify our efforts and learn to do many things well. 

What Is Digital Evangelism? 

For those not yet familiar with the term, digital evangelism is simply sharing the Gospel with people through the use of various digital platforms. A few of these include Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, TikTok, websites, smartphone apps, and messaging applications. Indopartners is using all of these platforms to share the Gospel with millions of unreached people in Southeast Asia. 

The Power of Digital Evangelism 

Digital outreach has tremendous potential. It can be used to share the Gospel with people of any age, living just about anywhere, any time of day or night. Through digital evangelism, we can now share the Gospel with as many people in one day as one missionary can in 10 years. 
Digital ministry is strategic everywhere, but especially for places like the country we serve in in SE Asia. This country has thousands of inhabited islands and is very spread out. However, nearly every island can now be reached with the truth. 
 
A former missionary now involved in our organization once had the desire to reach people from an Unreached People Group in a small village. Many years ago, he attempted to evangelize the people there. But, since he was a Westerner, he was chased out of the village. Several months ago, a person from that people group sent an online message to our staff saying they wanted to meet with a Christian to learn about Jesus! 

Challenges in Digital Ministry 

While digital evangelism has amazing power, it also has its challenges. One difficulty is keeping up with ever-changing technology. New platforms are regularly emerging, and existing platforms are constantly changing. Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and other platforms are updating every day. It takes time to stay up-to-date on all the changes. 
 
Another obstacle digital ministries face is regulation from governments and organizations. Many countries now have their own rules about what is and what is not allowed. This includes the collection of data and what is permitted to be advertised. Governments are able to permanently block accounts that don’t comply with their policies. 
 
A third challenge is the number of platforms and channels available for people to use. There are about 10–12 primary social media platforms throughout the world, but there are easily over 100 available. Our time and resources are limited, which means we cannot possibly learn them all. 

Why Diversification is Necessary 

Based on the three reasons presented, we believe it is necessary to diversify digital-outreach efforts. By diversify, I mean to create multiple accounts on various channels. Creating one website, Facebook page, TikTok account, or YouTube account is risky and very limiting. As they say, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” 
 
For example, imagine pouring thousands of hours and dollars into a TikTok account only to wake up one day to find that TikTok is now banned in your country. That happened in India at the beginning of 2023. There were over 200 million active TikTok users in India, but the government decided to ban the application due to perceived security risks. 
 
There have been several digital ministries that have focused their entire efforts on Facebook using a single account. One day they may open their account and discover it has been blocked, and they cannot get it restored. They have to start from scratch. 
 
Diversification is especially important when using social media platforms because they are considered “rented space.” We can easily be asked to leave because we do not own the channel. This is why it is a good idea to have one's own website, but even that can be blocked. 
Diversification not only allows us to reach more people but it also gives you backup options in case the unexpected happens. 

Case Study: Diversification Efforts in Southeast Asia 

So, what does this look like practically? Indopartners has worked hard to diversify our digital-outreach efforts in Southeast Asia. We are currently using the following channels for outreach: 
 
• 15 Facebook pages
• 8 websites
• 8 Google and Facebook ad accounts
• 4 YouTube channels
• 3 Instagram accounts
• 2 Twitter accounts
• 2 TikTok accounts
• 1 Pinterest account 
 
While it can be challenging to maintain all of these accounts, it also allows us to reach more people with the Gospel. And, if one of the accounts gets shut down, our ministry is easily able to continue sharing the Gospel through other channels. 
 
Several years ago, our main website was blocked by most of the major internet providers in a country. Our outreach efforts took a hit for a few months, but we were still able to share the Good News because we had other websites and various social media accounts. We also have had multiple Facebook accounts blocked, but it never really slowed outreach efforts because we could turn elsewhere. 
 
This diversification strategy is important for digital advertising accounts as well. Advertising is essential to digital evangelism efforts as it allows ministries to get the truth to people who are seeking. Indopartners has created multiple Google and Facebook advertising accounts in the event that one is blocked. We also use what are called native ads as a third way of promoting our evangelistic content. 
 
As a result, in 2022 alone, our evangelistic articles and videos were viewed 30 million times! And over 90,000 people sent us direct messages asking questions and looking for hope. 

Diversify Your Digital Outreach 

We highly recommend you consider including digital evangelism in your outreach efforts if you are not currently using it. It’s good to start simple with one or two platforms. But, once you feel like you can handle that, we encourage you to use more channels so all your eggs are not in only one basket. 
 
For those of you already using digital evangelism, we strongly encourage you to diversify your efforts by creating multiple accounts on various platforms. This will help protect your work in case the unexpected happens. 
 
We need to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves (Matt. 10:16), but ultimately, we need to trust God with all of our efforts. He is the one who protects us, gives us wisdom, and brings the fruit. May God bless your efforts in reaching the unreached!

This is an article from the May-June 2023 issue: The Gospel Goes Digital

Translation Quality and Scripture Impact for “Last Mile” BibleTranslations

24:14 Goal: Movement engagements in every unreached people and place by 2025 (32 months)

Translation Quality and Scripture Impact for “Last Mile” BibleTranslations
All people deserve to have the Word of God in their heart language. Today, we are closer than ever before to seeing the Bible translated into every language, but key barriers remain. Over 20% of the world is still waiting for the Bible in their heart language (6,600+ languages). 
“Last mile” is used to describe the short final segment of delivery of services or items to customers. Last mile logistics are usually the most complicated and expensive aspects of completing the service or delivery. This same dynamic occurs in completing the task of translating the Bible into every language. 
 
Why do so many last mile languages remain Bible-less? One reason is that many of them are spoken mainly in areas hostile to the Gospel. In the past—and even until recently—translation teams often located in a place and worked together there for years. Today, however, outside translators seeking to do translation in politically restricted and/ or hostile regions often cannot even gain access to these areas. Translators who do have access are often faced with working in secret, moving from one location to another, and keeping their work hidden from friends, family, and the community. Often, due to death threats and persecution, translators wait until the work is completed to disclose it, covertly taking the finished product to partners to print and share with others. In recent years, numerous kidnappings and/or killings of translators in these types of areas have been reported. 
 
One challenge faced in these circumstances is ensuring the translators receive the mentoring, assistance, and funding they need. However, traditional patterns of translation assistance and measurement are neither practical nor possible. Those of us assisting from the outside must adjust to the new realities. We need to recognize that these men and women risking their lives deserve our best efforts and servant-hearted support instead of asking them to fit into our previous patterns and paradigms of translation. 
 
At the same time, nobody involved wants a haphazard and poor-quality translation of the Word of God. How then can we assure quality and accountability for the outside supporters while not endangering the lives of those who are at the last mile, translating in these restricted areas? 
 
The RUN1 family of Church Planting Movements (CPMs)2 has pioneered a method that has produced quality translations while also giving the measurements and outcomes that meet the needs of outside supporters. RUN is part of the 24:14 coalition of CPMs and CPM advocates, which represent 1,983+ CPMs and 114+ million disciples in these movements.3 Leaders of 24:14 have studied and endorsed this translation process and are actively working to help other CPMs follow this model. The Translation Quality and Scripture Impact Assurance Process for hostile areas is: 

In conclusion, many of the languages included in the last mile in Bible translation involve some difficulties and dangers that we cannot overcome with the traditional translation processes that God has used so effectively in the past and continues to use today. The inability of outside translators to gain access and the persecution and dangers faced from opponents of the Gospel mean that the Bible will not be translated into these languages unless we find new pathways. 

It is exactly these high-persecution areas that most desperately need the Bible in their own language. Church history tells us that the Bible in a heart language is not necessary for initial evangelism and discipleship. However, the Bible in a heart language is one crucial factor for surviving and enduring persecution. One example is the long-standing survival of the church in Egypt and Ethiopia compared to the rapid demise of the church in North Africa after the assault of Islam. A primary reason for this is that Egypt and Ethiopia had the Bible in local languages, while the church of North Africa had the Bible in Latin, spoken only by the elites. 
 
God is not surprised by these challenges. God in His wisdom has used existing trade language Bible translations to begin multiplying disciples and churches in many of these last mile Bible-less languages. Disciples are positioned inside these language communities and are willing to face life-threatening risks in translation because they deeply yearn to provide the Bible to both the believers and the lost in their own heart language. Additionally, God has allowed us to live in a day when we can strengthen and support those who risk so much by training and using the latest technological breakthroughs for translation. 
 
As has been seen above, this seven-step translation process not only assures a quality translation but also assures scriptural impact during and after the translation process. As we observe how the Holy Spirit has already used this process, we can trust and work and pray to see many more translations done, until in our generation there are no more Bible-less languages. God is giving us the opportunity to see the world full of His glory, but it is a day that challenges us to trust and rely on Him as never before!
Endnotes
  1. 1 RUN is Reaching Unreached Nations—see more at http://www.runministries.org

  2. 2 A CPM has 4+ generations of churches planting churches (parent churches planting children, grandchildren and great- grandchildren churches—with multiple branches of the family tree). This usually means a minimum of 100 churches and 1,500 baptized disciples.

  3. 3 http://www.2414now.net/about-us/

This is an article from the May-June 2023 issue: The Gospel Goes Digital

Every Tongue and Nation

Building a “Central Nervous System”for the Body of Christ

Every Tongue and Nation
Long before ChatGPT captured the zeitgeist, advances in AI (artificial intelligence) and other technologies have accelerated the efforts and impact of Christian ministries. One encouraging example, prompted by the pandemic: Christianity Today (CT) recently published its 2,500th non-English article, spanning more than 10 languages and reaching more than 4 million readers. 
 
As COVID-19 shut down the world right before Easter 2020, CT was able to quickly transform into a multilingual publisher with a multinational team, thanks to how today’s technologies offered a new ministry opportunity for bilingual Christians around the world who had their regular form of ministry curtailed by public health restrictions. We had more than 400 readers provide their email addresses to learn how to get involved. 
 
For example, when Singapore was wrestling with COVID-19 before most nations, CT produced an article outlining how Singaporean churches had decided to balance public health and corporate worship. Their resulting “7 lessons learned” was translated into Spanish and Portuguese just as the virus hit the Americas, and the readership of the non-English versions exceeded the English versions by a third. This is an encouraging example of how wisdom from one national church could be made more accessible to other national churches. 
 
Even more encouraging, our Chinese team has reached stage two of our vision, where they are sourcing most of our commentary in Chinese and then the English article is the translated version. This allows us to no longer constrain ourselves to bilingual Chinese church leaders. And we offer them a new pathway to disciple English speakers (and via our other teams: Spanish or Portuguese or Indonesian speakers) with their theologically informed reflections. It is our aspiration that each of our languages will become a true two-way street. 
Today we regularly translate into Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese Simplified and Traditional, Indonesian, French, and Korean. We have also been testing Russian, Ukrainian, Arabic, Japanese, and other languages. 
 
To do this, we rely on a partnership with an AI translation ministry and a team of volunteer and part-time proofreaders. The custom AI platform allows us to create first drafts across multiple languages, then humans proofread the machine-generated text and then an experienced translator approves the final version. Over time, the human translators face fewer revisions as the AI learns our word choices—for example, choosing an “evangelical” vs “Catholic” term for prayer—and allowing more human translators to work on smaller portions of text means more people can donate their time and talent to the kingdom with less of a burden on their jobs or families. 
 
For years, a full third of CT’s millions of monthly readers have been outside the US. When Billy Graham passed away and we revisited his founding documents for CT, we were convicted by how global his vision was back in 1950s America. Our resulting CT global initiative is diligently researching and testing how to become more of a “central nervous system” for the Body of Christ, so that Christian wisdom can more readily cross nation and tongue. The thousands of yellow language links on our site, as well as a multilingual Advent devotional and essay contest and other products, demonstrate this commitment. 
 
Like all ministries working across multiple languages and managing volunteers on limited nonprofit budgets, we continue to navigate challenges with increasing quantity and maintaining quality. Yet we are committed to each of our core languages becoming true two-way streets where Christian wisdom can more quickly bridge tongue and nation, and committed to adding more languages as requests and resources arise. We’re honored to get ever closer to Billy Graham’s global vision, eager to learn and collaborate with other multilingual ministries, and eager to encourage everyone to think optimistically and creatively about how to test and harness new technologies in service of finishing the task.

This is an article from the May-June 2023 issue: The Gospel Goes Digital

Permission to Journey Together

Three Digital Shifts and Whatthey Mean for Ministry

Permission to Journey Together
Mongolia can be an empty and desolate place—even more so during a global pandemic. OneHope’s team was determined to continue ministry work there even though they could not gather in person during the COVID-19 pandemic. So they turned to the internet and got creative about how to use digital content to reach children. Our team started a weekly Facebook livestream sharing the fun, animated Scripture stories from the Bible App for Kids, an app we created with our friends at YouVersion. 
 
Tuya, age five, loved logging in for the stories and soon she invited her cousin Gerel over to watch, too. One week after the livestream, six-year-old Gerel prayed to accept Jesus as her Savior! Both girls continued to join in on Facebook and worked hard to memorize each week’s Bible verse together. Gerel also started praying for her family to receive Jesus. After a while, they too were joining in on the livestream to learn more about God’s Word. 
 
The Bible App for Kids was OneHope’s first major foray into digital. In our 36 years of ministry, OneHope has reached two billion children and youth with God’s Word. But our mission is to reach every child, so we are not stopping anytime soon. While Scripture does not change, we have had to adapt our ministry programs to best speak to each new generation and to best leverage new mediums. 
 
The Bible App for Kids was not a success simply because we built an app for a digital-first generation and released it for parents to download onto their phones. It was a success because we created a journey and invited children and their families into it—just like with Tuya, Gerel, and their families. 
 
The app has become a fun way for parents and children all over the world to connect around the Bible at bedtime and other times of day. Even though we designed the app for children ages six and up, we were soon receiving stories and pictures of children sharing phone screens with their much younger siblings, who were also absorbing God’s Word. Today, the app has gone to every country—even areas where printed Bibles are illegal. The impact has been greater than we ever could have imagined! 
 
In his book, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Peter Drucker, father of modern managemen, says there is an innovation opportunity to respond to the change that has already happened. Many times, when something significant has changed in the world we don’t realize it or respond to it right away, sometimes even much longer. There are market opportunities and ministry opportunities in having eyes that recognize change and what it means for our work going forward. 
 
