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

Rapid Mobilization: How the West Was Won

Rapid Mobilization: How the West Was Won

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Vision for a Refugee Kingdom Movement

Vision for a Refugee Kingdom Movement

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Case Study

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

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

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

The Joseph Movement

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

Creation             2 chapters

Fall/Cain 2 chapters

Genealogies         4 chapters

Noah                 4 chapters

Abraham            12 chapters

Isaac                  2 chapters

Jacob                 9-10 chapters

Joseph                14 chapters

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

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

The Joseph Movement Parallels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Joseph Movement: A Vision

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

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

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

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

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

Our Role in Hastening “No Place Left”

Excerpted from Hastening

Our Role in Hastening “No Place Left”

Used by permission of 2414 Ventures.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John contemplated these words.

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

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

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

This is an article from the January-February 2023 issue: Cascading Gospel: Movements Starting Movements

Multiplying Movements through Organic Growth

Multiplying Movements through Organic Growth

It appears that perhaps 85% of new Church Planting Movements have been started by an existing movement. In our Asian context, our first six or seven movements started in four related ethnic groups and have grown to 90 strong movements in 35 ethnic groups, plus growing movement engagements in 34 other ethnic groups.  Some of these new movements were started through gifted apostolic catalysts, others through a training and sending process, but most of the new movements were started through ordinary organic growth that jumped over cultural boundaries into new ethnic groups. This article will describe four patterns of organic growth leading to new movement starts, and four empowerment strategies that allow ordinary lay members of movements to more frequently launch new movements among unreached people groups.

Sending Pioneers

Because  many  movements  have  been  started through a strategic sending process, we often view this as the primary way new movements begin. This continues to be an important part of how Jesus is causing kingdom expansion around the world. And nowadays, we often see that it is near-culture partners, rather than far-culture pioneers, who experience early breakthroughs among an unreached group. Some movement families rely on continual training of new cadres of near-culture workers to expand their movements or multiply movements into new regions.

However, the number of true pioneers, gifted at breaking into new cultural areas, is relatively small compared to the task that lies before us. I do not want to minimize the importance of these pioneers, or of the deliberate training and sending many of them do with their own disciples. But we were surprised to find that over half the new movements started among the 69 ethnic groups above were not started by our top leaders, or by a trained leader being sent out, but by organic growth through ordinary believers who somehow crossed cultural barriers.

It turns out that many people within movements go into new places without ever being sent. This natural and persecution-driven migration of people has happened throughout Christian history. It began  on  Pentecost with visitors in Jerusalem from many nations, and is seen in Acts in the persecution that scattered believers from Jerusalem, and that which pushed Priscilla and Aquila out of Rome. When those who go into new cultures or regions are empowered with movement-compatible ministry patterns, Jesus may begin new movements through simple organic growth. Because this has happened many times, some of the leaders in movements we work with no longer focus resources on strategic sending, but rather on strategically supporting organic growth when they see disciples move into new cultures and regions.

Organic Growth

One of the hallmarks of Church Planting Movements around the world is the broad involvement of ordinary people in discipling their friends and family members, often in relatively small groups or home  gatherings. The priesthood of all believers is expected and empowered. Like Jesus, leaders give much of their time and attention to empowering their disciples to make more disciples. Top leaders learn to mentor, mature, and manage networks of believers and teams of leaders across a region.

We see this organic growth like a spreading vine, which can bear a lot of fruit if it is given a little structural support, much like grapes growing on an arbor or along a cable stretched between posts. Sometimes the vine spreads into places we did not expect. We call this kind of fruit jump-over fruit because it has suddenly passed from my backyard into my neighbor’s backyard. When this fruit jumps to new towns within the same culture,  it extends an existing movement. But when the vine is transplanted into a whole new culture, a new movement may start. Jesus said the good seed of the Gospel will grow for the farmer even while he is sleeping, and he knows not how (Mark 4:26-29). The farmer sows, waters and at the right time puts his sickle in for the harvest!

Over the past 10 years, our teams have observed at least four regularly occurring patterns whereby organic growth by ordinary believers in their networks has resulted in a new movement being started in another ethnic group. These patterns are intercultural marriages, job migration, student migration, and industry specific-networking.

Four Movement-Multiplying Social Patterns

The first pattern of jump-over fruit into new cultures happened through intermarriage between ethnic groups. Marriage between ethnicities is becoming much more common in the growing urban areas of our country.     If both husband and wife have been well discipled in one of their home cultures or in an urban mixed society, God often gives them a burden to share their faith with family members back home. If they use the simple, reproducible, low-cost patterns they have practiced before, we see small groups starting in a new region, often using the local language. When a new ethnic group (not previously reached by the original movement leader) has at least four generations of fruit and at least 1,000 believers, it counts as a new movement—organically started by a member of an existing movement. Jump- over fruit through marriage is normally entirely self- funded and self-initiated, with some intentionality by a mentor who follows up their disciple at a distance. The Spirit of God can use traveling believers, whether they travel to a receptive family or away from persecution. As emerging movements expand, they usually require further follow-up and travel by someone in the network. But they began without an initial sending plan, training budget or startup costs.

The second pattern of organic expansion into new ethnic groups and regions happened when believing family members moved into a new region or urban area in search of work. If these believers had been small group leaders or had some clear connection to a mentor from their home area, they were often able to establish a new set of small groups within the new region, without any special training. They simply followed the pattern that they knew from their home area. This would generally first attract people from a similar cultural background or language group but might easily expand into the mix of coworkers from other places, who were also a part  of their factory, construction site, or business segment. Whenever this resulted in a whole new ethnic group beginning to be reached, it became a new movement. We call this jump-over fruit through job migration.

The third pattern of organic expansion, and the one that has probably moved us into the most new ethnic groups, has been jump-over fruit through student migration. One of our younger catalysts with a strong academic bent began focusing on university campuses in the educational center where he  lives.  As  groups  began to multiply across multiple campuses and in multiple dormitories, he was dismayed to realize that most of his senior leaders were about to graduate and leave the area! He took this problem to his mentors, who coached him through a series of discussions on how this could be an opportunity rather than disaster.

First, he realized that “losing” people with experience at leading groups was actually an opportunity to place experienced people in new places around the country, as long as they continued to be mentored. Second, he saw that this was a recurring problem, and needed   to be planned into the way juniors and seniors in the universities were treated every year. Third, he decided that the most important graduates to focus on were those moving furthest away into Unreached People Groups. Identifying those students among the many different campuses became a priority during the end of their junior year and beginning of their senior year. Once identified, those students moving into unreached peoples were immediately given additional attention and training, as well as opportunities to lead a group during their senior year.

With this new perspective on graduating student leaders, this particular movement has begun movements in at least 15 Unreached People Groups and has movement starts in many other peoples. In this case, although people are not recruited or formally sent out, some intentional training and mentoring is strategically leveraging this natural, recurring migration process.

The fourth and final broad pattern for multiplying new movements through organic growth is the development of industry-specific networks of disciples. Because we place a very high value on community  development and meeting local felt needs, many of our leaders have developed job-creation strategies or invested in a specific business or government segment. For example, one team has helped create many backyard fish ponds. Through these business cooperatives, they have been able to meet people in many villages, allowing many small social groups to become spiritual discussion groups. One team has trained cadres of civil servants to do their jobs more effectively, and believers in those units can be transferred by the government to other cultural regions. Another top leader has trained agricultural cooperative leaders and is paid by the government to travel to multiple regions of the country, where he has started new groups. Yet another leader has empowered a specific group of business women and another group of salesmen whose jobs regularly take them into different cultural regions. By developing strong groups of disciples along naturally-occurring business and social segments, including some highly mobile businesses, the organic growth of one movement can result in new movements.

A number  of  other  organic  growth  patterns  may  well emerge over time, but these four patterns are already multiplying new movements. Although these naturally-occurring social patterns  happen  frequently in the modern world, they do not necessarily produce movements. What are some of the primary empowerment strategies that allow these social relationships to spread movements? Our near-culture leaders have some initial answers to this question.

Strategic Empowerment For Movement Multiplication

The first empowerment strategy is to keep the methodologies very simple and focused on Scripture rather than on highly trained leaders. The smaller and simpler the groups, the more easily they can be led by ordinary people from any walk of life. Because the focus is on Scripture as the authority (not a trained leader), a distant set of small groups in a new cultural setting can grow even without a full-time worker. This growth may be slower without a teacher nearby, but it does mature if mentored. At least seven ethnic groups have moved off the Unengaged Unreached People Groups (UUPG) lists since 2017— not because a worker was sent to the people, but because we have dozens or hundreds of believers among them now.

The second empowerment strategy that must be in place is long distance mentoring. When a movement is confined to a small local area and one day’s travel radius, it can grow very rapidly and problems can be handled by strong and mature local leaders. However, when the distances or the numbers involved grow greater, a clear system for tracking, communication, and accountability with  mentors  must be developed. Modern smartphone apps  allow mentors  to send messages, small videos, audio Bible segments, and fruit-tracking charts  over  great  distances  and  out  to multiple generations of disciples. The  Holy  Spirit  uses prayer and mentors with good tools to help local movements expand into many more generations. Long- distance mentoring tools become even more important when whole new cultural groups are reached far away from the parent movement’s home culture.

A third empowerment strategy is a social network orientation. Whereas many Western cultures approach ministry expansion primarily in geographic terms or physical building sites, the organic growth of movements happens along relational lines. Extended family units, tribal connections, marriage contracts, and loyal friendship networks are the highways of organic growth. We expect God, who opened one family to the Gospel, to also open some of their social network. This is one way to “focus on fruit.” We believe the seeds of the next harvest can be found in the existing fruit: in the relationships, skill sets, and local resources already available. If we focus too much on physical geography or outside resources, our movements reach natural limitations much sooner. A social-network orientation keeps the focus on the Spirit’s work in people, not places or things.

A fourth empowerment strategy that helps movements multiply new movements among unreached peoples is investment in regional hubs. Each of our movement catalysts has reached crisis points where what worked with a few dozen groups does not work with a few hundred groups, and what worked with a few hundred groups does not work with a thousand groups. As our leaders help their core team develop regional teams, especially in key transportation hubs and urban centers, the burden of leadership has moved outward, closer to the edges of the movement. These regional hubs are what we call transfer zones, places that grow mobile, multi- cultural individuals and communities. Giving away authority to regional hubs helps the localization of the Gospel to continue and puts movement strategies into play closer to nearby unreached peoples. This kind of servant leadership, giving power away and honoring local people, has been a key factor in the multiplication of new movements far beyond their home culture. Holding onto too much control in the center diminishes movement multiplication.

We are still in the early decades of understanding how God is bringing people into his kingdom through movements. We have much to learn as we listen to one another and try variations of some core biblical strategies, in very different cultural settings. Many of the new starts happen through very gifted apostolic leaders. But we also see God using some broad social migration patterns to multiply movements through ordinary believers in different cultural spaces. As we empower the whole body for the whole harvest, we expect to see more and more regions where there is “no place left” that the Gospel is not spreading with power and full conviction!

Copyright 2022, Focus on Fruit. Do not distribute without written permission.

This is an article from the January-February 2023 issue: Cascading Gospel: Movements Starting Movements

Toward the Edges

Movements Fostering Movements

Toward the Edges
Movements is the most frequently referenced topic in Mission Frontiers. In this edition of Mission Frontiers we take up the reality that in more and more contexts, new movements to Jesus are birthed by other movements, not always by new teams from further afield being sent to start from scratch.
 
This may seem like a recent trend, and in some ways it is. It is relatively recent in modern mission experience.
 
In fact, this dynamic was an element in the DNA of the original movements to Jesus in the New Testament. A quick read through Acts is sufficient to see this early trend.
 
When Jesus spoke of witness to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth, He was not only referring to expansion (though He was). The narrative unfolds in such a way that we can trace how a movement emerging in one context got “near enough” to another context to jump  the barrier. Sometimes this was providential, sometimes intentional (though I don’t see these as mutually exclusive).
 
An example:
 
The newly minted believers from the dramatic event at the festival of Pentecost in Jerusalem began to experience the dynamics of a movement. Day by day the Lord added to their number, we are told. They saw the dynamics of growth and they experienced the inner life of Acts 2:42-47.
 
Many of those believers were not from Jerusalem, so following the persecution described in Acts 7, we are told they began to make their way back to the many places from where they had come. Not that they were fleeing the persecution; they were just going home.

We don’t know most of their stories. But we do know that some of them, for some reason, began to speak to Greeks of the Good News. It is unclear from the vocabulary if these were Greek-speaking Jews, or Greeks who had converted to Jewish monotheism but not Judaism (the “God fearers” described in Acts).
 
We don’t know if they knew about Jesus’ words in Acts 1:8, but they were certainly examples of what he spoke about: they were empowered as witnesses, and it bore fruit. The result was not just the church in Antioch, but a breakthrough in a new cultural context which, as we see in Acts 13 and following, is crucial in the leap into the Gentile world. The aspect of this I want to highlight is that the whole process can be described as a movement being fostered by another movement.

Later, we see that Paul’s dynamic apostolic band was made up largely of people drawn from very new, still-emerging movements. I think it is common for most readers of Acts and Paul’s letters to only see the specific churches that are named as the results of his work. But we have hints that these churches were not just isolated communities of believers. While this may be most explicit in Thessalonica, where we hear of the word expanding throughout a region, there are hints elsewhere that this was not an exception, but a norm (for example in the early verses of Colossians).

It does seem to be a norm, and it also seems to be natural. Natural does not mean automatic, but it does mean by nature. That is the key dynamic in movements fostering other movements: there is something in the nature of a movement that carries with it more than expansion.

Movements carry a DNA that “naturally” causes more movements, because being a movement is part of the DNA itself.
I have seen this firsthand, but since you will read stories of such dynamics in this edition of MF, I won’t tell my stories here. For some readers this will seem new. And, again, experientially it has been recent. But Acts shows us this is in the original blueprint, seed, and foundational DNA.

Why then is it new?

The most common experience most of us have with church is in our congregations. Most churches don’t reproduce. In fact, most decline, and don’t even grow by adding members! There are exceptions, and there are movements (house church movements, simple church movements, church-planting networks, etc.). But by and large, what we know  of and experience in churches is far removed from anything like a movement.

It is such churches that most missionaries have experienced, so it is a challenge for most missionaries to catch the movement DNA. Until very recently few mission efforts have experienced movements.

That is changing.

And at the same time, it is still true that movements themselves frequently, and naturally, foster more movements. They carry the DNA. Movements are what they are, so movements are what movements give birth to.

This does not mean the day of sending as we have known it is over. Vast numbers of contexts will not be naturally bridged by current movements.

But the reality is that the best catalytic ingredient in fostering a new movement is a team or person or community or apostolic band that has been incubated within a movement, so that “like can birth like.”

May you be encouraged by what you read!

This is an article from the January-February 2023 issue: Cascading Gospel: Movements Starting Movements

What Must be Done?

What Must be Done?

In some movements, their obedience question is “Since this Bible passage is true, how will you apply this in your life this week?” As you have read these articles about movements starting movements, you might ask, “In light of this, what shall I do now?” An even better question is not, “What can I do?” but “What must be done?”

We don’t expect these movements to reach the world by themselves. God invites his global body to be part of finishing the Great Commission. We each have a part to play.

A seminary professor was urging prospective American church leaders to redistribute God’s resources to the rest of the world instead of lavishing it on ourselves. He said, “I say it respectfully, but I say it forcefully. God is not that stupid a general.” The disciples in movements are our most effective and strategic front line Gospel messengers. We need to realign our Great Commission efforts to fully support them.

They are not asking or waiting for logistical and financial support to reach other people groups. They are already reaching out because they are empowered by the Holy Spirit and driven by their love for the lost and their desire to glorify God. But they recognize help from outside can enable them to reach more groups more quickly.


We need to avoid a misplaced nationalism that says, “Citizens of each nation must reach all their unreached peoples and places with no outside help,lest we promote dependency.”  The  movements  are not asking for help  for  their  internal  costs  (to develop and sustain their movements). They fund those things locally. Yet as they plan and work to reach groups outside themselves, we can come alongside them and help with reaching each and every unreached group.

Six principles for helping movements should inform us all, regardless of our role.

  1. Prayer is first. The importance of prayer cannot be overstated. Informed, strategic prayer must be the foundation of every effort to reach the unreached. We are in a spiritual battle for the eternal souls of men, women, and  children.  We can’t afford to fight with earthly weapons. Every disciple of Jesus can play an important part in this, no matter their location or situation.
  2. Aim for holistic Church Planting Movements (CPM), not for various ministries as an end in themselves. CPMs are not one type of ministry alongside other types of ministries. Community development, medical work, arts, media, and Bible translation—all can both help begin CPMs and blossom as fruit of CPMs. As Jesus establishes his church, all the various types of transformative ministries will arise from within the church in that culture and community.
  3. The entire body of Christ is needed. 1 Corinthians 12 shows the need for honoring and collaborating with the whole body of Christ.
  4. True partnership among local disciples and outsiders. National and international outsiders need to defer to the necessary leadership of local disciples. At the same time, local leaders need to humbly encourage true partnerships.
  5. Funding should empower. All too often money  is given in a disempowering and dishonoring manner. Funding should be based on outcomes rather than activities, particularly when these movements have a long record of fruitfulness. One exciting model is foundations prioritizing assistance for movements and setting up task forces of movement catalysts and leaders to help evaluate the proposals.
  6. Cooperation not control. Many  movements have arisen from cooperation among national and international denominations, churches, seminaries, and agencies. This requires honoring one another despite different approaches, while honestly evaluating the impact of various efforts.

As you consider ways to help movements cascade, keep these things in mind.

1) Movements are not waiting for you to volunteer. You will need to patiently and graciously offer your help without demanding anything from movement leaders. You can imagine the load they carry, with movements doubling every 3.5 years, while trying to reach out to new peoples and places. And most live and serve in the midst of brutal governmental and religious opposition and persecution.

2) You many not be able to connect directly with movement leaders, due to security, their lack of time, or other considerations. But there are other ways to serve.

3) Movement leaders are looking for people to first and foremost be their brothers and sisters. As relationship and trust are built, possibilities for you to help may emerge.

4) You need to do all you can to learn about movements and become a movement practitioner right where you are. Your potential for being helpful is greater if you yourself are living a disciple-making lifestyle.

You may be called to be a Movement Servant. See “Movement Servants Needed!” in MF May-June 2021, 37-41 and “Movement Servants—Helping Movements Multiply” in MF Nov-Dec 2022 for some specific ways you might help. This involves patiently preparing yourself, and at the right times doing your best to do anything and everything asked of you by the movement(s) you serve.

However, you do not have to be a full-time movement servant to help. You could help in a wide variety of ways, including prayer, research, crisis response, medicine,  community   development,   business for access to new areas, media 4 movements, funding, technology, Bible and media distribution, administrative help, supervising interns, etc.

'For up-to-date information about these items and other possibilities, email us at [email protected]. net.

Individuals, teams, churches, organizations, and agencies—what could you do to involve (or better involve) your entire group in these efforts? What could you give up? What could you change? Are you willing to make radical changes?

We thank God for what he is doing through movements in our day. Especially for the spon- taneous multiplication of movements planting other movements among the unreached. Are you willing to lay aside whatever you need to,  in  order to be a part of doing whatever it takes to see movements in every unreached people and place  in this generation?
 

This is an article from the January-February 2023 issue: Cascading Gospel: Movements Starting Movements

Disciple Making Movement Jumps to Another Continent

Disciple Making Movement Jumps to Another Continent

Every year Lifeway Mission International hosts a Global Disciple Making Movement Catalyst Camp at its headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya. The gathering provides training and allows Disciple Making Movement (DMM) practitioners to share best practices and network with other movement leaders from around the world.

In 2018, two friends attended the conference, a mission pastor from the US and a nonprofit African leader from another country, whom we’ll call James*. The two men had already been working together for six years, advancing education and community health in a village near James’ home. They came to the DMM Catalyst Camp hoping to learn more about DMM and ways DMM principles could be integrated into this ministry. Toward the end of the conference, they began to pray together that God would provide persons of peace through whom a Disciple Making Movement would grow.

James returned home, and a few days later he got an unexpected phone call. The senior government official in the village wanted to meet. The chief told James, “Many groups and organizations have come to serve this poor community. But I can honestly say yours is the only organization that has actually changed our community. I see you as a man of wisdom. As chief, I have many difficult decisions to make. I would like for you to meet with me once a week and help me gain wisdom from the Bible.”

Word spread  quickly  about  these  meetings,   and other local leaders asked to join. Soon, 18 community leaders were attending. At least two of the leaders were Muslim. Several mentioned they were not interested in talking about church. James promised to teach them only how to hear and obey God through the Bible.

One of the Muslim community leaders worked as    a guard for a wealthy family nearby. Within a few weeks, the guard’s employer noticed a difference in his behavior and asked what was going on. The guard told his boss that he was now reading and obeying the Bible, to grow in wisdom. The businessman called James, and a couple of days later, James found himself in a beautiful home sharing coffee with Padar* and his family, talking about Jesus. James texted his American friend, “This is an Asian family, Hindus. They have touched the Bible for the first time.”

James taught the family how to study the Bible by reading a passage and asking simple questions to discover the meaning. They started with the book of John. The family met each evening to read and study the Bible. James visited them about once a week. One evening, they asked James if Jesus really was Lord over all the gods their ancestors had worshiped for generations. James pointed them back to the Scripture, and encouraged them to keep reading and asking the discovery questions.

This continued for about six weeks. The family studied through the book of John and continued reading. In Acts 10, they “found themselves” in the story they were reading. When James arrived at their home one Friday evening, they were excited to share this discovery. “This is us!” they told James. “We are the Cornelius family. And you are like Peter!”

B

y now, there were 13 of them. The original family of nine had been joined by a  nephew,  his  wife, and their two children. But that was not the only change. Religious artifacts were gone; the family shrine had been dismantled and a Bible was in its place. They no longer burned incense or marked their foreheads. They asked James to baptize them all.

James returned the next day to make sure they understood what they were asking. He spoke to them about different sins and bondages they would need to address as followers of Jesus. Padar asked, “What if we break all these sins and bondages that have been holding on to us before we get baptized?” And so beginning with the father, family members began to openly confess their sins to one another. James stood in awe of their honesty as they wept over sin and acknowledged their need for a forgiving savior.

At about midnight, a profound sense of the peace that comes with Jesus’ forgiveness filled the room. Then family members spontaneously started singing a Hindu song, inserting the name of Jesus in the places where they would have mentioned the name of a Hindu god or ancestor.

James later told his American friend that he did very little the entire evening. He just listened as family members confessed to one another.

Baptism for all 13 was set for the next Friday. Padar asked James if he would do the baptism in their pool so it would be a private ceremony. But when James arrived that Friday, he was shocked to find that 26 guests had been invited to the baptism, all Hindu friends and family members.

Padar was first to be baptized. Facing James, Padar spoke in a loud voice so everyone could hear,

Let the heavens join with us as the old me gets buried forever. Let the name of Padar be written in the book of life as I declare that from the day Jesus came into my life until the end of time, my family shall never worship any other god but the true one through His son Jesus Christ. Today history has changed in my life as my inner being bows down to my Lord Jesus Christ. I believe in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. To His name be all the glory!

As Padar rose from the waters, his family was laughing and crying. The other 12 followed him and were baptized, each one making their own statement about personal faith in Jesus. James saw expressions of surprise on the faces of the guests as each family member professed their new faith.

After the baptism, everyone went back into the house, and Padar explained the meaning of what he had done. He was careful to explain that Jesus is not simply another god. He communicated clearly to the friends and family gathered that they were placing trust in the one true God. James said later that Padar’s words had the weight of a bomb going off in the room. But everyone responded politely by clapping their hands for the decision Padar, his family, and his nephew’s family had made.

Then Padar left the room to change out of his wet clothes. He returned wearing blue jeans, a T-shirt and tennis shoes. Everyone in the room started laughing. The guests and even his own family had never seen Padar dressed so casually. He was powerful and important, and always dressed the part. But this inner change was impacting his outer appearance.

Padar then publicly renounced proclamations he had made within his extended family and said he would no longer fulfill the Hindu traditions and duties for which he had been responsible.

The newly baptized believers had planned to take the Lord’s Supper for the first time that day. With the guests looking on, they gathered in a circle and shared communion. James had not planned any of this and he was aware that the guests were asking questions.

It was a glorious day. Later, Padar told James he had spent all his life focused on business and making money. Now, he wanted to focus on people. As God allowed, he wanted to reach as many people as possible for Jesus. His young adult children were already talking about how they could respond to the questions family members were asking.

The family had decided that instead of inviting others to be part of the church in their home, they would offer to train others in how to have a Discovery Bible Study. Each family would be encouraged to invite interested family and friends to their group. Padar’s oldest daughter was especially eager to help other groups start.

The Spirit continued to move as the new disciples obeyed. Some members of the family followed God’s call to return to their homeland. In obedience to God’s leading, they took specific actions to renounce generational curses. Miracles happened, including a dramatic healing that confounded local doctors.

And God had prepared persons of peace there. Disciples multiplied rapidly among family and friends, and along other relational lines. This advancement of God’s kingdom was not without cost, as disciples were arrested, questioned, and deported. But the disciples kept multiplying.

One movement  leader  was  jailed  and  tortured  in a South Asian nation with a government hostile toward followers of Jesus. His interrogator began asking questions and ultimately became a disciple. God led him to reconcile with estranged relatives in a nearby country, and disciples multiplied there also.

Back in the African country where the movement began, God was still at work. More business people were asking questions and some were secretly gathering to study the Bible. More than 40 have now chosen to follow Jesus.

Meanwhile, after Padar baptized his Muslim guard and his wife, streams of movement flowed in other directions in Africa through this couple—both to Muslim and animist tribes.

Within two years, these movements have brought new life to thousands of people, many of them in largely Unreached People Groups. Disciples have been beaten, jailed and even martyred. Yet more often than not, the movements accelerate after these hostilities. This is all happening as ordinary people with simple, extraordinary faith share with others what they hear from the Father through His word.

This story just began a few years ago. Streams of disciple-makers continue to branch into new areas, finding persons of peace. This has led to open doors to other Unreached People Groups.

To date, this movement has flowed into more than eight countries on two continents. In some places it is merging with other movements. God’s kingdom continues to grow by the Spirit’s power and the obedience of everyday disciple-makers.
 

This is an article from the January-February 2023 issue: Cascading Gospel: Movements Starting Movements

Look Where You Have Cousins

How Proximate Strategies Help Movements Launch Movements

Look Where You Have Cousins

When persecution broke out in Jerusalem, many followers of Jesus fled—some as far as Antioch. The Hellenized Jews among them (particularly those from Cyprus and Cyrene) shared the Gospel with Hellenized Syrians (Acts 11:19–21). Those two distinct peoples within existing networks received the kingdom message. Thus, the Gospel moved two cultural steps beyond the Palestinian Jewish base.

The church at  Antioch became the launchpad for  a missionary team, with the tricultural Paul: born  a Hellenistic Jew in what is now Turkey, educated like a Palestinian Jew in Jerusalem, and having Roman citizenship by birth. Paul took the Gospel from Hellenized Palestine to the Greek homeland itself—a third step. From there Paul saw the  Gospel going beyond Jews and even Greeks to the barbarians and Scythians.

God used the connections between distinct people groups with longstanding ties and common ground, to advance his message in the first century. We see him doing something similar to reach many unreached peoples in the 21st century.

A proximate strategy1 focuses on reaching a people group or population segment that has unusual influence  (positive  or  negative)  in  their  area.   It involves training disciples in that group to not only reach those of their own people, but to also leverage their connections to reach across cultural, linguistic, socio-economic, socio-religious or geographic barriers to see other groups (eventually all groups) in their area reached with the Good News of the King.

By the grace of God, part of the success experienced by New Generations involves empowering and training indigenous leaders who are “close in relationship” to other Unengaged Unreached People Groups (UUPGs).

Movements among Muslims in West and Central Africa

In 2003, directed by the Holy Spirit, Younoussa Djao, Jerry Trousdale,  and  Shodankeh  Johnson of Final Command Ministries began to pray that by December 2013, churches would develop in all the largest Muslim Unengaged Unreached People Groups (MUUPGs) in West and Central Africa. These groups with broad geographic footprints  and large populations included the Hausa (today  54 million in 18 countries2), the Fulani (40 million in 16 countries3) and the Kanuri (13 million in six countries4).

In February 2005, Final Command launched trainings led by David Watson, a former missionary to India who had taken a strategist-trainer role, in what eventually became known as “Disciple Making Movements” (DMM).5 Over 100 leaders from 12 countries gathered in Sierra Leone and Guinea to learn about DMM. Then Final Command seconded Djao, Trousdale, and Johnson to join Watson with the CityTeam Internationalteam to pursue the DMM vision.

The following year, after fasting and praying, the team concluded that the best way to engage all the UUPGs in the region was to focus their efforts on 18 of the least-reached and most Gospel-resistant people groups (later adding the Pygmy people). What made these groups special was the unusually high influence, power, size, and/or wealth, that persuaded other groups to absorb aspects of these groups’ culture.

Consequently, if large portions of these key people groups were to embrace the Gospel,  it  would  very likely spread to the others  in  the  region.  The team called them “gateway people groups,” and Trousdale dubbed the approach “proximate strategy.” In his words, “It’s easier to see a culture change when you have existing links to that culture. When a neighboring UUPG has linguistic and cultural connections to one in which you’re already seeing results happening, it’s much easier to make a difference.”

In 2007, the 99-percent-Muslim Fulani especially captured New Generations’ attention. Fulani communities stretched over a wide swath from Senegal to the Central African Republic. Djao, a Fulani himself, knew they were responsible for bringing Islam to Sub-Saharan Africa centuries before, so he began praying that they would become those who helped other people groups discover Jesus.

Through God’s grace, by 2021 these leaders saw five distinct Disciple Making Movements among the Fulani, one with 10 generations of multiplication. These consisted of 1,761 churches composed of 22,863 new disciples (averaging 12 per church) planted in the Fulani cluster (Fulani, Fulfulde, Fula Jalon, Peuls, Fulani Maroua, and others).

The  Fulani  cluster  is  just  one  success  story.  By 2022, 94 engagements had begun through these 19 gateway people groups, resulting in 249,001 new Christ followers, in 11,191 new churches.

An Important Discovery

In 2017, Djao read an internal report documenting discipling activity in the northern part of a West African country,  Kundu  (pseudonym),  that  led  to ministry breaking out in a different UUPG in    a neighboring North African country, Sangala (pseudonym). Yet he knew his team had started nothing in Sangala or among that people.

Djao called the area coordinator, who explained that the churches in Kundu had businesspeople who regularly traveled north to buy and sell products  in Sangala. They normally stayed for two or three months at a time. While there, they found persons of peace and shared the Jesus stories they had heard in their Discovery Bible Studies in Kundu. The coordinator reported multiplication happening in the north. Obedient followers of  Jesus  were just naturally discipling people in their extended network in Sangala, using the bridge already built by their influential cultural identity. 

Djao then noticed the same thing happening between Fulani disciples in northern Cote d’Ivoire and the Malinka people in Guinea. Two Fulani disciples frequently visited their aunt who had married a Malinka across the border and began sharing stories about Jesus when they visited. Because their cousins and their cousins’ friends showed interest, the Fulani brothers started a Discovery Bible Study that eventually multiplied into three Malinka churches.

With more research, Djao found that this was happening in other places as well—not only from country to country but also within countries, from region to region. The team began to be even more intentional about training and coaching DMM leaders to prioritize people groups from  which  the discipling process was likely to jump to others with whom they interacted. They also encouraged disciples to share with people of other cultures or regions in their social networks.

“If DMM is happening well, this  is  how  it  should work,” Djao said. The team now includes presentations on proximate strategies in all their trainings, asking: ‘What people group is close enough that the discipling process can jump from you to them? Is there a people group where you have cousins?’ When trainees come up with some, we say, ‘Why don’t you think of yourselves as missionaries to them?’”

In Cote d’Ivoire, New Generations has seen DMMs jump from the Mona people to the Tura and from the Malinka to the Senoufo. In both cases, this happened organically. It was not part of any plan or initiative. Faithful disciples shared what they were learning in their relational network.

“When God sends you to a place,” Djao tells trainees, “Your responsibility is not just to reach that people group or that geographical area. Do not just think about this small town or this village. Your responsibility not only includes here but also over there on the other side. Look broadly, from a bird’s- eye view of the region. Look at what is around you when you’re praying, planning, and strategizing. Don’t limit God. Look and think big. Do not be afraid to cross borders. But  do  it  intentionally.  Be aware of the relationships and attitudes between the peoples and the places. Pay particular attention to those where relationships are good.”

Three Principles of Proximity

Three principles stand out from this brief history.

Passionate prayerJesus wants his disciples to “bear much fruit” because it glorifies the Father. Yet since he is the vine and we are the branches, he says, “apart from me you can do nothing.” Our fruitfulness depends on us abiding in him (John 15:5–8).

True to Jesus’s word, the DMM success New Generations has seen has not come from human genius or effort—not even from proximate strategy itself—but from the power of God unlocked by abiding in prayer. Trousdale urges, “If you are going to embark on trying to see movements happen—I would beg you—do not attempt this without having intercessors in place. Pray before you launch into this.”

When Djao tells movement stories, he repeatedly mentions prayer and fasting. Whenever he sees work that is not thriving, he commonly says, “Okay, they pray, but…” suggesting that the workers have not been praying as earnestly as they should.

Perception: Leaning into God  through  prayer  and fasting elevates awareness. This yields “Aha!” moments. For example, it was no accident that Djao noticed the report of multiplication leaking into Sangala. The team had been praying for movements to multiply among gateway MUUPGs in the region, to see other groups reached. They were also establishing evaluation as a norm of New Generations’ culture. When Djao received a report, his perception became insight because the team was diligently evaluating: both the quantity and quality of what was happening on the ground.

Pursuing proximityThe team’s heightened perception enabled them to notice what was happening organically, which in turn moved them to train for it still more intentionally. They now instruct leaders to look for the next border or boundary they can cross, just as they had looked for people of peace in their own circles. Especially so when those circles include their enemies: people of other cultures or languages who also need to discover King Jesus.

God is using indigenous workers who are “almost insiders,” to engage in passionate prayer, evaluate from perception, and pursue proximity. This approach isn’t limited to West and Central Africa or to Muslim UUPGs. Disciple makers among any people group in the world can practice proximate strategy, so that all people groups, affinity groups, and population segments have a Jesus option.

Endnotes
  1. 1 Introduced in a previous article by the New Generations team: “God’s Gift of Surprising Proximate Strategies,” Mission Frontiers, March-April 2018.

  2. 2 “Hausa People Cluster,” Joshua Project, https:// joshuaproject.net/clusters/186.

  3. 3 “Fulani/Fulbe People Cluster,” Joshua Project, https:// joshuaproject.net/clusters/173.

  4. 4 People Cluster: Kanuri Saharan https://peoplegroups.org/ explore/ClusterDetails.aspx?rop2=C0063.

  5. 5 A DMM is a chain reaction of at least four generations of churches planting churches, encompassing at least 100 new churches.

  6. 6 The precursor to New Generations.

This is an article from the January-February 2023 issue: Cascading Gospel: Movements Starting Movements

Movements Spreading as God Leads His Children

Movements Spreading as God Leads His Children

We first started catalyzing a Disciple Making Movement (DMM) in 2011 in Bujumbura (Burundi) where I live. When we had 189 groups in seven generations, we did  a baptism of around 800 people. One day in 2013, we were praying for various provinces we wanted to impact with the Gospel. One of our leaders, Oliver, said, “I feel I want to go to the province of Makamba, especially the community of Nyanza-Lac” (over 130 km away).

I asked him, “Do you know someone there?”

He  said, “No,  but I have already prayed for the area. I will go there and see if God will connect me with somebody.” (Makamba is  the  southernmost  province of the country, the same ethnic groups, language, and culture as Bujumbura.) He went there and prayed and started looking for a person of peace. After he got off the bus, he told someone, “I want to connect with somebody who is a pastor in this area,” and was taken to the pastor of a local church.

The pastor told him, “I don’t have time to talk to people right now, because I’m going to a hotel. But maybe next time we meet I’ll have time.”

So Oliver said, “Okay, show me the hotel. Maybe I’ll sleep there tonight.” When he went to the hotel, he met Mbonyeyesu, who worked as a night security guard at the hotel. He stayed and chatted with Mbonyeyesu and started sharing with him.

After a while, Mbonyeyesu asked him, “Can you come to my house and talk with my wife as well?” Mbonyeyesu brought Oliver to his house and they started to do Discovery Bible  Study  together.  Mbonyeyesu  said,  “I feel I understand Scripture better, now that we are doing a Discovery Bible Study. I want to spend more time learning together so I’ll know more about Jesus.”

Soon Mbonyeyesu and his wife had a number of women coming to the house to discuss Bible stories, including some stories especially appropriate for women. Those stories helped the women understand the Bible’s message.

After four months of growing in the Lord, Mbonyeyesu had planted 20 churches in that area. His daughter, Niyokwizera Nicole, married a man named Revenian. When Revenian married her, she had already planted two churches. They went to the southern part of the province and started a Discovery Bible group there, which multiplied and became 68 new groups.

By 2016, they had 17 generations of groups in Makamba, and Revenian began outreach in an area where Pygmies live. We had a small water filter project in the community of Pygmies, and Revenian said, “I can go with them, because I live not far from them. I feel I can serve in this community.”

We teach people how to use the water filters, so we spend 21 days in someone’s house making the water filter. The people we have trained to make water filters are  storytellers—very  effective  at  sharing  stories. The storytellers spent all those days sharing stories among the Pygmies, and Revenian remained in the community to help them multiply. He met a  Pygmy lady named Pelagie, who lives in part of Nyanza-Lac.

She received Revenian and started doing Discovery Bible Study with him. Pelagie’s husband also came to Jesus and started to influence other people. Together, Pelagie and her husband planted 36 new churches.

Those churches have multiplied to 23 generations, for   a current total of 618 churches planted in communities among  the  Pygmies  in  the  area  of   Nyanza-Lac. The Pygmies in Nyanza-Lac went and reached a different group of Pygmies in Kabonga, near the border of Tanzania,  where 75 churches have now been planted,  in three generations. This group from Revenian and Pelagie has also sent people into the Province of Rutana (Burundi), where they have already planted six new churches. Pygmies feel most comfortable communicating with other Pygmies.

The community in Nyanza-Lac also sent a worker to Kigoma, Tanzania, and seven churches have already been planted there among the Sukuma people.

We recently went and did internal qualitative audits to help these leaders check on the DNA of the disciples and group leaders in these places where the Lord has brought fresh harvest.

This is an article from the January-February 2023 issue: Cascading Gospel: Movements Starting Movements

Further Reflections

Purpose of God?

Further Reflections
Since you are reading this column, you are likely passionate about the cutting edge of the Gospel among the unreached. I wonder if you—like me— sometimes come to the Scriptures to find passages to “use” to justify our missions service and motivate others. It makes us feel better about what we are doing! But one of the biggest problems with that approach is that we miss other significant truths within the biblical story, because we are blinded by trying to justify ourselves.
 
If we consider the broader biblical story from Genesis 3 through Revelation 20, the focus is on God working with frail humans to find a way to dwell with us again. The amazing thing is that He does not give up! It turns out that the God of the Old Testament isn’t actually vengeful, as some complain; He just cannot dwell with sin. Yet, when we fail, He does not give up.
 
Have you wondered why?
 
The greatest reason is described when God speaks to Moses in Exodus. The role of the Exodus in    the biblical story can easily be underemphasized. Many scholars believe that John had Exodus on  his mind when he wrote his Gospel. Unlike Moses, who saved Israel from bondage in Egypt, but who failed and thus could not enter the land, Jesus did not fail. He built the bridge we can cross to restore our relationship with God. Because of that, God can and will dwell with us again—as Revelation 21-22 powerfully makes clear.
 
After the people of Israel leave Egypt, Exodus outlines the way God is  establishing  the  nation of Israel—with a structure for how to live and be governed. This includes the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20) and other laws after them. In chapter 34, while Moses is speaking with God again, God interrupts the conversation because people have just broken the first two commandments! God would be justified to destroy them, as He suggests to Moses. Moses offers himself in exchange for the people.
 
This exchange with Moses—who pleads for the people and for God’s presence to go with them— is profound. I encourage you to meditate on that afresh, starting in Exodus 31:18 (Watch for five times Moses pleads with God).
 
In chapter 34, God tells Moses to meet Him in the morning, alone, with two new tablets. Here He describes what His name means:
The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him  there  and  proclaimed  the  name  of the Lord. The Lord  passed  before  him  and proclaimed, “[YHWH] a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation” (Ex. 34:5–7, ESV, tetragrammaton substituted).1
And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped.

As we read the rest of the Scriptures, phrases from this passage are repeated over and over. In fact, this is the most quoted passage within the O.T. itself. Perhaps the best example comes from James, who likely understood the Old Testament better than we ever will…and Exodus 34 was clearly in his mind.2 James 5:11 says:

you have seen the Lord’s purpose, that the Lord is full of compassion and mercy. (Emphasis as in NETBible.org.)

I had never noticed that before. I don’t usually connect  purpose   with  compassion  and  mercy.   I challenge you to meditate on that, as you memorize Exodus 34:1-8, especially 5-8.

I hope my reason for writing this is clear: the love of God is our motivation for all that we do in our relationships with our family, our neighborhood, and our mission work. I suggest you examine yourself and ask: “Does everything I do have a foundation of God’s love?”

Endnotes
  1. 1 This does not mean that children are judged for their father’s sins per se. Other passages clearly link individual judgement to the disobedience of each person. See Exodus 20:5-6, showing a link between judgment on those who hate God, and love to those who love Him. Jeremiah 32:16-19 quotes Exodus 34 and concludes with …rewarding each one according to his ways and according to the fruits of his deeds.See also Deut. 5:9-10.

  2. 2 The reference in the NET Bible says this is an allusion to Ex. 34:6; Neh. 9:17; Pss.. 86:15; 102:13; Joel 2:13; Jon. 4:2.
    Many more passages could be included.

This is an article from the January-February 2023 issue: Cascading Gospel: Movements Starting Movements

Unreached of the Day January-February 2023

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

Unreached of the Day January-February 2023

Click on the .pdf icon within this article to read the Unreached of the Day.

This is an article from the January-February 2023 issue: Cascading Gospel: Movements Starting Movements

Lean into Chaos—It’s Often Where God Is Greatly at Work

Lean into Chaos—It’s Often Where God Is Greatly at Work

We opened our email and read the notice. The American Consulate in India was advising all American citizens to leave the country. Threat levels were high, as the conflict between India and Pakistan escalated. In 1998, these two nations had both become nuclear powers. In 2017 and 2018, threats and border skirmishes increased between the two nations. The email came. American citizens were being advised to leave the nation. Our government could no longer be responsible for our safety.

Reading the notice, my husband and I quietly discussed it. We had three small children to consider. What about them? Tucking our sweet five-year-old, blond-headed boy into bed, I smoothed his hair back as he drifted off to sleep. Was it fair to put his little life at risk? How serious was the danger?

Ministry in the area was growing. We felt bonded with our Indian friends and colleagues. They didn’t have the option of leaving. Was it right for us to do so?

We consulted with our mission. They gave us the freedom to make our own choice about what to do; we were to follow God’s leading and our conscience. Being an agency that had a good number of national staff, it was handled differently than for fully foreign organizations. Talking to missionary friends, several reported they’d been told by their organizations to leave as soon as possible.

Going to God in prayer, peace filled our hearts.  We were to stay. Within six months, the evacuation order was lifted and a cease-fire agreement between the two nations was signed. We breathed a sigh of relief, grateful that we had chosen to stay. Our doing so had bonded us in unique ways to those we had come to reach.

Fight or Flight

Fight or flight are two common physical and mental responses to stress. Fight. We face the threat head- on, ready to engage in battle. Flight. We run from the threat, escaping it and finding a place of safety.

Our  world  is  a   place   of   increasing   turmoil. A war between Russia and Ukraine causes concern about nuclear threats around the  world.  While  the COVID-19 pandemic is no longer as deadly   as it was, it is far from gone. Floods, hurricanes, and other natural disasters bring loss of life and property, making headline news.

How should a disciple-maker and Jesus follower respond? Is it fight or flight? Perhaps neither. God is often amazingly at work in chaos and turmoil. God leans into chaos and so must we.

5 Ways to Lean into Crisis

Consider the following five choices in the midst of chaos and crisis. The decisions we make in troubled times can lead to significant kingdom advance. It can cause the multiplication of disciples and the launch of new movements.

1 Choose to stay—those who stay present in crisis often see the greatest impact.

Don’t read me wrong. I’m not saying you always have to stay when there is a serious threat to life and limb. It’s a decision every person and family must prayerfully make before the Lord. We see biblical examples of both staying (Acts 4:21-31) and leaving (2 Cor. 11:32-33). Our default, however, should not be to leave. Instead, we must train ourselves to lean in. We need to recognize the opportunities crisis provides for the light of the Gospel to shine brightly.

There is a cost involved in staying, in leaning in.   I cannot minimize that. Trauma and a significant drain on mental and physical health are realities in a crisis. However, the glory of God shines brightly in these times, and many are drawn to Jesus as we offer that gift: the gift of presence to those we serve. And so we lean in.

2 Choose to advance—moving toward crisis rather than away from it.

The tsunami that struck Indonesia in 2004 is forever etched in my mind. As it struck so suddenly, many dear friends and colleagues fled to the top of a mountain, barely escaping with their lives. Over 200,000 people died that day. Following the tragedy, our colleagues worked with government and army staff to bag bodies for days on end. It was not easy. Not easy at all. In that time though, unprecedented doors flung open for the Gospel to spread.

I remembered this on a call with a mentor a few months back. “Do you know any DMM-minded people going into Ukraine?” he asked. What about YWAM? Who is there and how can we train them to start DMMs there? He recognized the opportunity within the crisis. My mentor wanted to spur me, and anyone else he could find, into responding.

A few hours later, we together made a call to someone I’m training in the United Kingdom. “Ian,” he asked, “What are you doing about Ukraine?”

Will we lean into these kinds of opportunities to minister the two hands of the Gospel? Not only to bring relief but to share the message of Christ? If we don’t, we may miss the chance to partner with God in what He is doing. And so we lean in.

3 Choose to believe God is working in the midst of tragedy.

Most of us can quote Romans 8:28. We’ve preached sermons on it. When lives are at risk, bridges are burning, or hospitals overflow with sick and dying, we are put to the test. Do we believe that all things work together for good? Faith is a gift from God. It is also a choice we make. In the midst of crisis, we choose to believe that God is sovereignly in control. We place our hope in a God who is able to bring about incredible good out of horrible events. It’s what He does. One of the good things He so often does is to draw people to Himself in these times. Hearts are soft and open. And so we lean in.

4 Choose to let go of old norms and wineskins.

Crisis times have a way of destroying the old and making way for the new. During the COVID-19 pandemic,  church  buildings  across  the  globe had to close. We  were  forced  to  meet  at  home or online if we were to meet at all. It was an unwanted change of the primary wineskin  we used to gather as a body. Today, we are mostly past that. What have we learned? How have we grown? Are any of those new wineskins to remain? So many have quickly reverted to the old, preferring to go backward instead of forward.

Part of leaning in is letting go. It’s listening and discerning what God might be releasing in the midst of the difficulty. And so we lean in.

It may be hidden, but it is there. Receive it. Lean into God with open hands and open heart, ready   to  accept  God’s  somewhat  mysterious   gifts:  the kind He gives in the darkest of times. Jesus compared the kingdom of God to a pearl of great price. Those priceless treasures are often given in times of difficulty and pain. Deep friendships, the revelation of new experientially understood truth from His Word, unusual miracles and supernatural encounters...these are a few of the hidden treasures that can be found. And with it, the joy of seeing many lost people swept into His kingdom. And so we lean in.

The 17th century in England was a time of great social upheaval, civil war, and political crisis. In this environment, revivalists George Whitefield and Charles Wesley emerged. Revival swept the nation. Between 1738 and 1791, 1.35 million people put their faith in Christ.1 These men leaned into crisis and partnered with what God was doing.

May we be courageous enough to do the same. Our willingness to lean in may result in hundreds, if not thousands, of new movements being catalyzed across the globe.

Endnotes
  1. 1 romans1015.com/british-great-awakening

This is an article from the January-February 2023 issue: Cascading Gospel: Movements Starting Movements

Great News: Movements are Starting New Movements

Great News: Movements are Starting New Movements

I often tell people, “My job is to hear about the incredible works of God and proclaim the incredible works of God. That’s a pretty unbeatable job.” Sometimes when speaking to a group, I tell them, “I’m going to give you some good news: the kind of news you almost never find on the internet or on TV. Most of what’s out there is bad news. Scary news. Irritating news. I’ve got news that is thrilling!”

Kingdom movements (four or more generations of churches planting churches, in multiple streams) are happening outside the direct personal experience of most of us. We didn’t come to faith in a movement and we’ve not catalyzed a movement. We know missionaries who have labored faithfully for many years and not seen a movement result. Some of us (myself included) are, or have been, workers who saw some fruit among the unreached, but nothing resembling a movement. As a result, the whole idea of catalyzing a movement can have an aura of mystery about it.

We may have learned about how movements begin, and tried implementing the seven “High Value Activities,” but not yet seen a movement result.

That can lead some to questions: “Is  there  a  secret ingredient for catalyzing a movement?”  “Do movements only happen in certain places— places where I’m not?” Recent research has given us more information about how and where new movements are starting. Some of the  answers  may be surprising, and call for adjustments in our attitudes and efforts toward seeing all of earth’s peoples impacted with the Gospel.

It turns out that 80–90% of currently existing movements have been started by other movements!

Just five years ago, the January-February 2018 issue of Mission Frontiers, with its theme “Are You In?”, introduced the global 24:14 Coalition (2414now. net). This group of CPM practitioners has grown and matured in the few years  since  its  launch. It includes house church movements from South Asia, Muslim-background movements from the 10/40 window, mission sending agencies, church- planting networks in post-modern regions, established churches and many other groups.

The editorial of the 2018 issue  described  a “New Paradigm—Multiplying Movements,” giving the encouraging fact  that  “In  over  600  areas  and peoples, disciples are making disciples and churches are planting churches faster than the growth in population.” In the five years since then, the number of known movements has more than tripled: to 1967! Some of those movements already existed in 2018 and have more recently become known to the 24:14 database. Hundreds of others have newly crossed the threshold to more than four generations, to be counted as Church Planting Movements. And we’ve discovered a key reason for that phenomenal increase: movements are not only multiplying disciples, churches, and leaders. Movements are also multiplying movements.


The “Are You In?” issue described some known first fruits  of  this  reality,  with  three  vignettes  of   “Movements   Multiplying    Movements.” We’ve now learned that this phenomenon is happening in hundreds of places, as disciples carry the good news across various boundaries (cultural, ethnic, linguistic and/or geographic) to people groups who still need to hear.

In this issue, we’re blessed to be able to offer you  a few security-sensitive glimpses into some ways God is accomplishing this multiplication through his servants. Our lead article, “Cascading Gospel: Movements Starting Movements,” gives some background behind this phenomenon, along with five missiological problems and how movements- starting-movements brings answers to these problems. The article “Movements Spreading as God Leads His Children” testifies of the Lord leading disciples to take  the  Gospel  across  boundaries  of geography, ethnicity and  nationality,  resulting in generational multiplication of disciples and churches. “DMM Jumps to Another Desert Tribe” illustrates how even relatively new believers and churches are bringing good news to those that many would consider very hard to reach. In “Look Where You have Cousins,” we see how Spirit-led strategizing with prayer and fasting led to numerous open doors for Gospel advance. We also see how careful observation and analysis brought multiplied fruit among proximate (nearby) unreached peoples. Recognizing the Spirit’s work in organic cross-cultural outreach is bringing increased intentionality in watching for opportunities to bring the Gospel to proximate peoples.

“Disciple Making Movement Jumps to Another Continent” describes a long leap in movement multiplication—the kind of jump-over that only God’s Spirit could have planned. “Cloud by Day Fire by Night” testifies of the importance of “listening to and obeying the voice of the Holy Spirit on every occasion, rather than depending on or presuming that a pattern or method which worked last time would be appropriate in the next opportunity.” This family of multiplying movements in hard places shares six categories of questions they ask, then “wait for an answer from the Holy Spirit and God’s Word that fits the context and is confirmed in all of our hearts.”

The article “Multiplying Movements through Organic Growth” describes the organic expansion that has allowed this family of movements to multiply into numerous ethnic groups and nations. Through careful analysis of the Spirit’s work, they share with us the movement-multiplying social patterns and empowerment dynamics that have made possible tremendous multiplication of movements in their region. “How Long to Reach the Goal?” analyzes data on movements over the past 30 years and considers possibilities for the future in light of that data. “What Must be Done?” then wraps up our theme section with consideration of possible roles God’s Spirit might be calling each of us to play, in light of His amazing work in our day.

We have the privilege of living in a time when God’s kingdom is forcefully advancing  among  the unreached. Challenges are many and threats abound. Yet in the midst of all these, we can praise God for his mighty work among the nations. Often the greatest threat is the apathy or distractedness of God’s own people. As we pray for continued advance to the unreached, we can also pray for faithfulness and a radical focus on Jesus among those who name the name of Christ. And we can offer our own lives afresh as a living sacrifices for his glory. May the Lord move in your heart and mind as you read the exciting news in this issue.
 

This is an article from the January-February 2023 issue: Cascading Gospel: Movements Starting Movements

Mission Mobilizers— A Multifaceted Role in God’s Global Purpose

Mission Mobilizers— A  Multifaceted Role in God’s Global Purpose

What comes to mind when you think of a mission mobilizer? This role is generally understood through a one-dimensional lens (primarily an organizational recruiter), instead of a multifaceted role in God’s global purposes. It is common to understand being a mobilizer for a short season of ministry, while rare to find mobilizers remaining faithful decade after decade. A major reason is the lack of comprehensive understanding of a mobilizer. Calling the global Church to grow in her core identity as a multiplying, reproducing, missionary community requires multitudes of mobilizers being identified, trained, and empowered.

