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

Rapid Mobilization: How the West Was Won

Rapid Mobilization: How the West Was Won

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Vision for a Refugee Kingdom Movement

Vision for a Refugee Kingdom Movement

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Case Study

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

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

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

The Joseph Movement

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

Creation             2 chapters

Fall/Cain 2 chapters

Genealogies         4 chapters

Noah                 4 chapters

Abraham            12 chapters

Isaac                  2 chapters

Jacob                 9-10 chapters

Joseph                14 chapters

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

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

The Joseph Movement Parallels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Joseph Movement: A Vision

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

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

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

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

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

Our Role in Hastening “No Place Left”

Excerpted from Hastening

Our Role in Hastening “No Place Left”

Used by permission of 2414 Ventures.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John contemplated these words.

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

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

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

This is an article from the March-April 2021 issue: Insider Movements

30 Day Prayer Guide for the Muslim World

Download or order your free copy now!

30 Day Prayer Guide for the Muslim World

Global Gates is committed to reaching every 10/40 Window diaspora community that God has placed in global gateway cities. And, we believe that prayer is the beginning point for every great co-laboring with God. That is why: 

  1. Global Gates missionaries this year have partnered with Paul Filidis at to write all of the articles in this year’s 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World prayer guide, slated for Ramadan, April 13 - May 12, 2021. 
  2. Global Gates is offering a FREE copy of the prayer guide (which would otherwise cost $3.50 plus shipping) to anyone who will partner with us in this prayer movement.

This is an article from the March-April 2021 issue: Insider Movements

The Global Great Commission Network

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The Global Great Commission Network

This is an article from the March-April 2021 issue: Insider Movements

“Insider” Movements: How Do You Know if You Have One?

“Insider” Movements: How Do You Know if You Have One?

In Monty Python and the Holy Grail King Arthur approaches a French castle to explain his quest for the Grail and is told “we’ve already got one.” It’s a humorous scene, and of course, they don’t have the Grail. But then, how would they know if they did?

In The Lord of the Rings, Gimli is riding with others towards Helms Deep and is expounding about his culture, including the bearded nature of the women of his culture which he admits has led to the idea that they have no women. He begins to comment on the ridiculous nature of such a view just as he unceremoniously falls from his horse.

Some reactions to news about insider movements resemble the comments above: when I speak of insider movements and say we “have one,” I get asked “how do you know?” And since IMs don’t look like what people expect, there is a suspicion that they don’t really exist.

I am primarily interested in this relative to insider movements, but of course similar questions apply to any sort of movement, and so I will write with a more general approach as well.

The answer to any question depends greatly on the meaning and assumptions behind the question: what is a movement anyway?

What Makes a Movement a Movement?

Depending on who you ask, a movement may be measured by how many believers, or how many fellowships/ churches you have, or more likely, some combination. Time factors may be included: X number of new fellowships in Y amount of time, etc. More and more reports of movements, such as what we report in MF, also look at things like how many “streams” of key leadership and churches have multiplied other leaders and churches down their respective chains, and how many iterations of multiplication that has produced.

In some insider movements, while less frequently reported or captured in databases, similar data is tracked, discussed and also corrected. I remember one meeting with insider movement leaders who were discussing the status of fellowships in various regions of their country. Several of them mentioned numbers and added

anecdotes. At one point a brother, who had already shared, interrupted to say he had misinformed everyone. As he thought about it more, he realized he needed to reduce what he had reported because he remembered that several fellowships had ended for various reasons.

While there is a place for such quantitative data, is this the sort of thing that is most important to track? I have been more and more convinced that we need to pay more careful attention to qualitative elements.

Years ago we started using certain criteria and teaching others to use them by modifying the “Three Self ” criteria developed by both Henry Venn (Anglican) and Rufus Anderson (Presbyterian). Another fourth “self ” was suggested over time in various circles, and so we began to speak of “Four Self” Movements, which included being:

  • Self-Propagating
  • Self-Governing
  • Self-Supporting
  • Self-Theologizing

We developed definitions and a tool for assessing progress in movements among the unreached. But over time, a number of things made my insider leader friends and me increasingly uneasy about these standards.

First, all of the first three selves were developed in response to the felt need for handing over already functioning mission churches to local leadership. They were primarily used, in other words, to address developments in a relatively established mission situation, instead of a context looking to foster newer movements.

Second, as such, there is a sense in which these selves were in fact not part of the original vision or purpose of the churches they were now trying to encourage to be independent. The selves were never really meant to be criteria to measure a movement but were employed to assist in a hand over. Origins matter.

Third, the emphasis on “self ” created more of a focus on just that, the dimension of self. Thus, it was easy to miss the dynamics of propagating, governing, supporting and theologizing. The ultimate aim of that thinking was to get younger mission churches to do these things themselves.

Fourth, and closely related to this, we became convinced that the use of and continued repeating of the word “self ” in our day was a not-so-subtle message that smelled of Western individualism. This seemed directly counter to the picture of koinonia and partnership so deeply rooted in the New Testament movement(s), which served to connect churches in ways that were interdependent.

Finally, that fourth self, “self-theologizing,” created huge misunderstandings, not only among those outside of our organization but also among those within our agency. This was so much the case that often we were unable to overcome the resulting static, doubt and confusion merely by the constant redefining of what we meant by “self ” and “theologizing.” We concluded that different terminology would be important.

Our Own Training Caught Up

In addition to these considerations, we as trainers were being affected by our own delivery of our programs. That may sound strange, but allow me to explain.

One component of our training is a series of five studies focused on Luke and Acts. In a short period of time we go through those two books in their entirety five times, each time asking questions related to healthy movements. The aim is to help those we train to identify the dynamics that help movements grow and spread and mature and remain healthy.

As a result of these repeated readings, those of us in leadership found that these texts, the very ones we were using to train others, kept speaking to us. And by us, please read me to be saying, me!

The dynamics which we had discovered inductively in Luke and Acts were actually quite different from the four selves we had been telling our trainees to use in applying the training. There was a growing sense of disconnect and discomfort internally.

For all of these reasons, we felt a change was needed and decided to try to rethink, simplify and re-express. We asked several people from different cultures within our o\rganization to suggest changes.
As a result, we came to speak of “Four Signs of Healthy Movements.” They were simple, and we attached biblical references that seemed to sum them up.

Our summary was that healthy movements exhibit some of the things the “four selves” were trying to get at: more multiplication, more leaders, more generosity and more engagement in Scripture. But they will also demonstrate more miraculous evidence of the Spirit, more character, more reconciled relationships, different attitudes toward women and children, hearts for others to know Jesus, hearts to know Jesus ourselves and on and on.

So, how do we know?

Basically, we talk about these things. We talk about them personally, in our own lives, not just in the movement as an “other” thing. We discuss whether a team is seeing these dynamics, and if so, how developed are they. It is oral, conversational, communal.

Are there quantitative-numerical details that could surface in the answers to these qualitative descriptors? Certainly.

But in our view, if the dynamics are healthy, then there is a movement, regardless of the size or numerical measurements.


So, how do we know if we have one? The answer to that, implicit in the previous text, is essentially, “only through close enough relationship to see and experience it.”

There are several factors that make it hard to demonstrate that such movements are real. Security issues are probably one of the most common. But this element of relational trust is another (they are connected, but not identical).

Add to that factor the additional element of focusing on qualitative measurements, and I can fully appreciate referring back to Gimli, that the idea arises that there aren’t any.

The church in its local, Catholic and movement expressions is the Body of Christ. It is a living thing.

This suggests an analogy to my mind. The fact of human DNA is what determines that “this” is a person, a human being, one who will grow, develop, and become mature. In the same way, I am suggesting that if the right DNA
is in place, then we have a movement. I am further suggesting that the most crucial and determinative DNA is qualitative. The primary job description, then, for pioneer church-planters is to disciple and coach from day one with the aim of fostering this DNA.

Healthy, growing movements flow from the right DNA.

  1. This article is adapted from Measuring Insider Movements? Shifting to a Qualitative Standard International Journal of Frontier Missiology, 35:1, Spring 2018, pp. 21ff.

This is an article from the March-April 2021 issue: Insider Movements

“Insider” Movements: The Role of Being an Alongsider

“Insider” Movements: The Role of Being an Alongsider

The movements we refer to as IMs required new vocabulary, and the nature of the movements under discussion led to the use of the word “insider.” Along the way, the question began to emerge as to how to refer to those “outsiders” who served in the early pioneering and ongoing growth of such movements.

A term that seems to be gaining traction is “alongsider.” In fact, Frontier Ventures is beginning to weave this term into much of what we do, how we talk and who we seek to be.

But what does it mean, or what do we mean by it?

I begin with the premise that what we are is more fundamentally important than what we do. This is true of leaders, of the mission movement, and it is actually deeply connected to our missiology.

At the outset, allow me to reflect on several biblical streams in the genesis of my own understanding of how important “being,” and especially our “being in Him,” truly is.

First, of course, are Jesus’ own statements about this, for example in John 14 through 17. “I in you, and you in me, and we in them, and them in us” might serve as a summary.

Turning to Paul, let me use just one statement, his opening in Colossians 1:2, in which he writes to “the in-Christ-holy- and-faithful-brothers/sisters-in-Colossae.” The hyphens are my attempt to capture the sense of the united nature of the double identity: in Christ, and in Colossae.

Paul is context specific, yes, but also spiritually grounded. There is no way to be in Christ other than in a context, and no way to live authentically in a context other than in Christ.

In this paper, I will look at a few scenes from “the field” to try to describe personal experiences of “being” and trying to “be” alongside in several contexts, then address the implications of this for what I call missional leadership, rooted in “being,” and helpfully described as leading “alongside.”

“Being, Alongside”

Scene 1

My wife and I had arrived in Rwanda earlier in the day to take part with our organization’s African leadership team in a series of meetings, planning for the future of the sending bases there and spending time in Scripture and prayer. The center where we planned to gather was a bit more than 200 kilometers from the airport by vehicle.

After some rest, we and the team piled into a van and began the journey. The van was slow. Very slow. I consoled myself thinking that our driver was being careful in the city. We would pick up speed once we got out to the highway.
But we got slower. And slower. I am not sure, but we may have been passed by a bicycle. Or two. Evening descended. The sun disappeared. The moon arose. And we crawled on.

Sometime after one in the morning we stopped near a very small town. We were still not quite half-way. I was grateful for the stop, for several reasons involving physical comfort that I will not expound upon. However, it gradually became clear that there were other reasons for the stop. The condition of the vehicle was being debated.

My very practical mind set to work. “I have some cash. We can rent another vehicle. We could get everyone there sooner. We need to be rested for the days ahead.”

I wanted to say those words to our Africa Director, but waited as he was speaking to our Rwanda Coordinator. My internal struggle was almost tangible.

I had cultivated a motto within our leadership, “when I am in Africa I am under the leadership of that Director, and we in turn are under the leadership of whichever country coordinator we happen to be visiting.”
It is a great motto. Now it was being tested. I struggled. I wanted a bed. I wanted a solution. I wanted to fix a problem.

My Africa Director approached me. I was hopeful he was going to ask for my opinion, but kept myself quiet. I listened, but I admit that I also waited for a chance to offer my solution. He seemed reluctant to really talk about the situation in other than vague terms. I decided on an indirect approach, mentioning that if someone suggested the idea of a different vehicle, but if there was worry about the cost, that I could help, but also reassured him I trusted his decision.

There was a reluctant pause. “Yes, thank you, but let’s see how our brother (the country coordinator) thinks to handle the matter.”

I did have a faint realization that he was following my motto, and wondered if I liked it so much in reality!

Over the next hour it became clear that the plan was going to be to pile back in the same vehicle and start crawling again. The Africa Director sat next to me and leaned over to explain.

“This driver is married to a relative of our coordinator. This is his vehicle. He feels very embarrassed already and if we arranged something else, he would lose face completely within his own family, and our coordinator might also. I think also, we should not leave the driver here alone, it is a strange place. We are all in this together.”

The decision was made based on core values: honor, sticking together and caring about people more than efficiency. I was grateful I had not blundered into the role of a pragmatic fixer. I was grateful we all were “alongside” each other.

Scene 2

A friend in South Asia, who had been raised all his life in the religion of his people and had for a time been involved with a militant expression of that religion, once asked me, “Do you want to know what caused me to come to faith?” Of course, I was eager to know which of the wise and powerful insights I had shared with him had led him to faith. I paid attention.

“I saw people like you and a few others and I watched how you were as married people and as parents, and I thought, ‘We need this in my people.’”

While I was disappointed that it was not my profound wisdom, I suppose I will always be grateful this brother saw good things in us. And what he saw had to do with our “being”—not our doing.

Scene 3

We have developed a ministry in one religious context who attend shrines in one particular country. This involves visits to the shrines ourselves, lots of prayer, praying for people and also interceding at these places.

On one visit a dear brother, who had been in the Lord for some years, went with us and almost immediately upon entering the shrine was clearly taken under the power of a very strong spiritual evil. We prayed, we took him outside and prayed more. He was completely oblivious to us and continued to pound his head against the floor and ground. It appeared our prayers and commands for the evil one to leave were of no avail.

Eventually he calmed down but it was clear our work was not done. We drove him home and over the six or seven hour journey I was seeking the Lord for how to handle this.

We arrived home and several of us gathered around him for more prayer, in the middle of which I sensed God’s whisper, “He needs to confess.”

I had no problem suggesting this but I was aware enough of the cultural dynamics to know how difficult this would be. “Lord, how do we do this?” I asked.

I can’t say exactly how I knew but I just knew that the best thing to do would be for all of us to confess, starting with me. I opened to the fruits of the Spirit and the deeds of the flesh in Galatians and one by one through both lists I confessed whatever I could see in my own life. One by one we went around the circle, with the last one to confess being the brother we were praying for.

He joined us, confessed to whatever came to him, and almost immediately he was free (and has remained so).

The point of this is not the deliverance, as wonderful as that was. The point is that “being,” “being with,” “being together” and “being alongside” in confession was crucial to this brother receiving God’s work in his life.
Each of the scenes is tied to deep challenges in self-awareness, spiritual dependence, hearing and discerning God’s voice and “being with” or alongside others. This is all crucial to cross-cultural contexts of course, but equally so in our leadership, whether of teams or organizations.

As leaders, we need to be cultivating the same GPS systems in our own lives and leadership that we hope our various organizations and those we lead are producing and encouraging within those we send and within those who are discipled.

Becoming Those Who Can Be Alongside

Near the beginning of this essay I referred to Paul’s opening in Colossians 1:2, in which he writes to “the in-Christ- holy-and-faithful-brothers/sisters-in-Colossae.” This is the united nature of our double identity: in Christ, and in Context. And so I have two convictions:

Conviction 1: we have a tremendous opportunity to plumb the missiological depths of life in Christ.

Conviction 2: we have a tremendous opportunity to plumb the spiritual depths of life in Christ.

I suppose a third conviction might be that the two convictions I just cited are not really two, but deeply linked, one and the same. Regardless, plumbing these depths will position us aright no matter what we may encounter in our voyage forward.

Becoming people who can live alongside in keeping with what I have laid out here requires that we, in our being, become different ourselves. First. Foremost. And that will “catch,” and form people.
Paul is context specific and so must we be. Christ always lives His life in and through real people in real contexts. To be in Him and in our place and time are not two different things. There is no other way to be in Christ.

And if that is true, then “being” and “being alongside” is everything.

Becoming people who can live alongside in keeping with what I have laid out here requires that we, in our being, become different ourselves.

This is an article from the March-April 2021 issue: Insider Movements

“Insider” Movements: How Do They Keep “Right”?

“Insider” Movements: How Do They Keep “Right”?

He was wearing store bought camouflage pants and a white shirt when we left his guest room to join me for a visit to a Scripture study that was primarily involving what most would call “seekers,” members of the majority religion in our area wanting to read the Bible and learn.

This man was exploring a longer-term call to work in this part of the world, and was visiting us as part of his process. He came from Central America, and between his English and less of my Spanish, we did well.

After the study he had lots of questions. His asked about this group, of course, and about the nature of the movement which was, then, still pretty new. There were a number of more fully formed fellowships, with leaders.

At one point he asked, “so who makes sure they don’t get it wrong when they are reading Scripture?” I am afraid I was not at my best and my first reply was simply, “well, who makes sure you don’t?”

Later I gave him a more complete answer. However, while I answered with an emotional tone of frustration, in fact my reply contains some important truths.

Perhaps most important, my reply implies that the same God my friend relies on can also be relied on to guide new movements. No matter what safeguards or processes we may think are good and wise and even needed to assure theological quality control, in the end there is someone else who is not only responsible, but has promised to lead us into truth!

I have over the years become more and more convinced of the reliability of the fact that the Spirit of God will use the Word of God to guide and teach the people of God.

However, having said that, like most things it is not either/or, nor is the fact that something being simple gives us a reason to be simplistic.

I can’t be simplistic about the process: I don’t just point to a Bible and say good luck!

I can’t be simplistic about the aim: the question about making sure a movement doesn’t go wrong implies that we know (and agree) about the exact things to include in the camps of right or wrong. I am not suggesting that moral and doctrinal issues are relative or purely subjective. But we do need a certain level of humility as Christians, and it is good to recall that not all Christians agree on everything, not even on some very important things.1

The question about how movements grow and develop and stay healthy is complex, but it is vital. When people ask me about how a movement can avoid taking wrong turns, I take the question seriously. And I take it seriously with leaders of movements.

This brief article is intended to show how I have approached this. 

How Does It Work in the Bible?

In Acts 15 we find leaders wrestling with a profound question. Gentiles had come to faith, and the Spirit had come upon them (before baptism), and they had not been required to be circumcised, nor were they told this would be needed later. Keep in mind this was not a cultural question: circumcision was a command from God. It was a religious question. It was a theological question. It was  a biblical question.

How did they “get it right?”

They got information from the context: what the Spirit was doing, reports from the field, if you will.

They probed Scripture: some pointed to what Moses had said (which would have meant circumcision); James later turned to citations of the prophets.

They discussed (for a long time, and evidently pretty vigorously!).

Then they decided (as a group of leaders, James said it seemed good to us…).

And then? Then, as we know Paul, took the letter of James and went to declare the decision to the Gentile believers. In the letter was the decision about circumcision and also, among other things, a prohibition about eating meat offered to idols. This was all met with joy.

He kept going, and got to lots of new places, including the city of Corinth. And Corinth became a messy church to say the least! It is likely that Paul wrote three letters, not just the two we have (which may include parts of the third one).

But my main point: when Paul writes 1 Corinthians 8 he addresses the food offered to idols question. He does not cite the Acts 15 event or decision, and does not mention the letter, which supposedly had already decided this issue. And in addition, he does not teach that food offered to idols is wrong (in itself ). He does suggest it depends, it is contextual, and the deciding factor is not the meat, but who I eat it with and whether what I do will harm their conscience.

The issue isn’t spiritual purity, but primarily relational unity and love. But that is not what the Council (including Paul) agreed to in Acts.

What is happening?

The texts and how things unfold, suggest that Paul was continuing to seek the Lord’s mind and will, and continuing to adjust based on new evidence or new situations.

In other words, in addition to the four steps above:

They got information from the context. They probed Scripture. They discussed. Then they decided. There seems to be a fifth, at least for Paul:

He re-evaluated in the light of new information or situations.

How does that help in a movement?

Here is a case.

The issue of polygamy first hit one of the movements I have been most closely involved with in the early 2000s. One of the believer’s parents arranged a second marriage for him and he was unsure what to do.
Some of the leaders asked my opinion and I suggested we see what the Scriptures had to say. We looked at Old Testament examples of men with more than one wife, and we looked at Genesis 2, Ephesians and 1 Timothy 3. The decision made by the leaders then was that it is okay if a believer has more than one wife, but not if he is a leader.

Then we agreed we would keep studying and learning.

Sometime later there was a big earthquake in which many people died. Our leaders were able to share the gospel and do relief work and many people became believers.  However, there were also many widows so the question of marrying more than one wife came up again. We again looked at many of the same Scriptures. But this time we also saw the Old Testament statement that if a man fails to marry his brother’s widow he should be cursed!

It was suggested that it is okay but not for leaders. But then one brother said that perhaps leaders should be setting the example of marrying their brothers’ widows. So for some time this was the idea, but only in that area of the movement.

In 2007 or 2008 we were holding a leader training event. About twenty-five men from different parts of the country were there and we were studying leadership in 1 Timothy. It was not our plan to address polygamy in that meeting, but 1 Timothy 3 brought it to the forefront again.

In the group was an older man, a man who had been a respected religious leader before coming to Jesus (the equivalent in his religious heritage of being a bishop). He was sitting quietly as the others very emotionally argued their different points of view about marriage and polygamy. Finally he simply cleared his throat and everyone became quiet.

He said, “God has a plan A, one man, one wife. We see it in Genesis, in Jesus’ teaching, and in Ephesians and in Timothy. This is Plan A. This needs to be what we teach in our movement. This is what our next generation will follow. I know that some of you are in difficult situations. Maybe you already have more than one wife. Or maybe your other leaders do. Or maybe your parents and relatives will pressure you. God is merciful. This is a difficult time of change. But God’s Plan A is one man and one wife. That is what we will teach and that is what we will try for.”

This process took almost eight years but it has finally stuck. Our leaders are strong on this one.

This illustrates the importance of the five steps, working carefully through a decision and making time to re- evaluate. This process allows new movements to develop their knowledge and application of Scripture. It gives them a process, a habit and experience in using the Bible instead of always depending on an outside expert.

I deeply believe that the Spirit of God will use the Word of God to teach the people of God.

I get mixed reactions when I share this case, and understandably so. For some it is an encouragement that God and the Scriptures and God’s people are together able to steer things in good directions, even if it may take time.
But I also get asked: “Kevin, why didn’t you intervene sooner? Look how long it took. How much difficulty could have been avoided?”

It’s a fair set of questions.

Let’s face it: outsiders exhibit lots of influence whether in insider or other movements and whether we want to or not. But that influence can be helpful, or unhelpful, and can result in growing health of a movement or its leaders, or not.

Had I exerted more influence, it is possible that the final decision about Plan A would have surfaced sooner. It is also possible, I would say probable, that having done so, more leaders would have proceeded to do what they
thought best in spite of that but would have done so secretly. The process we followed allowed for an environment in which leaders could share openly, search Scripture without a pre-decision about what they ought to find, and thus allowed for a movement in which the Scriptures could, did and do, shape things.


finally, was this the right approach? Yes, it is my conviction that this is healthy. But what if I was wrong to wait?

What gives me renewed assurance as I ask this is that even if my approach was wrong in part or in whole, my confidence grows that even so, if I work at keeping people grounded in the conviction that they can expect to receive guidance from the Lord as they search the Scriptures together in the face of tough issues, God will bring them to where they need to be.

The Spirit of God will indeed, and does indeed, use the Word of God to guide, teach and shape the people of God.

  1. Examples: Protestant versus Catholic versions of the canon, free-will and sovereignty, the place of the Spirit and spiritual gifts today, and more.

This is an article from the March-April 2021 issue: Insider Movements

The Next Evolution Of Movement - Catalyst Phased Equipping

24:14 Goal Movement engagements in every unreached people and place by 2025 (58 months)

The Next Evolution Of Movement - Catalyst Phased Equipping

Raising Up New Movement Catalysts for the Harvest

Kingdom Movement models have turned the world of missions among the unreached upside down. Segment by segment, people by people, place by place, movement engagement is realigning expectations back to book-of- Acts proportions. New missionary candidates now wrestle with higher longings for fruitfulness. They are looking for those who can train and mentor them into living out those expectations. The catalyst’s profile is no longer Western, seminary trained and laboring with low expectations. With over 1,300 global book-of-Acts movements starting over the past 25 years and adding nearly 70 million people to God’s family globally, grand expectations for the future don’t seem so far-fetched.

The Concept

Two articles defined a conversation around missionary training: “Training Movement Catalysts,” by Stan Parks (Mission Frontiers, March-April 2016) and “Four Stages to No Place Left In Our Generation,” by Steve Smith (Mission Frontiers, Sept-Oct 2016). Steve and Stan awakened us to a training model based on mentoring rather than classroom training. This phased training approach envisioned a mobilized army of catalyst candidates, readying themselves for the harvest field by training under experienced movement catalysts. Those experienced catalysts would model the methods, assist in practice, watch and give feedback and launch candidates to the next frontier of lostness.

For the past two years, members of the 24:14 community have been tracking with those who have been experimenting with these models. We initially entitled the concept “CPM Training Hubs.” While the concept of phased learning has been gaining momentum, many in our community have eschewed the word “hub” because of its overuse, emphasis on location rather than process and confusion with operational endeavors.

As we started examining God’s work globally, we recognized that His work could be better captured in principle than in structure. As a result, we have starting describing this process as “phased equipping” for CPM catalysts. We refer to the training environments using these principles as Phased Equipping Communities (PEC). This name seems best to use going forward.

We summarize the essential principles as follows.

New movement catalysts need preparation to go to the gaps in unreached peoples and places.

Catalysts are best prepared by a process of training, modeling, personal experience, and coaching with CPM tools rather than simple training in classroom settings with little practice. Practical experience with input and feedback from a coach offers the fastest way to reach effectiveness.

Learning CPM in one’s home environment before moving cross-culturally greatly speeds learning and prepares candidates for greater effectiveness. The most effective catalysts have already served as leaders in a mature movement.

A Vision for PEC Training

Step 1—Promote phased learning regionally in partnership with existing movements, churches and organizations.

Step 2—Describe and document existing phased learning environments to form a network.

Step 3—Resource materials and coaching for those wanting to start phased learning environments.

We see a number of different structures emerge that are true to these principles. They usually follow the phases we have described previously and expand on here:

Phase 1—New movement catalysts are trained in multiplicative movement approaches in their home cultural context. This disciple-making training enables the catalyst to learn evangelism, discipleship, church formation and multiplication through hands-on experience.

Phase 2—In this second phase of training, movement catalysts relocate to a field location in which they adapt to a cross cultural environment and contextualize use of CPM tools in an unreached area. These Phase 2 assignments can take place in a variety of contexts—from catalysts laboring to start a movement to mature movement environments. In any case, the Phase 2 experience is facilitated by leaders with real movement experience.

Successful Phase 2 environments both help candidates discern gifting and fit, and help them catch a vision for unreached peoples and place gaps. The unwavering goal is engaging the remaining unreached peoples and places with a movement effort. At the same time, this Phase 2 process also helps each participant find his or her best place of effectiveness toward that goal.

Catalysts have different training needs, depending on where they originate and where they plan to serve. The needs may include support raising, pastoral care, resiliency, language and culture training, and other topics. Those sponsoring Phased Equipping Communities set up programs to meet these training needs and include these modules in either Phase 1 or Phase 2 learning environments, depending on the organization and the needs of the candidates.

Phase 3—Phase 3 involves new catalysts engaging a new UPG environment. Moving from a Phase 2 environment to a new UPG is often challenging because of the comfort, support, training and development the Phase 2 offers. The emphasis in Phase 3 moves from the community based learning environment of Phase 2 to a remote coaching environment.

Phase 4—This phase involves a maturing movement raising up and sending their own catalytic workers to other UPGs. We see the importance of this phase in the fact that around 80% of global movements are being started by existing movements. Thus assisting these movements in new worker catalyzation is incredibly strategic in reaching the remaining unreached peoples and places.

A Descriptive Matrix

Because of the diversity of these Phased Equipping Communities, describing them generically can be a challenge. The focus of the training process differs with different environmental factors and factors unique to various candidates’ needs for culture and language training. Some communities combine multiple sending organizations and their care networks, while others only work within one organizational context.

Given the number of models being used and the varying situations, how can we describe and evaluate these Phased Equipping Communities? The 24:14 Coalition currently uses a matrix (see below) for leaders to self- describe their Phased Equipping Communities. Others in mobilization networks can then use the matrix score to help identify good places for their candidates to receive training.

The matrix variables include language acquisition, cultural adaptation, CPM methodology training, shepherding (pastoral care), spiritual formation, and next phase transition. We have designed the matrix to give an overall picture of a location’s focal points, irrespective of the community’s environmental requirements.

Leaders of Phased Equipping Communities can also use the matrix to self-evaluate their programs and seek to improve thei process. As we have brought together PEC facilitators, we have often noted “best practices” emerging and leaders learning from one another. At the same time, we found that the principles were not always universally applicable because of the situation in different environments.

Phased Equipping Communities: What We Hope to See

A variety of different models embody these training principles; we plan to examine these in another article. This article mainly aims to explore what training movement catalysts can and should do to promote a phased equipping approach. We offer an invitation to look not at “what we can do,” but “what needs to be done” to finish the 24:14 vision of reaching every unreached people and every global place. We see three steps needed: a way to promote
the growth of phased equipping, a mobilization network, and equipping for those who want to launch these learning environments.

A strategy for equipping and sending new laborers region by region could use a variety of phased equipping models. It could help mobilization networks equip and prepare outsiders to be effective. It could also work with existing churches and networks to train them in movement methods to engage new areas. And it could assist existing movements in sending their catalysts cross culturally.

We want to promote a variety of phased equipping models championed by our community through global meetings, our website, training materials, blog posts and podcasts.

A second goal is to catalog the existence of Phased Equipping Communities globally and provide a way to describe and evaluate them through the matrix. Mobilizers could connect with the 24:14 Coalition to see where PECs exist. They could use general information about the various PEC locations to develop relationships with existing communities that could aid in training their catalysts. Movement leaders can connect with PECs to help them train and launch their own movement catalysts to cross-cultural fields. We anticipate this will assist new movement catalysts in engaging new harvest fields.

24:14 has gathered a number of resources for use by teams and churches who want to start a PEC. With simple curricula using different methodologies, these resources offer multiple options for use in different environments. Teams and churches wanting to use these resources can ask to be connected with another PEC farther along in their journey, creating a web of assistance for those wanting to learn from others.

Final Thoughts

We don’t aim to promote a single model of CPM equipping. Rather promotion of the principles could allow for many effective movement catalysts to go to unreached peoples and places globally. With the 24:14 vision calling for saturation of global districts and UPGs with movement engagements, we need many new laborers for the harvest in the years ahead. Only God can start movements, yet our role includes helping catalysts find ways to quickly become effective practitioners. Phased Equipping Communities offer a pathway to this learning and an important role in the Body of Christ’s completion of the Great Commission.



This is an article from the March-April 2021 issue: Insider Movements

“Insider” Movements

“Insider” Movements

Dear Reader,

Blessings and welcome to this edition of Mission Frontiers (MF.) In the following set of articles, we are knowingly taking up what continues to be a divisive and controversial topic: insider movements.

I say “we”, but as you will see from the articles, I am the author of the six different pieces we include here. That may need some explanation.

Before I get to that, notice several other articles as well. There are some significant pieces about movements and being a catalyst for movements. While not directly connected to the questions of “insider” movements, the issues discussed there are very relevant.

First, I have been involved with what eventually came to be known as insider movements since the early 1990s. I started writing about them in the late 1990s, and then more regularly after 2000. So, I am an insider to the insider conversation, you might say.

Second, having one author has made it easier to present a number of angles on the topic in an integrative way. I make no claim that I represent all insider movements, or their advocates, or even everyone in Frontier Ventures, but we do offer this edition as an important contribution to an important topic.

Third, I have been involved in the Bridging the Divide (BtD) conversations and meetings since they began just about 10 years ago. I am very grateful for what I have learned in that process from so many colleagues, both fellow advocates and sincere critics. A number of these brief articles will illuminate ways my thinking has changed over the years (this whole enterprise is worth a look, and BtD has a public website at

Fourth, I am the General Director of Frontier Ventures (FV), the organization that publishes MF, and as such I wanted to take this opportunity to articulate things from that seat and for our readers who also follow the progress of our organization. MF is not only a vehicle of Frontier Ventures’ ideas, of course. But since it is one of our channels historically, it seemed fitting to shape this edition around giving an FV voice to these important themes.

Finally, FV has recently completed a process of discernment about how to reshape and re-express our vision and mission for the next phase of our calling. And it seems a good place here to connect that process to these articles about insider movements.

Our vision and mission:

VISION: The fullness of God’s blessing for all peoples and the reconciliation of all things in Christ
MISSION: To nurture new ways for least reached peoples to experience the fullness of life in Jesus

For those who have followed us over the years, this should sound new but yet deeply familiar! And what I have seen in insider movements is a growing number of people experiencing God’s blessing, and experiencing reconciliation, because they are experiencing more and more of the fullness of life in Jesus!

So, six articles from me. And in this column I want to outline the six and show how they fit together:

1. Insider Movements: Should We Still Be Talking About Them? 

Yes and No.  Here I take up the earliest definitions and my latest thinking about what insider movements really are in their essence. Rather than tying them to specific religious expressions, I propose a deeper core: who makes decisions, how, and why?

2. Insider Movements: How Do You Know if You Have One?

I will address topics here that do not only affect how we understand insider movements. The whole question of measuring movements is a vital one, and one we espouse in MF. Look again at the front cover for an example: you will find the latest count of movements among the unreached. How “measurements” are applied in the case of insider movements may be a uniquely challenging question, but it is not totally separate from concerns about any movement.

3. Insider Movements: The Role of Being an Alongsider

Just as new vocabulary emerged to try to explain what was happening in certain contexts, and thus the term “insider” was coined, so too, there is increasing research and conversation about how to talk about the role of the missionary, or worker. The natural option, in the case of insider movements would have seemed to be outsider. But that conveys neither the aspirations of workers nor the reality of how they work.
More and more the term “alongsider” is used and this is my brief attempt to describe that. Again, this is not unique to insider movements. The role of workers in mission in general is important to reconsider.

4. Insider Movements: How Do They Keep “Right”?

In this article I take up the concern people feel about how to assure that insider movements do not deviate into syncretism and false teaching. Yet again: a concern that is true for any movement, and indeed for us in the west (and us individually by the way). What I will share here in fact should help us all, I would hope. I have used the model presented there in church settings in the USA to solve questions as well.

5. Insider Movements: Where Does This End Up?

Typically, conversations about insider movements focus, rightly, on the past history, development, and present dynamics of a given movement. However, it is important to ask about their future trajectories. And here I describe, not prescribe, three main “futures” as those have been described to me by various insider movement leaders.

6. Insider Movements: Common Concerns

No discussion of insider movements is fully complete without attempting to address some of the more common questions and concerns. My contribution is not comprehensive, but I hope it helps clarify and explain some concerns.
Conclusion, and Next

As I close, a few comments about the approach here, and about the future.

First, given the wide distribution of MF, I have tried to remove references that would make an observation specific to a particular region, country, people group or religious heritage. As such, the “feel” may be generic and not specific or incarnate. But be assured I am writing about and from experience with actual people, actual movements and real issues.

Second, the future. I feel keenly that three of the biggest looming missiological, theological and biblical questions for the mission movement to address as we move into a next era of mission, are all issues which have been clarified and surfaced in the process of addressing the insider movement controversies. I am not suggesting no one asked these before or saw them before, of course, but the insider movement debate and reality has caused some of us to begin to ask about these three issues in new ways, and to ask new questions about them. While there is not space to address them deeply here, the articles in this edition of MF will cause some readers to wonder about them. The three are:

What is church?

What in its essence is community in Jesus, and what is the interplay between this communal reality and the communal reality of one’s birth religion?

What is religion?

What is the relationship of religion, culture, humanity? How do religious identity and living in Christ impact each other?

What is a missionary?

What are we learning and discovering about the qualities and character needed in people called to serve cross- culturally in mission, no matter where they come from, or where or to whom they go?
I believe these things are imbedded, sometimes explicitly and sometimes implicitly, throughout this edition of MF. But they will be looming larger and larger in the mission movement, and in Frontier Ventures as we seek to follow Jesus into the coming next years.

May what we do and who we are result in the fullness of His blessing for all the families and peoples of the earth.

This is an article from the March-April 2021 issue: Insider Movements

The Kingdom Is Continually Breaking Free of Christendom

The Kingdom Is Continually Breaking Free of Christendom

In Hawaii we visited a volcano famous for its red-hot streams of flowing lava. As soon as the hot lava hits the air, it cools rapidly, forming black crusts so hard it can be walked on while molten rock flows inside. But the heat and pressure builds relentlessly until the powerful sizzling red lava breaks unexpectedly out of its casing here or there, forcing its way to the ocean.

When I saw it, I was reminded of the history of God’s kingdom on earth. When Jesus announced the coming of God’s kingdom, He revealed the coming of a powerful movement of God that has worked its way relentlessly around the world ever since.

First it burst the bounds of Judaism, shocking the disciples who expected the Messiah’s kingdom to overthrow the Romans and re-establish the rule of their people. Instead, it burst out of the hardened strictures of Mosaic Law, bringing its transforming power into the Greco-Roman world—toppling no governments, except those ruling people’s hearts.

Paul called this amazing move of God into the Gentile world “the mystery of the gospel,” hidden in prophetic writings but revealed in his day. Peter exclaimed, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear Him and do what is right!” (Acts 10:34)

In the first century, the kingdom of God broke out in unexpected places, from Rome to Ethiopia to Persia to India. As each expression of the kingdom of God took form and hardened into casings created by mankind, the movement would slowly grind to a halt.

But, as Jesus predicted, the power of God is not so easily tamed and contained. While the Roman believers co-opted their empire’s government structure and cultural strengths to organize and try to manage this phenomenon, God was establishing His kingdom in Celtic Ireland, far from their control— through a former slave boy! Meanwhile, the blacklisted Nestorian believers carried the message of the coming of God’s kingdom as far as China.

Far from being a history of God establishing His kingdom through man-made ecclesiastical structures, we find the living power of Jesus has not ever been effectively contained by the best efforts of His followers. The invention of the printing press ripped the Bible itself from their control, producing a red-hot reformation complete with the radical reaffirmation that through Jesus all believers are priests with direct access to God. Do we still believe this?

Modern transportation and internet communication have broken down the last barriers isolating people groups from this amazingly good news. And we are finding that once again God’s kingdom is refusing to be limited to “Christianity-as-we-know-it”! 

It is our turn to be shocked, like Peter, that God would bestow His Spirit on those outside of our acceptable religion. It was inconceivable to him that pagan households, like Cornelius’, could receive God’s Holy Spirit (even while uncircumcised and as yet unbaptized!). Likewise, we cannot fathom that God would have “no favorites” today and bestow His Spirit on Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and, in fact, all who through meeting a living Jesus “fear Him and do what is right.” But His kingdom is breaking out of the boxes we try to keep it in, again, and He seems to be inviting the least-expected people to His banquet, without our permission.

Indeed, once again God is doing the scarily unexpected. But will we perceive it?

Jesus is alive and building His own kingdom in the hearts of people in many religious contexts. Just like in the New Testament, He does not seem to be concerned that religious structures or forms be established in His
name. Once again, He has bypassed the competition between religions to go straight to the hearts of all people everywhere who are seeking to truly know God.

This is an article from the March-April 2021 issue: Insider Movements

What’s in Your Box?

What’s in Your Box?

Are we all heretics at Frontier Ventures for talking about Insider Movements in this issue of Mission Frontiers? Some people have said that to me in years past. What is it about Insider Movements that is so controversial and makes so many people in the church and mission world uncomfortable? Is it simply the fear of syncretism or is something else going on?

You Can’t Judge a Box By Its Label

I think some of the problem comes down to the fact that as human beings we like clear categories and definitive boxes with bold labels to put things and people into. We do not like being forced to deal with the gray areas where people don’t fit easily into neat categories or boxes.

The reality is that regardless of the label we put on the box, we are always going to have variations of what is in the box. Most people would assume that people in the box labeled “Christian” are followers of Jesus vs. something else like Muslim or Buddhist and they would generally be correct. But within every Christian box there will be an amalgam of faithful followers of Jesus and merely cultural adherents. It is a mixed box. In fact, Barna Research has reported that only around 19% of self-described “born again believers” hold to basic sound doctrine such as the deity of Christ and His atoning work on the cross. In every church, no matter how good, there will be a mixture of faithful followers of Jesus and unbelievers. The parable of the wheat and tares illustrates this reality.

Applying this to Insider Movements, we can see the difficulties that can arise in trusting the label on the box. The box says “Muslim” which, like many boxes labeled “Christian,” includes both faithful and cultural adherents. With Insider Movements the Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist boxes will also include those who are biblically faithful and obedient followers of Jesus and yet they continue to associate, to varying degrees, with others from their birth religion, even though they are very different in terms of their core beliefs. The box labeled “Muslim” like other boxes with Christian labels becomes very much of a mixed box. We really can’t assume that everyone in the box truly represents fidelity to the label on the box.

Many in the Christian sphere want anyone who comes from a Muslim or other religious background to jump immediately into the box labeled “Christian,” even though this would lead to tremendous upheaval in the family and community, making it much more difficult for the gospel to spread among this people group. Often times when someone does jump into the Christian box from a Muslim or other religious background, those already in that box never truly accept this person as a full member of that box. Is that person a spy? How can we truly trust them considering where they came from? The truth is that a person in the box labeled “Muslim” has the potential to be a more faithful and obedient follower of Jesus than someone in the “Christian” box because each box is a mixture of beliefs, regardless of the label on the box. This is hard for many to get their heads around because we like to believe the labels on the box. This illustrates the complexity of the missionary task. No matter what box we are born into, Jesus calls us to follow Him and that means that all faithful followers of Jesus must critique and reject anything in that box that is not biblical. To fail to do so means we are not faithfully following Jesus.

What is Our Mission?

All of this raises the question, “What is the missionary task of the Church anyway”? Is it to go around the world and make converts who look and act like the believers in our local churches? Or is it to make obedient disciples of Jesus where the gospel becomes indigenous (normal and natural, not foreign) to every tribe and tongue? If the latter is the mission of the Church, then the believers in Jesus and the churches they form are going to look very different from our local churches and from every other church within every other people group. Are we okay with that?

Because if believers in the West who support missions want our missionaries to establish believers and churches that look like our local church, then we are going to have three problems. 1) The gospel will not become indigenous to the people we are trying to reach. The gospel will appear to be a foreign import and rejected. 2) We will only reach a very limited group of people who don’t mind being an outcast from their family and community. 3) We will never see a movement of people coming to Jesus from that people group. Some degree of contextualization of the gospel is essential for a movement to take place—even in non-Insider Movements.

In the early days of the modern protestant missionary movement, mission workers thought it was a good idea to bring their culture along with the gospel. The mission worker’s church back home became the model for these new believers to imitate. They would teach them to sing the same hymns from the hymnal the missionary brought from back home. They might build a church building that looked just like something from their home culture. The
men and women would start dressing like Europeans or Americans—the men in suits and ties, the women in long dresses. We can see this happening to this day in various parts of the world. Is that our mission? Is this what Jesus has called us to do—to go around the world and make every tribe and tongue look and act like us? I don’t think so. Whether we are talking about Kingdom Movements or Insider Movements, it is all about the people we are attempting to reach being in control of the process of making disciples and planting churches, not the outsiders. In fact our role is to rid the gospel of as much of our cultural baggage as possible so the gospel can look like really great news to every people and nation. That is a mission worth giving our full effort to.

Support the Work of Mission Frontiers

As is the case with most publications, Mission Frontiers cannot cover its costs from subscriptions alone. We need additional funds from those who believe in this ministry and are willing to sacrifice to help us move forward in casting vision for Kingdom Movements in all peoples. Like most of the people who work for Frontier Ventures, my salary is supplied by the donations of churches and friends who believe in what I am doing. And also like many staff members at Frontier Ventures, there are many months when not enough comes in to fully cover our allotted salary. To donate to my ministry with MF go to click, on the Donate button and put MA 323 in the dialog box. If you would like to help MF cover its general expenses and expand its influence, go to the same web address given above, click on the Donate button and put MA 030 in the dialog box. We greatly appreciate whatever you can do to help Mission Frontiers and Frontier Ventures continue its work to see Kingdom Movements emerge in all peoples.


This is an article from the March-April 2021 issue: Insider Movements

“Insider” Movements: Should We Still Be Talking About Them? Yes and No

“Insider” Movements: Should We Still Be Talking About Them? Yes and No

I am fond of saying that we are in the midst of a “movement movement.” It seems everyone in the world of missions is talking about movements. Books and articles abound, and conferences, training, and reports of movements proliferate. Thankfully this is because there are movements to talk about!

This is an unprecedented time of movement growth and multiplication. This is in part why Mission Frontiers has been including reports of movements and discussions of movements as a central theme every time we publish, no matter what the stated topic of a given edition.

There Are Movements, and Then There are Movements

The concept is not new, in some ways. The observation and study of large numbers of people turning to Jesus led to the descriptions of “people movements” by forerunners such as Waskom Pickett and Donald McGavran. More recently we tend to speak about, and hear more and more about Church Planting Movements, or CPMs, and Disciple Making Movements, or DMMs.1

The celebrations of movements does not mean there have been no questions, and CPMs and DMMs have garnered their share of critique. But of all the types of movements being discussed today, “insider movements”, or IMs, have certainly attracted the most attention in terms of critique.

CPMs, DMMs, and IMs all share a lot in common, including: the conviction that all believers in Jesus will be drawn into deep level change and transformation; the importance of a believing community in shaping the life of believers; the centrality and singularity of Jesus as the way of salvation; the central place of the Scriptures in shaping life-faith-doctrine-moral values-practices.

The main difference between IMs and other movements has to do with how believers in a movement understand their new identity in Jesus relative to the religious community of their birth, and more specifically, how they navigate the religious elements of their socio-religious heritages (events, practices, etc.).

In every movement, including insider movements, believers say yes to some aspects, and no to others. Advocates and leaders of insider movements have tended to a posture that has allowed more “yeses” than non-insider advocates and leaders.

My Thinking: 2004

In 2004 I outlined this definition of insider movements. Note that this was still very early in the emergence of the whole idea:

Insider Movement: A growing number of families, individuals, clans and/or friendship-webs becoming faithful disciples of Jesus within the culture of their people group, including their religious culture. This faithful discipleship will express itself in culturally appropriate communities of believers who will also continue to live within as much of their culture, including the religious life of the culture, as is biblically faithful. The Holy Spirit, through the Word and through His people will also begin to transform His people and their culture, religious life and worldview.2

Five years later, Becky Lewis wrote a similar definition:

Insider movements can be defined as movements to obedient faith in Christ that remain integrated with or inside their natural community. In any insider movement there are two distinct elements:

1. The gospel takes root within pre-existing communities or social networks, which become the main expression of “church” in that context. Believers are not gathered from diverse social networks to create a “church.” New parallel social structures are not invented or introduced.

2. Believers retain their identity as members of their socio-religious community while living under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the authority of the Bible.

The ongoing link to one’s birth religion that both of the above definitions refer to has been the primary source of friction and questioning about IMs. The question often boils down to something like, “how do IMs avoid heresy?”
In another article in this edition, I will take up the question of how IMs, indeed how any movement, is shaped and influenced by ongoing engagement with Scripture and how the Spirit and Word can serve as a sort of spiritual and theological GPS.

For now, I want to turn to a different lens through which I have begun to understand IMs.

My Thinking Now: 2021

My own thinking has continued to evolve. And while I still stand by the definitions that I, and later, Becky Lewis, have published, and still affirm what God is doing in IMs, I have come to rethink what it is that is distinctly the core.
What are the essential elements that make this or that movement “IM” versus some other type of “M”? Is it really the religious element?
I began to think about movements such as the rapid explosion of believers in Iran, believers who in general want nothing to do with Shia roots and religion. The realization came to me that this movement is still “inside” a socio- religious background.

In this case, many (not all) believers who are coming to faith in Jesus seem to be doing so after having already embraced a shift in world view relative to Islam, in many cases prior to coming to Jesus. If “insider” were to be defined and limited to only specific and narrow categories of religious practices (for example), then we would miss the essential “inside-ness” of a growing and exciting move of God. No one suggests that the believers in Iran should go back to Shia Islam but they weren’t “in” that when they came to faith in the first place. It was in many cases already behind them.

This includes the post-Shia-Iranian-socio-religious-reality they were part of before meeting Jesus. They are in many ways still “in” that, even as their faith, heart, relationships and worldview all continue to be shaped in Scripture and community. That is, they are part of an insider movement.

I am now convinced that the deepest markers of whether a movement is an “insider” movement or not are not the questions about the socio-religious decisions themselves. Such decisions are results of something deeper, results of decisions “insiders” may make, and so the crucial questions are ones such as:

Who makes decisions in the movement?

How do they make them?

Why do they make them?

So: Still Talk About Insider Movements? Yes

So, it is important to keep talking and probing “IM”. In line with that, here is what I am thinking about those three questions.


I am not ignoring the vital role of what we might more and more refer to as “alongsiders” (see the article about that in this edition of MF). But at the end of the day, what matters, what I believe makes a movement an insider movement, is that the movement itself, its leaders and fellowships, make the decisions.


In a later article in this edition I describe my conviction that the Spirit of God uses the Word of God to shape and teach the people of God. It is a simple, but not simplistic, way to speak. Healthy movements make decisions through engagement with Scripture that is ongoing, communal, corrective, and closely interacting with the questions and challenges of the context the movement is in, as opposed to the priorities and preferences of an outsider/alongsider.


There are and will be many ways to answer why a decision is made, including motives such as wanting to get “truth” right. But also important will be questions about how this or that decision may allow for the good news to continue to flow most freely, without compromising its essence. The controversy in Acts 15 for example,was about how to decide what was right, including what was right Scripturally, and how to keep from placing unnecessary burdens on the emerging Gentile movement. The Scriptural wrestling, for example, was between what the Law of Moses said (cited by those saying the Gentile believers needed to be circumcised), and what James found in several of the prophets. And we see the concern about burdens in the letter that James and others drafted for communicating their decision.This focus on who and how and why is a different way of speaking of “insider movements.” It is a development that still needs more discussion. I am not claiming all advocates will agree with me. And all of that suggests that, yes, we need to keep talking about insider movements.

So: Still Talk About Insider Movements? No

And yet, it may also be time to stop. I will give just two reasons for this, for now.

The first reason is that the term has never felt right, frankly. The term, not the concept itself, smacks of secrecy, isolation and even something less than honest or above board (for more about misunderstandings of the concept see the article in this edition about common concerns).

The second and more important reason is related to new thinking arising from non-western advocates and leaders and missiologists.

In 2017 a number of Asian and western men and women gathered to consider the topic of movements, and specifically to try to imagine new language for movements—language more rooted in biblical concepts.

Specifically, we were concerned to find new words for “Church Planting Movement” and “missionary” and “missiology.” Using the insights from the call of Abraham in Genesis 12, and references to blessing in Ephesians as well as other papers and conversations, we experimented with things like, “family blessing movements,” and probably much less likely to stick, terms like “blessionary,” and “blessiology.”

But we agreed that we need new language.

FBMs? Family Blessing Movements?

Earlier in this article I cited Becky Lewis’ definition of IMs and her mention of remaining within pre-existing social structures. This assumes or includes the idea that “church-planting” is essentially planting churches within those existing structures, as opposed to the creation of new social structures we then call “churches.”

The social structure that more and more movement advocates promote, IM and CPM, and DMM alike, is the household. The oikos, or extended household of the New Testament has universal expression in one form or another in every culture and society. More or less nuclear? Yes, but present. Extended to aunts and uncles or not? Good question, but the concept is still present—and so on.

And given that the promise to Abraham involved the families of the earth, and the promise of God’s blessing for them, perhaps “family blessing movement,” as clunky as it may be, captures something that all sorts of movement advocates can rally to, whether CPM, DMM, or IM.

  1. Though writing before the advent of widely known “DMM” models, Becky Lewis’ discussion of the ways people movements and CPM differ is very helpful, as is her description of IM. Insider Movements: Honoring God-Given Identity and Community, International
    Journal of Frontier Missiology, 26:1, Spring 2009, p. 16ff.

  2. The Key to Insider Movements: The “Devoted’s” of Acts, International Journal of Frontier Missiology, 21:4, Winter 2004, p. 155ff.

  3. In IJFM, 26:1, Spring 2009, p. 16ff.

This is an article from the March-April 2021 issue: Insider Movements

“Insider” Movements: Where Does This End Up?

“Insider” Movements: Where Does This End Up?

It has become more and more common in my experience for people who have questions and concerns to arrive at a point where they can see a space for insider movements, and for individuals or small groups of believers to remain “inside” as a stage of their journey, with the assumption that at some point a break will need to be made and should be encouraged.

And so, in this article I want to raise the question about the long-term future, vision, and hopes for insider movements.

I have my own thoughts on this, but ultimately what matters will be the answers that leaders of various movements give, and what their fellow leaders see and understand and discern. Within the circles I am aware of and the leaders I relate to there are really three ways different leaders see the future of the movements they are part of.

Critical Mass, and then Separate as Christians

There are some I know who hope their movements can stay within their religious communities, accepted as such, until the movements are large enough to step out, or more likely, be persecuted out. At that point they would be able to stand and perhaps be too big for large scale persecution.

Let me hasten to say that none of the movements I know of are able to fully avoid persecution at present, or ever. As vocal witnesses for Jesus, our brothers and sisters face rejection, abuse, and some have been martyred.

However, the hope of such leaders I would see in this category is that their movement’s numbers would become big enough eventually to survive as a more overtly Christian movement. They imagine this outside of their religious heritages, but not tied to current denominations explicitly. More on that later!

I know of one such movement personally. It began as very much an “insider” movement in the older sense, meaning that believers maintained religious forms, rethought how the holy books and traditions of their people could be understood or re-understood in the light of Jesus, etc. But at some stage along the line, as they continued in Scripture and in conversation with alongsider friends,1 they determined that God’s preferred plan for them

was going to include getting to a point of critical mass in terms of size, and then separating from their birth community’s religion in more fundamental ways.

Yeast in the Dough

This is the viewpoint of leaders of movements who sincerely believe that their version of adhering to the religion they were born in, now shaped by Jesus and the Bible, is in fact the truth; the true way not only to be a disciple of Jesus but the true way to adhere to their religion.

This conviction has emerged as these leaders have continued in Scripture and in conversation with alongsider friends.

This is the version of “insiderness” that has most typically been the focus of the controversies and debates among Christians and mission workers. It has been the most hotly disputed. But as I am trying to point out, it is not the only position taken by leaders of insider movements.

Wheat and Tares

In some ways this category is a bit of a hybrid between the first two. The leaders I am thinking of want very much to stay inside. But they are aware that the likelihood of ever getting to the size and influence needed to change their religion itself from the inside is slim to impossible.

They are realistic that it is very likely that eventually sometime soon that they will be targeted by the majority and persecuted more overtly and consistently than at present. 

They know that, although they can articulate their understanding of what they see as the true version of the birth religion, in a way that matches their faith in Jesus and the Scriptures, the reality is that others will not, and will eventually see them as heretical at best, apostate more likely, and seek to persecute them into extinction.

Thus, this group has expressed their hope that their movements can become large enough to have critical mass to survive beyond their ability to remain accepted by the majority community.

In that element they share the hope or expectation of the first example I gave.

But, their expectation is to be persecuted out as an unacceptable version of what it means to be an adherent of whatever their birth religion may have been, which is what they would still claim to be (an adherent, though one who follows Jesus and the Bible).

In that element they share the aspirations of the “Yeast in the Dough” example.

As with the other two, this conviction has emerged as these leaders again have continued in Scripture and in conversation with alongsider friends.


First, it has probably become obvious from the previous that there is a common thread for how the future is being determined in these movements. Or a thread with two strands, the first of which is: continuing in Scripture.
Elsewhere in this edition I talk about the importance of continued Scriptural input and digging, and I refer the reader there. Suffice it to say here that when I say that Scripture will help leaders make these decisions, I am not suggesting a simplistic view of pointing to the Bible and leaving people on their own or proof-texting, etc.

Second, in the second strand in the thread I just mentioned there is the question of the role of alongsider friends in determining future directions. One of the criticisms leveled at advocates of insider movements is that we are really the ones shaping them, that without our input and influence they would be very different.

My response would be: undoubtedly true. And I would add, this is true of the role and influence of outsiders in any sort of movement. The question then should be, what sort of influence is best or right?

I will answer that here by making a simple observation. The three types of future I describe above have in common that insider leaders are turning to Scripture. They also have in common that they have had input from the same alongsider: myself.

As such, the point I want to make is that alongsiders can serve and help movement leaders without necessarily putting the stamp of the alongsider’s preferences on a movement. That does happen of course. But it is also possible for the role of the alongsider to be that of helping leaders use Scripture in healthy ways to come to their own decisions and visions.

Third, I want to highlight something just stated about these decisions. It has been said but is important to repeat: they are all made by the leaders themselves. They go in different directions but the leaders are making these decisions (elsewhere in MF I talk about this factor as one of the three defining marks of “insider movements”).

I repeat that here in part to prepare for the fourth comment.

And that fourth comment is that the same leaders who arrived at such different conclusions are not only connected by the same alongsider, but they are in fellowship with each other. They meet, they share, they talk, they study Scripture together, they pray, they know that they differ, and they sometimes question each others’ wisdom. But they are committed to each other.

Something We Can Learn?

And that last point suggests to me that perhaps we can learn some things from insider movements. Yes there are questions. Yes there are concerns. But, at least in the instances I have shared here, we can at a minimum learn and be encouraged to pursue a deeper sort of unity than mere agreement.

In Romans 14 and 15 Paul writes to encourage the Romans to respect the sincere differences held by brothers and sisters among them. These were not merely issues of preferences or culture. They were divided over what their consciences dictated to them about religious issues of food and specific days of observance. These were religious matters. And Paul’s advice on these was to pursue a more difficult and challenging type of unity than uniformity and agreement.