Let’s look at three major shifts digital has introduced to our world and how we must adapt our ministry work in response. 

With Your Permission… 

The incredible results we saw from the Bible App for Kids were made possible by the access digital platforms provide. But transformation was possible because families gave us permission to enter their lives via their phones. They invited us into their living rooms, their car rides to school, and their bedtime routines. This is one of the huge changes digital has brought to our world. We can be part of people’s lives, but only if they want us to be. 
 
Gone are the days of mass marketing where the most effective way to get people’s attention was to shout your message to the world across as many channels as possible. In yesterday’s non-permissioned media world, saturation was the path to success. Businesses focused on maximum exposure to raise awareness and sales of their products. Ministries often followed this model too. 
 
Today, we live with permissioned media. Thanks to streaming services, I no longer sit through commercials when I watch TV. I recently went through my online newsfeed and reported to Google all the articles I did not find interesting (it was almost the entire list). I instructed the platform to no longer show me information from those sources and topics. Those articles quickly disappeared and were replaced by other articles Google hopes I will be interested in. 
 
This is the first major shift to highlight about today’s digital world: The user is in control now. 
 
People expect to be shown content and products that are relevant to them and they can filter out what doesn’t apply. Unlike in the past, now people can say no to ads, email marketing campaigns, and text messages. The unsubscribe or opt-out functionality is built in. 
It is easy to miss this shift from non-permissioned media to permissioned media, but the implications are far-reaching. To be part of the digital landscape, we must get people to say yes. It is no longer enough to create a great ministry product and put it out into the world. We cannot assume people will want what we have to offer or that they will see our message just because we published it online. Instead, we have to seek out the people we are trying to reach and get their permission to start an interaction so we can journey with them as they figure out what faith means.

Show Up for the Journey 

So how do we get users to say yes in digital spaces? Big brands have figured this out and we can learn from them. Now that digital access has changed the terms, it is all about what we do with that access. 
 
Once again, people expect more than just being offered a great product. If you pay attention, you will notice the shift from products to services. The most successful companies know that they not only have to catch a user’s attention but they have to serve them in a personal way. For example, Netflix provides a constant stream of customized movie recommendations based on each user’s preferences and watch history. The platform goes beyond an on-demand streaming service to help viewers explore and find more media they are specifically interested in. If you give the app permission, it will even download TV episodes and movies it thinks you will like straight to your phone, so you always have something to watch. 
 
This is the second shift to be aware of in today’s digital world: Providing amazing service is now expected. 
 
Whereas previously only large organizations could afford the teams required to deliver high-quality experiences, the digital tools available today make anything from graphic design and custom websites, to chat automation and digital marketing accessible to everyone. The best way to stand out and get permission to influence is to delight your audience through an experience that shows you know them. 
 
There is incredible competition in digital spaces as brands compete for people’s limited time and attention. In response, we must think in terms of years, not in minutes or seconds. Digital metrics often push us to measure success in terms of downloads, clicks, and microseconds spent on landing pages. But life change doesn’t happen in seconds. To truly serve people well, we must journey with them in a personal way and commit to faithfully walking that journey for however long it takes. 
 
At OneHope, we have seen the fruit of this as our online missionaries connect with spiritual seekers through digital programs. In a limited-access nation in Southeast Asia, a young Muslim woman connected with us, confessing she felt so empty inside. Every day, she returned to the online chat to ask questions about peace and faith and to hear what the Bible had to say. She was terrified to even explore Christianity, knowing that her family would disown her if they found out. But over the course of many months chatting with an online missionary, she was filled with joy and strength to accept Jesus as her Savior. Even though her worst fears happened and her family did reject her, she was welcomed into a new spiritual family and connected to a local church where she was baptized and is learning to follow Christ. 
 
Our teams handle thousands of chats each year, and not every story turns out this way. But it is incredible to see what God can do as we intentionally show up for the journey. We have realized the importance of moving from a transactional mindset to a posture of long-term journeying, and digital tools enable us to do this in new ways. 

Collaborate to Succeed 

Creating incredible digital experiences that people will want to say yes to is a lot of work! Creating and walking those journeys takes time, money, and effort. It requires new ways of thinking, new ways of structuring our teams and processes, and new ways of measuring success. 
It can be discouraging to look at the digital landscape and see the level of competition we are up against. The bar is high. Even though we have the most important message anyone could ever hear, how can we make sure it doesn’t get drowned out in the sea of voices and advertising dollars being thrown at the internet these days? 
 
It would be foolish of us to try to go it alone. This is the third and final shift I want to highlight for digital-ministry success: We must collaborate to succeed. 
 
As OneHope has wrestled with the implications of digital, we have realized that capacity building is key. We need champions, partners, and content collaborators to come alongside if we hope to reach every child with God’s Word. Digital tools support us in this work, but we always go farther when we partner. 
 
After launching the Bible App for Kids, we quickly realized there was a Scripture-engagement gap for the next age range (10-12). Not kids and not quite teens, these tweens had almost no digital Bible tools available, even though social media content for them abounded. 
 
We felt called to close that gap and offer God’s Word in a format they would recognize and be attracted to. So we partnered with YouVersion to create the Kids Bible Experience, which offers daily Scripture content in an Instagram-style story format. The content disappears in 24 hours, motivating kids to log in every day to hear God’s Word. 
 
Kids Bible Experience has been viewed in every country in the world with over five million global users. But we could never have developed it alone. Planning and creating daily content would be impossible. Instead, we have partnered with local churches and ministries to provide each day’s Scripture experience. 
 
Working in partnership has allowed us to create a best-in-class digital experience for kids that can go toe-to-toe with the other social media content competing for their attention. We pray this tool helps the next generation develop a rhythm of Scripture engagement and a hunger to encounter God’s Word every day. 
 
God intends for the Church—His Body—to perfectly fill in each other’s gaps as we unite in accomplishing His mission. Nothing about today’s technological world or the changes it has brought surprises God. In many ways, the work we must do in digital spaces mirrors what Christ did when He was on earth. He preached to thousands, but He also personally journeyed with 12 people for three years. The internet lets us preach to thousands, but also to journey with a much smaller number as they seek Christ personally. 
 
Jesus knew His disciples deeply and allowed them to know Him deeply. Who are the people you are called to understand deeply so you can minister the Gospel to them? What do they need to hear, and how? Who can you collaborate with to leverage digital tools to their fullest potential? 
 
As your ministry asks and answers these questions, I am confident the Holy Spirit will provide inspiration and opportunity to lead the way in using technology to accomplish God’s mission. I pray you will have eyes to see the changes that are happening, minds to understand them, and hands that are quick to respond.

This is an article from the May-June 2023 issue: The Gospel Goes Digital

We Are All Digital Missionaries

We Are All Digital Missionaries
We are all digital missionaries. Is this an overstatement? Yes, technically. 
 
You may not be running a full digital ministry strategy or even know how to place an ad on social media, but every time you’ve shared about a spiritual gathering on Facebook or used WhatsApp to invite an unbelieving friend to coffee, you are serving as a digital missionary. 
We are all digital missionaries when we leverage digital tools for the purpose of connecting to lost souls, hoping to lead them to their Savior—Jesus Christ. 
 
At this point, two-thirds of the world’s population is digitally connected.1 Slightly more than that have mobile phones. Connectivity is not exclusive to the wealthy or even to developed countries. Rural isolation is no longer a problem as wireless services like Starlink2 have become available and more affordable. For most of us, even those of us reaching frontier areas, digital tools are already a part of our mission. For the rest, you are at the door. 

Digital Technologies as Tools for Mission 

The mission of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) has always been to use every effective means possible to share the Gospel. Radio, TV, satellite, and digital technologies can be tools in the hand of every evangelist or missionary—mediums to utilize methods to leverage. 
 
BGEA launched its first testing of an internet evangelism strategy in 2011, followed by a fully developed ministry model called Search for Jesus in 2012. Similar to other organizations, we utilize digital marketing, equip volunteers to engage in online conversations, disciple visitors through online resources, and connect them to local believers when they are ready. We’re currently active in seven language groups in various regions of the world and are developing several others. 

One Click Away from Knowing Jesus 

“I read everything about Christ and I want to become a Christian.” That was Zahir’s3 Instagram message to one of our Arabic volunteers. Zahir was a Muslim living in Baghdad, Iraq. Months earlier, he clicked on one of our Instagram ads and took an online course to learn about Jesus and the Christian faith. Afterward, he found a Christian and discussed the faith with him. He had a growing sense of urgency to accept Christ and finally messaged us through Instagram to take that step. Zahir has begun walking with Jesus, watching our videos on YouTube for more encouragement, and is now meeting with other believers we connected him with in his city. 
 
Several years ago, BGEA began exploring an outreach to Arabic speakers online, and we met with many people and organizations to learn where the needs were. We were told Iraq was a country getting less focus, primarily because its digital infrastructure was weak and just beginning to grow. We prayerfully considered this as an  opportunity, launching our Arabic ministry with a focus on Iraq in late 2018. 
 
Over the past few years, Iraq has invested in and grown its digital infrastructure. Recently the government announced it was going to provide free internet for the entire country. Today, the Search for Jesus Facebook page has almost half a million followers from Iraq. Several hundred Muslims in this country have come to faith in Jesus Christ through our digital presence and team of volunteers, many with powerful testimonies of courageous faith. 
 
This story is encouraging and faith-building, but it also illustrates an opportunity. I began with an overstatement: We’re all digital missionaries. Yet there are many people, billions of people, who are not online. While this is a current reality, the global picture is clear. At this point, there are mainly two groups in the world: the digitally connected and those almost connected. 

A New Mission Field 

A growing number of people are exploring digital space not only as a method for mission but also as a mission field itself. 
Digital space has its own culture. It is its own place and has its own language and idioms. It has unspoken rules of engagement and social expectations. There are growing sociological similarities between teenagers in Topeka, Kansas, and those in Jakarta, Indonesia. While each group still has their ethnic culture, because of their shared experiences in the global digital space, there are aspects of their lives in which they will relate more to each other than they will to their own parents. 
 
There are now whole communities that are entirely online ecosystems. Online gaming is a global phenomenon. 3.2 billion people in the world play video games, a majority of them now online.4 We’ve all heard of the growing metaverse. While not mainstream, millions are flocking to it and exploring virtual reality (VR). 
 
These are just two examples, but there are a growing number of people in the world whom we will not reach simply by learning their language and traveling to their country. We will reach them by meeting them in virtual reality or their digital culture or platform of choice, and carrying the light of Christ to them within that space. 

God Is Moving in the Digital World 

As new regions come online, they are coming into a digital ecosystem that has already matured. Their starting point is our current experience. They dive in quickly and explore thoroughly. Our Iraqi ministry blossomed as it did because we were established, by God’s grace and leading, on the front end of the rise of their connectivity. 
 
Missions to people in unconnected populations or regions of the world should give thought to what’s on the technological horizon. When they have no online options, consider what it might look like when they do. When they have limited or poor online options, the time is now. Develop a clear and compelling presentation of the Gospel that will already be available when they take their first steps online. The noise will rise quickly with messages from all kinds of religions and ideological ideas. Be a welcoming voice before you have to shout over the crowd. 
While it can be as confusing and difficult as it is exciting, there is unequaled opportunity to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. May the Lord find us faithful to proclaim His truth, and may He give us the wisdom we need to do it well. 
Endnotes
  1. 1 “Digital around the World - Datareportal – Global Digital Insights.” DataReportal. Accessed March 6, 2023. https://datareportal.com/global-digital.overview.  

  2. 2 https://www.starlink.com/ 


  3. 3 Name changed to protect privacy. 

  4. 4 “Video Game Industry Statistics, Trends and Data in 2023.” WePC. WePC, January 12, 2023. https://www.wepc.com/news/video-game-statistics/. 

This is an article from the May-June 2023 issue: The Gospel Goes Digital

In the Post-Covid World, Online Training OpportunitiesContinue to Grow

In the Post-Covid World, Online Training OpportunitiesContinue to Grow

Dave Adamson, a.k.a Aussie Dave, author of Metachurch declared on Twitter recently.1

91% of adults keep their smartphones within an arm's reach all day. If church leaders want to go into ALL THE WORLD to preach the Gospel, we have to turn our smartphones from a tool for distraction into a tool for discipleship.
 
Though a US-based statistic, it is still notable. 
 
Statista.com reports that there are 2.9 billion internet users in Asia, the largest percentage of any region of the world.2 What does this mean for missions? How do we recognize and lean into this digital reality as we pursue DMMs and CPMs among the unreached? We would be remiss if we failed to step into this great opportunity to connect with so many. 
 
There are real limitations to what can happen online in terms of relationships and disciple-making. But what if those barriers are not as significant as we once thought? The pandemic thrust many of us into online training and ministry more than we ever imagined possible. As disciple-making and training communities have been experiencing online, the outlooks of those once solidly established assumptions about what is possible have shifted. 

Openness & Vulnerability in the Online Environment 

Ronald* first heard about our training course through a Facebook advertisement. He attended a free webinar we offered that cast vision for disciple multiplication and movements and his heart was deeply stirred. “This is what I need in my community! I want to multiply disciples, not just preach to church members,” he declared. His congregation was small and he didn’t have much money, so he requested a discounted price for the Getting Started in Disciple Making Movements online course. As he went through the modules, it revolutionized his thinking about himself, God, and how to make disciples. He became passionate about DMM thinking and there was no turning back. But there were still many questions, like how to apply these things in his unique context. 
 
After finishing the course, Ronald joined an alumni peer group for his region. Meeting regularly with that group for prayer and mutual encouragement over the months and years that followed, deep friendships formed. Those in the group felt isolated in their contexts. Each was attempting to do something quite counter-cultural compared to their other pastors and missionary friends. Their new friends in the alumni community genuinely cared and relationships grew as they prayed for one another. Persecution and financial challenges created further opportunities for mutual support. In times of frustration, when progress felt impossible, or when someone they thought would be their Person of Peace lost interest, they encouraged one another, shared Scriptures, and leaned on each other’s faith. 
 
As the group’s trust grew, deeper conversations began both online as a group and in private. One group member confessed to having beaten his children in anger. The group rallied to help him find a counselor and be restored to his family. 
 
Who could have imagined that this level of authenticity, transformation, and community life could take place in a solely online, Zoom-based community? I certainly would not have thought it possible. But it has. And it is. 