A Misunderstood Role


Mission  mobilizers are a misunderstood   role in Christian ministry. We understand a pastor, mission pastor, worship leader, children’s ministry leader, prayer leader, etc. But a mission mobilizer— who is that and what do they do? Ministry in a local church is generally understood as are those directly involved in global evangelism, yet the person bridging this gap is minimized. This appears to be beginning to shift as the Spirit emphasizes mobilization, raising voices (Isa. 40:3) preparing the way of the Lord. These are growing in confidence, though still misunderstood.

Mission mobilizers are in every local church, denomination, and parachurch ministry, often not knowing they have this role. God has sovereignly placed them within His people already. They are pastors, teachers, evangelists, while  others  are  lay leaders and lay people within a community of believers, each one emphasizing God’s redemptive storyline and how every believer can be involved. Many are leaders within denominational structures or church networks, marked by the Lord as His voice to mobilize and equip within these ministry structures.

God Is Raising Isaiah 40 “Voices”


Over 2,500 years ago, the Spirit spoke a prophecy through Isaiah directly applying to the body of Christ today. Isaiah 40:3–5 declares, The voice of one crying in the wilderness: prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill be brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth; the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken. Isaiah reveals a foundational call of the people of God— voices in every generation calling God’s people to their core identity: preparing the way of the Lord.

John the Baptist embodied this calling, preceding the coming of Jesus in the first century. John’s forerunner ministry laid groundwork so Jesus’ purpose could be  accomplished.John proclaims in John 1:23, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness; make straight the way of the Lord. With simplicity, courage, and humility, John became a voice of God in his generation, preparing for Jesus’ first coming. Yet John’s ministry was not the culmination of the Isaiah 40 prophecy. Verse 5 reveals, The glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together. This did not happen during John’s ministry. John’s voice was a key partial fulfillment, yet not the ultimate fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. His was the first fruits of millions of voices God intends to use. The Holy Spirit is searching for similar voices today to prepare the way of the Lord.

The fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy will not be complete until this Isaiah 40 generation comes to maturity, corporately mobilizing the global Church for the fulfillment of the Great Commission. The Holy Spirit is searching for voices in local ministries, small groups, campus ministry fellowships, Bible schools, and more. May we, like John the Baptist, discern our calling as the voice of one crying in the wilderness; make straight the way of the Lord, responding in faith and courage.

Types Of Mobilizers

Mission mobilization is a large, complex, multifaceted entity, with many types of leaders. We have generally lacked awareness of how many are in the category of “mission mobilizer.” It is necessary to identify the wide variety of mobilizer roles. Not all are the same. Some focus on particular functions while other mobilizer types are involved in other areas altogether. Each is necessary, functioning at a high level, to see the global Church become all God intends in mobilization.

In Ephesians 4:11, Paul reveals five core leadership functions Jesus established to equip local ministries. This passage is in context to empowering the global Church to accomplish its calling. These particular gifts are roles serving the global Church. This verse gives a glimpse into the organization and administrative structure of the early Church.1 There were three types of leader functions in the early Church: some whose authority was recognized across the whole church (apostles); some who travelled across many ministries (prophets, evangelists, teachers); and those focused on one local ministry in one place (local church pastors).

According to Paul (4:12), each of the five leadership functions’ ultimate purpose is to equip churches and ministries to grow into mature disciples, discipling ethnic people groups themselves. Thus, we can say the five leadership offices each have an aspect of a mission mobilizer. They can be understood as five different types of mobilizers. It is possible to view God’s big-picture redemptive storyline through the lens of God, Jesus, and Paul as mobilizers. We can go a step further and understand the same about these five leadership functions in Ephesians 4:11. Ministry leadership (when correctly focused on what the Bible and redemptive history are focused on) is for the distinct purpose of equipping God’s communities of believers to be mobilized—educated, inspired, and activated in the Great Commission.

The global Church has fallen into a dangerous practice never intended in Scripture—leaders doing all the work of ministry themselves. Many believers in local ministries are bored, unable  to  express the gifts God has given, because those in public ministry have often misunderstood their function, crossing into the purview of each believer in the local churches.

According to John Stott, this leads to one of three models of a local church. The first is the traditional, pyramid model where the pastor is at the point of the pyramid, while members are within the pyramid in levels of inferiority. This model is foreign to the New Testament. Scripture describes pastors in a shepherding role with every member contributing to the ministry using their gifts. Another model    is a bus. The pastor is driving the bus while the congregation are the passengers, nodding off as they drive to their destination. Different from either of these is the correct biblical model of a local ministry made up of members each possessing a particular function or role.2 We see this in Ephesians 5:19–21 where each member is instructed to bring a psalm, hymn, or spiritual song to the meeting.

Let’s consider these five Ephesians 4:11 mobilizer leaders in the body of Christ, defining what they do, who they serve and how they function.


Pastor-Mobilizer


This type of mobilizer is a pastor or ministry leader overseeing a church or ministry group. This could be a local church, campus ministry fellowship or Bible study leader. The Latin word for “pastor”  is shepherd. God is seeking to raise shepherd mobilizers seeing their primary function in church leadership as mobilizing the flock to be God’s true missionary community, both locally (near cultures) and globally (distant cultures). They mobilize using the platform of their ministry function. This goes beyond recruiting laborers to the macro view of mission mobilization—guiding their ministry together on the journey of being mobilized and equipped. Through their leadership, they encourage growth  and  understanding  in  mission  across  the whole group. Without pastors deliberately functioning in this way, it will be difficult to see those under their leadership engaged in their roles in the Great Commission effectively. Well-known contemporary and historical Pastor-Mobilizers include John Piper, David Platt, Francis Chan, A. T. Pierson (1837–1911), Andrew Murray (1828–1917) and A. J. Gordon (1836–1895).


Apostle-Mobilizer


This leader is usually appointed to oversee a denomination, church network, campus ministry organization, or an area or district of such a ministry structure (overseeing multiple local ministries). They keep the big-picture purpose of their ministry structure’s function in the mission movement at the forefront. As the Greek word apostle refers to a “sent one,” they see themselves as dynamically involved in educating, inspiring, and activating their whole ministry structure in cross-cultural ministry (both within near cultures and distant cultures). God has placed them within a leadership context to equip the local ministries under their leadership to flourish as individual Great Commission ministries. Providing mobilization tools, courses, and resources to the local ministries under their direction, they work to see local ministries educated, inspired, and activated in Great Commission understanding. They see to it that pastors and leadership teams of local ministries are trained to mobilize and equip their ministries. It is rare today to find this type of apostle-mobilizer, yet God is calling many along these lines. Historic examples include Nicolaus Von Zinzendorf (1700– 1760), Samuel J. Mills (1783–1818), Charles Simeon (1759–1836), William Carey (1761–1834), A. B. Simpson (1843–1919), John R. Mott (1865–1955) while contemporary examples include Reuben Ezemadu (Nigeria), Daniel Bianchi (Argentina), Luis Bush (Argentina) and Rick Warren (USA).


Prophet-Mobilizer


This is a leader to whom God reveals specific guidance about particular strategies and insights in mobilization. They speak with authority as ones hearing from God related to pathways forward. Their main task is equipping others to grasp insights related to the plans, purposes, and ways of God in mission. They fellowship deeply with the heart of Jesus, discerning His ways and communicate these with clarity to the churches. They help churches, often bogged down with tunnel vision, to remain focused on the will of God: who they are as Great Commission ministries. It is easy for local ministries to get sidetracked, losing their identity as God’s missionary community. Examples of Prophet- Mobilizers include Raymond Lull (1232–1316), Ralph Winter (1924–2009), Donald McGavran (1897–1990), Roland Allen (1868–1947), Loren Cunningham (USA), and Thuo Mburu (Kenya).


Evangelist-Mobilizer


Many scholars understand an evangelist as the person gifted to do  the  work of evangelism.  Let’s keep in mind the core thought in our Ephesians 4:12 passage—leaders equipping the saints to do the work of ministry. Evangelist-mobilizers, then, equip churches in local and cross-cultural evangelism and mission. They have been specifically trained by God to effectively evangelize and in turn train churches and disciples in outreach.  They  equip  members to  be  “scattered”  to  multiply  new   churches. The evangelist-mobilizer is intensely practical, revealing the “how” of reaping a harvest among a targeted people group, either locally (near culture) or globally (distant culture). Historical evangelist- mobilizers have included John Nevius (1829–1893), David Livingstone (1813–1873), Robert P. Wilder (1863–1938) and Jonathon Goforth (1859–1936), while in contemporary circles George Verwer (UK), David Garrison (USA), David Watson (USA), and David Lim (Philippines) fall into this category.


Teacher-Mobilizer


This may be a local leader within one local church or who travels to teach a grouping of churches in  a geographic area. Their role is opening the Word of God, revealing the will and plan of God from Scripture. They root believers in discipleship, declaring and applying the  whole  message  of  the Gospel of the Kingdom. Teacher-mobilizers practically reveal the multifaceted roles for every believer within the mission movement. Teacher- mobilizers anchor the churches in the overall theme of Scripture—the mobilizer God aligning His global Church with His redemptive purposes in the earth. They connect the dots for believers to see their lives as directly part of God’s story in the earth. This is a crucial role as teachers reveal the redemptive purpose of God in and through salvation history, applying it to our Great Commission context today. Examples include Hudson Taylor (1832–1905), Ajith Fernando (Sri Lanka), Paul Borthwick (USA) Max Chismon (New Zealand), Steve Hawthorne (USA), and Christopher J. H. Wright (USA).

For further articles and podcast episodes on core topics directly related to mission mobilization as well as mobilization tools for mobilizers, please visit https://www.globalmmi.net/

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*Author’s Note—This article has been adapted from the author’s book, Rethinking Global Mobilization: Calling the Church to Her Core Identity. The book lays foundations of a biblical missiology of mobilization while providing a practical frame- work to equip the global Church in mobilization. The publisher, IGNITE Media, has given per- mission for  portions  of  the  book  to  be  used  in this article. Find the book at RethinkingMobilization.com or search for it on Amazon.

This is an article from the January-February 2023 issue: Cascading Gospel: Movements Starting Movements

Cloud by Day, Fire by Night

Cloud by Day, Fire by Night
I’ve spent most of my adult life trying to rekindle what I treasured as a young boy and unlearning what I was taught in school. That’s not to say I don’t appreciate the “school of life,” my Ivy League education, or even growing in mind, body, soul, and spirit at a biblically grounded university. Each of these experiences taught me to explore possibilities, to  think  thoroughly,  and   to   plan   carefully.   My privileged American education also brought with it the implication that if I pursued purpose with great diligence and effort, even being careful to glean from the best practices of others, I would eventually succeed.
 
But on my mother’s knee, at my parents’ dinner table, and in a small Spirit-filled church, I learned something wholly different. It was this: the God of Wonders, who still destroys the work of the evil one and regularly performs miracles, longs to invite us out of our bondage and into His promised land.
 
In 1991, while living as a missionary in Southeast Asia, the conflict between these two worldviews led to a crisis of faith and forced me to reckon with the reality that my own life didn’t match what I learned as a child or the supernatural life I read about  in  the book of Acts. It was difficult to admit, but I was a highly trained, biblically sound, morally strong young Christian leader whose day-to-day life did not resemble the stories of Scripture. Thankfully, in that crisis moment, I met the “God of the Breakthrough” and committed to pore over  Acts  and  dig  deep into the ways of God in the Old  Testament  until  my life and ministry resembled God’s interaction with His chosen people. Years of tests, trials, and disappointments, and being poisoned for my faith, served as a refiner’s fire to shrink my personal ambitions, lessen my dependence on “best practices,” and continually increase my passion to follow Him.
 
Now, 30+ years later, I’ve been asked to carry an assignment I don’t deserve and could never earn—but by His grace and leading, requires that I constantly return to what I was first shown. Today, as a co-founder of one of the world’s largest families of Church Planting Movements—796 languages, 3+ million house churches, and 58+ million adults— younger leaders often ask me questions like: “What are the keys to this kind of fruitfulness?” “Have you written out best practices?” “How did you foster a culture where movements multiply movements?” “How can we replicate what you have seen?”
 
My mind instantly reverts to what I learned as a little boy: that the God of wonders still leads with a cloud by day and a fire by night. Yes, He demands our full obedience and the excellence of honed skills, but He longs even more for us to embrace Him, to discover His ways, and to daily live in covenant with each other so that we learn to listen and radically obey His voice.
 
In fact, looking back, some of the most satisfying moments of my life have come when God has interrupted the best of my plans to connect me with other like-hearted men and women. People who value preparedness and excellence but who also share a common “all in” passion to pursue Jesus and His heart for the nations. Together, we have learned to exchange our models of ministry for a complete dependence on His direction and guidance. Practically, this means that rather than relying on any predictable model, we ask each other questions and prayerfully seek answers.
 
I still vividly remember one afternoon nearly a decade ago when I received a call from a long-time friend, asking if I would consider mobilizing teams to help rescue Middle Eastern minority peoples from ISIS terrorist fighters in Iraq and Syria. We gathered our leadership team from multiple continents and prayed a very simple prayer: “God, are you leading us to rescue people from the evils of ISIS?” Then instead of looking for resources, training leaders, or building systems, we chose to surrender all we had, yielding it into the hands of our Heavenly Father. If He wanted us to join Him in this work, we would need to take our best efforts—see them like “filthy rags”—and exchange them for His divine plan, His revelation, His boldness and courage.
 
After several days of prayer, we each had the sense that the Holy Spirit was not leading us to rely on anything of the past. Instead, He was asking us to offer our lives as a sacrifice. We prayed and asked what we could offer to Jesus for this joint mission.
 
Leaders from numerous movements in Central Asia sensed they should offer their experience in rescuing orphaned children of war. African leaders, along with West Asians, felt impressed to offer training in persecution-proofing new church planting efforts. During this leadership  council  I was then asked if I had “the stomach to lead” our spiritual family of movements in this new endeavor. “What does that mean?” I asked. “You need to be willing to send us into the darkest places and to recognize that if we are to win the nations for Jesus, people will die. If you are not willing to lead us there, then we will not go.”
 
Needless to say, my education  did  not  prepare me for his question. But from my childhood, I remembered the song “I have decided to follow Jesus,” and recalled a book I had read based on Hebrews 11:38—Of Whom the World Was Not Worthy. I heard the words of Revelation 12:11 ring in my heart: They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. What other answer could I give but an unreserved, “Yes!”
 
After further discussion and in keeping with the patterns of Acts 15:28, where it seemed good  to  the Holy Spirit and to us, we made a covenant commitment and sent it out to experienced  Church Planting Movement leaders, asking for their confirmation as well. With more prayer and commitment, volunteers soon began arriving from North Africa, the Middle East, the former Soviet Union, and the Gulf nations.
 
As teams were mobilized, we continued to pray, asking for God’s visible direction. We waited until we sensed power from on high (Acts 1:8) and then began to ask one another questions based on the patterns we had learned together from God’s  Word. Because all of our cultures are so different, each question, discussion and pattern of ministry is always based on the stories and truths gleaned from God’s word. Learning together  from  the  Old Testament, we’ve discovered that the key principle is found in listening to and obeying the voice of the Holy Spirit on every occasion, rather than depending on or presuming that a pattern or method which worked last time would be appropriate in the next opportunity.
 
We’ve learned over time to avoid following the methods which “worked” before, and instead ask questions together, and wait for an answer from the Holy Spirit and God’s Word that fits the context and is confirmed in all our hearts. Most of our questions fit into these six categories:
 
  1. Like the story of Peter and Cornelius, How can we understand where God might be leading and which families might be open to the  move of the Holy Spirit? From this question we deploy research and prayer teams to discern God’s leading and direction.
  2. Like the story of God’s children surrounding the enemy in prayer and worship prior to the battle of Jericho, “Where are there spiritual strongholds of darkness?” has helped us  to send “way-clearing” teams to identify spiritual strongholds.
  3. Like the story of Gideon and his army learning to trust where God is leading, we ask, “Where there seems to be spiritual openness and spiritual darkness, what kind of tools do we need to gather as evangelism teams, to relationally share God’s message to rescue people from evil?”
  4. Like the followers of David at the cave of Adullam, based on the fruitfulness of the prayer, research, way-clearing, and evangelism teams, we ask, “Where shall we send impact teams to share the Gospel? And what type of media tools, rescue operation, or emergency relief is needed?”
  5. Like Joshua and Caleb  reporting  to  Moses, as leaders begin to report difficulties or an openness to the Gospel, our leaders gather and ask, “What kind of experienced church planting teams should be sent to best multiply Church Planting Movements?”
  6. Like Elijah’s school of the prophets, as the churches grow to clusters and then multiply generationally, their leaders begin to request both basic discipleship training and customized training based on local needs. Our leaders ask their peers, “Whom should we send to launch   a leadership training school that begins with spiritual formation and extends over a five-year period to advanced leadership development?”
God honored our willingness to lose everything, our commitment to honor one another above ourselves, and our priority to pray until we could see the confirmation of His leading. We waited until the God of wonders moved with a cloud by day and fire by night. Now, years later, several of my colleagues in ministry are those we were privileged to rescue from the spiritual darkness spread through ISIS fighters. Though many lost their families, their homes, and their earthly future, they have a better home and a family whose builder and maker is God. And through the power of prayer and sacrifice we have seen God multiply His kingdom far beyond what we could ever ask or imagine. The work has spread generationally and from one province to many, from one region to several countries.

This is an article from the January-February 2023 issue: Cascading Gospel: Movements Starting Movements

DMM Jumps to Another Desert Tribe

DMM Jumps to Another Desert Tribe
Five years ago, you could count believers among the Tuaregs in Niger on your fingers. Now there are hundreds. God’s face is turning toward the Sahel. Although this tribe has been overlooked for a long time, the Gospel   is now spreading rapidly among them, already at two generations of churches. The second generation are even more active than the first in reaching out beyond natural or normal places.
 
We discovered there is an oral Bible in their mother tongue (Tamashak), and after discovering God through Scripture in their own language a group of young Tuaregs received Christ, which was very empowering for them. Fifty of these young Tuaregs were working for Arabs, tending their herds. The day after they received Christ, they were visibly joyful when they went to their workplace.
 
The boss asked them: “Why are you so happy today?”
 
They said, “We discovered Jesus! We are all Christians.”
 
The boss asked, “You are Christians?”
 
They said, “Yes.”
 
He responded: “You are all fired. We don’t want you working here. We can’t continue to work with somebody who is a Christian.”
T
hey said, “Okay,” and went back home joyful.
 
Their parents had also come to faith in Christ. They said, “No problem. We’ll have you take care of our cattle.”
 
When the young men went the next day to water their families’ animals, the boss was there at the well.
 
He asked, “What are you doing here? We fired you!”
 
They said, “These animals belong to our parents. We just want to get water for them.”
 
The boss said, “No. There’s no way that you as Christians can have water from a well dug by a Muslim leader.”
 
So they went back home. Their  parents  told  them,  “It’s okay. Jesus will take care of us.”
 
The next time I visited, one of the chiefs said to me, “Hasan, we have a problem here,” and he explained it to me. Then he added: “But we prayed, and we remembered what you told us about the story of the woman at the well. Jesus promised that if you believe in him, there will be a source of water. We believe a source of water will come. We prayed, and this is what we believe. Do you want to join us in prayer?”
 
 
This was a very hard question for me to answer. These were new believers in the desert, believing that water would come, when they had been denied water because of Christ. I took a big step of faith to say, “Yes, let’s pray together,” and we asked God to provide a source of water.
 
When I returned to my home base in Niamey, I received a message saying, “Somebody has found some funds for digging a well. Do you have a place where people are really in need of water?”
 
I said, “Yes! Tomorrow I will go back there,” (though it was a trip of 1200 kilometers). “Keep your money, but send me those who are drilling wells. We want water.”
 
Less than six months later, when water came, the young men who had been fired went to the Arab camp and told them: “We want you to know that Jesus dug a well for us: not just one, but two. These wells are for Christians, for Muslims, and even for those who have no religion— because Jesus died for all people.”
 
During a training after that, I asked them during a break about the state of their relationship with these Arabs. They said, “It is good. When the wells were finished, we went to see them and told them that the wells are there, with no restrictions on their use.”
 
I said, “This is provocation! Why are you telling them, ‘You denied us water, but now we have water available for free?’”
 
They said, “It’s not provocation. We went with a good heart. We don’t want to cut off any relationship with them because they tried to get rid of us. We want them also to discover Jesus. It’s not just for this group. We are aiming for all the other Arabs in Northern Niger. We know that if they become believers, they have more opportunities than us to reach their own people. This is why we want to maintain a relationship with them.
 
Now these young men have started three churches among the Arabs. I don’t know of any other Arab church in Niger besides the Arab churches planted by these Tuaregs. Actually, they started one church, and an Arab in one of those churches said, “We want to take this message of the Gospel to some other camps.” This is how it’s spreading. So I believe in the power of DMM and DMM principles, especially when people are connected with God.
 
As we develop leaders, we make sure they are connected with God through prayer, worship, and reading the Bible. We encourage them to worship God in their own way, in their local language. We want them to connect with people around them, opening opportunities to find the person of peace and continue the work. They are not just disciples, but harvesters. They want to take the Gospel not only to their own people, but also to neighboring groups. We now have some taking the news to countries to the north. This is the Lord’s doing.
 

This is an article from the January-February 2023 issue: Cascading Gospel: Movements Starting Movements

How Long to Reach the Goal?

Movement engagements in every unreached people and place by 2025 (36 months)

How Long to Reach the Goal?
Since 2015, I have been laboring to document the spread of rapidly multiplying movements around the world. As of 2022, over 1% of the world’s population are disciples of Jesus in such movements: at least 114 million people in 8.5 million churches, found in 1,967 movements.
 
Additionally, 3,500 teams are working to start  more movements, steadily aiming toward the promise found in Matthew 24:14—…this Gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world, as a witness to all nations…
 
The goal of the 24:14 Coalition has been “to engage every unreached people and place with an effective kingdom movement strategy by December 31, 2025.” How close are we? Are we likely to meet or even exceed the goal?
 
As part of my research, I have collected data on which languages in which provinces have teams aiming to catalyze a movement. I have tracked how fast new teams are being sent. Based on the compilation of that data, it appears that having teams engaging every language in every province by 2025 isn’t likely. However, while I am mildly pessimistic about reaching that goal by 2025, I am very optimistic about seeing it reached within my lifetime. I strongly believe that somewhere between movements in many places.
 
Here’s why.
 
Thirty-five years ago, movements were largely catalyzed by the combined work of an outside catalyst (a “missionary”) and an inside near-culture believer. We  see this origin story behind nearly   all the movement families. However, for most movements being founded today, this is no longer the case. New movements are mainly being started by existing movements.
 
This makes sense when we consider that movements in 2022 are comprised of thousands–even millions– of disciples who have been spiritually raised in   an environment that takes for granted that each believer: 1) follows Jesus, 2) teaches others to follow Jesus, and 3) reaches out to non-believers, inviting them to follow Jesus.
 
These disciples can go to unreached places where no Westerner can go. These places are, for them, just next door, down the road, or over the hill. And they can do this faster because they don’t usually have to learn a new language or culture. Not only can they go more easily, but they are also going intentionally. Their own movements began out of a vision to reach the un-reached, so it’s perfectly natural for them to intention- ally send teams of believers to nearby unreached peoples, and use their already-lived methodology to start new movements among those groups.
 
Over 90% of the new movements started in  the past five to 10 years have been started by teams sent out from these movements—without any Western cross-cultural workers involved. This  has  resulted in a phenomenal multiplication of sending.  While, as I said, I do not believe we will see teams in every language and place by 2025, I do believe that goal will be reached shortly thereafter. I believe this because we can see the fruit of this multiplication already.
 
We have collected data on the total growth of individual movements in five-year increments from 1995 to 2025. This data set is not completely comprehensive. It is the “floor” not the “ceiling,” but it is large enough to give us a sense of the overall direction and speed of growth.
In 1995, we knew of close to 10,000 disciples in movements. Today, we know of well over 114 million. This means there have been four “10X growth points” when the number of disciples in movements had grown by 10 times:
 
From 1995 to 2000, grew from 10,000 to over 100,000 disciples
 
From 2000 to 2005, from 100,000 to over 1 million
 
From 2005 to 2015, from 1 million to over 10 million
 
From 2015 to today, from 10 million to more than 114 million
 
This is an average annual growth rate of 23%, with the number of believers doubling on average every 3.5 years!
 
It is dangerous to predict the future. I have often quoted the old Wall Street disclaimer: “Past performance  is  no  guarantee  of  future  results.”  I know many things could potentially derail growth. However, consider the context of the past 30 years: wars, rumors of wars, pandemic disease, severe persecution, hostility from many traditional churches—in fact, pretty much everything we read in Matthew 24. I do not cite that famous passage to suggest I believe we are living in the end times. As anyone who knows me can attest, I resist eschatological predictions.
 
I am only saying that phenomenal growth in movements has occurred in the midst of, in spite of, and sometimes amplified by all these Black Swans.
 
If we estimate that what movements have done over the past 35 years, they are likely to continue doing for the next 25—on to 2050—what would the result be? A simple extrapolation of the growth trends would lead to two more points of 10X growth: one in 2035 and the other in 2045.
 
By 2040, a 23% annual growth rate would equal 4.2 billion disciples in movements.
 
By 2045, a 23% annual growth rate would equal 12 billion disciples.
 
The first would lead to a population of believers that is more than double Christianity’s 2022 total, and the second would exceed the world’s total estimated population for 2050.
 
Some might throw up their hands at such numbers. Why bring it up, when the numbers are obviously impossible, since one cannot have more disciples than there are people in the world? I address  this not because the numbers are possible but because   of the on-the-ground reality the numbers point to— that movements are filling up the places where they presently are. As they do, they are sending new teams go to “the next door” places—many of which are over harder boundaries. Each place that movements are entering, they are filling up. As a result, they are learning, rapidly, to cross successively harder cultural, linguistic, and political lines on the map.
 
While we recognize from Scripture that not everyone will follow Jesus (the gate is narrow…) our goal must be to share the Gospel with every person and family and group and pray that none would perish but all come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9). Some people groups are a reported 95% evangelical. We aim for 100%, knowing that this is not likely. BUT what lesser goal should we aim for? Ultimately, only God knows the dynamics of these situations, so we trust him to sort it out.
 
Will this happen everywhere? William Gibson once famously said, “The future is here—it’s just not evenly distributed yet.” The same could be said of movements. There are a lot of believers in movements in certain parts of the world, and fewer in others. In some countries, multiplying the current number of disciples in movements by 10 would bring the country to over 100% Christian. In others, multiplying by 10 would still leave the movement as a small percentage of the country.
 
By comparing the populations  of  each  country  to the number of disciples in the country, we can estimate the number of 10X increments required  to get past—or at least very near—the line of 100% Christian.
 
To see what I mean, consider a fictitious country of “Versa.” It has a population of 100,000. If one were to start with one believer, five 10X multiplications would be required to reach nearly 100%: 10, 100, 1,000, 10,000, and 100,000.
 
Due to security, I cannot name specific countries. But we can break down the world’s countries as follows:
 
39 have movements that need only one 10X for the country to be reach 100% Christian (based on the movement’s size alone, not any other Christians in the country); 90 need two 10X multiples; 50 need three 10X multiples; 27 need four 10X multiples; 17 need five 10X multiples, and four are less than one 10X away from completion. On average, each 10X multiplication currently requires a decade.
 
If we continue in the same vein, thirty years—three 10X multiplications—would be enough to bring 179 countries to the range of 100% Christ-followers through the efforts of multiplying movements alone— not including any other “Christians” of any other kinds.
In 30 years—one generation – a dramatic change in the world could bubble to the surface.
 
Is this possible? Lest we think 30 years is a long time and wonder whether movements have that kind of staying power, consider that the oldest movement in the world has been around for 35 years and is now estimated to be tens of millions of disciples disciples in size.
 
Will this work actually impact the unreached or— as with most Christian work—will it mainly affect countries that are at least marginally Christianized? Many of the 47 unreached countries (look at any list of countries that are less than 8% Christian by most global measures) are among these 179 that would require only  three  10X  multiplications.  As noted earlier, movements can more easily send to “nearby, down the road” unreached groups—and are intentionally doing so.
 
How many unreached groups  could  be  reached by these movements? How might we measure this question?
 
I analyzed what we presently know about the deployment of movement teams. While we know quite a bit more than when the 24:14 Coalition began in 2017, the “language-and-place” information about movement deployments is still thin, so this is a minimalist analysis. Despite that caveat, here’s how the data stacks up. My database lists 4,098 provinces. Of these, 517 are known to be engaged by a movement-catalyst team (not necessarily at movement stage yet).
 
An additional 785 provinces directly border an engaged province—for example, Oklahoma shares a border with Texas. So, if we propose that a province is in reach if they are “next door” to a province that is currently engaged, then over a third of the world’s provinces are either engaged or conceivably within reach of a movement team right now. (And many of those provinces are actually on the border of more than one engaged province—meaning resources could be brought to bear from multiple avenues.)
To focus on the remaining task, we know of a total of 935 provinces in the countries that are less than 8% Christian (a rough measure of the least reached areas of the world). Uttar Pradesh is one well known example, with published case studies and books and the like. Of those 935, 215 are known  to be engaged, and a further 315 are in range (in this model, for example, all the provinces bordering UP). This means 45% of the provinces of the least- reached places of the world are right now known either to be already engaged or engageable by near- culture movement teams (and again, this is what we know—more is certainly happening).
 
I have heard plenty of stories from movements in the field of sending people to the next province, to the next people group, or even over the border to the next country.
Many of them have asked me specifically for “gap lists” so they know where to intentionally send teams. These movements are eager to engage the lost.
 
In most of these countries, most of these believers are deep underground. If the movement numbers are in the right order of magnitude—and I have   no reason to doubt they are1—then the published estimates of percent Christian for many places are off by an order of magnitude.
 
Lately, movement leaders have shared anecdotal stories of government leaders in countries discovering large numbers of Christians in their communities. Some of these stories have been in the context of election campaigns, as election workers went house to house to mobilize the vote.
 
There are also multiple reports of both government and religious leaders warning about the significant growth of Christians and often calls for violent opposition to this trend. Global researchers—not just myself, but others—have asked, “When will you become visible?” and have been told, “When there are so many of us that nothing can be done about it anymore.”
 
I am reminded of a line from The Lord of the Rings, “A thing is about to happen that has not happened since the elder days. The Ents are going to wake up and find that they are strong.” I suspect something very similar will play out in the next generation,  in many places around Africa and Asia. When people realize the number of Christ-followers that are around, quite a few significant dynamics could play out. It would probably be futile to try to predict what those will be. There will be amazing stories of turnings to Christ and there will also be painful stories of violence, repression, and martyrdom.
 
We love Habakkuk’s promise that one day, The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea (Hab. 2:14). It does seem we are in a time when the waters are rising. I know history has seen times of advance and times of retreat. I pray we will labor to help believers around the world—and especially movements around the world—to fuel their current expansion and remove any barrier that might hinder this glorious spread.
Endnotes
  1. 1 See, for example, my article “How Movements Count,” Mission Frontiers, May/June 2020 (p. 40), http://www missi.onfrontiers.org/pdfs/MF42-3_WebR.pdf.

This is an article from the January-February 2023 issue: Cascading Gospel: Movements Starting Movements

Cascading Gospel: Movements Starting Movements

Cascading Gospel: Movements Starting Movements

God is on the move! He is starting Church Planting Movements (CPMs), the only ministry approach in which kingdom growth exceeds population growth, while also transforming societies from within—in holistic and financially sustainable ways. In CPMs, disciples multiply disciples, churches multiply churches, and leaders multiply leaders. We are  also learning that movements multiply movements! A survey of leaders representing over 1500 CPMs showed that 80–90% of movements have been started by other movements. These movements  are cascading from their initial peoples and places into other peoples and places, both near and far. And these movements are our best hope under God to fulfill the Great Commission in our lifetime.

Matthew 28:19 records Jesus’ command to make disciples of all ethnē. And we know from Revelation 7:9 that there will be a vast multitude from every tribe and language and people and ethnē worshipping God before God’s  throne.  ALL.  EVERY. We don’t know when this will happen, but we do know this is God’s plan.

I use the Greek world ethnē because the common translation “nation” often causes people to think of political nation-states instead of ethno-linguistic nations. But seeing the church established in a political nation is not enough.

I was born in Indonesia, where my parents were missionaries and served during an amazing movement of God in 1966-68, when an estimated two million Javanese Muslims came into the church.1 Years later, my wife and I were praying about our call to missions. Where did God want us to go? We felt an urging from God to serve those in greatest need of the Gospel.

Due to the millions of Indonesian Christians, I saw no need for pioneer efforts there. Imagine my surprise to realize an estimated 121 million Indonesians were part of 200+ Unreached People Groups (UPGs)! In 1996, Indonesian leaders gathered to consider the Great Commission need within Indonesia. Significant collaborative advances were made in prayer, research and mobilization. Within just five years, the number of Indonesian UPGs being served by Gospel workers grew from only 21 to over 100! Amazing and sacrificial effortsm were made in the centuries prior and the years after 1996, but 28 years ago there were 121 million unreached Indonesians and today there are 192.5 million unreached Indonesians.

In 1996 and afterward, our motivation was right, our desire was great, tremendous prayer and mobilization happened, and many people made great sacrifices. But we made a fundamental mistake. We thought sending workers to all these groups would result in reaching them. But the vast majority of us used traditional methods to try to reach groups that had been either resistant or cut off from the Gospel for centuries. We saw some bright spots, but for the most part we failed to make enough impact to offer real hope of reaching these groups.

Around the world, there has been an upsurge in attention to the unreached in the last 30 years. But the results are not better.

  • 2.25 billion (28%) of the world’s people do not have access to the Gospel.2
  • 3.37 billion (42.5%) of the world’s people are members of the world’s 7,415 Unreached People Groups3.
  • Only 18.3% of non-Christians personally know a Christian,4 and if current trends continue, that will grow to only 20% by 2050! How can they hear unless someone tells them?

And the problem is more complicated than just these facts.

Problem #1: We need to count up before we can count down.

One danger among some Great Commission thinkers is the desire to count down. We want to determine the number  of  groups  who  need  to  be reached, then mark them off our list—based   on certain markers of activities as opposed to outcomes. But our goal is the Gospel for every person and multiplying churches that saturate and transform every community within that people/ language/tribe/ethnē.

We almost certainly have more segments than just 7415 UPGs to reach. Some strategists estimate needing a movement effort for each segment of 100,000 people. One engagement for every segment of 100,000 people among 3.37 billion Unreached People Groups would be a minimum of 33,700 segments. When you add to “peoples” their “places” (such as the 43,000 world’s districts), the increase in complexity is daunting. If each district averages three segments, that could be 120,000 places in need of movements.

Answer: Movements are cascading into multiple people and places around  them.  With the DNA of every disciple being a disciple maker and close cultural affinity to the peoples around them, they are far better suited to reach them.

Problem #2: Some “single” people groups are actually multiple groups (they are waffles, not pancakes).

Jesus did not tell us to disciple a few individuals, but  to  disciple   entire   ethnē.   The   Greek   word ethnos (singular of ethnē) is defined as “a body of persons united by kinship, culture, and common traditions, nation, people.”5 Revelation 5:9 and 7:9 round out the picture of the ethnē who will be reached, adding three more descriptive terms: tribes, peoples, and languages—various groups with common identities.

In our urgency to simplify the task, for mobilization and strategy, we have  lost  some  wisdom  from the early pioneers  of  the  unreached  concept.  The Lausanne 1982 people group taskforce stated: for evangelistic purposes it is “the largest group within which the Gospel can spread as a church planting movement without encountering barriers of understanding or acceptance.”6

Here’s one specific example. In the 1990s, a research team led by Marvin Leech discovered that the Jawa (Javanese) people group, which had millions of believers and was counted as one large “reached” people group, was almost certainly at least eight distinct people groups by the Lausanne definition. Three of these groups had between 7–10% Evangelical Christians while five of them were less than 1% Christian. Obviously, barriers existed between the 10% Christian Jawa Negarigung and the 0.1% Christian Jawa Pesisir Lor. Counting them as one Jawa people group greatly neglected the five groups who were unreached.

Answer: We have seen movements start in all five of the Jawa UPGs in the last 10 years. They were started by movement catalysts from Indonesian and  Javanese  backgrounds.  Much  more  effort  is needed to reach 100+  million  Jawa  people,  but this is a very encouraging start. Also of great importance is that these Jawa movements and other movement practitioners are reaching out and have started multiplying disciples and churches, with movements in 30+ UPGs and some pre-movement fruit in another 40+ UPGs. This same dynamic is happening all over the world! You will read other exciting examples in the rest of this issue.

Problem #3: 2% may be too low.

A history of the term “unreached” shows that prior to 1980, 20% seemed to be the accepted line between reached and unreached. Then in the 1980s, various figures such as 5%, 10%, 20% began to circulate.

In 1995, a committee representing Operation World, Adopt-a-People, IMB, SIL, and AD2000 made a decision to choose “somewhat arbitrary” criteria of less than 2% Evangelical Christian and 5% Professing Christians.7

Dave Datema states he was “unable to find any  other research or study to back up the choice of  2% Evangelical as a criterion” nor could he find “research to justify” the use of 5%.”8

Interestingly, Patrick Johnstone writes in 2011 that many sociologists take 20% as the point at which a population segment begins to impact the worldview of the wider society.9

In 2011, a study out of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute found that the “tipping point” for the rapid spread of ideas was 10%. “Once that number grows above 10 percent, the idea spreads like flame.”10 Perhaps we should re-open the conversation about percentages and consider the current evidence in making this decision.

Answer: Movements are not just good at starting; they are very strong at sustaining efforts. Some movements are seeing 15, 20, even 30 generations. Once a movement reaches four generations in multiple streams, it is very likely to continue multiplying and effectively reach segments and sub- segments of their people group(s).

Problem #4: Overemphasis on ethno-linguistic groups

I have been an eager proponent of focusing on UPGs. But we have to admit that many of us have focused almost exclusively on ethno-linguistic groups, without significantly noting tribal, language, cultural, kinship and many other groupings.

Consider the reality that people groups are not segregated into one pure homogenous homeland. They are increasingly intermingled with other groups. This is why the 24:14 Coalition has the vision of movements in every unreached people and place.
The starkest example is cities. There are “593 majority non-Christian megacities”.11 Justin Long states that the incredible complexity of the cities “means that including ‘cities’ as segments to be listed, focused on, described, researched, documented, tracked, measured, and strategically engaged is probably just as important as ‘unreached people groups.’”12
Answer: Movements are increasingly focused on reaching cities and geographical segments, in addition to ethno-linguistic segments. Several of the articles in this edition offer examples of this.

Problem #5: The failures of the Church13

  • The Church has roughly 3,000 times the financial resources and 9,000 times the manpower needed to finish the Great Commission.
  • Evangelical Christians could provide all the funds needed to plant a church in each of the 7,400 unreached people groups, with only 0.03% of their income.
  • Annually, we spend $52 billion on missions of any kind. Meanwhile $59 billion is lost to theft by church members.

Answer: God is doing a new thing! These movements are brand-new breakthroughs by God, with 2,000-year-old patterns. The global Church has the opportunity to join this fresh move of God. God is starting streams in the desert, as the most fruitful movements are growing in many of the (formerly) hardest, least reached peoples and places of the world. The rest of this issue shows the main way God seems to be working to reach the unreached.

In the article in this issue: “How Long to Reach  the Goal?,” Justin Long documents that since 1995, movements have grown at “an average annual growth rate of 23%, or the number of believers doubling on average every 3.5 years.” That is far different from the 1.18% average growth rate of global Christianity in the last 20 years, or even the 1.8% growth of Evangelical and 1.89% of Pentecostal Christians.

This 23% growth is primarily internal, as the movements reach their own populations.  And yet while seeking to reach their own desperately unreached people groups, these movement disciples are frequently compelled by the Spirit to reach beyond their borders to other nearby peoples and places.

We currently know of:

  • 1,967 CPMs
  • 1600+ pre-movements, with 2nd and 3rd generation fruit
  • 2000+ other movement engagements

Notably, 200+ initial CPMs have started approximately 3,300 CPMs and pre-CPMs! We can begin to see how 33,700 or even 120,000 movement engagements could be possible.
God our Creator loves variety. So while we can recognize similar principles, each story of a movement starting another movement is unique. Learn from the following examples of God’s cascading Gospel, as movements start movements.

As you read, ask God how you can be involved. Then read the concluding article, “What Must be Done?” for some specific ideas to spur your thinking.

1 Willis, Avery T. 1977 Indonesian Revival: Why Two Million Came to Christ. Pasadena: William Carey Library Publishing.

2 http://www.gordonconwell.edu/center-for-global-christianity/wp-content/uploads/sites/13/2022/01/Status-of-Global-Christianity-2022.pdf


3 By Joshua Project’s definition of groups where Evangelicals<= 2%; Professing Christians <= 5%


4 http://www.gordonconwell.edu/center-for-global-christianity/ wp-content/uploads/sites/13/2022/01/Status-of-Global- Christianity-2022.pdf

5 Danker, Frederick William. 2000 A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, third edition, based on Walter Bauer and previous English editions by W.F. Arndt, F.W. Gingrich, and F.W. Danker. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 276.

6 http://www.missionfrontiers.org/issue/article/unreached-peoples

7 Datema, Dave. 2016 “Defining Unreached: A Short History”. International Journal of Frontier Missiology 33:2, 55-60. www. ijfm.org/PDFs_IJFM/33_2_PDFs/IJFM_33_2-Datema.pdf.

8 Ibid., 60-61.

9 Johnstone, Patrick. 2011 The Future of the Global Church (Colorado Springs, CO: Global Mapping International), 224.

10 Xie, J., et. al. 2011 “Minority Rules: Scientists Discover Tipping Point for the Spread of Ideas,” news.rpi.edu/ luwakkey/2902. Original paper is at: http://www.cs.rpi edu/~.szymansk/papers/pre.11.pdf.

11 Long, Justin. 2021 “Urbanization and Measuring the Remaining Task.” Mission Frontiers, Sept/Oct, 30-31.

12 Ibid.

13 The following statistics are from http://www.thetravelingteam.org/stats

.
Endnotes
  1. 1 Willis, Avery T. 1977 Indonesian Revival: Why Two Million Came to Christ. Pasadena: William Carey Library Publishing.

  2. 2 http://www.gordonconwell.edu/center-for-global-christianity/wp-content/uploads/sites/13/2022/01/Status-of-Global-Christianity-2022.pdf

  3. 3 By Joshua Project’s definition of groups where Evangelicals<= 2%; Professing Christians <= 5%.

  4. 4 http://www.gordonconwell.edu/center-for-global-christianity/ wp-content/uploads/sites/13/2022/01/Status-of-Global- Christianity-2022.pdf.

  5. 5 Danker, Frederick William. 2000 A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, third edition, based on Walter Bauer and previous English editions by W.F. Arndt, F.W. Gingrich, and F.W. Danker. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 276.

  6. 6 http://www.missionfrontiers.org/issue/article/unreached-peoples

  7. 7 Datema, Dave. 2016 “Defining Unreached: A Short History”. International Journal of Frontier Missiology 33:2, 55-60. www. ijfm.org/PDFs_IJFM/33_2_PDFs/IJFM_33_2-Datema.pdf.

  8. 8 Ibid., 60-61.

  9.  Johnstone, Patrick. 2011 The Future of the Global Church (Colorado Springs, CO: Global Mapping International), 224.

  10. 10 Xie, J., et. al. 2011 “Minority Rules: Scientists Discover Tipping Point for the Spread of Ideas,” news.rpi.edu/ luwakkey/2902. Original paper is at: http://www.cs.rpi edu/~.szymansk/papers/pre.11.pdf.

  11. 11 Long, Justin. 2021 “Urbanization and Measuring the Remaining Task.” Mission Frontiers, Sept/Oct, 30-31.

  12. 12 Ibid.

  13. 13 The following statistics are from http://www.thetravelingteam.org/stats

This is an article from the January-February 2023 issue: Cascading Gospel: Movements Starting Movements

Three Movement articles reprinted from MF Jan Feb 2018

Three Movement articles reprinted from MF Jan Feb 2018

Movements Start Movements in South and Southeast Asia

By Kumar

In 1995 I started sharing the Gospel among unreached people and planting churches. My goal was to plant 100 churches by 2020. By 2007 I had planted 11 churches. Some people would consider that success, but I was devastated because I realized that at that rate, there was no way I would reach 100 churches by 2020. For two months I cried out to the Lord: “Show me the way to plant 100 churches!” Then in mid-2007 I got invited to a training in “4 Fields Zero Budget Church Planting.” I was only able to attend for one session, but that hour changed my life and ministry. I saw that Jesus equipped his disciples to multiply in a way that required zero outside funding.

I realized I had been planting traditional churches in which new believers were passively dependent on me. I saw that I needed instead to disciple new believers to share the Gospel, make disciples and form new churches. I started planting “0 budget” churches, which began reproducing.

At first, only fourteen people—unschooled oral learners— came to faith. I trained those fourteen in my house over the course of one month. Since they all had regular jobs, different people would come on different days. It was really challenging, but the Lord told me not to give up. After they were trained, they went off to plant churches.

Less than a year later, when I called them all together and did the mapping of the fruit, we had 100 churches! Using the 4 Fields (CPM model) approach, we had reached the goal of 100 churches 12 years ahead of time!

I asked the Lord “Where should I go now?” He said, “Don’t go anywhere. Coach churches. Train the 100 churches to plant three more churches each.” As I trained my local church leaders, they trained their people. Some churches planted five new churches. Others planted none. By the next year the network of 100 churches had grown to 422. We trained those churches to plant three more churches each. By the following year we had 1268 churches.

Then the Lord told me: “Cast vision to other churches.” So I  began  to  do  this  in  other  parts  of  the country. I told people, “Come and see what the Lord is doing; see how our believers live and serve.” As people came and were trained, they multiplied to the third and fourth generation. I asked for 5000 and the Lord gave 5000. When I asked for 50,000, the Lord gave 50,000.
This movement is starting other new movements in three primary ways:

  1.  Believers with a vision for reaching their own people come to observe our work and receive ten days of training. Then they go back to start a movement.
  2.  We personally go to their countries since some cannot afford to come to our location. First we do an initial training, then I invite some of them to a second training where I do 50% of the training and they do 50%. Then for the third training, I coach them to do all the training. I then follow up with ongoing coaching of those who have implemented the training principles. Every three months, we try to call them and see how it’s going. Then we go back to follow up. We keep doing follow-up in different countries on a quarterly rotation.
  3.  Finally, we cast vision to coalitions of partners for “no place left” in their regions. For follow-up  training,  we send master trainers (people who understand the whole model and can train others to start movements) to equip them.

We have now engaged 56 previously Unengaged UPGs. We have ministry in almost every state of our country, and the work has spread to 12 countries in South Asia and Southeast Asia. We have developed 150 master trainers in our country. I’m very encouraged by 24:14 to learn that I’m not alone; I’m on the right track. Others in 24:14 are also seeing great fruit and have a similar vision. Our network’s goal fits with that of the 2414 Coalition: We want to see no place left without a Gospel witness by 2025.

How the Babu CPM has Fostered Other Movements

By JV Mukul

God is working in amazing ways among the Babu speakers of North India, with a CPM of more than 10 million baptized disciples of Jesus. God’s glory in this movement shines even brighter against the backdrop   of this area’s history. The Babu area of India is fertile in many ways, not just in its soil.

Yet the Babu area has been described as a place of darkness—not just by Christians, but by non-Christians as well. Nobel laureate V.S. Naipaul, after traveling in eastern Uttar Pradesh, wrote a book entitled An Area of Darkness, describing well the region’s pathos and depravity.

In the past, this region was very, very hostile to the Gospel, which was viewed as foreign. It was known as “the graveyard of modern missions.” When the foreignness was removed, people started accepting the good news.

But God does not want to only reach Babu speakers. When God began to use us to reach beyond the Babu group, some people asked, “Why don’t you stick with reaching the Babu? There are so many millions of them! Why don’t you just stay there until that job is finished?”

My first response is the pioneering nature of Gospel work. Doing apostolic/pioneering work involves always looking for places where the good news has not taken root: looking for opportunities to make Christ known where He is not yet known. That’s one reason we expanded our work to other language groups.

Second, these various languages overlap in their usage, one with another. There’s no clear-cut line where use of one language ends and another begins. Also, believers often move because of relationships, such as getting married or having a job offer elsewhere. As people in the movement have traveled or moved, the good news has gone with them.

Some people came back and said, “We see God working in this other place. We would like to start a work in that area.” We told them, “Go ahead!”

So they came back a year later and said, “We’ve planted 15 churches there.” We were amazed and blessed, because it happened organically. There was no agenda, no preparation, and no funding. When they asked what was next, we began to work with them to help the believers get grounded in God’s word and quickly mature.

Third, we started training centers which expanded the work, both intentionally and unintentionally (more God’s plan than ours). Sometimes people from a nearby language group would come to a training and then return home and work among their own people.

A fourth reason for expansion: sometimes people have come to us and said, “We need help. Can you come help us?” We assist and encourage them as best we can. These have been the key factors in moving into neighboring areas beyond the Babu.
The work began among the Babu in 1994, then spread into a dozen other languages and areas. We praise God that the movement has spread in a variety of ways to different language groups, different geographic areas, multiple caste groups (within those language and geographic areas), and different religions. The power of the good news keeps breaking through all kinds of boundaries.

The work among the Makarios people serves as a very good example of partnership. Our partnership with one key leader was an experiment in expanding the movement. Instead of us opening our own office with our own staff, we accomplished the same goal in a more reproducible way.

While these movements are led indigenously, we continue to partner together. We recently began training 15+ Adelphos leaders in a nearby state in holistic (integrated) ministry. We plan to help start holistic ministry centers in three different Adelphos locations in the coming  year and raise up more local Adelphos leaders. Our key partner working among the Makarios is also extending work into the Adelphos area.

Surrendered: Movements Start Movements In The Middle East

By Harold and William J. Dubois

When the encrypted message came across my phone I was stunned by its simplicity and boldness, and humbled again by the words of “Harold,” my dear friend and partner in the Middle East. Though a former imam, al Qaeda terrorist and Taliban leader, his character has been radically transformed by the forgiving power of Jesus. I would trust Harold with my family and my own life—and I have. Together we lead a network of house church movements in 100+ countries called the Antioch Family of Churches.

I had sent Harold a message the day before asking if any of our former Muslim, now Jesus-following brothers and sisters living in Iraq would be willing to help rescue Yazidis. He replied:

“Brother, God has already been speaking to us about this for several months from Hebrews 13:3 (NLT) ‘Remember… those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies.’ Are you willing to stand with us in rescuing persecuted Christians and Yazidi minorities from ISIS?”

\What could I say? For the last several years our friendship had bonded into a deep commitment to walk the same path with Jesus and work together toward fulfilling the Great Commission. We were working feverishly to train leaders who would multiply our passionate surrender to Jesus, carrying His message of love to the nations. Now Harold was asking me to take another step deeper into rescuing people from slavery to sin and the horrific crimes of ISIS.

\I responded: “Yes, Brother, I am ready. Let’s see what God will do.”

Within hours, teams of trained, experienced local church planters from the Middle East volunteered to leave their posts to do whatever it would take to rescue these people from ISIS. What we discovered changed our hearts forever.

God was already at work! Broken by the demonic, barbaric actions of ISIS terrorists, Yazidis began pouring into our underground secret locations we called “Community of Hope Refugee Camps.” We mobilized teams of local Jesus- followers to provide free medical care, trauma healing counseling, fresh water, shelter and protection. It was one movement of Jesus-following house churches living out their faith to impact another people.

We also discovered that the best workers came from nearby house churches. They knew the language and culture, and had the heartbeat of evangelism and church planting. While other NGOs who registered with the government had to restrict their faith message, our non- formal church-based efforts were filled with prayers, Scripture readings, healings, love and care! And because our team leaders had been lavishly forgiven by Jesus, they lived completely surrendered and were filled with courageous boldness.

Soon letters began to pour in:

 

(From a leader of one of our Community of Hope Refugee Camps.)

Many Yazidi families have accepted Jesus Christ and have asked to join with our leaders in working and serving their own people. This is very good because they can share with them in their own cultural way. Today, as Jesus-followers we are praying for the affected people that God will provide for their needs and protect them from the Islamic fighters.

Please join with us in prayer.

A miracle had begun. A movement of surrendered Jesus followers from nearby nations—all formerly  trapped by Islam—had been freed from their own sin to live for Jesus as their Savior. They were giving their lives to save others. Now, a second movement of Jesus followers has begun among Yazidis.

How could this happen? As D.L. Moody wrote: “The world has yet to see what God can do with a man fully consecrated to him. By God’s help, I aim to be that man.”
 

This is an article from the November-December 2022 issue: Effective Strategies and Roles for Reaching Frontier Peoples

Rediscovering the Hidden Peoples

Rediscovering the Hidden Peoples

What will it take to complete world evangelization— to provide every person on earth with access to the Gospel so that all may respond to God’s love and salvation—and to do so in our  generation?  MF has been addressing related questions for the last 44 years: what is the nature, size and scope of the remaining missionary task? What resources need to be mobilized and deployed to accomplish this task? What strategies need to be employed to reach the thousands of different people groups still without access to the Gospel? This latest issue of Mission Frontiers continues to address these urgent questions.

In 1976, Dr. Ralph Winter founded the U.S. Center for World Mission (now Frontier Ventures) to raise awareness in the global Church of thousands of “hidden” people groups that had no access to the Gospel and had been overlooked by the Church and its mission workers. Winter mobilized the global Church with a vision to reach these hidden peoples. Frontier Ventures continues to focus on identifying those peoples with the least access to the Gospel and to advocate effective strategies for birthing movements to Jesus in each one of them.

This issue of MF continues that rich tradition— focusing on those hidden/unreached peoples which—forty-six years later—still have virtually no followers of Jesus and no known movements to Jesus. Much progress has been made over the last five decades in other groups, but the best available research indicates that about 5,000 people groups remain isolated from the Gospel—the least reached of the Unreached.

