in Discipleship in Hardened Europe
Editor’s Note: The principles of multigenerational disciple-making and the rapid replication of churches contained in strategies like the T4T Process and the Discovery Bible Study method are being applied in real life contexts in various places in Europe—one of the toughest mission fields—with great results. Here are a few stories of how this new approach to church planting is turning believers, both young and old into disciple-makers and church planters.
Discovery Bible Studies Turn Average Believers into Disciple-Makers in the Czech Republic / Nathan Beck
I ran across the Discovery Bible Study (DBS) materials a couple years ago and decided to experiment with it to see how it would work in the Czech Republic. I found a group of non-believers along with Betty, a local Czech national who has a heart for evangelism. Soon, we were very pleased to see God transforming the lives of these non-believers.
For example, during one of the study times, someone began to argue quite forcibly that another non-believer in the group needed to obey the Bible in everything. I stepped in to say, “You don’t need to be so strong in trying to convince this person to obey the Bible. They’re not a believer.”
This person quickly replied, “I’m not either. I just know that every time I put what I learn from the Bible into practice, it is right.”
A few months later, Betty was looking to expand the experiment with DBS into other circles. A big part of correctly using DBS involves looking for communities of non-believers that God is opening doors into for the studies. Betty asked me to hold her accountable every week while she looked for these people, also known as People of Peace. Together, we looked at a number of Biblical examples of People of Peace, including Cornelius, the Samaritan woman, Lydia, and the Philippian jailer. Then, every week, I began asking Betty what she was doing to find these people and how things were going as she prayed for God to reveal them. Every week for several months in a row the answer was the same: “No, I haven’t found any people of peace this week.” Everything else seemed to be in place, so we kept praying and waiting for God’s timing to reveal one of these people.
Last December, Betty answered as usual, “No, I haven’t found any people of peace this week.” We were about to move on in the conversation, but Betty brought it back to this topic. She said, “I haven’t found any people of peace this week, but my friend Maruska introduced me to her entire extended family: parents, grandparents, brothers & sisters. I don’t exactly have a person of peace, but I’ve been talking with them about the group that we’re leading, and they are really interested. They’d like to start a DBS. Would it be acceptable to start a DBS with them even if we don’t have a person of peace?”
Pulling my hair out, I answered, “Betty, Maruska IS your person of peace! Of course you’re supposed to start a DBS with that family!”
Betty’s eyes opened wide, “So that’s what a person of peace looks like. In that case I know LOTS of people of peace!” Within six weeks she had started nine new DBS groups with non-believers across the community.
It quickly became apparent in her church that Betty’s “experiment” was succeeding. In great faith the local church remodeled their sanctuary to seat 60 people last summer, which was exactly 50% more than they currently had attending that church. Early this year they have experienced many worship services where there was standing room only. During this process, Betty once told me, “Thank you for teaching me about DBS. I’ve been praying for something that can reach the Czech people for two years now, and I believe that this is the answer to my prayers.”
The denominational leadership noticed this “problem”, and quickly hunted down Betty to ask her if they could hire her to reproduce what she was doing. As part of the preparation process, they asked Betty to write a 10-year plan. Betty carefully wrote a plan to lead every person from the two denominational churches that she had significant contacts with to actively lead DBS with their non-believing friends, families, and colleagues.
Betty presented her plan to her denominational leaders in Prague. They carefully listened to the entire plan, then promptly told her, “This is an excellent way of winning people to Christ. But your plan is too small. Please re-work your plan so that we can use this across the entire denomination in the country.”
Overwhelmed by the project, Betty replied, “But I can’t do that! Please let me get it up and running over in my corner of the country, then we’ll be able to spread it across the country.”
They answered, “That’s not an option. Please re-work the plan so that we can use this across the denomination and reach this entire country. You have a couple weeks before you start the process.”
A second part of my initial experiment started with a person named John. He and a local pastor came to me with a problem and said they wanted my opinion about it. A couple days before, two teenagers who grew up in our church came to the elders and told them that the church needed a youth group. The elders told them that they were the only youth in the church, so they could not have a youth group. The two weren’t going to take “No” for an answer, and said that the church needed to create a youth group. The elders finally gave in and made the agreement: If these two teenagers found enough youth, they could have a church youth group. So they went out, found 20 of their non-Christian friends, and brought them to church. They told the elders that they had the teenagers, so they could have the youth group! It was at this point that John came and asked what I would suggest with this “youth group” made up of 20 non-Christians and two Christians.
Since I was already starting to see very early positive growth with DBS, I suggested modifying the DBS to use with the youth group and holding three simultaneous groups in parallel each Friday evening, in addition to other youth group activities (singing, campfires, etc.). Within a few months, about 80% of the young people in the group became Christians. Since then, many of these teens have gone on to start their own DBS groups with other friends throughout the week.
Recently, John leaned back during the regular DBS in the youth group to reflect on how far these youth had come. A couple years ago they were not believers, and now we were asking them weekly, “What have you learned from the Bible in your personal study this past week and what have you done to put what you have learned into practice?” Every one of the kids is able to quickly respond and also express how they’re doing in leading other DBS groups.
John was recently watching these developments and wondered if the same changes would happen through DBS with adult parents, not realizing that Bobbie was already leading other groups which were primarily adults and college students. John decided to start an experiment with the first non-believing family that would allow him. John’s job allows him a lot of access to local schools, and he quickly found a family through one of his students. He is now training this group of people to lead others in their extended family.