Paul believed they could rise to the maturity needed to be able to remain in unity while disagreeing profoundly. His foundational principle was that the kingdom’s essence was in “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Rom. 14:17) May we all be marked by such maturity, and may these three foundations be strong among us!

This is an article from the March-April 2021 issue: Insider Movements

Becoming the Kind of Person God Can Use to Launch Movements— Part 2

Becoming the Kind of Person God Can Use to Launch Movements— Part 2

The Apostle Paul exhorted the Galatian church to walk in freedom. The young church had been infiltrated by Judaizers who wanted everyone to be circumcised.

In Galatians 5:4, Paul writes, “You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.”

As humans, we like to be doers. Church-planters and Disciple Making Movement practitioners want to do things right. We are always learning, searching, reading and talking to people about what is the most effective strategy or fruitful practice we can use to bring the maximum number of people into the kingdom as quickly as possible.

There is nothing wrong with this. In many ways, it is good. The millions of unreached peoples will never become faithful Jesus followers without hard work, realignment to New Testament methods and the embracing strategies for multiplication. We must do, and do a lot.

In the midst of this, it’s easy though to lose sight of other things just as vital, like the importance of being the kind of people who reflect Christ to a hurting world. We sometimes focus so much on doing that we fall away from grace and are “alienated from Christ.” No longer do we resemble Him—His goodness, His kindness, His compassion, or fervor for His Father’s will. It is possible to do everything right as far as a strategy but fall short in our personal transformation. God rarely entrusts His greater fruit to those who ignore the importance of being as well as doing. It is our Christlikeness that attracts unbelievers to consider our message. Our character, as we imitate Christ, is the foundation a movement is built on.

In Part 1, (see Mission Frontiers Jan–Feb 2021) I wrote about six characteristics of the kind of person God can use greatly. If you missed this first part, please take the time to read it.

The first six characteristics:

1)   They have an ever-growing relationship with God and an extraordinary prayer life.

2)   They are bold and faithful in witness.

3)   They are willing to face persecution from enemies.

4)   They are willing to be misunderstood by friends.

5)   They innovate, evaluate and change.

6)   They are willing to stop doing unfruitful activities and focus on a few high impact things.

This list is not exhaustive. Here in Part 2, we will consider six additional characteristics of those God entrusts with His great work of releasing movements. As you read these, take time to ponder. Discuss the questions with your team or spouse. Journal about them. Allow the Holy Spirit to stir within you a fresh longing to grow in these areas.

7. They are filled with God’s Spirit and Word.

Because these leaders have extraordinary prayer lives (see #1, Part 1), they drink deeply of God each day and throughout the day. Abiding in Him has become a way of life. Regular meditation on Scripture is a habit that brings a fullness of the Word deep within. This naturally overflows from their hearts as well as their lips as they disciple, train and share the good news.

In tune with the Spirit of God and full of His presence, they follow God’s leading in both big and small decisions. Heightened sensitivity to what He is doing is apparent. They have their “spiritual antennas” up and are sensing listening and aware of God’s work around them. Responding to His nudges, they obey and flow with God.

The power of God’s Spirit works through them. Signs, wonders, and miracles are the natural result of a life lived in deep dependence upon the Holy Spirit.

8. They persevere through times of suffering, loss and spiritual deserts.

Perseverance in hardship is a common characteristic of movement leaders. This can be observed in the life of Jesus, Paul and the apostles, as well as the early church fathers. An imbalanced theology says if we love and follow God our lives will be easy. This false teaching has crept into the church in many parts of the world.

Jesus was tempted in the wilderness for 40 days. His close friend and cousin, John the Baptist, was murdered unjustly. The Lord suffered and died. Paul was beaten, stoned and imprisoned. Peter was crucified upside-down. Hardship is part of the pathway toward the release of greater kingdom fruit.

The movement leaders God uses greatly will experience suffering. Spouses or children may fall sick or even die. Grief is not a stranger to these leaders. Many experience seasons of spiritual dryness, or what might be called a Dark Night of the Soul. In all these challenges, they refuse to quit on God or His calling for their lives. The vision the Father has placed within them compels them to continue. They share the gospel with one more person, even when no one seems to listen. They choose to once again trust and develop leaders under them, even when betrayed by those they mentored in the past. These leaders continue, despite deep personal pain.

In Matthew 14, John the Baptist was beheaded. Verse 13 says that when Jesus heard this He withdrew, but the crowds followed him. He had compassion on them and healed their sick, then fed the five thousand. Despite a great personal loss, He continued in the ministry God had given Him, loving and serving the multitudes.

9. They have a strong faith in the God of the impossible.

Movement leaders must have unshakable confidence in God’s power to do what they cannot. They have a lowly opinion of themselves, but an incredibly strong belief that God can and will come through to fulfill His promise.
These leaders have tested and seen Him be the one who works miracles.

Like David, they started by taking on smaller challenges- lions and bears. This gives them faith to believe God can slay giants. They are willing to ask God for great things because they experientially know their God to be a God of great power and might.

Their trust is in God and His Word, not in what they see or in past experiences. As a result, they regularly take risks of faith to boldly ask God for the miraculous.

10. They are continually releasing power and responsibility to others.

These leaders are not hungry to be on stage in front of adoring crowds. Instead, they embrace the joy of developing others. As a result, God places key Timothys in their lives to encourage and train.
They believe in “rough diamonds” and are willing to work with people, shaping their ministry philosophy, modeling, praying and investing in them until they become the kind of people God uses greatly. Their relationships with those they coach or mentor go deep, far beyond a weekly meeting. Sharing life, they stand by them, fight for them. They are more than happy to stand in the background while those they’ve trained take the front.
This willingness to stay in the shadow and develop others is key to seeing a movement grow. These leaders don’t care about becoming a big name or personality. Instead, they want only to see every disciple grow and develop in their gifts and strengths to be all God intends them to be as disciple-makers and leaders in their realm of influence. This means sacrificing personal fame and gain to invest in others and see them succeed.

11. They are kingdom, not organizationally minded.

Similarly, they are not consumed with building their denomination, organization or team into a successful entity.

They generously share what God has taught them with others. Even with those outside their network. This mindset causes them to collaborate and partner with other DMM practitioners often.
Wanting to see your denomination or organization become known and be respected is a powerful human tendency. We all want to be attached to something that experiences success.
The kind of movement leaders and catalysts God uses have died to this fleshly desire and continue to die daily. They champion and value the fruitfulness of others, above their group. Philippians 2:3 says “consider others as more important than ourselves.” These leaders practice this in their lives and ministry plans. Because of this kingdom mindset, God adds to them freely.

12. They walk in an ever-growing humility.

Like Paul, movement leaders God uses must be aware of their weaknesses. They count their accomplishments as immaterial. (2 Cor. 11:30) Glory goes to God when things go right, yet they take responsibility for their own mistakes.
Humility is the final characteristic in my list because it is one of the most important. It is also one that takes time to develop. Humility doesn’t grow in us quickly. It’s rarely found in the young who have not yet walked through great pain, failure or hardship.

Pride and insecurity are common to all. Two sides of the same coin and if you are a living, breathing human, you will battle these. When we fail, we wonder if we are worthy to be used by God. We swing toward insecurity. In times of success, we tend to think we are better than others, and pride rears its ugly head.

Humility is shaped within through the times when we are hurled to our knees by life. We desperately cry out to God for help and wisdom. At the end of ourselves, we know that unless God intervenes we are in deep trouble. His life is being formed within us.

Giants, Mountains, and Immovable Obstacles

Our faith in God’s mighty power and our love for the lost leads us to ask Him for great fruit. As we pursue our God- sized dreams for many more movements we will encounter giants, mountains and seemingly immovable obstacles. These challenges grow us in humility, and many of the other characteristics I’ve mentioned in this two-part series.

Don’t despise the giants. Don’t despair when climbing a great mountain, far bigger than yourself. The immovable obstacles are training you. They are shaping your character into the kind of person God can use to bring about His incredible kingdom purposes.

Success Will Tempt You, But God Will Help You

Great fruitfulness will tempt you to take glory for yourself. You suddenly face the opportunity to build your name or kingdom. You can raise money, make a name for yourself, have material blessings or build a grand building. Beware. The choices you make at the height of fruitfulness will determine whether the movement grows far beyond you, or stops in its tracks.

God has plans for your future and mine far beyond what we can imagine. His work on earth is not yet complete. Millions wait to hear. Will we become the kind of people He can use greatly?

This is an article from the March-April 2021 issue: Insider Movements

“Insider” Movements: Common Concerns

“Insider” Movements: Common Concerns

Rather than making my own list of frequently asked questions or concerns, I want to allow those to emerge from someone actually asking them.

In the spring of 2019 I reviewed the article City Under a Hill: 5 Problems with Insider Movements by Travis Myers (Professor, Bethlehem College & Seminary). The article is available here: city-under-a-hill.

I will primarily use the outline of the five points he raises, however I begin from one of his major subtitles near the beginning of his paper, When the Gospel Hides.

By highlighting this comment and framing it as a major section of his paper he tips his hand to an assumption he is making about insider movements: they are secretive and hiding the gospel. This is of course hinted at in his title as well (city under a hill).

While I welcome questions about insider movements and feel the discussions are a healthy process, I find responding to this idea that insider brothers and sisters are hiding their faith is just covering old territory in the long discussions about IM. The claim that insider movements are secretive or silent or don’t share their faith is a claim as old as the discussion itself (back to at least 2004). This has been frequently rebutted, and the number of followers of Jesus, insiders, who face persecution and death because of their faith is also witness to the erroneous nature of this straw man argument. 

Does every “insider” believer stand boldly? Certainly not. Does every Christian living in countries hostile to their faith do so? Does every Christian in the USA?

Of course not.

The real question then is what do godly leaders in such contexts teach and encourage their people to do? In the case of insider movements, the expectation is that disciples of Jesus make other disciples of Jesus. They share their faith and they bear witness.

They do not hide the gospel.

Now to Myers’ five points. I use his terms, and each of the five is followed by a direct quotation from Myers’ article.


"IM is predicated on the misguided idea that faith in Jesus as Lord of one’s life can “complete” and be the apex of any religious tradition or religious identity.”

First, IM is not predicated on this point. Not every IM proponent even holds this position, and in fact, if fulfillment thinking is not true it would not change anything. IM practice or approaches or principles are not dependent on this theme. IM is predicated on many other biblical principles and passages. The literature is full on this point.

Second, IM proponents have not made the case that Jesus fulfills other religions, certainly not in the way that He fulfills the Old Testament.

The contention I would make is that Jesus does fulfill a number of dimensions of anyone’s cultural and religious background, or hopes and aspirations, when a person comes to faith.

At the same time, it is frequently the case that in Jesus people can and do see a number of beautiful aspects of their heritage, including their religious heritage, which now seem to find a new fullness and beauty in Jesus.
But the argument which assumes IM bases itself in fulfillment thinking is a generalization and inaccurate.

Integrity and Identity

“Core Islamic doctrine explicitly denies biblical doctrines that are central, and essential, to Christian faith.”

Myers is concerned here especially with Muslim contexts. I will try to respond more generically. It is true that official teaching of major non-Christian religious traditions run counter to, or in tension with, or deny outright biblical doctrines that are essential. No argument on this point has ever been put forward by any insider advocate or insider movement leader with whom I have worked.

There are some insider believers who follow Jesus (not all, but a number whom I know) who do argue that on the basis of the foundational texts of their own religious heritage, and in deeper study of the Bible, a number of core teachings in their religious traditions as typically taught are incorrect. They seek to reform those understandings, including whatever their birth religion may teach about Jesus, the Bible, salvation and more.

This is not at all the same thing as suggesting that their birth religion does not teach incorrect things. But at least some insider leaders argue, from the inside, that those teachings are wrong, and that they need to be corrected.


“The IM approach stunts Christian discipleship and spiritual growth.”

I am guessing, perhaps wrongly, that Myers has not met insiders personally or directly. His conclusions certainly seem to indicate this. Perhaps an underlying question here really is, “what are IM movements doing about these issues?” Or perhaps, “how do they disciple believers?”

The movements I have known and been involved with are all rooted in ongoing inductive study of whole books of the Bible in community. Also, I increasingly see leaders focused on reflection on the doctrinal history and themes Christ’s people have wrestled with historically, as these leaders in turn wrestle with issues in their contexts.

This does not mean that every answer Christ’s people have arrived at in other epochs and contexts is simply swallowed whole into such movements. I would argue we don’t do so in the west either, and would add that I don’t think we should do so.


“One’s identification with Christ should entail identification with all of Christ’s people in the world today and throughout time. That is more fundamental, ultimate, and significant than ethnic, cultural, linguistic, family, or local identity.”

I can sympathize with the intentions and heart of this concern. However, several things need to be said.

First, what is meant by identification with “all Christ’s people in the world today and throughout time? How is this even possible? How many Christians identify in this way? We have Christian denominations who do not see others as Christian, will not have communion together, do not recognize one another’s ordinations and more. We don’t even share (fully) common creeds, confessions or canon of Scripture as Christians. So, to ask insider believers to hold to a standard that the Christian church has not attained seems hypocritical. I am not suggesting Myers is hypocritical as a person, but that this standard is.

Second, even when we do pursue unity and identification as Christians with others, this happens very much on a small, personal and local scale: through relationships. And this also happens between insider believers and thosewho we would call Christians. I have seen it and facilitated it. There is no sense among the leaders of IMs which I know that Christians are not also brothers and sisters in Christ. They welcome thinking of all believers in Jesus as members of the Body.

Soils and Strategy

“Though admittedly difficult in many contexts, religious identity and ethno-cultural identity can and should indeed be differentiated. The former must be given up for Jesus and the church. We should reject the conflation of social and religious identity.”

I want to point out where I agree and disagree with Myers here.

First, where I disagree. I understand Myers’ point here but it is, from many points of view, simplistic and impossible to separate religion and culture. We think we can, in the west. And maybe in a western context this may be partly the case, with our assumptions about secular and religious life, physical and spiritual dichotomies and assumptions that religions are easily distinguished and identified.

But in most contexts, this simply is not as easy as Myers suggests. In many religious contexts something as normal to daily life as brushing one’s teeth and using the toilet are guided by religious teaching. In such cases, what would be culture or religion? Should one brush one’s teeth differently just to show one is not keeping one’s religion? If one continues to brush teeth as they have since childhood, is that keeping their religion or their culture? These are purposely “easy” sorts of examples, in order to show that the issue actually isn’t easy.

In the simple examples above most readers will likely be thinking, “well brushing teeth doesn’t matter so even if it is guided by religion, no problem.” This already suggests we are comfortable making distinctions about what is ok and not ok to keep, even from one’s religious heritage.

Where do I agree with Myers?

The fact is that obedient discipleship will require changes. It will require replies of yes and no to all sorts of things, cultural, religious, emotional, personal, relational, attitudinal, philosophical, etc.
Thus, for me, the point is not whether one can keep culture but must jettison religion, or even whether that is a distinction we can make. The point is how do needed changes happen, how are they identified, who makes such decisions, how do they decide and for what reasons and motivations?

This is why we have taken great care in the movements I have been involved with to cultivate processes for handling such questions (for example, the questions of should we continue to do this or stop doing that). We have never given a blanket “yes, just keep doing everything.” Neither have we given a blanket “no,” on the other hand.

What we have done is asked, “What does Scripture say on this issue? How do we obey? What does being faithful mean? How do we decide which aspect of our heritage is ‘okay’ and ‘not okay?’”


I have no expectation of being able to persuade every critic of the viability of the biblical faithfulness of IM as movements. And my aim here is not in fact to persuade. But I do hope to explain and, where possible, correct misperceptions and assumptions which result in misrepresentations. I do not for a moment suggest Myers intends to misrepresent anything about IM—but at the end of the day that is the result of the five points.

This is an article from the March-April 2021 issue: Insider Movements

The Motus Dei Network: Fostering Communal Intelligence on Movements

The Motus Dei Network: Fostering Communal Intelligence on Movements

Longtime readers of Mission Frontiers are most likely familiar with movements. Movements are indeed an exciting work of God and no mere passing fad in missions. They have occurred in the past and will continue in the future. However, familiarity can sometimes be unhelpful if we have faulty assumptions or if we take too much for granted. One solution to this potential problem is to frame our quest for knowledge about movements through thoughtful and deliberate questioning.

The Strategic Advantages of Research

Asking rigorous questions about movements is not to doubt their existence or to criticize the work of God. Neither should it be seen as criticism of movement catalysts, nor a threat to organizations that promote movements. Good research questions are designed to test our presuppositions and force us to wrestle with the nature and limits of our existing knowledge.

While fundamental to research in general, this helps us discover what is going on behind what is going on.

In studying movements as researchers, we might ask, “What is fostering the irruption of movements in the world today?” How can the stewardship of this knowledge edify the Church and bless God’s work in redeeming all nations back to Himself? However, we do not seek the right answers as much as we seek the right questions and commit to follow the evidence where it leads.

This research quest holds many pitfalls we need to avoid. On one hand, we might become overly pragmatic, believing that movements can simply be managed more efficiently with the right knowledge. On the other hand, we might propagate sterile research for the sake of more research that has little to do with the actual lives of people and leaders catalyzing movements.

The solution is not so much balance as it is integration. Movements research can and should be both practically tangible and also theoretically robust. Through prayerful dependence on the Holy Spirit and with the Bible open, asking the right research questions about movements can facilitate this integration. But further to the point, we propose that this approach reframes missiological discourse around a new concept: the motus Dei.

The Genesis of Motus Dei

Motus Dei is Latin and means “movement of God.”

As a theological term, it intentionally mimics the concept of missio Dei which means the sending/mission of God. While not without conceptual problems,1 the missio Dei conversation has contributed much to our understanding of mission through the past several decades. God in His nature is missio, sent into the world. Created in His image, we are also sent into the world to join God in His mission.

Motus Dei invokes a similar albeit different concept. If the nature of our faith is participating in the movement of God to redeem the nations back to Himself, this suggests we need to further investigate the essence of movements and theologies that promote them. We need also to examine those traditions and theologies the church has developed that might impede motus Dei in a specific context.

We have reframed this conversation on movements around motus Dei because we desire, first and foremost, to be rooted and grounded in the life-giving character of God. We aim not simply for acceleration of fruitful ministry and multiplication of disciples, but ultimately for Jesus to receive worship from all peoples. God’s movement to achieve global worship through holistic salvation of the nations is not just something He does; it is part of His very being.

Like the “church growth movement” or the “missional church” conversation from previous generations, motus Dei has two slightly different nuances. As previously explained, it is primarily the situating of a new missiological concept, motus Dei, in the field of mission studies.2 But secondly, it is the creation of a research network and the title of an upcoming book published by William Carey, Motus Dei: The Movement of God and the Discipleship of Nations. In time, we hope these two nuances will integrate into a deeper, richer understanding of motus Dei. Ultimately, we hope this will be as edifying to the Church as the concept of missio Dei has been.

Reimagining Research on Movements

I have personally been interested in movements for around 20 years, ever since I read David Garrison’s booklet Church Planting Movements.3 While causing me to question many of my own assumptions about ministry, the booklet also gave my spirit a joyful hope and gratefulness for the work of God. It even impacted how I read the New Testament. Yet as I continued to learn more about movements, I also discovered the ways movement ideas are perceived and described sometimes cause confusion. Additionally, some may even have a negative reaction before understanding the concept.

In light of this, I began to imagine a missiological research project on the topic of movements. What causes their emergence? How can their description be more nuanced? As I considered these questions, I quickly realized that researching movements is neither straightforward nor appropriate for one person alone.

As movements are a large phenomenon in our world today, researching movements is necessarily a vast exercise. To do it justice requires integrating multiple perspectives and multiple fields of study. This will require asking a variety of questions from a variety of angles. With this robust research approach, we can avoid either sensationalizing the emergence of movements or dismissing movements as the latest fad.

Communal Intelligence and the Body of Christ

It seems natural for people to constantly search for the genius in the room or hope to read books or articles by a single genius who will answer all our questions. But this is a myth, especially in the Body of Christ. We all need each other.

We consider it more helpful to frame our conversation through the concept of “scenius.” As a play on words, this term conveys that the scene itself is the genius. In other words, instead of looking for the genius in the room, we may say the room is the genius.4

The Motus Dei Network is an application of scenius. In order to better understand movements and what God is doing today, we seek to embrace our unity in Christ and learn from one another. Extreme creativity, innovation, and knowledge come best from communal intelligence, not simply lone geniuses or great persons. Motus Dei is our attempt to gather this “ecology of talent” in a way that fosters communal intelligence on movements.

In this conversation, we have catalysts, researchers, leaders, practitioners, theologians and academics. Currently over 100 people are involved: men and women from the Global North and the Global South. This informal network does not intend to train practitioners or mobilize prayer, although as solid mission research we expect it will be a seedbed for both. We are framing Motus Dei as a multi-year conversation on the topic of movements that is informed by missiological research and authentic relationships.

Relationships are important because we do not all agree on what “movements” are, how they should be described or how they should be catalyzed. But more importantly, we refuse to buy into the worldly pattern of controlling the narrative in order to marginalize voices of those who we disagree with. As we challenge the human tendency to form “silos” of information, we anticipate disagreements and even contradictions in our network. Yet we believe our discourse will be richer and deeper for it.

Our first major output from Motus Dei is the book arising from our virtual Movements Research Symposium in October 2020. At this symposium, 20 chapters of the book were presented in abbreviated form and discussed.

We see the symposium and book as only first steps. In the coming years, we intend to have different tracks of smaller working groups gathering to share research and wisdom around different aspects of movements: particularly biblical theology, the social sciences and missional praxis. Missiology includes integration of all three of these streams, so these working groups will be in conversation together.

Join the “Movement” Movement

Motus Dei is a learning community. If you have significant experience in movements and would like to join the Motus Dei conversation, or if you have movements research you would like to share, please connect with us at Until. then, enjoy this journey of motus Dei. As you read and reflect on our upcoming book, we pray you will be compelled in wonder and joy to join God’s redemptive movement among all peoples today.

  1. 1 Michael W. Stroope, Transcending Mission: The Eclipse of a Modern Tradition (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2017). An abbreviated version is Transcending the Modern Mission Tradition (Oxford, UK: Regnum, 2020).

  2. 2 For an initial discussion of motus Dei, see Warrick Farah, “Motus Dei: Disciple-Making Movements and the Mission of God,” Global Missiology 2, no. 17 (2020): 1–10.

  3. 3 David Garrison, Church Planting Movements (Booklet) (Richmond, VA: International Mission Board, 2000).

  4. 4 “Scenius” originated with Brian Eno and I first heard it from Alan Hirsch at his Movement Leaders Collective. See https://move-

This is an article from the March-April 2021 issue: Insider Movements

Unreached of the Day March-April 2021 (Formerly known as the Global Prayer Digest)

Unreached of the Day March-April 2021 (Formerly known as the Global Prayer Digest)

Click on the attached .pdf icon to read the Unreached of the Day in this issue.

This is an article from the March-April 2021 issue: Insider Movements



As he shared with our worldwide staff recently, Frontier Ventures’ General Director Kevin Higgins summarized our overall organizational direction:

Our board of directors and lead team see Frontier Ventures with a renewed clarity of apostolic purpose tied to a deep commitment to spiritual formation and community—a multi-centralized future in which most of our hubs are not in North America, and most of our members are not North American…. This is an intentional ‘re-investment of social capital’ with a different return on investment: a more diverse missiological voice, more microphones placed close to more voices in more languages, and more breakthroughs among more of the least-reached peoples of the world.

That direction is expressed by our latest statement of Vision, or Hope: The fullness of God’s blessing for all peoples and the reconciliation of all things in Christ.

That works its way down into our particular Mission, meaning what we try and do ourselves, and alongside and through others: To nurture new ways for least reached peoples to experience the fullness of life in Jesus.

Much of what Frontier Ventures will be doing is similar to the past, but how we pursue that vision and mission is changing. Some are organizational changes, which includes the expectation that within one-two years Frontier Ventures will relocate from our current headquarters in Pasadena, California and reallocate resources to a network of hubs (including a hub in southern California).

These Global Hubs will serve as centers of our staff—in community—working alongside key national, regional and local leaders to identify, initiate and foster new efforts. These efforts are seeking to both overcome the barriers that inhibit movements to Jesus, and to share what we learn for reflection, by us and others.

Our Core Functions revolve around the idea of being “alongsiders” with others as we serve:

• We seek to love and follow Jesus alongside followers of Jesus to be mutually formed in Him for the sake of all peoples. (Formation)

• We foster discernment and innovation to lead alongside leaders to nurture innovation at the edges of socio- religious peoples. (Innovation)

• We shape environments to learn alongside learners to grow our collective understanding of the work of Jesus at the frontiers. (Missiology

• We communicate alongside communicators to give wider voice for ideas from those “on-the-ground” at the edges of the kingdom. (Mobilization and Publications)

In many ways, this won’t change things in terms of what you see us producing. For example, we still:

  • Publish books and resources through William Carey Publishing (
  • Encourage prayer for the unreached—the Global Prayer Digest is now part of another ministry of ours, Joshua Project. You can get a daily email or phone notifications to remind you to pray for a specific group each day. Go to to sign up.
  • Produce Mission Frontiers, and (as usual) talk about what God and others are doing around the globe.
  • Challenge people in their approach to mission strategy through the International Journal for Frontier Missiology. (See:
  • Mobilize and mentor many through a number of things, including the Perspectives Study Program (perspectives. org), both here and in more than 20 other nations (
  • Serve others in everything from innovation workshops through our Winter Launch Lab, to medical professionals seeking health for all nations (through
  • Network with many other partnerships and global bodies, including WEA–Mission Commission, NEXT Move network—serving within global migration, the Lausanne Movement and many others.
  • And that doesn’t include our sister organization William Carey International University ( and its degree programs. Did you know you can get an accredited MA and never leave your home? (Well OK, you might want to go out and do some research or outreach!)


Since its inception in 1976, Frontier Ventures has served initiatives to increase momentum for the breakthrough of movements to Jesus among the remaining unreached people groups of the world.

We expand missiological insight.

Joshua Project | Mission Frontiers and Global Prayer Digest | International Journal of Frontier Missiology.

We foster environments for collaboration and innovation.

Ralph D. Winter Launch Lab | Alternative Funding | NextMove

We shape spaces for training and mobilization,

Perspectives on the World Christian Movement | NextGen | Insight | Commission Training

We share ideas with the world

Mission Frontiers and Global Prayer Digest | William Carey Publishing | International Journal of Frontier Missiology

Our aim is unchanged after 40 years: movements to Jesus within every people.

Coming out of a rebranding in 2015 and a refreshing of our Board and leadership in subsequent years, Frontier Ventures is positioned for continued service to pioneering leaders and organizations.We are executing a multi-year transition from a single North American hub to a multi-centralized network of hubs that are closer to the frontiers. This will posture our community to be more diverse, closely engaged with practitioners, and connected to the contexts we hope to influence. We will continue to shape environments for pioneering leaders to engage the emerging world with missiological insight, collaboration, innovation, training, mobilization, and publishing to see breakthroughs of the gospel and movements to Jesus among all peoples.

Join the movements!      

THANKS to many of you who are already engaged with these ministries or are praying with and for us. Many also give sacrificially to support specific projects and people (keep it up!). Perhaps you or someone you know would like to joint our team and part of our missiology, innovation and forward thinking. Write to me and let’s talk about opportunities to serve with us!

This is an article from the March-April 2021 issue: Insider Movements

All Things Are Yours

All Things Are Yours

In a classic text on cross-cultural ministry Paul stated his policy of becoming all things to all people so that by all means he might save some (1 Cor. 9:22). This is sometimes treated as a specialist approach for experts in cross-cultural encounter, but the Bible presents it as a model for all ministry. It is exemplified in the incarnational pattern of Jesus who, due to the Father’s great love for the world, was sent as a true human being into a specific historical and cultural context to announce and effectuate salvation for the world.

Paul’s readiness to live like a Jew among Jews and like a Gentile among Gentiles (1 Cor. 9:20-21) was also rooted in a fundamental principle spelled out earlier in his first letter to the Corinthians. There had been factionalism among the Corinthian believers; some sided with Paul, some with Apollos, some with Peter. Paul rebuked this in various ways in a discussion covering the first three chapters of 1 Corinthians, coming to a climax at the end of chapter three. There he completely turned the tables and said that rather than the apostles owning factions of the believers, the entire Body of Christ owned all of the apostles.

In a typically Pauline flight to the highest elevations and deepest recesses of theological thought, Paul then jumped from the Corinthian ownership of the apostles to the stunning affirmation that “all things are yours” (1 Cor. 3:21). That sounds hyperbolic, but Paul spelled it out so it could not be dismissed as a mere rhetorical flourish; the world is yours, life and death are yours, the present and the future are yours, so yes, indeed, I really mean that “all things are yours” (1 Cor. 3:22). This of course is through Christ the Lord (1 Cor. 3:23).

The commentarial tradition of the Church has not applied this Pauline emphasis on the possession of all things to cross-cultural situations, but it clearly is an underlying principle that allowed Paul in practice to become all things to all men. What many commentaries do point out is that in affirming this possession of all things by the disciples of Christ, Paul was adapting a truism of some of the philosophical schools of the time, which had particular relevance to the Corinthian context, where wisdom was a hot topic of discussion. The wise man among the Stoic philosophers was one who rose above all situations and problems by remaining in control of his thoughts and actions rather than being driven by external events.1 Paul brought this Stoic concept into submission to Christ, where it was transformed into a larger and more profound theological truth that he affirmed to weak and immature Corinthian believers who were failing in some very basic aspects of spiritual life.

The possession of all things by the disciples of Christ was spelled out as a fundamental missiological concept by the Dutch missiologist Johan Herman Bavinck. He did not tie his exposition to Paul’s teaching in 1 Cor. 3:31, but the relation of the two is unmistakable. Bavinck was concerned about syncretistic tendencies in the Roman Catholic theology and practice of accommodation wherein non-Christian practices are adopted by the Church. He wrote,

Here note that the term “accommodation” is really not appropriate as a description of what actually ought to take place. It points to an adaptation to customs and practices essentially foreign to the gospel. Such an adaptation can scarcely lead to anything other than a syncretistic entity, a conglomeration of customs that can never form an essential unity We would, therefore prefer to use the term possessio, to take in possession. The Christian life does not accommodate or adapt itself to heathen forms of life, but it takes the latter in possession and thereby makes them new Within the framework of the non-Christian life, customs and practices serve idolatrous tendencies and drive a person away from God. The Christian life takes them in hand and turns them in an entirely different direction; they acquire an entirely different content. Even though in external form there is much that resembles past practices, in reality everything has become new. The old has in essence passed away and the new has come. Christ takes the life of a people in his hands, he renews and re-establishes the distorted and deteriorated; he fills each thing, each word, and each practice with a new meaning and gives it a new direction. Such is neither “adaptation,” nor accommodation; it is in essence the legitimate taking possession of something by him to whom all power is given in heaven and on earth.

The profound implications of Paul’s teaching and of Bavinck’s concept of possessio need to be at the center of biblical discussions of cross-cultural ministry, especially with regard to other religious traditions. These insights point to a positive approach to other religious traditions rather than a blanket renunciation or repudiation of them. Rather than renouncing the Buddhist heritage, a Buddhist who comes to Christ needs to be oriented towards taking possession
of that heritage. Clearly there is a necessary discerning and sifting process in taking possession of truths and practices from other faith traditions; Paul after all was rebuking false wisdom in the Corinthians, and Bavinck clearly calls for a reorientation towards Christ.

Careful nuancing of this truth is essential in a number of directions. First, the missionary movement is still emerging from the shadow of colonialism, and nothing stirs anti-Christian emotions quite as much as a triumphalistic or domineering attitude. Can a Christian disciple of Jesus take possession of another faith tradition without straying into this offensive mindset? It is a delicate procedure to be undertaken with deep humility,
yet Paul did not shirk from stating this truth into a complex situation in Corinth. Cross-cultural workers will rarely have the insight, sensitivity or humility to successfully negotiate this terrain even with guidance from local believers, yet they must not draw back from the implications of Paul’s teaching. J. H. Bavinck recognized the inadequacy of the cross-cultural worker as well; “the newly formed church is usually a better judge in such matters than we [missionaries] are” (ibid. pg. 177).

It is not possible for every part of the Body of Christ to take possession of every aspect of life; rather, some parts of the Body will more particularly be related to different aspects of God’s profoundly diverse world. It is particularly those who come to faith from Buddhist families who must wrestle with the meaning of possessio in Buddhist contexts, while people from Hindu and Muslim and post-modern contexts seek to apply this insight in their particular worlds. Cross-cultural workers will of course join as servants in the engagement of these issues in the various contexts.

It must be affirmed again that there can be no facile embracing of anything and everything taught or practiced in other religious traditions. All is brought under Christ, and a sifting and filtering is necessary. Yet teaching new disciples of Jesus in other faith traditions that “all things are yours” and that it is your responsibility in Christ to take possession of your religio-cultural heritage challenges some assumed paradigms. Primarily challenged is the necessity of “conversion to Christianity.” If Buddhists who turn to Christ are taught that Buddha is theirs, are they really called to renounce Buddhism? Obviously they are called to discern and sift much that is unbiblical among the many traditions that are currently called Buddhism, but if they take possession of that heritage, how or why can or should they also renounce it? The same applies to the other major faith traditions, all of which are as much about culture as they are about theology, and all of which are multi-cultural as well as multi-theological.

The problem of neo-imperialist triumphalism is trumped by a missiology which rejects “conversion to Christianity” as an essential aspect of the gospel. The new disciple of Jesus is under a mandate from Christ and the New Testament to live within (take possession of) their birth community and religio-cultural heritage. This kind of surrender to the Lordship of Christ leading to possessio of one’s heritage in conformity to Christ can be viewed from another angle as well. To the birth community of the new disciple, be it Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim or other, it is not a rejection of the old or transfer to the new, but rather citizens of the original community taking possession of the truth of the Gospel. Thus hegemonic religious imperialism is avoided and the interpenetration of the Gospel among all civilizations and faiths is accomplished.

It is surely obvious, but will be stated here in closing, that this is not a simple process. J. H. Bavinck recognized this as well: “It is naturally much easier to speak theoretically of taking possession, than it is to give practical advice. The question of possessio leads to the greatest problems throughout the entire world” (ibid. pg. 179).

Redefining the problems and complexities of cross-cultural encounter and contextualization in terms of possessio rather than of conversion and repudiation seems a helpful first step towards affirming in a fresh way the multi- cultural nature of the gospel and of its call for all peoples to surrender to Christ within their own heritage.

“The nations will walk by the light of the Lamb, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into the eternal city” (Rev. 21:24).

  1. See the documentation referred to by Conzelmann in support of his summary that According to the Stoic principle, "All things belong to the wise man," i.e., he is lord over all that comes to him from without (Hans Conzelmann, 1 Corinthians: A Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians, tr. James W. Leitch, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1975, pg. 80).

  2. An Introduction to the Science of Missions, Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1960, pp. 178-179. Bavinck¹s use of "Christian" and "non-Christian" in this paragraph indicates that he wrote in the mid-twentieth century. In the current clash of civilizations era these terms carry many misleading connotations, and most people do not like to be identified by what they are not (non-Christians). It is preferable to refer to disciples of Christ (or bhaktas [devotees] of Christ in Hindu contexts) rather than "Christians" since spiritual commitment is not necessarily perceived in the term "Christian" but is definitely indicated in the alternate terms.

This is an article from the January-February 2021 issue: Home Grown Movements

Becoming the Kind of Person God Can Use to Launch Movements— Part 1

Becoming the Kind of Person God Can Use to Launch Movements— Part 1

We long for more than we see today. Though incredible things are happening and many new movements are being started across the globe, we hunger for more. We look at the world, or our current ministry, and feel a holy dissatisfaction with the status quo. This longing, even discontentment comes from the Father’s heart. It is there because God has more for us. Millions remain unreached and we are called to impact them in greater ways than we have yet seen.

Whether you are an existing movement leader who has already seen many generations, or someone just beginning to catalyze movements, with our eyes on the ripe harvest, we must always look for more. How do we become the kind of people who God can trust with those greater fruits?

As DMM practitioners we often focus on skills and strategy. This has merit. It is necessary. What is just as important, however, is focusing on becoming the kind of people God can use greatly. Some would argue that this is even more vital than having the right giftings, methodology or approach.

Most likely you’ve seen it happen. Someone with charisma, gifting and much potential crashes and burns as the movement begins to expand rapidly. They become proud, or their marriage suffers, or they begin to control things. Perhaps even worse, we see things like a moral failure in the lives of those whom God has powerfully used. Public failures in the lives of significant spiritual leaders are devastating to many.

What does it take? Who do we need to be for God to trust us with supernatural, extraordinary growth and kingdom fruit? Many things could be included. This list is not complete or exhaustive, yet these are some of the top things life and experience have taught me.

I see these twelve characteristics in the lives of the New Testament apostles and modern-day movement leaders God is powerfully using. These are things I aspire to continue to grow in as I pursue the launching or development of a Disciple Making Movement. In this first part, I will touch on the first six. After each one are discussion questions you can talk about with your spouse or team. Or, perhaps you’d like to journal about them.

1. They have an ever-growing relationship with God and an extraordinary prayer life.

In the first chapters of Acts, the church in Jerusalem is beginning to multiply rapidly. The Holy Spirit was moving. Compassion needs were growing. In this rapid growth environment, the apostles needed to stay focused on two things; the ministry of the Word and prayer.(Acts 6:3-4) They could not afford to allow the busy-ness and pressures of growing ministry to take them away from devoting themselves to these two top priorities.
Extraordinary prayer has been well documented as a characteristic of every move of God in history. Leaders who desire to see God work in their regions prioritize prayer. They spend much time with Jesus, alone, as well as in corporate prayer. Those close to them find them often on their knees, regularly pulling away from the crowds to be alone with their Master.

We can not afford to allow our relationship with God to grow stagnant as we give ourselves to the needs of the movement. Instead, we must maintain strong boundaries that protect our times alone with God where we receive His wisdom, guidance, and strength and where we simply enjoy our love relationship with Him.

Questions for Assessment and Discussion:

  • In what ways has your love relationship with Jesus grown sweeter this year?
  • Do you enjoy taking time away to be with the Lord and how often do you do this?
  • How have you grown as an intercessor this past year?

2. They are bold and faithful in witness.

Numerous issues prevent us from living a life of faithful witness. Weariness,  busy-ness, lack of confidence and fear    of man top my list. Perhaps the greatest contributor to our failure in regular witness is a lack of a sense of urgency. Movement leaders deeply feel a sense of urgency to bring people to Christ. Their hearts are broken with the compelling needs of the lost around them. They are theologically convinced that apart from hearing about Christ the unreached are eternally lost. This moves them to step outside their weariness, busy-ness, or fears to lovingly share the message of redemption with those they meet.

These leaders notice the people around them. The first thing they assess is whether or not someone nearby needs the message of the gospel. They are constantly looking for new opportunities to share Christ on a personal level as well as through training others to share the good news.

Questions for Assessment and Discussion:

  • When was the last time you shared your testimony?
  • How frequently do you tell stories from the Bible with people around you?
  • What prevents you from sharing boldly and faithfully?

3. They are willing to face persecution from enemies.

In the Beatitudes, Jesus promised persecution. He said, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me…” (Matt. 5:11 NIV) Movement leaders and catalysts understand that their life is not their own and that persecution is normal. They have understood and accepted Jesus’ command to take up their cross and follow Him.
Though we do not seek persecution, we must expect it. These leaders present the gospel in a way people can clearly understand. Using cultural bridges, they make the message of Jesus easy to understand. At the same time, they are willing to call for both repentance and shifting of allegiance. As many repent and believe, attacks from those who oppose the faith grow. This is to be expected. It is what we see as we study the growth of the New Testament Church and the lives of the apostles. In the book of Acts, there is a clear correlation between demonstrations of the kingdom (signs and wonders) and an increase in opposition. God worked, people were saved, the enemy reacted.

How can we expect less?

Leaders who seek to be free of hardship and difficulties should not pursue the launching of Kingdom Movements. As you begin to see growth, both the enemy and other “forces” will react. Persecution, whether overt or behind the scenes, is sure to come.

Questions for Assessment and Discussion:

  • In what ways have you encountered resistance from people or communities because of your message?
  • How do you respond to persecution?
  • What have you done to prepare yourself and those you are training for persecution?

4. They are willing to be misunderstood by friends.

Jesus was not a people pleaser. He loved those around Him and was deeply concerned for their well being. That did not stop Him from being willing to go against the status quo of what was expected and acceptable to others—even those in positions of religious power. Six times in the gospels He used the phrase “he who has ears to hear.”

Our Lord knew that some would listen and be utterly transformed by His words. Others would reject them. This did not disturb Jesus. Yet so often it deeply troubles our hearts when people reject our words, message or approach.
Movement leaders and catalysts are willing to pay the price of being misunderstood by other Christian leaders, colleagues, friends and even leaders they respect. To launch a movement, you must be willing to say no to many things. It involves a high level of focus on obedience to Christ’s commands. This doesn’t make you popular.

As we challenge and train people to become disciple-makers, some will feel threatened. Others will attack your theology. Guilt, fear, and jealousy can rear their ugly heads. When you start to empower ordinary believers to baptize, serve the Lord’s supper and start groups of disciples that morph into churches that start churches, many will ask you where you got the authority to do such things. They asked the same of Jesus and the early apostles.
Don’t let their questions or negative responses discourage you. Choose to respond in the opposite spirit. Speak well of them and their work. Refuse to take offense. Be willing to be misunderstood by many Christians to reach those no one else will reach.

Questions for Assessment and Discussion:

  • How important are your image and reputation?
  • In what ways have you chosen to surrender this to the Lordship of Christ?
  • If fear of man is a struggle in your life, what will you do to fight against this tendency?
  • Have you experienced rejection or misunderstanding with others because you applied DMM principles? If so, how did you handle this?

5. They are able to innovate, evaluate and change

Those who pioneer new movements in unreached places are willing to step out of the norm and experiment with new ways of doing things. While also highly valuing proven fruitful practices, they are willing to try new approaches especially when not seeing the results they had hoped for. Creative ideas excite them and they are willing to take risks on both people and methods as long as they are in line with Scripture and basic DMM principles like reproducibility.

When things work well, they accelerate those processes. They are not afraid of failure but learn from mistakes and fail forward. Prayerful times away for evaluation with their team and closest disciples is a regular part of their planning.

They do not get too attached to any particular strategy or method and are more loyal to seeing fruit and kingdom results than to a particular way of doing things. This does not mean they are short-sighted and seek immediate results at the cost of long-term impact, however.

Instead of getting stuck in a rut, these leaders are continually seeking to improve the fruitfulness of their efforts and constantly look for new ways to see even greater multiplication.

Questions for Assessment and Discussion:

  • Describe a time you have been afraid of failure. How did it impact you?
  • How often do you take time away to evaluate your disciple-making efforts in light of the fruit you are seeing? What could you do to encourage innovation and creativity in yourself or your team?

6.They are willing to stop doing unfruitful activities and focus on a few high impact things.

Resisting the temptation to do everything, the kinds of leaders who see much fruit are willing to focus on a few key things they feel deeply called to do. This means they become skilled at saying no to other activities that are  not in line with their God-given vision. They resist the temptation to pursue every dream or idea they or others have. Though visionary, they are careful to guard their time and priorities.
They choose the most impactful, essential disciple-making activities over many other good activities they could be involved in.

Questions for Assessment and Discussion:

  • Are there any methods or strategies you feel particularly loyal to? If they failed to produce fruit, would you be willing to change? Why or why not?
  • Which of your activities is producing the most fruit and multiplication? Which is draining but doesn’t yield much fruit?
  • What boundaries have you set in place to guard your time? Are you able to give adequate time for top priorities like prayer, leadership mentoring, disciple-making and meeting lost people?

In the next issue, we will look at further characteristics. Which of the six mentioned above do you find most challenging? Take steps to address these areas by first taking them to God in prayer. Then take action steps of how you will work on these areas in the coming month. Share those with your team or coach.

This is an article from the January-February 2021 issue: Home Grown Movements

Movements Can Happen Here Too, If We Are Willing to Work for Them

Movements Can Happen Here Too, If We Are Willing to Work for Them

Movements are miracles and they are happening every day all over the world. But can they happen in America? That is what this issue of MF is all about—the stories of people who believe that movements can happen here and are working tirelessly to make them a reality. In this issue, we talk to some of these people to see what they are doing and what we can learn from their experiences as they seek to foster movements in the United States—a context very different from the various peoples around the world where the majority of Kingdom Movements are currently taking place.

Many believe that the spiritual soil of America is too hard, rocky and resistant to the gospel for any movement to take place here. See the March-April 2019 issue of MF featuring the question, “Why are there so few movements in the West?” As that issue of MF reveals, it is true that, in general, the spiritual soil of America is not as receptive to the gospel as it is in other places around the world. It seems that the prosperity that many enjoy in this country has hardened hearts and made it more difficult for movements to take place, but not impossible.

Progress is being made in those segments of society that are more open. Justin Long of Beyond has counted 31 movements taking place in North America. It is happening here through the faithful diligence of many of God’s people who have caught the vision for movements in America. But we need to face the reality that starting a movement anywhere, in cooperation with the Holy Spirit, is very hard work and failure is more common than success. The question for the rest of us is “Are we willing to put in the hard work necessary for us to see more of these movements take place in the U.S.?”

We Have No Choice But to Pursue Movements

The fact is that we really do not have a choice whether we pursue movements in the U.S. or not. It does not matter whether the spiritual soil of America is bad or not. This is where most of us live and we are called by Jesus to make disciples where we live.

The model of ministry pursued by most churches in the U.S. where we go to a big building once a week, sing a few songs, listen to a sermon, go home, forget what was said in the sermon and then repeat this process week after week, is killing the Church in America and everywhere else it is exported. At best the Bible-believing Church in America is barely holding its own and is likely in a slow decline with an increasing number of people moving into the “no faith” category. We are losing the culture to increased secularism, biblical illiteracy and moral decline. We are also often losing our own kids to unbelief. The status quo is unacceptable.

The doing-church-as-usual crowd may be comfortable with a Christian faith that requires little of them and provides the worship experience they are looking for, but this model of doing church is leaving the great majority of lost souls untouched and the surrounding culture unchanged.

Employing an attractional approach to ministry in the hope that the unsaved will come in the door of your church, hear the gospel and be saved is at best a passive approach to ministry that leaves most of the unchurched, untouched. According to Barna research, two-thirds of the unchurched have been to church and do not wish to return. Creating all sorts of new programs in the hope of attracting them will not work. We need a new strategy.

Instead of asking the unchurched to come, why not equip your church members to go and make disciples of their friends, family, co-workers and acquaintances? People who will not darken the door of your church will very likely respond positively to an invitation to dinner at a friend’s home where the gospel may be sensitively shared. They may even respond well to an invitation to see what the Bible says about God.

As you read through this issue of MF, learn from what these movement practitioners are doing and think about applying these movement methods in your own local context.
Do You Have What It Takes to Be a Movement Catalyst?

Whether a movement happens through any of us is really dependent upon us. In the article starting on page 37, C. Anderson points us to those spiritual qualities that are characteristic of, or even required for a movement catalyst to be successful at fostering a Kingdom Movement. All of us are at various stages of our spiritual maturity and    all of us need to be circumspect enough to recognize where we fall short in our relationship to God and others.

I encourage you to take a look at this first part in a series on the spiritual qualities of those that are successful in starting movements. Then ask God to help you to grow in those areas where you fall short. Each of us should want to strive to be the kind of disciple worth reproducing and capable of making disciples.

Support the Work of Mission Frontiers

As is the case with most publications, Mission Frontiers cannot cover its costs from subscriptions alone. We need additional funds from those who believe in this ministry and are willing to sacrifice to help us move forward in casting vision for Kingdom Movements in all peoples. Like most of the people who work for Frontier Ventures my salary is supplied by the donations of churches and friends who believe in what I am doing. And also like many staff members at Frontier Ventures, there are many months when not enough comes in to fully cover our allotted salary. To donate to my ministry with MF go to and click on the Donate button. Put MA 323 in the dialog box. If you would like to help MF cover its general expenses and expand its influence, go to the same web address, given above, click on the Donate button and put MA 030 in the dialog box. We greatly appreciate whatever you can do to help Mission Frontiers and Frontier Ventures continue its work to see Kingdom Movements emerge in all peoples.

This is an article from the January-February 2021 issue: Home Grown Movements

Addressing a Blind Spot in Missions

Addressing a Blind Spot in Missions

Ah, dear brothers and sisters there is a blind spot in Christian missions today. The mere mentioning of the blind spot at this point could lose ninety-five percent of those of you reading this first sentence. That would be both unfortunate and unproductive to the purposes of God. Consider the many tools used for prayer and mobilization toward reaching unreached peoples. Most lists include statistics on religions, languages, populations and access to available Bible translations. No blind spot so far.

Most readers of Mission Frontiers are familiar with the term mother tongue which means the primary language a person grows up speaking. This differs from the local trade language which is used in the market to do business with people who have a different mother tongue. But it is through their common trade language which both of them know that they can talk and do business. For the last 100 years in their quest to produce the Scriptures in every language in the world, Bible translators have now translated the Bible into every trade language in the world. What does this mean? This means that the Scriptures are now available to every person in the world in a language they can understand. And so the issue is no longer a matter of having access to the gospel and the word of God. Because most of the unreached people in the world are illiterate, whether they have access to a Bible in a language they understand or not, the main issue is now literacy.

Morris Watkins was the founder of the Lutheran Bible Translators and during his career Morris came to see the blind spot. How’s that for an oxymoron? Morris had come to understand that even when the Bible was made available in a people’s  language, the majority of the people in most unreached groups were unable to read it.     The blind spot is simply that there is massive illiteracy throughout the unreached peoples of the world.

In missions we’ve glossed over the illiterate by calling these people the more positive sounding term oral learners. Having done this for 14 years, I am now convinced this is not the way to go. I no longer want to leave an oral learner as an oral learner. That person needs to learn to read. If storytelling missionaries like me had spent a fraction of their time the last 14 years starting literacy classes to teach oral learners how to read, the people in Africa and Asia and South America and elsewhere who had been illiterate would now be literate and so much farther down the road toward being disciples and enjoying the abundant life Jesus wants us all to have. (John 10:10)

Our national co-workers in the country where we’ve been working are using our book of Bible stories and say they are seeing great fruit, but that fruit is occurring among people who can read. These evangelists and church- planters are telling us the people who can’t read do not feel confident to share the stories with others and depend on someone else to come and re-tell them the stories. We’ve learned and we believe that storytelling is an excellent methodology for making disciples IF the person can go home and read and re-read the stories over and over again just like we do. Acts 17:11 says, “The people in Berea examined the Scriptures daily to see if what Paul said was true.” Literacy is an essential component for making disciples. Jesus said, “If you continue in my word you are truly my disciples.” (Jn 8:31) But it is pretty hard to continue in His Word and examine the Scriptures, the written Word of God, if you don’t know how to read. But what if the people prefer oral learning? I will now answer that by asking a question. What does God prefer?

There are many issues in the world of missions today. One that is not often mentioned is the low self-esteem of perhaps 400 million men who are the heads of their households yet do not know how to read. John the Baptist cried out, “Every valley shall be lifted up.” What do you think he meant? I believe this verse could be interpreted that through John, God is talking about people with low self-esteem who need to be lifted up, just as every mountain of pride needs to be brought low. (Luke 3:5) So let’s say an illiterate man is in the market where he  hears of a literacy class that’s  beginning in which he can learn to read his trade language in just four months.   Two hours a day in the evening after work, six days a week for four months and the life of this man can be completely changed. And what can this man do after that? He can come home and gather his family around     him and begin to read to them, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Some people will argue it is best for people to hear the word of God in their mother tongue. Yes  that’s  true. But if someone has learned to read  in their trade language, they can then translate the word orally into their mother tongue.     So using their mother tongue, this man begins to lead his family in a discussion of the passage he just read to them in their trade language. This father’s esteem in the eyes of his wife and children and their community just went through the roof. This man has learned to read and has a new life.

Near Neighbor Evangelism

The previous anecdote is but a seed. It  is what George Patterson called near neighbor evangelism as the teachers of these literacy classes would be local believers. For many years, Dr. Patterson’s teaching of The Spontaneous Multiplication of Churches was a favorite of the various lessons in the Perspectives course and probably still is. In the summer of 1987 at the U.S. Center for World Mission, just as the Perspectives class was about to take a break, Dr. Patterson said, “Oh and by the way we are not the ones who are going to complete the Great Commission. I was planning to go to Mongolia at that time and was out of my seat in a shot exclaiming, “What do you mean we’re not the ones who are going to finish the Great Commission?” Little did I know I had fallen right into Dr. Patterson’s trap and he calmly said, “You ask that question when we come back from the break” and he dismissed the class. After the break, even as the students were still taking their seats, Dr. Patterson was at the front of the class. He looked at me and said, “Now you ask that question again.” So in a much calmer voice I repeated what Dr. Patterson had said and my question. No one in the class had ever heard of near neighbor evangelism. But as George Patterson unpacked this true and beautiful thesis being one of the keys to the spontaneous multiplication of churches, no one could object. Near neighbor evangelism is simply equipping and releasing believers who are culturally closer to your focused unreached people than you are. These discipled believers will then be the ones to bring the gospel to their unreached neighbors across the river, over the mountain or on the other side of town, etc. These believers are culturally near to the unreached tribe and speak the same trade language they do.

According to Literacy Evangelism International (LEI) it takes an adult four months to learn to read their language. Four months of focused and determined attention and a previously illiterate adult can learn to read and write.      It was the missionary Frank Laubach back in the 1950s who developed the methodology of literacy training, associating pictures with sounds and words, a modification of which is now in use by LEI and others, and has been used to teach adults how to read in over 40 countries. Millions and millions of people have learned to read as a result. Still literacy statistics reveal 800 million of the world’s 1.4 billion Muslims remain illiterate. And all together, over a billion people in the world are still functionally illiterate and the overwhelming majority of these people are unreached.

Only 19% of the people in Niger know how to read. Chad is second lowest at 25%, then South Sudan 29%, Guinea at 30%, Mali 35%, Burkina Faso 36%, Central African Republic 36%, Benin 38%, Ivory Coast 43%, Liberia 47%, Sierra Leone 48%, Ethiopia 49%, Mauritania 52%, Gambia 55%, Senegal 57%, Mozambique 58%, Nigeria 59%, and Guinea Bissau at 59%. These figures come from individual governments reporting to UNESCO and their figures are probably inflated so not to look too low. UNESCO also has Afghanistan at just 38% and Pakistan is at 57%.

Very little is being written in mission literature today regarding this issue of illiteracy. Most certainly this blind spot is holding back the growth and spread of the gospel. Learning to read through relational literacy classes can build relationships with neighbors and enable people’s lives to become more fulfilled. Furthermore, the skill of reading will significantly accelerate evangelism, discipleship, church-planting and the completion of the Great Commission.

What is it that needs to be done? It’s pretty simple really.Though we didn’t know it, we have been trying to jump from kindergarten directly to the second grade. We have been trying to disciple people with written material they couldn’t read. So now we add one more step, the all-important first grade, four months of literacy training, into our discipleship programs. The teachers of the classes will be local literate believers who can become near neighbor evangelists. Church-planting mission organizations around the world need to envision how literate disciples who have been through a simple three-day training can be used of God to teach literacy. These believers can be empowered and equipped to be used to spread the blessing of God to their neighbors down the road who speak a different mother tongue, by teaching them to read and write their common trade language.

Lifetime relationships can begin in literacy classes, as near neighbor believers suddenly find themselves involved with people in one of life’s most crucial and important transformations and as their students learn the life-giving skill of reading. It would be hard to imagine this relational four month process taking place without a loving  bond having been created through which the gospel can be shared. Literacy training is the vital instrument. And who do these adult students have to thank for this amazing blessing that has opened and changed their life but that Christian teacher who also talked to them about Jesus, their newfound Lord and Savior… and His book. May God turn the evil of illiteracy to good as movements to Christ take place through the humble service of ordinary near neighbor evangelists who have been equipped and challenged to become literacy teachers.

“And Jesus went to Nazareth where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath He went into the synagogue.
And He stood up to read.” (Luke 4:16)

This is an article from the January-February 2021 issue: Home Grown Movements

Tribute to Lee Purgason 1956-2020

Tribute to Lee Purgason 1956-2020

A short while ago, after a months' long battle with cancer, good friend and fellow staff member, Lee Purgason left his earthly body. He joined the staff of the USCWM (now Frontier Ventures) in 1980. We recently honored him on his 40th anniversary.

Recruited in the exhibit hall at Urbana 1979, Lee caught the vision for the unreached, sold all he owned, drove across the country and arrived at the USCWM. In a few years he met and married Kitty, who had come from teaching English in China to join the faculty of WCIU. Early in their marriage she finished a PhD at UCLA and was teaching at WCIU and later at Biola.

Lee was trained in accounting and we desperately needed those skills, so Lee started off serving in the finance office of WCIU. He continued to use that amazing asset throughout his years on staff, in whatever department he worked. Later, he also earned a graduate degree in Organizational Leadership, which was especially helpful when he was Director of Operations.

But Lee wasn’t just a numbers guy. He really enjoyed people. He headed our HR department for a while, where he supervised my future daughter-in-law. He loved meeting new people and connecting with old friends. He wanted to know what you were interested in.