More than Courses or Zoom Calls—Communities of Learning & Support 

Media for Movements and the use of technology to find potential Persons of Peace is growing daily. This is exciting and should continue to be pursued! Not only can we use digital means to find open seekers but we also can utilize the internet to identify potential movement leaders. We can train, filter, and coach these potential leaders to see movements released among the unreached. 
 
Over the past three years, Disciple Makers Increase (DMI), the part of YWAM Frontier Missions I have the privilege of leading, has trained 2,590 people in over 90 nations in our five online training courses. Just this year we have had over 25,000 people register for our free online webinar called Keys to Kingdom Impact, where we cast vision for Disciple Making Movements. In it, we tell the story of how God is using ordinary people across the globe to make and multiply disciples and cast vision for DMM/CPM efforts. 
 
As people come into our courses and receive training, they become a part of a disciple multiplication-focused global community. This community prays together, meets regularly online, and together is pursuing the release of at least 50 new movements in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Europe, Australia, and the Americas as well. 

How Does it Work?

In the initial courses, coaches filter and watch for key apostolically gifted implementers. They then invest further in those whom God is highlighting as obedient and active disciple-makers. Trainees and alumni connect with others in their nation or region as they meet on Zoom calls or in WhatsApp groups. 
 
Here’s another story that demonstrates how this works. 
 
Ebot first heard about the DMM course on Facebook. Initially, he wasn’t very interested but when he asked a question online and it was answered well, he grew more intrigued. The word disciple-making was new to him. What did this mean? He decided to attend the online seminar to find out more and then enrolled in the 12-week introductory course. 
 
As he went through the course, his vision for the multiplication of disciples grew. He began to dream of a movement that would help him reach not just a few areas, but his entire region. The first module’s lessons talked about casting vision to others and building a team. He tried first with local pastors but there was no interest. They were too stuck in their traditional mindsets. Undeterred, Ebot and his wife and sister-in-law went out for prayer walks and to look for Persons of Peace in their neighborhood. A discovery group soon began. It then multiplied, and those in that group began another. The growth continued as Ebot trained and taught his wife and sister-in-law how to multiply disciples. Within just three months, they had multiplied to four generations! Ebot was thrilled about this surprising growth and I could hear the excitement and energy in his voice as he shared with me what was happening. 
 
Rejoicing, I posted a short story about this in our alumni group. Everyone rejoiced at what God was doing. One brother, Mark, was particularly interested. Ebot happened to be in the same country and Mark sent me a WhatsApp message asking for Ebot’s contact information. The next day Mark and his wife visited this brother. They had already planned to go to that same city and it seemed God-ordained that they would meet! What a joy and encouragement it was to get to meet another DMM practitioner face to face, eat food together, pray for one another, and dream together about what God could do in that region! 
 
This is not the only instance like this. Online training is spilling over into offline relationships, friendships, and kingdom collaboration. 

Keys to Training Practitioners Online 

1. Recognize both the strengths and limitations of the environment. 

People tend to go to one extreme or the other. Fed up with the limits of online Zoom calls or experiencing Zoom fatigue, some are dismissive of the opportunity we have before us. This is a grave mistake. The pandemic may be nearly over, but digital training is here to stay and continues to be a growing means of communication. Ignoring this trend is unwise.
 
Over-reliance on digital communication with no effort to grow key relationships offline as well is also a mistake. Online environments provide a stepping stone to further connections. Be intentional about creating pathways for online training to spill over into offline follow-up, coaching, and community.

2. Don’t just share content; build relationships and community.

One of our greatest temptations in training is to be too content-oriented and fail to be practical. Skill-based, just-in-time training is far more effective and fruitful in any context! This is particularly true in the online environment. Keep your training segments short and
only communicate one key point rather than multiple points. In our online courses, we aim for five to tenminute
videos. These are far easier to digest and absorb. At the end of each training segment, encourage discussion and action. Then direct participants toward a community to engage further. In most of our courses, we use WhatsApp groups for this purpose.


3. Be consistent and keep showing up.

Regularity and consistency win the game in online work. Posting content at the same time every week or showing up for an online call or live broadcast every week builds trust. Over time, people begin to expect you will be there and they look forward to your email, video, or that Zoom call. Irregularity or being too infrequent will not grow the relationships and community you need to make online training effective.

4. Listen for the chickens.

On internet-based calls, listen for what is happening in the background of the call and show interest. Comment on it. Welcome family members to come and say hello and wave at you. Do you hear a rooster crowing in the background? Don’t be annoyed. Comment on
it. Ask about it. Do you have chickens there in your neighborhood? Are they yours or your neighbor’s? Build relationships that go beyond the discussion you are having. Be observant and responsive. Take time for chit-chat in the online environment, just as you would during a tea break at a training that is in person. This grows stronger relationships with those you meet online.

Maximize the Opportunity

The Romans built roads for business and empire. God used them as a means of travel and kingdom expansion. Today, the internet provides us with a similar opportunity to reach out to the lost and to train the saved. Let’s lean in and maximize it for His glory.

*Names have been changed to protect identities. 

Endnotes
  1. 1 twitter.com/aussiedave/status/1630325736220377088 

  2. 2 Petrosyan, Ani. “Worldwide Internet Users by Region 2022.” Statista, January 4, 2023. http://www.statista.com/statistics/265147/number-of.worldwide-internet-users-by-region/. 

This is an article from the May-June 2023 issue: The Gospel Goes Digital

Technological Development Must Have a Biblical Foundation

Technological Development Must Have a Biblical Foundation

We live in the most remarkable time in human history. For thousands of years people lived much the same as their grandparents did. Transportation was by horse and wagon. People lived off the land and heated their homes using firewood. But literally everything has changed over the last 150 years.

I remember a conversation I had with my grandmother in 1969, where she remarked how many new inventions she had witnessed in her lifetime, such as the electrification of the home, light bulbs, telephones, cars, radio, television, computers, and much more. I wondered at that time what new technology I would see in my lifetime. The personal computer, the Internet, smart phones and Zoom meetings are some of the big ones thus far. The pace of technological change is moving at an accelerating rate. It is hard at times to keep up with it all.

The Church has done a great job of adapting and implementing these new inventions into the mission of the Church to spread the Gospel to every tribe and tongue. We were early adopters of radio and television. The advancement in computer technology has enabled missionaries to dramatically increase the speed of Bible translation. See the article by Stan Parks starting on page 32. The list of how technology has aided the spread of the Gospel would be a long one. This whole issue of MF celebrates the use of the latest technologies to help identify those people interested in the Gospel and to disciple them online if necessary, and in person, if possible.

But with change of any kind comes the challenge of understanding that change and adapting to it with biblical wisdom to the benefit of ourselves and the ministry of the Gospel. Any technology, take fire for an example, can be beneficial or harmful depending on how it is used. So as the pace of technological innovation accelerates, so does the pressure to adapt and implement these changes according to biblical values and ministry goals. Godly discernment is essential in our day to know what technology should be adopted for the purposes of spreading the Gospel and what should be opposed as biblically unacceptable. Just because science enables us do something does not mean that we should mindlessly embrace it. Clear biblical guidelines are essential going forward. Most scientists are not governed by biblical values or motivations and yet they are leading the way in the development and implementation of new technology.

We can see some of the issues involved in technological advancement with the arrival of smart phones and social media. I have personally sat through seminars with social scientists who are warning of the adverse effects of too much “screen time” on the brain development of children and the negative behavioral development in teens. The experts are recommending specific guidelines to limit screen time based upon age. Internet connectivity and social media pose a real safety threat to kids from online predators. This is but one example of the challenges we face in applying technology to our lives so that it is a benefit to us and not just one more drug impacting our minds. As technology continues to advance, even greater challenges to humanity lay ahead.

Our Science-Fiction Future?

We in the Church need to be aware of what some in the scientific community are thinking and planning. Some influential leaders are seeking to accelerate the process of “human evolution” through the merger of humans with technology to create Homo sapiens 2.0. It is referred to as Transhumanism and is defined by Wikipedia as:
“The belief or theory that the human race can evolve beyond its current physical and mental limitations, especially by means of science and technology. Transhumanism is a philosophical and intellectual movement which advocates the enhancement of the human condition by developing and making widely available sophisticated technologies that can greatly enhance longevity and cognition.”
The famous entrepreneur, Elon Musk, is actively working and planning, through his company Neuralink, to embed a computer chip in the brain of a human patient by the end of 2023. Few would argue against such a procedure to aid those with serious disabilities and disease. But the plan is to go beyond this noble aim to enhance human cognition and to allow direct thought to thought connections between AI (Artificial Intelligence) devices and the human brain. In such circumstances, one might ask, where do the thoughts of an individual leave off and implanted thoughts from an AI computer begin? As in the Transhumanism definition above, the goal here is to enhance the human condition to create a new type of human-machine merger. There is a plan to create human beings with AI empowered intelligence. AI itself poses all sorts of challenges and dangers on its own that must be watched closely and carefully controlled.
CRISPR gene editing technology provides great hope for the cure of many genetically related diseases. But at what point could this technology be used to create superhumans through a process of cutting out inferior genes and replacing them with superior ones to enhance intelligence, strength, athletic ability and good looks? With the application of these technologies, one must ask: at what point do human beings cease to be what God created in His image?
These are just a couple of the technologies being developed by which some scientists hope to create a new and improved human race. All of this has echoes of the Eugenics movement of the 1930s where the Nazis and others sought to create a superior race of human beings while eliminating what Margaret Sanger of Planned Parenthood called the “human weeds,” by which she meant “undesirable” races like blacks, Latinos, Italians and Jews. The Nazi doctor, Josef Mengele, who experimented on concentration camp prisoners, is a good example of what can happen when biblical values are divorced from scientific research. To assume that this kind of evil research is not going on today would be naïve in the extreme.

The Church’s On-Going Challenge

As Kevin Higgins points out in his column starting on page 30, new inventions have always been met with some controversy and skepticism at first as believers wrestle with understanding the new technology and its biblical implications before adopting it to the glory of God. That process continues in our day at a breathtaking speed. We should seek to use every tool that science can provide to help spread the Gospel. But we cannot just sit back and hope that the scientific community will always use these new technologies wisely. The Church needs to be actively involved in guiding the application of new technologies from a biblical perspective. The future of humanity and what it means to be human are at stake.

This is an article from the May-June 2023 issue: The Gospel Goes Digital

A Hackathon for Global Missions

A Hackathon for Global Missions
Indigitous began with the vision to empower Christians to use their digital and creative skills to take the Gospel to the unreached. In this connected and digital world, Indigitous is now a global movement taking the Gospel to new peoples and places. 
Indigitous comes from two words: indigenous and digital. 
 
• Indigenous. Locally generated and culturally adapted to successfully share the Good News.
• Digital. Tools and platforms to accelerate missions in a digital world. 
 
Inspired by the prophet Habakkuk, who was called by God to write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it (Hab. 2:2). Indigitous seeks to engage believers to collaborate and create together for the acceleration of the Gospel. The largest event of Indigitous is the annual global hackathon, #HACK. 

What Is a Hackathon? 

A hackathon is an event that gathers people of all skill sets to ideate, innovate, and collaborate on digital solutions. It often takes place at tech companies and at university computer science programs. Hackathons encourage friendly competition, where winning projects might receive a prize or generate new ideas and solutions for tech companies. Hackathons can be similar to design sprints, taking place in a limited amount of time for people to brainstorm, prototype, and build. 
 
Hackathons are usually focused on a theme, which guides the type of challenges being addressed. A tech company might be looking to create a better user interface with its customers, or university students might want to know how to be productive with their studying time. A global Christian hackathon aims to address some of the biggest challenges of the Gospel reaching the unreached. 
 
Indigitous held its first hackathon in 2015 at the Urbana student missions conference, called #HACK4Missions. With many more students engaging in technology, including those pursuing careers in the tech industry, a hackathon became a new experience for students to prototype and build digital solutions for global missions. 
 
In the following seven years, Indigitous continued to host #HACK, expanding globally across 40+ countries and 200+ cities. Indigitous has also partnered with 50+ ministries who share the vision or have participated in #HACK. 
 
In the previous #HACK2022, 1,200+ participants joined local and virtual teams. They ideated and prototyped projects from apps, web tools, digital strategies, and more. A dozen ministry and marketplace leaders also joined as global judges to review and support the projects from #HACK. Many came to #HACK to find their faith aligned with their work or study for the first time. This was a rare opportunity to use their skills outside of the four church walls. #HACK was a chance for believers to finally use their skills to reach someone across the world. 
 
The mission world needs innovation and collaboration, especially when there are still 3.2 billion people without the Gospel. #HACK is all about engaging the believer to find a new connection between faith, technology, and missions. It is about being a hearer and doer of the Word. For many young people, a global hackathon was their first exposure to the needs of the mission world. But this was also a first opportunity to see their passions, affinities, and abilities make an impact for God’s kingdom. 
 
The digital world is saturated with content that is non-spiritual. However, a Christian hackathon proposes redemption to technology. The digital world will continue to grow in all facets of daily life. In this age, even the least of digital users will find a place to offer their skills for God’s mission. A smartphone is enough to start a conversation with a non-Christian. 
 
#HACK is about creating new tools and strategies for missions. The possibilities are endless, including different apps, tools, platforms, campaigns, content, and many more: 
 
• a Bible story app in the heart language of an Unreached People Group 
• an online platform supporting the hurting and needy 
• an interactive map of the life of Jesus 
• a discipleship tool 
• a digital outreach campaign 
• exploring data to track where bodies of worship are and for missions reporting 
• an evangelistic short film, distributed through social media 
• a web app engaging users in spiritual questions 
• a missions resource library online 
• a prayer walking app 
• and many more! 

Going Virtual 

During the pandemic, Indigitous added a virtual mode for #HACK, allowing participants from anywhere to join. While hackathons regularly involve people in the same space, some may not be able to have this community in person. A virtual hackathon lowers this barrier to entry. This became an opportunity for participants to meet new friends across the globe. They crossed cultures within their own teams, bringing together unique perspectives, tools, and resources to build their projects. 

