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 November-December 2018 issue: The Frontier Peoples: Still Waiting to Hear About Jesus

Spanish version of The Remaining Peoples with No Chance to Hear About Jesus

Spanish version of The Remaining Peoples with No Chance to Hear About Jesus

This is an article from the May-June 2019 issue: India: The Greatest Challenge to World Evangelization

Introducing Frontier Ventures’ New General Director, Dr. Kevin Higgins

Introducing Frontier Ventures’ New General Director, Dr. Kevin Higgins

Editor’s Note: The first General Director of Frontier Ventures, formerly the U.S. Center for World Mission, was our founder, Dr. Ralph Winter. Winter appointed Dave Datema to be the new General Director shortly before Winter’s passing in 2009. The Office of General Director, with three co-leaders, was created in 2012. With the appointment of Dr. Kevin Higgins, Frontier Ventures returns to having just one General Director.

I have been a friend of Frontier Ventures, then US Center for World Mission, and WCIU since 1980 when the youth group I was leading helped send out mailings about what was happening here. When Susan and I went to Uganda in 1984 to work with Somalis our pre-field preparation was done at the Center and we stayed in Townsend Hall.

Over the years, as we worked in South Asia among Muslims, I visited Frontier Ventures from time to time, and by the late 90s was occasionally brought in to speak at morning meetings (two of the movements in South Asia were written up in the book Wind in the House of Islam by David Garrison). I have written for, and been blessed by, IJFM and also the various editions of the Perspectives Reader.

When WCIU began to develop an area of focus around translation, I was among those who helped give input and encouragement.  I also recruited students; I received my PhD from Fuller in 2012 focusing on comparing the translation approaches of Christians and Muslims in Urdu. I have mentored several MA students as well.

While remaining engaged with the movements in South Asia, I also led another organization, Global Teams, over the past 18 years before coming here. But my connections to FV and WCIU have run long and deep.

Then, after several years of knowing a change was coming for us, we began the process that led to my move here physically in August 2017. At that time I took on the role of WCIU President and became a member of the “Office of the General Director” (OGD) for Frontier Ventures with Fran Patt and Chong Kim.”

In the past few months, the OGD and both boards discerned and then unanimously affirmed the Lord’s leading to ask me to serve as FV’s General Director (while remaining WCIU President).

There is no space here to go into all that I think our future holds. But, given the focus of this edition of Mission Frontiers, let me mention one.

There has been a recent sharpened focus within the broader Unreached Peoples effort. That sharper focus has been around Frontier People Groups (FPGs): those with less than .1% believers of any sort and no known movement. 

Of the 31 largest (over 10 million people), 24 are in South Asia and 18 in India alone. Of those 24, just a cursory survey showed me that FV and WCIU members have organic relationships with the “field” in eight, including five in India. 

So, announcing all of this within an edition of Mission Frontiers focused on India seems fitting. 

I have encouraged us within FV and WCIU to believe God for movements to Jesus within four of the 31 largest FPGs as one of our primary objectives by July 2020.

How is that possible? The answer connects to another frequent theme within Mission Frontiers: movements. 

In physical and/or cultural proximity to many of the largest FPGs there are already movements to Jesus which are mature and thriving. In several cases, there are already leaders from those movements who have begun to look at the FPGs around them and are praying and planning for ways to reach them. 

Over the next months, FV and WCIU will combine to catalyze collaboration (especially collaboration with local, indigenous movement leaders) focused on innovation of new approaches, mobilization at a more local level and training as needed to see breakthroughs happen. 

This is a wonderful example of how God uses FV: identifying and overcoming barriers so that we might see kingdom breakthroughs.

There are a lot of challenges ahead of us and a lot is changing in FV and WCIU, but I also see a new era of collaboration, innovation, mobilization and training ahead of us as well.

 

 

This is an article from the May-June 2019 issue: India: The Greatest Challenge to World Evangelization

Key insights in enabling movements among the Hindu and Muslim peoples

Key insights in enabling movements among the Hindu and Muslim peoples

Today, we live in a very exciting time when millions of people from the Hindu and Muslim peoples are coming to faith. Isaiah talked about a new thing in Isa. 43:18-19 when he said:

“forget the former things: do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness (new pathways in the Scriptures) And rivers in the desert”

The Holy Spirit (rivers of living water, John 7:37-39) is revealing new insights for reaching the non-Christian mainstreams in the spiritual deserts of the world.

From our experience, there are at least seven key insights that we have found helpful in reaching Hindu and Muslim peoples with the Good News of the Kingdom. They are:

1. Rediscovering the gospel

The gospel is not a religion but a relationship. A relationship with the living God. As the Lord Jesus Christ comes into our lives, we become the expression of the gospel. 2 Cor. 3:2-3 (The Message) tells us, “your very lives are a letter that anyone can read by just looking at you. Christ himself wrote it, not with ink, but with God’s living Spirit.”

As people journey in the Scriptures and continually observe our lives, they start to understand who this Jesus is and that He came to this earth to reveal the living God. God wants to bless us and change us and remove the mess in our lives. In due course the Holy Spirit helps the person to understand that God is inviting us into a wonderful relationship with Him that will cause us to become like Him and give us eternal life. This is good news to a Hindu or a Muslim who has no awareness that this is even possible.

 

Most Hindus and Muslims respect a believer who lives like Christ but assume that they have to change their religion rather than understanding that the Good News is discovering how to have a personal relationship with the living God. The apostle Paul said to the Corinthians in 1 Cor. 2:2, “I decided to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”

2. Rediscovering the Kingdom

As we read the four gospels, we are amazed to learn that the kingdom is mentioned more than 100 times. It was His message (Matt. 4:23). It was His life purpose (Luke 4:43). It was His focus from the very start of his ministry (Matt. 4:17,23). It was the theme of the Beatitudes (Matt. 5:3,10). It was the center of the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:19-20). It was the first petition of the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:10). It was His command to us to make it first priority in our lives (Matt. 6:33). In the N.T.Wright translation, Matt. 6:33 is put this way,

Instead make your top priority God’s kingdom and his way of life, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

The kingdom is primarily relational and not organizational as we examine the parables. It is invisible, not seen. It is spiritual, not physical and it is eternal, not time bound. It is a mystery.

Yet, it is the framework that Jesus spoke about. It embraces all the religions of the world including Hinduism and Islam. Anybody from any religion can become a citizen of the kingdom. If we use a Christian framework, we are limited to reaching nominal Christians and proselytes.

And when believers live out the kingdom values, they are very attractive to non-believers.

3. Reaffirming our First and Second Birth

Every believer has two births. The first birth is a physical birth that takes place at a certain time and place and is defined by our culture, our religion, the language we speak and our unique personality, physical features, skin color and family history. All this is from God. Acts 17:26 tells us, “God determined the times (history) set for them and the exact  places (geography) where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him.”

But the tendency is for missionaries and others to denigrate the first birth and especially that of Hindus and Muslims.

Jesus always respected the person’s first birth and this is beautifully illustrated by the way He related to the Samaritans who were regarded distastefully by the Jews. He went to one of the Samaritan towns and stayed in that place for two days. However, the  Samaritans in that place believed on Him and saw Him as not just a Jewish prophet but as the Savior of the world (John 4:42) in part because He lived and ate with them. No Jew would normally do this.

Paul respected the first birth of the Corinthians and encouraged them to remain in their context (1 Cor. 7:17-24), despite the fact that context involved pagan temples, pagan worship and sexually degrading practices.

Our second birth is from above and is spiritual. The first birth enables the mobility of the gospel. The second birth enables the purity of the gospel.

4. Recognizing that Relationships Define the Church

The family is central to the gospel. Gen. 12:1-3 is the first record of the gospel in the Bible according to Gal. 3:8 and it states that through Abraham “all the families of the earth would be blessed.”

The Greek word for household in the New Testament is oikos and this word occurs at least 114 times and in 1 Tim. 3:15 we read that the household of God is the church of the living God.

Rom. 16:5 tells us, “greet the church in their house” (ESV,KJV,NASB) referring to the relationships in that household. The NIV inserts the word “meets” into the text, implying a meeting, but that word is not in the Greek text.

 

Even the Greek word “ecclesia,” usually translated as “church,” never refers to a building or a meeting but always refers to the people of God in relationship to each other.

A great example of oikos is Cornelius’ household in Acts 10-11.

We see seven natural networks included in his household:

• His immediate family

  • His relatives
  • His close friends (Acts 10:24)
  • His work colleagues: those who worked with him(soldiers)
  • His work colleagues: those who worked for him(servants)
  • His neighbors(“respected by all the Jewish people” Acts 10:22)
  • Those in need(“always helping people in need” Acts 10:2)

Every person belongs to a natural oikos and as the gospel enters that oikos, it can be transformed into a spiritual oikos and in essence becomes church in that context.

 

The household is central to evangelism as one family touches another and in turn disciples that family. The Shema (the Hebrew word for “hear” that literally means “hey listen up”) of the Old Testament (Deut. 6:4-9) describes how the Jewish nation were to love their God with all their heart and soul and strength and disciple their families and hence their nation. The 12 Jewish apostles would have understood that as they heard the Great Commission from Jesus to make disciples of the nations, just as they had discipled their own families and hence their own nation.

5. Rejoicing in the Holy Spirit

For the new believer, it is important that they learn to experience His presence, His power and His perfecting working their lives.

Prov. 3:6 (The Message) tells us, “Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track.”

The new believers learn God’s ways especially through the Scriptures and His presence convicts them of sin and comforts them in difficult circumstances. In John 14:26 we are told by Jesus that “the Holy Spirit will teach you all things.”

And the new believers experience the power of the Holy Spirit in the area of prayer. Rom. 8:26 says, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know how to pray, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express” and again in James 5:16, “Tremendous power is made available through a good man’s earnest prayer.”

New believers learn to pray for their families, relatives, work colleagues, friends and neighbors. They begin to see healings and demons driven out through the power of prayer.

Then the new believers start to cooperate with the Holy Spirit and respond to His promptings in areas of life that need to be changed and relationships that need to be sorted out and attitudes that need correction.

As the new believers spend more and more time in His presence, their lives dramatically change and they become a wonderful influence in their communities. This change was evident in the lives of the early disciples “when they (Jewish leaders) saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were ignorant, untrained laymen, they were astonished and recognized that they had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13) Matt. 3:11 (The Message) tells us, “…the Holy Spirit within you, changing you from the inside out. He’s going to clean house and make a clean sweep of your lives.”

6. Realizing our Freedoms in the Gospel

The new believers experience freedom from the penalty of sin and also the power of sin as they rely on the Holy Spirit. They also experience freedom from systems, both religious and secular. Gal. 4:3 says, “we were in slavery under the basic principles of this world”. And in verse nine, “weak and miserable principles.”

Paul advised the Galatians who were Gentiles and were being pressured to fit into the Jewish system that “it was for freedom that Christ has set us free.” (Gal. 5:1)

Today many missionaries and Christians advise new believers from Muslim and Hindu backgrounds to convert to Christianity and as a result they are now under another system. This approach must be resisted.

But when these new believers realize that they are free of their own system, then they can live under that system as the system no longer controls them.

Paul was willing to fit into anybody’s system in order to reach those people with the Good News. 1 Cor. 9:19-23 explains this principle.

In fact, from a kingdom perspective, we view everything from a spiritual framework, not a physical framework, so this gives believers wisdom about being in the mosque or temple and the acts of worship that take place in these buildings. The Jews relied on “temple worship” (Rom. 9:4) but under the new covenant, our worship is spiritual (Rom. 12:1-2) and is a changed lifestyle.

7. Releasing the Gifts

When all the gifts are utilized, there is tremendous growth of the movements. This is especially true of the gifts of apostles, prophets and evangelists. The institutional church is primarily focused on the gift of teaching and also elevates the gift of pastor to a position of authority which often stifles the growth. This practice explains why there is a proliferation of denominations.

Eph. 4:11-12 tells us that these equipping gifts are given to equip all believers to do the work of ministry.

You can go to http://www.theforgottenways.org/what-is-apest aspx .and for $10 you will receive a comprehensive personal assessment of your gifting. You will be given details of your equipping gift profile that will help you recognize your role in an apostolic team.   

Your next steps

  • Start where you are and begin praying through all your family and relatives. Also pray for your close friends, work colleagues and neighbors and ask God about what your next steps are with each person. If they show some interest in spiritual things, you could ask them if they would be interested to start a journey of figuring out who Jesus is. I have found that everyone has respect for Jesus, including Hindus and Muslims. They usually respond by asking, “what do you mean?” Then I pull out John’s gospels in an easy to read version like the Message. I read page one and let them read page two and then I ask, “What did you think?” Initially there may not be much response but I do not argue with the person or correct them or explain things. Then I ask, “would you like to meet again next week over coffee and we can look at the next two pages?” This assumes that we are already good friends. Usually people are OK with this and now we have started the journey which will continue through the influence of the Holy Spirit for some time.
  • You can shift to a part of the city where there are many Muslims or Hindus living and join their community. You could join a learner’s class at the local mosque or Hindu temple and learn about their religion and build friendships with the other new members. You could volunteer to teach English for members of the community. You could make yourself available to teach people to drive, to help them with income tax or social security etc. You can be hospitable and slowly build relationships.
  •  You could consider taking a job and moving to India or a Muslim country and work there and be a natural influence in that community. You could be a part of a team that goes together and be a resource to each other.
  •  BEGIN TO PRAY and ask God to guide you in this exciting adventure of bringing the Good News of the Kingdom to the lost nations of the world wherever you are.

Resource books

Miraculous Movements by Jerry Trousdale, Nelson 2012

A Wind in the house of Islam by David Garrison, WIG 2014

Understanding Insider Movements edited by Harley Talman and John Jay Travis, William Carey Library, 2015

The Kingdom Unleashed by Jerry Trousdale and Glen Sunshine, DMM,2018

Your Kingdom Come by John Ridgway, Tallgrass Media, 2018

  

This is an article from the May-June 2019 issue: India: The Greatest Challenge to World Evangelization

Advancing through Persecution in North India

Advancing through Persecution in North India

From the time of the New Testament up to today, bold witnesses continue to see the gospel advance, even in the face of serious persecution.

Once when Jesus sent His disciples out on mission, he told them, “I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves” (Matt. 10:16, NLT). The rest of that chapter records a fascinating list of possible results from following Jesus’ pattern for mission. Some who follow His pattern will get hauled before the courts. Some will be betrayed by their own families. Some will be threatened. Others will receive a gracious welcome. And all are so important to God that the very hairs on their heads are numbered.

All these things are still happening today. The movement with which we’re connected has matured through the persecution believers are experiencing. A person may simply put their faith in Christ from listening to Bible stories, but the ensuing persecution that person faces causes their faith to mature. Here are two recent examples.

The Fire Spreads

In one village in Northern India, 26 believers’ homes (huts) were burned this year. High caste people in the village had ordered these low caste believers to stop meeting together as followers of Jesus. But in spite of threats, they kept meeting. Then one night during the hot season while they were sleeping mostly outside of their huts, someone set a fire in one hut. It quickly spread from home to home until all 26 were consumed. The believers went to the police to file a report but the police would not do anything. The high caste Hindus who lived in the high caste part of that village then threatened them even more. Many of those who lost their home left the village to stay with relatives elsewhere. Then, seven days after the fire, the 26 families got back together and decided: “We are not afraid. We will rebuild our homes!” This runs contrary to the usual cultural pattern of low caste people simply acquiescing to the orders of high caste people. As these believers made plans to rebuild, house churches in other areas supported the families with their own funds. Even in their poverty, the house churches generously helped others in the movement.

In addition to the help from believers, many other village people are also helping meet the needs of those who lost their homes. This event has exposed the reality of radical Hinduism. It has caused some people to ask more questions about Jesus, like “Why would they do that to you?” and “Why are you now a Christian and not a Hindu?” When news of this tragedy gets out, Christians in other areas tell what happened. That leads to discussions about who Jesus is. Also, the families currently staying with their Hindu relatives are sharing with them about Jesus. So as a result of the fires, the gospel message is being shared more than before. The dispersion of these people from their burned houses has spread gospel messengers to 17 villages.

A Beautiful Martyr

Ravit was 39 years old. He worked hard as a carpenter to provide for his wife, three daughters and young son. He also farmed their personal small plot of land. Three years ago, he attended one of our trainings where he heard that Jesus’ final command to His followers was to go make disciples. Soon Ravit was putting into practice what he had learned. He worked in the mornings, both in the fields and the shop, and then dedicated his afternoons to ministry. Ravit never asked for money. When other house church leaders inquired to see if he needed “help,” he’d reply, “No, I don’t need it. I have my own business and don’t need more money.” The movement leader describes Ravit as “very wise and bold.” He was also focused on reaching more places, new villages. Every one or two months he would go to a new, unreached place. He was not afraid to talk with people. He was energetic about the gospel and wanted to spread the Word. In the course of three years, he saw 378 house churches birthed and nine generations of leaders mentored. He was not jealous of others’ successes, but freely shared all that he learned in trainings so that others could also be fruitful.

A few months ago, a radical Hindu group became jealous of the impact Ravit was making in his area. A group of them attacked him one day, beating him mercilessly. He became ill from his injuries, but since he wasn’t fully incapacitated, he continued working. His mentor asked him if he wanted to report the attack to the police. Ravit said that his attackers were all local and had strong political ties, so reporting the incident to the police would only make things worse.

Two months later, Ravit was still weak, but mobile. One day, the group returned and beat him again. His chest hurt, but there was work to do so he went to the fields. The pain grew worse and worse so he finally stumbled home to rest. Later that day, Ravit died. The next day, Ravit’s mentor and friend buried him in his own field. Ravit is the first known martyr from this disciple-making movement. The story of the believing community’s response can be seen in the video “The Gospel in Action.” I asked the leader of the movement,“How many other leaders like Ravit are there?”

He answered, “There are about 20 others (men and women) like Ravit in his area alone. Each one has seen between 300-350 house churches birthed.” 
He went on to estimate that 20-30% of the churches across the whole movement have experienced beatings or arrest for being followers of Jesus. The other 70% have experienced some form of persecution such as harassment, social pressure or bullying.

Over the last few weeks, in his hometown alone:
• Three house church leaders were arrested while worshipping in their home.
• A family’s power lines were cut by one neighbor and their water-supply pipe was broken by a different neighbor. The family had no electricity or water for 17 days until a friend of a friend reconnected them.
• A man named Mohan was beaten in his own home one night by his neighbors. They were upset about the Bible studies he’d been hosting in his home. The police have yet to file an official report of the incident.

In Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth, he said, “If one part [of Christ’s body] suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad. All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it” (1 Cor. 12:26-27, NLT).

Please pray for the part of Christ’s body in this nation. Pray, as the first disciples prayed when they faced persecution:
“O Sovereign Lord, Creator of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them—You spoke long ago…saying, ‘Why were the nations so angry? Why did they waste their time with futile plans? The kings of the earth prepared for battle; the rulers gathered together against the Lord…’

And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your  word. Stretch out your hand with healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus”
—(Acts 4:24b-26, 29-30, NLT).
 

This is an article from the May-June 2019 issue: India: The Greatest Challenge to World Evangelization

A Problem with Multiplication

A Problem with Multiplication

At its core, the New Testament is clear that multiplication of faith is expected:

  • In Matthew 13:8, in the Parable of the Sower, Jesus said, “…others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.” He explained in verse 23 that this seed landed on, “…the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.” (NASB)

That is serious multiplication!

  • In 2 Timothy 2:2, Paul wrote to his disciple Timothy, “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (NASB) That is five generations— if you start with Jesus!

As you get older, you think more about who will carry on your family and ministry. Because of that, I increasingly engage and invest my life in the next generation—both those in ministry and my children and grandchildren (I will show you pictures!). And, as I attend events around the globe, I continue to purposefully invest time with leaders.

It also makes you consider those who invested in your life. Recently, I was thinking about the men and women who have invested in and greatly influenced my life.If I go back to my formative years there were many, but one key person was a teaching pastor named Bill Lawrence.

I met Bill when I was just entering 9th grade. He had recently started a church that our family began attending just after it moved to a rented facility. Bill’s faithful, deep teaching and love for God and His Word captured my heart, changed my life and gave me direction.

Many other men and women helped shape my walk with Christ —I can think of many who are still in fulltime ministry—not to mention hundreds of others who are involved in ministry as faithful moms, dads and singles serving wherever the Lord has led them.

But, let me back up to those who influenced Bill. I don’t know who he would list, but he came to start that church because another church 30 miles away had a vision for church planting. The first pastor of that “mother” church was Ray Stedman. He started there in 1950, just after serving with Harry A. Ironside, famous Bible teacher and commentator. Stedman also worked with J Vernon McGee of the Thru the Bible radio program.2

One of the things Stedman did early in his 40 years of ministry was to start a training program for younger men going into ministry.3 Bill Lawrence was one of the interns, but the first two were Chuck Swindoll (pastor and very popular radio Bible teacher) and Luis Palau4 (a crusade evangelist from Argentina—it is estimated that as of 2007, he had spoken to 25 million people in 70 nations in English and Spanish).

Pretty impressive little internship program! Of course, there are all kinds of people impacted by all those involved that I don’t know— thousands upon thousands by now.

But there is a problem with multiplication.

Faithful multiplication, mainly in one culture, excludes the Unreached People Groups (UPG) of the world. Yes, we are thankful for those who have believed among the Unreached. A growing number have movements as we have reported in MF. But the inherent problem within UPGs is that until believers go cross-culturally to serve, that multiplication process usually doesn’t get started. No national believer is there yet, and often, no nearby culture has a solid church either. That is why we have always talked about the need for initial penetration into an unreached group. That is the unique missionary task of crossing a culture and (usually) language divide. That is what Jesus followers must seek. It is what we pray for. We want to see Gospel/Jesus centered movements multiply within those UPGs without a witness in their culture. So, we pray and work to that end.

And these are the stories I’m helping to tell in podcasts now. The first podcast was posted on February 11, 2019 at: http://www.frontierventures.org/ blog. We’d love to hear your story: who influenced you and what are you doing about it?

Endnotes
  1. I am sorry if some of our international readers do not know these people. I encourage you to learn more about them as you are able. I’ve highlighted the names that will help you see some of the generational influence.

  2. 2 Y ou can learn more about Stedman at http://www.raystedman.org

  3. 3 It was later called Scribes School.

  4. 4 Pray for him, he has cancer and seems to be doing well, last I heard.

  5. T here are some amazing exceptions, where new believers are crossing cultures early in their faith journey.

This is an article from the May-June 2019 issue: India: The Greatest Challenge to World Evangelization

The Only Way to Reach India is Through Movements

The Only Way to Reach India is Through Movements

There are unreached people groups in almost every country on Earth. But no other country in the world has a greater concentration of unreached and Frontier Peoples than the country of India. Half the population of all Frontier Peoples live in India and 90% of all the people of India live in unreached people groups.  No other country in the world has such a diverse and complex society with thousands of different communities all separated by caste, language and religion. Each of these communities will likely need a separate movement of disciple making and church planting— thereby making India the greatest challenge to world evangelization that the global mission force faces today. No matter how you slice the data, the gospel must become good news in every community of India.

If India is the greatest challenge to world evangelization, then it should be receiving an appropriate level of attention and resources to meet this challenge. But it is not. India has 1,000 times as many people living in Frontier People Groups as does the United States. But the USA receives four times as many cross-cultural workers as India. India has by far the greatest need for workers and yet receives far less than what many reached areas receive.  This will have to change if we want any hope of reaching the peoples of India.

No Ordinary Mission Work Will Suffice

Sending tens of thousands of “missionaries” to India to “convert” people from any other religion to join the Christian church is simply not a workable, desirable or biblical plan. Even if the manpower could be sent, it would create such a tremendous societal and political backlash that any workers sent would likely be expelled from the country and greater persecution of the existing believers would result. But more importantly, this method of mission is not what Jesus has asked us to do. Jesus has not asked us to extract people from their family and community in order to join a foreign community with all the upheaval that brings. Our job is to bring the blessings of the gospel to every family and community so that it is welcomed as good news for that family and community. This is the only possible way India can be reached with the gospel. 

In this issue of MF we provide you with multiple examples of this model of ministry successfully bringing tens of thousands of people to faith in Jesus without extracting them from their family and community. On page 16 we interview Victor John, the initiator of one of the largest Church Planting Movements in the world. He started the movement among the Bhojpuri in 1998. It has since brought thousands into the kingdom and has fostered multiple movements in other peoples. This is the type of ministry that can bring the gospel to millions of Indians in thousands of communities with the least amount of disruption to Indian society.

The task of bringing the Good News of the gospel to every community of India is an enormous task, but God has also given the Church enormous resources to accomplish this task. The “technology” of knowing how to work with God to foster movements to Christ has spread across the globe. 

Many movements are currently taking place in India. We just need to take what we know, train up new workers in how to catalyze movements and then deploy them to every community in India. We also need to back them up with the prayers of millions of faithful prayer warriors. Pick up a copy of the “Pray for the 31 Prayer Guide” at www.

Go31.org. Reaching India is doable.

That Number On The Cover: What Does it Mean?

Since our May-June 2018 issue of MF, we have posted the number of Known Kingdom Movements on the cover of each issue. Some have wondered where this number comes from and what defines a Kingdom Movement. This number is being compiled and tracked by the 24:14 Coalition research team. The leader of this team is Justin Long, a global movement researcher with the mission agency, Beyond. The 24:14 leadership and research teams have contact with hundreds of mission leaders and movement catalysts from around the world who report progress to the team. Justin regularly says this number is “the floor, not the ceiling.” There are certainly more Kingdom Movements out there, but we only publish the number of movements that are known and attested to by a third party—therefore the title, “Known Kingdom Movements.” So what constitutes a Kingdom Movement? A Kingdom Movement is usually defined as “four or more generations of churches in multiple streams.” Each time a church plants another church, that is one more generation. When there are four or more streams of church planting four generations or more deep, that is the initial threshold of becoming a movement. Each of these streams will eventually have multiple streams itself. We refer to these as Kingdom Movements because the focus of these movements is to make disciples who seek to obey all that Jesus has commanded us to do, thereby bringing the fullness of Christ’s kingdom to that area.

The Passing of Dr. Steve Smith, 1962–2019

For the last seven years it has been my great pleasure to work with Dr. Steve Smith to produce his Kingdom Kernels column and other articles in each issue of Mission Frontiers. His last column, “The Problem of Weeds,” appeared in the March-April 2019 edition of MF. His regular column was a joy for me to read each time and an inspiration to relentlessly pursue God’s glory through Kingdom Movements in every people. As co-director of the marvelous 24:14 Coalition, Steve has made an incredible contribution to world evangelization by seeking to foster movements of discipleship and church planting in every people and place by 2025.

Sadly, Steve will not be around to witness the accomplishment of this great goal to which he devoted his life. On March 13, 2019, Steve died from liver cancer.  As Steve reported in his Kingdom Kernels column in the July-August 2018 issue of MF, Steve’s cancer was caused by a parasite that he picked up overseas while successfully fostering a Church Planting Movement. That column was titled, “Death, The Spiritual Triggering Effect.” It is my hope and prayer that Steve’s death will trigger the effect of launching thousands of faithful gospel workers into every unreached people to catalyze tens of thousands of Kingdom Movements. A good and faithful servant of

Christ has fallen in battle. May there be many among us who will honor Steve, his vision and passion for God’s glory in all peoples, by taking up his mantle to spread the vision for which Steve gave his life.

Steve’s passion for God’s glory overflowed into the writing of an end-of-the-age, two-book, No Place Left saga, including the books, Hastening and Rebirth. The story chronicles the final generation of God’s people rising up to complete our commission in preparation for Jesus’ return. Thousands have been inspired to greater obedience through this saga.

Steve also inspired thousands of faithful workers to effective action through his landmark books, T4T: A Discipleship Re-Revolution and Spirit Walk. I will greatly miss Steve’s clear clarion call in each issue of MF to reach the unreached peoples through Church Planting Movements. Now it is up to us to take up the 24:14 Coalition goal of fostering movements to Christ in every people and place by 2025 and run with it. Are you in?

A Special Offer from Mission Network

In honor of Steve Smith’s life, Mission Network has posted online an anonymous tribute to Steve, a one-minute video of Steve sharing his passion, and an offer for a free copy of Hastening (Book One in the two-book saga) in a variety of formats: PDF, Kindle, ePub, Word, Audio and Print.

If you haven’t yet read the No Place Left saga yourself, or if your life has already been touched by the No Place Left saga, request a free print copy to share, and Invite others to get their free digital or print copy at http://NPL2025.org/tribute

.

What It Took by NPL/2414

Movement (Excerpted)

What would it take for the whole world to hear?

What would it take for every nation to draw near?

What if God’s people would finish the task? What if this generation was truly the last?

Steve’s cry was so clear: Who ought we to be?

To all who would hear,

“Will you run with me?!”

I know a man, who carried the baton, We all know his vision and must carry it on! The pace is set, it’s 2025.

The herald is dead, but His God is ALIVE!

Steve started a movement but not for his glory, The Hastening saga was always God’s story!

Now we’ve watched the wheat fall into the earth, By God’s Holy promise we will see Rebirth!

This promise is true, to all who would die. Lose your life, give it all, and multiply.

This is an article from the May-June 2019 issue: India: The Greatest Challenge to World Evangelization

Understanding the Remaining Mission Task - VIDEO

Understanding the Remaining Mission Task - VIDEO

This is an article from the May-June 2019 issue: India: The Greatest Challenge to World Evangelization

A Church Planting Movement Advancing Through Barriers

A Church Planting Movement Advancing Through Barriers

In 2012, one of our national partners, Sanjay,* gathered 15 men from various districts. Most were Christian background believers, while a few were Hindu background believers. We began meeting for one-and-a-half to two-day trainings, roughly once per month. As many of them began applying CPM principles, they quickly saw fruit. As of December 2018, 30,000 house churches have been planted and roughly 200,000 new believers baptized. We are consistently reaching fourth generation groups in many places. In a few locations we have reached the twelfth generation. This is not just one  movement, but multiple movements stretched across at least four different geographical regions.

Key Factors in Progress

  1. Listening prayer. We have changed and adjusted many times as we prayed and listened to the Lord. Prayer is our job. It isn’t that we have a job and we have to add prayer to it. Praying is the job. Praying is what we can do. We don’t feel like praying every day. Our prayers today may not feel very inspired but it’s our job to pray. We don’t go to an office at 8:00 am but we get up and we pray. Seeing prayer in that way has helped us to be more faithful in prayer. Listening is an important part of prayer. There have been so many changes along the way and so many questions: What’s next? Shall we work with this person? We’ve hit a roadblock; what Scriptures shall we use for the next training? Is this a good use of our funding? Is it time to release this brother who’s not applying or shall we give him one more chance? Should we continue training in this city or is this a dead end? We have so many questions, and we’ve learned to sit and wait for God’s answer. Usually he gives the expat team and our national partners the same answers, but we don’t know it until our next biweekly meeting.
  2. Miracles. The movement growth is happening primarily through miracles and through relational networks. The movement began through the early leaders taking steps of faith in seeking out Persons of Peace (POP). As part of their seeking out POP, they saw miracles all the time – lots of healing and lots of demonic deliverance. This opens the doors for a Discovery Bible Study, and also the word of the miracle spreads through natural relationships which then opens the door to other households.

Now, for instance, a brother finds an opportunity to pray for a demonized person. That person is delivered and the word spreads to their family – perhaps family through marriage in another village. Those family members want that brother to come and pray for them. Then the original brother, plus the one delivered, go to the next village to pray for the family member, and another miracle happens. Another Discovery Bible Study starts and it spreads some more. This has resulted in the explosive growth we are seeing. Very simple people, uneducated and barely into the kingdom, pray for others and God does miracles by opening new doors.

  1. Evaluation. We as expat catalysts are always evaluating. “How are we doing?” “Is what we’re doing going to get us where we want to go?” We always ask, “If we do this, is it something they can do if we’re not here? Can they replicate it?”

For example, after we had an initial outburst of 70 POP and a lot of people getting saved, Sanjay (the leader of the movement) thought, “Let’s do baptism.” He wanted to have a giant baptismal service and invite all the house churches. A lot of people were excited to do a celebration and for many reasons that seemed like a good idea. But we couldn’t say “yes” because that would then become the model for baptism, a model they could not replicate: too public, too expensive and too many top-level leaders. 

We said, “Let’s keep praying.” In the end, we didn’t do it. Baptisms stayed simple, stayed in their area, and the pattern can easily continue to reproduce. The question that always fuels our evaluation is, “Can they do it without us? Can they do it if we’re gone tomorrow?”

  1. Caution about using funds. The local Christian culture’s approach is to get money from the West to help themselves in any way possible. We have hesitated to invest money in anything. Some of the workers are faithful and have lots of disciples, but can’t pay for the phone bills to stay in touch with them, so we sometimes help with that once we see they are faithful. The problem with the phones is that if someone here lives 20 miles away, it might be a three-hour trip. They can’t easily go and visit, so the phone becomes necessary. Yet, we’ve still been very cautious about using money. Our partner Sanjay also agrees on caution with funds. He refused to pay his own brother for a long time. He told him, “You need to figure out how to pay for your own phone and gasoline.” No one would see nepotism at work there. It’s not us trying to convince Sanjay about finances; he holds it as a personal value.
  2. Adapting our material. We receive a large number of materials from sources within our organization, but we’ve adapted almost everything and we’ve been selective about what to use. We have a lot of friends in a sister agency who share materials, but as with all materials, if we try it and it doesn’t quite fit, we adjust it. Over time we have our own material. It’s not a formula at all.
  3. Centered in Scripture. Every training has a strong scriptural basis. That’s the center and the focus of the work. Our trainees need to know they can do this because they have the Word and the Holy Spirit, not because we provide them with good teaching. They learn to depend on the Word. We train them using many lists of Scriptures, making observations, asking questions and digging deeper. There is minimal preaching and almost no “teaching” of theology.
  4. Continual vision casting. This helps all the levels of leadership know this work belongs to them, not to foreigners. We give everyone the expectation and tools so they can pass everything they receive down their discipleship chain.

Key Barriers to Progress

  1. Fear in the leadership. A continuous emotional struggle has been: “Are we doing enough? Are we doing too much?” Listening prayer has been key to overcoming this: getting rid of the fear and listening to the Lord direct us as a team.
  2. Traditional Christians. This continues to be the biggest hurdle. Many workers in our area do ministry and answer to a supervisor simply for a salary. They interrupt baptisms and church meetings and cause trouble asking about theology they don’t even understand. They also question the authority of the movement’s leadership since this work is not institutionally based.

This has brought confusion to the churches, and we’ve lost roughly 10% of the new churches to traditional ministries and missions groups as they give stipends to the local leaders. Praise the Lord these people came to faith, but in traditional ministries they are not empowered to make other disciples and make other churches. They become barren.

Disappointments/Challenges

  1. Many wives believe in the Great Commission and want to go out and meet their neighbors, but their supposedly Christian husbands forbid them to leave the home. The husbands do not give their wives permission to obey the Great Commission. Some wives say, “You can beat me but I’m going to obey Jesus. We call ourselves Christians and this is what we should do.” For the men to give women permission to obey is a big challenge.
  2. Feedback loop for evaluation and adjustments is slow and difficult. National believers will not talk back or correct people they perceive to be in a position of authority above them. It has taken time to find out what does and does not work, how to make things simpler, etc.
  3. Some people seem to have great potential but then it turns out they’re motivated only by money. We are often surprised by who becomes effective. Some people seem to have great potential for effectiveness but then turn out to be ineffective. Sanjay has shielded us from a lot of that, which we wish he didn’t do so much.
  4. Wife beating is common in some places. It’s just one of many issues we need to tackle in the new churches and pray more about.
  5. So many areas in this culture need transformation. Where do we start when 100% of our time and energy goes into simply feeding the movement? When and how is it best to tackle issues of integrity, social problems and deeper emotional and spiritual issues?

These are some of the dynamics we have observed in this movement that the Lord continues to grow, even in the midst of many challenges.

 *pseudonym

 

 

This is an article from the May-June 2019 issue: India: The Greatest Challenge to World Evangelization

The Year of the Frontier

The Year of the Frontier

The Year of the Frontier starts on May 1st, 2019, promoted by large prayer networks in conjunction with Joshua Project’s “Unreached of the Day” and Frontier Venture’s GlobalPrayer Digest. Additional Frontier Peoples resources can be found at www. joshuaproject.net/frontier and http://www.JoshuaProject.net/pray/unreachedoftheday .

These two publications will provide daily prayer points for each of the 400 largest Frontier People Groups (with populations over 500,000). These groups contain 1.6 billion people—90% of the population of all Frontier People Groups.

 This unprecedented collaboration will focus prayer on the fulfillment of God’s promise to bless all peoples through Jesus movements healing and restoring broken families and communities. 

Your prayers are vital to extending God’s blessing in Jesus to all the remaining Frontier People Groups.

Draw close to God by embracing His passion to bless these Frontier People Groups.

Invite others to join you in: 

• Praying through the Pray for the 31 Prayer Guide (www.Go31.org

• Promoting the International Day of Prayer for the Unreached (www.AllianceForTheUnreached.org

• Participating in the global Year of the Frontier Prayer Movement (http://www.Go31.org/yof

• Partnering in prayer with field teams for Jesus movements to multiply God’s blessing (www.InheritTheNations.net

• Preparing for the Global Outreach Day 2020 (http://www.globaloutreachday.com/2020), which will coincide with the culmination of the Year of the Frontier

The Great Injustice:

India has 1,000 times as many people in Frontier People Groups as the USA; but the USA receives four times as many cross-cultural workers as India.
• Only 1 in 10,000 of those living in India’s FPGs identifies with Jesus in any way.
• 1 in 20,000 of those living in India’s FPGs is estimated to follow Jesus.
• 1 in 5,000 of all cross-cultural laborers is estimated to work among India’s FPGs.
For every cross-cultural worker among Frontier People Groups (FPGs) WITHIN India, there are 250,000 people in those FPGs who don’t identify with Jesus.
For every cross-cultural worker among Frontier People Groups (FPGs) OUTSIDE India, there are just 10,000 people in those FPGs who don’t identify with Jesus.
1 in 5 of all people who live on Earth live in India.
Half the population of all Frontier People Groups live in India.
7 of 10 people who live in India live in Frontier People Groups.

Until Jesus’ followers unite in obeying His commission, these masses have no hope of hearing about Jesus before they die.

This is an article from the May-June 2019 issue: India: The Greatest Challenge to World Evangelization

India: The Greatest Challenge to World Evangelism

India: The Greatest Challenge to World Evangelism

This is an article from the May-June 2019 issue: India: The Greatest Challenge to World Evangelization

The Bhojpuri Movement Transforming Social Dynamics

The Bhojpuri Movement Transforming Social Dynamics

Excerpted from Victor John’s forthcoming book Bhojpuri Breakthroughs (Monument, CO: WIGTake Resources, 2019)

The 1990s saw years of brutal warfare between high caste and low caste people in the state of Bihar. Both groups had guerilla-type armies and over 1,000 people were killed in the violence. Our group brought the good news into this context of enmity, revenge and wholesale human slaughter. Through prayer warfare and proclamation of the good news the caste warfare amazingly subsided.

In 1997, the same year as the bloodbath at Lakshmanpur Bathe, we began work in Bihar, and the Church Planting Movement (CPM) started moving into that area. In less than two years, the good news reached many of the fighters themselves, who were broken and weary of the conflict and bloodshed.

In 1999, two area commanders of these warring groups accepted Christ and became completely transformed. Instead of leading raids and killing sprees, they began leading the way to plant churches. This transformation has continued to the present, as 19 former area commanders of militia groups have now accepted Christ and become church planters. So the Church Planting Movement impacted the caste war and helped bring peace instead of strife. But Bihar’s caste wars only highlighted a much more widespread problem…. [The caste system] is a very dehumanizing system: incredibly degrading to human beings.

 In the neighboring state of Haryana, for example, the caste system is still very strong in cities, towns, and villages. It dominates all of life; caste strongly influences each person’s identity. People still get burned alive and tortured in caste-related incidents. Animals can drink from certain ponds, but Dalits and Shudras are not allowed to use that water. According to a report by Human Rights Watch, “Dalits and indigenous people (known as Scheduled Tribes or adivasis) continue to face discrimination, exclusion, and acts of communal violence. Laws and policies adopted by the Indian government provide a strong basis for protection, but are sometimes not faithfully implemented by local authorities.”2

In light of such social dynamics, why would we want to perpetuate the caste system? We want to see God’s kingdom advance, without focusing on caste. We see in Scripture that God’s kingdom is equally open to all kinds of people. Yet when the culture has such an organized dehumanizing system, Christianity comes as a threat because it talks about equality under God and tries to give rights to people who have no rights. It creates disruption, because it suddenly brings someone who has always been under others’ feet to a position of equality.

Cultural tensions related to caste

In India’s social context as a whole, caste still plays an important role. It underlies social tensions and feeds Hindu fundamentalism. The mindset of many people is now changing, and high caste people often don’t demand special treatment. But when something happens that makes them feel threatened, caste consciousness immediately arises. As I talk with all kinds of people, I get the feeling that the caste system still remains in their mindset. This worldview persists no matter what position they hold, what education they have received, or what place they have in society.

Because of democracy, the high caste have lost much of their power as rulers. The vast majority of the population is from low castes: scheduled castes3  and scheduled tribes. Democratic voting increases power for that majority. Also many Dalits and lower caste people have risen up and gained high positions in government and society. So high caste people feel their social power diminishing.Hindu nationalism has arisen in reaction to this changing dynamic. Fundamentalists propagate Hindu nationalism, so that the Brahmin minority can hold onto power. This reaction includes attacking the most vulnerable, which is where religious persecution comes in. The real issue is not conversion but social reformation, which releases lower caste people from oppression. When lowcaste people know their rights, they no longer suffer quietly at the hands of the high caste. So Hindu fundamentalist groups attack because they know Christians are social reformers. We educate people, and once people are educated they no longer function as slaves to the high caste. The social equation is changing, which terrifies those at the top. Most of the Hindu fundamentalist groups are run by high-caste people afraid of losing their power, and that fear inspires persecution. In some cases they have relatives in the police, so they complain to the police and ask them to do something to stop the Christians. But the real issues behind such persecution are social control and power.

The Bhojpuri movement faces the challenge of caste

The Bhojpuri movement has made a great difference in this caste-driven context. The population of the Bhojpuri area consists of 20 percent high caste people and 80 percent low caste or outcast Dalits and adivasi. The good news has tended to more quickly enter the low caste 80 percent of the population, so the church reflects that social reality. This means we have had to address real issues related to caste. The emerging Christian fellowships face poverty, illiteracy, and leadership challenges because low-caste people haven’t been trained for leadership. They’ve been trained for generations to follow orders, not to take initiative. So we needed to develop a special kind of discipleship and leadership training to empower each person. That’s one vital difference between this Church Planting Movement and a mass movement. In this movement each person is being discipled and mentored.

Another challenge in our contexts is that traditional churches are still very caste-focused. People from traditional churches in Southern India come from caste based churches. They have a very distinct division between the churches, with high-caste churches and low-caste churches that never interact with each other. They have no connection or fellowship with one another as part of their normal pattern of social interaction.

In the Bhojpuri movement, however, we don’t talk about Brahmins and Dalits and all. We talk about lost people. The reality is that unless they hear the good news and receive it, they will remain lost whether they are Brahmin or Dalit.

Focus on language rather than caste: touches all castes

Sometimes people say, “Why don’t you focus on highcaste people?” But our approach among the Bhojpuri is different. If the high caste in our area are only two percent or 10 percent of the population, that same percentage is also reflected in the churches. By contrast with the work in the south of India, our percentages reflect the national population. God is at work in all the castes.

In addition, caste-focused work would be impractical in many cases. In some villages, there might be only one family from a particular caste. You can’t start a worshiping community with only one family, so you need a multicaste fellowship. We focus on reaching persons based upon their language, geography, and economic status, rather than caste, because that helps the good news to take root throughout the region, and spread.

Caste divides groups but language unites people, so we have intentionally chosen not to focus on caste. We have instead focused on language, starting with Bhojpuri then spreading to many other language groups.

Top government officials mostly come from the high caste. Nowadays, though, because of the government’s reservation system (a form of quota-based affirmative action for lower castes), some lower caste people are moving up in status, but they’re often not very efficient. Some people think, “If he’s from a low caste, he probably won’t be able to do things properly.” They continue to believe that caste reflects how people are designed rather than how they’ve been educated or trained.

When people move to the city, caste becomes less of an issue than class. Some of the first people who came to faith through our work in Delhi were construction workers, yet they were Brahmins (the top caste). People only look to their own caste when it comes to something like marriage. Otherwise people don’t take much notice of it. In the cities, they may live next door to people of different castes without a problem.

Among the Bhojpuri, God is now moving among every caste, even with lower caste people reaching upper caste people. Believers from different castes may not socialize a lot with each other, but they have worship meetings together and pray together. We have one low caste woman who leads a worshiping community on the low caste side of the village, then goes to the high caste side of the village and leads another worshiping community there. Although she comes from a low caste and is female (which makes her an unusual leader in any village), God is using her effectively in both the high caste and low caste contexts. 

 

  

Endnotes
  1. See, for example “THE PATTERN OF ABUSE: RURAL VIOLENCE IN BIHAR AND THE STATE’S RESPONSE,” and “Class (And Caste)
    War Brewing In Bihar, India’s Poorest, Most Dangerous State.” To mention just two especially noteworthy atrocities: in 1992, the MCC (low-caste fighters) brutally killed 35 members of the Brahmin caste at Bara village in Bihar. The MCC’s armed group brought the 35 men of Bara to the bank of a nearby canal, tied their hands and slit their throats. Revenge came in 1997 when a militia of upper caste landlords, called Ranvir Sena, slaughtered 58 Dalits in Lakshmanpur Bathe village in a well-planned and coordinated attack. About 100 armed Ranvir Sena activists entered Lakshmanpur Bathe at around 11 pm. They broke into huts and shot people in their sleep. The village was virtually decimated in the attack; the youngest victim was less than a year old.

  2. https://www.hrw.org/legacy/englishwr2k8/docs/2008/01/31/ india17605.htm. Accessed 12/14/2016. 

  3. “The Scheduled Castes…and Scheduled Tribes…are various officially designated groups of historically disadvantaged indigenous people in India. The terms are recognized in the Constitution of India….In modern literature, the Scheduled Castes are sometimes referred to as…Dalits.” Wikipedia, accessed 3/13/2017

This is an article from the May-June 2019 issue: India: The Greatest Challenge to World Evangelization

Embracing an Audacious God-Sized Dream

Embracing an Audacious God-Sized Dream

You are aiming way too low,” I told a group of students in the DMM training. I’d just read through their goals for the coming months. “Those goals don’t require a move of God.  Nor do they show an expectation of multiplication.” Taking a break, I decided we needed to do something physical to get this concept to move from head to heart. 

Handing out pieces of paper, I asked each trainee to wad them up.  Crunching and crackling filled the room, as each student formed five or six paper balls. Next, I took a piece of chart paper and drew a target of concentric circles.  The students formed a line and took aim, throwing their paper balls at the target I’d placed on the back of a chair.  The further away I pulled the target, the higher they had to throw to hit it.  “If you want to see a movement, you have to aim high, you have to shoot for multiplication.  If you aim only at addition growth, you might hit your target, but you will never see a movement.” Eyes shone with understanding. I sent them back to revise their goals. “Aim at something that requires disciples to multiply this time!” I urged.

Big Hairy Audacious Goals

Jim Collins, in his best-selling business book Built to  Last, popularized the idea of the BHAG (pronounced Bee-hag). He wrote about how successful, fast-growing companies embraced “Big Hairy Audacious Goals.”  Businesses like Boeing used nearly impossible goals to turn their companies around and become greatly successful.  Their targets were clear, far beyond their current status, and required “a relentless sense of urgency” to be achieved.1

Dreaming for a Disciple Making Movement (DMM) is in many ways a BHAG.  God knew how powerful this concept was, way before Jim Collins did.  This kingdom principle was applied to business and worked.  It’s a noteworthy truth.  When we go after something far beyond us, we are motivated to work differently.  We are also much more likely to rely on God, rather than ourselves to achieve it.

In reaching the unreached, we must stop looking at what we can accomplish and open our eyes to the “greater things” God desires to do.  We have to dream bigger. There are simply too many remaining unreached peoples in the world, dying having never heard of Jesus’ love, for us to think only about what we can do, or to rely on past  experiences.  God desires to do much more than we can imagine (Eph. 3:20).

Starting with a vision that requires true, organic multiplication is key to launching a Disciple Making Movement.  Only a sincere, passionate commitment to a God-sized vision will compel you to make the kinds of changes needed. Are you dreaming big enough?

10-Fold Increase

A number of years ago, the Lord spoke to me from the Parable of the Minas (Luke 19).  In that passage, the master speaks to his servants telling them to take their one mina and increase it. They were to put it to work until he returned. 

As I meditated on that passage, the Lord stirred my heart with faith to believe Him for a 10-fold increase in the fruitfulness of the church planting teams I provided leadership for.  I believed God was calling me to ask Him for 100,000 unreached people to come into the kingdom of God in the coming years.  This was a dramatic increase that could only be accomplished by God. It would only happen if we saw radical changes and true multiplication of disciples.  A 10-fold increase was a crazy, audacious goal (BHAG) that came straight from Scripture and was absolutely aligned with God’s intentions.  The dream rising in my heart was far beyond my own capacity or prior experience.

In the months and weeks that followed, I struggled with whether to embrace such a massive vision. What if we failed?  What if I wasn’t up for the task? 

The sense of God’s prompting was strong and continual. In response, I took a step of obedient faith and began to share the vision with others.  The 10-fold increase (what we called Supernatural Increase), became our rally cry from that point onward.  Whether we hit the target or not, we would aim high.  We would work for something that required a miracle of multiplication. (See my devotional book, Faith to Move Mountains, for the full story).

The moment I embraced a vision far beyond myself, I became open to creative new ways of operating.  I began to look seriously at new paradigms.  The size of the vision cleared space in my heart for God to direct me toward key changes that would lead us into multiplicative growth.

Dreaming for a Million

Chris Galanos, in his book From Mega-Church to Multiplication, writes about something similar.  He had heard about Disciple Making Movements (DMMs) happening around the world through David Watson and others. Chris began to dream about what it would be like if God did something similar in America.  In the previous ten years through his mega-church, they had seen more than six thousand people come to the Lord and be baptized. That was very good growth.  He was challenged, though, when he heard about missionaries believing God to reach their entire people group with the gospel.  A dream was birthed in his heart to see a million people in America come to Christ.  As soon as he and his staff adopted that size of a vision, they knew they would have to make serious changes in the way they did things.  The God-sized vision drove them toward a willingness to let go of old ways of operating. It caused them to courageously embrace the difficult changes needed for radical growth.

A bold vision prompts bold changes.  It creates space for the Lord to do a new work.

Trumpets, Jars and 300 Warriors

God is attracted to radical, extraordinary faith and obedience.   He sometimes even sets the stage by making our situation unusually impossible. This compels us to use strategies we never would have tried before.  Such was the case with Gideon in the Old Testament.  Who would have tried to win a battle using the methods he did? 

First, God reduced the size of his team.

“The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many men.  I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me.’” (Judges 7:2 NIV)

Next, the Lord instructed him to use methods of battle so unusual they seemed quite absurd.  He was to use trumpets and jars as his primary weapons of warfare.

God intended to get the glory for this victory.  Gideon was required to trust God for something absolutely impossible.

He was asked to fight differently than he ever had before, with very non-traditional methods.  As commander, he not only needed to step out in faith for something radically different and challenging.  He had to lead others into doing that with him.  Not a lot of people, but key chosen warriors who would fight with him in this very unusual way. Only then would God deliver. 

We know the end of the story. Gideon and his three hundred men obeyed. God won the battle, and the Israelites were freed from Midian’s control. 

When our dream is too realistic and too possible in our own strength, we look to ourselves and our old patterns.  We are not forced into radical faith and obedience.  We are not pushed to “walk on water,” believing for the miraculous. Nor do we easily let go of our old patterns of evangelism and discipleship and embrace change.  It is easy to stay in the comfortable boat.  Even when we know the Master is calling to us to come and walk with Him in new things (Matt. 14:28-29).  We much prefer to stick with old, familiar methods of making disciples and doing church.

The Need of the Lost Compels Us to Dream Big

Lest you misunderstand, having a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) is far more than a business principle applied to missions.  That is not what motivates us toward embracing God-sized goals.  No, it is the need of the unreached that absolutely requires this. 

Seeing the number of 707 known movements on the front cover of this magazine is truly exciting. But it’s still a very small beginning, compared to the thousands of Frontier Peoples that wait to hear good news.  What if that 707 were to increase 10-fold?  What if there were 7070 transformational kingdom movements a few years from now?  We’d still have just begun. 

While we celebrate progress, the number that truly matters is how many unreached people remain without a relevant gospel witness.  It is that number that we must trumpet loudly. The 31 largest Frontier People Groups (FPGs) total almost a billion people.2 Some of these groups are so populous they require twenty or thirty new movements to approach the 2% Christian benchmark.3

At this time in history, we must dream bigger than ever before.  As we come around the corner and see the finish line of the Great Commission in sight, it isn’t time to slow down.  It’s time to speed up.  It’s time to believe God for “even more.” 

I ask you again. Are you dreaming big enough? 

If your vision isn’t pushing you toward radical changes in how you live and operate, it is likely too small. If your dream seems possible, you may be aiming too low. Leaning on past experiences and victories and just trying to duplicate them?  Then, it’s not a God-sized dream. 

Revisit your End Vision4 with your team, church or organization. Make sure that vision is compelling you to make significant changes in how you operate.  It should be causing you to innovate, experiment and try things you’ve never done before.  If your dream seems too small, go back to the Father and listen once again.  What does He desire to do in your city, region, area or people group? 

God longs to start many, many more Disciple Making Movements around the world.  He is able to begin one through you. If you have already started a DMM, train, multiply and start more. Let’s dream big. The need of the frontiers demands it.

Endnotes
  1. https://www.jimcollins.com/concepts/ bhag.html

  2.  
    2 https://joshuaproject.net/frontier

  3. 3 Most definitions of an Unreached People Group include the 2% benchmark.  To be classified as reached, there must be at least 2% of the population following Jesus.

  4. If you have never crafted an End Vision statement, you can find instructions on how to do that on my website http://www dmmsf.rontiermissions.com/develop-dmm-end-vision/.

This is an article from the May-June 2019 issue: India: The Greatest Challenge to World Evangelization

Why the Community/ Caste Focus is Needed in Support of Church Planting Movements

Why the Community/ Caste Focus is Needed in Support of Church Planting Movements

The Key: How People Perceive Themselves

Let us start with how people perceive themselves. There is too much of classifying people by who we think they are, rather than who they perceive themselves to be. That is arrogance on our part, not a respect of people as people who are living as members of communities.

Would we consider placing members of distinctively different people together, people who have a history of not getting on, in a church plant in the UK, US or Australia? Then why does so much of mission attempt that in other parts of the world? Lack of knowledge and expediency are poor substitutes for respecting people as people and recognizing the dignity and realities of community.

Language not involved in determining community/caste

Most South Asian people do not define themselves primarily by language groupings, but rather by traditional community groupings. Using language to define a people while the people themselves do not use language for selfdefinition can lead to destroying something sacred about the peoples who lie outside the kingdom.

Language spoken is of course very important, but in South Asia the community a person is born into establishes his self-identity much more than the language(s) he may speak.

People know their own community

In the 2001 census for the Municipality of Kathmandu, about 662,000 of 672,000 total people recorded their community/caste name. Individuals knew their caste or tribe, allowing it to be recorded. Typically, in an Indian city, 99% of those of Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe status are able to supply their community/caste/tribe name when asked.

Past mass movements have been according to community / caste

Over 90% of Indian Christians are traceable to mass movements, which occur along community lines, not language lines. A number of these mass movements have been labeled incorrectly by language. The Telugu Movement was actually a movement within the Mala and Madiga communities, almost exclusively. The Bhojpuri Movement has now primarily affected the Chamar community and to a lesser extent the Balmiki community. The Punjabi Movement was of one community, the Chuhra, a low status community. Several others tried to respond (Megh, Sansoi, Sansi, and others) but were repelled by defiling contact with the Chuhra. A significant movement never happened in Maharashtra because the Mahar and Matang communities were placed in common churches. We can go state by state in India, Pakistan, and Nepal and identify movements that began but didn’t advance because more than one community was involved and these communities did not associate.

Costly ministry lessons related to ignoring community/caste

If the language focus is used for church planting/discipleship, we are promoting something that for two centuries in India has been a failure or has reduced significantly the number of people responding, that is, churches based on common language, not common community. The writings of Donald McGavran, Bishop Pickett and others on this topic have largely been ignored.

There were costly lessons learned in the period 1870–1920, and one hundred years ago many agencies were getting it right. But language-based thinking had again solidly permeated missions efforts by the 1930s, and continues today. Language lists were what well-meaning workers saw and worked from, and low caste workers naturally ished to de-emphasize a caste focus. It will require a total re-education for pastors and national workers to again think in community terms.

 

A Glossary of Terms Relating to People Groups of South Asia

Community: In south Asia, community largely means “caste,” but is more innocent sounding term and preferable to many. A South Asian community is not a voluntary association, but an ethno-linguistic hereditary group with defined boundaries within which one must marry. 

People Group: Synonymous with Community in South Asia and used interchangeably with that term.

Caste, formal: Historian Sumit Guha in Beyond Caste describes caste in this way: “…the bounded, status-ranked ethnic community or ‘caste’ is a social form that frequently appears in multiethnic societies. But in South Asia it became a highly complicated, politicized form of ethnic ranking shaped by the constant exercise of socio-economic power” (pp. 2–3). Caste is thus a reality that extends beyond Hindu peoples. Marriages are largely based on caste association and entrance to a caste is by birth. Caste is undergoing rapid change with globalization impacting Indian life, particularly in the cities.

Scheduled Caste (aka Dalit or Untouchable): Lists (schedules) of the most disadvantaged Indian society were developed in various provinces in 1935 (previously the term “depressed classes” had been used). What groups currently get onto the list is all about political power and intrigue. Christians by definition are not Dalits even when social realities show that they are.

Scheduled Tribe: Historically isolated ethno-linguistic groups who never integrated with broader Indian society. Special privileges are reserved for tribal people but they are often exploited. Many sections of tribes and some whole tribes have become Christian.

Other Backward Classes (OBC): A government of India designation first used in 1990 to identify backward castes (but not “most backward castes,” who are the Scheduled Castes) qualified for government privileges (reservation of seats in educational institutions and for government jobs). Due to power equations, numerous well-to-do groups are now officially counted as OBCs.

