The Seeds of Disciple-Making Movements
“I’m afraid, Hua. Everyone will be looking at me.”
We were on a campus in China. We were about to enter a Muslim canteen to find students from the unreached Muslim group that we had targeted, and Xiao was suddenly having a case of stage fright.
Xiao, an international student to Canada from China, was on a short-term mission trip back to her home country, to a people group that is mistrustful and even hostile towards Han Chinese. Within a couple of months of arriving in Canada, she had gone from atheist to Jesus follower. And now, six months later, she was on a short-term mission back home.
Our church loves international students! For the past 15 years we have boldly reached out to thousands of them on four campuses in our city. Many have come to Christ. We waste no time in discipling them.
We follow the T4T process in which every new believer is immediately discipled by the person that led them to Christ. To do this, we have created simple (ESL-friendly) materials called ESTABLISH. You don’t have to be an expert to lead someone through these materials – either one-on-one or in a small group. Even a new believer can lead another newer believer.
Through these seven lessons, every international student who comes to Christ learns the non-negotiables of following Jesus. They are mentored towards obeying Jesus – and reaching out to others.
The next stage is Empower. These 10 lessons focus on persons of peace, gospel bridges, DMM’s (disciple-making movements) and generational multiplication. Our international students are not taught in a classroom, but meet in small groups where they have weekly accountability and do outreach “homework” together.
Our end goal is DMM’s on our campuses. Honestly, we are not there yet, though we have seen some generational multiplication. We have found the harvest to be extremely ripe and we are seeing international students come to Christ all the time, everywhere. On the campus, at parties, in coffee shops. Our students are bold, and they pass that bold DNA down to those that they lead to Jesus.
Unreached People Groups
Our church has selected a Muslim group in China, and we give our international students a vision for this. Our goal is to raise up missionaries, and this involves taking the students on short-term mission trips to our target people. Back to the story of Xiao…
“I was afraid our conversations might cause conflicts. As a Chinese citizen, I was fearful of being sent to prison. My fears started to disappear when I heard God say, ‘Don’t think too much. Just go and love them.’ The more I love them, the more I feel sad for them. They are all struggling on a wrong path without being aware of it. They need to hear the truth.”
On our last day, three of Xiao’s new Muslim girlfriends came for a very tearful goodbye. Love had broken down walls of hostility. Enemies had become friends. We have discovered that international students need two things:
- To clearly hear the vision
- To come close to lost peoples and engage with them.
On another mission trip, an international student named Jessica shadowed me as I met with various Muslim students, asking them questions. Like Xiao, Jessica was also only 6-months old in the Lord. When she took a turn at asking questions, I was stunned by her insightful questions! There is just no substitute for personally mentoring our international students.
In the West, we think that it’s more effective to gather 500 people in a room and teach them. We are discovering that small groups and personal mentoring is far more fruitful!
Where We’re Headed
We believe that mobilizing international students to launch DMMs is strategic. They have language and cultural advantages, and they are part of a generation that is being trained to enter into the international marketplace, which makes them versatile. I don’t know if there is a more effective way to do this, but we are convinced that God is giving us an international army to train.
At this point we have a number of former international students who are planning on going, at some point, as long-term missionaries to our unreached people group. The first one will be sent this year.
Let me conclude with this. Our priority is relationships. We are not a campus club or para-church group. We are a church, and so every international student that we lead to Jesus, is immediately enfolded into our church family.
We are walking along a discipleship path with our international students – establishing them and empowering them. Our DNA to launch DMMs becomes their DNA. We haven’t got this all figured out yet, and we’re certainly not doing it perfectly, but we love our students deeply – and we love following Jesus together to the nations.