#HACK2022 Challenges 

In 2022, the global challenges were: 
• Finishing the Task, Using Data for Evangelism 
• Stadia Church Planting, Starting Churches for the Next Generation 
• International Justice Mission, Reporting Online Exploitation 

Using Data for Evangelism 

This challenge was in partnership with Finishing the Task (FTT), a network of mission organizations committed to finishing the call of the Great Commission. FTT is broken into three main parts: Bibles (scripture distribution), Believers (evangelism), and Bodies of Christ (church-planting). 
 
Various teams were challenged to identify evangelistic opportunities while harnessing public data. While there are many data points around the globe available online, this data is often underutilized for missions. Data technology has been a focal point for mission efforts, especially in tracking Church Planting Movements and understanding people groups. 
 
Datasets like internet penetration and social media prevalence can also help missionaries decide what digital strategies are relevant for their target region. Many evangelistic strategies depend on the availability of various types of technology like the internet, various social media platforms, and types of mobile devices. 
 
The winning team developed the “SOS Priority Project,” which helps find priority targets among people contemplating suicide through highlighted hotspots of suicide across America. 

Starting Churches for the Next Generation 

This challenge was in partnership with Stadia Church Planting, whose mission is to help start thriving, growing, and multiplying churches for the next generation. They work in collaboration with over 25 church multiplication partners around the world to provide the resources and relationships people need to start, grow, and multiply churches. 
 
Teams were challenged to create tools, campaigns, or strategies that inspire, empower, and equip the next generation to start new, multiplying churches. Projects ranged from using social media platforms to identifying digital churches taking place online. 
The winning project was “Digital Incubator for Church Startups,” which was a prototype of a digital tool that provides community, mentorship, and coaching to help new church leaders connect. 

Reporting Online Exploitation 

This challenge partnered with International Justice Mission (IJM), a global organization that protects people in poverty from violence. 
 
Teams were tasked to develop tools or strategies that help connect the community to local law enforcement and report cases of online sexual exploitation of children. Mission work includes spiritual and holistic care for people in persecution and suffering. This challenge aimed to find practical methods to combat the abuse and trafficking of children. 
 
The team, “Alternative Voice Reporting,” won this challenge with their prototype of a web tool featuring a suite of seven voice products that help to report online sexual exploitation of children. 
 
Hackathon solutions to even the most sensitive issues in society might prove to open doors for the Gospel. 

A Bible Story App for an Unreached People Group 

In the past few years of #HACK, we’ve seen how ideas became prototypes during the hackathon, and then went on to be developed as tools used among local missionaries. 
 
One example is a Bible story app in the language of an Unreached People Group. Among the 1.45 billion people who do not have the Bible in their language (“2022 Global Scripture Access”), a simple Bible story app can share key stories of Jesus for those who have never heard. Furthermore, this app was designed for a persecuted people group who had little to no access to Gospel content and even fewer existing resources. 
 
Since the hackathon, a team and network have grown behind the app. They have connected with local missionaries within the community of the Unreached People Group, and they can test the app and receive real-time feedback for the developers and designers. For many of the volunteers and interns working on the app, this has been their first exposure to digital missions. Not only do they connect with the local missionaries firsthand but this has become a learning experience that mobilizes them in serving in the mission field. 
The team now continues to develop new iterations of the Bible story app, including new languages for other Unreached People Groups. 

Hacking for the Next Generation of Missions 

#HACK is a starting point for many believers. While the projects often extend beyond the hackathon, their work offers valuable insight. These ideas can be tested by missionaries and organizations. Many find a hackathon a rare opportunity to meet like-minded believers. They can work together while deepening their hearts for missions. Hackathons bring the community together and model collaboration across the digital world. 
 
Christian hackathons are also not exclusive to Indigitous #HACK. KingdomCode, FaithTech, and other ministries have run hackathons or design sprints. While these events are usually limited to a weekend or a few weeks, the encouragement is for ministries to adopt the mindset of innovation and design-thinking. It is okay to fail, even multiple times. But when we learn from each quick failure, we can build toward a better solution. For the mission world, this might look like taking the extra leap of faith to trust in God with the failures and to test out new ideas. 
 
A #HACK Champion, a leader who hosts a regional hackathon shares about the experience: 
“I loved the environment. As a frequent attendee of hackathons, one thing that stands out with #HACK is the community of hackers wanting to further their faith. There was less of a competitive aspect and more focus on completing the challenges faced to help others in their walks with Christ. Worship music was always playing in the background, and at times I could hear people around me singing as they worked. Overall, just an amazing event and encouraging to experience as a student in the tech industry.” (“Champion (Host) - #HACK2022”) 
To learn more about #HACK, visit https://hack.indigitous.org. 
 
Works Cited 
“Champion (Host) - #HACK2022.” Indigitous #HACK, https://hack.indigitous.org/hack2022/champion/. 
“2022 Global Scripture Access.” Wycliffe Global Alliance, https://www.wycliffe.net/resources/statistics/
.
 
Note, all Scripture references are ESV

This is an article from the May-June 2023 issue: The Gospel Goes Digital

From New York City to Rio de Janeiro

Wielding Technology to Reach Jewish People

From New York City to Rio de Janeiro
Meet Tal (name changed). He came from Israel to Rio de Janeiro in search of new experiences. As with many young traveling Israelis, this included partying, abundant alcohol, and mind-bending drugs. He found just what he was looking for, and for a while he felt amazing. 
But as the days went by, these activities grew hollow. Tal admitted this kind of life began to feel very empty. Then, he remembered the Christian volunteers he met at the hostel where he was staying. He noticed their demeanor. They treated each guest with warmth, hospitality, and respect. “There was just something about them that drew me to them,” he said. 
 
He contacted these volunteers and willingly listened to all they had to say about the Jewish Messiah, Jesus. He even accepted a Hebrew New Testament, saying he would read it as he continued his travels in South America. Thanks to the digital age, we can easily keep the conversation going wherever Tal ends up. We can also connect Tal to a wealth of online Gospel-focused resources in both English and Hebrew. 

Contextualization in a Jewish Context 

In this third decade of the 21st century, the usefulness of technology in world missions is beyond doubt. We already have seen fruit from resources like online Bibles, videos, and the ability to chat with people around the globe. As with any tool, context matters. Different forms of media and kinds of content appeal to different groups. 
 
Since 1894, Chosen People Ministries has specialized in proclaiming the Gospel among Jewish people around the world. In the past few decades, we have produced a rich treasury of evangelistic videos, websites, eBooks, and more. Our missionary staff regularly follows up with seekers who express interest in learning more. But what makes digital outreach to Jewish people different? We contextualize our content for different ages, languages, and backgrounds. Here are some ways we wield digital media to reach specific Jewish groups—from the most religious and traditional to the most secular and modern. 

Wielding Technology to Reach the Ultra-Orthodox 

Missiologists have long noted the great potential of digital tools to reach people for whom traditional evangelism techniques are ineffective or infeasible. The classic example is a closed country where openly proclaiming the Gospel is illegal and carries heavy penalties. Closed communities still exist in the United States and other democratic nations. Among these is the ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) community. These deeply religious Jewish people live primarily around New York City and in Israel. They live in tight-knit, insular neighborhoods, many of which even operate their own ambulance and security services. 
 
Ultra-Orthodox communities are designed to be self-sufficient to avoid unwanted outside influence. Missionary presence is the most unwanted of all. Anyone setting up a book table or distributing tracts would be swiftly forced to leave. Forming friendships with ultra-Orthodox people is a key strategy, but difficult as most interactions remain within the community. Thus, creating digital content geared toward the ultra-Orthodox is one of the most important ways to make Jesus known among them. 
 
Our Chosen People Answers website is one resource we have geared toward a more religious Jewish audience. It brings together Jewish and Christian texts and apologetics articles. Detailed and in-depth, these articles address profound, philosophical objections often unique to religious Jewish people. For instance, one article defends the incarnation and challenges the traditional Jewish view that God cannot take bodily form. 
 
We plan to expand our witness to the ultra-Orthodox, and digital media will certainly play a significant role. In particular, increasing digital and printed content in Yiddish is a key aspect of strategic outreach, as Yiddish is the everyday heart language of these communities and a central feature of the culture. 

Wielding Technology to Reach Traveling Israelis 

For several years, we have had a flourishing ministry to Israelis traveling around the world after their mandatory military service. We run lodges in popular destinations like New Zealand and Brazil. Young Israelis often prove remarkably open to spiritual conversations. This season between the military and going to college or starting a career is one of physical and spiritual exploration. It is the perfect time to try new activities and consider different perspectives. Our welcoming staff is attentive to the many opportunities to tell visitors about the Gospel and offer Bibles. This ministry has proven so powerful we are now building an international network of Christian hosts to provide a similar atmosphere in their own homes. 
 
Of course, the main focus of this outreach is the personal relationship between host and guest, but the network could not exist without digital tools. There is “Planet Zula,” the app Israelis can use to find places to stay on our network. “Host Israelis”—still under construction—is our host-facing app. If guests show interest, we can have our staff in Israel follow up with them upon their return. We also are building a Hebrew-language site intended for seekers, which is another contact point with former guests and other curious Israelis. 
 
Another advantage of having a global, digitally connected network is that an Israeli might very well stay with believers in completely different regions of the world, seeing how the same Holy Spirit is at work in the lives of all kinds of people. For instance, someone who works at Beit Samurai, our hostel in Tokyo, got to know an Israeli guest who was going on to New Zealand. This guest openly asked about Jesus and the Gospel, even asking for a Bible. Our staff gladly connected him with a Messianic congregation in New Zealand and a leader in Australia. This young traveler has kept up with the man in Australia he met through a Japanese believer. Such cooperation would not be possible without digital communication! 

Conclusion 

Proclaiming the Gospel among Jewish people looks a lot different from when Paul spoke in synagogues throughout the Mediterranean (Acts 14:1; 17:2, 10, 17, etc.). Strategies change, but principles do not. We must be ever ready to adjust our strategies to reach people as effectively as possible. Our message and burden, however, remain the same. Jesus is the Messiah the Hebrew Scriptures predicted (Acts 17:3). My heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their [the Jewish people’s] salvation (Rom.10:1, NASB95).

This is an article from the May-June 2023 issue: The Gospel Goes Digital

Unreached of the Day May-June 2023

This is the new Global Prayer Digest which merged with Unreached of the Day in 2021

Unreached of the Day May-June 2023

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This is an article from the May-June 2023 issue: The Gospel Goes Digital

Digital Opportunity in Missions Work

Digital Opportunity in Missions Work
All Bible verses quoted are from the English Standard Version (ESV). 
 
After Roman roads and the printing press, digital opportunity, represented by smartphones and internet connectivity, provides perhaps the greatest opportunity to date of finishing the Great Commission task. Paul Rattray shares learnings about the reach, relationship, and resourcing potential of digital opportunity through pioneering work being done by Christian Vision (CV) across the globe. 

Introduction 

What is digital opportunity? Digital opportunity is using the tools that we literally have in our hands— smartphones—to preach the Gospel to all nations, especially people groups yet to hear the Good News. Nearly seven billion people around the world use smartphones and the internet today, which is 87 percent of the world’s total population.1
 
A smartphone plus internet connectivity gives someone the ability to access and share information, talk with people, and train and learn from each other. All these activities and tools represent the enormity of digital opportunity, which is so significant I call it the “third Roman road” of mission work. 
 
Paul the Apostle walked the Roman roads because these roads were the lifeblood of the Roman Empire. He was able to travel quickly throughout the Roman Empire on these special roads to preach the Gospel, not where Christ has already been named (Rom. 15:20). 
Metaphorically, the printing press was the second Roman road because it gave unprecedented opportunity for printing and distributing God's Word to people en masse in their own language. 

Third Roman Road 

The third Roman road is the digital opportunity that smartphones and online connectivity offer. With digital opportunity, we can reach more people and faster. 
 
More importantly, we can form relationships with people across the globe like never before (even though we may never physically meet them) and resource them more efficiently and effectively. If we consider world mission through this lens, there have been three major epochs, or waves, of opportunity: 1) Roman roads helped spread the Gospel across the entire Roman Empire, 2) printing presses enabled multiple copies of the Bible in a multitude of languages, and 3) digital opportunity and technology are reaching more people with the Gospel, in multiple languages, faster than ever before.

Covid Connectivity 

What we learned during the COVID-19 pandemic is indicative of digital opportunity. At Christian Vision (CV), we are called to introduce one billion people to Jesus.2 We see digital opportunity as one of the greatest tools to finish the task that God has given us, which according to Matthew 24:14, This Gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, especially relates to Unreached People Groups. 
 
In CV’s pioneering work to impact 100 unreached nations globally, we see digital opportunity as one of the best tools to evangelize and equip people with the Gospel message. Through digital opportunity, we can entrust the Gospel message to many others to exponentially multiply the work we are doing. 

Reach, Relationship, and Resourcing 

That is why we are so excited about the incredible potential of digital opportunity to reach millions of unreached people with the Gospel, develop relationships, and resource them as believers to go forth and multiply. The potential of reach, relationship and resourcing are the three key areas I want to share with you about digital opportunity. 

Reach

By reach I mean we now have access to people online we have never been able to reach before because of political, social, and religious barriers. We are currently introducing one million mostly non-Christian people per day to Jesus in over 50 countries. For 295 days in 2022, globally, we reached more than one million people per day with the Gospel. 
 
For instance, “Ali” [not his real name] is a young man in the Middle East who contacted us on Facebook asking to know Christ. Our response team shared several online resources with him about the Christian faith and how to know God through Christ Jesus. Ali believed and is now being discipled by one of our national pioneers who is not even in the same country because of a civil war and Islamic fatwa. 
 
In our Asia Pacific region, we had 27,000 people accept Jesus through artificial intelligence (AI) conversation bots in 19 languages. Over 4,299 of these new believers continue to be discipled online, often because offline contact is physically impossible. While AI allows for greater reach, it has also become clear that most people want real human interaction and to meet physically with someone if this is possible. This requires human relationships. 

Relationship 

By relationship I mean that digital opportunity is not just about sharing information, even if it is the Gospel. Most importantly, it’s about human interaction. First, we start with bots who can converse with people and work out if they are genuine seekers wanting to pray and accept Jesus as their Savior. Next, if possible, we connect them with a real person online. Then, if practical, this online relationship can move offline. 
 