In Romans 15:20 Paul summarized his call to go where Christ was not known: It has always been my ambition to preach the Gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation. Currently, twenty-five percent of humanity still fits this category of where Christ is not known—two billion people within 5,000 distinct people groups, still with no access to the Gospel. Within these people groups there are still virtually no followers of Jesus from whom others can learn how to have a saving relationship with God through Jesus.

Four years ago (Nov/Dec 2018) MF joined the International Journal of Frontier Missiology (IJFM) in introducing the new term Frontier People Groups (FPGs) to sharpen our global focus on the two thirds of all UPGs (Unreached People Groups) where the foundation still needs to be laid. This latest issue of MF presents an updated understanding of FPGs (p. 14), the growing variety of new resources— websites, videos, podcasts, prayer guides, etc.— focused on FPGs (p. 33) and the variety of part and full-time roles in which believers can collaborate to multiply God’s blessing through Jesus Christ among FPGs.

Why a New Name for Some UPGs?

Many church mission policies today take pride in sending workers only to partner with existing local churches. Where the vision of the worker and local church is limited to building up the existing national church—even among a UPG—this continues to isolate FPGs from the prayer and workers they need and perpetuates the problem Winter set out to solve.

However, collaboration between the international worker and local churches in a movement  to  Jesus can become highly strategic as both come to share a vision for multiplying movements among neighboring FGPs (see Movement Servants, p. 20). FPGs need pioneering cross-cultural work to lay the foundation for movements to Jesus, while other UPGs have enough same-culture, followers of Jesus for outside workers to partner with upon arrival. These UPGs may still need outside help to reach their own people, yet movements among UPGs may also become strategic sending bases to near-culture and nearby FPGs.

HELP WANTED:
All Applicants Accepted

At the Lausanne Congress 50 years ago, participants dedicated themselves to “the whole Church taking the whole Gospel to the whole world.” Winter introduced there the concept of hidden peoples, yet there were few opportunities then for significant involvement without relocating.

Today however, advances in technology make effective and strategic collaboration possible from almost any anywhere. Has God stirred your heart with Paul’s passion for the people groups still waiting in darkness? What roles is He calling and equipping you to play?

Pray:
• Personal intercession
• Local prayer group
• On-line prayer group
• Prayer Champions (p. 23)

Mobilize (Educate/Enlist):
• Yourself (keep learning)
• Your family/sphere of influence
• Your congregation
• Believers near FPGs (culturally/ linguistically/geographically)
Serve a Collaborative Effort:

• With your prayers
• With your skills, time and resources
• As a Movement Servant (p. 20)
• As a Strategy Coordinator (p. 17)

Go (cross-culturally):
• To an FPG community near your home
• To lead or join a team in an FPG
• As a Family-Blessing Advocate (p. 24)

The Final Push to Get Started in All Peoples?

Many mission leaders and strategists sense that we are within reach of establishing the foundation of the Gospel among all peoples, as the initial step toward discipling them to obey Jesus in everything. New and old strategies for Bible translation are advancing at such a rapid pace that it appears likely every language still needing a translation will have one in process within the next ten years.

The number of movements to Jesus tracked on our cover has more than doubled in the last three years, toward the 24:14 Coalition goal to have “movement engagements in every unreached people and place by the end of 2025.” The growth potential of these movements is enormous.

However, we cannot just sit back and expect movements in every remaining FPG without focused, well-informed, thoughtful action. We need to clearly identify these people groups still without any evident fruit and make ourselves and our resources available to the Holy Spirit toward birthing movements to Jesus in every one of them.

In God we have all we need to succeed at this task. May we re-dedicate ourselves—with the guidance and empowering of the Holy Spirit—to ensuring that no people group remains “hidden.”

This is an article from the November-December 2022 issue: Effective Strategies and Roles for Reaching Frontier Peoples

Developing Mission Mobilization Movements in Local Ministries

Developing Mission Mobilization Movements in Local Ministries
There is at present a generally low standard of responsibility in local ministries to mobilize and equip believers for cross-cultural mission both near and distant. When looking around the world, grappling  with the large number of Unreached People Groups remaining in the world (over 7,000) and a relatively small number of professional missionaries serving around the world (430,000 full-time workers),1 we must conclude our concept of mission mobilization has been too thin, needing change and giving way to a comprehensive viewpoint. It is time for a shift—a new mobilization paradigm in our local ministry settings.
 
Over the last decade, I have been asking the Lord a question, searching Scripture and Church/mission history for answers. Just as we may be familiar in mission strategy with “saturation church-planting,”2 is there a corresponding concept of “saturation mission mobilization?” I have come to believe there is. I am convinced part of the answer is working toward the multiplication of Mission Mobilization Movements (MMMs) across every level of the body of Christ in every nation.
 
This is possible now for the first time in history because as Todd Johnson affirms “Christians can be found today in every nation of the world.”3 A friend once told me, “The laborers are already in the harvest.” What he meant was the significant harvests (coming to Christ within present unreached peoples and nations) in time produce kingdom laborers who themselves become scattered, crossing cultural barriers, among remaining unreached peoples within their own countries (near-culture) and beyond (distant culture). This process relies on effective mobilization implemented within local ministries which are planted through the present harvests across the peoples coming to Jesus.
 
Mobilization directly empowers local indigenous ministries, full of these harvested laborers. This potentially massive harvest force, from all nations, is made ready to be “thrust out,” primarily among near-culture peoples. They are mostly lay leaders, lay people—regular, normal disciples, growing in experiential knowledge of God, empowered, and anointed by the Spirit, acting as conduits amongevery unreached community, seeing transformation impacting the spiritual, societal, ecological, relational and physical realms through the kingdom of God.

What Are Mission Mobilization Movements?

Mission Mobilization Movements can be defined as any entity (whether a local ministry, denominational, organi- zational or church network structure or national evangelical or mission association) where the Spirit of God is em- phasizing the message, vision and strategies of the Great Commission. And then, as a natural overflow of whole-hearted abandonment to Jesus, He activates every member in assigned Great Commission roles, spreading mission mobilization in a contagious way to other local ministries.
 
Many years ago, mission practitioner Roland Allen affirmed, “Far from being an indifferent or secondary matter, the ministry strategy used in cross-cultural work is of the utmost importance.”4 Not from the perspective of implementing a formula guaranteeing fruitful results, but embracing biblical principles the Holy Spirit emphasizes and the Word of God advocates. Strategy of itself does not produce fruit, yet strategic models aligning with principles of the kingdom, produce great fruit. Many don’t like the concept of methods as it is thought these somehow limit the Spirit. In fact, it is quite the opposite. The Spirit used means and strategies (not rigid  formulas)  throughout  the New Testament and mission history, mobilizing the Church in global mission. We need to grasp what some of these strategic models of mission mobilization look like and seek to emulate them accordingly.

Characteristics of Movements

A professor and mentor of mine at Fuller Seminary, Dr. Bobby Clinton, has studied movements for many years. Not only Christian movements, but secular movements, religious movements, historical movements and social movements—looking for common principles. His conclusion is that movements have similar characteristics, no  matter  their  type.  Clinton  defines a movement as a  “groundswell  of  people  committed to a person or ideals and characterized by  the  following important commitments” with five common commitments made on the part of those involved:
 
1) commitment to personal involvement
2) commitment to persuade others to join;
3) commitment to the beliefs and ideals of the movement
4) commitment to participate in a non-bureaucratic, cell- group organization
5) commitment to endure opposition & misunderstanding. 
 
We can apply these five commitments as we seek to multiply Mission Mobilization Movements as well.
 
The World Christian movement, started in the book of Acts, had each of these five. Those exalting Jesus are part of a movement with committed roots. It is difficult to claim to be committed believers yet withhold ourselves from the global  Christian  movement  as  a  whole.  The most effective Mission Mobilization Movements have been, and will be, among those who buy into these five characteristics with zeal and sacrifice. Mission Mobilization Movements are based on the fundamental principle that God is interested in not only mobilizing individuals  but  mobilizing  and  equipping  entire  local ministries. As many of the world’s cultures are communal in worldview, it is necessary to mobilize them as “communities.”6

Mobilization from the Outside

It is helpful to analyze the global Church’s progression in mobilization emphasis in history. Mission mobilization over the last 50  to  60  years  has  consisted  primarily  in effective mission education courses and mission conferences being offered to those already having some kind of interest in global mission. We call this mobilization from the outside. These tools are a significant part of any mobilization effort.
 
Yet  an observable problem arises in these situations.    A believer has participated and been inspired in some way about global mission. They want to continue to grow. But how and where? Sometimes there are further steps through mobilization from the outside. At some point, however, that person returns to their own local ministry where the leadership isn’t necessarily engaged with these same interests. No one from their local ministry experienced what they did. The enthusiasm they had is often squelched within the local ministry because others don’t yet share the mission vision. Their vision for the nations is dulled because there was no ongoing mission fuel at the local ministry level. They had to go outside the local ministry to be mobilized for mission.

Mobilization from the Inside

How much better for these and other mission mobilization tools to be experienced within the life of local fellowships instead of needing to go outside the local ministry. We call this mobilization from the inside. This is when a growing mission emphasis takes root within an existing local ministry, where that ministry is developing wholehearted disciples understanding their redemption as including partnering with Jesus toward the fulfillment of the Great Commission. The ministry is geared toward every disciple grasping the Great Commission and internalizing it. They may offer mission education courses and other tools, but in the context of the local ministry, not going outside to gain mission clarity. I am confident the Spirit is seeking local ministries and overarching ministry structures to progress from reliance on mobilization from the outside to prioritizing mobilization from the inside, while utilizing outside tools as supplements.
 
Campus ministries during the Student Volunteer Movement (SVM) of the late 1800s and early 1900s were of this sort. They had large student mission conferences happening every three years. At these conferences, and the much later Urbana conferences, students signed commitment cards pledging their lives to spreading the Gospel to peoples where Christ had not been named. In between conferences, campus fellowships engaged their fellow students with Jesus’ heart for the nations through Bible studies revealing the theme of global redemption in the Bible. Their prayer groups pleaded with God to raise up laborers for the unreached. Distributing information about what was happening in global mission, including mission strategy, was the norm. As a result, the SVM movement saw a huge number of message bearers (alternative term for missionary) scattered out. They engaged in mobilization from the inside, not relying only on mobilization from the outside.
 
Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with an outside mission education course or conference. These have a tremendous place in the overall mission mobilization process. The point is making sure the primary context for mission mobilization is within the local church itself, where the group is together growing in being educated, inspired and activated. This foundation is then  supplemented and developed further through mission conferences and education/envisioning courses.

The Moravians as a Mission Mobilization Movement

AD 1750–present witnessed the greatest thrust forward in Protestant mission through the “great centuries” of mission. We find a significant increase in mission and mobilization overall during this era. It is necessary to reiterate the progressive development of history. Since the 1700s the widespread restoration of the evangelical Churches through the Reformation. That res- toration is not yet complete. It will continue to take place, culminating in a crescendo, into the next generation.
 
The famed Moravian movement, starting in 1722, paved the way for the modern mission movement launched by William Carey in 1792. Every generation has pioneers in mission that the next generation learns from and reads about. This is how God has wired His people, influenced by the zeal and abandonment of those before us. The Moravians and Zinzendorf dynamically influenced the mission movement over the next 300 years. William Carey, in the 1780s, was familiar with the Moravian missionary example, using it to fire his own imagination. John Wesley visited Herrnhut and was profoundly influenced through a mentoring relationship with Zinzendorf.7 He was marked by the spiritual depth and disciplines of the community itself, in particular, the Moravians’ understanding of personal relationship with Jesus through faith, freedom in the Holy Spirit, radical commitment to prayer and their zeal for the lost.
 
The Moravian community at Herrnhut (the Lord’s Watch), in Bavaria (modern day  Germany)  is a  epresentation of core principles of effective Mission Mobilization Movements. For a local church, network or denomination desiring to practically engage their members in mission mobilization, the Moravian spiritual community is essential to study and emulate. Let’s consider these core principles up close.

Leadership Embodying the Vision

First, they had leadership infusing the vision of the Great Commission into every element of church life, in the person of Count Nicolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf (1700–1760). Zinzendorf had spiritual foundations in the Pietistic revival in Germany and became bishop of the Herrnhut Moravian community. Zinzendorf felt Jesus’ heartbeat for the world, believing every church community, because of all Jesus had done, should be ready to go anywhere, accepting any sacrifice to take the Gospel of the kingdom to the world. He was one of the greatest missionary statesmen of the last 300 years and a passionate mission mobilizer.8 Cross-cultural mission and mission mobilization was no side issue for the Moravians at Herrnhut, but at the forefront of why the church community existed, constituting their core identity.

Rooted In Spiritual Awakening

Second, the Moravian community experienced a significant spiritual awakening in August of 1727, binding them together, consuming them with love and obedience for their Master, wherever He may lead. They referred to this revival as their Pentecost.9 The spiritual fire fueled their hearts for obeying Christ’s commission. God uses seasons of corporate refreshing at pivotal times to spiritually empower His people to respond to His guidance. As Paul Pierson reminds us, spiritual revival and renewal are always precursors to growing mission vision gripping a community, aligning their hearts with the Lord’s.10 This principle reveals the importance the Moravians placed on spiritual maturity as a foundation for effective mission. They taught and lived wholehearted devotion to Christ, expressed through their mission-sending movement.

Every Believer Has a Role

Third, the Moravians recognized every member of their church community was called to global mission, whether they ever left the confines of the community itself or not. This is a core principle of mission mobilization—every believer expressing their role in the Great Commission with zeal and dedication. Lay leadership in mission is crucial. The task is just too big to rely on a few professional missionaries.11

Devoted, Ongoing, Consistent Prayer and Intercession

Fourth, devoted prayer sustained the community and  its global mission work. Through careful planning, the Moravian community facilitated what has become known as the “100-year prayer meeting.” It was an unbroken, around the clock, chain of prayer for wholehearted devotion in their community and global harvest among the nations. Devoted prayer literally went on (day and night) for 100 years, breaking every 24 hours into one-hour prayer slots, with two members of the community engaged in intercession every hour.12

Movement of Lay People

Fifth, cross-cultural ministry was not just for clergy in the community. The Moravians believed a large percentage of lay people in their community should go to near or distant cultures planting small, simple and culturally relevant churches. They were a scattering community, deliberately choosing the hardest, most hostile, out of the way places of the day—the West Indies, Greenland, Labrador, American Colonies, South America, South  Africa.  One of every 13 people in the Herrnhut community (which never numbered more than a few hundred) went to a distant culture with the Gospel,13 a total of 216 by the time Zinzendorf died in 1760, while many others  went out from the community to nearer cultures within Western Europe itself. The Moravians spiritual battle cry was, “May the Lamb receive the reward of His suffering!”

Choosing a Bi-Vocational Funding Model

Sixth, the Moravians sustained scattering a large number of laborers by not relying on the church to fund their mission endeavors. Zinzendorf believed cross-cultural message bearers should take their trade with them to  the unreached,14 understanding voluntary contributions alone were not adequate to fulfill the Great Commission. The sheer numbers of message bearers necessary, made relying on home churches to finance them unfeasible. They followed the well-worn footsteps of Paul the apostle as a bi-vocational tentmaker. Moravian message bearers influenced the local communities to which they went with the Gospel, while helping their local economies through their example and expertise in various trades.
 
The Moravian teams took this approach everywhere they went, implementing it as soon upon arrival as possible. The message bearers pooled their funds, understanding that their finances sustained the  team, not only individual persons and families. Some had agricultural skills, farming land, while others started small entrepreneurial businesses and still others used their education and training to bring in an income.15 All was then brought together to serve the group. Moravian teams demonstrated the power of prioritizing Gospel proclamation amidst bi-vocational funding. History cites the Moravian denomination as some of the most effective cross-cultural workers in mission history.16 Their financial model ought to be considered by many today, particularly in emerging mission-sending nations.
 
For more articles on core topics directly related to mission mobilization please visit the Mission Mobilization Bulletin here - https://www.globalmmi.net/blog
.
 
Author’s Note—This article has been adapted from the author’s book, Rethinking Global Mobilization: Calling the Church to Her  Core  Identity.  The  book  lays  foundations  of a biblical missiology of mobilization while providing a practical framework to mobilize and equip the global Church in mobilization. The publisher, IGNITE Media, has given permission for portions of the book used in this article. Find more info about the book at RethinkingMobilization.com or search for it on Amazon.
Endnotes
  1. 1 Missionary Statistics - http://missionaryportal.webflow.io/stats

  2. 2 https://ocresearch.info/sites/default/files/DAWNpercent202.0.pdf

  3. 3Todd Johnson and Sandra Lee, From "Western Christendom to Global Christianity", article in Perspectives Reader Fourth Edition      (Pasadena: William Carey Library, 2013), 387.

  4. 4 Roland Allen, The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church (Eugene: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1997), 6.

  5. 5 Clinton, Clinton’s Biblical Leadership Commentary, 535.

  6. 6 This is the premise of Charles Mellis’ landmark book, Committed Communities: Fresh Streams for World Missions, (Pasadena: William Carey Library, 2013.

  7. 7 Tucker, Ruth A. From Jerusalem To Irian Jaya: A Biographical History of Christian Missions (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Academie, 1983), 192.

  8. 8 Tucker, From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya, 70.

  9. 9 Pierson, The Dynamics of Christian Mission, 190.

  10. 10 Pierson, 230.

  11. 11 Tucker, From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya, 69.

  12. 12 Pierson, The Dynamics of Christian Mission, 190.

  13. 13  Pierson, 191.

  14. 14  Tucker, From Jerusalem To Irian Jaya, 69.

  15. 15 Ibid.

  16. 16 Pierson, The Dynamics of Christian Mission, 190.

This is an article from the November-December 2022 issue: Effective Strategies and Roles for Reaching Frontier Peoples

Movement Servants

Helping Movements Multiply

Movement Servants
As researchers have studied the amazing work of God in 1,965 Church Planting  Movements1 (as of this writing), bringing over 114 million people into God’s kingdom in this generation,2 they have discovered something surprising. Not only are movements the way God’s kingdom is growing fastest in our day, they are also the source from which most new movements are springing up.
 
Only 10 to 20 percent of existing movements were started by an outside catalyst(s) finding an inside catalyst(s) and planting the first churches. The vast majority of current movements—between 80 and 90 percent of them3—were started by believers from other (near-culture) movements. The metaphor of “hot coals” has often been used to envision taking embers from an existing fire to start a fire in a new location (rather than trying to start a fire from nothing). For example, the Bhojpuri movement in 
Northern India4 has started movements in at least eight other large language groups. Another family of movements in Southeast Asia has started work in over 50 UPGs and 17 countries.

This surprising reality  has  major  implications  for every person eager to see the Gospel reach all peoples as quickly as possible. Those seeking to catalyze movements have often aimed to focus not on “What can I do?” but rather on “What needs to be done?” This motto demands a fresh application as we consider the newly discovered information about how most movements are now starting. What “needs to be done” that can be accomplished by distant-culture workers?

Actually, a great many things need to be done, but they vary from one movement to another, and sometimes from one year to another within any given movement. Distant-culture workers can play a vital role in strengthening and deepening a movement, and/or in assisting a movement to expand and catalyze fresh movements among other UPGs.

The key lies in willingness to serve the actual needs being felt and expressed by the leaders of the movements. They don’t need outsiders showing up with their own plans and ideas. They want people humble enough and flexible enough to do whatever needs to be done.

In some cases, this might involve a specialized skill, but more often it involves applying a basic-level skill in an area of need.
Possibilities include:

  • Prayer and mobilizing prayer from outside the movement
  • Communication efforts
  • Job and business start-up training
  • Computer and technical support
  • Video and/or audio recording and/or editing
  • Fundraising in ways that do not create dependency
  • Social media help with creation and/or distribution
  • Hosting vision trips for potential outside partners
  • Administrative help
  • Hosting and supervising outside interns
  • Disaster response service and/or training and/or connections
  • Medical service and equipping medical response within the movement
  • Assisting with support, networking, or whatever else might be needed to help bring the Gospel where it has never been
  • Assisting in Bible translation and distribution
  • Anything and everything that is needed

In many cases, the movements cannot give a specific job description, as their needs keep changing. Or they may start with a specific need and job description, but circumstances change the needs. They want people who are willing to do whatever is needed. They value the relationship first and the task second. In other words, they want to become friends and co-laborers with brothers and sisters who they can trust, and  the ministry roles and tasks will emerge from those relationships and the needs in the field.


One movement leader, discussing this movement servant role, said, “Westerners we talk to do not really want to do what we need. For instance, we would ask them not to go live in Afghanistan, but seek to reach Afghans in Europe and partner to raise prayer and funds and key outside connections for Afghan believers in Afghanistan. That has not been appealing to anybody we have talked to. They all want to go live in the country and be the frontline workers.”

Another movement leader said, “I have a  hard time believing that Westerners would come in and submit to our leadership over the long term. In a few cases we have tried something like this. After a couple of years, they decide they know how to do it better than we do and they break away and use the appeal of excessive funding to take some of our leaders with them to work for them.”
For this reason we use the term Movement Servant. What movements most need is servant-hearted people. Some have encouraged us to use a “more appealing term” that would be easier to “sell to their supporters.” As if following Jesus’ example of not coming to “be served but to serve” is not appealing...

A Movement Servant will come alongside movement leaders to help expand the movement(s), assisting with a very wide range of ministry activities, depending on the ministry needs and the instructions of the movement leaders. This will help increase the capacity of the movement to go further and faster, to become even more effective in advancing the movement(s) in which they are involved.

We can share a few examples of people serving movements. For one large family of movements, some translation experts currently supply help from the outside for movements translating Scripture. These movements are in areas that an outsider cannot enter due to political or religious realities, but the service of technical and translation experts has been invaluable to help those in that area do    a church-based, computer aided, expert-assisted translation process. These professional translators have had to allow God to change their paradigm from personally doing the translation to helping those in the movement learn the skills and group processes that will produce an excellent translation.

In another movement with over 300,000 believers in a very large geographical area, some Westerners (who are not professionals) are helping with video editing. They work with movement leaders to produce short leadership training videos that can be shared from phone to phone.

A third example comes from a Kingdom Business project where outsiders help movements identify near-culture gaps needing movements. They assist with business training, prayer  and  fundraising  (only supplementing funds raised within the movements) as movement families relocate and re-start businesses to sustain them long-term in reaching the new group. This has already resulted in reaching many new unreached population segments. You can see a video from a Movement Servant couple describing their mindset at bit.ly/MServantVideo.


If you’re interested, please contact us via the form at bit.ly/MServant. We already have relationships with networks of movements—in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. We cannot guarantee connection, because even if you are willing, we will need to find a movement that is ready and able to receive you. And there will likely be some challenging dynamics, no matter how willing you are, such as language learning for some contexts. But we are glad to explore the possibilities!

Some current initiatives that have specific needs are:

  • An English and French speaking administrator to help a family of movements
  • Medical and logistical personnel to help medical teams support movements and respond to crises alongside movements
  • Business development to help strengthen move- ments in doing business within their movement as well as using business to get to new areas
  • Helping equip local researchers to find the gaps in their areas
  • An international liaison to help a movement family relate to intercessors, partners, donors, etc.

Jesus said, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant (Matt. 20:26).

What if your best way to maximally reach the unreached involved an assortment of jobs, chosen and assigned by someone from another culture? Would you be willing to lay down your life and some of your preferences in order to play a role in rapid kingdom multiplication among the unreached?  The movements are already moving, and you’re invited to play a part in increasing their growth.


 

Endnotes
  1. 1 A CPM is the result of God’s work. God has used a variety of approaches to start CPMs, including DMM, T4T, Four Fields, etc. See http://www.missionfrontiers.org/issue/ article/2414-goal for Core Principles and Common Outcomes of a CPM approach.


  2. 2 See “Global Movement Statistics” at https://2414now.net/ resources.


  3. 3 This question was asked of movement leaders representing over 1,000 movements. They all gave answers in the range of 80–90%.

  4. 4 See “Movements Multiplying Movements: How the Bhojpuri CPM has Started Other Movements”: pages 185- 188 in 24:14—A Testimony to All Peoples.

This is an article from the November-December 2022 issue: Effective Strategies and Roles for Reaching Frontier Peoples

The NEW Thirty-One Prayer Guide

for A Billion in the Largest Frontier People Groups

The NEW Thirty-One Prayer Guide

The Gospel has taken root in people groups comprising now 75% of the world's population. Overall, believers in those groups are multiplying faster than the population growth.

Are we close to filling the gaps—the 25% of the world (2 billion people) still living in Frontier People Groups (FPGs), and the many places (regions and villages) where no believing families are yet modeling and multiplying the Gospel?
 
Ten Remarkable Developments
 
Events of the past 200 years suggest we are much closer to discipling all “nations” (ethne, or people groups) than most believers realize.
 
  •  Starting in 1727, Moravian refugees held around the clock prayer meeting for 110 years, laying the foundation for an outpouring of missionaries around the world.1
  • From 1800 to the mid 1900s, a new breed of missionaries implanted the Gospel in families among a few people groups in nearly every country. 2
  • From 1960 to 2000, the Gospel spread rapidly within these people groups, and non-Western believers [then called Evangelicals] multiplied six times as fast as Western believers.3
  • World population has only doubled over the past 40+ years (1980 to 2022), yet believers globally appear to have multiplied four-fold in ethne where the Gospel had been implanted.4
  • Over the same 40+ years (1980–2022) the global population in ethne still waiting for the Gospel to be implanted dropped 20%—from 2.5B to 2B.5
  • In the last 35 years, the number of movements to Jesus has, on average, doubled every few years—to 2,000 full movements today, with thousands more developing. These movements have won and discipled 115 million new believers. Many movements have been doubling in size every 3–5 years.6
  • These movements are increasingly implanting the Gospel and starting new movements to Jesus in previously overlooked FPGs.7
  • Movement leaders are increasingly collaborating to identify gaps between their movements, and extend their movements into these people groups and places.8
  • Unprecedented global prayer has also developed in recent years around birthing movements to Jesus as a rapid, effective way to disciple all nations.9
  • Unprecedented global collaboration is also facilitating movements to Jesus.10

Paradigm Shifts

Key to what is unfolding are a number of major paradigm shifts:

 

Future Prospects


The looming realities of our world tempt  us to lose heart over the state of the world and of global Christianity, just as Elijah lost heart and cried out to the Lord:

The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and  now they are  trying to kill me too  (1 Kings 19:14).

Now, as then, the Lord may be quietly accomplishing much more than we can imagine: Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him (1 Kings 19:18).

When the Gospel is present in families that love, listen to and follow Jesus, it often spreads rapidly as a movement to Jesus in same-culture witness. As Jesus’ global body prays and collaborates to implant the Gospel in lost families of every village of every ethne—including FPGs—we can anticipate the remaining gaps filling quickly.

Prayer is foundational for workers to be sent, and for the Gospel to be implanted in families among every FPG, leading to further multiplication of movements to Jesus.

The fully updated third edition of THE THIRTY- ONE prayer guide is a great starting point for believers around the world to become involved in filling the gaps. Order or download from Go31.org (or download the app from BlessFrontierPeoples. org), then join others at GetInvolved.com in praying from this guide.

 

 

 







 

Endnotes
  1. 1 RevivalAndReformation.org/resources/all/the-moravian- 100-year-prayer-movement.

  2. 2 MissionFrontiers.org/issue/article/new-insight-from-the- three-eras-of-mission-history.

  3. 3 The Future of the Global Church by Patrick Johnstone, p. 144.


  4. 4 Compare Ralph Winter's Hidden Peoples 1980 pie chart estimate of 0.23 billion "dedicated Christians" with my estimate of at least 1B believers today, based on reports from the 24:14 Coalition (115M disciples) and the Center for the Study of Global Christianity “Status of Global Christianity, 2022” (400M Evangelicals/670M Pentecostals/Charismatics).

  5. 5 Compare Ralph Winter's Hidden Peoples 1980 pie chart estimate with Joshua Project's estimate for groups with less than 0.1% Christian of any kind—JoshuaProject.net/frontier.

  6. 6 24:14 Coalition: 2414Now.net/resources.

  7. 7 MissionFrontiers.org/issue/article/gods-gift-of-surprising- proximate-strategies.

  8. 8 Personal conversation with 24:14 Coalition leaders

  9. 9 BlessFrontierPeoples.org, Go31.org, OperationWorld. org, GlobalPrayerDigest.org, PrayerStrategists.net, DiscipleKeys.world, Pray4Movement.org, Prayer.global,  Pray1040.com, EthnePrayer.org, 10days.net, GoPray.world, ipcPrayer.org, WorldPrayerAssembly.org, GlobalPRN. com, GlobalFamily24-7Prayer.org, 24-7prayer.com, ComeToTheTable.world, TrumpetsToTabernacles.org, etc.

  10. 10 2414Now.net, NoPlaceLeft.net, AllianceForTheUnreached. org, BillionSoulHarvest.net, FinishingTheTask.com, GoMovement.world, GACX.io, empowered21.com, TransformOurWorld.org, Coalition of the Willing (COTW. global), Bible translation for Every Tribe Every Nation (ETEN.bible), Church-Centric Bible Translation (CCBT. bible), GlobalMediaOutreach.com, MediaToMovements. org, 414movement.com, and many more.

This is an article from the November-December 2022 issue: Effective Strategies and Roles for Reaching Frontier Peoples

Startling Church Trends and What We Need To Do About Them

Startling Church Trends and What We Need To Do About Them

Reclining on my couch with a glass of sparkling water, I watched it, relaxing after a long day.  I was listening to Carey Nieuwhoff's Leadership podcast. He was interviewing Thom Rainer, author, researcher and former CEO of Lifeway. Suddenly, I sat straight up, fully alert. They'd said something that startled me straight out of relax mode.

Carey asked him what the recent major trends in the church were. He mentioned the top three. All were quite interesting. The one that riveted my attention, however, was the decline of evangelism. If you are concerned about lostness, hearing about this trend is like being confronted with a massive, red flag waving wildly in front of your path.

Rainer is a knowledgeable trend-watcher of the church in America. For him to say this was not only a trend, but one of the top three trends in the American church today is deeply concerning. Watch the full episode on YouTube if interested.

Mission Frontiers has a  wide  global  audience. My work and ministry are not focused on the USA context either. As an American citizen, though, this greatly troubled me to hear. While not necessarily surprising, it is very disturbing. Trends in the American church often get exported to the rest of the world. What impact on the global Church will this trend away from evangelism have? What effect is it perhaps already having?

Some Mission Frontiers readers are from Western nations. For those of us who are, we must be serious about not exporting this trend abroad! For non-Western readers, be aware and careful not to adopt it! Recognize its deadly nature, not only to the fulfillment of the Great Commission, but to the ongoing life and health of the Church.

Disciple-making Begins Pre-Conversion

As Disciple Making Movement practitioners, we understand that evangelism and disciple-making cannot be separated. We disciple people into the kingdom. Disciple-making begins prior to a shift of allegiance to Christ. I like Bobby Harrington’s definition of disciple-making, which is “entering into relationships to help people trust and follow Jesus, which includes the whole process from conversion through maturation and multiplication.”

Having  said  this,  abundant  Gospel  sharing/  seed sowing and bold witness are important characteristics of DMMs and CPMs. (See Garrison’s Church  Planting  Movements  Booklet—Chapter 3, p. 33 where it is listed as one of the 10 Universal Elements). Without active evangelistic efforts, DMMs and CPMs do not break out and grow. I am often asked why there are not more movements in the West. This trend away from evangelism is one answer to that question. Again, let’s not export that way of thinking abroad!

Failure of Attractional Models of Evangelism & Disciple-making

Attractional models of evangelism and disciple-making are failing miserably in the  West. Even the few seeing limited success struggle to disciple those who come to faith through them. To reverse these trends, we must intentionally move away from models of evangelism that rely on professionals and events. Instead, inspire and equip every believer to make disciples. Only as we do this will we see new disciples multiplying organically as we desire.

A Gifted Evangelist Who Stopped Leading People to Christ

We sat on the floor looking at generation charts. The Asian disciple-maker I was meeting was excited to share with me and my colleague about new groups that had recently begun. As coach/trainers, we were too! Using a simple gen chart as a diagnostic tool, we asked several questions. One of our queries was about how many of the people in the groups were new believers. “Only two,” she answered. “Hmm. That’s interesting,” I thought. There were lots of new groups represented by circles on the paper. “What is your main way of sharing good news?” I asked.

“Oh, I used to lead people to Christ all the time. Now I make disciples.” What?? That seemed a strange answer until I realized what she meant. Instead of focusing on lost people, she was now focused on discipling the saved.

My heart sank as understanding flooded my mind. What had caused this effective soul-winner to stop reaching out to lost people and instead to only start groups among the saved? If she as a DMM practitioner was not modeling bold witness and Gospel sharing, those she discipled wouldn’t either.

Thankfully as we continued our session, a shift in her thinking came about. The next week, she returned to her practice of doing evangelism. She led two people to Christ and started one new group within a few days!

This is an example of a trend away from evangelism even in a DMM practitioner! How much more do we see this in legacy/traditional churches? Jesus’ command to His followers hasn’t changed. He still tells us to go everywhere and share with everyone!

Jesus said to His followers, Go everywhere in the world, and tell the good news to everyone. (Mark 16:15). Emphasis mine.

Eight Possible Causes for the Trend Away from Evangelism

Before we dive into possible options for a trend reversal, it may be helpful to pause and reflect on why we are in this situation as the American church. I won’t pretend that this is an all-inclusive list. They are, however, some possibilities to consider as we explore this issue's cause.

  1.  In our distaste for hellfire and brimstone preaching, we have de-emphasized the reality of lostness.
  2. We’ve bought into the lie that evangelism is difficult and the role of specialists.
  3. Many leaders are disillusioned with unsustainable formulaic evangelism models of the past (Romans Road, Evangelism Explosion, etc.). This has made previously effective evangelists stop sharing Christ or resist anything to do with evangelism.
  4. Western culture tells us religion is a private matter and it’s rude to talk about it. Bold witness has become far more counter-cultural than in the past.
  5. There is a lack of confidence in Gospel sharing due to a lack of equipping believers on how to witness—even among the clergy. Pastors and missionaries do not model a lifestyle of bold witness. As a result, their disciples cannot replicate it in those they disciple.
  6. Churches are Sunday morning attendance oriented, rather than calling people into vibrant communities of fervent Jesus followers in deep relationship with one another. Friendly accountability and a context of growing obedience to Christ are rarely present. Small groups that meet are almost always inward rather than outward-focused.
  7. Church gatherings focus on what we gain (great worship, entertaining and inspiring preaching, great programs for kids), rather than on equipping disciples to serve Christ and the world.
  8. Many Christians in the West are more fearful of offending people with their witness than they are that people will continue to live their lives apart from Christ (present hell), or will enter eternity apart from Him (eternal hell). We don't believe we have the answer to brokenness enough to share it.

I’m sure you could add to this list. These are just thoughts to stimulate further pondering on this issue.

More important, however, is what we can do to reverse this trend.

Eight Ways to Reverse the Anti-evangelism Trend and to Be Sure We Don’t Export It

1. Decide that it must be reversed. Recognition of the seriousness of this problem is the first step to change. If pastors, leaders, and mission agencies do not see this as a critical issue, little will  be done. Do we see the red warning flag waving? Pray with me that the Holy Spirit will bring revelation and conviction in this area.

2. Stop promoting/exporting a megachurch, super-star preacher, model of church.
This is far more easily said than done. The megachurch model has become a dominant model of church success in American culture. We must engage church and denominational leadership in conversations that examine its effectiveness. In spite of the fall and failure of many in super-star church leadership, we continue to believe that this model is the right way forward. Is it? Are we even asking ourselves these questions?

Our cultural addiction to “bigger is better” stands in the way of honest evaluation. We want super-stars to follow and admire. Being entertained is far more culturally attractive than showing up in a small group. Doing life with a bunch of ordinary people who chew their food loudly, have annoying habits, or coffee breath doesn't have the same appeal.
Can we be discipled by those we do not even know? Sure, we can gain knowledge and inspiration from them. Disciple-making, however, takes place in the context of genuine relationships of trust.

We won’t change the megachurch, and that’s not our mission. Can we at least agree not to export it to the rest of the world as the church model of choice?

3. Teach, preach, and speak often about the reality of lostness.

Let God’s heart for humankind’s brokenness grip your heart afresh. Ask God to show you how He feels about the lost. Read and meditate on the lost parables in Luke 15. Teach and preach them.

Get out of your church or agency office and spend time with those who are apart from Christ. Understand the issues they face and the levels of pain and brokenness they encounter. Talk often of your own brokenness and how God found you. “Amazing Grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me,” sums it up so well. How can our music reflect the need of the lost and the power of salvation in fresh ways?

4. Pastors and leaders engage in active, regular Gospel sowing and talk about it. Stretch yourself if this isn't a practice in your life. Create a cultural norm among those you are discipling related to bold witness.

One of the most significant factors to catalyze change is the power of peer groups. When the culture in a group of people can shift to regularly celebrating the sharing of the Gospel with others, when that becomes normative, it’s far easier to shift worldview in that direction. Share vulnerably and openly both success and failure stories about starting spiritual conversations.

Organizational culture develops top-down, not grassroots up. David McNally says, “Culture is influenced significantly by the values of the organization’s leadership. These are not the written values, but the ‘lived’ values.” If pastors and agency leaders never share Jesus with others, church members won’t either. Get everyone talking about Gospel sowing and celebrating together. Frequently champion stories of bold witness and of engagement with the lost.

5. Emphasize the role of ordinary believers in making disciples.

While it’s important that senior church and mission leaders actively engage, it must go beyond that to reverse this trend. How can you help those you disciple to realize that they can be effective witnesses?

Demystify evangelism. Make it simple and doable in people’s minds. It is as simple as asking a neighbor a question like: "What are you doing this weekend?  Last weekend I went on a spiritual retreat. Have you ever done something like that?"

Or, "If God were to do a miracle for you, what would it be? Could I pray with you for that?"

Or, "Hey, a group of us are getting together to learn more about how to have successful relationships at work. We are reading and talking about some passages from the Bible related to that. Would you like to join us?"

6. Encourage new groups to form around new believers, rather than bringing them to the main meeting/building church.

We have conditioned people to think that evangelism equals inviting someone to attend church. There is nothing wrong with this, but it is not the most effective way to make disciples. Instead, motivate and equip people to have spiritual conversations, invite people to learn more, then start groups of disciples in their own homes or workplaces.

Though this seems more difficult at first, it is far more fruitful. Begin with a group of “early adopters” that you train and mentor. As they see fruit, others will come along too.

7. Vision cast for the lost every time you meet.
Both in normal church services or organizational meetings, look for creative ways to highlight the lost and unsaved around you. Cast vision for how God wants to bring hope, life, and transformation to them. Intentionally cultivate a heart for lost people in the hearts of those you are responsible for training and discipling.

One of the easiest ways to help people develop  a heart for lost people is to get them to pray for them. Use tools like the 30 days of prayer for the Muslim world. Organize prayer walks in the communities near you. Train everyone to have a Lost list they pray for regularly (people within their friend and family circle).

8. Make it the normal expectation of every Jesus follower that they will make and multiply disciples.

Continue to intentionally shift culture and behavior in your organization, church, or team. Do this until it is normal for everyone who says they are a believer to also be an active disciple-maker. This doesn’t mean they intellectually assent to the idea of disciple-making. It means they actually are practicing it. Eventually, as disciples are faithfully learning and growing in skill and obedience, momentum will grow, and multiplication will take off.

Take Action Today and Choose to Swim Upstream

Reversing a major trend in the church is no easy task. It requires many people to choose to “swim upstream” and go against the cultural flow of the American church. For those of us working abroad, we are still greatly influenced by American church culture. It comes to us through the internet, through podcasts and many other forms of media.

Today I’m calling you to a decision. Will you choose to grow as an active evangelist and disciple-maker? Remember that I said we cannot separate the two? Will you train and influence those around you to engage in reaching the lost in more active and intentional ways this month?

What is one thing from this article that you will apply and put into practice immediately? Find a friend or colleague. Share this article with them and talk together about what you will do this month to “swim upstream” regarding this trend away from evangelism.

Last, bring this issue to a group of prayer partners or intercessors in your organization or church. Ask them to pray for this trend to reverse and for a passion to share the love of Jesus to grip the hearts of not only American Christians but all of us worldwide.

Trends can change. With faith, let’s work to see the day when a trend toward intentional disciple-making by every believer is being reported on Christian leadership podcasts and in other Christian media.

This is an article from the November-December 2022 issue: Effective Strategies and Roles for Reaching Frontier Peoples

Toward the Edges

Effective Strategies for Reaching Frontier Peoples

Toward the Edges
In this edition of Mission Frontiers, as the title suggests, you will be able to consider  the perspectives of several authors who are wrestling with and exploring the theme of strategies and roles.
 
My column will focus on strategy, and as I do, I want to briefly explore how we see these key terms: Frontier Peoples, Reaching, and Effective Strategies. I will also take the chance to offer a brief glimpse into what FV’s approach to all this is.

Frontier Peoples

I can’t  think of a better definition than what  is offered on the website of FV’s own Joshua Project:
 
A Frontier People Group (FPG) is an Unreached People Group (UPG) with virtually no followers of Jesus and no known movements to Jesus, still needing pioneer cross-cultural workers. Joshua Project approximates FPGs as 0.1% or fewer Christian Adherents and no confirmed, sustained movements. In FPGs, pioneer workers are generally limited to starting with non-believers. In other UPGs it is often possible to partner with same-culture believers. (https://joshuaproject.net/frontier)
This MF edition is about whole populations of human beings with no connection, no human point of connection, with all of whom Jesus is and all of what Jesus means for us. One of the purposes of FV since our beginnings has been to learn to see, to see people, to see peoples, to see the human world in all the variety that God has created and FV endeavors to see the peoples of the world in the way God sees them: as God’s beloved, upon all of whom God purposes to pour all the fullness of the blessing of God. 

Reaching

For many Christians, this can refer to a wide range of ideas, from “making contact” to “sharing the Gospel”. But as most of our readers will be aware, it is used in a more specific way in our context—not just a message or contact, but actually movements to Jesus that are thriving and vital, in which families experience increasing fullness of life in Jesus in all its varied dimensions.
 
In FV we talk about movements growing in 4 H’s: head and heart and hands and holistic transformation.
 
Another way to frame those four elements could be to say that fullness of life in Jesus will bear fruit in how we think, who we are, what we do, and the outflow of all that into the people and communities and world around us.

Effective Strategies

As you read through the articles in this edition of MF I trust you will see the breadth of how different authors are approaching this question. The words effective and strategy can conjure images of rolled up sleeves, project management, goal setting (and achieving) and can leave one with the impression that if we just do things smarter and with maybe a little harder effort, we can “get this done.”
 
But that is not how I see it, nor how FV sees it, nor our authors would see it.
 
In some ways we can trace the history of the frontier movement in three big phases. I have not tested this out except in very informal ways, so I reserve the right to change my mind or refine my thinking! But here is what I see as three phases, with three different approaches to strategy:
 
Get more people to go to the unreached (mobilization):The initial insights 40 years ago focused on a significant barrier leading to the reality ofunreached peoples: the gap between the assigning of mission personnel to reached peoples versus unreached. So, the strategy? Adjust the ratios and get more personnel to the least reached than we currently have. Then, the next phase…
 
Get more people doing the right things with the unreached (contextualization):I put it crassly, but this is the phase we might call contextualization. In this phase, the barrier is not just about whether or not they are doing things in such a way as to promote the overcoming of barriers of understanding and acceptance. Forms of church, communication issues, and much else came to the fore. But all of that still begs a question, which is becoming a major focus in the third phase:
 
 Become the right kind of people serving among the unreached (formation):Here the barriers are as much internal, inside of us, as they are external or practical (how many of us are there and what are we doing).
 
I am not suggesting these three phases are somehow so separate from each other that they did not and do not co-exist! I am not, for example, suggesting that no one thought about formation 40 years ago, or mobilization today.
 
But as necessary emphases in the mission movement, these three phases seem to suggest shifts in what was seen and promoted as “effective strategy”.
 
And I do see a very necessary  component  of any such strategy to be our own formation: we as transformed people.  Indeed,  I  don’t  see  it  as a component, but as the soil from which any other effective strategy must draw sustenance and nourishment (including mobilization and contextualization, as well as many other examples).

And Frontier Ventures?

My definitions of the key words in this edition’s theme title suggest three focal points of effective strategy: seeing humanity as God sees (and so seeing the least reached, and frontier peoples); holistic, fullness of life  in  Jesus  (reaching):  and becoming people who will not be barriers ourselves (the core of effective strategy).
 
Partly as a response to these sorts of insights, in FV we have reorganized ourselves around four major “catalytic functions”, which one may argue are our way of describing the major elements of effective strategy:

Formation

There are subtle ways in how we do things in the mission world continues to raise unnecessary barriers. This includes our own previous approach to barriers as technical challenges to overcome with the application of better methods of doing essentially what we already knew to do.
 
In FV we seek to carry a fresh sense of our own need for formation,  self-awareness,  humility and for cultivating our hearts as learners and as beloveds, as we seek to live in such a way that reflects the good news of Jesus with grace and courage. For this, we are continually exploring new ways of formation, of living more fully into union with God in Christ, and as we do, offering what we are learning to others.

Innovation

In FV we see that innovation is also about who we are becoming in Jesus. There are some subtle ways in which how we do things in the mission world continues to raise unnecessary barriers, including our own previous ways of innovation in which we tended to approach barriers as technical challenges to overcome with the application of better methods of doing essentially what we already “knew” to do. Complex challenges require a different approach. We need to blend spiritual discernment, alternate ways of thinking and seeing and addressing barriers that are “upstream” from the barriers we see—the barriers that might cause the barriers." For this, our approach to innovation is shaped by prayer and listening, including listening to more people, people who are closer to where the barriers are being discovered.

Missiology

FV has always been a band of thinkers and learners. Our history speaks to the ways we have always explored the multiple disciplines that combine to form what is called missiology: Bible, theology, culture, language, religion, science, communication, etc. But more and more, and in part because of the fruit of the last decades, we are able today to learn from “the edges;” to learn from men and women globally who are seeing fresh things in the Scriptures and their contexts, and things that can shape our own missiology.
 
For this our missiology will be more and more the fruit of multiple voices—multiple sources of insight— globally from the movements to Jesus emerging among the unreached.

Publishing

I use the word here in its simple functional sense: making things known (though we do publish in other senses of the term; after all, you are reading MF, a publication!) There remains a vital need for the publishing of tested insights, and insights still being tested, as these help to encourage and inspire others. For this, our work of publishing will continue to maximize our current publications and will also discover and develop new channels and outlets and publications.

Conclusion

Effective Strategies will mean a lot of things to a lot of people, and in this edition we are helping you access a sampling of that.
 
Our hope is that these pages will spark new insights, questions and encouragement, and result in more of us and more of you, our readers, pressing more fully and deeply into the heart of Jesus. May that be the very center and soul of the effects God desires to work in and through us.

This is an article from the November-December 2022 issue: Effective Strategies and Roles for Reaching Frontier Peoples

Strategy Coodinator— The Outside Catalyst

Guiding Collaboration to Bless Frontier People Groups

Strategy Coodinator— The Outside Catalyst
Lord, how could everyone in this people group hear Your Good News? What would it take for 90%, or even 20%, to follow You? How many of my people group will hear the Gospel today?
 
Outside Catalysts and  Strategy  Coordinators  pray such questions as we develop strategy for a movement among a people group.
 
Before I arrived in Vietnam in 1995, I served two years in a traditional outreach to university students in South Korea. I was eager to learn how believers in Korea had grown over a century from a few hundred (<1/10th of 1%) to 11 million in 1990  (26%).  Here are some examples:
  • hours of passionate prayer—early mornings on many weekdays and sometimes all Friday night.
  • bold evangelism—even if persecuted or despised!
  •  a strong emphasis on church-planting.
  •  “macro-impact” through decades-long development projects to help society and share Christ, including clinics/hospitals, all levels of school and university.
  •  Bible training offering Bachelor, Masters and Doctoral degrees.

From the 1950s to the 1970s most Bible school and seminary graduates started small churches. However, by the time I arrived the multiplication of believers and churches was slowing due to these factors:

  1.  many Bible school graduates no longer started new churches but were just replacing retiring pastors of 30+ year   old churches or becoming staff to larger churches
  2.  the skyrocketing cost of church buildings in a booming economy
  3.  the diminishing “micro-impact” of clinics and schools as God blessed Korea spiritually and economically

Thirty years later Korean Christians were just 2% more of the population.1 How many of the earlier believers were discipled well to use their spiritual gifts and share their faith with others?

In 1995 my wife, Margit, and I felt led to a less reached people group. We arrived in Vietnam in a role originally described by David Garrison as the “Non-Residential Missionary.”2 However, many were finding creative ways to get visas and live among their assigned people group, so the name was changed to Strategy Coordinator (SC).

There were several dozen SC teams globally when we arrived in Vietnam in 1995. Bill Smith and his wife Susan were among the first SC couples in East Asia, and he became my first supervisor. Bill is a great trainer, strategist and role model. He led by example and asked great coaching questions.

In 1995 each SC was responsible to develop a strategy to address the questions at the beginning of this article. Qualifications included: Could I work with many local churches, many mission agencies, pray, abide joyfully in Christ myself, cast vision and help develop a plan to pursue what Paul prayed for in 2 Thessalonians 3:1…that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored?

By 1995, five of Vietnam’s then 54 people groups had movements—ranging from 10% to 50% professing Christians. One of them, the Hmong, had grown an estimated 350,000 believers in 1996 to perhaps two million believers today!3 This gave me great faith that God is already working in every life and heart, and His message can still spread rapidly, even in “restricted access” countries.

Our strategy in 1995 included: pray a lot, get others to pray for Vietnam and its people groups, cast vision with Vietnamese Christian leaders for what God might do to start many more house churches (the Communist government would not allow new
church buildings), develop partnership among mission agencies (which continues to this day), develop simple discipleship and leadership training material (borrowing and adapting where possible), work with multiple local networks of churches (open and underground), and develop, print and distribute high-quality evangelism, discipleship, and leadership training materials to help believers share the Gospel. Although the country was “closed” and tried to restrict Christian growth, we felt like Peter and John: we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard (Acts 1:20). We had to find a way to preach/spread the Gospel, and to help all believers—new or old—to receive healthy discipleship to obey everything I have commanded you (Matt. 28:20).

How many of my people group will hear the Gospel today? This question drove us crazy and pushed us to continually re-evaluate our use of time and resources.

For instance, I realized the funds to print a few thousand books to sit half-read on the shelves of existing Christians could instead pay for thousands of radio programs, videos and tracts for more accessible evangelism and discipleship. We found creative ways to get these in the hands of both believers and non- believers. Then we created leadership development material, including a Church Leader's Guidebook for Bible study with believers to share their faith and use their spiritual gifts. This was just a small part of what the Holy Spirit did through many for His message to spread rapidly!

The SC role has been adapted in many mission agencies under many labels—Team Leader, Team Strategy Leader, Outside Catalyst, etc.—all including prayerful collaboration to catalyze movements among a single people group. Giftings required for these roles include: casting vision, networking, creativity and developing a residential team among the people. Many identify this role as “apostolic” (Eph. 4:11–16), which I describe as the calling and gifting to start multiple churches and to involve others over time—foreigner or local—to fill the other roles listed in this passage.

SC activities increase as the Lord adds new believers and new churches.

  1. Personal prayer and enlisting others must remain a top priority.
  2. Vision-casting and evangelism are also early activities, complemented with discipling new believers to do these.
  3. Next is leadership training for healthy church formation, and discipling others in all these things and more. Eventually the SC must hand over most of these roles to locals and become a “movement servant” to serve local leaders.

We are blessed to have a host of trainers and networks that can help you become an effective SC. Some of which are: Curtis Sergeant. (MetaCamp.org), David Watson and his son Paul (ContagiousDiscipleMaking. com), Stan Parks and his brother Kent (Beyond. org), the No  Place  Left  network  (NoPlaceLeft. net) and the 24:14 Coalition (2414Now.net). Many of us have worked together to develop cohort training for experienced missionaries to develop as Outside Catalysts by discussing videos and other materials without reliance on another “trainer” (CoveredMinistries.com/outside-catalyst-training). Remember the starting point for every SC and Outside Catalyst is a simple prayer: Lord, how many in this people group will hear the Gospel today?

Endnotes
  1. 1 ‘Minari’ Is About Korean American Faith as Well as Family (2021) ForeignPolicy.com/2021/05/09/minari-is-about- korean-american-faith-as-well-as-family./

  2. 2 The Nonresidential Missionary: A new strategy and the people it serves: David Garrison, 1990 (MARC).

  3. 3 JoshuaProject.net/countries/VM.

This is an article from the November-December 2022 issue: Effective Strategies and Roles for Reaching Frontier Peoples

Great Progress toward blessing all Unreached People Groups (UPGs)

Great Progress toward blessing all Unreached People Groups (UPGs)
In 1980, 60% of humanity lived in people groups (ethne) with no believers. This new awareness stirred prayer and sent workers for the greatest harvest in history. Now, in 2022, only 25% of humanity lives in ethne with virtually no believers. World population has almost doubled since 1980, while believers grew four-fold (0.25 to one billion). And instead of doubling, ethne with no believers shrank 20%—from 2.5 to two billion people! However there are still two billion isolated and waiting, in what we now identify as …
Frontier People Groups (FPGs)—UPGs with
  • Virtually NO followers of Jesus
  •  NO known movements to Jesus
  • Still needing pioneer, cross-cultural workers

Keys to Unlocking these Frontier People Groups

BLESSING FAMILIES We pursue God’s covenant with Abraham to bless all earth’s ethne—encouraging new followers of Jesus to win and disciple their extended families, communities and entire people group (Gen. 12:1–3, Gal. 3:8, Heb. 6:17).

 
MOVEMENTS TO JESUS We help new believing families learn to hear Jesus speak to them and guide them as they discuss the
Scriptures together—and to encourage other families to do the same.
 
TRANSFORMING COMMUNITIES We encourage believing families to grow in personal holiness, servanthood and godly wisdom, and to discern and address the influences destroying their families and communities.
 
SHARED HUMANITY We seek to lead people of all faiths to follow Jesus in light of our shared humanity—our common challenges and desires—knowing that God is still seeking all who will worship Him in Spirit and Truth (John 4).