All of those relational and business skills were an excellent combination when Lee led the Perspectives Study Program. He was the longest serving Perspectives director – 1986-2000. Lee helped get the U.S. program on solid footing nationally and also laid the groundwork for Perspectives Global – now in more than 25 countries. Under his leadership, classes grew an average of 15% per year and the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement Reader was revised twice.

As the years went by and many staff came and went from Pasadena, Lee remained. Unofficially he became what he jokingly called our “institutional memory.” He was the “go to” guy for many people and many issues – be they small or large. And his giftings were especially helpful in his service on the boards of both Frontier Ventures and William Carey International University. Most recently, his financial acumen helped us manage our endowment.

Yet  while he was in top leadership from the early days, he didn’t  mind serving in behind-the-scenes ways, such   as running the sound board for meetings. Almost all of what he did served others both in Frontier Ventures and around the world.

Work at the USCWM wasn’t just showing up to an office. Up to a few years ago, most staff lived in ministry-owned homes near the campus in Pasadena. That meant a lot of shared life together. That is the beauty of the Body of Christ in community —living and serving together.

This was particularly true for the Purgasons and my family, since our kids were similar ages and we watched each other’s kids. My son remembers Lee like an uncle. As an adult, Lee still encouraged him whenever they saw each other. Many staff children experienced the same thing. Another informal way he encouraged kids and adults was during volleyball games played on campus after our weekly Thursday evening staff dinner. Though he was an expert player and coach, he patiently encouraged the novices, using it as an opportunity to teach skills and teamwork.

And Lee loved swimming as his regular exercise. Since both Lee and I swam on our high school swim teams, we connected on that subject. Regularly, even in the last year, he shared with me times from meets for the “Masters Swimmer” (which is basically older swimmers who are still swimming competitively). Lee would often share with me the “times” 50+ men and women swimmers were able to pull off. And he stayed in shape his entire life, even getting back into the pool after his initial cancer treatments.

Accountability to commitment was part of Lee’s character. In those early days, he was a natural fit for a growing committed community that sought to: 1) Be willing to accept our aspirations (such as daily time in the Bible, prayer, our Monday-Friday morning meeting at 7:45 a.m., daily prayer for the unreached…), 2) Be willing to be helped in that commitment, and, 3) Be willing to help others.

Lee modeled all of it. Even the often difficult third point. More than once he asked me to keep him accountable for something in his life. Unlike many other believers, Lee realized he needed that help. I heard the phrase “Ask me how I’m doing in…” many times.

In the 1980s, our founder Ralph D. Winter was concerned that the very busy staff get  appropriate  exercise, especially  aerobic.  He  picked  Lee to be the one to whom everyone would report their weekly aerobic points! As would become typical, Lee carefully thought both about the practicalities and the impact on staff and while he embraced most of the plan, “pushed back” on some aspect of the idea (he did that a lot with Dr. Winter, and actually, Winter very much appreciated it!).

One staff member was pregnant at the time of this new exercise push and complained about this requirement to her husband, but when her doctor said it was a great idea, she and her husband started walking. They still walk together some 40 years later. I got back into swimming and later I began mountain bike riding. I can’t calculate how much Lee’s help in keeping me (and others) accountable in this area has meant to my life, psyche and health.

The main building of Frontier Ventures is Hudson Taylor Hall. No one has spent more time in HTH than Lee Purgason. That’s part of the reason I used the word “faithfulness” for him. Lee was always there. Not just in the building, but if, when and wherever he had committed to be. He never showed up for a meeting late, and he might gently suggest that you be on time too! I will miss Lee day-to-day. I will miss his distinctive stride as he walked around the courtyard of Hudson Taylor Hall.

He seemed to be doing well and responding to his treatments, so we were shocked by news of his death. Organizationally, we are groping to fill in the gaps he leaves. Lee’s office had piles of paper, but it was more like a historic “dump” of his work – yet he could find exactly what he needed in those piles!

I will miss him—his cogent summaries in meetings, his sense of humor, his singing—and this will be probably be my first MF page in 25 years that he has not proofread!

He came to Pasadena from North Carolina 40 years ago for a reason – to see that every people group can hear about Jesus in a way they can understand. That is still in our organizational DNA. So, we fight on.

While he isn’t yet in the new heavens and earth described in Revelation 21-22, I can see him strutting along streets of gold both calculating how much it is worth and stopping to talk with everyone in his path.

Rev. 21:4—He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.

Rev 22:4-5—They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

Because of Lee’s service to WCIU, including a board member since 1990, the University has established a student scholarship in his and Kitty’s honor (Kitty taught there and was also on the board briefly). See  Or you can give a scholarship for students to attend the next Urbana (

Lee was always involved in his home church missions team, and they have set up a link for giving at: where there is a drop down menu “in memory of Lee.”

Well done, good and faithful servant!

This is an article from the January-February 2021 issue: Home Grown Movements

Why Rapid Growth Declines as Movements Grow in Size

Why Rapid Growth Declines as Movements Grow in Size

When they are small, movements tend to experience very rapid growth— they might double in size multiple times in a given year. Over time, as movements get larger, this growth tends to plateau. Why? Is it because, as time passes, evangelists get less enthusiastic? The case studies of movements I have collected don’t suggest this is the case. There’s a simpler and, I think, inevitable cause that actually hallmarks a success, not a failure.

1. Movements begin due to abundant gospel-spreading activity.

Especially among the unreached, this activity is usually conducted by people with missionary or evangelistic giftings. Much of this activity could be termed “abundant sowing” (to use a biblical term) or “super-spreading” (to use an epidemiological term that many have become familiar with). One example of this kind of event was the Day of Pentecost when Peter preached and saw 3,000 come to faith on that day. Other examples include Paul’s activities in various cities and places, where he evangelized large portions of the population in a relatively short period of time.

“Abundant sowing” is marked by large numbers of people being added through “conversion” growth. This growth can be explosively fast and can lead to rapid doublings and expansions of size. It can be exhilarating, especially if it happens in places where there has been no fruit for some time.

2. Movements continue to expand

through the combination of two different kinds of growth: “abundant sowing” and “personal witness.”

The first gospel-spreaders often (1) abundantly share the gospel, (2) make disciples, and (3) from this early harvest raise up additional new “super-spreaders”—people who are gifted apostles and evangelists—who almost immediately begin sharing widely and making disciples themselves. This cyclical process can lead to sustained multiplication that can bring a movement very rapidly to four generations and 1,000 believers or more (this process is outlined in the Heart and Four Fields at

As the movement grows, however,  some portion of the growth will begin to come from “demographic” growth.  Here I am referring to the everyday witness of the typical believer,  especially to their discipling of family members.   If you think about it, most believers don’t come to faith as a result of a missionary or passionate evangelist–they come to faith because of their parents, friends or co-workers.

While all believers are commanded to be ready to share their faith, not all are gifted evangelists (just as not all are gifted pastors, or teachers, or prophets or apostles). Further, passionate evangelists—“super-spreaders”—seem to be even rarer. DMM trainer David Watson once told me, “The person who shares the gospel with 1,000 other people is pretty rare. Most people don’t do anything at all. The few who do typically just disciple their families.” Other DMM practitioners agree: of those trained in DMM principles, somewhere between 2 and 10% (more typically on the 2% side) actually do anything with the training.

So while it’s true that passionate evangelists find and activate other passionate evangelists, it seems there are only  so many to find. Eventually, there are just far more parents and friends than there are super-spreading evangelists. Therefore:

  • In the early days, most growth in movements comes from a handful of evangelists who win thousands each and also find other evangelists who do the same.
  • In later days, most growth in movements comes from thousands of households who win 10 or more each and find other households who do the same.

Still, this is not the cause of the plateau. In fact, discipling activities from “typical” believers can lead to significant fruit and rapidly growing expansion.

3. The real decline in growth happens when a movement saturates a place or people group.

Any growth faster than a population’s overall growth will eventually run up against a hard barrier—the total size of the population they are working among. As more people in a place decide to follow Jesus, others—the remainder— will have made their decision not to follow. Places may not be majority-Christian, but they can still be majority- decided. Once this point is reached, the rate of growth will drop rapidly: the “ripe fruit” has already been harvested, and at best you are waiting for more fruit to ripen.

4. Reaching the plateau of saturation is not a failure—it is the inevitable result of successful, rapid multiplication.

Ephesus was an example of saturation: “This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.” (Acts 19:10) The Scripture doesn’t say they all believed, but it does say they had all heard.

This plateau brings with it a new challenge. Once the area has been saturated with the gospel and future growth depends mostly on personal discipleship, we must ask: Are we done? Is this the end of the movement? If not, what’s next?

To reach this point, disciples have gotten good at making disciples, churches have gotten good at making churches, and leaders have gotten good at making leaders. To transition past this point, movements must now get good at making movements. They have learned how to “pass on what they know.” (2 Tim. 2:2) They must now appoint people to be sent out for the sake of the gospel. (Acts 13:2) New growth must be sought by intentionally crossing borders. This will require movements to build the capacity to send its apostolic types to new, unsaturated places.
This is the same challenge everyone faces: will we choose to contribute to the completion of the Great Commission, or will we be content in our own little niche of the world? Everyone begins by focusing on their own “Judea and Samaria,” but eventually, if we are to obey Jesus completely, we must go to the uttermost parts of the earth. This is not just the domain of Western mission agencies—it is the natural next step to which movements, too, must aspire.

This is an article from the January-February 2021 issue: Home Grown Movements

Bringing the Gospel to an Entire Country in Two Weeks

Bringing the Gospel to an Entire Country in Two Weeks

In 1890 Korea was still an unreached peninsula, with only about 100 Christians. A small group of missionaries had heard about John Nevius’ radical ideas, and invited him to come and teach them about his untraditional church- planting and evangelism methods. The two-week trip changed history, and Nevius’ methods became the guiding principles for Korean missions for the next 50 years. In fact, many church historians believe Nevius’ two-week trip to Korea could have been the two most influential weeks in the history of modern missions.

Nevius parted with his peers by insisting that local workers be self-supported, self-led and self-propagating from the very beginning. Although many later applauded Nevius in hindsight, Nevius was marked as a dangerous radical in his day. He had spent almost 30 years of missionary work trying to get others to apply his methods, and he was frustrated.

After those decades of frustration in China, seeing other missionaries use ineffective methods to reach China with the gospel, Nevius wrote several articles about his methods. They were published in 1890 in the missionary journal Chinese Recorder (Shanghai, China). In 1899, they were republished under the title Planting and Development of Missionary Churches.

One of his radical ideas was that “churches should be encouraged to grow by throwing out shoots in the same manner as the strawberry plant.  Whenever  a  believer  was  converted,  he  should  become  an  active  agent for reaching someone else.” Additionally, he did not want to develop leaders who would focus on  preaching. It took too long, he felt, to produce preachers who could  speak  correctly  and  clearly  for  long periods  of  time  and  Korean  culture  at  that  time  did  not  include  listening  to  long  speeches.  Therefore,   it  was  nearly  impossible  for  a  preacher  to  hold  listeners’  attention  for  any  significant  length  of  time.    So Nevius focused instead on reproducing teachers—but these teachers were different from the traditional view of a teacher.

Many consider Nevius’  method for systematic Bible study to be his most important principle, especially the     way he mobilized lay leaders to multiply these Bible studies everywhere. He would bring believers to a location  for a few weeks, teach them a series of Bible stories and basic lessons, then send them back home to teach the stories and lessons to others. The stories and lessons focused on applying biblical principles  to  their  own everyday lives (along with memorizing Bible verses, memorizing of the Apostles’ Creed and a few other items). These individuals (teachers, or more accurately, disciplers) would go back to the sarangbang—the “welcoming room” of their houses—and invite their friends over. They would retell the stories and lessons to others, and get them to memorize the same things. Anyone attending the sarangbang lesson was expected to go and share these Bible stories and lessons with their neighbors as well. Everyone was a learner, and at the same time everyone was expected to be a teacher, immediately passing on to others what they had learned.

Nevius didn’t focus on planting churches in the traditional sense. He focused on multiplying his discipleship training, in which he brought people together and taught them the stories which they were to go and multiply with others.

Nevius found his ideas difficult to implement in China. He attributed this difficulty to the fact that traditional methods (the “Old System” as he called it) were commonplace among the many missionaries and churches already planted all over China. Once churches had begun in traditional ways, they found it difficult to change, especially when there was foreign assistance involved.

However, when Nevius went to Korea, he didn’t face that problem, as the work in Korea was still in its infancy. There weren’t any traditional structures to compete against his methods. The “Nevius Method” was simply seen as the way to do ministry. He only spent two weeks there, training others. Unfortunately, just three short years later, Nevius died; and he never knew the impact his two-week trip had on the peninsula.
Comparing the work in Korea to the work in China, the “Old System” was painstakingly slow. Some 46 years after the first missionaries came, there were only about 350 converts. In 1927, (after about 120 years of missionary presence) missionary Robert Speer lamented that the Presbyterians had only 32 self-supporting Presbyterian churches in all of China. After 100 years of ministry, Christians of all denominations in China numbered about 178,000. This might seem like a significant number, but compare it to what happened in Korea.

Korea, where the Nevius Plan was put into practice almost from the very beginning, saw a dramatic difference.   By about 1930 (after just 46 years of Protestant missionary work, Korea had over 200,000 Christian converts     (as compared to 350 in China after 46 years). By that time, the number of Korean Christians already exceeded the number of Christians in all of China, even though the mission effort in China had begun much, much earlier. While the first 100 years of missionary work in China had produced 178,000 Christians, the first 100 years of missionary work in Korea (1984) yielded 6,000,000 Christians!
Of course we know that the church in China later exploded. Yet this happened largely after 1945, when foreign missionaries had left China. This forced Chinese churches to adopt many of Nevius’ ideals, because they had no other option.

Missionaries and church leaders in Korea largely agree that Nevius’ principles provided the key to the evangelism of Korea. This explosive growth of the gospel led Pyongyang to be called the Jerusalem of the East.
Remember: Nevius only ever spent two weeks in Korea!

For discussion: What movement principles do you see in this story?

This is an article from the January-February 2021 issue: Home Grown Movements

North American Kingdom Movement Strategies Apart From a Local Church

North American Kingdom Movement Strategies Apart From a Local Church

In the other articles featured in this edition of Mission Frontiers, most of the examples have come from efforts in partnership with existing local churches. These almost all involve people who still attend some expression of the local church in traditional North American church buildings. But there’s another way to utilize Kingdom Movement (CPM/DMM) strategies. One can conceivably start totally from scratch. In this type of approach, it then becomes optional as to whether or not participants are encouraged to participate in worship services in a traditional church building while they are also “doing church” in an expression of church that meets in small groups in homes. This case study is about an emerging “Disciple Making Movement” (DMM) in Northern Michigan, led by Nathan Venton and Nick Tumi. Here’s a timeline-summary of their efforts.


Nathan goes to Bible school and seminary in Michigan, and then he and his wife move to China as missionaries. During their time there, they conclude that the traditional way of doing ministry with church buildings, preaching sermons and theological training is not always effective at multiplying obedient disciples of Jesus.    After reading the book, T4T: A Discipleship Re-revolution (by Ying Kai and Steve Smith, WIGTake Resources, 2011), Nathan feels God telling him to start implementing CPM/DMM strategies. He and his family move to Florida to start working with Biglife to make disciples who multiply (
Nick is the pastor of a large, successful church in Traverse City, Michigan. Over the years as he reads the New Testament, he knows something isn’t right with the way he is “doing church,” but doesn’t know what it is. When he is introduced to Biglife and CPM/DMM, he realizes he needs to live in that style of discipleship, as he feels like he can no longer disciple people by preaching a single 30-minute sermon once a week without personal interaction or accountability. He humbly makes plans to transition away from the church that he started by giving away the church to another church with a similar style that wanted to expand into the area.


Nathan and Nick, recently connected to each other, are trained by Curtis Sergeant at his Metacamp training on how to make disciples who multiply ( Nathan starts to implement it in Florida, but also trains some family members in Traverse City during his time there that summer in what he had just learned about making disciples. He also starts to disciple people overseas.
Nick continues to pastor his church, but is in the final stages of giving away the ministry to another church. He starts a discipleship group, but it is attached to the church and is more like a Bible study because everyone is still involved in the church building and activities.


Nathan starts a few discipleship groups in Florida, but they all fail to continue on after the first two years as the people were not obedient to share the gospel or follow up with those who came to faith.
Nick starts the transition process to give away the church he started to another church. He starts to train some people in northern Michigan and Nathan’s family members also start to disciple people they know. A few groups are started, and they also connect every month or so for leadership training and fellowship.


Nathan is traveling up to 12 weeks a year overseas to disciple people so he and his wife move to Traverse City, Michigan, to be near family.
Nathan partners with Nick to help make disciples in northern Michigan. When Nathan moved, most of the discipleship was being done by “trainings” and people were not being discipled in their homes by an actual disciple-maker going there to show them how to do things and then help them as they do it. So Nathan makes a commitment to doing an actual “model and assist” with everyone, if possible, in their own home, instead of doing two or three-day intensive trainings. Nathan and Nick also go back and do the “model and assist” for each person who went through the training. All of the people trained in the previous years also go to a church building, and they find that they are not really doing what they need to do. During the year, they “filter” for those who will be obedient no matter the cost. Most people just go back to the church building and stop, but a few people are left.


Nathan and Nick continue to disciple people and up to a dozen groups form. However, some of them stop because of discouragement of not winning people to Christ and they go back to the church building instead of sticking it out and meeting as the church in their home. Nick’s church transition also doesn’t go well, and the transition causes a lot of discouragement and spiritual attacks. Nick is faithful to continue on in spite of the problems.


Nathan and Nick continue the “slow grind” of making disciples in a post-Christian western context. By this time, one of Nick’s disciples starts discipling a man in a prison in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and the prisoners are quick to implement the discipleship training. By the end of the year, they have multiple generations of disciples, many of whom are new believers. It is a common occurrence to see someone sharing the gospel out in the prison yard.
Nathan also feels the need to help people see the larger vision beyond just making disciples and meeting in homes as the church, so the emerging team makes a commitment to meet quarterly, in person, for leadership training. They also commit to having the network of disciples across northern Michigan meet monthly for online prayer, so people can pray with other disciples in the network as a “regional church.” By this time, people are making disciples in at least four different towns around northern Michigan, but only one to two groups are in each town, not including the prison work.


During the Covid-19 pandemic, God lays it on the hearts of Nathan, Nick, and a few others in northern Michigan to pray together daily for the region. For two months, they gather together online each night to pray. During this time, there are a few salvations, even though they are in lockdown. One is Mariah, who is baptized in a horse trough in her living room by her parents while people watch on zoom. When traditional churches were thrown a curve ball, the group was able to continue using simple methods to live as disciples. Mariah then starts to use the internet to share about Jesus with her relational network from her time overseas, and disciples are starting to be made in Hawaii and Indonesia, even though she can’t even leave her house!
After the lockdown ends, the emerging movement commits to praying together weekly on Tuesday nights. They also create a Facebook group for communication between people in the network, and a simple website ( So things like occasional regional gatherings, prayer, leaders meetings and an internet presence help give the group some rhythms and routines as a “regional church” so people can see and feel like they are part of the larger, decentralized, organic movement.

There are now about 15 discipleship groups around northern Michigan, with anywhere from six to 15 people per group and another seven groups in at least two prisons, with three to five people per group (although there might be more as Nathan says it’s hard to track groups in prisons since inmates are routinely being transferred). In all, there are now over 100 people participating.
We asked Nathan to sum up some of the lessons learned from the past four or five years.

Effective Strategies

  1. Use simple approaches that anyone can do.
  2. We try not to do two or three-day trainings anymore. Instead, we simply live life-on-life with people in their homes, showing them how to make disciples in the context of daily life. Then we assist them as they learn to carry out these strategies.
  3. Prayer, both personally and together with others, is the foundation upon which a movement is built.
  4. For our purposes, in our own efforts in northern Michigan, we have decided to encourage people not to attend both a church building and a house church (discipleship group). We have found thus far that if people try to do both, their time and priorities will be divided and they will not do either well. Our network is built on people meeting as the church in their homes, however, every region is different. We certainly would never discourage people from being involved in a more traditional church (many of us came to Christ in one!).

Obstacles and Challenges

  1. We have to keep on persevering. It is very difficult to carry out CPM/DMM strategies in a Western context with church buildings everywhere. You will be looked at as weird. Believers will be facing constant temptations to revert to attending traditional church buildings. Don’t give up!
  2. You have to be comfortable with groups failing. They will. You are constantly filtering for the obedient people who will obey no matter what the cost.
  3. Spiritual attacks on health, family and ministry.
  4. Some new believers not wanting to share the gospel and make disciples—mostly because they are too busy.
  5. It is difficult to form new groups around new believers. Westerners have a mindset of wanting to “grow and split” their discipleship groups/home churches. Try to form new groups around new people instead of adding them into existing groups. Take the time to disciple them.

It’s important to remember that a faithful disciple is a faithful disciple, wherever he or she attends. If you serve as the one to usher in a new believer and that new believer eventually joins a church that meets in a traditional church building, it’s obviously still a win for the kingdom.

This is an article from the January-February 2021 issue: Home Grown Movements

Global Prayer Digest January-February 2021

Global Prayer Digest January-February 2021

Click on the attached .pdf icon to read the GPD in this issue.

This is an article from the January-February 2021 issue: Home Grown Movements

Kingdom Movement Strategies in North American Jails & Prisons

Kingdom Movement Strategies in North American Jails & Prisons

It seems somehow telling that the message of Christmas came first to a group of humble shepherds out on a hillside, one night so long ago. Author Randy Alcorn wrote, “In Christ’s day, shepherds stood on the bottom rung of the Palestinian social ladder. They shared the same unenviable status as tax collectors and dung sweepers.”  In today’s parallel universe, many of the rich and famous celebrities that we see in movies and television often seem to make little room in their lives for Jesus and the Good News He brings to our planet. By contrast, for some unknown reason, those considered by some as social outcasts seem more likely to make space for messages of hope. One of those groups is the incarcerated. More than one CPM/DMM trainer has noticed a greater degree of traction among prisoners than among church members.

Billy’s Mission Statement

Chris Galanos mentioned Billy in a recent interview. He came to Christ through one of the groups that Chris’s team launched at the Lubbock County Jail. Billy immediately wanted to know how to make disciples so Chris’s team trained him how. Chris tells the story of the mission statement that Billy created. “Our vision is for pod 6B to have an indigenous Church Planting Movement that is led by a group of believers. We will be starting with the nine churches we’ve already planted in the past few weeks. Our vision is to reach every inmate and start discovery groups in every pod in the entire facility.” Billy and his friends in jail came up with a workable plan to request remote housing changes so they could proactively move believers into pods that, so far, didn’t have any known believers. Billy also wanted to mobilize these inmates to carry on this vision outside of the prison once they were released. Chris received a letter from Billy recently and he is continuing to make disciples with the vision of seeing the entire jail reached for Jesus.

Multiplying Groups From Prison to Prison

The names and places of this next brief summary are not the real names or places to protect the identity of those involved.

A few years ago, Jonathan trained Scott in simple disciple-making principles. Scott then moved to an area that  was near a prison and got involved with a prison ministry. He applied the principles he had learned in making disciples there and trained some of the prisoners how to share their story and God’s story with the people they knew in the prison.

Jack, who was already a Christian, was one of the key prisoners trained. He started leading other prisoners to Christ, and also helped to empower existing believers at the prison who were attending a prison ministry on Sundays. As  prisoners were discipled, they shared their story and God’s story with other prisoners and more people came to faith. It became a common occurrence to see prisoners sharing the “3 Circles” (a simple method to share the gospel) in the dirt in the prison yard. Prisoners also shared the gospel as they played sports in the yard or lifted weights together. As part of their discipleship, they also formed 3/3rds discipleship groups in their cells with their cellmates so they could meet together to grow as the Body of Christ.

After a while, Jack was also transferred to another prison. At the new prison he continued to use the simple tools he had been trained in and started to disciple people there too. As prisoners got out of prison, some of them were able to connect with disciple-making networks around the state, and became part of the larger movement outside of prison. One prisoner named John was released from prison and joined a 3/3rds discipleship group in his hometown. The disciples in that group helped him out as he reintegrated into society, and one lady even donated her car to him so he could get to a job.

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, many people contracted the disease in the two prisons. Ministry programs were cancelled and people were not allowed to go into the prisons to do ministry. However, the prisoners who were already trained could still share their story and God’s story, and meet in their 3/3rds discipleship groups, with their cellmates. That is the beautiful thing about empowering prisoners to make disciples—they can still do it, even when others can’t go in!

Please pray that the movement will keep spreading from prison to prison as the inmates are transferred. Also pray for their reintegration into society, as they adjust to a new life, find a job, determine a place to live, get help overcoming addiction, and find a disciple-making network near to their new home to continue growing as a reproducing disciple of Jesus.

Faithful With the Few

My (Doug’s) co-worker, “Jed,” shares how he first visited inmates in a prison while serving as a church-planter in Caracas, Venezuela around 1991. The next time he visited a prison was in Kentucky in the spring of 2019 along with a few brothers in Christ. The first time in Venezuela, he said he was overwhelmed with the smells, stares and images and did not make any difference that he could imagine. The second time in Kentucky, he made a commitment to go weekly and they trained inmates in simple multiplicative disciple-making concepts and tools (DMM/CPM). The original number of 11 shrunk quickly to 3 or 4 faithful implementers once they realized accountability was involved. Those few, however, regularly shared the gospel and shared their testimonies and did weekly 3/3rds groups with fellow inmates. That group began to grow. They loved the simplicity and focus of the format. They were encouraged and empowered to participate daily in being disciples and making disciples. Over the course of about five or six months the one group had multiplied to 11 groups with at least one third generation group. Some of the new groups had formed with family members on the outside. Jed shares how he and his co-laborers in the gospel left the prison in tears many a time because of the testimony and faith of those who were imprisoned physically but set free spiritually to worship, serve and love their Lord and Savior and to make disciples. They were grateful that someone took the time to come spend time with them. Often the prisoners (trainees) were the ones modeling to their trainers how to be bold and courageous and how to surrender their whole hearts to the King of kings through faithful obedience to His Word. Their zeal was contagious.

The Least, the Last and the Lost

We conducted other interviews for this article but unfortunately, the sensitivities of the workers involved do not allow us to publish their situations in detail. One of those ministries, for example, has seen over 200 baptisms in the past two years with generational growth of groups out to the fifth generation, all within the same holding facility. Now we know for a fact that God is not only capable of sparking DMM/CPM movements in prisons, jails, rehabilitation and recovery centers, but, in addition, He delights in saving the least, the last and  the lost and enlisting them into His global family business of multiplicative reconciliation and disciple-making. He uses ordinary, willing, faithful, available servants to spark the kindling.

Are you weary of sowing much seed on the infertile soils of the hardened path, the shallow rocky ground and thorny patches? Jesus said in Matthew 25, “When I was a prisoner and you visited me…” We are hearing anecdotal stories from many different places about how the Lord is working and moving mightily in the prisons and jails. But instead of going in and doing ministry for them, go and train them how to be disciples and make disciples using the effective proven multiplicative DMM/CPM tools and principles. Watch and see what He will do!

This is an article from the January-February 2021 issue: Home Grown Movements

Kingdom Movement Strategies in a Small/Medium-Sized Church Led by the Pastor

Kingdom Movement Strategies in a Small/Medium-Sized Church Led by the Pastor

Churches of 30, 100, or 700 all share some of the same challenges, despite appearances. They can experience tremendous growth spurts, which can in turn, create stress for staff and facilities. In addition, they are often still led by entrepreneurs who wield a lot of influence with church leadership. This creates some unique opportunities in relation to implementing Kingdom Movement (CPM/DMM) strategies in a new context.

In this article, we interview two CPM/DMM practitioners who have innovated, each in unique ways, in the context of small and medium-sized church congregations.

Our first exchange is with Tim Ahlen, the Pastor and Church Consultant with Forest Meadow Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas.

DL:  Tim, I’ve heard you describe your church community as, “One church, multiple congregations.” Please tell us briefly why you use that phrase.

Tim: The Lake Highlands neighborhood of Dallas Texas is one of the most ethnically diverse neighborhoods in the DFW metroplex. We are a mixture of upper middle income second-generation-plus people whose primary language is “Texan English,” and middle to lower income immigrants and refugees—“New Americans”— who speak one of 75 other languages in their homes. What we have found, and firmly believe, is that every person deserves to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ in their heart language. Eighteen years ago we embarked on a church-planting strategy that would utilize our church facility to house multiple ethnic congregations. Each one maintains their autonomy, yet we partner together to accomplish what we cannot accomplish individually. As of 2020, we have six congregations—Oromo, Sudanese, Arabic, Kenyan, Burmese, Messianic Jewish, and English—partnering together in our facility at 9150 Church Rd. In addition to the churches that meet locally in our facility, we also have at least seven generations—over 165 congregations—whose spiritual roots come back to FMBC.

DL: It sounds like Forest Meadow had experienced several upheavals, including at least one church split and multiple personnel changes before you arrived in 2003. You spent the first year getting to know the church and the community, which seems pivotal, by the way. Then you prayerfully concluded that you wanted to challenge them to focus on church-planting rather than on church growth. Help us understand why you came up with that preference.

Tim: In my experience, church-planting is much more effective than church revitalization. New organizations grow more quickly and have much more flexibility than older ones. It’s easier and more fun having babies than resurrecting the dead. The rationale comes down to stewardship of resources. God gives us only so many resources with which to work. Our task is to figure out how best to utilize the resources God gives us to maximize our kingdom impact. The goal is to maximize the number of persons who spend eternity in Heaven. What I frequently say is that if I had put all of our energy and resources into church growth, I’ll bet I could have grown the one church to 150 in attendance. By focusing our resources on church- planting, we wound up with over 10,000 people worshiping in 165+ congregations scattered around the world. And that was in 2014. Who knows what it is in 2020?

DL: Well it sounds like it was a smart idea, looking back, because, since that time, you are able to count at least 165 different congregations across 7 generations of church growth in 8 different streams. We’re looking at a generational diagram (which reminds us of a mind map). Can you tell us approximately how many total participants might be involved today and give us some idea of the spread of cases in North America (recognizing you’ve had numerous churches planted overseas but this issue of Mission Frontiers is largely focused on North America)? Give us some examples of churches or groups in rural areas and maybe some which are in urban areas. Any idea how many states the movement has touched?

Tim: One of the realities we discovered is that the geographical paradigm we used to follow is not as important as it once was. To be sure whatever outreach we do has to begin in a place among people. But in today’s world, with technology and communication being what it is, geography is no longer a significant barrier. Evangelistic outreach now occurs in an affinity paradigm. In other words, while it must start someplace, once it starts, it moves according to relationships. This means that FMBC evangelized Sudanese refugees living in Dallas, who when evangelized other Sudanese refugees they knew who were living in other parts of the metroplex, who then evangelized Sudanese living in Sudan. Today there are churches in Brazil, Sudan, Ethiopia, Nepal, Cincinnati, Bulgaria, Dubai, Jordan, China, California, Houston, Buffalo, Queens and who knows where else, that are connected relationally to FMBC.

DL: This is just outstanding growth. Do these groups/churches mostly meet on Sunday or are some of them, for example, Tuesday night groups and the members attend another church on Sunday?

Tim: The house churches meet at various times. Many of those churches eventually become more traditional, and meet on Sundays. At the FMBC building, we have Bible study and worship services pretty much every day of the week.

DL: On the whole, what can you extract from the last 18 years and how did most of this growth happen? Was it mostly spontaneous or was it very intentionally planned? Were there 152 appointed pastors, or did some of these groups emerge from home Bible studies?

Tim: Of course God gets all the glory. I am not a super saint. I am not a charismatic, compelling personality. I am 67 years of age and need notes to get through a teaching/sermon with coherence so it is not a personality cult. Truth be told, very few people beyond our first generation of churches even know that I or FMBC exists. Having said that, we were very intentional in what we did.

Our intentions were to make our plans but then submit them to the Lord who orders our steps. Since we at FMBC were all culturally Westernized and linguistically limited, we knew needed Persons of Peace from the culture we were reaching to lead our efforts. And God provided them. We also knew that we did not have financial resources to support our efforts. So we employed strategies that did not require lots of outside resources (with the exception of TEAM Church—that’s another story).  Most of the churches started as we trained individuals or groups from the targeted people groups to follow the 2 Timothy 2:2 model—disciples training disciples who trained disciples.

DL: We’re excited about the record-keeping you’ve done. How have you managed to keep track of all this growth over the years?

Tim: We have not researched our impact since 2014. If what we have done follows a typical CPM/DMM, then the impact has probably doubled at least. But we would much rather start new works and reach Unreached People Groups than simply to develop bragging points. If anyone in your audience would like to volunteer to do the research, we would welcome them!

DL: If you were to share any lessons learned for other North American pastors or churches, what would you share? In other words, how are you doing this? How are you getting this to work so effectively?


  1. Learn to listen to God. Pray! 
  2. Do what God says. Do!
  3. Minimize the distinction between evangelism and discipleship. Develop your own model. Don’t copy someone else’s!
  4. Your principles should come from three Bible passages:   a. Great Commission—make disciples of all nations.     b. Great Commandment—Love God. Love others as yourself.
  5. c. 2 Tim. 2:2—Make disciples who make disciples.
  6. Sacrifice whatever is not mandated biblically to get the job done. Travel light.
  7. If you are not hearing from God, go back to the last thing you heard Him say, and do that!

At the Cedar Ridge Christian Church in Broken Arrow, OK, Bryan King is the “Mobilization Pastor.” Bryan has been both patient and intentional in his quest to implement CPM/DMM strategies at Cedar Ridge, a church with an average weekend worship attendance of roughly 700 people on three campuses. Bryan told us that his church at first gave him latitude, but finally fell in love with Kingdom Movement (CPM/DMM) strategies. They’ve now made it their “core strategy of disciple-making.” Bryan has utilized the familiar discovery Bible study model. But he’s also utilizing “residencies” as well (learn more about these in this issue, Kingdom Movement Strategies in Non-Traditional Contexts).

DL: Bryan, you have a lot going on there in Broken Arrow and, in fact, all around greater Tulsa. How have you seen God work in relation to Kingdom Movement strategies?

Bryan: It really has energized our church and others in our context. We are now running six discovery-Bible study (DBS) groups among members at Cedar Ridge with roughly 75 people participating in all. We are also using DBS in some of our youth small groups as well though I don’t have the exact number on that.

DL: I’ve noticed you’ve also “spilled over” to help influence others in your town and city as well.

Bryan: Well, God does have a way of doing that. As He works in our context, word gets around. Outside our walls, we would need to count at least seven other groups across the city who are also using DBS with around 80 additional people participating in those. These numbers include three residencies.

DL: To me, this really shows that an “emerging megachurch” like Cedar Ridge could truly complement its vision to reach an entire range of communities that it might now have attracted to come to a building in one neighborhood and maybe might not have afforded to start multi-site campuses in all those locations, either.

Bryan: For sure. CPM/DMM approaches are perfect for those situations, Doug. Because they are so focused on people— and not as reliant on buildings, budgets, programs and staff—they are actually very easy to utilize as an expansion of a central site celebration service.

DL: And it doesn’t worry you that some of those people might never darken the door of your building?

Bryan: Not in the least. If we were only in this to build our own personal kingdom here, it might be a different story. But our leaders truly understand that it’s not about us as a church or about us as individual celebrities. It never was. It’s always been about Jesus. Once we get that squared away, starting a new group and turning it loose to multiply across town -- or across the world -- is equally as big of a win for kingdom growth as it is if we added another pew full of people under our roof here at the central site. CPM/DMM strategies are, in many ways, perfect companions for churches with a vision to multiply themselves many times over!

This is an article from the January-February 2021 issue: Home Grown Movements

Can Kingdom Movement Strategies Work in North America?

Can Kingdom Movement Strategies Work in North America?

The End Goal

Over the past few years, a not-so-quiet revolution has been sweeping across the world of frontier missions. That revolution involves movements—Kingdom Movements. They began popping up on our (David Garrison’s) radars in the 90s. We (David) defined movements as “rapidly multiplying indigenous churches planting churches that sweep across a people group or population segment.” For more on this, see my (David’s) book, Church Planting Movements, WIGTake Resources, 2004. For typical benchmarks you might look for parameters like:

•     1000 or more people coming to Christ,

•     In a relatively short period of time (12-18 months)—rapidly-multiplying—and

•     Four or more streams of growth in the same general city/region/tribe/people.

The phrase, “four or more streams,” can be understood as four or more genealogical “trees” that are separate but related (For more on movements and case studies, see, for example, my (David’s) A Wind in the House of Islam, Monument, CO: WIGTake Resources, 2014).

As of June, 2020, researchers have found evidence of 1,369 movements involving over 76 million people and 4.8 million groups or simple churches (see the dashboard at This data points to a sea change in missions. It represents the single most significant shift in global missionary strategy in the past century. Millions of new followers are glorifying Jesus Christ as divine and as the Lord of their lives. This is the end goal of missions and the Church. This is the purpose to which we’ve been called.

Among mission agencies, churches, and missionaries, initials like CPM (Church Planting Movement) and DMM (Disciple Making Movement) have become commonplace, sometimes used synonymously, while at other times defined by their differences. The truth is—there’s no one person or office defining strategies and approaches. One trainer once quipped to me, “The most effective training session will always be the one you just completed.” In fact, it’s tempting for every single implementer to conclude that his or her approach is the most biblical, most effective and most efficient way to go about it. Granted, part of this could be due to the fact that we are all experiencing different “edges” of kingdom growth—and they seldom look exactly the same in each and every case. As a result, ask five blind men to describe the elephant they’ve just touched—and you might get five different answers depending on which part of the elephant they touched—even though they all touched the same animal. So although we now have a fairly clear picture of the goal, there is a diversity of roles that humankind can play in setting the stage for the Holy Spirit to bring about a movement.

The Primacy of Prayer

In spite of variation in strategy and approach, however, it seems universally true across all spectrums that all these movements have begun by emphasizing prayer for the lost (Garrison, 2004). That’s probably the one key strategy upon which everyone agrees. In our (Doug’s) own agency (Team Expansion), we’ve actually started tracking how many hours we pray for the lost in each of our respective regions. Prayer has gone from being a ceremony before a meal or a two-minute prayer during a group worship service to becoming the primary start-up strategy in every field!

The Geography of Movements Thus Far

In spite of monumental growth around the globe, unfortunately, precious few (handfuls) of those movements are said to be taking place in the West (see the 24:14 Dashboard.1) Meanwhile, more and more churches have witnessed and are witnessing testimony after testimony of movements overseas. For this reason and others, it seems prudent to ask, “What strategies, if any, can foster CPMs/DMMs in North America? How can we remove the barriers for movements so that God’s Spirit might do, here, what He is doing elsewhere?” These are ongoing questions with no clear answers. Leaders of churches of all sizes are asking, “Is this approach going to work in North America?” They’ve learned the hard way to be ruthless and relentless in evaluating what they assume are new plans and programs. In reality, CPM/ DMM strategies are not gimmicks or even methods. They are life practices, strategies and biblical instructions. For this reason, it now seems more critical than ever that we define very carefully what we mean when we say, “CPM/ DMM strategies.”

Life Principles and Practices

If we grant that it’s a good thing to see many people come to Christ, then we pretty much have already accepted the fact that movements are good. The question then becomes, how might we encourage them here in North America? And, in general, how might we live, both individually and as a community, to foster movements globally? As we’ve previously mentioned, there are no universally accepted answers. But in writing this article, we polled literally hundreds of trainers and implementers. Humbly, we submit that CPM/DMM approaches generally seek to raise up vibrant groups of Christ-followers who, through mutual accountability, ask God to enable them to become disciples worth reproducing as they rapidly multiply solely through the power of His Holy Spirit— both around the block and around the world—disciples, leaders, groups or simple churches and movements.

Leading and Lagging Indicators

In studying economics, business researchers have categorized certain benchmarks by their timing. “Leading indicators” are events or practices that can predict future performance. Since they occur in advance of a particular economic change, one might actually shape an economic practice in hopes of bringing about a hopeful outcome. Leading indicators guide us in that process.
“Lagging indicators,” on the other hand, often occur after a change in the economy. They are a measure of success or failure and, as such, they are often out of our direct control (for more on this, see Economic_indicator). For our purposes then, lagging indicators are more of an indication that God has been at work in our midst.

Perhaps ,in living out the principles and life practices that might lead to CPM/DMM, we ought to take a page from economists.  We would like to propose that we focus more on the leading indicators and worry less about lagging indicators.  As humanking, we hvae no power over the lagging indicators.  We can’t “will” that the fruit will multiply over four generations. We can’t suddenly force 1000 to followChrist (certainrulers havetakenacrack at that, but it seems not to haveworked out all thatwell). We can’t manipulate people into forming 100 churches. These are typical “lagging indicators” signifying movements.

What we can do is talk about leading indicators. We can control how much we pray. We can make a decision (assuming we have enough determination) regarding how many times we share “our story” and/or “God’s story.” We can provide accountability structures for obedience to what people hear from the Lord and for passing on to others what God is teaching them. We can intentionally equip every believer to be self-feeding and reproducing in various ways. We can even decide how often we invite people to participate in a group (and how much we train others to do the same). All these factors are within our control. Through God’s power, we have had the opportunity to be a part of, witness, and/or study movements all over the planet. From all these experiences, if we’ve concluded anything, it has been that if we at least implement a set of these simple, reproducible leading indicator actions, we are doing our part. Our prayer must always be that God would choose to do the rest.

As We Pray, What Do We Do? Who Must We Be?

Thus far, we’ve pointed to the primacy of prayer. However, as North Americans, we also want to know what we can DO. Interestingly, it seems just as important, if not more so, to ask the question, what must we BE?   Here are some conclusions drawn by the 24:14 network. They apply to CPM/DMM strategies all over the world— and they would presumably also be helpful in North America. The 24:14 network defines a CPM/DMM approach as one in which:

  1. There is awareness that only God can start movements, but disciples can follow biblical principles to pray, plant and water the seeds that can lead to a book-of-Acts-type multiplying movement. Only God Can Make This Happen!
  2. The focus is to make every follower of Christ a reproducing disciple rather than merely a convert.
  3. Each follower develops behavioral patterns of frequent and regular accountability for obeying God’s instructions and passing them on to others in a loving environment. This requires a participative small-group approach.
  4. Each disciple is equipped in comprehensive ways (such as interpreting and applying Scripture, a well-rounded prayer life, functioning as a part of the larger Body of Christ and responding well to persecution/suffering) in order that they might function not merely as consumers, but as active agents of kingdom advance.
  5. Each disciple is given a vision both for reaching their relational network and for extending the kingdom to the ends of the earth with a prioritization on the darkest places (with a “no place left” mentality – Rom. 15:23). They are equipped to be able to minister and partner with others in the Body of Christ in both of these environments.
  6. Reproducing groups or simple churches are intentionally formed as a part of the multiplying disciples’ process. The intent in CPM/DMM approaches is that disciples, groups or simple churches, leaders and movements can multiply endlessly by the power of the Spirit.
  7. Emphasis is not on specific “tactics” but rather on the underlying biblical principles of multiplying Kingdom Movements.

Groups in a Greater Community Of Believers

Many practitioners of Disciple Making Movement strategies have now reported that these approaches work effectively when commencing outreach in a new area. The question we face in North America is largely—can they also work in and among established churches? They do seem to be in harmony with New Testament church multiplication. Many of the core principles seem best fitted to “small group communities,” but shouldn’t we be able to network these small groups as clusters within larger contexts (for example, a megachurch or a city-wide church network)? These communities, which would be made up of a collection of small-group gatherings, could then carry out key functions such as leadership development, interactive celebration and in-depth intercession at the larger regional or city level. Beyond this, when new movements are starting and are at the stage of self-standing small groups, it seems prudent here in North America to affirm their sufficiency in Christ and support the focus of empowering every disciple to be a disciple-maker.

In Summary: Our Greatest Responsibility Is in Removing the Barriers

Once again, because of the wisdom of focusing on function more than form, it’s crucial to underscore that, as humankind, all we can do is obey and endeavor to place ourselves in the center of God’s will. The goal is to remove as many barriers as possible in hopes that God will choose to work in our midst. We know that He can. We can’t predict exactly why or when He will do so. If He chooses to act, it will be because HE has made that choice. As a result, it’s important to clarify: We can’t “do CPM/DMM.” It seems a mistake even to use that phrase, “I’m going to do CPM/DMM.” CPM/DMM isn’t something we do. Only God can make a movement happen. Disciple Making Movements aren’t brought about by a methodology or a magic wand. They are a direct result of God’s Spirit. If this is our conclusion, then, the answer to the question in this article’s title has to be, most definitely, yes! Isaiah, the prophet, wrote that God will bring to pass whatever He has purposed to do. (Is. 46:10)

This is an article from the January-February 2021 issue: Home Grown Movements

Influencing Backwards?

Influencing Backwards?

This edition of Mission Frontiers is highlighting the growing dynamic of churches in the West that are trying to apply movement dynamics to their own ministry contexts. Each edition of MF tracks movement progress globally, of course, among the least reached. But this edition is looking back from such movements to the Western church context, and to the influence from so-called “fields” to the so-called “mission forces” (a questionable term I know, given today’s spiritual crisis in the West!).

My story … Part 1

Coming back from South Asia I took on the leadership of the small mission organization that had sent us. We had seen movements to Jesus emerge among a number of unreached peoples and began to reshape the vision of our mission agency around that. To do so would require a new way of training and so I developed with our emerging team an initial orientation called Horizons.
We grew and developed. People caught the vision of movements. And then? We realized we needed something more, we needed something to help those who were sent to the unreached figure out how to catalyze movements, not just plant churches. This was 2001-2002. What to use?

Part 2: From the field back … but for the field again

I decided to adapt the training we had been developing in South Asia. Training developed not just by me but by the first believers who were becoming leaders. “What if we trained westerners using the training we were giving for emerging movement leaders in and from South Asia?” We called it Catalyst. It was really helpful, but again it was designed for those going “over there” to serve, not for churches “here."

Part 3: What about “us?"

Then I was also asked to help with a church plant in California. It was a sort of tentmaking role, in some ways (word to the wise: don’t do church-planting as tent making if you want it to help support you! I ended up washing cars, doing the church plant, leading the agency, and traveling to South Asia!).

I decided to use Catalyst with our church-planting leadership. Then, as part of leading the agency, I was asked to lead a group of Kenyan pastors in Catalyst. I was a little cautious because the idea of using movement level training, developed in a frontier setting, to train a whole region of already settled denominational pastors, seemed a little beyond the scope of the Catalyst purpose.

Day three, the bishop of the group of 60 or 70 pastors stood up. I swallowed, thinking, “Okay, now he is going to tell us what he really thinks.” Instead, he said, “my brothers and sisters, how I wish we had learned these things and seen these things in our pastoral training…our churches would be movements.”

Influencing Backwards

This edition tries to describe how influence from movements is shaping what courageous leaders in churches are trying to do. While my focus, and the focus of MF, is always the frontiers, I believe that there is much for the West to learn and derive from the edges of where the gospel is growing.

May He grant tremendous fruit and wisdom, and may you be encouraged, perhaps encouraged enough to try some new things yourself!

This is an article from the January-February 2021 issue: Home Grown Movements

DMM Strategies in Non-Traditional Contexts

DMM Strategies in Non-Traditional Contexts

North Americans have a reputation for innovation as several churches and individuals are finding unique ways to implement Kingdom Movement (CPM/DMM) strategies in North America and not all of them are relying on existing local churches.

Take Lee Wood  for instance. The moment he first learned about CPM/DMM strategies, he loved them. He began talking to and praying with down-and-outers on the streets of Tampa,  FL. These were people who were far from God—and light-years from existing church culture. Little by little, God began doing something in their lives. Within a few short weeks, Lee had started 60 groups single-handedly! He chuckles at himself these days.  “I didn’t even think about how busy that would make me. I didn’t even know I wasn’t supposed to try to do it all by myself. I just wanted to implement. Fortunately, I had a great mentor who refused to give up on me.” Today, researchers estimate that the “genealogical tree” that has resulted has now topped 3,000 new believers—and it’s still growing.

Keep in mind–Lee’s work didn’t really happen in the context of the local church. These were people who were pretty much off everybody’s radar. But CPM/DMM strategies shine in those circumstances.

Take Mark Aspinwall for instance. He first learned about CPM/DMM strategies in 2010 when he flew with Curtis Sergeant to a large island in the Pacific to help organize a series of trainings. He’s never been the same since. The next thing Mark knew, he was in charge of training for that island. If he was going to help with training them, he reasoned, he should be implementing it himself. He decided to start a group in his house and, well, the rest is history.

Talking with Mark, it’s hard to miss the fact that this CPM/DMM stuff is hard work. For his first group, he invited 16 families to a three-thirds group, only to have just one family show up. Mark laughs, “Fortunately, that family had 8 children and we had 4. It felt like a full house!” But in short order, 30 people were taking part in this thing Mark had started. Most of the 30 were teenagers. They desired fellowship. They loved visiting. “The kids picked it up faster than we did,” Mark says. “They had less to unlearn. We watched our own children, and their friends get serious about doing what Jesus says, and sharing it with others.”

With that as the basis, the group in Mark’s house had grown to 23. That’s not 23 people. That’s 23 groups!

Once again, this wasn’t really happening primarily in the context of a local church, though some of his participants did attend a local church on the side. International students at a nearby university turned out to be one of the most fruitful fields. Many wanted to practice English so Mark’s wife would patiently have conversation groups with them. From there, she would invite them to practice English by discussing stories from the Bible. And when they would return to nations like China or Argentina, Mark and his wife would keep on communicating with them and encouraging them. They didn’t do it for pay. This was “zero budget missions.” They did it because they felt that if they failed to do it, they would be failing as Jesus followers. So now, Mark “fishes Facebook.” He studies the Bible with people over Zoom. “With the pandemic,” he observes, “geography has pretty much been taken off the table.”

Today, Mark wistfully looks back at the last ten years of his life with an almost Charles Dickens’ mentality. “They’ve been the best of times—and they’ve been the worst of times.” He constantly says that he “fails forward.” For this reason, Mark understands why local pastors aren’t that excited about CPM/DMM strategies. “It doesn’t solve any of their problems,” Mark quips. “In fact,” he adds, “many of these groups might not ever walk in the door of a single traditional church building.” He’s probably right. And some church members will bow out, once they learn about the higher bar of commitment. To be a movement “doer” requires about six hours a week: two hours/week evangelizing, two hours/week with an existing group called “My Spiritual Family” and two hours/week starting a new group—the next generation. This is doable for someone with a job and a family; but not if they are also involved in lots of “big church” activities. For this reason, Mark theorizes that few “traditional church people” will ever migrate to CPM/DMM practices. “Once they take part in all their church programming, they probably realistically just don’t have time.” So Mark often finds himself talking to pastors of churches that his group members attend. He never asks the pastor to release them. But he does ask the pastor to “protect their time.” Mark clarifies, “He’ll need to tell the other church people, ‘This guy is doing exactly what we need him to do.’” If the pastor is willing, Mark believes it would be possible for existing church people to help advance a Kingdom Movement.

We  asked Mark if he were to have any words of wisdom for someone just starting out—what would they be?     He responded immediately. “Plan on it being hard. Every step of the way it’s hard. You have to share the gospel with a lot of people before one says yes. You have to train many before someone sticks. A few weeks on—they  stop answering your calls. Plan on experiencing a certain amount of alienation from the church people with whom you grew up. And for the first five years, it will be very up and down.” Mark remembers he’d  go through    a phase in which he’d become very excited because it would all be working—then the entire thing would crash. But even with all the challenges, he still explains, “These have been the most fruitful years of our entire lives.” He summed it all up this way: “The Great Commission is the primary mandate for every Christian. I finally feel like I’m following the mandate."

Jeff Timblin is a mobilizer for e3 Partners full-time in Orange County, California. He is also pastor of a “legacy church” which is incorporating these strategies. He loves the simple church. As he began to see people coming alive with these kingdom strategies, he essentially started a church in his living room as a kind of leadership pod that would multiply. He also worked with others, explaining what God is doing. Little by little, God raised up 13 gatherings in homes that Jeff refers to as a “gathering of churches.” Most recently, he’s started a “residency” program, like Bryan King, Justin, and Zach. They do two different residencies, one year each. These residencies are nearly a year long—like an internship. Several legacy churches have jumped on board, learning to utilize these residencies. They currently meet out in the middle of a field outdoors, with 200 people practicing social distancing. Interestingly, they are still multiplying church-wide circles, even during Covid. Another 50-100 are meeting away from the normal building, away from traditional church life.
Jeff is also on staff as a “legacy church pastor.” By that, we mean that he has a foot in both worlds—a foot in the existing local church and a foot in these multiplying groups. These days, he’s focusing most of his time training people and developing leaders.

For  the last nine years, Zach Medlock has teamed up with a friend named Ron to focus on Memphis, TN.  Since early 2012, they’ve prayed and planned with a “no place left” vision that God would raise up disciple- makers from every zip code and people group in Memphis, TN. They’re praying for 41 zip codes and 25 people groups plus seven different social segments. They’re looking for a way to launch a church in each of these entities. These last few years, they’ve also focused on residencies. They define these as committed groups of laborers who want to learn and obey the Great Commission together for a set period of time. During the past eight years, they’ve facilitated dozens of these, “failing forward.” One of their consummate moments was in 2017. They had all these leaders emerging, but they were all compartmentalized so they asked the leaders to share together in a nine-month cohort. They had 23 units join -- 30 people in all. This idea took Memphis to an entirely new level. These cohorts are like iron sharpening iron. They strengthen one another, ask for each other’s help, and make each one better. Some of these participants come in from outside, while some are church members from inside. Just in the past year, they’ve staged five of these residencies. They model them after the Hall of Tyrannus in Acts. (Acts 19:9-10) Some focus more on establishing or leading existing churches. Others focus more on disciple-making and now, there are training centers emerging. Bryan King and Jeff are doing something similar in Tulsa and Orange County, respectively.

Zach and the group challenge residency participants to be involved in a local church if they’re able—but the priority is experiencing CPM/DMM strategies first hand. These residencies hold a lot of promise for the future because of the high-level leaders they can produce through their longer, more in-depth format.

All of these and many others are pushing the edges of Kingdom Movements farther and farther out in North America. Which edge might you push?

This is an article from the January-February 2021 issue: Home Grown Movements

Kingdom Movement Strategies in North American Megachurches

Kingdom Movement Strategies in North American Megachurches

The megachurch movement has been one of the most exciting examples of church growth in the past few decades, impacting not only North America, but also the entire globe (note that to qualify as a megachurch, a community of faith would typically need to consist of 2000 or more people in weekend worship attendance). Perhaps the most well-known transition in the megachurch world is the one articulated by Chris Galanos, chronicled in his book, From Megachurch to Multiplication (, 2018) and featured in the Jan-Feb 2020 issue of Mission Frontiers.

An Interview with Chris Galanos, Lead Pastor at Experience Life Church in Austin, Texas

DL: Chris, can you paint for us a quick picture of what has happened at Experience Life Church?

Chris: Sure. We started eLife, as we often call it, in April 2007 in our living room with 12 other people. We prayed that first night that the Lord would allow us to see 10,000 people commit their lives to Christ in the next 10 years. By year eight, we passed the 10,000 mark. At that time, we began to ask, “Lord, what do You want us to pray for in the next 10 years?” Around that same time, God brought a number of influences into our lives that exposed us to what He was doing through these miraculous movements overseas. We heard about millions, not just thousands of people coming to Christ. I remember asking our Leadership Team the rhetorical question, “Do you think God could do here what He’s doing in India, China and parts of Africa?” We all agreed that He could. Through prayer, fasting and studying His Word we began to believe God was leading us to pray for 1,000,000 disciples in the next 10 years. And that’s the exciting journey we’ve been on ever since.

DL: Help us grasp the difference you saw between addition and multiplication.

Chris: You’ve got to multiply disciples to reach millions, not just add to weekend worship services. Meaning, you have to let it move away from you. If you try to control it and keep it close to you, you’ll only get addition. But if you let disciples multiply away from you, like these movements are doing overseas, you could see millions reached.

DL: I’m not sure there are very many megachurch pastors who would have taken such radical steps. It just seems like there’s a conflict of interest or something. The very applecart you were shaking up was the source of your salary, as well as the livelihoods of everyone on your church staff.

Chris: Whatever the Spirit leads us to do, we should do. The church is not ours, it’s His. If He tells us to lead the church in a different direction than it’s gone for the last 10 years, we must follow His lead. If He tells us to become bi-vocational and give our salaries back to the church to be used for ministry, we must follow His lead. None of this was our idea. I don’t think most people would go this direction if they were thinking just about what’s best for them or their family. We believe God spoke to us and we’ve done our best to follow His lead, regardless of the cost.

DL: We’re on the edge of our seats, Chris. It’s now been four or five years since those adventurous moments. What’s happened in the interim?