“Tom” is an example of this online to offline relationship. He saw Jesus in a dream and searched online to get answers, despite his family’s strong opposition. After we connected him digitally with one of our national pioneers, Tom was baptized by one of our church partners. On the day of their first physical meeting, Tom even invited his wife to meet with the pioneer. Tom now has the courage to share his Christian faith with his family. He is consistently discipled through Zoom meetings, because he has lots of questions about the Christian faith. Tom’s online discussions with his discipler have grown his faith in Christ. Praise the Lord! Please pray that his wife will open up to Jesus soon and receive Him as God. 
 
According to the data, in May of 2022 we were close to reaching one billion introductions to Jesus, which has been the key calling of CV. Without digital technologies, it would have been impossible to reach this many people with the Gospel so quickly. 
 
Despite getting close to touching a billion people with the Gospel, we also need to impact more nations for Christ. In this case, our goal is to impact 100 nations of Unreached People Groups. Integrating our online and offline digital activities is a huge challenge and opportunity. 
On the ground, we currently have 519 of these indigenous partners, whom we call national pioneers, in 38 countries serving among 59 mostly Unreached People Groups. Last year, collectively, our national pioneers personally evangelized over 300,000 people and grew more disciples through over 6,000 successors. Nearly 100,000 new believers are regularly meeting together. Thousands of people have been secretly baptized at night on beaches, in hotel swimming pools and in spas—even in mosque ablution areas. 
 
This integration of online to offline connections has been highly effective, especially in closed, oppressive countries. For example, we recently baptized a brother who is helping us pioneer with a Dari bot and another pioneer helping us with Pashto bots. Both brothers also do on the ground pioneering work. 
 
Because of digital opportunity and these pioneers’ willingness to literally sacrifice their lives in some cases, we can connect seekers with discipleship bots and/or directly with pioneers who are connected to our online systems. We praise the Lord for these pioneers and their successors, fluent in the local languages and cultures of the people we are impacting and the bot technologies that allow us to reach seekers digitally. Praise the Lord for them and please pray for their safety. 

Resourcing 

By resourcing I mean the digital tools and materials we share with the people who we reach with the Gospel, and also those with whom we have relationships from evangelism through to discipleship and succession. Digital connectivity has given us better access to the most important resource of any pioneering campaign— intercessory insights in real time. Digital opportunity allows us to connect with prayer partners who can give us intercessory insights into the nations and peoples we are impacting. 
 
For example, intercessors were able to identify fear as the primary concern of a people the media call the happiest country in Asia. We were able to confirm this trend through our online felt-needs survey research campaigns, which confirmed that many of these so-called “happy” people were in fact spiritually consumed by fear. Because of this information, we were able to resource our teams (bots and pioneers) with Gospel pathways targeting fear as a felt need. This caused an influx of responses and people coming to Christ whom we then were able to connect with local pioneers and house-church fellowships. 

Digital Connectivity 

This sort of digital connectivity also gives entrepreneurs and pastors anywhere in the world the opportunity to share their unique insights and business sense with us as we move into spiritually hard places. Individual Christians also have a key part to play with digital opportunity. 
Currently, over five million Christians subscribe to or follow our social media channels, using these online resources to evangelize their non-Christian friends. We have helped mobilize over 1,500 churches for evangelism and there have been over 44,000 downloads of mission resources or course completions. Our next challenge is the localization of digital, missional resources in up to 100 local languages as we aim to have pioneers in 100 nations this year. 

Personal and Corporate Responsibility 

Each of us can use this digital opportunity personally and corporately to connect with people and com-municate the love of Christ. Three practical ways you can use digital opportunity are to share, shape, and send. 
 
Share. Subscribe to and follow social media channels that you can use freely to share the Gospel with your friends. 
Shape. My mother is 86, yet mentors and counsels dozens of her spiritual sons and daughters on her mobile phone around the world, weekly. 
 
Send. Churches and mission organizations use people as pioneers into the digital world to preach the Gospel to all nations. 
Digital opportunity is strategic for mission organizations who believe that preaching the Gospel to all nations is our responsibility in our time. If you are wondering how to do this practically, this testimony from CV’s Southeast Asia Manager, Wendy Phodiansa (Phodi), can help. 

Southeast Asia Case Study 

Phodi leads a Southeast Asia team of 35 people working among 17 Muslim and Buddhist Unreached People Groups (UPGs) in eight countries. Digital pioneering is done through two key activities: social direct and pioneering (face-to-face or online). Three things we have learned about utilizing digital opportunities in these places are: 
 
1. Integrate Social Direct with Digital Pioneering 
 
Social direct utilizes digital opportunity to locate a seeker, while pioneering focuses on connecting personally and directly with the seeker for further discipleship, either in-person or online. Social direct is about sowing seeds while pioneering is about watering and harvesting those who are ready. 
 
In digital pioneering, digital is the “radar” to locate and filter People of Peace (seekers) and the main focus of pioneering is personal evangelism and discipleship. Digital plants the seeds and prepares the seeker while pioneering is where the Gospel is shared through relationship. Digital and pioneering are two sides of one coin that need (ideally) to go together. In most cases, digital first is easier; however in countries that have strong digital barriers and religious persecution, it is often more effective to do pioneering first. 
 
2. Focus on the Digitally Connected Unreached 
 
In countries such as Thailand and Cambodia where mission work is mainly focused on rural places, we focus on cities and urban areas. These areas have the most unreached people, especially young people, who are also the most digitally connected. These people tend to be open to spiritual discussions and are the generation that will have the biggest impact in the future. 
 
A recent testimony from Cambodia highlights digital opportunity among urban unreached peoples. Many people assume people groups unreached by the Gospel are in remote areas. Sometimes it’s the opposite. In Cambodia, the most unreached people live in Cambodia’s 25 biggest cities. Our pioneering work in Cambodia is urban focused. A church partner there recently shared: “We are very blessed to be partnering with you in pioneering work. I am excited about pioneering possibilities. I believe we will continue to get closer to the ultimate goal. Only recently have I heard younger people (ages 35-45) say they want to launch out in Phnom Penh to pioneer new work. This is really the first time I’ve seen it in 12 years where there wasn’t a foreigner leading the way. Something is changing!” Praise the Lord— impact is occurring. 
 
3. Work in Partnership with local churches & missions 
 
We work in partnership with local churches or mission organizations that have a similar view of digital opportunity. We recruit pioneers and staff, partner with them, and provide them with resources, tools, digital strategies, and guidance on reaching the target UPGs. Our national partners provide spiritual coverage and local leadership insight. 
 
We believe that each country and partner are in a different season and understanding when it comes to digital opportunity. Some pioneers are ready to go fully digital, like our partner in Thailand who is planting a fully online church, where others are more focused on direct, in-person connections, like our partner in Laos. 

Opportunities and Challenges 

Success for CV is to see our church and mission partners gain a fuller understanding that what we do in the digital realm is producing fruit—People of Peace (seekers) ready to be connected—and opens a new perspective on reaching UPGs. 
 
Most of the challenges we find are in the knowledge and understanding of local people concerning this new church-planting model around digital evangelism. It is worth noting that using technology to reach people with the Gospel is not that common, despite our being familiar with digital technology and its potential to reach people in new ways for many years. 
 
Because of this, it is often difficult to convince ministries to believe in the potential of digital opportunity, despite going through the COVID-19 pandemic where all things became digital. Another challenge is the lack of a movement mindset. Most mission workers focusing on evangelism and discipleship don’t have an organic multiplication mindset, which means the mission work gets stuck once a church is planted. 

Effective and Efficient Teamwork 

Some things that lead teams to reach effectiveness and efficiency are clear vision and the right method. However, in my experience, the key is: Keep things as simple as possible and focus on the main things which are evangelism, discipleship, and multiplication. Anything before, in-between, and beyond needs to be consolidated to these three key focuses. 
 
It is important to realize that this work needs collaboration and faithfulness. There’s no silver bullet to win a UPG to Christ. We need to keep doing what we’re doing by trying to improve all the time. 

Conclusion 

I encourage you to seize the opportunity to use digital reach, relationships, and resources to preach the Gospel to all nations. Please pray and praise the Lord with us for: 
 
  • Pioneers for the harvest! Jesus says in Matthew 9:38, Pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 
  • Great teams and cooperation! Psalm 133:1 says, Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! 
  • Unreached People Groups impacted! Claim Psalm 2:8: Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. 
Digital opportunity is strategic for mission organizations that believe that preaching the Gospel to all nations is our responsibility in our time. 
If you have a smartphone, digital opportunity is, literally, in your hands right now.

This is an article from the May-June 2023 issue: The Gospel Goes Digital

Digital Missions—Another Step in a Rich History

Digital Missions—Another Step in a Rich History
This issue of Mission Frontiers is focused on “Digital Mission.” This topic prompted me to look for a fresh approach. I say this as I think most of our readers will have a familiarity with one or two major approaches to this topic, if not both. 
 
One approach is to question whether something so inherently relational as a Gospel—that centers around an incarnational God who came to live among us —can adequately be communicated through digital mission approaches. 
 
The other is the approach that highlights the ability of technology to gain access to people at a scale that is unprecedented, and if done well, with an equally unprecedented level of audience intelligence. 
 
One approach questions the ability of technology to connect well with people, the other highlights how technology can improve our ability to connect well with people. 
 
But those are not the topics I will address here. They are both often expressed, and I assume other contributors will cover them in ways far more helpful than I can do in my column for this edition. 
 
Instead, I want to take a brief tour; of only headlines and of similar pivot points in ways God communicates with people. 

The Oral Traditions and the Patriarchs 

Long before written portions of what are now collected into the books of what we call the Bible, the stories, messages, prayers, and prophetic oracles we have come to know and love were all passed on orally, people to people, generation to generation. Many other stories, messages, prayers, and oracles were also circulating in the same way at the same time. And they were not circulating all together. 
Some versions of the creation story were told among some, and other versions were told among others. 
 
But eventually, generations after these inspired oral versions of revelation were initially crafted, a process of writing them down began. 
I imagine that step was met with some of the same mixed reactions as digital mission: an awesome innovation on the one hand, or a step back, or depersonalization on the other. 

Collections, Canons, and Languages 

Centuries later, another long process of beginning to collect such written versions of the originally oral messages began such as: Genesis, what we know of as the Pentateuch, etc. Many years would have passed without a completed collection anything like what we take for granted today as the “Old Testament.” 
 
But perhaps the process that would have created the most angst was set in motion by the need for translation. What resulted were the two main Old Testament versions, eventually known as the Septuagint (LXX) and the Masoretic Text. The former was written in Greek, the latter, Hebrew. 
 
Again, one can imagine the reactions: If God spoke in this language, why are we translating it? This will mean we are not enabling people to experience God’s revelation fully. And on the other side: Unless we translate, we are not 25 enabling people to experience God’s revelation fully. 

Jesus, the Gospels, and More Canons! 

A very similar dynamic as described above for the Old Testament seems to be true for the New Testament. Originally, Jesus’ words were orally transmitted in different ways, among different peoples, in different places and settings. Eventually, these began to be written out, and then collected into what we know as the Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. But those written versions were originally separate from each other, and only much later were some communities of believers able to have access to all four together. And there were also the letters of Paul, James, John, and others to process as well, which I won’t focus on here. 
 
And again, I can imagine at every stage that the responses of people could have been mixed. After the era of the apostles, some early leaders of the church seemed to have more confidence in the oral traditions being handed down than in the newer innovations of written texts. Why? Because the oral versions came through eyewitnesses whose relationships could be traced in clear lines to the apostles. Others embraced the written versions, of course. 

Jerome and Beyond 

A major translation effort by Jerome was the first time both Testaments of the Bible were compiled into one edition and translated into one common language. This work became known as the Latin Vulgate. Once again there was mixed reception, although over the years Jerome’s version became so ingrained that when other translations emerged, they were often stained with blood, as the history of the Bible in English proves. 
 
There have been many other translations since Jerome. Translations, which are attempts to communicate in new ways to new audiences, have usually been met with mixed responses (truth be told, however, primarily negative). 

What Does This Have to Do with Digital Mission? 

My brief survey is intended to highlight the fact that every new approach taken to communicate God’s revelation and message has been met with both welcome and rejection, acclaim and criticism. 
 
As stated in my opening, digital mission is nothing different in that respect. It is also safe to assume this will not be the last such innovation. 
No matter how you might assume you will respond to digital mission as a concept, I hope you will keep space in your heart for discerning whether God is in this, and if so, how. That is not to say you won’t have questions. I do. So will the authors in MF.
 
As we encounter any proposed innovation, it serves us well to stay open-hearted lest, as Gamaliel said in Acts, we find ourselves on the wrong side of something God might be doing.

This is an article from the March-April 2023 issue: Women in Mission

Develop and Implement a Contextual Prayer Strategy

24:14 Goal—Movement engagements in every unreached people and place by 2025 (32 months)

Develop and Implement a Contextual Prayer Strategy

Why develop a prayer strategy?

While my family served in Asia, my husband and I visited a team on an island a short flight away. They had experienced many setbacks to sharing Jesus with those around them. Their children often had nightmares, as did those who slept in the guest room of their house. The team leader's wife struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts, which she had never experienced before moving to that location. Kingdom work and the team limped along. A prayer calendar had been developed by the team, but it encountered multiple setbacks and delays before it was finally printed. When the team investigated the spiritual history of that area, they discovered (among other things) that human sacrifice had been practiced there until the early 1900s.

When the prayer calendar was finally printed, that area was featured in the Global Prayer Digest also, which mobilized even more prayer. Prayer always precedes breakthrough. And, initial breakthroughs came, and the work continues to this day. So also do the challenges and the need for more focused prayer.

As Walter Wink wrote:

Intercessory prayer is spiritual defiance of what is in the name of what God has promised. Intercession visualizes an alternative future to the one apparently fated by the momentum of current forces. Prayer infuses the air of a time yet to be into the suffocating atmosphere of the present. ... History belongs to the intercessors who believe the future into being. ... Even a small number of people, firmly committed to the new inevitability on which they have fixed their imaginations, can decisively affect the shape the future takes.1

Scripture teaches much about the importance of prayer. It highlights praying effectively and fervently, in holiness: The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. (James 5:16b). It teaches us to pray together in agreement with others: Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father in heaven (Matt. 18:19). And it encourages us to pray always with rejoicing and thanksgiving: Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thess. 5:16-18). Much more could be said about Scripture's teaching on prayer.

How can we pray more effectively?