Forward Caste: Traditionally the high castes of Hinduism.

Caste, informal: Similar to the formal caste system associated with Hindus, but extending to religious minorities such as Muslims, Christians, Buddhists and others. Also a social stratification scheme, but not necessarily as well defined as that within the Hindu system of castes. A few hundred million individuals are in this informal caste system, depending on where boundaries are drawn.

This is an article from the May-June 2019 issue: India: The Greatest Challenge to World Evangelization

The Journey of One Hindu Man that Continued into Another Generation

The Journey of One Hindu Man that Continued into Another Generation

This article is an excerpt from the book Radical Together by David Platt and used by permission of Multnomah Press.

In 1990, a young Hindu man from a Brahmin background travelled by bus for many hours from northern Karnataka to the city of Bangalore in South India. There he met a good Indian friend of mine who helped him in his request to look for a job. His own work in the weaving industry was in jeopardy and being made irrelevant due to the presence of a large multinational company moving into the area to compete with the local industries functioning with individuals who of course could not compete with the mass production of the big factories.

In the course of looking at all the options of finding work, my Indian friend, Shekhar, who is also from a Hindu background, began a discussion about Jesus and asked Suryanarayan about his opinion of what he knew about Jesus. They continued this discussion for about three weeks in between talking to different possible employers. As they dialogued about Jesus from what they had read in the gospels, Suryanarayan became more intrigued about this person Jesus.

Although he had heard about the name of Jesus, He actually knew nothing about the person of Jesus and what He had done. In his place, there were no known believers or Christian presence or churches as it was a strong Hindu community that would not tolerate any Christian presence in their area. But as the conversation continued, Suryanarayan became more and more intrigued and amazed about this person named Jesus. The discussions continued late into the nights and there came a point where Suryanarayan wanted to yield his life to Jesus and follow Him for the rest of his life.

As it turned out, there were no options for work in Bangalore at that time and so Suryanarayan went back to his home town and continued his work. But now he was so excited about Jesus that he immediately shared with his wife and his two young children. He was able to read the Kannada bible to his wife and slowly she was persuaded by what she was reading in the gospels and most of all by the change in Surayanarayan’s attitude towards her. Now he was treating her with respect and taking far more interest in their children. And they began to talk with their relatives who all lived nearby and many discussions ensued. Slowly, several families responded to the Good News. They all continued to go to the local temple— not for worshipping the Hindu gods— but to relate the amazing love of Jesus to their friends. The temple was not just a religious center but the place of importance in the community for all kinds of ceremonies. This included marriages, funerals, the naming of children, New Year celebrations and at least 12 other festivals that were important to the community.

Suryanarayan came back to Bangalore and asked Shekhar to come up to his own town in northern Karnataka and advise him on what to do with all these families who were responding to the Good News. Shekhar went many times over the next several years and listened to the issues that the group was facing. Then Shekhar would pray with them and encourage them to find their own solutions. Often, they would pray through the night when they could not see an obvious solution.

Shekhar would talk with me and we prayed many times that the Holy Spirit would reveal His purposes to these new believers. They were often insisting that we give them a solution as they felt we knew the Scriptures better than they did. Our response was that they knew their circumstances far better than we did and so we had confidence that the Holy Spirit would show them the right pathways for their context.

These new believers were so excited about Jesus that they would spend several nights a week after work visiting relatives and friends and neighbors and explaining the Good News. They also loved to read the Scriptures and treasured the many insights that the Holy Spirit was teaching them. Everybody shared in these discussions which usually consisted of several families in one person’s home.

The families spent much time in Deuteronomy 6:1-9 learning how they could disciple their families with a view for three generations.

Some of the relatives were illiterate despite being able to speak several languages. When they would see how others were gaining such amazing insights then they too would be very motivated to learn to read. The government programs usually took one year but we found that these new believers would often be reading within two to three months. baptize them or force them to deny their Hindu roots or tell them that they needed to build a building and have a qualified pastor. Such efforts were constantly resisted.

Four years ago, Suryanarayan died. By this time his son was married and had two small children and he assumed the leadership of this expanding movement. He has 25 elders that work together as a team. He is as committed as his father and has such maturity at 35 that he surprises everyone. He prays a lot and really serves his people. Even the older friends of Suryanarayan respect Vishnu very much. We are starting to see the second generation taking the good news to the next generation. The group numbers well over 2,000 families and continues to keep expanding today.

As many more families were responding to the Good News, they began to work out the best way to help everyone. They worked out from 1 Tim. 3:12 that the father was the natural leader of his oikos and was called a deacon. The father who had a concern for other families as well as his own was known as an elder ( 1 Tim. 3:1-7).They saw these roles not in terms of positions but as functions to be performed devoid of status or position or money. In fact such a person was truly a servant to others.

Many other issues were resolved over the next years because of a strong confidence in the Scriptures and much prayer, and an unwavering dependence on the Holy Spirit.

Over the next years the number of families kept growing. They did face pressure from several church planting groups who would stumble across so many believers and try to baptize them or force them to deny their Hindu roots or tell them that they needed to build a building and have a qualified pastor. Such efforts were constantly resisted.

Four years ago, Suryanarayan died. By this time his son was married and had two small children and he assumed the leadership of this expanding movement. He has 25elders that work together as a team. He is as committed as his father and has such maturity at 35 that he surprises everyone. He prays a lot and really serves his people. Even the older friends of Suryanarayan respect Vishnu very much. We are starting to see the second generation taking the good news to the next generation. The group numbers well over 2,000 families and continues to keep expanding today.

This is an article from the May-June 2019 issue: India: The Greatest Challenge to World Evangelization

24:14 Goal: Mindshifts for Movements

Movement engagements in every unreached people and place by 2025 (80 months)

24:14 Goal: Mindshifts for Movements

God is doing great things through Church Planting Movements CPMs) around the world in our day. CPM does not mean traditional church planting becoming very fruitful. CPM describes the God-given fruit of a distinctive ministry approach—unique CPM-oriented “DNA.” The perspectives and patterns of a CPM differ in many ways from the patterns of church life and ministry that feel “normal” to many of us.

Note, we want to identify paradigms we have seen God change for many of us involved in CPMs. But before examining these, we want to clarify: we don’t believe that CPM is the only way to do ministry or that anyone not doing CPM has a mistaken paradigm. We greatly honor all those who have gone before; we stand on their shoulders. We also honor others in the Body of Christ who serve faithfully and sacrificially in other types of ministries.

For the Mission Frontiers context, we will mainly examine paradigm differences for Westerners seeking to help catalyze a CPM. Those of us who want to be involved need to notice what shifts have to happen in our own mindsets to create an environment for movements.  Mindshifts enable us to see things differently and creatively.  These perspective changes lead to different behaviors and results.  Here are a few ways the Lord’s great work in CPMs calls us to adjust our thinking.

From: “This is possible; I can see a path to accomplishing my vision.”

To: A God-sized vision, impossible apart from His intervention. Waiting on God for His guidance and power.

One of the main reasons so many CPMs seem to have started in modern times is that people accepted a Godsized vision of focusing on reaching entire people groups. When faced with the task of reaching an unreached group consisting of millions of people it becomes obvious that a worker cannot accomplish anything on their own. The truth that “apart from Me you can do nothing” applies to all our endeavors. However, if we have a smaller goal it’s easier to work as if fruit depends on our efforts rather than on God’s intervention.

From: Aiming to disciple individuals. 

To: Aiming to disciple a nation.

In the Great Commission Jesus tells His disciples to “make disciples of panta ta ethne” (all ethne / every ethnos). The question is: “How do you disciple an entire ethnos?” The only way is through multiplication—of disciples who make disciples, churches that multiply churches and leaders who develop leaders.

From: “It can’t happen here!”

To: Expecting a ripe harvest.

Over the last 25 years people have often said: “Movements can start in those countries, but they can’t start here!” Today people point to the many movements in North India but forget this region was the “graveyard of modern missions” for 200+ years. Some said, “Movements can’t happen in the Middle East because that’s the heartland of Islam!” Yet many movements now thrive in the Middle East and throughout the Muslim world. Others said, “It can’t happen in Europe and America and other places with traditional churches!” Yet we now have seen a variety of movements start in those places as well. God loves to overcome our doubts.

From: “What can I do?”

To: “What must be done to see God’s kingdom planted in this group of people (city, nation, language, tribe, etc.)?

A training group was once discussing Acts 19:10—how approximately 15 million people in the Roman province of Asia heard the word of the Lord in two years. Someone said, “That would be impossible for Paul and the original 12 believers in Ephesus—they would have had to share with 20,000 people a day!” That is the point—there is no way they could accomplish that. A daily training in the hall of Tyrannus must have multiplied disciples who multiplied disciples who multiplied disciples throughout the region.

From: “What can my group accomplish?”

To: “Who else can be a part of accomplishing this impossibly great task?”

This is similar to the mindshift above. Instead of focusing on the people and resources in our own church, organization, or denomination, we have realized we need to look at the entire body of Christ globally with all types of Great Commission organizations and churches. We also need to involve people with a variety of giftings and vocations to address the many efforts needed: prayer, mobilization, finances, business, translation, relief, development, arts, etc.

From: I pray.

To: We pray extraordinarily and mobilize others to pray.

We aim to reproduce everything. Obviously personal prayer is crucial, but when faced with the overwhelming task of reaching entire communities, cities and people groups— we need to mobilize the prayer of many others.

From: My ministry is measured by my fruitfulness.

 To: Are we faithfully setting the stage for multiplication (which may or may not happen during our ministry)?

Growth is God’s responsibility. (1 Cor. 3:6-7) Sometimes attempting to catalyze the first multiplying churches can take quite a few years. Field workers are told, “Only God can produce fruitfulness. Your job is to be faithful and obedient while expecting God to work.” We do our best to follow patterns of disciple-making multiplication found in the New Testament, and we trust the Holy Spirit to bring the growth.

From: The outside missionary is a “Paul,” preaching on the front lines among the unreached.

To: The outsider is far more effective as a “Barnabas,” discovering, encouraging and empowering a nearerculture “Paul.”

People sent out as missionaries have often been encouraged to view themselves as the front-line worker, modeled after the Apostle Paul. We now realize that the far outsider can instead have the greatest impact by finding and partnering with cultural insiders or near neighbors who become the “Pauls” for their communities.

Note first that Barnabas was also a leader who “did the work.” (Acts 11:22-26; 13:1-7) So movement catalysts need to first gain experience making disciples in their own culture and then work cross-culturally to find those “Pauls” from the focus culture whom they can encourage and empower.

Second, even these “Pauls” have to adjust their paradigms. 

The outside catalysts of a large movement in India studied Barnabas’ life to better understand their role. They then studied the passages with the initial “Pauls” of this movement. Those leaders in turn realized that contrary to their cultural patterns (that the initial leader is always preeminent), they in turn wanted to become like Barnabas and empower those they discipled, to have an even greater impact.

From: Hoping a new believer or group of new believers will initiate a movement.

To: Asking “What national believers who have been followers for many years might become the catalyst(s) for a CPM?”

This relates to the common idea that we as a culturally distant outsider will find and win a lost person(s) who will become the movement catalyst. While this can occasionally happen, the vast majority of movements are started by cultural insiders or near neighbors who have been believers for several or even many years. Their own mindset shifts and fresh understanding of CPM principles opens up new possibilities for kingdom expansion.

From: We are looking for partners in our ministry.

To: We are looking for brothers and sisters to serve God together.

Sometimes missionaries are taught to look for “national partners.” Without questioning anyone’s motives, some local believers find this phrasing doubtful. Some of the wrong (often subconscious) meanings could include:

  • “Partnership” with an outsider means doing what they want done.
  • In a partnership the person(s) with the most money controls the partnership.
  • This is a “work” type transaction rather than a genuine personal relationship.
  • The use of “national” may feel condescending (as a more polite word for “native”—why are Americans not also called “nationals”?).

In the dangerous and difficult work of starting movements among the lost, inside catalysts are looking for a deep family bond of mutual love. They don’t want work partners but rather movement family who will bear each other’s burdens and sacrifice in any way possible for their brothers and sisters.

From: Focusing on winning individuals.

To: Focusing on groups—to bring the gospel into existing families, groups and communities.

90% of salvations described in the book of Acts describe either large or small groups. Only 10% are individuals who experience salvation by themselves. We see Jesus often reaching households and we also see Jesus focusing on sending out His disciples to look for households. Note examples such as Zacchaeus and his entire household experiencing salvation (Luke 19:9-10), and the Samaritan woman coming to faith along with a great many from her entire town. (John 4:39-42)

Reaching groups has many advantages over reaching and gathering individuals. For example:

  • Instead of transferring “Christian culture” to a single new believer, local culture begins to be redeemed by the group.
  • Persecution isn’t isolated and focused on the individual but is normalized across the group. They can support each other in persecution.
  • Joy is shared as a family or community discovers Christ together.
  • Unbelievers have a visible example of “here’s what it looks like for a group of people like me to follow Christ.”

From: Transferring my church or group’s doctrine, traditional practices, or culture.

To: Helping believers within a culture discover for themselves what the Bible says about vital issues, letting them hear God’s Spirit guide them in how to apply biblical truths in their cultural context.

We can too easily confuse our own preferences and traditions with scriptural mandates. In a cross-cultural situation we especially need to avoid giving our cultural baggage to the new believers. Instead, we trust that since Jesus said: “They will all be taught by God” (John 6:45), and the Holy Spirit will guide the believers “into all truth” (John 16:13), we can trust the process to God. This does not mean we don’t guide and coach new believers. It means that we help them see Scripture as their authority rather than us.

From: Starbucks discipleship: “Let’s meet once each week.”

To: Lifestyle discipleship: My life is intertwined with these people.

One movement catalyst said that his movement trainercoach offered to talk to him whenever he needed…so he ended up calling him in a different city three or four times every day. We need this type of commitment to help those who are passionate and desperate to reach the lost.

From: Lecture—to transfer knowledge.

To: Discipleship—to follow Jesus and obey His Word.

Jesus said, “If you love me you will obey my commands” (John 15:14) and “If you obey Me you will remain in My love.” (John 15:10) Often our churches emphasize knowledge over obedience. The people with the most knowledge are considered the most qualified leaders.

Church Planting Movements emphasize teaching people to obey all that Jesus commanded. (Matt. 28:20) Knowledge is important but the primary foundation must be first loving and obeying God. 

From: Sacred/secular divide; evangelism vs. social action.

To: Word and deed together. Meeting needs as a door-opener and as an expression and fruit of the gospel.

The sacred/secular divide is not part of a biblical worldview. Those in CPMs don’t debate whether to meet physical needs or share the gospel. Because we love Jesus, of course we meet people’s needs (as He did) and as we do that we also share His truth verbally (as He did). In these movements, we see the natural expression of meeting needs leading people to be open to the words or to ask questions that lead to the truth.

From: Special buildings for spiritual activities.

To: Small gatherings of believers in all kinds of places.

Church buildings and paid church leaders hinder the growth of a movement. Rapid spread of the gospel happens through the efforts of nonprofessionals. Even reaching the number of lost people in the USA becomes prohibitively expensive if we attempt to reach them only through church buildings and paid staff. How much more so in other parts of the world that have fewer financial resources and higher percentages of unreached people!

From: Don’t evangelize until you’ve been trained.

To: Share what you’ve experienced or know. It’s normal and natural to share about Jesus.

 How often are new believers asked to sit and listen for the first several years after they come to faith? It often takes many years before they are considered qualified to lead in any way. We have observed that the best people to lead a family or community to saving faith are insiders in that community. And the best time for them to do that is when they have newly come to faith, before they’ve created separation between themselves and that community.

Multiplication involves everyone and ministry happens everywhere. A new/inexperienced insider is more effective than a highly trained mature outsider.

From: Win as many as possible.

To: Focus on the few (or one) to win many.

In Luke 10 Jesus said to find a household that will receive you. If a person of peace is there they will receive you. At that point, do not move around from household to household. We often see this pattern being applied in the New Testament. Whether it’s Cornelius, Zacchaeus, Lydia or the Philippian jailer, this one person then becomes the key catalyst for their family and broader community. One large family of movements in harsh environments actually focuses on the tribal leader or the network leader rather than individual household leaders.

To make disciples of all nations, we don’t just need more good ideas. We don’t just need additional fruitful practices. We need a paradigm shift. The mindshifts presented here reflect various facets of that shift. To the extent we wrestle with and apply any one of them we will likely become more fruitful. But only as we buy the whole package – trade in traditional church DNA for CPM DNA – can we hope to be used by God in catalyzing rapidly reproducing generational movements that far exceed our own resources.

This is an article from the May-June 2019 issue: India: The Greatest Challenge to World Evangelization

A Still Thriving Middle-aged Movement:

An Interview with Victor John by Dave Coles

A Still Thriving Middle-aged Movement:

Dave: How long has the Bhojpuri movement been going on?

Victor:  The movement started in 1998. I had begun focusing on work among the Bhojpuri since 1992 and in 1994 we began the ministry in earnest. We held the first Bhojpuri consultation, began a systematic survey for all the Bhojpuri districts and made a decision to focus on obedience-based discipleship. We didn’t start with a blueprint for how the ministry would unfold; everything has been evolving through the years. The real breakthrough with significant numbers happened when we released the first edition of the Bhojpuri New Testament in 1998. After that the movement began growing exponentially. It wasn’t a huge movement at that time. Things were happening in various places, but we had no idea of the big picture of what the Lord was doing.

In 2000 an audit was done by the International Mission Board (IMB), and they pointed out that exponential growth was taking place. The tipping point had been in 1998, when things just shot up. We only had 800 pastors at that time, and all of their ministries had grown within the previous two or three years. The IMB’s audit showed the rapid growth curve and it hasn’t stopped since then. Additional audits have been done by other groups in subsequent years, showing the en- durance and growth of the movement. I just met yesterday with 35 or 40 leaders who shared amazing stories. We were counting the generations of believers and churches and it’s over 100 generations! Every generation of believers starts a new church. We don’t count the number of believers (how many people got saved). We count the number of churches started.

Dave: With all those generations of churches and leaders, how have you managed to maintain the DNA of multiplication?

Victor:  The DNA has been set, and in our culture, a lot depends on watching and imitating. What you see is what you do. You watch what a leader does, then it’s easy to do the same thing. It’s much easier than following written notes or bullet points in a lecture. They see someone do it, then they think, “Oh, I can do that.” We try to make it so simple that even the least educated person will say, “I can do that; it’s not that difficult.” After all, obedience is caught rather than taught. We don’t present something complicated that requires a lot of education, facilities or money. The idea from the very beginning has been a self-sustaining and self-propagating ministry. It’s the responsibility of the Bhojpuri people to take the gospel to their own and to other people, and that’s what they’re doing.

Dave:  The Bhojpuri movement is one of the longest-lasting movements still continuing with CPM dynamics. This would seem to show it’s not just a fad.

Victor:  Yes. The movement is still moving. In years past some people invested a lot of time and effort in things that turned out to be just a fad. Some have been reluctant to invest in catalyzing a CPM, afraid it would also turn out to be a fad. But God is so good! Multiplication continues, and we see there’s nothing inevitable about a movement ending or turning into traditional churches.

Dave:  Back in the 1990s not many people were using the term “CPM.” When this ministry among the Bhojpuri began in the mid-90s, what were you envisioning? What words were you using to describe what you hoped God would do?

Victor:  At that time, “church growth” was very popular. It was heavily commercialized and there were loads of seminars on church growth. The megachurch model from South Korea was also popular, and megachurches in the US were a big thing. But I didn’t think that trying to build a big church would reach the Bhojpuri. I was thinking in terms of something like the book of Acts – small and rapidly reproducible house churches. Instead of having a 500-member church, I thought it would be better, even if the churches only had 10 people, to have 50 churches. It’s easier to reproduce and the cost is much lower. To run a church with 500 members is a huge project – with staffing, building, maintenance, management and administration. All of those things cost money.

Small house churches with no paid staff can easily reproduce. They are also less threatening to outsiders and less likely to invite negative reaction and persecution. I saw back in the 90s that we needed a model of church that could easily go underground if needed. And that’s exactly what’s happening now, in the present scenario of hostility.

This current persecution is not a strange surprise for us. We’re not sitting around saying, “Oh, no! What are we going to do, now that we’re experiencing severe persecution?” We are continuing to do everything like usual, just being a little more careful. A lot of organizations have had to shut down, let their staff go or change what they were doing. But we’re growing, and the newer movement to our east, influenced by the Bhojpuri, is also growing. We are preparing for much greater harvest to come.

Dave:  Speaking of persecution, what are some other challenges you’ve faced over the years?

Victor:  One challenge was organizations with more traditional models wanting to grab a piece of the action. The Bhojpuri movement had a very difficult year in 2011. A lot of organizations came, then distracted and hired people. That created a lot of confusion and I got very discouraged. I thought, “Maybe this whole thing will die or disintegrate.” But the ministry continued and that challenge strengthened local leaders who remained as decision makers. They took more ownership of ministry within their area instead of working as evangelists under someone else. Whatever they knew they used. That’s when I started the saying, “If you know one thing, obey one thing; if you know two things, obey two things.”

Another challenge was the low level of education among many of those being reached. Some people might wonder: “How can a person start a church and mature a church if they have very little knowledge?” But knowledge was not the key; it was obedience to Christ and willingness to really practice what little they knew. This was not people lining up to be hired for jobs; this was ordinary people obeying the Lord and seeing him bless their exercise of faith in everyday life. They know how to incarnate themselves and present Christ among a very hostile community.

A more recent challenge has arisen from the extent of the movement. The nation’s majority feel caught by surprise by what has been quietly multiplying in their midst. The Hindu militants thought that Christianity was only what they had seen for 200 years – a foreign import from the West, with visible structures and foreign patterns. Suddenly they’ve discovered that people are turning to Christ in ways that don’t turn them into Westerners. An article published last year quoted government minister Giriraj Singh blaming Christians for converting people “silently.” He said, “It is Christians who are doing maximum [sic] number of religious conversions in the country, that too silently.” I never thought I would live to hear that complaint.

Dave:  Sometimes people travel through an area where a movement has been reported and they don’t see evidence of it, so they conclude there’s not really a movement happening there. How would you respond to that?

Victor:  (laughs) You can walk in a jungle and never see any animals. That doesn’t mean there are no animals in the jungle. Some people have a certain image in their minds of what a Church Planting Movement will look like. They think they’ll see people crying in the streets, or shouting at the top of their voice that they’re saved. They expect to see crosses on top of the houses, and no more temples or mosques or idols. They have this fantasy that when a movement happens the area will look very Christian. Maybe that happens in some places, but not in a context like ours. We don’t have people streaming to church buildings on Sunday morning. Bhojpuri believers live, dress and eat like other Bhojpuri people. They gather to worship in relatively inconspicuous ways. We have God doing something wonderful in the midst of all the turmoil and idols. His kingdom is silently penetrating – like yeast – into areas where Christ has never before been worshiped.

One man visited our area, looked around and told me, “I don’t see any movement going on.” I said, “Good!”\

He asked, “Why do you say that?”

I answered, “Because the movement is safe from people like you who come to teach the believers ‘how to be a Christian,’ and end up destroying the movement.” Sometimes I’m very blunt. But the fact is that too many Christians would like to “convert” the movement’s believers so they become “better Christians” according to their own definition. Their idea is usually more head knowledge or more Western influence and less reproducible obedience.

Dave:  In your book, you tell about the Bhojpuri movement cascading into other ethno-linguistic groups to begin gospel breakthroughs. At this point, how many other groups would you say have been impacted directly by the Bhojpuri movement?

Victor:  About eight different language groups across Northern India have been impacted and those language groups have different sub-groups within them. The work in at least one of those has already reached the point where it can be classified as its own Church Planting Movement. I just attended a conference of theirs and was very encouraged to see the Lord blessing that work. It has now become a fast-growing movement, not dependent on finances or a single leader.  The nature of the gospel is to multiply and spread. We praise God for the ways it continues to do that among the Bhojpuri and is now spreading among other groups as well. 

This is an article from the May-June 2019 issue: India: The Greatest Challenge to World Evangelization

Is It Time to Declutter the Great Commission?

Is It Time to Declutter the Great Commission?

Started by a Japanese woman, a recent viral movement is spreading rapidly. All over the world, people are growing more and more enthusiastic—to declutter.

The person behind this movement is Marie Kondo, otherwise known as Japan’s declutter queen. Ms. Kondo, founder of KonMari, propagates a method of organizing and decluttering our lives and homes that is catching on. It even has a spiritual component. Her basic premise is that “anything that doesn’t make you happy or isn’t absolutely necessary should be touched, thanked, and sent on its way.”1

More and more, I’m thinking the global mission community should take Kondo’s advice about decluttering—both in a physical and a spiritual sense. Before I elaborate, allow me to first take you on a journey via The Voice version of the Bible, which lays out the following account like a script in a play:

The day after, John saw Him again as he was visiting with two of his disciples. As Jesus walked by, he announced again:

John the Baptist: Do you see Him? This man is the Lamb of God, God’s sacrifice to cleanse our sins.

At that moment, the two disciples began to follow Jesus, who turned back to them, saying:

Jesus: What is it that you want?

Two Disciples: We’d like to know where You are staying. Teacher, may we remain at Your side today?

Jesus: Come and see. Follow Me, and we will camp together.

It was about four o’clock in the afternoon when they met Jesus. They came and saw where He was staying, but they got more than they imagined. They remained with Him the rest of the day and followed Him for the rest of their lives. One of these new disciples, Andrew, rushed to find his brother Simon and tell him they had found the One who is promised, God’s Anointed who will heal the world. As Andrew approached with Simon, Jesus looked into him.

Jesus: Your name is Simon, and your father is called John. But from this day forward you will be known as Peter, the rock.

The next day Jesus set out to go into Galilee; and when He came upon Philip, He invited him to join them.

Jesus: Follow Me.

Philip, like Andrew and Peter, came from a town called Bethsaida; and he decided to make the journey with Him. Philip found Nathanael, a friend, and burst in with excitement:

Philip: We have found the One. Moses wrote about Him in the Law, all the prophets spoke of the day when He would come, and now He is here—His name is Jesus, son of Joseph the carpenter; and He comes from Nazareth. (John 1:35–45)

This is an absolutely beautiful description of what missions is all about. As we try to obey the Great Commission, someone starts the process like John the Baptist—telling others who Jesus is and what He has done on behalf of people. Along with the news comes an open invitation to join Him. Some who hear the invitation intend to come and taste and go on a few days’ journey with Jesus. But before they know it, they get more than they imagined—and they end up following Him for the rest of their lives.

For those who experience Jesus in this way, their experience is so alive and refreshing that they go and invite others in their oikos to meet Jesus. Before long, a grassroots, viral movement of disciples for Jesus who make more disciples has begun. These profound and amazing outcomes line up with the heart of the Great Commission, and yet they are so simple and spontaneous.

Although the successful process of making radical disciples of Jesus, as described in John 1:35–45, was grassroots, light weight, and inexpensive, we tend to add all our stuff to the process of mission. We add elaborate organizations, substantial buildings, professional-style worship, seminarystyle preaching, expensive poverty alleviation projects, and ambitious fundraising plans to the work of the Great Commission. In this way, we add a yoke to simplicity, spontaneity and reproducibility.

By and by, we take something that was mobile, light, and reproducible by everyone and make it doable and reproducible only for those who have the means and space to accumulate stuff.

JR Woodard and Dan White Jr. urge us to declutter our church approaches: “If our model can only be reproduced by paid clergy or the most dynamic speakers, it will stunt genuine movements. We often talk so intensely about our buildings, budgets and bands that we have crowded out the minimalism of the first-century church.”2

Due to the proliferation of Western Christianity, people around the world today can hardly conceive of church without buildings, budgets and bands. Yet none of these three elements are key to Jesus-led movements as described in the gospels and the book of Acts. Just as those who have means tend to fill their houses and spaces with unnecessary clutter, so the mission community has filled the world with unnecessary clutter that chokes out simplicity, spontaneity and reproducibility.  

Maybe it is time we use Marie Kondo’s approach in our mission strategies: take anything that doesn’t add joy to our lives in Christ or isn’t absolutely necessary, touch it, thank it, and send it on its way.3

 

Endnotes
  1. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/nov/27/     top-tips-to-joyfully-declutter-your-home-from-marie-kondo

  2. 2 JR Woodward and Dan White Jr., The Church as Movement (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2016), 36.

  3. 3 Marie Kondo claims that her method was inspired by Shintoism.  While I am not advocating the practice of Shintoism, I do believe that decluttering the Great Commission from our manmade junk is a biblical and spiritual act.

This is an article from the May-June 2019 issue: India: The Greatest Challenge to World Evangelization

Enduring Persecution in India

Enduring Persecution in India

 

Some Ways God is Working through Persecution

By the Leader of a Church Planting Movement in India

In this season of persecution, I feel like God has given Satan permission: “Do what you want to those believers in India.” I know that in history the church has grown, not just in spite of persecution but because of persecution. In 1950, when the Communists took over China, there were about one million churches. Horrible persecution ensued, and believers throughout the world feared that very little might remain of the Christian faith in China. But in 1990, when the Bamboo Curtain lifted and news reached the outside world, we learned that in the midst of persecution the church had multiplied incredibly, yielding over 70 million churches!

In the context of our movement, even with persecution, over 300,000 people celebrated Christmas 2018 in their house churches and small gatherings. Almost all of that number have become followers of Jesus during the past six years. They have always faced some persecution, but 2018 definitely brought a huge increase from previous years.

God is building maturity into the main stewards of this movement (leaders at various levels) as a result of and through the persecution they face. Here are a few of the ways:

1. Believers are rising to meet the challenges. They are afraid; they are sometimes afraid to answer a knock on the door. But they don’t allow their fear to lead them. They don’t live intimidated lives. The fear doesn’t stop them. They are standing firm.

For example, the amazing gospel multiplication happening through Kamal and his connections can be seen in the 12-minute video “Ordinary People; Extraordinary Gospel.”  https://www.beyond.org/ordinary-people-extraordinary-gospel-2/  This group lives very simply at  the bottom of society. Some people came from outside the area and told them that since they follow Jesus, they could no longer live here. Kamal and his people, the lowest of the low, stood up to them. They said, “No, this is where we live and this is our home.” So they were rounded up and taken to the police station. They had to pay extortion to be released and go home again. Up to the present, police show up almost daily and “arrest” the men of this community, so they have to pay again and again to be released. A (Hindu) lawyer has gone with them to the police station to try to address this injustice. They are under great pressure, but they continue standing up to the challenge.

2. People in the movement are growing in patience. Area leaders wait patiently for the movement leaders to visit when they can, but they don’t demand it. The movement has spread across four states (a large geographical area), and those involved have very little money. Visiting the various areas requires both time and money. The persecution keeps visits from happening as often, partly because finances are stretched even more thinly from responding to persecution. Also, if leaders from outside an area show up too often, it causes problems and more persecution. So we see illustrations of the biblical truth that “suffering produces perseverance” (Rom. 5:3).

3. The believers know who they are in Christ. They understand their identity in Him and they own it. They refuse to let traditional Christians dissuade them from who they are in Christ (as Paul instructed the Galatians when he asked, “Who has bewitched you?”) They refuse to be persuaded away from the identity He has given them, even when it results in persecution (whether from traditional Christians or from non-Christians).

4. The movement leaders (52 area leaders plus further generations of leaders) are stepping up in their role as stewards of their “Timothys” and churches. This includes stewarding finances, discipleship and managing house churches. It also includes the process of growth in authority. This stewarding of decentralized leadership has become even more vital with the increase in persecution. The word “steward” is new for us.  We no longer want to speak of movement leaders, but movement stewards. It is a biblical word, and explains well how the leaders feel— not only the top leaders, but all the main core group.

5. Increased persecution has brought a response of increased generosity from the believers. They have only opened their pockets even more, rather than letting the persecution cause them to fear and become selfish in their fear. They are gaining a better understanding of how to make good decisions about the use of money based on what little they have available. Churches are generous with those in need. Funds come from the movement itself, from within the house churches. Generosity is flowing from church to church and up the chain to leaders and area leaders as people have need.

These are a few of the ways God is maturing His church here in the midst of increased persecution in these days.

Persecution and Women in North India

By a Movement Leader in North India

Persecution takes many forms; too many to illustrate in one article. These vignettes of persecuted women in North India illustrate both the human suffering and the power of God.

In Haryana

In a nation regarded by many to be one of the most dangerous nations on earth for women, the Indian state of Haryana could be considered the epicenter of the misogyny and violence. About two and a half years ago, a believing woman in Haryana invited her neighbor, Reshma, to come over and participate in a Discovery Bible Study in her home. She knew that Reshma’s family had many problems. She wanted Reshma to hear a true story about the true God and to receive  prayer. This friend felt sure that if the group could pray for Reshma, God would help her with her every need. Reshma attended the Bible study and the story of creation amazed her. What wonderful news! There is a God above all gods. When He made the world, He made it beautiful and good. The world had not always been as it is now, full of violence, aggression, oppression of women, sadness and loss. This news watered the dry soil of Reshma’s heart. She attended three more Bible studies in her neighbor’s home.

Thrilled about the good news she was learning, she began to share the stories with relatives in the village. Her husband became furious when he heard about her activities. How dare she leave the house? How dare she promote Christian stories? He determined to put a stop to the nonsense and he took her to the roof of their home, held her over the edge and vowed he would throw her off if she didn’t stop telling people about this Jesus.

The next time Reshma met with the other disciples, she informed them through tears of her husband’s threat. They told her to stop reaching out. She replied, “What I am learning [about Jesus and His commands] encourages me to share this. I cannot stop!”

Soon, Reshma’s husband heard that she was still sharing about Jesus with their relatives and neighbors. Thankfully, he didn’t follow through on his threat about the roof but he did imprison her in a room in their home. Before locking the door, he declared, “No one will meet together. You are separate from our family and will not see your children.” Reshma prayed.

Six weeks passed. One day, her husband was badly injured in a fall from the tractor out in their field. With her husband confined to his bed, he allowed Reshma out of the room in order to serve him. She kept praying. She cared for her husband for 22 days, bringing meals to his bed and feeding him. Over time, he began to treat her politely. Finally, his arrogance melted into humility. After he became able to get up and walk around the house again, Reshma dared to ask, “Are you still angry with me? If not, can I do Jesus’ work?” He didn’t reply. Reshma took his silence as permission. Thrilled, she began again to share about Jesus with others.

The first person Reshma visited was a relative named Madhu. Madhu had noticed a change in Reshma’s husband. She said, “Your husband seems changed. Are you doing something with him?” Reshma told Madhu about all that had happened. Madhu was very impressed by God’s ability to soften and change the heart of Reshma’s husband. So much so that she gave her allegiance to God and joined Reshma as a coworker in the kingdom.

Three months passed. One day, Madhu shared a true story with a neighbor named Maravan and his whole family. They liked what they heard, so Madhu began a Discovery Study in their home. Madhu’s three children were afraid of Maravan. Like most men in Haryana, he was aggressive and rough. He owned a small shop near his house, but his shop wasn’t doing well. He finally told Madhu, “If you will pray for me and God brings financial change to my shop, I will believe this God is true.”

Madhu prayed, God blessed the shop, and Maravan and his whole family gave God their allegiance. Soon, Madhu’s children began to see a change in Maravan. He was a new man. Maravan began sharing with others about what was happening to him and his family. One neighbour, Krish, and his household, soon gave their allegiance to Jesus because of all that Maravan shared.

Then Krish shared with another man and his family who also gave their allegiance to Jesus. So within nine months, five generations of disciples were birthed in this area of Haryana, the most violent state in India, one of the most violent nations on earth. So far, 42 people have been baptized from among these five generations. The words from Luke (1:78b-79) ring in our ears: “the Dayspring from on high has visited us; To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, To guide our feet into the way of peace” (NKJV).

In a different state of India

Six months ago, we visited a very poor family who lived in a hut. We encouraged the woman and a couple of her children to listen to God’s Word and His stories—from Creation to Christ. We told them: “Listen over and over and over again. Then make sure you discuss the stories for the greatest benefit. We can’t always visit you, and even the area leader cannot always visit you, but you always have God’s Word.”

We returned six months later and met this family again. This time, the woman’s husband and many extended family members also joined us. They seemed much happier this time than previously. I asked why they seemed happy. The wife and a few of the others immediately began crying. She said that every day during chai time she had listened to the stories. Her husband also listened, as did her son and his wife, who lived with them.

In the past, her husband drank too much and beat her. Her son also drank a lot and beat his wife. After hearing the story about Adam and Eve over and over again, the men came under conviction. They exclaimed: “This story says you were taken from my rib? That means we are same body! But I beat you and drink too much!” The husbands began to recognize the value of their wives and treated them differently.

In this village, the wives normally joined their husbands working in the fields. We learned that since we had first come and shared with them, the women were now sharing the stories with others as they worked. The daughter-in-law had also shared with her own mother in a different village. She was so happy to share the news, “My husband loves me!” She shared her testimony with her whole family.

Her brother and his wife lived with her parents. Her sister-in-law, who was also abused, heard her testimony and said, “I want those stories too!” That’s how it happened that on our second visit, the daughter-in-law brought her whole family to talk with us. As  a result, two generations of families now follow Jesus and have been baptized.

I have been asked, “Why is the gospel advancing so rapidly in this region?”  There are a few reasons, but one of the main ones is that the people here are very poor (poorer even than the typical poor of India) that the women have to work as well as the men. Without the women working, they don’t have enough to eat. When women work out in the fields, they have freedom to share the Bible stories with other w and isolated in their homes as are women in much of India. In this area, they are free to do what they naturally love to do: share the stories with their friends and pray for each other. The men don’t feel threatened because the women just share stories while they are out working. They not only pray for the sick and demonized, but they own the identity of living as a disciple and making other disciples. This leads to rapid spread of the gospel.

This is an article from the March-April 2019 issue: Movements Everywhere: Why So Few in the West?

The Reality of Weeds

The Reality of Weeds

A number of years ago, I was working on a Church Planting Movement (CPM) assessment team that was evaluating the presence of a large CPM in South Asia among Muslim background believers. Our team divided into pairs as sub-teams to head to various parts of the country to interview dozens of precious believers—some new in their faith and some leaders of churches or networks of churches. When the various sub-teams returned to the capital, a wide range of emotions was evident based on the findings the various pairs had turned up. Those that went to the oldest areas of the movement had an amazingly uplifting time of testimony after testimony of God bringing salvation to places that had previously been demonic strongholds. These teams were elated to say the least. They had seen God’s hand working in power.

On the other hand, a couple of the sub-teams (mine included) visited areas that more recently had seen breakthrough and didn’t have a very long track-record of church formation and leadership development. Personally, I went into my interviews full of faith and hope for what we were going to learn about what God was doing in this movement.

However, as the interviews progressed, it soon became apparent in one interview of two young “pastors,” that instead of pastors we had imposters. As can happen so easily in this region, these young men thought there might be financial gain in visiting us posing as pastors. With our Muslim-background translator, we very quickly realized that they were not even believers.

The good news is that we were able that day to share the gospel with them and baptize both of them in front of the witnesses of their friends. We were thrilled about that, but I was still disturbed that we were not seeing what we had been led to think we would see—a movement raging through the neighborhoods and villages. Was there really a movement here? Even as an optimist, this was the question I kept coming back to. My teammate, who was naturally more skeptical, concluded that there was not.

So, when the sub-teams reassembled, the emotions were mixed. To compound the problem, the team leader asked me to lead the debrief the next day to discuss what we had learned in this CPM assessment. I felt the least qualified to lead this because I felt disillusioned from what I had seen. Nevertheless, I agreed.

After a lot of questionable village fare, the team went out that night in search of some Western food. Instead, I begged off. I needed time to fast and pray. My heart was not ready to lead a discussion the next day. I spent much of the night fasting, praying and searching the Scriptures. I needed a breakthrough from God in the midst of my disillusionment.

After some time, the Spirit led me to the Parable of the Weeds (or tares, found in Matthew 13: 24-30, 36-43). For years leading up to this incident and in the years since, I have worked hard to let the parables of the kingdom define my understanding of the kingdom and not let my opinion about movements define my understanding of the parables. In other words, no matter how radical, I had to let the Word guide my understanding in all things.

Reading and meditating on the Parable of the Weeds completely cleared up the disillusionment I had been experiencing and enabled me to have a clear and neutral mind as we moved into the following day of evaluating what we were learning. What changed?

Perhaps first was that Jesus told this parable immediately after telling that magnificent Parable of the Sower (Matt. 13:3-9, 18-23) and its lesson that even though we will encounter bad soil that bears no fruit, we will also encounter soil that is “movement soil” – multiplies 30, 60 or 100 times. Jesus taught us to expect movements when the kingdom comes to a place. In many CPMs, we have observed that the first Person of Peace often results in 100 other people coming to faith, sometimes 60 and sometimes 30. We have seen similar patterns where churches multiply many times over. As new believers are taught to become followers of Jesus and fishers of men by the power of the Spirit, Acts-like movements are reoccurring all over the world.

So why tell the Parable of the Weeds (which feels a bit like dumping water on the fires of our enthusiasm) after this “growth” parable? To compound the matter, Jesus then returns to two more growth parables which feel even more remarkable in their potential for expansion—the Parables of the Mustard Seed and Leaven (Acts 13:31-33). Both of these teach that great movements of the kingdom will start from small, humble beginnings.

So, again, why this sobering, somewhat discouraging parable in the midst of the others that center on growth and hope? Before I answer that question, it is critical that we remember a basic rule of interpretation when it comes to parables. We must let each parable stand on its own and let images (word pictures) be interpreted unique to that parable. In other words, sometimes the image of “seed” refers to the word of the kingdom (Matt. 13:19). However, in the Parable of the Weeds, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom (Christians) and the bad seeds are the sons of the evil one (non-Christians; Matt. 13:38). The Greek word used for “weeds” or “tares” refers to an imposter plant – one that resembled wheat for a while before becoming evident that it was not wheat. This sounded to me a lot like the “imposters” we had led to faith who were posing as pastors.

The sower in the Weeds Parable does not refer to us but to Jesus as the good sower (Matt. 13:37) and the devil as the evil sower (Matt. 13:39). The reaping in the Weeds Parable has nothing to do with the reaping of souls for Jesus as a result of salvation. Instead, it refers to the end of the age when the angels will reap the sons of the kingdom for heaven and the sons of the evil one for hell (Matt. 13:40-42).

Jesus is describing a different reality by changing the images He uses in the Parable of the Weeds from those He used in the Parable of the Sower. That’s why it is critical to let each parable stand on its own and contribute its unique message to the truths of what the kingdom is like.

Why tell this sobering parable in the midst of the growth parables? A reality check, plain and simple.

Jesus didn’t want His disciples expecting trouble-free growth and expansion of the kingdom. But instead, as He has done before, He is giving the disciples a reality check. He issued other warnings to His disciples in other growth contexts. For instance, He clearly foretold difficulties and persecution for disciples as they pursued the mission:

16 Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. (Matt. 10:16-18, ESV)

As I sat upon my bed that night in South Asia, pondering the truths from the Parable of the Weeds, God seared this truth, or reality check, into my soul:

REALITY CHECK: The presence of weeds (imposters; non-believers) does not invalidate the presence of wheat (real believers), nor does the presence of weeds invalidate the presence of a movement.

Armed with this simple truth, I was able to lead the group through a healthy debrief the next day. We came to realize that imposters, posers, non-believers with duplicitous motives and other similar problems do not mean that a movement is not raging around us. In fact, at times, it almost seems to be more likely that we would have a movement accompanied by many weeds. It appears from the parable that the devil is actively trying to 1) attack movements of the kingdom and 2) disillusion us or cause us to become jaded when evaluating movements.

For some reason, we develop this false idea that a movement means an absence of problems. Nowhere is that implied in Scripture. Rather it is usually the opposite:

  • Jesus puts this reality check parable second in the line-up of growth parables.
  • The book of Acts, which describes movement after movement, shows the attacks, difficulties, disbelief and false prophets that go with that.
  • The epistles are clear that false teachers will arise and scatter many of the sheep.
  • For years, I had this verse taped to my desk where only I could see it:

Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.

(Prov. 14:4, ESV)

Production comes from having oxen, and with them comes a lot of poop in the manger!

Whenever there is life and growth, expect problems. Smile and remember that these problems might be a sign that a lot of good growth is emerging as well.

We must be pretty naïve to think that God will move in power but that the devil will not follow along on the heels working his own wiles. We have an active adversary and need to be on the alert at all times. At the same time, the lesson of the parable seems to imply that we should not focus on pulling up all the weeds1. That is ultimately God’s work. Instead, we must not become distracted weed-pullers but rather avid wheat cultivators.

By the end of our debrief time in South Asia, I think that most of my colleagues had circled around to trust the truth of the reality check above. In God’s providence, in the larger country-wide movement, some of us had seen more wheat and some of us had seen more weeds.

Frankly, weeds no longer bother me. I actually find their presence slightly reassuring that I am seeing a real movement. In fact, I almost entitled this article “The Reassuring Reality of Weeds.”

However, let me highlight three more truths to remember from this parable. They are three more reality checks:

The presence of weeds is no guarantee of a CPM. The most we can say from this parable is that they do not rule out its possibility. Remember that the enemy is at work in a variety of situations. I’ve seen imposter Christians planted in the deadest of churches.

The presence of weeds is no guarantee a great work is about to break out. I’ve heard this one too many times, and this cannot be implied from this parable. We say, “Wow! The fact that the enemy is attacking must mean we are about to see a great breakthrough!” This is not necessarily true. The devil is no prophet. He does not foresee the future. He may just be attacking. Period.

The lack of weeds should make us a bit suspicious when a CPM case study is presented. Movements have problems. There’s no way around it. When presenting a case study of a movement, acknowledge those problems;  if there are none, examine whether you really have a movement. If it sounds too good to be true, it may not be true. When I receive reports from those I disciple and train, I probe deeply to make sure that what we think is going on really is. I’m not worried about encountering problems along the way. They reassure me that we are dealing with the real world, a real enemy and a triumphant God!

So, let’s press onward toward kingdom movements in every place. Let’s do so with eyes wide open that the enemy is at work at the same time. Though we don’t prefer to have problems, they don’t invalidate the work we do. Keep your eyes focused on the wheat and cultivate a Church Planting Movement in the power of the Spirit.

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. (1 John. 4:4, ESV)

Endnotes
  1. This does not mean that we ignore discipline which is a critical aspect of body life. However, we must not go on witch-hunts to root out all problems. If we do, the believers (wheat) get neglected in the process.

This is an article from the March-April 2019 issue: Movements Everywhere: Why So Few in the West?

The Genius of Wrong

Building the Right Church Depends on Using All the Wrong People

The Genius of Wrong

I was sitting at a table with an old friend who leads a large and thriving church. “We try to make everything easy for the members of our church,” he said to me. “We encourage them to get to know people in our community, whether in their neighborhood or office or anywhere else. Then all they have to do is invite those people to church. At church, those people will hear relevant, gifted communicators in a warm, attractive, and appealing environment where their children can be a part of top-of-the-line programs.”

He concluded, “If our members will just invite their friends to the environment we create, then we can take care of the rest.”

Then he asked me what we do at Brook Hills. Hesitantly, I said, “We actually do the exact opposite.” “Oh really,” he said. “What do you mean?”

“Well, when we gather as the Church, our main focus is on the Church. In other words, we organize our worship environment around believers, not unbelievers.”

He looked confused. “Why would you do that?” he asked. “If your worship environment on Sunday is not appealing to non-Christians, then how is your church going to intentionally lead unbelievers in Birmingham to Christ?”

“We’re going to equip our people every Sunday to lead unbelievers in Birmingham to Christ all week long,” I said.

“Your members are going to lead them to Christ?”

“That’s our plan.”

“Well,” he said, “once those unbelievers become believers, how are they going to grow in Christ?”

“Our people are going to be equipped to show new believers how to live as followers of Christ,” I said. “I want people in the church to be able to fulfill the purpose for which they were created without being dependent on gifted preachers, nice buildings, and great programs to do it for them.” Looking puzzled, he said, “Well, that’s a new approach.”

Now, again, I am a young pastor, and I have a lot to learn, particularly from pastors like this one, whom I respect greatly. But I don’t think I’m coming up with something new here.

I believe in the people of God. Or more specifically, I believe in the work of God’s Spirit through God’s Word in God’s people. The last thing I want to do is rob Christians of the joy of making disciples by telling them that I or anyone or anything else can take care of that for them.

Someone might ask, “But if a church has a gifted communicator or a gifted leader, wouldn’t we want as many people as possible to hear that person?”

The answer is “not necessarily.” The goal of the church is never for one person to be equipped and empowered to lead as many people as possible to Christ. The goal is always for all of God’s people to be equipped and empowered to lead as many people as possible to Christ.

I also believe in the plan of God. In Jesus’ simple command to “make disciples,” He has invited every one of His followers to share the life of Christ with others in a sacrificial, intentional, global effort to multiply the gospel of Christ through others. He never intended to limit this invitation to the most effective communicators, the most brilliant organizers, or the most talented leaders and artists—all the allegedly right people that you and I are prone to exalt in the church. Instead, the Spirit of God has empowered every follower of Christ to accomplish the purpose of God for the glory of God in the world. This includes the so-called wrong people: those who are the least effective, least brilliant, or least talented in the church.

Building the right church, then, is dependent on using all the wrong people.

Manufactured Elements

At one point in Radical, I described the various elements that we in America have manufactured for growing a church.1 I want to revisit the discussion I began there and take it further so we can better explore what a church might look like if it properly valued the wrong people.

It’s commonly assumed that if you and I want to be a part of a growing church today, we need a few simple elements.

First, we need a good performance. In an entertainmentdriven culture, we need someone who can captivate the crowds. If we don’t have a charismatic communicator, we’re sunk from the start. Even if we have to show him on video, we get a good speaker. And for a bonus, we surround the speaker with quality music and arts.

Next, we need a place to hold the crowds who will come. This usually means investing hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars in a facility to house the performance. The more attractive the environment, the better.

Then once the crowds get there, we need something to keep them coming back. So we start programs—first-class, topof-the-line programs—for kids, youth, and families, for every age and stage. And in order to have those programs, we need professionals to run them. That way parents can drop their kids off at the door and the professionals can handle ministry for them. We don’t want people trying this at home.

There it is: a performance at a place filled with programs run by professionals. The problem, though, is the one p we have left out of the equation: the people of God.

People, Not Performances

What if growing the church was never intended to depend on creating a good performance with all the right people on the stage? Where did we get the idea that this was necessary? Certainly Scripture instructs us to gather for worship.2 This is nonnegotiable—but not necessarily in the way we usually think about it.

Imagine being in a church on the other side of the world where it is illegal for the church even to exist. You wait until midnight, when everyone else in the village is asleep, to quietly leave your house. Under the cover of darkness, you sneak down winding roads and past silent houses, looking around every corner to make sure no one is following you. You know that if you or anyone else from your church is caught, you may never see your home again. For that matter, you may never see the light of day again.

Yet you continue on until you round a bend, and there you see a small house with a faint light emanating from it. Checking one last time to make sure you have not been tailed, you slip inside. There you are greeted by a small band of brothers and sisters who have made the same long trek. As you look at their weary but expectant faces, you realize something: not one of them has come because a great communicator has been scheduled to speak. Not one is present because a cool band is scheduled to play. No, all are there simply because they desire to gather with the people of God, and they are willing to risk their lives to be together.

Performance has nothing to do with it. People have everything to do with it.

Whenever I am in churches overseas like the one just depicted, I am reminded of how much we have filled our contemporary worship environments with performance elements such as elaborate stage sets, state-of-the-art sound systems, and high-definition video screens. I am also struck by our reliance upon having just the right speaker and just the right musician who can attract the most people to a worship service. But what if the church itself—the people of God gathered in one place—is intended to be the attraction, regardless of who is teaching or singing that day? This is enough for our brothers and sisters around the world. But is it enough for us?

I am haunted by this question on Sundays as I stand in a nice auditorium with a quality sound system and large video screens on the wall, all designed to spotlight select people on stage. It’s not that everything in this scene is necessarily wrong, but I do wonder what in this scene is biblically best and practically healthy for the people of God. I have more questions than I have answers on this issue, and I am grateful for leaders in our worship ministry who are willing to ask the questions with me.

I mentioned earlier that we recently cut 83 percent of our worship budget. We did this not only to free up resources for urgent needs around the world but also to scale back our emphasis on nonessential elements of corporate worship. We want to focus on ways we can cultivate the best people: a people who love to pray together, fast together, confess sin together, sing together, and study together; a people who depend more on the Word that is spoken than on the one who speaks it; a people who are gripped in music more by the content of the song than by the appeal of the singer; and a people who define worship less by the quality of a slick performance and more by the commitment of a humble people who gather week after week simply to behold the glory of God as they surrender their lives to Him.

Where Will Our Lives Count?

Isn’t this the model of Jesus? During His ministry on earth, He spent more time with twelve men than with everyone else put together. In John 17, where He recounts His ministry before going to the cross, He doesn’t mention the multitudes He preached to or the miracles He performed. As spectacular as those events were, they were not His primary focus. Instead, forty times Jesus speaks to and about the men in whom He had invested His life. They were His focus.

When He came to His ascension, Jesus had no buildings or programs to point to and no crowds to boast of. Indeed, most of the crowds had walked away. Just 120 unschooled, ordinary people were gathered—a small group with a small band of leaders.

And He had given them one command as their commission: make disciples. Do with others what I have done with you, Jesus had said. Don’t sit in a classroom; share your lives. Don’t build extravagant places; build extraordinary people. Make disciples who will make disciples who will make disciples, and together multiply this gospel to all peoples. This is the simple command that was to drive the Church. And this is the simple command that is to drive each of our lives.

I don’t want this command to be treated as optional in my life or in anyone else’s life in the church I pastor. Personally, I have an intentional disciple-making plan that involves sharing life with and multiplying the gospel through my family, a small group of men within our church, and church planters we are sending out from our church. I don’t want to imply that this plan is always smooth in practice or easy to implement. Like you, I am constantly beset by the busyness of life and the responsibilities of leadership, and if I am not careful, disciple-making fades into the background. As a result, I want to act intentionally, for if I forsake the priority of people then I will miss the purpose of God.

Every one of our pastors and church staff has designed similar disciple-making plans. In addition, we help all new members in our church to outline their plans for how they will be involved in making disciples of all nations.3 The key for all of us is an intense desire and intentional effort to make every one of our lives count for the multiplication of the gospel in the world.

Regardless of your place in the Church, remember that you are not intended to be sidelined in the kingdom of God. You may at times feel like the wrong person, thinking you are not gifted enough, smart enough, talented enough, or qualified enough to engage in effective ministry. This is simply not true. You have the Word of God before you, the Spirit of God in you, and the command of God to you: make disciples of all nations. Whether you are a businessman or a businesswoman, a lawyer or a doctor, a consultant or a construction worker, a teacher or a student, an on-the-go professional or an on-the-go stay-at-home mom, I implore you to ask God to make your life count where you live for the spread of the gospel and the declaration of His glory to the ends of the earth.

A Better Way

A house church leader in Asia once wrote how persecution in his country had stripped his church of its resources. Yet, in his mind, this had been a good thing. “We soon found that rather than being weakened by the removal of all external props, we were actually much stronger because our faith in God was purer,” he wrote. “We didn’t have any opportunity to love the ‘things’ of God, so we just learned to love God! We had no plans or programs to keep running, so we just sought the face of Jesus! We don’t believe the world needs another single church building. They need Jesus, and they need to worship and grow in God’s grace with other believers… according to the pattern of the first Church in the New Testament.” Then this house church leader concluded, “When we finally reach the end of all our useless programs and give up in desperation, Jesus will always be there to show us a better way—His way.”4

This is the beauty of the plan of God, particularly when we contrast it with the plans we create that are dependent on performances, places, programs, and professionals. If the spread of the gospel is dependent on these things, we will never reach the ends of the earth. We will never have enough resources, staff, buildings, events, or activities to reach all the people in our community, much less all the peoples in the world.

But we will always have enough people. Even if they seem like the wrong people.

If eleven disciples on a mountain in Galilee were enough to launch the gospel to the ends of the earth, then a church with a handful of members can spread the gospel in and beyond a community, regardless of the amount of material resources it has. The plan of God is certainly not confined to large churches or gifted leaders. The plan of God is for every person among the people of God to count for the advancement of the kingdom of God.

What if each of us were actually making disciples who were making disciples who were making disciples? Is it too idealistic to dream that the church of God, unleashed for the purpose of God, might actually reach the ends of the earth with the gospel? Is that realistic? You bet it is. In fact, it’s guaranteed. Jesus has promised that every nation, tribe, tongue, and people are going to hear the gospel, and it is going to happen through all of us.5

Endnotes
  1. 1 David Platt, Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream (Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah, 2010), 48–50.

    2 Hebrews 10:24–25.

    3 You can find a template for our new member disciple-making plans on our church’s website. Go to http://www.brookhills.org/new/ impact.html and click on “Homework Assignment #3.”
    4 Quoted in Brother Yun, Peter Xu Yongze, and Enoch Wang with Paul Hattaway, Back to Jerusalem (Waynesboro: Gabriel, 2003), 64, 108, 133–4.
    5 Matthew 24:14; Revelation 7:9–10; Romans 10:13–15.

This is an article from the March-April 2019 issue: Movements Everywhere: Why So Few in the West?

MOVEMENTS:  Do We Want Them Badly Enough to Change?

MOVEMENTS:  Do We Want Them Badly Enough to Change?

Do you want a movement of disciple-making and church-planting to take place in your city, where disciples make disciples and churches plant churches faster than the growth in population? How badly do you want it? Do you want it badly enough to change the way you have always done church or lived your own personal spiritual life? Because if you live in the West or employ Western practices of doing church, then you will most likely need to reconsider your ministry practices if you want any hope of seeing a movement develop in your area.

The good news is that Kingdom Movements are taking place all over the world with 707 now counted. The bad news is that only seven movements, yes just seven, are taking place in Western Europe, North America and South America combined. That is barely one percent of the total. This issue answers the question of what we must do to change this situation because what we are currently doing is not working. As Jerry Trousdale and Glenn Sunshine point out in our lead article starting on page 8, the West or Global North has gotten seriously off track from what we need t do in order to see an abundance of movements in our midst.

The “technology” of how movements start and grow is not new. Movements were the norm in the New Testament period when the book of Acts recorded the  amazing spread of the  gospel  after  Jesus’  resurrection. There have been movements throughout church history such as the Wesleyan movement in Britain. The global Church in our day is beginning to rediscover the lost understanding of how we can help foster movements. Unfortunately, the church in the West is still largely oblivious to what God is doing through the 707 Known Kingdom Movements, not knowing that the principles of how movements start and grow can be applied to their local contexts.