Pray for the Good Seed to reach the Good Soil in these FPGs

Lord of the harvest, we beg You to ekballo (thrust out) workers to sow Your Word among these largest FPGs (Matt. 9:37-28, Luke 10:2).
 
Holy Spirit, we ask you to lead workers to worthy families of peace (Matt. 10, Luke 10), that will reproduce 30–, 60–, or even 100–fold (Matt. 13, Mark 4, Luke 8).

This is an article from the November-December 2022 issue: Effective Strategies and Roles for Reaching Frontier Peoples

Seeing the World Through People Group Eyes

Seeing Peoples Others Ignore

Seeing the World Through People Group Eyes
One day while doing our daily market run in India, my young daughter started to play with the washer woman’s children. I watched the woman, trying to talk with her, but her work was unending. I took a moment with Jesus to see through His eyes the invisible walls that separate her and her people from the Gospel.
 
The Dhobi wash and press clothes all over India and throughout South Asia. Every day they serve almost every caste in South Asia. Every Christian worker in South Asia interacts with a Dohobi in the local trade language. The Dhobi are not a people group out of reach in some remote location unable to hear and see believers as they live.
 
Why is there no known movement to Christ among over 12 million Dhobi?
 
Perhaps because no one has been sent to them.
 
How will they hear … if no one is sent?   (Rom. 10: 14–15)

Seeing the Invisible Barriers Isolating Peoples

The world’s archeological sites make a profound statement about humanity. They all feature walls, weapons, and religious artifacts—revealing an inescapable reality of the nature of man, a fallen version of His design that God seeks to redeem and call His own. As image bearers of God we create things of value. Yet, in our fallen world anything of value must be protected by walls, weapons and the blessing of a higher power. This “need to protect" shapes how tribes or nation states are made or unmade, who will go to war with whom, who controls resources, how wealth forms, how technology advances, how disease travels and even the spread of God’s kingdom and the Gospel.
 
Recognizing the reality of boundaries and accurately seeing them in today’s world gives us the ability to see hidden peoples and even ask questions leading to a missiological breakthrough, such as: “Why is there no known movement to Christ among the Dhobi people group of India?”

Assumptions Form Boundaries

The Gospel has taken root and borne fruit in many of India’s people groups—especially tribal groups that are geographically concentrated. Some movements to Christ involve multiple people groups showing that the people group identity is not always a barrier to the work of God.
 
However, people groups like the Dhobi can also  be left out of a movement, and then be assumed to have heard but not responded. The assumption that this group is unresponsive then becomes another boundary keeping this group from hearing of Jesus. These kinds of assumptions, while invisible, are just as real at shaping their access to the Gospel as the political boundaries of nation states.
 
The remaining task in India is immense, with very few workers in comparison to the needs defined  by population size. Outreach in India is rarely people group specific, often assuming a village or neighborhood is one people group.

Seeing Boundaries Accurately

Seeing boundaries accurately creates the ability to understand and predict the direction things are flowing in the world and provides deeper insight for building relationships that can bear the weight of truth. In modern times, the borders between nation states were the primary lens used to see where the Gospel has been shared and to define priorities and encourage sacrifices to enter new lands.
 
This effort to send witnesses to every country in the world has been wildly successful—every country in the world has a group of people who have heard the Gospel and responded in faith. Over the last 50 years the growth of believers in the world has outpaced the world’s population growth. Yet some countries still have huge people groups essentially untouched by the Gospel. It is risky to misjudge which groups are people groups and which groups are not. Ignoring invisible boundaries has real world consequences as whole people groups are left out, with no one being sent to them. 

Lessons from Ukraine

We aren’t alone in failing to consider how a people group’s identity shapes the course of their destiny. The best geopolitical intelligence agencies of our day underestimated the influence of the Ukrainian people group identity, and this oversight has had
real world consequences. Forgetting the genocidal atrocities the Ukrainians suffered under the Soviet Union, few predicted that they would fight to the death to prevent Russian dominance again.
 
The leadership shown by the people in Ukraine— and the depth and strengths of the “people group” identity that Ukrainians are willing to die for—has captured the imagination of many nations in a sense of awe and even a desire to give support. Many have been shocked that a country so intertwined with Russia—both on a family level and economically— could have a “national” identity so strong that it carries with it a call to arms and a call for help to the world.
 
This unfolding story reveals the double-edged sword of being made in God’s image, where a people create something of value that keeps them separate from their neighbors, where the visible and invisible walls when crossed create a call to arms, even when both sides share family members with their enemy.

Conclusion

We have too often ignored or underestimated the reality of people group identity. The Dhobi’s access to the Gospel—along with dozens of other groups spread-out all-over India—will remain extremely limited until they can be seen as a group that needs workers specifically sent to them. Until we see the world with “people group eyes” the Dhobi are very likely to wait far too long for the destiny that God has for them—to bless their families; and bless the world through them. The only way this happens is by the obedience of His people to see them and to go to them with the Gospel.
 

This is an article from the November-December 2022 issue: Effective Strategies and Roles for Reaching Frontier Peoples

Morning Basket

A Tradition to Change the World

Morning Basket

“Sit down for morning basket!” is heard in our home many mornings around 9:30 am. We start  our homeschool by gathering around the couch to center ourselves with goodness, truth and beauty served out of a basket of carefully selected books and resources.

Some mornings, we may pull out Scripture memory verses, the World Treasury of Children’s Literature, Book of Virtues Illustrated, or a children’s missionary biography.

But EVERY morning I insist on starting with a tattered photo album full of missionary prayer cards and the new prayer  guide  for  families,  Who Are Frontier People Groups?1

After the clamor over “Can I pick the people group today?”—and I twice prevent my coffee mug from a messy fall to the floor—one child snatches my phone and opens the Spotify app to the “Who are Frontier People Groups?” podcast.

We press play and the children engage instantly, listening to the exotic intro music. We then imagine the colorful character pictured as the lilting voice narrates. “Salaam, I’m Mahzala, a Pashtun woman from Pakistan… ” We turn to the map page of the book and touch the country of this people group.

Sometimes I tell the kids to close their eyes while we listen. However imperfect and distracted the children can seem in their prayer, we take turns talking to God about the people group and end with “Amen.” I’ll always smile hearing my four-year-old ask God “that the Kazakh people would be good and eat their food.”

It takes us about two months to go through the entire prayer guide, and then we start over again. We hope this new prayer ritual will be a lasting family tradition.

Just as we serve healthy meals to nourish their physical bodies, my husband and I seek to provide spiritual nurturing for our children’s faith. This nurturing is much more than understanding salvation in Christ.

It extends to:

  •  knowing their place in God’s created order
  • gaining God’s heart for the ethne
  • understanding their adoption into His kingdom plan

I see us as co-laborers with God, shaping our children’s worldview about His mission.

I grew up knowing a lot of missionaries—all wonderful people hosted in my grandparents’ home—and was given missionary biographies regularly as assigned (and fun!) reading. These influences greatly shaped my life direction and personal calling.

My husband and I  were  invited  to  join  a  team in North India early on in our marriage, which further directed my thinking and perception about movements to Jesus among non-Western religions and made us seek community with other believers who prioritize reaching non-believers for Christ.

Now in Washington state, raising four kids under the age of eight, I want my children to have a similar foundation for their journey with God, and go  even further. To do this well, I need to help them get regular doses of current and strategic missions information. The new “Who are Frontier People Groups?” prayer guide and accompanying podcast are perfect for us.

Kids need “mirrors and windows” throughout their education—mirrors to reflect their own experience and build their identity, and windows to let them see a different perspective and experience. Our family has found those mirrors and windows in many excellent Christian and non-Christian resources.

A few examples:

  • Children Just Like Me (Kindersley), photojournalism of lives of kids and their families on every continent
  • Hero Tales (Jackson), inspirational missionary biographies for children
  • Around the World with Kate & Mack (Paredes), a kid’s guide to language and Bible translation projects among the world’s “Bible-less” peoples
  • More With Less cookbook (Longacre), which gives a God-honoring global perspective to our eating choices


I’m grateful that lndigitous and the artists behind the Who are Frontier People Groups? added many child characters with relatable and interesting traits. This turns the abstractness of praying for millions of strangers we’ve never met into something our kids can do with a sense of personhood and place.

The resources I choose must provide mirrors and windows without missing the point: God has made us, saved us and called us to pray for AND go to the least-reached parts of the world with His good news, and this mission will be met with opposition. This prayer guide and podcast don’t leave out the ugly bits, which gives me an opportunity to explain and model prayer about persecution, addiction, cultural annihilation, poverty, and violence in an age-sensitive way. Jesus told us, In this world you will have tribulation, but take heart, l have overcome the world! (John 16:33b).

The larger our family grows (I’m expecting number five!) and the older our children get (we just ordered standardized testing for the first time for our eldest) the more I realize it’s true: we are given just a few short years to influence our children directly within our home, but those years shape how they will wield their own influence out in the world. l am  so thankful we have easy access to tools like the “Who Are Frontier Peoples?” guide and podcast to help me pray specifically and strategically with my children for today’s Frontier Peoples.

The best part? It doesn’t need to be done perfectly to have a powerful effect. This is a mustard seed moment in my busy day of read-alouds, diaper changes and meal prep. This seed will be of incalculable value years from now. For today I am only called to be faithful to pray with my children.

The cover of Jill Johnstone’s You Can Change the World (1994 edition) was illustrated with 90s kids wearing primary-colored sweatshirts touching a globe. This was definitely a mirror for me back then. The first page was a colorful spread featuring post- communist Albania. I remember my mom reading that page to me and my siblings on the couch, wondering “Why would anyone be a Muslim?” and praying for those people I didn’t know.

The amazing thing is, just 25 years later, Albania has a thriving church, sending missionaries to other nations. My prayer today is that my kids will see the Frontier People Groups “reached” in their lifetime and praise the God who answers the sincere prayers of their childhood.

Order copies of Who are Frontier People Groups? at CruStore.org/product/who-are-frontier-people- groups.

Find the free podcast on Spotify or Apple Podcasts by searching Who Are Frontier People Groups?

Endnotes
  1. 1 By Indigitous, a ministry of Cru (idserve.org/home/frontier- peoples).

This is an article from the November-December 2022 issue: Effective Strategies and Roles for Reaching Frontier Peoples

Learning from Paul about the Mindsets of Movement Catalysts

Movement engagements in every unreached people and place by 2025 (38 months)

Learning from Paul about the Mindsets of Movement Catalysts
Who could have imagined the current growth of Church Planting Movements around the world: encompassing hundreds of unreached people groups and millions of believers? God has certainly done immeasurably more than we could have asked or imagined, according to His power at work within His body.
 
Whether you call them Church Planting Movements or Disciple Making Movements or Kingdom Movements or Gospel Movements, these “Book of Acts”- type movements have occurred throughout church history. From Acts 19 to Patrick and the Irish, to Boniface in Europe, to the Moravians, to Methodism, to the Nagas—similar movements have continued throughout church history. However, the world has never seen a global spread of movements like we are seeing now.
 
Only God can start a movement, but He has chosen to work through His body, the Church. Throughout the history of Kingdom Movements, we have seen a key role played by movement catalysts and catalyst teams.
 
Just as in history, we currently see movement catalysts from many different cultures and nations. As we have seen these movements proliferate, we often see movement catalytic teams made up of cultural outsiders partnering with cultural insiders (either from the focus culture or a near neighbor). Examples would include Americans partnering with Indians, Rwandans partnering with Sudanese, and Brazilians partnering with Arabs.
 
Since God is using movement catalysts in amazing ways, how can we learn from what He is doing? Can we glean some principles, as we pray and work to equip more movement catalysts? How can we raise up the next generation of movement catalysts? What important truths are needed for becoming a movement catalyst?
 
Since the Apostle Paul is the most famous missionary catalyst, learning from his mindset is obviously important. In looking at Paul’s life and ministry, we can see certain patterns that can help us in identifying and equipping catalysts. Since exact parallels are impossible, we are looking for clues and nuances. As I compare Paul’s life and work with modern-day Gospel catalysts, I base these personal observations on friendship and co-laboring with many CPM catalysts all over the world during the last 30 years. I don’t present this as a comprehensive list, but I see many helpful parallels.
 
I will not describe commonalities these catalysts have with many, many people in these movements and throughout the global church—such as reliance on Scripture, guidance by the Spirit, and seeking to bring glory to God. Many people throughout  the world are passionate about knowing  Jesus  and making Him known. They echo Paul when he says, But whatever was gain to me I count as loss for the sake of Christ. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and be found in Him…1 In movements, and throughout the global church— many know that loving Jesus is foundational before any service we do for Him.
 
My goal is to describe dynamics unique to movement catalysts. They don’t have an exclusive claim on these characteristics, but we do see an unusual level of these attributes in the lives of movement catalysts. In describing these catalysts and comparing them to Paul, I have no desire to glorify the person instead of glorifying God. We are all sinners saved by grace; there is nothing good in them except Christ living in them—this alone is the hope of glory. 
 
Strong Backgrounds. We all know Paul was a virulent persecutor of  the  church  and  a  leader  of Jewish opposition to  the  Gospel.  Modern-  day movement catalysts come from both strong Christian backgrounds and strong anti-Christian backgrounds. Some of the most effective catalysts are modern day Sauls—former persecutors of the church from radical  Muslim,  Hindu,  Buddhist,  or Atheist backgrounds—including those serving as priests, militia leaders, terrorists, or religious scholars. I have heard several say, “We were willing to kill for our false beliefs, but now we are willing to die for Jesus.” Others were effective leaders in the Christian world: pastors, professors, business people and professional leaders who were very influential in their spheres but realized a change was necessary, and often stepped down from very successful ministries. A major commonality seems to be that they have all been passionate and very effective leaders in their “former lives.”
 
Wholehearted. These movement catalysts do not just  turn  away  from  their  former  religion  or their former positions—they do so with a wholeheartedness that echoes the cry of John Knox: “Give me Scotland or I die.”
 
I was talking to one leader of a CPM that has seen millions of people baptized. When someone praised him for the fruit this movement had seen, he said, “I don’t think about the millions that have been saved. I think about the millions that we have failed to reach, and I think about what we could have done differently. I think about our mistakes that have kept us from being more effective and reaching more people.”
 
Driven. An axiom of being wholehearted is often being driven. These men and women are driven by the lostness they see around them and are driven to pray and work as hard as they can. Sometimes people talk about not being extreme in ministry. But I do not think anyone would accuse Paul of being “moderate.” He wrote, But whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out His special favor on me—and not without results. For I have worked harder than any of the other apostles; yet it was not I but God who was working through me by His grace.2 Just as Paul persevered despite beatings, stonings, prison and all types of suffering, we see these catalysts persevere, no matter the circumstances, as many of them overcome similar difficulties. Interestingly, when we have asked non- movement leaders to describe the major barriers to starting movements, they usually focus on external barriers such as persecution, government barriers, and lack of resources. When we ask movement leaders, they almost always describe internal barriers: a lack of sacrifice, a need for more prayer, and other ways that we could better serve God’s mission.
 
God-sized Vision. In a meeting of 38 CPM catalysts in 2010, we asked: “What are the key contributions of outside catalysts?” The top answer that emerged was “vision”: These outside catalysts bring a God- sized vision and find inside catalysts who either have this vision or catch it.
 
Of course, Paul literally had a vision of Jesus that revolutionized his life. He relates that Jesus said to him, Yes, I am sending you to the Gentiles to open their eyes, so they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. Then they  will receive forgiveness for their sins and be given a place among God’s people, who are set apart by faith in me.3 Later he describes the scope of his work: For I would not dare say anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to make the Gentiles obedient by word and deed, by the power of miraculous signs and wonders, and by the power of God’s Spirit. As a result, I have fully proclaimed the good news about the Messiah from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum.4
 
No missionary task, whether small or big can be done by ourselves because Jesus tells us apart from me you can do nothing. But sometimes when faced with a more “typical” task, such as starting one church, we can mistakenly rely too much on our own wisdom and experience. One of the main reasons so many CPMs seem to have started in modern times is that people accepted a God-sized vision of focusing on reaching entire people groups. When faced with the task of reaching an unreached group consisting of millions of people, it becomes obvious that one worker cannot accomplish anything on their own. We are driven to a total dependence on God and an urgent need to involve many others in the body of Christ.
 
In the Great Commission, Jesus tells His disciples to “make disciples of panta ta ethnē” (all people groups). The question becomes: “How do you disciple an entire ethnos?” This God-sized question forces catalysts to embrace a God-sized vision and a God-driven approach. The only way to see entirepeople groups reached is through multiplication: of disciples who make disciples, leaders who develop leaders, and churches that multiply churches. The only way for multiplication to happen is to avoid human traditions and paradigms, and return to a 2,000-year-old strategy in which every believer is a priest and ambassador for God.
 
Focus on the Unreached. In the already-cited passage of Romans 15, Paul goes on  to  say:  My ambition has always been to preach the Good News where the name of Christ has never been heard, rather than where a church has already been started by someone else. I have been following the plan spoken of in the Scriptures, where it says, ‘Those who have never been told about Him will see, and those who have never heard of Him will understand.’5
 
Modern-day movement catalysts also focus on reaching those who have never heard. Approximately 90% of CPMs are occurring in unreached areas of the world, among those without previous access to the Gospel.
 
Just as Paul kept moving to new places, these movement catalysts have a burning desire to see the Gospel proclaimed among new peoples and places. Recently, one movement catalyst stepped down from his leadership of an indigenous mission agency he had founded in order to give more attention to the unengaged UPGs of his region. His broader partnership network includes 30+ movements and another 115+ CPM engagements, but he is more focused on the 150+ UUPGs with no movement efforts yet.
 
Those counted as nothing. In one meeting we asked a group of movement catalysts how they identified which of their new trainees would become effective. Half the catalysts spontaneously laughed out loud. The consistent answer was that we have no idea. Those we think will be very effective often end up doing nothing. Those we think are destined for failure often end up as the most fruitful multipliers. We have often made the mistake of using human perspectives and assumptions to pre-judge people. We have increasingly learned to wait and let people’s commitment, obedience, and fruit show us who God will use.
 
Paul  spoke  of  this  dynamic  when he said, This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength. Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.6
 
Humility. Although exceptions can be found, the vast majority of movement catalysts I know are very humble. When my wife and I asked one movement catalyst how we could pray for him, he said, “Pray that God will root out any pride—I don’t want to have even one ounce of pride.”
 
Early in his  career  (AD  53-54),  Paul  wrote  in 1 Corinthians that he was the least of the Apostles. A few years later (AD 60-61), he wrote in Ephesians that he was the least of the saints. And toward the end of his career (between AD 65-67), he wrote in 1 Timothy that he was the worst of sinners.
 
If we are in the right posture, the longer we serve God, the higher our opinion of Him and the lower our opinion of ourselves. Movement catalysts know that the movements they are experiencing, with thousands of new disciples and churches, are entirely a work of God. They realize that any false pride claiming the fruit as their own is a doorway for Satan’s influence—in themselves and in the movement.
 
Conclusion. The global Body of Christ has many gifts and callings. As 1 Corinthians 12 tells us,    all the parts are valuable and needed. The early church needed Peter, Paul, Priscilla and Aquilla and Timothy and many, many other unwritten faithful and sacrificial servants. Movement catalysts are not more important than other roles in fulfilling the Great Commission. But the better we understand the mindsets of movement catalysts, the better we can partner as Christ’s body to start, expand, and mature “Book of Acts” Movements among every unreached people and place.
 
Coming next: How movement catalysts can learn from Paul’s preparation and processes.
Endnotes

  1. 1  Philippians 3:7-9a. All Scriptures from NLT unless otherwise noted.

  2. 2 1 Corinthians 15:10.


  3. 3 Acts 26:17b-18.

  4. 4 Romans 15:18-19 HCSB.


  5. 5 Romans 15:20-21.


  6. 6 1 Corinthians 1:25-29.

This is an article from the November-December 2022 issue: Effective Strategies and Roles for Reaching Frontier Peoples

Unreached of the Day November December 2022

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

Unreached of the Day November December 2022

Click on the .pdf icon within this article to read the Unreached of the Day.

This is an article from the November-December 2022 issue: Effective Strategies and Roles for Reaching Frontier Peoples

Prayer Champions

Multiplying Pray-ers

Prayer Champions
For over a decade my family and I worked among the Rajput people to birth a movement in their midst. Then the Lord sent us back to our home country. Still feeling the “Rajput baton” was in our hands, we believed the Lord was leading us to serve the Rajput in new ways. One was championing prayer for the Rajput people. As D.L. Moody shared, "Every great movement of God can be traced to a kneeling figure.”
 
The Lord delights in our faith as we ask for impossible things that only He can do. When we lift up people and situations in intercessory prayer, we recognize our limitations and focus on the One who can do all things in accordance with His will. And He moves!
 
As I was praying, God stirred a global prayer network to develop prayer champions for each of the largest Frontier People Groups (FPGs), including the Rajput. Someone learned of our love for the Rajput, asked me to prayerfully consider the prayer champion role, and offered to help me get started. I saw this as confirmation of what God put in our hearts.
 
At the outset I felt limited, overwhelmed, and unsure if I was the right person for this position. But the Holy Spirit met me in my doubts and reminded me that when the Lord calls, He provides.
 
The Rajput Prayer Network (RPN) began with me praying for a few months individually and with my husband for the Lord’s guidance in regard to this new prayer initiative. Already the Lord has brought people, ideas, and structures for facilitating prayer for the Rajputs: a monthly Zoom prayer meeting; a monthly, emailed prayer point list; a Connect group through connect.GGCN.org; a prayer group on GetInvolved. com; and partnering and mentorship with others.
 
Later steps may include a website dedicated to prayer and following the Pray4movements guidelines (pray4movement.org) to develop the RPN.
 
My long-term vision is for churches, families, and individuals to adopt the Rajput people—committing to pray, give, go, send and anything else God gives us to do to extend His blessing among the Rajputs. I am also excited to discover other new steps the Lord will show me as I facilitate prayer for this FPG.
 
Brothers and sisters, if you sense the Holy Spirit's prompting to join in praying for the Rajput people, email me at [email protected]. Also check out this short prayer video for Rajputs by Prayercast (PrayerCast.com/rajput-(hindu).html).
 
If the  Holy  Spirit  is  prompting  you  to  become a prayer champion for another FPG, listen and trust Him. Your  heart of faith and willing spirit  are extremely powerful, because they rest in God Almighty. If God calls you, He will lead you. Seek His face and move accordingly as we ask His blessing among all FPGs.

This is an article from the November-December 2022 issue: Effective Strategies and Roles for Reaching Frontier Peoples

Re-Introducing Frontier People Groups

Re-Introducing Frontier People Groups
In 2016 Southern Baptist researcher Jim Haney wrote:
The mission community has strayed from… our essential goal of… indigenous movements everywhere. … We have used metrics that do not clearly reveal where such movements are lacking. 
Today the Gospel has taken root among 75% of the world's people groups, including one-third of all Unreached People Groups (UPGs)—where a number of movements to Jesus have occurred or are unfolding.
 
However, the Gospel has yet to even be implanted—and there are no known movements—among the other 25% (2 billion people). This two-thirds of UPGs is now classified as Frontier People Groups (FPGs).
 
MF introduced FPGs in 2018.  The concept and definition have been further clarified, as follows:

FPGs—still “hidden,” but now among Unreached People Groups

Movements to Jesus are needed in every segment of society and every place where a group of people are isolated from believers they would identify as“like themselves.”
 
What distinguishes FPGs is the need for pioneer, cross-cultural workers to intentionally implant the Gospel for a movement to start and spread.
 
Unfortunately, many church sending policies require their workers to partner with local churches.
 
This prevents such workers from serving among FPGs. Thus 5,000 FPGs with virtually no followers of Jesus receive just one-third as many international workers as the 2,500 other UPGs.
 
How the need for more cross-cultural witness became clear
 
In the 1970s Ralph Winter observed that:
 
  • The Gospel had spread rapidly in the many ethne  where pioneer cross-cultural workers had implanted the Gospel.
  • This rapid spread was through same-culture witness within ethne where the Gospel had been implanted.
  • 60% of the world lived in ethne where the Gospel had not yet taken root, and cross-cultural workers were still needed.

Winter introduced these ethne as “Hidden Peoples,” and urged the global Church to prioritize cross-cultural witness to them.

How the ethne needing cross-cultural witness became hidden again

Winter later reluctantly agreed to the label “Unreached” for ethne with “no indigenous com-munity of believing Christians with adequate numbers and resources to evangelize this people group without outside assistance.”  However, while this definition pointed many in the right general direction, it also hid the distinction between:

  • Ethne still in need of cross-cultural witness to implant the Gospel.
  • And ethne where the Gospel has taken root and started to spread.

How is the Gospel implanted in an ethne?

Implanting the Gospel in an ethne (or any segment of society) starts with discipling one or more of its extended families (while remaining one with their people) to love, listen to and follow Jesus together in seeking God's blessing for the rest of their “people.”
The key is discipling every seeker and new believer for witness to their relational network, and considering the family in the discipling process even before the individual comes to faith.

In 1982 McGavran recommended:

If only one person decides to follow Jesus, do not baptize him immediately. Say to him, “You and I will work together to lead another five or ten or, God willing, fifty of your people to accept Jesus Christ as Savior so that when you are baptized, you are baptized with them.” Ostracism is very effective against one lone person. But ostracism is weak indeed when exercised against a group of a dozen. And when exercised against two hundred it has practically no force at all.

Once a family is discipled to love, hear and follow Jesus, they can begin modeling and multiplying His kingdom in their relational network. Such same-culture witness can then multiply rapidly into a movement to Jesus.

Historically, cross-cultural workers sent inter-nationally have been the driving force in implanting the Gospel. However, disciples in today's movements to Jesus are being trained to notice and witness to all kinds of lost people—even outside their own group.

As the global Church is praying, proximate  disciples are increasingly engaging in cross-cultural witness beyond their own people. The Holy Spirit is often confirming with miracles. As a result, new movements are starting among both UPGs and FPGs!

Extracting individuals can heighten barriers to the Gospel

Imagine the loss of New Testament witness if:

  • The Gadarene demoniac had been allowed to leave his people to follow Jesus (Mark 5).
  • The woman in Sychar had joined Jesus' disciples, and not testified to her village (John 4).
  • Philip had led the Ethiopian eunuch to join local believers, and not to return to Ethiopia (Acts 8).

One major issue in cross-cultural witness is families misunderstanding faith in Jesus as betrayal of their family and heritage. This can break apart families and increase barriers. Donald McGavran (and others) have described how this develops in FPGs:

Each convert, as he becomes a Christian, is seen by kin as one who leaves “us” and joins “them.” … Consequently, his own relatives force him out. [When this happens, Christ's cause] wins the individual but loses the family. [Implanting the Gospel in that ethne then becomes] doubly difficult. “The Christians misled one of our people,” the rest of the group will say. “We’re going to make quite sure that they do not mislead any more of us.” 

Conclusion

Jesus trained his disciples to stay with just one family in each village (Matt.10, Luke 9,10), and this pattern has proven helpful in ethne and other segments of society.

May the Holy Spirit guide us all—with fresh clarity on where and how to implant the Gospel—in praying and collaborating globally and locally to fill every remaining gap in every segment of every ethne.

 

  

 4 MissionFrontiers.org/issue/article/a-church-in-every-people1
 5 Geographically, culturally and/or linguistically near those with whom they are sharing.
 6 MissionFrontiers.org/issue/article/a-church-in-every-people1see also ucaNews.com/news/rise-of-christianity-is-a-blessing-for-nepal/94502

Endnotes
  1. 1  Hitting the Mark: Indigenous Movements Everywhere

  2. 2 MissionFrontiers.org/issue/article/hitting-the-mark. MissionFrontiers.org/issue/article/introducing-frontier-people-groups-fpgs.

  3. 3 Ethne are people groups with a generational identity preserved through intermarriage, etc.

  4. 4 MissionFrontiers.org/issue/article/a-church-in-every-people1

  5. 5 Geographically, culturally and/or linguistically near those with whom they are sharing.

  6. 6 MissionFrontiers.org/issue/article/a-church-in-every-people1see also ucaNews.com/news/rise-of-christianity-is-a-blessing-for-nepal/94502

This is an article from the November-December 2022 issue: Effective Strategies and Roles for Reaching Frontier Peoples

Family-Blessing Advocates

Blessing Families by Filling the Gaps

Family-Blessing Advocates
Too often Muslims and Hindus have seen the Gospel message as a war of religions, trying to get them to reject their beliefs and rituals and adopt a foreign set of beliefs and rituals. Did Jesus come to exchange one religion for another? Didn’t He come to reconcile the relationship between God and all the families of the earth, to free us from sin and provide the brand-new life necessary to love Him and each other? Jesus came to fulfill God’s covenant with Abraham to bless all the families of the earth.
 
How can God’s love be made real in Frontier People Groups? It is not enough merely to identify people groups who don’t yet understand God’s love. We need to help their communities see Jesus as a messenger of peace with God—not a threat to their families—a healer of diseases and relationships, a deliverer from evil.

Fulfilling the Covenant by Blessing the Families

Blessing the families and communities of FPGs requires the kind of loving care that missionaries traditionally provided through medical help, job creation and caring for widows and orphans. They taught peoples to read their own language and to gain standing in the larger world, defending them against colonial powers and merciless merchants.
 
But most hospitals and schools established by Christians have been taken over by governments and forcefully secularized, including societies like the Red Cross. And NGOs have institutionalized and depersonalized charity functions like taking care of orphans and feeding the hungry.
 
It seems workers living among Frontier Peoples are left with few ways to tangibly help hurting families. But there are many gaps that do not put us in  competition  with  the  governments,  and  do not require infrastructure, organizations, or government permission. Compassion will open our eyes to these things destroying the families.

An Example

One older couple ministering in a Sudan refugee camp asked the mothers what was needed most. They answered, “a basketball court.” Despite doubts, the couple arranged for a court to be built, and young teens that had been drifting into drugs began spending their time playing basketball (the game was invented for this purpose by a YMCA man!) Soon multiple courts, multiple teams, championships and Discovery Bible Studies were formed for those interested, like the original YMCA.
 
Many such “gap” opportunities exist. In the Punjab of India an estimated 25% of the youth are addicted to opioids, alcohol, or other drugs. Addiction is     a significant problem in most FPGs. We can help with addictions, recovery and alternatives for adults and youth without setting up clinics. Other areas of need in FPGs include families with autistic children, primary health training or help with newborns, crisis pregnancy support, clean water and reversing desertification (by reinvigorating local herds and gardens through “Holistic Management”).
 
Family-blessing advocates living within FPG communities have many  non-institutional  ways  to bring God's blessing by helping solve problems destroying the families as they share the Gospel.
 
NOTE: When integrated with discipling movements, the CHE (Community Health Evangelism) non- institutional approach   to   blessing communities is called IDMM (Integrated Disciple Making Movements). For training and other information visit:
• cheNetwork.org/network/initiatives
• DMMsFrontierMissions.com/4-principles-of- integral-mission-and-dmms

This is an article from the November-December 2022 issue: Effective Strategies and Roles for Reaching Frontier Peoples

Prayer Transforms the Karamojong People

Prayer Transforms the Karamojong People
Up to 900,000 Karamojong live in the least developed and poorest part of Uganda, across  six  districts  in  the north-east, mostly in the hills. Locals call them "Karamojong Warriors,” as they often steal cattle and kill resisters. They live in “homesteads" of several extended families, with their cattle, when they are not out grazing.
 
Automatic weapons have turned the region into a virtual no-go zone. Heavy flooding, droughts and armed conflict with related tribes all contribute. Government efforts to forcibly disarm the Karamojong have only been marginally successful.
Mission work in Uganda began with other people groups in the plains, with few ever working among the Karamojong. However, one worker who lived among them became a prayer champion, facilitating on-site prayer teams from Uganda, South Africa, Korea and the U.S.
 
God is now answering these prayers through a Church Planting Movement (CPM) started in 2015 in northern Uganda refugee camps. Six years later, this CPM has spread to 44 refugee camps and 56 districts of Uganda, with starts in other countries. The CPM has multiplied to 2,775 groups across Uganda, with about 2000 new believers every month.
 
In June 2021, just before a new lockdown in Uganda, a CPM team leader, Jennifer, took two others to share in her home district of Abim. Later, Jennifer and a translator ventured up in the hills to find a nearby Karamojong community. She reported:
 
The elders were sitting in a circle, drinking.  I greeted them and asked if they could give me a few minutes. They gladly accepted, and I shared from our "Good News for You" lesson.
 
Before I finished one warrior stood—crying,  “I have killed so many, can God ever forgive me?” When I finished, all eight received Jesus as Lord and Savior. I then shared with the wom- en and children. Ten women and a few children also gave their lives to Jesus! There was no train- er to leave with them, so we began fasting and praying for this seed to grow.
 
The whole CPM network began praying fervently for the Karamojong, and by January 2022 three DMM training teams had visited Kotido and seen 790 spiritually hungry people saved and 22 groups formed (mostly whole homesteads).
 
‘Elders’ maintain clan culture, regulate land use and liaison to keep order. Paul, a person of peace, opened many doors. He was given a free radio broadcast, and after his message, a clan elder asked him in July to meet with 25 elders and later to a much larger gathering of 250. So 1,000 people chose to follow Jesus in two weeks, for a total of 3,700 new believers since Jennifer’s first contact, now in 94 disciple- making groups. We pray for individuals and see many miracles leading to salvations. Our task now is baptizing and establishing them in disciple-making groups!
 
Famine and starvation are huge issues here. Children, the elderly, and pregnant women are the most vulnerable. We welcome continued prayer for resources to fully seize this opportunity to meet the spiritual hunger and also desperate physical needs—with food, vegetable seeds, medicines and water purifying. Join us in prayer.

This is an article from the November-December 2022 issue: Effective Strategies and Roles for Reaching Frontier Peoples

Bringing Back the King of Kings

Adopting a Frontier People Group in Prayer: God’s Supernatural Means for Mission Breakthroughs

Bringing Back the King of Kings
An increasing number of us in the prayer and mission movements believe we may well  be  in the run-up to the return of our Lord Jesus Christ! He told us to watch for the signs of the times to know when that will be. Perhaps the most important sign is that the ethne, the ethnic people groups, mentioned in Matthew 24:14 and 28:19 could each soon have a movement to Jesus among them, perhaps even by 2030 to 2033 as several world evangelization and Bible translation efforts now predict. What a time to be alive and to serve the returning King of Kings!
 
In the meantime, we need to greatly multiply and expand both the prayer and mission efforts to ignite movements for Him in every Frontier People Group (FPG)—those least reached of all Unreached People Groups (UPGs), with virtually no followers of Jesus. Of more than seven thousand UPGs, there are less than three hundred FPGs over one million in size—a total population of 1.6 billion people. Joshua Project maintains the list of these largest FPGs at JoshuaProject.net/frontier/4 These three hundred FPGs are the most strategic to reach first because the movements to Jesus that develop within them will likely overflow to smaller, neighboring UPGs and FPGs as the power of disciple-making, church-planting movements is unleashed.
 
The prayer and mission movements need your help to get churches, prayer groups, youth, and children’s ministries worldwide, through their denominations and networks, to systematically adopt each one of these largest FPGs, even by this year’s end. Jesus commanded that we pray to the Lord of the harvest to send workers into His harvest field (Matt. 9:37–38). Prayer is the powerful supernatural way Jesus gave us to send forth workers, even to the least reached places and people groups! Prayer adoption of each of these three hundred largest FPGs by multiple ministries will produce an explosive, synergistic leap in this decade toward accomplishing Jesus’ command to reach all ethne. The seven- minute video Understanding the Remaining Mission Task (Youtu.be/IYwcmPoByhg) provides a helpful overview of what remains do be done in this all- important mission of the Lord. Another important 10-min video is “Why Pray for the Largest Frontier People Groups?” (Youtu.be/0-weoFD4Ktk).
 
Printable prayer cards for each of these largest FPGs are available on Joshua Project (JoshuaProject.net/ pray/cards/frontier/4). These cards can be enlarged for the wall of a church or prayer group’s meeting place, or given out as bookmarks for members' Bibles as a reminder to pray regularly for workers and movements to Jesus in the people group they have adopted. Joshua Project JoshuaProject.net has many wonderful resources for learning more about each people group, and adopting entities can do further research and network with others who adopt the same FPG. A new web platform (GetInvolved.com) will further facilitate the formation of digital prayer communities adopting the same FPG for ongoing prayer.
We would deeply appreciate your help in getting this challenge out to any churches, prayer groups, youth, and children's ministries you  are  in  touch with. In our experience it is best to assign just one FPG to each ministry entity, attaching a prayer card for that FPG with your request, until one or more churches or prayer ministries take responsibility for each of these three hundred Frontier People Groups. They can be asked to pray for just the coming year, then to renew that commitment or shift to another people group if they like. Please ask each adopting entity to let you know of their commitment so you can help us track what is happening and we can connect adopting entities with field teams where possible, and share how their prayers are being answered. One agency gathering information on adoptions is AIMS (AIMS.org). They can assist with adoption, research,  prayer and connection with those on the field seeking movements to Jesus among these FPGs and other unreached people groups.
Let me close with  this  testimony  to  the  power of praying for a Frontier People Group. At the beginning of the 1990’s, I asked two churches in my hometown to adopt a Central Asian people group with only two known followers of Jesus. One I had been privileged to lead to the Lord myself in an evangelistic event in southern Russia. The other I met on a visit to the country where their people group lived. The rest, as far as we knew, were all Muslims.

The Adopt a People Clearinghouse had just printed a beautiful prayer card about this people. Members in both of these churches began to pray, and we begin to see God work as He promised in Psalm 77:14, “You are the God who performs miracles; You display your power among the peoples.”

Shortly after these churches began to pray, our city and the capital city of this people group began a sister-city exchange of musicians, composers, and other cultural programs. The symphony orchestra of their country then scheduled a concert  the  night before their independence celebration from the Soviet Union. My \grandfather was the Dean of Fine Arts at our university, and a well-known local composer, and his music was chosen for the concert. My parents could not go, so I was chosen to represent him.
At that concert, in that Central Asian nation, the conductor asked me to say a few words about my grandfather. I told them about his search for God through his composing, and we read his favorite Psalm—Psalm 23. The conductor, musicians and audience (including government officials) were all Muslims. Yet they were historically a shepherding people, and loved my grandfather’s music and Psalm 23!

I later learned that my remarks were  included  with the concert on national radio! A strategy coordinator with a heart for this people group had also come with me. This gave him an open door (and office) to bring in university lecturers and agricultural development experts who were all followers of Jesus. They eventually led hundreds to Christ, thanks be to the Lord!

God gave amazing favor in answer to the prayers of ordinary believers back home! After the concert, the conductor asked if I could come back the following year for another concert of my grandfather’s music. I agreed to do so.

As we sat in the audience waiting for the concert to begin, the conductor asked, “Now, can we have John Robb come up to the mic and tell us about God?”  I followed up on what I had said the year before, and again they seemed quite open and receptive. One of the songs sung during that concert, “What is this glory?,” my granddad’s touching Christmas piece about the shepherds welcoming the birth of Jesus.

It has been said that you can preach to Muslims and they might kill you, but you can sing to them and they will love you! I am still breathing, so that is apparently what happened!

What an illustration of the power of focused  rayer to release breakthroughs among unreached people groups! Jesus stressed prayer as the essential foundation for mission breakthrough when He said: “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field” (Matthew 9:37–38). God owns the harvest, and sends out the workers.

However He has chosen to wait upon our prayers before He sends out the workers He has chosen and gifted. Herein lies the mystery and potency of prayer for people groups who have still never heard the Gospel. That is why the most strategic thing we can do—as instructed by the Master Missiologist Himself—is to pray and enlist others to do so.

In the run-up to His return, let us take up Jesus’  command, to pray for workers to be sent out to all Frontier People Groups and birth movements to Jesus. Let us exercise the supernatural prerogative of prayer for mission breakthroughs!

This is an article from the November-December 2022 issue: Effective Strategies and Roles for Reaching Frontier Peoples

FPG Global Resources

FPG Global Resources

Please open the PDF that accompanies this article to see the centerfold of resources included in this issue.

This is an article from the November-December 2022 issue: Effective Strategies and Roles for Reaching Frontier Peoples

Further Reflections

Out of This World or into the Kingdom?

Further Reflections
When you try and talk with someone about your faith, with the hope that they may come to know God through Christ, you probably have a basic idea of what you want to say. We are taught this in church “personal evangelism” classes. We may start our spiritual conversations differently, based on all kinds of factors, but you probably learned a “way” to help people make a decision to follow Jesus.1 If you are in the West, that “way” very likely includes some elements of: God loves you, turn from sin (repent), believe and obey (sometimes!). These days, all of that assumes the person believes there is some sort of supreme being, but that is a different topic.
 
Certainly, these “standard” elements are a part of the process of believing/trusting/turning to God. But I wonder if we have focused too much on the “personal” aspect in this approach. The idea that their specific salvation is central, can give the wrong impression and blunt  the  spread  of  the  Gospel. It only gives part of the picture. It is a very self- centered approach as it appeals to those who are interested in their eternal future – their ticket to heaven. Certainly, many “Sunday-only” Christians got their ticket, and said “thank you very much, now that I can’t lose my salvation, I’m good!” (OK, that is an overstatement, but only slightly!)
 
But many people today are also thinking more deeply of their family and friends—especially since COVID began. They consider the small clusters of those closest to them for many of life’s decisions. While we might question how young people today make quality friends—because of the rise of social media and personal entertainment in your pocket or purse—they still think of those with whom they are “connected” as a crucial part of their lives. They really care about what they think, even when they disagree. They make (sometimes major) decisions in consultation with these friends. They care about their future too and often do not want to merely think of their own good, but the good of these close friends.

This isn’t new, but as I’ve thought about it more, I’ve wondered if we should change our approach when we talk about Jesus with non-believers. Here are a few ideas that may help.

  • The word “gospel” or “evangelical” is transliterated from the original Greek  root  word  “evangel.” In the New Testament times, the core idea behind the word, was “to bring or announce good news.” There are specific examples of it being used in relationship to announcements related to the Roman emperor.
  • Jesus uses the phrase “Gospel of the kingdom.” A kingdom of which He is the King is an amazing thing to announce. He  demonstrated His right  to rule with powerful teaching and miracles all grounded in an amazing love.
  • We  may focus on the context of the message or what Jesus has done for us and miss actually introducing who He is to them. We often ask people to trust, believe, invite—all actions they take or that relate to their life situation or sin. That’s fine, but how much do they know about Him? Have they seen Him in our lives?

People often “introduced” people to Jesus Himself.

  • In John’s Gospel, John (the baptizer), looked at Jesus as He walked by and said, Behold, the Lamb of God!’(John 1:36).
  • One of the two who heard John was Andrew, who first found his brother Simon and said to him, We have found the Messiah…. While Messiah is a profound concept to Jews of any time, Andrew is building on both his relationship with his brother and his discovery of Jesus. I wonder what else Andrew might have said to Peter?
  • In John 4, the woman that Jesus meets at the well outside Sychar in Samaria witnesses to the people in town by saying, Come and see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?

You might say, “I wish Jesus told my friends all they ever did…then they would believe.” But I believe He actually does—through us. They see Him in our lives. He also does that through the conviction of sin and the Spirit of course.

If we are known by our love, people are drawn to Jesus and their lives and need for Him are exposed by the truth that penetrates the darkness. I encourage you to study through more passages where people are introduced to Jesus, and rethink the way you share about the One who is truth.

Endnotes
  1. 1 We used to say “become a Christian” but that really doesn’t communicate what we want to say. The religious category of Christian (or Hindu, Muslim or Buddhist or…) is not what people are becoming when they trust in Christ. They may become part of one local body of the Christian Tradition, but that is so broad as to be only marginally helpful today. We all know churches that do not seem to reflect the teaching of the New Testament and the people who attend them are still called “Christians.”
     

This is an article from the September-October 2022 issue: Healers and Preachers

Midwife Missionary or Missionary Midwife?

Creating Sustainable Change for Mothers and Babies

Midwife Missionary or Missionary Midwife?
Moussa asked me to come to his home and see Rahila, his wife, who had just given birth. He was worried about the baby,  who  was  crying  inconsolably.  He has four wives and at least 18 living children. One day I asked how many of his children had died. Five. Five children had died before they were 12 months old: three of them on the first day of life.
 
They traveled on from Bethel, and when Ephrath [Bethlehem] was still some distance away, Rachel went into labor—and her labor was hard. When  the labor was at its hardest, the midwife said to her, “Don’t be afraid, for you are having another son. … Rachel died and was buried on the way to Bethlehem.” (Genesis 35:16-17 NEV, paraphrased)
 
Midwives most often usher in life. But, as with the few mentions of midwives in the Bible, midwives are often dealing with death. In the year 2020, roughly 210,000 women died during and following pregnancy and birth. 86% of maternal deaths  occur in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia—the 10/40 Window—and most are preventable. The World Bank shows the neonatal (first 28 days of a baby’s life) mortality rate in eight of the 10/40 Window countries to be above 30 deaths per 1000 births (2020). The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that one third of all neonatal deaths occur on the day of birth. In Pakistan alone, 153 babies are born alive on any given day—and die on that same day.
 
The women and babies in the 10/40 Window are dying before they hear about what happened on that night long ago when God arrived on earth, fully human. They are living without knowing and following Christ and dying of preventable causes in pregnancy, birth, postpartum and early childhood. As we work to make Christ known in the 10/40 Window, how can we equip Unreached People Groups (UPGs) to save the lives of their mothers and babies and improve overall health without creating dependency?
 
For the past 100 plus years, missionaries have set up clinics and hospitals, run and primarily staffed by outsiders. While these institutions and projects are good, they are not sustainable due to outsider initiative and dependence on outsider skills. The institutions answer the command to care for the “least of these,” but they most often do not address and solve endemic issues of poverty (physical and spiritual), nor do they equip the people to create their own sustainable healthcare infrastructure.
 
The WHO recommends all births be attended by Skilled Birth Attendants (SBAs). Births in the 10/40 Window traditionally take place at home, attended by village midwives (commonly called Traditional Birth Assistants and referred to as community midwives in this article) who are not skilled according to the WHO. These community midwives are: often illiterate and almost always under-educated; respected and trusted members of their communities; and the midwives who witness death far too often. They are skilled in providing care at the time of birth and immediately postpartum—to the level of what they have had the opportunity to learn.
 
SBAs have skills and knowledge that are useful regardless of where they are in the world. It is the SBA’s job as a missionary to walk alongside the community midwives and introduce them to Christ, providing example and teaching of vital medical skills, but not taking over the midwifery role. Approaching healthcare from the grassroots of community midwifery can and will result in sustainable change as these core members of UPG communities add to their skillset and understanding of Christ.
 
I arrived at Moussa’s house—five bedrooms lined up, each with a “front porch” of grass mats—and he led me to the newborn and her mother, lying on a porch mat, dust swirling around them as children scuffled nearby. The baby was crying inconsolably. “When was she born?” “Who was there?” “Tell me about it.” I asked them to call the community midwife to come over so that we could talk. The community midwife was open, and I learned  from her the tradition of not having the baby latch until the milk was in on day two or three due to a belief that there is nothing available for the baby in those first days. In truth, the available colostrum is crucial for the baby’s well-being. I wracked my brain for a way to honor the tradition yet get the baby to the breast, which is what she needed most.
 
The community midwife told me she thought the baby was cold and asked what I thought we should do. I asked her what she thought we should do.  Eventually, we agreed to try putting the baby skin- to-skin with Rahila. Within four minutes, the baby squirmed her way to the breast and latched on, thus ending her frantic crying.
 
“Midwife Missionary” is traditionally defined as someone who is trained in childbirth and women’s health and uses these skills to provide Christ- centered  care  in  a  cross-cultural  environment.  A midwife missionary can easily work in a hospital or clinic in any 10/40 Window community. She  can easily spend her life caring for families and providing Christ-centered care. History has proven, though, that when the outsider midwife missionary leaves, progress is not sustained. We know that outsider initiatives do not result in long-term change without dependence.
 
When midwives enter as doers (as medical missionaries traditionally have), they and the people with whom they are living become performance- based rather than Christ-focused. Perhaps missionary midwives should enter communities, not hiding that they are midwives but not actively practicing either. They should invest their time and energy integrating into the culture and building relationships (which midwives are expert at doing) without the safety net of practicing. Rather than initiating practice, SBAs ought to wait for the community midwives to discover how they want the SBA to enter the UPG's sacred world of midwifery. If we remove the expectation that midwife missionaries work in a hospital or clinic and instead set the expectation that the missionary call comes before the midwife call, then we can more reliably move toward sustainable healthcare and people movements because community midwives will be the ones with ownership of any change, rather than the outsider.
 
Moussa and I were talking a few days later and I asked how the baby was doing. He lit up and told me she was the happiest baby of any of his children and that she was still at the breast  “constantly.” He proceeded to remind me of how I would earn favor with God for my good deed of helping his family. I responded, “You know, this is the difference between your faith and mine. In your Muslim faith, you do good things in hopes of earning God’s favor. As a Christian, I do good things because I believe that through Christ God has already given me favor. I do good things out of gratitude.” His eyes widened and he exclaimed, “No Christian has ever explained this to me! Now I understand!”
Just as we must be willing to allow Christianity to unfold contextually, missionary midwives need to be willing to allow birth to remain in cultural context, likely never being the primary care providers. Given this, how can missionary midwives facilitate indigenous health infrastructure and changes in practices related to pregnancy, birth, postpartum and early childhood?
 
The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah, “When you are helping the Hebrew women during childbirth … if you see that the baby is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.” The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live. Then the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and asked them, “Why have you done this? Why have you let the boys live?” The midwives answered Pharaoh, “Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive.” (Exodus 1:15-20)
 
Traditionally, Shiphrah and Puah are assumed to be Hebrew. However, it is more likely that they were Egyptians. If they were not Egyptian, how could Pharaoh command them to kill the Jews? And, if they were Hebrew, why wouldn’t they have shared his command with their people? Recent parchments (the Genizah fragment), clearly list Shiphrah and Puah as Egyptian women. Shiphrah and Puah were outsiders who had become alongsiders to the Hebrews.

The missionary midwife integrates into the community, becoming an alongsider who is available to add to the community midwives’ knowledge and skills when the community midwives express a desire for this, but who does not take over the birth practices. Community midwives are expert at “performing” for outsiders who enter their communities as “doers” because historically, performance results in financial gain. This expectation can be minimized when the community midwives are the initiators, and the outsider is a member of the community through relationship (not profession).

A missionary midwife who is an alongsider can, in time, teach the community midwives healthcare skills that will save mothers and babies. By using a community health evangelism model, the knowledge and skills learned by the community midwives can be the basis of an indigenous maternal/infant healthcare system that is not dependent on outsiders for sustainability. Missionary midwives share their faith in one-on- one relationships and by integrating the gospel into lessons and discussions about nutrition, relationships, resuscitation, stopping hemorrhage, breastfeeding, and any other topic in which the community midwives are interested. Structuring the learning in a manner that sets the expectation that the community midwives will carry forward what they have learned and share it with their people is vital. The community midwives are inside community members’ houses sharing wisdom and skills, not the missionary midwife, thus allowing contextualization. In people movements, the insiders further the movement. Likewise, in improving healthcare structure and wellbeing, the insiders continue and grow the movement. Just as we pray for People of Peace who will be integral to moving a UPG toward Christ, we need to pray for the community midwives of peace who will be integral to moving the people toward physical and spiritual health, rather than instituting outsider initiatives.

When Jesus was born, a community midwife was likely present. She didn’t know that the baby born that night was fully human and fully God. But she was present with Mary and likely became a trusted friend. Perhaps she was one of the women who followed Jesus during his ministry. Perhaps she then began sharing the Good News with every family with whom she worked, while at the same time continuing the cultural traditions practiced during birth, which probably included the recitation of Psalm 121. Integrating the Good News into her care was natural and did not require her to culturally change what she was doing. Missionary midwives can likewise be diligent to encourage community midwives to “do” midwifery as they always have while integrating their new skills and understanding of God in culturally appropriate ways.

The highest impact missionary midwives can have on the spiritual and physical lives of unreached people is as alongsiders. For the purposes of sustainability, it is key that missionary midwives enter communities as learners instead of doers, waiting until they are asked to participate alongside the community midwives before teaching or practicing. Missionary midwives are in a unique position because their vocation naturally allows them entry into deep relationships with the UPG. As an alongsider who has been invited to facilitate growth and change, the missionary midwife has the capacity to equip the people group for lasting change—physical and spiritual—that is independent of her presence. Through the missionary midwife’s relationships—professional and personal—with the community midwives, we can sustainably equip UPGs to save the lives of their mothers and babies.

Two years passed and Moussa came to me with news that Rahila had given birth again and that, this time, the community midwife put the baby skin-to- skin with Rahila soon after birth, allowing the baby to latch at the breast. I asked if I could pray for the baby. He said, “Of course!” I went and prayed a simple prayer, ending it with “In the name of Christ, Amen.” I heard him repeat the phrase, “In the name of Christ, Amen.” and I realized at that moment that God had used midwifery and my willingness to come alongside the community midwife on Rahila’s and her babies’ road to Bethlehem to forever change the trajectory of their family’s life through a simple relationship with a man named Moussa.

This is an article from the September-October 2022 issue: Healers and Preachers

Toward the Edges

The Frontiers, and Health and Mission?

Toward the Edges
The Frontiers, and Health and Mission?
 
Just this morning I was reading through Luke’s gospel these words about John the Baptist:
 
“So, with many other encouraging words he ‘good newsed’ the people” (Luke 3:18, my own version).
 
Right before that summary we are given glimpses of what the encouraging words were with which John was goodnewsing: calls to repentance, “children of snakes”, and comparing people unfavorably to the stones from which God could raise up new heirs for Abraham!
 
Why begin here in a column about health and mission? To highlight a point:
 
In our evangelical heritages we have tended to equate “good news” with a particular message, or particular points in a message, namely the wonderful message of the way Jesus’ death for our sins has brought us forgiveness and justification. And hear me, that IS wonderful news! But that is not the gospel, not in its entirety and richness.
 
So, John’s words of repentance are also counted as good news.
 