Our God invites us into deep relationship with himself and prayer is a very important part of that relationship. It involves asking, listening, resting, abiding, seeking, and more. It's not meant to be part of a checklist. Praying is about communicating with the Heavenly Father. Praying more effectively is about growing in connection with our Lord, aligning with His heart and purposes, seeking Him above all, and living in holiness. As we spend time with our King, we grow in faith and joy, and in recognizing that He is good and delights in hearing our prayers and answering them.

One way to grow in praying more effectively is to learn from prayer strategies in Scripture. To mention only a couple of many, in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 we learn that we have been given divine power to tear down1 strongholds. John 14:12-14 teaches us to believe and ask in Jesus' name. Esther mobilized backup prayer and fasting before asking the king for help (Esther 4:12-17).

Looking at the following two passages gives insight into the prayer strategy of identifying strongholds, hindrances to the advance of God's kingdom in a location, situation, or group of people (2 Cor. 10:3-6), and kingdom opposites, what it might look like for God's kingdom to come and His will to be done in that place (Matt. 6:9-13).

Strongholds in a people or place can affect lost people, disciples, and gospel messengers. Negative effects can include nightmares, suicidal thoughts, division, intrusive thoughts, anger, infighting, fear, intimidation, sexual sin, unfaithfulness, miscommunication, sickness, and more. All too often these challenges debilitate God's people. Yet God's good plan is to give His people victory over the stronghold, then have them bring this victory to the lost, setting captives free. In this process, strongholds are demolished, God's kingdom expands, and He gets all the glory.

When we first moved to Asia, a huge stronghold in my life was fear. It was also a stronghold among the Unreached People Group we sought to serve. As God set me free from fear, He led me to deeper faith and hope. Then I was more able to pray this same victory for those around me. God gave me significant insights about that road, which I was able to pass along to others. One fruit of this was the birth of Wholeness Prayer (www. freemin.org), which God has since used to set many spiritual and emotional captives free, as He speaks to the roots of the issues involved.

Another place my husband and I lived in Asia suffered from a stronghold of division. A kingdom opposite to that is unity. A related key Scripture is John 17. Many of the churches in that city regularly join together to pray for unity. They also hold multi-denominational events and seek to speak well of one another.

Once strongholds are identified, they can be integrated into a broader prayer strategy. For example, if the strongholds are nightmares, intimidation, and intrusive thoughts, a prayer strategy might include putting on the armor of God, rejoicing in the power of God, and developing a month-long prayer campaign.

Develop an effective prayer strategy

A first step is to identify key strongholds hindering kingdom advance in a group or location. This can be done through prayerful observation, asking key questions to cultural insiders, researching the history of the location or group, and spending time in prayer (as a group and individually) asking God to reveal whatever we need to know about strongholds affecting that location or group.

Follow-up steps include prayerfully seeking to identify kingdom opposites for each of these strongholds, identifying key Scriptures that connect with these, then using those Scriptures as the basis for effective prayer. Once you've created and implemented your prayer strategy, you'll want to periodically evaluate it, then update it as needed.

Real Strongholds, Real Strategies

After moving to a new location in Asia, I noticed that I was more inclined to be irritated with my husband. I would hear a voice in my head saying, "Find something to get irritated at him about." Since that's not a common issue for us, I started asking other workers in that area if they were also experiencing this. They were! So, a group of us began to pray together about this stronghold we'd identified. Once this stronghold was brought into the light, its power decreased.

In that situation, one potential kingdom opposite we could have focused on is thankfulness. A related verse is 1 Thessalonians 5:18: Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

A prayer strategy we might have chosen would be for this group to pray weekly about this issue, and invite others to do the same, and ask God to birth thankfulness in His people and in that location. An additional step could be to see how we could practice and model thankfulness and hold each other accountable to do so.

Think about your context (or the one for which you are interceding). What strongholds are there? Then, consider:

  1. When do you plan to pray (rhythms of prayer)?
  2. What are you planning to pray (prayer strategy)?
  3. Who will you share your prayer initiative with?
  4. Who will you pray with?
  5.  What are the next steps?

What does it mean to multiply prayer?

It's often helpful for many people to join together in agreement about a hindrance to kingdom advance. There is kingdom power when one person prays. And there is power where two or more are gathered in his name, agreeing together about what they are asking God to accomplish.

Key ways to multiply prayer include: (1) more and more people praying, (2) praying longer or more frequently, (3) praying more strategically (e.g., using strategies from Scripture), (4) praying more fervently or from a place of increased desperation, (5) praying from a place of deeper connection with God, and (6) praying from a place of greater purity or deeper surrender.

Extraordinary prayer has preceded every Church Planting Movement we know of. It goes beyond the ordinary in commitment, desperation, frequency, and/or quality, with the goal of engaging with God at a deeper level. The following are extraordinary prayer strategies organized by the acronym PRAY2:

Prepare the way for the coming of His kingdom: prayer as strategy; listening prayer; prayer mobilization, training and team building and prayer shield teams and prayer research-which is Spirit- guided research into the supernatural underpinnings of reality to help produce more informed, effective intercession and outreach.

Restore God's rightful rule: prayer worship warfare, i.e. raising the waterline of God's manifest presence through worship, engaging with God, proclaiming His will, and exercising His delegated authority through supplication and obedience; prayer as member health; prayer as representational repentance and reconciliation; prayer and crisis response; and prayer and suffering.

Advance of His kingdom for His glory: prayer walking-when we carry His presence as we move prayer out of the church building or home and into the community; prayer power evangelism; prayer as spiritual warfare, i.e. taking authority over spiritual powers and strongholds hindering the advance of God's kingdom; prayer and fasting for breakthroughs; and prayer presence.

Yearn for the now-but-not-yet kingdom to come: prayer yearning for maturity; prayer yearning for the full harvest-pressing forward with urgency to reap the white harvest that the Lamb who was slain receive His full reward; prayer yearning for kingdom transformation; and prayer yearning for our Bridegroom.

Consider which of these extraordinary prayer strategies you might want to include in your personal prayer strategy.

Length of prayer strategies

Prayer strategies may span short, medium, or long-term timelines. They may involve just a few people or even millions, praying individually and together. One shorter prayer initiative I pursued was fervent prayer for one of our sons while he was hospitalized with dengue fever. In God's graciousness, He granted complete healing in a relatively short period of time.

In "Gaining Church Planting Momentum During COVID-19," Aila Tasse described their responses to numerous challenges COVID-19 brought to their ministry in 2020:

Our first response was prayer. In mid-March we called for prayer among all our team members: our core team and our country leaders, representing all the countries where we work. We all started praying at the same time, using WhatsApp to distribute the prayers. We prayed that God would sustain the movement, because we realized that leaders and families were suddenly losing all their sources of income. Prayer was very key for us to keep the momentum. We all started praying, especially on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We called for fasting on Wednesdays. It was a whole day of fasting every week, which still continues today.3

He later described God's provision in response to their prayers:

I looked at what has happened in the last 15 years of our movement in East Africa, and 2020 was the peak. We saw 1,300 churches planted in just that one year. This was amazing because earlier in the year, we had scaled down our goals by 30%; we said we'll trust God for 600 to 800 new churches. But God took us way beyond that, as only He can do. I could hardly believe it, as all the teams presented their data for the year. I had to see the graphs and look for myself at people group by people group.4

A lifelong prayer that I, and many others, are committed to pursue is for John 17 unity and shalom wholeness in the global Church. Whatever the length of the prayer strategy, and however you update it over time, keep praying and persevering in faith. As my brother, JFK Mensah, so aptly described,

We must believe in the weapons of our warfare. Over time there is no curse that can't be broken. To believe otherwise is to believe a lie. Have courage! You are seated with Christ in heavenly places. You are tiny, but the weapons are mighty.5

Whatever God calls you to pray for, don't stop. Align with His vision and promises and pray them into being. His victory is certain. He is bigger and more powerful than any problem, and all problems combined. Rejoice in Him, worship with joy, and give thanks in all circumstances. As He answers your prayers, give appropriate testimony (consistent with confidentiality). And give Him all the praise and glory.

Steps to develop a prayer strategy

Here are some steps for developing and implementing a prayer strategy in response to an ongoing situation.

  •  Develop the prayer strategy (as a group).
  •  What strongholds/hindrances are factors in this situation?
  • How are they affecting the lost, the church, individuals, families, groups, and/or field workers?
  • What are the historical roots of these strongholds or hindrances?
  •  What kingdom opposites do you sense God wants to bring in their place?
  • What verses connect with each of these kingdom opposites?
  • What initial prayer strategy will you pursue? i.e., Who, when, how, where, and resources, rhythms, or other activities.
  • What prayer materials will you create?
  • What rhythms of prayer will you pursue?
  • How will this multiply prayer?
  • Implement the prayer strategy.
  • Periodically evaluate and update the prayer strategy.
  • What progress has been made?
  • In what ways is the situation unchanged?
  • How have the challenges and opportunities changed?
  • Based on the above, how will you update your prayer strategy?
  • Repeat as new situations arise.
Endnotes
  1. Walter Wink, The Powers That Be (New York: DoubleDay, 1999), 185.

  2. 2 https://prayerstrategists.net/about/resources-by-strategy/

  3. 3 Aila Tasse, "Gaining Church Planting Momentum During COVID-19, Mission Frontiers, May/June 2022, 40-41

  4. 4 Tasse, 42.

  5. 5 Notes from a March 2013 lunch conversation with J.F.K. Mensah, coauthor of The Lost Art of Spiritual Warfare, by J.F.K & Georgina Mensah, 2011.

This is an article from the March-April 2023 issue: Women in Mission

New Editor Application

New Editor Application

The Editor of Mission Frontiers magazine is responsible for leading the vision, strategy, and execution of the Mission Frontiers magazine. The Editor leads a team of employees and contractors to produce high-quality, timely, publications of the magazine, setting long-term vision that contributes strategic missiological content to a global audience. The Editor will maintain a strong working knowledge of emerging trends in the publication industry and missiology/theology and manage budgets, operational systems, and processes to support the strategic aims of Frontier Ventures.

Want to find out more and apply? You can see the position description and get in touch here.

This is an article from the March-April 2023 issue: Women in Mission

What Can a Single Woman Do When She Goes with God?

What Can a Single Woman Do When She Goes with God?

When that young-or maybe not so young-single woman in your church or family starts taking steps toward serving in mission, what thoughts run through your head? That it's too dangerous? That she'll never fit in? That she'd do better if she had a husband?

You aren't the first to have those thoughts, yet mission history is full of stories about single women counting the cost, going to the ends of the earth, and doing the unexpected. Think of Lottie Moon, Amy Carmichael, Mary Slessor, Elisabeth Elliot, or the army of indigenous "Bible women" who spread the Gospel across Asia.

Meet Megan-A Spiritual Mother

Megan has served on the edge of the Sahara for decades, and she recently told a local colleague that she has no regrets about being single. "I'm an evangelist, and not having a husband or kids I have much more time to get out and share the Gospel."

It can be a bit lonely at times. Years ago, as she was finishing her first term and about to go on home assignment, she told the Lord she wasn't sure she could come back if he didn't give her a husband or housemates to live with. "And He did," she says. "Housemate after housemate after housemate almost all of these years, or close neighbors who met my social needs. God is so real and personal."

Like other single women in her position, Megan has found the questions about her singleness a ministry opportunity. "Explaining to Muslims why I'm not married always opens doors for sharing my faith."

Though she focuses on her relationships with women, Megan has been surprised to see God give her a ministry among men as well. "It's not supposed to work that way, especially with Muslims, but God keeps bringing them my way and it's a blessing," she says. Every Friday for months she shared chronological Bible stories with a group of 25 men who met on the street outside a government office. She's led Discovery Bible studies with groups of young men. And she's distributed thousands of Gospel cassette tapes and micro SD cards to taxi drivers and men on the streets or in the marketplace; now she supplies local believing men who carry out most of the distribution efforts.

Sometimes these relationships go deeper. A man she led to the Lord years ago is like a son to her; he, and others, call her "Mama Megan." She made such an impact on a Muslim-background believer she employed as a guard that he, too, refers to her as his spiritual mother. Later he married, and Megan became friends with his Muslim wife. Last year, Megan spent hours with them providing marriage counseling during a difficult season. Her words made an impact on the wife who is now more open to the Gospel. "These things really encourage me," she says. "I've made mistakes for sure, and it's sometimes discouraging. But I have no regrets about serving among Muslims."

Being single is not for everyone. But it shouldn't surprise us to see God providing for and using single missionary women in places where their singleness would seem to disqualify or hold them back. He is God.

This is an article from the March-April 2023 issue: Women in Mission

House of Hope

House of Hope

Fitri's clothes were dirty, her cloth face mask was ginormous, and her nails had black dirt under them. She had some type of ear infection and there was a smelly liquid coming out of her ears. But she was one of our students and we could not cringe or hide away from her. The invitation is always to welcome such children-to welcome them and to view them as lovely children that God has made in His image. Beneath the dirt, behind the smell, and in spite of the apparent ugliness of poverty, these children are beautiful.

I moved to Indonesia 12 years ago as a single, female missionary. I came to join a new team that had launched a year prior. Servants to Asia's Urban Poor sends teams to live and serve in urban slum communities, seeking to pray for and work towards transformation in such communities. We tie our well-being to the well- being of the communities we move into. As the prophet Jeremiah wrote, But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare (Jer. 29:7).

For the first year, I needed to be a learner. I had to learn the language, the culture, and how to survive in a slum. During that time our community faced a devastating fire (unfortunately fires are all too frequent realities in slum communities), and then an even more devastating eviction. But I continued to believe that the Lord had called me to this city and to this people group. I learned that God was inviting me to meet Him amongst the least of these; I was finding Jesus in the slums.

Now, for the past 10 years, I have been living and serving in a new slum community. I met and married a wonderful Indonesian Christian man, and together we serve the Lord with our family and team on the outskirts of Jakarta, one of the largest cities in the world.

When we first moved to this community, we did not know how we should respond to the pressing needs all around us. Many of our neighbors make their livings through garbage collecting and scavenging for recycling. There are literally piles of rotting trash throughout the neighborhood, often burning, sending black smoke billowing in whichever direction the wind is blowing. Children grow up on top of trash; their playgrounds are old tires and whatever treasures the garbage brings today. Rats, mosquitos, scabies, and cockroaches are just part of life, co-existing with the humans who make their homes here. What could we offer in this place? How could we share Jesus' tangible love with the community the Lord had placed us in?