THE MOVEMENT KILLERS

The church in the West has developed a way of doing business that kills movements before they ever get started. The charts on pages 14–15 provide a great comparison between the way we typically do ministry in the West and what is typical of how movements work. Study these charts carefully to see where you may need to make changes in the way you think about doing ministry.

In order to see an abundance of movements in the West we will need to rid ourselves of the following movement killers.

Prayerlessness. Our  desire  to see movements to Christ can be measured by how much we pray and fast to see a movement develop. There are certainly exceptional churches and individuals who are real prayer warriors, but we need far more than we have right now. In order for massive prayer and fasting for movements to take place, we will need to have a vision for movements in the first place. When prayer does happen in the church, it is largely focused on the personal needs of the individuals in the church, not on the bigger  picture  of  expanding  God’s kingdom through movements in every people and place. We should not neglect the real needs of believers, but in order to foster movements we must be praying fervently for them to develop. Additional prayer will be difficult for most of us but it is a sacrifice that will pay far more dividends than our currently feeble efforts done in our own strength.

Passivity/Dependency. For most of us in the West,  our  spiritual  lives are centered upon the church we attend. We spend most of our time listening to our pastor or other church leaders. We become passive audience members with  virtually  no  accountability  for  application of what is being taught.  Instead,  the church must become a training center where believers are equipped to carry the gospel to our individual contexts of friends, family and coworkers, not depending on the pastor to do the work of ministry  for us. God has called all of us to  go and make disciples—becoming entrepreneurs of ministry. David Platt makes this change in ministry mindset clear in his wonderful article starting on page 26.

Our Unbiblical Traditions. Over the centuries many ways of doing things have developed in the various churches and denominations. In many cases these traditions have become wonderful ways of helping people learn biblical truth. But other times these traditions or ways of doing things get in the way of applying biblical truth and obeying what Jesus has asked us to do. Obedience to Jesus and his Word must be central to what  we  do. We must not allow our comfortable ways of doing things to get in the way of seeing movements develop. We face the same danger as the Jewish  leaders  in  Jesus’  day  when Jesus said to them in Mark 7:9 (ESV) “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!” Learn the biblical practices that characterize movements and eliminate those practices or traditions that prevent movements from starting.

Building Our Own Kingdom. The article by Michael Breen, An Obituary for the American Church, starting on page 22 points out three devastating problems plaguing the American or Western church. These plagues are celebrity, consumerism and competition. Each of these maladies focuses our attention on building our local church kingdom at the expense of the overall kingdom of God. It is a sad reality that there is virtually no church growth in America today. We are not gaining ground on the overall culture and society. Virtually all church growth in the U.S. is transfer growth where the growing churches are doing so at the expense of other  churches. Are new people getting saved each year? Absolutely! But while new people are coming in the front door others are  leaving  out  the  back.  If we are to see movements to Christ in the West, there will need to be a new spirit of cooperation between churches—where pastors and their church members care more about the growth of Christ’s kingdom than their own. This is a tall order in a society that is so competitive, but   as long as the measures of church/ pastoral success are the size of the facility, the budget and the church attendance, movements will be few and far between.

THE DAUNTING OBSTACLES AHEAD

As we seek to foster movements in every people and place, including the West, we face some unprecedented challenges.

A Culture in Crisis. The Bible and biblical values were the foundation upon which all of Western civilization was established. It used to be that the Judeo-Christian value system was generally accepted  and  supported by the culture—not any more. The cultural hostility towards biblical values and beliefs is no longer subtle, but open and blatant.  Whether  in the realms of politics, entertainment, media or academia—biblical values—and those that hold to them, are greeted by open ostility and derision if not outright persecution. The result of this widespread rejection of biblical truth is a Western culture in crisis and decline.

A Church Unprepared. While  the Western culture is in crisis, the Western church is struggling to cope with unprecedented challenges. You do not have to look very far to see abundant evidence that the  church in the West is fighting to remain relevant to a surrounding culture  that is increasingly looking elsewhere for the answers to life. A 2015 Pew Research study shows an Evangelical church that is barely holding its own with a slight decline while Mainline Protestant and Catholic  churches are experiencing a  major  drop-off in adherents. The fastest growing group is the “Nones”—those people who claim no religious faith at all. The one bright spot in this picture  is that as the cultural  support  for the church wanes so also does the number of cultural or nominal believers. When faced with increased cultural opposition, nominal believers are increasingly placing themselves in the “None” category. What remains is a purer Church  with more true believers willing to pay the price for their allegiance to Jesus. This can be the basis from which the Western church can foster growing movements to Christ, but we will need to change the way we do ministry.

Movements in the West are possible, but we must be courageous enough to recognize where we have fallen short and to embrace the biblical, book of Acts like practices that make movements possible.

This is an article from the March-April 2019 issue: Movements Everywhere: Why So Few in the West?

Global Mission Work is Different for “Digital Natives”

Global Mission Work is Different for “Digital Natives”

It is a privilege for me to be able to travel globally and connect with mission leaders. I have good friends all over the world. I often joke with conference organizers, “THANKS so much for organizing this event so I can meet some of my friends!”

One of the things that those leaders tell me is that they are concerned about some of the newer “digitally native” global workers. Many received their first smart phone as a child. This is different than my married son in his 30s—who is a native computer user—but he doesn’t mess much with a smart phone.

These new workers grew up with a phone in their hand. The vast majority of what they know—real or not—in the world has come through images in their hands. So, as they go, one concern is how they will adjust when “friends” are defined less by proximity and more by social media presence. That feeds into how and what they communicate from the field. In many ways, it redefines what “field” and “home” are—which can be good.

Many do a good job of posting photos of the culture and what it is like to live there, just like their peers back home. And, that can be helpful. But, after a while, it can look to their friends like they are merely on a continual “destination vacation”…so people may wonder “what are they actually doing?”

Some do not produce a regular communication about their work— digital or paper. They don’t seem to share much in the way of prayer requests.

Of course, many agencies require communications and in security related locations, they are smart enough to know that they can’t even post anything on social media.

I’ve found the book, 12 Ways Your Smart Phone is Changing You by Tony Reinke to be helpful. Tony doesn’t tell his readers what to decide, but merely points out the changes in the way we think and act. For example, he points out things like the “addiction to distraction.”

I wrote about the way smart phones are distracting us in our May-June 2017 issue of MF. This time, my focus is on how phones actually change the way we work, learn and adjust. They can impact in good and bad ways. Cultural adjustment is difficult from the start. Will you ever learn a language well if every time you make a mistake or feel embarrassed with a cultural miscue, you turn to Instagram or Facebook? Can you exercise diligent focus on something that is new and disruptive to you?

The social media platforms are specifically designed to keep you on them. High paid developers spend their lives keeping you on Facebook for five more minutes. They also tend to make people all look great. People don’t post photos when they are crying or suffering (usually). It seems like everyone is always having a better day than you–till it is your turn to post something.

One group trying to make a difference in  training  the next generation of workers in Radius International (http://www.radiusinternational.org). They do intensive, immersive nine month pre-field training for workers going to Unreached Groups around the world. Among many elements of their training, like living in tight quarters, they do not allow them to have a mobile phone—smart or otherwise—except for one call to their family on Sundays each week.

Some from this training have found it hugely beneficial in helping new younger workers “detox” from the constant distractions of smart phones. That learned ability to focus has helped several I am aware of learn language and culture better.

There is no question that it is more challenging and complicated for everyone engaged in any kind of mission work to communicate well to those who pray and give—partly because the prayers and givers are distracted too!

Think about this for yourself (as well as those you are mentoring/discipling):

  • How much time do you spend on distractions (be careful as you define that)?
  • How easily are you distracted? Do you (like me) often forget why you picked up your phone?
  • Is it distracting you from time in the Word of God or in prayer? Do you spend more time playing games or on social media than in the disciplines of faith?

If you have a suggestion, we might use your ideas in our upcoming podcast– focused on various themes of interest to globally-minded servants around the world.

This is an article from the March-April 2019 issue: Movements Everywhere: Why So Few in the West?

What Harm Could Come From Purchasing Just One Airline Ticket?

What Harm Could Come From Purchasing Just One Airline Ticket?

My friend Emmanuel,* a local Haitian Christian leader, had held two conferences at a local Haitian church. On both occasions, Pastor Evens* readily covered the costs for Emmanuel’s travel, food, and service. It made complete sense to Pastor Emmanuel that a local Haitian church should use their own resources to cover expenses for services offered by one of their own.

In the mix of these healthy Haitian relationships and local ministries, a Canadian Christian organization invited Emmanuel to come to Canada for a one-week international mission conference. They offered to pay his flight, ground transportation, and the conference expenses. Emmanuel agreed to honor the invitation. Emmanuel borrowed money from others in Haiti to pay for incidentals and food outside of the conference.

Eventually, Emmanuel returned from the conference and all seemed well—that is until he was ready to serve in pastor Evens’ church again. Listen in on the conversation between Evens and Emmanuel:

Evangelist Emmanuel: “Hello, Pastor Evens! I am about to board a bus to come to your church. I will need to be reimbursed for my travel expenses since I have no money on hand at this time.”

Pastor Evens: “I don’t understand. You just returned from a conference in Canada based on an invitation by a large mission organization. It cost a lot of money for you to go there. How could you not have any money?”

Ouch! The unintended consequences of injecting seemingly harmless foreign resources surfaced fast and furious. The ironic thing is that Emmanuel was actually in debt from his trip to Canada because he had to borrow money for incidentals.

In conversation, Emmanuel expressed to me that saying “yes” to one subsidized international airline ticket caused his peers to perceive him as an outsider rather than a credible insider. And others now counted him among those who had a foreign patron and his new link to Western funding should somehow trickle down to them.

Emmanuel now realized he needed to use caution when accepting offers from international Christians, churches and organizations. Unfortunately, he had to learn the hard way.

Western mission and church organizations love to invite church leaders from developing countries to come to their homelands to participate in conferences, fundraising campaigns, special trainings, fellowship and even rest and recreation. They see it as a way to honor their so-called global mission partners with an opportunity to participate in something they hope will be special for everyone. As illustrated by the account of Emmanuel and Evens, there is a thorny side to these invitations and charitable gifts that make it all happen. 

Jean Johnson, in her book Standing On Our Own Feet Workbook, shares about twelve types of giving that can easily destroy dignity. One of those types of giving is:

Giving that creates division: This form of giving sows jealousy and competition among local churches and people that would not have been there without artificial infection of money and influence from the outside.

I am fairly sure the organization that invited Emmanuel to Canada will never even hear about how their invitation and subsidy made Emmanuel and Evens stumble in disillusionment, nor about other thorny repercussions.  

The apostle John wrote, “Anyone who loves a fellow believer is living in the light and does not cause others to stumble.” (1 John 2:10) The most loving action we can give those around the world is to discover ways to allow leaders to be firmly planted in their own nations—making room for them to mobilize local resources, create indigenous ways to meet and train and support one another.

Notes: *Not their real names. Jean Johnson, Standing On Our Own Feet Workbook (Xulon Press: Maitland, FL, 2018), 78.

 

  

This is an article from the March-April 2019 issue: Movements Everywhere: Why So Few in the West?

An Obituary for the American Church

An Obituary for the American Church

From time to time I will have the people I’m discipling write out their own pastoral obituary. I ask them to write out how our enemy would take them out, rendering them unable to serve their family and communities. As you can imagine, the answers vary, but it always serves as a really helpful exercise as they are forced to confront issues of character, etc.

Taking this same exercise I’ve used with pastors, for the past year I’ve been thinking how the enemy would/might be trying to take down the American church. Now what I’ve noticed is that the original temptations Jesus faced (which can best be boiled down to Affirmation, Appetite and Ambition) are somehow warped and insinuated into the culture. As each culture is distinct and different, a smart enemy would come at each culture in subtle ways, tempting them in ways they don’t see or expect, and with things that would look different from culture to culture.

For instance, the issues the European church deals with are actually quite different than the ones the American church is dealing with…even though often times they are put under the same broad umbrella of “Western Church.” Sure, there are some similarities, but the attack is different. More nuanced.

But those original temptations of Affirmation, Appetite and Ambition are slowly insinuating themselves into everything we call CHURCH. We just often don’t recognize it or see it.

This is how, if our enemy gets his way, the American church could be taken out:

A culture of CELEBRITY (affirmation)

A culture of CONSUMERISM (appetite)

A culture of COMPETITION (ambition)

CELEBRITY

The idea of celebrity is deeply woven into American culture and values. All you have to do is look at the ridiculous nature of reality TV and you see how Americans are constantly craving celebrity (either to be a celebrity or to find the next celebrity and stalk their every move). Now there is nothing dark or sinister about “celebrity” in and of itself. You can’t find an argument that says Jesus wasn’t a huge celebrity in His day.

However, there is a difference between being famous and being significant. If Jesus was famous, it’s because He was doing something significant. The problem with many pastors is they make decisions, develop personas and define success from the lens of what will make them a celebrity/famous (even if they don’t know it or see that they are doing this). In American church culture, it’s pretty easy to become a celebrity: grow a HUGE church. Now all in all, it’s not terribly difficult to grow to be a giant church if you have the right tools at your disposal…but that doesn’t mean the ends justify the means of getting there.

For instance, though Jesus was a celebrity in His day, He was willing to say things that ran people off in droves. In fact, the book of Mark chronicles the way (from about the mid-point of the book on) people left Jesus to where, at the end, virtually no one was left. NO ONE wants to be associated with him for fear of the consequences. That’s not something you see too often in American churches.

I suspect it’s because driven deeply into the American psyche is the desire to be a celebrity. And American pastors are very susceptible to this. Many subtle things happen in people who desire this kind of celebrity status:

  • They can disengage from the community and isolate themselves, setting themselves up for moral failure.
  • They can make decisions that are numbers driven and not always kingdom driven.
  • They can skew to a shallow understanding of the gospel as opposed to a holistic one that leads people to discipleship.
  • They can put the good of their church (their personal kingdom) over the good of God’s Kingdom.

Question: In what ways are your decisions made by a subtle undercurrent of ambition and a hope for celebrity?

CONSUMERISM

We live in a culture that revolves around consuming. Every TV commercial, every store, every credit card company, every bank, every TV show or movie, every piece of clothing, car or product, every website, every restaurant…everything is tailored to fit your desires, needs or personal preference. We are easily infuriated when things don’t happen exactly as we want them. We exist in a place that implicitly says this: “We are here to serve you and meet your every whim and desire. Let us take care of you.” What’s more, it’s never enough.

Eventually the house or the car get older and we want new ones. The clothes aren’t as fashionable and we want something more in style. That restaurant is getting boring, we must find another. Our favorite TV show is wearing thin, so the search begins for the next favorite. And on and on and on. This is how we are wired to think in the United States and it is all backed up by this rationale: you’re worth it. You deserve to have what you want, how you want it, when you want it. And for the most part, the church plays the exact same game.

We do the best we can to provide as comfortable an experience as humanly possible, using every means at our disposal to attract them in (and then keep them in). We tailor what we do around their wants and desires. That’s Marketing 101, right? The problem is at the end of the day, the only thing that Jesus is counting is disciples. That’s it. He doesn’t seem to care too much about converts, attendance, budgets or buildings. It’s about disciples. And, by nature, disciples are producers, not consumers.

Yet most of our churches are built around feeding consumers. I’d argue 90% of the Church’s time, energy and resources are linked to this. But the issue is this: the means you use to attract people to you are usually the means you must use to keep them. In other words, if you use consumerism to attract them to your church, it often means you must continue using it to keep them…or else they will find another church who will meet their “needs.” And yet, that consumer mentality is antithetical to the gospel and to the call of discipleship.

Disciples aren’t consumers, they are producers. Jesus cared about disciples more than anything else.

Question: In what ways is your church community using consumerism as the means to draw people to a gospel that is, in and of itself, anti-consumerism?

COMPETITION

You will never find a more hyper-competitive culture than you do in the United States. As a foreigner living in this land, I can attest to that with the utmost respect. Americans love to win, they love the struggle of the journey and love holding up the gold medal of victory. Now don’t hear me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with being competitive, it’s just how competition has become warped and twisted within our culture. And it’s that, at least in the Church, where we are competitive about the wrong things.

Much of the American church finds itself competing with the church down the road. “Are we bigger than them? Do we have more influence than them? Do we have the best/ biggest youth group in town? Do people like to get married in our church building? Do people like our church better than theirs?” The fact of the matter is that there is a battle, we do have an enemy and we should be competitive…but against our enemy! What we haven’t seen is how crafty he is. This seems to be the alliance he has struck with the American church: “I’ll let a good chunk of your churches grow…just not at the expense of my territory.“

What happens? 96% of church growth is due to transfer growth and not churches striking into the heart of our enemy’s territory. We’ll consider it a win because we have the new service or program that is growing, but that growth is mainly from people coming from other churches. That’s not a win! That’s a staggering loss. Furthermore, for many pastors, we don’t think we’ve won until we’ve won AND someone else has lost. Seriously?! For sure, we have an enemy and we should be competitive, but we should be competing against our enemy, knowing that the final battle has already been won, and not competing against our own team members. So gifted and skilled is our enemy, so conniving is he, that he has convinced us that beating the people on our own team is victory while he stands back and laughs, rarely having to ever engage in conflict, protecting his territory. He is beating us with a slight of hand, with a clever distraction, turning us against ourselves.

Question: In what ways are you competing (both in actuality or simply in your mind) against people who are on your own team?

In all honesty, it isn’t that the American church will ever truly die or cease to exist. It will always be there. But it is entirely possible that if these three critical issues aren’t addressed and dealt with, it will be a hollow shell that is spiritually listless.

If we think through Celebrity, Consumerism and Competition, the anti-body against all of these is sacrifice. Learning to lay down what builds us up and giving to others instead. Learning to serve, rather than to be served. Looking for anonymity rather than celebrity. To build a culture of producers rather than one of consumers. To live in a vibrant, sacrificial community fighting a real enemy rather than competing against the same community God has given us to fight WITH rather than AGAINST. It’s about sacrificing what we want for the glory of God and the advancement of His Kingdom, regardless of our advancement or desires.

Clearly this is what Paul was getting after in Philippians 2:6-11 when describing the attitude of Jesus as taking on the attitude of a servant, willing to sacrifice all acclaim and equality with God. It was a willingness to set aside and sacrifice celebrity, consumerism and competition at the altar of the incarnation.

Fifty years ago, as these three subtle threads were being woven into the American church, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. serving as a prophetic voice, said this:

If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century.  

This is an article from the March-April 2019 issue: Movements Everywhere: Why So Few in the West?

24:14 Goal - Leadership Lessons

Movement Wisdom from an Asian CPM Leader

24:14 Goal - Leadership Lessons

Sam* is the national leader of a large six-year-old Church Planting Movement in South Asia. He shared with me a summary of lessons they have learned and applied in their ministry. When he finished, I asked him, “Are these lessons about movement leadership too difficult for less educated people to really grasp?” He responded, “No, actually I learned all these things from the ground level leaders (M, J, R, and others who can’t read)!”

The Lord loves to bless those who speak and act in humble faith (as we see in Acts 4:13). Here are highlights of this movement’s leadership principles.

  1. Be very clear about money matters. Be honest and transparent about this with leadership. It’s such an important issue.
  2. All leaders must love each other. This is the Lord’s command. (John 15:17) When leaders meet together they must show love to one another, no matter how much or little fruit they are seeing. We are all on the same team and should not compare results. Mutual encouragement happens when you celebrate everyone’s successes, primarily led by top leadership and modeled that way.
  3. When leadership groups meet, we ask about their challenges. Sometimes they say: “Everything is good; really no challenges.” If a leader is not sharing their troubles, they are confused about what is success and what is not. A good leader will share both successes and challenges. This shows trustworthiness.
  4. When you think the ministry is growing, you should distribute more responsibility to leaders. Some leaders won’t distribute responsibility and this is a great hindrance to the kind of growth and multiplication the Lord wants to bring. It shows too high a view of oneself and too low a view of others.
  5. In the past, we did 1.5 day trainings and one day trainings, always attended by Gen 0 and Gen 1 leaders but never by younger leaders. Now we only do three-to-five-hour trainings in one day in smaller groups, and people are sent home the same day. Gatherings of small groups not staying overnight receive much less attention. This helps with security concerns and allows us to connect to the deeper generational leaders.
  6. When we are starting something new, we are thinking about the end vision. We make decisions in light of our goal (end vision). It keeps us on track. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “Run in such a way as to get the prize….we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly.” (1 Cor. 9:24-26; see also Heb. 12:2; 2 Tim. 2:4-6) 
  7. We teach our leaders that things will never stay the same. Changes will be needed; flexibility is required. We don’t need to change movement principles but we need to adjust applications along the way because nothing stays the same. We need to listen to what the Father is saying and follow it as Jesus did. (John 5:19; 17:4; 20:21) Listening to the Lord will guide us through any needed changes.
  8. We don’t always need to find good people. Sometimes we need to connect with bad people too. I cannot find the same person as I am. Each person who becomes a leader will be different from me. It’s my responsibility to help them become mature as a disciple-maker. It’s not essential that every believer be a good leader.

If we spend time with them, they can become a good man or woman in the Lord. As Paul wrote, “Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly.” (1 Tim. 1:13-14a, see also through v. 16)

  1. A mentor should believe in his disciple. I have to trust my disciple. We see this in the ministries of Jesus (Luke 10:1; John 4:2; Luke 22:31-32), Barnabas (Acts 9:2628) and Paul (1 Tim. 1:18, 2 Tim. 2:2, 1 Cor. 4:17). This is part of leading lovingly: to always protect, trust, hope, and persevere. (1 Cor. 13:7)
  2. If I have a bad experience with someone, I need to come out from under that and not get stuck in it. Get out of the situation and let it go. Leave that place and that person and tell them, “I am trusting you to Jesus.” Pray for them, but know when it’s time to move on. Both Jesus (Matt.10:14) and Paul (Titus 3:10-11) warn us not to get stuck in unfruitful relationships.
  3. I can’t let my disciple lean on me too much, but instead I help him to lean on Jesus. I don’t need all the answers. Jesus has all the answers. Jesus is the only rock on which we build. (Matt. 7:24-27) As He said, “They will all be taught by God. Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from Him comes to Me.” (John 6:45) I mustn’t aim to build my empire, only God’s kingdom. This is not about me. It’s not about my glory. I am to do the task God has given me; it’s God’s job to make things grow. (1 Cor. 3:1-7) I aim to make disciples of Jesus (Matt 28:19), not disciples of myself.
  4. Every mentor should be teaching the Bible, not personal ideas about the Bible (as the Pharisees did—Matt. 15:1-9). The Scripture itself is the tool God intends to use. (Heb. 4:12) It is useful to thoroughly equip God’s servants for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16-17) We see this pattern modeled for us in Paul’s mentoring of Timothy. (1 Tim. 4: 1-16)
  5. God chose us for this work, so we must hear from Him about doing this work wherever He sends us. (Eph. 2:10) I must listen and obey Him. I must apply first before I can share with others. (James 1:22-25)
  6. Don’t try to be part of a big crowd. The crowd is not important. Never try to win a crowd; try to win one family or one house church. Then they will become a crowd one day by reaching many other families.

Only one DBS (Discovery Bible Study) is needed to reach a great many. Focusing on a crowd will not reach one family, but one family can reach a crowd. Beginning in Genesis, God established the pattern of reaching many through one family. (Gen. 12:1-3, 28:14) Jesus modeled knowing when to prioritize a small group over a crowd. (Mark 7:16-18)

  1. Treat time as important; invest your time wisely. The psalmist calls us to “number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Ps. 90:12) The teacher informs us that, “There is a time for everything.” (Eccl. 3:1-8) Jesus says we must work while there is daylight. (John 9:4) And the apostle Paul commands all believers. “Be very careful, then, how you live— not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” (Eph. 5:15-16)
  2. A movement must touch every group. If we are not reaching a particular people group in our sphere of influence, we must pray about that and ask God what He wants us to do. He will give us a way to reach them. His care for all peoples is mentioned throughout Scripture, for example in Ps. 22:27; 47:1; 72:11; Matt. 24:14; 28:19; 1 Cor. 9:19-23; 1 Tim. 2:1-6 and Rev. 15:4.
  3. When we have God’s strategy, no one can stop it. Use the wisdom He has given and follow His commands. The Bible teaches us this over and over. For example, in Josh. 1:7-9; Ps. 37:4-6; Prov. 3:5-6; 14:12, John 5:19-20 and James 1:5.
  4. Sometimes we get proud of what we’ve been doing. Pride is a dangerous thing. I don’t need to be proud about my work or what I’ve done. Leaders must remain humble and always be teachable. This is proverbial wisdom, the command and example of Jesus and the teaching of the apostles. (Prov. 13:10; John 15:5; 13:3-17; 1 Cor. 3:5-8; 2 Cor. 3:5; Phil 2:3-11; James 4:6-16)
  5. You have to respect yourself, respect your family and respect others. Sometimes leaders only focus on the ministry but not the family. Those folks will get stopped along the way and will not be healthy. Personal and family health are very important for truly succeeding in ministry. This can be seen in biblical commands for the household (Deut. 6:4-7; 1 Tim. 5:8) and the criteria given for choosing leaders. (Titus 1:6-7; 1 Tim. 3:4-5).

* pseudonym


 

This is an article from the March-April 2019 issue: Movements Everywhere: Why So Few in the West?

Getting Kingdom Right To Get Church Right

Getting Kingdom Right To Get Church Right

What comes to your mind when you hear about a movement of God in which almost 200 churches were started within three years in a remote people group? 

What comes to your mind when you hear about a movement of God in which 150,000 urban and rural churches were started in a ten-year span?1

Incredulity may be your first response, perhaps followed by suspicion or excitement. Yet Church Planting Movements (CPMs) like these are spreading around the world in all types of cultures and religious worldviews. In these movements, successive generations of disciples and churches move consistently past the 4thth generation in a short duration of time.

These movements sound foreign to many of us who have lived in more traditional churches where the kingdom has been established for centuries. But CPM-like movements are not simply a modern phenomenon. They have characterized the kingdom of God from Acts onward throughout church history. 

Both Scripture and church history demonstrate that our Father wants such movements to be the norm when the Lord’s Prayer is fulfilled: “May your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven!” 

Get Kingdom Right to get Church Right

 As disciples throughout history have made it their priority to see the kingdom explode among lost populations, they have often seen churches multiply rapidly generation by generation through ordinary new believers. Unfortunately, as churches become established, a tendency emerges to consolidate efforts and focus more on the church development than on kingdom expansion. Which priority is right? Kingdom first or church first? Both are important, but to get church right, we must get kingdom right. 

Gospels: The Priority of the Kingdom

Jesus’ entire ministry was focused on initiating the kingdom of God. He used the word “kingdom” over 100 times, while He used the word “church” only twice. His first words in Mark were about the kingdom: 

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”(Mark 1:15, NASB) 

The word “repent” means to change your whole way of thinking. The present tense signifies a continuous action— “keep on changing your whole way of thinking.” Jesus was launching a kingdom so radical in nature that we must realign our whole concept of what God wants to do in and through us, especially in how He will do it. This includes how we live as Church. 

Jesus’ central prayer was about the kingdom: 

“9Pray, then, in this way:  Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.

10’Your kingdom come, Your will be done,  On earth as it is in heaven.’” (Matt. 6:9-10, NASB) 

Jesus taught us to pray that our city, neighborhood, nation or people group will so reflect His glory and reign that it is like heaven on earth. Does Jesus ask us to pray for something that He doesn’t intend to fulfill? God is not satisfied with a handful of believers, small groups or churches in a people group or city. His vision is for a multitude of people worshipping Him from every people group. 

Jesus’ central mission was about the kingdom: 

“This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.”(Matt. 24:14, NASB)

 Everything in history is moving toward this final destination. His final teaching in Acts was about the kingdom: 

“To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God.”(Acts 1:3, NASB)

 Jesus’ first, central and last words were about establishing the reign of the King. They summed up His life mission. His mission must be our mission. 

Acts:

Establishing the Kingdom Through the Church

In Acts, the word “church” is used twice as much as the word “kingdom.” The next progression in Jesus’ strategy to establish His kingdom on earth was taking place—planting multiplying churches as agents of His kingdom coming on earth.

 But clear in the thinking of the early disciples was the priority of establishing the kingdom through the church. Their priority was still the King and reaching the lost through expanding His kingdom. For example: 

And he [Paul] entered the synagogue and continued speaking out boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. . . . He withdrew from [the synagogue] and took away the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. This took place for two years, so that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks. (Acts 19:8-10 NASB) 

The result was that many churches were established as the kingdom was established. In the one movement above in Acts 19, most likely dozens of churches or more were started in this Roman province called Asia—churches that matured deeply and spread rapidly. Most scholars agree that in this two-year span of time the seven churches of Revelation were started by new disciples like Epaphras in Colossae (Col. 1:7). 

Even the closing words of Acts are about the kingdom: 

And he stayed two full years in his own rented quarters and was welcoming all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered. (Acts 28:30-31, NASB)

From the beginning to the end of Jesus’ ministry His focus, both personally and through His disciples, was on the King’s reign. 

Jesus knew that if we could get the kingdom (King-reign) right, we would get church right. 

Romans to Revelation:

A Balanced Approach and a Caution

The word “church” is used more in Romans to Revelation, almost three times as much as the word “kingdom.” Yet we continue to get a balance of expanding the kingdom while establishing the church. The vision of the Lord’s Prayer continues to imbue the New Testament church and the paradigms of church are subjected to the needs of the kingdom. In Revelation one church is praised that its latter works exceeded its first (Rev. 2:19), while others are chastised for losing their vision and love for the King (Rev. 2:4). This latter church was the Ephesian church which saw such explosive growth decades earlier in Acts 19 cited above. 

There is a lesson here for us: It is easy for churches to subtly shift their focus from the King and His kingdom, often becoming obsessed with themselves and their own successes, structures or traditions. The church then and today is in danger of repeating the mistakes that Jesus chastised the Jewish leaders for:

“And he said to them, ‘You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!’” (Mark 7:9 ESV) 

How easy it is for us to elevate the church along with our structures, programs and traditions above the vision of knowing the King and establishing His kingdom. We easily lose sight of the end-vision. When we focus on church first, we get kingdom wrong. 

Why Church?

Yet make no mistake: Church is at the heart of God’s kingdom plan! It is not either church or kingdom. It is both. When the Church submits herself to the King and His kingdom ways, then the Church emerges in all her intended glory!

God’s plan from the beginning was to sum up everything in heaven under His son Jesus: 

God has now revealed to us his mysterious plan regarding Christ, a plan to fulfill his own good pleasure. And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth. (Eph. 1:9-10 NLT) 

Yet God’s plan has always been to fill the universe with His glory through the church, the bride of Christ and body of Christ: 

And He put all things under His feet and gave Him as head over all things to the Church, which is His body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (Eph. 1:22-23 ESV) 

The Church was meant to be the agent of filling the whole earth with the glory of God—His King-reign—as the body. The Church was meant to be the eternal companion of the Son as the bride. Ephesians 5 and Revelation 19-21 present a glorious picture of the Church being presented to the Son spotless and radiant. All of history is moving toward the preparation and presentation of this bride to the Son. 

This is why we focus unquestionably on Church Planting Movements, not simply people movements. We don’t start churches because this is the most pragmatic way to reach people. We start churches because this is God’s plan in His eternal kingdom. 

In fact, starting churches is intensely pragmatic, but that is the beauty of God’s design in establishing the church as a visible expression and means of His kingdom. It is easy for new believers to lose headway in their spiritual growth if they are not incorporated as a part of the precious body of Christ locally.

What Will it Take to Reach All of the Lost?

Church Planting Movements

The history of the church from Acts to the present is replete with new movements of multiplying disciples and churches. Throughout history, men and women, burdened with the question, “What will it take to reach all of the lost?” have subjected their preferences, traditions and paradigms to the vision of kingdom expansion. 

In an age in which the evangelism of most established churches and denominations lag far behind population growth, fresh examination is required to answer that simple question: “What will it take to reach all of the lost in our generation?” Believers from all traditions must cry out to the Heavenly Father with the same humble desperation of that first prayer: “Father, cause your kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven!” 

There are places in the world in which the numbers of new disciples and churches are growing faster than the pace of local population, or showing signs of moving in that direction. These Church Planting Movements in their varicolored hues recall to us the vision of kingdom come and the spirit of Acts. They hearken back to historical movements such as the Wesleyan movement or early Baptist church-planting. Only through movements in which, through the priesthood of the believer, each disciple carries the DNA and authority to pass on what he or she has learned and can train others to do the same, will we see the lost reached in our generation. 

Sacrificing Paradigms of Church for the Kingdom

Yet in all movements, questions arise about the new forms, the new church paradigms, the new methods, the new ways. Whether the Apostle Paul or John Wesley, these paradigms are initially derided by the established Church. But through sheer endurance and lasting fruit, many of these paradigms eventually become the norm. Too often what is radical today is commonplace tomorrow. 

Historically, the leaders of these movements have sacrificed their expectations, paradigms and structures for the good of the kingdom. Their desire to see the kingdom come and the Word obeyed has challenged them to surrender their ways of doing things to the Spirit’s leadership. They have been more preoccupied with building the kingdom than on perpetuating a particular model of doing church. Their goal has not been a perfect model of church but a perfect spread of the kingdom. 

There is no uniform biblical model of what a church must be. We see numerous examples of culturally adapted models in the Scriptures. There is room for a number of types of churches fulfilling unique roles in each society.

In pursuing the vision of the Lord’s Prayer, however, for the sake of reaching all of the lost, we often advocate reproducible churches that can spread endlessly through a society by the hands of ordinary believers led by the Spirit. 

The Spirit is moving in powerful ways around the world. We are always in the same danger that the religious leaders of Jesus’ day faced, of hardening our methods and structures against the Spirit: 

“Neither is new wine put into  old  wineskins.  If  it  is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.”(Matt. 9:17 ESV) 

The church is in ferment around the world because the wine of the Spirit is in ferment. Our first desire must be the Spirit of the King and His kingdom come. Let us adjust our structures to what He directs by the Word in each new community. Let us not become hardened, self-focused and brittle. Rather let us be inspired in these pages to sacrifice our paradigms to the spread of His kingdom in every people! 

This is an article from the March-April 2019 issue: Movements Everywhere: Why So Few in the West?

Remembering Don Richardson

June 23, 1935–December 23, 2018 Tribute to a Pioneer Missionary, Author & Great Commission Statesman

Remembering Don Richardson

A runner all his life, missionary influencer and pace-setter Don Richardson completed his life’s race in Orlando, Florida, in Orlando, Florida, ten months after his diagnosis with brain cancer.

The oldest of four boys, Don spent his early years in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. His father moved the family to Victoria, British Columbia, in the hopes of securing a more promising future for them, before his own death to Hodgkin’s disease when Don was 11. Don’s life direction was set as a teen when he gave his life to Christ at a 1952 Youth for Christ rally. He subsequently met Carol Joy Soderstrom while training for ministry at Prairie Bible Institute in Alberta. They were lovingly married for 43 years until her death in 2004.

In 1962, Don and Carol embarked with six-month-old Stephen on a missionary career in Netherlands New Guinea (now Papua, Indonesia) under the sponsorship of Regions Beyond Missionary Union (now World Team). They served for 15 years among the Sawi, a stone-age tribe of cannibal headhunters who idealized treachery. Don and Carol planted churches, designed an alphabet, taught the Sawi to read, and translated the New Testament into their native tongue. In time, and with the involvement of several missionary co-workers, many of the Sawi came to Christ. The gospel replaced warring and headhunting with peace and good will.

In the early 1970s, Dr. Ralph Winter, then a professor at Fuller Seminary’s School of World Mission, heard Don speak at a church service. “You’ve got to write a book,” Ralph urged Don afterward. “I’ll contact a publisher for you!”

Back in the jungles of Papua, Don documented the Gospel’s breakthrough among the Sawi people in his first book Peace Child (Regal Books, 1974). Selected as a Reader’s Digest condensed book upon publication, Peace Child immediately became a best seller. A similarly named companion film featuring Don and Carol quickly became a staple at mission conferences across North America.

Don’s second book, Lords of the Earth (Regal Books, 1977), recounted the martyrdom of two missionary co-workers, a dramatic plane crash, and the discovery of yet another “redemptive analogy” – stone-encircled “places of refuge” – among the war-like Yali tribe.

Don’s third book, Eternity in Their Hearts, documented how the concept of a supreme God has existed for centuries in hundreds of cultures around the world. The book soon became “required reading” in seminaries and Bible colleges. Christians worldwide were inspired afresh by the notion that God has “prepared the gospel for the world,” and “the world for the gospel.”

In 1977 Don began serving as World Team’s ministerat-large, speaking at dozens of events each year in North America and worldwide. The Richardsons moved to Pasadena, CA, joining Ralph and Roberta Winter to assist in the founding of the U.S. Center for World Mission. With the emergence of the “Perspectives on the World Christian Movement” course, Don became a frequent contributing lecturer, a role he relished for 40 years.

Don was an ordained pastor and held an honorary doctorate of literature from Biola University. After Carol Joy’s passing in 2004, Don eventually met and married Carol Joyce Abraham, with whom he moved to Orlando and enjoyed ongoing fruitful ministry.

Don’s books and teachings have helped to shape missions discourse and influence two generations toward whole-hearted engagement in the Great Commission. Don’s subsequent titles, including Secrets of the KoranHeaven Wins, and A Man from Another World explore other arenas of theological and cosmological interest. A short inspirational film called Never the Same explores the ongoing impact of the gospel 50 years after Don and Carol’s arrival among the Sawi people.

In addition to his public ministry, Don enjoyed painting scenes of tribal life in New Guinea, tournament chess, running, summiting 33 “fourteeners” (peaks rising above 14,000 feet), and spending time with his beloved family. Don’s four children have also been involved in missions, three of them in Indonesia. Don’s son Steve serves as President of Orlando-based Pioneers.

Don’s memorial service, a memorial fund benefitting the next generation of Papuan church leaders and missionaries, and a fascinating trove of historical photos and tribal paintings can be viewed at a website provided by the family: peacechildlegacy.com.

 

I received my call to missions at Urbana ’79, but it was the books and messages of Don Richardson that fanned the flames of my growing mission vision over the 10 years between my call and the start of my missions career with Frontier Ventures. His books fed and nurtured my understanding of the missionary task. Whenever I read Gen. 12:1-3, I think of Don and the wonderfully engaging way he had of connecting people to that promise made to Abraham and our responsibility today to bring the blessings of God to all peoples. No one this side of heaven can measure the tremendous impact that Don had in helping to launch and foster the frontier mission movement. He will be greatly missed.

—Rick Wood, Editor, Mission Frontiers

 

“I remember reading ‘Eternity in Their Hearts’ somewhere before we went to work in the Muslim world. Don’s approach to looking for what I would later call the fingerprints of God in other cultures was, for me, profoundly worldview altering. I know in his later years our views of how God might work among Muslims differed, but I remain deeply indebted and grateful to Don for many of my own missiological instincts. He shaped my ministry.”

—Dr. Kevin Higgins, General Director, Frontier Ventures

 

 

 

This is an article from the March-April 2019 issue: Movements Everywhere: Why So Few in the West?

Celebrating Small Wins Will Get You to the End Game

Celebrating Small Wins Will Get You to the End Game

“I haven’t started a DMM yet, so I am not qualified to teach about this,” she said.  My friend saw herself as someone who had not yet “arrived” in the world of Disciple Making Movements. The group of house churches this amazing missionary started only reached the third generation. She was an effective disciple-maker.  Her disciples were certainly making other disciples.  She embodied both the DNA and the vision to see movements launched.

“Is the bar too high?” I wondered after hearing her say this . “After all, there are less than 700 movements in the world.” Those movement leaders are busy training leaders within their movement’s streams.  Somebody has to teach about the multiplication of disciples and DMMs!” Why not her?

I understand my friend’s logic. I am a believer in the principle “Do First - Then Teach.” There are other factors to consider though. The indicators we have created for measuring a Disciple Making Movement’s growth are not the only ways to measure success.

“It has to have reached the fourth generation,” we say.

“They should multiply 100 groups within three years” is another one.  These are important factors to track and She measure.  No argument there.  The question remains. Are they truly what we should be looking at as we measure and success in moving toward a Disciple Making Movement?

Be Careful of Unhealthy Legalism

 Fixation on benchmarks like these can cause an unhealthy legalism.  It throws us into the “shoulds.”  Instead of enjoying the divine process of multiplication as it unfolds, we feel stressed. We may even experience a sense of hopelessness after years of effort.  It’s likely we may question whether a Disciple Making Movement can ever happen through us. At times, these DMM benchmarks feel quite burdensome.

It is easy to focus on what is not happening, failing to celebrate what is.  This is not God’s design for us as DMM  practitioners.  In pursuing the multiplication of churches among the unreached, we must learn to celebrate small but significant wins. At the same time, we constantly pursue the God-sized goal of launching something that becomes a multi-generational movement of disciples, one that is absolutely unstoppable.

A DMM “Failure” in the Slums of India

We lived in a small city in India.  It was small by Indian standards at least.  The population was around a million people. Our city contained many slum communities.  The desperately poor built makeshift homes beside railroad tracks and rivers. It was there that land was available and they constructed makeshift homes. Their need for physical help was desperate.  Even greater was the tremendous spiritual need.  They were lost and dying, having never heard about the love of their Creator.

I knew God was calling me to shine His light in those communities, to share His salvation.  Being a DMM practitioner, my natural goal was to start a movement of fellowships in the slum neighborhoods.  Radical multiplication of kingdom followers was what it would take to bring transformation to those dark parts of our city.  Without genuine disciples being made, there was little hope that our community development efforts would bring lasting change.  A movement was needed.

I will give you a spoiler alert.  We didn’t start a movement that reached the fourth generation within three years. We saw those started elsewhere. They have taken off in a number of places where I trained and coached people. We’d seen it happen in Nepal. But a movement didn’t start in the slums.  Did that mean I was a failure as a DMM practitioner?  Was I still qualified to train, speak and write about Disciple Making Movements? 

We saw many amazing things happen among the needy there.  As our team prayed for the sick, people were healed. They gave their lives to Jesus.  We started fellowships. People who had no prior knowledge of Jesus became faithful disciples.  They shared Christ with their neighbors and relatives.  We taught Bible parables and they learned those stories well.  They passed them on to others. 

Some of the disciples started new groups as brothers, uncles or sisters came to faith.  Widows were fed and cared for by local believers. That had never happened before in their localities. Suicidal women in abusive marriages were rescued and stopped from setting themselves on fire.  People who were former Shiva worshipers fell in love with Jesus and began to write songs of worship to Him. Local leaders were trained and empowered.  Contextual weddings took place.  God definitely worked there.  But we didn’t reach the fourth generation.  Was our effort a flop?  I think not.

Though what we dreamed to see in that place has not yet happened, we learned to celebrate small victories.  We came to understand that those “wins” mattered to both us and God.  Evaluation never stopped. We never stopped pursuing the goal that one day the movement would take off into radical multiplication that swept through the city, taking it by storm.  But we refused to measure ourselves only by superficial standards Jesus never created.  Instead, we rejoiced in what God had miraculously done through us there.  And in faith, we looked forward to what He was yet to do.

What Disciple Making Movement Success is Not

Success as a DMM practitioner is not about numbers.  It is not about how many people you’ve baptized, how many churches you’ve started, or what generation you’ve reached. Success is not about making sure that you have ticked off the list of David Garrison’s Elements of a CPM. It is not about following all the Fruitful Practices the Vision 5:9 group came up with.  Nor is it doing everything perfectly according to the T4T or DBS books.  Formulas don’t start movements, God does. 

He sees your heart and efforts to obey.  God is pleased with your willingness to join Him in seeing His kingdom multiply.   Many DMM practitioners are exceedingly hard on themselves.  This doesn’t move us forward toward multiplying movements.

What Does a DMM “Win” Look Like?

How do we continue to pursue the vision of DMMs while relaxing and allowing God to do what we cannot?  We learn to celebrate small victories, giving God praise for what He is doing.  We focus on the good, proclaiming joyfully the testimonies of what God has done.  Evaluation continues as we discern whether what we are doing is leading to multiplication.  When it’s not, we make adjustments, or start afresh.

  • Did a disciple who had never shared the gospel, learn to tell their story (testimony)?  Did they share it boldly with their relatives for the first time?  That is a big win!
  • Did a new believer hear a Bible story, reflect on it and decide to obey God’s Word?  Did it lead to transformation as they began to love their neighbors when previously they had hated them?  That is also a major win!
  • Did a Hindu woman, who thought she had no value, become a confident daughter of the King?  Has she started discipling others? Training them to make more disciples?  Huge victory! Give God glory.
  • Are you starting to see a new DNA in the disciples, where everyone participates in the church? Are they seeing themselves as royal priests rather than only looking to the pastor or leader to do the work of the ministry?  That’s amazing!
  • Are new disciples developing a burden to pray for their lost relatives and neighbors?  That is a big step forward!

The list could go on and on.  Each of these are important steps forward in the journey toward launching a Disciple Making Movement.  Each one is worthy of real celebration.

Holding on to the Long-range End Game

I want to be clear.  I am not saying to throw out the goal of a rapidly multiplying, multi-generational movement of disciples who make disciples.  Don’t discard the vision of seeing a movement launched that will grow quickly and organically. And I’m not saying that reaching 4th generation is a bad measuring point. 

There is definite validity to DMM targets and benchmarks. They have been determined by those analyzing the growth of numerous movements around the world.  These things give us something to aim for.  Regularly tracking our progress toward them is important. It makes us more likely to realize the vision of releasing new movements in unreached places.

But don’t forget to rejoice over each step along the way. Don’t belittle that progress, or consider it less valuable. Reaching fthe ourth generation, or the 100 group mark is only another notch on the measuring stick.  It isn’t the ruler itself. 

Our ultimate goal is to see God’s glory cover the earth.

  • Is God being glorified in your disciple-making attempts? Then you are successful as a DMM practitioner.  
  • Is your heart still full of faith that the God who spoke to you to pursue a movement is able to bring that to pass?  Then God is thrilled with your trust in Him. He rejoices over you. 

Launching a movement is amazing.  Seeing a massive number of people meet Jesus, introducing others to him in a natural, organic way…it brings deep joy to our hearts. When God inspires unreached people to reach their own people, we stand in awe. Our mouths agape, we watch Him transform whole communities. We are humbled that we got a chance to participate with Him in that incredible transformative work. 

DMMs are worth pursuing.  They are not an interesting option or faddish idea.  Without them and the multiplication they create, we will not see the overall percentage of Jesus followers in the world increase.  The 31 largest Frontier Groups will never be impacted without the release of many, many new Disciple Making Movements. 

We cannot give up.  Nor can we allow ourselves to become disillusioned when our efforts don’t meet the criteria of what a DMM is...yet.  We must press on, try again, learn, grow, and adapt what we are doing until we see His kingdom spread like wildfire among unreached regions and peoples.

Let’s stay encouraged by learning to joyously celebrate the significant wins that come along the way.

Whether you are just beginning to pursue a movement or have already seen one take place, stop for a moment to celebrate what God has done.  Take time to notice and give thanks.  He has been at work, both in you and in those you are trying to reach.  What has He done that you can rejoice about?  Let gratefulness and joy fill your heart.

It may seem like such small progress, but it is forward movement nonetheless.  If you can’t see anything, then ask the Holy Spirit to open your eyes to perceive what He is doing under the surface.  After giving thanks, boldly and courageously cry out to Him for more.  He will answer our faith-filled prayers for greater fruit.  It’s His great delight to give us the nations He told us to ask for (Ps. 2:8).


 

This is an article from the March-April 2019 issue: Movements Everywhere: Why So Few in the West?

Unleashing the Kingdom on Toxic Worldviews and Declining Churches

Unleashing the Kingdom on Toxic Worldviews and Declining Churches

In the 1990s, intrepid Baptist missionaries were discovering biblical values and processes that consistently catalyzed  the kind of outcomes that Donald McGavran once called ‘people movements.’ 

In 2004 David Garrison published Church Planting Movements that shared what the IMB was learning about movements, and momentum and excitement began to build. 

Regular readers of Mission Frontiers know that over the last 25 years, and especially the last 15, the Holy Spirit has birthed hundreds of these Disciple Making Movements/ Church Planting Movements among Muslim, Hindu, Chinese, and Buddhist  populations—historically  resistant peoples that have become Christ followers in unprecedented numbers. 

At the end of 2018 there were more than 660 such movements. The sheer numbers of movements happening in this century reveals that God is very much moving in the world today. But although dispersed pockets of momentum and some genuine movements do exist in North America, Europe, and Oceania (i.e. the Global North), the vast majority of the movements are in Africa, Asia, and Latin America (i.e. the Global South). 

Why is that? 

This article is based on four years of research by the authors of The Kingdom Unleashed to attempt to answer that question. 

Question:    How do you inoculate someone against a disease?

Answer:       You give them a weakened or dying version of it.

Question:    How do you inoculate a culture against Christianity?

Answer:       ?

The Church in the Global North has slowly absorbed a dangerous level of humanistic ideas into our worldviews over the last 100 years. These ideas have resulted in a weakened version of Christianity that is powerless to transform communities and culture. For purposes of this article, we will focus on two interrelated categories of unbiblical thinking that have infected many Global North churches: secularization and anti-supernaturalism. 

THE SECULARIZATION OF THE GLOBAL NORTH CHURCH

Although evangelicals would reject the idea that they have been secularized, the evidence is clear that many have adopted not only secular approaches to evangelism but even a secularized gospel. 

To understand this, we need a definition of secularism. In the strictest sense, secularism is the idea that religion and government should not interfere with each other. From there, it is a small step to say that religion should play no role in public life—if Christians want to believe and practice their religion in private, that’s fine, but keep it out of the public square. If you ask an evangelical what Christianity is about, the response will typically be that it’s about a personal journey with Jesus, that it’s a relationship, not a religion. This view is highly individualistic: each person individually and independently must make the decision for Jesus. Family and social relationships may help a bit with evangelism, but it’s ultimately an individual decision. 

Beyond this, some people will tell you that Christianity also involves personal morality, but not much beyond that. In other words, evangelicals see Christianity as a privatized religion,  one  that  involves  “me  and  Jesus”  but  does  not have much to say to the world except perhaps concerning a few hot-button issues like abortion.

What evangelicals fail to realize is that by viewing Christianity this way, they hold an essentially secularized vision of the gospel. It is highly personal, private, and internal, and thus is irrelevant to most of the questions facing society today. 

Secularization is the Antithesis of the Gospel of the Kingdom

In contrast to this, the gospel Jesus taught would be more accurately described as the gospel of the kingdom. Jesus’ message centered on the fact that in Him, the kingdom of God had broken into the world and that God was taking back His proper authority over a world in rebellion against Him. That  is  why  Jesus’ proclamation  of  the  kingdom included a call to repent: since we are in rebellion against our rightful King, the only proper response is to turn from our rebellion and give Him our undivided allegiance.

This message is inescapably public and political: the most basic confession of Christianity is  ‘Jesus is Lord,” with the unspoken implication that “Caesar is not.” Caesar claimed authority over all areas of life; Christianity said no— Caesar had legitimate authority in some areas but not in others. God and God alone has authority over everything, including conscience, and that authority resides in the person of Jesus, who alone is Lord of all. 

Because Jesus is Lord of all, the gospel must touch all of  life.  It isn’t  only  about  personal  salvation  but  about every aspect of who we are and how we live in the world. It includes not just forgiveness of sins and personal morality, but all areas of life—relationships, politics, society, work, recreation, all. 

That means our presentation of the gospel must include not only the message of forgiveness of sins, but also a ministry of compassion. It must show in practice, through the power of the Spirit, what the kingdom looks like by working to fix what is broken in society and in people’s lives. 

Global South Movements Advance the Gospel of the Kingdom

Accordingly, two of the most unique elements of Disciple Making Movements are their holistic nature and the dramatic transformation of cultures.

Almost all movements lead with compassionate engagements within a community. These engagements are  an  expression  of  Christ’s  care  for  people’s  needs  and a living example of the kingdom. As people see this, it opens the door to discipling them to Christ, with a focus on  self-discovered  obedience  to  God’s Word;  this  brings the  community  into  greater  alignment  with  God’s  will revealed in Scripture, which leads to replicating cultural transformation. 

CHOOSING KINGDOM VALUES, NOT SECULAR VALUES

Another way secularism has infected the church in the Global North is through the use of secularized approaches to measuring success. Our metrics  are  often  based  on the ABCs—Attendance, Buildings,  and  Cash—rather than on Christ-followers growing in spiritual depth and obedience, disciples making other disciples, or churches planting churches. Our primary goal must be to build the kingdom, not to build our  local  church—and  they  are not the same thing. 

We must not confuse the kingdom and the Church, especially not the visible Church. If they were the same, the gospel would only apply to Sunday mornings when the Church is gathered; it wouldn’t apply to us when we’re at work or on vacation or even at home with our family. 

The kingdom extends into all these areas because the Lordship of Christ reaches every area of life. The Church exists to build the kingdom, not to build itself. The Church may in fact grow in numbers, but unless that growth is anchored in building the kingdom first, it will never be the kind of growth that engenders movements. 

The kingdom of God is not something ethereal. It is a reality, not a metaphor for the Church. Christ followers in the Global South live lives of abundant joy and faith that they carry into all their relationships, all their activities, all their interactions with others. This highlights why Jesus said over and over:

“Sell whatever has to be sold to get the kingdom, and make whatever sacrifices are required, to be part of the eternal kingdom of God.”

“Seek first the kingdom, and all these other things will be added to you.”

“Pray like this: May the glory of God in heaven be manifested where I live, even as it is in heaven, May Your kingdom be manifested where I live, even as it is in heaven, May Your will be manifested in my life and where I live, even as it is in heaven.” 

ANTI-SUPERNATURALISM BREEDS PRAYERLESSNESS IN THE CHURCH

Secularism strikes at the heart of the gospel Jesus proclaimed, and in the Global North it is combined with its close cousin, anti-supernaturalism. 

If the idea that many Global North evangelicals have secularized the gospel is difficult to accept, most Christians would reject out of hand the idea that they have an anti- supernatural worldview. After all, they believe in God! But our real worldview is revealed not by what we say, or even by what we think, but by what we do by default. And many Christians and churches in the Global North act by default as if this world is all there is.

Probably the clearest example of this is our prayer life. 

Our theology says that through prayer, we have the privilege of connecting with almighty God and that through our prayers we participate with God in governing the universe. Yet according to some surveys, the average American Christian prays four to six minutes per day, including grace at meals. 

Yet in Jesus’ farewell discourse, He tells us that He would be with us through the Holy Spirit who would guide and empower our ministry; He even went further by telling us that apart from Him, we could do nothing. (John 15:15b) The question is, given what we see about prayer habits in the Global North, how much are Christians actually relying on the power and presence of the Spirit? Or are we instead trying to accomplish God’s purposes on our own, effectively doing them apart from Jesus? 

Regular disciplines of abundant corporate fasting and prayer that are the norm in Global South movements are, unfortunately, rare in the Global North. 

If you ask almost any veteran of kingdom movements, “How do you start a movement?” they will all say something like: every movement is birthed with much prayer and fasting, and must be sustained also with much prayer and fasting. Every movement is different, but they all have the same fingerprints, and they are the fingerprints of God— definitely not of humans. They all reveal the miraculous in abundance. 

So movements frequently launch with intercessors inconspicuously walking and praying through the community to be engaged, and for the team that will engage them. And as new churches are birthed, they are born with a DNA of much prayer. 

Some DMM churches have up to 80 days a year of corporate fasting and prayer followed by evenings of breaking the fast together and praying. Often everyone prays out loud at the same time, as passionate prayer and joyful worship is intertwined. These kinds of disciplines are central in the life of movements. 

And as a result, miracles of healing, deliverance, and provision are the norm. There is a sense that God is very close, very dependable and abundant in provision. He is the God of the impossible! 

And there is some very good news! Many thousands of intercessors in the Global South are praying specifically for the Global North Church, that the blessings brought to their people group by missionaries who came to their countries in the previous centuries, will be reciprocated by their 21st century prayers. 

KEEPING ORDINARY PEOPLE ORDINARY

Another way in which anti-supernaturalism and secularism combine is in the tendency of believers to rely on professionals  to  handle  “religious”  matters.  For  example, when they find someone who is spiritually open, their goal is to get the person to come to church so the professional in the pulpit can seal the deal and bring them to Christ. 

Similarly, too many families subcontract the spiritual development of their children to the youth pastor rather than performing their God-ordained responsibility to disciple their children themselves. Adult discipleship programs are built around having an expert teach us information rather than personally discovering what God’s Word is calling us to do by Spirit-led study of Scripture. 

Yet the pattern Paul gives us in Ephesians 4 is that the various leaders in the Church—apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers—are to equip ordinary Christ Followers to carry out the work of ministry. Thejob of the pastor is not to do the ministry—it is to equip believers to do ministry by teaching, modeling, coaching, and training them. 

This is exactly the approach we see at work in Kingdom Movements in the Global South. Just as Jesus chose ordinary people to be world changers, so today unnumbered disciples are ministering powerfully across the Global South—empowered to do the impossible in the power of the Holy Spirit. 

A grandmother who never learned to read, memorized much of the Bible and became the leader of a huge intercessory prayer network. 

Many thousands of other oral learners have become effective disciple makers and often powerful leaders by using oral Bible resources in Discovery Bible Studies. 

Many ministries have learned how to  creatively train blind people, amputees, and others to become productive disciple makers, church planters, and gifted leaders and coaches. 

A carpenter/handyman/farmer, who is also a former Muslim, has used his crafts to enter communities and plant more than 100 churches within 12 years. 

A sports ministry in one African country planted more churches in 2018 than any other service ministry, while on another continent a sports ministry is planting hundreds of churches in restricted access countries every year. 

Many thousands of former sheiks and imams, along with some former jihadists, have become highly effective Disciple Making Movement leaders and coaches. Military and police officers have become church planters.

 Street children are making disciples.

Everyday business people in restricted access countries have become “invisible” disciple-makers. 

Untold thousands of former Muslims have become passionate and devoted intercessors when they were born again. 

USING SECULAR STRATEGIES TO ACHIEVE SPIRITUAL OUTCOMES

Another way secularism and anti-supernaturalism show up is in reliance on techniques drawn from the secular, corporate world. Management, marketing, and media consultants tell churches how to organize and run their ministries, how to do outreach, how to target a niche market, and so on, and many churches seek out their advice rather than looking to Scripture to see how Jesus told us to do it. And once again there is often little reliance on prayer: planning meetings begin with a short invocation and continue with a long discussion, a vote, and a short prayer asking God to bless the decision the committee just made. 