Mark’s gospel opens by saying “this is the beginning of the good news of Jesus….”, and then tells the whole story. The life of Jesus, what Jesus said and did is the good news for Mark. Indeed, one might say safely that Jesus is the good news.
 
And now for my main point, to draw just one implication from the above, we see in the life of Jesus in all four gospels that a total, holistic healing of human beings was a part of the good news.
 
In Frontier Ventures, one of our core organizational values is “health” and we state it in this way:
Health: of body, soul, spirit, relationships; of organizational life, finance, systems, pace.
 
So, for us as a people in Frontier Ventures, we are increasingly shaping our way of being an organization, and being people, around what it means to be fully, wholly, healthy.
 
But how does this relate to frontier mission?
 
I opened with reflections intended to clarify that the good news itself includes “health”.
 
Health and mission do not relate to each other in a “means to an end” mode. That is, there  are some who might argue that missionaries should be involved with health-related service so that they can gain access, or gain a hearing, etc. In each example, health is a means to some other end.
 
Others normally not in the evangelical camp, might argue the opposite and suggest that health-related efforts should never be connected with evangelism, as serving and caring for the health of people should be an end in and of itself.
 
My contention is that the truth is something other than either, something deeper.
 
Health, the total well-being of people in every facet of life, is not a separate “add on” to the good news, but inherently and deeply connected to it.
 
“Salvation” is the whole restoration of who we are as people: body, soul, spirit, relationships.
 
And so, the frontiers:
If one were to take a map of the world that highlighted all the locations of least reached peoples by using the color red as a shaded highlight, and then using that same map, using a highlight shade of, say blue, to indicate the regions of greatest need related to health, much of the red (least reached) would turn to purple.
 
That is, the peoples that are least reached and the peoples with the greatest need in terms of health and many other indicators, almost fully overlap.
 
The good news we claim to present in those frontiers needs to be the same good news we see in the New Testament. Who we are, what we do, and the good news that is our message all need to align, in the “frontiers.”
 
This edition of Mission Frontiers addresses this reality in a number of ways. I trust it might also challenge us in our understanding of the good news itself. Maybe the good news is even better than we thought.

This is an article from the September-October 2022 issue: Healers and Preachers

The Groaning Creation and Our Response

The Groaning Creation and Our Response
Was Ralph Winter, in his later writings, on to something  important in the progress of the mission to the frontiers through engaging the Church in the battle with disease? We think so. Much progress has been made since his death in 2009 in articulating a more nuanced vision. All Creation Groans: Toward a Theology of Disease (Pickwick, 2021) is a cohesive compilation from theologians, health professionals, scientists, and missiologists that address theodicy questions related to disease and death that people have always faced, but that are being asked even more urgently and frequently during and after the current coronavirus pandemic.
 
The book is, in one sense, a post-humus festschrift for missiologist Ralph Winter and medical missionary Daniel Fountain, building on their legacies and enhancing a long-overdue theological and missiological conversation that highlights the often-forgotten responsibility of the Church to promote health and wholeness throughout the world.
 
The book brings together the exegetes of Scripture and the exegetes of humans in a full- orbed response to disease. It addresses the demythologized, dualistic and reductionist tendencies in the Western church and healthcare industry by addressing theological questions such as the following, from a variety of biblical, historical, global, scientific, contemporary, missiological and practical  perspectives:  Does the Church’s mandate to care for creation include fighting the root causes of  disease? By tracing the origins of disease—physical, social, and spiritual—can more effective approaches be embraced when faced with major global health challenges? How do we embrace a wholistic approach to life and death given the reality of evil, the powers, corruption, and disordered relationships? In what ways are we to understand the atonement as the continuum of the healing and liberating action of Christ and that of His followers throughout the world?
 
God desires for His people to demonstrate God’s loving character not only by caring for the sick, but also by applying recent scientific knowledge and an integrated spirituality to attack the roots of disease globally. This is an important and often overlooked part of our basic mandate to exercise good dominion and to glorify God among all the peoples of the earth.

Available from: https:// wipfandstock. com/9781725290112/
all-creation-groans/ or through Kindle at: https://www.ama-
zon.com/All-Creation-Groans-Theol- ogy-Disease-ebook/dp/B096MZSJR9/ ref=sr_1_1?keywords=9781725290112&- qid=1656613945&sr=8-1

This is an article from the September-October 2022 issue: Healers and Preachers

The Vanga Story

A Revolutionary Approach to Healthcare

The Vanga Story
It’s 1961 and war is raging in the Republic of Congo. The Congo Crisis was ravaging the country after they had gained independence from  Belgium.  This would last until 1965 and would take the lives of an estimated 100,000 people. Into this grim picture arrived a young surgeon missionary and his nurse wife; Daniel and Miriam Fountain. I would encourage the reader to read the two previous articles in MF regarding the work of this remarkable man at:
 
https://www.missionfrontiers.org/ issue/article/the-transformation- of-a-mission-hospital-in-congo
https://www.missionfrontiers.org/ issue/article/the-transformation- of-a-mission-hospital-in-congo-2- western-medicine-and-sp.
 
These articles focus mainly on the cultural sensitivity Dr. Fountain displayed as he worked toward sustainable (a word that he would not have used at the time), locally owned health-related initiatives. The key lesson learned is that we can avoid unhealthy dependency if we follow certain best practices in global health missions. In this article I will turn our attention to other lessons Dr. Fountain learned from his Congolese colleagues.and patients and which he also wrote extensively about in his final work, Health for All, The Vanga Story. These were reinforced for me through a nearly ten year mentor/mentee relationship between Dr. Fountain and me.
 
The “Vanga Story,” in a real way, documented two careers dedicated to exploring and practicing a Christ-centered model of compassionate health care as it integrated the resources of modern medicine with a biblical approach to health and healing (individual and community), the role of the church, and the importance of Christ-following health care professionals. As I (Katherine Niles) walk beside this next generation of Congolese health care professionals, grown from my parents’ work, and see them straddling world views of secular/physical and animistic/spiritual, we continue to learn how integral to healing is the Church as the body of Christ, and how important we are to the healing of patients—as disciples of ΩdJesus trained in disease pathology. In our Congo world, the “reductionist understanding of health,” is overwhelmed by a spiritual worldview, and professionals daily face the challenge of finding language to bridge these worldviews as they care for patients, patients' families and the communities from which patients come.

A Biblical Understanding of Health

I believe if Dr. Fountain were still alive today, he would say the most important lesson learned was that the Church has struggled with a very limited and reductionistic understanding of health. Many in the West particularly think of health in terms of being disease-free, adding in perhaps that we eat well and exercise some. There is an occasional referral to our spiritual well-being, but it is difficult to find where all aspects of human existence are put into the context of a discussion on health. Dr. Fountain would say that health cannot actually be defined but that we must come to a more biblical understanding of health. It is the intimate nature by which our mind, body and spirit  exist  within  a  certain set of relationships we call community and culture. This is how the Church should be thinking about health. If she does this, I believe Dr. Fountain would say she will see where the gaps exist in her calling to heal people and make them whole. The Church can and should be playing a leading role in helping people live healthy and whole lives in Jesus. But the Church must be there to effect that type of transformation— to be planted where she does not exist, and to live up to her call as a healing agent where she does exist. Outside of that most important relationship, being a dedicated follower of Christ which is born out of discipleship, we cannot be truly healthy. That is where we experience the shalom of God.
 
But how can this become a reality? Churches that understand health from this perspective can then apply  it to their local ministry setting. One way is to have church leadership attend a course we have developed called Christian Global Health in Perspective. Also, one of the overall purposes of our organization, Health for All Nations, is to work with and influence at least one seminary per year to begin integrating into their DNA this biblical understanding of health and getting it into the minds and practice of their students (and faculty).
 

Whole Person Care Using a Team-Based Approach

As Dr. Fountain became increasingly aware of the great needs surrounding the Vanga hospital (serving a population of 250,000 souls) it became clear to him that he could not serve, as just one physician, the needs of even those who were in hospital for treatment. This would lead him to see the value in a team-based approach to caring for people. “Dad taught nurses, and later doctors, to tease out and identify important spiritual roots to a patient’s pathology/disease as they spent time in routine patient diagnosis and care. The curriculum Dad developed for training nurses in the beginning (because none existed in Congo’s national health program) included a social/spiritual history so nurses—and  later  doctors—would  be a conduit for spiritual pathology to come into the presence of Christ.” As the hospital chaplain, Mrs. Masieta’s gifts and understanding of the spirit paved the way for recognition of the value and necessity of the team approach.
 
In the West (and increasingly in all cultures and nations) healthcare has been dehumanized and turned into an industry that does a very poor job  of treating the whole person. We want things to be as simple as possible. Our emphasis is on reducing the illness, or disease, to its most basic level so that we can apply the appropriate  remedy based  on material and social causation as best practices. An example from my own experience: one of the most challenging cases for me as an OB/GYN doctor, was a woman whose primary complaint was chronic pelvic pain. Being a good western technician (for that is mainly what we are) I would have my differential diagnosis list and based on symptoms and previous treatments might elect to do a laparoscopy to assess for endometriosis, a well- known cause for pelvic pain. What I was not trained to do was to think primarily in terms of the social and mental or spiritual background that could have led to the presenting symptoms. Where is there time in our current western system to delve deeply into how a history of physical abuse may be the main problem in such cases? If this is something that is recognized as a potential root of the problem, we must set up a referral to another specialist who may or may not send us her/his assessment. The patient is fractured in her treatment and no one is caring for this person as an integrated being.
 
One of the most difficult and challenging lessons learned then in this regard would need to be to acknowledge that if all the aforementioned is true, we are whole persons, mind/body/spirit, living in community with many relationships, then perhaps the most important caregiver is not the physician but the one who is helping deal with our spiritual well- being (though this does not preclude the physician or other healthcare professional from filling this role). This will be extremely difficult to get into routine thinking about health and healthcare.

A Systems Thinking Approach

Dr. Fountain received a note from the Minister of Health for what was now known as Zaire. He was to report immediately to Kinshasa, the capital for  a meeting with him. Dr. Fountain prepared for the worst. Thinking he may be sent home for some unfounded reasons he made the  long  journey  with some trepidation. He needn’t have worried. The meeting was called to applaud Dan’s efforts
 
in increasing access to health care by developing a healthzone around the Vanga hospital. He provided expertise to Congo’s Ministry of Health in the implementation of this model throughout the entire country (the DRC now is covered by more than 500 health-zones). Dr. Fountain had mapped his region, learned the population he was to serve and implemented a system whereby all those in his zone would be within a two-hour walk of a community health center, built mostly  by  the  community,  and to which a nurse trained in primary  health care was assigned to live in the community and to provide primary and preventive health care to that community and villages surrounding. He and Miriam, together with their Congolese colleagues, developed an educational program at the hospital whereby individuals chosen by their community could come and be educated to provide primary healthcare services. This is what I would call a systems approach to a massive problem. Identify the complex challenge to be addressed, in this case we could say health for all in his zone of responsibility, map out assets, and jointly with the help of others make plans for how to overcome the challenge. This requires for some, especially from highly individualistic nations, a mindset shift. From a hierarchical mindset, where the physician is often assumed to be in charge, to one that acknowledges that to overcome complex challenges it will require a more adaptive/servant leadership  approach.  This requires input from a diversity of opinions and backgrounds.

Applied to the Unreached People Group Challenge

We believe strongly that these elements will also serve the Church well as she continues to address the Unreached People Group challenge. Some of the most significant breakthroughs in the most difficult parts of the world were catalyzed by health-related outreach efforts. If we take a deep understanding of health from a biblical perspective with us into the field and combine that with true whole-person care (as Jesus modeled for us) and a systems thinking approach we will find a much greater return on  the investment being made to reach the remaining ethne who as of yet have no knowledge or witness to Jesus the Messiah.

This is an article from the September-October 2022 issue: Healers and Preachers

Further Reflections

Further Reflections
Many times over the last ten years, I’ve been in gatherings where English was not the primary language. That is a shift from when I started to go to global events around 1990. Now, I often feel out of place—just how some of our sisters and brothers feel when they come to our English centric meetings.
 
A few years ago, I was in China to help with training. Thankfully, I was with a good friend who spoke Mandarin (and Cantonese.) We were staying at a hotel in the middle of the country, waiting to be picked up for the day’s activities. As you often see in hotels, there was a little shop near the front and while we were waiting for our ride, a little old man came out sweeping up, getting ready to open the shop. Another man came over to him and began talking to him. I didn’t think much about it. The sound of the language they spoke didn’t seem different from Mandarin speakers I’d heard many times before.
 
When they finished talking my friend turned to me and calmly said “I did not understand one word of what they said.” They were speaking one of the regional languages and he felt like I did all the time there—similar to what you feel when you realize you don’t know what is going on in some situation. You wonder if you are missing out on important information? You know you are missing something.
 
If you travel to places that are different from your own, you’ve probably felt it. We try and act like we understand and fit in—in part as a helpful protection from those who would take advantage.
 
Naturally, this also happens to those global servants who go to serve in different cultures. Even when they learn the language there are still things they don’t understand.
 
This issue of Mission Frontiers has practical illustrations of this for those doing medical work in mission settings. A central idea, almost always pointed out as “standard practice” is: medical personnel—even doctors—must not come in acting like experts. To do effective medical or development work, you must listen to the perspectives of the locals. I’m not talking about basic surgery—which is cut and dried (no pun intended). In some parts  of the world, it is assumed that the doctor knows everything. The average person does not expect the doctor to ask any questions. They chime in with the right answer and everyone follows their orders! Thankfully, often they can be right. In the West however, doctors ask all kinds of questions  to narrow down the possibilities (and so look ignorant when they go elsewhere where they are just supposed “to know.”).
 
The point is that we all need to be learners, working to understand how to best do what God has called us to do.
 
Let me give a real illustration I heard years ago. Global workers were sent out and “on the ground” among the people they had prepared long  and  hard to serve. Their churches were behind them. They had clear vision and calling to translate and share Scripture to see the gospel take root. They were ready and had begun that process, but didn’t see much fruit yet. In the process, they found out from the local people that what would help them the most was to put up a fence around their burial place! The workers were a bit taken back. “That isn’t what we came to do” was their first thought. They knew that the people were so poor, they couldn’t afford a fence, but wondered at supplying the funds for that kind of work.
 
Thankfully, they listened and learned that when burying their family members, they couldn’t dig deep enough because of the soil and water level issues. As a result, dogs or other animals would come at night and dig up the graves which was deeply disturbing to the people.
 
The workers built a fence, and the locals felt heard and loved. But what would the folks back home think of these efforts? These kinds of cultural complexities and unknowns can bring critiques from those who are removed from the local situation. We always want to be learning and growing—both those sent out and those sending them.
 
I heard a quote attributed to Einstein that curiosity is the most important characteristic of the scientist. It is true for the global worker and their friends back home as well. We need to be the kind of believers who work hard to really understand both the Word and the people’s culture we are called to, so we can more clearly communicate the Word to them.
 
I call it “cultural empathy.” Let’s get good at that no matter where we live and serve.

This is an article from the September-October 2022 issue: Healers and Preachers

Small Disciple-Making Habits Make a Huge Difference

Small Disciple-Making Habits Make a Huge Difference
Goals excite type A personalities. The setting, achieving and working toward them can be very motivating. After reaching an important goal, however, many feel a sense of emptiness and loss.
 
Long-distance runners often experience this after completing a marathon. They’ve trained for months to compete in a race. Driving toward that goal gave training a clear purpose. When the race is over, there is an emotional downswing. The big challenging goal is completed. So, why am I going to the gym today? Those who train runners warn against low-level depression in the days following a big race.
 
In a reverse scenario, we can experience intense disillusionment when an important goal seems elusive. Perhaps the goal of catalyzing a rapidly multiplying Disciple Making Movement feels that way. We may need a change in our focus.

Goals vs. Systems

New York Times bestselling author, James Clear, writes about this in his popular book Atomic Habits. On page 23, Clear writes, “Forget about goals, focus on systems instead.” He describes the difference in this way. “Goals are about the results you want to achieve. Systems are about the processes that lead to those results.”
 
While this book has a humanistic, self-help slant, as I listened to the Audible version on a long car ride, a series of lightbulbs exploded in my head. “There is so much in this book to apply to disciple- making and the pursuit of movements!” I mused, taking copious notes.
 
If you haven’t had the chance to read Clear’s book, I recommend it. There are many takeaways for life in general as well as disciple-making. After listening to it, I decided to buy the actual book and re-read it in light of disciple-making habits. This article shares some of the insights gained and what I am experimenting with.
 
While I’m not ready to let go of the God-sized goal of a DMM, I see the book’s point about systems. It’s not having a DMM goal that will get us to movement. If that were the case, we would have many thousands more movements than we do already.
 
What will catalyze and sustain a DMM are disciple- making habits we put in place in our lives, in the lives of those we train and in those our disciples train. Normalizing a few key habits and simple  systems in our movement efforts sets the trajectory for multiplication. This leads to something far beyond the superficial goal of reaching 4th generation growth and a certain number of groups or streams.  If you are not familiar with the definition of a DMM, please see https://www.dmmsfrontiermissions.com/ disciple-making-movement-what-defined/. While this definition has merit and is helpful, it is not the end goal. Nor does it come directly from Scripture. The real aim is to see disciples that multiply rapidly and continue to do so as we see in the New Testament. So again, just aiming for 4G and multiplication isn’t enough. We need habits, systems and practices that get us there.
 
With that established, let me first illustrate some of the Atomic Habits concepts in a personal and practical way. From there, we’ll then turn attention to the applications for disciple-making.

Habit Stacking vs. Despairing Over a Challenging Goal

My husband and I currently live in Thailand. We have been here for about six years. Before this, we lived for many years in Nepal and India. When in those nations, I learned to speak Nepalese and Bengali. It is a personal value to understand the culture and worldview of those around me. I want to find bridges and ways to share the good news of Jesus with my neighbors. This is true even though I now travel a great deal and my ministry is more global than local.
 
Learning Thai has been hard. Perhaps it’s the fact that I’m now over 50, or maybe because it’s a tonal language, or it could be because I travel in and out and have a full ministry schedule. I’m not exactly sure why, but I’ve found it exceedingly difficult to gain even market fluency in Thai.
 
At times I feel determined to learn. At other times, I’m deeply frustrated and want to give up. In all honesty, I’m ashamed to have lived here so long and to speak so poorly. My heart aches to be at a place of fluency where I can share the message of my wonderful Savior freely. Many, many Thais around me don’t speak English and have never heard the gospel in a way they could understand.
 
As I read Atomic Habits, I realized I should change  my focus. Instead of the goal of being fluent in Thai,  it may be more helpful to concentrate on developing   a consistent daily study habit. Now, each day after my quiet time and writing hour, I study Thai for 30 minutes. That consistent habit is already making a difference! It has set me on a trajectory where I definitely will reach my goal of speaking Thai one day. I’m no longer feeling discouraged but can trust the system to get me there. I’ve habit stacked Thai study (a concept he talks about in the book) on top of two other habits I already have in place in my life and enjoy.
 
Another helpful concept from this book is what James Clear calls the Law of Least Effort. It’s followed by the Two-Minute rule (Chapters 12 and 13). They come under the habit law he describes as, “Make it easy.” The basic premise is that a new habit should be so simple you can’t talk yourself out of doing it. If you can do it in two minutes, you don’t need much willpower to put that habit into place. Thus, it is far more likely to become a sustained practice. After a simple habit is established, it is far easier to increase it.
 
Again, allow me to demonstrate how I’m applying this personally. I find motivation for strength-building difficult, though I know it’s important at my age. I’ve recently started doing just five pushups and five sit-ups every day. This takes two minutes and is so easy that I can’t talk myself out of it. From there, I can increase to seven, then 10, and in six months I’ll be doing 50 a day.

Don’t Despise Small Beginnings

How does this apply to disciple-makers? Is this humanistic thinking? Or has James Clear actually observed something about human behavior that God designed?
 
Zechariah 4:10 comes to mind. “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.” God rejoices in small beginnings and tells us we too should celebrate them! Psalm 139:14 says that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” Created in God’s image, to display His glory, if humans make progress through regular habits, it’s because God created us to do so.
 
An overlapping concept is the idea of spiritual disciplines, also called spiritual practices. Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, Ruth Hailey-Barton, and others have helped us see their vital importance in spiritual transformation. Prayer, Bible reading, gratefulness, silence, solitude and others are transformative in our lives. Why not add to these key disciple-making habits as well?

Experimenting with Disciple-Making Habits

Each reader should prayerfully consider what habits they could begin. Think of what would set you (and those you train) on a consistent trajectory toward the rapid multiplication of groups of disciples. Here are a few new habits I am experimenting with. Perhaps they will spark ideas to consider.
 
1. Always asking the server how I can pray for them when they bring my food.
 
Initiating spiritual conversations can be difficult, especially for introverts. I needed to create a habit where I don’t have to think about what to say, or how to transition into talking about Jesus. In the last few weeks, I’ve started a new practice. Every time we eat out, after the server brings the food I say, “We are followers of Jesus and like to thank Him for our food. We appreciate your serving us today. Is there anything you’d like God to do for you? We’d love to include that in our prayer.” As a result, I’m having new spiritual conversations every time I eat out.
 
2. Praying every day at 5:50 am for five people I am coaching as well as for 50 new movements.
 
Last week we met as a Disciple Makers Increase (disciplemakersincrease.org) leadership team. We talked about Atomic Habits and decided together that each day at 5:50 am our team would set an alarm and pause to pray. Each of us is choosing five people we are coaching life-on-life. At that time, we will pray for them, then pray for our big corporate goal of releasing 50 new movements.
 
Prayer is such a key to seeing greater fruit! Developing a simple prayer habit that you and those you train   can follow could have a massive cumulative impact. Especially if it is one that is related to praying for the lost and for those you are training as disciple-makers.
 
3.Stopping to chat a few minutes with any neighbor.
 
In many cultures, this is  already  normative.  If  you  see someone, you stop to greet them. In other places, particularly in the West, we barely notice the people around us. We don’t engage with lost people, nor do we know their names or pray for them, even if they live next door!
 
It may feel overwhelming for those you train to think of skillfully giving a clear 10-minute Creation to Christ presentation to their neighbor. Make it easy! Something that takes only two minutes. The first habit can be to regularly stop and say hello and ask someone how they are doing. Do this whenever you see a neighbor outside. It may mean you stop your car and roll down your window to greet them. You won’t be late, it only takes two minutes. Practice friendliness.
 
Then, after that simple exchange, pause to offer a breath prayer for God to bless them.
 
Once this habit is established, add other habits to it. You might add other open-ended questions like “What’s been good about your day today?” Follow that by sharing something from yours. Or add sharing a three-minute testimony or Bible story. First, though, we have to become comfortable engaging in conversation with lost people.
 
At recent meetings, one of my Indian friends decided to learn how to swim. The hotel where we stayed had a swimming pool, and each day she and her husband practiced simple steps. The first step was to become comfortable in the water. She needed to learn to relax there and simply enjoy being in the water.
 
Many Christians used to staying in their church-friend bubble have forgotten how to be comfortable in the water that lost people swim in. Train yourself and others to take one small step. Apply a super easy habit, engaging intentionally with the lost around you.
 
4. After sharing a testimony or having a spiritual conversation, always ask “Would you like to hear more about this? Or read the Bible together sometime?” then follow that up with “Is there anyone you know who might also like to join us?”
 
This is a simple habit for those who regularly share the gospel. It can lead to the formation of groups of disciples.

What Disciple-Making Habits Could You Begin?

Time and space don’t allow me to unpack all the applications to disciple-making that my learning from Atomic Habits holds. If this article has sparked interest in you, get the book and prayerfully think it through. Feel free to write to me with your applications and we can think and grow together in this.
 
I’ve given enough though, for you to think of one disciple-making habit you could put in place this week. One that would set you on a trajectory toward greater fruit. You may want to discuss this article with your team and come up with a few corporate habits that you do together.
 
A characteristic of Disciple Making Movements is that every believer functions as a disciple-maker. It is not only the professional clergy making disciples and sharing their faith.
 
Motivating church members to make disciples can be too big a leap. Make it easy. Start small. Do it together. Habit stack. Don’t concentrate only on the goal of leading people to Christ, starting groups, or a movement. Focus on the systems and habits that set disciples on a path that leads to multiplication.
 
What new disciple-making habit will you start this week?

This is an article from the September-October 2022 issue: Healers and Preachers

Unreached of the Day September October 2022

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

Unreached of the Day September October 2022

Click on the .pdf icon within this article to read the Unreached of the Day.

This is an article from the September-October 2022 issue: Healers and Preachers

Go and Heal to Proclaim the Good News!

The Place of Medical Work in Christian Missions

Go and Heal to Proclaim the Good News!

About 200 years ago, Christians engaged in foreign missions discovered a mighty means for making known the gospel to the world. This means was medical missions. Up until then the common practice of missions was to go out into the world, proclaim and teach the Good News and to receive new believers into the Church through baptism. From the middle of the 19th century however, when the healing art became truly effective enabling safe surgery and combating, even eradicating diseases which plagued humanity since the days of creation, pious physicians perceived this as a godsend.

Beginnings

"God’s Hand in Medical Missions" was the title of an article published in London in 1914 stating:

The great mission work to the world had begun, but it was progressing very slowly. It needed what the medical art in service to Christ could alone give. But mark this: if the medical and surgical art had remained as it stood [that is, in 1840] ... the assistance rendered by it to the mission work of the world would have been comparatively very limited.

... Today the medical missionary has in his hands a marvelously increased knowledge of the pathology and treatment of a great variety of diseases … This constantly increasing knowledge has made the position of the medical missionary one of singular value for the propagation of the gospel.

Already years before, in 1887 mission enthusiasts of the Student Volunteer Movement stirred by the watchword “The evangelization of the world in this generation!” hailed medical missions as the most suitable means to achieve that goal. Their call for medical missions gives an idea of the power ascribed to this venture: “The increase of the heathen population has been so rapid that evangelization has not kept pace with it, much less surpassed it. Evidently more effective means must be employed to evangelize the world. We believe that the means must largely consist in reaching the soul through the healing of the body, and the following reasons confirm our belief:

1. it was Christ’s method.
2. it was Christ’s command to his disciples.
3. it was the apostolic method.
4. medical missions economize time.
5. medical missions economize funds.
6. medical missions can do the most work in the shortest time, because they are the best introducers of the gospel

As much as one might appreciate the excitement and vision expressed in these words, we must also ask, if those reasons given for engaging in medical missions are sound. While it is  true  that  Jesus and the Apostles healed, it cannot be said that healing was the Lord’s or the apostolic “method.” Jesus healed because He was God incarnate,  unlike the Buddha, Lao-Tse,  Moses,  Confucius, or Mohammed. As God  incarnate  Jesus  could  do no other than permeate all facets of life with His lifegiving word by proclaiming: “I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly!” (John 10:10) Christ’s healingministryisnotamethod. It, rather, indicates the corporeality of salvation which came into the world in Him.

Jesus sent out His disciples “to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal” (Lk. 9:20), promising them “by using My name” you “will cast out demons … and lay hands on the sick, and they will recover” (Mark 16:17–18). The Acts of the Apostles show that this was no empty promise as recorded  in Acts 3:1–10; 5:122–16; 8:6-8; 9:17, 32–43, etc. Paul was also aware of healing as a “gift of the Spirit”  (I Cor. 12:9), and the letter of James says that “the prayer of faith will save the sick” (James 5:15). Yet, unlike Christ the disciples “could not heal” always (Matt. 17:16) despite honest attempts (see Mark 9:18; Luke 9:40). Given that healing was not at their disposal, they could not employ it as a method.

Further, history has disproved the thesis that medical missions economize time and funds. Keeping qualified staff and equipping facilities according to required standards to provide reliable medical services necessitates huge and ever- increasing funds, which faith-based not-for-profit organizations don’t have. Likewise, the assumption that “medical missions can do the most work in the shortest time” is correct only when looking at first contacts as figures from surveys confirm. In 1900 there were 770 missionary physicians in the field. They represented roughly five percent of the total of 12,837 missionary personnel but had 2,545,503 initial contacts compared to 1,127,853 by all other missionaries, which is more than 50%. Since every medical missionary related on average with a population 11 times the number of their nonmedical colleagues,  a  prominent  missionary  leader  in the UK dubbed medical missions as “the heavy artillery of the missionary army.” Yet most people once they are healed, do not return to the hospital or the healer but go home to pursue business as usual as did nine of the ten lepers (Luke 17:11-19). The observation that “in 12 years of the operation of the Medical Missionary Society in Canton, there were a mere 12 converts from a total of 409,000 patients” also disproves the claim of medical missions doing “the most work in the shortest time.” Treatment of patients is not geared at establishing local churches. Church-planting is alien to the medical task. That is why medical missionaries vehemently objected to the view of their work as  a means to an end. Those toiling in China, by far the largest group then, protested: “Medical missions are not to be regarded as a temporary expedient for opening the way for, and extending the influence of the gospel, but as an integral, co-ordinate and permanent part of the missionary work of the Christian Church.”

Developments

The overall situation of Christian  medical missions work has changed dramatically since the emergence of a new global order in the aftermath of two devastating world wars and former colonies becoming independent, autonomous nations. The convenience of air travel accelerated and the ready availability of the internet quickened globalization at all levels. Today the World Health Organization (WHO), national healthcare services and numerous secular health-care organizations have taken over much of the work once done by Christian medical missions, at least nominally. Why, then, continue such work? To fill in the gaps left by other healthcare providers? As philanthropic agencies?

To address these questions aired by many in the field the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) convened in 1964 a week-long conference of experts at Tübingen, Germany. Contrary to what participants expected beforehand, namely, to let go of medical work in missions, one of them reported afterwards, that the “consultation discovered in a quite unplanned way that to ask whether or not the time has come for the Church to surrender its work in medicine … is to ask a theological question.” Before, “consultation participants leaned in the direction of the Church withdrawing from areas of healing now strongly occupied by the state.” But “the consultation was led to articulate the belief that ‘the Christian Church has a specific task in the field of healing’” which cannot be surrendered “to other agencies” because healing is “an integral part of its witness to the gospel,” and an expression of salvation. The findings of that conference, published and disseminated globally through the respective networks, resonated well with almost everyone in the field, because they addressed the decisive challenge. In which way can medical missions as an agency of healing be an integral part of Christian missions?

Healing and Salvation

Physicians aim at curing diseases by stimulating an imperiled living system with appropriate medication or surgery (or a combination of these) in such a way that the system regenerates itself. When the therapy is successful this results in healing, when not, death sets in. The dependency upon the self-regenerating power of the living system accounts for the religious dimension in all healings and makes the work of doctors a work of hope; even the most sophisticated treatment and top expert knowledge cannot vouch that the outcome will be successful. All medical therapy is based on hope, not on blind hope to be sure, but on hope informed by knowledge about the nature of the living system aided by professional expertise and personal experience. Such hope is not unfounded, because healing is a basic phenomenon of life. Without healing, life cannot flourish. Life thrives because God sustains it continuously as happens for example in the repair of damaged DNA in our body cells several thousand times each day (!) without our even noticing. Healing is a manifestation of God’s ongoing creation.

It discloses God’s doings, as Jesus explained to his disciples when healing a boy born blind: “He was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him” (John 9:3).

The skillful use of medicine within the context of organized Christian missions to bring about healing and prevent untimely death might be seen by many as a gesture of charity and a philanthropic act while those who regard the saving of souls as the proper and only business of mission tend to discard such work as not essential. Conventional missionary efforts every so often reduce the proclamation of the Good News to acts of verbal communication and emotional arousal. This attitude is owed to a view of the human being not originating from Scripture but from philosophical speculation, which perceives the human  person as  a composite of body and soul (or body, mind and spirit), valuating the soul/mind as more precious than the body. Thus, the main task of mission is understood to consist in saving souls from eternal damnation. Most missionaries past and present hold on to the soul-body divide, too. However, one among them, who was not only deeply immersed in the evangelical revival of the 19th century but a physician, too, challenged this conviction dramatically. Anyone responding negatively to the “claim of suffering,” either because of indifference or by focusing solely on the spiritual wellbeing of the diseased, would have the deaths of “murdered millions” on their consciences as George D. Dowkontt, author of a book by that very title, explained in 1897:

While people discuss and question regarding the future of the heathen, they would do well, yes, better, to interrogate concerning the future prospects of those who, having the gospel for their spiritual needs, and medical science for their physical ills, enjoy the blessings of the same, but fail to send or give them to their needy fellow creatures ... Thus, do they [the needy fellow creatures] perish by our neglect. Who is responsible for these lives if not those who could help them, but do not? Surely such are the murderers of these millions. To merely talk piously and tell suffering people of a future state, while neglecting to relieve their present needs, when in our power to do so, must be nauseating both to God and man, … Christ … combined care for the whole being of man, body, and soul.

One might think that this call got a hearing,  because on occasion of the Ecumenical Missionary Conference in New York three years later it was stated that “no mission can be considered fully equipped that has not its medical branch.

However, only 37 of the 128 North American mission societies active at the turn to the 20th century were engaged in medical missions, of the 154 British societies only 45, and of the 82 continental societies a mere 14. The overwhelming majority of mission boards and agencies regarded such ministry as irrelevant—and does so still.

Those holding this view not only ignore Paul’s declaration that “we wait for … the redemption of [not “from”!] our bodies” (Rom. 8:23). They also overlook the fact that the souls to be saved exist   in corporeality only, not as disembodied entities. Equally, when physicians treat patients, they never care just for diseased bodies as insinuated by the reductionistic rational-scientific approach they are trained in. Doctors always treat corporeal people, that is people with a distinctive personal biography each living in different mental, emotional and social contexts. This dense reality of human life has to be addressed and meaningfully related to when proclaiming the gospel. It is medical missions which does this unlike any other agency because they proclaim the Good News most comprehensively by witnessing to the corporeality of salvation in Christ.

Besides bringing healing to the neglected in even the remotest of places as “heralds of health” one of the specific tasks of Christian medical missions is to safeguard the proclamation of the gospel against its spiritualized and verbal attrition. In attempting to make the gospel become an experienceable bodily reality through healing, medical missionaries guard  against  unbiblical  disembodied  erosions of  the  Good  News,  a  danger often not realized but present since the early days of the Church.  By pointing to God’s creation, the incarnation and bodily resurrection, North African church father Tertullian (ca. 160-220) alerted already in the third century to this lingering danger when asserting: “The body is the pivot of salvation!” More than one and a half millennia later John R. Mott saluted “medical missionary work” as “the climax of the integrity of [the] all-inclusive gospel” because “it gives us the most vivid apprehension of the real meaning of the incarnation and likewise the life of our Lord and Savior.”

Since all healing comes from God, every healing  is a potential encounter with salvation regardless of whether it happens in a Christian setting or outside the Church. Within the context of Christian missions, however, those dealing with patients will make the potential encounter with God’s saving grace become an actual one. But how? Should medical missionaries preach? In the past some of them did like Dr. Dyer Ball (1796-1866) in Canton, China, and Dr.  Mary Pierson Eddy (1864-1923)  in Syria. Dr. Robert Raid Kalley (1809-1888) not only became the nucleus of revivals on the island of Madeira and in Brazil but became also instrumental in founding the Igreja Evangélica Fluminense, the oldest Protestant church in Brazil. Dr. Andrew Park Stirrett (1902-1948) working among the Hausa in Nigeria is said to have  preached  “not less than 20,000 times sermons that were heard by not less than 1,500,000 people.” But most medical missionaries overwhelmed by the never-ending queue of sufferers seeking their help and bound   to attend to medical emergencies day by day will simply not find additional time and added strength for engaging in preaching or extra evangelistic activities. They need not, because their entire work is saturated with preaching. It is their dedication and commitment to the work, their personal piety, their professional excellence, their way of interacting with team-members, their attention to and their care of patients, their taking part in church life, their praying with the people of God and being prayed for by the people of God as members of the body of Christ. They proclaim the Good News not without but beyond words—as Jesus did once.


Note: Sources of the quotes above - and much more - can be found in Chr. H. Grundmann, Sent to Heal! Emergence and Development of Medical Missions, Lanham, MA: University Press of America 2005; 375 pp. ISBN 0-7618-3319-6

This is an article from the September-October 2022 issue: Healers and Preachers

Striking the Right Balance

Striking the Right Balance

The battle has raged for over 100 years.  It has split denominations and mission agencies. It has hindered the spread of the gospel to every tribe and tongue. People across the theological spectrum have wrestled with the question: “Should the mission of the Church include ministering to the physical needs of people, or should we focus largely on proclaiming the great news of the gospel of Jesus Christ?” Typical of human beings in general, we have tended to go to one extreme or the other. Either people focus exclusively on proclaiming  the gospel, or they focus exclusively on carrying for the physical needs of people. This issue of MF seeks to help answer this question as it relates to the fostering of movements to Christ within every unreached or frontier people group. As we go out to foster these movements in every people, should we make it common practice to care for the physical needs of people?

One thing is very clear from the ministry of Jesus. He not only cared for the spiritual needs of people but also their physical needs. Wherever He  went, He healed the sick, cast out demons and proclaimed the gospel of the kingdom. If Jesus is our model for the ongoing mission of the Church, then we have no excuse for not seeking to heal the sick as well. Not only did Jesus model a ministry of caring for physical needs, He told His disciples to go and do likewise.

In Matt: 10:7-8, Jesus sent out the 12 disciples with the following instructions: “As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy,[a] drive out demons.” We see this emphasis again in Luke 9:1–2, “When Jesus had called the Twelve together, He gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure  diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” Clearly, in the ministry of Jesus and His instructions to His disciples, we can see the dual emphasis on both proclaiming the message of the kingdom of God and healing the sick. From the clear and plain reading of these Scriptures, it is not possible to say that Jesus cared only for the spiritual condition of people nor that He cared only for their health. Either extreme is not biblically supportable. Jesus cared for the whole person: mind, body and spirit. So, it seems clear that as we seek to foster movements to Jesus in all peoples, we need to figure out a way to incorporate ministry to both the physical and spiritual needs  of the people we seek to disciple. Separating off the spiritual from the physical is not what Jesus modeled for us. The question then becomes, what and how much do we do to care for the physical or medical needs of those we seek to reach?

We’ve Been Here Before

Going forth in the name of Jesus to heal the sick   is nothing new. Evangelicals have been doing it  for over 150 years. Hospitals across the world have been started by Evangelical mission workers. What Evangelicals have not done well is striking the essential balance that Jesus did of both proclaiming the gospel and healing the sick. Typically, those mission workers who have gone out to do medical work have most often not done a good job of sharing the gospel and making disciples who go on to make more disciples. They have done great good for people, but not sharing the gospel will ultimately lead to tragedy. Historically, the local people are unable to sustain or reproduce this level of medical care that the outsiders are providing. The medical care is usually not indigenously led or managed and can lead to an unhealthy level of dependency where the local people neither learn how to care for themselves nor combine medical care with Disciple Making Movement methodologies. A new paradigm is needed.

A New Holistic Paradigm

If we are to see movements to Jesus in every people, we need to rethink the way we have typically done missions. This includes medical missions. The basic rule is that whatever we do in missions needs to  be infinitely reproducible by the people we seek  to reach and disciple. Just as everything in nature reproduces according to an established DNA code, we need to establish a good DNA code of ministry right at the start of our outreach to an unreached people. The ministry DNA we start with is the DNA that will be reproduced generation after generation of disciple making. Bad DNA leads to bad results. If we are to include a holistic approach to ministry that cares for both body and spirit, then we must have  a good DNA for medical care that is indigenously led and infinitely reproducible one disciple-making generation after another.

As movements to Jesus spread to all the unreached peoples, so also should a reproducible and scalable system of indigenous health care, hygiene and nutritional training. The spread of the gospel has typically led to better health as people are saved and rid themselves of unhealthy things like tobacco, alcohol and drugs. But much more is possible if along with the gospel we teach basic first aid, good hygiene and nutrition. Many of the health problems we suffer with could be prevented through good health and hygiene training and taking every thought captive to Christ. Self-control is a fruit of the Sprit. Many health problems result  from bad thinking, and bad thinking can be dealt with through good discipleship and the power of the Holy Spirit. Throughout this issue we present the idea of church-based health care and nursing which should spread as churches multiply in a Disciple Making Movement.

One thing that should not be overlooked in this discussion is the power of prayer for healing.

Prayer for healing  should  be  a  regular  practice in all churches in all movements. In Scripture, healings go along with the proclamation of the gospel. The Disciple Making Movements we see spreading across the world  today  are  propelled by prayer and the evidence of healings, signs and wonders. Movements are a supernatural event and are propelled by God’s divine power.

Indigenous Medical Care

A holistic approach to reaching the unreached peoples needs to center  around  equipping  them to care for their own medical needs rather than becoming dependent upon outsiders.

In our May June 1998 issue of MF, we featured the wonderful story of Steve Saint and his ministry    to the Waorani (Auca) people of Ecuador. It is a great example of how an outsider can equip the indigenous people to care for and share the gospel with their own people. Through his ITEC ministry, Steve Saint taught the Waorani to care for their own dental needs and to use ultralight aircraft to travel to the remote areas of their territory. This was what the Waorani themselves wanted to do. They were in charge of the whole process, not Steve. Steve was there to help the Waorani accomplish their goals The outsider was the servant to the needs and desires of the indigenous people—just the way it should be. This is an example for us to follow today as we seek to bring a holistic approach to ministry to the unreached peoples.

What we do not need is a top-down authoritarian approach by outsiders dictating to the indigenous people how things are going to be done. The people we want to reach with the gospel must be given the respect and dignity of being in control of the process. This is how movements work. They are indigenously led.

If we can finally strike the right balance and employ a holistic approach to fostering movements that involves ministry to the whole person, mind, body and spirit; it could be exactly what we need to fuel movements to Jesus in every tribe, tongue, people and nation.

This is an article from the September-October 2022 issue: Healers and Preachers

Health-Promoting Churches

A Model for Congregation-Based Health Promotion Ministry Among the Nations

Health-Promoting Churches
I come from a medical background. Having worked in clinical care, research and academia and with    a national HIV program in my earlier  career  years, I joined the Christian Health Association ofMalawi (CHAM), a network of 180 church-owned hospitals, health centers and health worker training schools. While at CHAM, I was exposed to the Africa Christian Health Associations’ Platform (ACHAP), a network of CHAs in sub-Saharan Africa (including Madagascar) bringing together national fully ecumenical CHAs from 11 countries, Protestant and Catholic CHAs from five countries, and national-level denominational networks from five countries.
 
In their totality, these Christian health networks are significant providers of health care in the region. They represent the critical and historic healing ministry of the Church: often serving poor, socio- economically marginalized and hard-to-reach populations. Therefore, when I joined the World Council of Churches in 2016 as Program Executive for Health and Healing, the contributions of churches on health were not lost on me.
 
Nevertheless, I still reflected on whether facility-based health services and associated initiatives are the only possibility to express the Church’s mission mandate of healing and witness today. I felt that the congregations remained a hub and privileged space of the Church that can be optimized to promote  health and healing. To my  surprise,  I  found  in my new office extensive literature and reports of consultations, research, program activities, journal articles, etc., all pointing to the central role of the local congregation in the ministry of healing.  “The Christian ministry of healing belongs primarily to the congregation as a whole, and only in that context to those who are specially trained.”1 The theological grounding was firm, and the social, cultural and economic arguments were equally solid.
 

Health- Promoting Churches?

 
After the Alma- Ata Declaration of Primary Health Care of 1978n motivated by the Christian Medical Commission of the World Council of Churches2, the World Health Organization enacted the Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion in 1984 to enhance contributions towards realization of the agenda of Health  for All by the Year 2000. The Charter surmised that health is made or broken not in the hospitals, but in the places and settings where people live and work. Thus, they started the “healthy settings” approach, including “healthy cities,” “healthy universities,” “health-promoting schools,” etc. Unfortunately, places of worship were not included in this initiative for reasons beyond the scope of this article.
 
“Health-Promoting Churches” would thus resonate with the WHO healthy settings approach while at the same time capturing the quest of the churches for wholistic health. “Health is more than physical and/ or mental well-being and healing is not primarily medical”3 and so ours is a quest for a healthy and sustainable  balance  between  health  promotion  and disease prevention on one hand, and curative, rehabilitative and palliative services on the other. The current health architecture globally is evidently tipped towards the latter; Health-Promoting Churches is thus both protest and prophetic action from the churches. Establishing Health-Promoting Churches where they do not yet exist is a way to build significant health capacity throughout the world and to empower the churches to participate in realization of God’s promise of wholeness.

Health Education in and through Churches

Knowledge is power, so health education is the first step in empowering individuals, families and communities toward wholistic health. During the elaboration of the Health-Promoting  Churches,  I visited church communities in the Pacific, Caribbean, African and American contexts. When I asked church members what role they expected their churches to play in health, invariably health education topped the list.
 
The Health-Promoting Churches: Reflections for Churches on Commemorative Health Daysprovides a starting point for churches to engage on health by providing health education. On the appropriate date closest to the commemoration, a reflection can be read during church service and/or other church gatherings, published in church bulletins or on radio stations. Several themes are covered in this book to allow a broad exploration of health issues, thus stimulating the congregations' interest on health matters.
 
These days are globally recognized, so there is usually already some mobilization from the national or local health authorities. Churches can therefore more easily plug into these mobilizations and establish partnerships with relevant health actors in their localities. For example, on World Diabetes Day, a church can link with the appropriate department of the Ministry of  Health, diabetes  associations or pharmaceutical companies and run a more comprehensive “health day” with health education and screening for diabetes. It is instructive that Christians expect to receive credible information from churches on health matters.

Programmatic Health Ministries

Health lies at the nexus of religion, medical science, politics and development. To be successful therefore requires that the church’s health ministries should be “bilingual,” or speaking the language of churches on one hand and the language of medical sciences and development on the other. The second language is analytical, data-driven and evidence based. Clear objectives and targets are required, inputs are tracked, and outcomes and impact are measured both quantitatively and qualitatively. Effectiveness of a church’s health ministry is therefore judged based on its ability to achieve the desired goals— in this case, promoting health and wellbeing of the community and witnessing to the love of Christ.
 
Accordingly, the second volume is an attempt to provide hands-on tools for churches to initiate and run health ministries that are programmatically sound, with the rigor of public health programming while being solidly based on biblical teaching. Health-Promoting Churches: a Handbook to Accompany Churches in Establishing and Running Sustainable Health Promotion Ministries5 was thus prepared with these in mind.
 
Interestingly, the model was not developed de novo nor from a theoretical perspective. It is a synthesis of ongoing health ministries in several churches, harnessing good practices and building in measures to correct challenges faced and to safeguard against pitfalls that were identified. For example, “Roles and responsibilities of the church health committee” have been proposed in a way that promotes a multidisciplinary and diverse committee and avoids situations where medical professionals dominate the health ministry or where non-health professionals feel like they cannot contribute adequately enough to be on the committee.
 
Documentation, monitoring and evaluation were identified as major weaknesses in most church health ministries. The handbook therefore goes to great length to provide measures that strengthen this area strategically. For instance, each chapter provides standards of success, or key indicators to help ensure that the essence of the chapter has been achieved.

Challenging Health Matters

There are several diseases and health problems for which there isn’t much controversy as to what causes them and how they can be prevented or treated. However, this does not necessarily mean that such diseases can be easily eradicated. Nevertheless, efforts from all sectors can be easily harnessed to defeat the problems. Diseases like malaria and diabetes would fall in this category.
 
And there are other health problems that evoke controversy, raise deep moral and ethical questions and even challenge our theology, in example, our understanding of God. Problems like mental health, infertility and HIV would be in such a category. These problems would require a deeper level of engagement. One such tool for deeper engagement is contextual Bible study methodology.
 
The third volume in the Health-Promoting Churches toolbox therefore is a compilation of 27 contextual Bible studies on such difficult health issues, including mental health, health care prioritisation, disability, population growth, stigma and discrimination and reproductive health rights.6 Developed from a participatory approach, these studies come from contextual backgrounds in different parts of the world.
 
Contextual Bible study involves re-reading familiar biblical text in new light and reading unfamiliar biblical texts in a familiar contextual light. For instance, the parable of the good Samaritan, if re-read in the context of health care financing where costs  of health care are unaffordable to many, would shed new light on the innkeeper, his role in the healing of the injured person and the virtues that he embodies.
 
The ultimate goal of contextual Bible study is transformation: of individuals, communities or situations. Each study therefore ends with discussion of practical actions that the church community can take to realize the transformation that is required to seek redemption in their context.

Vision of Health

To the extent that health challenges are now shaking our world(s) in strange proportions, they call us to still focus on health as a mission frontier, but with re-sharpened tools to engage in these changing times. The messianic promise of abundant life for all peoples remains our vision and calling for health and wholeness in these difficult times.
Endnotes
  1. 1 The Healing Church, World Council of Churches Studies No. 3 (Geneva: WCC, 1965), 35.

  2. 2 Litsios S. The Christian Medical Commission and the development of the World Health Organization’s primary health care approach. Am J Public Health. 2004 Nov;94(11):1884-93.

  3. 3 Jooseop Keum, ed., Together Towards Life: Mission and Evangelism in a Changing Landscape (Geneva: WCC Publi- cations, 2013), 19.

  4. 4 Mwai Makoka, Health-Promoting Churches: Reflections on Health and Healing for Churches on Commemorative World Health Days (Geneva: WCC Publications 2020). https://www.oikoumene.org/resources/publications/ health-promoting-churches.

  5. 5 Health-Promoting Churches Volume II: A Handbook to Accompany Churches in Establishing and Running Sustainable Health Promotion Ministries (Geneva: WCC Publications, 2021). https://www.oikoumene.org/resources/publications/health-promoting-churches-volume-ii

  6. 6 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gAxyNfyEX6A

This is an article from the September-October 2022 issue: Healers and Preachers

The Seventh Station of Short-term Healthcare Related Missions Outreach

The Seventh Station of Short-term Healthcare Related Missions Outreach
Critiques have been mounting with regard to the effectiveness of short-term healthcare-related missions (STHRM) trips (short-term meaning between one day and two years, though a standard has not been established). It is possible that the majority cause more harm than produce a long term good. Some believe they are mostly designed to give the participants a sense that they have made a positive contribution to the well-being of those they served. But this author has found no article written nor research conducted as to the effectiveness of STHRMs to address the needs of the whole person. Is it possible to carry out whole person care in  the  context  of  a  STHRM  trip?  In personal communications with a ministry working in a South East Asian context I believe the answer to this question could be YES, IF … . I will define how this can be done using the term “The Seventh station” which is derived from the work of the afore mentioned ministry. I will not be revealing any details of the location and name of this ministry because of security issues. I would add that the following approach has catalyzed significant and growing movements to Jesus in that context.
 
A brief description of the principles employed by this ministry is in order. The work was based on the collaborative effort of five teams averaging ten people in each.
 
The first team was from outside of the host country and was half medical staff and funded the clinic.
 
The second team was made up of bilingual speakers living in the host country, both expats and those born in country. This team translated and created the connections which established and coordinated activities with the three fully Indonesian teams. This team also staffed the pharmacy and did physical therapy. Added to this team were an equal number of local healthcare professionals to match the number of expat healthcare staff, and this provided political strength in the way things looked.
 
The third and fourth teams were from two regions of the host country, comprised of local workers who are active in both community development   as well as multiplying small community of faith groups. These were the teams with long term ministry in the areas, who had invited the other three teams to support them in the short term. The three teams agreed before coming that the success of their short-term ministries would depend on how well they maximized the ministries of  the two long term teams. They agreed to adjust their typical processes in order to follow the lead of these long term local teams.
 
The leaders of the two long term teams had negotiated partnerships with local hosts for each day of the clinic. These local hosts were Muslims who were heads of different government entities and were responsible for getting permissions. The local long-term leaders invited selected participants to the clinic by rationing out tickets. They chose important government officials to get their endorsement, the medically needy locals who were leaders of small believer groups, their contacts with whom they planned to follow-up and form new groups (improving the likelihood of conserving the fruit), and the long-term team members.
 
The members of the fifth team were trained as counselors and manned the “consultation room,” the last of seven stages of the clinic. Some members of the long-term spiritual multiplication teams were trained in counseling, and other experienced counselors were added. Cross mentoring occurred in the consultation room during the short-term clinic. See diagram below for more detail on the other six stations.

Other pertinent principles:

Choose location carefully.
 
One reason for the effectiveness of this approach  is due to the choice of the locations, that is, only locations were chosen where there were local partners who would select high value prospects to be those served and then do the follow-up. A second feature of location choice is there should be sufficient social capital with the local officials who hosted the team. They had sufficient social power which would form an umbrella of support and protection and which would increase their own social capital. This made the clinic mutually beneficial. A third feature is that the sites were considered relatively neutral and could tolerate having expats in comparison with other locations in the region.

Good administration of the healthcare outreach is key.

Another reason for success is the way the healthcare clinic was run. By the third year, everything had been evaluated and  adjustments  made  so  that  the processes ran smoothly. One critical mark of success was that everyone who came was served. A mark of quality was that the attitudes of our people were felt to be centered on serving the local people and this was noticed by those being served, there was kindness felt and this helped develop trust. A third crucial element in good administration is that the flow of the patient movement through seven stages is such that it assures that individuals make it all the way through to the end stations. Also, it  is designed so that there is constant interaction between the staff and the patients which facilitates personal connections being developed throughout.

Appropriate attitude of the foreign healthcare professionals is key.

Foreigners serving on these teams must come with an attitude of serving and getting behind the local leadership teams rather than running their own program. The philosophy is that short-term teams serve long-term goals determined by the long- term local workers. This has been a make or break feature of these clinics. This is a paradigm shift from the mindset of most short-term teams, who tend to underline what they can do or have done during the clinic, without realizing the impact on the local teams who face the big risk and do the lion share of the work before and after in the follow-up. Being able to bring in qualified short term teams gives the local leadership team a real boost in their service, if the short-term team aligns with their leadership in the field. A key feature to get this is a very reliable multiyear partner living in the US, who comes each year and orients the rest of the expats to this mindset which is invaluable.

Another principle that bears fruit is disciplined and earnest follow-up.

Those who participated as part of the local healthcare teams would revisit the patients multiple times and had a lot of social space for deepening of relationships. During this period, effort is made to move from individuals given whole person care during the clinic, to their social groupings they gather to discuss the Bible’s view of how Jesus cared for the whole person. However, follow-up can be made more difficult by mistakes made during the clinic.