We started trying things. What began as a daily coloring club with children in the community grew into a Monday through Friday kindergarten and after-school program. What started as being a good neighbor, letting children play UNO in our living room, has grown into "House of Hope." Currently at House of Hope, we have five Muslim women from the neighborhood working with our four Christian teammates. As we work together, we are able to teach over 100 children a day. We have a real focus on literacy, helping children excel in reading, so that when they begin elementary school they have a head start. Without House of Hope, most of these children would not have access to attending kindergarten. We hope to lower the rate of elementary school dropouts and hope to encourage children staying in school until middle or high school!

Many students are like Fitri. Sometimes their clothes are dirty, snot covers their faces, and lice crawl in their hair. But the Lord has taught me not to cringe, not to shrink back from loving them. Because, in reality, I am also like Fitri. I am dirty, I am a sinner-I fall down and mess up. And yet the Lord loves me. The Lord embraces me. And the Lord wants me to do the same to Fitri and all the other precious children I get to encounter in this place. The Lord does not see me or these children as ugly-He sees us as His wonderful creations.

Over one billion people in our world today live in urban slum communities, which is a very overwhelming statistic. I am not very good at thinking about these large global figures; it can make me freeze as I consider the enormous physical and spiritual needs not yet being met. But I want to do my part to share Jesus' love and hope with the people in this particular slum, in this particular city. I want to "stop for the one," as Heidi Baker talks about in her book There is Always Enough. I want to see each person in front of me as an opportunity to love, as an opportunity to witness to God's kingdom.

House of Hope has opened doors for us over the past decade. It has allowed us to build relationships and get to know hundreds of families in this primarily Muslim slum community. We are able to pray for people when they are sick, share stories about Jesus, and even study Scripture together. And while we plant seeds and wait for the Lord to bring the growth, we continue to witness to Christ's love through teaching children to read and write.

Loving people is hard work. There are no shortcuts in compassion. It takes time, sweat, and immense patience. As the years pass, as I watch my two boys grow up here, I am in awe of what God has done. In this place the Lord has taught me so much-about trust, about community, about finding Jesus among the least of these. I have been forever changed by my encounters with God in this place.

One day, early in our time in this particular slum community, there was a big rain storm. The wind blew one of the large asbestos tiles off of our roof (while asbestos is considered very dangerous in the West, in many parts of the world it is a cheap roofing option, much cooler than corrugated metal). Our first child was only a few months old. The rain started pouring into our house and we did not know what to do. Suddenly, from our window, we saw one of our neighbors grab a ladder and climb up to our roof. He had a big blue plastic tarp, the tarp that we actually had given to his family two years prior when their house burned down and the fire victims were constructing temporary tents as shelter. As the rain poured down, lightning lit up the sky, and the sound of thunder rumbled all around us, Bapak Rudi covered the hole in our roof with his tarp. It was his tangible way of showing love to our family.

This act has become a living metaphor for me. Am I, too, willing to love until it hurts? To climb the ladders of life-not rushing to find success or comfort- but ladders that lead to discomfort and perhaps risk? Like Bapak Rudi getting soaked in the rain in order to fix our roof, am I willing to get dirty? Because there is no comfortable way to serve in urban slum communities. While the needs are great, while 1.4 billion people in our world live in squalor, too often Christians seek shortcuts, want easy answers, desire magic wands to spread the Gospel and ease the pain of humanity at the same time. But that is not the way of our Savior. Our Savior came and lived among us (John 1:14), or as The Message puts it: The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. Jesus spent 30 years as a virtually unknown peasant in Nazareth (the slums of Galilee?), and only then did He start His ministry. A ministry of love that eventually took Him to the cross-for you, for me, and for the whole world.

So, wherever you are, whether in overseas ministry or not, my prayer is that you would dare to try to love as Jesus did. A love that calls us to pour ourselves out, to not cringe from the Fitris of the world. A love that seeks out the least of these and realizes that in serving them, we are serving our Savior. And although we may not have easy answers or quick solutions, as we serve, we can cling to Jesus and trust that He is with us-even in the urban slums of the mega-cities of our world-and He is indeed Good News.

This is an article from the March-April 2023 issue: Women in Mission

Praying with Purpose During Ramadan

Praying with Purpose During Ramadan

As a cross-cultural Christian in a 99.9% Muslim country, I find Ramadan to be filled with stark contrasts. On the one hand, multigenerational families gathering around tables each night eating homemade delicacies and food drives that collect pantry staples for poor families are almost universal. On the other hand, thievery due to pressure to buy gifts at the end of the month along with arguments, fist fights, traffic snarls, and shortened tempers due to nicotine and caffeine withdrawals all increase during the 30 days.

The sharp contrasts powerfully illustrate the ineffectiveness of outward religious practices to bring inward transformation. And yet, so few seem bothered with this reality and even fewer wrestle and search for a solution. Five times a day, the Muslim call to prayer continues to ring out. It echoes and clashes from the various mosques in my neighborhood that aren't in sync with each other. Five times a day, the land is flooded with announcements from loudspeakers saying, "there is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his messenger." Year after year, many abstain from food, water, and nicotine during the daylight hours in an effort to appease God and try to earn merit.

In the midst of this environment, I and a relatively small community of other Christians seek to bring the Good News of God's kingdom and the life, death, burial, and resurrection of His Christ to people who have had virtually no access for 1400 years.

Such circumstances cause me to cry out, Who is sufficient for these things? (2 Cor. 2:16b, NKJV).

 And that desperation, that utter helplessness I can feel as I engage in Gospel conversations with neighbors, friends, and strangers, leaves me no choice but to pray. The longer I live in the Muslim world, the more convinced I am that only the power of prayer and God's Spirit can bring transformation.

So, when I heard about the opportunity to champion 24/7 prayer for the entire 30 days of Ramadan last year for the Muslim country that I want to reach with the Gospel, I knew I needed to say, "Yes!"

The team at Pray4Movement.org built a free, simple tool that empowers anyone who wants to promote continuous prayer for a people group, city, country, or region. In just a few clicks and by answering a few questions, I received a web page of my own that I could customize and then send out to my friends, family, coworkers, etc. They could then sign-up for time slots to pray.

I only needed to find 96 people who would commit to pray for a different 15-minute time slot each day of Ramadan to cover the entire 30 days with prayer. Intercessors received an email each day before their committed time slot with a reminder and a link to go view that day's biblical prayer fuel. The Pray4Movement team developed content that could be customized for my people group with just a few keystrokes. However, I had complete freedom to write my own custom prayer requests and prayer guides.

By God's grace, we filled the 30 days with nonstop prayer!

Only in eternity will we know the full impact of what happened as the Church prayed extraordinarily for the Muslims in the country where I live, but I believe God answered our prayers and is answering them in beautiful ways. Since Ramadan 2022, our team has witnessed a significant increase in groups of people interested in reading, discovering, and discussing the Bible with their friends.

Our country wasn't the only one that tried to go for continuous prayer coverage during Ramadan 2022. It turns out that 84 different champions took on the challenge impacting 64 countries. At least 6,395 intercessors filled more than 170,000 15-minute prayer slots.

One prayer champion in a sub-Saharan Muslim nation said they saw God move in powerful ways during Ramadan as people prayed. A Muslim man who cut off relationship with his Christian children began calling them, bringing hope of restored relationship. An elderly woman who refused to submit her life to Christ for decades accepted Christ during Ramadan. Other Christians in the country were compelled to grow their prayer life for their Muslim neighbors and sought to be brighter lights among them. Evangelism efforts among this people group in the weeks that followed proved more fruitful.

One of the most persecuted countries in the world rallied more than 100% prayer coverage during the 30 days. The prayer champion for that Muslim nation said, "I don't think that we know even a small percentage of the impact that was made by praying 24/7 during Ramadan this year. Consistently, we heard how many people felt a heavy spiritual oppression. I think that signifies that we are pushing against the enemy in an effective way. We had several people around the globe that communicated just how impactful it was to have the prayer fuel and were encouraged by the unity of praying together with others. We are expecting that fruit will come from this initiative and some evidence of that is already coming."

Another prayer champion working in a Muslim country in South Asia said, "We had over 100 people praying daily for the work, and we know of at least three Muslims that came to faith during this time. Normally, Ramadan is very slow, with few responses or new believers. So this year was different! Five more have followed Jesus in the month after Ramadan!"

As if these stories aren't glorious enough, something important happens in the intercessors, themselves, as they devote 15-minutes a day to pray for a Muslim people group, city, country, or region. Yes, their prayers make eternal impact in the spiritually dark places they pray on behalf of. But their prayers also make an impact in their own lives. They begin to be changed and God softens their hearts for the people for whom they are praying. If you pray for the nations consistently, you'll find that at some level you will have to go into action for the nations through giving, going, mobilizing, or serving.

During Ramadan 2022 (April 1-May 1), when all of the time committed to pray for Muslims across all of the 84 different initiatives was added up, it totaled 4 years, 359 days of prayer or 43,660 hours! The team at Pray4Movement is asking God for even more prayer initiatives and multiples of prayer hours totaled for the Muslim world in Ramadan 2023.

My heart aches for the millions in the land that I live in to know the Christ that came to save them not just from their evil deeds, but also from their good deeds done from wrong motives-from selfishness and self-righteousness, from outward religion to inward transformation. This Ramadan (Mar 22-April 21, 2023), technology has given our generation unprecedented opportunity to pray with insight and specificity for Muslim people groups, cities, and countries. Would you champion prayer for one of them among your family, friends, congregations, and partners?

Go to: https://pray4movement.org/ramadan-champions-2023/ to launch a 24/7 prayer initiative today.

This is an article from the March-April 2023 issue: Women in Mission

Friendships Can Be Complicated

Friendships Can Be Complicated

There are unique challenges that global workers face when it comes to developing meaningful friendships.

  1. Time. The hassles of things like getting and preparing food, paying bills, and getting things repaired all take longer. Add homeschooling in the mix for some and the day is done. Making time for ministry takes priority and missionaries may feel guilty using that time to grow friendships. 
  2. Mobility. Changing your residence twice every five years is built into missionary life. You are on the field for X years, home assignment for X months. While on home assignment you are constantly on the move. While you are in your host country all of your expat friends are constantly coming and going as well. It is hard to want to invest in friendships when you know they won't be long term.
  3. Expectations. During all of the years of preparation to go to the field, we unknowingly collect quite a large bag of expectations. In our dreams we are laughing with our team around a table. The work is hard, but we are closer because we weather it together. We may be prepared to be disappointed by the friends we left back in our passport country who increasingly cannot connect with the life we are living, but the shock comes when we are super hurt and let down by our fellow missionaries. We expect them to know and understand our needs because we live in the same culture with the same challenges.

The longevity and flourishing of global workers would improve if they understood two things about friendships.

#1-God values community and developing friendships, even expat ones, and doing so is not a waste of time. You may be surprised at how many women feel guilty about the coffee shop dates with expat women, feeling that they are only fulfilling their call if their friends are locals.

#2-Your friendships will change and what you need from those friends will change as soon as you become an expat. It would greatly benefit all women preparing to serve cross-culturally if they knew about the five boxes of friendships they were getting ready to open.

  • • Friendships in our passport country
  • • Friendships on our team
  • • Friendships with nationals
  • • Friendships with expats
  • • Friendships with supporters and online acquaintances

Each of these friendships has different blessings and challenges. Being prepared to know what you can and can't expect from each group can save you a lot of grief around unmet expectations as you transition to a life of cross-cultural service.

In the Velvet Ashes Membership community, we are a group of cross-cultural women choosing to do life together and grow in friendship through resource and community. We go deeper into the practice of friendship through our monthly content, resources, and virtual events. Join us at grow.velvetashes.com.

Endnotes
  1. Whiteman, G. (n.d.). Resilient Missionary Study: Preliminary Findings. Senduwiki.org

This is an article from the March-April 2023 issue: Women in Mission

A Leaf on a River

A Leaf on a River

My journey as a mobilizer started at a very difficult point in my life. A challenging experience had immersed me in an unspeakable pain. I felt like a shaky, fragile leaf that had fallen off a high tree into a river, adrift on cold water. Feeling weak and helpless, I just went with the flow, unaware He was about to take me into unfamiliar waters.

On the other hand, being in this position helped me to experience-firsthand-the faithful and generous love of our Lord, and His mercy and amazing power. He provided everything that was needed and surrounded me with caring and loving people. I was able to say, just as Job: My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you (Job 42:5).

How Do I Start Mobilizing, Lord?

In 2010, I received an email from the former director of the missionary agency where I served before moving to Ciudad Valles, San Luis Potosí (SLP), Mexico, where I currently serve and live.1 Unexpectedly, I read that they had been praying about starting a missions course called "Misión Mundial," by Jonathan Lewis, in my city and they were wondering if I would be the instructor and coordinator. I was speechless.

My first thought was that they, being on the other side of the world, did not know what had just happened to me. To my surprise, he continued, saying they already knew about it and had confirmation from God. I replied to the email and asked them for a praying period for me to seek God's will.

After that, I went to San Luis Potosí-my hometown-to have a meeting with the current director of the mission agency where they already offered the course. He agreed on my starting it. I felt completely nervous and unworthy.

Having confirmation, I needed to get materials, information, and instructions on how to start and carry out the course. The director gave me a box with flyers, a set of books, and prayed for me. I was in shock! I had so many questions: How do I start? Where am I supposed to get the students from? Who will teach me how to teach the course? He serenely said, "Just go visit the churches and invite them. You have taken the course before, so you know how it goes."

As I started, I felt I was going deep in the water, but the Lord kept me afloat. All I could see was the next small step, but He guided me forward step by step. During this time, I learned to depend on Him completely and utterly. Psalm 32:8 was constantly on my mind: I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.

As I continued forward, our loving Father opened doors I would never have imagined. He gave me His favor to talk to pastors and visit churches to invite them to attend the course. The first generation of students graduated in April 2011. We had 40 students from seven different churches, including three pastors and four denominations represented. At the end of the course, the students organized a missions conference aimed to mobilize their own churches and the city.

People from different churches would start asking when a new one was going to begin. Amazingly, the Lord showed just the next step to be taken before starting every new course.

What Do We Do with the Vision?