In contrast, where we see movements happening, decisions are made after long periods of prayer and study of the Scriptures, focusing on Spirit-led consensus and much prayer rather than adopting models, advice and paradigms from the secular world. 

To help you see this in specific terms we have included a few excerpts from Chapter 17 of The Kingdom Unleashed, “Paradigms that Can Multiply.” 

I believe the traditionally conceived forms of ministry cannot move us beyond the current impasse because they have led to the structures that currently exist—and they continue to sustain them…. We cannot solve the problems of the Church by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created those problems in the first place…. We must thoroughly reconceive how we understand and practice ministry and leadership if we wish to truly be a movement.    —Alan Hirsch, Serving a Movement

Jesus’ descriptions of the kingdom of God include images of abundance and fruitfulness, such as catches of fish that break nets and soils, seeds, and plants that bear fruitful harvests. Jesus spoke of yeast’s power to be a medium of transformation and expansion. And He told His disciples that bringing a harvest from every people group into his kingdom would be their kingdom responsibility. He  warned His disciples to never bury the resources that they had been given but to multiply them according to their capacities. 

When we look at the Church in the book of Acts, we see rapid expansion through families and social networks, extending into new, unevangelized areas—exactly the kind of expansion that we see in the Global South today. To recover that kind of growth, the Church in the Global North will need to change its entire approach to ministry and even its vision of what the Church is about. 

The structural problems that hinder movements in the Global North begin with un-biblical worldviews that are tainted by latent secularism and anti-supernaturalism. These worldviews have consequences because they lead to ministry paradigms that do not achieve God’s intended outcomes. 

The following chart contrasts typical Global North churches and ministries with Kingdom Movements in terms of: 

  • the worldview assumptions as related to biblical values and teachings 
  • the ministry paradigms that flow from worldview assumptions, and 
  • the kinds of outcomes that flow from the different paradigms.

 

THE KINGDOM AND THE CHURCH

 

Traditional Ministry Assumptions

Kingdom Movement Assumptions

In some traditions, the kingdom of God is primarily a future, eschatological event, and the object of evangelism is to make converts, who over time become faithful disciples. 

The kingdom of God is the present and observable manifestation of Jesus’ reign on earth. The object of evangelism is to advance the kingdom of God by training disciple makers who will establish new churches.

Traditional Ministry Paradigms

Kingdom Movement Paradigms

People generally become a Christian by exposure to biblical teaching and lifestyles in a home, or exposure to professional pastors and leaders at a church.

God raises up ordinary people who become disciples of Christ primarily in relational contexts with a lifestyle of consistent obedience to God’s Word as the key objective.

Grow the Church centrally and incrementally through programs, winsome facilities and a welcoming spirit. Church planting is typically one-by-one.

Grows in the overall community by strategic multiplication: making disciples who make disciples and planting churches that plant other churches as a normal progression of the Spirit-filled life.

Churches celebrate milestones of growth and decisions for Christ.

Churches celebrate spiritual and social transformations, which power multiplication in places of former spiritual poverty.

Expected Outcomes

Expected Outcomes

Add new members to our church. Maximize the natural appeal to the demographic profile of the local church.

The result of disciple-making is multiplying disciples. The priority is planting new Discovery Groups that become churches among the social segments or places where the gospel has never gone or thrived.

ABUNDANT PRAYER

 

Traditional Ministry Assumptions

Kingdom Movement Assumptions

Most traditions believe that God can and does perform miracles, but expectations tend to set limits on how to pray and what is considered possible.

Prayer is both petition and proclamation which declares that Jesus’ authority is more powerful than the gates of Hell. Prayer, by definition, is inviting the supernatural to earth.

Prayer styles and liturgies often represent the culture of the denomination and the traditions that are to be preserved. For many traditions, prayer is for miraculous interventions that facilitate spiritual transformation, and rapid replication is not an expectation.

Rapid reproduction based on prayer and discovering and obeying the Bible is common but does not typically replicate any single organization’s traditions. Local churches are free to identify as the Holy Spirit leads them.

Traditional Ministry Paradigms

Kingdom Movement Paradigms

It is risky to pray publicly for things that can only happen if God obviously intervenes.

Prayer for things that only God can do is the norm.

Strategic planning meetings and prayer meetings are separate events.

Prayer informs strategy, and strategy shapes more prayer.

Calls for corporate fasting and prayer are rare.

Each year, dozens of days of corporate prayer and fasting are common. Regular prayer meetings are often celebrations of kingdom advances, healings, and deliverances.

Expected Outcomes

Expected Outcomes

Ministry outcomes are created by great knowledge, great leadership, great funding, and great execution of programs. Prayer may also be helpful.

Ministry outcomes are primarily created by abundant prayer that results in mobilizing and empowering Christians to fulfill all of the functions of the Church.

Churches are unlikely to take risks that would obviously require divine intervention lest it discourage people if it does not happen.

There is a direct relationship between taking risks in prayer, and the process of growing in faith and experiencing the fullness of God’s Spirit. All Kingdom Movements report abundant healings, deliverances and signs and wonders.

MAKING DISCIPLES

 

Traditional Ministry Assumptions

Kingdom Movement Assumptions

Discipleship is knowledge-based. Obedience is assumed to follow.

Disciples discover God in His Word and choose to obey Him out of deep love of Christ.

People come to Jesus as individuals, not as part of larger social networks.

Disciples are intertwined within families and networks and are typically not extracted unless they are in danger. Even then, with prayer, God sometimes redeems the situation for the family to become disciples.

The gospel is typically presented by one outsider to many strangers.

The gospel flows relationally from one family member to friends, family, and networks. Everyone is expected to present the process of becoming a follower of Christ.

Gospel presentations are driven by a range of informational and preaching models by an expert to a group of seekers.

Discovery of God’s Word is achieved by interactive group processes with group accountability for sharing what they learn (and experience) with lost people.

High control: Outsiders orchestrating things themselves.

Disciple-making by a cultural insider results in high trust. Leaders allow others to be catalysts rather than trying to control the movement.

Goal: good church members.

Goal: transformation and fruitfulness

Traditional Ministry Paradigms

Kingdom Movement Paradigms

Outsiders use personal evangelism or crusade evangelism leading to individual decisions.

Evangelism is a process whereby an unbeliever discovers God and shifts allegiance to Christ in the context of Discovery Groups that become self-replicating churches.

Convert, then disciple

Disciple to conversion

Churches make disciples through preaching, education, and training.

Disciples are made in spiritual relationships through ongoing Discovery Groups, mentoring, coaching and making other disciples.

Expected Outcomes

Expected Outcomes

Orthodoxy and Christian character.

Obedience, transformation, and fruitfulness

Start the way you want to finish. Bring people to church to convert them, then disciple them in church as well.

Start the way you want to finish. If seekers see themselves as disciple-makers and church-planters, they naturally replicate what was done with them.

   

HOLISTIC KINGDOM MINISTRY

 

Traditional Ministry Assumptions

Kingdom Movement Assumptions

Focus on evangelism OR compassion is common. Some churches or ministries attempt both, but few are great at both.

Holistic focus on both evangelism AND compassion is normal

Church members are encouraged to be involved in approved church ministries.

Every local church and Christ follower is responsible to serve both of Jesus’ kingdom mandates: (1) compassionate service and prayers for God’s healing, and (2) being a transformed disciple and discipling others.

Traditional Ministry Paradigms

Kingdom Movement Paradigms

A relatively small percentage of compassion ministries consistently leverage the good will they create to make disciples and plant churches. A relatively small percentage of Proclamation ministries lead with healing or compassion ministries.

Evangelism, disciple-making, healing, and compassion are so deeply intertwined that they cannot be separated.

Expected Outcomes

Expected Outcomes

Compassion ministries will help alleviate some problems in the community. Proclamation ministries will result in some people coming to Christ as a result.

Holistic transformation of individuals and communities is the natural result of disciple-making.

 

 

 

The above are only a few of the worldview issues that we discuss in The Kingdom Unleashed, but they set up a critical question: Which of the above models seems to be the most faithful to Scripture? Which ones result in more glory given to God? 

These different worldviews lead to divergent ministry paradigms that in turn lead to polar opposite outcomes. And in this case the Global North Church struggles under the crushing disadvantage of secular and anti-supernatural worldviews. 

Certainly, the kingdom values Jesus taught were counter-cultural when He spoke them into the first century. And they are wonderfully counter-intuitive still. But they have always been true. 

WE CHANGE OUR WORLDVIEW AS WE CHANGE OUR ACTIONS

While there are many other elements of the worldview that could be addressed, secularism and anti-supernaturalism are good places to start. So what can be done about them? 

As noted above, worldviews are revealed by what we do by default. It is counter-intuitive in many ways, but the way to change your worldview is to change your default actions, and the only way to do that is to acct consciously and intentionally rather than falling back into habitual responses. 

As a starting point, we suggest four places to begin, ideally in a context of discovery and accountability with a couple of other people. 

First, put far more emphasis on prayer. Take  more time to pray on a personal level and find like-minded Christ followers and meet together to pray. Use Scripture as a guide:  that’s one  of  the purposes of the Lord’s Prayer, and the great prayer warriors throughout history have used Psalms to give them words and thoughts to express worship, thanksgiving, confession and requests to God. Consider committing yourself to disciplines of fasting and prayer for God to use to advance His kingdom. 

Second, when you spend time in Scripture, put more emphasis on hearing what God is asking you to do through the passage than on simply learning it. Scripturally, discipleship is based on obedience, not knowledge (though knowledge certainly has its place). In some cases, this may be a result of obeying something explicitly taught in Scripture, though in others you may have to rely on the still, small voice of the Spirit in your heart nudging you in a particular direction. Whatever it is, do it quickly: Indonesian Christians talk about a 48-hour rule, which says that if you do not obey what you’ve heard within 48 hours, you will lose whatever insight and growth you might have gained from your study. 

Third, study carefully Jesus’ instructions to the Twelve and the Seventy-Two before He sent them out.  Be sure to look at the context as well (e.g. Matt. 9:35-38) and consider what it means for our own attitude and preparation as disciple- makers. Think carefully through how you might be able to apply what He is telling you in your own context. 

Lastly, take risks. If we are not willing to risk rejection, we can’t follow Jesus’ instructions because He told His followers they would be rejected. If we don’t pray big prayers, we won’t see big results. If we do not obey when it could cost us something, we won’t see God’s blessings on our work to anything close to the degree He wants to bless us. 

If we do these things, if we take conscious and intentional action on them, it will over time shift our worldviews ad align us more closely to a truly kingdom-centric vision. And that will create the context where movements can begin  and flourish where we live.

This is an article from the March-April 2019 issue: Movements Everywhere: Why So Few in the West?

An Army of Disciple Makers from the Rainforests of Central Africa

An Army of Disciple Makers from the Rainforests of Central Africa

Ndinga

Pastor Ndinga often wakes up very early, because he has a busy schedule. First he goes to check the traps that he expertly sets in several places in the forest, usually a couple of kilometers from his village. Like most Pygmies, from his childhood, he learned how to hunt all kinds of rain forest animals, setting traps on their pathways. Harvesting and resetting traps usually takes him about three hours.
 
After coming back with the day’s prey, he will change clothes, grab his Bible, collect one of his disciples, and they will both spend the next five hours visiting a village church, its leaders and members. He uses these moments to coach and encourage the leaders and the Christ followers who are growing in their faith. Often he will conduct a Discovery Bible Study or two, to help people understand the process. 
 
On their way back home, he may have short visits with other villages for which he and his church have been praying. He looks forward to finding a Person of Peace, and seeing the launch of Discovery Bible Studies soon. This is Ndinga’s life, and what he wants to continue to do until every community in the area has been transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit. He will be back home by 4:00 pm and devote the rest of the day to gathering food in the forest. 
 
This pastor knows where to look for abundant fruit, both sweet food for his family to eat, and the fruit of the Spirit in changing lives and communities in his part of the rain forest. 
 

How Disciples Become Leaders

Ndinga is a Baka Pygmy from the Central Africa Republic. Two years before, a pastor named Bonane came into his village to distribute clothes and food and to talk to the villagers about the need for their children to have a school to attend. He had a plan to help the village meet a huge need that it had. Ndinga had never imagined that someone would come to his remote village to do something kind like that for their children.
 
Ndinga approached Pastor Bonane and started asking questions about why he was doing what he was doing. Bonane’s answer was that God loves the Pygmies and wants them to have all these things because He wants what is good for them. So Pastor Bonane was willing to help bring God’s blessings to their village. Ndinga knew that this kind of thing just did not happen in Pgymy villages. 
 
He decided to learn more about the God Pastor Bonane was talking about, and he asked many kinds of questions that Bonane patiently answered. One week later, Bonane showed Ndinga and others how to experience a Discovery Bible Study in Ndinga’s village. For several weeks, they had meetings during which the villagers heard many stories from the Bible, asked a lot of questions, and shared what they discovered in the Bible with each other. 
 
In a few weeks, eight people in the group became disciples of Jesus. But several refused, saying that the God Pastor Bonane is talking about is a foreign God. Ndinga and seven others were baptized and continued meeting, hearing more stories, discussing and learning more about the God of the Bible.
 
Ndinga always tried to find time with Pastor Bonane. He had so many questions! He wanted to learn everything very quickly. And he started sharing what he learned with others in the village, and also in other villages. 
 
During one of the meetings in his village, he told Pastor Bonane that the day before he had shared some of the stories in another village and someone wanted to meet with him to ask more questions. Pastor Bonane coached him how to help a group of nine people start gathering to hear more stories and ask more questions. Ndinga started facilitating the group discussion under the supervision of Pastor Bonane.
 
The reality is that Ndinga has never stopped helping people grow as disciples of Jesus, and continues coaching them to reach out to other villages.

The Pygmies of Africa 

The term “Pygmy” is used to describe those people groups where the average height of the male adult is less than 150 centimeters (4’11”). The term Pygmy is considered pejorative and so many of them prefer to be identified by their ethnicity such as Twa, Baka etc.
 
Most Pygmies are like Ndinga, tropical- forest foragers, and the food they find they consume themselves or trade to neighboring farmers in exchange for cultivated foods. They are scattered in more than 14 countries in Africa, but most of the 984,000 Pygmies live in six Central African countries.
 
There is so much diversity among these groups that it is impossible to describe a “Pygmy” culture, but historicallythe Pygmies have been marginalized by national governments and in most cases mistreated by neighboring people groups. At the national governmental level Pygmies are sometimes not considered citizens. They are denied identity cards, get evicted from their land and are not entitled to proper health care and education.
 
Their neighboring tribes typically consider them inferior. In some places, they have a sort of indentured relationship with their neighbors; you can find the Pygmies serving their masters with manual labor, game, honey and other natural resources from the forest.  They are often cheated by not being paid for their labor. 
 
In addition to the above marginalization and mistreatment, many Pygmy communities were exposed to racial extermination during the Rwanda genocide and in the Congo civil war. In these two instances it is estimated more than twenty thousand Pygmies were killed.
 
As hunter/gatherers, the forest is very important to their culture and livelihood. Unfortunately, this fundamental element of their identity and sustenance is being destroyed now by farmers and forest exploitation for wood.
 
According to Musolo W’isuka Kamuha 1 , Pygmies are a challenge to Christian missions because the church (Musola was writing of the church of DRC) has a problem in accepting the Pygmies as fully human beings worthy to be included in the agenda of mission outreach. Thus they have generally remained unreached and unchurched.
According to peoplegroups.org, the Pygmies include 26 unique people groups with a total population of 984,100. They represent 17 UPGs totaling 788,700 people and three UUPGs totaling 22,400 people. 

How it Started

In 2005 Final Command and New Generations teams had a season of prayer that resulted in a list of 18 difficult and large Muslim people groups to engage in Africa. Later in 2007 one of the leaders insisted on including the Pygmies across Africa in this priority list. 
 
As a result of that commitment, in 2008 a five-day DMM training was done in Bangui where Thierry, one of the trainees, decided to engage the Pygmies with his disciplemaking team. He recruited two denominations that had also planned to engage this people group and trained their evangelists in the processes. Pastor Bonane was one of those evangelists. What was birthed by Thierry’s resolve and brother Bonane’s passion has been miraculously blessed by God’s favor.
 
In the last 11 years Thierry’s Pygmy engagements have expanded to six African countries where 2,816 churches have been planted, to the 10th generation of churches planting churches, and 145,755 Christ followers through September 2018. That number is still growing rapidly, and now almost 15% of the total African Pygmy population are Christ followers. 
 

Kanyabikingi and Nana

Kanyabikingi (pseudonym) is a Pygmy who lives in one of the big towns in East Africa. He once described himself as an atheist who embraced the ideology while attending college in a communist country. 
 
He worked for an organization that tries to encourage Pygmy communities to send their children to school. The Pygmy communities in that part of the country, unlike most Pygmies who are hunters and gatherers, make their livelihood by making pottery. Therefore, they prefer their children to help them in making pots instead of sending them to school. 
 
Kanyabikingi’s job has been to go to these communities and encourage the parents to send their children to school. He does his job with passion because he wants to see his people improve their livelihood through education. 
 
In 2014, in one of the Pygmy communities he frequently visits, Kanyabikingi met a lady named Nana (pseudonym) who was in her mid-fifties. Nana was a Christ follower who had been encouraged by her ministry to make disciples among the Pygmies. She was well-liked by the community because Nana regularly prayed for the sick and helped the poor. People invited her frequently to their homes because when she prays for them they consistently get solutions for many of their problems.
 
Kanyabikingi observed what Nana was doing and her love for the Pygmies. He wanted to know more about what she was doing and asked to meet her. So Nana invited Kanyabikingi to attend the Discovery Bible Group that was meeting in her house. Kanyabikingi became a regular member of the DBS group. He had many questions, and Nana coached him how to find the answers in the Bible. Eventually, Kanyabikingi became a follower of Jesus, and then began to use his frequent visits to peoples’ houses as an opportunity to share stories from the Bible. Pygmies began to respond to him, and started their own Discovery Bible Groups.   
 
After one year, 14 churches, three generations and 25 Discovery Bible Studies had been formed in two different Pygmy communities. More than 270 Pygmies had become followers of Christ.
 
By the end of 2015, the movement that had started in these two communities had already spread to one more Pygmy community and other people groups, resulting in the planting of an additional 58 churches with nine generations, and more than 600 Christ followers. God used a former atheist, a compassionate woman who prayed for people, and two Pygmy communities to catalyze multistreamed and multi-ethnic spiritual momentum.    

This is an article from the January-February 2019 issue: Is the End of Extreme Poverty in Sight?  What’s Working?

The Best Workers are the Best Neighbors

The Best Workers are the Best Neighbors

Editors’ note: This is an adapted excerpt taken from Tom Nelson’s book, The Economics of Neighborly Love: Investing in Your Community’s Compassion and Capacity ©2017 by Tom Nelson.  Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove  IL  60515-1426. http://www.ivpress.com
More information about Made to Flourish is available at madetoflourish.org, or through email at [email protected].

Martin Luther said it well: “God does not need your good works, but your neighbor does.” A primary way God designed us to love our neighbors is for us to do our work well, and from our work to have the capacity to be generous to neighbors in need. When it comes to being a helpful neighbor, a slothful worker faces an uphill climb. On the other hand, the best workers make the best neighbors.

As apprentices of Jesus we’re called to be generous with our time and our talents. We’re called to be generous with acts of kindness and faithful in our prayers for others. We’re commissioned to be generous in sharing the gospel with our neighbors, and we’re also called to be generous with our financial resources, which come from diligent labor and wise financial management. How can we be generous in tangibly caring for our neighbor if we have nothing to be generous with? If we have compassion without capacity, we have human frustration. If we have capacity without compassion, we have human alienation. If we have compassion and capacity, we have human transformation. We have neighborly love.

The Great Commandment challenges us to better connect Sunday to Monday, not only by nurturing compassionate hearts but also by growing in our economic capacity. And economic capacity doesn’t appear out of thin air. It comes from faithful vocational stewardship. The financial margin we need for generosity flows from a lifestyle of wise financial management. Neighborly love requires both compassion and capacity. It requires transformed hearts and transformed habits, deep compassion and faithful stewardship.

If we’re going to narrow the Sunday-to-Monday gap between our faith, our work, and the economic flourishing of our neighbors, we must take tangible steps to love with both greater compassion and increased capacity. But what does this look like?

Know Your Neighbor

First, to love our neighbors we must seek to know our neighbors. Ask yourself:

  • Who are the neighbors in my life?
  • Those I live by?
  • Those I go to school with?
  • Those I work with?
  • What about those society says are not my neighbors?
  • Those who speak a different language?
  • Those who embrace different faiths?
  • Those who live in another part of the city?

Geographic proximity calls for responsibility, but in a globalized world there’s more than geographical proximity; there’s also human proximity.

For many of us the ever-present danger of cultural insularity and isolation is quite real. We can be blinded to the economic difficulties experienced by our neighbors, even in communities minutes away from where we live. I was reminded of this truth when my wife and I, who live in the suburbs of Kansas City, took an extended walk through one of the most under-resourced neighborhoods in our metro area. Walking down Prospect Avenue, dilapidated storefronts and neglected vacant lots border the crumbling sidewalks. Viable businesses are virtually nonexistent. The lack of thriving stores or markets has made this area an urban food desert. Pride of ownership, meaningful work, and economic activity seem to have ground to a halt. The scene is heartbreaking and, unfortunately, not uncommon.

My wife and I have lived in Kansas City for more than 25 years, yet before we intentionally walked through this neighborhood, we had no idea who these neighbors were, how they lived, or what challenges they faced in their neighborhoods. In many ways we had been hauntingly similar to the Jewish priest and Levite who walked past their neighbors in need. For years we not only walked past them, we avoided their neighborhood completely. This needs to change.

If we’re going to embrace neighborly love, we’ll have to take the initiative to move out of the comfort zone of our cultural and geographical insularity and get to know our neighbors as people who, like us, have a unique history, have felt the pain of heartache, harbor unfulfilled dreams, and possess underutilized talents and future aspirations.

Help Your Neighbor

Once we’ve identified our neighbors, we can take tangible steps to help them. The first step will likely require us to increase our capacity to help. Think with me for a moment: How much good could the Samaritan have done if he hadn’t worked hard on Monday? When we think about helping our neighbors, we ought to think first about our own work and the value it creates for others. We should consider how the economic capacity our work produces not only makes possible material provision for our families and ourselves, but also gives opportunity to come alongside the poor and under-resourced.

Scripture speaks a great deal about our responsibility to care for the poor and vulnerable, but how do we do that? Robert Lupton offers insight into the complexities of human impoverishment, reminding us that in spite of our best intentions our philanthropic efforts can yield unintended consequences: “While we are very generous in charitable giving, much of that money is either wasted or actually harms the people it is targeted to help.” Instead of adhering to philanthropic models that dehumanize our neighbors by perpetuating impoverishment, Lupton advocates the cultivation of institutions and relationships that develop economic capacity.

As we seek to help our neighbors, we must remember that both the creation of wealth and the stewardship of economic capacity through diligent work need biblical love and wisdom to guide them. You can’t help your neighbor well if you don’t understand economics well, because human flourishing and economic flourishing go hand in hand.

Do Your Work Well

This means neighborly love is more about how we work than where we live, more about how we use our time and resources than who happens to live next door. While the Samaritan incarnated neighborly love, so did the innkeeper whose year-round business provided an important service for the traveler. Unlike the robbers who perpetrated economic injustice against the Jewish man, the innkeeper worked hard to maintain an enterprise that served others’ needs. God created us as his image-bearers with work in mind. An important aspect of being an image-bearer is to work and to create value by serving others within our collaborative economic system.

Certainly we followers of Jesus are far from perfect, inhabit broken workplaces, and play out our vocational roles within imperfect economic systems. Nevertheless, we must remember that in spite of the less-than-ideal work we might do—and in spite of the less-than-optimum environments of labor we inhabit—we’re called to be agents of redemption, doing good work as an act of worship, while seeking to further the common good. Human work isn’t a solitary enterprise; it’s woven into the fabric of human community’s flourishing design. 

I received an email from a member of my congregation whose company does a good deal of international business. It speaks volumes about neighborly love. Tim is a modern-day Samaritan businessperson, doing good work and loving his neighbors in India. He describes his last 15 years working with a talented international workforce:

What I have come to realize is that my position of influence puts me in a unique position as a Christian. My workers in India are decent, hardworking, college-educated, and desire to live a good life. I pay a fair wage and offer a path to economic freedom. Many on the team are the first generation to graduate from college. They are mostly Hindu and Muslim. During my many visits to India, they’ve told me that my values seem different from many perceptions they have of Americans. I’ve been able to share my faith and values with a group that is willing to listen. My neighbors in India now have a larger stake in a stable world since they are connected to the world economy. Their prosperity trickles down into their community. And hopefully they see a little of the love of Jesus reflected through me.

Yes, the best workers make the best neighbors.

This is an article from the January-February 2019 issue: Is the End of Extreme Poverty in Sight?  What’s Working?

24:14 Coalition Update FAQ

Clarifying Some Misconceptions

24:14 Coalition Update FAQ

         1.  24:14? Who are you?

We are not an organization. We are a coalition of like-minded individuals, practitioners and organizations who have made a commitment to a vision of seeing movements in every unreached people and place. Our initial goal is to see effective kingdom movement engagement in every unreached people and place by December 31, 2025. We do this based on four values:

a.  Reaching the unreached in line with Matt. 24:14, that is, to bring the gospel of the kingdom to every unreached people and place.

b. Accomplishing this through “Church-Planting Movements,” involving multiplying disciples, churches, leaders and movements themselves.

c.  Having a wartime sense of urgency to engage every unreached people and place with a movement strategy by the end of 2025.

     d.  Doing these things in collaboration with others.

         2.  Why are you using the name 24:14?

Matt. 24:14 is the cornerstone for this initiative. Jesus promised: “This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations (ethne), and then the end will come.” Our focus is to participate in seeing the gospel go to every people group on earth. We long to be in the generation that finishes what Jesus began and other faithful workers before us have given their lives to. We know that Jesus waits to return until every people group has had an opportunity to respond to the gospel and become part of His Bride.

3.  Are you setting 2025 as the year that all nations will be reached?

No, our goal is to engage every unreached people and place with an effective kingdom movement strategy by December 31, 2025. This means that a team (local or expat or combination) equipped in movement strategy will be on location in every unreached people and place. There is no implication related to a date that the task will be finished. That is God’s responsibility. God determines when movements take off.

         4.  Why do you feel such urgency in moving this forward?

2000 years have passed since Jesus spoke the Great Commission. 2 Pet. 3:12 tells us to “hasten the day of his return.” Ps. 90:12 tells us to number our days. A group of 24:14 founders waited on the Lord and asked if we should set a deadline or not. We felt Him telling us that by setting an urgent deadline, we could make wiser use of our time and make the sacrifices needed to fulfill the vision. 

5.  Are you trying to get all missions organizations to align around your strategy?

No. We recognize that God has called many churches, mission organizations and networks to specialized ministries. The 24:14 Coalition is composed of people and organizations that either have the desire to be or have been successful catalysts of movements, using different strategies. Various organizations and practitioners have unique methods and tools but all of us share many of the same CPM distinctives. These are strategies based on trying to apply in modern contexts patterns of disciple-making and church formation we see in the gospels and the book of Acts.

6.  There have been other attempts to get people to collaborate on finishing the Great Commission. What is different about 24:14?

24:14 builds on these other good initiatives. Some of the previous ones helped the global church reach certain milestones (e.g. adopting people groups). 24:14 is about finishing what others have started by catalyzing movements that can reach entire people groups and places in a sustained manner. The 24:14 coalition is partnering with other networks like Ethne, Finishing the Task, GACX, GCPN, etc. One distinctive is that 24:14 is led by Church-Planting Movement leaders. Another factor is that experience in movements (particularly among the unreached) has increased substantially, resulting in much-improved “best practices.”

7.  What is a “Church-Planting Movement?”

A Church-Planting Movement (CPM) is defined as the multiplication of disciples making disciples and leaders developing leaders, resulting in indigenous churches planting churches which begin to spread rapidly through a people group or population segment. These new disciples and churches begin to transform their communities as the new Body of Christ lives out kingdom values.

When consistent (multiple-stream) 4th generation reproduction of churches occurs, church planting has crossed a threshold to becoming a sustainable movement. While it may take years to begin, once a movement starts, we usually see this 4th generation threshold crossed within three to five years. Increasingly, CPMs are starting new CPMs within other people groups and population segments.

8.  What is your definition of church?

Acts 2:36-47.

While there are a variety of definitions around the world, most of these movements would agree that a core definition of church is what we see the first church being and doing in Acts 2. In fact, many of them would lead a newly baptized group of disciples to study Acts 2 and begin to pray and work out how they can become this type of church. We encourage you to do this exercise with your own church.

These churches go on to study and apply many more aspects of being church from the New Testament. We encourage you to have a definition of church that is no more and no less than the New Testament gives us.

9.  Are there CPMs in the Bible?

Church-Planting Movements is a modern term to describe what has been happening throughout Church history.

Undoubtedly Church-Planting Movements have been around since the first century of the Christian era. You only have to read between the lines to see Church-Planting Movements as the back-story for the rise of Christianity from Christ to Constantine. In his book of Acts, Luke reported that: “all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.” (Acts 19:10) The Apostle Paul commended the Thessalonians through whom “the Lord’s message…has become known everywhere,” (1 Thess. 1:8) and near the end of his life declared: “there is no more place for me to work in these regions,” (Rom. 15:23) because of his desire “to preach the gospel where Christ was not known.” (Rom. 15:20)1

10.  Is the CPM approach against traditional churches?

God is using all kinds of churches to accomplish His purposes in the world. We are all parts of the Body of Christ and we need to honor each other. We do realize that church history and current global realities make it very clear that the Great Commission cannot be completed using only traditional church models. The amount of resources needed for a traditional Western style church does not allow for the growth needed to exceed population growth, and cultural patterns identified with the Western world are often a poor medium for bringing the gospel to non-Westerners (who constitute most of the world's unreached peoples). The primary push for CPMs is the reaching of those who are not being reached and are not likely to be reached by traditional church patterns. Biblical patterns that are simple and easily reproducible (such as those God is using to bring CPMs) offer the best hope for completing His command to bring Good News to all nations and peoples. So for anyone serious about reaching the unreached in significant numbers, we strongly recommend ministry patterns that aim to catalyze a CPM.

11.  Why do you advocate rapid multiplication? Doesn’t that increase the possibility for heresy?

Actually, heresy is generally less prevalent in movements because of the very interactive nature of discipleship. Heresy is a seed the enemy sows among groups of believers whether they are a part of movements or traditional churches. The question is not whether the enemy will sow such problems but whether we are equipping disciples and churches to guard against false teachings and address them when they arise. Even the New Testament church faced such challenges, but equipping believers to rely on Scripture as their authority and study the Scripture together as the body (as in Acts 17:11) helps guard against creative and eloquent false teachers. Heresy usually comes from influential, dynamic, and persuasive leaders and/or institutions. We avoid and deal with heresy by going back to God’s Word and self-correcting according to God’s Word. The strategies we use to make disciples are very Bible-based. Questions that arise are brought back to the Word of God, in order for God’s Word to be the source for answers, not individuals.

A focus on obedience-based discipleship instead of knowledge-based discipleship also protects against heresy. In other words, disciples are not just committed to gaining knowledge, but the measure of their discipleship is obedience to that knowledge.

12.  Does rapid growth of a movement lead to shallow discipleship?

Shallow discipleship tends to take place when new believers learn that:

  • the main thing expected of them is to attend church meetings once or twice a week.
  • obedience to Scripture is encouraged but not required.
  • the most important teachings from God will be presented to them by a church leader.

             Sadly, these are among the messages many believers around the world receive.

The best way to nurture real discipleship is to train new believers to:

  • interact with God’s Word (the Bible) for themselves and discover (together with other believers) what it says and how it applies to their lives.
  • obey what they believe God is telling them to do through His Word.
  • share the “real situation” of their lives with other followers of Jesus, pray for and encourage one another, and apply the “one anothers” of the NT.
  • share the reality of life in Christ with those who don’t yet know Him.

    These patterns of real discipleship are at the heart of what we see in Church-Planting Movements.

Aren’t movements just a fad?

There have been movements throughout history including in the book of Acts, the Celtic movement led by Patrick, the Moravian movement, the Wesleyan movement, the Welsh revival, etc. This new wave of movements began in 1994, 24 years ago, and is increasing exponentially through the present with over 650 identified movements.

Like the early church, these movements are—to put it in technical terms—”messy.” They are full of humans and human weaknesses and God’s strength despite those weaknesses. If you have other questions or other answers we would be glad to dialogue. You can write us at [email protected]

This is an article from the January-February 2019 issue: Is the End of Extreme Poverty in Sight?  What’s Working?

Hope for the Nations: Book Review

A Review of Wayne Grudem and Barry Asmus' The Poverty of Nations: A Sustainable Solution

Hope for the Nations: Book Review

From the Foreword: 

“I’ve been waiting for a book like this for a long time. Wayne Grudem and Barry Asmus have brilliantly written a work that is at the same time completely biblical, historical and practical… It should be required reading in every Christian college and seminary, by every relief and mission organization, and by every local church pastor. At Saddleback Church and in all churches participating in the P.E.A.C.E. Plan, this book will become a standard text that we will use to train every mission team we have in 196 countries.

—Rick Warren, Saddleback Church.  Lake Forest, California. Founder, Global P.E.A.C.E. Plan.

 

Two years from now, in 2021, Niran, his wife and his five children in a rural southwestern Nigerian community will bow together in family worship without aching, empty stomachs.  They will give money at church, dream about a college education for one of their children, and most of all, transcend a subsistence lifestyle for the first time ever. 

Here’s how this could become reality… Nigerian pastoral, government, and business leaders will have spent the summer of 2019 digesting and applying the remarkable ideas in The Poverty of Nations: A Sustainable Solution (2013). As they read the text, they learn to cast off ancient practices. For example, after reading chapter 6, these leaders confront their need for moral virtue (i.e., lives free of corruption), which is necessary for success in the marketplace. As they learn in chapter 3 about the benefits of the free market, formerly corrupt officials stop demanding bribes for the registration of land titles. Instead, they promote reforms in the capital city, Abuja, thus making property ownership widely accessible. 

This discussion in the summer of 2019 won’t be easy. False ideas, many rooted in ancient animism, must be confronted. For example, the old idea that there is only so much wealth to go around—“zero sum” thinking—is exposed as a lie in the book’s section on “Cultural Beliefs That Will Encourage Economic Growth.” It is also hard for leaders to acknowledge that they haven’t used their power for the benefit of their people. And until they do, their communities will remain desperately poor (chapter 7). 

Of course, Niran’s pastor will rejoice in 2019 because he and his family don’t have to go to bed with empty stomachs either. You see, Niran and his countrymen learned what government leaders are teaching from chapter 9—that having material wealth should never surpass the desire for spiritual wealth. As a result the offering basket in their church is now full, Sunday after Sunday. Niran and his fellow parishioners finally have an abundance from which to give and fund missionary expansion of the gospel. 

Every mission executive and pastoral trainer who wants the preceding possibility to become reality needs to read, digest, and seriously discuss The Poverty of Nations. This one-of-a-kind handbook is ready-made for those who need a blueprint, a roadmap for turning around struggling societies. Nine chapters are devoted to developing 78 principles (sometimes called steps, factors, or laws) that, if taken, can lead whole nations out of poverty. The authors argue that many, if not all, of these principles have been researched and time-tested in nations around the world. The book, thus, is a prescriptive text for the missional problem solver, not a thoroughgoing academic analysis that aims at description. The book is prescriptive and its scope is national. In other words, its unit of transformation is the nation-state. It is rare among writers in this postmodern era to rise above the level of the tribe (or people group) and yet remain below the level of international institutions. The authors justify this national focus by claiming that “the primary causes of poverty are factors that affect an entire nation” (25). Thirdly, the text is comprehensive. Contrary to various reductionisms, poverty remediation requires simultaneous transformation in three spheres: cultural (social), political, and economic. This insight alone makes the book a valuable treasure, in my opinion. The three spheres are interrelated domains of human existence, culture being the most fundamental of the three. The authors seem to agree, as nearly half of the principles are defined by the (misnamed) heading “nation’s values” (369). 

Recognizing that economic development is essential to escaping the poverty trap, the authors claim their book transcends others by focusing on the “nationwide laws, policies, and cultural values and habits that determine so much of the course of economic development in a nation” (26). Needless to say, the authors are unapologetically committed to free market economics. Research overwhelmingly confirms the effectiveness of the free market model, as opposed to various redistributive schemes in favor with international developmentalists like Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University. 

The book’s emphases on sustainability, reproducibility, and non-dependence on Western resources align nicely with missionaries’ church-planting objectives. Pastors should welcome the message that salvation is not merely spiritual, but that many of their congregants are called to undertake entrepreneurial initiatives. Government agents in their congregations will learn to adopt policies which encourage rather than dampen economic development. 

The single greatest fear of many missionaries, I suspect, will be that some of the ideas, if taught, will be viewed as hostile to the political authority of their host countries. Discretion and discernment will be required, because those who hear and take to heart what is taught will be changed. Most governments, of course, don’t like change that threatens their control. A second concern is that some of those who engage the text will take some of its ideas and shear them of their Christian roots while launching reform initiatives. The risk is real (think of the mid-19th century Taiping Rebellion that led to 20 million Chinese deaths), but the wise Christian interculturalist will admit that the gospel carries inherent political implications, as Vishal Mangalwadi explains in his classic text Truth and Social Reform (1989). Shrewd and effective Bible teachers will need to thread this needle while avoiding heresies. A third concern is that readers won’t understand the ideas sufficiently to teach them correctly (seminars will need to be organized). 

Those who use the book with groups as diverse as international students on the one hand, and Venezuela’s Yanomamo on the other, will need to frame their principle-oriented pedagogy so that it takes account of local realities. For example, predictable tensions concerning the superiority of private property ownership over tribal ownership will arise. Educated leaders will need to explain the tremendous wealth development potential of private ownership, while pastors will need to simultaneously teach against the corrupting practice of envy. Ameliorative institutions and mechanisms will be needed to soften the distortions and inequalities of private ownership. On this extremely critical matter, Grudem and Asmus not only offer biblical support for private ownership, but usefully engage authors like Hernando Desoto, Peruvian author of The Mystery of Capital (2003), who makes a strong case that billions of the world’s poor live on valuable property over which they have no legal title. Securing legal title is an essential early step that can then be parlayed for business development loans which are part of the poverty alleviation matrix. 

Do I have cautions over the book? Most certainly. 

First, the text fails to account for the growing impact of the global regulatory environment (fostered by international agencies) and its impact on national policies the authors recommend. 

Second, the book is biblically and theologically thinner than one would expect. (Others can undertake in years to come the task of filling out the theological themes that will ultimately make this everyone’s go-to text on a Christian view of building nations that prosper.) 

A third caution comes from a well-developed fear of utopianisms. While this is a very solutions-oriented text, I caution those who employ it to keep close at hand their doctrine of sin. Humans have massive capacities to prevaricate, corrupt, and otherwise diminish truth in order to make utopian claims that enrich themselves. Others will take these principles and impose them on the untaught. Replacing the gospel of Christ with a utopian gospel based on these principles would be no advance for human civilization; in the end, it would be a dark step back. 

Fourth, the book risks becoming a formula for national improvement, a 78-step surefire restorative for Sick Nations Anonymous. Our neighbors are human beings, not human test tubes waiting for our scientific prescriptions. These principles should be applied with generous helpings of a Christ-centered gospel that announces a Savior who has come to “reconcile to himself all things, whether in heaven or on earth, making peace by the blood of his cross.” In this context the book can be used very effectively, especially with leaders in all sectors of society. 

My last and fifth concern has to do with modernity, social unity, and Christian faith. The authors spend very little time warning that, unless gospel imperatives remain front and center in education, economic flourishing can lead to social diminishment and pathologies (as we have seen in Western countries). The Deuteronomy 8 warning against ignoring God once we become wealthy is as true today as it was thousands of years ago. Alexis de Tocqueville framed his brilliant Democracy in America (1835) around this question: As democratic man becomes established with political and economic freedoms, how will he maintain allegiances to the rest of society? History’s answer in the developed societies of the world is, “Not very well.” 

Asmus and Grudem don’t offer an answer either, nor need they at this early stage. But those engaged in Christian mission and development who wisely employ this text around the world—along with Darrow Miller’s Discipling Nations (2001), Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert’s When Helping Hurts (2014 edition), and Acton Institute’s The Poverty Cure video series (2012)—will need to invest great energy in finding contextualized answers to Tocqueville’s question. Only robust Christian faith will provide the enduring allegiances that offer genuine social stability, harmony, and assistance to those dislocated by free market mechanisms. It will be up to us to utilize various strategies that help the larger society to thrive while simultaneously deploying Asmus and Grudem’s text that empowers individuals. 

We must remember that the larger end that alone makes sense of such endeavors is God’s kingdom, where “they shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit…and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.” (Isa. 65: 21-22 ESV) This is a text about human flourishing, and that is what drives Asmus and Grudem. 

Tonight, there is a gaping, yawning emptiness in the seven stomachs in Niran’s family. He trusts Christ, and prays daily that their stomachs will someday be full. After the leaders in his community and his nation read this book, Niran and his family will have abundant reasons to thank the God who has not forsaken the righteous or let his children beg for bread. (Ps. 37:25) 

A Composite List of Factors That Will Enable a Nation to Overcome Poverty

Taken from The Poverty of Nations: A Sustainable Solution by Wayne Grudem and Barry Asmus, © 2013, Appendix: pp. 369-373. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www. crossway.org.

APPENDIX

A Composite List of Factors That Will Enable a Nation to Overcome Poverty

A. The Nation’s Economic System (details in chapter 4)

  1. The nation has a free-market economy. (131–221)
  2. The nation has widespread private ownership of property. (141–54)
  3. The nation has an easy and quick process for people to gain docu­mented, legally binding ownership of property. (149–54)
  4. The nation maintains a stable currency. (155–58)
  5. The nation has relatively low tax rates. (158–62)
  6. The nation is annually improving its score on an international index of economic freedom. (162)

B. The Nation’s Government (details in chapter 7)

  1. Every person in the nation is equally accountable to the laws (in­cluding wealthy and powerful people). (225–26)
  2. The nation’s courts show no favoritism or bias, but enforce justice impartially. (227)
  3. Bribery and corruption are rare in government offices, and they are quickly punished when discovered. (227–29)
  4. The nation’s government has adequate power to maintain govern­mental stability and to prevent crime. (229–30)
  5. There are adequate limits on the powers of the nation’s government so that personal freedoms are protected. (230–33)
  6. The powers of the government are clearly separated between na­tional, regional, and local levels, and between different branches at each level. (234–36)
  7. The government is accountable to the people through regular, fair, open elections, and through freedom of the press and free access to information about government activities. (236–39)
  8. The government adequately protects citizens against crime. (239–41)
  9. The government adequately protects citizens against epidemics of disease. (241–42)
  10. The nation’s legal system adequately protects people and businesses against violations of contracts. (242–43)
  11. The nation’s legal system adequately protects people and businesses against violations of patents and copyrights. (243–46)
  12. The government effectively protects the nation against foreign in­vasion. (246–48)
  13. The government avoids useless wars of conquest against other na­tions. (248–50)
  14. The nation’s laws protect the country against destruction of its environment. (250–52)
  15. The nation requires universal education of children up to a level where people are able to earn a living and contribute positively to society. (253–56)
  16. The nation’s laws protect and give some economic incentives to stable family structures. (256–57)
  17. The nation’s laws protect freedom of religion for all religious groups and give some benefits to religions generally. (258) 

C. The Nation’s Freedoms (details in chapter 8)

  1. Everyone in the nation has freedom to own property. (263)
  2. Everyone in the nation has freedom to buy and sell goods and ser­vices, so that there are no protected monopolies. (263–64)
  3. Everyone in the nation has freedom to travel and transport goods anywhere within the nation. (264–67)
  4. Everyone in the nation has freedom to relocate anywhere within the nation. (267)
  5. Everyone in the nation has freedom to trade with other countries without dealing with restrictive quotas or tariffs. (267–269)
  6. Everyone in the nation has freedom to start and register a business quickly and inexpensively. (269–271)
  7. Everyone in the nation has freedom from expensive and burden­some government regulations. (271–72)
  8. Everyone in the nation has freedom from demands for bribes. (272–75)
  9. Everyone in the nation has freedom to work in whatever job he or she chooses. (275–77)
  10. Every worker in the nation has freedom to be rewarded for his or her work at a level that motivates good job performance. (277–78)
  11. Every employer has freedom to hire and fire employees based on job performance and changing business cycles. (278–79)
  12. Every employer in the nation has freedom to hire and promote employees based on merit, regardless of family connections or per­sonal relationships. (279–80)
  13. Everyone in the nation has freedom to use the earth’s resources wisely, and particularly to utilize any type of energy resource. (280–84)
  14. Everyone in the nation has freedom to change and adopt newer, more effective means of work and production. (284–85)
  15. Everyone in the nation has freedom to access useful knowledge, inventions, and technological developments. (285–91)
  16. Everyone in the nation has freedom to be educated. (291–92)
  17. Every woman in the nation has the same educational, economic, and political freedoms as men. (292–93)
  18. Everyone in the nation, from every national, religious, racial, and ethnic origin, has the same educational, economic, and political freedoms as those from other backgrounds. (294–97)
  19. Everyone in the nation has freedom to move upward in social and economic status. (297–300)
  20. Everyone in the nation has freedom to become wealthy by legal means. (301–7) 

D. The Nation’s Values (details in chapter 9)

  1. The society in general believes that there is a God who will hold all people accountable for their actions. (318–19)
  2. The society in general believes that God approves of several char­acter traits related to work and productivity. (319–22)
  3. The society in general values truthfulness. (322–24)
  4. The society in general respects private ownership of property. (324–26)
  5. The society in general gives honor to several other moral values. (326–29)
  6. The society in general believes that there are both good and evil in every human heart. (329–30)
  7. The society in general believes that individuals are responsible for their actions. (330–31)
  8. The society in general highly values individual freedom. (331–32)
  9. The society in general opposes discrimination against people on the basis of race, gender, or religion. (332)\
  10. The society in general honors marriage between one man and one woman. (333–34)
  11. The society in general values permanency of marriage and has a low divorce rate. (334–35)
  12. The society in general believes that human beings are more impor­tant than all other creatures on the earth. (335–36)
  13. The society in general believes that the earth is here for the use and benefit of human beings. (336–37)
  14. The society in general believes that economic development is a good thing and shows the excellence of the earth. (337–38)
  15. The society in general believes that the earth’s resources will never be exhausted. (339–40)
  16. The society in general believes that the earth is orderly and subject to rational investigation. (340–41)
  17. The society in general believes that the earth is a place of oppor­tunity. (341)
  18. The society in general believes that time is linear and therefore there is hope for improvement in the lives of human beings and nations. (341–42)
  19. The society in general believes that time is a valuable resource and should be used wisely. (342–43)
  20. The society in general manifests a widespread desire to improve on life, to do better, to innovate, and to become more productive. (343–44)
  21. The society in general is open to change, and people therefore work to solve problems and make things better. (344–45)
  22. The society in general gives honor to productive work. (345–48)
  23. The society in general gives honor to economically productive people, companies, inventions, and careers. (348–50)
  24. The society’s business owners and workers in general view their companies primarily as means of providing customers with things of value, for which they will then be paid according to that value. (350–51)
  25. The society in general places a high value on savings in contrast to spending. (351)
  26. The society in general believes that mutual gains come from volun­tary exchanges, and therefore a business deal is “good” if it brings benefits to both buyer and seller. (351–53)
  27. The society in general values knowledge from any source and makes it widely available. (353–54)
  28. The society in general values a highly trained workforce. (354–55)
  29. The society in general assumes that there must be a rational basis for knowledge and recognized channels for spreading and testing knowledge. (355–56)
  30. The society in general demonstrates a humble willingness to learn from other people, other nations, and members of other religions. (356–57)
  31. The society in general believes that the purpose of government is to serve the nation and bring benefit to the people as a whole. (358–59)
  32. The society in general believes that government should punish evil and promote good. (359)
  33. The society in general values patriotism and reinforces a shared sense of national identity and purpose. (359–64)
  34. The society in general counts family, friends, and joy in life as more important than material wealth. (364–66)
  35. The society in general counts spiritual well-being and a relation­ship with God as more important than material wealth. (366–67)

This is an article from the January-February 2019 issue: Is the End of Extreme Poverty in Sight?  What’s Working?

Understanding the Remaining Mission Task - updated VIDEO

Understanding the Remaining Mission Task  - updated VIDEO

This is an article from the January-February 2019 issue: Is the End of Extreme Poverty in Sight?  What’s Working?

How Cultures Move from Poverty to Prosperity

How Cultures Move from Poverty to Prosperity

At 11:00 am on May 29th, 1953, beekeeper Edmund Hillary and his Sherpa guide Tenzing Norgay reached the summit of Mount Everest, the highest point on earth. Hillary was a native of mountain-and-glacier-draped New Zealand, but was part of a much larger British expedition led by John Hunt. He was one of ten elite climbers picked for their mountaineering prowess. 

The 1953 expedition established its first base camp in March, eventually reaching its final base at South Col in Nepal, 25,900 feet up. While on the mountain, the team had slowly adapted to the frigid and rarefied air, while waiting for the relative warmth of late spring. 

But they still had over 3,000 feet to go. Even today, a shot at Everest’s summit involves years of preparation, hundreds of thousands of dollars, and many weeks on and around Everest. But no future attempt was as bold as that one in the spring of 1953, for the simple reason that in 1953 it hadn’t been done before. Hillary and Norgay were the first to get to the top and live to tell about it. 

There are other ways up Everest but none were known in 1953 and probably none were as likely to lead to success as Hillary’s basic route. Indeed, in the years since then, thousands of mountaineers have retraced Hillary and Norgay’s steps in their own efforts to reach the top. Along the way, they have set up base camps that were not there before. These make the route easier for future expeditions. We now know, in detail, as Hillary and Norgay did not, the best way up the mountain. 

The cultural path from widespread poverty to widespread prosperity is like that route up Mount Everest. For centuries, most people lived in subsistence poverty, near sea level on the upward path to wealth creation. In the last two centuries, however, more and more cultures have climbed that path from the low-lying flatlands and hills, to the base camps and up to the summit. 

However, many around the world still languish in absolute poverty, even though we know the path to the summit of culture-wide wealth creation. What’s maddening is how many well-meaning people still commend routes that have not simply been untraveled, but rather, well trod to their bitter ends in a cliff or crevasse. 

Surely the better course is to help others to take the same route to the top that we have taken. There are ten major features that allow such cultures to reduce poverty and create wealth. The more of these a culture has, the more likely it is to be prosperous. 

Number 1: Rule of Law

Contrary to the stereotype that a free market is akin to anarchy, the rule of law is a precondition rather than a hindrance to a free market. As Adam Smith saw, the market order needs a system of rules that prods even selfish motives toward socially beneficial outcomes. The butcher, the brewer and the baker may have regard for their own interest, but in a free market their self-interest encourages them, not to steal from or defraud their customers, but to provide beef, beer and bread that others will freely buy.

 Number 2: Limited Government

Widespread economic freedom requires a government strong enough to maintain the rule of law, but limited enough not to trammel the rule of law under its boots. Neither the law of the jungle nor the capricious rule of despots allows a population to prosper. The United States has prospered because the American founders sought to avoid these extremes with checks and balances. Two chambers in the legislative branch, a separate judiciary and executive branch, strictly enumerated powers for the federal government, and individual states all act as a counterweight to each other and to the federal government. 

Number 3: Formal Property System

Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto has emphasized the economic importance of a formal titling system, which allows land to become property. He argues that the system by which we represent land allows it to become property

Securely titled property, in turn, changes the habits and attitudes of those who own it and of everyone else, who must respect it. Titled property allows land to become capital, which can be priced, compared and traded for other goods in a market. As property, that land can become collateral for a business loan, or inspiration for a farmer to invest in equipment or plant crops that yield greater profit in the long run but take years rather than months before the first harvest. This system allows land to become a tool for climbing the ladder of economic progress. Much of the success of North America, and failure of South America, can be traced to this factor. 

Number 4: Economic Freedom

If a society has rule of law, limited government, and a robust property and titling system, it creates space where individuals and groups are free to engage in win-win exchanges. The danger at this point is too much government. In advanced societies, champions of the free market rightly criticize government barriers that prevent people from freely trading goods and services, barriers such as tariffs, subsidies, price control, and regulations that incur more costs than benefits. But this we know: The more economic freedom a society enjoys long term, the more prosperity its citizens will enjoy. For years, the Index of Economic Freedom has listed Hong Kong as number one, and North Korea as dead last. That’s a perfect summary of the link between economic freedom and prosperity. 

Number 5: Strong Civil Institutions

Economists have begun to document the economic role of vibrant “mediating institutions” such as the family, churches, private charities and the like, which limit the power of the state. These institutions mediate between individuals, the state and the market. Economists for too long ignored the vital role of these institutions, but they are now confirming common sense. Does anyone doubt the bad economic consequences of broken families, out-of-wedlock births, bad schools and dysfunctional religious and charitable institutions?

 Number 6: Belief in a Meaningful Universe

Everyone doesn’t have to believe in God for a culture to prosper. Still, a number of scholars, such as sociologist Rodney Stark, have pointed out the economic importance of Judeo-Christian assumptions to the emergence  and success of Western economies. And even common sense suggests that if most of a population either languishes in despair or fritters away its time appeasing capricious nature gods, it will be less prosperous than a population that sees its daily labors as part of a larger cosmic drama within a rational, orderly universe. 

Number 7: Right Mores

Prosperity doesn’t require a perfectly virtuous society. If it did, no society would prosper. But economic success does require practical habits and mores that breed economic success. The German sociologist Max Weber argued as much in his Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism

His argument has not stood the test of time. Still, his basic insight—that morality and a vibrant economy are connected—has only gotten stronger. The key “commercial virtues” include orientation to the future; belief that progress but not utopia is possible in this life; a willingness to take thoughtful risks and delay gratification (which in turn encourages thrift, saving, and investing); habits of diligence; and respect for the rights and property of others. These mores allow wealth not only to be created, but also encourage people to save and reinvest some wealth— creating more—rather than merely consuming it. 

Number 8: Right Understanding of Wealth

A cluster of basic economic beliefs also encourages wealth creation. They include the belief that wealth can be created and in creative new ways: that free trade is typically win-win; that risk is key to enterprise; that trade-offs are unavoidable in the real world; that the success of others need not come at your expense; and that you can pursue legitimate self-interest and the common good at the same time. 

A good economic education should teach the wealth-creating power of sound economic beliefs. For instance, imagine a world where young people are taught that wealth is acquired by transferring wealth from one person or group to another (burglary, plundering, taxation). Now imagine another world where young people are taught they can create new wealth through diligence, creativity, and enterprise; through ventures that find new ways to serve potential customers in win-win exchanges. Which world do you think will be better off in the long run?

Number 9: Focus on Your Comparative Advantage

A comparative advantage is that thing that you can do best compared to your live alternatives. Depending on history and geography, not just individuals but cultures have different comparative advantages. In food, for instance, it’s no surprise that Norwegians focus on fish while Central Americans focus on bananas. Though your comparative advantage might be an immaterial asset, such as a good education or a sunny disposition, it often involves access to fertile soil, abundant sunlight, or an oil field. 

Number 10: Work Hard

The most obvious way to create wealth is to apply muscle to increase the natural creative capacities of field, herd, and factory. Even Karl Marx got this one right. But hard work is much more likely to create large amounts of wealth in a setting that includes the other nine ingredients. There was a lot more wealth-creating potential to Steve Jobs in the US than to Steve Jobs in Haiti. 

Again, this should be common sense. Which country is likely to do better in the long run, the one with a hard-working population, or the otherwise identical one with a population of lazy freeloaders? Obviously, the former. 

With the partial exception of number nine, the top ten ingredients for wealth creation all involve immaterial rather than material realities. Indeed, the more advanced an economy, the more important the immaterial and intangible becomes. Ironically, many people of faith believe in an immaterial realm and yet fail to grasp the immaterial source of wealth creation. Instead, they accept the same materialistic assumptions held by many of their non-religious counterparts. These religious people want a solution to third-world poverty, but they support counterproductive wealth-transfer schemes and miss the preconditions for long-term wealth creation. 

This needs to change. If we really want to fix global poverty, then we should seek ways to spread the top ten ingredients for wealth creation, and not the many popular, well-meaning plans that fail or do more harm than good. 

This is an article from the January-February 2019 issue: Is the End of Extreme Poverty in Sight?  What’s Working?

Manna and the Land: A Question of Timing

Manna and the Land: A Question of Timing

Sixbert lived on only $60 each month. With his family of nine, he struggled to afford rent and to provide for the needs of his family. After missing several rent payments, Sixbert, his wife, and their seven children were evicted from their home and became homeless. 

As a husband and father myself, I can’t imagine looking into the eyes of my wife and kids in that moment, feeling completely helpless, alone and uncertain. 

These feelings of fear and isolation are not uncommon for millions of men and women around the globe. Around one billion people live on less than $1.25 per day. Two billion people do not have access to a safe place to save and borrow money. And over three billion men, women and children have not heard the gospel. 

Many people living in the trenches of poverty have shared that food is unreliable and shelter is inadequate. That education is insufficient. That life can be isolating and scary. 

I sometimes wonder if that’s how Israel felt when God freed them from slavery in Egypt. Yes, life in Egypt was terribly hard. But life in the wilderness was terrifying. Like many of our neighbors, God’s people in the wilderness felt instability and hunger and isolation.

 A Question of Timing

The Jewish people were freed from generations of captivity in Egypt, but they escaped not into the Promised Land, but into the barren wilderness. 

Even though God performed miracle after miracle, the people of Israel did what humans are prone to do: they forgot. They forgot God’s provision and complained that though they were no longer slaves, they would die in the wilderness. 

“Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger” Exod. 16:3 (ESV). 

Now, it’s easy to beat Israel up for their tone. I know I have. Their persistent fearfulness seems equally maddening and confounding. Hadn’t God just deployed legions of frogs and locusts, turned river water into blood, and turned day to night? You don’t think He can keep you fed? 

But if we look on them more compassionately, as God absolutely did, we see them differently. These freed slaves were desperately afraid. They were isolated and homeless. They were facing a terrifying new world. 