Chris: Far more than we could’ve asked or imagined. We were told early on that multiplication takes time. A farmer doesn’t expect a harvest overnight. We were willing to scatter seed, water it, and be patient for God to bring the growth. But God has brought some exciting growth here toward the beginning. Soon after making this transition, pastors from all over the world began to reach out to us saying God had spoken to them in a similar way. We began to take them through the same DMM training we had gone through. They began to take others through the training. And those began to take others through. This number is probably the floor, not the ceiling, of people that have been trained, but in talking to the leaders recently, we’ve counted 1,662 pastors/church leaders that either we’ve trained directly or others have trained that we trained just in the last few years. We constantly have waiting lists of people eager to be trained. These trainings have resulted in a network forming that has started 78 new churches in 12 states and five foreign countries. These churches have started over 300 Discovery Groups with unbelievers who are discovering more about God and His plan for their life through His Word. These Discovery Groups have reached 4th generation in one stream and 2nd generation in several others. As Discovery Groups start, some become churches over time and others stop meeting if they choose not to follow Christ. Some of these Discovery Groups that are currently meeting could become churches soon. These 78 churches have thousands of conversations with lost people each week, spend hundreds of hours in prayer and see new groups started regularly. I began to quickly realize that the weekly impact of just a few of these churches was much more significant than our entire megachurch, in terms of reaching out to lost people and engaging them in conversation about God. One DMM church alone has a goal of talking to 100 new lost people each week, and this church only has eight families in it! Our large church in its heyday would only have 100-200 first-time guests each week, and this small church would talk to almost that many people in the same week without the buildings, budgets, and staff. So, even just one DMM church, could rival a megachurch in terms of its impact. Think about 78 churches doing this!

DL: These are incredible numbers. In another article in this issue (regarding Kingdom Movements in jails), we read about one of those changed lives: Billy. Powerful stuff, Chris. Where do you see this thing going in the future?

Chris: Only God knows, but we are raising the sails by trying to do what God has asked us to do and then praying for the wind of the Spirit to blow into our sails and bring movement! Perhaps one of the most exciting things God is doing is bringing partners from all over North America, and even the world,
to join us. This is not an eLife-thing. We aren’t doing this alone. We’re currently partnered with 30+ organizations and churches in pursuing movements in North America (and overseas). These partnerships continue to increase and that gives me great excitement about what the future may hold!


Other Megachurch Case Studies


Roy Moran, directional leader of Shoal Creek Community Church ( on the northeast side of Kansas City, MO, told us that he sees their church’s Sunday morning service as a starting place for Persons of Peace. These POPs are equipped in how to read the Bible for themselves and encouraged to invite their social networks along on their spiritual journeys. They have run as high as 1000 in attendance on a normal Sunday morning and Roy uses that experience as a net to catch and release visitors for the “micro-church” which happens in Discovery Bible Groups throughout the week. In those neighborhood/workplace disciple-making groups, attenders from Shoal Creek along with their neighbors, friends and relatives get their fingerprints on the Bible and encounter real life-on-life transformation. In these groups people get a chance to hear from God personally by reading the Bible for themselves. But they not only read it, they are asked to commit to how they are going to do what it says. They engage with one another personally, holding one another accountable each week for how they lived out their commitment to do what God says and share it with one other person.

Since implementing this strategy in 2012, Shoal Creek has consistently started 30–40 groups each year. They see repeated second generational growth of these groups and twice have experienced fourth generation growth. On this journey there have been many learning experiences that continue to influence the future. Currently Shoal Creek is retooling to make better use of teams rather than individuals to reach where people live, learn, work and play.

Shawn Walden is the Outreach Pastor at Shepherd Church in Porter Ranch, CA., ( a church of around 12,000 ethnically and racially diverse members, all of whom seem to have captured the passion of their lead pastor, Dudley Rutherford. Shawn invites every new member to go through a healthy portion of a disciple- making course called Zume (, an online, in-life version of the same training encountered by Chris and Roy (previously). As this article went to press, Shawn’s latest Zume group included 30 participants from Shepherd, as well as from all over the world. Shawn is now organizing regional leadership cells which will organize around particular regions or language groups, thereby utilizing Zume (and other Kingdom Movement tools and strategies) to launch groups focused on their diverse ethnic groups at Shepherd.

Ross Ramsey is the Education Minister at First Baptist Church, Allen Texas ( By his own commentary, FBC was a cookie-cutter “legacy church.” Ross learned about Kingdom Movement (CPM/ DMM)strategies and their emphasis on “getting out into lostness.” He decided to try it at FBC Allen. He went with two other guys and they knocked on 15 doors where seven answered. They shared the gospel with five.  Three were very open. One invited them in. Ross was amazed and humbled. He later said, “I felt that within the course of 90 minutes, I had done more among truly lost people than I had done in the past five years.” Three weeks later, Ross found himself training and taking 45 others “into lostness.” They then went out as 15 groups of three. Ross remembers, “One by one they started coming in after the three hours were up. Within a few minutes, there was a line of five or six people wanting to tell me what had happened in the harvest. One by one, each group shared incredible stories. A Muslim lady had given her life to Christ. Another group happened to knock on the door of a guy who was at that very moment, praying for a way out of a horrible problem.” The stories went on and on. The lead pastor said, “In 35 years, I’ve never seen anything like that. You have to share this tomorrow morning.” That weekend, Ross says, “We flipped the church in 24 hours—because they experienced Christ in the harvest.” The momentum continued to grow. In time, a level of diversity from the community began to come into FBC Allen the likes of which they had never seen before. They’ve now trained literally thousands of people how to practice these simple, reproducible strategies. They constantly run at least 10 groups internally and they’re all led by volunteers, not staff. What’s more, parts of this pattern of making disciples are slowly filtering into the other established groups in the church in the form of inductive teaching and having a simple gospel presentation.

Josh Brown is one of the Groups Pastors at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, KY. (southeastchristian. org) Southeast runs around 25,000  in  worship  attendance  each  weekend.  Josh  and  his  team  at  Southeast are utilizing Kingdom Movement (CPM/DMM) strategies as “churches  within  the  church”  because,  from  Josh’s perspective, “They are the easiest and most effective  way  to  catalyze  caring  small  group  experiences. Also, because multiplication is built into the DNA of each and every group, they naturally replicate in a healthy way. We don’t have to worry about screening the content of each group because we train the groups to be ‘self-feeding.’” Throughout the past two years, Josh and his fellow volunteers have helped launch 95 groups that utilize Kingdom Movement (CPM/DMM) principles. Josh tracks these groups carefully—and there are several second and third- generation groups with over 500 people taking part.

This is an article from the January-February 2021 issue: Home Grown Movements

Security in Intercession for the Unreached: Secret or Wise?

24:14 Goal Movement engagements in every unreached people and place by 2025 (60 months)

Security in Intercession for the Unreached: Secret or Wise?

The worldwide Body of Christ wants to know how God’s kingdom is advancing among the nations. Gospel workers in the field want other believers to be well-informed–for effectual prayer, for encouragement, and for finding partners. Sometimes these good goals can only be partially met, due to the very real risks of damaging ministries or bringing harm to local believers by sharing too many details. Information we share must be thoughtfully limited on a need to know basis, not to hoard secrets but to serve others wisely. Countless ministries among the unreached have been damaged by published accounts trumpeting great numbers of conversions in a less-reached area or people group. Others have been harmed by sharing specific names and details with a trusted partner, who then shared it with someone else, who then shared it in a forum accessed by enemies of the gospel. So we need to be wise as serpents in considering what information to share with whom.

At the same time, we don’t  want our limits on information sharing to block cooperation and partnership. Field ministries would do well to establish trusted channels of communication – both technically (such as secure email or messaging) but more importantly with trusted people who know how to appropriately share information. Intercessors can stick close to the biblical patterns of prayer (for example as found in the Psalms, Eph. 1:15-23; 3:14-21; Phil. 1:9-11 and Col.1:9-12). These express timeless prayer material not dependent on specific details of various situations.

Effective intercession doesn’t require knowing everything possible about ministries and situations. A good  question for us all to consider would be: “How much do I really need to know or to share, in order to obey Christ and serve His disciples living in danger?” Our goal in guarding information is not perfect security but reducing unnecessary risks. We want to leave room for the very necessary risks willingly taken to bring a witness in dangerous areas not yet reached with the Good News of Christ.

We see value in circulating people groups’ information such as is readily available on the Joshua Project website and other public sources. Including some basic information about movements and how to pray for movements is also very helpful. At the same time, we recommend thinking ahead five or 10 years, to a time when movements actually happen in a specific region and we start to wonder if we had previously said too much about specific places or called attention to a specific method of outreach. We recommend that some of God’s children become more careful in the details we mention in prayer guides and to those on our mailing lists.

Here are some thoughts to help frame material we share for mobilizing prayer:

  1. It may not hurt to mention the numbers of believers but in some cases it can ignite problems. If opponents of the gospel know the numbers of believers in a certain people and/or place, could it lead to specific action against those believers? This is especially true if a large number inspires an effort to find and stamp out this “dangerous” new group. How essential is it for the intended audience? And what is our motive for mentioning numbers? Is it to make a particular organization look good? Raise funds? We should ask ourselves, “Does this publication bring attention to God’s work or my organization?” And then be willing to keep the focus on God’s glory among the nations.
  2. Consider how the material would look if read by someone in authority among the focus group. If this were read by a policeman in the area, what would he think of it? As much as possible, we want to convey a winsome perspective: not opposing people of the majority religion, but phrasing things as seeking the blessings and guidance of God for people we care about. Knowing that our material might eventually be read by such people, we want to come across as seeking their highest good: personal health and wholeness, joyful families, living at peace with people even from other religions.
  3. We want all believers everywhere to have those sorts of winsome conversations with and around unreached friends. Consider writing as if you were going to share your message with unreached friends. Convey that we long for a real change and breakthrough, that we want all of God’s great promises in Christ to be theirs!
  4. Assume that any written material could be read by people strongly opposed to any spread of the gospel among unreached peoples. Ask yourself: “Would someone using Google and this prayer information be able to more easily find the workers and new believers in these places?” Have you mentioned specific ports, mountains, mosques, holy sites, etc., in an “unnamed” people group, which could easily be located on Google maps as within a certain district? Could an inquiry to that district tip off local people looking to discover “newcomers” or “strangers” or “foreigners” living in the area? We recommend written materials drop all references to numbers of believers and baptisms among groups smaller than 100,000 in population. We can instead say something like, “There are very few known believers, but we are asking God to multiply them and their witness.”
  5. You might be sharing information only with a group of people you trust, but you never know when some of them will share things they learn with less secure people or in non-secure ways. For high-security areas, it is better for most of us to not know the details of what is happening and where. Better to not even say: “Something is happening in [a specific location]”; rather, “As far as we know, that is an especially needy area/people group.”
  6. A simple rule is: if you share specific details, avoid sharing the people group or place or any identifying specifics. If you share about the people group or place, communicate only readily available information. One way to share specifics is to use code names for peoples, places, and other details. You can also describe the efforts in a coded way such as using business language instead of evangelism and church-planting language (a new client group was started in XYZ people) but even here you should probably use code names. Crucially, the code names must never be associated with the real names even in what is thought of as a secure data location (which all too often is not secure forever).
  7. When you can, include actual Scripture texts for people to pray over. Choose texts that express dimensions of God’s heart for these peoples in ways that would be attractive to someone from that people group who reads them. In this way, you help intercessors listen more closely to God, and help local people to know the blessings of God which we are seeking for them.
  8. Describe people’s felt needs, as though you were trying to find a way to meet them. Empathize with local pain, as you prepare material for intercessors, apostolic agents, and supportive alongsiders who call on God to bring real movements!
  9. As movements grow, persecution and backlash against contextual ministry in general, and movements in particular, tends to rise. We can say something like, “Pray for the few believers among these peoples who meet in simple discipleship groups to share a relevant witness, display the love and power of God, and multiply new simple groups among their friends. Some disciples have paid a very high price for their obedience, and some have even been  martyred. Pray for the martyrs’ families, and pray for their persecutors to be saved.”
  10. Because God is releasing Church Planting Movements in many peoples and places, our role in mobilizing the whole church to disciple all UPGs is also changing. The many thousands of new believers in these movements are also the Lord’s church. And they are the portion of the church actually winning thousands of new believers from the UPGs. So we must ask ourselves: “What is our best contribution? To try to send more Christian-background workers from distant cultures? To help teams in the field as they begin to see movements – to enable them to stay the course and help movements develop? Or to put more effort into praying for, supporting and not killing the movements that are already happening?” While the global Church still needs to do the first two, especially in areas with no movements, we need to put far more priority on the third approach, which may well be the most fruitful one in a growing number of areas.
  11. How to help and not harm movements and movement leaders needs to be a new priority area of learning      for us. Much direct and indirect opposition to movements comes not from governments or other religions, but from existing denominations and church leaders. We need to help churches understand how to help movements grow and stay healthy, and how not to harm them. This will take some new levels of cultural sensitivity, spiritual discernment and concerted prayer.
  12. We recommend some changes to prayer and mobilization publications associated with various UPGs. We especially want to exercise wisdom in mobilizing prayer for the many thousands of new believers in low-profile house church movements. We believe the time has passed for publishing specifics about UPGs, especially those under 100,000 in population. Whereas 20 years ago, mobilizing anyone to do anything for UPGs was the priority, the highest priorities today are: a) for the new believers in movements to reach more of their friends and neighbors through prayer and love, and b) for those movements to catalyze new movements in near-neighbor unreached groups.
  13. In light of these things, we are rewriting some prayer guides, giving more emphasis to how to pray and what Scriptures to pray, and less specific information on peoples and numbers of believers. This quieter mode of involvement is unpopular with some, but we need to prioritize the salvation of real people, discipling them into maturity, with prayerful advance of God’s kingdom. This higher goal means adjusting some mobilization efforts to put less spotlight on sensitive locations and groups. In some cases it might mean less funding or shifting funding to more strategic and less flashy projects and ministries. We follow in the spirit of John the Baptist: “He must increase: I must decrease.” Our goal is not to feel good about ourselves and our activities, but to do whatever will really tend toward major advance of God’s kingdom.

Teaching people how to pray, and especially key Scriptures to pray over the lost and over the witnesses among them is so valuable! Our not knowing specific details does not hinder God from hearing and working through our prayers. Surely non-detailed prayers like those of the psalmist and Paul can accomplish great things before the throne of grace. We need to grow in maturity to not let a shortage of information sap our enthusiasm and dedication to prayer for the unreached. Let’s keep up and even accelerate the good work of praying to the Lord of the harvest... but share specific information very selectively.

This is an article from the November-December 2020 issue: Human Trafficking:The Church Should Stop Supporting It!

Let’s Put An End to Sex Trafficking

Let’s Put An End to Sex Trafficking

The Law Reform Team from Exodus Cry works with the governments and legislators in the United States and in nations around the world to implement legislation that creates criminal culpability for sex buyers, pimps, and traffickers, and brings freedom and support to victims.

History has shown that the rule of law is an integral part of establishing an equitable society that holds perpetrators accountable and fosters support for the vulnerable. We are asking political powers to enact and enforce laws that will eradicate exploitation in the sex industry and eliminate sex trafficking. This is absolutely necessary to restore and preserve freedom and justice in society.

Our reform efforts include:

Shifting Mindsets by Educating Legislators

We host screenings of Nefarious: Merchant of Souls, conduct briefings, and present information to legislators in order to educate them about the issue of sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation, offering ways to eradicate it. We want legislators to understand that prostitution is not a job but rather a form of violence against women and children. We back this claim with credible research and fact-based evidence.

Advocating for the Adoption of New Laws

We seek to prevent the perpetuation  of sex trafficking and abolish commercial sexual exploitation globally by advocating for specific laws and policies that reduce the demand for commercial sex. Our team examines existing laws and looks for ways to improve them. They also help to draft new legislation aimed at the abolition of commercial sexual exploitation.

Creating Resources

We provide legislators with expert testimony and the resources and research to help them present a convincing case before their fellow legislators. We also offer screenings of our award-winning documentaries at governmental hearings.

Does legal reform actually work?

Legal reform today plays a vital role in the abolition of sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation.

Abraham Lincoln and abolitionist William Wilberforce were two of the most impactful figures in the abolition movement of the 1800s. Their lives were dedicated to the passing of laws that abolished institutionalized slavery, and their legacy proves the power of law in shifting society. Effective laws and their uncompromising enforcement play an irreplaceable role in establishing and preserving freedom.

Join the Wilberforce Initiative Facebook group to help strengthen anti-trafficking laws.

Become An Abolitionist

1. Join the Fight to Shut Down Pornhub for its Complicity in Sex Trafficking

The Traffickinghub campaign, founded by Laila Mickelwait and powered by the anti-trafficking organization Exodus Cry, is a non-religious, non-partisan effort to hold the largest porn website in the world accountable for enabling and profiting off of the mass sex-trafficking and exploitation of women and minors.

The campaign is supported by a broad spectrum of over 300 child protection, anti-trafficking and women’s rights organizations, as well as experts and trafficking survivors of all backgrounds.

2. Become an Abolitionist

Being a sex industry abolitionist means:

•             You support human dignity and recognize people are never commodities to be bought and sold.

•             You oppose any legislation which seeks to legitimize pimping, brothel-keeping, or sex buying.

•             You recognize that ending demand for commercial sex, including pornography consumption, is the key to ending sex trafficking and prostitution.

•             You believe every person should be free.

•             Sign the Abolitionist Pledge at

3. Watch hard-hitting films that expose exploitation in the sex industry and be empowered to bring change

Released in 2011, Nefarious: Merchant Of Souls is a hard-hitting documentary that exposes the disturbing trends of modern-day sex slavery.  From its very first scene, Nefarious provides an in-depth look into      the human trafficking industry, showing where slaves are sold (often in developed, affluent countries), where they work, and where they are confined.

With footage shot in over 19 countries, Nefarious looks through the eyes of both the enslaved and their traffickers to expose the nightmare of sex slavery as experienced by hundreds of thousands of people   each day. Nefarious also features expert analysis from international humanitarian leaders and captures the gripping, triumphant testimonies of survivors. It is through these true stories of survival that we galvanize hope and vision.

From initial recruitment to victim liberation—and everything in between—the previously veiled underworld of sex slavery is uncovered in the groundbreaking, tell-all Nefarious: Merchant of Souls.

4. Learn More about Exploitation in the Commercial Sex Industry

Join the Exodus Cry team as they discuss the most current updates on all aspects of the commercial sex industry, including sex trafficking, prostitution, pornography, and stripping. They’ll dive into controversial and often hotly debated topics surrounding global sex industry policy, ideology, gender and sexuality, and even the spiritual aspects of injustice.

5. Donate To Organizations that are Committed to Ending Commercial Sex Trafficking

You can help end commercial sexual exploitation. Become an Abolition Partner to take an active role in freeing every woman and child bound in the predatory sex industry.

6.  Join Like-Minded Abolitionists in the Wilberforce Initiative Facebook Group

The purpose of this group is to create a space for like-minded abolitionists to communicate, coordinate, and take action toward the goal of abolishing the commercial sex industry locally, nationally, and globally.

7.  Pray—it makes a difference!

And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? (Luke 18:7) The struggle for freedom against the system of slavery is a spiritual battle. We believe that Jesus has come to set the captives free (Luke 4:18), and we are praying daily for the end of sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation in all parts of the world.

Our very first response to the injustice of human trafficking was to gather for prayer. The following day was a huge international child trafficking bust and the seed of what would later become Exodus Cry was born. Over the years we have continually experienced the power of prayer: from the rescue of those enslaved,  to the closing of brothels, to the restoration of young women who are now free, we have seen the Lord’s mighty hand of deliverance in response to prayer.

Traffickinghub: Be Part of the Solution, Sign the Petition

Traffickinghub and Exodus Cry | www.

The Traffickinghub campaign, founded by Laila Mickelwait and powered by the anti-trafficking organization Exodus Cry, is a non-religious, non-partisan effort to hold the largest porn website in the world accountable for enabling and profiting off of the mass sex-trafficking and exploitation of women and minors. The campaign is supported by a broad spectrum of over 300 child protection, anti-trafficking and women’s rights organizations, as well as experts and trafficking survivors of all backgrounds.

About the Petition

The Sunday Times investigation into Pornhub reported finding “dozens” of illegal abuse videos within “minutes,” including abuse images of children as young as three years old. Some of the videos identified by the newspaper’s investigation “had 350,000 views and had been on the platform for more than three years.” It went on to say “three of the worst clips still remained on the site 24 hours later.”

Also in recent news was the case of 22 women who were deceived and coerced by Michael Pratt, owner of GirlsDoPorn, into performing sex acts on film that were subsequently uploaded to Pornhub. These women sued GirlsDoPorn and won a $12.7 million lawsuit against the company. According to a federal indictment, Pratt and his co-conspirators produced and filmed child sexual abuse and trafficked a minor. Pratt reportedly fled the United States for New Zealand and is currently wanted on a federal warrant.

But there are other individuals who should also be wanted by law enforcement—CEO Feras Antoon and COO David Tassillo of Mindgeek, the company that owns Pornhub.

Pornhub is complicit in the trafficking of these women and minors and probably thousands more like them.

Pornhub is generating millions in advertising and membership revenue with 42 billion visits and 6 million videos uploaded per year. Yet it has no system in place to verify reliably the age or consent of those featured in the pornographic content it hosts and profits from.

In fact, all that is needed to upload pornography onto Pornhub is an email address. No government-issued ID is required, not even to become “verified” with its trusty blue checkmark that makes everything seem A-OK.
I know this, because I tried it. It took me under 10 minutes to create a user account and upload blank test content to the site, which went live instantly. I could have then gone on to become Pornhub-verified, and all I would need to do is send a photo of myself holding a paper with my username. That’s it.

Pornhub has no reliable system in place to verify that those in the videos it hosts are not trafficked children being abused on film in order to line the pockets of its executives.

What all of this means is that at this very moment, there could be hundreds, if not thousands, of videos of underage sex trafficking victims on Pornhub. We already have evidence, and it is just the tip of the iceberg.
It’s time to shut down super-predator site Pornhub and hold the executives behind it accountable. Sign the petition at

This is an article from the November-December 2020 issue: Human Trafficking:The Church Should Stop Supporting It!

What Is Human Trafficking?

What Is Human Trafficking?

Human trafficking has truly become a global threat to vulnerable men, women, and children worldwide. It is an injustice that affects millions of people every year on every continent and at all socioeconomic levels. Human trafficking is a highly organized and lucrative business, generating 150 billion USD per year, 99 billion of which is generated by sex trafficking within the prostitution industry.

The latest global estimate according to the International Labor Organization (the United Nations agency that deals with global labor issues), calculates that nearly 21 million people are victims of human trafficking worldwide. Roughly 4.5 million of those victims are trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation.

The most significant number of victims are said to come from Asia and the Pacific region, although human trafficking in Africa continues to grow when compared to 2005 estimates. The International Labor Organization also estimates that 55 percent of all trafficking victims and 98 percent of sex trafficking victims are women and girls. That is why sex trafficking is often considered a “gender” crime and why Exodus Cry focuses its intervention largely on women and girls.

Defining human trafficking

The most widely accepted definition of human trafficking comes from the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, otherwise known as the Palermo Protocols. Adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2000 and accepted by over 150 countries, the Palermo Protocols defines human trafficking as: “The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.”

Exploitation is at the heart of human trafficking. In the case of sex trafficking, exploitation implies the forced prostitution or sexual abuses of vulnerable men, women, and children. The United States’ Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) declares it a crime to coerce, force, or mislead men, women, and children into sex slavery, whether those efforts to coerce are subtle or overt. However, if a victim is a minor (under 18), it is a considered a crime regardless if there is evidence of force, fraud or coercion.

Victims are trafficked across both national and international borders, infiltrating nearly every part of the world, according to one World Health Organization report. The global scale of the problem is attributed to the various roles nations play in the exploitation of the victims, whether that be recruiting, harboring, transporting, or acting as destinations for victims. One UN report estimates that trafficking victims represent over 130 different nationalities and are present in almost 120 countries. While the problem is clearly of global scale, with some 600,000 to 800,000 victims trafficked across international borders each year, most human trafficking surprisingly still occurs within national borders.

The effects of human trafficking on victims

Human trafficking has a direct effect on the physical and mental well-being of victims.

During the initial trafficking, victims are coerced and deceived usually through the exploitation of their current circumstances, as most victims have a history of abuse and are already living in precarious circumstances.
Once enslaved, victims typically are forced into unsanitary and stressful living conditions and receive little to no healthcare or basic services. Their movement is often restricted, their personal documentation withheld, and most experience significant physical, emotional, sexual, and psychological violence. Escaping from slavery is extremely difficult and dangerous, putting the victim at great personal risk. If rescued, integration back into society is incredibly difficult because of the shame, stigma, threat of retribution, and trauma experienced during enslavement.
Global efforts to combat human trafficking.

There are several international organizations fighting human trafficking at the global level. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime combats human trafficking worldwide through promoting policies that incriminate traffickers and protect victims. The UN agency also produces tools and publications to help train law enforcers and raise awareness of this injustice worldwide.

Additionally, many governments are taking action to protect potential victims from trafficking predators. The United States’ Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) was established by the US Department of State and has been highly influential in protecting potential victims worldwide. The TVPA defines, mandates, and funds United States’ anti-trafficking efforts, including producing the annual Trafficking in Persons Report, which is the most comprehensive resource of governmental, anti-human trafficking efforts in the world. The United States’ Officer to Combat and Monitor Trafficking in Persons is also combating human trafficking worldwide through three avenues—prevention, protection, and prosecution—which includes activities to raise awareness, identify victims, enforce appropriate laws, and convict traffickers.

However, perhaps some of the greatest work being done to combat human trafficking is performed by non- governmental organizations (NGOs). These anti-trafficking groups are working hard to prevent human trafficking, protect vulnerable populations, lobby for policy reformation, and even rehabilitate victims both at local and global levels. Exodus Cry is an active part of this global community of abolitionists and involved in these key areas of intervention.

This is an article from the November-December 2020 issue: Human Trafficking:The Church Should Stop Supporting It!

Unreached Peoples & Trafficking?

Unreached Peoples & Trafficking?

Why an issue of Mission Frontiers on the global tragedy of trafficking? How does this connect in some way to our purpose of advancing and catalyzing movements to Jesus among the least reached peoples of the earth?

I want to address that from several lenses, but it might be good first to state as simply as possible what is meant by trafficking.

What Are We Talking About?

Pure and simple, trafficking involves transporting (though this does not always mean crossing country or even state borders) someone into a situation of exploitation. This can include forced labor, marriage, prostitution and organ removal. As such, some prefer to refer to trafficking as “modern slavery.” Note that “trafficking” does not equal “sex trade,” though this does constitute a large portion of what takes place, especially in the USA.

Statistics are notoriously difficult to establish but my searches suggest the number of men, women and children trafficked could range between 20 million and 40 million. Of that total, perhaps 71% are women and girls. It is profitable: globally perhaps as much as $150 billion in profits for traffickers.

You will learn more about all this in this edition of MF, but I wanted to open with at least a cursory description. But let me go to the central question, which has two parts within the same question.

Why Are We Talking About It?

Of course, one obvious reason to talk about trafficking is to state simply: because this matters to the Master we serve. The One who wept over Jerusalem’s refusal to come to Him is certainly weeping over this global evil.
Another comes from Isaiah, a window into the heart of Jesus. I say it that way because Isaiah is, in general, one of the books Jesus quoted from the most, and because it is where He drew His inaugural text from in Luke 4. Also, because of Matthew’s summary of Jesus’ ministry in Matthew 12:18ff, which refers to Isaiah 42 and the Spirit anointed Servant of Lord who will pursue justice for the nations. Isaiah’s version reads, “He will not falter nor be discouraged” until He “establishes justice in the earth.” (42:4)

So, we talk about it because He would. This would be and is on His heart. He would be, again is, persevering in His effort to bring justice, including ending this evil.

If we say we are people of Jesus, shaped by Jesus, and imitating the one who said He did what He saw the Father doing, and if we know He would be doing this, then we have to at least bring it to the light.

But that begs the second portion of the same question, because there are already organizations who see it as their purpose to end trafficking. So…

Why Are We Talking About It?

In other words, how does this advance the purposes of seeing movements to Jesus among the least reached?

I will respond with two deeply connected responses and one example. I admit these are limited in scope and that there is much more to be said. But my column is meant to be short, and others will take up this issue in this edition.

First, drawing again from Matthew, we speak often about and report on the progress of movements that are multiplying disciples. The latest data is on the cover of every edition of MF! As Matthew puts it, “making disciples” includes as a core element, “teaching them to obey everything I commanded you.” While we cannot point to some specific proof text about trafficking, the commands to love our neighbor as ourselves, the parable of the Good Samaritan (found in Luke) and so much more would suggest that full discipleship will result in at least some disciples in a movement among the unreached being encouraged and drawn to address this issue in their context.

Second, deeper than obedience to the commands specifically, there is the heart of Jesus. Matthew citing Isaiah 42, or Luke and Isaiah 61 and Jesus’ own examples of touching, cleansing, releasing and rescuing. Let’s not over-spiritualize all this. Release of the captive in Luke 4 is not just spiritual (though it certainly includes this) or metaphorical.

Disciples in movements to Jesus will be marked deeply, if the movement is authentic, by the heart of Jesus. And that heart will most often be “caught” from the disciple-maker. Thus, we talk about it here because awareness of this and other evils and allowing such awareness to affect our hearts—indeed infect our hearts with His heart— is a critical element in actual authentic discipleship.
It has to affect us to affect others. And I promised an example.


I lived and worked primarily in South Asia. One of the Unreached People Groups in which we saw a movement emerge and grow had large numbers of primarily men who lived, worked and migrated back and forth from the Gulf.
But many did not in fact go back and forth. Why? Because on arrival, their visa sponsors took their passports and documents and in effect enslaved them through entrapment. They were unable to go home and had no voice or avenue to protest. In later years I came to visit believers from this people group who lived in the Gulf. The movement spread along natural lines. And we became more and more keenly aware of the plight of these men, their families in their home country and the situation they were in.

I wish I could say we had a grand strategy emerge to solve the issue, but for that movement in that Unreached People Group, this has become an issue of faithful discipleship: how do believers among those trafficked and entrapped workers live faithfully? How do movement leaders seek to find ways to bring the issues to light? How are their families at home taken care of?

The heart of Jesus, whose disciples we claim to be and whose disciples we hope to multiply, is prompting these questions. To fail to shed light on this issue, as Frontier Ventures, would mean we are remiss in pursuing our calling: Movements to Jesus, expressing the fullness of the kingdom, among all peoples.

That is why we are talking about it.

This is an article from the November-December 2020 issue: Human Trafficking:The Church Should Stop Supporting It!

The Future of Frontier Missions and the World Christian Encyclopedia, 3rd edition

The Future of Frontier Missions and the World Christian Encyclopedia, 3rd edition

The year 2020 marks 10 years since a series of meetings in Tokyo, Edinburgh, Cape Town, and Boston commemorating the 100th anniversary of the 1910 Edinburgh World Missionary Conference. This year also marks the publication of a seminal reference work in mission and World Christianity: the 3rd edition of the World Christian Encyclopedia, produced by Todd M. Johnson and Gina A. Zurlo (Edinburgh University Press). Furthermore, 2020 marks a decade since the publication of an earlier major reference work, the Atlas of Global Christianity, 1910–2010 (Edinburgh University Press), produced by the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and copiously referenced in anticipation of and during these global gatherings. One of the Atlas’s purposes was to map the presence of Christianity around the world and to assess Christian mission and evangelization. In doing so, it brought attention to peoples and places around the world where Christianity had not yet reached.

The Tokyo meeting in May 2010 focused primarily on peoples unreached by the gospel. Echoing the “watchword” from Edinburgh 1910, the Tokyo Declaration states, “We set forth this declaration in obedience to Christ’s final command, as a means of calling Christ-followers everywhere to whole-heartedly embrace and earnestly engage in ‘making disciples of every people in our generation’….We will seek to know where people are unreached, overlooked, ignored, or forgotten.” Delegates in Tokyo looked for clarity on the status of the world’s peoples in relationship to Christian mission, as well as sought to develop strategies that might assist in reaching all peoples. In doing so, the meeting had a decidedly frontier missions focus.

Before this time, Christians from various traditions largely considered other Christians as their “frontier” in mission, seemingly unaware of how to push the boundaries of mission beyond established Christianity. Frontier mission—defined as mission outside of Christianity mainly among Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and other non-Christians—was a significant focus for Barrett and other church-based researchers starting in the 1970s. The 2nd edition of the World Christian Encyclopedia was published in 2001 and added a comprehensive list of the world’s peoples and languages with their status in relation to the presence of Christianity, various forms  of evangelization and Bible translation. This text presented another way of measuring frontier mission, by analyzing the quantity and quality of Christian resources among a people group. The fewer the resources, the further they were from the gospel message. This method has been continually updated and maintained in the online World Christian Database (Brill).

The 3rd edition of the World Christian Encyclopedia uncovered some notable findings that relate to frontier missions in 2020. Although 10 years is too short of a time period to highlight significant change, these findings offer some initial reflections since 2010. Many of these findings continue from where the Atlas of Global Christianity concluded.

The most important finding related to frontier missions is that 87% of all Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists (3 billion people in total) do not personally know a Christian. Within a country, or even within a city, adherents of different religions can be isolated from each other, in many ways, including geographically, ethnically, socially and economically. The WCE3’s concept of “personal contact” measures the number of non-Christians who personally know a Christian by applying a formula to each ethnolinguistic people group. Values for each country, region, and continent produce a global total. Although this number is an estimate, it offers a preliminary assessment of a critical shortfall in Christian mission.

Another  finding  is  that  in  2000,  30%  of  the  world  (1.84  billion  people)  had  not  been  evangelized.  In 2020, this has improved slightly to 28.2% or 2.2 billion. Our projection for 2050 is 28.0% or 2.7 billion unevangelized. Evangelization is measured by assessing whether individuals have had an adequate opportunity to hear the Christian message and to respond to it, whether they respond positively or negatively. This is estimated by analyzing evangelistic ministries at work in countries and peoples. Asia is the least evangelized continent in 2020 at 60% evangelized. Our estimates show that the rate of evangelization has slowed to the point where it is barely keeping up with population growth.

Further findings relate to the overall growth of religious affiliation. In 1970, 81% of the world’s population belonged to a religion. In 2020 it is 89% and by 2050, the world will likely be 91% religious. This trend is counterintuitive for Christians in the North, where it is perceived that religion is dying, but the world is indeed becoming more religious because religion is growing in China and India, the world’s two largest countries. The issue here is that Christians in the Global North, where most of the resources are, experience secularization, and then improperly project their experience to the rest of the world. The problem for frontier missions is that Christians in the Global North generally are not adept at interacting with people of other religions, yet, with their resource base, they continue to drive the global frontier mission enterprise. One recent study in Singapore found that nine out of 10 Singaporeans are comfortable living and working with people of different ethnicities or religions. In the Global North, similar polls show results closer to one in 10. But it is Christians in the Global North who write most of the books on how people in other religions can get along! Xenophobia is also much stronger in North America and Europe. It’s clear that Christians in Asia, who are used to living in multi-religious contexts, should be leading the way in how to love and interact with people of other religions.

At the center of this Christian interaction with people in other religions is the relationship between Christianity and Islam. In 1800, 33% of the world was either Christian or Muslim. In 2020, it is 57% and by 2050 a likely 64% of the world will be Christian or Muslim. Despite the prevalence of these two traditions, the relationship between the two is still predicated on the fact that Christians represent the “Western World” and Muslims the “Arab World.” Neither of these are true. Christianity is a majority Global South faith and the countries with the most Muslims are Indonesia, India, and Pakistan. The relationship between Christians and Muslims requires a fresh global approach to interfaith dialogue.

One important finding of the WCE is the continued shift of Christianity to the Global South. In 1900, 18% of all Christians lived in the Global South. In 2020, 67% of Christians live in the global South. Although in mission communities the shift is largely a well-known fact, it has not yet transformed frontier mission strategy. In recent years, the standard approach is for Western agencies to recruit non-Westerners for their work force. The movement of non-Westerners into the leadership of these agencies has been slow but is crucial to make the most impact in frontier mission. Nonetheless, Christians of the Global South are making and implementing their own plans for evangelization efforts, both within their countries and as cross-cultural missionaries.

The single greatest change in the shift to the global South has been the remarkable and rapid growth of Christianity in Africa. From only 1.7% in 1900, by 2050, 39% of all Christians worldwide will live in Africa. For Protestants this figure is even higher. Today, 44% of all Protestants are Africans and by 2050 it will likely be 55%. At the same time, Africans are underrepresented at nearly all global Christian events. A group of about 100 Protestant leaders from around the world gathered at a celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in Wittenberg, Germany in 2017. Only six Africans were in attendance. A white participant stated in front of the crowd, “Africans are welcome at the table.” One of the Africans responded, “In my country we have a proverb. ‘It is good for you to invite me to the table, but it is better if you invite me in the kitchen.’” In frontier missions, Africans should be in the kitchen but they are normally invited to the table where the menu has already been determined by Western Christians, who, due to their history and context, are the least adept at interacting with people in other religions, the core of the frontier missions task.

Fragmentation is another challenge for frontier mission, both by Christians from the Global North and Global South. There are 45,000 Christian denominations and rites in the world. Why so many denominations? Christians so often want to distinguish themselves from each other and choose to emphasize certain characteristics of their faith above others. The 16th-century Protestant Reformation was highly generative in the fragmentation of Christianity. Its emphasis on individual reading and interpretation of Scripture, combined with renewed religious freedom, resulted in the development of new Christian groups, each an attempt to capture a “purer” Christianity. As the Reformation expanded throughout Europe, the beginning of what is known today as denominationalism began. From the earliest days of Christianity, prophetic writers have called the church around the world to spiritual unit, yet our history is one of deep and frequent division. While there are important theological differences, many of our problems can be attributed to cultural and social differences. For frontier missions, disunity among Christians sows confusion. Which form of Christianity are new converts supposed to follow? Christians have the opportunity to come together in unity while maintaining distinctives, partly for their own sakes, and partly for the sakes of others and for the sake of witness to Christ around the world.

The third edition of the WCE is different from the first two editions in its efforts to highlight pressing social issues of today’s world, ranging from conflict and violence, persecution, Christians in politics, theological education, medical ministries, etc. All of these have significant impacts on pioneer mission, which often occurs in places with low rankings on socio-economic-development measures. While awareness is increasing of the growth of Christianity in, for example, sub-Saharan Africa, many overlook the critical realities that Christians face there—they are simply more vulnerable and less healthy than Christians in the West. One question posed by the findings of the WCE in relationship to frontier mission is the contributions of women. Women play a tremendous role in churches around the world, ranging from ordained pastoral leadership to healthcare and education. While no hard data exist, it is widely believed that most foreign missionaries in the world today (425,000 total) are women. Frontier mission strategy should think clearly about the unique contributions and gifts of women and encourage them to rise up into leadership positions.

Each of these findings will have a continuing impact on the frontier mission enterprise in the years ahead. The good news is that Christianity is growing beyond its base in the Western world where xenophobia is strong and Christians report negative feelings about people of other religions. The shift to the Global South is the future of frontier mission but bad habits from the West have already infected some churches in the Global South. For example, one of the fastest growing missionary movements is based in South Korea where Christianity is both fragmented and deeply xenophobic. Further questions arise about contextualization efforts of newer missionary-sending churches; for example, are Korean churches exporting Korean Christianity, or are they learning from the mistakes of the West? Christians from all over the world are taking up the call to go to peoples where the gospel is not known. Authentic, global partnerships in mission is the key to successful frontier mission strategy today and in the future.

This is an article from the November-December 2020 issue: Human Trafficking:The Church Should Stop Supporting It!

1% of the World: A Macroanalysis of 1,369 Movements to Christ

24:14 Goal Movement engagements in every unreached people and place by 2025 (62 months)

1% of the World: A Macroanalysis of 1,369 Movements to Christ
For over 25 years, I have been involved in mission research, working mostly on the global documentation of unreached places, peoples and efforts to reach them. During that time, I have worked with a variety of projects, from the second edition of the World Christian Encyclopedia in the late 1990s to my current work documenting movements.
For over a decade, I have met various people in the missiological community who have talked about rapidly multiplying Church Planting Movements. Until a few years ago, most of those familiar with the global situation thought there were perhaps as many as 100 active movements. In and around 2015, out of curiosity, I began collecting case studies and quantitative data on movements. This effort gathered steam in advance of meetings in 2017 to discuss the formation of what would become the 24:14 network. Several advocates encouraged others to share information beyond their own networks and movement(s) for the first time. I aggregated the data while adhering to the security and confidentiality requirements of each data submitter.
By the time of the meetings, we had documented nearly 1,300 engagements and 600 movements. These totals were significantly more than what most expected, which inspired the meeting participants. The evidence of the geographic and ethnographic spread of movements throughout the world’s clusters and affinity blocks encouraged many that the possibility of “a movement team for every people and place” might become possible in the near future. Since that time, I have continued to collect and share updated data on movements around the world, in order to encourage practitioners and provide information on the remaining gaps.
It should be obvious, but I want to state clearly: we gather data to document the total global numbers and regional trends and identify gaps. I do not claim credit for these movements. Further, much of what movements share  with me is provided in confidence and is very sensitive. I lead this research effort and hold this movement data  in trust for the 24:14 network. Obviously, various movements and teams do much of the research. Globally, a research team and a leadership team help make decisions on how to use and protect this data. We do not share or publish information below the regional level (e.g. at the country or people group level). We point interested people toward the various regional networks, which internally determine processes for connecting people and sharing information, based on the security requirements of the region’s situation.

Families of Movements

The largest amount of movement data comes to me from various networks. We don’t just accept any report published on the web or delivered to me. Our network examines new reporting organizations to confirm their reliability. The movements whose data we trust and use have webs of accountability and reporting (see http:// for a fuller discussion of the methodologies the various movements use).
Some 53% of the disciples and churches in movements are in 36 “families” or networks of movements. Some are quite large, numbering in the millions; others are quite small, numbering a few thousand. Some are centered on specific regions of the world, while others are multi-regional and even multi-continental in scope. Nearly all the movement families, no matter how widely spread, have “concentrations of focus” on specific peoples or specific religions. Outside these concentrations, the methods they have developed seem less effective. Movements focused on former Muslim radicals, for example, are less effective among agnostic or secularized non-religious people.

Global Totals

We can count each “family’s” presence in a country as a single “national movement” akin to a denomination. This methodology is similar to how the World Christian Encyclopedia counts denominations: the Assemblies of God, or Southern Baptists, or Roman Catholics. Each count as “one denomination” in each country where they have congregations. Measured this way, we currently know of 516 national movements.
As part of the 24:14 effort, all the organizations or movements report on their work using a scale, the CPM Continuum, which measures the level of activity of an existing team. This scale ranges from “1” (a single team just getting started) to “5” (a full movement), to “6” (local leadership) and “7” (movements that send workers to start new movements).
Teams report their efforts by a specific place (country, province, city) and, typically, people group, people cluster or language. Some agencies, due to their security requirements, may only report activity in a specific country (e.g. Austria, Australia, or Armenia). Others might report activity among a specific language group or cluster (such as “Turks” or “Kurds” or “Chinese students”). Still others might report activity coded with Joshua Project’s people group ID codes (PEO1-3).
All the reported data is aggregated and coded, then totaled to the regional level. This data is useful for telling us where gaps in effort likely exist. But to actually understand the scope, the “national movement” totals above may be more useful.
We count engagements as a team or group of teams focused on starting a movement among a specific people group, cluster or language, at any level on the CPM Continuum (1 to 7). Counting this way, we know of 4,500 engagements.
An engagement is counted as a movement when it consistently sees four generations of disciples gathered in churches, in multiple streams. Although not every movement has a minimum measure of total disciples, most use the 1,000 disciple minimum. Even if they don’t use that measure, four generations in multiple streams means a movement would normally be close to or greater than 1,000 disciples. Counting this way, we know of 1,369 movements.
Once movements reach the four-generation threshold, they tend to  grow  consistently  until  they  reach  larger sizes (around 100,000 and into the millions). At this point they may plateau or shift into starting       new movements (if they have not already begun doing so). While many teams have engaged, failed to see anything start, and returned home (I do not track that data), once a movement  reaches  four  generations,  it rarely ends. I have found only 18 examples of such endings (which I have, in the past, referred to as “fizzles”). In each of these, the disciples in the movements have either transitioned into more traditional churches or gone on to start new movements. So even in the few cases where movements have ended, the growth has not been lost.
Every movement involves numerous disciples and churches. Arriving at a total is somewhat complicated, given the differences in the ways various movements count. (I’ve also previously written about this in Based on what we’ve documented, movements currently include at least 77 million disciples in 4.8 million churches.
I need to emphasize our awareness that what we have documented so far is limited. Our numbers constitute the “floor,” not the “ceiling.” Some movements intentionally report smaller numbers than they have measured, in   order to be more confident in their figures (given the human element of reporting). Most of the movements have patterns for double-checking their numbers. We are aware of some reports that we have not included in our numbers, because we haven’t been able to fully document them. We hear tantalizing rumors of growth that still await adequate documentation. More is happening than anyone knows; only God sees the full scope.
Nevertheless, these numbers are inspiring:
  • More than 1 out of 100 people in our world today are part of a rapidly-multiplying movement to Christ.
  • The number of house churches in movements exceeds the number of organized churches in all other denominations in the world’s Christian traditions.
  • The numbers of house churches and disciples are growing exponentially.
  • Some movements are starting to plant new movements, which we expect will lead to even more exponential growth. 

Some Movements are Big, but Most are Fairly Small

The average size of most individual movements (bounded by people cluster and country) is 56,000 people. Due to small disparities in the way movements report members, comparing some movements to other movements isn’t always “apples to apples.” However, generally speaking, most movements are in the size range of 1,000 to 10,000 people; a handful of movements are larger than one million members.

A better approach is to look more broadly: within the 36 “families” of movements, just four families account for over one million people each. Another 10 account for over 100,000 each. The remaining 22 each account for fewer than 100,000 people.
With  77 million people in 4.8 million churches, the average size of a house church is about 16. This seems   to be a fairly common average in countries. However, some of the larger movements, in slightly more open countries, do see house groups grow into larger churches with as many as 200. Some smaller movements in more dangerous places see house churches as small as 3 or 4 (but they are connected to other churches in the movement through leadership).

Movements Can be Found in all UN Regions

Unsurprisingly, most of the world’s movements are found in Asia: 45 in Central Asia, 51 in East Asia, 208 in South Asia, 154 in Southeast Asia, and 224 in West Asia. Together, these represent the vast majority of the disciples in movements: over 52 million. While this is an enormous number, it represents just slightly more than 1% of Asia’s total population of 4.8 billion. While I am pleased to see these enormous movements, I also recognize they are a drop in the bucket compared to the need.
The second largest grouping of movements is found in Africa: 155 in East Africa, 71 in Middle Africa, 110 in North Africa, 14 in South Africa, and 140 in West Africa. Together, these represent over 11 million disciples. These numbers make up slightly less than 1% of Africa’s total population of 1.26 billion.
Europe has the third largest grouping of movements: 42 in Eastern Europe, 16 in Northern Europe, 33 in Southern Europe; 27 in Western Europe. Together, they have 2.6 million disciples. Many of these movements are among diaspora peoples. Very few of these movements are large; most are a few thousand disciples, with a few numbering over 10,000. All operate very much under the radar. They total about one-third of one percent of Europe’s total population of 742 million.
South and Central America combined have a handful of movements: 5 in the Caribbean, 4 in Central America, 6 in South America. Together they comprise about a million disciples. This makes them about one-quarter of one percent of South and Central America’s total population of 693 million.
North America has 31 movements, numbering in total less than half a million people. Most of the movements are very small groups among diaspora peoples. This constitutes about one-tenth of one percent of North America’s 382 million.
Finally, there are a half-dozen movements in the Pacific, comprising about 70,000 people. This also makes up about one-tenth of one percent of the Pacific region’s 45 million people.
Over half of 229 countries have movement engagements
While we don’t reveal specifics of engagements, we do note that out of 229 countries, 113 have no movements and 74 have no engagements.
If we evaluate countries according to their “Stage of Christianity,” we can see that movements tend to occur  at by far the highest percentages (86% to 95%) in countries that are less than a third Christian. However, half of countries between 32 and 90% Christian have movements, and there are even movements in 20% of the countries that are 90% (heavily cultural) Christian. Broadly speaking, movements have been shown to happen in every kind of place, but movement practitioners are inclined to work in largely non-Christian places.

Movements have mostly engaged Muslims and Hindus

It is somewhat challenging to estimate the number of disciples with a background in other religions. Many movements end up affecting more than one religious group, and it’s nearly impossible to know the distribution of focus. Nevertheless, I have estimated which movements are “majority focused” on a specific religion (e.g. Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism) and some order of magnitude differences can be seen.
Movement focus                                 Total disciples (millions)                                              
Cultural Christians                                  1.78
Ethnoreligionists                                     1.71 
Muslims                                                29.56
Hindus                                                  30.49
Nonreligious                                           1.72
Buddhists                                               2.40
Jews                                                    <0.1

Movements tend to concentrate in rural areas, but are expanding into urban ones

We’ve only just begun to fine tune the amount of information we have on where movements are engaging within specific countries, provinces, and districts. Most of what we know is very broad. It’s difficult to discern what percentage of movements are in urban areas, and what percentage are in rural areas.
By examining the historical data we have in the database and in the collected case studies, it appears the majority of movements began in rural areas and continue to operate mostly in those situations. Even when they are present in towns and cities, many of these areas have a rural flavor.
Nevertheless, movements are more and more reporting intentionally engaging peoples in cities, and seeing fruit there. The idea that movement methodologies can’t work in cities is being challenged in many places. Movements like those among the Bhojpuri in India, other movements in India, a variety of movements in West and East Africa, and various movements in Eurasia are engaging many people groups and geographical areas within the major cities of those nations. Some of those cities have a more rural feel to them, but many are very large megacities.  In addition, much of the work among Muslims is taking place in cities. At the same time, while the data is not comprehensive, it seems not many efforts focus on cities as a whole (versus focusing on specific peoples within certain cities). This is an area for development in the future.

Movements currently engage over 1,000 people groups and 2,000 languages

As with geographic locations, we are just beginning to gather good information on all the peoples and languages being engaged. From our limited data, we know of 1,140 people groups that are engaged, and 2,188 languages in different countries. This means that if Kazakh in Germany, Kazakhstan, and China were all engaged, it would count as “3” toward the total number of engagements. We also know of at least 255 provinces that  have movement-focused teams. We have just recently started gathering this dataset so we expect this reported number to grow significantly as more data becomes available. Again, this data should be understood as the “floor,” not the “ceiling.”

Virtually all of the Joshua Project Affinity Blocs are engaged

We have a better view of people group engagement when we look more broadly. Joshua Project has categorized the world’s 16,000 people groups into 272 clusters, which in turn are grouped into 16 affinity blocs. Fifteen of the 16 have movements. The sixteenth is the Deaf, and while there are certainly deaf disciples in movements, as of this writing we don’t know of movements specifically engaging this group.
The three affinity blocs with the greatest number of engagements are the Arab World, South Asian peoples, and Sub-Saharan peoples. The reason is fairly simple: people trying to start movements have worked the longest in these three blocs. Many movement efforts in other blocs have sprung out of the initial fruit in these blocs.

One-third of Joshua Project’s People Clusters are Engaged

Of Joshua Project’s 272 clusters, 93 are presently heavily engaged, meaning there are 10 or more teams working in the clusters. This doesn’t necessarily represent a fully adequate engagement yet, since many of these clusters number in the millions of people. Efforts in these locations should be undertaken in collaboration with existing field work, which in many places is being done by near-culture workers.
There are, on the other hand, 123 clusters with fewer than five engagements among them. Of these, 57 clusters are less than 5% Christian. They include well-known clusters like the Afar, Beja, and Luri. Much work remains to be done.

Conclusion: Movements as a Focus for the Future of Missions

We have been gathering information about each movement’s beginning date and its growth in five-year increments. About half of all known movements have reported this data. This analysis has led us to the conclusion that the number of movements is currently growing incrementally, not exponentially.

Please see the graph in the .pdf document accompanying this article.

However, the number of churches in these movements has been growing exponentially, as shown on this graph of growth over five-year increments:
Please see the graph in the .pdf document accompanying  this article.
Further, as movements begin focusing on sending out workers to start new movements, we anticipate seeing the first signs of exponential growth in numbers of movements in the next five years.
Rapidly multiplying movements to Christ have been sowing seed and steadily growing, out of the limelight, in the spiritually darkest places of the world for nearly three decades. While they remain a small percentage of the world, they are not insignificant. Disciples in movements make up 1% of our world’s population, and many movements have emerged in some of the most spiritually hungry regions. We know of 1,369 movements today, but another 2,000 teams are steadily and passionately working to catalyze movements in their own spheres. Within the next five to 10 years we could easily see the current 1% become 2% of the world, and almost certainly significantly more within specific areas of focus. Movements are not a passing fad but a significant topic for the future of our missiological discourse. There is much to be excited about, but still much to be learned. As the Body of Christ, we must continue to collaborate and refine our research in order to steward this knowledge responsibly.

This is an article from the November-December 2020 issue: Human Trafficking:The Church Should Stop Supporting It!

Sweden’s Secret Weapon in the Fight Against Sex Trafficking and Why It’s So Effective

Sweden’s Secret Weapon in the Fight Against Sex Trafficking and Why It’s So Effective

Some in the battle against sex trafficking have praised what they call “the Swedish Model” for fighting prostitution and other parts of the illegal trade. A big part of the Swedish Model was to make it illegal to buy sex, but not to sell it.

Per Sunesson, the Swedish Ambassador-at-Large for Combatting Trafficking in Persons, told CBN News why Sweden decided to do this and why it’s been hugely successful. “Prostitution used to be legal in Sweden and we had a big problem with gender inequality, a big problem with men’s violence against women,” Sunesson said. “So we really looked into this issue and the connection to prostitution. There was a lot of violence going on, and allowing men to buy women is not exactly gender equality, right?”

Criminalize the Buyer, Not the Seller

He said the country definitely decided it had to deal with these problems and launched an investigation in how best to do it.

Seeking solutions, Sunesson said his country asked questions like, “ ‘Should we criminalize both the buyer and the seller?’ Well, the investigation that was done in Sweden and all the investigations that were done after that showed that most of those who are in prostitution have been sexually abused while they grew up; they come from troubled backgrounds, drug abuse problems and all that. So they are pretty much victims already… a lot of them… most of them.”

“So the government said, ‘No, we’re not going to criminalize the one who’s selling. We’re going to put the shame and the blame on the person who’s using the vulnerable person. So we’re only criminalizing the purchase of sex,’” Sunesson explained. “And we put provisions in our law that Social Services must provide and offer help to those that are in prostitution.”

At the same time, the government made a big effort to educate police officers, prosecutors and judges about this new way to handle prostitution.

“Real Men Don’t Buy Sex”

It also launched efforts to stigmatize the idea that it was okay for men to pay for sex.

One example of this Sunesson cited: “We had some high-profile sportsmen come out and say ‘real men don’t buy sex’ and stuff like that.”
Before the new law took effect in 1999, the population was split about 50-50 over the idea that just the buying of sex – not the selling of it – should be criminalized. Now, about 85 percent of Swedes back the law.
“And it really changed the mindset of Swedish people,” Sunesson explained. “I’m 54 years old and I would say there are still people my age who think it’s okay to buy sex. But my son, who is 26, in his generation no one would even think the thought to buy sex.”

“So it really lowered the demand for girls and women in prostitution,” he told CBN News. “Sweden now is pretty much a dead market for human trafficking for sexual exploitation. We have almost no organized crime regarding that at all.”

In fact, not one violent crime against a prostitute has been reported since the law took effect, according to the ambassador.

Can “John Schools” Rehabilitate Offenders?

“And if you think about it, you really change the power balance,” Sunesson said. “Because if I were to go out and buy sex in Stockholm today, I would be so afraid that someone would find out. I would lose face. I would lose my job. If I would go to a prostitute and act up, I know she can call the police and I’m the one who’s going to get busted.”

Those caught trying to hire the services of a prostitute face penalties of up to a year in prison. But Sunesson said authorities usually just fine first-time offenders.

Sweden has instituted “john schools,” though, to change the mindset of offenders and rehabilitate them.

“A lot of those who buy sex are married,” Sunesson pointed out. “And I think one way of saving their marriage would be to go to the john school.”

Sweden may have had great success in dealing with human trafficking, but the ambassador warned the problem is growing worse in much of the rest of the world.

The International Move to Legalize Prostitution

“So many conflicts going on and with the war in Syria and displaced people all over the world has led to a lot of desperate people seeking shelter and desperate to go from one place to another,” Sunesson explained.

“And they connect to human smugglers. If those people don’t have money, the human smugglers team up with the human traffickers and say, ‘Okay, we’ll take you from point A to point B, but we need something. You need to pay, and if you don’t have any money, you have to pay with your own body – prostitute yourself.’ ”

He said Sweden is worried the problem is only going to grow worse from an international effort to legalize prostitution and brothels.

Sunesson pointed to a country not all that far from Sweden: Germany.

“They have legal brothels and more than 400,000 girls in prostitution. They have 1.26 million purchases per 24 hours,” Sunesson stated. “And 98 percent of those who are working at the brothels in Germany are girls from Romania, Macedonia, Bulgaria and other developing countries.”“And that’s always the picture, wherever you go in the world,” he noted. “It’s always the most vulnerable who end up serving at brothels and in prostitution.”


This is an article from the November-December 2020 issue: Human Trafficking:The Church Should Stop Supporting It!

15 Mind-Blowing Statistics About Pornography And The Church

15 Mind-Blowing Statistics About Pornography And The Church

Statistics reveal that the increase in the amount and reach of pornography cannot be ignored. But it is not just a problem affecting men. Women, teenagers and children are also being caught in the web of pornography at alarming rates. 