All this time, several others in the youth group have quietly been doing the same… leading the new believers from the youth group to start DBS with their families and friends. In the past couple weeks John came up to tell me that he wanted to arrange to train his sister’s church halfway across the country how to use DBS to reach out to their city. We’re still in the planning stages of creating a weekend trip to visit John’s sister and train them, but this group of youth has a lot to share in reaching a remarkable number of people in a short amount time.
As remarkable as the numbers are, they still do not come anywhere close to reaching the people that Betty and John would like to reach. Betty would like to see her city and her country reached with the gospel. John would like to see every youth in this city and the family of every youth reached. Please pray that God would raise up more harvesters and that HE would bring in the harvest!
Names have been changed for security reasons.
A Commitment to Discipleship Leads to a Growing Movement in Stockholm / Andrew Beck
In Stockholm, Sweden church planters are beginning to experience a movement in multigenerational discipleship throughout various communities. Evangelists and church planters are working to train everyday, ordinary believers to make disciples themselves. Church planters are working in 10 different subway communities under the Lord’s leading. Beginning by covering the different communities through daily prayer walks, the Holy Spirit is working in the hearts of many individuals and opening up doors to share the gospel.
Workers are also having an impact on the people of Stockholm by doing a free coffee ministry right outside various subway stops. As people walk to and from these subway stops, they can simply grab a cup of coffee or tea with some continuing on with their day and some stopping for conversation. The ministry creates an array of opportunities and has had great impact on these communities. One church planter, Andreas, says, “Of course you know we want to be able to share the gospel and have people become disciples of Jesus, but we also want to have an impact on the community for the Kingdom of God and the coffee ministry greatly allows for both.”
While serving coffee, workers come across a wide range of different people living in greater Stockholm. Many of the subway communities have a very high percentage of immigrants, and on an average day, workers come across people from Iraq, Afghanistan, Ghana, Gambia, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Armenia, Syria, Nigeria, Morocco and Ethiopia to name a few. The large number of immigrants leads to a natural diversification in one’s conversations. With all the different backgrounds, people receive the message of the gospel very differently; thus, to each person the presentation of the gospel must be brought about in a unique way. People are responding dynamically to the gospel, coming to know Christ and moving into discipleship.
Workers are using discipleship multiplication training (DMT) methods to train new believers. Weekly meetings between the workers and new believers consist of several different parts. The series begins with a reflection consisting of pastoral care, worship, and accountability of obedience and witnessing; vision casting for upcoming days is included as well. The studies then move into a new lesson including instruction on discipleship and self-feeding Bible studies. The meetings end with practicing the lessons learned, setting goals and praying for one another. The meetings appear to be working with believers growing spiritually as well as boldly sharing their newfound faith. This setup is by no means perfect and has its own frustrations just as with any cutting edge movement ministry. People occasionally miss meetings and some believers are timid about sharing their faith.
One worker says, “You know we’re learning we have to be patient; it’s not that the new believers don’t want to share their faith....they want to! They just need to gain confidence in doing it and that takes time.” It is a learning process as this movement multiplies and transitions.
Another church planter, Forrest Hendrix, says, “The hardest thing is consistency. Remembering to do all the details, paper work, which lesson each group is on, or calling each person to confirm they will be able to make the meeting.” As the learning process continues, the Lord faithfully works in each of the lives of the groups as well as in the lives of the church planters.
This committed group of bold believers requests prayer support for this movement of God. Pray specifically for those sharing Christ at the subway stops and people of peace in each subway community. The movement is up to 17 groups with each group ranging anywhere from one to about four people. Many of the new believers and disciples also help out with the coffee ministry: Mikael, Elias, Toni, and Jude. These disciples continue to grow and gain confidence as they share. Mikke says, “In the beginning it was a bit hard for me to share my faith, but with time and practice I am gaining a lot of confidence.”
By resolutely sharing their faith, these new disciples have led to the inception of third generation groups. While the groups continue to multiply and grow as disciples and new believers set weekly goals to share their faith, it is not without struggle; some groups cease to continue. Yet, the multiplication and growth is well founded. The hearts of many remain encouraged. Progress continues in seeing God’s kingdom on this earth through this expanding network of reproducing disciples and discipleship groups.
Pursuing Discipleship Multiplication in Romania / Dwight Poggemiller
Dani is a friend of ours who’s been involved in church planting and youth camps for the past 20 years in Western Romania. Despite this area having one of the highest percentages of Evangelicals in all of Europe, there are still thousands who need Christ, especially among the professional and business classes. As Dani and I have reflected and prayed on the situation in the region the last couple of years, we have both agreed that a new vision for the multiplication of disciples is needed.
At my invitation, Dani came with me to the discipleship multiplication training organized by GEM in Dublin. Throughout the week, Dani was encouraged by the things that he and his team are already doing in terms of broad sowing of the gospel. He noted, however, that there were some critical things that were not happening, like accountability, casting vision for multiplication of disciples, and encouragement to daily discipleship of new believers. Since returning to Romania, he has begun putting many of these ideas into practice. He has used the discipleship multiplication materials in his personal evangelism and discipleship training events. He has also cast vision to his local fellowship to begin using key elements of accountability, vision casting, and practice towards sharing the gospel.
During a recent evangelism training camp, a team of some 20-30 young people shared the gospel personally in seven communities with some 500 individuals during the week. Of those, 60 prayed to receive Christ! Dani and his team are following up on these new believers, but not without some opposition. Dani realizes that when the Spirit is at work, attacks from the enemy are to be expected.
Things are at the very beginning of a new work the Lord is leading Dani and others in here in western Romania. Like other places in Europe, we are seeing the Lord move in ways that we have not seen in at least a generation.