And God responds in love, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you… and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord.” (Exod. 16:4, 6) 

Manna from Heaven

Only a few verses later, we read that God comes through on His promise: “And when the dew had gone up, there was on the face of the wilderness a fine, flake-like thing, fine as frost on the ground… Now the house of Israel called its name manna. It was like coriander seed, white, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey.” (Exod. 16:14, 31)

Manna was unexplainable to those who first tasted it—and even more mysterious to read about today. But one thing we do know is this provision of manna was not dependent upon the efforts or attitudes of God’s people. Manna was a daily reminder of God’s unconditional love. No matter how little the Israelites trusted, no matter how far their hearts wandered, the manna kept showing up. Every morning. For decades. 

But one day the manna stopped. Why? What caused God’s daily provision of bread to stay in heaven? 

“The people of Israel ate the manna forty years until they came to a habitable land. They ate the manna till they came to the border of the land of Canaan.” (Exod. 16:35) 

It wasn’t random. Nor was there was a weaning period where God provided a half-serving of manna. After providing manna six days per week for 2,080 consecutive weeks, the manna dried up. In the Book of Joshua, we read, “And the manna ceased the day after they ate of the produce of the land. And there was no longer manna for the people of Israel, but they ate of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year.” (Josh. 5:12) The day they tasted the fruit of the Promised Land, the manna ceased. 

Did God’s compassion stop when he stopped providing the manna? 

Manna and the Land

In short, I believe the answer is no. God’s compassion did not stop; it changed. God’s two approaches to loving his people—and a model for how we should love our neighbors—are manna and land.

Manna                              Land

Food                                        Fields

Received & Harvested            Owned & Cultivated

Time-bound                             Ongoing

Manna provided food for the people of Israel while they were homeless and in-transition from Egypt to the Promised Land. God provided it and the people harvested it. It’s easier to see God’s generosity when considering manna. It’s an evident miracle. Still, the Promised Land was equally miraculous. 

Moses challenged the people of Israel to consider this when they enter the Promised Land: “The Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great deeds of terror, with signs and wonders. And He brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.” (Deut. 26:1, 8–9) 

God did give His people manna. But He also gave His people land, and with the land, an invitation to put their hands to work and cultivate it, to provide for what their families needed. This, not the manna, was what God’s people longed for and prayed for—to have a place and a livelihood to call their own. And God invites us to do the same, showing us how His people should take care of our most vulnerable neighbors. 

Manna, the Land, and Us

What does “manna and Promised Land” compassion look like today?

Remember Sixbert? After his family was evicted, Sixbert joined a savings group through his local church and saved small amounts of money each week. He eventually saved up enough money to buy two piglets and started a business raising and selling pigs. Now, seven years in, Sixbert has six full-time employees and 200 pigs, along with goats, cows, sheep and hens.

Whereas before Sixbert felt isolated, he now lives and thrives in community with others. He even serves as a deacon in his church and as the president of his savings group. When he sees others struggling in his community, he gives them some of his piglets and teaches members how to raise them. He has a dream to see poverty completely eradicated in his village.

Manna                                                  Land

Short-term housing (for Sixbert)                     Savings account, pigs (for Sixbert)
Piglets
(from Sixbert)                                                  Farming training (from Sixbert)

Notice how Sixbert was the recipient of both manna and land… and how he extends manna and land to others. In God’s economy, we are both recipients and givers of both manna and land.

Sixbert remembers the love he received and he recognizes his success is not his own. He said, “the main reason I wish to give to the community in this way, by sharing a pig with my neighbors, is to help each of them move out of poverty.”

In John 6, Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. ftis is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (John 6:47-51)

We believe Jesus is the perfect manna—the provision freely given from heaven for the life of the world.

In Practice

How have you received and given manna in your life?

When have you been nourished by undeserved, unmerited grace from God and from others? And, how have you extended this compassion to those around you?

How have you received and given the Promised Land in your life?

When have you experienced the joy of being able to use your gifts and abilities to work and to care for those around you? And, how have you given that same opportunity to others?

This is an article from the January-February 2019 issue: Is the End of Extreme Poverty in Sight?  What’s Working?

Ending Poverty: Three Hopeful Signs

Could we see the end of extreme poverty in our lifetime?

Ending Poverty: Three Hopeful Signs
Just two hundred years ago, almost the entire world’s population lived in extreme poverty. Today, less than 10 percent do. In the past forty years alone, the percent of people living in extreme poverty has dropped by over 30 percentage points.
 
In my years of work in Christ-centered economic development, I have had the privilege of visiting places ranging from the small towns in Haiti to remote villages in northern Afghanistan. And I have come to realize that while poverty runs rampant in our world, the situation in so many communities is unquestionably getting better. The depth and complexities of poverty are not hopeless. The Church is on the move.

Love in Action

Jesus said that the world would know that we are His followers in how we love (John 13:35). And throughout His ministry, we consistently see His steadfast love and care for some of the most marginalized in society: widows, orphans, foreigners and those living in poverty.
 
For generations, the Church has recognized the importance of following in Christ’s footsteps to love and care for those on the margins. The Church has run toward those in poverty—showing the world what it stands for and not only what it stands against. Today, there are growing numbers of people and organizations committed to bringing the love of Christ to individuals around the world and empowering whole communities to flourish.
 
Here are three hopeful trends as the Church addresses global poverty:

1. Stand for local leaders.

Our culture is obsessed with superheroes. In ten years, Marvel movies alone have totaled over $17 billion in the box office worldwide. In elementary school, our son loved his Spiderman outfit, and now our youngest proudly wears his Black Panther costume. We celebrate the heroes who risk their lives for the sake of others. Regardless of age, gender, or social class, heroes—both in real-life and on the screen—captivate our attention.
 
Unfortunately, this hero-centric perspective translated into our early poverty alleviation efforts as well. 
 
When the Church first came onto the scene of global poverty, we were foreigners trying to play the part of the hero. We handed out blankets, donated clothes, painted buildings, and gave out food. Even with good intentions, our short-term-missions trips too often fell prey to paternalistic attitudes as we saw ourselves as the hero of the story.
 
But in the last few years, there has been a growing realization and repentance for massively underestimating the capacity and competency of the global Church. We’ve seen how infinitely more capable the global team is to engage in long-term effective poverty alleviation. We’ve seen the brilliant leadership expertise of people like Christine Baingana—CEO of Urwego Bank, the microfinance institution I worked for when I first arrived in Rwanda. (There is simply no question that she is an infinitely more capable and equipped leader of Urwego than I ever was or will be!) We’ve seen the incredible knowledge of Jean de Dieu Bizimana—HOPE International’s country director in Burundi—and the passion he has to serve the underserved in his community. We celebrate the fathers and mothers, businesspeople and church leaders effecting change in their neighborhoods. We celebrate the expertise and passion of our brothers and sisters around the world who seek to love and serve their communities with excellence. (Since they know their culture, their resources, and their people better than we do, they tend to do the work better anyway.) And we celebrate because the Church is recognizing its identity as a global Church. We need each other in this mission!

2. Recognize assets.

Although we might have looked at a person or community in poverty through a needs-based lens in the past, recently we have changed our focus. Instead of seeing “not enough,” we see an individual’s assets, skills, and dreams. Instead of seeing “the poor,” we see a mother with a sewing machine, a passion to make clothes, and a firm determination to provide for her children. Instead of seeing a “needy person,” we see a father with a small field, a knack for farming, and a dream to build a home for his family. We see people as the solution.
 
The greatest Gift-Giver of all time entrusted each of us with unique gifts, skills and abilities. In Rom. 12:6, Paul writes that “we have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.” What a mistake it would be if we didn’t recognize them in ourselves and in others!
 
While in Burundi several months ago, I had the privilege of meeting a construction team who, at the time, didn’t have nails for their upcoming project. So, they began to make nails by hand by using small scraps of metal. This is but one example of the millions of men and women around the world who, every day, inspire us with their hard work, innovation and resourcefulness.
 
We celebrate the shift from seeing needs to seeing capacity. We celebrate the resourcefulness, diligence and creativity of our brothers and sisters around the world to transform their communities. We have much to learn from them.

3. Champion employment.

It’s been said that “the world’s best welfare program is a job.” And today, there is a growing cadre of organizations who understand the importance of work.
 
Jobs for Life is just one of these organizations. With a mission to equip the Church to prepare individuals for meaningful work, Jobs for Life wants to see all people flourish in their work and relationships.
 
They understand that work provides dignity, value, and purpose. Work verifies our identity, creates communities, produces jobs, and renews cities. Today, many are without work or underemployed, and this robs them of their God-given dignity and purpose.
 
In their new initiative Flip the List, Jobs for Life seeks to transform the way the American Church fights poverty. Right now, the Church pushes back against poverty by handing out food (62 percent), providing housing (55 percent), and giving away clothing (22 percent). Only two percent of the Church’s poverty-alleviation efforts are geared towards employment.
 
Jobs for Life’s goal of “flipping the list” is to move employment from the bottom to the top of the list. When the Church focuses on meaningful employment first, provision for food, housing, and clothing will naturally follow as families increase their capacity. Flip the List empowers men and women to provide for themselves— replacing a cycle of poverty with one of dignity. We celebrate that an increasing number of organizations and efforts have been addressing poverty in a dignity-affirming, God-honoring, and jobs-centered way.

New Approach, Lasting Change

The Church is beginning to combat extreme poverty in a more complete way. It focuses on long-term systemic change and lasting employment patterns, not short-term quick fixes. It emphasizes the importance of partnerships and local champions, not external “saviors” descending to solve the problems of those considered less fortunate. The hope of the gospel is integrated through tangible acts of compassion that have long-term reach.
 
This is a movement where discipleship, job creation, training, and financial services are building on local relationships to empower communities to break free from poverty.
 
“Poverty does not belong in a civilized human society,” Nobel Prize Winner Muhammad Yunus said, “Its proper place is in a museum.” As the Church continues to stand up for local leaders, identify skills and assets, and champion employment-based solutions, we may realize that the end of extreme poverty is much closer than we think.
 

 

Defeating Poverty: What Doesn’t Work

 
This article first appeared in the July/August 2011 edition of Mission Frontiers under the title:
 

A Hand Up, Not a Hand Out

In the decade following the collapse of communism, churches operating in post-Soviet Ukraine could once again practice their faith openly and freely. Yet they faced great need: With the economy in shambles, laypeople struggled to find work and provide for their families. Some churches in the United States stepped forward to meet the needs of their Ukrainian brothers and sisters and rebuild their church communities, but they quickly came to realize that good intentions don’t always translate to sustainable results.
 
A hand up, not a handout
 
An active member of a church based in Lancaster, PA, Jeff Rutt, founder of HOPE International, joined several delegations his church sent to Ukraine to deliver shipments of food, clothing, and other supplies to a sister church in Zaporozhye, Ukraine.
 
On one of these trips, a Ukrainian pastor pulled Jeff aside and described the effect of the aid on his congregation: Although he was grateful for the help, the shipments  had  depressed local initiative, as many vendors within the church and community could no longer compete with the free shipments of supplies. Instead of inspiring a spirit of generosity and giving, the shipments had created a sense of dependency on foreign aid.
 
He said, “We need a hand up, not a handout.”
 
After realizing the need for solutions that came from within the community and emphasized the God-given skills and dignity of the local congregation, Jeff began offering small loans and business training to church members, and HOPE International—a Christ-centered microfinance network now serving over 300,000 clients in 15 countries around the world—was born.
 

Symptoms and solutions

Rutt and his fellow church members had good intentions from the start, but in overlooking some key symptoms of poverty, they limited the effectiveness of their ministry. In the West, poverty is almost exclusively viewed as a lack of material wealth, characterized by insufficient food, money, clean water, and medicine. When over 60,000 people living in material poverty were asked to define poverty, however, they did not use such straightforward terms. Researchers Brian Fikkert and Steve Corbett of The Chalmers Center for Economic Development said, “They tend to describe their condition in far more psychological and social terms. Poor people typically talk in terms of shame, inferiority, powerlessness, humiliation, fear, hopelessness, depression, social isolation, and voicelessness.” While Jeff and his church were meeting material needs, their assistance actually intensified the psychological and social symptoms of poverty.
 
If the symptoms of poverty are not as clear-cut as they seem, then neither are the solutions. An accurate diagnosis  precedes an effective course of treatment, not only in medicine but also  in  economic  development. Before we attempt to solve the problem of poverty, we must first understand three factors that contribute to the problem: 
 

1. Belief that solutions come externally:

In Haiti, a HOPE staff member met another who said she had no desire to fix her dilapidated home. The worse her home looked, the better her chances of receiving foreign aid—both to fix her home and to send her children to school. Abraham Lincoln once said, “You cannot build character and courage by taking away people’s initiative and independence. You cannot help people permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.”
 
In 2005, I traveled to Afghanistan with HOPE International and saw firsthand the damage done when we decide to help those in poverty by “doing for them, what they could and should do for themselves.” After decades of war, even remote regions within Afghanistan had grown accustomed to outside aid. When a group of donors, pastors, development practitioners, and I were helicoptered into a remote Afghan village, we were paraded around by elders who showed us their “needs.” They led us to a community center with minor water damage to the roof. Outside this building, an elder with a full beard waved his finger at me saying, “You must fix this!” He— like many in the village who were eager to show us their needs— had become dependent on outside aid, a dependency handicapping their long-term initiative to break the cycle of poverty. We must recognize the inherent gifts and talents of the poor to begin to transform communities and the landscape of poverty from within.
 

2. Ignoring the benefits of business:

According to Bill Easterly in The White Man’s Burden, since1970, Africa has received over $3 trillion in aid, but many of the countries’ growth have stagnated—even plummeted. Despite trillions in aid, countries in Sub-Saharan Africa still rank at the bottom of poverty indexes such as the World Bank’s Doing Business report and the United Nations Human Development Index (HDI). Good intentions too often ignore what has historically been shown to create wealth: job creation. Since the 1980s, extreme global poverty has been reduced from 52 percent to 10 percent, primarily through commerce and industry created in countries like China and Brazil, which are now dominating world markets. Business is revolutionizing the world to end extreme global poverty as none of our collective outside efforts and aid have achieved. As the global church seeks to alleviate spiritual and physical poverty, we often overlook one of our greatest resources—our business people. Although there has been an uneasy alliance between business laypeople and church leadership, business is vital in poverty alleviation efforts.

3. Disconnecting proclamation from demonstration:

 
Poverty is not only physical but also innately spiritual. Historically, the Church has lost credibility and impact when it propagated the lie that we could disconnect our proclamation of the Gospel from our demonstration of the Gospel. It’s time to end this deadly dichotomy. We cannot address hopelessness and brokenness without rejoining our words and our deeds. Only the Good News of Jesus Christ’s redemptive work on the cross coupled with acts of compassion brings hope for restoration of relationships—with God, with one another, with ourselves.  Journalist and self-proclaimed atheist Matthew Parris wrote in The Times of London that—as much as he hated to admit it—he saw the importance of Christianity in development work. Growing up in Africa and returning years later, he saw that aid and relief work alone weren’t enough. Christianity brought about true heart change: “The [African] Christians were always different. Far from having cowed or confined its converts, their faith appeared to have liberated and relaxed them. There was liveliness, a curiosity, an engagement with the world—a directness in their dealings with others—that seemed to be missing in traditional African life. They stood tall.” In his article, Parris shares how the truths that Christianity teaches—that mankind has inherent worth and dignity—are the key difference in escaping poverty. 
 
Like Matthew Parris, I came to my own realization in Africa that if microfinance institutions (MFIs) and aid work are only meeting material needs, they may increase income, but they won’t catalyze life transformation. While managing a microfinance institution in Rwanda, I met Florian, who later became my guard, gardener and friend; however, sometime later, I discovered that when I left my house, he would enter to steal money and other items from my guests, using both the money he earned and stole for alcohol. Through this experience, I recognized that Florian’s increased income wasn’t changing him: Unless his heart was changed, his increased income did not benefit him.
 
Contrasting Florian is the story of Milán Tapia, an entrepreneur, accomplished seamstress and activist in the Dominican Republic. Born in el campo, or in the country, she knew material poverty as a child. Through a small business loan from Esperanza International, HOPE’s partner in the Dominican Republic, she began a sewing business making school uniforms; successful, she employed several workers, but she testifies her life didn’t change until she was introduced to Jesus Christ by her loan officer. Transformed by the love of Jesus, Milán was ready to make a difference in her community: With her business profits, she founded Tu Hogar Cristiano (Your Christian Home), a school for disadvantaged children in her community. Today 400 children attend Milán’s school. One woman’s changed heart and economic situation resulted in hundreds of changed lives in one Dominican community.

A true fact

The Church today is poised to make a lasting impact on global poverty and we need a big vision for what God might do in our lifetime. Already, we have seen tremendous developments in the areas of health care and poverty reduction. Polio decreased by 99 percent, from an estimated 350,000 cases in 1988 to 483 cases in 2001; in the last eight years, the number of children dying of measles has decreased by 78 percent; and in the past six years, malaria rates have been cut in half. As poverty has been cut in half in the last 20 years—in large part through job creation and business—we see that it is possible to alleviate global poverty as never before. The question is whether or not the global Church today will believe that it is possible to see significant physical and spiritual restoration—and then work passionately, wisely and selflessly to see Thy Kingdom come.

This is an article from the January-February 2019 issue: Is the End of Extreme Poverty in Sight?  What’s Working?

No Time to Spare

Bible Translation for Language Groups

No Time to Spare

On a late fall day in 2014, a group of 13 local Christian men and women gathered in South Asia to attempt something that never had been done before. Working together in teams of three and four, they accomplished the unthinkable: the translation of nearly half the New Testament in two weeks. 

The collaborative new translation method, known as MAST (Mobilized Assistance Supporting Translation), had been developed by Wycliffe Associates. MAST supports the ownership of the Bible translation process by local churches within a language group so they no longer need to rely on foreign missionaries to translate the Scriptures for them. Wycliffe Associates serves the local church, providing the training and technology. 

 

“MAST emerged because people without Scripture, people with no hope of receiving Scripture from others, decided that in good conscience before God they could no longer wait,” said Bruce Smith, President and CEO of Wycliffe Associates. “Existing Bible translation strategies were not meeting their needs, so they took action.” 

The MAST methodology was born after a group of Bible scholars, pastors, teachers, missionaries, and Wycliffe Associates staff members came together to develop a process that could be employed by mother-tongue translators, working under the authority of the local church, to accelerate Bible translation for their own language communities. 

“There are two things that really stand out to me from having seen MAST over the last few years empower the church in their ownership,” said Dan Kramer, Director of Education Services at Wycliffe Associates. “The first is hearing repeatedly that by trusting people in their language and allowing the church to do their job in Bible translation, MAST has given minority languages and cultures dignity that is so often taken away. The second is to hear (and witness) from many that MAST is doing more than Bible translation; it is providing an opportunity for transformation to take place immediately.” 

Based on natural language learning principles and neuroscience, MAST uses an eight-step process that includes drafting, editing, and accuracy checking. In a workshop setting, volunteer teams recruited by the local church work together to translate the Bible into their own language, beginning with the New Testament. 

MAST has been especially effective for putting the Bible into the hands of language communities in nations where traditional missionaries are forbidden. The presence of foreigners attracts unwanted attention and puts local Christians at risk for persecution, even death.

Another challenge for foreign Bible translators has been accessing language communities located in remote, hard-to-reach areas, some of which are only accessible on foot. Then there is the matter of time. Translation of the New Testament has taken as many as 25 to 30 years in the past. 

“In the past, many New Testament translations have required 25 to 30 years,” said Smith. “Before MAST a few translations were completed in around six years. So the idea of translating an entire New Testament in just weeks sounded like pure lunacy.” 

Indeed it did. As word spread about the outcome of the MAST pilot workshop, some in the Bible translation community raised questions about the accuracy and quality of Bible translations produced with MAST. Christianity Today headlined a 2015 article on the watershed translation method with the question, “Microwave Bible?” 

But Wycliffe Associates enlisted leading Bible translation scholars to check the new translations for accuracy. Among them was Dr. John Luton, who has participated in 52 Bible translation projects worldwide. “The work produced through MAST methodology is excellent,” Luton said. “It compares very favorably with texts produced through other methods.” 

“The local body of Christ,” said Smith, “is the best judge of Bible translation quality in their language.” 

The year after launching MAST, Wycliffe Associates held 235 MAST workshops, starting 116 new translation projects and accelerating 100 Bible translation projects already in progress. 

During 2016, Wycliffe Associates conducted 135 MAST workshops and saw the completion of 58 New Testaments. And in 2017, New Testaments in 104 languages were completed using the MAST methodology. 

To assist mother-tongue translators in maximizing their training, Wycliffe Associates provides technology. Through a program called Tablets for National Translators, mother-tongue Bible translators are equipped with tablets loaded with translation software. 

Wycliffe Associates released the Android app translationStudio as a free download in Google Play under Creative Commons: Attribution/Share-Alike licensing. “We are drawing from the wealth of biblical materials that already exist but are unavailable to most of the world due to copyright limitations,” said Smith. 

The app, which includes the Unlocked Literal Bible resource in an increasing number of majority languages, makes Bible translation tools available to the church worldwide, free of charge, and enables national Bible translators to work collaboratively, regardless of where they live. 

Another Wycliffe Associates strategy provides Print-On-Demand technology, with compact high-speed, digital printing equipment that enables translators to immediately and discreetly print the Scriptures they’ve translated. The equipment is especially helpful to churches and translators living in areas where the persecution of Christians is intense. Easily moved from one location to another, it can quickly produce large or small quantities of Scripture. 

 

Wycliffe Associates hoped to see 600 new Bible translations launched in 2018. Of the 7,097 languages currently spoken in the world, there are 2,758 languages that still need a Bible translation project started. 

“MAST has revealed that the church’s hunger for God’s Word is much greater than we imagined,” Smith said. “They are also ready, willing, and able to do Bible translation for their people.” 

Wycliffe Associates’ goal is to see a completed Bible in every language by 2025 and sees MAST as a catalyst for accomplishing it. 

“I’ve heard it said over and over in my 33 years in international missions that the day would come when the church would be able to lead mission outreach,” said Bruce Smith, President and CEO of Wycliffe Associates. “This is that day.” 

This is an article from the January-February 2019 issue: Is the End of Extreme Poverty in Sight?  What’s Working?

Why Obedience and Relational Discipleship Need to Be Friends

Why Obedience and Relational Discipleship Need to Be Friends

“Accountability feels legalistic to me. I like a discipleship model that is more relational.” These words were spoken by a friend. I had just brought up the suggestion that we ask application questions at the end of our Bible study. Her concerns were valid and real. They were not new to me. 

Indeed for some, we almost have an aversion to anything that remotely smells like legalism or control. We may have had bad experiences with these things in our lives. Perhaps we’ve been wounded by controlling, authoritarian leadership. Or it may be that we come from an egalitarian worldview, where freedom of individual choice and tolerance are highly valued. That can also cause us to feel uncomfortable with regularly being asked about the application of God’s Word in our lives. 

Some cultures (and some personalities as well) are more comfortable with accountability than others. For numerous people, the strong emphasis in Disciple Making Movements (DMMs) on obedience-based discipleship can feel extreme. It can seem like there is no priority placed on the relationship. They perceive this as legalistic and overly structured. 

So, is it? Why does accountability matter in the process of launching a movement? Is obedience-based discipleship truly a necessary key to seeing a movement of Jesus followers begin to multiply? And does this emphasis on obedience indicate that the relational aspects of discipleship take a back seat? 

In this article, I hope to answer some of those questions. 

Obedience-Based Doesn’t Mean It’s Not Relational

In the movements I’ve watched emerge, both in our own training network and in others, I have seen that obedience-based discipleship is indeed a crucial factor in the movement’s rapid growth. But this doesn’t at all mean it happens without deep and strong relationships. Laying a foundation of obedience at the core of the movement need not become legalistic or controlling. Not any more than in any church structure. Jesus perfectly modeled for us how obedience and relationship go hand in hand in making disciple-makers. As we look to His example, we can discover how to do this well. 

It Felt Uncomfortable

When we first began to experiment with using T4T (Training for Trainers) in South Asia, our team decided to start a T4T group in our home. Those of us on the team who hoped to eventually multiply T4T groups joined this initial group. It seemed like a good idea. Do first, then teach, right? I had no idea how much it would personally challenge my own faith and missionary lifestyle. 

We followed the three-part system of T4T (Look Back - Look Up - Look Forward). We started our group meeting with pastoral care, then moved into a short time of worship. After this, we asked accountability questions of one another. How are we doing at following Jesus and fishing for men? We went around the circle and each person shared how they had done at applying what they had learned the prior week in their personal lives. Then we shared how we had done with our personal evangelism goals and activity that week. Had we prayed for anyone who was sick? Had we shared with someone our testimony or the story we had learned? (Check out dmmsfrontiermissions.com for free resources on how to start a T4T group). 

I have to say, I wasn’t used to being accountable to anyone for my weekly evangelism! It was not comfortable. I didn’t like to have to admit that a whole week had gone by and I hadn’t shared the gospel with anyone. Here I was, a missionary and a church planter, but I hadn’t done what I was expecting of the others I was training. No, it definitely wasn’t comfortable. 

We continued on through the process of the three parts. We learned a new story or studied a new Bible passage. We then discussed four or five questions. The final question was “What will you do to obey?” 

After answering that, we entered the final segment of our time together. We set goals for the coming week. We prayed for one another and sent each other out to do what God had spoken to us about in the study. I knew that the next week, the question would come around again. Had I applied the lesson in my own life (following Jesus)? Had I shared the gospel with anyone (fishing for men)? 

This both motivated and scared me. I didn’t want to be ashamed. Was I being motivated by the wrong things, I wondered? Was the fear of the group, the fear of man, pushing me to share Jesus? That wasn’t right! 

As the weeks went by and we practiced T4T, we learned a lot about the method of Training for Trainers. We tried some things that we decided didn’t work well and made adaptations. Other things we found to be very helpful and they started producing good fruit. We kept those things. 

But perhaps the greatest change came in my own personal transformation. I had never before been a part of a regular group that studied God’s Word then actually kept me accountable for whether or not I did what God was speaking to me about. I had never had accountability in my life in quite that way. No one had ever asked me if I was faithfully sharing Christ each week. I guess that is why disciple-making had never become a lifestyle, though I had a deep, burning passion to reach the unreached. 

We realized, in that first “practice” T4T group, that accountability for obedience to God’s Word was incredibly powerful. It helped to bring about transformation in our lives. It was also vitally important, we found, that we create a “no shame” environment of love and deep relationship with one another. When we failed to complete our goals, when we couldn’t apply His Word faithfully, we encouraged and affirmed each other. Together we all grew. As a team and as individuals, we were being transformed. 

I can honestly say that it was this process of friendly, relational, but consistent accountability to be obedient to God’s Word that transformed me from a disciple into a disciple-maker. I am so grateful we didn’t just teach others to do T4T, but that we practiced it first ourselves. 

Accountability For Obedience is a Non-Negotiable

Whether you use Training for Trainers (T4T), Discovery Bible Study (DBS), or some other approach in starting a Disciple Making Movement, the element of accountability for obedience has to be in place. It is a key catalyst and driver of rapid growth. It propels the movement forward and facilitates God’s process of transformation in the disciples’ lives. 

As you work through the awkwardness in the early stages, accountability to one another for disciple-making activity becomes a norm. It becomes a part of the DNA of the movement. Those who come to Christ and are discipled in this way don’t find it strange; they experience it as normal. It is those of us who come from traditional church backgrounds that feel uncomfortable at first. That is because in most churches there is little to no true discipleship happening. Accountability is not a part of our Western church culture at all, and we have exported that church culture to the rest of the world. This is not, however, the way Jesus made disciples. 

Jesus was not hesitant or timid in requiring obedience. He modeled a consistent, relational, accountability with those He led. Some of His most profound parables were about the importance of obedience. 

There is one short parable Jesus told that we all learned in Sunday School. It is the story of two men. One man builds a house on sand, another on a rock. The man who built on the rock was called the wise man and the other man was called foolish. But do you remember why they were called that? For some strange reason, we often miss the point of this story when we learn it as kids! We easily remember the well-known children’s song, “The wise man built his house upon the rock….”

But here is the main point. The one who builds on the rock is the one who hears the Word and puts it into practice… the one who immediately obeys. When the challenges of life come, he will have a strong foundation (Matt. 7:24-27).

The Same Foundation of Obedience is Needed in a Movement

The same is true of a movement. A movement develops a firm foundation for rapid and sustained growth when accountability for putting God’s Word into practice is a normal part of how discipleship happens. 

We also find Jesus asking His disciples for reports on their disciple-making activities. In Luke 8, 9 and 10 he sends the disciples out to share about the kingdom. When they return, he asks for a report of what had happened. He debriefs them and then teaches them based on what had been done. 

Jesus said in John 14:15 “If you love me, keep my commands” and again in John 15:14 “You are my friends if you do what I command.” This was not optional, nor was it legalistic. But it did sort out the true disciples from those who were just interested seekers. In our movements, we must do the same. For Jesus, it was obedience that was the evidence of the depth of relationship with Him. 

What is Friendly Accountability?

When training church planters, I like to call it friendly accountability. This emphasizes that we do not shame anyone and that we must ask obedience-related questions in a friendly manner. Many of the cultures we are trying to start movements in are honor/shame-based. We in no way want to cause our disciples to feel ashamed. Nor do we want to be manipulative or coercive. Instead, we want to develop an atmosphere of loving support, encouragement, faith and risk-taking in the groups we start. We need to train our disciples and the leaders we develop to practice accountability without the use of shame.

 In addition to being shame-based, most of the cultures where there are unreached people are also communal. When we decide to obey God’s Word together as a group, we can then evaluate as a group how we are doing. This prevents individuals from feeling shame and helps them stay inspired to continue.

Celebrate testimonies and breakthroughs together. Pray for one another when one or two in the group are finding it difficult to obey Jesus’ commands. But don’t, please don’t, go light on developing a culture of obedience in the movement. It is crucial to both multiplication and transformation. It certainly was in my life and it has been in the movements I’ve worked with. But together with  obedience-based discipleship, be relational. Love deeply. Be compassionate and supportive. Create a strong community in the fellowships. Spend time together outside of the Bible study times. Eat together. Cry and grieve together. Become a family. This relational commitment, together with accountability to obedience to Jesus, will propel you forward. 

Start Now

Are you interested in starting a movement? Exploring the idea? Why not do what we did and start with your own DBS or T4T group in your home? Find a group of people and willingly pursue accountable relationships in both following Jesus and fishing for men. As you begin to do this, you will learn much more about what a house church/ disciple-making group in a movement looks like. You will definitely grow as well. And who knows? It could launch a new movement! God likes to take small beginnings and do the miraculous through them.

This is an article from the January-February 2019 issue: Is the End of Extreme Poverty in Sight?  What’s Working?

Kingdom Kernels: Quick Guide to Solving Generational Hurdles

Kingdom Kernels: Quick Guide to Solving Generational Hurdles

One of the tragedies of civilizations is when they degenerate in ways that forget and lose the skills of art forms and technologies of previous civilization. The Dark Ages are called “dark” in one sense because of the loss of many of skill sets intrinsic to the glories of Rome. While decaying arches, aqueducts, roads and marble buildings reminded the average person in Europe of a more “golden age,” the political and social environment was such that little time could be given to recovering lost art forms. Many were just trying to make it day to day. 

One of the great joys of a civilization is rediscovering these lost art forms and their skill sets. In fact, as skill sets are recovered, fine artisans throughout history have tried to not only learn from previous masters, but even improve on their styles. The Renaissance certainly was a time of both recovering lost art forms as well as surpassing them in many arenas. 

Our generation has forgotten a spiritual skill set of the New Testament generation. Like the decaying aqueducts and vine covered marble buildings for Europeans, the book of Acts reminds us that, spiritually, things were not always as they are today. Acts points toward a “golden age”of miraculous movements in which disciples exhibited a spiritual skill set of being led by the Spirit to fulfill the vision of Acts 1:8. When we read how God acted so powerfully in Acts, we often long that He might do such things again in our generation. 

Yet, Acts is coming alive again today all over the world, and in many ways expanding beyond the numbers and scope of the New Testament. There is increased momentum today to not only finish the Great Commission, but to make sure we do serve through kingdom movements that multiply disciples, churches, and leaders throughout a people group or geographical area. One example is the 24:14 Movement (http://www.2414now.net) which is a global coalition of movement practitioners praying and collaborating together to engage every unreached people group and place with a Church-Planting Movement (CPM) strategy by the year 2025. Movements are emerging as CPM practitioners recover New Testament skill sets forgotten by previous generations. In the book of Acts, believers lived with the expectation and ability that ordinary disciples and churches multiply. The spiritual skill set for multiplication was known in that early church and second nature to many. Multiplying disciples knew how to push through hurdles and challenges that came as one generation reached another which reached another. 

In the intervening centuries, these spiritual skill sets have not always been remembered. Multiplying movements are so foreign to us that it takes very proactive retooling of our expectations and skills to walk in step with the Spirit toward generational multiplication. 

In my previous article in the Nov-Dec. 2018 edition, I discussed three broad areas that must be in place for generational multiplication not to get bogged down. Only when generations exceed the fourth generation of new churches consistently in multiple locales has a movement really begun. Unfortunately, many CPM practitioners get stuck at hurdles between the first four generations and the ministry never becomes a movement. If we can solve the hurdles of the first four generations, then movements typically will naturally progress from there. 

What follows is a very succinct set of solutions (skill sets) collected from around the world that CPM practitioners have found to overcome hurdles found in the first four generations.1 .As a reference point, we will call pre-existing believers the foundational generation or Generation 0 (zero). Generation 1 is the first generation of new believers and new churches. Generation 2 is defined as being started primarily by Gen 1, and Gen 3 as primarily started by Gen 2, etc. 

The following bullet points serve as a quick guide that practitioners can use to troubleshoot where they are stuck. The value of this quick guide is having them all in one place rather than long explanations of a few solutions. This article assumes that practitioners understand the spiritual dynamics outlined in my previous article. Please do not proceed until you have read that article.

Quick Guide to Solving Generational Hurdles: [Reminder: Make sure the three basic arenas of CPMs are active and in balance: 1) Spiritual Posture, 2) Simple Path, 3) Reproducing Discipleship Process. See previous article.] 

Solutions to hurdles of going from Gen 0 (no new believers or no new churches) to Gen 1 churches:

Build a broader and bolder outreach: Often evangelism efforts are not broad enough to actually find the persons God has prepared for salvation. 

Prioritize developing local partners: Expatriates trying to reach a people group face many challenges. Don’t stop the personal evangelism, but DO spend a significant amount of time casting vision to and mobilizing same or near culture partners to go with you into the harvest. They are usually better equipped to reach that culture. 

Model CPM skills for local partners: National partners will find multiplying strategies a challenge, just as we do. Teaching them is not enough. You must go out into the harvest and model for them how to multiply disciples, even if you are still learning. 

Issue a stronger call to commitment: Evangelism efforts may be enough, but if you are not calling listeners to respond to God’s voice and commit their lives to Jesus, you have not finished the evangelism process (e.g. Acts 2:40). Some people do not believe because they have not been asked. 

Fast and pray through hurdles: Many hurdles cannot be overcome without more fervent prayer and fasting. Whenever you are stuck and cannot find a solution, return to prayer and fasting to seek God’s face (e.g. Mk. 9:29). 

Have a clear church formation stage: It is not uncommon for CPM workers to get new Gen 1 disciples and small groups, but churches remain elusive. Strong CPMs make the church formation process clear and simple for new disciples. Often there is a specific Bible lesson that calls them to move into church identity and function. 

Find key strategic-level national co-laborers with vision: For a movement to really take off, keep praying for and searching for local believers who can share the larger strategy-level vision with you (not just ground-level disciple-making). Better yet, find a national believer who already has such a big vision and partner together. 

Solutions to hurdles of going from Gen 1 to Gen 2 churches consistently:

Simplify the basic CPM path: (see  article  from previous edition): The CPM methods path toward finding hungry people (entry), evangelism, discipleship and church formation must be simple enough for Gen 1 believers to replicate. Beware of pre-existing Christian workers (Gen 0) assuming that a weeks-old believer can use tools and methods only a mature believer can use.

Ensure that all CPM path pieces are in place and one step leads to the next: Don’t assume that the steps leading for your entry, evangelism, discipleship and church formation methods/tools are all connected. Instead, intentionally form them into one seamless process. It is easy for new believers to off-ramp the CPM path (e.g. go to existing churches because church formation is not strong). 

Strengthen the three-thirds process, especially accountability: Reference the previous edition for more explanation of the three-thirds process. Frequently Gen 1 does not produce Gen 2 because they are simply passing on information (Bible Study) but not equipping them in a discipleship process that gives them confidence and competence to start Gen 3. 

Find the God-prepared people who will launch a movement: It may be that Gen 0 has done a good job of evangelism (G1 disciples) but just hasn’t yet found a fourth-soil person that will be the seeds of a movement. Keep sharing the gospel expectant to find those persons who will boldly share with many. 

Set the follow and fish DNA (Mark 1:17) within hours/days: The first few hours in the life of disciples are when you set expectations. Training them to follow (obey all they hear from God) and fish (reach out to others) is a pattern and expectation that has to be started at new birth. 

M.A.W.L. at every stage: Every new generation needs the previous generation to Model, Assist, Watch and Leave them in a variety of skills and endeavors. Don’t assume they can do it just by watching you or attending your training. 

Intentionally reap the oikos at Gen 1: It is not uncommon in the evangelism process to end up with just one new disciple. Without his or her oikos (circle of influence) members believing, the new disciple can feel very alone. Help him or her intentionally share with the oikos (including you sharing as well) in the first few days or weeks of salvation. 

Solutions to hurdles of going from Gen 2 to Gen 3 churches consistently:

Maintain momentum toward grandchildren disciples and churches:

– Help every generation of disciples and churches aim for grandchildren disciples and churches. 

– Therefore, when a Gen 1 church starts, you must be planning how to get to Gen 3. The clock is ticking for how long that process will take. 

– Plan to have disciples publicly share breakthrough testimonies of getting to third generation. 

Stay with Gen 0 or Gen 1 long enough to help them birth grandchildren churches: It is not uncommon for CPM workers to fall into one of two traps: 1) doing training dumps where they download CPM principles over a weekend or two, or, 2) staying with their Gen 0 or Gen 1 group only long enough to get through their initial 8-10 discipleship lessons. If the generational rate is 3-6 months in your area, can you see that you need to spend 12-18 months with a group to help coach them toward birthing children and grandchildren churches?

Help new believers create maps of generational trees: As they visualize and track the generations of disciples and churches, it makes them more conscious to pray and plan for progress. Generational maps provide visual representations that help them more easily spot and troubleshoot momentum problems.

Maintain all elements of the three-thirds process as Gen 1 trains Gen 2: It is not uncommon for Gen 1 believers who learned in a three-thirds environment to revert to primarily passing on lessons to their Gen 2 believers. Their failure to use the same three-thirds process will mean that Gen 2 disciples are not really equipped to birth a third generation. The result is Gen 2 groups and churches that lack the three-thirds format. 

Make sure the vision is inspiring and viral: If the vision for a CPM is small, difficult to state or only in the hearts of Gen 0 and Gen 1 disciples, it will fail to be passed down to subsequent generations. The vision must be big enough to inspire new disciples to expand and to endure coming persecution. 

Gen 1 must help Gen 2 find the God-prepared people who will launch a movement: Yes, this is the same as in the section above. But it is essential for each new generation to reach out broadly enough to find new movement launchers. This injects fresh momentum into each generation’s CPM efforts. 

Instill boldness where fear has set in: Fear of ridicule and persecution is contagious and will stop a movement. While fear is contagious, so is boldness and faith. Intentionally find ways to instill boldness through testimonies, Bible studies, Scripture memorization, counting the cost, etc. 

Raise up shoulder-height national co-laborers with big vision: This was mentioned in the first section, but at this point in a movement it is indispensable. Unless you have national co-laborers with the same or bigger vision on equal footing with you in decision making (their shoulder is the same height as yours!), the movement will falter around Gen 3 because that is as far as your personal influence can reach. 

Implement effective leadership development: At this point in a ministry, the focus must be on developing effective leaders, raising up Timothies who can be mentored and making sure this system is scalable— can expand with the movement. These leaders must be able to make their own decisions without going to the foreigners or Gen 0 national leaders for answers. 

Efforts here should focus on two areas: 1) maintaining momentum toward generational multiplication and 2) creating long term sustainability and health in the movement. 

Make the vision so sticky and compelling that it is owned by the movement and drives it through a limitless number of generations: Beware of disciples in the first three generations hijacking the vision. For example, FROM multiplying to reach all of the lost TO preserving the health of the first three generations. 

Develop consistent mid-level training that maintains momentum and health: Mid-level training retreats enable top level national leaders to diagnose with their middle-level fruitful leaders problems in momentum or health, and offer them a context in which to solve them. Allowing unfruitful leaders to attend will dilute the solutions and weaken the movement’s DNA. 

Be sure to shift the effort of yourself and key leadership on the S.O.I.L.S. continuum: (see Mission Frontiers, Nov-Dec 2014, pp. 38-41): You and your key leaders must walk through the progression of 1) evangelism and casting vision to nationals, to 2) training new believers, to 3) developing leaders, to 4) targeting new segments, while maintaining a strong prayer strategy throughout. 

Be prepared for leadership turnover: Losing one or two top-level national leaders can cripple a movement. Always have 1) multiple top-level leaders in mentorship as well as 2) Timothies that they are coaching. It is essential that you personally know many of these Timothies in case all of your top-level leaders are taken out at once. 

Keep expanding the movement into new segments so that current believers do not run out of people to evangelize: Without an intentional Acts 1:8 focus on reaching new areas, a movement can stagnate as its evangelism saturates its current oikos networks. 

Endnotes
  1. 1 Special thanks to Stan Parks and Curtis Sergeant who contributed to and refined this list.

This is an article from the January-February 2019 issue: Is the End of Extreme Poverty in Sight?  What’s Working?

Manila’s Street Dwellers:  From a Place of Poverty to True Flourishing

Manila’s Street Dwellers:  From a Place of Poverty to True Flourishing

Beginnings

In 2001, a typhoon ripped through Metro Manila. When the winds died down, I drove down Roxas Boulevard. I watched as scores of street people meandered along the bayside in bare feet, picking up recyclable trash. They lived in holes dug into the barrier walls of Manila Bay. I learned that the storm surge that breached the wall had flushed them out like mice from their dugouts. 

Later in my car, I broke down and cried. This is not how God intended it to be, I thought. Didn’t the Bible say that God made man a little lower than angels? I struggled to understand it all. 

That same year I went to Korea for a prayer retreat. The tour included a visit to the Osanri Prayer Mountain. Members of our group were each assigned a specific hour to take partin the 24-hour prayer chain that had been going on at this place for years. At my appointed time, I climbed the hill to my assigned prayer cell, donned a white robe and knelt in prayer. I recalled the street people of the boulevard and spent the hour crying out to God for the chance to help them. 

Four years later, the Center for Community Transformation Group of Ministries (CCT) held its first feeding and Bible study session for street dwellers. This later evolved into the CCT Kaibigan Ministry, Inc. (KMI).

John 15:15 says, “I no longer call you servants … I have called you friends.” This verse captures the essence of KMI. Kaibigan is the Filipino word for friend. We call our street-dwelling friends kaibigans

Understanding Street Dwellers

As KMI ministered to the street dwellers, we began to understand them and their needs. We saw that they had no place to stash what little they had, and no place to bathe. Health centers refused to give them basic medical attention because they were not registered residents. Women refused to go to hospitals to give birth, believing that their babies would be stolen and sold by hospital staff to childless couples. 

During one feeding session, Angel, one of our pioneer staff, asked why one of the men who came regularly was missing. “He broke a leg,” someone answered. Angel found out that, for lack of a place to keep their clothes, some street dwellers hide their belongings up in the tree branches. The man had fallen and broken his leg while retrieving his things—and was still lying under the tree two days after, waiting for help! We immediately sent someone to take him to the hospital. 

Going a step beyond Bible studies and feeding on the streets, we invited men, women and children to undergo a restoration process. This involved living in a halfway house where they would receive counseling, spiritual nurturing and life skills training. The Kaibigan Center offered free meals, toilet and bath facilities, lockers, a safe place during typhoons and floods, and—quite significantly for me—an address. Having an address would allow the street dwellers to register as voters. In addition, it would allow them to avail of government services like healthcare. 

Journey of Change

Some have said that in ministering to street dwellers CCT went into an expensive venture, but for me, nothing is expensive in the development of peoples. From the perspective of the eternal, short-term costs are investments in helping the disadvantaged see the face of God. 

The street dwellers’ journey of change starts building trust during street-side Bible studies, feeding, discipleship and savings. Next, staff assess their physical and psychological health, skills and behavior while they live temporarily at the Kaibigan Center. Street dwellers who wish to be reunited with their families and return to their home provinces are given boat or bus tickets and pocket money for the trip. 

Those who express interest in starting a new life in Manila attend an evangelistic camp where they learn about intimacy with God and their purpose in life. Then they return to the halfway house for training in basic livelihood and life-coping skills as well as cooperative principles and work values. Trained kaibigans then become members of the Kaibigan Maaasahan Multipurpose Cooperative (KMMC), which has the responsibility of finding jobs for them with companies needing construction, building maintenance, housekeeping and landscaping services. KMMC receives a 10 percent service fee from these companies. 

The individuals come full circle in their journey at this point because earnings of KMMC support KMI’s street feeding program. 

Lessons Learned

Of all the groups that CCT works with, ministry among street dwellers is the most difficult. Street dwellers are hardened by the need to survive. Working with them, you are confronted with raw truths about yourself, about others, about ministry and about God. 

One truth I learned is that no one is beyond hope of transformation. I have seen hardened criminals realize their need for a Savior, repent of their sins, change their ways, face their past, acquire skills, adopt socially-accepted behavior and move on to a future filled with hope. These are stories many times repeated and relished. 

On a personal level, I learned that as development workers or missionaries, we tend to impose our perspectives and values on the people we serve—perspectives and values shaped by our culture, context and beliefs. This prevents us from appreciating each person’s journey. Worse, we miss out on the opportunity to deepen our understanding of the change they are going through, lessening our ability to empathize, to feel, to love. 

This was my experience working with Tatay (father) Carlo, a gifted painter. For some reason, he took to the streets in his 50s. We invited him to join CCT’s communications unit, where he provided illustrations for many of our print materials. Often, other kaibigans would tell me things about him, which he would always deny. I would confront him about it and believed what he said, until my son took a video of him to prove that my trust in him was misplaced. When I confronted Tatay Carlo with the video, he again denied his activities. I was upset. Betrayed. How could he lie? Because of this confrontation, he went back to the streets. 

A year later, the Lord allowed me to see Tatay Carlo in a different light. How could he not lie? His whole life was a lie. It was years, in fact, before he even told us his real name. My task should have been to enable him to accept his past and help him develop trusting relationships again. But I failed him when I gave up on him. I wanted to ask his  forgiveness. I asked co-workers to look for him. They found him suffering from terminal lung cancer and had him confined in a hospital. When the doctors could do nothing more for him, they brought him to the KaibiganCenter. 

I was not able to see him personally as I was undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer at the time, but we did communicate.  We forgave each other. We constantly prayed together and found joy in studying the Bible long distance before he passed away. 

Another lesson I learned while ministering to street dwellers is that sometimes our goals, our timetable, and the targets we set can become our gods, displacing love and compassion. 

Sadly, this is how I drove one street dweller away from his journey of change. Lito was a self-confessed arsonist. His wife, Evelyn, was a self-confessed con person. One day, Lito himself was set up to get burned and die. He found refuge with CCT. Staff brought them to the Kaibigan resettlement village. Unfortunately, they simply could not live in harmony with the others. Fights would always ensue despite daily devotions and Bible studies. 

One day, they asked me if they could live apart from the other families. Believing that this would be a negation of our goal to develop a community among former street dwellers, I said no. We lost the couple to the streets again. My set goal of establishing a community took precedence over allowing Lito and Evelyn to find their pace and time in their journey of change. 

Impact

Though work among street dwellers is the most difficult, it is likewise the most rewarding. Of all the groups CCT serves, street dwellers have experienced the greatest depths of depravity and need; therefore, seeing  their transformation is almost like seeing them literally resurrected from the dead. 

For example, most street dwellers commit petty thefts every day to survive. Others stage holdups or commit more heinous crimes. So how can we measure the effect of one life off the street? 

What is the impact of at least 450 former street dwellers earning regular incomes? What is the impact of one whole public park cleaned up of street dwellers  because  those  individuals now rent or own houses? What is the impact of their learning how to save? What is the impact of children no longer born into misfortune? Or of more than 2,000 street dwellers partaking in a feeding program where they also hear the gospel and are given hope for a better life? 

The impact of men and women leaving crime to become responsible members of society again is something not captured by any gross domestic product report or included in the numbers churned out by government statisticians. 

In Ezekiel 37, the Prophet Ezekiel records his vision of the Valley of the Dry Bones—and this vision has always inspired those of us who serve people who live on the street. In the lives of transformed street dwellers, we see dry bones gathered, connected with sinews, covered with flesh and skin and given life once again by the Spirit of the Lord Himself. 

This is an article from the January-February 2019 issue: Is the End of Extreme Poverty in Sight?  What’s Working?

Maybe It’s Time to Pray

Maybe It’s Time to Pray

Years ago, when personal computers were just getting cheap enough for average Americans to have one on their desk, a few of the “computer geeks” set an alarm that would go off each hour and say: “maybe it’s time to pray!” 

There were some other “alerts” they set up which I won’t mention here, but now with smart phones and Apps, there are GREAT ways to remember to pray daily for the Unreached Peoples of the world. Here are four of them. Each of these tools allows you to pray “at a distance” with other believers around the globe. 

1.  We’ve produced the Global Prayer Digest since the early 1980s. Each day, your prayers are informed related to different people groups—usually focused in a given country or region each month. This app is produced and updated by a partner ministry in Taiwan called the United Mission to Taiwan. It is also available in Chinese. 

2.  Joshua Project began as one of Frontier Ventures’ ministries in 2000. Each day, their app gives practical details about “the People of the Day” and you can see how many others are praying each day. Note: Starting in May of 2019, both the GPD and the “People of the Day” apps will be focusing on the new category of Unreached Peoples called Frontier People Groups. You can learn more about this at: http://www.joshuaproject net o.r order a special, 31-day prayer guide for the largest Frontier People Groups at http://www.go31.org<./p>

3.  Operation World also offers an app that goes through every country of the world on an annual basis, listing data and information to fuel your prayers. Download each of these at the app store for your device. 

4.  The Waymakers app integrates prayer for our own city with prayer for God’s glory among the nations: http://WayMakers.org/ pray/seek-god/app.

I pray almost every day using all four of these; two of them at 10 am Pacific Time. Will you join me in interceding for the peoples of the earth and the advance of God’s kingdom? 

When I share about these as I speak to groups, I tell people to turn OFF other notifications – they merely distract you. BUT, I urge people to turn ON these notifications and set them to remind you at a certain time each day. Yes, that too is an interruption. But more importantly it is a reminder that helps to feed our vision and fuel movements to Jesus.

This is an article from the January-February 2019 issue: Is the End of Extreme Poverty in Sight?  What’s Working?

Savings:The Key to Unlocking Entrepreneurship

Savings:The Key to Unlocking Entrepreneurship

You don’t have to be an economist to understand capital. Consider Abdul Saboor. Abdul runs a small television repair business in Kabul, Afghanistan. He received a small loan to increase his inventory of spare parts and hire two additional people to help manage his growing business, significantly improving his efficiency. “I used to have to go to the market [by foot] every day to buy parts,” he said, adding that it was a 2 ½ hour round trip. “Now I go once every two weeks.” 

He used a loan to open a second shop, which increased his sales and thus his profits. More importantly, he increased his efficiency and productivity and provided jobs for two more people. 

Economic Stimulus

Access to capital can unlock the enterprising potential inherent within every individual. Capital empowers men and women in poverty, allowing them to improve their bargaining power and leverage, which can lead to lower costs, higher productivity and an improved standard of living. According to Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto, “Capital is the force that raises the productivity of labor and creates the wealth of nations. … It is the foundation of progress and the one thing that poor countries cannot seem to produce for themselves, no matter how eagerly their people engage in all the other activities that characterize a capitalist economy.” 

Stated simply, it takes money to make money. The usual two ways to access that initial capital are through a savings account or a loan. If you ask individuals from virtually any culture who have succeeded in business, you will nearly always hear a story about their first loan that helped put them on the path to building a successful business. 

The benefits of capital seem obvious enough to Americans— and we’re usually able to acquire the capital we need. Banks, financing companies, and affluent relatives abound in the U.S. and other high-income countries. However, 2 billion people around the world don’t have access to financial services, most of them in developing countries. How can entrepreneurs in poverty access modest amounts of capital with which to start and grow their businesses? 

Loans

One day, the mail carrier brought me three offers from credit card companies. One touted double airline miles, another guaranteed zero percent interest for all balance transfers for the life of the loan, and another boasted about the size of loan I was prequalified to receive. None of the offers interested me, and I quickly threw them out.

However, during my lunch break, I visited Home Depot and was approached by a woman wearing an orange apron covered in badges. Linda offered me $20 or 10 percent off my purchase if I signed on a dotted line and accepted a Home Depot credit card. Now that was an offer I couldn’t refuse—$20 was enough money to help pay a babysitter so I could have an evening out with my wife! 

My access to easy and relatively affordable credit could not be further away from the reality of individuals living in Parola, Philippines. When we visited this high-crime area, the going rate for moneylenders was 20 percent. Not a bad interest rate—until we realized that this rate was for four days! Apparently theft in this area did not just result from robbers and pickpockets; it also came through usurious interest rates on capital and individuals who preyed on  those with no other options. 

In many parts of the world, “5-6” loans are the norm. Individuals borrow five units and repay six, equaling a 20 percent interest rate. Again, the problem is that this rate is either daily, weekly or monthly, depending on the loan shark. How would it be possible to escape a vicious loan cycle with rates this high? Consider a loan of $100, perhaps used to take a sick relative to the city for medical treatment. At 20 percent weekly interest, that $100 loan could quickly grow to a staggering $1,849 after just 16 weeks. It would be an inescapable trap for all who fall into it.

 If rates for loans are so ridiculously high for many, perhaps savings is a better route to accumulate the modest amount of capital necessary to launch a business. 

Savings

There are many benefits to saving instead of taking a loan. Saving is less risky and more flexible, allowing people to accumulate money to invest in a business or provide for emergencies. So why doesn’t everyone save? Our situation in the West differs markedly from the experience of most of the world. I remember opening my first savings account with my father at Middlesex Bank on Main Street in Concord, Massachusetts, and how I began saving small amounts. I put an advertisement in the local paper expressing my willingness to work hard and do any odd jobs. Within a week, I was flooded with opportunities to move pianos, paint sheds, haul rocks and mow lawns. Each week, I would first tithe then put a portion in savings at Middlesex Bank. Slowly these savings grew, and I remember my excitement at having accumulated enough in my account to purchase my first mountain bike. 

Contrast my experience to Geetha, who in seven months will need 1,000 Indian rupees—about $15—for school fees for her daughter. She makes $17 a month, so if she doesn’t start saving the money now, she’ll never have such a large sum.

 No banks or formal services are available to Geetha. So, to save for her daughter’s school fees, she agrees to save with Jyothi, her friendly neighborhood “savings collector.” Jyothi has recognized the need for a safe place to save money and has developed a business to meet that demand. Jyothi goes to Geetha and her other clients each day to collect savings deposits from them. In this way, Geetha saves 5 rupees a day. After doing this for 220 days, Geetha will have deposited 1,100 rupees, and she will get back 1,000. Jyothi keeps 100 as her fee for providing this valuable service.  

Geetha has saved the 1,000 rupees needed to pay her daughter’s school fees—but by getting back less than she put in, she actually paid to save! How much has Geetha paid to save for the school fees for her daughter? She’s paid 30 percent annual percentage rate. Can you imagine? We Americans earn money on our savings, while Geetha and others in similar situations are forced to pay for the privilege. And many in the world do not even have access to a savings collector. 

Conducting a study to determine if HOPE International should expand its services to a rural fishing village on the Congo River, our group asked several residents a simple question: “If you only have a little money to save, what choices do you have?” Most said they have only one option—travel to the center of the next town and deposit their funds at a savings kiosk. And when they withdraw savings from the kiosk, they pay 10 percent of the maximum balance. One of the potential savers I met would be required to pay 15 cents for transportation plus a 10 percent fee to save $1. If he wanted to save $1 a week for six months, he just paid $6.50, or 25 percent of his total savings, for the privilege. What an incredible negative savings rate! 

My first reaction to hearing these high rates was, “That’s crazy! Why pay someone to collect and hold your savings for you? Why don’t those in poverty just do it themselves, especially when this type of savings arrangement isn’t even FDIC insured?” This is a common response to learning that people in poverty like Geetha often pay deposit collectors 30 percent APR to save in a place that is only marginally secure and not protected from inflation. 

The key to making sense of this is to recognize the enormous obstacles to saving in developing countries. These obstacles are related to the following: 

I.  Reality of Living Conditions

If you lived in a five-by-eight-foot tin house with no doors or windows and practically no furniture, where would you hide your cash? How would you protect against theft? Natural disasters can literally burn, rot, or sweep away the cash savings people have tried to squirrel away in hiding places in or near their homes. Pakistan’s severe floods of 2010 provide an example, when heavy monsoons damaged or destroyed approximately 1.6 million homes, leaving some 14 million people homeless. As they fled, many people reported seeing money floating by, likely savings that had been hidden in people’s homes. “I had nearly 100,000 rupees [about $1,176] in cash buried in an earthen jar under the mud floor of my home,” shared Muhammad Rafiq, whose home was destroyed in the flooding. “There was confusion as we fled, and I thought my wife had retrieved it. But we both failed to do so, and now the money is gone.”

II.  Societal Demands

In many developing countries, familial and communal ties are so strong it would be social suicide to deny someone money if you have some to spare. Those who have even a little are expected to share with a brother, aunt, cousin or neighbor who asks. Denying the request would lead to ostracism from the community. Although there are great benefits to a society that shares so completely, it holds people back from accumulating and investing capital—and thus moving forward economically. It is often a question of short-term gain at the cost of long-term progress. 

III.  Lack of Nearby Alternatives

If I need to deposit money in my bank, I can use my phone or choose from several branches or ATMs within 10 minutes of my home. However, in Rwanda, despite great improvements in account ownership, the average person is still a 53-minute journey from a bank branch or ATM. A trip to the bank would mean two hours of lost business. Interestingly, mobile phones are helping make banking much more accessible in remote areas, with the average Rwandan only 31 minutes away from a mobile money agent.