Many Christians may assume that the Church is immune. They see the smiling faces of the people who attend their church. Certainly such godly folks could not be viewing pornography.
But many studies and reports have come out over the last several years that show quite a disturbing picture. Not only has pornography invaded churches, but in many cases, the statistics show that Christians – and even church pastors – engage in viewing porn at almost the same rates as the secular population.

What The Numbers Show

The research studies, primarily by the Barna Group and Covenant Eyes, reveal that initial exposure to porn begins in childhood and progresses.
Access to porn is increasingly easy due to the wide variety of formats now available, such as printed materials, the internet, DVDs, television and more.
Let’s look at some data to see the scope and effects of porn in society and the church. 

1. Over 40 million Americans are regular visitors to porn sites. The average visit lasts 6 minutes and 29 seconds
2. There are around 42 million porn websites, which totals around 370 million pages of porn.
3. The porn industry’s annual revenue is more than the NFL, NBA, and MLB combined. It is also more than the combined revenues of ABC, CBS, and NBC.
4. 47% of families in the United States reported that pornography is a problem in their home. Pornography use increases the marital infidelity rate by more than 300%.
5. 11 is the average age that a child is first exposed to porn, and 94% of children will see porn by the age of 14.
6. 56% of American divorces involve one party having an “obsessive interest” in pornographic websites.
7. 70% of Christian youth pastors report that they have had at least one teen come to them for help in dealing with pornography in the past 12 months.
8. 68% of church-going men and over 50% of pastors view porn on a regular basis. Of young Christian adults 18-24 years old, 76% actively search for porn.
9. 59% of pastors said that married men seek their help for porn use.
10. 33% of women aged 25 and under search for porn at least once per month.
11. Only 13% of self-identified Christian women say they never watch porn—87% of Christian women have watched porn.
12. 55% of married men and 25% of married women say they watch porn at least once a month.
13. 57% of pastors say porn addiction is the most damaging issue in their congregation. 69% say porn has adversely impacted the church.

So What Should We Do?

These statistics can be overwhelming. The fact that porn-ography has such a tight grip on our society does not mean the Church is helpless to fight against it. Instead, Christian leaders must stand up and lead their churches through the battle. 

First, leaders must be willing to admit the problem exists in their churches. You can’t treat a disease until you know it’s there. So realize that the disease of pornography is growing within your church’s body.

The next step is to put a program and process in place. The Barna study revealed that 93% of pastors see porn as an increasing problem in the church, but only 7% have any plan to deal with it.

Then the church leaders must start taking action. You may decide to bring up the subject in a sermon series. Or maybe starting small study groups for men would be more effective.
Whatever you choose, your plans will be worthless if they are not boldly started.

A Powerful Weapon Against Pornography

You do not need to go into battle against pornography on your own. The Conquer Series is a powerful, Bible- based 10-week cinematic study that was created to help men break free from porn addiction. It has been helping over 1.5 million men worldwide live a life of sexual integrity by focusing on proven strategies to bring renewal to the mind. It’s perfect for small group or individual study. Get started watching the Conquer Series online at

This is an article from the November-December 2020 issue: Human Trafficking:The Church Should Stop Supporting It!

The U.S. Government Response to Human Trafficking

The U.S. Government Response to Human Trafficking

COMMITTED TO ERADICATING HUMAN TRAFFICKING: President Trump has signed four bills in recent weeks that demonstrate the bipartisan commitment to end human trafficking.

  • Today, the President is signing the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (S. 1862) which tightens criteria for whether countries are meeting standards for eliminating trafficking.
  • The President signed the Abolish Human Trafficking Act in December, which strengthens programs supporting survivors and resources for combating modern slavery.
  • President Trump signed the Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act, authorizing $430 million to fight sex and labor trafficking.
  • The President signed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (S. 1312), establishing new prevention, prosecution, and collaboration initiative to bring human traffickers to justice.
  • In addition to these efforts, Congress needs to pass legislation that strengthens border security and prevents human trafficking in all forms.


GOVERNMENT-WIDE EFFORT: President Donald Trump has dedicated the full resources of his Administration to work towards ending human trafficking. The President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons is working across the United States Government to prosecute traffickers, protect victims, and prevent these crimes before they take place.

  • In one of his first acts in office, President Trump signed an executive order to combat transnational criminal organizations that engage in international trafficking and exploit people.
  • The Administration is fully enforcing our laws to ensure human traffickers receive the full measure of justice they deserve.
  • In FY 2018, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) made 1588 Human Trafficking arrests while identifying and assisting 308 victims of the same heinous crime. ICE-HSI also made over 4,000 criminal arrests for human smuggling violations.
  • 1543 of the 1588 arrests HSI made in FY 2018 for human trafficking were for sex trafficking violations.
  • The new United States Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) negotiated by President Trump includes tough forced- labor provisions.
  • The Department of Labor has led efforts to combat child labor, forced labor, and human trafficking by cataloging goods made with forced labor and child labor and developing tools for companies and other stakeholders to address these abuses in their global supply chains.
  • Reaffirming this Administration’s commitment to abolish modern slavery, President Trump proclaimed January 2019 as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.



  • The heinous crime of human trafficking is a horrific assault on human dignity that impacts people here in the United States and around the world.
  • There are nearly 25 million victims of human trafficking worldwide.
  • In the United States, more than 8,500 human trafficking cases were reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline last year alone.
  • In a Blaze news article,1 Attorney General William Barr—joined by former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow, first daughter Ivanka Trump, and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R)—announced at a roundtable event on Monday, September 21st that the Department of Justice would be awarding more than $100 million to help combat human trafficking.

This is an article from the November-December 2020 issue: Human Trafficking:The Church Should Stop Supporting It!

Support the Mission of MF

Support the Mission of MF

For 42 years now, Mission Frontiers and Frontier Ventures have been servants to the frontier mission movement in casting vision and providing resources to see Kingdom Movements fostered in all peoples. Now we are asking you to prayerfully consider supporting Mission Frontiers and Frontier Ventures as vehicles for the vision we mutually share.    —Rick Wood, Editor of Mission Frontiers

At the end of this unusual year, would you consider an extraordinary level of partnership?


Dear Kingdom Partner, 

In this time of unprecedented crisis and change I am grateful for your engagement with the frontier mission movement. Your continued interest, prayers, and in many cases, practical actions have served to further the Kingdom. No one has been left untouched by the global events of 2020. Please know that as a community we are committed to praying for you and for your families. Our aim is unchanged after forty years—movements to Jesus within every people. This year of global pandemic was no different. As a result of the Lord’s grace and strategic adjustments throughout our ministries, we are thankful to share the following advancements:

  • New movements to Jesus  emerging within five of the largest frontier people groups\
  • Practical innovative solutions in the midst of COVID through ministries like the Winter Launch Lab, which facilitated solution-based consultation for troubleshooting the complexities of the pandemic. 
  • Continued mobilization through Perspectives USA, Perspectives Global, and our NextGen gatherings. These ministries made quick pivots in order that 2020 mobilization efforts could continue with little interruption. 
  • Strategic prayer, as Joshua Project and the Global Prayer Digest continued to faithfully supply the missions movement with insight for intercession on a daily and monthly basis. 
  • Generous giving to frontier places deeply affected by the pandemic to communities in more dire circumstances than our own. We sent $50,000 to assist six small “frontline projects” among some of the world’s most vulnerable people. This included food programs in Manila and provision of clean water and sanitizing supplies in Somalia.

2020 may have changed the means, but it could never change the mission. Imagine what we can do together to see Kingdom breakthrough among the least reached of the earth. At the end of this unusual year, would you consider an extraordinary level of partnership? Go to and choose to partner in any of three ways:

  1. By giving a special gift to one of our support raised staff
  2. By giving to the Frontier Ventures General Fund
  3. You could do both

This is an opportunity to partner with us monthly, or in a special year end gift to further the work we do through efforts like Mission Frontiers. This issue of Mission Frontiers focuses on one of the greatest injustices of our time, human trafficking. Believing that every human bears the image of our creator God, we deeply value the lives of those enslaved. We believe that the Kingdom of God was meant to expose and influence systems that allow for this injustice to continue. May His Kingdom break into these places as you prayerfully read the pages that follow.

Thank you!

Kevin Higgins

General Director, Frontier Ventures

This is an article from the November-December 2020 issue: Human Trafficking:The Church Should Stop Supporting It!

Disturbing the Delicate Inner Workings of Indigenous Movements

Disturbing the Delicate Inner Workings of Indigenous Movements

Have you ever had the chance to see inside an ultra-mechanical watch that has hundreds of intricate parts that work together to create the movement? No doubt each and every mechanism and piece plays an important role that only the clockmaker himself understands. But if the clock is opened by a curious hand that tries to “help it along,” the entire thing can come to a grinding halt. So it is with Disciple Making Movements (DMM).

In North America, there are some Disciple Making Movement enthusiasts who neglect the very DMM principles and practices that they advocate for in their homeland when they pitch in to help growing movements in the rest of the world.

Seven key DMM core principles include making disciple-makers, mobilizing ordinary people, meeting Persons of Peace, being discovery-based, being obedience-focused, discipling to conversion and fostering reproducibility.

The process is as follows: a Discovery Group (DG) made up of ordinary people discovers Jesus’ commands through the Bible. They obey those commands such as love, give, and pray in their network of relationships. As they meet Persons of Peace, they start discipling them the minute they form relationships. This in turn leads to more disciples and Discovery Groups through four or more generations of multiplication.

Let’s look at how quickly the gears and mechanics of indigenous DMM can be disturbed. Take this hypothetical but very typical example of a church team in the USA. Fully aware of the DMM core principles, they head to a place in Africa with a majority Muslim population. The team is made up of medical professionals who offer compassion ministry alongside a local DMM team. The Westerners’ goal is to pave the way and earn the favor of the community on behalf of the local DMM team. This sounds worthwhile on the surface, but undermines the seven DMM principles listed above.

To unpack where things went wrong, this key principle applies: Pass on function— not form— in cross-cultural work. The visiting team from the USA came alongside the local DMM using a model (form) of compassion (function) that was only doable for themselves, both capacity-wise and resource-wise. In other words, their tangible expression of compassion was not replicable for the local insiders.

The function — obey Christ’s command to love our neighbors as ourselves
The form — professional medical teams from the USA serving the sick

In this case, the visiting team’s form of ministry was extraordinary. It was not birthed from indigenous discovery and the everyday obedience of the ordinary people making up the DG who would be modeling to their fellow citizens how to love their neighbors in reproducible ways as part of their DMM.

Faithfully stewarded DMM principles and practices would cause the above example to unfold very differently. Consider this scenario: A DG learns the story of Tabitha, otherwise known as Dorcas, and how she was always doing good and helping the poor. (Acts 9:36–43) They discover the breadth and width of the story through retelling the story and Discovery Bible questions. When they get to the question about how they should obey the passage, they decide to offer their help with chores in the house, garden or field among the elderly, sick and vulnerable. These ordinary people come up with simple yet beautiful forms of showing practical love to the vulnerable in their community. The form is indigenous, incarnational, and replicable for their soon-to-be disciples and disciple-makers.

The function — obey Christ’s command to love our neighbors as ourselves
The form — offer help with basic chores among the widows, sick and elderly in the community

A few years ago, I sat with a group of disciple-makers in India. They shared with me one of their biggest challenges in their disciple-making efforts. They struggled to reproduce the forms that Westerners implemented and to which the people in their communities had become accustomed. They told me something to this effect: We  try to obey Christ by loving our neighbors in simple yet doable ways for us, but it always pales in comparison to groups who rely on teams from America. We have actually had people tell us to not bother them with Jesus-talk unless we bring them Americans with goodies.

Along with exporting non-reproducible forms, some American churches and organizations are financially supporting these movements in one form or another. I often rub up against and read about churches and organizations that chronically raise money for the very purpose of supporting these movements.

Think with me for a moment. If  DMMs are multiplying like wildfires—especially if they are learning to  obey Christ’s commands before they are even converted—shouldn’t their giving also be multiplying beyond imagination? Why would we need to fund these movements and their leaders? It shouldn’t be necessary!

Not only have I observed American churches and organizations subsidize movements, I have seen them introduce forms into these movements that are not readily reproducible to provide a way for their donors to get in on the action. For example, they may offer centralized trainings where their donors have the opportunity to teach about disciple-making in a particular country. Centralized trainings require lodging, food, transportation, and more—which makes this form dependent on outsiders. In this case, a key component of the movement  is now dependent on foreign funding, foreign languages and foreign teachers, who have little to no personal experience in the culture in which they are attempting to serve.

Unfortunately, many also do not have firsthand experience in DMMs in their own society. Jonathan Martin reminds us, “If a church or ministry starts out dependent on Western money—Western money will eventually end it.” This potent statement includes Disciple Making Movements.1 shared a recent blog of how merely giving several pairs of rubber boots to local new disciple-makers who were originally willing to wear their flip flops through monsoon-flooded areas stopped a DMM in its tracks. What seems like a little generous boost can easily upset the delicate balance of a local DMM.

The well-known Perspectives course material states, “Many churches in the Wealthy West unwisely splash surplus resources in misguided ways that may feel as if ‘compassion’ is being expressed. But such funding often causes a dynamic dependency in which multiplication is shut down.”3

Ron Klaus, Ethiopia Director of Hope In View, commented on a blog about Disciple Making Movements: “We have not yet seen a single example where outside money has not produced dependency. It hinders the development of tithing communities and thus prevents movements from expanding without outside support. Furthermore, if and when the money ends, there are always relational problems.”4

Is all this outside unhealthy influence because we can’t stand to be on the sidelines? Do we still feel a need   to somehow be the ones making big things happen? Do we not trust the momentum of the movement or the ordinary people and their extraordinary prayer, and thus feel we need to artificially speed up the movements?

Most of us cannot conceive of DMM disciples, groups and churches discovering and practicing their own forms of compassion, and supporting their own movements. We have lifted the ceiling of our imaginations for what ordinary disciples can do around the world in regard to DMM. Maybe we need to lift that ceiling even higher and trust them to discover and obey Jesus Christ with indigenous expressions of obedience in areas of compassion, giving and resourcing their own movements. Additionally, we really don’t want Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists and Spiritists to assume that foreigners are the ones in control. We can wrap DMM terminology around our dependency-generating approaches, but at the end of the day, it is still bad missional habits on our end.

Roy Moran, the author of Spent Matches, reminds us that we have focused so much on the external elements of modern Church in regard to our strategies that we haven’t had the patience or principles to let function lead form.5 Likewise, we have amazing DMM principles under our belt, but we need to make sure we have the patience to go along with God’s timing. When we hurry to usher in Jesus’ return by trying to reach all nations rapidly, we take shortcuts and slowly return to human-motivated pushes. (Matt. 24:14) George Patterson, known for his church multiplication strategies in Central America and beyond, wrote: “Spontaneous reproduction of churches means the Holy Spirit moves a church to reproduce daughter churches on its own without outsiders pushing the process.” (Acts 13:1–3)6

Where does that leave us?

  1. We should consider being a part of a DMM in our own neighborhoods on the home front. God can use us where we are!
  2.  If you are an apostle in an unreached people group and you start the DMM process, as soon as possible, commend the movement to the local disciples and the Holy Spirit. Keep outside funding and presence out of the way.
  3.  We should be a part of the extraordinary prayer for the movements, rather than the extraordinary dollar.
  4.  We must do everything possible to affirm the DMM principles in others when given the opportunity. At the same time, avoid undermining those principles even in seemingly small ways such as rubber boots.
  5.  We can be patient and trust the ordinary priesthood of indigenous believers who pray extraordinarily for God’s power, intervention and provision in their own realms of responsibility.
  6.  We can learn from these movements and then practice in our own networks of relationships where multiplying disciples, discovery, obedience, extraordinary prayer, and persecution become our norm instead of riding on the waves of others’ success.

We definitely want to be at work where God is at work, but as the cross-cultural workers it is important we don’t inadvertently stop the gears and momentum of indigenous movements. As Paul wrote, “My ambition has always been to proclaim the Good News in places where Christ has not been heard of, so as not to build on a foundation laid by someone else.” (Rom. 15:20, Good News Translation)

  1. Jonathan Martin, Giving Wisely, (Sisters, OR: Last Chapter Publishing,
    L.L.C., 2008), 118.

  2., “Money — It Both Helps and Hurts,”
    June 10, 2017.

  3. Steven Hawthorne, Perspectives on the World Christian Movement:
    The Study Guide Fourth Edition (Pasadena, CA: William Carey,
    2009 Edition), 149.

  4. 7 Ron Klaus comments in “Strengthening the Foundation” blog, May 30, 2019, ing-reversal.html?utm_source= feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed:+blogspot/ZreGe+(Under+His+Wings)

  5. 8 Roy Moran, Spent Matches, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2015), 59.

  6. 9 George Patterson, “The Spontaneous Multiplication of Churches,” ed. Steven Hawthorne, Perspectives, (Pasadena, CA: William Carey, 2009 Edition), 633.

This is an article from the November-December 2020 issue: Human Trafficking:The Church Should Stop Supporting It!

The Porn Industry is Modern-day Slavery: How Pornography and Sex Trafficking Are Linked

The Porn Industry is Modern-day Slavery: How Pornography and Sex Trafficking Are Linked

To most people, sex trafficking is a problem that exists in distant foreign countries.

You may think, “But it certainly isn’t something that would involve me, is it?”

If you view pornography, then the answer is “Yes.” The truth is, porn and sex trafficking have strong links, even in the United States, where the sex trafficking industry is worth $3 billion a year.

How big is the sex trafficking problem? The University of New England reports it is the third largest criminal business in the world, behind only drugs and weapons.

On April 11, 2018, the White House provided these statistics:

  • Sex trafficking is a global form of modern-day slavery in which individuals are coerced to perform commercial sex acts against their will.
  • Per the International Labor Organization, 4.8 million victims were in forced sexual exploitation. Over 99 percent of trafficked individuals trapped in forced sexual exploitation are women.
  • Over 21 percent of those trafficked for sex are children.
  • In Fiscal Year 2017, the Department of Homeland Security investigated 833 human trafficking cases. This resulted in 1,602 arrests and 578 convictions, and identified 518 victims of human trafficking.
  • Since 2007, the National Human Trafficking Hotline has received reports of 22,191 sex trafficking cases in the United States.
  • Of the nearly 25,000 runaway children reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, one in seven were likely victims of child sex trafficking.

So How Is Pornography Connected?

According to journalist John-Henry Westen, “As long as America’s men are being trained to think that violent, disturbing pornography is sexually acceptable, an enormous clientele for sex traffickers is being created every day in homes, college dorms and apartments across the nation.”

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) defines sex trafficking as “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act.” It also includes “inducing commercial sex acts by force, fraud or coercion.”

A “commercial sex act” means “any sex act on account of which anything of value is given to or received by any person.” Since porn performers are given money and other items of value, the definition certainly applies to the pornography industry.

But are porn performers coerced or induced by force or fraud? Aren’t all the scenes done by consenting adults?

One former porn actress testified, “Women are lured in, coerced and forced to do sex acts they never agreed to do… [and given] drugs and alcohol to help get [them] through hardcore scenes… The porn industry is modern- day slavery.”

Sex traffickers use pornography in many ways. They force their victims to watch porn to desensitize them and train them in sex acts they will be forced to perform. They also video the victims and sell and distribute the pornographic films on the internet and other outlets.

“But I’m just watching a few porn videos on my computer.”
You may think that watching a little porn alone at home doesn’t have an impact on sex trafficking.

Dr. Mahri Irvine, Adjunct Professional Lecturer at American University, said, “I really wish that people who watch porn knew more about that. Because I think they believe that they’re engaging in this activity in a very passive way. And they’re like, ‘Oh, I’m doing it in the privacy of my own home and this is just a video that I’m watching.’ And they’re not associating it with the fact that pornography is very often the filmed abuse of sex trafficking victims.”
Noel Bouché, Executive Director of pureHOPE, explained, “While pornographic content includes trafficked victims from around the world, porn consumers aren’t told anything about the performers, including which ones may have been trafficked from an early age. Regular users of internet pornography are likely consuming pornography that includes adult and child victims of sex trafficking.”

On Redeeming Love’s blog, Katie Tomkiewicz summarized, “Various studies show that when pornographic content is viewed, the viewer’s mind becomes increasingly calloused to the brutalities of the sex-trafficking industry, which include coercion, sexual violence, and the general idea that women are objects existing for the purpose of providing sexual pleasure.”

She continued, “The psychological effects that pornography has on the mind cannot be denied; the harm done to both the viewer and the viewed cannot be denied. It is critical to address today’s pornographic culture for what it is: a hub for sex-trafficking and a gateway drug for future pimps and johns.”

Freedom Is Possible

Perhaps you were not aware that pornography and sex trafficking were so closely linked. You certainly thought your porn habit was a harmless pastime that didn’t affect anybody.

But now you know. And it’s not just sex trafficking victims that are impacted by porn viewing. Pornography viewing affects you, your family, your friends, and all areas of your life. And it also affects your relationship with God.

But there are men and women just like you who are making a stand and breaking free from their struggle with pornography.

Joshua Jorstad is one of more than 750,000 men who have started their journey to freedom through a powerful small group course called the Conquer Series.

“Because of the Conquer Series, I started my journey to be free from porn! I am officially a year and a half clean and have been loving the change. Ultimately, it was God who changed my heart, but your resources helped a bunch!”
Make a stand against sex trafficking and start your journey to freedom.

This is an article from the November-December 2020 issue: Human Trafficking:The Church Should Stop Supporting It!

Swedish Model as an Example to Prevent Human Trafficking

Swedish Model as an Example to Prevent Human Trafficking

In 1997, Sweden was the first country in the European Union to appoint a National Rapporteur on Trafficking  in Human Beings following a joint declaration (“The Hague Declaration”) of the European Union in 1997.    This Declaration recommends all member states to appoint National Rapporteurs, who are “to report to governments on the scale, the prevention, and combating of trafficking in women.”

In 1998, the Swedish Government appointed the Swedish Police Authority as National Rapporteur on Trafficking  in Human Beings. At the time, knowledge about the scale, forms and consequences of this heinous crime  was limited, in the EU as well as in Sweden. Hence, the National Rapporteur’s most important task is to monitor, analyze and present comparative data about the state of trafficking in human beings within and to Sweden, and to evaluate the effectiveness of law enforcement actions as well as legal, policy and practical measures and initiatives.  The National Rapporteur also ensures that the Swedish police forces are given continuing training in how to investigate these crimes. The National Rapporteur also represents Sweden at meetings of regional and international law enforcement bodies and cooperation schemes, including as a member of the European Commission Network of National Rapporteurs.

The National Rapporteur and her team presents annual monitoring reports to the Government on the state of the situation of all forms of human trafficking in Sweden, and gives recommendations.

Background to the Sex Purchase Act

Sweden was the first country in the world to adopt the Sex Purchase Act.

The Act, Prohibiting the Purchase of Sexual Services, was passed in 1998 and came into force on January 1, 1999. It was introduced through a government bill on violence against women—called Kvinnofrid, meaning “women’s peace.” Today the legislation is included in Chapter 6, Section 11 of Sweden’s Penal Code.

Paying for sex is a criminal offense. It is also a criminal offense to attempt to pay for sex and to pay for sex on behalf of another person. Initially, the maximum sentence for paying for sex was six months imprisonment. In 2011 this was increased to one year. If a fine is issued instead of a prison sentence, Sweden’s system for issuing fines means its size will depend on the offender’s income.

In Sweden prostitution is regarded as a form of violence against women. It is both a cause and a consequence of inequality between women and men. The Sex Purchase Act is designed to tackle this form of violence by discouraging men from paying for sex, while supporting those exploited through prostitution to exit and rebuild their lives.

The effective delivery of support and exiting services for women exploited through the sex trade is essential to realizing the objectives of the Sex Purchase Act.

Why it works

In order for its full potential to prevent commercial sexual exploitation to be realized, the Sex Purchase Act must be enforced, and it must be seen to be enforced. Normative effects and implementation go hand in hand. A controversial law does not implement itself.

As is the case for legislation in general, however, simply adding the Sex Purchase Act to the statute books is not the end point.

An important component of the work to prevent and combat prostitution and trafficking in human beings in Sweden is regular training of law enforcement, prosecutors and judges. In Sweden, the training focuses not only on adequate investigation techniques but importantly also on attitudes, and underlying principles for legislation, policies and interventions regarding prostitution and trafficking in human beings.

Students at the Police Academy are also given access to training on prostitution and human trafficking-related legislation and policies, awareness-raising and effective investigation methods.
The National Rapporteur concluded in her 2011 report on initiatives carried out under the National Action Plan that regular training of police and other key public agencies is a core element in the success of the Swedish law enforcement measures to prevent and combat prostitution and trafficking in human beings.

Training of Police

When the law was passed a lot of questions were raised within the Swedish Police. The police are a male-dominated world and there were a lot of stereotype images about prostitution. It was mostly viewed as a social problem by the police. There were questions and opinions like:
• This is an agreement between two adults. Why should the police interfere?
• Why aren´t the women criminalized (they are tempting the men)?
• The women like it and they need the money.
• This is a minor offense, nothing to spend resources on.
• The crime will be difficult to prove.
• None of the parties will be interested to talk to the police.
• We (the police), will ruin their (the buyer’s) marriage.
Prostitution might be a social problem but it is very much linked to various criminal activities that are police matters:
• Trafficking in human beings
• Drugs
• Violence and even murder
• Money laundering
• Disturbance of the order, etc.

So, if we can reduce prostitution, we will see a reduction in these criminal activities too.

For better understanding of the significance of the law, police officers need training about the mechanisms around prostitution. Why do women end up in prostitution? What are the effects and risk of prostitution? The imbalance is between the man who buys and the woman who is exploited. Women act sexy and willing in order to get the money, not because they like what they do. Many of them are also forced by pimps and traffickers.

We, the police, look upon women in prostitution as a group at risk. There might always be somebody around who plans to hurt these women badly. It is therefore important that the women are not criminalized and subjected to any harassment and punishment. They must feel free to report all kinds of information to the police without being punished. The fact that the women are not criminalized removes the tension between the women in prostitution and the police. One woman in street prostitution recently concluded that “The police are bad for my business but good for me.”

Chasing the buyers lead us to the victims and the traffickers. Most cases of trafficked human beings (THB) are detected by using the law. In Stockholm 75% of the women who are exploited in prostitution originate from foreign countries’ victims of THB.

Our prostitution teams consist of both police officers and social workers. When a buyer is arrested, he is also offered assistance (advice, counseling, therapy) by the social service in order to quit his criminal behavior. Also, the women are offered the same kind of assistance in order to exit prostitution and rebuild their lives.

Evaluation of the implementation of the offense that prohibits the purchase of a sexual service—Special Inquiry (2008-2010)

In April 2008, the Government appointed a Special Inquiry led by Chancellor of Justice, Anna Skarhed, to evaluate the implementation of the ban against the purchase of sexual services and its effects.

The starting point for the evaluation was that the purchase of a sexual service remains criminalized. The Special Inquiry consulted with women and men involved in prostitution, women and men who have had experiences of prostitution, the police and prosecution services, social workers, civil society, women’s human rights and victim support organizations, public authorities and other key stakeholders.

On July 2, 2010, the Chancellor of Justice presented the Special Inquiry report to the Government. Special Inquiry conclusions on the effects of the legislation that prohibits the purchase of sexual services are as follows:

  1. There is a clear connection between the existence of prostitution and trafficking in human beings for sexual purposes.
  2. The number of individuals exploited in street prostitution has halved since 1999.
  3. The neighboring countries, Denmark and Norway, have three times as many individuals in street prostitution. The concern that prostitution would move to other arenas has not been fulfilled.
  4. Prostitution through the internet has increased in Sweden as it has in other countries. This is not due to the law but due to the development generally of online technology.
  5. The number of individuals that are sold via internet web pages/web ads are much larger in similar neighboring countries such as Denmark and Norway.
  6. There is no evidence of an increase of indoor prostitution.
  7. Despite a significant increase in prostitution in the neighboring countries during the past 10 years, there is  no evidence of a similar increase in Sweden. It is reasonable to believe that this is due to the criminalization  of the purchase of sexual services in Sweden.
  8. The prohibition deters the establishment of organized crime networks/groups in Sweden.
  9. As concluded by the National Police, the legislation functions as a barrier against the establishment of traffickers and pimps in Sweden.
  10. The legislation has strong support in Sweden among the public, and has brought about significant positive changes in attitudes. Hence, the law has normative as well as direct effects on the reduction of crime.
  11. The prohibition also acts as a deterrent for men who buy sexual services. Individuals with experience in prostitution, as well as the police and social workers conclude that buyers are more cautious, and that demand has decreased considerably since the prohibition came into force.
  12. Only 7.8% of Swedish men have bought someone for prostitution purposes (2008) compared to 13.6% of Swedish men before the legislation came into force.
  13. Despite misgivings that it would be more difficult to reach women in prostitution, that prostitution would “go underground,” and that the conditions of prostituted individuals would worsen, there is no evidence that the prohibition has had negative effects for individuals exploited in prostitution.
  14. The enforcement of the legislation generally works very well: police and prosecutors do not identify any administrative or investigative difficulties to enforce the law.
  15. Successful enforcement of the legislation depends on available resources, and what priorities are made by the justice system.


The Government’s  2010 evaluation also reported that eight out of 10 prosecutions for paying for sex involve a man who has admitted to the offense. Where a suspect has admitted the offense, he will usually be given a summary fine. Since 2001, over 85% of prosecutions have resulted in the offender receiving a fine. The evaluation also reported that prosecutors “do not currently see any application problems directly linked to the penal provision. Sexual purchase offenses are usually considered to be easy to investigate and relatively uncomplicated to process. There can be evidentiary problems, but almost half of the offenses reported have been linked to an individual, meaning that a decision has been made to bring charges, impose a summary fine or grant a waiver of prosecution. This is twice the number compared to other reported sexual offenses.”

Evidence from Norway

Norway adopted the Sex Purchase Act in 2009. An evaluation of the law’s impact commissioned by the Norwegian Government and published in 2014 reported, “A reduced market and increased law enforcement posit larger risks for human traffickers. The profit from human trafficking is also reduced due to these factors. The law has thus affected important pull factors and reduced the extent of human trafficking in Norway in comparison to a situation without a law.” The prostitution trade also has shrunk. Systematic field observations of the street prostitution market in Oslo reveal it has declined by 40%-65% since the law was adopted.

Finally! Laws are not created solely for the purpose of sending people to prison or to fine them. Laws are created because we want people to refrain from certain harmful acts. The legislation that prohibits the purchase of a sexual service came into being as one in a series of preventative laws and measures aimed specifically at the protection of vulnerable women and girls, men and boys against serious acts of sexual violence, but also to create a society where the culture of prostitution is changed into a culture where the human rights of all women and girls are protected.

This is an article from the November-December 2020 issue: Human Trafficking:The Church Should Stop Supporting It!

The Global Slave Trade: A Cause for Our Time

The Global Slave Trade: A Cause for Our Time

As Christians, we worship a God who is passionate to rescue the oppressed. He has given us a biblical mandate to “seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, and plead for the widow.” (Isa. 1:17) According to a National Geographic Magazine article published in September 2003, “there are more slaves today than were seized from Africa in four centuries of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The modern commerce in humans rivals illegal drug trafficking in its global reach—and in the destruction of lives.” Two common forms of modern-day slavery are forced labor and forced prostitution. In both situations, people profit by inflicting horrific abuse on the vulnerable. For victims of slavery, rescue is not an abstract concept but an urgent and desperate need.

At International Justice Mission, we have the joy of seeing God rescue people out of slavery into a life of freedom. International Justice Mission [IJM] is a collection of lawyers, criminal investigators and trauma social workers who take on individual cases of abuse and oppression referred by ministries and relief and development workers serving among the poor. They bring IJM cases of violence, slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of oppression. IJM then investigates these cases to bring about four things: rescue and relief for the victims; provision of aftercare to meet their broad and complicated needs; pursuit of justice for the perpetrators; and finally, structural prevention to keep the abuses from happening again.

Forced Labor Slavery

Forced labor slavery is the continual labor of an individual forced to work by mental or physical threat. Forced labor slaves are owned by an employer to whom the slave or slave’s family is indebted. They are forced to work long hours, often seven days a week, for meager wages, if any, attempting to pay back a debt that increases at exorbitant interest rates. In reality, there is no way to repay the debt and the laborer becomes essentially a slave for life. Many bonded slaves are children who are beaten and abused if they do not fulfill the extreme expectations of the owner. In 2005, the U.S. State Department reported that cases of forced labor were documented in 112 countries worldwide. According to the International Labour Organization, at any given time in 2016, an estimated 40.3 million people are in modern slavery, including 24.9 million in forced labor and 15.4 million in forced marriage.1

IJM investigates and documents cases of forced labor slavery, then works with local law enforcement within the country’s legal system to emancipate slaves and bring slaveholders to justice. IJM also works to secure quality aftercare for the victims.

Nagaraj grew up in a brick factory, working as a slave since the age of 12. For him, the worst part was seeing his own children grow up as another man’s property. Forbidden to go to school, Nagaraj’s children worked exhausting hours alongside other laborers in the searing heat of the kiln. IJM and local authorities raided the brick factory in 2004, resulting in release certificates for 78 people who had been held as slaves. Together with their families, 138 men, women and children were released from the kiln. Nagaraj now owns and operates his own brick kiln, and his children are free to go to school.

Forced Prostitution

Around the world, many women and children are forced into prostitution or sexual slavery, often at the hands of sex traffickers or brothel owners who exploit them for financial gain. Traffickers sell individuals to make a profit in what has become a multi-billion-dollar enterprise. Sex trafficking often consists of the movement of persons across or within borders, but may not entail actual physical displacement. In January, 2020, the International Labor Organization estimated that there are currently 25 million victims of human trafficking around the world.2

IJM investigators spend thousands of hours infiltrating brothels and uncovering the world of sexual exploitation. IJM staff then work with local authorities to conduct raids and rescue victims from this horrific nightmare, placing them in safe homes where they receive aftercare and begin new lives of freedom. IJM lawyers work to secure the conviction and sentencing of brothel keepers and other perpetrators involved in sex trafficking. These convictions help to deter future perpetrators and change the system that traffics women and girls for sexual exploitation.

When Manna was 14, she ran away from her abusive brother and sought refuge with a woman who promised her a job selling fabric. The woman offered Manna a place to stay for the night but, when Manna woke up the next morning, she found herself in a brothel, forced to sell her body instead of fabric. When Manna refused customers, the brothel keeper pulled her hair, punched her and beat her repeatedly until she gave in to the men who had come to rape her. After two years, Manna and three other young girls were rescued from the brothel by IJM investigators and local authorities. Manna now lives in freedom in an aftercare home, while IJM legal casework led to the conviction and sentencing of her brothel keeper to five years of rigorous imprisonment.

International Justice Mission

International Justice Mission began operations in 1997 when a group of human rights professionals, lawyers and public officials conducted a study to determine the specific needs for public justice advocacy in the developing world. Since then, IJM has established worldwide operational field offices. The incredible suffering of those for whom the law is not enforced is often prevalent in poorer regions where the lack of resources heightens the occurrence of injustice. The teams work in Cambodia, the Philippines, Thailand, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, the Dominican Republic, Bolivia, Guatemala and South Asia. IJM is headquartered in Washington, DC, and they have international advancement offices in the U.K., Canada, Germany, Australia and the Netherlands.

You can join International Justice Mission in the fight against injustice by being an agent of change. There  are many outlets for people to make significant contributions to the fight against injustice. IJM recognizes the potential of all people to be effective leaders in the fight for international human rights and aims to build a justice generation. Following is a list of some suggested ways to get involved.

What can you do?

Expose: Educate yourself and others about the biblical mandate to seek justice. (begin with Isa. 1:17 and Mic. 6:8)
Explore: Investigate issues of injustice on short-term missions and find ways to seek justice by partnering with the local church.
Engage: Pray for the work of justice, pay for the rescue the poor cannot afford, protect the vulnerable and pursue a career in human rights.
Report a case: Since many Mission Frontiers readers may work among the poor in the developing world, situations of injustice are probably familiar to many of you. If you know of a specific case of illegal abuse of power in your country, visit our website to report a case.

How can you partner with IJM in prayer?

You can sign up to become a regular prayer partner with IJM and receive weekly e-mails highlighting specific prayer requests for the work of justice. Visit to sign up for this ministry. Some general requests for IJM’s work are:

  • Please ask God to inspire and equip local government authorities to combat slavery.
  • Please pray for the Christian community in the areas of the world where slavery is rampant. Ask God to bless the local body of Christ with conviction, wisdom and courage so that they might intervene to stop this violence.
  • Please ask God to comfort all who are held in slavery and awaiting rescue. Please also pray for the full restoration of those who have been rescued.
  • Please ask God to raise up qualified Christian professionals to join IJM or to start their own organization to rescue people from slavery.
  • Please pray that God will bring awareness to the body of Christ around the world concerning modern-day slavery, the biblical mandate for Christians to seek justice and the need for financial resources to pay for the rescue the poor cannot afford.

This is an article from the November-December 2020 issue: Human Trafficking:The Church Should Stop Supporting It!

Trafficked at 18 Into the LA Porn Industry

Trafficked at 18 Into the LA Porn Industry

At the height of my vulnerability, as a mentally ill eighteen-year-old, I was trafficked into the porn industry in Los Angeles.

Over one hundred pornographic videos of me were made in a year, over forty of which are still featured on Pornhub. The videos were made over 10 years ago at one of the lowest and most vulnerable times in my life. It is disturbing to know that people are still watching these videos as well as reviewing and ranking me.

For years I didn’t identify as a victim of sex trafficking. I thought sex trafficking referred only to women who were taken by force, kidnapped (like in the movie Taken) or girls who were minors. But the legal definition of trafficking includes fraud and coercion.

I was a mentally ill and very lost teenager. In my vulnerability, I was coerced into the industry and then also coerced into making films that exploited me. I was not giving consent in my right mind to anything I did. I see now that my exploitation in porn was trafficking.

Although my childhood looked normal from the outside, I started experiencing depression early on, at the age of ten. I was sexually abused by a classmate when I was 15. My first suicide attempt, which landed me in the hospital unconscious for two days, was at age 16.

This started a long string of hospitalizations and medication trials. I spent over 100 days in locked psychiatric wards and living in group homes. I even went to a bootcamp type program without any indoor shelter or running water.

My doctors exhausted every option, including electric shock treatment, which I had 11 times. This resulted in the loss of my short-term memory for a year and a half. I wanted to get better, but none of the treatments were working. I was lost in a sea of hopelessness. So at 18 I attempted suicide again.

I woke up four days later. The outlook wasn’t good. My doctors wanted me to permanently move into a group home, collect social security, and go through more shock treatment.

So I checked in with friends to figure out a quick way to make cash and escape this treatment that wasn’t working. They suggested stripping, which quickly opened a door for me to enter the porn industry. I spent the next year working in the porn industry in Los Angeles.

I flew to LA with two suitcases. My agent’s driver picked me up from the airport and drove me directly to an STD testing place. We had lunch while we were waiting for the test results. Once the test results were in, he drove me to my first video shoot.

It was terrible. I was intimidated by all the people there and I did not know how to say no. I felt obligated to do as I was told because the driver and agent had paid for all this stuff and my housing. If I said no I would be instantly homeless in LA.

My first videos were so traumatizing. At the beginning of each video we were filmed consenting to the video by holding our driver’s license up and confirming we were sober and at least 18 years old. This actually added another layer of fear and intimidation. I felt that anything that happened after that was something I had already consented to.

Violent sex and making girls look like teenagers, or younger, was the goal. At times the violent sex made us bleed, at which point the cameras would stop rolling while it was cleaned up. Once it was cleaned we would just resume filming again. I was so naive as an 18 year old. I desperately wanted to believe I was in control of this very scary situation.

Each performer had a list of things we wouldn’t do. But at times the male performers/producers would start doing things on your “no” list. If you disagreed with going forward, the producer would tell you to pay them back for your hair and make up and for wasting their time. Only once did I ever walk off of one of those sets.

After my time in porn I became addicted to drugs and alcohol to numb the pain and memories. I was drinking 12 or more hours a day, taking lots of medications and occasionally other drugs too. My greatest hope during those years was that I could successfully commit suicide.

It’s taken me over ten years to even start to process the trauma. I think that my mind, in its own sense of self preservation, did not allow me to feel the pain and see the situation for what it truly was: the sexual exploitation of a very vulnerable person who could not consent to these types of acts.

Now when I look at myself in these movies, I see myself being abused over and over again. I didn’t have the strength to say no. I was in fear for my own survival and I was doing what I felt was the only available option for someone like me.

People who have watched my videos will probably never know the depth of my pain behind them. They don’t see the coercion and exploitation of my vulnerability that was involved. And they don’t see the devastating aftermath. I am one of the few I know of who successfully left the porn industry that did not commit suicide, overdose on drugs, or end up in another exploitative situation/relationship for survival.

I’m grateful that today my life is completely turned around; I have been sober for 10 years, have a successful career, and have a loving marriage and family. In sharing my story I desire to bring awareness to porn viewers on the harms and realities of this industry, as well as bring hope to survivors (and the women and men still in it).

I hope that viewers today know that many of the women on Pornhub are being abused against their will. Many aren’t strong enough to say no. I hope they know that coercion is trafficking.

Those of us who are featured in videos on Pornhub as well as other sites should have the power and agency  to have them removed. I don’t own the content that I was featured in so I do not have the power yet to have   it removed from the internet or Pornhub. Many of the women on Pornhub wish they could have their videos removed.

Right now Pornhub and other sites financially profit from videos of our exploitation and they often ignore survivors who plead with them to have videos taken down. They don’t seem interested in helping us move on so that we can rebuild our lives from the trauma.

I wholeheartedly believe in Exodus Cry’s Traffickinghub campaign and I call for Pornhub to be shut down and held accountable for profiting from the exploitation and abuse of vulnerable women and children.

This is an article from the November-December 2020 issue: Human Trafficking:The Church Should Stop Supporting It!

Tribute to David J. Cho, 1924–2020

Tribute to David J. Cho, 1924–2020

One of the most accomplished mission leaders of our lifetime died in June. His life is a story of deep commitment to the Lord and commission to spreading the gospel around the globe. Unfortunately, few in the West noticed his passing. His life intersected with Ralph D. Winter. They were peers in missions – born weeks and worlds apart.1

David Dong-Jin Cho was born near the Korea-China border before there was a “North” Korea. He was saved as a young boy, received theological training, planted a church and then pursued more training in missions and evangelism. At twenty-nine years old, Dr. Cho founded InterVarsity (IFES) in Korea and the Korean Evangelical Fellowship – the Korean “branch” of the World Evangelical Fellowship.

I have recorded interviews with Dr. Cho, the last one when he attended a small meeting of some very innovative, younger leaders in Asia. That was reflective of a characteristic rare in Korean leaders: Dr. Cho was willing to buck the system when it wasn’t working—and sometimes when it needed prodding!

The fascinating thing about him, is the multiplication and impact of all that engagement in people’s lives. He is known as “Mr. Mission” in Korea. If you know almost any Korean middle-aged missions or church leader, it is very likely that they were mentored by Cho. At a minimum, they were influenced by his legacy.  Many   top mission leaders I’ve met in the last 25 years worked with him and learned from him at some point. They either: (1) trained at one of the missions study programs he started, (2) sat under his teaching and mentorship,

(3) worked with him within a sending organization he founded or led, (4) engaged in key mission issues through missiological societies he helped found, or led or (5) networked within an association he started. I could name specific examples of Korean leaders I know in each of those categories.

Cho received his PhD from William Carey International University in 1993. He headed WCIU’s Korean studies program from 1980-1999 and helped connect WCIU (not to mention the U.S. government!) with North Korea. That started in 1992 with Cho’s first meeting with Kim Il Sung (the founder and Supreme Leader of North Korea, and grandfather of the current leader). Cho hosted the Ambassador of North Korea on a visit to the U.S. and they visited Jimmy Carter’s home and the WCIU campus in Pasadena. Cho brokered a partnership between Kim Il Sung University and Pyongyang Seminary in North Korea, where Cho would lecture when he visited and WCIU donated 2,700 books. You may remember that Jimmy Carter was a key player in North Korean diplomacy for many years starting at the same time!

But long before that, in 1973, Cho became well known in Korean Christian circles, in part, because of his role as the Planning General Secretary and Arrangement Chairman for the Billy Graham Crusade in Seoul. This was the largest crusade of all and perhaps the largest gathering of people in one place in the world ever. The last time I saw Dr. Cho, in Manila at the Asian Missions Association Convention, (which he had founded about 45 years earlier), I told him my favorite photo of him is from that event. You can see in front of Billy Graham are about one million people. Cho is sitting on the stage step, facing the camera with his back to Graham, trying not to be a distraction! It is as if his job is done, and it is up to Billy and the Lord now! He looks a bit weary! I’m guessing that someone took his seat when he was speaking?

As early as 1969, Ralph D. Winter began to publish papers reflecting his engagement with issues related to the interrelationship of mission sending structures and churches. That culminated in his seminal paper on the subject “The Two Structures of God’s Redemptive Mission,”2 which was originally presented in Korea in 1973 at the All-Asia Mission Consultation in Seoul, Korea.

And that is where Cho and Ralph Winter deepened their relationship. Before the meeting, in the late 1960s, Cho was longing for deeper connections with Western agencies. He visited several western sending mission agencies based in Singapore, the U.K. and the U.S., but at least five different mission agencies turned him down. They had no vision for partnering with the then fairly small Korean missions world.

In 1971, the Korea International Mission (also founded  by  Cho)  had  their  First  Strategy Conference.  They discussed “the urgent necessity of a consultation among Asian mission leaders … and a proposition to promote and start the framework of an All-Asia Mission Consultation…” was made. After building consensus with Asian mission and church leaders from Korea, Japan, Indonesia, India, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, and Taiwan, the date for the All-Asia Mission Consultation was set for August of 1973. Later in 1971, Cho was in the U.S. at the mission leaders meetings (IFMA/EFMA) and he invited any/all of the leaders to come.

In all, not counting the westerners, twenty-five mission leaders from thirteen countries around Asia came together.3 Note that only five of the twenty-five delegates were from Korea and there were nine non-Asian participants (such as Clyde Taylor, Ralph Winter, Arthur Glasser, C. Peter Wagner, and George Peters). These mission leaders gathered around the purposes to: (1) promote cooperation for Asian mission activities among Asian countries, (2) seek cooperation between the East and West, and (3) form an organization to coordinate efforts among Asian countries. One of the main outcomes of this event was to bring the awareness of non-Western missionaries into sharper focus, especially in Asia.4

A report on the event noted that 100 agencies had been established in Asia over the previous 20 years, but “there had been no conference during the previous two decades which was specifically geared to Asian missions and missionaries at home and on the field.”

With their relationship solidified at that small gathering, Cho and Winter were committed to each other. Cho wrote:

“For thirty-six years, from 1973 until his death in May 2009, he was associated with my activities of missionary leadership development and networking of Third World missions. I often requested him to join me in mission work—in Seoul, Manila, Thailand, Moscow, Ephesus, and elsewhere—and he never said no. He also never hesitated to write North Korean leaders, inviting them to William Carey International University for my peace mission movement with North Korea.” 5

We honor David Cho whose life was marked by multiplication of disciples. It is hard to imagine what the leadership in Korean missions would look like, if God had not used David Cho in these ways. Today, you could easily argue, it is not as likely that someone would have the same depth and breadth of impact. But we must all examine ourselves and reflect on how we are multiplying what God has given us. Who will carry the torch when we are gone? Cho may not have ever asked that question of himself, but there is no question that there are many who are carrying on in his footsteps. Thanks be to the Lord!

  1. For more on his life see “My Pilgrimage in Mission”, October 2009, International Bulletin of Missionary Research, p 195 ff.

  2. This is still in the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement Reader, page 244.

  3. The event was followed by weeks of intensive training for 64 Asian mission candidates.

  4. This is clearly written up in an MTh Thesis at Fuller Seminary in 1975, by Chaeok Chun, titled “The All-Asia Mission Consultation” p 6, 51-52.

  5. “My Pilgrimage in Mission”, October 2009, International Bulletin of Missionary Research, p 195 ff.

This is an article from the November-December 2020 issue: Human Trafficking:The Church Should Stop Supporting It!

Jesus Asked Us to Rescue the Perishing and Set the Captives Free

Jesus Asked Us to Rescue the Perishing and Set the Captives Free

Human trafficking is a topic that I wish I did not have to cover in the pages of Mission Frontiers. It is ugly and disgusting and does not make for a “pleasant” reading experience. But as followers of Jesus we must sometimes face the ugliness of our world head-on in order to do what is right in the sight of our Lord. We have done our best to present this topic honestly, but with a great deal of discretion in describing the abuse that these modern- day slaves experience. Some readers may object to our covering this topic at all, but the sheer tragedy of 25+ million precious people being enslaved in our day demands that we as Jesus followers speak up in their defense.

Many in our day are critical of those people in the 18th and 19th centuries who did not do enough to end slavery. What will future generations say about us if we are silent in the face of slavery in our day? It would be the height of hypocrisy to point out the sin of generations past while ignoring the slave trade in our midst. As representatives of God on earth, we must take action to set the captives free. In numerous places in this issue of MF we provide specific steps you can take to stop human trafficking and those industries that fuel it. We don’t just lament the problem but we provide specific solutions to defeat this global menace. Read and take action.

The Church Supports Human Trafficking?

Our readers may be asking after seeing our cover, “What do you mean, the Church is supporting human trafficking?” As you read this issue you will come to realize that the use of pornography is a major factor driving the demand for human trafficking. The sad fact is that over 50% of pastors view pornography on a regular basis, and a whopping 68% of all church-going men do so as well. See the stunning statistics starting on page 17. This is not just a male problem either; 87% of Christian women have watched porn.

With church members watching porn at the same rates as unbelievers, a sizable majority of church members and pastors are fueling the demand for human trafficking. For the sake of the spiritual health and power of the Church to carry out its mission in the world, this must stop. For the sake of millions in bondage, this must end. Those who are laboring under this addiction must have the courage to come forward and ask for help. Pastors must no longer be silent and ignore this hidden plague in their midst. We need courageous pastoral leadership to confront this issue and bring this hidden sin out into the light with no shame, just a commitment to set free these captives to sin.

A Rich Evangelical Heritage as Abolitionists

Opposition to slavery is nothing new for Evangelicals. The Second Great Awakening, 1790-1870, which led to a massive expansion of the Evangelical faith across the western frontiers of the United States, focused not only on getting people saved, but also on social reform within society at large. These passionate new Jesus followers wanted to prepare the world for the return of Christ. Their passion for reforming society came in many forms including temperance, women’s rights and the abolition of slavery.

Many leaders of the abolitionist movement came right out of the Second Great Awakening. Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, was a devout believer and ardent abolitionist along with her husband. After the start of the Civil War, Stowe visited President Abraham Lincoln at the White House on November 25th, 1862. According to the account of Stowe’s son, upon meeting Stowe, President Lincoln quipped, “So you are the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war.” Throughout her life she was devoted to proclaiming the gospel and ending slavery.

It is time for us to follow in her footsteps along with thousands like her and become modern-day abolitionists in opposing human trafficking. It is time for us to act and no longer be silent. See the article starting on page 13 to see how you can be a modern-day abolitionist.

How Does This Relate to Movements?

We are Jesus’ hands and feet in this world. The only way that we can show the world what the invisible God looks like is by living like Jesus, doing what He has commanded us to do. It would be all too easy to focus   on making disciples and ignore the evil in our midst. But true discipleship means confronting the sin in each disciple’s life. Establishing Kingdom Movements means confronting the evil in a community as well. When a group of disciples who are making more disciples generation after generation commit to obeying all that Jesus has commanded us to do, this will inevitably bring transformation to a society. And when we see a pernicious evil like pornography invading the Church, all faithful disciples must stand up and say “No!” to it and seek the help and accountability of other faithful believers to break free from this sin. Tackling sin issues like human trafficking and pornography is one sign of a healthy Kingdom Movement.

Support the Work of Mission Frontiers and Frontier Ventures

We added something new this time. We added a “false cover” inviting you to invest in the ministry of Mission Frontiers and Frontier Ventures. As is the case with most publications, Mission Frontiers cannot cover its costs from subscriptions alone. We need additional funds from those who believe in this ministry and are willing to sacrifice to help us move forward in casting vision for Kingdom Movements in all peoples. Like most of the people who work for Frontier Ventures my salary is supplied by the donations of churches and friends who believe in what I am doing. And also like many staff members at Frontier Ventures, there are many months when not enough comes in to cover our full allotted salary. So if you are a supporter of a Frontier Ventures staff person and you are receiving MF for the first time, please be generous and please consider subscribing to Mission Frontiers.

If you are a regular reader of MF, please consider a special gift to help MF cover its expenses and expand its influence. To give, go to and click on the donate button. Put MA 030 in the dialog box to cover MF’s general expenses. To donate to my ministry with MF put MA323 in the dialog box. We greatly appreciate whatever you can do to help Mission Frontiers and Frontier Ventures continue working to see Kingdom Movements in all peoples.

This is an article from the September-October 2020 issue: Hunting the Movement Killers

Let’s Grow Movements, Not Destroy Them

Let’s Grow Movements, Not Destroy Them

It is a simple fact of life: it is far easier to destroy than it is to build. It is the same way with fostering Kingdom Movements of disciple-making and church-planting. It is far easier to pursue popular mission practices that kill movements or keep movements from ever starting than it is to work wisely with the Holy Spirit in ways that enable movements to start and grow exponentially. Fostering growing movements is not just about doing all the right things, but also stopping all the things we do that kill movements. We need to hunt down and destroy every mission practice that kills movements, no matter how fond we are of them. These deadly mission “viruses” stand in the way of achieving our goal of growing movements to Christ in every people and place so that every person on earth may have access to the gospel. If the mission practices you are pursuing are on our “Most Wanted” list of movement killers, prepare to rethink what you are doing and align yourself with those proven mission practices that lead to multiplying movements.

Re-Align Yourself for Growing Movements

For over 20 years mission leaders have been re-discovering the Book-of-Acts-like practices that God uses to birth disciple-making and church-planting movements. These practices are continually being honed and refined as mission workers seek to apply these movement principles to various peoples, cultures and contexts. While allowing for adaptation to specific contexts, there is also a great degree of alignment to agreed-upon movement principles that is required if a movement is to occur at all.  Serious deviation from these movement principles will kill an existing movement or prevent one from ever starting. There are many mission agencies out there that want to claim they are pursuing movements for publicity and fundraising purposes, but their mission practices bear little resemblance to the movement principles that actually make movements possible. So when you hear some mission organization claim they are using movement methods in their work, be an informed mission activist and look more closely at what they are actually doing.

Every mission agency that wants to foster movements must re-align their mission practices to those of movement catalysts who have actually fostered Kingdom Movements. This is not a time for everyone to try to reinvent the “movement wheel.” There are hundreds of people out there who have real world, on-the-ground experience in successfully starting movements and who know the basic principles that make movements work. We need to learn from these movement catalysts and use them to train up thousands of new movement catalysts to start movements in every people and place. See the article by Neil Cole starting on page 27 to learn the essential qualities of multiplying movements.  A key take-away from this article is that most mission strategies focus on adding new people while growing movements focus on methods that multiply disciples.  Mission strategies focused only on addition is another movement killer.

Money, “the root of all kinds of evil” in Movements

You will notice that one of the movement killers most frequently mentioned in this issue of MF is foreign money. Over many years we have frequently talked about how foreign money can cause tremendous problems in our mission outreach. As Dr. David Garrison has said, “outside money is the surest way to kill a movement.” The wonderful article by Jean Johnson starting on page 16 goes into great detail in explaining why outside money is such a deadly force in movements. The first rule of movements is that whatever you do must be infinitely reproducible generation after generation. The ministry DNA you start with is what will be reproduced in all future generations of believers and churches. If you start with defective DNA, you may never see your disciples make more disciples. Outside money is not good reproducible ministry DNA. Not every generation of new believers can go back to the original donor for more money. Foreign money will also communicate to new believers that they need outside money in order to reach out to their friends, family and beyond. It will also communicate to unbelievers that these believers are doing what they are doing because foreigners are paying them. This is a great way to keep the gospel from becoming indigenous to a people and killing any movement.

No matter what the mission strategies are that seek to kill movements, we must identify them and stop them before they can kill again.

Become a Mission Frontiers Vision Caster

Mission Frontiers exists to cast the vision and provide the resources to foster Kingdom Movements in every people and place so that every person may have access to the life-saving gospel of Jesus Christ as soon as possible. But we cannot do this without the partnership of you, our readers. Producing Mission Frontiers six times a year is not inexpensive. There are fixed costs that must be met regardless of how many subscribers we have. Subscriptions and advertising do not cover our expenses. We need people who believe in what we are doing and are willing to come alongside us in the following ways.

Pray: We need people to pray for the success of our mission to mobilize the global Church to focus on fostering Kingdom Movements in all peoples and places. The enemy of our souls would like to silence us because our message is a direct threat to his territory among the unreached peoples.

Donate: We need your donations—both large and small—if we are to cover our costs and then go on to expand this ministry into other languages. We need committed regular support from the many readers who believe in this work. But even if you can only afford $25 or $30, every little bit helps. To give, please go to click, on the Donate button and put MA 030 in the dialog box to cover MF general expenses. To donate to Rick Wood and his ministry with MF put MA323 in the dialog box. Thank you.