A local study of the socio-political capital building and use is helpful.

It makes sense to the local workers to bring in foreign healthcare workers, even though they have a negative view of them, since they respect their medical capacity.

The “Seventh Station” As a Means Toward Whole Person Care (WPC)

What is whole person care? One definition is as follows: “We define “whole-person care” as the coordination of health, behavioral health and social services in a patient centered manner with the goals of improved health outcomes, more efficient and effective use of resources.1
 
PRIME, Partnerships in International Medical Education, doesn’t claim to define WPC as such, stating only that “At its most simplistic it is the balance between the body, mind and spirit that make up the individual.”2
 
Duke University prefers to express whole person care as Integrative Medicine: “Integrative medicine includes the full spectrum of physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual, and environmental factors that influence your health. This comprehensive, customized, whole-person approach to health care is beneficial, whether you want to maintain optimal health or you are coping with a chronic condition. In both cases, our services improve how your physical body interacts with your psychological and emotional well-being.”3
For our purposes, we will use the following: whole person care involves addressing the needs of all aspects of our existence as humans. This includesthe elements of spirit, soul and body in the context in which we live.
It seems likely that this would be extremely difficult to do considering the way in which the majority of STHRMs are conducted. But we believe it is possible and that the model described above is a step in the right direction. The flow of the clinic:

The Seventh Station Elements

  • This is where the final elements of whole person care can take place.
  • The staff in this station are locals only (to reduce accusations of proselytizing by expats).
  • The staff are trained and experienced in both counselling and in multiplication of small communities of faith.
  • The staff start with the question, “I see on your medical chart that you are suffering from… high blood pressure, for example). Are there any factors in your life that are causing you emotional, social or spiritual pressure that might be affecting your blood pressure?”
  • The issues addressed in this station are:
  1. questions to transition from physical condition to whole person issues,
  2. questions or statements to transition from whole person condition to prayer for solutions that God gives,
  3. questions to transition to follow-up, in their natural social groupings.
  • Follow-up and follow through are crucial elements after this station. This is done by the people who brought or hosted them, who had already been trained to do so.
  • As a result of the seventh station, we can address the needs of the whole person; soul/spirit/body and their social conditions.
 

This is an article from the September-October 2022 issue: Healers and Preachers

The Healing Congregation: Total Ministry for the Whole Person

The Story of Bethel Baptist Church, Jamaica

The Healing Congregation: Total Ministry for the Whole Person

Mindset determines action. This affects how we meet the needs of each person. 

In 1972, under the leadership of the Rev. Dr. Burchell Taylor, Bethel Baptist Church reflected on the biblical theological paradigm of the church in healing. Some questioned the Western influenced Cartesian mind/body and spirit/matter dualism. Needy people were getting patchwork attention. Matters of the body would be sent to the physician, the mind to the psychologist, the spirit to the pastor and material concerns to the social worker or politician. People needed a more integrated, healing approach.

Jamaica, Then and Now 

Jamaica, with a population of 2.98 million, composed largely of descendants of those enslaved by the British, is a paradox. Since our independence in 1962 we have produced global excellence in athletics, music and tourism. Yet legacies of our enslavement and colonial past continue as perennial sociological and political struggles. These include broken, dysfunctional families with marginalized men, mainly single women as heads of households, multiple partners and teenage pregnancies. Economic hardships have divided families as many are forced to migrate from rural areas to urban centers and to the United Kingdom, United States and Canada. 

Domestic violence, street children, child abuse and neglect are increasing with little community support. Our high murder rate, approximately 44 per hundred-thousand, is largely inner city and gang-related driven by lack of education, drugs, reprisals and party politics.  Many express black psychological self-hate as expressed in skin bleaching.  A color-class divide exists with this social stratification mirrored even within our diverse churches. 

The country is still struggling to overcome poverty and underdevelopment. Traditional indigenous and communitarian cultural values have been largely undermined by the promotion of materialism through Western commerce and media.  

With the increasing commercialization of health care, the impoverished majority depend on understaffed and under-equipped public services. Patients are often treated as objects rather than persons. Community-based activities and health promotion are still inadequate while mental health care suffers from stigma. Injury-care and lifestyle related diseases overburden our health care services. Seventy eight percent of people die, often prematurely, of chronic non-communicable diseases, too many due to patchwork unintegrated medicine.

Discovering the Whole-Person Paradigm

After prayerful biblical and contextual analysis, in 1972 Bethel leaders and members begun understanding that each individual must be seen as a whole person if any human need is not to be neglected.  Hence a whole-person paradigm would be the health care model to adopt. This means that:

1.  True health is whole-person wellness. This is an integration or harmony between mind, body and spirit, between the individual and his or her social and natural environment and between the individual and God as center.  

  • Emotional stress promotes and worsens physical diseases.
  • Physical diseases promote and worsen emotional stress.
  • Both emotional stress and physical illnesses can undermine the social and spiritual aspects of our lives.

This creates a downward spiral of ill health of the whole personTo prevent or cure illness, and achieve wellness, we need to maintain a healthy balance through healthy lifestyles and a healing ministry for the whole person.

Health is also a development issue, seeking liberation of the socially and economically marginalized. Thus, for Bethel, persons at the margins are a priority.

 2.  The healing Church should therefore proclaim a total gospel

Sin, or alienation from God, has exposed us to evil and made us vulnerable to a disintegration of the body-mind-spirit-environment. This leads to conflict and disease. Our vulnerability is met by Christ’s double work on the cross where He provides forgiveness and redemption as well as reconciliation with God. This also brings healing or re-integration within our person.  Thus, a total gospel means salvation is healing and wholeness. 

3. Christ sent His disciples to both “preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick...” (Luke 9:2 TEV).  This is an expression of the total gospel. As disciples today, we too are sent to heal as part of proclaiming the kingdom of God. Thus, healing is integral to the mission and evangelism of God through the church.

The Church as a Healing Community in Action

After one year of planning and prayer, 24 members of Bethel submitted a proposal with the theology and action plan.  An initial “Healing Ministry” began in 1975 with counselling services followed by an evening medical clinic in 1976. In 1984, it became established on a full-time basis with medical skills, pastoral care, counseling and prayer provided as an integrated set of services. These services reached out to the membership, the surrounding areas and underserved communities. 

This “Healing Ministry” evolved into a broader understanding beyond providing primary health care services. Thus, our current whole person healing ministry is based on the following:  

  1. We adopt a needs-based approach to ministry. Different ministries have become established as various needs became evident. Today, there are over 18 different ministries.  Pre-existing ministries have adjusted to focus on current concerns. 
  2. We promote self-help activities among service users for self-care and healthy lifestyles.  
  3. Our ministries are comprehensive in scope - curative, promotive and preventive, and rehabilitative. Preventive and promotive services are the widest in range, most cost-effective and involve the most self-help activities for wellness. 

 Journey with us as a user: 

 1. Curative services. 

If you visit our physician and pharmacy in our clinic, you will discover that your counseling, prayer or social casework needs can be addressed.  

Our prayer line provides spiritual counselling, prayer and home visits. Our deacons and other members provide a monthly homebound communion service and whole person needs evaluation. 

2. Prevention and wellness promotion

In the clinic we provide maternity monitoring and immunization for your children. As a private-public partnership with the government and USAID, COVID vaccination is supplied. 

As you progress through your life cycle, you and your loved ones will have the benefit of premarital counseling, counseling for parents of children to be blessed, youth mentoring, provided by our men’s group, as well as special activities in our "Seniors in Action group.

Our Wholistic Health Promotion Committee provides health educational talks, family month activities, marriage enrichment sessions, health fairs with preventive screening. There is a special Healing Sunday for prayer for individuals and recognition of the church as a healing community. There are activities for female wellness groups. 

There are support groups such as the “Bereavement Support” group” for those experiencing grief and loss and the "Rays of Sunshine" group that provides education and support for cancer, other chronic life challenges such as depression, non-communicable diseases, crisis management of various illnesses and life challenges.

You can also get practical help from our Legal Aid and Justice Center, the Cyber Center (for learning computer skills and their application) and our Thrift Cooperative Society which provides financial management services.  Educational needs are met by our Homework Center while our Adult Learning Center prepares people for high school leaving certification. 

You can work out life issues with our life coach. 

We have organized the whole church into “Birth Month” groups.  Here you can choose to enjoy cohesive support, prayer, fellowship, celebrations, recreation and practical assistance in crisis.  This has been an invaluable way to build Christian bonding across generations and socioeconomic backgrounds.  Each group seeks to visit outside the church for ministry. 

 3. Rehabilitation 

Some people find themselves in situations where they need special rehabilitative care to help them care for themselves. Confidential access to support groups for mental health conditions and HIV/AIDS is provided. 

If you or your relatives are not able care for you, we have a Special Care Ministry to make things as workable as possible. 

The Homeless Ministry provides meals, bath and barbering for the homeless on special days. Persons receive prayer, casework and direction to relevant whole-person services. With spiritual ministry some have joined our membership. 

In addition, through our Community Outreach Ministries, we have a basic school for children in an inner-city community prone to violence. With two others in the past, these were welcome points of entry where we offered services such as Sunday School, evangelistic crusades, health fairs, community participation in school projects, meals and backyard gardens. 

Sustainability

How do we ensure sustainability? 

1.  Our reflection and development of the paradigm and activities are essentially home grown or indigenous. We learn lessons from elsewhere, but depend on the assessment and innovativeness of our members. 

2. We have sought to be theologically reflective, prayerfulcontextual and participatory. Any new ministries are needs-based. 

3. Ministries are lay driven and managed with a multidisciplinary team approach. Our enabling pastor, now Rev. Glenroy Lalor, sees his members as much called and gifted by God, as he is. Members receive necessary training through our Lay Training Institute. The Jamaica Baptist Union provides a discipleship lay ministry program. Ministry leaders report to the Church Council and membership for accountability and integration. Non-professionals are in the majority. Outside experts supplement presentations and consultation. 

4. Church financing for being a healing community is highly strategic. Bethel received only “startup" funds from overseas and for three years. The church committed itself to sustainability. Hence there are policies for sacrificial giving and careful financial management.  

While the clinic administrator and most primary care professional staff are paid, the majority of persons in the several other ministries are volunteers.

Cost recovery is possible through competitive client fees. Where necessary we use a sliding scale subsidy from the church.  We plan for income generation through our pharmacy used by both clinic clients and the public.  The church supplies infrastructure and utilities. 

Our healing community drive has motivated a very willing public-private government cooperation including with the ministry to the homeless and with the COVID vaccination service.  We have set up a Bethel Foundation for our outreach-based Whole-Person Ministries that includes partnership with private corporations. 

The ministry is undergirded by prayer as the deacons and other prayer groups pray regularly for God’s guidance and empowerment.

Conclusion: Impact and replicability

 The activities of our healing congregation have been well utilized. With special adjustments and innovations during the current COVID period, we have been able to maintain the impact of our ministries. 

Many of our activities have been well supported by both members and non-members, over 90 percent of whom are clinic and pharmacy clients. Today, many Jamaican denominations have various elements of a whole-person approach to ministry.

We are challenged to maintain the centrality of the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the traditionally high level of volunteerism. The church council meets biannually to evaluate and improve the church's ministry.  

Can every church become a “Healing Congregation?”  We believe it can be done.

Bethel has demonstrated the feasibility of a congregation-based whole person healing ministry. 

Take the initiative. Don't wait on outsiders to provide instruction or funding.  Start at an indigenous level, let your own members identify your most pressing needs and prayerfully reflect on your biblical mindset or paradigm regarding the fundamentals of wholistic service. Start with what you have. Provide necessary training for your volunteers and plan for sustainability.  With prayerful learning and increased effort your activities will grow in scale over time. 

With God all things are possible.  

This is an article from the September-October 2022 issue: Healers and Preachers

Rediscovering Health as Mission: the Key Role of the Faith Community Nurse/Parish Nurse

Rediscovering Health as Mission: the Key Role of the Faith Community Nurse/Parish Nurse
“Parish Nursing has been the most significant ministry in mission that I have encountered in 25 years of leadership” (experienced minister, leading a church in the UK.)1
 
If, as a church-leader or planter, you could employ someone to serve alongside you whose work enables contact with one third more people than you presently know, would you want to read on? And if that person regularly had the opportunity  to pray with people who had no other link with the church, would you be even more interested?
 

What is a Nurse?

When you think of a nurse, you are probably imagining someone in a uniform in a hospital wielding a syringe or an enema. But the practice of nursing, as Florence Nightingale would have defined it, is so very much more than that. It is a leadership role, identifying concerns that affect our health and daily living activities, and finding ways to address them; educating people towards the prevention of all kinds of disease and potential complications, and promoting wellness. It involves referring to appropriate health practitioners, as well as recruiting and training volunteers to assist people in need with various daily tasks. It is not only practiced in an institutional context but in homes and communities for the whole cycle of life.
 
Nurses understand health as being something more than the search for physical cures or the absence of disease. They see it as a dynamic process towards wholeness, involving physical, mental, social, spiritual and environmental factors.
 

Wholeness for Christians

Wholeness is a key biblical concept, derived from Hebrew thought. It brings together body, mind and spirit, in the context of community and relationship to God. This is clearly demonstrated in the Old Testament laws, the Psalms and the wisdom literature, as well as through the voice of the prophets. It is evident in the ministry of Jesus as He addressed a person’s spiritual state at the same time as healing their illnesses, and instructed others to do the same (Matt. 10:8). And it is continued in the mission of the early church as they preached the gospel alongside healing activities (Luke 10:2-3, 9; Acts 5:16).
 

There was a time before contemporary health services became comprehensively available when it was common for churches to have a health and healing focus.  Monks and nuns would care for  the sick, deaconesses trained as nurses before theological studies, and London had “Bible nurses,” who carried the Scriptures in their medical bags.2 But in the 20th century in Western nations, the healing work of the church gradually became less prominent, as state and private funders took over. Even when those private health organizations had a Christian foundation, they became largely separate from the local church.

Faith Community Nursing

Contemporary Faith Community nursing, also known as Parish nursing, began in Chicago in 1986, when hospital chaplain Granger Westberg began to realize both the health potential and spiritual value of assigning a Christian nurse to a church’s ministry team. These nurses would do home visits on request, run clinics to check for high blood pressure and diabetes, make referrals, identify resources, teach health education topics with the congregation, train volunteers and above all, offer to pray with people when appropriate. As registered nurses they would practice in line with their nursing code of conduct, ensuring confidentiality, adequate documentation and promotion of safe-guarding. Their work would vary according to the needs of the client group  that the church identified, but they were to have a specific focus on spiritual care. That would include discussion about faith where requested, but  would also address issues like purpose in life, relationships with family and friends, identity, forgiveness, hope and the search for peace, all of which are relevant to maintaining good health.

A training program commenced, from which today’s 36.5 hour “Foundations” course for registered nurses has developed. It is available in America through the Westberg Institute for Faith Community Nursing, and there is now an international version being taught in at least 12 other countries. 3 It is therefore eminently scalable and reproducible.

There are now several thousand Faith Community nurses attached to churches and at work in the world, in many different denominations. This is not just in Western nations. Many of these nurses work one or two days a week with the church, alongside a part-time role with other health providers. When they come across a client whose interest in spiritual things is growing and who would like to know more about Christianity, an invitation can be offered to attend a group exploring faith, or a contact name given for further discussion.

What are the Missional Outcomes?

My own interest in this practice developed because as a nurse I believed that people needed more than physical or mental health care, and as a Baptist minister I could see that people often needed physical or mental health care alongside the spiritual care that I was able to offer. Having founded the ministry of Parish nursing in the UK in the hope that it would enhance the mission of the church in a very secular context, I wanted to discover whether or not it had truly made a difference. That turned into a doctoral study that has been published in book form.4 Fifteen churches with a Parish nursing service were compared to 77 churches without that ministry. The findings were significant. In the Parish nurse churches:

 

  1. ministry team members and church-goers spent more time on behalf of the church with people who did not attend church.
  2. congregation members offered significant volunteering time around the health initiative.
  3. the range of missional activities undertaken by staff and congregation together was broadened, not only in the realm of physical health, but across the board, in mental health, community health and spiritual health interventions.
  4. there was greater engagement with other voluntary and statutory bodies, increasing the profile of the church within the community.
  5. all fifteen ministers said that the mission work of their church had been enhanced, and 12 of them strongly agreed with this
    statement.
  6. there was evidence of an intrinsically integrated form of outreach taking place in the work of the Parish nurse. This last point is of particular interest, because many of the outreach activities undertaken by churches and church-planters do not intrinsically integrate prayer and spiritual care with the individual or group social action being offered.

Similar findings have been recently shown in the Parish Nursing Ministries UK impact report, 2021:5

Twenty-seven churches submitted returns for 2021, showing an average of 450 service users each. Of these, 150 service users were not regular church attenders (that is, attending less than once a month). There were 75 churches with Parish nursing services altogether, so if all the services had similar numbers, the number of people benefitting would be 33,000, of which one third would not be regular attenders. A similar ratio has been seen in the statistics from previous years.

But does the work of a Parish nurse result in people being introduced to Jesus Christ? Yes, there have definitely been reports of this happening and of baptisms and new church members. However, in the UK, the nursing code of conduct prevents nurses talking about faith or politics in inappropriate ways, so great care is taken to ensure that vulnerable people are not pressured in any way. Rather, it is often the love and care and prayer shared by the church through the Parish nurse ministry that draws people to explore their relationship with God.

A Variety of Demographics

Parish nurses work in all kinds of contexts. Guided by the strategy of the local church, some focus on one particular demographic, for example, homeless people in cities, older people in a rural area, immigrants/refugees or families in a newbuild area. Church-planters with those demographics in view would do well to link up with a Parish nurse in order to connect with the community they are trying to reach.

Do you know any Christian nurses? Why not introduce them to this concept? Those who have taken the step of becoming Faith Community Nurses or Parish nurses often testify that it has involved a real sense of God’s call and they wished they had known about it earlier. Although it has brought them new challenges, it has become the kind of nursing that has more than fulfilled their expectations and brought much joy.
Everyone has health needs. Could this be a way for church leaders to connect with more people in your community of interest? Could this become a key strategy for church planting among Unreached People Groups?

Endnotes
  1. 1 Solari-Twadell, P.A. and Ziebarth, D.J., (eds) Faith Community Nursing. Springer, Switzerland, 2020. p 140.

  2. 2 Prochaska F.K, Body and soul: Bible nurses and the poor in Victorian London. Hist Res. 1987;60(143):336-48

  3. 3 Wordsworth, H.A., Rediscovering a Ministry of health; Parish Nursing as a Mission of the Local Church, Wipf and Stock, Eugene, Oregon, 2015.

  4. 4 The Westberg Institute for Faith Community Nursing. www. westberginstitute.org

  5. 5 Parish Nursing Ministries UK impact report, 2021. Available through contact via http://www.parishnursing.org.uk

This is an article from the September-October 2022 issue: Healers and Preachers

Media to Movements–A 24:14 Panel Discussion with GP, Jon Ralls, Chris Casey, and JLA

Movement engagements in every unreached people and place by 2025 (40 months)

Media to Movements–A 24:14 Panel Discussion with GP, Jon Ralls, Chris Casey, and JLA
Moderator: My understanding is Media to Movements means using various social media or other media outlets to find seekers, People of Peace, and bring them into the funnel of becoming reproducing disciples and disciple- makers. How has Media to Movements been successful in your sphere? How has it worked?
 
 
 
GP: I wish I could start with success stories, but the fact is some things just don’t work. I was working with a large ministry using the internet to reach the nations. We launched a campaign to reach people in a specific part of the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region. I remember one day I saw the responses from Facebook posts and a couple of videos on YouTube. When I saw all their names and comments in Arabic, I was overwhelmed at the scope of responses. When you work one-on-one with people, you’re used to meeting as a small group. But in this case, I saw hundreds, and then it became thousands. It kept me up at night because I knew we didn’t have great connections on the ground at that  time—someone to go and meet in person with a respondent. To say, “You contacted us and asked about Jesus. Can we meet for coffee together and talk about it?”
 
 
 
 
 
That was a crisis moment in my life because I felt we were being bad stewards. We were not honoring God, from the front end to the back end. I knew through my friendships that incredible things were happening on the ground to multiply disciples. That moment of crisis launched me into saying, “God, what are you doing? How do we connect all this wonderful work that’s happening online and through media like AM/ FM radio, satellite TV and internet radio? How do we marry gospel-driven media with on-the-ground multiplying disciples?”
What I see happening that IS successful are those collaborative online/offline efforts where local Christ- followers take the lead and Christ-followers from outside provide assistance as needed. For example, when Muslim background believers create the online content, using their language and their vocabulary— it’s spot-on. Then as they work with others who might have expertise with Google ads and Facebook campaigns, their  efforts  become  collaborative.  And when they’re connected with believers on the ground, there can be quick follow-up. When a seeker contacts somebody online, we can be sure that within a short period of time, they’ll have a face-to-face visit with a Christ  follower  within  a few hours  or a couple of days. I love when it works like that! It’s collaborative. It’s people from many nations working together online and offline to multiply disciples.
Chris: I served in Bosnia for a decade and then started implementing the Media to Movements strategy. In the first 20 days, we saw more spiritual engagement than we had in the previous 10 years combined. The people were out there, when you put out an ad all over the country. We were getting more messages with people actually having dreams of Jesus, wanting a Bible, and wanting to talk. As we created that system, we realized it was pretty reproducible. We ended up coaching and training teams in two neighboring countries.
In one of those countries, they started running ads in three cities where they had teams. Within the first nine months, they began running ads in 16 cities. They were able to train about 50 church lay leaders and pastors in DMM principles, then train them in the media strategy and how to follow up with contacts. In that first nine months, they saw about 50 people come to faith, and about another 250 start in some kind of discipling relationship (during the previous
 
 
 
year, they had had only four people in a discipling relationship.). This added a catalytic element: if the word is true and the harvest is ready, this allows us to harvest at a quicker pace, even though speed isn’t the goal. It just broadens the capability.
The other thing it brought was the collaborative element you mentioned, GP. It was a soft approach for talking to traditional church people about DMM. We had tried to have that conversation, trying to implement DMM in Bosnia and  in  the  Balkans  for about a decade. But we ran into some obstacles in talking to traditional church leaders, probably because we came on too strong and said the wrong things. But the media thing was a soft approach to consider doing discipling in a different way. And the result was really encouraging—from impacting three cities to 16 cities in one of the countries.
Jon: I think sometimes we let the size of our feet determine what we’re going to do and the growth that’s going to happen. As the saying goes, we build a shoe and then that’s where the foot has to fit. I have a journal entry where (about two years ago) I wrote these three words: commoditization, competition and confusion. What I see is that we [some people] believe this thing is a magic bullet: you run a few Facebook ads and think you’re going to have a movement. I’m of the opinion that it’s not about the media. It’s not about the marketing. It’s not about the technology. It is the Holy Spirit working in people’s lives. All those things can play a part in it, but some teams are doing all the right things and they’re not seeing a movement. I think God is still pleased with that, and I also think they need to have what I call “grit” to keep going. You’ve got to keep searching until you find what is going to work in those places.
Yet security, technology and the ability to start from scratch are becoming harder. Yet it’s still working in certain places. One of the things I appreciate is the ability to see what’s going on globally. In some places it seems to work faster and larger than in other places. Interestingly, a lot of the remaining unreached places are among some of the slowest.
Recently, we launched with people in Bangladesh, working with Bible translators from the beginning. The Scriptures were translated  into  the  language, an app was built, using content from the Jesus film, LUMO film (https://lumoproject.com—available in
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
over 1,050 Languages), and others. We’re seeing a lot of messages coming in. Then we’re using technology like Echo Global to protect the identities of the local responders there, who then are meeting with people and seeing things happen. It’s costing 0.0004 cents per person to get them to watch nearly 45 seconds of a video clip from the Jesus film. In fact, there was a technology issue because of the website they were using where you had to click “accept” for the cookies to work, so the video wasn’t working. People were messaging, saying, “Wait a minute! We want to see this video!” There’s tremendous hunger when people have never had exposure to the word of God in their own heart language.
One night, we were going into a pub in London to eat supper and the Bible translator said, to me, “I’ve been praying for 60 years for this to happen, [and now it is] because you have multiple organizations and people working together to see this take place.” They know it’s not a commodity that you just plug and play. It’s not a competition. It’s complementary and it’s not leading to confusion but leading to breakthroughs and insights.
We’re running stuff right now in one North African country, averaging 30,000 people going to a website every two days and clicking through to see more content. That is filtered through several different pages before they even are messaging through.  The quality of those messages from seekers is becoming higher. If I could pick one thing, it wouldn’t be Facebook and it wouldn’t be Tik-Tok or a certain type of video. It would just be Scripture: the Word  of God. I think that is where the Spirit   is working in mighty ways. In some of these hard places where teams have been running ads for a long time and still haven’t seen breakthrough, they’re still seeing exposure and they’re meeting people. It’s just not full-on movement-type things taking place yet. There’s a lot of competition, the cost and the technical challenges are high, but I would currently recommend this method for anyone. It’s amazing when you look at even 1,000 who have watched a clip of something or gotten the word of God in their hands for  $20 dollars versus any other approach. I was a church-planter in Taiwan for many years with my team. For $20, there was nothing that I could physically do to get the scale, the speed and the scope that we can right now, by leveraging technology and media.
 
 
Moderator: I’m hearing you all say it has been a challenge to get from just media engagement to full-on movement. But whether or not we’re seeing full-on movement, we’re seeing the water level rise. We’re seeing lots of people exposed to Scripture, and that affects a population whether or not we hit full-on movement immediately. JLA, let me ask you: “In this day and age, what do you see as the best applications for this Media to Movements strategy? What are the places where workers might likely see some good return on their investment of time and potentially money?”
 
JLA: I’m thinking of platforms. Worldwide, the most popular platforms are Facebook and Instagram, even in our focus country in North Africa. A scary number of people spend hours and hours on that platform. In my opinion, those are the ones  with  the major tools that can facilitate  the  crafting  of the message and the delivery of the message to the right person. Other platforms are possible, but less developed.
 
Moderator: Anybody else want to comment?
 
 
 
GP: Yes, we want to reach more people faster but also more effectively, so that we’re really making and multiplying disciples to see movements. Where we’ve seen the biggest traction has been in using Instagram and Facebook and a little bit on YouTube,  but not  as much. Jon was exactly right when he said some things work and some things don’t.
We as the body of Christ, have been incredibly neg- ligent in assuming that the messages we put out on Instagram or Facebook are really reaching the in- tended audience. If we’re not using the right dialect or language, not using the right vocabulary or, when it’s visual, the right colors, imagery and graphics—all those things speak—and will either reach or totally miss our audience.
When we emphasize Scripture and localize the message, that’s where we join God. He is increasing spiritual hunger all over the earth. For those of us who worked among Muslims for decades, it’s fantastic to see what’s happening now. Thirty years ago, we were thrilled when we saw one or two Muslims a year have a dream about Jesus and want to follow Him.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
But what’s happening now is hundreds every week and thousands every year. We actually see millions of redeemed Muslims who follow Jesus now. So, Jon, I appreciate you saying that it’s not about the media. It’s not about the methodology. It’s about joining God. If we’re aligned with God, He’s going to show us the best ways to harness media and technology to multiply disciples.
 
Moderator: Jon, what’s the profile of a person or ministry that would come to  you and say, “I need your help. I’m interested in getting started with Media to Movements”? What are the problems that person is trying to solve, and you could say, “Yes, I can help you”?
 
 
Jon: Let me add two cents on that other topic, then I’ll answer this. There’s push media and pull media. Facebook and Instagram, and platforms like that are push media. We’re putting out content that we hope resonates with people that would spur them on to click, to learn more and watch more. Search engines, like Google or YouTube, are a pull strategy, where people already show their intent by what they’re searching for. Things like, “How do I get a Bible?” or “Who is Jesus?” The goal there is to pull them from that search engine result page to a place where they can become aware of the message and “chew” on it, learn more and build a sense of trust. Then we hope they will reach out and send a comment.
If a team is just getting started, I would recommend working organically. Just learn one thing and get good at that first, even if it’s just like the YouVersion Bible app, where you put Scripture in the local languages over a nice local picture. Do stuff like that  before you start blasting away or trying to do whatever else. Learn and see what words people are choosing on Google search, and put something up there. You can be pretty direct on it and you’ll probably see there’s not a lot of competition and cost in those kinds of areas. The people who come to us at Kavanah Media are usually agencies or teams that are already frustrated. Either they’re overwhelmed by these things or they’ve been doing it and realizing, “This doesn’t seem to work.” We dive in and say, “Here are some of the technical reasons, or here are some of the marketing reasons, or some other parts of it.” Maybe just a little tweak would be helpful. Sometimes there’s nothing
 
 
 
wrong. They’ve done everything well. They just need somebody to say, “You’re doing well. Just keep going!”
But there’s a high  sense  of  burnout  right  now.  I’ve had three different mission organizations come to me privately and say, “Our people are frustrated and burned out.” I think part of that comes from unrealistic expectations. It takes six months to a year before you may see any kind of traction, depending on what country you’re working in. At Kavanah Media, we see people who get into it and then say, “I didn’t go to the field to learn Facebook. I went to the field because I wanted to talk to people about Jesus.” One of the things I appreciate about that is staying “in your swim lane.” What do you do well? Do that well and let others who specialize in other  things do those things. Then consider: how can we work together? If somebody came to me and said, “I’m  in country X and I want to do this media strategy,”   I might ask them, “Who else is already doing it there? Who could you partner with? What local people are involved in those endeavors already?”
We want to maximize effort instead of everybody trying to learn everything and spending too much to make a video that’s going to have just a 15-minute shelf life. Let’s figure out how to be the Body of Christ together. If someone needs technical assistance, I can help with that. But if they need to learn DMM, I’ll send them to someone who has expertise in training DMM. I’ve gone through the training, but let those experts do what they do really well. If you want to learn Adobe Premiere then I’ll introduce you to some of the great media people out there. Whatever it is, I think there’s great value in introducing people to each other, and to things that are already working. We want to help people not reinvent the wheel.
 
Moderator: 24:14 is a coalition of movements, withover 1400 movements globally asapartofour coalition. I’m interested from their perspective. It seems that Media to Movements focuses a lot on getting something started. But is there an application for existing movements? Do any of you have partnerships with existing movements?
 
 
Jon: I work with two different groups; one is continuing to use media to do that. If you look at where the people coming through their system are coming from, part of it’s through a satellite feed, part
 
 
 
 
 
of it’s through social media, part of it’s just through people sharing their faith in taxis and wherever else. You see all these pieces coming together into an integrated system that allows that essential follow- up, as GP said. People are followed up quickly and nobody falls through the cracks.
There’s another one that’s a full-on movement and what blew me away about it was that they’re trying to add media back into the movement, because they’ve set up the framework. They’re saying, “Now we can handle even more  in the top  of  our  “funnel.”  It’s  a funnel that comes down to a point where it then begins to spread out. That’s  the movement  part of it. Having all those pieces in place can do that. You have one ministry that is “purely born,” just an on- the-ground movement that’s  now  adding  media into it and you have another one that in many ways was born out of media, but a big part of that now has nothing to do with media. It’s just boots-on- the-ground, seeing stuff happening. I appreciate the diversity of the Spirit’s work around the world in that.
GP: I do too. It’s not one size fits all and we don’t have a silver bullet. This is the Spirit of God working all over the earth. Like Jon said, there is a group with an established movement that has already jumped into other languages and other countries. It’s a massive movement of movements.
They’ve used various aspects of media, but they got to a point of crisis where they said, “Oh no! We’ve got thousands of new believers in different people groups and the training we’re doing here with these leaders we need to put into other languages.” That’s a unique, urgent need. We see other teams at the very beginning of movement engagement. They want to see movement, and they’ve been laboring faithfully but aren’t seeing response yet. Some are feeling overwhelmed and don’t feel like they’re effectively following up with people.
We’ve got teams on the ground now saying, “We need media specialists as part of our team. The movement of movements we referred to has already jumped into other lands. They’re saying, “We need these soft skills. We need media specialists and communication specialists who will put in the time to build relationships of trust and to work alongside movement leaders.”
 
I want to encourage you that God’s up to something. This is not just one person or one group. This is the body of Christ responding to two things: 1)  our own crisis of belief and desperate situations, amidst
2) a global Spirit-led convergence of Christ-followers working in media, church-planting and disciple- making, who want to work together.
The desperate crisis that kept me up at night was that we were spending time, effort, and money to reach the lost online, but we weren’t really multiplying disciples on the ground, and that God would judge us for that. But God in His mercy and compassion is giving us an opportunity to say, “We can do this better. We can do this differently, in a more effective way.”
I know you’ve heard the statement, “If you keep doing the same thing, you’ll keep getting the same results.” We need to consider:
• what are we doing that works that we need to keep doing?
• what are we doing that doesn’t work that we need to change?
• what are we doing that is not yet bearing fruit, but we need to persevere? May God show us the next step!
 
 
Moderator: Thank you panelists. We look forward to seeing how God will use this.
 
 
Some additional links: mediatomovements.org • kingdom.training • Christian Media Marketing Podcast • https://
open.spotify.com show/4jpCpjr3Sjxvf5hHt7Mf6B
• Media4Movements • Visual Story Network
• Disciple Tools, Mobile • Ministry Forum • Indigitous Resources • Jesus Film • Project app, Indigitube • Scripture Earth • Max7 Animated Bible
Stories • Kolo World app (Android & iOS) • Free Bible Images
Training Communities:
• Campfire Creatives - An online community for media content creators with extensive Media and Arts experience for Missions training
• Zume—discipleship journey available in 40+ languages, teaches small groups how to obey the Great Commission and multiply disciples
• Mission Media Coach
Apps:
https://thedmmplatform.com
https://waha.app
http://SPapp.website

This is an article from the September-October 2022 issue: Healers and Preachers

Jesus’ Holistic Paradigm: The Key to Reaching the Final Ethne

Jesus’ Holistic Paradigm: The Key to Reaching the Final Ethne

Jesus’ Paradigm

“Friend, your sins are forgiven… get up, and pick up your stretcher, and go home.”1

Jesus consistently intertwined life-changing teaching, piercing stories and convicting questions alongside definitive healing, powerful deliverance and a love that cut through the dark physical realities of our world.

He would, in one breath, definitively address both the spiritual and physical condition of the person or family in front of Him.

He taught us to pray, not only that our sins and debts would be forgiven, but that we would be given our daily bread and that His will would be done on earth as it is in Heaven.2

He deftly moved a conversation with a Samaritan adulteress from His own physical need for water to true worship and the Messiah. He immediately sent that now-changed Samaritan adulteress to be the messenger to her entire city.3

He went from powerfully confronting  the  Legion of demons in a Gerasene man to end his suffering, to commissioning that now-changed man, hair still long and wild, voice still hoarse from screaming, wearing someone else’s clothing to be the messenger to the entire Decapolis.4

Jesus defined the paradigm of addressing the spiritual alongside the physical in homes and among families:

He seamlessly moved Peter and Andrew, and James, John, and Zebedee from discussing their family businesses of fishing to making them fishers of men.5

He spiritually fed a massive crowd of families in a secluded place, speaking about the kingdom of God, but then also He fed them physically, multiplying resources they already had.6

And while this holistic paradigm of Jesus is reflective of His great love for us, it is also reflective of His purpose to stop the stranglehold that the enemy has on every facet of human life: spiritual, mental, emotional, social and physical. “The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.”7

This holistic paradigm of Jesus is the outworking of the “warfare worldview” in Scripture.8 That we are, in partnership with Him, locked in the latest iteration of an ancient war with the demonic enemies of God, and our purpose too is “destroying the works of the devil.”

The Early Disciples Emulated Jesus’ Paradigm

The first apostles and disciples emulated this paradigm while they walked with Jesus. But even after the ascension, Peter and John ministered holistically to the man at the Beautiful Gate;9 Paul and his team ministered holistically to Publius’ whole household on Malta, including his sick father.10

In the second and third centuries, disciples continued to follow this paradigm. During the epidemics that swept the Roman Empire, it was the disciples of Jesus who sacrificially cared for the sick, offering truth and love along with tangible care, not only to their brothers and sisters in Christ, but also to their pagan neighbors. This care, and the church growth that resulted, was so significant that the emperor instituted pagan charities attempting to match the Christians’ level of aid to stem the rate of conversions to Christ.11

These were not bishops or missionaries or special church-designated physicians doing this holistic outreach. Rather, these were ordinary disciples of Jesus who so sought to emulate Jesus in their lives, that they were willing to risk death to share love, healing and truth with their pagan neighbors.

Missions Compartmentalization

However, in the following 1700 years,  clergy and Christian physicians and educators became increasingly specialized and compartmentalized from one another. Some specialization may be expected with increasing sophistication of health care and educational institutions. However, as a result, Jesus’ mandate to make disciples became compartmentalized and fractured from His mandate to love your neighbor. “Forgive us our debts” became fractured from “May Your will be done on earth.”

Today: The Preachers

Many streams of missions have returnedto emulating some of the ways of Jesus: abundant prayer, teaching by telling stories and asking questions, discipling by creating experiential learning opportunities rather than just sharing knowledge,12 ministering in the oikos,13 and empowering disciples to pursue the miraculous with His Spirit.14

Most importantly, the focus of missions in these streams has again been placed squarely where Jesus clearly articulated it to belong: “make disciples.”15

In many cases, though, half of Jesus’ paradigm is missing. These streams have rarely emulated the way that Jesus consistently intertwined the physical with the spiritual. There are exceptions, but rarely in these streams does physical outreach gain footing comparable to that of Jesus’ ministry. These streams have made disciples and catalyzed movements, but how much more might be possible if they emulated more of Jesus’ paradigm?

After the example of Dr. Charles Fielding in his essential book, Preach and Heal16 (referencing Luke 9:6), I will call these streams “preachers.”

These include not only preachers per se, but movement catalysts, church-planters, seminary and Bible-school teachers, and the like.

Today: The Healers

To be sure, an entire  other  stream  of  missions has been striving  to  minister  both  spiritually  and physically since the early 1800s:17 traditional western healthcare missions.  The  same  is  true  of several other streams: agricultural workers, development professionals, teachers, and others. After Dr. Fielding’s example, I will call these streams “healers.” As I am a product of western healthcare missions, I will speak in most detail of this particular stream of the “healers.”

“Healers” are no less devoted to Christ than “preachers.” In fact, many healthcare professionals complete seven to 13 years of intense graduate and post-graduate training before they go to the field, forsaking six-digit incomes in the west.

However, as the level of care provided by healthcare missions has become more complex over the last two centuries, the focus of Matthew 28:19 has been diluted. Certain healthcare benchmarks are used to mark success, recruit supporters, and demonstrate God’s blessing. Some examples are hospitalinfrastructure expansions, hospital admissions, surgeries performed, babies delivered, numbers of students or residents trained and development goals achieved.

Again, there are exceptions: the patient who started to read Scripture and follow Jesus while hospitalized… the chaplain who has faithfully served the hospital, sharing the gospel for years… but these are generally overshadowed by the shear mass of healthcare benchmarks.

In contrast to the “preachers,” it is rare to hear from the “healers” about Bible study groups, churches planted, or movements to Christ. Most glaringly, it is even rare to hear from “healers” about “making disciples,” the very heart of the Great Commission.18

Why Jesus’ Holistic Paradigm is Particularly Important among the Final Ethne

RW Lewis, in her essential, iconoclastic 2018 article, refocused our pursuit of  the  remaining  ethne.  She advanced beyond defining the final ethne as Unreached People Groups, people groups with less than 2% evangelicals. She urged us to focus instead on Frontier People Groups (FPGs), defined as “only those unreached people groups that have never had an indigenous movement to Christ.”19

Compared with other people groups, FPGs are more likely to originally be from countries with a lower Human Development Index (HDI).20 Most FPGs live in countries whose HDI is below the world average.21 In other words, broadly speaking, FPGs, the final people groups that most need the gospel and movements of disciples to Christ, often have greater physical needs than people groups that are not FPGs. They need better and more sustainable health care and lay health education. They need more effective and more accessible basic and secondary education. They need more equitable and more efficient business practices to provide the capital for development.

We Must Become More Like Jesus

As we continue to focus on the final ethne that still need movements of disciples, we must continue to critically assess how closely we are emulating Jesus’ holistic paradigm. We must then be willing to make whatever changes are needed in order to better emulate Jesus, no matter how drastic.22 We must do this on every level: personally, in our organizations and institutions and as the Church.

Like Jesus, we must fluidly integrate addressing both the spiritual and physical condition of every FPG.

Like Jesus, we must adopt the biblical “warfare worldview,” realizing that sickness, poverty, and malnutrition are just as much works of the devil as are sin, corruption and injustice.

Like Jesus, we must do all of this in ways that are fully sustainable and reproducible, so that new, local disciples are empowered to continue to make the next generations of disciples emulating the Jesus paradigm.

We Must Help Local Disciples to Discover How to Become More Like Jesus

In most FPGs, by definition, there are few to no local disciples. Some FPGs may be blessed with proximate disciples from other people groups who may already speak the language and know the culture. Other FPGs may have proximate disciples that are from people groups that are so disdained by those in the FPG that an expatriate disciple may have more rapport with them than the proximate disciple.

In our field context, we are working among a cluster of 19 FPGs, 15 of which are otherwise unengaged. Five years ago, my wife and another expat teammate led a local Muslim-background woman to follow Jesus. I’ll call her “Bisharra.” They had led her and some other women in her immediate oikos through our set of ten health lessons and “Prophet Stories” (Bible stories from Adam and Eve to Jesus). She is from an FPG outside of our cluster that is thought to have a few disciples in other areas of our host country, but none in our area and no movement yet. With discipleship and coaching from my wife and our teammate, Bisharra then led two other women from her extended family (her oikos) to also follow Jesus through reproducing the same health lessons and Prophet Stories. All three women are illiterate and either widows or estranged from their husbands. Our health lessons and Prophet Stories are designed to be done with, and reproducible by, anyone in our context, even those who are illiterate or who have no education.

Bisharra and her two oikos “sisters” continued to share concepts from the health lessons and the Bible stories in their daily lives, both orally and from SD cards on their phones; at the market, at the well, at their homes with visitors and at their neighbors’ homes. Soon word spread to an noutlying village where they have additional, extended family. The women in this village wanted them to come do the health lessons and Bible stories with all of them as well! This is a mixed village with people both from their people group, some of our target FPGs, as well as additional FPGs.

Bisharra and her two disciples talked with my wife and our teammate about this opportunity. “We need you to come with us,” they pleaded.

At this point these three ladies had been disciples for at least a year, Bisharra for five.

“No, you are ready to do this on your own! You know all the lessons and all the stories! Besides, it will make a scene if we, as outsiders, come to this rural village. They might miss the importance of the message. You will be much more effective than us!” my wife and teammate replied.

Reluctantly, these three illiterate women, virtually irrelevant in the world’s eyes, but bold Ambassadors for Christ in the kingdom, began travelling the three hours each way every weekend to reproduce the health lessons and Bible stories with their extended family. They were well-received, and they completed the entire lesson set, demonstrating important basic health concepts and sharing the truth about who Jesus really is and what really happened on the cross, and praying with and for the other ladies in the group, each week urging these ladies to share with family and neighbors, just as they had done. They were then invited to continue coming and doing oral Discovery Bible Study with the ladies in this village, just as my wife and teammate and Bisharra had done with them. My wife and I and the other expat family have now been away for a time, and we are eager to hear from these bold disciples what God has been doing in their midst.

These women could have never overseen a mission hospital or a budgeted development project; these are just too complex and unsustainable. But they could share basic, sustainable concepts about health that give their communities more power over their health, as well as sharing the truth about Jesus in a reproducible way, hopefully catalyzing Disciple Making Movements and transformational health movements among unengaged FPGs.

The Key to the Final Ethne is Emulating Jesus’ Holistic Paradigm

I am not advocating that “preachers” necessarily do specialty health or development training, or that “healers” necessarily do specialty theological training. nRather, I am advocating that every disciple of Jesus, including our newest disciples from among the FPGs, pursue hyper-detailed emulation of Jesus, sacrificially imitating every twist and turn of His holistic words and actions, and that missions sending organizations and churches do the same.

Emulating Jesus in seamlessly addressing the spiritual alongside the physical in homes and families of the Frontier People Groups is the key to reaching the final ethne.

How “Preachers” Can “Heal” More Like Jesus

Catch Jesus’ vision for God’s will done on earth as it is in heaven; realize and teach from Scripture that the spiritual and the physical are inextricablyn intertwined. Model for and train seekers and disciples to pray for and tangibly address physical needs of their oikos and community, no matter their education level or skill set.n Engage in direct prayer with the lost, seekers and disciples for physical healing and for God’s intervention in the suffering they face on earth.

How “Healers” Can “Preach” More Like Jesus

Catch Jesus’ vision for disciples in every people group; focus on the Frontier People Groups; allocate new missionaries and local disciples to go to people groups that have zero disciples, regardless of where existing “healing” institutions or efforts are located. Enter the oikos of locals as Jesus did, and train local disciples to sustainably do the same. Mission hospitals and large development programs may make a physical difference, but they rarely sustainably enter the households of the local people in the reproducible paradigm of Jesus that leads to movements of disciples.22

Center health and development efforts around making disciples from among the lost as Jesus did; stop viewing numbers of patients seen, surgeries performed or babies delivered as markers of success. Stop divorcing Jesus and His commission to make disciples from what we call healthcare or development “missions” and rediscover Jesus’ gold standard for missions effectiveness: disciples in all the ethne. 

Endnotes
  1. 1 Luke 5:17-26

  2. 2 Matthew 6:9-13

  3. 3 John 4:1-42

  4. 4 Mark 5:1-20

  5. 5 Matthew 4:18-22

  6. 6 Luke 9:12-17

  7. 7 1 John 3:8

  8. 8 GA Boyd. (1997) God at War.

  9. 9 Acts 3:1-10

  10. 10 Acts 28:1-10

  11. 11 R Stark. (1996) The Rise of Christianity.

  12. 12 R Moran. (2015) Spent Matches, p.88ff. Also at roymoran. com/top-ten-mind-shifts-for-a-disciple-making-move- ment-to-emerge/

  13. 13 For an excellent study of the Biblical concept of oikos, see T and B Lewis. “As For Me and My House: The Family in the Purposes of God.” Mission Frontiers Mar-Apr 2012.

  14. 14 John 14:12

  15. 15 Matthew 28:19

  16. 16 C Fielding. (2008) Preach and Heal

  17. 17 It could be argued that the monastic mission station tradition institutionally pursued both spiritual and physical outreach in varying degrees beginning far earlier than the 1800s

  18. 18 Some healthcare workers do mentor and train younger healthcare professionals who are already Christians. This is a good endeavor, but this is different in my mind than “making disciples from all the ethne” as in Matthew 28:19.
     

  19. 19 RW Lewis. “Losing Sight of the Frontier Mission Task.” International Journal of Frontier Mission 35 (1) Spring 2018.

  20. 20 hdr.undp.org/data-center/human-development-index#/ I indicies/HDI

  21. 21 personal research

  22. 22 As an example, I trained in and practiced general surgery for eight years. On our way to the field, it became clear that spending hours every day hunched over anesthe- tized patients wasn’t the best way to enter the oikos of the FPGs we work among in order to understand their lives, hear their stories, and share God’s story. I now do very little surgery. Instead, we focus on locally reproducible, grassroots health education and Bible storying in homes as well as some relational primary health care and prayer for healing, trying to follow Jesus’ principles of disciple-making and movements

This is an article from the July-Aug 2022 issue: The Proper Care and Nurturing of Our Mission Workers

Decades of Faithful Service

An Interview with Dot Everett and Mission Frontiers magazine

Decades of Faithful Service
MF—How did it all start? Share a macro view of your story, who you are and how you and Art started in missions.
 
DotArt and I were both students at Houghton College when we married during the summer between our sophomore and junior years. We both were praying for God’s will as to what our life work should be and how to best prepare for it. During our junior year God directed us separately and directly to look into Native American missions. We finished our college studies with a major in Bible for Dot and a major in religion for Art. Seminary was next for Art.
 
During seminary, Art delivered milk. Art was signing up a couple for milk delivery and noticed Indian rugs and artifacts in their home. This was the home of Tom and Alfreda Claus, directors of the American Indian Crusade. We applied to this mission board, were accepted and started our ministry under them. 
 
Our first assignment (during seminary) was establishing an Indian Hospitality Center in Denver, which through the years became Indian Bible Church. After seminary we went to White River, South Dakota on the Lakota Sioux Rosebud Reservation. We lived there for six years. While visiting native people at the Indian Health Hospital in Rosebud, Art discovered that one of our active women at Lakota Chapel had just delivered twins. Since she lived in primitive conditions and felt she could not care for them, she asked if we would like to adopt them. We did. (They are now 56.) 
 
Adopting the twins became the reason we changed the direction of our ministry. Their mother would show up at our door asking for rides, money or food, often after midnight. If she saw us with the twins in our tiny town, she would drunkenly lean over their stroller and slur “Why did I ever give my babies up?” Not wanting the twins dealing with this forever, Art and I searched in other locations for native ministry opportunities. God directed to International Students Inc (ISI) and we worked with them and the Association of Christian Ministries to Internationals (ACMI) for 20 years. Wanting to get back to native ministry, we have spent the last 22 years working under the American Indian Crusade, the US Center for World Mission and AmeriTribes until it merged with Pioneers. I have continued with Pioneers as a Retired Staff even after Art passed 15 years ago. 
 
MF—What training did you receive on support raising?
 
Dot—Our introduction to support raising came as a shock. We were not aware that we were responsible for our own support raising. The training amounted to “Go do it.” The church we attended while in seminary was our original supporting church.
Since Art was tenacious, we began to make more contacts and had enough support to go to the reservation. While there, we both taught school to complete our financial needs. 
 
MF—Share a story of a partnering church doing it well. 
 
Dot—Calvary Baptist Church in New York City (CBCNYC) has been a great partnering church. For many, many years they paid our transportation costs to attend their annual mission conference. They also paid for our hotel and provided meals during the conference. During the conference we were expected to go out and visit different members of the mission board in addition to the morning and evening schedule of meetings. There was little time for rest during the conference. Any personal care was provided by a member of the mission board asking “what” or “how” we were doing. 
 
MF—Discuss “personal care.” 
 
Dot—I am guessing that all entities involved in our lives thought “the other one,” i.e. sending board, churches, mission conference, were providing “care” for us. In fact, through 66 years of being on support, No church has done this for us. If we needed pastoral or professional care, we sought it locally and paid for it ourselves. Acting individually was always expected to be our personal responsibility. 
 
In fact, if there were very important needs or large needs (professional counseling, hospitalized mental care, or teen problems) it was best to keep this information from supporting churches to avoid losing financial support. 
 
MF—Is there a story of a supporting church that was disappointing or hard for you?
 
Dot—In our work with Native Americans, we tried to contextualize whenever we could. We happily reported in a prayer letter that we had communion out in the country (not in a church) with native friends. Instead of grape juice, we used iced tea. Instead of cut and squared white bread we used fry bread. No one else responded with a comment except for a church that withdrew their monthly support because of this episode. We realized we had to teach our resistant supporters about contextualization. 
 
MF—Did you and Art ever serve on a church’s mission board as members? What are some specific ways you lead the team to care for other workers the church partnered with?
 
Dot—At different times, both Art and I were members on a church’s mission board. We were able to teach other members of the board that difficult happenings in a missionary’s life should not be the occasion to discontinue support but rather to support with phone calls, letters and perhaps an additional amount of financial support. 
 
We also did a lot of teaching about adapting and learning culture. When a missionary reported something “odd” we assured the board they were fitting in with the culture but not compromising their faith. 
 
MF—Speak to churches today as to some best practices they should consider employing when it comes to their workers and caring well for them.
 
Dot—Instead of a missionary breezing through their town and giving them one time to speak, provide a place for them to stay for two or three nights and let them simply rest during the day. This would be contrary to a supporting church using the missionary as much as they could, scheduling a women’s meeting, men’s meeting or congregational meeting all within one or two days. 
 
Encourage the missionary with how their prayer letter was used: pinned to bulletin boards, read it in a meeting (or by a reporting individual), prayed about at a large church meeting. Also, a person should be assigned to follow up with a call or letter. 
 
Ask questions about practices that are not understood to educate the local church about culture differences, about contextualization, about language learning difficulty, about family problems. 
 
Never discontinue support abruptly for some suspected reason but get information about the situation first. 
 
Provide a car for the missionary to use temporarily as they travel doing reporting and deputation. 
 
Provide child-care so that the parents can go to a couples’ retreat or a little vacation without the children. 
 
MF—What advice do you have for church leadership in establishing a priority grid for deciding who to support. 
 
Dot—Churches should carefully vet those whom they decide to support or invite to speak at worship. Many churches are attracted to the most charismatic or good-looking couples and not to those doing the most important or strategic work among the least reached peoples. Having a written down policy to prioritize work among those unreached peoples with the least access to the gospel would be very helpful in deciding who to support. 
 
MF—Talk about the mission board. Is it important to have a team versus just the senior pastor deciding who to partner with or not? 
 
Dot—Of course! Nepotism and favoritism can be rampant if only one person gets to decide. With the combined opinions of the mission board wiser decisions can be made. 
 
MF—How would you suggest a pastor build his team for a mission board? 
 
Dot—S/he should be aware of people who are mission minded in his congregation. He could have conversations, see who reads the missionary prayer letters, ask who individually supports a missionary, be aware of who reads mission books/magazines, know who attends the various interest groups on missions.  People who are ignorant about missions and missionary needs should never be appointed to a mission commission. 
 
 
MF—What is your advice to churches when they consider stopping their support of a certain worker? What questions should they ask?
 
Dot—Too often when a church decides to stop support, they do it suddenly without any advanced notice. They just stop it. Period! The missionary is left with questions and often unpaid bills. It would not only be kind to let the missionary know the decision of the church, but it is an imperative. A letter of explanation should be sent to the missionary.
 
MF—What about their senior workers? Should there be a time they stop their partnership with them? 
 