There was no map or instruction manual in this journey. Each generation of students was unique, with different backgrounds and needs. Therefore, learning to depend completely on the Lord and following the Holy Spirit's direction was of paramount importance.

One of the challenges we faced was with mindset-our mindset. Mexico has been a missionary field for many years. We are truly thankful for those workers who-in past and present centuries-came and shared the Good News. We praise God that we are the fruit of their obedience.

Nevertheless, Mexico is now becoming a missionary force. Mexican churches have received the blessing and it is our time to be a blessing for all nations. Hence, one of the challenges we face is to shift from a local mindset into a global mindset. Furthermore, we need to adopt a "glocal" mindset, which is taking into account both local and global considerations, i.e. think global, act local. Knowledge and studies on missions are important, but it is equally important to believe we are part of the fulfillment of the Great Commission in our generation and get into action, trusting the Lord will provide all the resources needed.

Networking

In 2013, God revealed another step: establish a strategic partnership with four churches in the city. The aim was to work together sharing resources, experiences, and knowledge, while respecting their own personalities. Our vision was to see Potosíno missionaries supported by local churches and sent to the ends of the earth.2 We called it Cooperación Misionera de Valles (COMIVA). As you can imagine, it was not a simple matter. It took us two years to launch the project.

One interesting thing was that some of the churches were teaching their people about missions while others were already training workers to go on the field. Being in different stages made the partnership strong since churches with more experience could share the "dos and don'ts." In 2012, the graduates of the first generation decided to unite efforts and join the Aventura Misionera Infantil project (Missionary Adventure for Kids).3 We continued celebrating it in 2013, 2014, and then every other year as part of the partnership work plan.

In 2019, we also became part of COMIMEX (Cooperación Misionera de México), the Mexican Missions Partnership.4

Further Education

By the end of 2015, an extraordinary burden was set upon me. Some of the questions that came with that were: What are all these graduates doing for the kingdom? Are they practicing what they've learned? Are we producing fruit? The Lord once again revealed the next step: organize a graduates forum. We held the first forum at the end of 2015 and the second one in 2017. At these events, we prayed for one another, shared our experiences, and received instruction and information on different training courses and field opportunities.

Sending the Fruit

As I mentioned, it is time for the Mexican church to become a missionary force. Even so, there is a region in the central part of Mexico which is called "El Círculo del Silencio" (The Circle of Silence).5 In 2011, one of the churches in the city sent a couple to one of these states to share the Good News. After that, they also sent a young lady to a neighboring state. Others continue to be sent and move to that region. At the present time, two local churches have sent missionaries abroad: one to Africa and the other to the Middle East. Another church has sent candidates on short-term trips to Southeastern Europe and Southeast Asia.

In 2016, a pastor in the Huasteca heard the word "Eureka" in a dream. It continued to happen so she asked me about the meaning of the word. We found out some options, but she felt none of them were accurate. Then, she discovered that a small community in the mountains about an hour away from where she lives is called Eureka. She went there and discovered people were hungry to hear from God. They said that a long time ago, a Christian family lived there, but they had all passed away. She continued visiting the town and there is now a thriving group of disciples in this community.

Setbacks

As some pastors started to direct their programs, efforts, and resources to become a missionary church, some members of the congregations left. They did not agree with new focus and did not like the idea of abandoning their comfort zones. There were also some spirited graduates who were convinced their churches needed an immediate change. They talked to their pastors and leaders, but did not obtain the response they were looking for. They were dismayed and also left the church.

Without doubt, the pandemic was also an unexpected diversion in the flow, since most of our activities include courses, conferences, and gatherings. So, we were on standby. However, churches continued working and managed to keep active on missions.

In 2022, we were invited by a Christian camp in Rioverde, SLP to organize an Aventura Misionera as part their 50th anniversary celebrations. This was a major opportunity to get back on track and recover strength.

Next steps

It was essential to learn how to take a good care of those who have been sent, in order to ensure their continuance. In 2018 the partnership organized an integral care course, delivered by a Mexican expert in the field, aimed for pastors and sending churches. Since this is a critical factor for us, we will need to keep learning and improving our processes.

Churches have developed their own agendas according to their needs. This is also an important asset since it helps us to learn from others' experiences and allows us to see how God is moving among the Potosíno churches. Nevertheless, networking provides the opportunity to be the body of Christ, supporting and encouraging each other. I strongly believe unity among churches is of the utmost importance in order to fulfill the Great Commission.

Conclusion

Our journey in mobilization has not been a smooth one, but we have witnessed the power and mercy of God. Many times, a sense of unworthiness and uncertainty filled me. Many times, I felt adrift. Above all, it has been a blessing to work together for the kingdom.

A characteristic of a river is that the water is continuously flowing. The Lord has kept us continuously moving forward even though all we can see is the next small step. Our Father has always been in control of the current. We are expectant of what the Lord will do in the next years and I am truly confident He will continue moving in and through us, in spite of being just fragile leaves on the water. Ephesians 3:20-21 has strongly spoken to me:

Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be the glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.

Timeline of Events


July 2012-Second generation graduated.
October 2013-First generation in Tamuín, San Luis Potosí graduated.
July 2015-Third generation graduated.
February 2016-First generation, a group of 48 pastors and leaders from the Wesleyan Church in Mexico, in the Huasteca region graduated.2
July 2017-Fourth generation graduated.
June 2019-Fifth generation graduated.
February 2021-First generation in the Huasteca Mountains with the Ríos de Agua Viva churches graduated.

ENDNOTES

1 Located in the central part of Mexico, Ciudad Valles is the second largest city in the eastern part of the state of San Luis Potosí. It is two hours away from the Gulf of Mexico.
2 "Potosino" is the term used to refer to the inhabitants of San Luis Potosí, a geographical region located in northeast Mexico. It includes 20 municipalities and two major ethnic groups: Náhuatl and Tének.
3 For more information visit Aventura Misionera Infantil Página Oficial on Facebook.
4 http://www.comimex.org
5 The Circle of Silence includes eight states in the central part of Mexico with an average of 4 percent of evangelicals. https://converge org/b.ajio/about

Note, all Scripture references are NIV

This is an article from the March-April 2023 issue: Women in Mission

6 Signs of a Missionary Growth Mindset

6 Signs of a Missionary Growth Mindset

Would you like to go to a dentist who graduated in 1999 and then said, "I don't need to update my credentials or take more classes because I already invested six years of my life learning what I needed to know?"
   
How comfortable would you be to have your taxes prepared by someone who said, "I was up to date until 2018 and then life got really busy and I haven't had time to stay up to date on the changes to the laws since then?" No thank you. I'm sorry life's been hectic, but a lot has changed since 2018 and your good intentions are not enough.
   
It's easy to see the flaws in their thinking, but how often have those of us in missions been guilty of our own version of this type of thinking? If you lack time, funds, or chances to learn more about what God has called you to do, you might have more of a "fixed missionary mindset" than a "missionary growth mindset."
   
The good news, and with Jesus there's always good news, is that whether you have a fixed or growth mindset, you can foster a growth mindset.
   
The idea of fixed versus growth mindset grew out of a study by Carol Dweck in which she researched students' attitudes towards failure.1
Someone with a growth mindset views intelligence, abilities, and talents as learnable and capable of improvement through effort. On the other hand, someone with a fixed mindset views those same traits as inherently stable and unchangeable over time.2
   
I heard Dr. Heidi Grant speak on motivation and her closing line challenged me as I thought about Global Trellis, the organization I lead. She said, "Cultivating a growth mindset is one of the most important things we can do for ourselves, organizations, and callings."3
   
Maybe you're not sure whether your mindset is fixed or geared towards growth. Here are four signs you might have a fixed mindset as a missionary:
1. You feel you have to prove your ability.
2. You compare yourself or your project to others.
3. You doubt yourself.
4. You experience anxiety in regard to your ministry.
   
The problem with a fixed mindset in ministry is that you're vulnerable when things don't go well.

Many who read this publication are involved in Church Planting Movements, Disciple Making Movements, or other ways of participating in the Great Commission. These ventures are fraught with challenges and if you have a fixed mindset, you will experience high levels of anxiety. This kind of stress affects your brain chemistry, your overall health, and makes you less likely to be open to new opportunities and less open to changes you might need to make. Why? Because a fixed mindset keeps you afraid of "failure" and keeps you erroneously focused on efforts to prove yourself.

I've worked with thousands of missionaries over the years and a common refrain I've heard is, "I lack time,funds, or chances to learn about fill-in-the-blank." Even with online learning having grown exponentially in recent years, many are not taking advantage of the learning opportunities because of the perceived lack of time or funds. However, missionaries being too busy to build in time to reflect on their lives and work, connect with others doing what they are doing, or taking care of themselves is not a badge of honor. It's the trap of a fixed mindset and it leads to burnout.

As I said, the good news is that if you see yourself reflected above, you can foster a growth mindset.
   
Just like you can tell if someone has a fixed mindset, you can also tell if someone has a growth mindset. How can you tell if someone has a growth mindset? The three hallmarks are:
1. A desire to improve your ability
2. A plan to develop your skills
3. The ability to compare yourself today to yourself in the past instead of to other people or ministries
   
In earlier eras, missionaries needed to be "front-end loaded" with information. There will always be a need for pre-field or new-to-the-field training. My hope is that we move beyond thinking of training as an event or a season and we see it more as a mindset that fosters life-long learning in missionaries.

Let's get specific about the six signs of not only a growth mindset, but a missionary growth mindset:

1 You are curious-This curiosity might be about your host culture, technology, or whatever is currently impacting your ministry. It can and should manifest as a regular way that you view the world.
2 You build reflection into your life-Set aside time to consider what's working and what's not. Ideally you have small, medium, and larger reflection practices with weekly, monthly or quarterly, and annual times for reflection. At Global Trellis, every December we offer a "Reflect and Prepare" packet geared specifically for cross-cultural workers to reflect on the previous year and prepare for the next.
3 You invest in learning-Don't be like the dentist or tax preparer mentioned at the beginning of this article. Instead, set aside time and money to listen to podcasts, attend online workshops, read books, and connect with others doing what you're doing.
4 You are attentive-Heidi Grant encourages people to "notice, then shift."4 She means it mostly in regard to mindset. Notice when you sense you have to prove yourself, are frustrated, or are experiencing anxiety, then shift. You can say things like "I'm not good at this yet" or "It's not about being good, it's about getting better." By noticing what's going on around and within you, you're able to shift. The power of shifting is that you're not ruminating on the past and are reorienting yourself to the future.
5 You are willing to change or redirect-Because you have spent time wrestling with the ideas of "success" and "failure" in ministry, you are not wedded to outcomes. Of course, you're encouraged by outreaches and movements that are making positive impacts and love to see people growing in Christ! But you are not defined by them. If something isn't working, you're willing to move on and to try something different.
6 You share your mistakes-Be willing to talk about past challenging seasons you experienced and mistakes that you've made instead of hiding or downplaying them. You are able to talk about when you could have handled a situation better and what you learned from it.
   
As you read through the list, hopefully you saw yourself in all six. But if you didn't, you can start today to foster a growth mindset. A growth mindset won't just happen because you read this article and you think, "That's the kind of person I want to be!" Don't we all want to be this kind of person? But when you look around at fellow missionaries ,you probably know people who operate out of a fixed missionary mindset.
   
You need to make the choice to foster a growth mindset because the pressure you're facing is going to push you towards a fixed mindset. You're made in the image of God, but you live in a world that has been damaged by sin. Thus, too many missionaries are stuck in the "it's all up to me" loop. That's neither true, nor is it the freedom that Christ gave His life for.

Look back over the six signs of a missionary growth mindset. Ideally, you'll get to the point that all six will be woven into your life. But if you're not there yet, choose one to focus on this month. If you see all six in your life, which one would you like to intentionally foster this next month?
   
Encouraging a growth mindset in yourself and others that you work with truly is one of the most important things you can do for yourself, your organization, and your calling.

Endnotes
  1. Decades of Scientific Research that Started a Growth Mindset Revolution Mindset Works, www.mindsetworks.com/science/

  2. Catherine Cote, Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset: What's the Difference? Harvard Business School Online, https://www.online hbs.e.du/blog/post/growth-mindset-vs-fixed-mindset

  3. Dr. Heidi Grant, Global Leadership Summit, August 4, 2022

  4. Heidi Grant, Global Leadership Network, August 4, 2022

This is an article from the March-April 2023 issue: Women in Mission

Lifting the Veil on Global Issues and Gender Diversity

Lifting the Veil on Global Issues and Gender Diversity

I recently had a conversation with a mission leader and his wife who oversee about 600 churches in an African region where wife-beating is a common, legal practice. When I asked about how they train pastors to address this problem, he responded: (1) their churches didn't have that problem, and (2) they defer issues about how men and women relate to the local culture. This is a good man who loves God and his wife. He honestly didn't see the problem. In that same conversation, his wife added that this practice did indeed go on in their area (to his surprise). This is a good woman who loves God and her husband, who never explored this rampant issue of abuse with him or the pastor. Good men and women like these don't intentionally ignore such things; they're usually horrified by them.
   
What do we say to these mission leaders? Part of the solution involves focused discipleship. Both Christian leaders and laypersons need a more robust understanding of human dignity, especially that of women. Many cultures see women as property, large children, or domestic servants rather than divine image bearers, full partners in God's mission, and co-heirs with Christ. Jesus and Paul, as men, countered male power structures of the day. They included women as ministry partners in stunning, counter-cultural ways (see Luke 10:38- 42; Matt. 28:5-7; Rom. 16). Redeeming our use of authority is a powerful way of expressing the Gospel and demonstrating redemption. Church leaders can address both women's dignity and culturally and biblically appropriate ways to help those local communities create solutions to those issues.
   
In every society, men and women both suffer from the wicked abuses of power (e.g., bullying, domestic violence, slavery). Women in particular suffer because of their gender. Men have misused God-given physical strength at the expense of women, but the Gospel reorients this strength (Phil. 2). God gives us strength to bless and empower others. He wants churches to be local expressions of counter-cultural kingdom relationships.
   
God's people have an opportunity to demonstrate a different way of being a human family, where both men and women use their talents and strengths to serve the vulnerable. Mission agencies and churches would be wise to foster gender diversity in leadership structures and strategic decision-making. Doing so will expand our collective vision and effectiveness in spreading Good News of Christ so that lives and communities are transformed.