Share: The farther the material in MF spreads, the better it is for accomplishing our mission. We give free permission for people to reprint material that originates with MF and is not reprinted from another source. We only ask that you give us source credit and that you provide a link back to the MF website when reprinted material is posted online. On our website at are PDFs of each article and issue. Please download these PDFs, print them and share them as widely as possible with others. Every time you do, you help to accomplish our mission.

This is an article from the September-October 2020 issue: Hunting the Movement Killers

Mission Viruses That Can Kill Disciple Making Movements

Mission Viruses That Can Kill Disciple Making Movements

C. J. Peters’ life is the stuff of legend. For 30 years he traipsed the world’s most remote places hunting hot viruses and then chronicled his Indiana Jones life in a fascinating book (Virus Hunter: Thirty Years of Battling Hot Viruses Around the World). Hot viruses are the ones known to be lethal to human life, like Ebola. It is more obvious today than ever before that we need people like C. J. on the dangerous front line identifying threats to human life before they are allowed to ravage through populations, indiscriminately extinguish human lives.

Not only are there viruses that can extinguish human life, but there are also viruses that stop dead in its tracks the movement of the Good News of Jesus. Wait, I know what you are thinking, “the gospel is the power of God unto salvation.” We are not saying that there is anything wrong with the biblical gospel, but often the very methods we use to plant the gospel are counter-productive to it reaching the commission Jesus gave us.

Whether it was Baron Justinian von Welz, a Lutheran noble of the 17th century, or Hudson Taylor in the 19th century who coined or popularized the term “Great Commission,” it has become synonymous with the
mission of Jesus’ followers. We are called to “make disciples” of every ethne. Regardless of the etymological arguments surrounding ethne, it is universally accepted that we are called to give every man, woman and child a repeated opportunity to see, hear and respond to the message of Jesus.

With the Great Commission as our primary mission, it seems necessary that we would want to hunt those things that keep this Good News from spreading. And spread it has over the past twenty years; we are seeing an increase in small outbreaks of the Good News spreading virally through populations even in the most difficult of circumstances (see Justin Long’s blog for details). There are over 1,350 church planting movements currently being reported and at New Generations we are involved in 127 movements that have spread far and wide enough for us to be able to identify “virus killers” of these gospel movements.

Just as C. J. Peters’ work is valued by all sectors of society, especially in the midst of a pandemic, so must the work of our “virus hunters” be seen as paramount in gospel ministry. Why? Because there is nothing more important than eradicating gospel poverty. Early in Jesus’ discipling of the Twelve He taught them to pray, “may it be on earth as it is in heaven.” There is no gospel poverty in heaven. In the kingdom of heaven everything is ordered on the character of the King. The glory of God our King, in His experienced goodness, orders heaven because He is the king and it is His kingdom. Everyone there is a child of the King because of the gospel.

As we seek to fuel the efforts of fulfillment of the Great Commission we see that that fulfilling the promise of Habakkuk 2:14—finding and extinguishing everything that hinders, creates friction and stops the movement of the gospel—becomes our priority.

Biological viruses are classified on the basis of shared properties and grouped at different hierarchical levels of order, family, subfamily, genus and species. More than 30,000 different viruses are known today and grouped in more than 3,600 species, in 164 genera and 71 families. Disciple Making Movement killing viruses also come in families with a variety of expressions. Let’s look at five families of viruses and the species that find their way into some movements of the gospel.

Exceptionalism: a dependency on individuals with exceptional passions, enthusiasm, temperament, skill and gifts.

Materialism: the naive practice of allowing money into the wrong places in movements.

Professionalism: the inherent belief that the trained, qualified or certified are more dependable than those who lack formal training.

Mechanicalism: a belief that movements are a matter of physical effort rather than spiritual power.

Partialism: the practice of fusing several different movement strategies together.

Exceptionalism (not in order of priority) is a cultural phenomenon that plagues humanity. Whether it is a set of letters before or after a name or public acclamation for talent, we have a fond affection for the exceptional. It doesn’t matter if it’s music, athletics, academics or the Church, those with exceptional skills are often elevated to positions of influence or counted more valuable that the rest.

Exceptionalism in movements arises when we become dependent—for instance—on highly gifted trainers. Training rubrics that require better than average presentation skills eliminate ordinary disciples from passing on the training. The problem is not with having some gifted practitioners, but for the gospel to consistently multiply through ordinary people everything has to multiply at every level. That means that all activities that foster movement must be available to the everyday people. If outreach strategies require special skills, if training can’t be delivered by ordinary people, if coaching regimes can’t be accomplished by ordinary people or then a movement will experience friction due to the dependence on exceptionally talented people.

The theological antidote to exceptionalism is found in the concept of the priesthood of the believer. Peter calls each follower of Christ a royal priest (1 Pet. 2:9) and declares that we have everything pertaining to life and godliness.(2 Pet. 1:3) Not to mention that Jesus’ command to make disciples of all nations is given to every disciple since the first. However we organize the progress of the gospel, it must be bounded by the truth that every disciple gets to play, not just for a few exceptionally gifted ones. It is very common for people who seem very ordinary when they experience Disciple Making Movements (even oral learners or people who have not seen themselves as leaders before) to become extraordinary disciple-makers and church-planters.

Materialism addresses the relationship between money and movement. There is no argument that it takes resources to get the gospel where it is not. The controversy arises with how much, when and from whom does the money come.

Money paid to those involved in movement activity challenges the motives of those receiving the money and potentially creates a dependency between giver and receiver. The question arises: if there is no money will there be movement activity? Often, there is not.

Frequently money is best used to further activity that was already in progress. When you find a movement activist who could go further or faster with an investment toward transportation or Scripture resources for example, you have a situation where money and movement work. Since most movements are started by movements it is not unusual for movements to send workers to nearby neighbor groups that don’t have the gospel available. Financial investment is necessary for these activities.

Not only is money and dependency an issue but also the use of money by “outside actors.” More than once fruitful leaders of movement activity have been lured away with money to another organization. The result is that the bad actors have surprising numbers they can report to their donors for a while because they have purchased them, but eventually the virus of dependency rises and often the movement slows or dies.

Professionalism is a two-edged sword. Certainly, gaining greater excellence of knowledge and skill is a worthy cause. When professionals appear, however, the masses begin to develop the attitude of leaving it to the professionals and it unintentionally creates passivity.

One of the maxims of movement is that an untrained insider is always more effective than a trained outsider. This cuts against the grain of a culture that values subject matter experts. It especially challenges cross- cultural workers and those who love to “do ministry” in foreign fields. In movements there are no heroes nor hero-makers, only ordinary people responding in obedience to Jesus.

Jesus, upon healing the Gerasenes demoniac, refused to allow him to accompany the disciples but instead sent him home to speak of what God had done for him. This was a far cry from the route of qualifying, certifying or even the ordaining practices that we use today. Even at the site of Jesus’ last command in Matthew 28, we are told in verse 16 that while some doubted, Jesus didn’t hesitate to commission both doubters and worshippers. Jesus’ practice was to release the willing rather than trust the qualified.

When the West hears of viral movements of the gospel in the east, the scientific thinking of the West kicks in; dissect, isolate, formulate and repeat. The desire to spread spiritual revolution globally is innocent and virtuous. Unfortunately, movements are God ordained and even though we can isolate certain practices that contribute to movements, they are in no way mechanical.

Mechanicalism denies the supernatural nature of the Spirit in the movement of the gospel. With great regularity we can correlate impressive movements of the gospel with equally impressive outpouring of prayer. It would be a mistake to think we can simply raise the amount of hours we pray to generate movement. I live in a city that has had 24/7 prayer for years and yet have only seen short glimpses of gospel movement. We cannot bribe God with our prayers. But when extraordinary prayer and radical obedience meet with God’s heart for the lost, He tends to do amazing things.

Similarly, many have gone through Disciple Making Movements training and become enamored with Discovery Bible Study (DBS). Mistakenly believing that Disciple Making Movements are synonymous with the obedience-based discovery Bible processes, they aggressively pursue the implementation of DBS believing a movement will break out. Again, God rejoices when His followers are obedient to His wisdom, but this one element rarely spawns a movement.

There may be a set of irreducible minimum habits found in gospel movements but they are not a mechanical process that can be reproduced at human will. When God ordains and humans cooperate, movements can break out.

Partialism is the last family of movement viruses we will address here. More than once I have watched very smart individuals from historic institutions sit in training by experienced movement catalysts, only to leave the training and during implementation add, subtract or self-style the habits of movements.

There is something deep, especially in Americans, that when confronted with something exciting responds, “I have a better idea.” In the face of experience and proven results, we often believe we can make it better. Rather than practice what we are taught and let experience be our teacher, we practice an ignorant hubris by changing well worn practices.

Another species of this virus in the western tradition is fusion. A rage in the food world now, you can find any mixture of ethnic cuisines smashed together. Oftentimes, out of naïveté, new practitioners of movement strategies take a little from here, a little from there and self-style their own version of a movement strategy.

Despite the fact that most movements end up at the same place, they don’t always take the same route to get there. The reasons may reside in many different variables, but denying the differences robs practitioners of different tools they can use to be more effective in varying circumstances.

The word “movement” describes a gospel-phenomenon that signals changing from addition thinking to multiplication thinking. This thinking moves the potential of the progress of the gospel beyond population growth and bringing into view the prospect of fulfilling the Great Commission. That potential should be shepherded as aggressively as humanly possible. Viruses that threaten to kill movements must be brought into the light and killed as quickly as possible.

This is an article from the September-October 2020 issue: Hunting the Movement Killers

Rockets and Murder

Rockets and Murder

The contrasts couldn’t be starker.

In May 2020 we saw the best and worst of humanity here in the U.S. We launched men into space.

We saw a man die needlessly at the hands of those appointed to “serve and protect.” We have seen both before, but both were also different this time.

The rocket which propelled two astronauts to the International Space Station was produced by a private company (with government funding) that used new technology, redesigned from the ground up, including a booster rocket that returns to earth to be reused.

Amazing to watch!

The murder of a black man by a white police officer has created a broader outcry from police officials around the country. One police chief said to her department, “If you believe that the treatment of the officer in that video is acceptable, turn in your badge.” I expect that the vast majority of police officers were horrified by what they saw also. They deeply desire to serve with honor and deserve our support to receive better training and different administrative systems so these incidents are rarer every day.

A horror to see!

What happened to George Floyd was painful to watch. We know it happens globally—out of the views of cameras. Yes, it is systemic in several ways. At the core: when people take power and authority on their own terms, not God’s way, it will end badly. That is clear throughout the Bible, from Eve and Adam down to us today.

We can’t solve these kinds of problems by only “teaching our kids differently.” We know that things like this will happen again. It seems that while we can advance technology and use it to literally get off the earth, we can’t change peoples’ hearts.

So, beyond the need for spiritual transformation, what do we do? I have all kinds of ideas, backed by experts (or so I think). But instead, below are a few of my reflections that might give a bit of hope and perspective.

God-Ordained Authority

When you look at human-on-human evil in the world, much of it is caused (or not prevented) by police or military. Using their official capacity, they either 1) abuse those under their control, or, 2) don’t resist evil done by others.

This is a crucial area of God’s truth we must get right and teach. The Scriptures from Daniel to Romans 14 (among others) teach us that God puts authorities in place—Christian or not, from the top leader to, in this case, the police and military. They wield God’s authority when they do their job. With this comes a serious responsibility and accountability to God—even if they don’t believe He exists, someday they will give an account of what they have done!

Training to De-escalate

You do what you have been trained to do. A former police officer and detective whom I know served in a major city on the east coast. When they were training in firearms, they were told to hold their shells as they fired and dispose of them when they are done. After all, the logic went: keep the firing range clean, make it quicker and easier to reset for the next group. The only problem is that when the officers finished training and were in real-life situations using their weapons, they did as they were taught. As a result, in those tense and emotion-filled situations where they were fired upon, officers were getting injured or worse!  So, they had to re-train them. Everyone went back to the firing range and were told “let shell casings fall to the ground.”

So what kinds of re-training are needed?

Here is one idea:

A family we know has a son diagnosed with major emotional issues and it is a painful story. When they were living in the U.K, their son ran off in the middle of the night. When they called the local police and the “bobby” (or officer) arrived, he did not even have a gun. But he had skills and was trained in de-escalating situations. That night, he helped to find and calm down their son and bring the situation under control without any shouting or shooting.

It got me to thinking: do I need retraining for how I think and act related to those different from me? We all have God-given authority through the Spirit. How do we use it?

This is an article from the September-October 2020 issue: Hunting the Movement Killers

Are We ACCELERATING or INHIBITING Movements to Christ?

Are We ACCELERATING or INHIBITING Movements to Christ?

Those with a heart for unreached peoples have the choice to pursue certain behaviors that have the potential to accelerate the spread of the gospel. These “accelerators” may help a new fellowship in an unreached people group become a large-scale movement to Christ. By contrast, we may consciously or inadvertently deploy “inhibitors” that may make it difficult for that fellowship to ever become a movement.

A Word about Movements

The term “movement” implies rapid growth in the number of believers, beyond the influence or control of the ones who introduced the gospel. “Church-planting movements”, such as the ones discussed in David

Garrison’s Church Planting Movements, generally refer to Christians, whereas “insider movements” generally refer to Jesus followers who remain within their ethno-religious identity (e.g. Muslim or Hindu insider movements).

In this article my focus is on “movements” in general, whether church-planting movements or insider movements. My interest is in behaviors that tend to accelerate the spread of the gospel, regardless of the ethno-religious identity that is chosen by the new disciples of Jesus.

Expectations of Kingdom Growth

Jesus told three parables that predicted the rapid spread of the kingdom of heaven: the Parables of the Yeast, the Mustard Seed, and the Sower. The first conclusion that we can draw from these three parables is that Jesus expected dramatic growth in his Kingdom.

In the Parable of the Mustard Seed (Matt. 13:31-32), Jesus says, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed… Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree.”

In the Parable of the Yeast (Matt. 13:33), Jesus says, “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large of amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.”

And in the Parable of the Sower (Mark 4:20), Jesus says, “Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times what was sown.”

A Strategy for Kingdom Growth

The second conclusion that we can draw from these three parables is that Jesus had a specific strategy in mind for spreading the gospel in order to achieve dramatic growth. He recommended implanting the gospel like yeast so that it leavens, and planting it like a seed so that it grows in the new soil.

The common theme of these parables is that the gospel is something very small that is introduced into another culture and transforms it. Yet we often introduce the gospel into another culture with significant amounts

of cultural and religious traditions associated with it. This “baggage” makes it harder for a new people to embrace the gospel because they see it as a foreign cultural and religious system, rather than a relationship with the person of Jesus that they can pursue within their own cultural and religious traditions.

Contextualizing the Gospel

Contextualization has become well-established as essential to successfully implanting the gospel in another culture. But while contextualization is indeed an excellent strategy, is it a sufficient strategy to lead to movements to Christ? Missionaries have been applying the principles of contextualization, even radical contextualization, for generations. Yet in most instances, these principles have not led to movements to Christ. What could be missing?

I believe that contextualization is insufficient on its own to lead to movements, because two other factors need to be taken into account—identity and community. While the gospel may be introduced in a highly contextualized manner, the identity that new believers choose and the way they interact with their community will have a great effect on whether others from their culture will make a similar choice to follow Jesus.

Theory vs. Practice of Contextualization

Before I elaborate further, let me say that I believe many of the authors on contextualization intended contextualization to include both identity and community when they wrote of a contextualized approach to spreading the gospel. Therefore, it is not the theory of contextualization which is lacking, but the way it is practiced by many.

For many, the practice of contextualizing the gospel has been primarily cultural: the attempt to present the gospel consistently with local cultural forms, using local language, wearing local dress, using contextualized translations of the Bible, etc. However, these attempts to culturally contextualize the gospel are often practiced along with behaviors that are at odds with full contextualization.

Foreign Identities and Extracted Communities

A culturally-contextualized gospel can be presented in a way that leads new believers 1) to adopt a new identity that other locals perceive as foreign, and 2) to associate with other new believers that other locals perceive as extracted communities. Thus, a new fellowship of believers may express a culturally contextualized gospel, yet have a foreign identity and be considered an extracted community.

To the extent that new believers are perceived by others as having chosen foreign identities and joined a foreign religious community, the opportunity for the gospel to rapidly spread in that people group is

dramatically diminished. This will be true even if they are highly contextualized culturally; their foreign religious identity and membership in a foreign community counteracts the benefits of their cultural contextualization.

Inhibitors vs. Accelerators of Movements

If we are to establish fellowships that have the potential to lead to movements to Christ, we need to recognize the “inhibitors” and “accelerators” of movements. “Inhibitors” are actions that may bring short-term results, but are likely to inhibit fellowships from becoming movements to Christ. “Accelerators” are actions that may take a little longer, but are likely to encourage fellowships to become movements to Christ.

Accelerators for Individualistic vs. Communal Cultures

“Individualistic cultures” are highly individualized with fractured families that don’t live in extended community (i.e., the majority of Western cultures). “Communal cultures” are community-oriented with

tight-knit families that live in extended community (i.e., the majority of Muslim and Hindu peoples). Gospel- spreading strategies that are most effective for individualistic cultures will tend to be less effective for communal cultures, and vice versa.

For example, a communal culture places a high value on keeping its members part of the community, and will tend to resist any religious invitation that will lead its members to become “separate” or “foreign.” Individualistic cultures are more fragmented, and its members have greater freedom to separate from those around them into a separate sub-culture.

Therefore, a gospel-spreading strategy that leads to foreign identities and extracted communities will face higher resistance in a communal culture. Family members and community members will tend to exert great pressure on new believers to “return to the fold,” and if they don’t do so, they will tend to expel them from the community and have nothing further to do with them. Thus, the new fellowship of believers may seem successful from an outside perspective, yet they may have limited ability to reach back into their community with the gospel of Jesus.

Spreading the gospel in a communal culture should be done in a way that is more likely to lead to movements to Christ. It should lead to communities of believers that are not seen as “foreign,” but as “still part of our community,” so that the gospel can spread more easily.

Workers from Individualistic Cultures

One challenge is that many cross-cultural workers spreading the gospel in communal cultures (e.g., Muslims or Hindus) are themselves from individualistic cultures (e.g., North America or Europe). Therefore, they may unwittingly pursue gospel-spreading strategies that are better suited for individualistic cultures than

communal cultures. They may even be expected to do so if they are sent by Western mega-churches that have experienced great success by pursuing strategies well suited for their individualistic cultures.

Sending-churches from individualistic cultures should consider whether their church-planting strategies may actually inhibit movements to Christ in communal cultures. A concern frequently expressed by cross-cultural workers is that their sending-churches may reject them if they pursue “insider” strategies for communal cultures.

Seven Accelerators or Inhibitors for Communal Cultures

I suggest seven dimensions where certain actions may accelerate or inhibit movements to Christ in communal cultures: Identities, Communities, Leadership, Fellowship, Practices, Doctrine, and Independence. Tables 1 through 7 suggest examples of actions in each dimension that will tend to accelerate or inhibit movements.

Missionary teams and their support networks may find these tables useful in prayerful planning and evaluation. Any one action in isolation is unlikely to significantly influence a movement. But—taken in whole—consistent use of accelerators in communal cultures is more likely to result in movements to Christ than consistent use of inhibitors.

For instance, consistent use of inhibitor actions will tend to result in extracted communities of believers with foreign identities and foreign religious practices. These extracted communities will have difficulty reaching the communities from which they’ve been extracted. Conversely, consistent use of accelerator actions will lead to transformed communities of believers with insider identities and contextualized religious practices that are far more likely to spread the gospel like yeast through the dough of existing communities. (Matt. 13:33)


Conclusion: Comprehensive Self-Contextualization

The unifying theme to all these movement accelerators is “comprehensive self-contextualization.” It’s “comprehensive” because it goes beyond cultural contextualization to encompass identity, community and various aspects of church. It’s “self-contextualization” because foreigners are unreliable guides for what is appropriate for believers in a particular ethno-religious situation.

We have to be willing to allow local believers, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the discipline of Scripture, to discern what is most appropriate for their context. We have to be willing to echo the early church leaders in Acts 15:28—“It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following…” The early Jewish leaders released the Gentile believers to comprehensively contextualize their identity, doctrines and ways of “doing church.” The Gentile believers then penetrated existing communities throughout the Roman Empire and beyond with this contextualized gospel. The result was the most dramatic movement to faith in the history of Christianity!

May God bring about similar movements among all the peoples of the earth. May we be granted the wisdom to accelerate, rather than inhibit, these movements.

This is an article from the September-October 2020 issue: Hunting the Movement Killers

Using Foreign Money to Start, Sustain and Speed Up Movements

Using Foreign Money to Start, Sustain and Speed Up Movements

Picture this: there was a couple working in a northern province of Cambodia in the late 90s. One day, they shared with other missionaries that they had started many house churches in the area. Their testimony piqued the interest of those missionaries as they too longed for such results. On the one hand, they were elated to hear the good news. On the other, they were curious as to why this couple was so successful when they came in and out of the country and barely spoke the language.

One day these House Church Movement (HCM) pioneers were waiting alongside the road in town. While waiting, they struck up a conversation with another missionary. As they were chatting, a big truck filled with motorcycles pulled up alongside of them. Immediately, the couple explained to the missionary that they bought the motorcycles for the house church leaders so they could lighten their load as they spread the gospel to other villages. In the long run, it was a just a short time before the foreign resources bled the life out of the House Church Movement.

Now contrast this story with an account from my friend whom I will call only by her first name, Sarah. Sarah has been working diligently to launch sustainable Disciple Making Movements (DMMs) in Cambodia up
to the present day. In one particular situation, Sarah had been visiting a “family of peace” for the purpose of sharing the gospel and making disciples. In this family, a brother and sister in their 20s put their faith and trust in Jesus and it was starting to look like the beginnings of a movement. But as time went along, she ran into a snag when the mother of the family and the older sister asked Sarah for money to buy a motorcycle. Sarah graciously declined to give or borrow the money for this family. From that point on, the mother forbid Sarah from visiting the family ever again.

Bleeding the Life Out of Movements

Wow! Two very different mindsets and methodologies between these two movement catalysts. Sarah was thinking ahead and the other couple was only thinking about the short-term. Sarah worked to sustain and multiply her movement efforts without injecting foreign money and the other couple crippled their movement efforts using foreign money.

Personally, I would rather have potential Persons of Peace reveal the true intentions of their heart or spiritual condition than have them half-heartedly join in a movement effort for Jesus Christ because of mixed motives. Furthermore, Sarah understood that if she brought foreign money into the movement at any junction, it would eventually be the very means that killed it. David Garrison, well-known for his descriptive book on Church Planting Movements (CPMs), wrote:
One of the surest ways to cripple a Church Planting Movement is to link church reproduction to foreign resources. Whenever pastors look beyond their own membership and local resources for salaries or buildings, they bleed the life out of their movement.1

Garrison doesn’t say that foreign resources might cripple a movement, but rather that it is the surest way to cripple a movement.

Why is the Injection of Foreign Funding So Crippling?

Why does the injection of foreign funding bleed the life out of indigenous movements? First, the moment we bring in foreign funds to help at any stage of a locally rooted movement is the very moment that we introduce non-reproducibility and non-scalability into the movement. From that point on, those in the movement will become dependent on outside funds and will stop looking to mobilize those within the movement to support and sustain those aspects. Second, we will fulfill the perception and complaint of the non-believing persons among the Unreached People Groups that foreign money and power are always behind everything to do with Jesus. Third, on the heels of foreign money is always some degree of foreign culture. Even if donors merely enforce accountability measures for the funds, it will inevitably match their systems of reporting, accounting, and appealing to donors. What is more, the recipients will tend to adapt to their donors more so than to their own context and colleagues. Fourth, money that comes from outside instead of from inside the harvest is harmful to the recipients’ selfhood, community-image, motivation, determination, unity, self-giving and so much more.

Why Do We Feel a Need to Inject Foreign Money to Start, Sustain, and Speed Up Movements?

We have been warned and exhorted by people like Garrison that foreign funding can cripple and bleed the life out of movements. So why do we feel a need to inject foreign money into locally rooted movements? I can think of three big reasons why I unwisely used outside funds or was tempted to use outside funds.

First, as an American I am driven like so many others. My culture has taught me that moving things along through my own ingenuity, prowess and weight is worthwhile—even though I continually say that movements are “a move of the Spirit” working through the local people. There were times I wanted to see more progress and thought, “Ah, if they only had this or that, things would move faster and they wouldn’t struggle so much.” But every time I moved things along with outside resources, I broke the very rules and rhythms of movements such as simplicity, transferability, local resources, lay leadership, volunteerism and extraordinary prayer.
Honestly, sometimes I think our drive to outrun our statistics leads to this sense that we have to artificially inseminate indigenous movements with foreign funding. We have all seen the websites where the numbers increase as we increase our efforts. Might this driven nature of ours actually make us take shortcuts?

Second, I often felt compassion towards peoples’ plights. I could see that something was hard for them in regard to making disciples or their own family situation. I just wanted to make life and ministry easier for them. Have you watched the Sheep Among Wolves Volume II documentary? It seems that the Iranian Jesus-followers wouldn’t think of having foreigners lighten their load. Suffering has a way of fueling their movement. I fell into the trap of buying two motorcycles for a team of church-planters to share and to use at will because I wanted to make their efforts easier. But this outside intervention made the emerging movement dependent on outside help as everyone on down the generations of multi-plication knew where the motorcycles came from and expected the same when it was their turn—there is no such thing as confidentiality in many cultures.

Third, I was tempted to use funds to accommodate my needs. There was that occasional time that it would be easier to offer a training on CPM or DMM in a centralized location, rather than train in micro-locations where local people didn’t have to travel. You know the drill—save time in my busy schedule and my back from the grueling travel along rugged roads. But in these centralized training cases, there are suddenly costs involved for lodging, food and transportation. Then comes the inevitable question, “Jean, will you subsidize the training?” With this price tag comes modeling without the possibility of reproducibility.

In general, movements tend to start out as grassroots, organic, non-institutional and non-hierarchal structures. But as these movements grow, we desire to track, network and develop leaders and leadership for the movements. It is often at this stage that we want to relax the reproducibility and self-sustaining principles. Outside funding begins to pour in to support top movement leaders. These leaders will spend time in other countries raising funds to support themselves and their movements.

Another reason we desire to get overly involved is that we are used to and we like leading the pack. If we provide funds, we somehow become integral to the movements in other peoples’ countries. It feeds our need to be the pioneers, the frontrunners, the needed and the indispensible. What is often labeled as partnership is really sponsorship, which has no degree of reciprocity built into it—it’s just the wealthy serving in patron roles of the relationships. J. R. Meydan and Ramsay Harris have revealed that the Muslim world has a disproportionately large number of Christian donors seeking partnership in relationship to a disproportionately tiny number of recipients, which means that foreign money can’t help but cause crippling effects.2

I have seen organizations that center their vision and mission around partnering with local leaders in least reached areas of the world to help develop DMMs and CPMs, all the while raising millions of dollars. I know of one group that was lamenting about another group that was coming to their area. They were afraid their Western-funded movement models would undermine all their hard work in developing movements that were self-sustaining and self-supporting.

Yes, But . . .

You may conclude that minuscule help is not a big deal in the larger scheme of things. Dmmsfrontiermissions. com posted a blog about how members of a short-term missions team gave their boots to new disciple-makers in Bangladesh because they were originally wearing flip flops through monsoon-flooded areas as they visited villages to share the gospel. The visiting team thought this small act of love would be a great blessing but their gift of boots had the opposite effect. The newer disciples of this movement stopped going out and about to share the gospel or find Persons of Peace. They reckoned that only people who owned boots should do that type of ministry.3

One other area that messes us up is the deduction that social-economic help and projects used to gain favor ‘get a pass’ from being reproducible. But how can this be? If we use non-reproducible compassion services to enter an area and to gain approval, how will the ordinary believers of the second, third, and fourth generation work their way into new areas? I remember the day I helped a church-planter start a business to support himself. He retrieved water from a source and brought it to the village in a truck. Those who paid for his services had the water poured into their cisterns. This livelihood that was supposed to help him to support himself and readily relate to his neighbors actually backfired. His neighbors were jealous that he received a fair equity loan that wasn’t available to them. They also concluded that he was a believer in Jesus merely because of the help he received, which weakened his credibility.

Let’s Make the Most of It

It is really amazing to think what we could do to reverse misperceptions among the Buddhists, Muslims, and Hindus by not funding locally rooted movements.


All Buddhists we interviewed expressed the view that there were foreign funds in the attempt to convert Buddhists to Christianity. Therefore, evangelical expansion in the country has been classified as “unethical conversion.” In this way, Buddhist activists have brought the issue to the realm of public debate and have created a Buddhist public hostility to Christianity in general.”4


Muslims assume that the principal methods Christian missionaries intentionally use to lure Muslims away from Islam and into Western Christian culture is by buying them off with gifts and money . . .5


Foreign funding contributes to India’s significant resistance to Jesus, even when given to “reach India.” Hindus are deeply aware of this foreign funding . . . Because of the incredible amounts of money involved, Hindus also use a metaphor of the “Christian enterprise” as missionary or conversion business.6

You see?! We finally have some methods among our global mission realm that have built within its DNA a way to reverse these Buddhist, Muslim, and Hindu barriers to Jesus—DMMs and CPMs that are meant
to function with “less is more.” The surest way to empower movements is to encourage the people of these movements to look to their own people and resources for their needs. Let’s make the most of these best practice movement models that we have in our mission toolbox.

We Need to Believe

We need to believe in God enough to trust Him with these movements around the world.

We need to believe in the people of these movements enough to trust them with the development of their own movements. We need to believe in the DMM and CPM principles and practices enough to let them work.

I would love to talk more with you about this. I wish we talked about this elephant in the room more often. I wish people who have stifled or killed movements because of injecting outside funding would write about it. We need to hear these types of stories too; otherwise, we keep making the same mistakes.

I conclude with this final thought. The greatest missionary ever, the apostle Paul, did not become a donor or financial sponsor of the churches he started. He expected them to be reproducible and locally sustainable. Let’s follow in his footsteps.


  1. 1 David Garrison, Church Planting Movements: How God Is Redeeming A Lost World (WIGTake Resources LLC; 6th Printing edition, 2004).

  2. 2 J. R. Meydan and Ramsay Harris, “Are We Nourishing or Choking Young Plants with Funds,” From Seed to Fruit, ed. J. Dudley Woodberry (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 2011), 226.

  3. 3, “Money — It Both Helps and Hurts,” June 10, 2017.

  4. 4 G. P. V. Somaratna, “Buddhist Perceptions for the Christian Use of Funds in Sri Lanka,” Complexities of Money and Missions in Asia, ed. Paul De Neui (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 2012), 8.

  5. 5 J. R. Meydan and Ramsay Harris, “Are We Nourishing or Choking Young Plants with Funds,” From Seed to Fruit, ed. J. Dudley Woodberry (Pasa- dena, CA: William Carey Library, 2011), 226.

  6. 6 Paul Pennington, Christian Barriers to Jesus (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 2017) 184-186.

This is an article from the September-October 2020 issue: Hunting the Movement Killers

Movement Killers

Movement Killers

For the last 20 years “movement thinking” has gained attention in the missional world. Whether you call it Church Planting Movements or Disciple Making Movements or Exponential Discipleship, it’s undeniable that we are witnessing the book of Acts unfolding afresh with 3000 coming to faith in one day, 8000 in one week, 20,000 in just a few weeks. Movements are happening everywhere and if God is doing it in one place, it probably means He wants it to happen in all places!

I am a DMM Catalyst and often I am contacted by folks who ask me, “Would you show us how to make a movement happen?” It’s almost like people think I have a bag of secrets and all I have to do is put my hand into the bag and pull one out and give it to them and then a movement will take place. I always answer, “No man or woman can make a movement happen. Only God can cause a movement to happen. But when God is on the move, we can sure get in His way! Unknowingly we can thwart or slow down what God is doing.

These are called “movement killers.” Here are five movement killers that we have recognized in recent years.


When something we’re doing is proving successful, the word gets out and it becomes popular and everyone wants to get on the bandwagon. Then innovation begins to stall because we’ve started focusing on things in the past or trying to “package” something for the general public. It seems like movements continue longer when they are kept a secret so we try to keep them under wraps until they are quite obvious.

In the last few years Disciple Making Movements have become quite popular in the region where I live and serve. Books have been published, seminars conducted, and it’s been marketed as the new way to grow a church! A lot of attention has been given to one element of DMM—the Discovery Bible Study. A number of churches have plateaued in their growth, so when they hear about Discovery Bible Study they grab hold of it and turn all of their cell groups into DBS groups. They succeed in turning their church into a “Discipleship Church.” However, the end goal of not-yet believers coming into faith as part of a movement is never realized.


There are times when a spark of something very “contextual” begins and starts taking off, but when news of this reaches influential traditional church leaders they condemn it as heretical because it is not under their power or control. That criticism makes emerging leaders in a new movement question what they are doing.

In one fairly isolated rural area, a movement developed with hundreds of local people coming to faith. One of their emerging indigenous leaders suggested that as they showed their allegiance to Jesus in baptism that each person should carry a piece of firewood down to the river. They would make a big fire at the side of the riverbank and each baptismal candidate would lay a piece of wood into the fire stating, “This is my sin to be burned up to ash and the wind to take it away never to be seen by me again.” Then they would go down into the water and be baptized. It was a demonstrative way that they all would “feel” how their sins were forgiven by Jesus’ sacrifice. News of what they were doing traveled to a nearby area where a church had been in existence for over 10 years. When the leaders of that church heard this news they were upset. They traveled for two days to get to this location where the movement was happening to tell everyone to stop. They said, “We received the Good News about Jesus before all of you so you must do this the same way we do it.

This wood burning stuff is not of God and must stop.” For a period of time, it did stop. But when these leaders returned to their region, the local emerging movement leaders started up again! So even though the movement slowed down, it didn’t completely stop.


This is really connected with the previous movement killer. Despite criticism and even some faltering first moves, these emerging leaders can still make it if they have someone backing them up in a spiritual parenting role. This is huge. There are no movements without spiritual parenting. I am a product of the Jesus People Movement in California some 50 years ago. It was during that hippie era when God really got ahold of my life. It was very messy and seemingly out of control. People were coming to faith rapidly but people were falling pretty fast, too. There was only one mature leader named Pastor Chuck Smith. He raised up leaders from the harvest—young people coming out of bad backgrounds—and put them into leadership positions only to see them fall. But Pastor Smith had a “father’s heart” and would pick the fallen back up and say, “I believe in you. You can do it.” That was the engine behind the Jesus People Movement. Movements are messy and they must have spiritual parents to succeed.


This is a tightrope that we always have to be walking. But the bottom line is this: if a movement isn’t happening without money, then it won’t happen with money. Whatever kind of assistance is needed, the timing and the people involved should always be determined by those in the middle of movements on the ground. When this type of information is offered from the outside then movements begin to stall.

A bottom-line value of movements that I’m associated with is this: no financial proposals are allowed. We take Luke 10 and Matthew 10 quite literally—the person inviting you into their house or oikos should provide shelter and food for you—so the not-yet believers are the ones subsidizing movements! Why would they do that? Because they see the added value your presence makes among them. All ministry in movements is holistic and brings the kingdom of God to earth in practical ways that people see and want to get behind. People on the ground know where funds are most needed and how to get the assistance to where it’s needed without outside organizations insisting on foreign procedures.

A growing movement was beginning to gain attention from the local government because many street children were turning their lives around through the multiplying of restorative discovery groups over a large urban area. The government then gave a financial gift so the leaders of this movement could build a building and have a place to conduct their activities. The leaders received the funds from the government and then got together for a meeting to decide how to proceed. They were in a dilemma. They asked, “If we build a building, does that sends the wrong message to all the young people we serve? We are about building lives and not buildings. We must give the money back to the government.” They returned the funds back to the local government who was shocked and said, “This has never happened before! No one ever gives back money we give to them. These funds are from last year’s budget so it’s too late to return them to us.” The movement leaders asked, “Could we use the funds to build a medical clinic for the poor instead?” The government officials thought about the request and finally agreed. A medical clinic serving 200 people every day is now functioning because of appropriate funding and many people are finding faith through these medical services.


In a healthy movement, leaders are being created at all levels all the time. However, when some experienced and gifted leaders stay in positions for too long then movements will stall. We’ve actually started creating time limits for leaders and an age limit in our youth movement. Leaders can’t be over 25 years old!

For the past number of years, we’ve been seeing a youth movement happen in the region where I live and work. Some people say movements have to be based on the nuclear family in homes, and ideally that is true. That’s why in rural areas where movements are recorded, the Good News about Jesus travels through the relationships of family members. But the reality in urban areas around the world is different. When people migrate to urban cities their families come under lots of pressure. Urban lifestyle pulls husbands and wives apart and it also pulls parents from children. In these urban centers, young people look for community among their peers instead of their nuclear family so the Good News travels through these peer communities. We have many different types of movements: hip-hop movements, punk movements, sports movements, motorcycle gang movements and more and they all produce their own leaders.

Recently, when I was speaking in a church in South Korea, I noticed that the number of young people in attendance was very low. I offered the advice to the leaders to start a hip-hop ministry with young people, but they did not receive my advice very well. They responded, “You can’t gyrate your body and spin on your head like that in church!” I replied, “If you don’t then you will lose a whole generation.” I went on to explain how South Korea was number one in the hip-hop world and that would have more influence on young people than anything else in their country.

A year ago I gathered with 20 of my top leaders from our youth movement, both guys and gals age 17 to 25. All were highly involved in hip-hop, rap and DJ lifestyles. I asked them, “How many of you when you were still a child growing up at home had both parents with you? Raise your hand.” No one raised their hand. Then I asked, “How many of you had one parent around when you were younger?” Seven of them raised their hands. Finally I asked, “How many of you had neither a mom nor a dad at home when you were growing up?” 13 raised their hands. This is normal today for this generation. They are finding their way to a new way of doing church and seeing movement happen among them and a key is always reproducing leaders. It was at this meeting that they told me the current leaders must “pension” at 25 years of age to make room for the next generation of leaders.

If we want to see movements grow and spread to all peoples, we need to identify and eliminate all of those mission practices that kill movements

This is an article from the September-October 2020 issue: Hunting the Movement Killers

Essential Qualities of a Multiplication Movement

Essential Qualities of a Multiplication Movement

Among the items displayed in the old Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago was a checkerboard with a single grain of rice on the first square, two on the second, four on the third, then 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, and so on. Somewhere down the board, there was enough rice that it was spilling over into neighboring squares, so the display ended there. Above the demonstration was the question: At this rate of doubling each square, how much rice would you have on the checkerboard by the time you reached the sixty-fourth square?

To find the answer, you punched a button and the answer flashed on a screen above the board: Enough to cover the entire subcontinent of India, fifty feet deep. There would be 153 billion tons of rice—more than the world rice harvest for the next one thousand years. Walter Henrichsen, in his book A Disciple is Made Not Born, described this scene to illustrate the potent power of multiplication. He went on to conclude, “The reason that the Church of Jesus Christ finds it so hard to stay on top of the Great Commission is that the population of the world is multiplying while the Church is merely adding. Addition can never keep pace with multiplication.”1  This is absolutely, unforgivingly true.

A paradox with our programs

I believe that the power of a multiplication movement is within every one of us who choose to follow Christ, no matter the age, gender, race or status. The Good News of Christ living within you is a power that can and should transform us, and eventually the world. It is both potent and viral.

There is, however, a paradox within much of current church methodology that must be explained. Our methods are ineffective for producing the spiritual results that only the gospel can do, but they can be potent at preventing spiritual fruitfulness. Our programs are powerless to produce movements, but powerful at preventing them. That is the paradox.

If the potential of a gospel movement is already present in each of us, it is not so much that we need to figure out how to make it happen, but instead to stop doing whatever is preventing it from happening.

In other words, it isn’t that we lack models, funding, strategy, leadership, training or doctrine. By investing so much confidence in those things instead of in the gospel itself, we are unintentionally choking any movement. Could it be that we are holding back a real movement while all the time searching for one? I believe this is true, and it is killing us.

Our mission is to release the power of the gospel from one life to another in such a way that it multiplies and spreads like a virus from our neighborhoods to the nations. I believe it takes much more effort to prevent multiplication movements than to see them happen. It is harder to not multiply than it is to multiply. This is counterintuitive, but true nonetheless. The gospel should spread naturally and powerfully without our help— and leave in its wake transforming agents of the kingdom. I don’t for a minute believe that the gospel itself is deficient, so I must simply acknowledge that our faith is misplaced.

Because addition may produce faster results in the beginning and multiplication takes time, we are often content with growth by addition. We choose the more immediate success and gratification of addition instead of waiting for the momentum that can build with multiplying. Don’t be content with addition. Stop applauding the pathetic success we see in addition and start longing for the incredible power of multiplication. This would mean, in practical terms, to not look for immediate or large results in the early days. Christian leaders would need to invest in the few rather than in the multitudes, much like Jesus did. Authority would be distributed and decentralized. Growth would need to come from each disciple rather than from a single leader or strong personality. As leaders, we would need to think of ways to equip people to serve rather than simply serving people.

We cannot simply tack on multiplication strategies to our current addition practices, because each set has completely different requirements. Addition is accumulative and draws people in. Multiplication isdistributive and sends people out. The objectives and means of accomplishing each are contrary to the other. You cannot do them both at the same time, any more than you can suck in water through a straw and blow bubbles in the glass at the same time. We must stop adding if we want to start multiplying. Could it be that our commitment to strategies that cannot multiply is in fact what is keeping us from seeing a movement here in the West?

Eight essential qualities of a real multiplication movement

Every one of these qualities is necessary if we are to see real multiplication. None can be violated and still result in a multiplication movement.

Most of these principles are counterintuitive but reveal how true multiplication movements work.

1. Slow and small wins the race

Multiplication by doubling begins slower than addition, but like a car rolling down a steep hill, it builds up momentum as it goes. A penny doubled, then doubled again can become millions, and then billions, and within a short time, trillions. In fact, you go from billions to trillions just as fast as you went from millions to billions. This is phenomenal.

This first principle is one of the hardest for missionaries and church-planters to grasp because it counters all their intuition and plans. The vast majority of church planters sent out long to grow large fast. Launching large is seen as the most viable way to success for the church-planter these days. Church-planting agencies are actually guilty of stopping any multiplication before it can start because, as I will explain, movements are most vulnerable to being stopped at the very beginning. Church-planter salaries frequently are set up so that they decrease significantly each year, hoping that will provide motivation for them to launch big enough to make up the difference through the offerings collected in the new worship service. A church-planter is forced to launch larger in the beginning just to support his or her family. A gathering of people in a worship

service that can contribute tithes and offerings has become the main objective for a church-planter. This takes precedence over reproducing disciples or bringing life and change to a community. Our systems are designed to prevent multiplication from the very start. These same systems also work overtime to make one leader key to the whole enterprise and limit church to what happens on Sunday morning between the hours of 10 o’clock and noon.




We simply must respect the long runway necessary for this movement to take off. We should allow this long, slow start to be part of the plan and expect it. Instead, when we hit the long, slow start, we lose patience, feel like we are failing and resort to addition practices. When we shift from multiplication to addition, we disrupt the natural flow of momentum that would eventually overtake all else. We may feel more successful in the early days with addition, but we forfeit the ideal results that come through multiplication.

Patience is not just a virtue in multiplication—it’s a necessity. Just as a farmer cannot quicken the growth of his crops, the church-planter who wants multiplication results must be willing to wait. “The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.” (James 5:7-8). Paul said that we will reap what we have sown in due time—if we do not give up. (Gal. 6:7-9)

Steven Covey asked, “Did you ever consider how ridiculous it would be to try to cram on a farm—to forget to plant in the spring, play all summer and then cram in the fall to bring in the harvest?” He went on, “The farm is a natural system. The price must be paid and the process followed. You always reap what you sow; there is no shortcut.”2 There are seasons. We must “be ready in season and out” and not rush the process.

The Bible is not silent on this. Do not “despise these small beginnings.” (Zech. 4:10 NLT) A tiny mustard seed of faith is all that is needed to move mountains. (Matt. 17:20) A pinch of leaven is all that is needed to leaven the whole lump. (Gal. 5:9) Every person that is changed by Jesus can be a carrier of the movement, and multiplication starts there. This leads us to the next essential principle of multiplication.

2. Each one reach one

Some argue that multiplication requires addition, and that is true. We cannot multiply without addition, but we certainly can add without multiplying. Multiplication in the kingdom sense of the word only works if each one that is added, adds another, then another. This highlights the big difference between addition and multiplication. The difference is seen in the multiple generations.

In multiplication, each person is equally important to the process, so there isn’t an outstanding personality that can produce more of it than everyone else.3 Everyone gets to play in a multiplication movement—that is the only way to have one.

How we start will determine how we finish. Once our entire system is set up to only add, multiplying becomes impossible. In a multiplication movement, each one must reach one, again and again, for many generations. Only when everyone is empowered and each generation is being discipled and reproducing disciples can a multiplication movement happen.

Everyone is the hero of a multiplication movement, and no single person stands out as the sole leader. Perhaps this is because in a real Jesus movement, Jesus gets the attention and affection of those involved rather than any human leader.

3. Break the Gen-4 barrier

I believe the proof of multiplication is found in the fourth generation. 2 Timothy 2:2 is the key verse about multiplying disciples in the New Testament.

And the things you [Timothy] have heard me [Paul] say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people [third generation] who will also be qualified to teach others [fourth generation and beyond]. (2 Tim. 2:2 NIV)

In this verse we see four generations of reproduction: Paul, Timothy, reliable people and others also. “Others also” represent more than just a fourth generation—that phrase includes every generation thereafter. Once we pass the fourth generation, the momentum kicks in and succeeding generations don’t just become possible, but probable.

A strong leader will attract other leaders, who, because they are leaders, will have followers. In that sense, we can have three generations via addition. But to see the fourth generation, we must be doing things differently—we must be giving it all away to get through the barrier between addition and multiplication. We should hold this marker up as our scorecard of success more than the numbers that are in attendance. Once we break through the Gen-4 barrier, multiplication has a momentum of its own. It is also beyond anyone’s control. What can possibly spread from one life to another past these four generations? That question leads us to the next essential principle of multiplication.

3. The gospel glue

In his seminal book The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell introduced an idea that was so descriptive and helpful that it “stuck” with me. He called it the “stickiness factor.” His terminology became sticky itself as more people began to use the phrase.4

The stickiness factor has to do with the memorable quality of the idea, product or method that is spread in a movement. When the idea is so intriguing that it sticks with people enough that they can’t forget about it—a movement can happen. This is (pardon the pun) the glue that makes a movement come together. You can sell products, ideas and even ministries with advertising and mass media promotion, but that is not a movement. To ignite a true movement, the idea itself must spread from one person to another—and only sticky ideas can do that.

I believe that anything less than a Jesus movement—where lives are changed by the good news of Jesus and that transformation spreads to others—is not worthy of His name. When someone is transformed from the inside out by the indwelling presence of the Spirit of Jesus, that person cannot help but tell others. That is stickiness unlike any other.

Jesus is more than any brand of church or ministry. We would be surprised what people will do for Jesus that they will not do for our church vision statement and brand. Frankly, if the gospel doesn’t drastically change lives, what is the point of church? It’s better to just eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we all die. But I do believe the gospel is a spark that can ignite a fast-spreading wildfire that cannot be put out by man, demon, or even Satan himself. I believe that Jesus changes lives—He changed mine—so I will spread that news for the rest of my days.

Christ in us is the hope of glory. That is the stickiness of the gospel. This hope expressed through us in our changed lives is the contagion of the gospel. Anything else is less than a kingdom movement. This, in and of itself, is something worth giving our lives to—and giving our lives for.

The contagion, however, needs to spread from one life to another, which brings us to the next principle necessary for a multiplication movement. It doesn’t matter how sticky our message is if we don’t have the tracks for the movement to roll forward on and expand.

5. Multiplication runs on relationships

The gospel spreads best on the tracks of relationships. A quick survey of any Christian audience will bear this truth out. Ask how many people came to Christ anonymously, and one or two people in the crowd will raise their hands. All the others will raise their hands when asked how many came to Christ through an important relationship with a trusted friend or family member.

This is the design of God. We are made to be in relationship, and that is the context for lives to change. The term used in the Gospels to describe this is the word oikos, most often translated as “household” (referring to a set of familial relationships). Jesus’ instructions were to enter into a household with the gospel and stay there, letting the gospel spread from one relationship to another. Jesus instructed the apostles—and us—about extending the gospel of the kingdom with the following words:

“When you enter a house [oikos] first say, ‘Peace be to this house [oikos].’ If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. Stay there, [oikos], eating and drinking whatever they give you; for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house [oikos] to house [oikos].” (Luke 10:5-7 NIV)

Five times in the above verses, Jesus used the word oikos (household), emphasizing that relationships are the key to gospel extension. In fact, He goes so far as to instruct us to not greet people with our message (gospel) of peace (shalom) on the way (Luke 10:4). In other words, don’t evangelize void of the context of real, authentic, and vulnerable relationships. Why? He wants more than simply adding converts to the membership rolls in heaven. He wants nothing less than a radically multiplying, life-changing movement of the gospel.

I want to point out that the last command from Jesus in the passage above is in the imperative voice: “Do not move around from house to house.” Wait, uh, what? Yeah, He commands us to not go to the next household. Doesn’t Jesus want the gospel to spread from house to house? Yes, He does, but He doesn’t want you to do it all. He wants it to spread from one satisfied, saved and sanctified “recipient” to the next. He wants a true movement. Relationships have always been the tracks that the gospel is meant to move forward on.

For a locomotive to work, you need at least three components:

  1. The locomotive
  2. The tracks for it to run on
  3. The energy to make it move

In a similar way, we need three parts to see a multiplication movement spread:

  1. The message of the gospel (locomotive)
  2. Connective relationships with hurting people who need the message (tracks)
  3. Lives that have been changed by the power of the gospel (energy pushing the movement forward)

We are too often lacking one or more of these elements and so miss all chances of a multiplication movement. We may believe that the gospel is salvation in Christ by grace through faith alone—but then we act as though it is our own effort and good works that make a difference. And then we have something less than a train. If we are only moral people—“cultural Christians”—rather than true, vibrant carriers of the gospel, then we lack any energy to propel the movement. But the middle element is also frequently missing. Most Christians have good relationships with other Christians but do not have strong connections with those who need the gospel most. We have no tracks for the movement to run forward on. A train full of steam without tracks to run on is utterly useless.

Once someone is a Christian for longer than six months, most of their meaningful relationships are with other Christians. And their connections and friendships with people in the lost and broken world are cold and dead. If the gospel of the kingdom spreads along the lines of an oikos connection and their entire oikos is already Christian, then any potential movement is derailed.

I often say, “If we want to win this world to Christ, we’re going to have to sit in the smoking section.” We simply must create avenues for the gospel to flow from relationship to relationship.



Even in the best of circumstances, this barricade to movements exists simply because a new life in Christ will be attracted to a spiritual family of like-minded people. Christ-followers, by divine design, long to be in fellowship with other followers of Christ. It is an internal and natural intent, which means that for most people, the days soonest after their rebirth may be their most productive for extending the movement from oikos to oikos. As time passes, it is less natural and more challenging to bridge into an oikos that needs the gospel.

Believing that a new spiritual life is too fragile to carry the gospel contagion and withstand the temptations of the world, we intentionally erect a barrier when people come to Christ. We extract them from meaningful relational opportunities and encourage them to solely connect with other believers. This is, once again, misplaced faith that actually puts more confidence in the power of darkness than light. No matter what we say, we demonstrate by our actions that we believe our own methods and practices are better at protecting a new believer than the gospel, so we do all we can to protect them. We end up only protecting the unsuspecting world from the power of the gospel.

Not only is a new follower of Christ capable of withstanding the temptations of the old life, he or she is often better suited to make a difference than an older and more mature brother or sister. Why? The fresh relationship lines connect the changing life to those who are in most need of it. The tangible realities of the gospel transformation are most noticeable to these not-yet-believers because they watch their friend change right before their eyes.

Perhaps the most embarrassing truth about this misinformed practice of withdrawing a new convert from his old relationships in an attempt to strengthen the new believer is that in doing this, we actually slow the growth and maturity of the new disciple. Nothing will accelerate a follower of Christ’s spiritual development like telling others the good news. In fact, the more hostile the audience, the more the new believer will grow spiritually as they defend the gospel and practice obedience against hostility. Strength is best developed against resistance.

By “protecting” the new believer from the temptations of their old life and friends’ lifestyle, we unintentionally collude with the enemy in stopping movements before they happen. We stunt the growth and development of the new disciple as well.

The core truth of the gospel is love. Love is impossible void of relationships. Relationships with those who most need such love is key to the advancement of movements.

6. Multiplication movements are most vulnerable at the beginning

To better understand the momentum behind multi-plication movements, imagine a car without gasoline on top of a steep hill. Gasoline is not important in such a case because gravity itself can propel the vehicle. But the ground is almost flat at the top of the hill. Gravity is not tugging at the car immediately. We could simply stand in front of the two-ton car with our hand on the hood and hold it in place. Why? There is no energy behind the car—yet.

This reveals a very important principle for us: movements are most vulnerable at the start. Once the car starts rolling down the hill, its energy increases, and the car moves faster with every inch. Gravity does its work. The acceleration increases rapidly as the car rolls further down the hill. Standing in front of the car and placing your hand on the hood when it is halfway down the steep hill will not slow the car at all—and will probably leave a grease spot on the road.

Movements are much harder to stop once the momentum kicks in, but before that, movements can be easily derailed. As I stated firmly, the power of movements is found within every Christ-follower. Since this is true, then why do we not see more movements? This principle answers that question. The movements we could potentially see are stopped before they ever get started.

I contend that the very way we practice our faith and live in community works against multiplication movements. We create dependency on expert leaders from the very start. We frequently cut off the potential power and connection of every new Christ-follower at the very start. We make church bound to a physical address and a weekly schedule. All of these things work together to curtail movements right at the start. How we start will determine how we finish. If we want the rapid exponential growth curve at the end, we must lay the groundwork for it in the beginning.

7. Multiplication is simple and significant

As an art student in university, I learned a valuable lesson that I have integrated into all I do: Less is more. The best things are simple things.

We are often tempted to disregard simple things, believing them to be simplistic. A simple thing, however, can be very profound. In fact, I believe that simplicity can be a step beyond complexity. What is easy is often simple, but simple is not always easy. It takes great skill and effort to make something simple. It is easy to create something that is complex; we just keep adding “stuff” to it. To design something that is both simple and profound, however, is a creative challenge.

Simple is transferable, while complex breaks down. Three of the most feared words in a parent’s vocabulary are, “Some assembly required.” Inevitably, the more complicated toys break almost immediately. One Christmas I brought home a large box for my five-year-old daughter. The box contained an entire house—a child’s toy playhouse. I opened the box with trepidation, but the first thing I noticed was that there were no small parts, nuts, or bolts—just the large heavy-duty plastic pieces. I then opened the instructions that were surprisingly simple. They were simple diagrams without words in any language.

I looked for a list of the tools I would need to construct this house, but there was no such list. This was a wonderful toy. The house was put together like a huge three-dimensional puzzle in which all the pieces snap together. Simple. That toy lasted years after our three childrens’ interest in it did. The designers who engineered that toy impressed me. They understood children and their parents and created something that was simple, enjoyable and virtually indestructible.

When we approach disciple-making with the desire to pass the baton on to succeeding generations, we must refine the process so that it is simple and transferable. Simplicity is the key to the fulfillment of the Great Commission in this generation. If the process is complex, it will break down early in the transfer to the next generation of disciples. The more complex the process is, the greater the giftedness needed to keep it going.

Paul passed on to Timothy truths so profound that he would not forget them. They gripped his life and never left him. But the things Paul passed on were simple enough that Timothy could in turn pass them on to others who could then pass them on to more. The gospel itself is the most profound truth mankind has ever received, yet it is simple enough for a child to understand and pass on to others.

Perhaps the reason that we don’t see multiplication of disciples more often is that we are trying to do too much too soon in the process. We fail to grasp the fact that discipleship– following Christ in simple obedience—is a lifelong pursuit. By attempting to teach our disciples so much in the first year, we unintentionally sabotage the years to follow. We intimidate them into thinking disciple-making is too hard for common people to do and requires memorization of volumes of information. We tend to overestimate what we can do in one year and underestimate what we can do in three. A helpful idea is for us to see disciple-making and multiplying as distinct from the process of mentoring leaders. All Christians are to be disciple-makers, even those who are not yet leaders.

When we try to combine discipleship with leadership development, we eliminate a good percentage of Christians from participation in the Great Commission. In reality, disciple-making is the foundation of good mentoring and leadership development. If we allow disciple-making to happen, unencumbered by complicated training methods, more people will be able to do it, and we will increase the pool to draw from for the purpose of mentoring leaders. Once we have growing and multiplying disciples, we can build upon their emerging fruitfulness with intentional mentoring and training methods for those who demonstrate leadership potential.

What we need is a disciple-making system that is practical and profound. It must be both simple and significant. A system that is significant enough to captivate the Christ-follower’s internal motivation yet simple enough that it can be easily passed on from disciple to disciple. Such a system will strengthen the Church and produce growth that is qualitative and quantitative.

We cannot easily pass on something complicated from one person to another and then another and so on. The more complex an idea is, the more people will think they are incapable of mastering it. As a result, they will not be empowered to tell others for fear of getting it wrong. A method that is complex is more likely to lose essential elements in the transfers of upcoming generations.

Simplicity, however, is not just about being able to pass something on. There is more to it. There is something powerful about the refining process that creates a simple and yet potent thing. It is not just what is excluded but about what we deem so significant that it must remain, that makes an idea potently simple. Ruthless and relentless prioritizing of an idea refines it.