Dot—This should be decided in a policy session by the church. None of my supporters have stated a year or time when they would discontinue support. Those who have stopped have just floated away with no notice to me. Those who continue to do so are a pleasant surprise to me at this time. I do not know how long any of my supporters will continue my partnership with them. This makes it difficult to make long range plans. 
 
MF—Compare how churches care for their pastors versus their missionaries.
 
Dot—I do not see a favorable comparison here. Large churches lavish large salaries and provisions on their pastor. I have not seen this with their care of missionaries. The missionary receives a set amount and gets a check. I would be very surprised if it ever happens that bonuses or gifts be lavished on me as a missionary. Two of my supporting churches send Christmas or Valentine gifts. 
 
MF—If churches could do one thing today, what would you encourage them to do that would care well/biblically for their workers?
 
Dot—It would be an absolute boost if a pastor would call me to encourage me. Not just someone on the mission committee contact me to find out if I am doing enough. 
 
MF—What advice would you give missionaries that are just starting to raise their prayer and financial support as they are sharing with potential churches, mission boards etc.?
 
DotEstablish a relationship with someone on the mission committee. Make a good contact. Keep current so that “someone” knows what you face and is able to pray sincerely. Rather than just “bless our missionary,” be real in your dealings with the church. Sometimes public prayer letters can be too general and not touch the heart of a matter.
 
Meet with the church or mission committee whenever you can by Zoom.
 
Although living under support has been trying and difficult at times, my family has never been without food, we have never lost our home and we have never been without necessities. I really thank and praise God for his care. 
 
MF—What advice do you have for including your children in your mission? 
 
Dot—Of course the children are “there” and can be involved in the day-to-day part of your ministry.
 
I asked my adult son about when he was aware that we were on “support.” He said he was always aware. As parents we let our children know what “support” meant. We shared both low and adequate amounts with them. When three of our children went on mission trips with Teen Mission, they had to raise their own support. This did not shock them because they had been aware before the event. When the support was complete and they left for their trips, they were assured of both financial and prayer support. They also reported and thanked their supporters after the trip. Children need to be aware that God is providing for them whether it is through support from churches or their parents’ jobs.

How Churches Have Blessed Missionaries

Our church prays for us often. They have sent encouraging emails in times they prayed for us, even with pics of the prayer meetings. They meet as congregations and even the staff prays for us.
—DH, Middle East

Our church has a faithful prayer group that meets every Sunday am. to lift us up by name. They gather needs from us and print it off for each person to pray during the week.
—KE, Sub-Saharan Africa

Our church uses money from their Advent giving to support projects in our ministry.
—TN, North Africa

When we first went to the field, we felt like we were just a part of what churches did; that we were sent so they could put our picture on the wall. Over the years, the missions department has grown and now we feel like family with someone checking on us periodically. Two of our pastors even visited us on the field! —MV, Southeast Asia

A good friend on the mission board and his wife were proactive in scheduling a video call with us every month to check in on how we were doing. —RP, South Asia

We feel so cared for and truly valued when churches send unexpected cards and little cash gifts.
—LE North America unreached diaspera

Our church gave us a space on their campus to self-isolate when we needed a home with no people in it.
—SH, South Asia

This is an article from the July-Aug 2022 issue: The Proper Care and Nurturing of Our Mission Workers

Learning How to Care For Our “Sent Ones”

Learning How to Care For Our “Sent Ones”

If you ask mission workers if they feel adequately cared for by their sending churches, most will likely say, “Not as much as we would like.” The relationship between the sending church and the “sent ones” can be complicated with many factors getting in the way of doing a good job of sending people well and caring for them while they are on the field. It takes lots of time, energy, vision and commitment for a church to do it well. In this issue we provide stories of churches who are doing it well. But what are some of the things that get in the way of churches caring well for their mission workers?

Ignorance of the Mission

A majority in the church don’t understand the mission of the global Church. The people in the church cannot adequately care for the mission workers sent if the members do not understand or have a commitment or passion for the mission. As reported in the Nov-Dec 2019 issue of MF, only 37% of Christians can identity the Great Commission passage in Matt. 28:18-20 when it is read to them. Those who know it well are likely even less than 37%. That means that only 37% have any idea of what Jesus has asked us to do in missions. Therefore, at best, only 37% will care about the mission of the church and those sent to carry it out. Matt. 28:18-20 should be the core vision and identity of every follower of Jesus, but it is not, and our missionaries suffer neglect because it is not.  Because the church does not understand its mission, many workers are sent out to do things that do not help accomplish this mission. Only a very small fraction of mission workers is sent to start movements to Christ within the unreached peoples. This is the same problem Dr. Ralph Winter identified in 1974—most mission workers are sent to serve the existing church around the world, not those who have never heard.  Every sending church should have a missions priority grid that prioritizes the sending of mission workers to those people groups with the least access to the gospel, often referred to as Frontier Peoples. It must be the job of pastors to catch this vision and then pass it on to their church members. How often do you hear Matt. 28:18-20 quoted in your church services?
Likely, not very often and that is the problem.

Caring More About Ourselves Than the Mission

It is a sad reality that 94% of the money given to the church stays within to bless the people of the church. Almost 6% is given to missions of all varieties and only 1.7% is given to the highest priority in missions of going to the unreached peoples. Out of every $100 given to the church only $1.70 is given to reach those who have never heard of Jesus or have little or no access to the gospel.  As is reported on page 31, Americans spend more on golf balls and Twinkies than what is given to reach the unreached peoples. There is a severe imbalance in our priorities, and this is reflected in how we care for the mission workers who have given their lives for the cause of reaching the unreached. Where your money is, there goes your heart.  Is it any surprise that the hearts of God’s people are not with those who are carrying out this mission? The church should do better than 1.7%. That is not even 2 cents of every dollar given. But unless the vision of God’s people increases, giving to reach the unreached is unlikely to improve.

Out of Sight, Out of Mission

The missionary enterprise has an inherent flaw: the people most committed to the mission of the church are not in regular contact each week with their home church that has sent them to make disciples of all nations. They are not at church talking with fellow church members before or after the service each week. They are not attending home groups or Bible studies throughout the week. They are not able to share their passion and mission vision with the very people they depend upon for the resources to carry out their mission. Over time this distance creates increasing ignorance of who these “sent ones” are and why the church sent them out in the first place. Over time these mission workers become strangers to their home church which often leads to a discontinuance of prayer and financial support. This issue of MF is all about what the church and its sent ones can do to overcome this problem and to make sure that the precious saints we send out are properly cared for and supported in their vital mission.

My wife and I have lived on missionary support for 32 years now and this issue was inspired by our experiences, both good and bad from interacting with churches and individual supporters. My wife, Lorena, was a huge help in pulling together the articles for this issue.  I asked her to share some of her thoughts on caring well for our mission workers.

Lorena Wood on Serving Well as Senders

Our cover title The Proper Care and Feeding of Our Mission Workers may sound a bit familiar. Years ago, I read Dr. Laura Schlessinger’s common-sense book titled The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands. I just couldn't get that title out of my mind as I worked to find great articles and examples of those churches doing it well for this theme issue of Mission Frontiers. And yes, this is my first ever time bringing a theme issue together, so I hope you won’t be too critical of me in your reviews. I wanted to help the editor, my husband, to have a break from the constant treadmill of pushing out one issue after another. I also really felt that I wanted to create a “manual” of sorts that could be sent to churches and pastors in the hope of blessing missionaries even more. Don’t worry, I’m not thinking this will be the definitive work on caring for mission workers like Eric Metaxas’ book on Martin Luther. I just want to do my small part in highlighting the wonderful authors and resources in this issue for you to learn from, connect with and share with others. 

Wouldn't it be great if we could encourage those that our churches send out, or dare I even say, those we partner with individually who are on the front lines of breaking Satan’s grasp on the 7,000 unreached peoples still living in darkness? Wouldn’t it be incredible if we could help the local church who has workers on the field do their job a bit better in letting the supported know they haven’t been forgotten and that we have taken the time to grow ourselves and educate others in the area of caring well for those who have been entrusted to us? There is an array of authors in this issue whose expertise can be so life giving if we take their advice and apply it in caring for our workers.

For the line-up we have a spectrum of articles about missionary support ranging from kids to senior leadership.

Valerie Williams/TEAM defines ways to help missionary kids feel valuable on home assignment and shares seven key ways that a church can help missionary kids.

Neil Pirolo shares the biblical basis for sending workers out well. 

Stan Parks shares three priorities for every sending body.

Q & A with Dorothy (Dot) Everett, a “just getting started” 86-year-old worker who has served for 65+ years in missions. Just because one may be eight decades old does not mean the work is done. This is a great perspective piece and Dot is an example worth following.

"Elizabeth" serving in a highly sensitive area helps us understand how to meet the specific needs of a female worker in her article, A Witnessed Life

Bradly Bell, a lead pastor and former missionary steps in and shares his wisdom and advice on the importance of real connection to our workers. He gives first-hand accounts of being on the field and in the pulpit.

See the article by E. George and the Merediths on their four “missionary care” resolutions and the course one church took to implement a church-wide support team for their missionaries. 

Another very helpful piece is Nathan Sloan’s piece on Advocacy Teams. Not only does he have the perspective of living on the field as a missionary, but he also has the wisdom gained from being the executive director of Upstream Collective where his team works tenaciously on church-centric global sending. They are a wonderful resource with hundreds of articles related to this very issue.

I hope this issue is a great blessing to you and the mission workers you serve.

This is an article from the July-Aug 2022 issue: The Proper Care and Nurturing of Our Mission Workers

The Lead Pastor’s Role in Missionary Care

The Lead Pastor’s Role in Missionary Care
“Wilson!”
 
You probably know it as the most famous line from the film Castaway, starring Tom Hanks. If you haven’t seen it, the story follows a man named Chuck Noland whose plane crashes en route to Malaysia, which strands him on a deserted island. There he’s completely cut off from all relationships. And in the pain and madness of being so isolated, he eventually finds a volleyball, names it Wilson (since it’s already branded on the face of the ball), and the two are then inseparable. 
 
That is, until Chuck tries to boat away from the island. At one point in the wind and waves, Wilson accidentally floats away in the ocean. Chuck desperately tries to rescue him, but nearly drowns doing so. Sadly, as he makes his way back to the boat, he bawls over and over, “I’m sorry, Wilson!” And whatever thread of comedy that was left in the film has suddenly drowned in tragedy. 
 
You see, Chuck had bound Wilson to the boat, but not to himself. And the danger of failing to do that became reality: they drifted apart forever, relationship forsaken. Sadly, that’s the same danger when it comes to missionary care. When the church sends someone globally on mission, there are literally hundreds of miles and days between them. And if they don’t bind themselves together, then they’ll drift apart forever, relationship forsaken.

My Story

I learned this painful truth for myself when I served as a missionary. I had no idea what a “sending church” was—by that I mean a church who is committed to the ongoing care of missionaries before they go, while they’re on the field, and upon their return. Ideally this relationship begins with the person submitting himself or herself to the church through membership. This allows you to assess their potential as a missionary candidate, disciple them into readiness and have confidence that your church is sending a qualified missionary as a blessing to the nations. And perhaps even more relevant to this article, it's the foundation that allows you to have an ongoing relationship of pastoral care in his or her life long after they leave for the field. 
 
Unfortunately, I didn’t have that. I had served as a youth minister at a church prior to going overseas. They loved me, affirmed my sense of calling and committed to pray for me. But I can’t say that they “sent” me. It was more like they “released” me. There was no commissioning. There was no relationship of ongoing spiritual authority. I was simply set adrift into the care of a missions organization.
 
Here’s the thing about being released instead of sent: it’s normal practice. It’s what most churches have done for decades—allowing missions organizations to play the central role in global missions. So what’s the big deal? Why should a lead pastor care? Because the Scriptures that he preaches calls him and his church to something very different.

A Little Example

One of the most meaningful examples of missionary care in the New Testament is tucked away in the little letter of 3 John. In this brief correspondence, the apostle John rejoiced that his friend Gaius was “walking in the truth” (v. 3). How was Gaius walking in the truth? In this instance by caring for itinerant missionaries who had passed through his church. We read,
Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are, who testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God. For they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. Therefore, we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth. —3 John 5-8
One of the most remarkable (and easily missed!) lines in the passage sets the bar for our ongoing care of missionaries, especially those we’ve sent from among our own church members. We are to do so “in a manner worthy of God.” Consider this: if Jesus Himself were to come to your church and ask you to send Him out, how would you do it? 
 
By rolling out the red carpet!
 
You would be eager to provision Him with whatever He needed and support Him by any means necessary. It would be a great joy and privilege!
 
And that is the bar. That is the standard that John sets for us in all of our ongoing care of missionaries: sending them in a manner worthy of God Himself. And in doing so, John says, we become “fellow workers for the truth,” active participants in global missions.

Becoming the Example

Ironically, after experiencing the strange lack of care and accountability from the local church as a missionary, I came home and began serving as a missions pastor. Suddenly on the front lines of missionary care, I was committed to helping our missionaries have a better experience than I had, and to helping the church be more faithful to its biblical role than mine had been. It was hard, but it made for a healthier church, healthier missionaries, and ultimately more fruitful ministry among the nations. It was at this time through the ministry of The Upstream Collective that I wrote a book called The Sending Church Defined to help other churches do the same.
 
A few years later God then saw fit for me to begin serving as a lead pastor at Antioch Church. Antioch is a small congregation (around 100 members) with an abnormally large number of “distributed members.” This is the term we use for our missionaries in order to communicate their ongoing church membership, and how we are still bound to one another. As of the writing of this article, 17% of Antioch’s members are serving overseas.
 
Although this is outwardly impressive, it creates a unique dilemma for a lead pastor, especially in a church where I am the only full-time staff member. Antioch has committed to a lot of ongoing missionary care. What is my role in that, especially in light of my many other biblical responsibilities? Allow me to outline it in a way that is useful to any lead pastor in any church setting.
 
Champion the vision. One of the primary responsibilities of a lead pastor is preaching God’s word. This is where the particular vision of a local church is birthed and fueled. As a natural part of his preaching and visionary leadership, the lead pastor can champion the church’s role in global missions and, specifically, in missionary care. This can come from expository series through books (such as 3 John, Acts, and Philippians), through topical sermons about global missions, and/or through occasional missionary care related examples within sermons. At Antioch we call these emphases “Sending Sundays” and try to make them happen every few months. 
 
Build the relationship. I have found that at the heart of pastoral care is relationship. In fact, the Bible teaches that pastors will one day give an account to Jesus for the souls under their care (Hebrews 13:17). Although I know that lead pastors cannot have a deep relationship with every church member, they can seek to be available and relatable. This must be especially so with missionaries. If at all possible, seek to develop a relationship with missionary candidates before they are sent. If that’s not possible, then take the initiative to connect with them virtually, or share a meal when they come to visit. And once the relationship is established, remind them occasionally that you’re still there for them. I have a notification set on my calendar to text a missionary every few weeks.
 
Develop a team. Whether a church has one missionary or a dozen, take my advice: don’t try to do it all yourself! Caring well for the soul of a missionary means attending to their many unique needs. These include finances, prayer, accountability and the catch-all category of logistical support. Although a missions organization may assist with many of these needs, there will still be plenty of gaps. Lead pastors do well to raise up a team of church members to be the primary support link between the church and the missionary. At Antioch we call this the “missionary care team.” They handle all the day to day communication and needs, and let me know when I need to get involved.
Although the above three steps are the most critical part of the lead pastor’s role in missionary care, here are a few more worthy of brief mention:
 
• Organize a commissioning. Care for them by making a big deal of their sending, and by publicly clarifying what the church and the missionary are committing to one another. Put the commitment in writing and be specific.
 
• Share the stage. Anytime missionaries visit, give them prime time on stage to report to the church “all that God has done with them” (Acts 14:27). Welcome them to talk about not just the victories, but also the struggles. 
 
• Go visit them. One of the most tangible, life-changing, pastor-changing, church-changing acts of missionary care is to visit them on the field. It may be hard to step away from responsibilities, but it will be worth it! 
 
Whatever steps you put in place, just don’t be like Chuck, who assumed that Wilson would never drift away from the boat. For each missionary you commit to care for, resolve to bind them to yourself, so that you and your church may send them in a manner worthy of God. In this way, you will truly be fellow workers for the truth. 

This is an article from the July-Aug 2022 issue: The Proper Care and Nurturing of Our Mission Workers

Member Care: The Scriptural Foundation

Member Care: The Scriptural Foundation
There is no doubt that the ministry of member care is multi-leveled and multi-faceted. Multi-leveled in the cooperation of mission agencies, churches, individual caregivers and crisis agencies; multifaceted in the diversity of need of each individual field worker in each of numerous ministry locations and situations.

Scriptural Foundation

The Scriptural foundation for this most-needed and, unfortunately, still most-neglected aspect of the missions process, is found in the letter of Romans, written later in the ministry of Paul, the Apostle. He had heard of an Unreached People Group in Spain. After all, that was his life verse and working principle: I have strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man’s foundation. 
 
By the time Paul got to Romans 10, he was ready to spell out for us the whole missions process. Using the Gapless Linear Logic form of reasoning so well understood by the people of that day, Paul laid out his premise in verse 13. And because he had something very important to say, he established that premise in Scripture by quoting Joel 2:32: “Whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved.” There it is! Using all the varied and creative means available to us, the goal of all mission endeavors is the salvation of the lost. Certainly, as John Piper takes it one step further: “that worship for all of eternity will result.”
 
Now, Paul begins a series of four (not three) questions with each new thought directly (without a gap) connected to the previous thought. Thus, he must begin his reasoning with the thought of calling. Question one: How shall they call on Him in Whom they have not believed? An easy concept to understand. No one is going to call on one in whom they do not believe. Next question, tied to the previous thought of believing: How can they believe on Him of Whom they have not heard? A third question: And how can they hear without a preacher?

The Process Truncated 

There it is! The question we have all been waiting for—so goes the average missions conference. And with all the passion of a skilled orator, the one making the appeal can work up the emotions of many. Even to misuse the Scripture in Isaiah 6. For, after Isaiah said those “famous” words, Here am I. Send me, God sent him to his own people, not into a cross-cultural ministry! But, not to be concerned with such detail, to the front they come, making a “commitment” to be a “missionary!” Of course, many wake up the next morning, wondering what in the world did I commit to? This is one of the great tragedies in the Christian community. Whether it is in that appeal or just in the structure of a missions conference, disservice is done to those who could be mobilized into the ministry of serving as senders. Ninety per cent of conference attendees will never go to the field. Yet, without a clear understanding of all that is involved in Paul’s last question, they go home wondering “Why did I waste my time at yet another conference? I’ll never go to the mission field.”
 
But the beauty of timeless Scripture is that Paul didn’t stop at the third question. He asked one more. And it is pertinent to note that when one is using this form of logic, they end with the very most important point they want to make. So, here is his final question. It has to be tied to the preacher, the one who goes, the cross-cultural worker, the missionary: And how can they preach (How can our missionaries be effective.) unless they are SENT?

Full Circle

This final question then, draws our attention to the whole subject of “the rest of the team”—others than the missionaries that Paul is saying are vital to the missions process. But, again, in the beauty of the Holy Spirit-inspiration of Paul’s words, so that those who serve as senders (member caregivers) do not get to thinking that they are the focus of missions, in verse 15, Paul brings it back full circle to the missionary by quoting Isaiah 52:7: How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things. Thus, those who go and those who serve as senders form the team for effective cross-cultural ministry.

Missionary Care

I grew up in a church that believed in missions. Pictures of families in faraway places lined our foyer wall. Each had their names, country of ministry and the amount of money we were giving. When a missionary came to our church, he would tell of the great exploits being accomplished. For those of us not “called” to go, we thought the best we could do was to say good-bye.
As I became an adult and began reading my Bible, I was surprised to discover that Paul, a first century missionary, continually asked for care. By the time he wrote to the church in Rome, he had been on several missionary journeys. Yet, in chapter one and twice repeated in chapter 15, this seasoned missionary said he needed their encouragement. 
 
He also received logistic support. Reading Acts 19 and 20, you can clearly see that someone had to find the ship to take them to the next port. Paul asked Timothy to come before winter. He had forgotten to take his coat with him. “Please bring it, Timothy. Also the books, but if you don’t have room for everything, at least bring the parchments.” “No man at war gets himself entangled in the affairs of daily living,” Paul told Timothy. 
 
Financial support? Of course, money is a part of missionary care. For, “no man goes to war at his own expense,” Paul said. And what commendations he had for the church at Philippi! “You have been partners with me from the very beginning.” Later in the letter he said (in response to their generous financial gift), “My God will supply all of your needs according to His riches in glory!”
 
Paul’s continual request for prayer stands above all other expressions of need for care. Sometimes it was simply, “Pray with me….” Other times it became a passionate appeal, for prayer invades the spiritual. Daily, intercessory, maintaining the “hedge of protection” prayer is needed by every missionary.
 
Without the aid of computers and cell or satellite phones, Paul maintained an amazing degree of contact with people and churches. And today, as culturally adaptive as a missionary may be, he needs contact with his home culture.
 
When Jesus stood on the Mount of Ascension and said, “As you are going…,” He never said anything about coming home. However, His men came back to Him. And most missionaries do come home. Again, the Bible gives us our model for helping a missionary through this difficult transition. Acts 14:26-28 and Acts 15:35 give us the five steps to a healthy re-entry. Because the missionary is going through the stress, he needs a team of people to help him.
 
In Romans 10, Paul was describing the missions process. In a beautiful sequence of thought, he ended by saying, “And how can they preach (how can missionaries be effective), unless they are sent? With that question, he lays at the feet of those who serve as senders an equal (though different) responsibility to those who go. 

This is an article from the July-Aug 2022 issue: The Proper Care and Nurturing of Our Mission Workers

Advocate Teams: The Local Church Caring for Missionaries

Advocate Teams: The Local Church Caring for Missionaries
It was 2008 and I had just finished my first term as a cross-cultural missionary in Nepal. It had been a wonderful season of life and ministry. Alongside the grueling work of language learning, I was discipling young men in the faith, I met my wife and I was personally growing in faith and maturity. That last part, the part about personal growth, was the most painful part. You see, I had been well trained, I had a good team on the field, but no one prepared me for the personal struggles I would face as I crossed cultures. I came head-to-head with significant inner struggles of loneliness, selfishness and ethnocentrism. These, along with other struggles and sins, reared their ugly head in my heart and too often came out in the way I treated others. What I know now that I didn’t know then, is that doing cross-cultural missions work is like pouring Miracle Gro on your sins. Mixed in with the good days were days of darkness and deep inner struggle. Thankfully, I had a solid team along with good missionary and Nepali friends who pressed in and journeyed with me. But do you know what I didn’t have? I didn’t have a sending church who knew how to care for me or be present with me in the struggle. Don’t hear me wrong. I came from a good church with wonderful people, but they had no idea that missionary care and encouragement could and should be provided by the local church. Let’s not make the same mistake my local church did. 
 
Local churches are primed to be a place of encouragement, care, and even correction for people serving cross-culturally. 
 
Gary Strauss and Kelly Narramore write that “much of the responsibility for the preparation and spiritual and emotional support of missionaries has been assumed to be the domain of the mission agency…It is imperative that the local church play a larger role in world missions, particularly in the care and development of missionaries that they send out.” This kind of deep ownership in global missions begins with good discipleship and leads to thoughtful pre-field missionary assessment and development in the local church. It also leads to intentional missionary care.
 
But missionary care doesn’t just happen. Churches and church leaders would be wise to develop systems and structures that allow for their local church, both leaders and the average member, to care for their cross-cultural sent ones. There are several models of missionary support, care and advocacy that can be implemented in a local church. By far the most popular, and maybe the most effective, is the concept of the advocate team. 

Advocate Teams

In the 1980s, Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota created the concept of the Barnabas Team. These are teams of 6–12 church members focused on providing care and encouragement to missionaries sent out from their local church. Each Barnabas Team seeks to meet practical needs while also being a place where missionaries can be open and honest with their needs and struggles. More than 20 years later, churches like Austin Stone and Sojourn Church Midtown took these foundational ideas and created advocate teams, an evolution of the early Barnabas Team. The development of missionary care in the local church has continued with a variety of models that fit churches of different contexts and capacities.
 
If you’re looking to develop an advocate team model in your local church, here are some helpful principles to consider.

What Does an Advocate Team Do?

There are two major roles of an advocate team—care and representation. Advocate teams should provide ongoing presence and intentional care to their missionary as well as be a voice for them to the church as a whole and to church leaders.
 
Care
 
Many missionaries live in physically and emotionally challenging environments. Some are raising children far from extended family. Others struggle with cultural adjustments and language barriers. Most significantly, all serve on the front lines of spiritual warfare. For survival and spiritual health, missionaries need the assurance that they are not forgotten, that others in the body of Christ love them and are committed to their welfare as well as to the success of their ministry. Missionaries need empathetic listeners—compassionate, caring friends who are not in a supervisory role but willingly pursue them and their family. An advocate team can provide this kind of spiritual, relational, and emotional care.
 
A word of caution here. Advocate teams are not intended to be professional counselors. Advocate teams provide proactive care and encouragement. Often missionaries will still need counselors and pastors to provide deep care and counseling as they face hardship and trauma in life and ministry. 
 
Walking alongside missionaries also involves identifying specific needs which the team can meet or organize others in their church to meet. These could include departure tasks, stateside time, tax preparation, housing and any number of practical needs.
 
Representation
 
Advocate teams should also be champions for the missionary and his or her work to the church body and to church leaders. Because advocate teams are often talking regularly with their missionary, they will know real time information they can pass on to others for prayer, encouragement and intervention when needed. 

What Does an Advocate Team Look Like?

Ideally, the structure of an advocate team should be simple. The foundation of each advocate team is the team leader. He or she is the one who has the main connection with the missionary and leads the team toward healthy care and representation. The team leader either already knows the missionary well or commits to build a deep relationship with them. The rest of the team is built under the leadership of this committed team leader. Other team members could have specific responsibilities that define their role. These responsibilities could include communication, prayer, practical service, care packages and more. 
 
For some churches and missionaries, having just one person serve as an advocate is a more practical option. The single model advocate allows mission leaders to more easily hold people accountable which creates more stability over time. For other church leaders and missionaries, they find success in building teams around committed leaders which allows greater involvement from members, a growing number of people engaged in global missions, and more people praying on a regular basis.
 
So, whether your church adopts the team model or the leader-only model, make sure to define what you expect from advocates in writing, provide training and encouragement on a regular basis, and hold people accountable to follow through with their commitment to serve.

What Does an Advocate Team Do?

The following are some suggestions on what advocate teams can do to provide care and representation to missionaries. 
 
Meet Regularly
 
Teams can meet at anytime and anywhere, just ask your teams to set a time and meet regularly to fulfill their role as advocates. Many churches find that meeting monthly is a good rhythm. But I’ve also talked with churches who meet quarterly or even weekly to pray and support their missionaries.
 
Pray
 
One of the main roles of an advocate team is to pray for their missionary on a regular basis, both as a group and individually. This means that missionaries will need to provide regular prayer needs to the team. I’ve found that this can be a struggle for some missionaries. The accountability the advocate team provides the missionary in this way is a good and needed aspect of the advocate relationship. nIf missionaries want to be prayed for, they need to communicate regularly.
 
Stay Connected
 
Ask most missionaries and they will tell you that it is a struggle to stay connected with their friends and church family back home. Part of providing care to missionaries is the commitment to stay connected. I would encourage advocate teams to communicate to their missionaries at a minimum of once a month. In today’s technological world, communication is much easier and more frequent than ever before. Consider adopting channels of communicating that your missionaries already use and would want to communicate through. Communication tools like iMessage, What’s App, Signal, Zoom, Slack and others are good things to consider. Start by asking your missionary what communication channels they prefer and what they desire communication to look like. 
 
Also, be sensitive to missionaries’ security needs. We live in a rapidly changing world. More and more people are realizing the dangers of communication, social media and unfiltered language surrounding missionary work. Make sure and ask your missionaries what security measures they are taking and what policies they would want you to adopt. 
 
Send Care Packages and Handwritten Letters
 
Nothing says I love you to a missionary quite like a handwritten letter or box full of things from their home culture. Advocate teams should consider pooling resources to send care packages, write letters and find ways to practically bless missionaries—especially missionary kids. Make sure to ask your missionaries what things they enjoy and how best to mail items to them. 
 
Help with Departure and Arrival
 
Some of the hardest times for your missionary will be preparing to leave for the field and returning home for a visit or to resettle back in the States. Whether your missionary is headed to the field or headed back to your community, there are countless things that need to be done. I’ve found that missionaries are hesitant to ask for help and may not even know what they need themselves. Take the initiative and find ways to jump in to serve your missionary. These can include helping to clean their home, watching their kids while they pack, hosting a going away party, lending a car, paying for counseling, stocking their fridge with food, providing a listening ear and more. The best thing you can do in these moments is to show up, offer your presence and meet the needs you see. 

One Final Thought

Adopting an advocate or care structure in your church will be extremely helpful. However, systems and structures only go so far. Missionary care and support structures must be rooted in relationship and be held accountable by leadership. These models won’t work unless we invite people in, train them well, and then hold them accountable to be relationally present with people over the long haul. Too often the old adage is true, “out of sight, out of mind.” By creating, implementing and maintaining healthy systems of advocacy and missionary care, we are committing to not only send missionaries, but to stay with them, to fight for them and to love them on a consistent basis. 
 
So, what are you waiting for? Take time to talk through the principles, talking with other churches who do these things well and then jump in and start doing the work of advocacy. Will you make mistakes? Probably. Will your sent ones feel loved and empowered for better ministry? Absolutely! 

This is an article from the July-Aug 2022 issue: The Proper Care and Nurturing of Our Mission Workers

Partners In The Gospel

Partners In The Gospel

The age-old issue of missionary “support” has an age-old solution. It is found in the clear words of Scripture. Paul, a missionary of the first century, had been on a number of ventures. When he had fully preached in these parts, he heard there were unreached peoples in Spain. On his way there, he wanted to visit the Christians in Rome. So he wrote them a letter. In Chapter 10, from his vast experience in missions (and prompted by the Holy Spirit), he states the simplicity of the whole missions process: the goal? The salvation of the lost. The rationale? Call! Believe! Hear! Preach! Then, the too-often neglected foundation question: And how can they preach (how can our missionaries be effective) unless they are sent?

Thus, those who go and those who send are partners in the missions process. Where do these “senders” come from? Who is suited to be a sender? What skills are needed to be a sender?

Again, God, the Holy Spirit through Paul gives us the answers: Paul is in prison...again. But this time he really did it! He appealed to Caesar! He is under house arrest in Rome. He has been before Caesar once and is now about to face him again. He cannot freely preach the gospel. Some men are preaching to be an encouragement to him but others are preaching to make Paul feel bad! Can you believe it? Ha! Ha! Paul we can preach freely, but you can’t!

Yet under those circumstances, he begins his letter to the Philippian believers with the words: I rejoice greatly...! What? What does he have to rejoice over? Certainly not his circumstances. Listen further: I rejoice greatly for every time I pray for you it brings back to my remembrance how you have been PARTNERS in the GOSPEL from the very first day even until now. (Philippians 1:3-5)

“Partners in the gospel,” he calls them. They never traveled with him. They were people in that local fellowship that he and Silas and Timothy had planted so many years before. Who were these people? You remember the story: On his second missionary journey, Paul, with Silas, tried going into Asia. The Holy Spirit prevented them. They tried going north to Bithynia. Again, the Holy Spirit said, “No.” They go west to Troas. In a night vision, Paul hears a man from Macedonia calling. Doctor Luke joins the team there. He continues to write, Immediately we endeavored to go.... The “Macedonia man” turned out to be a merchant woman by the name of Lydia! She trusts in Christ. And her whole family. The jailor and his whole family! And a church was established. Now, these many, many years later, Paul is writing to them, thanking these people for being his partners.

How were they his partners? He goes on to address six areas of care for which he was thankful. and that every missionary today would be well-advised to have. Let’s look at them:

  • He was encouraged. Yes, even in those difficult circumstances, Paul is encouraged at the knowledge of their care. In this brief letter, he uses the words joy, rejoice or rejoicing fourteen times! His morale was high!

Today, every missionary needs encouragement. Surveys verify that depression is one of the main pitfalls of missionary work. Yes, they can “encourage themselves in the Lord” as David had to (I Samuel 30:7). But so much better for there to be a team of people providing the encouragement needed. And this is accomplished more by the team fulfilling the other five areas of care than by just standing on the sidelines saying, “Cheer! Cheer!”

  • Paul was covered by their prayer. He says,

“I know this will work out for the good of my soul by your prayers and the Spirit of Christ. What will be worked out? His thoughts and feelings about those out there preaching the gospel to add to his grief. In his spirit, he had the right answer: Praise God, the gospel is being preached. But, in his soul, he is still struggling. He is confident that through their prayers it will turn out for my deliverance.

Today, as much as ever, a missionary needs a team of people sustaining them in prayer...every step of the way! I returned from a very difficult four-week ministry trip to Asia. During the greeting time at church my first Sunday back, a lady approached me. She said, “This has been the hardest trip for me that you have ever been on!” Why? Because even without email contact, she sensed the difficulty, and her battling in prayer took its toll on her.

  • Paul was confident of their care on his re-entry. He is reasoning about living or dying. He decides that because of the great need, he would live. And that he would come back to them. There will be a lot of rejoicing. But,he says, let’s make sure our rejoicing is in the Lord! He no doubt remembered how well the church people allowed him and Barnabas to rehearse all that God had done with them and how He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles when they returned from their first journey (Acts 14:25-28).

Today, opportunity to share all is critical—on two levels: 1) The great stories of battles won and 2) how the missionary is different now. Helping them keep in balance the good and the not-so-good that happened on the field will more likely help them adjust to the good and not-so-good back home.

  • He was sure Epaphroditus would be careful with the logistics of getting this letter safely to the people at Philippi. Paul had first thought of sending Timothy. When he found out that he was about to go before Caesar again, he wanted to keep Timothy with him.

Today, there is a plethora of logistical details that a missionary’s partnership team can fulfill from feeding their pet “Nemo” while on a short trip to adopting their children if both parents die on the field!

  • Paul was thrilled that Epaphroditus was sent by the congregation to minister to his needs.

Today, there is no higher form of communication support than to send someone to bring the love of home to the field. Of course, with the many forms of communication today, a word of caution of what is said, is extremely important.

In chapter four, Paul is rejoicing greatly again. Finances have arrived. But, he didn’t say, “Hey, Epi, did you bring the cash? I want to buy a new sun dial watch!”

Today, what a lesson can be learned from what Paul did say: The attitude of a missionary: Not that I looked for the gift, but the fruit that abounds to your account. The attitude of the giver: Given generously and sacrificially as ..a fragrant incense, a gift that pleases the very heart of God. And in that context, we need not worry, for having just given a sacrificial gift to missions, he adds, My God will supply all of your needs....

Whatever your gifting, ability or talent might be, there is a place for you to partner with a missionary in advancing the kingdom of God. For His glory!

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This is an article from the July-Aug 2022 issue: The Proper Care and Nurturing of Our Mission Workers

Unreached of the Day July-August 2022

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

Unreached of the Day July-August 2022

Click on the .pdf icon within this article to read the Unreached of the Day.

This is an article from the July-Aug 2022 issue: The Proper Care and Nurturing of Our Mission Workers

Who is Defining the Priorities of Our Church’s Mission Efforts?

Who is Defining the Priorities of Our Church’s Mission Efforts?
The following article challenges pastors and missions leaders to break free from good mission endeavors to seek out God’s mission endeavors. It challenges us to question who is defining the priorities of our church’s mission efforts.1
 
If we seek to reach the world according to our own priorities then we are doomed to frustration and failure. The Lord desires obedience not sacrifice, so as disciples of Christ we must consider God’s priorities and shape our efforts to be in sync with His will. Based upon the Gospel message and the Commission of Jesus, I believe there are three priorities we should consider:
 
Missions was birthed in His heart because He is a missionary God reaching out to a lost humanity. The end of missions is the worship of God as is well shown in Revelation 7:9-10 “After this I looked, and there was an enormous crowd—no one could count all the people! They were from every race, tribe, nation, and language, and they stood in front of the throne and of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. They called out in a loud voice: “Salvation comes from our God, who sits on the throne, and from the Lamb!” (GNB) In our efforts to obey God’s Commission to us, it is crucial that we prioritize God’s glory. We need to avoid pursuing human-sized goals with human-strength plans but earnestly and continually pray that the Holy Spirit will empower us to be vessels for God’s glory.
 
The goal of missions is to see the Body of Christ birthed and expanded within a people, tribe, nation, language and/or place. Ministry that does not see local churches birthed is often valuable, but until these church “communities of faith” are established and extended, the goal of missions has not been reached. However, this goal is not an end in itself, or the church becomes guilty of breaking the first commandment. The newly established church must be encouraged and taught that it is their mandate to reach out within their own group and beyond to the entire world. However, when we speak of growing the Body of Christ, we do not just mean numbers of converts and churches started.
 
We must ask God to grow the church not just in quantity but also in quality. It is not enough to start churches if those churches are selfish and powerless. The goal is Acts 2 churches being continually transformed by God and in turn serving God in devoting themselves to the Word and prayer and fellowship while sharing the good news, living sacrificially and transforming their own communities and nations.
 
Is it right that some hear the gospel twice when others have never heard it once? Or some hear it 10 times, 100 times, 1000 times, even 10,000 times when some have never heard it one single time? Evangelism is sharing the good news, while missions is sharing the good news where it is news. There can be no question that while we are called to many good efforts, our priority in world missions today must be those living beyond the gospel. God does not wish that “anyone should perish but that everybody would come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Approximately 30% of the world’s population has no access to the gospel and just as tragically 42.6% of the world’s population are members of “unreached” ethne – those without a culture-impacting indigenous church that is strong enough to reach its own people. 2 If reaching the world is the charge Jesus gave us as His disciples, then we cannot defend the vast sums of money and time spent on ourselves while we pray and go and spend so little to reach those most in need of the gospel. This is not to say that we should only focus on the unreached, because no church can be truly concerned about the unreached without being concerned about the lost around them. But as a worldwide church we find it much easier to prioritize ourselves and those around us at the expense of those with the greatest need for the gospel.
 
So if your church is seeking to obey Jesus’ mission commission by worshipping and glorifying Him in your words and deeds, a key priority should be helping reach out and start churches among unreached cities, nations, peoples and groups.  That will in turn bring glory to God by their transformed lives and transforming service to their communities and their resulting efforts to bring the good news to other cities, nations, peoples and groups. 
Endnotes
  1. First published in 2007 by Restore Hope. http://www.restorehopetoday.org/who-is-defining-the-priorities-of-our-churchs-mission-efforts Repub.lished by permission of the author who made some minor edits and updated information. 

  2. In the 15 years since this article was first published, the percentage of those without access to the gospel has grown from 27% to 30% and those in unreached ethne has grown from 39.5% to 42.6%.  

This is an article from the July-Aug 2022 issue: The Proper Care and Nurturing of Our Mission Workers

In Serious Pursuit of Movements

In Serious Pursuit of Movements
I don’t run very fast anymore. Age and extra pounds have robbed me of those days when I could sprint like the wind. I’m more of a plodder.
 
Jogging slowly, I keep going. Step by labored step. My eight-month-old German shepherd puppy is quite the opposite. When we go for a run together, he pulls me forward. His tan-colored legs stretch out and his black tail wags when he can run a 10-second sprint. You can almost hear him saying, “Let’s do it again!” 
 
Sometimes he’ll see a bird or chicken in our yard. Off he goes…chasing hard after the prize. 
 
My dog and I both enjoy our runs. Disciple Making Movements involve the pursuit of what can feel like an elusive goal. They are not a sprint and often require plodding along, step by step, like when I train for a marathon. But the passion and zeal of a dog chasing a rabbit is what we need as well.

Are You Seriously Pursuing Movements?

Many people are interested in Disciple Making Movements. They like the concept. Hearing the stories of organic multiplication, of groups starting groups and spreading rapidly…we can’t help but feel excited. Who wouldn’t be? 
 
Hundreds of mission organizations have begun to train their staff in DMMs and DMM principles. Books, articles and training on Discovery Bible Study abound. My email list of those getting weekly input on Disciple Making Movements is over 17,000 now. That’s a lot of people expressing interest to learn about how to multiply disciples! This is truly encouraging.
 
But how many of those people move from casual interest to a serious pursuit? How many commit to going after the release of a Disciple Making Movement, having counted the cost and set their goals and activities to match that?

Signing Up for a Marathon

My husband and I have run numerous half marathons together. Once, my daughter and I also did a full 42-kilometer race. These long races require months of preparation and training. They are not something most people can sign up for one day and run the next. 
Three or four months before a marathon I commit. I sign up and pay my money to register for the race. 
 
Most marathons cost about $40 or $50 to sign up for. You get a t-shirt and a medal and some snacks. Wasting money is not something I like to do. So when I sign up and pay, my training gets serious. Knowing I’ve already paid for it, even when I’m traveling and don’t have time, I get out and do my training run. I’m in serious pursuit of my goal…to run the race well and finish it.
 
There have been a few times when I thought, “I’ll just start training, but sign up later.” Inevitably, something comes up and my training goes by the wayside. I’m not committed yet, so other priorities in life take precedence.

Counting the Cost and Committing

Luke 14:28 says, “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?” Most of us have probably never built a tower. I know nothing about tower building. But I get the principle Jesus was talking about here. 
 
If we want to be His disciple, we need to consider the cost and commit. The same is true of pursuing movements. 

What Is the Cost?

Let’s be real. There is a cost to seeing the release of a Disciple Making Movement. And it’s a rather large one. I’m not talking about money though. As mentioned in the title of my online course, Getting Started in Disciple Making Movements: Even if You Are Busy, Can’t Speak the Language Well, and Have No Money, movements don’t need lots of funding. Often, outside money can kill movements. 
 
One cost is in a willingness to swim upstream. To embrace new ways of doing things that are not the norm in legacy (traditional churches that meet in buildings). The cost is in being willing to be misunderstood and persecuted, by colleagues, friends, and others within your church or organizational structure, as well as by those who are not believers as well. 
 
Another cost is paid on your knees. A willingness to grow in intercession personally and to put in the hours and effort to pray for the lost and for those you train is a must if you are in serious pursuit of a movement. 
 
Additionally, one must be willing to unlearn old habits and unwind old beliefs about how to do evangelism and church-planting. This requires effort and commitment. Allowing God to shine His light on our belief systems that don’t match our actions can be painful. Are we willing to seriously examine our lives and church patterns in light of Scripture and the example of Jesus and Paul and how they did missions?
 
I recently re-read Luke 10 in my normal daily devotions. This passage is one I’ve taught many times. It’s the passage where we find reference to the Person of Peace, a key concept in the Disciple Making Movement strategy (See my free ebook about this on dmmsfrontiermissions.com if you are not familiar with it). 
 
“Am I living this way?” I asked myself. “Am I doing missions the way Jesus modeled and sending people the way He sent them?” We must examine our lives and methods in light of Scripture and be willing to change if we want to seriously pursue a movement. 
 
We must be willing to not only preach and teach disciple-making, but we must also become disciple-makers. That means stepping out from behind our desks and pulpits and investing time in relationships in our community. Many missionaries and pastors don’t have time to get to know their neighbors, let alone start a discovery group in their community. DMM practitioners have to do, not only teach. This can be demanding and puts us in a place of vulnerability. Preaching and teaching a congregation is not as risky as praying for a sick person in a grocery store, or inviting your mailman to read Scripture with you. Yet without modeling this kind of disciple-making action, we will not train others effectively. 
 
A further cost to the serious pursuit of movements is a willingness to focus on them. To see movements, you will have to say no to other things, other attractive opportunities. You will need to radically examine your priorities and strip away things that do not have a direct impact on your goal of seeing a multiplication of disciples. This is not easy and is where many movement practitioners fail. 
Giving time to lost people and not only to the saved will be required of you. Saying no to certain meetings, events, and conferences to say yes to deep relationships and investment in training and mentoring leaders well is a significant commitment. Yet it is necessary if you want to see the few reach the many as Jesus did. 
 
There are other costs to count in pursuing movements but let me mention one more. To pursue movements, you must be willing to risk failure. 
 
The other day I woke early with a phrase running across my heart, almost like an ad scrolling across the top of a webpage. The phrase was this, “I would rather be found guilty of asking too much of God, than of asking too little.” I couldn’t get this out of my mind as I set my feet on the ground and made my way to the kitchen to make my morning coffee. 
 
“What are you trying to say to me, Lord?” I asked as I opened my Bible, coffee now in hand, ready to spend time with Him. 
Scriptures I had memorized as a child filled my mind. “You have not because you ask not” (James 4:2). “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. (Matt. 7:7).” If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (John 15:7)
 
“Yes, Lord,” I prayed. “I’d rather be guilty of asking you for too much of God, than to be guilty of asking you for too little. I’m asking you for movements, Lord. For hundreds of new movements to spring up across the globe and for hundreds of thousands of lost people to be swept into your kingdom through them! I know this is an audacious prayer to pray, that someone like me, could be part of catalyzing that. But I ask you Lord to do the impossible through me and through the many I have the privilege of training.” 
 
Praying prayers of faith for the impossible is part of the life of movement catalysts and leaders. We must be willing to believe in things we cannot yet see and pray for them until they become a reality. This requires persistent and bold faith (Luke 18:1-8). 
 
When you pray these kinds of prayers and call others to pray them with you, some will doubt. They will not want you to pray for things that seem impossible. If God doesn’t answer, maybe people will fall away or be disappointed, they’ll say. As movement practitioners and leaders, we must be willing to take the risk of praying for things far beyond ourselves…even beyond what we have ever seen happen before.
 

The Greater Risk

Reading the above, you may be thinking…wow…that’s a lot of costs. Am I ready to pay that price? 
 
There was a time when I was not sure I was. I’d been working to see church multiplication for about 15 years. We’d been reading and studying Church Planting Movement books by Dr. David Garrison and others. I’d translated George Patterson’s Train and Multiply materials into the Nepali language and attempted (with only limited success) to use them to train national church-planters. The YWAM training called a School of Frontier Missions (SOFM) had a week of training on church-planting where I often spoke on CPMs and DMMs. But we had seen only a handful of movements take off. 
 
“Am I setting people up for failure by calling them to aim at a movement?” I asked myself. “Maybe we should just talk about making disciples who make disciples and leave it at that.” I wondered if we were asking a local B team to aim at a Superbowl win that only one professional team per year could achieve. Maybe it wasn’t fair to challenge them to pursue a movement. These real questions disturbed my pastoral heart. I didn’t want to call people to something they were likely to fail at. 
 
While these thoughts were often coming to mind, I went for a prayer walk. Slowly, I walked through a slum in the Indian city where I lived. I passed by a mosque and offered up prayers to God for the men inside on their knees answering the call to prayer. Continuing to walk, I soon passed a Hindu temple with a huge statue of Shiva. Bells were ringing and worship taking place. “Oh God, please show them who you are!” I prayed. Coming to the end of the street, and close to the river, I passed the crematorium. Smoke rose from the chimney where a body had just been burned. Another Hindu had gone into eternity having never heard the truth of God’s amazing love. 
 
“How will they hear? How will they know of His love?” I whispered as tears welled up in my eyes.
 
There are just too many millions for traditional methods to work and reach them. Ordinary disciples must be trained! Multiplication must happen!
 
Or they will keep dying apart from the knowledge of His saving grace. 
 
Then I knew. The pursuit of movements was not an option, it was a mandate. Jesus commanded His disciples to make disciples of all nations and teach them to obey all He had commanded.
 
That meant every disciple of Jesus needs to be trained to multiply. I would continue to call people to pursue the seemingly impossible because it was the will of God to do this through ordinary people like the fishermen and tax collectors he had trained. They were not professionals, they were B team-type guys. But filled with the Holy Spirit, they started movements. So could we. 

Will You Commit?

I come again to my earlier question. How committed are you to pursuing Disciple Making Movements? Are they a passing interest? Something you are curious about? Or have you “signed up for the race”? Until you commit to them, you may be a bit like I am before I sign up for a marathon. You can’t casually pursue movements. You’re either all in, or not really in at all. 
 
Count the cost, yes. Know what you are committing to and that it is not an easy road to walk. But the cost of not committing to movements is greater.
 
The millions will not hear. The temples and mosques will continue to be filled with many who have never yet heard of His love. Jesus’ last command to us will not be obeyed. 
 
The way to address the issue and urgency of humankind’s lostness is if we pursue not only handfuls of disciples, but movements of them to spread rapidly across the globe. Having counted the cost, will you join me in a sold-out, full-on commitment to pursue the release of new movements?  

This is an article from the July-Aug 2022 issue: The Proper Care and Nurturing of Our Mission Workers

A Prayer for Missionary Care

A Prayer for Missionary Care
My wife Susan and I had just returned after a first term serving in another country and culture.
 
If someone made a list of the dos and don’ts for how to send people, our situation would have checked all the boxes for the “don’t” list. 
 
While we were in the frying pan, we had not felt the heat. But, arriving back in the USA…
 
Everything felt wrong. Confusing. Loud. Rushed. It was 4th of July and when fireworks went off down the street, we hit the floor out of reflex.
 
Most would chalk that up to issues with our re-entry and reverse culture shock, and yes, those are very real. But one reason this was real in our lives was not the lack of re-entry preparation or care (though that was certainly absent!) but the lack of care and feeding throughout our time.
 
Now, we had received very good pre-field orientation. We knew what to expect. But between that and our return?
 
We were on our own.

Fast Forward

That was in the early 1980s. I am grateful that since that time there has been a large movement in the mission world related to caring for families in the field. It has become an international and multicultural movement. It has become holistic: touching every facet of human life, family life, addiction, spiritual formation, physical health and more.
 
That is encouraging and I have seen it up close and personal: the organization I led before coming to Frontier Ventures developed a whole focus on field partner care, with a multi-cultural team and a clear ethos and approach.
 
Many, most mission organizations have done so. These are encouraging signs.

And Yet

I came across the results of a study, written up by Katie Rowe, entitled, “Closer to the Truth about Current Missionary Attrition: An Initial Analysis of Results” (https://www.alifeoverseas.com/closer-to-the-truth-about-current-missionary-attrition-an-initial-analysis-of-results/).
 
I won’t go into all the facets, but the study addressed the question about the preventable causes for missionary attrition. The study revealed nine factors, but two rose to the top: family factors and team/agency factors. In the family category were issues such as experiencing serious marital issues or needing to take care of extended family who live away from the mission field. 
 
And in the second category, the team/agency factors, the highest rated factor was lack of missionary care.
 
That study seems to indicate that missionary care was the responsibility of the agency. And, I would hasten to say, agencies do bear a responsibility for being a part of the care of those they assist in sending (and my words are carefully chosen).

Who Cares?

This edition of Mission Frontiers asks about a different stakeholder in the mission effort: the arena of the body of Christ we call the church and especially the local church. Of course, we might ask, local to whom, but the assumption in the title is the churches in the sending countries of the ones being sent (there are local churches of course in almost every country where such sent ones are relocated).
 
The question posed is in keeping with the larger move over the past decades of local churches engaging more directly and responsibly as senders, as agents in the mission effort, and not just donators of human resources (“here, take our members”).
So, what is the role of churches in this arena of care?
 
Of course, an easy answer would be: if the study showed that a lack of missionary care was a key factor in attrition rates then churches are a potential pool, a resource, to add capacity.
 
But I will focus first on the area the study somewhat skimmed over, due to its focus, not due to any fault in the study. Namely, family issues.

In Theory …

… a healthy fully functioning local church would be deeply aware of the extended family of its members, especially those it might affirm as called to cross cultural lives. The same can be said for married couples. 
 
… churches would be aware of fault lines and cracks and potential stress points. 
 
… churches would also be able to help care for extended family members who remain in the sending country. 
 
… churches would be able to add not only capacity but depth and quality to the whole fabric of missionary care.
 
The fact is that many churches are not the healthy vibrant organisms that they would need to be to provide the valuable asset they can be for their beloved ones serving in other cultures and contexts. In reality, there are churches that do these things, thankfully.

What Can I Add?

Thus, in this edition you will be introduced to many concepts, examples and helpful insights. 
 
But my contribution is essentially a prayer, a prayer for the health of the whole body: local, global, agency, emerging movement, teams of workers. Each of those is part of the body of Christ, and each is able to be healthy and whole and vibrant and lifegiving.

Back Again

I am grateful that Susan and I sought and got the help we needed. It was ad hoc, word of mouth, given us by a fellow traveler on the journey to wholeness. But we found it. And because we did, we were able and eager a few years later to return to another context, and we were better able to thrive and live with resilience. 
 
But I do wonder, what if? What if our first experience had been more richly adorned with the sort of care and life-giving support that we desperately needed, but did not know how to ask for?
 
May the Lord bring health to us all, and to the whole body of Christ

This is an article from the July-Aug 2022 issue: The Proper Care and Nurturing of Our Mission Workers

Giving

Giving

WHAT CHRISTIANS EARN: 

Annual Income of all Church Members:
$53 trillion.1
(Annual income of evangelical Christians is approximately $6.72 trillion.)

WHAT PEOPLE GIVE:

Given to any Christian causes: $896 billion.1
That's also how much we spend in America on Christmas.
Given to Missions: $52 billion
That's only 5.78% of the money given to Christian causes of any kind (2022).1
Embezzled: If you are doing the math and realize there is $59 billion missing, this is where it went.1

HOW CHRISTIAN GIVING IS USED:

Pastoral ministries of local churches (mostly in Christian nations): $734 billion (82%)2
"Home Missions" in same Christian nations: $107.5 billion (12%)2
Going to Un-Evangelized Non-Christian world: $51.7 billion (5.7%)2 *This is different than "Unreached"
Money that goes toward Unreached Peoples: Estimated $880 million (1.7%)3
For every $100,000 that Christians make, they give $1.70 to the unreached.
“Until recently, Americans spent more on golf balls and twinkies than was given to reach the unreached.” —Claude Hickman

HYPOTHETICAL OBSERVATIONS:

Evangelical Christians could provide all of the funds needed to plant a church in each of the 7,400 unreached people groups with only 0.03% of their income.
 
The Church has roughly 3,000 times the financial resources and 9,000 times the manpower needed to finish the Great Commission. If every evangelical gave 10% of their income to missions we could easily support 2 million new missionaries.