 Alternative Piggy Banks

So how do families in poverty save? Out of necessity, they have created several innovative—though not always ideal—options.

On a trip to Santiago, Dominican Republic, I met a woman who manufactures bamboo savings logs. She cuts 12-inch lengths of naturally hollow bamboo stems, seals both ends, and then cuts small slits through which money can be deposited. She described how most customers bury them or hide them underneath a piece of furniture. When asked if they ever put them under their mattresses, she laughed and cautioned, “Everyone knows that’s where people hide their extra money, so you really shouldn’t hide your money there. 

Other Benefits of Savings

It might seem counterintuitive, but individuals living in poverty can’t afford not to save. There are few governmental safety nets in developing countries. Small emergencies can become disasters. Dave Larson, international development expert, describes savings this way: 

Those living in poverty are like someone on the edge of a steep, tall cliff. Perilously near the edge, it won’t take much of a blow to force them over the edge into a tragic fall. A fire, a flood, a drought, an illness, an accident—these and other traumas could easily result in catastrophe. Savings helps people reduce their vulnerability. In effect, it allows them to take a few steps away from the edge. Farther away, they are at less risk. A blow may push them toward the edge—but not over. When we help people to save  money, we’re saving lives—in less dramatic but perhaps far more effective ways than we see in the movies. Rather than arriving in a helicopter to grab someone dangling from tree roots atop a cliff, we’re helping them to stay away from the tree roots in the first place.

Another creative savings method was discovered by a British nongovernmental organization operating in Cambodia. At one point, its leaders noticed that many Cambodians raise pigs, so they concluded that it must be a profitable business. Perhaps they could help even more Cambodians take advantage of pig farming. However, after talking with several pig farmers and running the numbers, they were bewildered—the local farmers were losing money on their pigs! The cost of raising the pigs exceeded the income received when the pigs were sold. What was going on? 

Further research revealed the truth: The Cambodian farmers were raising pigs as a way to save a “lump sum” of money that could be used for school fees, weddings or to grow their business.

One Cambodian farmer explained it this way: If I don’t have a pig to raise, each day I’ll fritter away whatever money I have, partly by responding to the requests of relatives and friends. In three months, I’ll have nothing more than I do now. However, if I have a pig, I have to take care of it. I have to invest my daily loose change into the pig—I can’t allow it to starve or get ill and die. After a few months of this, I’ll sell it and use the money for my son’s school fees. This farmer was using a literal piggy bank that could protect his money from constantly diminishing. 

Mike Cahill, a homebuilder from Pennsylvania, traveled to the Dominican Republic to visit Esperanza International. In one small community outside San Pedro, Mike and the team visited Yaquelia, a woman who had just joined Esperanza. When Mike asked Yaquelia about her family, she told the group about her 5-year-old son, Juan, who was suffering from hydrocephalus, a buildup of fluid in the brain. It was obvious that this was a severe medical need and that Juan needed to be treated. Upon returning to the United States, Mike did everything he could to get medical treatment for Juan, even finding a doctor willing to perform the surgery. Unfortunately, after medical examination, they determined that it was too late to treat this abnormality. The tragedy is that Juan could have been cured if his mother had had the knowledge and money to get this treatment in time. 

This tragic situation is repeated throughout the world. U2’s Bono calls this sort of situation “stupid poverty” and wonders why thousands of individuals should die every day from mosquito bites, starvation and preventable diseases. There simply is no good reason why 16,000 children should die each day. Poverty is behind almost every one of those unnecessary deaths, and in countless cases, a small savings account could have prevented tragedy. 

Ephraim Kabaija, former chief of staff to President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, explained the critical need for a bank that offers savings accounts to the Rwandan people: 

Do you know how many people die in our country every year because their mothers cannot afford the $2 or $10 needed to buy medicines to treat diarrhea, fever, malaria, and other common illnesses? Do you appreciate how much angst, misery, and despair we could eliminate from our country if every family had $50 in a savings account?  

Preparing for the Future

For many in the developing world, everything revolves around today. What will I eat today? What will I wear today? Where will I find employment today? Beginning to accumulate savings helps shift an individual’s focus from today to tomorrow. A family’s timeline begins to change. The emotional benefits of this are hard to quantify, but a street vendor in the Democratic Republic of Congo summarized it best: “I’m not so afraid of tomorrow anymore.” 

The reality is that having a safe place to save small amounts of capital or access a loan is essential if people are to escape poverty and build a better future. 

NOTE: This is an adapted excerpt taken from Peter Greer and Phil Smith’s book, Created to Flourish: How Employment-Based Solutions Help Eradicate Poverty. To download your free copy of Created to Flourish, please visit https://www.hopeinternational.org/createdtoflourish. 

This is an article from the January-February 2019 issue: Is the End of Extreme Poverty in Sight?  What’s Working?

The Poor Do Not Always Have to Be With Us

The Poor Do Not Always Have to Be With Us

Is there any hope of eliminating extreme poverty in our world? Trillions of dollars have been spent in the U.S. and around the world to eliminate poverty and yet poverty in Africa is still a tenacious reality. After spending $15 trillion on the “War on Poverty” starting in 1964, the poverty rate in the U.S. has only decreased by four tenths of one percent to 10.1% today. At first glance it seems hopeless, but there is now abundant evidence for what works and what does not in overcoming poverty. In this issue we will reveal to you what works in defeating poverty. 

There is one thing that the global anti-poverty industry is slowly beginning to realize: aid is not enough. Aid alone will never defeat poverty. Aid alone will only create people dependent upon ever more aid and less able to support themselves. Poverty will only be overcome when people are able to support themselves without outside aid. The movie, Poverty Inc., www. povertyinc.org, does a great job of chronicling the many failures of global anti-poverty efforts to make a lasting impact in the lives of the poor. There are many instances where outside aid actually hurts the poor by undercutting local markets, thereby making the poor even more dependent upon outside aid for their survival. In desperate situations where people are starving, aid is essential and must be provided. But aid is not a long-term solution to poverty. Aid, supplied too long to people, will actually keep the poor trapped in poverty. 

The country of Haiti is a prime example where aid alone has failed. Possibly, no single country on earth has received more international aid than Haiti and yet they are still desperately poor. The movie, Poverty Inc., explains how good intentions of outside organizations to alleviate the desperate poverty in Haiti have gone so terribly wrong. In the midst of this human tragedy there are indeed examples of Haitians lifting themselves out of desperate poverty by starting their own businesses and even creating new jobs by hiring others. The solution to poverty lies in empowering people to lift themselves out of poverty. 

ANY PROGRESS?

Have we made any progress in combatting poverty? Yes, as Peter Greer says in our lead article, “Just two hundred years ago, almost the entire world’s population lived in extreme poverty. Today, it’s less than 10 percent. In the past forty years alone, the percent of people living in extreme poverty has dropped by over 30 percentage points.” (Extreme poverty is defined here as living on $1.90 per day or less.) This dramatic reduction in extreme poverty is even more remarkable when you consider that world population has increased seven-fold over the last two centuries. Without very significant economic growth, a population increase such as this would naturally force untold millions into greater depths of extreme poverty as the available resources would be divided up between ever growing numbers of people. Yet the exact opposite has happened. As the world population grew exponentially, the global economy grew even faster as mankind entered the greatest period of innovation and technological expansion the world has ever seen. 

This progress dramatically increased after 1950 when 72% of the world still lived in extreme poverty. By 1981 it was down to 44%. Since then global economic growth has accelerated bringing the global extreme poverty rate down to below 10%. This makes the last 37 years the single greatest period of global poverty reduction the world has ever seen. If this trend continues, extreme poverty could be a thing of the past in the near future. See the chart on the next page, courtesy of www. ourworldindata.org/extreme-poverty, to see this dramatic trend over time. 

It would be easy to assume that the economic revolution in China since 1989 is largely responsible for this rapid reduction in extreme poverty over the last four decades. While China’s embrace of a modified form of capitalism has indeed lifted hundreds of millions of people out of extreme poverty, even without the influence of China’s growing economy the downward trend in global extreme poverty would still be intact. So what explains this dramatic reduction in global poverty rates? What clues can we garner that will enable us to finally defeat extreme poverty? 

WHAT IS THE ANSWER?

There is no single solution to poverty. Poverty is a multifaceted problem and the solution is multifaceted as well. The article by Jay Richards, How Cultures Move from Poverty to Prosperity, starting on page 14, provides the top ten societal conditions that lead to prosperity. The listing on pages 20-22 from Barry Asmus and Wayne Grudem’s excellent book, The Poverty of Nations, provides a more comprehensive listing of 78 societal conditions that help a people to grow from poverty to prosperity. Not all 78 are required in order for a society to prosper but the more that are present in a society, the more likely that society is to overcome extreme poverty. There are also some conditions without which prosperity is impossible, such as an effective system of legal records and protections for land owners. A single problem like government corruption can keep people in poverty. It doesn’t take much to keep people poor. 

So what are some of the reasons for the recent drop in poverty? The industrial revolution starting in the mid-1800s did have a global impact in reducing poverty as the production of various goods became more efficient. But 100 years after the start of the industrial revolution, 72% of the world still lived in poverty. Certainly, two world wars were not helpful in reducing poverty. Real poverty reduction started after WWII. We have now gone 73 years without the destruction of a major global war. 

Secondly, the greatest period of poverty reduction in history also coincides with the greatest expansion of computer and cellular phone technology the world has ever seen. Poverty reduction got into high gear after 1981 when the personal computer age was just getting started. The computer age has given birth to the internet, the world-wide-web, smart phones, tablets and more. This revolution has dramatically increased the productivity of billions of people. During this same period of time you have dramatic improvements in transportation, communications, manufacturing and trade. There is not a single sector of our global economy that has not been transformed by the revolution in computer and cellular phone technology. All of this progress was not the invention or brain-child of any government program or bureaucracy, but the result of the innovation and persistence of gifted people who were free to pursue their visions for a better way of life. This is the ultimate cure for poverty—billions of free people who are free to pursue their dreams and visions for a better life using the tools that other free people have created. Governments can support and encourage this process of innovation and entrepreneurship but they cannot replace it with top-down central planning and control. It simply does not work. We know what reduces poverty. We just need enough faith in the cure to apply it and not allow ourselves to be drawn back into the failed economic systems of the past.   

 

This is an article from the November-December 2018 issue: The Frontier Peoples: Still Waiting to Hear About Jesus

How to Reach Frontier Peoples: Following Paul’s Principles

How to Reach Frontier Peoples: Following Paul’s Principles
Throughout most of Christian history, movements to Christ have developed in new cultures following certain biblical principles. Historically, not one people group has been won to Christ without an indigenous movement developing at some point within the group.
 
The previous articles focused on the “who” of clarifying the remaining frontier mission task—figuring out which people groups still have no indigenous movements to Christ and so still need a pioneering or frontier mission outreach. This article will focus on the “how”—how frontier groups have historically been approached differently than groups that already have indigenous movements.
 
Throughout the centuries, movements to Christ have been stillborn in a lot of the remaining Frontier People Groups, even when workers have been sent. It seems that when we got to these particular people groups, mostly Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists, we changed our message and our methods. We did not bring the message as Good News to the whole people group or community, as evangelicals have continued to do with pagan tribal groups everywhere.
 
Virtually all tribal groups are very religious, but tribal believers have not been encouraged to leave their families and move to a different Christian tribe, learn a new language, change their name, eat differently and not go back, as has so. Then happened to Hindus, Muslims or Buddhists who become believers. The gospel has been able to penetrate and change animistic tribal groups, often very demonic and violent, because the believers have continued to be a part of the tribe.
 
For some reason, however, when reaching out to people groups that are a part of major religious groups, suddenly missionaries have insisted that those becoming believers must leave their families and communities in order to follow Jesus. When Hindus come to Christ, their faith is suspect if they refuse to eat beef. Likewise, Muslims are sometimes expected to prove their faith in Christ by eating pork, removing their veils, or not fasting during Ramadan.
 
Such behavior insures that their families will be shamed, and their communities will ostracize them. Sometimes believers have even been encouraged to change their names from their family names, which sound Hindu or Muslim, to names that sound Christian. Is it any surprise that the community they come from becomes very resistant to any further wooing away of their relatives?
 
We need to return to following biblical principles of spreading the gospel into new cultures, whereby God establishes His Fatherhood in relation to believers in all people groups.
 
Paul sets the precedent and principles for frontier missions
Paul was specifically called by God to stop focusing on winning his own people group, the Jews, and to focus on winning the Gentiles, meaning non-Jewish people groups. In doing so, Paul set the precedent for a distinct calling to “frontier missions” by making it his ambition to go “where Christ has not been named” (Romans 15:20).
 
Paul also firmly established the foundational missiological principle of frontier missions, with the approval of the Jerusalem council in Acts 15. This principle was that new people groups coming to Christ did not have to get rid of their own people group identity and take on the identity of other socio-religious group, such as Judaism, in order to follow Jesus. Salvation was by faith alone.
 
The other apostles agreed to “not make it difficult” for the new people groups turning to God (Acts 15:19), by adding on to their faith Jewish religious requirements, because God who knows the heart, had shown that He accepted them, through giving them the Holy Spirit” just as He had the apostles (Acts 15: 8). This verse refers to Peter’s visit to the home of a Roman Centurion, where the Holy Spirit fell upon him and his family, before Peter had finished speaking and before they had been baptized.
 
Paul called this breakthrough in missiological understanding the” mystery of the gospel” revealed to him by God (Rom. 6:24-26, Eph. 3:1-20).  Paul asserted that God’s plan from the beginning was that all the peoples of the world could enter into relationship with Him through faith in Christ one, joint heirs of salvation by faith, all children of God and a part of the body of Christ, no matter how different they were. The gospel was, in fact, the power of salvation to who believed, whether Jewish or from any other people group, the very power of God to bring righteousness by faith alone (Rom. 1:16-17).
 
Throughout most of Protestant mission history, Paul’s principle has been followed. And, through faith, the gospel has overcome small tribal religions with witchcraft and idols, cannibalism and violence.
 
“But isn’t it another thing entirely to be a part of a massive people group, united politically, with a clear religious hierarchy and specific religious requirements? Surely, in that case, leaving your people group identity to join another more identified with Christ is important!”
 
Let’s see.
 
Was Roman citizenship a socio-religious-political identity?
The Romans were the Jews’ political enemies and worshippers of a whole pantheon of gods, including their emperor. Peter was shocked that God asked him to visit a Roman Centurion. He said to Cornelius, “It is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company or me into (the house) of one from another nation” because at home was “unclean” (Acts 10:28). The last thing that Peter and his companions expected was that God would fully accept these uncircumcised “unclean” Romans. The Roman Empire was not a secular society, but included a state religion that preceded Christ and continued for the following three centuries. Just like in some modern societies, the religion and politics of Rome were completely intertwined. Why would God affirm Roman believers who stayed Romans?
 
But God did just that. He gave His Holy Spirit to the whole family of a Roman military officer. Thereby, God revealed clearly that He accepted the faith of Roman citizens, just as they were. There is no suggestion in Acts that Cornelius was required to leave either his Roman citizenship or even his military office. Seeing other Gentiles also blessed by God, Paul realized that Roman believers could remain Roman citizens and not become Jews (even though their Roman citizenship identified them with an emperor who demanded to be worshipped as a god).
 
Over the next 250 years, from time to time Roman believers in Jesus were required to prove they worshipped the emperor or suffer imprisonment or even death. Notice that Rome considered people to be political traitors if they were religious traitors. Some Roman Christians bought fake proofs of worship and others gladly took their punishment. But, following Paul’s command they still did not change people groups and become Jews, even though being Jewish would have exempted them from Roman religious expectations of emperor worship. A change of socio- religious identity would have not only protected Roman believers from times of persecution but also protected the Jewish believers from harassment (from both Roman and Jewish authorities).
 
Because Paul understood the “mystery of the gospel”—the importance of salvation through faith in Jesus alone—it was able to spread in Roman society, producing an indigenous movement of believers. In 250 years, the gospel movement among the Romans transformed the Roman Empire.
 
In his letters, Paul repeatedly insists that the only “conversion” be to allegiance to God through Christ himself, not to any worldly identity or religious pattern. Paul even took the pen into his own hand, at the end of the letter to Galatians, to underscore the crucial nature of the revelation he had received from God, concerning how the gospel is a matter of faith in Christ, not socio-religious conversion. Paul wrote, “ Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule—to the Israel of God.” (Gal. 6:15-16).
 
Paul’s frontier mission principle throughout the ages
For most of Christian history, those bringing the gospel to new people groups have followed the principles revealed by God to Paul. The believers in various peoples, whether Ethiopian, Armenian, Persian, Irish, Slavic or Indian, were not required to take on a Roman Christian identity to have faith in Christ. Each retained their own people group identity as the movement to Christ grew in their midst.
 
However, later, contrary to what Paul preached, a coercive Roman Catholic hierarchy modeled on Roman government principles began to insist that believers in other cultures swear allegiance not just to Christ but also to Roman Catholic councils and to the Pope in Rome (ironically making him god-like similar to the Roman Emperor). So, two hundred years after the Irish Celts came to Christ and became outstanding missionaries to much of Europe, they were forced into the Roman ecclesiastical fold at the Synod of Whitby (664AD). Even later in 1600, the Catholics tried to force the Indian St. Thomas movement to join them but with little success. The Protestant Reformation was in part a revolt against this socio-religious-political domination and was seen as a heretical tragedy by institutional Roman Christianity, but seen as a return to genuine faith and Spirit-led movements by other peoples.
 
During most of the Protestant mission era, Paul’s insistence that conversion be to Christ alone has prevailed. Even former cannibals have not been removed from their tribe in order to be better believers in another culture. As the gospel was brought to tribes in Africa, the Amazon, and the Pacific, believers remained in and identified with their own people groups while consistently being delivered from their idolatrous, violent or sexually-depraved ways. We did not make it difficult for movements to develop in these people groups, even though most went through various kinds of syncretism as they grew in their faith, similar to our own histories.
 
Only in some contexts have Paul’s biblical missiological principles been called into question by Protestants, and actively stigmatized by some. Believers from Hindu and Muslim people groups, in particular, have been taught to “come out from among them” (2 Cor. 6:16-18, Isa. 52:11). But Paul used this phrase concerning demonic practices, not in reference to people group affiliation. Paul is reminding the Corinthian believers that God has become their Father, and now lives and walks among them, making them His own people (without becoming Jews). The transformation of character, the new creation, happens to believers within their own families and people group, affecting the whole like yeast in the dough.
 
Evangelicals have had great success establishing the gospel in tribal groups where the revelation God gave to Paul has been applied. But there has been very little success in 200 years among Hindu, Muslim and other groups where we have encouraged a break with their families and/or people group in order to become believers in a different culture. When new believers are isolated from their families and people group, no movement to Christ develops within that people group. In fact, the opposite happens, as their families and people group become determined not to let Christianity “steal” their family members.
 
A Call to Return to Paul’s Principles for Reaching Frontier People Groups
I believe unless we fully understand and return to Pauline principles of implanting the gospel into families, without removing them from their socio-religious-political communities, we will continue to make little progress in today’s largest remaining Frontier People Groups.
If the apostles released the Romans becoming believers to remain in their families and remain Roman citizens, in spite of the religious requirements and heinous sins of that powerful extensive society, should we not apply the same principles today? Thankfully, where Paul’s biblical principles are being applied, movements among some of the most “resistant” people groups are now appearing.
 
It is not enough to identify which groups have the least help and are making the least progress in receiving the Good News. We also need to go back to following the biblical and historical principles God has shown us  for sparking indigenous movements in Frontier People Groups and training global workers in these principles.

This is an article from the November-December 2018 issue: The Frontier Peoples: Still Waiting to Hear About Jesus

Kingdom Kernels

Momentum for a Movement— Pushing Through Generational Hurdles

Kingdom Kernels

 Momentum is paramount in movements. With the right impetus by human catalysts and the divine empowering of the Holy Spirit, Church-Planting Movements (CPMs) can and should continue in momentum generation after generation as they spread to saturate a people group or area. Many CPMs also cascade into other unreached people groups. CPM practitioners understanding the nature of this momentum is critical if the human catalyst side of the equation is to be effective.

Ninety percent of my efforts in relating to church-planting or disciple-making movements are focused on this issue of momentum—gaining and maintaining momentum in the face of the inevitable hurdles. These hurdles typically come in the first four generations of a budding movement. We label pre-existing missionaries and national Christians as the baseline generation—Gen 0 (zero). Gen 1 consists of new churches formed of new believers, not simply new churches formed of Gen 0 Christians. Gen 2 churches are formed from Gen 1 churches, and again primarily include new believers that have come from Gen 1 efforts. This progression carries on generation after generation. When we can track at least multiple separate relational streams of 4th-plus generation churches (and usually 100 churches or more), a movement has begun.

The moment a new generation starts, the clock starts ticking for them. How many days, weeks or months will it take for that generation to reproduce a new generation? What is the gestation period before they have children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren? This gestation period, which we call a generational rate, must be understood and cultivated by CPM catalysts.

In the beginning, the generational rate is not often on their minds. With the euphoria that comes from seeing a Gen 1 church started with new believers, a church planter gives primary attention to their basic discipleship and making sure the new church grows in health, and rightly so.    In the excitement and celebration of that season, however, is anyone actually saying, “How long will it take for us to birth our own Gen 2 church?”

A critical precedent is being set from Gen 1 to Gen 2, and from Gen 2 to Gen 3. That precedent is how long it will take for each generation to push through the natural hurdles of birthing a new generation. The precedent is a fight for a healthy generational rate. Without attention, the generational rate can slow down into months or years, and years are too slow for it to become a movement.

Therefore, the majority of my time as a consultant and trainer is to help CPM catalysts from around the world understand how to keep momentum moving forward, especially as they push through the hurdles of each new generation. I have discovered that if a movement can push through the first four major generational hurdles, it will probably push through any other later hurdles resulting in churches that number 13 generations, 18 generations, or even 30+ generations.

However, examining the three foundational areas of movements will often solve the problem by revealing that one of the foundational areas is deficient. In this article, I will unpack how deficiencies in any foundational area can slow down momentum in a movement, while in my subsequent article I will deal with common generation hurdles and their solutions. These three foundational areas are the most simple way I know to do an overall assessment of a movement. Master these and you are on the way to diagnosing problems and finding solutions.

Three foundational areas of movements

In the Jan/Feb 2016 edition of Mission Frontiers I outlined these three basic areas and refer you there for a fuller explanation. To make things more memorable through alliteration, I’ve changed the name of first area from Spiritual Climate to Spiritual Posture:

  1. Spiritual POSTURE
  2. Clear, simple PATH
  3. Reproducing discipleship PROCESS

No movement can emerge or last very long in a healthy manner without attention to these three areas:

  1. Spiritual POSTURE—Are the spiritual elements in place that invite God to enter into the ministry? Core elements include 1) vision among the believer to pursue what is on God’s heart not their own vision, 2) deep abiding in Christ, full of His Spirit, 3) fervent prayer and 4) willingness to die (John 12:24) or pay the price to see the vision on God’s heart fulfilled.
  2. Clear, simple PATH (sometimes called “four fields”)– Once the vision is clear and believers are surrendered in faith, a path is laid out for them to 1) engage people, 2) evangelize the lost, 3) immediately disciple those who believe, and 4) form them into healthy churches. The tools or methods of this path must be simple enough that new believers from the harvest can implement them in new generations. If so, in the process 5) leaders will emerge as the generations multiply and healthy movements begin.
  3. Reproducing discipleship PROCESS (three-thirds process) — It is not enough to put CPM tools or methods in the hands of these new disciples. Each week, they need to gather together in groups that equip and encourage them to obey God’s Word, as well as use the tools they are learning. We most often call these three-thirds groups because they divide their meeting times into three parts:
  1. Look back —a time of worship personal care, encouragement (fresh vision) and accountability to evaluate how effective they were at obeying whatever God told them the prior week
  2. Look up —time in the Scripture to hear God speak afresh
  3. Look ahead—time to set some goals based on what God is telling them, to practice the tools they will need in the process and to pray for each other as they go out in anticipation

To be a healthy movement, a CPM needs these three areas remain balanced. Finding what is out of balance often solves the generational hurdles.

1.Spiritual Posture Deficiencies

A few years ago, I began to spot a common problem CPM ministry attempts. CPM practitioners were becoming excited to implement CPM principles in areas two and three above. In the area of a 2) clear, simple path, they were finding very reproducible methods to enable better evangelism—evangelism that could be implemented by new disciples arising from the harvest. Discipleship tools that were worldview appropriate were enabling these new disciples to start down the path of short-term discipleship, and many of them could do the same with family and friends they led to faith. Perhaps most exciting ere some revolutionary new tools based on Acts 2 and other passages for helping small groups truly cross the line to being healthy churches in both identity and function. One missionary told me that when he came to his region thirty years earlier, the average time to form a church was 2 years. He was ecstatic to find a way to form healthy churches within weeks and months. Because the methods were reproducible, a lot of church planting ministries were finally bearing second and perhaps third generation churches.

Second, as many CPM practitioners began to equip believers with these methods using a 3) reproducing discipleship process (three-thirds meetings), the implementation rate by new disciples was increasing. With such an environment of better, culturally appropriate biblical tools and a context in which believers could be lovingly equipped with freedom to fail, but always encouraged to keep trying, some multiplication was inevitable—but not for the long term.

A problem was developing to such an extent that it prompted me to emphasize foundational area one (spiritual posture) almost out of proportion to the other two areas. For example, with five hundred missionaries I oversaw in Southeast Asia, a few ministries were achieving Gen 2 and Gen 3 churches, but stopping there. The problem was not in the methods, but in the spiritual posture of the ministry. It was all too easy to rely upon these newly discovered methods and processes and ignore the leading and empowerment of the Holy Spirit.

This prompted me to begin teaching more on the spiritual posture of a movement, how to seek the vision on God’s heart, how to pray fervently for that vision and a willingness to pay the price to see the gospel go to the hardest places. But even more than these was helping our missionaries and their national believers learn to truly abide in Christ. They needed to learn how to be full of the Spirit daily and follow His leading.

Without this vital ingredient, we were ignoring Jesus’ command to wait until power came from on high before going out to do the work (e.g. Lk. 24:49). By and large, we had thousands of believers doing the work without fully understanding how to walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5:25). This prompted me to finally write my latest book Spirit Walk to help CPM practitioners and believers in general take the fear out of the Spirit and learn what it is to truly live in relationship with Him daily.

Recently, a dear brother (who I consider one of the most faithful CPM practitioners and who is bearing fruit) finished reading Spirit Walk. He said, “Steve, this was the missing ingredient for me.” When we read the book of Acts, we are impressed at how the disciples, and especially Paul’s team, followed the guidance of the Spirit. A deficiency in this area keeps us from bearing fruit for the long term. This is because we have the tools and a discipleship process, but only the Spirit can tell us where and with whom. He guides us to the people God has prepared.

2. Clear, Simple Path and 3. Reproducing Discipleship Process Deficiencies

My next article will detail numerous challenges practitioners face when they encounter generational hurdles from Gen 0 to Gen 4. The vast majority of these fall within these latter two foundational areas. Assuming that spiritual posture is in place, then solving these other issues can propel a movement through the most common hurdles.

Finding answers in these two areas is critical. We must avoid the attitude of a missionary who told me 20 years ago, “I don’t do any planning or use any methods; I just follow the leading of the Spirit.” Perhaps that works for a few highly gifted individuals, but Jesus clearly gave His disciples methods to use in outreach and the evangelists in Acts used these same methods. A very fruitful friend of mine has said, “I find it a lot easier to follow the leading of the Spirit when I have lots of tools in my toolbelt.”

We all need the methods and tools that come from a clear path that moves us through entry, evangelism, discipleship, church formation and leadership development. And more importantly, disciples from the harvest need these tools. They need to know how to share the gospel. They need to know how to pray. They need to know how to be church.

But simply putting tools in their hands is not enough.    I remember teaching my sons to use a  power  saw.  There was no way I was going to put that saw in their hands without modeling how to do it and then a lot of assisting and watching until they got it right safely. The reproducing discipleship process helps new disciples pick up each tool they need, see it modeled, personally practice it and then confidently implement it in the world outside of their small group or church as they are led by the Spirit.

As you look at your work or the work of others, I encourage you to ask questions such as these:

  1. Are the basic spiritual elements in place for believers to rely upon God to achieve what is on His heart? Are they postured in an attitude of surrender and fullness of the Spirit? Do these surrendered disciples have methods that are simple enough that each generation can use? Do they naturally connect in one path from 1) entry (who to talk to and how to start) to 2) evangelism to 3) discipleship to 4) church formation to 5) leadership development?
  2. Do these surrendered disciples have methods that are simple enough that each generation can use? Do they naturally connect in one path from 1) entry (who to talk to and how to start) to 2) evangelism to 3) discipleship to 4) church formation to 5) leadership development?
  3. Are these methods being implemented in a healthy discipleship process where 1) they can look back and evaluate in a safe, loving environment, 2) they can look up to receive instructions from God’s Word and 3) they can take the time to practice a method or tool and make plans to obey what God said? Is this three-thirds process helping them effectively implement the methods of the simple path above at each new generation?

When these three areas are in balance, you will find that most of the issues you need to overcome to press through generational hurdles will be solved. Each generation will then find the God-prepared people who will bear fruit 30, 60 and 100x. I call these individuals by several interchangeable names: Person of Peace, Fourth Soil Person, Worthy Person (Matt. 10:11) or simply God- prepared person as a summary. Two editions ago, my friend Kevin Greeson drew a distinction between these. After considering it, he is posting this update to that edition.

Statement from Kevin Greeson on Persons of Peace

In my article in Mission Frontiers (July-August 2018, Finding “Fourth-Soil” People: Fourth-Soil Person or Person of Peace), I offered similarities and distinctions between the Fourth-soil Person and a Person of Peace. The possibility of them being one and the same exists. Regardless, both are found through sowing of the Word of God and seeing who responds. Aiming for one or the other falls within Jesus’ field modus operandi. A CPM practitioner stands on solid ground when sowing with the intent of finding Persons of Peace and Fourth-Soil individuals.

This is an article from the November-December 2018 issue: The Frontier Peoples: Still Waiting to Hear About Jesus

24:14 Goal

Movement engagements in every unreached people and place by 2025 (86 months)

24:14 Goal

Church Planting Movement practitioners believe CPM methods follow the ministry methods of Jesus. Perhaps the time has come for our missionary training methods to follow the mentoring models of Christ as well. 

With some exceptions, the “shocking secret” about missionary training is that the large majority of workers sent to the mission field receive little to no practical field training prior to their deployment. 

However, over the last several years, mission leaders have been encouraging the growth of missionary training models that produce more effective and fruitful movement catalysts in shorter time. Veteran practitioners implementing these models are excitedly reporting that new workers are making progress towards Church Planting Movements (CPMs) much faster than those trained in traditional patterns of classroom or workshop-based trainings. Regional leaders are beginning to ask for candidates that are prepared in these disciplines. Some are even requiring this more experiential and mentoring-based training approach for new missionaries because of the observed higher implementation rate than workshop-based patterns. To expand and accelerate adoption of these models, the 24:14 Coalition is promoting a flexible, networked CPM Training Hub system to better prepare field workers to implement effective movement practices. This could serve as a standalone approach or be paired with workshop-based trainings. 

I have a great appetite to see this vision become reality. As mission workers, our family labored on the field for the first seven years without seeing anyone become a disciple of Christ. After receiving CPM training we worked for an additional seven years, pioneering a local Church Planting Movement. Knowing the burden of laboring without fruit, I am passionate to deploy laborers who are well trained, who will not repeat our same mistakes (though they will make others) and who can become fruitful much more quickly. 

A Hub System

 The CPM Training Hub concept envisions several “phases” of training to experientially equip workers seeking to catalyze a movement among the unreached. 

Phase 1—This involves people beginning their CPM training in their home-culture context. Unless a missionary candidate came to Christ within a CPM, numerous paradigm shifts are needed on the journey to CPM fruitfulness. Mission leaders are observing that it is easier for people to ingest these concepts when their learning is not started in a cross-cultural environment with the additional culture shock and language learning stress that muddy the CPM learning process. Phase 1 offers the opportunity for learning in an environment where mistakes are easily correctable by an experienced mentor. Practicing within one’s own culture also gives the missionary candidate an opportunity to affirm a call to church planting before they embark on the challenges of advanced missionary training, support raising, language acquisition and cultural assimilation.

Phase 2—Before deploying to a “final destination,” Phase 2 equips the new missionary within a cross-cultural context that is as close in affinity as possible to the unreached people group they desire to reach. This hub is led by national or expat mentors who ideally are seeing a movement in the training location, or are at least seeing some multiplication in the area using CPM principles. 

This hub trains in contextualized movement principles while helping the mission workers begin language and culture acquisition. Their home culture hub experience helps them understand and apply general movement principles. Then the cross-cultural hub allows the new missionary to visualize and experience CPM in a culture similar to their intended focus culture. There they can assimilate contextualized CPM principles under the helpful guidance of movement tutors. 

Phase 3—In Phase 3, the mission worker deploys to their target unreached people group (UPG) with a great deal of experience and potentially with other national or expat co-laborers they met in Phase 2. Their trainers/coaches from Phase 2 will continue to help and guide them into this third phase. 

Phase 4—We have realized that if/when a movement starts, rather than moving on to another assignment, it is more strategic for these outside catalysts to go into Phase 4. This consists of helping to send movement laborers from their focus group to one or more nearby UPGs to start new movements–multiplying movements.

A Closer Look

With the goal of catalyzing movement engagement in every unreached people and place by 2025, the 24:14 Coalition is urgently working to grow a network of CPM Training Hubs. We have identified emerging training hubs training Phase 1 missionaries in their home cultures (all around the world), as well as a number of teams and organizations that have started Phase 2 Hubs, receiving trainees from Phase 1 experiences. 

As 24:14 analyzed the early-stage effectiveness of this approach, we noticed that Phase 2 Hubs reported an accelerated learning process and effectiveness for missionary candidates who had been through Phase 1. Because they practiced movement principles in their home culture away from the “learning clutter” of language and culture acquisition, candidates hit the ground running and developed good movement habits in their language and culture acquisition phase. We have seen a strong correlation between the amount of practical experience in movement practices someone has in Phase 1, and how quickly they effectively implement movement practices in subsequent phases. Some have already begun to see fruits of movement in their Phase 2 Hub experience! 

The time commitment to Phase 1 and 2 Hubs varies, depending on the background of workers being deployed, the sponsoring organizations and unique curricula, and the focus region. Some Hubs focus on giving candidates basic experience in movement principles, while completing a missionary training program. Some hubs direct candidates to become proficient in CPM skills before allowing them to progress in their training. Many hub locations worldwide have an initial focus on catalyzing a movement in that location, after which mobilization occurs naturally. 

We have found that requiring more experience and fruitfulness from candidates before proceeding to their target destination does not have a negative effect on mobilization. It actually helps mobilize more people for the field. We also anticipate it will have a positive impact on missionary retention levels. 

Several have noted that a hub system can’t be prescribed for the global Body of Christ as a requirement all missionary candidates must pursue. However, a robust CPM Training Hub system would serve well the vast majority of missionary candidates who would benefit from an opportunity to learn in the context of active coaching. 

Creating a Lattice to Grow Hubs

 While hub sponsors employ numerous curricula for missionary candidates, many organizations are working together to develop a lattice of criteria to help evaluate CPM Hub Training and candidate readiness. 24:14 is proposing standards of training and care gleaned from these hub leaders that could potentially serve as a global “airline alliance,” collaborating together to better train candidates. 

With so many organizations and approaches out there, how can we envision a lattice that facilitates collaboration? One popular approach has been to use a simple “Head, Heart, Hands, House” framework to describe the competencies needed for a missionary to thrive at the next stage. Figure 1 is a conglomeration of what several organizations and networks have listed as competencies for people completing a Phase 1 Training Hub and deploying to Phase 2. Figure 2 shows a similar vision for competencies for Phase 2 learners transitioning to the coaching-intensive Phase 3. Many of these standards spring from years of missionary training programs, yet the focus on practical experience and implementing these skills before deploying from one stage to the next is a new and unique focus. While these competencies can be achieved through a variety of curricula and learning processes, the key underpinning of the 24:14 Hubs Network is the idea that missionary candidates are asked to become skilled in CPM principles and practices before deploying to their next phase. These training processes may be developed at a hub or out-sourced, but having a general set of recommendations allows hubs to adapt organically and facilitate collaboration between organizations. 

In the months to come, the Hubs Task Force has the following plans: 

  • Continue to find and document new hubs. 
  • Gather hub leaders to develop best practices and further refine the competencies. 
  • Create connections between organizations sponsoring hubs, to decrease duplication and make the network stronger. 
  • Network interested people and organizations who want to join the hub system. 
  • Assist, through resources and consulting, organizations and churches that want to create CPM training hubs and become mobilization centers.

 We in 24:14 sincerely believe this model can greatly increase the frequency of CPMs among the unreached of the world. You can receive more information on the hub system and the hubs survey project via our website (https://www.2414now.net/hubs) or by contacting [email protected]

Fig.1 Phase 1 Competencies

HEAD

Culture Training: Understanding basics of culture, worldview, contextualization and cross-cultural expectations. Theology: Understanding basics of Theology of Salvation, Overview of Scripture, Missions, Personal Calling, Suffering and core Christian Doctrines

CPM Training: Understands the basic DNA of movements and their biblical justification using one of the common movement training templates (Transition Points of Movement, DMM, T4T, Four Fields, Zume, etc.). Understands a simple plan and process that leads to reproduction.

Language: Preparation for how to learn a language. 

Pastoral Care: Knows of and is able to use available resources.

HEART

Spiritual Authenticity: Focus on seeing that the trainee has a healthy degree of the following and is making consistent progress: humility and teachability; walking in honesty and integrity; hearing and obeying God; exercising faith that God will start a movement with his/her people group;love for God and others. Perseverance: Has demonstrated perseverance in difficult circumstances. Displays a dogged tenacity to do the right things to complete the task, pressing through obstacles. Has counted the cost of personal risk. Has a long-term commitment to God’s calling. 

Personal Spiritual Disciplines: Demonstrates a lifestyle of prayer, time in God’s Word, obedience, fasting, accountability, hard work and rest, abiding in Christ and personal transparency. Understands basics of spiritual warfare.

Personal Holiness: Has a lifestyle free from addiction. Lives in moderation in all things. Seeks to avoid being a stumbling block for others.

Personal Wholeness: Is in a healthy place working through personal issues (addiction, depression, self-image) and family of origin issues (divorce, trauma, abuse), has a healthy marriage (if applicable), is in a healthy place working through parenting issues. Has been evaluated by a counselor for field readiness.

HANDS

Engagement and Evangelism: Has extensive practice in engaging lost people, finding potential Persons of Peace and sharing the gospel message in a way that intentionally moves the lost toward becoming disciples of Jesus. Demonstrates the Kingdom: Has learned to pray blessing over people and pray for the sick.

Discipleship and Church Formation: Has practice in making disciples that form churches (preferably from the lost) and has worked toward reproducing them generationally. 

Vision Casting: Has practice in envisioning others in disciple making and Church-Planting Movements.

Training: Has practice training others in disciple making and church planting using one of the common movement training templates.

Developing Prayer Strategy: Has learned the basics of planning and executing a prayer strategy for their people group.

Planning and Evaluation: Learns to plan, evaluate the brutal reality and adapt based on the fruit he/she sees.

HOUSE

Personal Skills: Has good people skills, communication skills and conflict resolution skills. Can manage anger, disappointment and anxiety.

Team Life: Has learned healthy patterns of team life.

Team Training and Development: Has learned to resolve team conflict and value different roles in a team environment.

Team Experience: Preferably has extensive practice “teaming” with others as they reach out to a local target population.

Finance: Is free from significant debt and has received adequate support raising training. Has raised full support before deploying.

Fig.2 Phase 2 Competencies\

HEAD

Culture: Has learned regional culture, history and religion to a level of competency necessary to understand contextual tools and navigate roadblocks to gospel inroads.

Language: Language acquisition plan developed in conjunction with trainers and coaches in Phase 2 with accountability in place.

CPM Training: Has learned CPM applications in the cultural context. Works to learn innovations and cultural applications of movement theory to the region. Has exposure to advanced movement leadership applications. Persecution and Perseverance: Has learned likely avenues of persecution in the target culture. Has learned biblical patterns for dealing with persecution and minimizing unnecessary persecution. Has learned to persevere in difficult circumstances.

HEART

Spiritual Authenticity: Demonstrates willingness to learn from others, especially locals. Shows cultural humility as a lifestyle. Has demonstrated a lifestyle of surrendering rights. 

Personal Spiritual Disciplines: Has continued and cultivated a lifestyle of prayer, time in God’s Word, obedience, fasting, accountability, hard work and rest, abiding in Christ, and personal transparency in target culture. Has learned to engage in spiritual warfare.

Perseverance: Has demonstrated perseverance in difficult circumstances. Displays a dogged tenacity to do the right things to complete the task, pressing through obstacles. Has counted cost of personal risk. Has a long-term commitment to God’s calling.

Personal Holiness: Has a lifestyle free from addiction. Lives in moderation in all things. Is aware of not being a stumbling block for others.

Personal Wholeness: Continues to be in a healthy place working through personal issues (addiction, depression, self image) and family of origin issues (divorce, trauma, abuse), has a healthy marriage (if applicable), is in a healthy place working through parenting issues. Has been evaluated by sending organization for continued field readiness. 

Culture: Willing to adapt to and appreciate host culture.

HANDS

Engagement and Evangelism: Has extensive practice in engaging lost people, finding potential POPs and sharing the gospel message in a way that intentionally moves the lost towards salvation. Has learned reproducing evangelism tools that can equip locals in the use of these.

Demonstrates the Kingdom: Has learned to cross-culturally pray blessing over people and pray for the sick. Discipleship, Church, and Leadership: Has learned how to make reproducing disciples in target culture and has learned a strategy for church formation and leadership development that can work in the target culture. Demonstrates comfort in allowing Holy Spirit and the Word to lead through locals rather than needing to be the leader.\

Training: Has ability to train the basic DNA of movements and the biblical justification of them using one of the common movement training templates (Transition Points of Movement, DMM, T4T, Four Fields, Zume, etc.). Can train and envision a simple plan and process that gets to reproduction.

Developing Prayer Strategy: Has begun to recruit and incorporate other believing locals and expats into a prayer strategy for the area. Has recruited a number of daily intercessors to cover the work.

Planning and Evaluation: Is engaged in regular rhythms of planning, ruthless evaluation, and adaptation based on the fruit.

Tracking: Has learned to effectively track movement growth in the cultural context and apply learnings to planning and evaluation rhythms.

HOUSE

Presence and Platform: Has developed a strategy to implement that will minimally explain the reason for being in country and at most will give opportunities for engagement and a platform and visa for extended stay in country.

Team Development: Has adapted team life rhythms to interdependent overseas context.

Local Partnering: Is spending majority of time with local partners and the lost and is not overly dependent on expat team. Understands how to build effective partnerships.

Team Contributions: Has identified giftings on the team and has figured out ways for the team members to contribute. Has developed team agreement/ protocol and all team has reviewed and approved it. Networking: Has surveyed the mission work (especially movement related) in the area. Has learned about fruitful evangelism and discipleship processes. Maintains good relationships for partnership.

Security: Has developed contingency plan and emergency protocol document for the team. Understands and implements basic security protocols (social media, internet security, computer security, personal document security).

Leadership Development: Does not need to be “the leader.” Looks to empower, develop, and mentor others. 

This is an article from the November-December 2018 issue: The Frontier Peoples: Still Waiting to Hear About Jesus

Further Reflections: No Shortcuts to Jesus

Further Reflections: No Shortcuts to Jesus

Since my wife and I arrived in Pasadena in 1983 to join the staff of the U.S. Center for World Mission, I’ve heard lots of strategies from global workers trying to reach the Unreached. Some hear and learn cultural, historical or religious stories—which they hope might impact whole people groups for the gospel. For example, I’ve heard how certain Chinese characters have underlying  meanings  that  point to spiritual truth. Or how various Sanskrit scriptures have epic stories that make for great analogies to share with Hindus.

The thinking behind this is that if we can understand and use these stories, we might understand their thinking and be able to soften people’s hearts so they might turn to God. It seems like some may be either, 1) looking for a shortcut to the hard work of deeply learning language and culture, and/or, 2) using some sort of “contextualized” strategy where they think they know the answers before they even start. Paul Pennington said that contextualization is “Christian code too often for cosmetically enhanced imitation of our assumed essentials.”

So, after hearing another example like this today, I wondered: what is it that  seems  to  draw  people  to  Jesus? I realize it is different in different situations, but I wondered if there is a pattern. We know that Jesus will draw people to Himself (John 12:32), and yet He has instructed us to pray, among other things, that the Lord of the harvest would thrust out laborers (Luke 10:2). Since we are to pray for God’s will, one of our greatest ministries is to pray that God will draw people from specific people groups to Christ.

I’ve also heard from some who have tried  a  simpler  approach.  They  too learned language and tried to understand the context/culture where they live—often living in-country for a long time. And they might use a story that connects with the spiritual climate or background of the culture, but they are mainly pointing people to Jesus through God’s Word.

It is easy for those who grew up in the church and/or became Christ followers long ago, to forget the power of the Word of God to transform lives. We have this as head knowledge. But we may need to be reminded of how this truth plays out every day around the world by people who grow up in very different contexts.

For example, one worker I know was serving in South Asia. He sought to live a holy life, even though it made him stand out. Eventually, he saw whole families meeting together in the evening to study about Jesus in the gospels. Another brother studied Jesus’ life with leaders in his Middle Eastern country. The group decided to compare Jesus with others—like Buddha or Ghandi. Eventually, they gave up on everyone other than Jesus! And they were increasingly drawn to Him.

In both contexts, the expatriate worker sought to keep his own views out of the way and let the Word speak—making sure to answer all spiritual questions with the Word. While I am reluctant to second guess someone who has lived or is living in the local situation, at times I’ve wondered if some workers wait too long before sharing more directly about how Jesus and the Scriptures have impacted their lives. Of course, sometimes, people share too boldly for their context and get themselves into trouble or are completely misunderstood. A while back, workers from a large Asian country were killed in a Muslim country because they were too aggressive. We should only call it “boldness and courage” when it is tied to wisdom from above.

I want to be clear that I believe it is very important that we understand our context. I don’t think I can say that too strongly. History matters. We have all seen situations where people—perhaps out of youthful zeal, perhaps out of immaturity— did things that seemed  to  us  to  be counter to the gospel in other contexts. We have all seen people close the door to God—perhaps in our own families.

But there are so many people in the world around all of us, who have not heard and would be willing to listen—even among the unreached. So yes—gain understanding  of the context where you are (or will be). Learn from the language they speak. Walk with them through life’s difficulties. Understand an individual’s life, family, or local history. Listen. Pray. How you live your life speaks volumes.

All of that can help show you how they think. That leads both you and them to the Word of Life.

This is an article from the November-December 2018 issue: The Frontier Peoples: Still Waiting to Hear About Jesus

The Father Who Names the Nations

The Father Who Names  the Nations

Seeing things from God’s point of view may be the best way for us to envision an evangelized world. Our promise-keeping God has made it clear that He will bring forth blessing amidst every people. To bring forth blessing in every ethnicity, Christ has been unfolding His work throughout every ethnohistory, pursuing His purpose in the intricacies of every passing season. To fulfill our work of world evangelization we must think clearly, not only about how to bring the gospel to all nations; we must also consider how God’s blessing will abound to all generations

We Live in a Generational Story

Since the very beginning of languages and diverse cultures at Babel (Genesis 11:1–9), God has displayed His loving concern for all humanity by speaking of families, or all the peoples of the earth. How did He show His concern? In Genesis, the very next event after the Babel disaster is God speaking to Abram (Genesis 12:1–3). He promised not only to bring God’s life and blessing to all peoples, but also that He would do so with the succeeding generations, the descendants, the “seed,” of Abraham (Genesis 22:18, 26:4, 28:14). In the Abrahamic covenant we see God dealing with the totality of humanity as a family of many families with generational longevity and identity.

God the Father of All Peoples

In the coming of Jesus, God marvelously reveals Himself as Father. Jesus taught us clearly to trust the Most High God to act toward His people with devoted, vigilant parental love (Luke 11:13). In Christ, each person is known and loved by the heavenly Father as a daughter or a son. But the magnitude of God’s fatherly love surpasses concern for each individual. Our God pursues the redemption and honor of multigenerational peoples, as if each one of them were to Him a daughter or a son. The Father is bringing His entire family—a family of peoples—back to Himself. 

Every Generational People Named, Known and Prized

 Consider again Paul’s prayer in his letter to the Ephesians: 

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name...” (Ephesians 3:14–15).

Paul prays to the Father—the same “Father of glory” to whom he prayed earlier (1:17). He is also the Father of all humanity, described by Paul as “every family in heaven and on earth.” The Greek word for “family” is a specialized word, patria. This word was used to emphasize the multigenerational lineage of enduring peoples. The word implies an ongoing identity in ancestry and an expectation of descendants. The Father’s family consists of peoples with any kind of generational depth.

Why does Paul say that these multigenerational peoples are named by God? In the honor-shame culture of that day, a name called out one’s destiny, identity or anticipated honor. The Father knows and names each one of the peoples, like a human father would know the name, nature, the distinctive worth and likely destiny of each of his sons and daughters. Paul can sense the Father’s joy and delight with the unique beauty and unfolding story of each of the peoples. Paul also knows the heartbreaking sorrow of the Father as He grieves for the people lost to Him. No wonder Paul bows his knees before this magnificent Father. It is all we can do to number the peoples. Our Father God names them.

To understand what and why Paul is praying, we should recognize who he’s praying for. Paul was praying for Gentiles—non-Jewish people who, before being joined with Christ, understood themselves to be “excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise” (2:12). Paul wanted to assure them that because of Christ’s work on the cross, they had been reconciled to God, joined as a single entity, “in one body,” with the people of Israel to enjoy “access in one Spirit to the Father” as God’s people (2:16–18).

The Glory of the Nations

All of that matters because Paul was praying for “their glory” (3:13). Really? Glory somehow coming to the Gentiles? Isn’t all glory supposed to go to God? What is this glory? The glory God has in store for the Gentiles is the fulfillment of God’s purpose for His global people— that together as one people, all the diverse nations would experience and display the relational fullness of His glory 

Paul uses the biblical imagery of a living temple to express the splendor of relational nearness that God desires with His people. The foundation of the building is already laid. Construction is underway: 

“...Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit” (2:20–22).

Paul adds this doxology, which might also serve as a manifesto of hope: “to Him be the glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen” (3:21). The glory of God resounding in the manifest beauty of Christ and the Church will somehow encompass all generations. There never will have been a day or a generation in which God has not been seen as ultimately working to bring forth the fullness of Christ and His Church.

Paul prays that God would act “according to the riches of His glory” (3:16) so that ultimately a temple made without hands, the “dwelling of God in the Spirit” (2:22) consisting of “all [not just some] of the saints” (3:18), would be filled with “all the fullness of God” (3:19). 

It’s tricky to imagine or value such an ineffable, ethereal thing as “the fullness of God.” That’s why Paul clearly alludes to the biblical accounts of the construction of the tabernacle and the temple. God called for the tabernacle, not because He needed a house to live in, but because He desired a concrete way to be relationally near His people. “Let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them” (Exodus 25:8). To “dwell” is not a matter of physical location. This kind of dwelling is God’s way of being immensely near His people in celebratory, relational fullness. 

When they finished building the tent, “the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle” as a visible cloud (Exodus 40:34–35). And generations later, when the son of David finished building the greater temple, again “the glory of the LORD filled the house” (2 Chronicles 7:1–3). 

Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:16–21 reveals that he was confident that Christ was in the process of constructing what these biblical stories had pre-figured: God would gather His entire people to Himself. They would be His people. He would be their God. And He would dwell in their midst. 

Already the foundation of the later, greater temple had been laid. Paul says that it was being “fitted together” and somehow was organically “growing into a holy temple in the Lord” (2:20–21). So, Paul prays that those reading this letter (yes, that includes me and you!) would, together with “all the saints,” somehow comprehend the unknowable beauty and magnificence of the house that the son of David is now finishing. When complete, when “every family” is gathered home, like the tabernacle and temple of old, God will fill His people with His glory— with “all the fullness of God” (3:18–19). 

Paul adds this doxology, which might also serve as a manifesto of hope: “to Him be the glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen” (3:21). The glory of God resounding in the manifest beauty of Christ and the Church will somehow encompass all generations. There never will have been a day or a generation in which God has not been seen as ultimately working to bring forth the fullness of Christ and His Church. 

Knowing the Father’s Joy and Zeal 

Paul tries to persuade his Gentile friends “not to lose heart” when they hear of his “tribulations on your behalf” (3:13). He assures them that the pain and shame of apostolic labors that he has endured are well worth it. Why? I think Paul knew the heart of the Father of glory. This is the Father who constantly gazes on all of humanity, seeing us all as a great family of many families. He is unperturbed and never confused about intermarried or blended ethnicities. He sees, knows and values each of the peoples in all of their overlapping, intertwining multicultural complexity.

Like those to whom Paul was writing, we, too, can lose heart for any number of reasons. The tedium and grief of constant opposition is daunting. The costly hassle of cross-cultural labors can be discouraging. Let’s bow our knees before our Father, the Father of glory, delighting in His growing joy as He draws His full family to Himself. As we celebrate the Father’s relentless zeal to gather to Himself some from every tribe and tongue, every language and lineage, we will find our hearts encouraged in the hope of their glory in Christ.  

This is an article from the November-December 2018 issue: The Frontier Peoples: Still Waiting to Hear About Jesus

How Does Saying “No” Mobilize Local Resources?

How Does Saying “No” Mobilize Local Resources?

While sipping an iced coffee, I intently listened to a friend who serves as a missionary in Asia share about a recent experience. A local leader asked her if she would pay for his expenses to attend a leadership gathering within the organization in which he serves. With kindness, and declining to oblige to his request, she redirected him to share his need with his local church and suggested he pray for God to supply for this need. 

No doubt he was disappointed that his need wasn’t met immediately, and, he committed to doing those two things—he prayed and shared his need with his local church family during a church service. After the service, a man in attendance gave him some money to help him attend the leadership gathering—a whole month’s salary! Based on the donor’s meager economic level and job, this was definitely a sacrifice for him. In addition to boosting this local leader’s own faith, the testimony of how God provided through fellow believers thoroughly encouraged other local leaders. Local resources can be mobilized! 

This story could have gone very differently if my friend didn’t say, “No,” and redirect him toward a healthier, self-sustaining solution. The end result would have been like what is typically exercised: If you have a need, ask the foreigners. The foreigners give because that is what they are supposed to do. End of story. No glory to God, and no inspiration to foster local interdependence, local giving, and local support.

As difficult as it might seem, saying, “No,” along with redirection in non-crisis situations, leads to mobilizing and giving of local resources. Dr. Charles Brock powerfully words this phenomenon: “Stingy? No! A growth producing stewardship? Yes! Such growth is desirable wherein independent self-hood is realized with full dependence on Christ.”1

How can saying, “No,” produce stewardship and independent self-hood? When cross-cultural workers say, “No,” they are inviting and redirecting the cultural insiders to seek-out God and interdependence from their own networks, churches, and communities. Essentially, they are promoting healthy local-interdependence and self-giving with full dependence on God, rather than unhealthy global dependency.

When the cross-cultural workers and visitors say, “No,” with a redirect, they open the door for the local ‘Boazs’ (Ruth 2) to rise up and take care of their own widows and poor. When they say, “No,” they create more room for local ‘Tabithas’ to use their skills to support the poor at their own doorsteps (Acts 9:36-43).

Perhaps the apostle Paul had growth-producing stewardship with full dependence on God in mind when he gave these instructions:

Take care of any widow who has no one else to care for her. But if she has children or grandchildren, their first responsibility is to show godliness at home and repay their parents by taking care of them. This is something that pleases God . . . If a woman who is a believer has relatives who are widows, she must take care of them and not put the responsibility on the church. Then the church can care for the widows who are truly alone. (I Timothy 5:3-4, 16, NLT).

I deduce Paul to be saying: Don’t seek out churches to take care of widows in your family circle, look to yourselves! This is your God-given stewardship responsibility and privilege, and because this action pleases God, He will provide. I am taking some liberty, but I also hear Paul saying: The local church is commissioned to take care of widows who are truly alone, don’t shift this responsibility to outsiders.

Saying, “No,” with a kind and thoughtful redirect, should not translate as stingy, but rather the opposite — it can spur on local stewardship, generosity, and interdependence, which pleases God.

You might be thinking, “How can we possibly say, “No,” when we have access to so many resources?”

If mobilizing local resources is part of our mission aim, we may need to convert this question to: How does bringing in outside funding stifle growth producing local stewardship, healthy independent self-hood, and local-interdependence? Being a “yes-man/woman just because we can is not enough reason to give in ways that actually lead to long-term languishing and learned helplessness, which is the opposite of local-interdependence and faith in God to provide for what He has called people to.

Kindly saying “no” along with redirecting local leaders, disciples, and churches is actually generosity when it serves as the impetus to mobilizing and giving locally. Perhaps, add “no” with a healthy redirect to your mission strategies. 

Endnotes
  1. Article as quoted in Jean Johnson, We Are Not the Hero: A Missionary’s Guide to Sharing Christ, Not a Culture of Dependency, (Deep River Books. 2012), 77.

This is an article from the November-December 2018 issue: The Frontier Peoples: Still Waiting to Hear About Jesus

Why Some See Movements and Others Don’t

Why Some See Movements and Others Don’t

I was at a meeting with him in a large city in India. We were gathered for an organizational event that would start at 9 am. Waking early, as was my habit, I went into the hallway to get some filtered water. I heard a strange noise coming from down the corridor. It was still early, only 5 am. Who was making noise down there? 

Curious, I wandered down the hall. There he was, sitting on the couch, a light blanket covering his head. His eyes were closed. He sat with head bowed, rocking back and forth a bit. I listened in and heard him calling out the names of people in his congregation. He was thanking God for them in his indigenous language. I wondered how long he had been there and how long he would stay. 

A few hours later, yet another need propelled me back into the hallway. I could still hear him, seeking God, interceding on behalf of his people. Each day that week, it was always the same. This brother was there praying. His normal habit was to start his day with several hours of intercession. It didn’t matter where he was. There was never a change. 

Since then, I’ve been with this man in many contexts. There has never been a day I didn’t see him practicing this same rhythm in his life. Perhaps that is why his movement is exploding. Maybe that is why some of their streams now have more than eight generations. 