This process of relentlessly prioritizing and pruning a concept solidifies it into something so important that it cannot be ignored. Seth Godin articulates this when he says, “The art of leadership is understanding what you can’t compromise on.”5 Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, best known as the author of The Little Prince, once quipped, “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”6

Reduction to the most essential and simple points is tricky but worth it. Albert Einstein compelled others to go as close to the edge as possible without letting the idea lose its potency. He said, “Everything must be made as simple as possible. But not simpler.”

To take something valuable and reduce it to what makes it valued by eliminating anything that might compete with its significance—and leaving it there—is an incredibly important skill.

Sanity is knowing what to fight for. Insanity is fighting for anything. Cowardice is not fighting for anything. Some things are worth fighting for. Some things are even worth losing a fight over. A few things are worth dying for. I’m convinced that we are ready to lead when we are able to know the things that are worth dying for—and the things not worth fighting over. I believe we will find that after we have lived enough to know these things, more people will receive our message. Our authority increases as we realize this is what we know to be true, and all else becomes secondary.

8. Multiplication is easy and economical

Perhaps the most counterintuitive principle of them all is this: true multiplication is really easy. We are so accustomed to the hard work and sweat of doing ministry that we cannot believe such a thing, but it is true.

In a multiplication movement, everyone does the work, not just a few. The work is narrowed to focus on what is truly important and lesser distractions that cost so much energy are eliminated. All the effort is decentralized and shared. As each one reaches another, the work of the kingdom is spread to all and no longer rises and falls on a few leaders that do all the heavy lifting.

Jesus described the growth and work of His disciples with the following parable:

“The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; and he goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows—how, he himself does not know. The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head. But when the crop permits, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” (Mark 4:26-29)

When we all share the load, it becomes easy. In the parable, the farmer doesn’t even know how it works. The work grows all by itself. This is something we all can do, should do, and I believe we will do. We just need to stop doing all the other stuff that takes up too much time, too much effort, and too much money—and yields but a tiny fraction of the fruit.

Multiplication is also far less expensive. When the ministry is simplified to what is most powerful and transferable to all, then it suddenly costs next to nothing monetarily. As we often say in our movement, “It doesn’t cost a dime to make a disciple—it just costs your life.” Jesus paid the ultimate cost for His kingdom movement; it shouldn’t cost more than what He already paid.

Is it possible that we could catch up to the world population and keep up without spending a fortune and killing ourselves in stressful effort in the process? Yes. It is very simple and completely doable. We would only have to focus on doing the very thing Jesus commanded us to do—make disciples.

If we all simply made one disciple every year that could make another the following year, we would not only catch up and keep up—we’d finish up. But to do that we would have to stop doing a lot of things that set up a few people with power, position, and steady employment.

Virtually all of our “religious” systems are designed to keep power and productivity in the hands of a few professionals. This must change.


  1. 1. Walter A. Henrichsen, Disciples Are Made-Not Born: Making Disciples Out of Christians (Victor, 1985), p.143.

  2. 2. Steven R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change, (Simon & Schuster 1989), p. 22.

  3. 3. That isn’t to say that a specific gift doesn’t produce more multiplication than others. The apostolic gift is given to the Church to lay a foundation of multiplication. Void of this gift, the Church can only grow via addition. Why? Because the apostolic gift distributes the power to be able to reproduce disciples to everyone. An apostolos (Greek for apostle) is a sent one and is the foundation for launching church movements. The sent one reproduces him/herself and sends.

  4. 4. Chip and Dan Heath’s book Made to Stick is influenced by Gladwell’s sticky terminology. Larry Osborne’s Sticky Church, Sticky Leaders and Sticky Teams all use Gladwell’s terminology.

  5. 5. Seth Godin, Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us (Penguin, 2008), p. 79.

  6. 6. Lewis Galantiere’s full translation of the first two paragraphs of the third chapter (The Tool) of Wind, Sand and Stars.

This is an article from the September-October 2020 issue: Hunting the Movement Killers

Toward the Edges: Listening and Learning

Toward the Edges: Listening and Learning

One of the things I learned by being “on the ground” among unreached peoples is the value of listening and learning. To be fair, I learned it initially by my mistakes in not doing so very well!

Our current climate in the USA may go down as a case study in how not to listen and how not to press into difficult issues. I refer to tough issues like the questions about re-opening while trying to balance financial and physical health, government mandates and personal freedoms; and tough issues like how to respond to the Supreme Court ruling about employment and gender and sexuality; and tough issues like race. I am deeply troubled, not just by the issues themselves, but by our current culture of “how to disagree.” To be brief, we do it poorly.

How can we change? Listen to other voices.

I will focus on just one area of the tough things to learn to press into.

Protests and racial tension are bringing to the forefront for some of us what is always present and real for many others. One of the excellent pieces of advice I heard relative to being good listeners and learners in this season, is to broaden our sources of news and information, and listen to other voices. I am not a podcast guy, but I am a music guy. Music really is my go-to source.

Awhile back I dipped into rap. There is white rap, of course, but I was listening for black voices specifically when I came across an old favorite: Tracy Chapman. I listened to her whole first album (“Tracy Chapman”).

Ok, so it was 1988, but the words could have been written today. For context, in 1988 Ronald Reagan was in his final year as president (for more on the Reagan years and racial issues, check out the Netflix documentary “13th”).

But back to Tracy.

Apart from her musicianship and songwriting (amazing), I was moved by the scope of issues she addresses in one album. I like playlists as much as the next person, but some artists treat their albums as a whole. Tracy Chapman’s album is worth a full listen.

She deals with racism, domestic violence, hunger, poverty, co-dependency, misogyny, longing for authentic love and more. Maybe the only major issue she did not address was the environment (which she takes up in later work).

And her prophetic knife has more than one sharp side. Yes, I used the word prophetic, so before the maintenance light for heresy on your dashboard lights up, let me say this:

I believe prophetic words emerge from one source, but by several means. There is of course the means of direct inspiration. Then there is also the means by which a human being, standing in solidarity with other human beings, gets a glimpse of the image of God and speaks truthfully from that place. I think Tracy did that 32 years ago. But she could have sung those songs today. And in my heart, on a Sunday morning, she did.

The final song, which will lead to my final comment, is one called “For You”. I assume it is a love song, but I redirected it as worship. I used it for summing up all the prior 10 songs and their cries for justice and truth and reconciliation and directed them to the One I know who can cause a new kingdom to come among us...and may it be so.

 Finally, my main point here is actually not just about the specific issue of racism in our country. I am making a plea, really, to all of us to find new ways of disagreeing, and of learning. That is one of the ways that, for those of us in the mission movement, we can model and display what it means to learn well from the edges of mission!

This is an article from the September-October 2020 issue: Hunting the Movement Killers

How Disciple-Makers Relate to Ever-Present Global Disruptions

How Disciple-Makers Relate to Ever-Present Global Disruptions

The other day I was on a Zoom call with a group of Frontier Mission trainers. They were there from around the globe; Africans, Asians, Europeans, Americans and more. We prayed together, seeking God, and listening to His voice. We wanted to hear what He would say to us as Frontier Mission trainers at this time. I’m grateful to serve in a movement that places a high value on hearing God’s voice individually and corporately.

We shared Scripture. Then, we took the time to practice listening prayer. After a period of waiting, one of our trainers said, “I feel that the fires in Australia and the disruption of COVID-19 are just the beginning. We will experience many more disruptions. We need to be ready. We can’t let these stop us from obeying God’s mandate to make disciples.” I didn’t particularly like hearing this. Be ready for more disruptions? Hmmm. That didn’t sound good! What did that mean for me as a mission leader? How was I to be ready? Was there a way to get ready for more disruption and also get ready to bring in the harvest?

A few days after that meeting, in my home city of Minneapolis, violence erupted in our streets. Another unexpected disruption.

Only days before, cyclones hit South Asia, my home for many years, along with an unusual attack of locusts. Disruption on top of disruption.

These are not easy times to live and minister in. When disruption hits, it is hard to keep our heads above water and our eyes fixed on Jesus. The demand on ministers of the gospel has dramatically increased. Needy people knock on our doors and ring our phones. At times, we feel overwhelmed. While helping others, we experience a rollercoaster of our own emotions.

I take courage in knowing that while disruptions surprise me, they are not a surprise to God. He was not caught off guard by the coronavirus, nor anything else happening in the world nor my personal life. As I stay connected to Him, as I abide, He will show me how to live a fruitful life as a disciple-maker amid a continual disturbance of what I perceive as normal life.

When Disruption Gets Personal

Beyond the disruptions of the world, as we serve, there are personal challenges. For missionaries supported by churches and individuals, this may mean loss of income. Economies are struggling and joblessness is rising worldwide. When your financial support plummets, it hits home in a very tangible way.

Ten days after my colleague said she felt more disruptions were coming, she was diagnosed with cancer. That’s personal. This past month I’ve faced personal challenges as well. After hurting my back, I slipped and fell, twisting my leg and ankle beneath me. I also had tooth problems, and my assistant quit suddenly, during an ever-increasing workload as we opened enrollment for my online course: Getting Started in Disciple Making Movements: Even if You Are Busy, Can’t Speak the Language Well and Have No Money.

External disruptions are hard. Personal disruption and challenge even more so. Are these events spiritual attacks, the pruning process of God?

I am not a last days scholar or eschatologist. I don’t consider myself qualified to speak on those matters. As a DMM practitioner, I like to keep things simple. Though I enjoy in-depth Bible study, most of the time I take Scripture at face value.

 I have no clear idea about whether these are the last days. I do know that Scripture says in the last days we will experience increased times of difficulty. The Bible also speaks of a great harvest in the end times. The two go together. This understanding must inform how we respond, rather than reacting or ignoring the many disturbances that come our way.

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. (2 Tim 3:1 ESV)

Three ways disciple-makers can relate to life’s disruptions:

1 We can react in fear.

Fear is pervasive and contagious. Conspiracy theories, “fake news” and rumors feed our fearful hearts and minds. Anxiety is a very human reaction. Like pain, fear can be a good thing. It protects us when danger lurks. Abiding or chronic fear, however, is never from God. Getting stuck in fear-mode is not a reaction disciples of Jesus can afford to give in to.

Fear paralyzes. It causes us to react in selfishness. We hoard food and toilet paper instead of being generous with those in need. We focus on the bad things that could happen, rather than seeing what God is doing around us.

The Psalmist said, “When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” (Ps. 61:2) When we feel fearful, we must turn to Him, our solid rock. Resist fear and it will flee from you. Give in to it, feed it, and it will grow.

As disciple-makers, a fear reaction says, “I can’t do anything until this is over. When the lockdown lifts, I’ll be able to disciple people and start new groups or churches again. When my health is better, I’ll share Jesus with my neighbors. After travel restrictions lift, I’ll start going to train disciples again.”

The problem with that position is we don’t know how long this disruption will last. Nor do we know what new disruption might follow. Courageous action is the opposite of fear. It’s what this season of difficulty asks of disciple-makers.

2. We can ignore disruptions, pretending they don’t exist.

Sometimes it is easier to stick your proverbial head in the sand. We don’t know how to respond, so we pretend nothing has changed. We ignore the disruption and hope in time it will disappear. In a few months, things will go back to normal, we think. Hunker down and stay safe, and in a while, things will be better.

This response is also not from God. Jesus told us to discern the times we are in. In Matthew 24, Jesus told His disciples that they could expect difficulties. Though it is not for us to know “the times or dates the Father has set by His own authority” (Acts 1:7), we cannot ignore world events. We must be watchful and aware of what is happening.

If we ignore disruptions, we miss the great opportunities they afford us for disciple-making. There is a great spiritual openness in the world today. People are open to having spiritual conversations like never before.

Governments, busy fighting Covid-19, are less focused on persecuting Christians. Dramatic changes have happened as millions have learned to access resources online.

Will we ignore this openness? This great opportunity to reach lost people and multiply disciples, if it requires us to change how we function?

Our models of what a movement looks like must shift to accommodate what is happening. Movements will cross borders differently. How we find Persons of Peace may change. Our primary method of going to these people may be through social media rather than knocking on doors or chatting in a shopping mall. House churches may predominantly meet on Zoom and through WhatsApp groups.

As I write that I cringe. I don’t want that! None of us do. But if that is what it takes to go and make disciples in this time, are we willing to shift and adjust our preferences?

We don’t like to think about this. It was not in our strategic plan for multiplication.

But what if all that happened is preparing us for a time when brick and mortar church buildings can no longer function due to persecution? Are we learning? Pivoting? Experimenting? Or simply wishing the disruption would end and we could go back to the way it was?

3. We can respond in faith.

As much as fear is contagious, faith and hope are even more so. When we abide in Christ and meditate on His Word, our hearts are filled with fresh confidence in God’s promises. These are incredible times to be alive and work as disciple-makers. Spiritual hunger is growing virally. With everything shaken, people are looking for a God who loves them and can provide comfort, hope and life.

By demonstrating genuine faith in these uncertain times, we reflect His glory. We shine as bright lights…and so we must!

Jesus said, “The harvest is ripe, the workers are few.” That has never been truer than it is today! “Look to the fields, they are white unto harvest,” said the Master. We must go in response to His call and the ripeness of the harvest fields. Whether that means going online, or to our neighbor while standing six feet apart or going through a phone call…we must go! Persons of Peace wait to be found. Rise to the challenge of these times and face them head on, your hand in His.

Let’s allow this time of disruption to strip us of old habits of disciple-making and church. Many things we did previously weren’t in line with New Testament practices anyway! Allow difficulties to prune both your ministry and your life. New growth and fruitfulness will result.

What does it mean to respond in faith? It means we prayerfully and actively go after the new wine and new wineskins Jesus is releasing. We embrace and step into them wholeheartedly. We allow God to use trials to bring lasting change in our lives as well as our ways of operating as disciple-makers.

The World Will Change

When in high school, I read the book 1984 by George Orwell. It was my junior year (class 11). I would graduate the next year in 1985. How strange to read a book written in 1949, forty years earlier, and see how closely it had predicted what our world was like. On many things, it was right on.

One thing Orwell got right was that the world was changing. Life was not going to stay the same. In that sense, he spoke prophetically.

What will the world be like in forty years? It would be foolish of me to venture a prediction. What I can say with confidence, is that it will not be the same as it is today. The world is changing and we must change with it.

A Future Hope

The future I hope for is one where the movements numbered across the globe have grown beyond our wildest dreams. Seeing organic movements to Christ has become normal. The majority of Christians have shifted from being only church members to embracing a lifestyle of disciple-making, sacrifice, love and obedience.

In that future, the Church looks different than it does today. It is far more similar to what we saw in the New Testament. Signs and wonders are common, and those that are daily being saved in every corner of the globe have become impossible to track. With this growth has come persecution and great suffering, but the body of Christ is stronger and more united than ever before. People from every tribe and tongue and nation gather to worship and love the one who died and rose again. Usually not in big gatherings— but under trees, in homes, in coffee shops, in chat rooms on the internet, on Zoom and WhatsApp, in hospital waiting rooms, in airports and train stations— they gather to worship, encourage and spur one another on to reach and serve the lost.

Let the disruptions come if that is what it takes to move us into a season of greater harvest, renewal, and disciple-making. Amid the chaos of today and tomorrow, we say, “Come, Lord Jesus, come. Let your kingdom come in me, my city, my region and among the unreached. Help me respond in faith to what You are doing. Let me cooperate with You and be an obedient disciple who follows You into the unknown future ahead. For Your glory. Amen.”

This is an article from the September-October 2020 issue: Hunting the Movement Killers

What Movement Leaders Teach Us about Equipping

24:14 Goal—Movement engagements in every unreached people and place by 2025 (64 months)

What Movement Leaders Teach Us about Equipping

For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. – The Apostle Paul (1 Thess. 2:5-8)

I remember sitting under Steve Smith’s insightful training as we explored Scripture pathways I had trodden many times before. Somehow I had never seen the nuggets lying there in plain view. Jesus’ commissioning of 70 disciples to go places “He himself was about to go” captured my imagination as he challenged them to “pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Luke 10:1-2) Steve asked us to imagine the scenario: disciples walking down dusty roads praying for more laborers for the harvest field. Then he asked us the pointed question, “If Jesus expected their prayers to be answered, where did He expect those laborers to come from?”

The golden answer burst into my mind. Of course! The laborers for the harvest field are in the harvest! If I would start treating them like God’s chosen and approved workmen instead of those to be “harvested,” I would see a different result than I had been seeing.

Over the last 25 years, we have seen the emergence of Church Planting Movements impacting areas of the planet we once thought impenetrable to missionary efforts. Many of these growing networks of disciples have emerged from a faithful outsider befriending, mentoring and empowering a passionate insider to reach his or her own people. The shift from a hierarchical view of missionary efforts to that of a humble trainer and coach has not been easy for many Westerners, but it has borne great fruit.

At a recent meeting exploring new models of missionary training, several national Disciple Making Movement leaders spoke about the posture of outsiders as they enter new unreached fields. Their insights can apply to any outsider entering a new harvest field. They can help us understand our role and provide a gentle corrective lens to enable us to see the gold in front of us.

I will summarize their insights in 10 recommendations:

Be an Example. Outsiders need “street credibility.” Making disciples and planting churches involves trials and suffering. These things create a depth in the outsider that insiders notice and feel. They appreciate the patience and humility that come with walking those paths. Modeling involves not just learning theology or tools. It’s a lifestyle of prayer, labor, perseverance, releasing responsibility and trusting God.

Be Relational. Locals can feel a difference when an outsider comes with a zeal for movement methods that outweighs love for people. Relationship precedes strategy. An overly transactional desire to get the job done grates on people in a relational culture. Movement leaders in our meetings marveled at how much Western outsiders talked about “boundaries” without considering the needs and perspectives of the local people they were holding at arm’s length. Additionally, local believers are not especially impressed by outsiders’ great tools and methods. They need to know, love and respect the person with whom they partner.

Working to become like family may feel slow, but it paves the best path to fruitfulness.

Be Humble. The world operates on a hierarchical framework. As a contrast, Jesus told us “not so among you.” (Mark 10:43) Don’t come in as a boss, but treat the insider leader as a friend. Empower them and release control (something many of us find difficult!). Knowing that control tends to kill movements, work to establish “a round table, not a rectangular one.” Listening well to others shows respect, love and care.

Experienced ministers feel honored when you take the time to understand their world, and work with them and through them (not for them, or them for you).

Be a Culture Learner. Local believers often puzzle over how culturally unaware outsiders are as they bring the gospel message to a new harvest field. We need to recognize that when we arrive as an outsider

we bring with us the fragrance of our home culture. This affects how we communicate, how we correct, the alliances we create, the biases we live with and the ways we get things done. Even the tools we bring in carry cultural baggage. Commit to learn the language and operate through the local culture, discovering with local people how to bring kingdom light that makes us all more like Jesus.

Be Patient. Movement leaders recounted how outsiders often arrive with their tools and methods and say: “I know this will work here because it has worked somewhere else.” A patient, relational approach allows for a period of settling in, where outsiders and insiders learn from one another under the direction of the Holy Spirit and trust can blossom. Patience on the part of the outsider demonstrates humility and a recognition that the cultural insider has much that they can contribute to help enculturate the principles behind fruitful tools.

Be a Prayer Leader. Outsiders need to lead out in prayer, though they may find that local people often do it better than they do. Outsiders do, however, have the ability to catalyze outside prayer networks in

strategic ways that can change realities on the ground. Connecting local believers with these prayer networks allows them access to a resource that may be hard for them to find without the connection through an outsider.

Be a Vision Caster and Catalyzer of Insiders. Movement leaders tell stories of outsiders who cast a vision for them to be the “laborers in the harvest” and dreamed with them about what is possible.

Outsiders can create a broad base of relationships and help various networks unify. We also heard movement leaders share how their connection with outsiders exposed them to a new vision to reach unreached people groups and connect to the 24:14 Vision for their region. Helping insiders connect to appropriate outside networks can also implant vision and catalyze new laborers.

Be a Mentor and Coach. Outsiders can play an important role as a life-on-life mentor. But movement leaders caution that transactional coaching strategies fall flat in relational cultures. What local leaders crave from their outside partners is time spent together exploring problems, with questions and cultural respect.

Be Dependent on the Word. Outsiders having a long history with God can help provide theological frameworks and dependency on God’s leadership through his word. A commitment to seek direction together from God and his word, and obey what it says, no matter what, models a reproducible life in God.

Be a Connector. An outsider will naturally be more trusted by other outsiders who have resources.  An outside catalyst who has developed relationships with inside leaders can be a bridge, connecting them with Bibles, tools, or help with trainings that can help start new works. Outside catalysts can help with data gathering and reporting that helps the movement relate to other movements and networks.

When we see what cross-cultural workers need in order to succeed, we begin to understand the type of laborer who can really serve effectively. So as we raise up next-generation movement catalysts, what should we learn? How can we improve our training processes to prepare workers for the harvest fields?

We need to heed the advice movement leaders have for us. One message most often repeated is that outside catalysts need to learn to walk in the Holy Spirit, not just implement tools. Prayerful, humble leadership characterizes a catalyst who can change lives. Training should focus on a dependent life in God.

Movement leaders would like to welcome outsiders who have already reproduced their life in others who do likewise. Real experience (not just theory) in generational, reproducing disciple-making allows catalysts to have credibility and mentor local leaders in reproducing their lives in others. Demonstrated skills in training and empowering others are crucial for reproduction. A catalyst cannot model just doing the work themselves. Training should focus on demonstrated competence instead of simply finishing a training course.

Training cross-cultural workers in relational skills and cultural humility can greatly accelerate the formation of outsider-insider partnerships. Learning cultural humility helps catalysts see cultural blind spots that could cause problems. These learned skills come with time and practice, but awareness of the problem can help.

Movement leaders appreciate good tools. They caution us, however, that tools often fail if they have not been culturally adapted. Understanding the principles of a movement tool is actually more important than the tool itself. The ability to adapt or recreate toolsets for new environments plays a vital role in reproducing kingdom movements. Thus, home-culture training needs to be more principle-centered and less tool-centered.

Trainees also need to realize the essential role of humble adaptation for cross-cultural success.

In addition to principle-centered tools, new movement catalysts should be equipped with a breadth of Scripture knowledge that can point insiders to God’s direction on any given issue. Outsiders with wide Scripture knowledge and an ability to act as a “Bible search engine” can help local leaders discover more of the Scripture themselves and develop obedience to God, inserting reproducing DNA into a new movement without creating dependency.

Movement leaders advise outsiders to come with a long-term plan that allows for patiently building relationships and learning language and culture. Don’t come with the expectation that massive reproduction of churches will happen immediately. Come with a plan to stay.

Outsiders need training in wise use of money and the potential problems outside funds can introduce.1 While money can kill movements, not all helping hurts. Catalysts need to be cautioned in how to work with the existing Christian community on the ground so they don’t poach workers or use money for control.

It would help for outsiders to have training in wise reporting practices that are culturally sensitive, technologically relevant, and don’t put undue burdens on the local leaders. Movement leaders understand that being connected to the wider global Christian community requires transparency in reporting God’s work and accountability for resources they receive from outside.

As we explore new models of training, understanding the best path to seeing God’s family expand cross- culturally requires taking a hard look at how we prepare people to become outside missional catalysts. Listening to movement leaders and understanding their experience with outside catalysts can help us frame new training models. We can learn from the successes and failures of those who have gone before.

  1. 1 Two helpful resources on this topic are When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor … and Yourself by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert (Moody Publishers, 2014) and African Friends and Money Matters, Second Edition, by David E. Maranz (SIL International, 2016).
    1 Two helpful resources on this topic are When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor … and Yourself by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert (Moody Publishers, 2014) and African Friends and Money Matters, Second Edition, by David E. Maranz (SIL International, 2016).

This is an article from the July-August 2020 issue: Missions in the Age of Coronavirus

One Movement Adjusts to the Pandemic

One Movement Adjusts to the Pandemic

Like all of us, everywhere, the news and information and seriousness of the COVID-19 crisis emerged over time and for some faster than others. And it also emerged region by region and country by country throughout the world. In some places (as I write in April of 2020) there are still governments denying that the virus is an issue in their country.

In my roles as General Director of Frontier Ventures and President of WCIU, my first responses involved how we as organizations needed to care for our people and our partners. But in almost the same breath another dimension of my life also engaged: since 1990 I have lived in South Asia or been involved with leaders of movements to Jesus there. I have almost daily communication with these long-time friends and colleagues from different people groups and countries.

So, in this article, I want to trace the evolving response of one movement and its leaders to the crisis. I will do this through several emails I received, which give windows into the process. I share these chronologically.
These represent about a two-week window at the time. Though I am leaving much of the language the way it came to me, I have edited the messages to make them clearer and also more secure.

Message 1

As-salamu Alaikum!

I hope and pray that everything is well with you and your family and WCIU and FV and GT.

We are as family just doing fine. Thank you for praying for us.

Situation in the country is worsening. Many places isolated, lockdown. But some areas contaminated people are running away from isolation. People becoming crazy of making stock of food and other supplies. Price of essential commodities jump three times more than last week. Police trying to control the situation but there are not enough police to do that. Market is out of control.

In the villages people facing different problems, they cannot sell their agriculture product, fish, vegetables, tomatoes, potatoes, etc. so they have no money to buy things they need.

Every day increasing number of affected people. Death toll also increased.

In this situation, panic everywhere. Our people are also afraid. So far, I didn’t have any news of any affected among the movement. But as I talked with several Imams (KH: leaders, believers in the movement) and all of our workers over phone, villages are in chaos, rumors, anxiety and worries.

I have written a letter to all the leaders of our believers gatherings. I wrote about Psalm 91 and Psalm 121, tried to encourage people, reminding them to trust God and keep faith in God.

Also, I wrote detail instruct for preventive measures, following health advice from Government and WHO [World Health Organization].

Last three days I was sending the letters by courier services person to person delivery. Including today I have sent 800 letters, I need to send about 6,000 (to get to all the leaders), no matter how long it takes. Courier is a bit expensive, but I have no other way. I must encourage our people and help them wherever I can.

As you can see, in that first communication, there was concern, practical advice and spiritual encouragement. You can also notice that the concern was already shifting: not just the health risks of the virus but the fall out in terms of income, jobs, and food.

Message 2

As-salamu Alaikum!

Yesterday I had a conference call with our main leaders (the elders) about how we should face this crisis. The result:

In order to get a good understanding of the real situation at this moment and what will come in next few weeks, we need to make survey. So, I have asked 25 of our leaders to call all of our Imams (local leaders) through cell phone. They will report back tomorrow (Sunday). We are finding out:

What is present situation there? What kind of needs and crisis are there? Is there any gathering of believers that has already taken any program or action to the response to the crisis? What kind of participation we can expect from our people? How many local volunteers we can find and use to help locally? Any suggestions from local leaders?

As I understood by talking over phone: Big crisis of shortage workers for harvest in whole north of country. This is potato harvesting season there, potato must harvest before rain come. Onion growing districts are also facing same problem.  Lowland areas must harvest rice before rainwater rush to lowland area. These districts can grow one crop in a year, most of the time land remain under water.

I am going to follow brother “A” as he is doing in his country. He gave us a wonderful Idea. Pray that we’ll be able.

Note here that brother “A” is a leader of a similar movement in another country; we meet as a group weekly and these brothers share their ideas and pray together, so, “A” had mentioned that in his country the believers were voluntarily going out to do the harvesting for different villages so there would be food for people.

At this stage ideas are forming, they are surveying and trying to get ideas from the ground level.

Message 3

(Note, between Message 2 and 3 this movement decided to do a short food program for 3,100 families, costing about $8 per family for a week)

As-salamu Alaikum!

A small good news, I want to share with you.

As I was communicating with many people for help, I have some positive responses.

I have promises from a government member, not a believer, and a business owner, not a believer, for 165,000 more. And police officer, a believer, for another 35,000.

All of our own leaders will give 25% of their salaries next three month (April to June), and our translation team also will give 25% of their salaries next three month.

Message 4

As-salamu Alaikum!

As we all know situation not going to change soon, it may last until middle of June as they are talking.

The food distribution plan I have taken (started) and if I even get all that fund, that was only for one week. And as week passes, there will be more people needing help.

So, I was thinking what to do. There some people who use to have work but because lockdown they are out of job. I called this young man and asked him if I help him and he will earn enough for himself and for his family and at the same time, he will be helping people.

I explain to him that I will give him enough money to buy one little “van” (moved by manpower), and then buy fresh vegetables from villages and take them to the town and go house to house. (KH: Total investment was just over $130 USD). People need vegetables, they will buy, you will make profit. Next day you will do same. (KH: keeping distance).

He immediately agreed. So, this week we bought this van and last two days he was doing as I told him.  He sold and made a 25% profit of about $15.25 USD from the vegetable sales.

This is one-time help, but this will make him a helper instead of a help seeker. He will become a businessman. He is very happy because he is earning again.

This young man is a believer from nearby district. I know him and his father, know his home. He is staying in my town now with few other people, he will pay a daily rent. He will send money to his family and also help others in his gathering of believers, and those are in need.

Every evening he will come to my home, we are going study Scripture together. I think he has wonderful opportunity to tell people about gospel of the kingdom through his deed and life, through his behavior and through his words.

Hopefully this gives you a little window. Instead of telling a lot of stories, and instead of focusing on something outsider friends might be doing or helping with, I wanted to give you a window into this movement, its leadership and its attempts to respond.

Revealing our Humanity?

I am guessing you have read about the good, the bad and the ugly that the crisis has brought out. I hear about the racist reactions, about Hindus blaming Muslims, Muslims blaming Christians, Americans blaming the Chinese (even those living here in our own country) and more. I hear stories of selfishness and “grabbing.”

But, like you I am sure, I also hear stories of selflessness, of social workers and medical workers putting themselves at risk; of people sewing masks for others; of people sharing food (and even toilet paper!).

This story from a movement at the edges of the kingdom among the unreached is one that I find especially encouraging today, revealing as it does the heart of Jesus in these brothers and sisters and the very real transformation He can bring.

This is an article from the July-August 2020 issue: Missions in the Age of Coronavirus

What Do We Do Now?

What Do We Do Now?

Unless you were around when the 1918 Spanish Flu hit the world, leading to at least 50 million deaths, none of us have experienced anything like what we have been going through with the coronavirus crisis. It has affected all of us to one degree or another.  As I write in late May, many countries and various U.S. states are lifting lockdown orders and people are learning how to do business in new ways while living with the virus. The lockdowns have not succeeded in eliminating the virus, just slowing its spread long enough for hospitals and governments to cope with its impact. As a result, those most vulnerable to the virus will have to continue taking extraordinary precautions to protect themselves while the virus continues its gradual spread through the broader society until “herd immunity” is achieved or a vaccine is developed. 

The efforts to suppress the coronavirus have already caused global upheaval unlike anything we have seen since World War II. The massive economic dislocations caused by shelter-in-place orders are just now becoming visible as unemployment in the U.S. approaches Great Depression levels. It is even more serious for the poor around the world, who, if they are prohibited from working today, do not eat today either. The critical question for governments at every level is what will kill more people, an unchecked coronavirus or the economic lockdowns meant to halt its spread? There are no quick or easy answers here. The likelihood is that we will be dealing with the effects of this pandemic for years to come. Our lives may never get back to what we used to know as “normal.”

As this virus is changing our lives in dramatic ways, it is also changing the way we go about doing missions—which is what this issue is all about. How do we reach people and make disciples while wearing masks and practicing social distancing? It is a new world and we will have to develop creative new ways to foster movements of discipleship and church-planting in all peoples.
The confidence we have is that God is in this and He is working to open hearts and minds as never before. We need to be prepared to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in what He is doing at this time. 

Mission agencies are adapting and adjusting their methods and strategies to continue their mission in spite of these unprecedented challenges. From Zoom conferences and training sessions to food programs for the poor, they are learning to do missions in a rapidly changing environment. This crisis is stretching our creativity in bold new ways. Perhaps that is exactly what God wants.

Moving Forward in Faith

In various articles in this issue we look back at how the Church has responded to prior pandemics. Take note of the wonderful article by Glenn Sunshine starting on page 23 and the more contemporary example during the Ebola outbreak in Africa starting on page 34. In every case, the people of God moved toward danger and took risks in loving and caring for the needs of those in their community stricken by illness. The unbelievers abandoned the sick. The believers came to their rescue, often at the expense of their own lives. As a result, the gospel expanded greatly. This does not mean that we should be foolish or cavalier in endangering our lives. It does mean that we should take prudent precautions according to medical knowledge while still reaching out to those in need. We can limit, but never eliminate, the risk to ourselves while carrying out our mission to the unreached peoples. As C. Anderson says so well in our lead article starting on page 8, we must not react in fear, but in faith and be willing to go in and boldly “take the land.” In the best of times, missions is a risky business. To enter an unreached people and start a movement is a very costly endeavor and untold numbers of faithful servants have suffered greatly to advance Christ’s kingdom. Some have paid the ultimate price. We are called to reject fear and the “bad reports” we are getting from the media and to obey what Jesus is calling each of us to do in our local context, trusting God with our health and the results of our ministry. Refusing to go to the unreached in order to protect ourselves is not an option for the obedient Jesus follower.

A Movement in Buddhist Thailand—Remarkable!

The article on page 43 about the movement in Thailand is one that you do not want to miss in this issue. There are many lessons that we can learn from the efforts of The Free in Jesus Christ Church Association in reaching out to Buddhist peoples.  The story of this movement first appeared as the cover story in the April 2019 issue of Christianity Today. The key lesson for us is how Pastor Somsak adapted his evangelistic approach to reaching Thai Buddhists. There are few known movements to Christ among Buddhist peoples. So when one does occur, it makes us stand up and ask, “What can we learn from this example and apply to other Buddhist peoples?” Unlocking the key to movements among Buddhist peoples is essential in our efforts to bring the gospel to all peoples. This movement in Thailand is worth our careful study.

Become a Mission Frontiers Vision Caster

Mission Frontiers exists to cast the vision and provide the resources to foster Kingdom Movements in every people and place so that every person may have access to the life-saving gospel of Jesus Christ as soon as possible. But we cannot do this without the partnership of you, our readers. Producing Mission Frontiers six times a year is not inexpensive. There are fixed costs that must be met regardless of how many subscribers we have. Subscriptions and advertising do not cover our expenses. We need people who believe in what we are doing and are willing to come alongside us in the following ways

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This is an article from the July-August 2020 issue: Missions in the Age of Coronavirus

The FJCCA Church Planting Movement

The FJCCA Church Planting Movement

Thirty years ago, a young Thai man came to faith. With no other churches nearby he planted what is now Chon Daen Church in Phetcabun Province. Between 1987 and 2016 this man, Pastor Somsak, helped plant 13 more churches in Central and Northeast Thailand. Then in late 2016 the number of churches more than doubled in one month, and Pastor Somsak received a vision to train 1,000 church planters, start 1,000 churches and baptize 10,000 new believers by 2020.

While there are many movements among Hindus and Muslims, movements among Buddhists are rare, especially in Thailand where less than one percent of Thai are believers after 400 years of missionary effort. Yet the Free in Jesus Christ Church Association (FJCCA) had grown in three and a half years to 16,258 Christians by the end of 2019, which is very significant. “Of these 39% have been baptized and 53% attend a house or mother church on a regular basis. 656 house churches have been started and eight new mother churches have been built to support the network of house churches.”1 The story of this movement was remarkable enough to become the cover story for the April 2019 issue Christianity Today2.

Pastor Somsak’s common sense business background and his sensitivity to and knowledge of Thai social preferences has led him (through trial and error) to an effective and appropriate means of sharing the gospel with Thai Buddhists. He has mobilized dozens of local lay volunteer Christians who effectively contextualize their evangelistic strategy and gospel communication. There are no Bible school graduates or foreign missionaries involved in this effort.

Cognitive Contextualization3

The FJCCA has contextualized the gospel in terms of at least three Thai cognitive categories. First, the use of the term Prachao (lord or god) by Thai Christians is confusing to Buddhists because it can refer to any number of Hindu deities, local spirits, angels or even a king. To avoid this confusion FJCCA only speaks of PhraYesu or Jesus. This is no trivial change of nomenclature, since it clarifies the story of the gospel for Thai who now understand that the message is about a God named Jesus who was incarnated and died to take away our bad karma. Jesus, they are told, is ready to help us with our problems and guide us today.

Second, while the FJCCA acknowledges the Father, the Son and the Spirit as they read of them in Scripture, it does not teach the doctrine of the Trinity. Pastor Somsak explains, “It’s not my history.” By this he means that the doctrine is not articulated in the Scriptures and the philosophical debates that gave rise to the doctrine are not relevant to Thai people. In fact, the doctrine of the Trinity often leads Thai to understand that Christians worship three gods. As new believers grow in their faith and study the Scriptures, they learn of the roles of God the Father, the Son and the Spirit, but this is not analyzed or articulated in philosophical categories.

Third, the FJCCA does not pray that new believers be filled with the Holy Spirit since this language suggests to the Thai that one is being possessed by a spirit in the way a spirit medium or the priest of a guardian spirit is possessed. Consequently, the role of the Holy Spirit in a Christian’s life is taught later in the discipleship process.

Social Contextualization

FJCCA’s strategy is contextualized to its social environment. There are 40 evangelism teams from 17 mother churches that strategically go to unreached villages sharing a simple gospel message on a daily basis. Each team is made up of five volunteers. They begin by finding a person of peace; a non-Christian who is sympathetic to the message of the gospel. This person introduces them to relatives and friends who might also be interested in hearing the gospel. They then ask permission from the village head man in the area to hold a meeting to share the good news about Jesus. In this way the teams are “sponsored” into new communities by individuals from the community making their presence acceptable. Evangelism meetings are held under someone’s outdoor sitting area that has a roof (sala) or even in a Buddhist temple compound making the event public. The event can be as small as 10 or 12 or more than 150 people.

Team members speak with energy and confidence as they share life experiences as to why they believe in Jesus, and simple, short teachings. Each person speaks for no longer than five minutes; there is no hard-sell and the message is simple and peppered with life experiences of new believers. The atmosphere is one of informal hospitality and everyone gets a small bowl of noodle soup served up by the team. The meetings are highly participatory and interesting which means the events qualify as something Thai call sanuk (enjoyable). The team members act with suphab (polite humility) and they khaolob (show deference and respect) to local authorities.

The last speaker asks if anyone would like to receive new life in Jesus. Everyone speaks and gives thanks in Jesus’ name. Prayers for those who want to receive Jesus are recited not only by the new believer but by the whole audience. The reciting of prayers out loud is traditional in Thai Buddhism and new believers are encouraged to pray and develop their own relationship with Jesus. They are taught to pray by a paper they are given that has five short prayers printed in a large font. There are morning, noon and evening prayers as well as prayers of confession and for times of need. The large font is important in villages that have so many elderly people with bad eyesight and poor lighting in their homes. The children have their own meeting and are led through a simple short explanation of the gospel as well.

From these village evangelism events typically 10 or more adults show a desire to follow Jesus. From this core of new believers, a house church is formed. The result is that churches are planted in clusters as the gospel moves from village to village through neighbors and friends (see the map at Every week one or more of the church planters returns to this village to teach the new believers. Church planters return until a leader is “raised up” from within that house church.

When 20 to 30 villages in an area have house churches, the FJCCA builds a one-room mother church large enough to hold between 100 and 500 people, depending upon the size of the local house church network. A kitchen area is constructed behind the building to accommodate the fellowship meals of the community. The mother church serves as a central worship center and training center to strengthen the surrounding house churches. They follow a typical contemporary Protestant order of service with the exception that before the message they open up the service for attenders to share what they have learned through Scripture or life experience that week.

FJCCA sees the first few months of Christian faith for a new believer to be a crucial period in their spiritual lives. Typical Christian church services are very different from temple community and ritual practice and are not easy for new believers to adapt and fit in to. The experience can be overwhelming to a new person. Consequently, new believers are encouraged to attend only the house church until they have grown in their faith. Once they are comfortable in their faith they may attend the mother church if they choose.

New believers also decide when they want to be baptized. This could happen right after they identify themselves as a Christian or much later. Being baptized indicates that a new Christian has decided to abandon their former objects of worship and spiritual allegiances; now they are ready to only worship Jesus.

The FJCCA does not forbid new believers from going to the temple or from fulfilling their family obligations to help their family members make merit and care for their ancestors. Instead, the decision to stop these Buddhist practices is left to the new believer to make in their way and time. This allows new Christians to assure their loved ones of their love and respect for family and to decide when and how they might stop participating in merit rituals. In one church I met the lay Buddhist leader from the temple immediately across the street from the church. He explained that he was a new believer in Jesus but he is still leading the Buddhist congregation through the temple rituals with the monks until he is able to find someone to replace him. This kind of easy accommodation to the needs of both communities is rarely found in Thai Protestant churches and seemed refreshingly practical and kind.

Discipling Buddhists to Christian Faith

FJCCA pays careful attention to the discipleship process in two important ways. First, they follow up new believers within 48 hours to teach them how to pray to Jesus and to have them begin a personal relationship with Jesus. This is made easier by the fact that the teams carefully record the new believer’s name, address, the date they came to faith, age, gender, etc., along with the person’s photograph, and enter it into a database that tracks new believers and the location of all their churches. This means that the growth of this movement is being tracked in real time. Who has been discipled and to what level is digitally tracked for every person in the movement.

Second, new believers are discipled in an easy to understand, step by step process. Initially, a new believer is given a small booklet called, Jesus’ Plan for Us (printed in a large font) that helps the person understand the gospel better. Each lesson is reviewed and taught again in their community meetings and new believers are encouraged to practice teaching the lesson to others. This eventually results in a firm grasp of the gospel and believers who are able to articulate the basics of their new faith. Later, new believers enter a second level of discipleship from the Gospel of John through a book called, The Water of Life. A third book, Abundant Life, covers basic doctrine. The third level of discipleship guides new believers in reading and studying the Bible within their house groups.

SE Asian mission efforts have seen many Buddhist converts fail to continue in their walk of faith. One reason for this has been that most churches have required Buddhists converts to quickly renounce everything associated with Buddhism, effectively making it impossible for new believers to honor their families. FJCCA deals with this by allowing new believers to decide how and when to address Buddhist ritual duties connected to family. This helps explain the delay between praying a prayer of initial belief in Jesus and being baptized (as mentioned above 39% of the new believers have been baptized). Conversion is dealt with as a process that includes:

  • praying that Jesus will take away their bad karma and come into the new believer’s life
  • being discipled
  • becoming a member of a house church
  • learning to only follow and pray to Jesus
  • turning over household temple duties to family members
  • and, when ready, public baptism.

Another issue related to this pattern has been the failure of churches and missionaries to follow up and guide new believers into mature Christian discipleship. Such discipleship is labor intensive and time-consuming. It requires careful tracking of new believers and a large number of volunteers capable of teaching others to take the next step in their life with Jesus. FJCCA’s data system and army of willing, enthusiastic volunteers meet these demands.

Pastor Somsak and the FJCCA clearly bring entrepreneurial experience, practicality and flexibility to their ministry. They are always assessing and adjusting what they do along the way. Whatever helps people understand easily, whatever helps people feel at home in the church and whatever helps facilitate the rapid and easy spread of the gospel is retained. Whatever is a hindrance is discarded.

In one village that we went to the presentation of the gospel was delayed because it was raining so hard that no one could hear even when using a small PA system. Because the rain did not let up for a considerable amount of time some of the audience left. Later when they tried to hold the evangelistic event the audience was inattentive. Afterwards the team discussed what to do next time something like that happened. They decided to plan an activity for the group to do while they waited for the rain to stop in hopes of keeping their interest until they could share the gospel and be heard.

This easy flexibility is a key part of their strategy. It is also directly related to the fact that they are not connected to any western missionary or church organization. Without these outside theological and historical constraints, they are free to read the Bible in their context to arrive at theological and methodological decisions that are faithful to scriptures and effective.

  1. 1 Dwight Martin. Email eStar Newslettter dated January 12, 2020.

  2. 2  

  3.  3 I understand cultural contextualization to refer to mental ideals of what is true, good and beautiful. Social issues relate more directly to how people actually relate; it is what people do. The social realities of love, hate, wealth, poverty, power, weakness, health and illness / death often are more important factors in human behavior than our cognitive ideals.

This is an article from the July-August 2020 issue: Missions in the Age of Coronavirus

The Church’s Response to Pandemics Throughout History and the Lessons for Today

The Church’s Response to Pandemics Throughout History and the Lessons for Today

When Jesus called the Twelve and then the Seventy, He commissioned them to do the things He Himself was doing: They were to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons and proclaim the coming of the kingdom. The early Church recognized that they were also called to do what Jesus did, though they did it differently than those commissioned during Jesus’ early life. Thus, Jesus set us free from our bondage to sin; we cannot do that, but we can set people free from slavery, and so early Christians purchased slaves specifically to free them. Similarly, Jesus was a healer, and so we too should tend the sick whether we have miraculous power to heal or not. Both activities, while good deeds in themselves, also served to advance the kingdom. In this article we will focus on tending the sick, especially during plagues and pandemics.

The first major epidemic faced by the early Church was the Antonine Plague (AD 166–189), brought to Rome by troops returning from campaigning against the Persians. The disease, most likely smallpox, killed 7–10% of the population of the Empire as a whole, with mortality in cities probably 13–15%. According to Dio Cassio, it killed 2,000 people per day in Rome during a particularly bleak period in AD 189. People understood that the disease was contagious, so in fear of their lives they would throw the sick out of their homes to die in the streets.

Galen, the most prominent physician of the age, fled Rome when the plague arrived to stay at his country estate.
He knew he could do nothing to heal its victims or to protect himself from contracting the disease. Christians on the other hand, ran into the plague. They recognized that all persons were made in the image of God, that Jesus died to redeem us body and soul, and thus that the sick deserved care. As a result, Christians began tending the sick at risk (and often at the cost) of their lives.

Galen, who viewed Christians as naïve and irrational, admitted that in some respects they were the equals of philosophers in that they had a contempt of death and its sequel that was evident every day. It is not clear whether he was referring to their willingness—even eagerness—to face martyrdom or to their actions in treating the sick. It may have been both: at about this same time a Roman Senator named Apollonius was put on trial for being a Christian and associated his upcoming death as a martyr with dying of disease, reportedly commenting, “It is often possible for dysentery and fever to kill; so I will consider that I am being destroyed by one of these.”

Since even basic nursing care can make a significant difference in survival rates in epidemics, Christian actions during the plague saved lives. Their undoubted courage and self-sacrifice in coming to the aid of their neighbors contributed to the rapid growth of Christianity. For example, when Irenaeus arrived in Lyons from Asia Minor, there were few Christians in the city. When the plague broke out, Christians tended and prayed for the sick, and by the time the plague ended, there were 200,000 believers in Lyons.

The following century brought the Plague of Cyprian, named after Cyprian, the bishop of Carthage who described the epidemic. It was a grim disease. In Cyprian’s words, “The intestines are shaken with a continual vomiting; the eyes are on fire with the infected blood; in some cases the feet or some parts of the limbs are taken off by the contagion of diseased putrefaction.” Experts think it may have been a fresh outbreak of smallpox or perhaps a hemorrhagic fever like Ebola. At its peak, the plague killed 5,000 people per day in the city of Rome alone. Up to two-thirds of the population of Alexandria, the second largest city of the Empire, died of the disease.

Cyprian’s fellow bishop, Dionysius of Alexandria, described the reaction of the pagans: “At the first onset of the disease, they pushed the sufferers away and fled from their dearest, throwing them into the roads before they were dead and treating unburied corpses as dirt, hoping thereby to avert the spread and but do what they might, they found it difficult to escape.” But not everyone abandoned the sick. Dionysius explains:

Most of our brother Christians showed unbounded love and loyalty, never sparing themselves and thinking only of one another. Heedless of danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ, and with them departed this life serenely happy; for they were infected by others with the disease, drawing on themselves the sickness of their neighbors and cheerfully accepting their pains. Many, in nursing and curing others, transferred their death to themselves and died in their stead.

As had happened with the Antonine Plague, Dionysius compares the ministry to the ill to martyrdom, whose literal meaning is bearing witness to Christ. Cyprian agreed. He commented, “Although this mortality had contributed nothing else, it has especially accomplished this for Christians and servants of God, that we have begun gladly to seek martyrdom while we are learning not to fear death.” He continued, “By the terrors of mortality and of the times, lukewarm men are heartened, the listless nerved, the sluggish awakened; deserters are compelled to return; heathens brought to believe; the congregation of established believers is called to rest; fresh and numerous champions are banded in heartier strength for the conflict, and having come into warfare in the season of death, will fight without fear of death, when the battle comes.”

“Heathens [were] brought to believe.” Christians attended to sick pagans, and in the process connected with new social networks, and as sociologist of religion Rodney Stark has demonstrated, religions spread best through social networks. When combined with the recognition of Christian courage, compassion, and service the entrance of the gospel into pagan social networks led to the explosive growth of Christianity in the Empire.

It is worth noting that Christians approached illness using the medical theory and practices of the day. Contrary to some stereotypes, the early Church did not attribute illness to demons, though they did recognize demonization as a real phenomenon. The difference between Christians and the physicians of the day was the willingness of believers to risk death to treat the sick, convinced that if they died it would only mean a transition to a better life; the physicians, on the other hand, fled.

In the fourth century, Constantine declared religious liberty in the Empire, effectively legalizing Christianity. Later that century, Theodosius I made Christianity the official religion of the Empire, though many pagans continued to live in and around Roman territory. Missions work to the Germanic tribes in northern Europe and central Europe continued. Politically, the Latin-speaking Western half of the Roman Empire largely disintegrated in the fifth century. In the East, the Emperor Justinian I began to rebuild the Empire, but his efforts were cut short by an outbreak of bubonic plague in 541 that killed approximately 40% of the population of the Empire and spread across Europe. There would be recurring outbreaks in various places around Europe until about 750.

The world had changed in many ways with the spread of Christianity. By the late fourth century, Christians had founded hospitals in both the eastern and western halves of the Empire, and when the plague broke out, Christian hospitals, churches and monasteries provided much of the medical care for the sick. Once again, Christians also engaged in evangelistic work even as they treated the sick. John of Ephesus went to hard-hit areas, praying for the sick and seeing them healed and preaching a message of repentance, with thousands coming to faith. As far away as Ireland, the great missionary monks of the seventh century, known as the Twelve Apostles of Ireland, also ministered during the plague. In the end, the disease took at least three of them—Mobhi, Columba of Terryglass, and Ciaran of Clonmacnoise—along with their teacher Finnian of Clonard. Plague disappeared from Europe for 600 years. It came back in 1347 in Sicily and 1348 on the continent, and by 1351 it had killed just under half the people in Europe according to the most recent studies. Among the clergy, the percentage was even higher: they knew their duty was to minister to the sick and comfort the dying, and so they knowingly exposed themselves to the disease as they carried out their work. To most people, plague looked like the wrath of God, and so lay movements arose where men marched in processions from town to town beating themselves bloody to show God their sorrow for their sins. For its part, the Catholic Church soon disavowed these movements and called for their end. The reason was simple: if plague was God’s punishment for our sin, what did it say that both the nobles and the clergy were dying just like the others? The flagellants, as these groups were called, were just a small step from rejection of both church and government and so from complete anarchy.

But if plague wasn’t the wrath of God, what was it? The Pope turned to the theologians at the University of  Paris for an answer. This may seem odd, but in the four-teenth century what we call “science”—studying the natural world—was considered a branch of theology. Since God created and sustains the universe, coming to understand how it works is a way of revealing the mind
of God. For their part, the theologians followed the example of the early church and came up with a natural explanation of the outbreak of plague based on the best medical knowledge of the day. They concluded that the disease was caused by a miasma, that is, by poisoned air pulled from the ground by the effect of a conjunction of planets, and thus the best way to deal with it was to eliminate, avoid, or “sweeten” foul odors. This would lead to a tremendous expansion of public sanitation in medieval cities as well as personal practices of dubious value to ward off plague.

While we might shake our heads at this as superstitious nonsense, it was based on the best medical theory they had, going back to the writings of the Roman physician Galen. This followed the example of the early Christians, who also based their approach to disease on the medicine of their day. In the context of the 14th century, it is perhaps most remarkable that the theologians advocated a natural explanation for plague and made recommendations to deal with it based on that explanation. This was in marked contrast to the Islamic world, for example. Earlier in the middle ages, Muslim medicine was far advanced from that of Europe, largely because Muslims had access to Greek medical treatises translated into Arabic by Syrian Christians such as Hunayn ibn Ishaq. By this point, however, a kind of Islamic fundamentalism had settled into Muslim Spain that rejected much of the knowledge in the Greek treatises as un-Islamic. According to the Quran, in an epidemic, Allah alone determines who gets ill and who lives or dies. Any attempt to prevent or treat plague was thus seen as apostacy since it amounted to an attempt to thwart the will of Allah. For all its fancifulness, the medieval Catholic Church’s explanation of plague had the virtue of attempting to find a natural explanation for it and thus a means of dealing with the disease.

There were recurring outbreaks of plague in Europe for over 300 years. Perhaps the best advice for responding to plague during these centuries came from Martin Luther. When plague broke out near Wittenberg, he was asked if it was permissible to flee. His answer was long, but his comments on his own approach are worth noting. He said that he would follow all the recommendations of the doctors, including “fumigating” his house (to drive off the miasma) and social isolation so that he would not be responsible for his own death or any other’s. If it were his time to die, he said, God would know where to find him. But while following medical advice as much as possible, he would not neglect his duties as a Christian and a pastor. If his neighbor needed him, if someone needed his comfort when sick or dying, it was his duty to be there. And if it cost him his life, so be it. He would not court trouble, but neither would he hide from it if his neighbor needed him.

After plague died out in Europe, the relationship of the Church to medicine changed. Even during the middle ages, medicine had become its own field of study; by the eighteenth century, it was increasingly separated from the clergy. The poor would receive charitable care from monasteries in Catholic areas, and nursing was almost entirely in the hands of sisters and nuns, but for those who could afford it, professional physicians increasingly handled medical issues. Clergy would still attend the dying, of course, but they had few other responsibilities to the sick.

The clergy still addressed questions of medical ethics. For example, in the 1700s, physicians developed an experimental form of inoculation against smallpox in which material from smallpox scabs was rubbed into scratches on the arm with the hope of generating an immune response without causing a serious case of the disease. Some Puritan pastors in New England condemned the practice as putting the Lord to the test and as being tantamount to suicide; others, such as Jonathan Edwards, advocated it as the only option they had for mitigating an epidemic disease that had killed thousands and left uncounted others disfigured. Edwards allowed himself to be inoculated, which unfortunately led to his death by smallpox. [Editor’s Note: During the U.S. Revolutionary War, Abigail Adams, wife of future president John Adams, carried out the same type of inoculation upon herself and her children and they all survived.]

Moving into the 1800s, missionary activity often included a medical component. Hudson Taylor himself was a trained physician and worked as a medical missionary in his first trip to China. There were two reasons why medical missions was such an important component of missionary strategy. First, Christianity has always affirmed the importance of the body as evident in the history of Christian responses to epidemics. As a result, wherever Christianity has gone, hospitals have followed (In the same way, Christianity has always affirmed the importance of the mind, and so wherever Christianity has gone, schools have followed). Jesus healed people’s bodies, and we should do the same to the best of our abilities. Second, medical work is an important and effective door opener for the gospel. It brings us into contact with people at their point of need, builds relationships with them and gives us access to their social networks. And since the gospel flies best on the wings of relationships, the connections established through medical work are an important entry point for disciple-making. In contemporary DMM contexts, fixed and mobile medical clinics, barefoot doctors and dentists, and other healthcare ministries have opened the door to disciple-making and church-planting that have transformed countless communities around the world.

Along with formal medical treatment, throughout history we also see the importance of prayer for the sick, particularly in regions without access to modern medicine. It is not at all uncommon to find reports of miraculous healings in answer to prayer in epidemics in various parts of the world over the last 200 years and in Disciple Making Movements today.

So what lessons can we learn from all of this in our time of pandemic? I would suggest five.

First, Christians have a responsibility to deal with disease. Jesus did; He called the Apostles and the Seventy to it, and He continues to call us to it. Our bodies are not just an add-on; they are such an essential part of who we are that we will get them back transformed in the resurrection. Thus, taking care of people’s health is part of our responsibility before God.

Second, from the earliest centuries Christians have recognized medicine as a good gift of God and have utilized the best medical knowledge and technologies available; they have also advocated following medical advice. As we deal with Covid-19 and other diseases, we should be following their example.

Third, Christians have acted courageously and at great personal risk in helping the sick. While we should follow medical advice, we cannot allow that advice to overrule our responsibilities to our neighbor. Loving our neighbor may mean different things at different times. It may mean social distancing so we do not risk infecting them as Luther suggested, but it may also mean going into areas where we risk contracting the disease ourselves. If we do go into those areas, we should take all possible precautions against infection but recognize with Paul that “for me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

Fourth, we must not neglect prayer. Whether we can provide medical assistance or not, we can and should always pray for the sick. God continues to heal in response to prayer, and we would be foolish not to turn to Him in all our efforts to deal with illness and its impact on lives and communities.

Fifth, we pray and do our medical work with all, regardless of their openness to the gospel, but we look for those who are open to engage in spiritual conversations with the goal of making disciples. We should look on every service we do for others as an opportunity to build relationships, connect with social networks, and begin the process of disciple-making with all who are open. In this way we fulfill all of our callings in the world: we fulfill the cultural mandate of Genesis by working to fix what is broken in the world; we fulfill the great commandment by loving our neighbor; and we fulfill the Great Commission by making disciples.