One Thing Isn’t Flexible

There are many things about starting a Disciple Making Movement that are adaptable and flexible. We have over-arching principles to be followed for sure. There is a lot of room, though, to adapt things to your particular people group or context. In fact, this is quite important to do. 

But there are also a few “foundation stones” of starting movements. These are things that absolutely have to be present for a movement to take place. One of these stones is an apostolic leader who has a genuine, regular and deep prayer habit. 

Give Attention to Prayer

 In the book of Acts, we read of the apostles getting busy as the Church began to grow. There was much work to be done. The needs of the poor were great. Discipleship demands were pressing. One on one meetings with various key leaders were necessary. There were conflicts to resolve and widows to feed. Finally, they arrived on the strategic decision to appoint deacons. Their stated reason was this. 

We will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the Word” Acts 6:4 NIV (italics added). 

Movement leaders and those who want to launch them, give attention to prayer. It is not a side activity or something they occasionally emphasize. It is a primary part of their lives. 

Ministry of the Word doesn’t usually go by the way-side. 

Most of us are preachers by trade. Prayer, however, can. 

Lessons from a Modern-Day Apostle

Let me tell another story. We were leading our first ever conference with Ying and Grace Kai, the creators of Training 4 Trainers or T4T. I was excited to sit at their feet and learn from them. They had seen thousands of churches planted where they worked. Since then, they had trained and equipped many others to do the same. It was a great opportunity to rub shoulders with these legendary, modern-day apostles. I felt very privileged.

What would I learn? What key would I pick up from them that I could take to our own ministry among the unreached forward?

As is typical in the country we were in, there were last minute changes. Our prior plans for the day after their arrival had to be altered. I wondered how we could best bless and host our speakers well. Maybe we could take them sightseeing in our city? Or out to a nice restaurant? I didn’t want them to feel bad that we now had nothing specific for them to do that particular morning.

I explained the situation to them and offered some suggestions. “It’s no problem,” they said. “We will pray.”

They spent those hours and much of that day seeking the Father. This was much more productive and important to them than sightseeing, though they had never before visited our country. Hour after hour, they lifted the names of those they would be training before the Lord.

It was one of the greatest lessons I learned from being with them. People who want to see movements default to prayer as their most critical activity.

Prayer in the Earliest Disciple-Making Movements

This should be no surprise, for it is indeed the pattern we see in the book of Acts. The apostles had developed solid prayer habits in their lives. They instilled these habits in those who they trained. 

Here is a quick overview:

 Acts 1:14—The apostles “joined together constantly” in prayer.

Acts 2:42—The new believers “devoted themselves” to prayer

Acts 3:1—Peter and John did a miracle as they were on their way to an afternoon prayer meeting in the temple.

Acts 4:24—When faced with challenges and threats, the believers prayed.

Acts 6:4—The apostles appointed deacons so they could be free to give attention to prayer.

Acts 10—God responded to Cornelius, a God-fearing man, who regularly prayed.

 Acts 14—Paul and Barnabas spent time in prayer as they chose and appointed elders in each new church.

 Acts 16—Paul frequented places of prayer.

 Acts 28—Paul prayed and believed God for miracles. And they happened!

Many more references could be explored. Prayer was so clearly a major part of the first Disciple-Making Movements that rapidly grew.

Both the apostolic leaders and the new believers embraced prayer as their default mode. Troubles…pray. Persecution… pray. Too much work to do…pray. Need miracles…pray.

Yet for many of us, prayer is our secondary option. We often look first to strategy, mentors or our experience to solve problems. When faced with obstacles, like not being able to find a Person of Peace in our area, we search for answers. Nothing wrong with that, as long as we know that the real source of those solutions is God himself. He holds the keys in His hands to unlock our region for gospel advance. Who are the receptive people there? God knows them by name. He also knows how to put you in touch with them. As we pray, He will transform the hearts of those who seem so hard to reach today. 

It seems an obvious point. It bears repeating. If we want to see a Disciple-Making Movement happen, we absolutely must adopt radically committed prayer habits. The same is true if we want to grow and sustain the movement that is starting to take off.

To be clear, I am not advocating for legalism. There is a difference between doing things we don’t value because we must, and doing what we know is important because we want to. 

Vital Prayer Habit—It’s Our Choice

Do you struggle to make prayer a vital habit in your life? Has your prayer life gone cold and dry? Go to the Master disciple-maker and ask for help. Find another church planter or friend to hold you accountable.

Our habits shape our ultimate outcomes. This is true of prayer and many other areas too. The unreached need our outcome to be the release of a movement. Let’s pray!

This is an article from the November-December 2018 issue: The Frontier Peoples: Still Waiting to Hear About Jesus

The Path Forward is Clearer Than Ever Before.

Will We Have the Courage to Take It?

The Path Forward is Clearer Than Ever Before.

For forty years, now Frontier Ventures and many other mission organizations have had a laser-like focus on taking the gospel to the Unreached Peoples of the world. We have worked tirelessly to mobilize the Church to reach these “hidden peoples” who have been forgotten by our global mission efforts. So how much progress have we made?

With a specificity and clarity not seen in decades we lay out the progress we’ve made, where we stand today and the hopeful future that stands before us if we have the courage to embrace what needs changing and renew our commitment to bring the blessings of the gospel to every people.

In our lead article starting on page 6, Rebecca Lewis presents in succinct detail the current state of world evangelization and what needs to change in order for us to make progress. She introduces us to the Frontier People Groups—those 4,762 peoples who are the most neglected or overlooked peoples in the world with the least access to the gospel and the fewest believers. They also have the fewest workers attempting to reach them. They make up one fourth of the world’s population and are a subset of all Unreached Peoples. After 40 years of attention on reaching Unreached Peoples, these peoples are still “hidden” from the attention of the Church. 

As our cover this time indicates, Frontier Peoples are increasingly young and tech savvy. Though some may have access to the Internet, they are still in desperate need of a personal, cross-cultural presentation of the gospel. But who among us will bring it to them?

This issue is your invitation to change the status of the Frontier People Groups from neglected and hidden to prayed for and engaged.

REACHING “THE 31”

In this issue we also introduce you to “The 31.” The 31 are those Frontier People Groups with over 10 million in population. They make up almost half the population of all Frontier People Groups. With less than one in a thousand being a Christian of any kind, a person in these groups has virtually no chance of ever hearing about Jesus from someone within their people. All 31 of these Frontier Peoples are either Muslim or Hindu and all but nine of them live in South Asia. We have prepared a prayer booklet that you can order to pray for one of these largest Frontier Peoples each day. Learn more about this prayer booklet starting on page 20 and order enough copies for all of your friends and pastors. Ask them to do likewise and order copies for all of their friends. To order, go to www.Go31.org. In order to defeat the “strong man” over South Asia who holds these peoples in bondage, a massive prayer movement is needed and you can be the one to help start it. We need millions of Jesus followers to be praying for these Frontier Peoples.

Because of their large size these 31 Frontier Peoples are very strategic in reaching all the rest of the Frontier Peoples. Movements in larger groups tend to cascade down to smaller groups thus making The 31 an important first step in reaching all Frontier and Unreached Peoples.

WHY NO PROGRESS AFTER 40 YEARS?

The sad reality revealed in this issue is that after 40 years of unrelenting Unreached Peoples efforts, NO discernable progress has occurred in over half of all Unreached Peoples. These are the Frontier People Groups we have introduced to you. There are a number of reasons for this tragic situation that Rebecca Lewis lists in her lead article starting on page 6. In her second article, “How to Reach Frontier Peoples?” (See page 25), Lewis focuses on the most significant reason both biblically and strategically for our lack of progress. The root cause is our failure to consistently apply the Apostle Paul’s biblical mission strategy of keeping new believers within their family, community and culture rather than extracting them to join a new foreign community. We have typically applied Paul’s mission strategy with great results in reaching out to tribal peoples, but when it comes to the major religious spheres of Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism our typical mission practice is to extract individuals from their families, households and communities thereby hindering any further outreach to that people. Paul was right; we should always work first to reach their families and households with the gospel.

Lewis says it well. “I believe unless we fully understand and return to Pauline principles of  implanting the gospel into families, without removing them from their socio- religious-political communities, we will continue to make little progress in today’s largest remaining Frontier People Groups. It  is  not  enough to identify which groups have the least help and are making the least progress in receiving the good news; we also need to go back to following the biblical and historical principles God has shown us for sparking indigenous movements in Frontier People Groups and training global workers in these principles.”

GOD’S FOCUS ON THE FAMILY— ALL THE FAMILIES ON EARTH

A return to Paul’s missionary method of reaching families is not just important because it works or because Paul did it. It is important because it has been God’s plan all along. In Gen. 12:3, God says to Abraham, “and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” (NASB) The Hebrew word for families here is the term mishpachah. Butler and White explain the significance of this word in God’s plan for mankind:

Mishpachah is just one in a set of Hebrew and  Greek  words with a generational perspective, variously translated clan, family, tribe, people, or nation. In English we could think of all of these as ‘family lines’ of varying sizes.

In God’s foundational promise to Abram (Abraham) in Gen 12:3, the final recipient of God’s blessing will not be every individual, but ALL mishpachah. Paul labels this promise “the gospel preached in advance to Abraham” (Gal 3:8). Blessing and salvation  aren’t just for individuals, but also for households, and whole family lines.

From this biblical perspective, we can understand the biblical terms translated people/nation as:

Households bonded together in preserving a shared generational identity—through intermarriage, the continuation of traditions, and rejection of outside influences.

Many Frontier People  Groups are isolated from the gospel in part by their perception and fear of Christianity as a threat to their households, and to the historic identity they are seeking to preserve. One study of Christianity in India observed this in action:

The adoption of Christianity by one group within a generic community would lead  to  a  strengthening  of non-Christian identity among other groups within the same community.1

When our evangelism methods win individuals away from their families among Frontier People Groups, we reinforce these fears within the Frontier People Groups.

As each of  these  families  come to faith in Jesus, they inherit the promise, blessing and commission made to Abraham to bring the blessing of salvation to still more families. This includes the Frontier People Groups. We see the ultimate fulfillment of God’s plan for all family lines in Rev. 5:9 and 7:9 when Jesus is worshipped by every tribe, tongue, people and nation who have been washed clean in the blood of the lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. It is our job in this age to continue working to bring this blessing to all the families of the earth so that Jesus would receive the glory He deserves. 

AN UPDATE ON OUR JULY AUGUST 2018 ISSUE

The July/Aug 2018 issue of MF, as it turned out, sowed more confusion (pun intended) than I had anticipated as people debated whether we should be seeking to find a Person of Peace or a Fourth- Soil Person. On page 45 of this issue, Steve Smith and Kevin Greeson bring some clarity to this topic. The bottom line is that they can be the same person and are both found the same way—by the sowing of the Word of God. The focus of this particular issue was to point out that the Parable of the Sower was intended by Jesus to be taken as a mission strategy since He applied it as such with His disciples in Galilee. We should go and do likewise—sowing the Word and looking for the responsive, productive people. Kevin sums it up well by saying, “A CPM practitioner stands on solid ground when sowing with the intent of finding Persons of Peace and Fourth-Soil individuals.”

Endnotes
  1. 1 Imperial Fault Lines: Christianity and Colonial Power in India, 1818-1940, by Jeffrey Cox (Stanford, 2002).

This is an article from the November-December 2018 issue: The Frontier Peoples: Still Waiting to Hear About Jesus

A Decade’s Progress—In Just One Year!

A Decade’s Progress—In Just One Year!

Behind the global turmoil that preoccupies so much of the world’s attention, God is quietly reaping the greatest spiritual harvest in history, while preparing an even greater harvest. 

And at the center of this global outpouring is prayer, along with the intentional pursuit of movements, empowered by the Holy Spirit, to motivate and equip disciples and small churches to reproduce rapidly (rather than just gathering believers to receive ministry). 

Following are the significant developments I have seen over the past year in this global revolution, with links to related resources. (Suggestions for improving or expanding this list are welcome at Robby-Butler.MultMove.net/encouraging-developments

  1. Focused prayer: In May of 2017, global prayer network leaders met with mission leaders to focus prayer on gospel movements among the remaining unreached peoples (watch the inspiring 9-minute video at vimeo.com/244739881). This has accelerated a growing global focus on prayer for movements to complete the Great Commission.

 

  1. Closure focus: Shortly after this prayer initiative, the 24:14 Coalition formed—dedicated to pursuing movements of rapidly multiplying small churches and disciples in every remaining unreached people and place by 2025 (read about the Coalition at 2414Now.net or see their five minute video at vimeo.com/272854525). Several years earlier Steve Smith wrote the No Place Left saga about movements emerging among every people by 2025. The 24:14 Coalition is turning this fiction into reality. Request your FREE review copy of Hastening at npl2025.org/ review-copy.

 

  1. New awareness: The circle of trust created by the24 :14 Coalition (2414Now.net) led many movement leaders to share for the first time what God was doing through their movement. This replaced the earlier April 2017 estimate (162 movements with 20 million new disciples) with a 2017 year-end confidence of nearly 650 movements, with 50 million new disciples. (See MultMove.net/pub/Astonishing-Progress.pdf)

 

  1. Rediscovery of Jesus’ Movement Strategy: The July/ August 2018 Mission Frontiers exposes the pivotal relevance to movement practitioners of “The Parable of the Sower” (This is the title Jesus Himself gives the parable in Matt. 13:18). We Evangelicals have often misunderstood and misapplied this parable to identify what what kind of soil or seed we ourselves are, when the parable actually reveals the strategy Jesus modeled, as a sower starting a gospel movement. A couple years earlier I helped publish Stubborn Perseverance, the story of how to start a gospel movement. Request your FREE review copy of Stubborn Perseverance at StubbornPerseverance.org/review-copy.

 

  1. Refugee and disaster dynamics: God is using the global refugee crisis and other disasters to bring blessing to peoples that were previously isolated from the gospel: MultMove.net/pub/The-Refugee-Crisis. pdf (observations from my family’s 2017 participation in refugee ministry in Europe).

 

  1. Household blessing: Gospel movements—the Word of God blessing and spreading through households and other relational networks—are an important corrective to the tendency of many evangelism and church planting efforts to focus on individuals without regard for their household relationships. I excerpted two books on this for the Mar/ Apr 2016 Mission Frontiers: Steve Smith addressed this further in The Oikos Hammer in the Sep/Oct 2018 MF. In this current MF, Chuck White and I carry this further on p. 28, including a sidebar addressing the most common misuses of Scripture in this regard.

 

  1. Fear exposed: Satan’s hold over many Frontier Peoples is partly through their fear that Christianity will tear apart their households and communities. Evangelism of individuals away from their households compounds this fear. Movements correct this by drawing households together in discussion of and obedience to God’s Word. An adaptation of McGavran’s article explaining this dynamic was presented at the September 2017 meeting of the International Society of Frontier Missiology, then ran in the Mar/Apr 2018 issue of Mission Frontiers. A further refinement is available at MultMove.net/pub/ Movements-How-peoples-are-reached.pdf.

 

  1. Disparity recognized: India has long received only the prayer and laborers proportionate to its classification as a country, when in fact India has a larger population and more complexity than most continents. India is home to nearly half the population of all Unreached People Groups, with more complexity than all of Africa  (MultMove.net/pub/2017-Ineq- in-Miss-Dist.pdf). And while most countries receive an average of one missionary for every 1,000 people in their unreached people groups, India receives only one missionary per 46,000. Awareness of this disparity of needs and resources is stimulating increased prayer and efforts toward starting movements on the Indian subcontinent (India, Pakistan and Bangladesh).

 Frontier People Groups: In early 2018 the concept of Frontier People Groups (less than one Christian adherent per 1,000 in population) brought fresh clarity to the remaining task (JoshuaProject.net/frontier/3). Joshua Project has posted a short article explaining Frontier People Groups (JoshuaProject.net/assets/media/articles/frontier-peoples-introduction.pdf).

  1. Distinction between Pioneer and Partnership Mission work (p. 12 again): A long-standing concern of Ralph Winter’s was to clarify the core difference between: 
  • pioneer work (in peoples with a generational identity they consider incompatible with Christianity), and 
  • partnership work (where outsiders can serve alongside indigenous believing households).

Pioneer work involves different skill sets and must precede partnership work, just as a midwife’s skills differ from and must precede a teacher’s. Pioneer work brings people groups their first introduction to God’s desire to bless their households and communities. Partnership work builds on that introduction to extend God’s blessing from family to family throughout the people group. Partnership work will continue until Jesus returns, but the remaining pioneer work to be done may be completed very soon!

 Unfortunately, the way Unreached People Groups have been measured has blurred rather than illuminating this distinction between pioneer and partnership work. Thus most missionaries to unreached peoples are involved in partnership work (in peoples where up to 1 in 50 are Evangelicals or 1 in 20 are a Christian adherent).

 The new category of Frontier People Groups addresses this confusion. 

  1. Prayer focus continued: God continues stirring global prayer for movements among the largest remaining Frontier People Groups. In recent months, a small network of global prayer and mission leaders has pulled together a 31-day prayer guide for the largest Frontier People Groups (Go31.org).

 

  1. Reliance on the Holy Spirit: Steve Smith’s Spirit Walk: The Extraordinary Power of Acts for Ordinary People (amzn.to/2yEzVBg) reintroduces the ancient fruitfulness of following the Holy Spirit’s leading in the pursuit of movements (p. 44 in this issue).

 

  1. Movement Training Hubs: This issue of MF reports on the rapid and significant development of intentional movement training hubs to accelerate the equipping of more disciples to start movements among peoples that most need them (p. 36).

 

  1. Cascading Movements: Movement experience over the past decade reveals that movements among larger groups can also carry over into neighboring Frontier People Groups. This reinforces the value of a strategic focus on the 400 largest and most influential Frontier People Groups, which contain 90% of the global population needing pioneer work (p. 30 sidebar).

 

  1. Breakthroughs Among Unreached Peoples: The population of unreached people groups has roughly doubled since the concept was introduced in the late 1970s, but this is changing rapidly. Movements have recently cut the lost population of unreached people groups by an estimated 45 million, turning this number into disciples with experience in rapidly reproducing churches (see again MultMove.net/pub/ Astonishing-Progress.pdf).

 

Never in history has the Holy Spirit prompted such global collaboration in focused prayer and labor toward biblical, multiplying discipleship among the peoples and places still waiting in darkness. 

Visit MultMove.net/join-gcc to become part of a team to bless just one of the 400 strategically large, neglected Frontier People Groups.

He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. — Rev 22:20.

This is an article from the November-December 2018 issue: The Frontier Peoples: Still Waiting to Hear About Jesus

Introducing Frontier People Groups (FPGs)

Introducing Frontier People Groups (FPGs)

Editor’s Note: The concept of Frontier People Groups is still developing. Rather than representing an established consensus, this article explores potential nuances of the concept. Further insights, clarifications and adjustments may have emerged, even in the time between when this article went to press and you are reading it. For the latest version of this article, and other information regarding FPGs, visit FrontierPeoples.org.

No matter how much one waters and fertilizes, no fruit will come forth until after the seed is sown.

Seed before fruit

Whenever the only believers inside a people group are scattered individuals estranged from their family and community, the blessing of God remains unknown to that people group, and that people group’s interest in the gospel is low.

However, God promised to Abram (Abraham) that every family line of humanity will be blessed (Gen. 12:3, etc.) and Jesus commissioned us to disciple each of these family lines (people groups). And once the Holy Spirit begins blessing the first contagious community of believing households1 inside that people group, it becomes like the seed of an orchard—bearing the multiplying fruit of God’s blessing such as we see on households throughout the book of Acts, and indeed the whole of Scripture.

Such communities of believing households must first experience God’s blessing through the kind of pioneer work Paul modeled in prayerful collaboration with the Holy Spirit. Only once a community of believing households is  modeling  God’s  blessing  inside a people group can it benefit from the partnership work of outsiders working with those inside the people group in:

  • tending/pruning for greater fruitfulness, and
  • guarding against threats to their fruitfulness. 

Inside every people group, the spread of the gospel begins with the first seed of God’s blessing—a contagious community of believing households. Only after the seed has taken root does partnership work become possible—outsiders serving alongside believing families inside a people group.

FPGs lack this seed

The new designation of Frontier People Groups attempts to clarify two very different conditions inside Unreached People Groups (UPGs):

  • Among many UPGs, the Holy Spirit has already begun blessing a community of believing households1. These display to their community what it can look like to follow Christ inside their own group. Inside these groups where a community of believing households is enjoying God’s blessing, extraordinary things can happen as the Holy Spirit anoints partnership work with outsiders. One spectacular example of the multiplying  power  of  the  Holy  Spirit’s blessing through partnership work is the T4T movement birthed through Ying Kai’s training of 30 believers already present inside one people group.2
  • Other UPGs (here labeled Frontier People Groups) still require pioneer work for the first community of believing households  to  experience  God’s  blessing.  Steve  Smith’s years of labor among the Ina people illustrates the pioneer work through which the Holy Spirit blesses these first believing households. Once established, these believing households display inside their own people group what  it means to follow Christ, and a rapidly spreading gospel movement can develop.3

FPGs need this seed

Ralph Winter described implicitly the importance of the presence of this first community of believing households in his editorial for the Jan/Feb 2006 MF. Following is myown  adaptation  to  reflect  Winter’s  additional  concern, expressed explicitly elsewhere, that we learn to think in terms of households rather than just individuals:

Imagine an individual coming to Christ in a reached people group. The new believer can observe, interact with and follow the example of believing households inside the new believer’s own people group. And others in that people group will have no thought that the new believer has left their people group to follow Christ.

How different it is where individuals are among the first inside their people group to believe. With no patterns yet established for following Christ inside their own people group, these first believers will commonly assume—along with their family and community—that to follow Christ means leaving their own people group to adopt the outside worker’s  culture,  or  the  culture  of  some  “Christian” people. The outside worker and other Christians may also implicitly or even explicitly encourage such “conversion” away from the new believer’s culture and people group. This common misunderstanding is the primary obstacle to be overcome in pioneer work among Frontier People Groups.

Inside our own “Christian” peoples we have learned to be quite  patient  in  sowing  God’s Word  and  letting  the  Holy Spirit transform individuals and even “deviant” communities at their own pace. But when it comes to people groups whose identity is wrapped up with “competing” world religions, we are often far less patient about allowing the Holy Spirit to change hearts through the Word of God over time. Too often in such contexts we engage in urging “conversion” of new believers to cultural forms we consider “Christian,” but which separate them prematurely from their own people group.

When the first believers in a Frontier People Group embrace a   new, foreign “Christian” culture, their family and community perceive them as betraying their own people group. This generally provokes both unnecessary and unfortunate persecution of the individual, and community rejection of the gospel, which may have nothing to do with the new believers’ faith or the merits of the gospel itself.

For the gospel to spread rapidly inside a Frontier People Group, the Holy Spirit  must first bless a community of believing households, and guide them in wrestling together through what it means to follow Christ inside their own people group.

This Spirit-led emergence and modeling of new patterns— conforming faithfully to the Bible while remaining inside their own people group—paves the way for many others to follow Christ inside their group. And as God’s blessing spreads within this people group, the Holy Spirit will lead the believers there and the rest of their people group to see that connection with the global body of Christ does not separate them from their own people group. As this first community of believing households sorts out how to follow Christ inside their own people group, and the rest of the people group begins to observe that following Christ does not require leaving their people group, biblical faith can spread very rapidly. When this shift of perspective occurs, pioneer work gives way to partnership work, and the people group leaves the frontier category.

The spiritual and social realities of FPGs

Behind all the statistics, and the physical presence or absence of the first believing households, lie some very significant spiritual and social realities:

  • Socially, frontier peoples are commonly bound to a perception of their own religion as central to their identity as a people. They have no living models for following Christ without betraying their people group to join another people. And outsiders commonly share this perception of their religion as central to their identity as a people group. Thus there is often pressure both from inside and outside frontier people groups for new believers to leave their people group to follow Christ. This is the dynamic which pioneer work must overcome if there is ever to be a rapid gospel movement within that people group.
  • Spiritually, the families in these peoples remain “separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in [God’s people] and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12).

The finishable task is among FPGs

Inside Frontier People Groups—where the first community of   believing   households   has   yet   to   experience   God’s blessing—this initial pioneer work is a finishable task. Once the Holy Spirit has blessed the first community of believing households, nurturing and guarding this community becomes the ongoing task of  partnership work.

Frontier People Groups

 

Gospel Movements: None Reported    Christian Adherents: <=0.1%

When a people group is blessed with its first community of believing households, it remains unreached initially—in the sense of still needing outside assistance as measured by the statistical standards. But it is no longer in need of pioneer work. It remains unreached because the necessary nurturing and guarding require continuing outside assistance in the form of partnership work. As these believing households multiply under the blessing of the Holy Spirit, the group becomes reached, and such nurturing and guarding can then come primarily from within.

Thus, the focus of pioneer work is the seed—the first community of believing households enjoying God’s blessing inside their own people group—with the potential for multiplying rapidly.

Non-Frontier people groups contain this seed in two categories:

  • Reached people groups—where the gospel is widely known and has brought widespread blessing—are like mature orchards. These still need renewal  (tending) and guarding against the complacency that often comes where there is little opposition. But this kind of ministry can come mostly from inside the people group.
  • Unreached people groups (no longer in the Frontier category)—where the first community of believing households is experiencing God’s blessing—are like orchards that have just begun bearing fruit. Amidst an ocean of non-believing households in their own people group, these believing households need partnership work—assistance and encouragement from outside workers to continue multiplying God’s blessing inside their own people group, often amidst greater opposition than in reached people groups.

A day will come, perhaps in our lifetime, when the Holy Spirit will complete the finishable task of pioneer work inside every remaining Frontier People Group. Until then, such pioneer work should be the highest priority for those called by God to share Paul’s ambition to preach the gospel where Christ is not known (Rom. 15:20).

One fourth of humanity lives in FPGs

Three-fourths of the world is estimated to live in people groups, whether reached or unreached, where a community of believing households is already enjoying God’s blessing.

The remaining one-fourth of humanity is estimated  to live in Frontier  People  Groups, where the first enduring community of believing households has yet to be established, and where pioneer work is thus still needed.

 

As seen in this adaptation of the new “pie chart” (see p. 8 of this issue), these FPGs are most concentrated where the fewest workers go—India and Muslim majority countries.

Frontier, Approachable and Responsive Peoples

For  50 years, deployment of workers has been shaped by  a simple binary classification4 in which people groups are considered either:

   reached—with adequate internal witness, or

unreached—still needing outside assistance.

The additional qualifier unengaged was later added to track Unreached People Groups (UPGs) where researchers didn’t know of workers offering such outside assistance.

What these earlier classifications (reached, unreached and unengaged) didn’t adequately reveal is the two dramatically different conditions among UPGs, for which I here suggest these additional labels:

frontier UPGs—no community of believing households yet demonstrating God’s blessing inside their own people group. (These need pioneer work.)

receptive UPGs—a community of believing households is demonstrating God’s blessing to their own people group. (This is the seed of a gospel movement, now able to benefit from partnership work.)

Where a community of believing households reveals what God’s blessing looks like inside their own people group, non-believing households can see what it looks like to follow Christ inside their own people. And they can be invited to follow God in Jesus Christ on the basis of what they have personally observed.

Among Frontier People Groups, however, non-believing families have no opportunity yet to observe what it means to follow Christ inside their own people group. Here pioneer work must follow the Holy Spirit’s leading to introduce the first households to God’s blessing in such a way that many others will follow.

From this perspective of mission strategy, there are not just two categories of people groups, but three (two sub-categories of unreached). For measurement purposes, the following standards have been proposed:

frontier—subset of unreached:

  • no evidence of a gospel movement;
  • 0.1% or less estimated “Christian” based on such available data as a government census;
  • unmet need for pioneer work from outside

receptive—subset of unreached:

  • early evidence of a gospel movement;
  • 0.1% to 5% estimated “Christian” and up to 2% estimated Evangelicals, based on such available data as a government census;
  • ongoing need for partnership work from outside.

responsive—aka reached:

  • strong evidence of a gospel movement (past or present);
  • above 5% estimated “Christian” or above 2% estimated Evangelicals, based on such available data as a government census;
  • little need for outside assistance.

How significant is this distinction?

Sixty percent of UPGs are actually Frontier People Groups (FPGs).

Until God intervenes, the families in these Frontier People Groups will live and die …

  • without ever knowing a believer
  • without ever being prayed for by name
  • without the blessing God promised all nations Yet God is intervening...
  • Among other unreached people groups, gospel movements have been doubling in number and size every five years since the late 1990s.5
  • Through a new prayer guide (see p. 20), large global networks are focusing prayer on the 31 largest Frontier People Groups—each of which influences many other people groups. (Half the population of all Frontier People Groups lives in just these 31 groups!)

Conclusion

The kingdom of God grows where it is sown.

We now have a clearer view than ever before of where the first believing households have been established and where they haven’t yet been established.

The day will come, perhaps in our lifetime, when the initial pioneer work will have been completed in every Frontier People Group. Then, in line with God’s promise to Abram (Abraham), every family line on earth will have at least begun to experience God’s blessing. We are much closer to this day than ever before.

Let nothing delay us further from ensuring that gospel orchards of God’s blessing—contagious communities of believing households—are firmly established among every Frontier People Group as quickly as possible!

Endnotes
  1. 1 See The Oikos Hammer—You & Your Household by Steve Smith, in the Aug/ Sep 2018 MF

    2 T4T: A Discipleship Re-Revolution by Steve Smith.

    3 Ibid.

    4This is the core distinction as I understand it from working with Ralph Winter. Strategists of course expanded this dichotomy in more technical language, and researchers established percentage criteria for Evangelicals and Christian adherents in order to apply this dichotomy. But the main point was to establish which groups needed more workers.

    5 MultMove.net/astonishing-progress

This is an article from the November-December 2018 issue: The Frontier Peoples: Still Waiting to Hear About Jesus

The Remaining Peoples with no Chance to Hear about Jesus

The Remaining Peoples with no Chance to Hear about Jesus

In 1974, while preparing his speech for the first Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization, Dr. Ralph Winter realized that thousands of people groups were being completely overlooked by mission agencies and churches around the world. Due to the great success of outreach in places like Korea, sub-Saharan Africa, and island and jungle tribes, some were in fact insisting that missionaries were no longer needed. Others were insisting that missionaries should only partner with and serve the national churches, assuming that national churches were everywhere.

At Lausanne, Ralph Winter explained that an estimated 17,000 people groups had no churches of their own, and never yet had a missionary work among their people group. Winter expected the mission world to be as shocked as he was. Instead agencies responded with disbelief and even resistance, and churches showed no understanding. this awareness had changed Winter, but he realized that churches and agencies would continue to overlook these “hidden” people groups unless they were impressed with the same knowledge. So, Winter resigned from the School of World Mission at Fuller theological Seminary and dedicated the rest of his life to clarifying and mobilizing for what he called the “frontier mission” task: going where no missionary has gone before.

Forty years ago, in 1978, Ralph Winter put his statistics into a pie chart titled Penetrating the Last Frontiers, and Roberta wrote the story of the cause in I Will Do a New Thing (originally published as Once More Around Jericho). the purpose of this chart (shown later) was to clarify which people in the world had no chance of learning about Jesus from someone in their own people group. 

He divided the world into areas by population. Each pie section shows how far the gospel has penetrated in that area of the world by showing which people are “Active Christians” able to share the gospel with others, and those that still need to hear. Some of the lost are nominal Christians or non-believers able to hear the gospel from the believers in their own culture. But other “culturally- distant” non-believers are beyond the evangelistic outreach of existing believers, because they live in people groups with very different languages, cultures and identity. (See the Key to the colors.)

As tens of thousands of people clearly understood the problem, they pressured their churches and mission agencies for new efforts to these overlooked people groups. Some decided to go themselves, and even founded new agencies for this purpose. Eventually, a great global effort developed to tabulate and reach every Unreached People Group (UPG).

Look at the following charts which include the original and then update the pie chart to 2018. The good news is that amazing progress has been made in many areas, especially in China. Movements have also been started in many people groups still considered UPGs because they have not yet passed 2% Evangelical. The bad news is that NO discernible progress is being made in well over half of the UPGs. Why? As Winter discovered, people don’t go until the task is clear.

 

Notice on the updated pie charts, almost half of all the non-believers can now be reached by Evangelicals in their own people group! More than half of the population of non-believers in the world are still in Unreached People Groups, groups with less than 2% Evangelicals. But significant progress is being made in a number of these groups. If we separate out the non- believers that still have almost no believers among them, one fourth of the world’s population is left.

To highlight these most overlooked people groups, let us call them “Frontier People Groups” (FPGs)—people groups still requiring “frontier mission” efforts because no breakthrough or indigenous movement to Christ has happened yet. Many factors are obscuring the needs of these remaining people groups. I have detailed some of these in my Jan-Mar IJFM article Losing Sight of the Frontier Mission Task: What’s Gone Wrong with the Demographics? (IJFM 35:1).

One fourth of the world’s population lives in these Frontier People Groups, still waiting to hear that Jesus came to save them also. Some FPGs have had workers for decades, but with little progress. However, by some reports less than 1% of the global missionary force is going to FPGs.

Why so little progress in Frontier People Groups?

    Some reasons are mostly out of our control:

 1) Places

FPGs tend to be isolated from gospel witness, in places difficult to access politically or geographically. (See page 22 which show that almost 3/4ths of the population of people in FPGs is in South Asia.)

    2) Religions

Most FPGs are members of large religious blocs— like Islam, Hinduism, or Buddhism—that provide a global identity and view Christianity as an opposing religion allied with Western political powers. (See the “donuts” on page 22 that show that around 90% of the FPGs are either Muslim or Hindu.)

     3) Fears

          Many FPGs may be aware of and respect Jesus, but see Jesus as the savior of just the Christians, not of the whole world. they fear that putting their trust in Jesus                will bring shame and ostracism on their family and community Diaspora.

FPGs tend to stay in their homelands. Less than 3% of the total population of FPGs are in diaspora groups. And those who come to faith elsewhere may be shunned as traitors to their people group or become secret believers with respect to their families.

Other reasons for lack of progress among Frontier People Groups are under our control:

     4) Lack of clarity regarding Frontier People Groups

Efforts to mobilize for UPGs do not make clear which people groups are still waiting to hear about Jesus for the first time and which have strong movements underway or churches simply needing renewal.

      5) Lack of clarity about  the Frontier Mission Task

Clarity has also been lost about how to prepare pioneer workers to start Jesus movements in groups untouched by the gospel. Especially in multi- cultural mega cities, “church planting” strategies have shifted from establishing the first community of believing families in a specific people group to starting Western-style (meeting- and program- based) churches that aggregate strangers from many people groups. these rarely result in movements. The shift from pioneering to partnership.

Wherever the Church is established, even if it is in just a small, westernized portion of the population, local believers seek partnership with global churches to help reach their own people group. As a result, churches often bypass agencies and partner with believers in UPGs as a popular church-to-church “mission” strategy. However, such partnership strategies automatically direct mission workers to people groups with believers and churches, and away from FPGs.

     6) The shift from long- to short-term workers

Mission dollars and interest have shifted from long-term workers to short-term teams, which rarely learn the local language well or go to people groups or areas where there are no Christians. Short-term trips have risen exponentially since 2000, but very few participants return to work long- term among FPGs. Even “career” missionaries today rarely stay more than 5–10 years. This is hardly long enough to effectively establish work among FPGs.

     7) The shift from implanting the gospel to extracting believers

In most of mission history, missionaries have sought to learn the language of a people group and clearly communicate the gospel to them so that families among them come to faith. New believers in tribal areas have not been removed to other Christian tribal groups—no matter how evil the tribe, even if some were martyred. But when faced with people living in people groups that are modern or aligned with global religions, believers are often encouraged to flee their families and persecution and join another people group that is already Christian. The result is that no progress of the gospel is made among the original people group. The gospel is not implanted; instead, the believers are extracted.

The purpose of the pie chart presentations, like the chart called Penetrating the Last Frontiers, is to show which non-believers can be reached by Christians in their own people group, and which non-believers need help from believers in other cultures. The non-believers in the blue areas need witnesses to come to them from other people groups. The darker blue areas on the 2018 charts are the non-believers in Frontier People Groups, where there are less than 0.1% indigenous Christians and no known movement to Christ. These are the areas that need the most help. To identify these Frontier People Groups clearly, Joshua Project has produced a number of maps and lists, with profiles for each people group. Some of these can be seen on the following pages. To download the 2018 Pie Charts for use in your churches and groups, go to www.missionfrontiers.org. Also available on this site is a narrated version of the pie chart presentation. 

Making progress in Frontier People Groups will require both knowing who they are and returning to biblical and historical mission practice for implanting the gospel into people groups with few or no believers.

 

This is an article from the November-December 2018 issue: The Frontier Peoples: Still Waiting to Hear About Jesus

Introducing the Pray for the 31 Prayer Guide

Introducing the Pray for the 31 Prayer Guide

On March 21, 2018, someone who had been studying the new idea of Frontier People Groups (FPGs) mentioned to a few prayer leaders the surprising discovery that half the population of all FPGs lives in just 31 people groups with populations of ten million or more. 

“Thirty-one is a good number for a prayer guide,” someone observed. Prayer led to quick consensus, then further prayer and sustained collaboration in developing such a prayer guide. 

Forty days later, to the day, volunteers had integrated feedback from a variety of prayer and mission leaders and sent to the printer the first edition of a prayer guide for the 31 largest Frontier People Groups. 

Global interest was immediate and long before this first edition was back from the printer, volunteers were busily translating it into a half-dozen or more languages. 

In subsequent months, a major revision and expansion were completed to form the prayer guide showcased here. To get the latest electronic copy, print copies, or to inquire about translations, visit Go31.org.

 

Here  are  some  of  this  guide’s  special  features: 

  • Inside  the  front  cover  is  the  listing  above  of  the  thirty-­‐one  groups,  organized  by  region.  Notice  the  concentration  in  South  Asia,  keyed  to  the  numbered  circles  on  the  map  shown  on  the  opposite  page. 
  • Colored  rings  on  the  map,  dots  in  the  table,  and banners  over  the  profile  show  which  people  groups  are  Muslim  (●)  and  which  are  Hindu (●). 
  • The  next  page  of  the  prayer  guide  distills  the  new  pie  chart  (p. 8–9  of  this  MF)  into  one  page:

  • Subsequent  pages  of  this  guide  cover: 
  • A  brief  overview  of  Frontier  People  Groups
  • The  key  role  of  prayer  in  opening  these  groups  to  receive  God’s  blessing  in  Jesus. 
  • The  biblical  basis  and  significance  of  pursuing  gospel  movements  in  prayer. 
  • Prayer  for  the  Bible  to  become  fully  available  to  all  31  of  these  people  groups.
  • General  prayer  points  for  all  FPGs. 
  • Suggestions  for  involving  kids  and  youth.

 The  main  portion  of  the  prayer  guide  is  a  separate  page  for  each  of  the  31  groups,  adapted  from  Joshua  Project  profiles,  with:

  • a  color  map,  picture,  statistcs,  and 
  • background  information  and  prayer  points.

 The  back  portion  of  the  prayer  guide  includes: 

  • Helpful  definitions  of  key  terms. 
  • Introduction  and  map  of  the  400  largest  and  most  influential  FPGs,  containing  90%  of  the  population  of  all  FPGs. 
  • Charts  showing  the  breakdown  of  all  FPGs— by  region  and  by  religion. 
  • Other  prayer  resources.

 

 For  a  free  digital  or  review  copy,  for  print  copies,  or  to  inquire  about  translations,  visit  Go31.org

This is an article from the November-December 2018 issue: The Frontier Peoples: Still Waiting to Hear About Jesus

Downloadable materials

Downloadable materials

English PowerPoints:      https://joshuaproject.net/resources/powerpoints

  • The Remaining Mission Task (the Pie Chart)
  • The Big Picture (your ISFM presentation)

Spanish PowerPoints:    https://joshuaproject.net/resources/powerpoints#es

  • La Tarea Misionera Fronteriza (this version uses etnias and fronteriza)

Video:   https://joshuaproject.net/resources/videos

  • Understanding the Remaining Mission Task video

This is an article from the November-December 2018 issue: The Frontier Peoples: Still Waiting to Hear About Jesus

The Family—God’s Blessing to All Peoples

The Family—God’s Blessing to All Peoples

We thought it would be safer1 and faster to win individuals. We found it to be safer and faster to win households and other groups.

— Trevor Larsen,* coach for rapidly multiplying movements

However, when movement coaches urge winning house-holds rather than individuals, some react: 

What about Jesus identifying those who do God’s will as his mother and brothers? What about Jesus saying he came to divide families? And what about Jesus telling us to hate our families?

Do these rare “hard sayings” overrule the Bible’s emphasis on honoring our parents and providing for our families? 

Individualism vs. Family

 In recent centuries, Western society has embraced individualism—valuing the independence of individuals above family and societal expectations. Individualism says, “Save your own life and pursue your own dreams, regardless of how that affects others.” This contributes to the breakdown of families.

Throughout most of history, however, societies have held the opposite value system. In the Bible, and much of the world still (especially Frontier People Groups, or FPGs), is valued service to family and community above personal dreams and independence. independence: “Don’t seek to save your own life. Pursue the benefit of your family and your people in the generations to come.” 

At a Pakistan university a Western guest speaker said: 

“I am not here to tell you how to succeed by yourself, because that is not important. What is important is for your families and communities, back in your homelands, to become healthy and strong and have all their needs met. What I am telling you today is not just for you, but for your family and people for generations to come.”

 The students began clapping—slowly at first, then rising to a standing ovation. 

“I have never seen our students clap before!” the department head later told the speaker. “What you said has touched our hearts.” 

Does Jesus’ sacrifice for the rest of humanity represent a family centered or individualistic value system? 

Does our gospel urge individuals to break with their family and people in order to follow Jesus, or to become God’s blessing to their household and the generations to come?

Family (Mishpachah) in the Bible

Mishpachah appears more than 300 times in the Old Testament. There is no direct parallel in English, as mishpachah includes “generations yet to come.” Mishpachah is just one in a set of Hebrew and Greek words with a generational perspective, variously translated clan, family, tribe, people, or nation. In English we could think of all of these as “family lines” of varying sizes. 

In God’s foundational promise to Abram (Abraham) in Gen. 12:3, the final recipient of God’s blessing will not be every individual, but ALL mishpachah. Paul labels this promise “the gospel preached in advance to Abraham” (Gal. 3:8). Blessing and salvation aren’t just for individuals, but also for households and whole family lines. 

From this biblical perspective, we can understand the biblical terms translated people/nation as: 

Households bonded together in preserving a shared generational identity—through intermarriage, the continuation of traditions, and rejection of outside influences.

Many FPGs are isolated from the gospel in part by their perception and fear of Christianity as a threat to their households and to the historic identity they are seeking to preserve. One study of Christianity in India observed this in action: 

The adoption of Christianity by one group within a generic community would lead to a strengthening of non-Christian identity among other groups within the same community.2

 When our evangelism methods win individuals away from their families among FPGs, we reinforce these fears within the FPG. 

The Father loving ALL mishpachah back to himself

Woven throughout Scripture, we see God’s intertwined commitment to bless individuals, households and family lines (nations/peoples): 

  • Individuals blessed by God receive redemption, adoption into God’s family, a commission to be fruitful (reproduce) and a physical or spiritual family line (generational blessing and destiny). 
  • Households blessed by God experience healing, strengthening and unity to become His stable, reproducing vehicle of blessing to other households and future generations.
  • Nations/peoples blessed by God temper their fierce independence to embrace a new and better identity and destiny—in Him. They too become “His mishpachah.” 4

Even before the Fall, God blessed mankind (the first household) with a commission they were to fulfill as households (to reproduce, Gen 1:28). God later blessed Abram with a commission for his family line to become God’s blessing to all mishpachah. Israel was thus chosen as the first family line to bless the rest, for other family lines to follow suit. As each of our family lines is adopted into God’s family, we too share in this commission/blessing.

HisStory (and the gospel) can be summarized this way: 

God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) is patiently loving estranged individuals, households and family lines back into His family line, then calling our family lines to join Him in loving the rest of the estranged human family—in every family line—back to Himself.

The commission is for our children and disciples

In the verses above, we also see that the commission is not for Abraham to fulfill alone, but for the generations to come. We (Abraham’s spiritual children) carry this commission as well, along with the responsibility for teaching it to the next generation. Our main responsibility (next to intimate friendship with God) lies in what we model and teach our children and disciples, not just in what we ourselves accomplish for God’s kingdom. 

The blessing/commission throughout Scripture

This blessing/commission, through Abraham’s seed for all peoples (family lines), is repeated directly to Abraham two more times (Gen. 18:18, 22:18), then to Isaac (26:4), then to Jacob (28:14). The Old Testament, especially the Psalms, carries many more explicit and implicit references to this blessing/commission. In the New Testament, more explicit references include: 

  • Acts 3:25 (Peter references Gen. 22:18 and 26:4): “You are heirs of … the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, ‘Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.’” 
  • Galatians 3:8 (Paul references Gen. 12:3, 18:18 and 22:18): “Scripture … announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: ‘All nations will be blessed through you.’” 
  • Hebrews 6:17 (the author references Gen. 22:16–18): “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.”

 The “Great Commission” of Matt. 28:18–20, along with the parallel commissions in the other gospels and Acts, are all in direct fulfillment of God’s commission to Abraham.

 The commission starts with intercession

 Then the LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him” (Gen.18:17–19, emphasis added).

 In the larger story where these verses appear, God sets up Abraham to bless others through intercession. Abraham responds by pleading for God’s mercy on Sodom and Gomorrah, where Abraham’s nephew Lot lives. 

Practical implications

Movements happen only when the gospel blesses and multiplies through households and other natural groupings. In 1982 Donald McGavran observed that 90% of missionaries among the unreached were attempting to draw individuals away from their families rather than bless these families with a view to starting movements.5

Might FPGs more readily embrace Jesus if we present the gospel in Paul’s terms, as: 

  • God’s desire to redeem and bless their households and their full family line through following Jesus together,
  • rather than urging individuals to break with their family and community to follow Jesus? 

Breaking with family should not be the common practice our evangelism sometimes makes it into. Let us learn to invite families to pursue God together, just as we see throughout the Bible.

Jesus came to give life, and to bless all the families of the earth (John 1:10 and Gal. 3:8). This was His practice, and it should be ours also. 

Thus we must ask, individually and collectively, do our ministry approaches aim to: 

  • produce a visible bouquet of flowers cut off from their roots (winning individuals away from their families to produce a church of gathered strangers such as we are familiar with back home), or 
  • plant gospel seeds that can spread to produce a forest in the years to come (blessing households with God’s word in a way that multiplies throughout a people)? 

 

Endnotes
  1. 1 Less likely to invite a negative backlash from the community. See FocusOnFruit.org
    2 Imperial Fault Lines: Christianity and Colonial Power in India, 1818-1940, by Jeffrey Cox (Stanford, 2002).
    3  See Steve Smith’s “The Oikos Hammer: You & Your Household” in the Sep/ Oct 2018 MF.
    4  See Steve Hawthorne’s “The Father Who Names the Nations” on p. 32 of this issue.
    5 See the on-line 2018 reprint with expanded introduction, at MissionFrontiers.org/issue/article/a-church-in-every-people1

This is an article from the September-October 2018 issue: Wycliffe Bible Translators

Understanding the Remaining Mission Task - VIDEO

This is an article from the September-October 2018 issue: Wycliffe Bible Translators

The Power of Prayer in Completing the Task

The Power of Prayer in Completing the Task

My wife and I have served for 23 years with Wycliffe Bible Translators, an organization dedicated to making Scripture accessible to every language group that needs it. You can imagine over the course of all those years the number of prayers we have prayed and the number of ways we have seen the Lord answer those prayers. Here are a couple examples from early on. 

When I wanted to become a missionary pilot with JAARS, a Wycliffe partner organization that supports Bible translation, I needed to log an additional 170 hours of flight time. My prayers asking for God’s provision led to me crossing paths with a gentleman who let me use his 1946 Taylorcraft airplane for a year. Instead of paying $70 per hour, I paid $5 per hour! 

Only four months into our first assignment in Papua New Guinea, our one-and-a-half-year-old daughter Emily spiked a 104-degree fever in a village half a day away from the nearest clinic. She was not responding to the malaria treatment, there were no cell phones and no 911 emergency response team. That’s when we had our first encounter with a “jungle” doctor. Our daughter did not drink the special river water that he prescribed to force the evil spirits out of her body. Instead my wife and I, and a half dozen elders of the local church anointed her with oil and prayed the prayer of faith. Emily was up and running and bouncing off the walls— back to her normal self—the next morning. 

Whether prayers for openings in the clouds over jungle airstrips or prayers for God’s wisdom, guidance and provision, each prayer springs from a common source, out of our faith in a promise from God is foundational to our faith, it is foundational to our prayers. It is our faith in God’s promises that gives our prayers their effectual power. 

I have never claimed to be a theologian, but in my thinking there has always been a separate category of promises that I refer to as “unlimited.” These are the ones reserved for the Abrahams, Davids and Pauls of Scripture. These are the promises that nudge my faith to an entirely different level. I believe this is the Holy Spirit’s intent. I believe that John 15:7 ought to arrest our imagination when it says, “But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted.” The same goes for Ephesians 3:20, “Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”

God’s unlimited promises were never intended to be glossed over or pulled down to our common-sense level and emptied of their power. They were meant to lift our faith and lead us to a level of experience that is filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God. If there is a promise we have not experienced yet, we ought not rest until we have! 

In 2007, I experienced a series of events that the Lord would use to help forever change my perspective on His unlimited promises and the way I pray. 

In September of that year, I rode a bicycle 2,650 miles across the United States in 35 days, raising $51,000 for a Bible translation project with Wycliffe USA. The fundraiser had far exceeded my expectations, and the coolest part was that I had the privilege of choosing the project. I felt like the richest man in the world. 

About a year earlier, I had heard a presentation about the impact of audio Scripture and the ministry of Faith Comes By Hearing (FCBH), an organization Wycliffe USA has partnered with regularly in the past. At that time, Wycliffe and FCBH were co-funding projects among language communities that had a high priority need for audio Scripture listening groups. I couldn’t think of a more dynamic partnership or a more exciting project to sponsor, bringing Bible translation and dramatized audio recordings together. 

When I saw the Kekchi of Guatemala on the list of potential projects to fund, I was reminded of an Assemblies of God (AG) missionary sent out by our home church in Orlando, and I got even more excited. Damien had been working among the Kekchi for some time, a group of over 700,000 speakers of Mayan descent located throughout central Guatemala. They had the printed New Testament, but there was minimal engagement because the Kekchi typically share and receive important information through oral stories. 

I emailed Damien, telling him about the ride, the available funds, and asked if the audio players and the training would benefit the work he was doing among the Kekchi. He acknowledged the need, how easy it would be to launch the listening groups within the local Kekchi churches and what a tremendous blessing it would be to the pastors. I began to dream of the possibility of bringing the pieces together to create synergy and to multiply the engagement and impact of the Kekchi Scripture. My dreams became desperate prayers, and my desperate prayers became steps toward doing whatever it would take to make it all happen. 

I reached out to FCBH sharing my desire to fund the launch of the Kekchi listening groups and to do it in partnership with the Guatemalan Assemblies of God— and working in partnership with the National Church was FCBH’s preferred strategy! I asked Damien if he would reach out to the Guatemalan AG leadership, and he agreed. Meetings were scheduled, plane tickets were purchased and I was off on my first trip to Latin America. 

In April 2008, half way into my five-day trip to Guatemala, I found myself in a large conference room with representatives from Faith Comes By Hearing, SIL, the Guatemalan Bible Society, the General Superintendent and all the department heads of the Guatemalan Assemblies of God church. The two people I knew in the room, I had met just two days before. Except for me sharing the first few minutes about the bicycle ride, there was not another word of English. One hour later, what was to be a 30-minute meeting concluded with smiles, handshakes, formalities and one gringo with a deer-in-the-headlights expression on his face. 

On the way to the car, the Americas Area director for FCBH apologized for not having time to interpret and gave me a one sentence summary. “That,” he said, “was a very good meeting!” It so happened that very good meeting was the answer to every prayer I had been praying for nearly a year. I was right in the middle of it, and I didn’t even know it! 

The meeting at the Guatemalan Assemblies of God headquarters catalyzed an ad hoc five-way partnership that over the course of the following months led to the launch of over 900 audio Scripture listening groups in the Assemblies of God churches throughout the Kekchi speaking region. Audio players (called Proclaimers) and the training for facilitating listening groups was provided for several hundred AG pastors and lay leaders. 

This connection with Guatemala became a benchmark experience in my faith journey. I had never prayed for something as intently or as long that involved as many people, churches and organizations with as much potential to touch a people group. (His Word will not return void!) Many times I have read, and sung, Psalm 2:8, “only ask, and I will give you the nations” with a very real cry in my heart wondering what it could mean for me personally. My experience in Guatemala, the bike ride, the funds raised, the partnership, the more than 900 listening groups launched (each with the potential of becoming a church), all my answered prayers for a “nation”—the Kekchi—changed my perspective. I went from simply believing in the power of God’s unlimited promises, to actually experiencing it. 

The invitation is open to us all. “Come to me with your ears wide open. Listen, and you will find life. I will make an everlasting covenant with you. I will give you all the unfailing love I promised to David. See how I used him to display my power among the peoples. I made him a leader among the nations. You also will command nations you do not know, and peoples unknown to you will come running to obey, because I, the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, have made you glorious.” — Isaiah 55:3-5 

This experience gave me a taste of the Lord’s mighty power that is at work within us. So much more is accomplished when we start where God starts! His eyes search the whole earth looking to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him, those who would believe and pray His unlimited promises into existence. Yes, the bike ride to help fund the Kekchi listening groups was incredibly fulfilling in itself; but looking to the horizon, longing and praying for the nations and for unity in the church brought about a multiplied blessing not just for me or the Kekchi, but for FCBH, for Damien and for the church in Guatemala. 

Discovering the power of prayer for completing the task begins by simply taking God at His Word and longing to know Him the way He longs to be known.

This is an article from the September-October 2018 issue: Wycliffe Bible Translators

A New Day Dawns for the Deaf

A Visual Bible for Each of Their Visual Sign Languages

A New Day Dawns for the Deaf

Bible translation has been around for centuries, with missionaries venturing out into people groups near and far to make God’s Word accessible to people in a language and form they can clearly understand. As we steadily count down the number of languages left without Scripture, a people group seems to have gone overlooked by many, even though they live among all societies in every city, state and country around the world: the Deaf. 

Deaf Bible Society is an organization with a mission to provide God’s Word in every sign language. In collaboration with their partners, Deaf Bible Society reports that there are more than 400 distinct sign languages in use today. Yet only one completed New Testament exists, in one sign language, making the Deaf one of the most unreached and unengaged people groups in the world. 

The staggering statistics indicate that only two to three percent of Deaf people worldwide have been introduced to the truth of a Savior, and almost all Deaf communities are without God’s Word and biblical resources in a language and form they can understand. 

But why do the Deaf need Bible translation at all? Why can’t they just read the written Scriptures? 

Sign languages are not based on “simple” gestures or pantomime representing the national spoken language. They are true languages, rich and complex, with their own syntax and grammar. Sign languages employ facial expression, hand and body movement, and palm orientation to create visual grammar. Deaf people who use sign language as their primary mode of communication depend upon all of the components of this visual grammar to convey meaning, just the same as a hearing person depends upon spoken language grammar to project ideas, purpose and sense of identity. 

A Visual Bible for a Visual Language

Deaf Bible Society and their partners are dedicated to getting God’s Word in the heart language of every Deaf person, and must consider all the specific and detailed nuances that go into constructing biblical content and resources for the Deaf. Instead of the traditional 2D linear words on a page, which fall flat, sign language is dynamic and active, and must be in an accessible multimodal medium to be viewed. 

The broad availability of video technology has blazed a trail for reaching Deaf people with Scripture in a visual form, but there remains a major challenge of translating God’s Word into an estimated 400 sign languages. 

The output must use the face, the hands, body movement and expressions all collaborated with clear, natural and accurate signs, which can be unique for every culture and sign language. This presents a challenge that requires cutting-edge technology. 

Machine learning has been around since the 1950s, but it has never been on the lips of mechanical engineers, software developers and computer scientists like it is today. It wasn’t that long ago that the general public wasn’t ready to accept things like artificial intelligence (A.I.) and learning bots into their private space. Then along came Siri from Apple and Amazon’s virtual assistant, Alexa, and the world of A.I. exploded. Since then, new gadgets and smart electronics have emerged with life-enhancing algorithms. 

Eastern and western populations alike gobble it up daily.

 But how can Christian evangelists and ministries take advantage of this sailing ship? Can this kind of advanced technology be used to assist the acceleration of Bible translation and Scripture engagement? If digital assistants can be capable of turning off lights and ordering dinner, then certainly programs can be designed to perform specific, complex tasks like language acquisition. But, can advanced technology like A.I. be used in sign language acquisition? Better yet, can machine learning be used to assist sign language Bible translation? 

Thinking Inside the Bot

When a hearing person talks about a translation of the Bible, they refer to the variety of different text and audio versions available like the King James Version, the NIV or the New Living Translation. The reader or the listener rarely connects the team or individual who worked on the translation directly with the final product. 

Sign language Bible translation work requires the Deaf person doing the translation to show their face on camera, making that individual permanently connected to the translation. Problems arise when the character of the person overrides the message of Christ and becomes the focus. This can lead to scrutiny when the community recognizes the signer, and the reputation of the person can directly impact the reputation of the translation. In regions hostile to God’s Word, the signer risks putting their entire family, the translation team and the project in danger. The challenge becomes protecting the identity of the signer. 

Deaf Bible Society is taking advantage of new technology to build software called Chameleon, which uses machine learning (A.I.) to mask the identity of signers on camera behind visually realistic avatars. Chameleon uses neural networks that are trained with real-time data and are fed information to identify an elbow, an eyebrow and how the lips form in conjunction with a particular facial movement. They work like an active brain to learn the motions and expressions while responding by recognizing bodily connections and coordinated movements. It is like a baby who sees his parent over and over and suddenly starts to smile when the parent walks in the baby responds based on what he is learning. When the output of the neural network is driving the avatar, the signer’s identity remains hidden—fully capturing his movements and signing style while eliminating the risk. 

Neural networks have enabled Chameleon to leap years ahead of what was thought possible. “It’s really the dreamers who keep things moving forward,” says the Chameleon team leader. “It wasn’t that long ago that neural networks were considered unpopular. People didn’t think it was possible for computers to learn and self-correct on their own but look at what God is doing for His glory!” 

Awareness Builds a Movement

Historically Deaf people have been marginalized, forgotten and unreached. Misunderstood and reduced to a homogenized culture, they are often looked down upon and socially regarded as “disabled.”