This is an article from the July-August 2020 issue: Missions in the Age of Coronavirus

Global Status of COVID-19 Pandemic

Global Status of COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic is generally accepted to have begun in Wuhan, China. Through the power of exponential growth coupled with international travel, the virus quickly spread to touch nearly every country in the world, saturating several. No individual nation’s response has fully conquered the virus. As of May 6, over 3.5 million cases and 250,000 deaths are attributed to the pandemic, and this is certainly a vast undercount. Because it is a novel or “new” virus, there is no vaccine. There are currently no known, confirmed cures for the virus.

(I realize some readers will take exception to some of the statements I have made in the preceding paragraph and in many of the following paragraphs. I am writing from the viewpoint of information “known and confirmed” by epidemiologists, virologists, and other doctors. While many hypotheses, possibilities, and theories are circulating, in this article I will refrain from the speculative.)

I. Current Status

Unfortunately, in spite of the existence of over three million cases, relatively little is known about this virus. Further, what is known varies greatly by context. Still, we can generally say COVID-19 presents a unique set of dangers:

  • It appears to be more infectious than the many varieties of flu with which it is often compared. Estimates of the R0 value (a measure of how many people one infected person will, on average, infect) vary from 1.5 to 5.0.
  • It appears to be more fatal than the flu. The World Health Organization has estimated the global crude fatality rate (known deaths/known cases) at 3.5%. In the USA, the known crude fatality rate (known deaths/known cases) is 4.6%. CDC estimates influenza in the United States typically has a fatality rate of about 0.1%. Thankfully, COVID-19 does not appear to be as deadly as SARS, MERS or Ebola, whose high fatality rates generated significant urgency.

  • It has a three to five-day post-infection asymptomatic period. During this time, an infected person can live life without any symptoms—walking around, not knowing they have the virus, while passing it on to others. (In fact, some new research suggests as much as 25% of actual cases never show symptoms at all, while still being infectious.) This is a primary driver of COVID-19 transmission.
  • During the second week after infection, symptoms begin to show and people will know they are infected. About 80 to 90% cases never progress beyond a “mild” variation—though even this can be similar to a “very severe case of the flu” which can take two to three weeks for initial recovery, then several more weeks for full recovery.
  • About 10% of cases worsen and need hospitalization in the second or third week. In the early stages, this generally means some form of oxygen support. About one-third of these cases will require intubation and the use of a special ventilator. Of patients requiring a ventilator, about half will die. (All ages can experience a need for hospitalization, although fatalities are more common among the elderly and those with certain pre-existing health problems.)

Very early on, doctors and epidemiologists began warning about “the big problem:” the highly infectious nature of the virus causes exponential growth, rapidly infecting large numbers of people. Consider the United States, with a population of about 330 million. The UK’s Imperial model analyzed what might happen if the virus were to sweep through, infecting 85% or more. 85% is 281 million people. Of these, the model estimated 7%, or 20 million, would likely need hospitalization. Of those, around one-third, or 6 million, would require critical care. About half of those in critical care—three million—would likely die.

There was a bigger problem, however: Because the numbers are large, even small percentages requiring ICU care in hospitals means hospital systems can be rapidly overwhelmed. The stark reality is, the United States does not have six million ICU beds available at any given time. At best, at any given time, it has about 100,000 ICU beds (American Hospital Association, 2020). If exponential growth happened too fast, hospitals could be overwhelmed with more cases than they had beds for. And without ICU care, everyone requiring it would likely die.

No one wanted to see this scenario happen. Is it realistic? How close are we to this happening?

II. How big is the problem, really?

How do we know how many cases are out there? Most of the time, people are treated for an illness when they go to a doctor’s office or urgent care facility. In an exponentially growing pandemic, by the time a person shows up for professional care, they have probably passed on the virus to several other people. The one person showing up for care today can result in three people showing up next week. Those three will become nine some days after that... and so on. We can count how many seek medical attention today, but we don’t know about all those other cases that will arrive tomorrow.

In fact, no one knows how many “actual” infections there are in the world. The number of confirmed cases does not equal actual cases. Confirmed cases simply means those confirmed by a test. If a country doesn’t test more than 10,000 people per day, it won’t discover more than 3.65 million cases in a year. A country testing 100,000 cases a day could uncover 36 million cases in a year, or about 10% of the United States. If such a country were actually 20% infected, we would never know it.

Nations usually can’t test everyone in their country. Decisions must be made about who to test. Some countries, like South Korea and Singapore, responded by testing those who have the disease, and those they were around. Some countries, such as the United States, test only those with symptoms, and not necessarily all of those. And some countries, like Iran and India, simply do not have the capacity to test much at all. Worst, some countries are intentionally under-testing and under-reporting their numbers, or insisting they have no infections at all.

The unseen nature of the early asymptomatic period complicates this further. By the time a person has symptoms and decides to go for a test, they may have already passed the disease to many others—so tested numbers will always lag behind actual numbers, but we don’t know by how much.

Because of tests done up to this point, we know at least 3.6 million are infected. The total number of known cases, and the growth in those cases over time, gives us a limited picture of the reality. Obviously, there are far more than that in reality. Can we estimate how many people actually have the virus?

We can rely on the fatality rate. We calculate this based on deaths divided by cases, but we don’t know the real fatality rate because we don’t know the number of actual cases (many mild cases are missed), and we undercount the deaths. The ‘Crude Fatality Rate’ is total confirmed deaths divided by total confirmed diseases. Globally, this rate is estimated at 257,000 / 3.6 million or 7%. Rates differ between countries, and the limitations on what we know about total cases and deaths in some can significantly skew even the calculation. Where testing is widest, the rate is closer to 2%. The World Health Organization has estimated the actual average rate at 3.5%.

If we assume 3.5% is somewhat close to correct, then for every death there would be about 29 cases (1 is 3.5% of 29). However, the virus typically takes around three weeks to progress from infection to death. And over the last few months, the virus has demonstrated a doubling rate of four days. In three weeks’ time, there would be five such doublings. 29 cases three weeks ago would become 29 -> 57 -> 114 -> 229 -> 457 -> 914. For every death, there are potentially 1,000 more cases out there—some known, most not. 100,000 deaths suggests 100 million infections.

It’s hard to build a good model, and all models are very imprecise. It’s like using a sledgehammer on a finishing nail. Many people have debated and argued and even disregarded the models. Because we have so little testing, we don’t really know the scope of the problem. But the continuing growth in cases and the indicators we have from the mortality rate tells us it’s clearly much bigger than what we can see, and growing every day.

 III. Immediate responses

When governments began to come to grips with this reality, some began to respond. Three kinds of responses have been tried, to varying degrees. First is testing.
If exponential growth can be caught early, the virus can more easily be stopped. Step one would be to find a confirmed infection. Next would be to test everyone with whom the infected person has come into contact, and you quarantine all the positive results. (Better yet, re-test them a week later.) It’s easier to quarantine one person and his or her 10 or even 100 closest friends for a couple of weeks (take over a hotel, or confine them to houses, or what have you) than to quarantine everyone after the virus has doubled five or six times.

Second is surveillance. This is often done in concert with testing, and can touch on privacy issues (some governments have less problem with this than others). South Korea, for example, had very broad surveillance. When a person was found to be infected, Korea would go back through their cell phone GPS logs and track every cell phone the infected person had come in contact with for two weeks. All of those people were then told to quarantine as well. South Korea furthered the use of “geofencing” surveillance as a form of quarantine: people were required to stay in their homes as defined by a set of GPS coordinates. If they left, the police would be summoned.

The third response is a lockdown. When the virus gets ahead of a government, the only option may be to confine everyone in a given area to their homes in order to break the transmission chains. A person can’t give it to someone else if they don’t come in contact with them. Various degrees of lockdowns have been used. China used mobile phones and police enforcement to make sure people didn’t leave. In Dallas, where I live, the “shelter in place” order leaves exceptions for “essential” businesses, and everything mostly functions on the honor system.

IV. Short Term Dangers

Some governments do not have the technological ability or political will to do all these things. Lockdowns become inevitable but may be unenforceable. Many countries are now looking into a very dark abyss. I don’t think any country’s existence is threatened, but many are realizing they will see thousands, perhaps millions, dead.

Even those countries that have the ability to respond to the virus are finding it’s a challenging disease to quash. Many countries have addressed the virus too late and have had to go to lockdown. These countries are suffering significant economic impacts as a result.

Countries most impacted by the virus have also begun scrambling for medical supplies. Some supply rationing has happened. Some people began threatening others over availability of medical supplies. Some nations with supplies began using their donations as a form of diplomacy, which has been decried by others. (China in particular has fallen afoul of this issue.) Problems in the supply line and problems in product delivery can lead to darker accusations.

There’s also the ever-present panic of some individuals, leading to panic buying in stores, conspiracy theories, misinformation about cures and other rampant speculation. While most of the supply-chain issues that lead to panic buying have been sorted out, some will continue endlessly. In some countries, the severe economic impact in parts of the country less impacted by the virus is making citizens question the need for the lockdown—especially citizens under lockdown in less impacted parts of the country. In some countries with large numbers of day laborers (like India), the lockdown choice is a choice between starvation (no money) and death from the disease. Partisanship has begun to complicate medical efforts.

V. Mid-term threats (the next year or two)

All of these are short-term dangers: the sorts of challenges governments must deal with in the early stages of the pandemic, as people begin to recognize the scope of the problem. As governments and individuals begin to grapple with the exponential spread of the virus, more and more extraordinary efforts have been contemplated to “get ahead of the curve.” These have led to several broad actions that endanger international relations and will impact the ability for missions to conduct their work over the next several months.

First, many governments are facing economic crises, and the interplay of these is leading to a global recession. Supply chains are being damaged. Countries that rely on oil revenues, tourism or monetary remittances from migrant work are being deeply affected. The damage to the economy will certainly impact charitable giving. Sources in some American denominations are already suggesting as much as a 50% drop, threatening the very existence of some churches.

Some countries do not have the hospitals or medical infrastructure to adequately address the virus. In many, the true scope of the impact may be hidden. In some cases, hidden because without testing or hospitals, no one knows who is infected and who has died of the virus. In other cases, hidden because the governments are intentionally hiding it. Yet early analysis suggests countries like Iran and India could see hundreds of thousands or even millions of deaths. One report suggested 75% of Iranians could become infected. The widespread infection of whole populations will also impact the many Christians and Christian workers in these countries.

The rapid rise of infections, especially from people streaming into nations across borders, has led to the closure of borders. Nearly every country in the world currently has some sort of border restriction, and most are insisting on quarantines of all international arrivals, or even going so far as to close their borders and shut down international travel altogether. China, for example, has reduced all incoming arrivals over its borders (sea, land and air) by 90%.

This will have serious and long-term ramifications for cross-cultural missions (especially the short-term variety), and seems unlikely to change any time in the near future. Once nations “turn the corner” on the pandemic within their borders, they are loathe to “re-import” infections from the outside. Most international travelers will likely face the requirement of some kind of health certification or localized two-week quarantine, which will make short-term trips very challenging. Borders may remain closed for months or years.

Finally, there has been a significant rise in xenophobia and nationalism. There are instances of racism against foreigners in China, and against Chinese in other nations. The Dalits and Muslims in India have seen their position worsen. Many countries are hardening their restrictions against migrants. Xenophobia will make cross-cultural work harder still.

VI. Long-term scenarios (2 to 5 to 10 years)

This pandemic was not unexpected. For years experts have anticipated the rise of a world-changing pandemic. Scenarios have ranged from the “professional” (such as the Bush administration’s 2006 pandemic flu preparation plan) to the latest surge in zombie movies. COVID-19, however, is not a Hollywood movie with a two or three-hour plot and a pivotal ending where a cure is found and the world is saved. In the long run, COVID-19 will almost certainly persist until a vaccine is found. Even then, the virus will not end in a flash.

Ebola is an example. The first case of Ebola was identified in 1976. Probably the most memorable recent outbreak was the 2014 West Africa epidemic, which infected some 28,000 people and killed 11,000 (a near 50% fatality rate). But it did not end there. 2017 and 2018 saw outbreaks of Ebola in DR Congo. Just this month, there was another case of Ebola in DR Congo.

Likewise, the COVID-19 vaccine will not be rolled out overnight. It will take months and perhaps years to be administered throughout the world. This virus will continue to live in various places, and countries will have to guard against it.

It is possible that in this time frame, more business will be conducted via teleconference call, and the handful of trips abroad will already have the required health certifications. Exchange trips between universities will likely happen the same way. The remaining travel will be either tourism or religious volunteerism. I could envision a world where this segment of travel will receive a lot of scrutiny: countries will not welcome the idle tourist (who may carry the virus) or religious workers. I think international travel will likely become far more difficult for the next few years.

In the long term, the Church will continue to face a number of challenges:

  • Fear. We will grapple with the temptation to care for ourselves instead of serving others. Just as some in the church have asserted “We should disciple our own nation before we send workers elsewhere,” so we are likely to hear “We should protect the Church now so we can sustain our witness later.”
  • Churches’ inability to meet in person will shake our definition of church, community, service, and acceptable risk. We can anticipate many debates over the nature of religious freedom and Christian responsibility, what is required of us, and what a “church” truly is.
  • The need to see traditionally unseen people. As the virus persists in some countries until a vaccine is found and deployed, responses to the virus—especially with the economics involved—will (indeed, already have begun to) take on a politically charged nature. People from other cultures will be viewed with more suspicion. The Church, and mission agencies specifically, will need intentional effort to focus on reaching difficult parts of the world (as well as diaspora here at home), where many will be suffering from the virus.
  • Choices due to downturns in charitable giving. Fewer resources available will force us to employ methods that don’t require significant monetary outlays. This, coupled with the difficulty of travel, may cause us to rely more on telecommuting and teleconferencing, and less on in-person conferences.
  • The danger of infection in the mission community. Since many missionaries work in places experiencing significant infection rates, missionaries and agencies will face hard choices. Many agencies are already shutting down physical movement, shifting conferences online, and even bringing their people back to their home countries. Once workers have left their fields of service, it’s uncertain how easily they will re-enter in the future.
  • The ability to sustain presence. With borders being closed, foreigners’ visas being cancelled, and people being expelled or repatriated, mission agencies’ ability to sustain their presence in any given country will be challenged.


In truth, we cannot envision all the scenarios we may face in the near future. I believe apocalypse and cataclysm will be largely avoided; instead, we will be faced with a long-term weakening. The virus has wounded us, and it will take a long time to heal.

During this time, we won’t know all the risks we face. Many of the risks will turn out to be substantial. All we can do is try to understand what we can while acknowledging the many things we cannot know. Jesus offers us life everlasting, but His words to His disciples were clear: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” We can reduce the risks as much as possible, but in the end we will have to decide to take Christlike action in spite of the risks.

This is an article from the July-August 2020 issue: Missions in the Age of Coronavirus

Possibilities in the Pandemic

Possibilities in the Pandemic

God is not surprised by this crisis. But we may be surprised by how He will use it. God will work through this pandemic as part of His sovereign plan to redeem the world. As His followers we must avoid the temptation to give in to fear. We cannot forget “that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Rom. 8:28 NIV)
What is His purpose? We often quote verse 28 without looking at verse 29, which tells us God’s main purpose in working for good is that we become “conformed to the image of his Son…”

What are some ways God might use this crisis for conforming us to Jesus’ image and expanding His kingdom?

  • Stronger prayer—Around the world we are seeing God draw many individuals and groups into deeper and stronger times of listening, confession (2 Chr. 7:14) and intercession. A recent global Esther Fast before Easter involved tens of thousands of churches in many languages and countries.
  • Relying on God to workAs our human efforts are blocked or ineffective, we may well cooperate more with God as He works. As Hudson Taylor stated, “When we work, man works, when we pray God works.”
  • Increased faithIn times of crisis we realize we are not in control, and that draws us back to God. We are pulled back to “living by faith” (Gal. 2:20) and “walking by faith.” (2 Cor. 5:17) For many people this is a call to let God free them of their reliance on and worship of money.
  • Family worship and time togetherDue to the lockdown in many countries and the closing of large church gatherings, many families are spending more time together and discovering or re-discovering the intimacy of worshipping together.
  • Church re-definedFinding their financial structure severely challenged, churches in many parts of the world may be forcibly weaned to a new understanding of church. Rather than defining church as a building or programs, they may be providentially encouraged to return to seeing church as ekklēsia—the family of brothers and sisters called and sent out by Jesus.
  • Priesthood of the believerAs small groups are forced to meet outside church buildings, a greater number of believers are realizing they must and can study the Scriptures without expert help. Many are being equipped or re-equipped to lead. On a related note, Pope Francis said that “people who cannot get to confession because of the coronavirus lockdown or another serious reason can go to God directly, be specific about their sins, request pardon and experience God’s loving forgiveness.”
  • Openness from churchesin a recent call, movement leaders from the Americas, Asia and Africa all mentioned that many existing institutional churches previously opposed to Disciple Making Movement approaches are showing a new openness and recognition that they can and should learn from what God is doing in these new/ancient expressions of church.
  • Witness in deedsMany disciples at the front lines in caring for and feeding the sick and hungry are letting their “light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16) One leader in South Asia described disciples giving food to some former persecutors. This led to 11 men’s commitment to Christ.
  • Witness in powerGod is using Christians to miraculously bring food at times of greatest need, and to heal people through their prayers. This is opening hearts and minds to the gospel. One family in South Asia asked, “Are you angels or people, that you come and help us? We have had no food for three days and had no hope, and now you have come to give us food!”
  • Sacrifice—Christians risking their lives to serve medically and with food, water and sanitation offers a winsome testimony. They are the latest in a long line of Christians who have served sacrificially. During the plague in 260, Dionysius wrote: “Most of our brother Christians showed unbounded love and loyalty, never sparing themselves and thinking only of one another. Heedless of danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ, and with them departed this life serenely happy… Many, in nursing and curing others, transferred their death to themselves and died in their stead.”
  • Exposing InequityPower and wealth are becoming concentrated in an ever-smaller percentage of the world’s population. The pandemic is shining a light on these inequalities and creating anger and energy that could have a positive impact. Jesus said, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Matt. 4:18-19)
  • UnityJesus prayed that His disciples would “become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you love me.” (John 17:23) As Christians locally and globally band together to pray and serve, we see that the pressure of the crisis is a unifying factor for many of us.

In the short term, we see many contradictory dynamics during this time of COVID-19: greater connectivity alongside growing feelings of isolation, an upsurge in both generosity and hoarding, lower crime while many criminals are freed and a respite for nature in the midst of economic destruction.

In the longer term, we pray for significant and lasting change in the Church and the Great Commission community. As humans, we know that some will be changed and some will resist change.

We have been forcefully reminded that we are one global family of humanity. Let’s pray that we as Christ’s global body will be much wiser and more sacrificial in praying, giving and working together to see the gospel proclaimed throughout the world. To know how to partner with Church Planting Movements serving in the crisis you can write to [email protected].

Let’s pray that this crisis opens up new avenues of access to the unreached, through what we say and do, “by the power of signs and wonders, through the power of the Spirit of God.” (Rom. 15:18) The God who turned the crucifixion into the resurrection and used a ragged band of disciples to turn the world upside down, delights in turning crisis and tragedy into opportunities for redemption and life.

This is an article from the July-August 2020 issue: Missions in the Age of Coronavirus

In the Age of the Coronavirus, Will We Go and Take the Land?

In the Age of the Coronavirus, Will We Go and Take the Land?

Confident in crisis. We all want to be this, right? This phrase was the title of a webinar well-known leadership guru, Michael Hyatt, offered not long ago. Speaking to business and non-profit leaders he said,
Two things are needed:  honesty to face the current reality, and faith you will prevail in the end.”

The world is a very different place than it was a few months ago. Borders are closed. Millions are quarantined, on lock-down or under stay-home orders. Jobs have been lost and the economy affected. The number of deaths we hear of in the daily news would have been shocking a few months ago. Now, we have come to expect to hear of rising death tolls.

How will we respond?

I’ve been drawn to Deuteronomy chapter one. I’m listening and asking God what He wants to say to us in this season. The Israelites missed God’s timing. They failed to immediately obey His direction. Their disobedience caused them to wander for decades rather than receiving God’s promised inheritance.

A Time of Unprecedented Opportunity

The COVID-19 pandemic creates unique and unprecedented opportunities for God’s kingdom to advance. With the many challenges comes a tremendous chance to multiply disciples in new ways. We have two options. We can step into this historic moment with bold confidence in God’s power to give us new kingdom ground. The sad, but very possible alternative, is we could miss the timing of God. We could end up wandering in a wilderness of fruitless efforts for years to come.

Crisis Leads to New Ministry

Few of us have ever faced a global pandemic. Our experience is limited. Like David, who prepared to fight a giant by first fighting a lion and a bear, we have been being prepared by God to face this. We’ve faced trouble and hardship and seen God come through.

Years ago, my husband and I were serving in the nation of Nepal. We’d fallen in love with this mountain kingdom and its people. Ministry was fruitful and growing. Our three kids were born there. We spoke the language well. The movement we had started was multiplying.

Life was good. Until the unexpected happened. We were hit with a crisis we didn’t expect and hadn’t planned for. Our visa processing in immigration stalled. Forced to leave the country, our family was thrown into uncertainty.

Shifting across the border to India, we found a temporary place to stay while trying to figure out what was happening. It was not easy. Confusing questions flooded our hearts. Why was this happening? Was this God’s will, or something the enemy had brought to stop our work?

There were no easy answers in that season of struggle. What did happen over time was that we began to see God’s perspective. We lifted our eyes to Him in trust and faith. He opened our eyes to great needs around us, to kingdom opportunities with which we had never considered engaging.

Through that crisis, God birthed new ministry. Eventually, we saw much greater fruit than we would have, had we stayed in Nepal, continuing to do what we had always done. The change was hard and not particularly welcome. Yet it did produce kingdom increase, both in us, and in the work we did. The key was allowing God to shift our perspective, to open our eyes to see the opportunity in the crisis.

God Ideas or Good Ideas?

Let’s take a deeper look at the passage in Deuteronomy 1. The Lord says to them in verse six, “You have stayed long enough at this mountain.” He tells Moses and the Israelites it is time to take possession of the Promised Land.

The Israelites come to Moses with a proposal. They suggest an exploratory trip. Further research is needed before committing to God’s command, they surmise. Moses says in verse 23, “The idea seemed good to me; so I selected 12…” That is where the problem began. Was sending the spies to do their “research” a good idea, or a God idea?

Even so, the 12 go in. They return and report that the land is good. On that matter, they are all in agreement.
Two of them, Joshua and Caleb, suggest they move forward declaring, “The Lord our God is giving it to us!

The other 10 think otherwise. They are focused on the giants…the many difficulties. None of the 12 seem to recall that God has given a command, not a suggestion.

In verse 26 we read the tragic words, “You were unwilling to go up; you rebelled against the command of the LORD your God.” The majority opinion was fear. Instead of obedience to God’s command, they fixated on the giants. They resisted, rebelled and refused to trust God given the problems at hand.

God gave them another chance. In verse 29, Moses exhorts the Israelites. “Do not be terrified; do not be afraid…”
Yet again, they chose wrongly and refused to trust God.

The outcome? We know the story. God tells them they will wander in the wilderness for 40 years. Hearing this, they grieve and try to enter. It’s too late. They missed the timing of God. Badly defeated they start their long 40-year wilderness journey.

How does this story relate to us as missionaries, pastors, and Christian leaders facing COVID-19?

We are at a unique time in history. True. Yet the command of Jesus to go and make disciples has not changed.  The Great Commission is not a time-sensitive command. We are only to stop when the job is completed! How we fulfill this command during COVID-19 may be quite different, but the task has not changed.

Opportunities the Pandemic Creates

1. We have an unprecedented amount of extra time on our hands.

During the shutdowns, we are stuck at home. Unable to go to the gym or to social functions, we have time available. Many have lost jobs or had to leave the cities where they work. They have returned to their villages. How can we make use of this extra time?

One of the most important pre-requisites to launching movements is extraordinary prayer. Could we engage in greater prayer for the lost than ever before? Who could we mobilize to join us in prayer for new movements among the nations?

2. This is an unusual season of openness.

I read that both Prince Charles and the Prime Minister of England had COVID-19.  It struck me as I absorbed that fact. This sickness is impacting every stratum of society. No one is immune to its effect. The virus unites us in need and crisis like little has done in recent history. Fear, hunger, desperation and sickness create an unusual openness to the good news of the kingdom.

Loren Cunningham, in his Easter message to the Youth With A Mission family, stated, “There will be a time of great openness to the gospel…”

When all else in our lives is stripped away, when life feels uncertain, we are open to considering new things. We are ready to hear the message of those with hope to spare. Spiritual conversations flow naturally as we look for gospel bridges in this crisis.

3. The pandemic creates a tremendous opportunity to demonstrate the reality of the kingdom.

Jesus commanded His disciples in Luke 10 to go and find the person of peace. They were to heal the sick, cast out demons, and proclaim the gospel of the kingdom. This virus doesn’t prevent us from doing that! In Matt. 22:39, our Lord told us to “love our neighbor as ourselves.” We have amazing opportunities to obey this command today and to demonstrate kindness and compassion to those in need around us. May God’s people clearly show the reality of His kingdom in this season and the lost be drawn to the light of Christ.

4. Social distancing creates an increased longing for community.

People are “starving” for social interaction and community. Will we provide it for them? Will we engage and enter the hole this virus has created? As we offer genuine, authentic community, be it virtually or in person, the unreached will be drawn to it. There has never been such a great opportunity as this to invite people into community and fellowship.

5. Extreme acceleration in understanding and usage of online platforms

There are wonderful opportunities to use online media for training disciple-makers, like the Zume course or my own Getting Started in Disciple Making Movements course (see for details).
The same is true for evangelism and disciple-making.

Hundreds of thousands of people are learning how to work from home using online platforms like Zoom, Teams, Google Hangout, and more. The old, the young, the poor and the rich are all being forced to use new technology for general communication.

This creates new opportunities to start groups in restricted access nations, with the unreached.  Social media and Facebook Ads can be used to find Persons of Peace. Media2Movements has created some excellent training on this.

It is time to let go of the limiting belief that the only way to make disciples among the unreached is when we are in close physical proximity to them. We must embrace new wine and new wineskins for launching movements of disciples.

Five Things We Need to Be Willing to Do 

1. Be willing to learn and grow in new skills.

This season forces us to step into new ways of operating. Does praying for the sick and believing for a miracle feel uncomfortable? Our situation demands it.  Maybe technology is intimidating.  Initiating a Zoom call may feel like a mountain to climb, especially if you are a field-based worker who hates sitting in an office! We must be willing to learn, shift and grow.

2. Be willing to think creatively.

Overcoming the giants in this season means we need to innovate. Receiving God’s new models and ways will be key to multiplying disciples in this season. Are you stuck in old methods? Doing things the way they have always been done? Is your imagination joining with God’s creativity to consider new ways of working? Are you willing to experiment with new ways of doing evangelism and disciple-making? Things you’ve never tried before?

3. Be willing to see with eyes of faith.

It is often our default to consider what we can’t do before thinking of what we can. Ask God to give you a fresh perspective…His perspective. There are likely many things you cannot do that you used to do. The opposite is also true. What new things can you do that you didn’t before? Do what you can. Take a faith-filled step into something new.

4. Be willing to take risks.

It feels risky to do things in unproven ways. I had a conversation recently with someone about starting Whatsapp groups to study the Bible. “Has anyone ever started a movement using this method?” they asked. “Not yet! But maybe you’ll be the first!” I replied. We’ve never faced a time like this. New things will happen for those who take risks of faith.

5. Be willing to collaborate.

Lastly, we must be willing to work together like never before. Territorialism and denominationalism have never helped launch movements. Who could you partner with? Join your strengths with theirs? Learn from?

As we join our hearts, minds, talents and treasures together, much becomes possible.

Don’t Miss This!

Reference was made earlier to Youth With A Mission’s founder, Loren Cunningham. As he completed his Easter message, he exhorted his mission, “Don’t miss this!

The Israelites missed God. They could have entered, but they did not.

Let us rise and go in.  We will reap the great harvest of souls God has prepared for us through this pandemic. Disciples must be made, movements launched and great multiplication of God’s kingdom must come in this time. Will we go in—like Joshua and Caleb—with our hearts on fire and burning with a passion for God?

This is an article from the July-August 2020 issue: Missions in the Age of Coronavirus

Whether Ebola Or Covid-19 God’s People Move Toward, Not Away From, Suffering

Whether Ebola Or Covid-19 God’s People Move Toward, Not Away From, Suffering

Note: The Ebola virus hit West Africa—primarily Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone—in 2014. The case-fatality rate (CFR) was 40% (By way of comparison COVID-19’s CFR is currently estimated between 2–10%). In August 2014, the World Health Organization reported that 10% of the dead had been healthcare workers.34

2014 and the years that followed were a devastating time for Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea. The Ebola outbreak created havoc.

The situation demanded that we come together as a team. This teamwork was not just within the Church, but we also reached out to our neighbors. In Sierra Leone, the majority are Muslims. So together, we investigated the situation critically and concluded that it was a real threat. Once we understood what the virus was all about and how it was transmitted, we did our level best to see how we could contain the virus and how we could educate our people. We did presentations in the churches and in the mosques. We were among the first to alert our people to the danger and how to respond.

We scheduled days of fasting and prayer in the churches and the mosques. We were interceding for the community, and for the nation at large, to stand in the gap between the living and the dead. Where this virus was affecting people, we stepped in because that’s how kingdom people think. It’s not just, you know, the Lord can protect my family. It’s Lord, use this in the community, and help me represent you well to both. Lord, please stop it and restore what has been damaged by it. We were advocating God’s people go, not just the second mile, but go really down the road and give themselves to fasting and prayer that Ebola would be checked. We asked them to make it known to their neighbors that they were praying.

Together we encouraged people to trust God, to ask God for healing and deliverance. Despite rumors to the contrary, we were not in denial that Ebola was a real threat. We tried to understand the pattern, the behavior of the disease, how it was transmitted, and how to contain it. We were able to communicate that across the board with our leaders. Then we started to get to the public to educate people in churches.

This education process was key to controlling the spread of the disease and dealing with the fear factor. Without information, people were responding with tremendous fear—there was extreme fear of getting the disease and dying. So we had people making public service announcements explaining the details of what the condition was and how it spread. We also encouraged people to follow the prevention guidelines and to trust God’s ability to save them from this plague.

We had a lot of discussions about customs and habits and realized that we had to make changes. One of the most significant changes was how we bury our dead. When someone dies here, the custom has been that the family washes the body to get it ready for burial. When a Muslim person who died was regarded as an influential person, the family would take that water and wash their children in it. It was believed to pass on to the children some of that outstanding person’s spirit and power. This practice accelerated the infection rate. We were able to train people to take steps to protect themselves and the practice was stopped.

We had disciples who delivered masks, gloves and bleach, along with useful hygiene information that helped slow transmission.

We had multiple church-planters scattered in rural communities. We re-commissioned them to distribute public information and organize community service and prayer groups. We really prayed for the nation. We prayed for those in authority. We prayed that God would give them wisdom in how to handle the situation.

We used young people who were involved in drama to put on dramatic presentations about dealing with Ebola and overcoming fear. We also sponsored a songwriting contest that addressed the situation. We encouraged young people to write simple Scripture-based songs about Ebola and about having faith. Then we taught the best songs to people. We also had poetry contests.

The Ebola crisis had an impact on the momentum of the gospel. Historically we were seeing 2000 new churches planted each year using the DMM process. That’s an extraordinary number. But, when Ebola hit, that number dropped to around 200. The magnitude of Ebola’s impact was to put a virtual stop to people’s willingness to engage with others. And the whole idea of Disciple Making Movements is that thegospel spreads through natural networks, and so does Ebola. So we saw a 90% reduction in productivity. Ebola appeared to be dismantling, at least temporarily, those networks.

When the whole process was over, a lot of people gave their lives to Jesus. Remember that we were working closely together. We saw disciples moving toward trouble and not fleeing from it. Church-planters led the way in serving the government, serving their neighbors regardless of their religious beliefs. People saw how the Christians responded to the crisis and were persuaded to believe. Most of the people we are working with today came out of that terrible time. They were changed by what they had seen in disciples.

One church-planter was doing some substantial outreach and volunteered with Doctors Without Borders (aka, Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF). Unfortunately he worked closely with an expatriate MSF worker who was sick. Through that person, he also got the disease and died.  One guy volunteered to drive an ambulance for MSF. As a result of his frequent contact with the sick, he contracted the disease himself and died.

A lot of our Christ followers were very courageous. Despite seeing fellow disciples die, they stepped up and volunteered. They served as drivers delivering medical supplies and food. They also helped the government by going to outlying communities to carry checks to the locals. In addition to MSF, disciples volunteered to help other NGOs throughout the country.

We did some creative things that helped in reducing the level of fear. We started telling jokes that involved Ebola. We were intentionally trying to help people overcome their fear. One of the jokes was about a guy who was supposed to pay his rent. But because of the crisis he had no money. Then he saw the landlord coming and knew he would be demanding payment. What he did was drape a blanket over his head. He was shaking and said to the landlord, “I’m sorry. But I’ve been sick.” The landlord said, “I’m here for my money.” The tenant told his landlord, “I’m sorry, I have just been diagnosed. I have Ebola. But I have your money here, come and take your money.” Alarmed, the landlord said, “I don’t need my money now. You can pay me later.” And he ran away. So we said, “You no longer have to run away from your landlord because you have no money. He will run away from you.”

Because of the cooperation within our communities, cooperation with the government and NGOs, and because of God’s intervention we saw the spread of Ebola stopped in its tracks.

The fact is that we did not allow our fear of the virus to stop us from trusting God and doing everything, everything we could to be a witness.

God was aware that Ebola would come. He had redemptive purposes he wanted to be worked out. We see some of those results already. The same is true for the COVID-19 pandemic. What lessons can we learn from how God moved in West Africa that apply to our current situation? 

Because we believe God is all about building His kingdom and intends to involve every disciple in what He is doing, it makes sense to ask, “God, what do you want me to do?” and “How can I move toward trouble and not away from it?” When we do that, we create irresistible influence. This influence flows out of belief that the kingdom is not exclusive. It’s about everybody and everything.

Obviously, as good members of the community, we need to follow through with government guidelines about social distancing and voluntary isolation. However, there are still plenty of ways disciples can respond. We can donate blood, we can find places to volunteer to deliver food, serve the homeless, etc. We can prayer walk, and as we pass people let them know from a safe distance, “I’m praying the virus would be removed and it wouldn’t affect you.”

So, whatever the crisis, we need to be the people who respond with compassion and courage to the call issued by Jesus, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so, I am sending you.”

This is an article from the July-August 2020 issue: Missions in the Age of Coronavirus

Six Ways to Bear Witness in a Pandemic

Six Ways to Bear Witness in a Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic is a time of much fear: fear of hunger, loneliness, lockdowns, poverty, even death. It’s also a time of loss. Weddings are canceled. Graduations are missed. Church buildings are empty on Sunday mornings, and many businesses are closed. At HOPE International, we’ve been asking the question:

Amid this fear and uncertainty, how do we bear witness to Christ and His Kingdom?

Thankfully, we can look to the example of Jesus to see how He reacted in the face of doubt, loss, and hardship.

Abide in God’s Word.

When Jesus was tempted in the desert (Matthew 4), He turned to Scripture. Sometimes God’s Word is our only solution, our only rest, our only response. May we encourage one another to abide in the Word of God and find our strength within. May we also find creative ways to share its hope and truth with others.

Pause for prayer.

In Matthew 14:22-27, after miraculously feeding thousands, Jesus sent His disciples ahead so He could spend time alone with His Father. From this time of prayer, He saw that the disciples were caught in a raging storm and met them on the water. We are often busy with good things, but now is an opportunity to pause, pray, and focus on what’s most important.

Look beyond ourselves.

While hanging on the cross, amid His own agonizing suffering, Jesus looked down, saw His mother, and cared for her needs by designating John as her son (John 19:25-27). Each of us experiences these challenges differently, but let’s keep our eyes open for ways we can reflect the love of Jesus to others.

Care for physical needs.

In John 21:5, Jesus met the disciples at the edge of the sea. They’d spent the entire night fishing but caught nothing. Jesus saw that they were hungry and tired and provided miraculously. How can we follow His example to help others meet their basic needs?

Encourage one another.

After His resurrection, Jesus repeatedly encouraged followers in their moment of hopelessness. He met them where they were, in their isolation and despair, to provide hope and peace (see John 20:11-22, Luke 24:13-34).

Show humility & grace.

In John 13, in the critical context of His Last Supper, Jesus washed everyone’s feet. Even Peter, who would deny Him. Even Judas, who would betray Him. Their feet were dirty, and He washed them. A tangible example for us in this season: Our church partners are distributing food to all who are in need, not only their members. You know when you’re watching a live soccer match? You’re afraid because anything could happen to your team. But after you’ve won 1-0, when you’re re-watching highlights, you don’t have that fear—you may even smile because you know your team won.

It’s the same for us now, despite the uncertainty brought by the coronavirus pandemic. We know the outcome. Jesus is not overwhelmed; He is not surprised—He has already won.

So, as we continue to bear witness to the Kingdom in this season, may our eyes remain fixed on Jesus, the King. He is our hope, our peace, and our victory.

Each month, we send out a list of prayer requests from around the world to a group of dedicated supporters who partner with us through faithful prayer. Will you join us?

This is an article from the July-August 2020 issue: Missions in the Age of Coronavirus

Three Things We are Doing in the Face of COVID-19

Three Things We are Doing in the Face of COVID-19

Dear Colleagues and Mission Frontiers Readers,

Given the timing for editing a production like MF, by the time you are reading this much will be known about the outcomes and results and implications of the COVID-19 crisis. As I am writing this, however, it is mid-April and we are still in the midst of social distancing and shelter-at-home mandates.

This edition of MF is trying to describe how we think about and practice “mission” in a time like this. Many have already been reflecting on these questions, and by the time you get this, there will have been many more. We don’t want to simply add to the volume of ideas and reflections. Instead, we are trying to compile things that may not be discussed in other settings. In particular, we want to bring you a sense of what is happening at the edges, at the frontiers, among the least reached.

Since I have an article devoted to that topic, I won’t say more here. Instead, I want to just briefly touch on what we at Frontier Ventures and WCIU are beginning to think about. I will refer to three things:


1 COVID Rapid Innovation

We have begun an initiative we are calling COVID Rapid Innovation. This is a product of a collaboration between FV’s Winter Launch Lab (WLL), an FV initiative called Health for All Nations (HFAN, which is headed up by FV member and WCIU Board chair, Mike Soderling), and FV and WCIU member, Lowell Bliss.

COVID Rapid Innovation is following the Peer Consultation process, developed by the Kansas Leadership Center ( The process is called Quick Response Innovation (QRI). Our initiative “aims” this peer consultation process especially at leaders who are facing unprecedented challenges in the light of COVID-19, helping them  to see their challenge and the issues at stake from new perspectives, leading to new insights, next steps and emerging solutions to complex challenges in this crisis season.

Find out more at:


2 Short Term Immediate Help to Agencies and Movements at the Front Edge

Just two days before I wrote this we finalized setting aside funds from both FV and WCIU to be given immediately to organizations working to respond to one of the issues you will hear more about in this MF edition, an issue “upstream” from COVID and creating a barrier to stemming the spread of the virus: hunger.

We are focusing our funding on projects serving the most vulnerable, giving special emphasis to least reached peoples and those in urban slums. In these contexts, while the danger of COVID is very real, people are faced with the decision: do I (even if it were possible!) practice social distancing and not go to work (if I have it) and face the certainty of hunger and the high likelihood of starvation (I am not being dramatic here), in order to avoid the possibility of catching a virus that might kill me or my family?

As you will hear, there are leaders serving in such contexts who are seeking to bring innovative solutions and facing risks themselves as they do so. 


3 Virtual Franciscans?

St. Francis and his comrades became beggars, going about door to door on behalf of others. One of my colleagues here at WCIU,
Viv Grigg, wrote me to suggest a vision of raising up a new movement of such Franciscans, seeking to raise funds for the poor, for the most vulnerable among the least reached and especially in the cities.

While social distancing suggests this would be fraught with challenges if taken literally, I began to think: what if we raised up a band of “virtual Franciscans”, who instead of going door to door, went Facebook to Facebook, Twitter to Twitter, Instagram to Instagram, in a virtual wave of “go-fund-me” style “begging” for the most vulnerable?

This would include all sorts of initiatives, not controlled by any central organization, though many (including us here) may well launch versions of it themselves. Just do it.

I will be encouraging more of us in FV and WCIU to launch into this as well. Maybe by the time you read this there will be rumors of what we are up to!

In my own way I started yesterday, on behalf of those I know in South Asia and the Horn of Africa, leading movements to Jesus among unreached peoples and doing their best to respond with other leaders to serve the hungry and to prevent the spread of the virus.

More about them in my article!


Since I cannot hazard a guess as to what the state of the COVID-19 crisis may be by the time this goes to print, I want to end with something that might provide a word of wisdom regardless of the detailed state we find ourselves in at that time (or, at this time as you read). This word seems especially fitting as we all seek to discern how to respond:

“With this in mind, we constantly pray for you…that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith.” (2 Thess.1:11 NIV)

Prayerfully, Kevin Higgins

This is an article from the July-August 2020 issue: Missions in the Age of Coronavirus

Post-Disaster Sustainability and Spiritual Multiplication

24:14 Goal Movement engagements in every unreached people and place by 2025 (66 months)

Post-Disaster Sustainability and Spiritual Multiplication

When responding to a large-scale crisis or helping people recover from a disaster, how can we maximize fruit? How can we maximize the practical support we give them? And what principles can increase urgent-needs response, sustainable recovery, and multiplication of believer groups in an integrated way?

In 2011 when this article was first written, we had two teams in Southeast Asia which had multiplied to at least three generations of believer groups among “Cousins.” This is the name we use for followers of the majority religion where we serve and they were a group that frequently responded to disasters. They had served in response to four major disasters in addition to some minor ones. Through their experience, they identified fruitful post-disaster response principles. In April 2020, I edited this article to increase relevance for those wrestling with the global crisis caused by COVID-19. I added principles we have learned from more teams in many more situations, doing disaster recovery while also multiplying small groups to many generations.

These principles have guided practical crisis response and post-disaster recovery while at the same time nurturing spiritual multiplication. They empower teams to make creative decisions in the field, in response to local needs, without having to check back with their bosses. These principles provide integration and coordination between field workers in diverse locations without paralyzing community facilitators or cell-church planters.
They provide sustainable recovery for disaster victims and include spiritual recovery, as indicated by multiplication of believer groups.

Many of these principles become most applicable following the first weeks after a disaster (when victims are most vulnerable and desperately need practical help quickly). We transition to these principles as soon as possible. This enables sustainable disaster recovery, integrated with sustainable multiplication of small groups in multiple generations.

1. Core Team

Who are your closest co-workers, whom you trust, who are also effective in post-disaster response? You cannot help people beyond the effective reach of your core team. However, if your core team members have already proved they can multiply other leaders, who multiply other leaders, your core team has a much greater reach.

Take a moment to evaluate your core team’s capacity to respond to this crisis.

  • How strong are relational ties within your core team? Do your core team members each have their own core teams? How strong are relational ties in their core teams? Will they support one another under the stress of responding to a crisis?
  • What is the bridging (connecting) capacity of your core team? Have they shown ability to connect to people who can help them select the neediest people who should be prioritized? Have they shown the capacity to connect to find available resources?
  • Disaster response needs leaders who can take initiative, innovate, and activate others. Can your core team members do these things, or facilitate those who can?

2. Local Groupings

Most of those who respond compassionately to a crisis or disaster serve individuals. We learned to instead help disaster victims form and solidify into need-based local groups. Our core team (and those they activate) serve only local groups. Groups are more effective in recovery because through cooperation in groups, a much smaller budget is needed for recovery. Cooperation adds value at low cost.

After a volcano erupted and lava covered many homes, one new chainsaw kept six men working to remove fallen trees when they formed a local group and cooperated to divide jobs and shifts using the chainsaw. Everyone needed help with clean water when a heavy ash fall resulted from a volcanic eruption, and the wells were filled with lava, but a local group decided which of its members were the weakest and needed help first. They decided which families were close enough that they could harmoniously build and share a tank to store clean water during the recovery period.

Neighbors whose houses were levelled during an earthquake were helped to build their own foundations, helped with reinforcement bar and sand and cement and the design. But they were required to form a group and help the one widow among them, in order to get access to these resources. This resulted in much time in dialog among them about spiritual values. Over a period of months, some of the people in this foundation-building group were helped to form a new business making concrete building blocks with hand presses. This work gave them income for food, and for every truckload of sand they formed into concrete blocks, they could set aside 500 blocks for their own houses. From these need-based groups, small groups of seekers emerged, which later became small groups of believers discussing together the Bible and how they were applying it.

Groups are also the best place by far to begin spiritually transformative dialog.[1] Group members support each other’s search for meaning and emotional recovery. They validate new means to find spiritual peace in the midst of uncertainty. Spiritual and emotional issues need to be discussed in small groups of victims who form because they are comfortable with each other.

In the early months of the COVID-19 global crisis, many in our country have lost their jobs and their incomes. One of my core team members is responsible for 30 people in two houses. Another is responsible for 13 people in his own house. Each must give attention to his own family’s health, for they are also victims. But they have pre-existing virtual groups and some new groups. They have already activated several local groups to distribute food to the hungry.

3. An Urgent-Needs Phase Transitions to a Recovery Phase

Disasters have an initial urgent-needs phase that may be extended if the crisis is hard to define, multi-dimensional, and/or recurring, as in the case of COVID-19. The needs during this period should be defined and an assessment made: which needs can be met by the victims themselves, and which could be met by others? With COVID-19 we determined that just three weeks into the crisis, almost everyone among the lower-paid members in almost every area in our country was having trouble buying food. These hand-to-mouth wage-earners have no savings and struggle economically if they miss just three weeks of work. Even farmers are having trouble because they cannot sell their products. These are going to waste, for buyers don’t have money to buy the products.

During this urgent-needs phase, we are setting up distribution systems (including volunteers) that use a minimum of middlemen. These reduce food costs, bypassing traditional markets (closed because they bring too many people too close together), and enforce high standards of food handling (few people handle raw food, and those who do use masks, gloves, and other protective equipment). We are negotiating with suppliers to provide raw food at lower costs in return for getting larger orders. Since people’s savings in densely populated areas are almost used up, costs must be negotiated to lower levels and volunteers used – toward the goal of simply keeping people eating. However, all potential food donors are also losing money in this period.

This points to our need to transition to a recovery phase as soon as possible. We recognize that most factors are out of our control, but we have begun to discuss a few things over which we do have some control.

4. Long-Term Thinking

Most of those responding compassionately to a crisis or disaster think mainly about the immediate needs of victims. They tend to shift only slowly to thinking about long-term solutions. Leaders of disaster responders must facilitate discussions of cases to help volunteers think further ahead, in order to discover longer-term needs and solutions.

For example, we wouldn’t help a group upgrade to wood walls rather than bamboo in a temporary shelter they would soon leave behind. We would focus instead on buying them woodworking tools and a simple shop so they could get their business and income restarted. Paradoxically, our determination to look beyond the empty stomachs of today provides more compassionate long-term help.

In the spiritual arena, long-term thinking is multi-generational thinking. Our approaches must foster the discovery of local leaders who have spiritual sensitivity and thirst. We look for those who not only make personal progress in small Bible discussion groups but who also reveal capacity as replicators and multipliers. We want to find those whom God will grow into partners for raising up future generations of spiritual leaders.

We have tried to imagine new jobs that will emerge because of new demands in the recovering economic system when that begins. For example, we are envisioning motorcycles equipped with racks to carry the maximum amount of raw food at the lowest cost and make drop-offs to houses.

Clearly our spiritual mentoring will have to grow stronger in utilizing social media.

5. Victims as Solution-Finders and Laborers

Most of those responding compassionately to a crisis or disaster view themselves as givers and see victims as receivers. In contrast, we aim to find leaders among the victims. Local influencers emerge after a crisis and can help organize the victims so they take an active role in the recovery of their own community. This makes recovery possible on a lower budget. It also strengthens victims emotionally after a big hit and loss to their self-esteem and hope. The most diligent and responsible victims will be most likely to facilitate more benefits for more victims. For that reason, selection of which victims to partner with is important. Generally speaking, local people themselves know which among them will be more effective during post-disaster uncertainty and can choose them. They realize that the leaders needed for responding to a crisis or disaster must be active leaders, not the symbolic leaders who might have been in place prior to a disaster.

In one area covered by deep volcanic ash that brought all farming to a halt, disaster victims made 2,200 handicraft products during a three-week period. Initially, people from outside the community did product design, training of workers, and marketing. But the organizers among the victims also contributed to success, under the supervision of a person who lived just outside the affected area and gave volunteer time. Five villages of victims each chose four to eight representatives best suited to receive training. They chose people who not only would produce good products for their fellow villagers but also would ensure quality control and select and train other villagers to produce these products. From these initial trainees, the most competent trainers and organizers emerged. The natural center of production also became clear: one village that was well organized and motivated. All trainings were held in that village, and products were delivered by group leaders from each of the other villages for payment. The macro system in the area became more self-sufficient, reducing its reliance on the outsiders who initiated the handicrafts project.

After an earthquake, communities were able to build concrete 3m x 6m house cores for US$600 each. This very low budget was possible because the people organized themselves into groups of eight former homeowners, pooling their labor and motivation to build the eight houses together. Groups identified the weaker members of the community who most deserved their help. They had only one trained carpenter, but one was sufficient to oversee the building of three neighborhoods of eight house cores each, using the same simple design. Through cooperative groups, which mobilized the volunteer ideas and labor of victims, all donation money could be focused on purchasing cement, sand, and reinforcement bars. This allowed them to rebuild earthquake-resistant house cores.

From a spiritual vantage point, seekers of God can be mobilized quickly to gather like-minded others who desire spiritual and emotional recovery. By using a simple set of questions that stimulate local people in discovery of biblical truth on topics that meet their needs, natural leaders can be mobilized quickly as group facilitators.

6. Observe—Question— Add

Most of those responding compassionately to a crisis or disaster give pre-packaged solutions. Instead, we observe and question to activate victims to fully describe their challenges. We then help them come up with several alternate solutions and combine those solutions to find the best solution set. Through this process, they develop solution sets that are cheaper and better fitted to the challenges and they are more motivated to keep pursuing the solutions. For these reasons, their own solution sets have a higher likelihood of sustainability.

When responding to a volcanic eruption, I began discussions with victims at a refugee camp, when it was still too dangerous to enter the area. I mistakenly put forward the idea of making building blocks from sand that had been expelled during the eruption. In response they identified reasons it wouldn’t work, such as that the sand had too much sulfur in it. The imported idea failed. When I could visit the area with them, I observed raw products made following the disaster. They preferred two inexpensive motorized tools to a single nice one. Because it was their own idea, they could bear without complaint the negative factor that the cheaper tools were heavier. I had thought a large machine would be needed to move the raw logs onto trucks. They decided teaming up to carry them was cheaper.

In spiritual dialog, we observe and ask about victims’ needs. To their existing spiritual knowledge we then add fresh spiritual insights fitted to their needs.

7. Transformative Dialog

Most of those responding compassionately to a crisis or disaster separate physical needs from emotional and spiritual needs. They usually serve physical and surface-level emotional needs first, then much later serve deeper emotional and spiritual needs. Often, however, the window of spiritual openness has closed by then. Instead, we view people holistically and start early with emotionally/spiritually transformative dialog. We do this in ways that combine naturally with practical caregiving. This reduces victims’ grief paralysis effect and increases their participation in their own recovery.

In agricultural recovery groups, an integrated transformative dialog must affirm God’s sovereignty and care for His creation, including His care for people. It must at the same time wrestle with their questions as to possible reasons He has allowed their suffering. A second transformative dialog can help them see themselves in Adam’s lineage as vice-regents of God’s creation. God has entrusted to them management of His grace, expressed as natural resources in creation. He intends their management to provide for their own needs and to channel that grace to others. A third transformative dialog discusses the return of Jesus to usher in God’s complete creation recovery. All creation now eagerly awaits this new creation.

“Cousins” have an integrated worldview, so a majority-Cousin area must be served with an integrated rather than a secular approach. Rather than Jesus’ followers serving them as secularists, an approach true to the convictions of neither party, we look for bridging zones for transformative dialog. These dialogs build off common ground, going back to the common belief in Adam and Abraham. Such verbal dialogs usually draw on cultural proverbs and paradigms, Quranic verses, and verses from the Taurat, Zabur, and Injil. In some cases, victims desire to read and discuss selected samples of their sources of strength and faith.

Forming groups to address community development challenges is a critical first step toward having spiritual dialog among a small number of people who have a prior relationship and trust each other for mutual support. Many pre-believer groups formed to tackle practical recovery challenges welcome the infusion of transformative dialog as part of the recovery group’s agenda. Many pre-believer groups, formed to support practical recovery, grow in faith and eventually become small groups of believers.

8. Team Meetings that Clarify Operational Principles

Most management systems after disasters are too bureaucratic and slow. At the opposite extreme, some are too autonomous, wasteful and lacking coordination and direction.

Our leaders from disaster response and recovery teams initially meet weekly for two hours to listen to each other (if distances are a factor, these may transition to bimonthly meetings after some months). The coordination meetings have four purposes: 1) to gain better understanding of recovery challenges through multiple peoples’ lenses; 2) to link resources and synchronize effort; 3) to provide cross-training in a relational context; and 4) to clarify principles that undergird the field decisions of individual facilitators of recovery. This last purpose allows facilitators to make decisions in the field, knowing they harmonize with broader principles of the team, without being delayed by having to get permission from supervisors on each decision. They evaluate together, then revise their plans for effective service.

Case studies of spiritual progress are presented by more experienced facilitators, to provide learning opportunities for others. Spiritually oriented challenges can be discussed and solutions sought together while at the same time reinforcing the principles behind them.

During the COVID-19 global crisis, virtual meetings of team leaders will need to be a higher priority, with skills developed in this sphere.

9. Innovation

We encourage not just putting back the pieces so that recovery returns things to normalcy. We aim for innovative solutions that potentially will improve conditions via incremental evaluations and adjustments.

Trial and error is used on a small scale to test best possible solutions. A period of great loss might need to be followed by carefully guided paradigm change, or transition to find better means for supporting the goals of the community. Methods of building, means of getting drinking water, and the type of crops or agricultural methods chosen might need to be revised in the most optimal direction possible, in the period after great setbacks. Centuries-old agricultural methods and crop and fertilizer choices might have reduced soil quality or market value and need to be revisited. Experimentation on a small scale with multiple comparative case studies should be encouraged and funded.

Innovation is risky. One part of loving people and God is helping to bear the cost of innovation for longer-term compassionate solutions. Victims who increase their faith can embrace innovation, expecting God to guide.

During this COVID-19 crisis, we will need to prioritize innovation in urban areas, because of greater needs there. However, many people are likely to return to their parents’ homes in villages and smaller cities, where food might be easier to come by.

10. Multicultural Synergy

Most workers should be local or near-local people, but mixing in selected foreigners might make an optimal balance of team composition and roles for the recovery period. Outsiders are needed because impoverished local conditions require linking agents who bring in outside resources and ideas. Local people can operate more economically and with less confusion. Yet having the right kind and amount of foreign involvement provides an added advantage, particularly after a crisis. Outside perspective and connections are helpful during the chaos of crisis recovery—for ideas and for connection to resources.

The key is capable field leaders and community facilitators who can build and synchronize multicultural teams. These capable field leaders and facilitators must be of the type who can serve amidst chaos. To be successful, outsider or near-culture community facilitators need local organizers who are flexible in relating to outsiders. These are often not the same people as community leaders previously chosen by communities to protect the status quo in traditional cultures. Community facilitators must be careful to avoid isolating local organizers and to win endorsement for them (and for joint programs) from longer-term status-quo leaders.

Disaster victims have lost much and have few options to improve their future. We must be, and pray for, people of integrity, honesty, and wholesome character. This is critical to minimize negative emotions often felt by victims. Loving God and others, finding local organizers, and promoting godliness in victims supports effective recovery.

11. Fruit-based Management

Most disaster responses focus on the helpers’ activities. We need, rather, to focus on outcomes for the beneficiaries: the actual outputs, outcomes and impacts that help them. Markers of fruit, and progress toward fruit, help us discern the right direction and then evaluate and improve service. Establishing a culture of discussing matters openly and constructively reduces fear of criticism and increases fruit production.

Markers of fruit in disaster recovery include 1) the number of people eating, with homes, with their children in school, who are healthy; 2) the number of people working again; 3) the number of need-based groups formed to pursue practical solutions; and 4) the number of need-based groups who have added transformative dialog and are making spiritual progress. Meetings of community facilitators should clarify fruit markers that indicate short-term progress, building cumulatively in the right direction. Team meetings should periodically evaluate progress toward those markers and revise plans to make incremental improvements.

Spiritually, time should be taken periodically to celebrate partial progress made and give thanks to the Lord who provided that progress. Dialog helps us center our efforts to produce fruit around the source and owner of all fruit.


Fruitful teams support sustainable disaster recovery integrated with sustainable Church Planting Movements. They orient themselves around a set of principles and empower their field workers to make decisions and act based on alignment. These eleven sustainability principles have been obs