 In some countries, Deaf people are labeled as leprous, and their deafness is considered a sign of sin. There are many countries where deafness is considered shameful, and Deaf people are cursed and ousted from society. Deaf children and adults are often hidden away, left by their parents, or separated into the very lowest sect. We’ve heard stories of terrible crimes and atrocities committed against Deaf people because they cannot speak out for themselves. 

Missionaries seeking Deaf people must often knock on doors to draw out the withdrawn and isolated. When they do reach a Deaf population, churches often mistakenly approach them with services and resources geared toward a hearing audience, which Deaf people must try to fit into. 

But as sign language Bible translation makes its way into the light, Deaf culture is being recognized more and more. Advanced technology and social media touch every place around the globe, creating a place for acceptance and change. It is a time when Deaf people must be identified and honored as intrinsic people groups, as an exclusive culture within a culture. Sign languages must come to be fully recognized as true languages, cherished by the Deaf as their heart language. 

Deaf Bible Society believes that the Great Commission is true for all people, including the Deaf. We believe the Deaf have a right to access the Bible in their sign language resulting in a personal relationship with God and community within the Church. To learn more about Deaf Bible Society, who we are, and our projects, please visit DeafBibleSociety.com.

This is an article from the September-October 2018 issue: Wycliffe Bible Translators

The DMM Price Tag

What Does It Cost to Start a Disciple Making Movement?

The DMM Price Tag

Visiting the U.S.A. after living many years abroad can be a shock to the system. Walking into a grocery store to buy a few things, I am assaulted by the prices. “What? It can’t possibly cost that much for this. I usually buy these items for a fraction of the cost! Are these apples worth that to me? Do I want to pay this price for them?” 

Adjusting to my home culture’s prices is a challenge. It takes time, usually a few weeks. Purchasing groceries is necessary so I find ways to do what is needed. It’s good to check the price tag carefully before I make a purchase, though. 

It’s also good to understand the cost of starting a Disciple Making Movement (DMM). Starting a DMM is an exciting venture, but it isn’t cheap. It’s definitely not a “freebie.” The investment we must make in tears, prayer, loss and personal pruning is great. 

What Does a DMM Cost?

We could consider an amount in dollars, thinking through the cost of training and evangelism materials. In many ways, however, that is relatively insignificant. What is more important to consider is what it costs the movement leader or trainer on a personal level. How do we determine what is the price that will be paid in tears? In emotional stress due to betrayal and persecution? Or the cost that comes with constant spiritual warfare? 

I wish I could tell you that DMMs are free. Salvation is free. But there is a price we must pay to see that free salvation come to thousands of unreached peoples. DMMs have a large price tag on them. Is it worth it? 

Compel Them To Come In

In Luke 14, Jesus tells a story of a feast. It wasn’t ell attended. Can you hear the passionate heart of God expressed for the lost to be saved? Jesus says, “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full.” (vs. 23)-NIV. 

The Master longs for His house to be full. “Compel them!” He says. The emptiness of His table grieves God’s heart deeply. 

After this stirring parable, Jesus immediately talks about the cost of discipleship. He refers to a man who began to build a tower but wasn’t able to finish. He tells of a king going to war who first carefully weighs the cost. We too must understand the payment needed when starting a Disciple Making Movement. 

The Price Is Real

Every time the ministry started to move forward I got sick. Seriously sick. God would bring a divine appointment with a potential national apostle. We would start to connect with them, begin mentoring and “Boom!” Something would happen. My back went out and suddenly I had two herniated discs. Another time I had a life-threatening hepatitis relapse. 

Once, we were making serious inroads to a new community and my right-hand colleague was suddenly killed. While riding in an auto rickshaw she was hit by an army truck. She died shortly after being taken to the hospital. Grief hit me much like that army truck had hit her. How was I to continue? 

Then there was the time when we were trying to produce a gospel film in the local language. We were using indigenous actors and presenting the message of Jesus in a contextual way. The film demonstrated simple church and told a story of someone coming to faith. It would be a major tool to help us with abundant gospel sowing. 

We expected some resistance from anti-Christians in the area especially when we would start to distribute it. What we didn’t expect was the persecution we faced from the Christian community. We were attacked, slandered, threatened and called names by those we thought were on the same side as us! 

Primary Costs You Will Face

It would not be fair to anyone wanting to pursue a DMM to tell them it will be easy. Though it is simple, it is not easy. 

Starting a DMM requires a high level of commitment and tenacity. You must have a willingness to go through suffering to see the release of God’s Kingdom in that place. The rewards are also great! Rather than seeing just a handful of people believe, you can see thousands of multiplying disciples. 

What are the primary costs you must be ready to pay if you are pursuing a DMM? 

Be willing to be misunderstood.

As you apply DMM principles, you will go against the flow of many traditional church views and practices. At times people will question your methods. When you allow non-ordained people to baptize, for example, it might raise eyebrows. When you decide against a church building or empower local believers to do ministry, some will think you are not “doing it right.” 

When you put into practice the things done in the book of Acts, it goes against the status quo. You may feel like you are “swimming upstream” in your organization. Don’t be surprised by this. It is normal for people pursuing DMMs. It’s part of the price we pay for the release of thousands into the kingdom. Be ready to be misunderstood and not take it personally.  

Be willing to face spiritual warfare.

Sickness, unusual marital stress, and unexpected conflicts in team relationships are quite common. The enemy does not want a movement to take off. You can be sure of that. He looks for your weak points and will try to stop you. I’m not saying everything bad that happens in life is spiritual warfare. But the reality of the enemy we face is clearly described by Paul in Ephesians 6:12. 

It helps to know that whenever there is an attack, it is also an opportunity for God to do a miracle! God always wants to use spiritual warfare against us and turn it around for our good. The miracle may be a healing. It might be a reconciliation, or a breakthrough in our own character growth. Be ready to struggle, but also be ready to experience the power of God demonstrated in those times! 

Be willing to face persecution.

As you pursue a DMM, you will face opposition from within and without. The first persecution will likely come from the existing church (even if it is a small and ineffective church). Later, when the disciple-making groups start to multiply rapidly and thousands are coming to faith, it is difficult not to be noticed. That is when external persecution is likely. You may be targeted by authorities, called in for questioning, or deported. If you have done a good job of training local leaders in a simple way, they will continue the work without you. It will grow even more! 

Be willing to suffer loss

A DMM practitioner may experience loss of status in their church or organization. Even more serious, they may face losses like the death of a child or spouse. Many who have seen movements released have walked through deeply painful times of grief. As you walk through these on your DMM journey, be assured of God’s comfort. He will draw near. He will be there to walk with you through the questions and doubts that losses provoke. The tears you cry will water the movement’s growth. Those you disciple and mentor will learn from you. They will watch you as you walk through the pain. They will see your love and commitment to God, and also to them. This is part of the deep foundational stones of a kingdom movement being laid. 

Be willing to change and grow in challenging new ways as a person

An openness to change and grow is crucial for those wanting to start movements.  This too is a costly thing.   It is easier to stay the same than to change our beliefs and paradigms. Great men and women of God are constantly growing. They are always learning. They allow each challenge to train them in godliness. They make adjustments when things aren’t producing fruit. Allowing the Holy Spirit to convict them, they respond in repentance. 

Change is costly, but so very rewarding too. The process of learning we go through in staring movements has great value! It shapes us into His image. 

Is It Worth It?

When we see the release of a massive movement of Jesus followers, we will rejoice with Jesus and the angels. Seeing thousands swept into God’s kingdom and an unreached area transformed…nothing can compare! Lives, families, and communities radically changed by His love? It’s unquestionably worth the hefty price tag. 

Are You Ready to Commit?

Counting the cost can be a bit shocking, much like my first trip to the grocery store when returning to the States. I hope this article hasn’t talked you out of pursuing a DMM! My goal is to help you count the cost now, so when you hit the hard stuff, you won’t give up. You’ve already decided it is worth it. 

Take a moment right now to pray. Ask God to give you the courage to embrace the challenges ahead. Let Him know you are willing to pay any price to see His house full, to see the unreached come to taste of His goodness. Jesus paid the ultimate price already. Let’s follow Him in demonstrating that same kind of love.

This is an article from the September-October 2018 issue: Wycliffe Bible Translators

A Desire That Would Not Die

God’s Word for a People in Exile

A Desire That Would Not Die
How hard would you work to have the Bible in your own language? Even if you didn’t know how to start? Or if, after getting some help, the work ceased for ten years because of war? Or if the community who spoke your language ended up scattered across three different countries, and mixed in with speakers of many other languages?
 
This has been the experience of the Keliko people of South Sudan. In 1983 Rev. David Gale, a Keliko pastor, gathered with Christians from many language groups at a Christian conference near Juba in South Sudan. Each person was asked to sing a worship song and read the Word of God in their own language. Rev. David was unable to comply with this simple request because he found himself weeping.
 
At that time, although the gospel had been shared with the Keliko as early as 1915, all their worship and access to God’s Word was through neighboring trade languages such as Bangala and Bari. Despite their long history with Christianity, the Keliko people had no Scriptures in their own language. Coming face to face with this reality for his people, Rev. David was overcome with sadness. He asked for prayers from the group gathered at the conference, that the Keliko would be able to translate the Bible, songs and liturgy into their own language. Opening the Bible he was using, he found Matthew 7:7 and read, “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you” The group prayed for him, and he returned home.
 
After Rev. David got home, five churches of the Keliko parish met for their annual conference. They had heard that other language groups in the area were receiving translation assistance from SIL International staff located in the area, and they believed they should also have their own Bible. After two years of fundraising, they sought assistance from SIL. In 1986, research began in the language, and within a year a writing system was completed and a story, a song and a few Scripture verses published in pamphlet form. The work had begun!
 
But then, full-scale war broke out. Most Keliko left their home area and became refugees in Congo and Uganda. SIL staff were evacuated, and the person assigned to assist the Keliko returned to her home country. For the next 10 years, no further progress was made.
 
Then, in 1998, Rev. David’s grandson, Bishop Seme, was studying in northern Uganda. An SIL couple visited his theological college to talk about Bible translation. Rev. Seme told them about the stalled work on the Keliko translation and asked for help. As a result, SIL specialists were assigned to help finalize the writing system and provide training in translation principles. Using the writing system, a number of Keliko learned to read and write their own language. The Keliko Bible translation project finally began making steady progress. Genesis was published in 2004, followed by a series of other Scripture portions.
 
In November 2016, as the Keliko translation team was involved in the final checking process of their long-awaited New Testament, the Keliko homeland was ravaged by violence. People were killed, women were raped, houses and churches were looted.
 
At the time of the attacks, the translation team was already working from several locations. Most of the team members were based in Juba, the capital city of South Sudan. Bishop Seme lived approximately 150 miles away in Panyana, an important church center in the Keliko homeland. He served part-time as a translator and advisor, checking translation work over the phone and making occasional trips to Juba to meet the other translators.
 
But when the fighting intensified in the homeland, Bishop Seme had to flee, along with many Keliko people. Weeks later, the violence spread to Juba. The rest of the translation team fled to northern Uganda. Again, work on the Keliko New Testament translation was interrupted. But it did not stop. Despite being displaced, the team continued to work on the Keliko Scriptures.
 
“Most of our life is just in war,” explained Bishop Seme. “Though the war has disturbed us and traumatized most people, we still work with them and continue to encourage them because there is no other way. We continue to promote the mother tongue though we are not in our own land.”
 
 Throughout the life of the Keliko translation project, and despite the challenges brought by war and migration, the translation team remained motivated to see God’s message of hope available in the Keliko language. And that persistence is bearing fruit. In August 2018, the Keliko New Testament was welcomed with great joy at a celebration in northern Uganda.
 
This great milestone for the Keliko people also happens to be a significant milestone for SIL International, Wycliffe USA and other key partners. The Keliko New Testament marks 1,000 New Testament translations completed with involvement from these organizations. It also represents the growing number of translation programs in environments characterized by migration and multilingualism.

Migration and Multilingualism

In response to this trend, a special task force of SIL scholars, translators and language program managers are studying how migration and multilingualism, along with urbanization trends, impact communities of non-dominant language speakers. One of the key findings of the research is that language situations vary. In order to understand and more effectively address that variety, the study group has identified two questions every translation team should ask:
 
What are all the languages this community uses?
 
Where are all of the communities that use this language?
 
Answering these two questions has become more complicated—and more important—in recent years, as minority language communities increasingly migrate into urban centers across the globe, and as those staying in the homeland also become increasingly multilingual. The situation can vary even within a given language community; not everyone who speaks the same set of languages uses each one of them equally well or in the same ways. 
 
The language needs and preferences of all sectors of a community must be considered to successfully communicate a crucial message. “We want to see the Scriptures available for all people in languages and media that are accessible to them,” explained Dr. Steve Quakenbush, leader of SIL’s Multiligualism, Urbanisation and Scripture Engagement (MUSE) task force.
 
The Keliko are quite familiar with the issues and challenges of a multilingual environment. They first accessed Scriptures in neighboring trade languages, Bangala and Bari. Many Keliko even consider Bangala to be a “holy language,” perhaps because the gospel first came to them in Bangala. Some Keliko churches use the Bari language for the liturgy in their services, as well as using available Keliko Scripture portions. Other Keliko people living outside their traditional homeland also speak Lugbara, Swahili or Juba Arabic. Bishop Seme himself speaks five languages, choosing which one to use depending on the particular context in which he finds himself. However, this multilingual fluency is not universal among Keliko speakers. Many whose formal education years have been disrupted by war have not had the same opportunities to learn other languages. The desire to have the Scriptures in their own language is strong.
 
In the recent years of forced migration, the question of where all the communities are that speak Keliko has become especially critical for the Keliko translation team.
 
Keliko communities are now scattered into three main areas: the bush or mountains of South Sudan, Uganda or the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). But most Keliko speakers are now in refugee camps, either in Uganda or the DRC. How are these Keliko to benefit from the Scriptures in their own language?
 
In the refugee camps, Keliko people often live together but they mingle with people from other language communities. Children speak Keliko with their families, but might switch to a different language when playing with children from other communities.
 
Wide representation from as many Keliko communities as possible is key to increasing awareness and engagement with the Keliko Scriptures. When translating and recording the JESUS film (a video dramatization depicting the life of Jesus with voice overs in minority languages) in Uganda last year, the Keliko team recruited Keliko speakers living in South Sudan, DRC and Uganda, including some living in refugee camps, as voice actors for the film.
 
As a result of connections with far flung communities such as those in DRC, many Keliko made plans to travel to the celebration in northern Uganda and even pledged to help with the costs. This was no small offer, especially since they no longer have access to their lands and thus their traditional agricultural livelihood.
 
The Keliko people were not completely without access to God’s Word before. Many of them also use other languages, and had come to faith through hearing the Good News in those other languages. There will be occasions when they still want to worship and study the Bible with others who use other languages. Yet their desire for the Bible in their own language would not die. As Bishop Seme explained, “It is only the Lord helping us. Many people died in the war, but still we are alive. It is very important to have the Scriptures.”

This is an article from the September-October 2018 issue: Wycliffe Bible Translators

There’s an App for That

Technology Transforms Bible Translation

There’s an App for That

Ask someone what they imagine when they think of Bible translation, and they might describe a linguist sitting alone at a simple desk in a remote village, poring over a Bible word by word and writing or typing it into a local language.  The work appears slow, painstaking and exacting.

While no less challenging or precise, today the work can look radically different.  Where Bible translations once took 25 or 30 years to complete, advancements like customized software, computer tables, apps and other tech have made it possible to get the Bible into people’s hands faster, more easily and in more ways than ever before in history. 

Mike Cochran has served in language technology development with SIL for 20 years, working with highly skilled teams to help increase the accuracy of translation work and the productivity of translation teams, from cultural anthropology to grammar and orthography. 

“Long ago, [SIL researchers] actually created a portable computer before there was one,” Mike said. “They also created hardware to process audio before there were cards and computers that did that. As an organization, we’ve always been pioneering in a technology space. Nobody else had anything like what we created.” 

With the help of other organizations contributing their own expertise, today that pioneering innovation continues. Take a look at some of the cutting-edge tools changing the landscape of Bible translation around the world. 

Paratext Software

When linguist John Nystrom and his wife, Bonnie, first started translation work in 1990 with the Arop language group of Papua New Guinea, the majority of the work—like checking key terms and phrases for accuracy and consistency—was done by hand. Today, software programs like Paratext have become incredible tools to reduce effort and increase output. 

Developed by United Bible Societies and SIL International, Paratext is the world’s leading software application for developing and checking new Bible translation texts, or revisions to existing texts. It gives teams a central location for reviewing word lists and biblical terms, storing project notes, comparing a translation to the original Greek and Hebrew or a source text to ensure accuracy, and collaborating with team members remotely using the internet. 

“Computers are better and faster than people at finding stuff and counting things,” John said. “But great translation tools use the computer’s finding and counting skills to set up what a translator wants to spend his time doing: deciding if what’s there is correct or if it can be improved.” That’s what Paratext has done for the Arop translation team and countless others. 

When John and the team were translating the books of 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus, for example, they needed a clear translation for the phrase “clean conscience.” Once they settled on the most accurate and natural phrase for the concept, they needed to replace all the existing instances of “clean conscience” with their translated alternative. 

Previously that would have required serious time and effort, and ultimately the team still couldn’t be sure they’d caught all the references in the Scriptures. With Paratext, rather than searching the translation by hand they were able to identify all the instances of the phrase immediately. The software pinpoints each one and shows how it has been translated. 

But what if you’re not a trained linguist? What if instead you’re a minority language speaker who wants to help translate the Bible for your own community, in a remote location with limited resources? 

A Lighter Option

While Paratext is ideal for many translation projects, for teams in some of the poorest, hardest-to-reach areas of the world, it can be impractical. Many of these teams are working with older computer models, most of which can’t run the last three versions of Paratext, and there’s no IT department in place to offer tech support. 

In response to this complex need, teams from organizations like SIL International, Operation Agape, Distant Shores Media and Wycliffe Bible Translators USA are introducing a simple solution. They’re partnering to develop Paratext Lite, a stripped back and more agile version of its robust counterpart. 

“Paratext Lite is designed for a translator who hasn’t been heavily trained in linguistics or isn’t familiar with complex software,” said Doug Hennum, chief innovation and information officer at Wycliffe USA. “It has a simple interface, does what they need it to do and then transfers it into Paratext so more highly skilled linguists and consultants can do what they need to do with it.”

Best of all, it’s tablet based and runs on the Android operating system, which is widely available around the world. This makes it ideal for low-power devices that work well in rugged desert environments or climates with high humidity and rain. It also eliminates the challenges presented by desktop computers with malware issues, laptops constantly trying to download updates, or spotty internet connections. 

“I think it may well be a game changer,” Mike said. “Android devices are cheap and low power and will give us the ability to roll out [the software] to people who otherwise couldn’t take advantage of the tools.” 

Earlier this year the team rolled out Paratext Lite in beta mode, testing it with 95 people in 32 countries. The program was released in June. 

There’s an App for That

The explosion of apps (short for “applications”) onto mobile devices in recent years has dramatically enhanced and expanded much of our digital experience. When communicating with friends and family, playing games, tracking our health and even managing finances, apps are now a pervasive part of daily life for many. 

Apps are also changing the way people all over the world engage with the Bible. YouVersion’s Bible app allows readers to interact with Scripture in more than 1,000 languages. The Deaf Bible app from Deaf Bible Society offers Bible translations in various sign languages exclusively designed for the Deaf. BIBLE.IS from Faith Comes By Hearing contains audio Bibles for oral cultures and the “JESUS” film, a video dramatization that depicts the life of Jesus Christ in over 1,500 languages. Still more apps like iDisciple and Olive Tree offer thousands of devotionals, sermons and Bible studies. 

Bible translation is no exception to the app phenomenon, as developers are continually finding ways to adapt these globally embraced tools to make Scripture accessible in brand new ways. 

“There are several key experiments moving us forward rapidly,” Mike said. One is a program SIL developed called Scripture App Builder. It helps you build customized apps for Android and iOS smartphones and tablets, where you specify everything from the Scripture files used down to the fonts and colors. Scripture App Builder will package everything together and build the customized app for you. You can then install it on your phone, send it to others by Bluetooth, share it on microSD memory cards and publish it to app stores on the internet. 

Another exciting new tool is called Scripture Forge, an app for translation teams to facilitate online community Scripture checking. Many Bible translation projects today are engaging an increasingly geographically diverse group of mother-tongue speakers. 

“Often those people are online, which gives us an opportunity to do things we haven’t been able to do before, especially regarding evaluating how effective our approaches are,” Mike said. 

Scripture Forge allows teams to engage with the language community by uploading Scripture portions, asking targeted questions about the translation and inputting the responses back into Paratext. The Scripture portions can be shared widely through social media and other channels, broadening the reach of the translated Word. 

“You’re improving quality as you go, and people are actually using it before you’ve spent 15 years in a community. You’re also changing the quality of your translation as you go, because it’s being used by more people in a greater variety of contexts,” Mike added. “And if halfway through [a translation project] a team member has to leave, or a project stalls [because of conflict, unrest or funding issues] the community can still use what’s already been produced. 

“Those things are very motivating for me with these technologies—the breadth, the reach. It’s motivating to reach the diaspora.” 

Advancing Together

Ultimately the core goal behind any advancement remains the same: ensuring that every person has access to God’s Word in a language and form they can clearly understand. As Bible translation and distribution organizations, if we’re serious about that call our methodologies for completing this task are going to continue to grow and change. 

One thing is abundantly clear: When it comes to technological advancements in Bible translation today, “it’s becoming much more of a collaborative effort than it ever used to be,” Doug said. “There are very few things we’re working on that we aren’t doing with a partner. The future is not going to be one organization making this happen. It’s got to be done in partnership.”  

This is an article from the September-October 2018 issue: Wycliffe Bible Translators

A Gap in the Creeds

A Gap in the Creeds

We live in a world driven by material possessions and comfort, fueled by marketing and laser guided by data. They know what we like—literally! This has radically changed how we perceive the world. What people want (not just need) is fueled by media. A major force creating this shift began just after silent films— though now it is so pervasive that the movie industry is only one, still influential force in this direction. One historic example is how many people decided to try smoking because they saw it in films and it looked cool. 

The Church is also greatly impacted by its history and leaders—for an even longer period. •is has been good and bad. We all know stories, which opponents to the gospel flaunt in our faces, where the Church and/ or its leaders were not being true to the gospel—to say the least. But since the end of the NT times, the Church has been guided by its history, reflected (in part) in the creeds. We sometimes wonder what would have happened if some of those key decisions had been decided another way. 

Rarely, however, do we wonder what might have been left out or ignored. How would you “edit” the creeds to include something they missed that is crucial? 

For example, what might have happened if any (or all) of the main Christian creeds had included Jesus’ last command—to make disciples of all ethné? How different might it have been if everyone who wanted to pass on solid biblical truth included this? Suppose those mentoring young Christians or training pastors and leaders had seen the sentence below, inserted right after—“On the third day he rose again from the dead…” 

  • He commissioned his Church, beginning with the Apostles to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins to all nations.1

 This is the reflection of Don Richardson—who is both a former missionary to the Sawi people, and mission statesman who has studied a wide range of issues like this very deeply. Don has probably taught in our Perspectives on the World Christian Movement course more than anyone else (other than Steve Hawthorne, author of the Perspectives Study Guide). 

In chapter sixteen of his book titled Incomplete Creeds as Symptomatic Warnings, Don outlines why the command of Jesus should be included in the creeds, namely that God’s plan for the world can be traced throughout the Scriptures. And, he ties that together with Jesus teaching at the end of Luke and Matthew—just before the ascension. 

Just last week, I was asked by a friend who works with a mission-sending organization if I had something he could use to answer the question: “Is the Great Commission (from Matthew 28:19-20) for us or just for the apostles? 

I would have suggested this chapter in Don’s book, but I hadn’t read it yet. 

But if you think just a little about it, it would be foolish to think it could reasonably be meant just for the apostles. If it were, they sure did a lousy job. Even Paul only got so far himself. 

Historically then, instead of seeing this Commission as a foundational part of the Church and her calling, it is relegated to a fringe group in the church, or in a department in a few seminaries. Usually, smaller schools do not even have a class in “world missions” or “intercultural studies.” Instead of talking about reaching people with little or no witness when we disciple people, we wait till that younger believer “gets a sense of calling”—and then we pass them off to one of those “fringe” missions people in our churches. Many pastors are too focused and busy to strongly push the church to go beyond their walls/neighborhood to reach out where the gospel has yet to go.

 How are you applying the clear teaching of Jesus and the entire Bible on this issue? How central is it to you and your church? 

Please share your thoughts on http://www.missionfrontiers.org. 

  1. 2013, Don Richardson, Heaven Wins: Heaven, Hell and the Hope of Every Person, p. 188. You can get this book and others or download articles from Don here: http://www.donrichardson-booksales.com<./li>

This is an article from the September-October 2018 issue: Wycliffe Bible Translators

Bible Translation as We Approach 2025

What's Been Accomplished and What Remains

Bible Translation as We Approach 2025

Between His resurrection and ascension into heaven, Jesus charged His apostles and followers with the Great Commission: to make disciples of all nations. At the time, the apostles could not have known just how wide-ranging that mission was (and is). Even the more well-traveled among them could not have grasped the size of the world and how its population would grow. 

God often sets goals for us that are bigger than we could perceive, let alone achieve, on our own or in the span of our lifetime. The Great Commission is one such goal. Through the perseverance of Christians all over the world, we are approaching a milestone: the availability of the Good News about Christ in a language people relate to best, and in a form they can use. 

For nearly 2,000 years, Christians all across the world have devoted their lives to this mission—bringing the Good News of Jesus Christ to all peoples—and at the end of their journey passed the torch to a new generation who would build from their sacrifices and advance the work. MISSION FRONTIERS has chronicled many of these diverse and arduous efforts, ranging from church planting and evangelism to the pursuit of justice for the enslaved and oppressed. 

When Christian believers carry the gospel to unreached communities, there is no more potent medium through which to receive it than in the language most familiar to them: the community’s native language—the language of their birth. It’s what we at Wycliffe Bible Translators USA describe as their “heart language”—the language they think in, dream in and pray in. Scripture is God’s primary way of speaking to His people; it is the foundation of the Church. However, the reality for millions around the world is that they still have no access to Scripture in the language they know best. 

At Wycliffe Bible Translators, we recognize Bible translation as an integral part of the Church’s global mission that all would know of God’s unconditional and enduring love for them. Our goal is to eradicate Bible poverty and ensure that all have access to hear God speak to them in a language and form they can clearly understand. 

Vision 2025: How Far We’ve Come and How Far We Have to Go

Wycliffe’s vision began as our founder William Cameron Townsend was challenged by a native Cakchiquel speaker, Francisco Diaz, to ensure that his people heard accurately this good news not in Spanish, but in his northern tongue, Cakchiquel. In the 75 years since Townsend founded Wycliffe, we have sought to make this a worldwide reality, working alongside local communities and churches, and numerous partner organizations both in the United States and around the world. Through this collaborative work and the unmistakable guidance of the Holy Spirit, we have witnessed countless lives transformed by newfound access to the Bible. 

Over time, we’ve discovered thousands of languages never imagined by Townsend, moving the goal line of Scripture access for all even farther away. By the year 2000, while many groups had access to Scripture in their own languages, many others did not. Our leaders at the time realized that at the rate we were going, it would be 150 years before a Bible translation project had even begun in the remaining languages around the world. As emerging local partners and churches exploded and technology radically cut the time needed to complete a translation, they knew we could do better. 

The Church has never shirked at the enormity of the Great Commission, and neither did Wycliffe’s leaders 18 years ago. They trusted God’s heart for the people of the earth and their conviction so that, in faith, they raised the bar and set an audacious, aggressive, seemingly impossible goal of having a Bible translation project underway in every language by the year 2025. And they invited others to join in this vision. Believing that with God nothing is impossible, and when He calls, He also equips, Vision 2025 was launched. Together we rekindled our sense of urgency and committed to working in partnership, developing creative strategies, building the capacity of others, and working toward sustainability of anything started. We trusted in God’s providence and adopted this vision as our mission statement: to see a Bible translation program in progress in every language still needing one by 2025. 

We currently estimate there are about 7,000 spoken languages across the world. Almost one out of three has adequate access to Scripture. Nearly 2,200 language communities—the highest number on record—currently have translation projects underway. But roughly 1,600 language communities are still waiting for a translation project to begin and have no access to any Scripture in the language they know best. 

When Wycliffe’s work first began, Bible translation everywhere was largely done with a manual typewriter or by hand, and the occasional loss of physical manuscripts caused entire projects to be restarted from scratch. Communication with other translators required expensive and unreliable international phone calls and dangerous transportation. Back then we didn’t fully understand that languages rarely exist in isolation but we’ve since learned so much about the multilingual world in which these language communities function.

As articles in this issue detail, Bible translation today looks far different than it once did. Thanks to local ownership of translation programs, streamlined communication, transportation, Bible translation software, digital publication and other technological innovations, translators across the world are able to complete projects on a timetable that would previously have been unthinkable. 

A Common Framework for Bible Translation

Technology has dramatically sped up the translation process, but we do not allow speed to be our primary goal. Instead, the first commitment must be to clear, accurate and natural translation. As one organization working within a broader alliance, Wycliffe Bible Translators has adopted a shared set of missiological principles that constitute a “Common Framework for Bible Translation,” which shapes everything we do. 

The principles include relationship, partnership, stewardship, ownership and accelerated impact. This framework was promoted by Every Tribe, Every Nation, a coalition of 10 translation groups that have produced the vast majority of the Bible translations in existence today. 

The “Common Framework for Bible Translation” prioritizes working with the local church to get translation projects started in every language that needs one. Isaiah 55:11 says, “it is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.” 

Establishing and Maintaining Relationship

One of our primary goals for translation projects is the establishment of deep, committed and enduring relationships among translation teams, impact partners and local communities within a geographic region. This also includes technical partners, donors and prayer partners within the target geographic region or community. e development of these communal and incarnational relationships is essential to helping the body of Christ grow and flourish, but also to the completion of translation projects themselves, which can be complicated and have historically spanned decades. 

For example, in March of 2017 in South Sudan, a people who speak the Baka language celebrated the completion of the Baka New Testament. It was the culmination of a project over 30 years in the making. But it was a project that faced numerous challenges. When translators first encountered the Baka language, it was only a spoken language. The translation projects required the development of a written language as well as literacy training materials to ensure Scripture engagement. Illnesses as well as other circumstances within the local church caused several different partners to redistribute responsibility, resulting in a local pastor, Rev. Bennett Marona, becoming the project leader. 

Furthermore, due to the civil war in Sudan, Rev. Bennett and the other translation team members were forced to relocate to a refugee camp in the Democratic Republic of Congo and then on to Uganda before finally coming to completion back in what had since become South Sudan. At each stage and over every obstacle across those three decades, the project was able to persevere because of the strong relationship of a multinational team, selflessly committed to bringing the Word of God to the ears of those who speak Baka. 

Relying on Partnership

In Bible translation, partnership is paramount; translation goals, products and plans are determined collaboratively. Throughout the New Testament and the history of the Church, the body of Christ’s growth has been the collaborative responsibility of the body itself. It remains a global community of believers fulfilling diverse yet vital roles, working toward the common goal. An uncoordinated body stumbles, but a coordinated one accomplishes much; so, too, does Bible translation work best in partnership. 

Bible translation requires a wide breadth of collaboration: local language experts, linguists, translators, literacy workers, project advisors, donors, publishers and distributors. For this reason, Wycliffe is proud and honored to work with networks of Bible translation organizations like the Wycliffe Global Alliance. This collaboration saves decades of data-gathering, learning customs and cultural nuances, building relationships and many other efforts required to begin a translation. It’s an unprecedented, globally unified effort of believers to pool knowledge, resources and access to unreached people groups, and will play a pivotal role in closing the final gap and translating the Bible into every language in need on earth. 

We saw this phenomenon in action in the Bible translation project for the Roviana people of the Solomon Islands. Christian missionaries first reached them with the gospel in 1902, 116 years ago. Since then, two separate advising agencies, a publisher, a recording company, a series of donor organizations and eight translators were needed to overcome a seemingly endless series of challenges. Finally, in May of 2017, the Roviana people celebrated a complete printed Bible and audio version of the New Testament in their heart language. 

The project took immense collaboration, and the inspiring outcome could not have been accomplished by any single group. Their success demonstrates the incredible impact that the body of Christ can have through such cooperation and perseverance—something we look forward to seeing the Holy Spirit accomplish in many more communities. 

Prioritizing Stewardship

When Jesus entrusted the Great Commission to His followers in His absence, it required that we be faithful stewards of what He has given us. In Bible translation, faithful stewardship means that projects are well-developed, well-designed, well-resourced and well-managed with a high value on mutual accountability and transparency among all partners. 

It means working with excellence: realizing the full potential of all available resources—from technology to personnel—to produce translations that are clear, accurate and natural to the local speakers in a way that honors them, our partners and God’s eternal Word. This isn’t just about physical resources, but also about our work and our time. 

Our value for wise stewardship should permeate every other principle in the “Common Framework” because it is crucial to completing the task well, together and for God’s glory. 

Celebrating Local Ownership

As Bible translation continues to evolve, it is most effective for the local body of believers to assume ownership of the vision and responsibility for Bible translation in their community.  When the work of Wycliffe and our partners began, most translation projects were for isolated people groups with limited educational opportunities and little knowledge of the outside world. This meant that the first task for our translators was to shed light on their need for God’s Word; the result, in many cases, was that we “owned” the project more than local communities did. 

Bible translation has evolved as the world grows more interconnected—many language groups are now in a position to own their translation projects if they have the right support. It’s always been the case that when communities own their projects, not only are they more committed, but are also more likely to use the Scripture after translation and apply its teachings. 

We’ve seen this at work in Peru. Mark and Patti Bean have been facilitating a translation cluster project, in which multiple distinct Quechua languages work together to achieve translation faster and with better accuracy. After recently finishing the Old Testament, they are revising their translations of the New Testament in hopes of printing the full Bible.

The team is a committed group of members, many of whom travel from great distances to work at the translation site, sacrifice time with their families and turn down more lucrative job opportunities to continue working together. For one member, the journey is a three-day walk and a ten-hour car ride. What keeps them coming back to work again and again? They believe in the power and importance of their task. It’s their commitment to bringing the Word of God to their own people; nothing could be more rewarding or more urgent than sharing the gospel with their community in a language and form they can understand. 

Achieving Accelerated Impact

All of these principles coalesce in making an accelerated impact. With so many languages still without access to any usable Scripture, a central focus of the “Common Framework” is to accelerate impact by implementing short-phased projects that develop accessible Scripture products which respond to pressing ministry needs of the Church. 

Part of the accelerated impact comes through adopting technological innovations, but the overall emphasis is on prioritizing projects that readily provide access to Scripture to those who have never heard God speak to them in their own language. 

The Ilchamus people in Kenya demonstrate the expediency of providing Scripture in easily accessible forms at an accelerated rate. After translation attempts failed in the past, the Ilchamus people approached one of Wycliffe’s partner organizations, Bible Translation and Literacy in Kenya, over concerns that material hardships and spiritual warfare were harming their efforts to bring Scripture to their people. The new, collaborative effort began by identifying portions of Scripture that most closely addressed the particular needs of the community where receptivity to the gospel was highest—poverty was at the top of their list—and the best scalable distribution methods. 

The partners decided to translate the Gospel of Matthew, because of its focus on God as provider, in both print and audio form as the most efficient way of having the greatest impact. After four months of careful development and design and six subsequent months of actual translating, the Ilchamus people published the Gospel of Matthew, distributing 1,000 printed copies and several hundred audio recordings. Because the book’s teachings were particularly relevant to their communal needs, the Ilchamus people understood how the gospel applied to them. As a result, lives were transformed and churches gained more momentum for further translation projects.

By scaling the translation projects this way and aligning feasible goals with an unreached people group’s specific needs, Scripture is able to have a meaningful and (relatively) immediate impact in those communities. Even more importantly, it introduces the gospel to more people who have no access to usable Scripture and allows the Word of God to speak to people at the heart level. We’ve witnessed the Holy Spirit amplify this seemingly small foothold in profound and powerful ways. 

Accomplishing Vision 2025

Fulfilling Vision 2025 will not be possible without continued collaboration within the global body of Christ. Other articles in this issue attest to the power of prayer in completing the task and the need for individuals and churches to invest time, money and other resources in God’s global mission. 

Vision 2025 is a bigger goal than we could ever achieve on our own. But by the provision of the Holy Spirit, the rich heritage and incalculable sacrifices of those who went before us, an evolving approach to Bible translation and a prayerful and committed global Church, we remain committed to accomplishing Vision 2025 and are closer than we’ve ever been to having a translation project underway for every people still waiting to experience God’s Word for themselves. We hope you’ll join us on this faith journey.

This is an article from the September-October 2018 issue: Wycliffe Bible Translators

The Movements of Today Rest upon the Sacrifices of Centuries Past

The Movements of Today Rest upon the Sacrifices of Centuries Past

How much do you love the Word of God? Would you be willing to lay down your life in order to not lose the ability to read it? For most of us in the English-speaking world, we take the Word of God for granted. We have always had access to Bibles in numerous translations. But it has not always been this way and the Scriptures are still not available for roughly 1,500 language groups that need a New Testament translation to begin. The price that many have had to pay for the freedom to read the Bible in their own mother tongue has often been very high. 

Over 600 years ago in 1384 a fearless scholar named John Wycliffe invited a death sentence by translating the New Testament into English for the first time. Wycliffe believed that it was the Scriptures that should be the basis for the faith and practice of all Jesus followers. Wycliffe was the first glimmer of hope for those who wanted to read the Bible for themselves. He was one of the first pioneers of what would become the Protestant Reformation. Wycliffe died before he could be executed for his “crime” of translating Scripture so the Catholic Church dug up his remains and burned them anyway.

One hundred thirty-three years later in 1517 an obscure Augustinian monk named Martin Luther burst onto the world stage by once again challenging the most powerful political and religious leaders of his day with the simple idea that our faith and practice as Jesus followers is based on God’s Word, the Bible, not upon the edicts of an all powerful church or its leaders. Our final authority is Scripture alone— Sola Scriptura in Latin. 

All the power of the Holy Roman Empire and the Roman Catholic Church was set to crush this troublesome monk and his “dangerous ideas.” The problem for these powerful leaders was that Luther had become the most popular man in Germany among the common people—more popular than the Pope or the Catholic Church. Luther’s writings published with the latest technology of the Gutenburg presses sold wildly and made the printers rich. Woodcut prints of Luther’s likeness along with Luther’s signature made Luther the first “celebrity” of the16th Century. It was this popularity and the protection of certain German leaders that kept Luther from suffering the same fate as John Huss who was burned at the stake in 1415 for spreading views of Scripture similar to those of Luther. 

Luther was called to the German city of Worms (pronounced V-or-ms) to recant his writings before the Holy Roman Emperor Charles. Upon his arrival, Luther was greeted like a conquering king with an escort of 100 horsemen and thousands of cheering well-wishers. 

When Emperor Charles V demanded that he recant his writings on April 18, 1521, Luther replied, “I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience.” As Eric Metaxes makes clear in his excellent biography of Martin Luther, Luther’s confession at the “Diet of Worms” (diet meaning assembly) was a turning point in human history where the freedom of conscience was first established as a bedrock principle of Western civilization, which lives on in the founding documents of the United States.

This breakthrough in religious freedom that Luther and others made possible is the foundation that all Bible translation and movements to Christ rest upon. 

The 653 kingdom movements multiplying around the world, transforming the lives of millions, growing faster than the overall population, would not be possible without the freedom that Wycliffe, Luther and pioneers like them have purchased for us. 

As we seek to translate the Bible into every language that still needs a translation, we stand on the shoulders of giants like Wycliffe, Huss, Luther, Tyndale and thousands of others who have risked their lives and sometimes sacrificed their lives in order to bring the Word of God to every people in their heart language. Let’s not take for granted the freedoms that others paid so dearly to secure for us. But rather, let’s honor their sacrifice by completing the translation task that they so nobly began. 

THE PACE IS ACCELERATING

We are privileged to live in the greatest period of Bible translation the world has ever known. Great progress has been made over the last 100 years but it is nothing compared with what we are seeing today. In the year 2000 there were 366 complete Bible translations. Today, just 18 years later, there are 677.During this same time the number of complete New Testament translations has gone from 928 to 1550. That is a 67% increase in just 18 years. This is an even more remarkable figure when you consider that it took many decades of prior effort to get to 928. Most exciting of all is that the number of languages still needing a translation to begin has been cut in half from over 3,000 to just 1,559 in just 18 years. Recent progress is nothing short of astounding. So what is leading to this dramatic progress? 

Around the year 2000 Wycliffe Bible Translators realized that at the rate they were going it would take 150 years for a translation to be started in every language group that still needed a translation. This was not acceptable to them, so they decided to re-evaluate and rethink everything they were doing in order to pick up the pace of Bible translation. They set for themselves the goal of starting a translation in every language that still needed one by 2025. This issue of MF is all about what Wycliffe is doing to reach this goal.

As you read through this issue one thing becomes clear. Technology has enabled translators to not only speed up the translation process but to also improve the quality of the end product by including a wide range of people in the translation process. Increasingly, the people who will use the translation are becoming active participants in the translation process. This improves the usefulness of translation as well as the ownership of it by the people who will be using it. It does no good to do a translation if the people who need it don’t use it.

There has been a revolution in Bible translation over the last 20 years and that revolution continues to grow as ever improving technology brings the completion of the initial Bible translation task into sight. With 3,334 languages now having some portion of Scripture in their language, we can now anticipate the day when every people group will have a complete Bible in their heart language. We will not have to wait 100 years for it to happen. There will always be a need for revision and updating of previous translation work, but in the not too distant future every people will have access to Scripture in their language if we will continue to press forward. 

A KAIROS MOMENT FOR MOVEMENTS AND BIBLE TRANSLATION

Around the world over 653 movements of discipleship and church planting are growing faster than the rate of the overall population. Central to all of these movements is the focus on obedience to the Word of God. The future growth of these movements is dependent upon having at least some oral portions of Scripture available in the languages where these movements are taking place. Wycliffe has recognized the importance of developing an oral approach to the translation of Scripture. See the article, “The Voice of God Speaking to Siberian Hearts” starting on page 19 for an example of how oral stories from Scripture can transform lives. I do not believe it is just a coincidence that these Scripture-centric movements are growing and spreading at the same time that the availability of the Scriptures both oral and written is increasing. They build upon each other and serve one another. Both Wycliffe and the 24:14 Coalition have set the same end date of 2025 to reach their respective goals. Whether the global Church succeeds in bringing the gospel to every people in our lifetime will largely depend on whether these goals are met. 

HELP MISSION FRONTIERS SUCCEED

MISSION FRONTIERS supports and promotes the growing efforts to bring the Word of God and the gospel to every people on earth. In order to carry out this mission, we need all of our readers to become VISION-CASTERS. You can do this by actively sharing MF material with others while also giving and praying for MF. To donate, go to http://www.missionfrontiers.org and click on the Subscribe button in the upper right-hand corner.

This is an article from the September-October 2018 issue: Wycliffe Bible Translators

Heart Returns on Investment

Heart Returns on Investment

Janet Vaughan shares Bible translation with anyone who will listen, including her Sunday school class and her trainer at the gym. She says, “Everyone I tell is interested, but it’s just a story to them. Being a part of the work of Bible translation reinvigorates your own faith, and it makes you so happy for those receiving God’s Word for the first time.” Although Janet may sound like a linguist or a Wycliffe Bible Translators missionary, she’s actually a passionate financial partner of Wycliffe Bible Translators USA. 

Two years ago Janet and her husband, Chip, felt God was guiding them to make a significant gift through a family fund established by Chip’s parents, Cy and Jean Vaughan, to support kingdom work. Prayer, research and counsel from their advisor with Ronald Blue Trust, a Christian financial planning company, led them to consider investing in the work of Wycliffe Bible Translators. Janet says, “We wanted to get the funds out to do God’s work. And what’s more key than giving God’s Word for each individual language? If people don’t hear the gospel, they don’t know.”

 "The couple’s first meeting with Wycliffe representative Amanda Fewless also happened to be Amanda’s first visit in her role. Amanda was excited to get to know Chip and Janet—to learn about their family, and the things and places they care about most. “One thing that stood out during that first meeting was their desire to be wise stewards,” Amanda said. “"ey had not been involved in Bible translation before, and they were asking great questions about it.” 

"The more the Vaughans prayed and thought it through, the more Chip felt like his parents really would have wanted to support work in Africa. "They began learning more about the Dodoma project—a project in Tanzania that was doing translation work in a cluster approach, where four related languages worked together to complete their Scripture translations. Each language was in a different phase of Bible translation, ranging from an unreached people group with no written language yet, all the way to a language that was almost ready to dedicate their New Testament. It provided the Vaughans with a spectrum of Bible translation needs toward which to contribute. 

Chip and Janet reviewed the Dodoma Cluster project materials with their adult children, and decided as a family to make a gift to support the work. Chip felt that his parents would be both honored and humbled to play a part in providing Scripture to so many who had never had the chance to hold a Bible in their language. Amanda kept them linked to the project by introducing them to staff working on the translations and forwarding on prayer requests and updates from the teams. 

“You start out giving to help people that don’t have God’s Word,” Janet said. “You forget that in the process, your connection will bring the work to life. It’s not just giving money, it’s so much beyond that. It makes you a participant in the project.” 

"That’s the moment that Wycliffe is inviting people into: discovering how God is calling you to participate in Bible translation and receive the blessing that comes from obeying that call. Representatives like Amanda are able to minister to donors by building relationships and finding the way God is leading them to partner in the work—through prayer, giving of their time and talents and financial investment—and facilitating opportunities for them to be involved. 

"The Vaughans represent thousands of generous partners, around the United States and around the world, who are supporting Bible translation efforts. Individuals, families and businesses from Ghana to Singapore, Panama to Indonesia, are stepping into the work through their prayers and financial investments. 

An Unexpected Invitation

A few months after the Vaughans’ gift, Amanda surprised the family with an invitation to visit the Dodoma cluster project. Health concerns and scheduling challenges kept Chip and their kids from going, but Janet eagerly accepted the offer. In August 2017 Janet and Amanda traveled with a small group to Tanzania to visit the work the Vaughan family had been involved in through prayer and giving. "They were even able to attend the New Testament dedication for one of the languages in the Dodoma cluster, the Burunge!

 "The sights and sounds of the dedication day are something that Janet will never forget. “We took a van to the ceremony and from our van we saw people walking long distances along the road, dressed up for the celebration of their Bible dedication,” Janet recalled. “We heard pastors speak and pray, the choir sang three or four times and there was worship through dancing. Several hundred people were standing the whole time in the hot sun, holding babies in their arms. But they came there for a purpose—walked all that distance, waited all that time—because they so wanted the Bible in their language. You saw the people kiss their Bibles and hold them up to their chests like precious gifts. It caused me to treasure my own Scriptures more, and it changed my heart as much as I knew it was going to change their hearts.” 

As meaningful as the celebration was, Janet was most moved by the opportunity to see where each of the four languages were in the translation task. “We were blessed to see the entire process—to go into the translation office and see translators diligently work through a passage of Scripture, then to see a community check where people in a village sat and read the text together and talked about it,” she said. We even went out one night when they showed the JESUS Film. Everything culminated with the Burunge celebration where translation has been accomplished and they were passing out their new Bibles. It was a quick encapsulation of what takes years to happen.” 

One of the ways that Wycliffe conveys to financial partners their key role in the task is by connecting them as closely with the work taking place on the field as possible. Wycliffe wants donors to see the true impact of their investment through regular project reports and prayer updates. After months of supporting the Dodoma teams from the U.S., it felt like a reunion of sorts for Janet to meet those serving in the Dodoma project. She says, “Going over and meeting the missionaries and the nationals that are doing the translation work for their own language fills you up. It was amazing to see the passion, determination and drive the team has for bringing God’s Word to people in their heart language.”

Working Together Toward Completion

Traveling to Africa together formed a bond between Amanda and Janet. “Getting to know Janet, and seeing her use her spiritual gift of giving, has been awesome,” Amanda said. “For her to be willing to pick up from here and go visit the work, it really drove it home. Her spirit of generosity and desire to bless people became very clear on the trip. And she and her family are ultimately giving a gift that will impact those communities forever.”

 Janet and Amanda remain close, with the Vaughans opening their Atlanta area home for Amanda to stay with them when she’s passing through. "e ladies often find that brief meetings turn into visits that are several hours long. In fact, they enjoyed a road trip together to South Carolina this past spring. Janet says, “Connecting with Amanda was wonderful. She is easy to be with, so we formed a good friendship quickly. She’ll call to say, ‘This is happening, does it interest you?’ And I feel free to call her with questions. "That personal relationship draws you into the ministry.” 

Chip and Janet want to stay involved with the Dodoma project in the near future. Because of the connections Janet made, the Burunge people are always close to her heart. She says, “I feel blessed when the team emails us to ask for prayer. And Amanda keeps us updated on what’s happening in the project. I have a heart for Africa, and we’re anxious to be a part of accomplishing what we saw there. 

The Dodoma cluster is a four-language project, and right now it’s our hope to help work through that to the completion of one or two more of them. Having seen people’s response to God’s Word in their language, I don’t want to jump into something new. We want to see completion in these groups, and help put Bibles in their hands. "Through Wycliffe, we’re giving so people can receive the completed Scriptures in their heart language.”

This is an article from the September-October 2018 issue: Wycliffe Bible Translators

Judging a Book by Its Cover

Overcoming Barriers to Bible Access in Muslim Contexts

Judging a Book by Its Cover

On my first visit to the Muslim people group with whom I work, a mullah, or an Islamic religious leader, suddenly grabbed me and pulled me around the side of a house. He clenched both of my arms and put his long beard and serious face only a few inches from my nose. He spoke in a low voice, “I need you to get me a Bible in a language that I understand.” 

Here I am in the 21st century, and standing before me is an educated, well-traveled, multilingual religious leader who remains without access to the Word of God. I wish that I could say his case is an anomaly, but unfortunately it is all too common. Hundreds of millions of Muslims are going from the cradle to the grave without ever even seeing a single portion of the Bible.

Foundational to how we address this immense need is how one defines “Scripture access.”1 The end goal of Bible translation is not a book on a shelf, but lives impacted as the Spirit of God uses His Word to bring people to faith in the Lord Jesus, and to equip them to serve God. 

The foundation of God-fearing Bible translation work is a firm commitment to faithful and accurate translation. The love of God compels us to communicate the unchanging truth of the Scriptures in a way that is beautiful, clear and natural for each language group. The hope is for real people to meet, love and follow the living God. Thus, as Bible translators, we are working to overcome barriers that keep people from the Bible. Certainly, language itself is a major barrier, but communicating biblical truth is much more complicated than just words on a page. 

From an early age, Muslims are both informed and misinformed about Christianity. Often they associate the whole of Western culture with Christianity, and they are taught that Christians are immoral, blasphemous and polytheistic. To many Muslims, Western politics and military hardware are the practical expressions of Christianity. In this context, they view the Bible as a symbol of cultural loyalty, a boundary marker between them, “the faithful,” and Christians, “the unbelievers.” 

Even owning or reading a Bible is a threat to the order of their society. Features external to the gospel message itself (script, layout, icons, symbols, front material, color of the cover, etc.) potentially present massive barriers for a Muslim person even to touch such a book. What is printed on the copyright page tells them whether this book belongs to “us” or to “them.” In many ways, these barriers are about the identity of the book, not its message. 

In overcoming these barriers and others like them, we must find ways to present the Scriptures without the geopolitical baggage. This means providing the local Muslim background believers with Scripture materials that do not force them to answer for Western civilization, but instead make the message of the text itself the central issue. 

For example, in many areas the color black is associated with sorcery, and the symbol of the cross represents Western culture, which they have grown up viewing as imperial and immoral. A black Bible with a cross on it evokes an instant emotion of fear and disgust, and it presents a barrier to people reading the Bible with an open heart. These perceived ill-intentions of the Bible often cause readers to misunderstand the text. If a book is deemed to come from foreign, blasphemous, immoral enemies, then not only will the reception of the text be hostile, but the interpretation of the text will also be twisted in that direction. 

The perceived source of Scripture material can also make a big difference in how it is accepted. Just about any Scripture product can be shared by expatriate missionaries with their group of close friends, coworkers and employees. The power of relationships does open doors and break down barriers. But what a person is willing to look at when alone with a foreigner is often not the kind of material one can share back home with a father, an aunt or a cousin. 

Expatriate Scripture distribution is great, but statistically it is only a drop in the bucket. We can do more by translating and presenting Scripture materials in ways that facilitate sharing from one local person to another. Many aspects of the message of the Bible will be a stumbling block to our Muslim audience, but when we can remove stumbling blocks external to the message, it allows the message of the gospel to be the central issue. 

One helpful approach involves translating and presenting key Scripture portions, a method that has been around for decades.2  Unreached Muslim people groups need a set of gospel-centered Bible stories today, not just a big dusty Bible in twenty years. Many Muslims are curious to know about the life of Jesus. Presenting well-chosen passages from both the Old and New Testaments can encourage that curiosity and open the door for people to meet the living Lord for the first time. 

For example, Omar (a pseudonym) is a Muslim-background believer who has a whole Bible in his language. But because of its identity, style and presentation, he has never shared it with his family and friends. Yet when he received a beautifully printed book of Bible portions that had been put into a series of biographical stories (Adam through Jesus), he displayed it openly in his home and used it to talk about his faith. In another project, a local man traveled to several villages and read the book of Proverbs in the evenings with family groups. Based on how individuals responded, he was able to start conversations leading to the Lord Jesus. 

The presentation of the Bible can project either honor or dishonor. In Muslim societies, important books are never printed cheaply, and certainly a Holy Book would always be printed with beauty and quality. Thus, if we can present the Scriptures (in any media) with local art forms, color and quality, then the Scriptures have a much better chance of being perceived as honorable, beautiful, trustworthy and authoritative. 

The word choices and style of a translation can make the Scriptures either attractive or repulsive. Translators must consider not just their approach, like literal translation or paraphrasing, but also register, pragmatics, collocations, cultural frames and a host of other factors. 

For example, when one Muslim-background believer was reading the New Testament in his own language, he told my coworker, “I don’t think that the people who worked on this translation thought very highly of Jesus.” Of course,he was wrong; many of the people who worked on that translation had a very high view of Jesus! Nevertheless, the way the language was used in referring to Jesus came across stilted, monotone and disrespectful. Some minor adjustments to the style of the translation would have corrected this misunderstanding and accurately reflected the high view of Jesus as presented in the Gospels.   

We must acknowledge that the Muslim world is complex and far from monolithic. Each country, sect and people group brings a unique set of challenges. The kinds of translation products that will serve a diaspora community may not be the same as those needed by the people still in the homeland. The style and media for a minority Christian community may not be the style and media that allows the Muslim majority to access the Bible—even in the same language. This calls for a long-term commitment on behalf of the church to work through these complex logistical, social and linguistic challenges. 

Meeting these challenges will require increased understanding and cooperation between all partners involved in the Bible translation movement. In the past, “Joe and Sue Translator” went out to the village, and the church trusted them and their sending agency to be the experts on that language and to produce a faithful translation. But in our information age, suddenly there is the potential for every translator’s word choices to be subject to instant international scrutiny. 

This happens within a politically charged climate characterized by widespread fear of Islam. Even in the church, there can exist an atmosphere of disdain and hyper- sensitivity to anything bearing the slightest resemblance to Islamic art or idiom. We as the Church must be careful not to mistake missiologically nuanced and theologically robust contextualization for syncretism or compromise. While there are many examples of syncretism and compromise, we must avoid quick and emotional judgments based on misunderstanding and partial information, which have unjustly crippled the Lord’s weary faithful on the front lines of the mission field. 

Throughout history, this kind of tension has always occurred when the gospel is translated for a new context.The church is often threatened by contextualizing the message through translation. This was the experience of Jerome, Luther, Wycliffe, Tyndale and others. They incurred the wrath of those defending “the gospel according to us” at the expense of opening the door of understanding to others. 

To see a Bible translation in progress for every language that needs it, the Church must engage in unprecedented communication and cooperation with the Bible scholars and theologians doing Bible translation within the Muslim world. We as the translators need to joyfully submit to the scrutiny that comes from the larger global Church engaging in the process of Bible translation. The long-term benefits far outweigh the cost. And in turn, the appeal is for church leaders outside of any given Muslim context to humbly listen to members of these language communities and to the insights that dedicated mission practitioners have gleaned from years of study and living daily life with their Muslim friends, neighbors and coworkers. 

Bible translation is much more than a once-for-all placement of proper Greek and Hebrew words in a grammatical order in a given language. Bible translation is a communication process that brings the meaning of the unchanging text of the holy Scriptures into the dynamic forms and expressions of real people who need a relationship with the living God. It is only by understanding each of our Muslim audiences that we will be able to serve them best. How we translate and present the Bible can make the difference between a dusty book and lives changed for eternity.



 1 Wayne Dye’s eight conditions are very instructive on this point. “The Eight Conditions of Scripture Engagement: Social and Cultural Factors Necessary for 1 “Vernacular Bible Translation to Achieve Maximum Effect.” International Journal of Frontier Missiology. 26:2 Summer 2009, 89-98.

 2 See: Norman Mundhenk, “Preparing Selections: Specialized Translations,” Bible Translator 24.4 (Oct. 1973): 401-419; and Rick Brown, “Selecting and Using Scripture Portions Effectively” International Journal of Frontier Missiology. 19:2 Summer 2002, 10-25.

 3  Sanneh, Lamin O. Translating the Message: The Missionary Impact on Culture. 2nd ed. American Society of Missiology Series, no. 42. Maryknoll, N.Y: Orbis Books, 2009, pp. 40ff.

 

This is an article from the September-October 2018 issue: Wycliffe Bible Translators

The Oikos Hammer— You & Your Household

The Oikos Hammer— You & Your Household

Two very important Biblical factors propel the expansion of Church-Planting Movements (CPMs). The first enables a breakthrough into new arenas. The second enables expansion within that arena. Every movement is a continual balance of these two. 

Both principles were taught by Jesus to His disciples (Matt. 10, Luke 10) about how to reach a new place. That first principle involves finding Persons of Peace or, as some have referred to them, Fourth-Soil People, that bear fruit 30, 60 or 100 times. Person of Peace searches have become the default strategy from most CPM strategists. Persons of Peace are the God-prepared doorways into new communities. Their hearts have been prepared for 1) the missionary, 2) the mes