SOURCES:

1 Gordon Conwell, Download "Status of Global Christianity https://www.gordonconwell.edu/center-for-global-christianity/wp-content/uploads/sites/13/2020/12/Status-of-Global-Christianity-2021.pdf  *also: International Bulletin of Missionary Research, Vol. 39, No. 1, also World Christian Database, 2015,*Barrett and Johnson. 2001. World Christian Trends, pg 656.
 
2 Todd M. Johnson & Gina A. Zurlo, eds. World Christian Database. Leiden/Boston: Brill, accessed July 2017.
*see also: Todd Johnson, Global Atlas of Christianity, pg 296 
 
3 World Christian Trends Table. https://static1.squarespace.com/static/
4f661fde24ac1097e013deea/t/61fad19d0bbaad2bcc465978/1643827613106/WCT_Table20-3.pdf
David B. Barrett and Todd M. Johnson. World Christian Trends Table 20-3, lines 23-26, 44, Pasadena, Calif: William Carey Library, 2001
*Experts and authors above have determined this trend holds true today as of 2022. https://static1.squarespace.com/static/
4f661fde24ac1097e013deea/t/61fad19d0bbaad2bcc465978/1643827613106/WCT_Table20-3.pdf

QUOTES:

Just a few years ago we spent more in America on golf balls (https://bleacherreport.com/articles/1113923-50-more-random-sports-facts-you-never-knew), twinkies (https://www.medicaldaily.com/unhealthy-foods-Twinkies-and-7-other-worst-junk-foods-7-eleven-shelf-slideshow-249561), and Halloween Costumes (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/business/wp/2014/10/29/shoppers-to-spend-350-million-on-halloween-costumes-this-year-for-their-pets/).
Used by Permission of the Traveling Team:
http://www.travelingteam.org 

This is an article from the July-Aug 2022 issue: The Proper Care and Nurturing of Our Mission Workers

Contextualization

Contextualization
We talk about the idea of contextualization from many different angles that I’ve wondered what people think when they hear that word. On one extreme, some say, “the gospel needs no contextualization…the message doesn’t change!” 
 
Probably, if you are reading Mission Frontiers, you have a different perspective. Still, I’m sure that we each might land in a different place on the contextualization continuum—beyond which (we fear) the message might become syncretized. However, perhaps more often, new workers go to serve cross culturally before they have fully understood how much the faith of their upbringing is also syncretized. Well known historian Kenneth Scott Latourette recounts the fascinating history of the spread of Christianity globally, tracking both the impact of the gospel on new cultures as well as how those cultures impacted established Christian traditions and changed the faith.
 
Recently, I found a simple way to describe contextualization in a series of tweets which NY pastor and author Timothy Keller posted on February 4, 2022.1  Here are his posts, from a seven-part tweet: 2
 
The recent post I made about Stephen Colbert’s partial answer about his faith and the ensuring comments has shown me American Christians still have a long way to go on understanding Col 4:5–6, how to be “wise in the ways you act toward outsiders.”
This is called contextualization. What is contextualization? Its adapting your message to be understandable and compelling to particular hearers without compromising the truth in any way. 
 
Why contextualize? 
 
First, because everyone already does it.
 
As soon as you choose a language to speak in, and vocabulary and illustrations, and arguments, you are adapting to some human hearers more than others. If you don’t become conscious of how you are contextualizing––which is inevitable––you won’t contextualize well. 
 
Second, because Paul contextualizes in his speeches. See how he presents to Bible believers in Acts 13, blue-collar pagans in Acts 14, educated pagans in Act 17. 
 
Third, because the biblical writers contextualize. See John’s use of Greek philosophy’s “Logos” in John 1. See the use of the Hittite Sumerian treaty form in the book of Deuteronomy. See Paul’s contextualization of the gospel to Greek and Jewish cultural narratives in 1 Cor 1:22–24. 
 
Fourth, because Paul calls us to contextualization without compromise in 1 Cor. 9:19-23. 
 
Fifth, because the incarnation itself was a kind of contextualizing. So we could understand–the Word made flesh. 
 
Sixth, keep in mind you can’t and shouldn’t say everything every time when bearing a public witness to your faith. In Acts 17 Paul spoke of judgment but not of the cross or how to get forgiveness. So it wasn’t a full gospel presentation. It was laying a foundation for talking to people later. 
 
Unless Christians are completely going to pull themselves out of the public square we will need to contextualize. Let’s do so well. 
 
Two days later, Keller added:
 
Over-contextualization makes an idol of the hearers’ culture and is the mistake of liberal Christianity. Under-contextualization makes an idol of the speaker’s culture and is the mistake of fundamentalist Christianity. We all make both mistakes–but which do you do more?”
 
Acts 17 is, indeed, instructive here, as Keller notes. I love his point that not every presentation of the gospel is a full gospel presentation. But often it is “laying a foundation for talking to people later.” 
 
My hope when I share about my faith and life, is that it would challenge the person to think more deeply about Jesus and the Scriptures and give them a longing to know Him. The Holy Spirit can encourage us to call for a decision, but that doesn’t mean we will do so every time. 
 
I’m considering a new way to engage people with the gospel, which I hope to write up in the next issue (or two). I wonder if the methods we usually use are the best in every situation. It seems like each cultural context and each generation need fresh expressions of ancient truth about Jesus and what it means to be a part of the kingdom. Thinking this through well will be a help to all of us, no matter how different the cultures around us are or become. 
Endnotes
  1.   https://bit.ly/37MhooW

  2.   I have merged Keller’s 7 tweets together, smoothed out the flow, format in order to highlight his points clearly. Bold emphasis is mine.

This is an article from the July-Aug 2022 issue: The Proper Care and Nurturing of Our Mission Workers

Helping Missionary Kids Thrive on Home Assignment

Helping Missionary Kids Thrive on Home Assignment
For most of us, missionary kids are an anomaly of life. They come to our churches for a year or a single Sunday while their parents are on home assignment. And we hardly get to know them before they leave again for the mission field.
 
But on the Global Missions Podcast, TEAM Missionary Kid Coordinator Valerie Williams explains why these kids need your love—and how you can impact their lives in just one church visit.
 
Listen to the podcast episode to find out:
  • What “home” means to missionary kids
  •  What to do before missionary kids come for a visit
  • How to make the church experience less intimidating
  • The power of truly listening
  • How to keep connecting after a missionary kid leaves
Inspired by the podcast, we also asked missionaries for real-life examples of how churches and friends have helped their kids thrive on home assignment. Check out their ideas and talk with your church body about what you can do to help missionary kids on home assignment.
 
1. Build a welcome basket or road trip kit.
Before a word is spoken, a welcome basket says, “We care about you and have been looking forward to your arrival.”
 
“A few of our churches gave [our] girls little baskets with small gifts or gift cards,” says Jessica Malec, TEAM missionary to Peru. “They really enjoyed this, no matter how big or small it was.”
 
When Kacie Mann’s family arrived from Papua, Indonesia, a friend had made road trip kits with coloring books, crayons, little toys and snacks.
 
“We had supplies for our kids, but especially for little ones, their short attention spans mean they get bored of what they know,” Kacie says, “and a new pack of things—even cheap dollar store things—is so great for passing the time in the car.”
 
If you have kids, get them involved in making the welcome baskets or road trip kits. Let them pick out toys and write notes. The gift basket could even include an invitation to a playdate, showing the missionary kids that they have friends at the ready. 
 
2. Provide stability and rest.
 
Every kid needs stability and rest. But that’s hard to find when you’re driving across the country or hopping from church to church. Missionary parents work hard to give their kids a break, but there are a few ways you can help.
 
If the family is staying in one spot, offer to take the kids to the same church, even when parents can’t go. That way, they can make friends, join classes and set into a natural weekend rhythm.
 
“We didn’t go with the entire family to every supporting church that we needed to visit. … We focused as a family on our home sending church so they would get well-connected,” says Gretchen Potma, TEAM missionary to the Czech Republic.
 
Find out the family’s travel route and look up which museums, historical sites, national parks and other excursions they’ll pass on their travels. Then, offer to give them a day at one of them.
 
It will give the kids a chance to just be kids, and it will help everyone make great memories together.
 
Besides speaking at churches, missionaries will visit supporters at their homes, take them out for coffee, speak at Bible studies and more. Offer to be their go-to babysitter, so kids have somewhere familiar to go. This works even better if you have kids of a similar age and can turn it into a playdate!
 
Constant travel can be stressful for missionary kids on home assignment. Give them a more restful experience by sending their family on a fun outing.
 
3. Lend old toys.
 
“We don’t bring many toys with us from our home in Austria,” says TEAM missionary Melissa Lundquist. So, it meant a lot when friends let their boys borrow a box of Duplo and a box of Playmobil.
 
TEAM missionary to Papua Susan Cochran says her home church “collected toys to have ready for our kids, including a big tub of Lego, bikes and a trampoline for our backyard.”
 
Before you sell your kids’ old toys, find out if you know age-appropriate missionary kids who will visit soon. Whether the kids are there for a year or a few months, these simple items will make their time easier. Plus, it’s a huge help to the parents!
 
“[Borrowing old toys] allowed us to not stress about investing in something that will only be used for a year and then sit in storage or be given away,” says Eric Kroner, TEAM missionary to Chad.
 
4. Make it easy for missionary kids to jump back into life.
 
Missionary kids on home assignment don’t have long to make friends, learn new activities and build a life before they go back to the mission field. Generally, the longest home assignment only lasts one year. So make sure it’s easy for missionary kids to quickly jump into church activities.
 
Gretchen suggests having a family assigned to connect with missionaries before their visit to a church, especially at large churches. The assigned family can help the missionary family find Sunday school classes, sign in kids and tell them what’s happening in the church.
 
And even before missionaries come home, Kurt zurBurg, missionary to Ukraine, says to read missionary newsletters and see what they’re saying about the kids. “If they do try to contact the family, be sure to ask about the kids and remember what they are interested in as they share,” Kurt says. “Take notes if needed.”
 
Find ways to get your own kids familiar with the missionary kids, as well. “One Sunday school teacher took pictures of our kids to leave up on the classroom wall so other kids could remember and pray for our kids,” says Susan.
 
5. Rekindle old friendships.
 
Outside of church, be bold in setting up playdates if you have similarly aged kids. Missionary kids on home assignment deeply miss their friends abroad.
 
“Our kids can get overwhelmed, unsure how they fit in, what’s their place now after being gone,” says Eric. A gift of genuine friendship can be the difference between a fantastic home assignment and a long, lonely one.
 
“We … tried to spend as much time with their friends as possible,” says Jessica. “We had park dates, went hiking, took friends to lunch, had sleepovers, had game afternoons and parties.”
 
When Amanda Burleson’s family came home from South Africa, a supporter took them on a beach weekend with their own family.
 
“That was really special,” she says.
 
As kids get older, it can be harder to arrange friendships, so talk with your teens about what returning missionary kids are going through. Encourage them to make a new friend—one who will have a unique perspective to share.
 
6. Don’t pressure missionary kids to be part of their parents’ presentations.
 
Some missionary kids will eagerly hop on stage to sing a song in a foreign language. Other missionary kids would rather die. It’s important to remember that their parents made the decision to go overseas, while they were likely born into it. So, before a missionary family visits, ask them what they’re comfortable doing.
 
“If [the kids] want to play a song on the piano for a church service, let them. But don’t force them,” says Melissa. “We included them as much as they wanted to be included.”
 
Be prepared for missionaries to leave their kids with their grandparents, where they can feel that important sense of stability. And if they do come, let the kids be kids. Look out for their needs.
 
“When we spoke at one supporting church, a friend made a special effort to make the morning special for our son, giving him a tour of the library and helping him pick out books to read while we were speaking,” says Susan.
 
7. Ask questions and acknowledge each missionary kid’s journey.
 
When a missionary family comes to town, we tend to gravitate toward the parents. After all, they were our friends before they left, and they’re the ones doing big, exciting ministry. But missionary kids want to be asked about their lives, just like anyone else.
 
“[Our] girls know a lot about Peru, and they have stories to tell of our time there,” Jessica says. “It was really meaningful when someone would direct their questions to them.”
 
Kurt encourages supporters to show genuine interest in missionary kids as people, not just as church-planters. “Ask them about regular life things in Ukraine, and not stuff like, ‘Tell us about how you share Jesus with your friends in Ukraine.’”
Some missionary kids will be eager to talk about ministry. Others will be more reserved. Still other missionary kids may not have a relationship with God at all. Get to know each kid to find out where they are spiritually and what they enjoy talking about.

A Testament of God’s Love

Ultimately, helping missionary kids thrive on home assignment is all about treating them like people. What would you want and need in a strange place? How do your kids feel on long car trips? What questions did you like to be asked as a child?
 
Start asking these questions, and you’ll find ample ways to serve the missionary kids in your life. You’ll be a testament of God’s love for them. And you’ll enable their parents to keep serving and sharing Christ in foreign lands.
 
Want to learn more about serving missionary kids and their parents? Check out our Church Engagement page for an abundance of resources! Learn how to support missionaries in practical ways and talk with one of our coaches to create a missionary support strategy! 

This is an article from the July-Aug 2022 issue: The Proper Care and Nurturing of Our Mission Workers

A Witnessed Life: Being Seen and Cared for as a Single Overseas Worker

A Witnessed Life: Being Seen and Cared for as a Single Overseas Worker

When I returned to the U.S. for my first furlough after more than two years on the field, one of the biggest treasures I experienced within my sending church was having a witness to my life. A retired couple from my church came to visit me abroad, and they spent almost two weeks with me. This couple had been mentors to me as I prepared to move overseas, and we were very close. They traveled the bumpy, sandy, not-really-a-road journey from the airport to my city. They stayed in my home and met my housemate and my language helper. They ate local food and bought things in the market, walking through the winding and narrow alleys. They toured the place where I worked, and my friends joined me during teaching sessions. These friends knew the sound of the muezzin, the smell of the market and the sight of the armed guards following us around. This couple experienced the community found in my team and the darkness felt in the neighborhood. They witnessed my life, and it was a gift when I returned to the U.S. to have someone who could verify what I had seen and known and who could understand the stories I tried to tell.

I think their visit was important for so many reasons, and it was especially valuable to me as a single overseas worker. First, when I came back to the U.S. to share my experiences, they are mine alone—there is no spouse nor children to complement my stories or to fill in gaps in my memory. Having this couple as visitors for even a few weeks allowed them to see things I could not and to even tell stories about my life that validated my experience. It became a shared experience. Their visit also strengthened my connection to the church, as I felt valued and seen, worthy of the trouble and logistics of sending visitors. This is missionary care done well. 

But it could have gone differently—making my singleness feel like a burden to the church or making me feel less valued as a single worker. There are special considerations in the care of single workers by the church. As a single woman who has spent nearly 10 years overseas, here are some observations and suggestions for churches in caring for their singles serving abroad.

1.     Consider how to visit. Planning a visit to a single female overseas worker requires some special considerations. The “Missions Pastor” cannot just be deployed for a site visit—where would he stay? How would I explain this man’s appearance at my workplace or neighborhood? So would the missions pastor just bring his wife? And what if I did not know her well and we were expected to bond simply because of her husband’s position in the church? Realize that singles may relish the opportunity to travel with visitors from church. Especially as a single woman, solo travel may be problematic in certain parts of the world. Think about meeting your single missionary at a vacation site. Enjoying a time of rest together could be relaxing and more meaningful. Do not underestimate the pressures of hosting visitors, so ask your missionary what would be more helpful.

2.     Watch your words. I am a woman in my forties with a doctorate. I am not a “girl” just because I am unmarried. Don’t say, “Our church has a couple of girls serving as ESL teachers in Asia.” Ask about terminology when grouping missionaries together. Some use “family” or “unit.” Will your church say, “We have sent out seven families and two single women” or “nine families” or “nine units”? Our words matter.

3.     Be intentional at holidays. Holidays and birthdays can exacerbate loneliness on the field. Families have their traditions, and singles can sometimes feel left out. One of my single friends finds it very meaningful to have gifts to unwrap on the day. That might mean sending a package months in advance to ensure it arrives in time for Christmas or a birthday. Construction paper drawings from the church’s children ministry can be delightful, as can Amazon gift cards or video well-wishes.

4.     Assume nothing about desire for marriage. Not everyone in the church needs to be included in this conversation, but someone should have an understanding of the single missionary’s heart when it comes to dating and marriage. Some may feel called, like Paul, to a life of singlehood, while others may be intentionally seeking out a mate. Many would consider themselves in various stages along this spectrum (and often moving back and forth!). Be sensitive and supportive; ask questions. Realize marriage is neither the goal nor is it a hindrance for a single missionary.

5.     Invite sharing in a consistent manner. Extend the same invitation to all missionaries speaking with the church body. If your church only allows men to preach, then think twice about asking a missionary to fill the preaching slot. Imagine how it feels for a single woman to be sent out by a church to proclaim the gospel in a foreign land, but not allowed the same forum to share with her own fellowship. Decide how your church will hear from its sent ones—maybe in Sunday school classes or small groups or a special time at the beginning of the worship time—and be consistent. 

6.     Provide advocacy and wisdom. Every missionary should have an advocate within the church—the one acting as a liaison and primary point of contact between the sent one and the church. I also think every family or single sent out should develop an “inner circle” of partners with whom the missionary can be completely transparent, can rely on for advice and can count on for prayer and wisdom. My inner circle has permission to ask hard questions, give unsolicited advice and intervene before I make an unwise decision. Some of the members of the inner circle should be from the sending church in a way that gives the church a “seat at the table” when making big decisions. For instance, if a missionary wants to change organizations or move to a different country or embark on a new type of work or evacuate during a time of crisis, their community—the inner circle and members of the church—are invited to consider and pray alongside the missionary. This type of interaction can be even more valuable for a single missionary, who does not have the automatic sounding board of a spouse. It is empowering to know there is a community that is behind you, with you and alongside you.

Caring for single missionaries, and especially single women, is something the church should take seriously. Estimates suggest almost 30% of the missionary workforce is comprised of single women, with little more than 5% single men (Piper, 2016). And our churches do not necessarily feel comfortable with this, as a recent Barna study showed that 80% of churchgoers believe it is “particularly dangerous for a single woman to be a career missionary in a foreign country” (Barna Future Missions). Maybe this explains some of the reticence to care well for single workers overseas? We’re not quite sure they should be there in the first place out in this dangerous world. And the irony is that should call us to care even more deeply for the women who are called to serve God in this way. These suggestions are by no means an exhaustive list of dos and don’ts for caring for single missionaries, but rather a few ideas to spark conversation. Invest in relationships with the singles sent from your church. Know them well and maintain connections across the miles.

References 

The future of missions—10 Questions about global ministry the church must answer with the next generation. A Barna Report produced in partnership with the International Mission Board.

Piper, J. (2016). Why are women more eager missionaries? Desiring God. Retrieved 4 April 2022 

https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/why-are-women-more-eager-missionaries

This is an article from the July-Aug 2022 issue: The Proper Care and Nurturing of Our Mission Workers

Missionary Care Teams (MCT = TLC): A Personal Testimony

Missionary Care Teams (MCT = TLC): A Personal Testimony

Antioch Church in Louisville, Kentucky just celebrated the 10-year anniversary of its Missionary Care Team (MCT) in January 2022. This small church,  with  around  100  members,  currently has 7 families and 2 single women sent out from its body and has cared for 25 families or singles  on the mission field since 2012. Its declaration, “We   pursue   intentional   gospel    relationships to proclaim Christ’s glory  among  the  nations”  has drawn and encouraged missions-minded Christians since its inception. The church’s desire to intentionally pursue gospel relationships extends not only to the lost, but to those from its member- ship who take the gospel to the nations.

The development of the MCT at Antioch Church was very organic, as it grew out of a shared experience by some of its members. The idea for the MCT was planted by God simultaneously in the hearts of three members of Antioch. Elizabeth had served overseas for two years in a very challenging setting with little support from home. She had been sent out by a large congregation, and she felt forgotten. Even as she left Africa depleted and disappointed, she did not waiver from the conviction that God had called her to missions. When she returned from the field, suffering from burnout, she was eager to find a church that was passionate about missions and would be supportive of its sent ones. She knew she would return overseas when better prepared and with much more support. Chris and Rebekah had been friends with Elizabeth for years and their relationship was rekindled once they all joined Antioch. Chris and Rebekah had not realized the depth of struggles Elizabeth had faced during her overseas term and wanted to help her return to the field in a healthier way. After one particular sermon, each of their hearts was stirred to do something together that would allow Antioch to care for its missionaries.

Their idea consisted of a team of church members who would be responsible and accountable to support  the  sent   ones.   They   envisioned,   not a committee with a few people involved, but missionary care to be woven into the fabric of church life. They desired a concerted, purposeful effort to get as many people involved so that missionaries were a constant conversation in Antioch families. Because not every missionary had the same process, MCT would help as needed with logistics, commissioning, advocacy, etc. This team would meet regularly and pray for the missionaries, would help coordinate sending out and welcoming home, would assist with logistics, would be a voice for the missionaries to the church as a whole—encouraging prayer and connection. For each missionary, MCT might look different in its application but would be consistent in its desire—to be a support network. Elizabeth, Chris, and Rebekah met with the elders of the church to present their dream and the Missionary Care Team was born.

The initial meetings of the MCT gathered mission- minded Antioch members in a home, sharing ideas about what MCT could be and do. Many had previously served overseas, some planned to eventually work overseas, and others—like Chris and Rebekah—cared about God’s mission and the people He chose to send. Early on, it was proposed that our missionaries would be labeled “Distributed Members,” recognizing their continued membership in the church, their role as part of us but “distributed” or sent out to a specific place, and the need to speak carefully about certain workers and the places they served. It was paramount for the church, through the MCT, to create layers of care and accountability for each of the Distributed Members. Each would choose an advocate, a person or couple who would be the first line of communication and connection. Advocates would be the liaison between the wider church body and the sent one; they would come to MCT meetings and share news and prayer requests from their missionaries. When life gets overwhelming abroad, the Advocate takes the initiative to reach out and invite interaction. If an Advocate was not fulfilling expectations, then the greater group of MCT members would be able to check with both the Distributed Member and the Advocate to ensure connections were being maintained. A system of checks and balances was created by this structure.

The Distributed Member-Advocate relationship is foundational to Antioch’s care for its missionaries. One Distributed Member, describing her relationship with her Advocate, said it “isn’t just her listening to me and talking about me, we have a real two-way relationship where I care about what is going on with her. Things like that also make it easier when we come back, I still feel connected and loved in Kentucky.” This dual commitment, sharing life even across miles and oceans, takes work on both sides. It means the Distributed Member continues to share their concerns and  also asks about the Advocate and Antioch. The relationship is upheld in regular communication. Advocacy is missionary care.

MCT also started a prayer calendar, featuring photos of the Distributed Members, one family or single for each month, encouraging  Antioch  members  to pray for the sent ones. Other ways to bring the Distributed Members before the church have been implemented through the years, including a slide with the missionary’s photo on the screen as people filter in for church on Sunday mornings with time set aside during the Sunday morning service to specifically pray for that Distributed Member. MCT has also hosted specific prayer times for God’s work among the nations and our specific ones sent out. Family groups are an integral part of the life of Antioch, and Distributed Members are encouraged to visit each family group when stateside to share about their work and their lives and to engender more personal connections. Additionally, these small groups are encouraged to pray for a specific Distributed Member each week. Prayer is missionary care.

Not long after its formation, the MCT began planning for an important event— the welcoming home of a couple and their adult son from a career of good and faithful service. This couple had been involved in the planting of Antioch while in Louisville on their final stateside visit before retirement. They had continued to pray for Antioch in its initial years of growth, and to be prayed for by Antioch. Months before their anticipated return, Antioch and the MCT planned a trip to visit this family, sending five members for two weeks. The team was not certain how God would use their time, but the Lord had beautiful plans for this trip. During their more than 30 years of overseas work, this family had never received a team from a supporting church to come alongside and witness the work they were doing. Antioch’s team was able to meet this family’s beloved colleagues, neighbors, and mentors, was able to visit places of importance and was able to see and experience their life. When this couple and their son returned to Louisville, they had forged memories together with other Antioch members about a place so near and dear to their hearts with others in their church home. These missionaries felt so loved by this trip, and it softened the blow of culture shock and resettlement in Louisville. Visiting is missionary care.

Another important function of MCT at Antioch is “sending out” our Distributed Members. Because our members are affiliated with a number of organizations, the way they are sent or commissioned may look different. Some have been commissioned by their organization with a large gathering at their headquarters. When one  long-standing  family was sent to the mission field last summer, Antioch celebrated alongside them with Caribbean food and stories of their impact and moments of prayer as they prepared to depart for Grenada. These celebrations offer an opportunity for fond farewells, for recognition of deep connections to Antioch, for healthy grief as friends transition to another country, and for rejoicing in how God is at work. Each time Distributed Members are sent out, whether for the first time or to return to their field, they are prayed over in our Sunday morning gathering. Antioch gathers around and lays hands on those leaving, as a sign of heartfelt prayers and blessing upon them to go into the nations, proclaiming the gospel. These are often prayers spoken through tears, grateful and grieving, as God calls some to leave Antioch to go into all the world. Sending out is missionary care.

Antioch MCT has changed over the years, but the central aim has been the same—to pursue intentional gospel relationships with our own Distributed Members. We do this by staying connected through the Advocate and the members of MCT, by praying for one another, by caring for our missionaries in word and deed, and by bringing their work and lives before the greater Antioch body. MCT has been a support net for those called out by God into the nations, proclaiming Christ’s glory to the ends of the earth.
 

This is an article from the July-Aug 2022 issue: The Proper Care and Nurturing of Our Mission Workers

Obedience to God’s Word Overcomes Systemic Prejudice

Movement engagements in every unreached people and place by 2025 (42 months)

Obedience to God’s Word Overcomes Systemic Prejudice
The movement with which we are connected is bringing transformation—not just to the lives of families and individuals, but also to deeply rooted social problems including systemic prejudice.
 
The early church celebrated the Lord’s Supper: “They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity” (Acts 2:46 NLT). A few years ago, we learned of some churches in the Listening Movement that were not taking the Lord’s Supper. India’s systemic sin of casteism was the root of the problem. Casteism dictates that eating with a low-caste person makes a high-caste person spiritually unclean. “We cannot take the Lord’s Supper across caste lines,” they explained. 
 
Sanjay,* the main leader in the area, didn’t know how to tackle this issue. We were out of the country at the time, so he wrote to us for advice: “What should we do?” 
 
Teaching obedience is very different from simply teaching about Jesus or about the Bible. Jesus’ final command to His disciples was to make more disciples, “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:20). At its core, casteism is racism. Prejudice in any form is unacceptable to God. It runs contrary to the truth that all of us are made in God’s image (Gen. 1:26-27). Within His Church, racism violates the Lord’s commands to both “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34), and “in humility value others above yourselves” (Phil. 2:3b). Casteism, meanwhile, teaches that from birth, some people are better and more valuable than others. 
 
In the Indian context, caste is a huge issue. The churches needed heart changes about this systemic Indian problem. Mere verbal assents to a teaching we might give weren’t going to suffice. We needed God to touch their hearts. To get there, the churches needed to learn from the Bible, not from us. We gave Sanjay a list of verses addressing the equality of all people in God’s kingdom, and how in Jesus, all barriers – including gender – are dissolved. We also prayed like crazy. 
 
Sanjay took these Scriptures to the leaders of the movement. They studied God’s Word together. They discussed what God was saying regarding casteism and the Lord’s Supper. Sanjay did not preach or teach. He gave them the Scriptures. He prayed. He asked questions. They all looked at Scripture together. Finally, the leaders (not Sanjay) came to the conclusion that, “If I am in Jesus, I am no longer Brahmin (or whatever caste I was born into). I can either be a Brahmin, or in Jesus, but I cannot be both. If that’s the option, then I want to be in Jesus!” 
 
It is important to note that we are not turning the above personal application statements into doctrinal statements for all the churches. These particular churches wrestled with the Scripture, then applied it to their personal lives in this context of casteism. This is what it means to teach others to obey Jesus. From the very beginning, even before these Brahmin families called themselves followers of Jesus, they had been taught to not just listen to Bible stories, but to apply them. Thus, when this issue arose, the DNA of “obey the Word” was already established. They had no idea that casteism was anathema to Jesus’ kingdom. So we gave them the Word, they wrestled with it and then applied it to their personal lives. They chose unity over disunity, to count all things as loss compared to knowing Jesus. And since they are committed to teaching their disciples to also obey Jesus, we know they will share the Bible verses with others.
 
How do we know they really meant what they said? Through their actions. After declaring they wanted to be “in Jesus,” the leaders did something seldom seen in their context. They apologized. In front of each other, without attempting to save face or defend themselves, they admitted: “We are sorry; we were wrong” both to Sanjay and to their disciples. Apologizing in public is a big deal anywhere, but it’s huge in Asia. Usually, apologies here are passive at best. For someone here to take ownership of a wrong they have done and apologize, not just to someone they consider “above” themselves (Sanjay), but also to people who look up to them (their disciples), is stunning. We were speechless! 
 
That’s not all. After apologizing, the leaders intentionally gathered multiple churches with mixed caste-background people, and they all took communion together! This may sound like a small thing to outsiders, but this is a huge thing for India. Casteism is the filter through which the vast majority of Indians think about relationships and community. God broke into their hearts and minds through His Word alone. Hebrews 12:4 says, “For the Word of God is living and active and full of power [making it operative, energizing, and effective]. It is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating as far as the division of the soul and spirit [the completeness of a person], and of both joints and marrow [the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and judging the very thoughts and intentions of the heart” (AMP). We have always believed this to be true. Now we have seen it in action, bringing transformation to individuals and to whole churches. What a joy! 
 
“Teach them to obey all that I’ve commanded you.” Sadly, we Christians tend to believe that lectures, sermons and codified theological doctrines will accomplish this task. But we need to ask ourselves: is all the sharing of information resulting in obedient disciples of Jesus, even when His commands run directly counter to their deeply ingrained cultural patterns and habits? When the Holy Spirit speaks through the Bible, people recognize that they are accountable to Jesus for their obedience
(or disobedience). Praise God that discovering His will through group study of His Word helps people learn to obey Jesus for themselves. It is a priceless, humble privilege to watch God tear down destructive attitudes and practices, and build up an out-of-this-world fellowship among people from all kinds of diverse backgrounds. Hallelujah! 

This is an article from the May-June 2022 issue: George Patterson,1932-2022

Longing for the Golden City

How 42,500 Buddhist-Background Believers are Proclaiming the Gospel

Longing for the Golden City

The author of this article would like to clarify that this work is C4, and all believers call themselves “Christians” or “Children of God.”

There have been tremendous evangelistic breakthroughs among animistic Tribals, Chinese, nominal Christians, Hindus and now even Muslims, but there have been very few breakthroughs among the 350 million Buddhists of the world. Surely the Buddhists are one of the few remaining giants in global evangelization.1

Indigenous elements of church multiplication movement vision and principles

In February 2004 two of my trainees, the Lawyer and the Farmer, started to see a breakthrough among their Buddhist Unreached People Group. Within two months we saw the first seven new churches.  Six  months earlier  we had started a temporary training church  modeled  after what we learned from Dr. George Patterson. This training allowed the Lawyer and the Farmer to develop a Buddhist-friendly style of worship.  I asked, “How can we help Buddhist seekers and Buddhist background believers feel comfortable worshipping Jesus?”2 The  trainees decided to use a Buddhist gyzee bell available on the prayer alter in every  Buddhist  home  in  the  country.3  We adapted its purpose and the gyzee is struck three times to indicate the beginning and end of worship in homes. The trainees adapted the basic outline and terminology of the Buddhist monk’s ordination ceremony to baptism. New believers (novices) are trained in an easily reproducible curriculum we call the Ten  Commands  of  Christ4 and asked if they lovingly commit to obey our Abbot wherever they go. The novices reply with a Buddhist Pali term amabondi (I promise). There is only one Monk—Jesus—whom they bow before.5

When they pray, the believers use the Buddhist term for amen or well done, thadu.6 In Adoniram Judson’s translation of the Bible into Burmese, Jesus uses this word in Matt 25:23, giving precedent for its use.

Rapid obedience to Christ’s commands has led to rapid multiplication of new disciples and churches.7

Sister Than Than’s alcoholic husband left her in 2005 because he found out that she was earning money by way of the oldest profession in the world. When Than Than  traveled  to  the  city  where  the Lawyer and I lived looking for her runaway husband, she heard the gospel, was baptized a week later and was shown a simple model for church. We trained her, shared the vision for a movement and sent her back home. By Christmas 2005, Than Than had started fourteen churches in her area. I asked her how she did this and she was irritated at my amazement. She went on to share her waterfall strategy: “People come to my house on Sunday morning and my daughter Phyu Phyu tells a Bible story using our picture Bible.8 Then the trainees repeat the Bible story back to the group and I ask the four inductive questions.” The last question is “Who are you going to share this story and truth with?” She challenges the trainees to repeat this story at their homes that afternoon. Therefore the Bible flows out of Than Than’s house to the second, third, and fourth generation like a cascading waterfall. Nine-year-old Phyu Phyu is the best preacher in that area out of 200 new house church leaders.

The networks often hold leadership trainings inside monasteries and homes. The Lawyer works with monks on community development projects. A handful of monks have been identified as persons of peace9 who have embraced the Messiah while others have been identified as persons of goodwill.10 A few monks, however, have proven to be strong opponents of the gospel and have driven 300 believers from nine villages. They are jealous of the large numbers turning to Christ and have placed curses on our leaders, which we have  broken.11  We have learned a great deal about handling spiritual warfare thanks to these monks.

Living in an area with one of the lowest cell phone penetrations in the world, our network leaders continue to struggle with lack of communication between mentors. We have sent “runners” with hand-written letters to encourage other leaders and organize future trainings. The house church networks have taken up offerings to build schools, care for children at risk and provide aid in natural disasters and ethnic conflict zones. After cyclone Nargis washed away 140,000 people in May 2008, the movement crossed cultural barriers and spread into the majority people group numbering sixty million Buddhists.

Eight barriers to Buddhists receiving Christ12


While many cross-cultural workers have developed various methods for sharing the gospel with Buddhists, it is more crucial to identify the barriers.

  1. The term for heaven: Buddhists desire to be set free from the cycle of sin and suffering (reincarnation).
  2. God’s wrath and justice: “Your God killed people in the Red Sea?”
  3. The term for sacrifice: “Your God wants me to drink blood and eat flesh? Is he like a hungry ghost?” See the story of   the Rabbit in the Moon for our way of dealing with this issue.13
  4. Eternal life: “You want me to be stuck in reincarnation forever? No thanks.”
  5. The preeminence of Buddha: “Buddha lived before Jesus; therefore Buddhism is correct.”
  6. God’s grace versus merit: “If salvation is free, then it must be worthless.”
  7. Sin versus crime: “You said ‘for all have committed crime and fallen short of the glory of God.’ I am not a criminal.”
  8. Creation: “The monks told us not to think about creation; that it is not important in our religion.”

The Lawyer’s Method
(The Four Noble Truths of Christ)14


Taking these barriers into  account,  my trainee the Lawyer developed a presentation of  the gospel for those who live under the four laws of Buddhism (Four Noble Truths).15 He presents the bad news of Buddha’s law before proclaiming the liberating good news of Christ. Buddhists call this liberation nirvana16 in Sanskrit (nibbana in Pali). The Lawyer proclaims Christ as the way to nirvana. The following is my version of his method.17

Jesus and Buddha are in agreement that humans have to be perfect. It is impossible with men but possible with God.

1st truth:  Suffering and death have an origin (a cause). Suffering and death is the effect of that cause.


2nd truth: The origin of death is sin. Share the story of Adam and Eve’s disobedience Gen. 3:3 and Rom. 6:23.


3rd truth: There is a place where suffering and sin no longer exist. “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Rev. 21:4, NIV) The goal is to go to nirvana. Ni means no, vana means fire or burning. Nirvana is a place of no sin and no suffering.

[Editorial Note: My Buddhist-background friends have redrawn the diagram above in a simplified way, since the average layman would recognize only the general categories into which the abodes can be grouped, rather than all the individual Pali names. Their simplified diagram shows a huge gap between the top of the triangle and nibbana, in order to emphasize the enormous difficulty in reaching there from any one of the planes, according to Gautama Buddha.]

4th truth: The way out of the cycle of sin and suffering is faith in Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. Christ walks the perfect road through his disciples. He makes them perfect in his eyes. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:21 NIV)

After praying for the sick, the Lawyer reminds persons of peace that there are many stories in Theravada Buddhism about salvation by grace through faith. For example, most are familiar with the story of a man named Angulimala who murdered his father and repented before the enlightened Gautama Buddha.18 The Buddhist background believers announce that Christ is very similar to the Lord of Compassion, the Ari Metteya.19

Miracles, Muslims, Hindus and Jews

Not only have the Buddhist-background believers in Myanmar seen a missiological breakthrough among Buddhists, they are also spearheading church multiplication movements among Muslims who have recently embraced the good news. Through them over 400 Hindus have also been  baptized and are worshipping in 70 churches. My trainees from Israel have conducted a signs and wonders training in Asia. Now our networks in Myanmar are reporting hundreds more healings and  even one resurrection. Only Jesus can bring Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Christians and  Jews  together  in the body of Christ. All the power in the world cannot break down the walls of religion, but with Christ all things are possible.

When I inquired to why he made this comparison of Buddha’s grace to Christ’s grace the Lawyer stated that according to Buddhism, Buddha has already gone to Nirvana and cannot offer grace for people of today. He could only offer salvation during Buddha’s and Angulimala’s lifetime.

Endnotes
  1. 1 With the advice of Dr. Victor Choudhrie, I have identified six church multiplication movements across the Buddhist world. There are hundreds occurring across the Muslim world even though there are far more missions focused on Buddhists. My Thai friends are seeing one of these Church-Planting Movements. I have interviewed their first-generation leaders who reported to me 17,000 baptisms in 2012.

  2. 2 All Buddhist background believers identify themselves "Christians" or "Children of God."

  3. 3 In an email to me in 2006 Dr. David Garrison states that there is a difference between contextualization and indigenization. Contextualization is the form and concepts outsiders choose to bridge the gospel cross-culturally as Acts 17 clearly shows. In regard to contextualization and indigenization, mission workers in the Muslim and Hindu context are light years ahead of those of us in the Buddhist context.

  4. 4 Ten things from the gospels that Christ taught his followers to do, including repent, pray, give joyfully and make disciples. This is an adaptation of the Seven Commands of Christ Dr. Patterson developed with Honduran house church leaders. For a further description see http://www.justobeyjesus com/#.!who-jay-has-served/c1i0v.

  5. 5 I Tim. 2:5, NIV.

  6. 6 We learned this term from the Thai Covenant Church. http://www.thaicov.org

  7. 7 I have noticed that over emphasizing “rapidity” frustrates new house church network trainers. Rapid multiplication will come when seekers and leaders learn to lovingly obey Jesus rapidly and radically rather than rushing them to multiply churches.

  8. 8 We have developed a Picture Bible with a beardless Christ that emphasizes the missionary theme of the Bible. This theme of Scripture is preferred in the Perspectives course over the sacrificial theme popularized in animistic contexts. Buddhists can relate to an all-powerful, all-loving Lord of Compassion for all nations.
     

  9. 9 Luke 10:6, NIV.

  10. 10 Dan. 1:9, NIV.

  11. Gal. 3:13, NIV.

  12. 12 With the guidance of T. Wolf I listed the barriers that were discovered by the leaders of the Buddhist background believers church multiplication movement and are described further at http://www.justobeyjesus.com/#!8-barriers- for-buddhists/c1c4x.

  13. 13 http://www.justobeyjesus.com/#!sacrifice-story/c24zj

  14. 14 Before I could describe the Lawyer’s Method and how my Buddhist background friends are leading Buddhists  to Christ, Church-Planting Movement consultant David Watson said to me in a phone conversation, “You know how Buddhists understand the gospel? They need to hear about Heaven.”

  15. 15 For a list of the Four Noble Truths, see http://www.buddhaweb.org

  16. 16 Spiro, Melford E. 1970 Buddhism and Society. New York: Harper and Row, 74. The contemporary Burmese Bud- dhist exhibits three points of view concerning the mean- ing of nirvana (nibbana). A small group says that short of experiencing nirvana, nothing can be said about it (other than that it entails that absence of suffering). A second group says that although we cannot say what nirvana is, it is not extinction or annihilation. Some members of this group argue that although nirvana means complete extinction of the physical aspect of life, its spiritual aspect of the mind remains. Others insist that although mind, too, is destroyed, there remains a special kind of awareness.

  17. 17 The Lawyer’s Method was  developed  and written before I found a very similar presentation described in “From Buddha to Jesus” by Thai pastor Steve Cioccolanti www. buddhabook.org.

  18. 18 http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/hecker/wheel312.html

  19. 19 Buddhists in our country are familiar with three facts about this Coming One; he is called the Ari Metteya, he is the Savior of the world, and when he comes the world will be cleansed with fire. It is highly likely that Gautama Buddha learned of King Darius’ decree in Daniel 6:25-28 and that he learned about the Coming Savior and the cleansing of the world through fire.

This is an article from the May-June 2022 issue: George Patterson,1932-2022

Celebrating the Gift of George Patterson

Tributes from those whom he impacted

Celebrating the Gift of George Patterson
The contribution of George Patterson is one reason why we keep finding ourselves surprised by the content of the Perspectives course. Because of George’s writing and teaching, long before CPM or DMM were named as recognized approaches, the Perspectives course had been presenting the basic ideas of multiplying movements of disciples with Patterson’s teaching. He had formed his guiding principles in practice, but he was aware of how he was building on some of the best missiology that preceded him. He gave his article the name, The Spontaneous Multiplication of the Church, which is an obvious reference to Roland Allen’s important book, The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, published more than 50 years before George taught the material at Penn State in 1980.

Only recently I have come to recognize that George had given us far more than a practical methodology. In his simple insistence that local leaders could and should obey Christ, George gave us the heart, soul and center of what a church really is: Christ Himself, obeyed and served by a community of followers. This is also the essential reality of the kingdom of God: people loving, worshipping and serving Christ together, as a new form of life on the earth.

This new life form, alive withthe life of the resurrected Christ, will not only grow, it will multiply  and bear the fruit of the Spirit in the local community. The heart of this life is the relational reality of Christ being served, worshipped and loved—or, we could simply say, obeyed. This goal of mission, in Paul’s words, is “the obedience of faith among all the peoples” (Rom. 1:5, 15:18, 16:26).

This relational reality of Christ, and Him obeyed, is why movements (CPM or DMM) actually move. These movements cannot be dismissed as if they were no more than a bundle of gimmicks and tricks to report greater numbers. The great fact is that our Lord is calling people to serve, worship and love Him in every people. Evangelization aims at this hope and goal. Let’s celebrate the gift of George Patterson. He helped us with practical, simple ways to work with our Lord.
—Steve Hawthorne co-editor of Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: A Reader and author of Perspectives on the World Christian Movement Study Guide. He works with WayMakers, a mission and prayer mobilization ministry and helps launch Perspectives courses in strategic settings.

George Patterson was already a veteran in church-planting and church multiplication when I first began writing about Church Planting Movements a quarter century ago. So many of our missionaries have been the beneficiaries of his pioneering work in this field. As he enters heaven, he will undoubtedly be greeted by the thousands upon thousands who have come to faith as a result of his pioneering efforts.

—David Garrison, author of the book, Church Planting Movements and director of Global Gates.

I didn’t know George well, but we were acquaintances and I greatly respected him. In my opinion, his greatest contribution was establishing and popularizing a recognition of the concept of ‘obedience-based discipleship’ which is a critical factor in movement thinking. He also made great nefforts at getting house church approaches used in the USA. While he didn’t have much numerical
fruit in that area, he softened the soil considerably, making it far more possible for the next generation to start making a bit more headway. In terms of tooln development, his “Train & Multiply” materials were (and are) greatly influential. OMS International, and especially their ECC division still utilize these tools widely. Though the tool was developed forn bLatin America, it has since been used to great effect in Africa and Asia as well. That resource was groundbreaking and ahead of its time in many ways. George was a gracious and influential ambassador for the kingdom. He was a humble giant whose legacy will live on in the many people he impacted.

—Curtis Sergeant, CPM trainer and founder of the Zume Project and Metacamp.

George told me: “Mentor, mentor, mentor.” We developed strong coaching for our church-planters, and it has made a huge difference. George’s concept of being “people of yes” (who support and encourage ...) has also been very important for us. And. of course, every church-planter in All Nations can recite, sing and dance to the seven commands of Jesus!

—Pam Arlund, All Nations International

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 nd 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.

—Rick Leatherwood, veteran missionary in Mongolia and numerous other places

George  Patterson  helped  me  move  from  teacher-classroom-centered training approaches to Paul-Timothy training approaches, which included on- the-job training, on-site and immediate application and follow-up. Thanks George and Denny for getting the mission community back to Jesus’ and the apostle Paul’s effective methods.

—Jean Johnson, Director / Missionary, Five Stones Global

The late Dr. Ralph Winter described George as “one of the two or three world experts in the growth of the church,” and called his missionary career “legendary.” The work of our team in Erdenet, Mongolia and the planting of Mongolia’s first and largest Disciple Making Movement is a testament to the New Testament discoveries of Dr. George Patterson. He trained all of our YWAM team’s primary church planters and it was his teaching and article in the course Perspectives on the World Christian Movement that launched my own career into multiplicative church planting. Very little in the content of my trainings over the past 20 years is original—most of what I teach is simply an echoing of George and what I have learned through putting his “Obedience Oriented Education” into practice among unreached people groups. All of us in YWAM’s Frontier Missions look to him as mentor and “Guru George.” I am blessed to have had as my friend!

—Brian Hogan, YWAM Church Planting Coach, Perspectives and mission speaker, publisher, and author of There’s a Sheep in my Bathtub: Birth of a Mongolian Church Planting Movement, An A to Z of Near-Death Adventures, and Boy Centurions.

Fifteen years ago, I was an ambitious, high performing leader in the American church system. But I felt empty. Although I’d been relatively “successful”—raising  money,  recruiting  staff, gaining an increasingly large following, etc., I didn’t feel like I was actually following Jesus.That year,  I stumbled into a training taught by an  elderly man who seemed to bounce around the room like Tigger from Winnie the Pooh. His name was George Patterson. He taught in a way I’d never seen anyone teach. His enthusiasm was virally contagious. He emanated an attitude of playfulness as he taught about the Great Commission and how to create disciple-making relationships and form churches that can multiply virally. He gathered us into groups to create skits to illustrate his principles. Of course, he never claimed these were his principles—he simply said he was lowering the bar about training to get back to the basics of how Jesus and the Apostles formed disciple-making relationships and churches. We didn’t fill out massive volumes of notebooks. It felt like the 30 people in the room were playing together as we rediscovered the Great Commission. I was blown away, not only by the way George taught—so different from conventional lecture styles I was used to, but by his concepts about church and disciple-making multiplication that so much more clearly seemed to reflect the way of Jesus and the strategies of the Apostles in the Book of Acts. My heart was gripped. But my mind was filled with questions. These Church Planting Movements George talked about were occurring in Unreached People Groups—far removed both geographically and culturally from the context in which I worked here in America. I approached George during a break. “Dr. Patterson, is it possible to see one of these things you call a CPM in the Western World?” He looked at me, pausing for what seemed like theatrical, reflective effect, and replied, “Hmmm. Well, that depends. How willing are you to abandon everything you’ve learned about American models of planting churches and return to a biblical model of making disciples?” Seeking to go on a new adventure with Jesus across the U.S. and find more effective ways of creating communities of disciples among pre-Christians, I’d just resigned from my job as a pastor on staff at a church. I’d lost most of my
friends in the process. Having not much else to lose, I replied, “I’m willing to try anything.”

He responded with his “Tigger” type bounce again. He became exuberant. In a high-pitched voice, he said, “Then it’s totally possible!” George began a mentoring relationship with me that day. He was a master at coming alongside creative, messy, misfit leaders like myself and guiding them to go out and dare to do something spectacularly fruitful for the kingdom of God, simply by obeying Jesus, learning from New Testament examples, and avoiding the pitfalls of modern church traditions that don’t adhere to the model of Jesus and the Apostles. The fingerprints and DNA of George Patterson have been reflected through my life ever since. Church Planting Movements are possible in the Western World. I’ve experienced it. I’ve reproduced those unforgettable skits George led that day (Extraction Evangelism, Great Commission relay race, etc.) and taught George’s principles of the Basic Commands of Jesus and the Three Levels of authority for the last 15 years. I pray we can all be more like George—willing to offer ourselves as mentors to movement makers and givepermission to next generation leaders who dream of seeing both spiritual awakening and reformation of culture by simply obeying Jesus.

—Erik Fish, Global Disciple Making Movement Catalyst, All Nations, ErikFish.com, Mentor Leaders: Multiply Movements

George Patterson practiced the principles that he taught to others: “You cannot predict who will be successful, so mentor those who are willing to learn and to put their learning into practice. When you mentor those who start or lead new little churches, listen carefully to their reports, to learn their churches’ urgent needs. Then plan with them what they will do in their churches, immediately, to meet those needs. Give them something to read that suits their educational level. If they were unable to implement their plans, then you probably gave them too much, so make new plans. Always pray with them, by name, for those whom they mentor, in turn.”

—Galen Currah, DMiss, long-time friend and colleague of George Patterson

My beloved mentor George Patterson has gone into the presence of Jesus. I feel sad but also have a sense of joyfulness. We know George is with the One he lived his life for. We will see George again, but he leaves an empty spot in our lives. Lives which he
changed through his faith in God and in us, his wisdom gained through experience, his energetic enthusiasm, constant encouragement, practical love and practical jokes. As one of George’s interns in1986, one of my projects was to help him with his book: The Church Planting Guide. I told him all of this was new to me and wondered how I could possibly be of any assistance to him. He excitedly told me that I was his target audience and if I could understand it, anybody could. Many years later I wrote a very simple illustrated book: Keys to Church Planting Movements using much of what I learned from George and the experiences of training others in these principles. George graciously wrote the foreword. Currently I am working on writing a story of the various, practical ways George mentored me. It will be posted on ywamfm.org.

—Kevin Sutter, International Director of YWAM Frontier Missions

In the early 1980s the only teaching on cross-cultural church-planting I knew was by George Patterson. I was living among a beautiful tribal group and I had no idea how to approach them in the full respect of their culture and beliefs. That small booklet on church-planting written by G. Patterson was always next to my Bible. I applied the principles he taught and they worked! The fruits are still multiplying today. My sincere condolences to his family.

—Jackie, YWAM FM working with an unreached tribe in Philippine mountains

There was today in heaven an enormous welcoming home party for a great servant of God—Dr. George Patterson! His passion for
the lost and “simple church” was contagious! He was one of the fathers of modern-day CPMs on discipleship principles. He always stressed simplicity, reproducibility and obedience to Christ’s commands. Sacrifice and persecution were part of the package of planting churches where the kingdom of God was not yet. What a privilege to have been able to learn from him and by applying the principles he taught see the Father’s House movement among Iranians and Afghans start.

—Willem, YWAM FM launched a DMM among Muslim refugees

George had a tremendous influence on the YWAM FM family in the 80s. I’ll always remember him for his passion and how he invested so much into the FM leaders in those formative years. His focus on keeping things simple and reproducible still guides my thinking in almost everything I do. Discipling new believers by training them to walk in obedience to the 7 commands of Christ continues to be a simple yet profound discipling strategy. We are grateful for a life so well lived and we can follow his example as we continue on our journey of being disciple-makers.

—Kevin Stabler, YWAM FM, worked for 25 years among a tribe in the upper Amazon

George Patterson exemplified what it meant to be strong in the Grace of Jesus. He emphasized grace so much because of the extreme legalism rampant in the traditional evangelical churches he dealt with in Honduras. He modeled grace to the old traditional churches as well as to the new churches he and his trainees catalyzed, and the Lord honored George. God’s grace was evident in the humor and creativity in which George poked fun at the grace killing rules that inhibit the Spirit’s work in churches to spontaneously multiply. It is the Grace of God that multiplies, not heavy handed or authoritarian mentoring so predominant in the world. I knew I didn’t have the abounding grace I saw in George, but I aim to be strong in it as he was.
—Jay Judson, DMM Church-Planter in Burma
 
A few years ago I was in Addis Ababa and asked a Christian worker who had served in Ethiopia for 50 years if she knew George Patterson. She said, “The George Patterson? I don’t know him personally, but by reputation. You know, many churches were started all over Africa because of him!” When I shared this with George, he said with a smile and his usual humble spirit, “Oh, well it wasn’t me, I was just plagiarizing the Apostle Paul!”

—Rex G

George was a tremendous blessing to India and had the gift of simplifying complicated concepts in leadership training to equip countless thousands of leaders to rapidly accelerate the Great Commission. He was as humble as he was bright and was always
improving his training and material according to the needs of the local people. During seminars or traveling to the next one, George would be constantly asking questions and making adjustments. He practiced what he taught and mentored many associates who could carry on and multiply the training globally.
 
—Michael Jackson
 
George Patterson was a spiritual giant in more ways than one. This missionary and church planter, expert in church growth, coach and mentor, story- teller, author and expert trainer—to name a few of his titles—has passed away. We at All Nations owe so much to him and his training and mentoring over the last 20+ years. When All Nations first began equipping cross-cultural workers for the mission field, George didn’t just offer his wisdom but twice a year, he actually came to us and spent an entire week doing hands-on training with our people! He sowed into All Nations with his life, his passion and his expertise. To this day his training shapes us. Core concepts such as the Seven General Commands of Christ, “just-in-time training” and mentoring chains are still at the forefront of our equipping today. Personally, I loved his enthusiasm combined with his humility. I will never forget when he stood and cried out “Importantissimo!!!” when he wanted to emphasize a point. He was passionate, but also humble—always open to hear the perspective of our people, learn from them, and coach them. Thank you, George, for investing in us and in the kingdom. We have seen the Lord bring so much fruit in movements, through your guidance. We can’t wait to see you again on the other side!

—Meredith Johnson, All Nations

Every training I lead, every class I teach, every book and article I’ve written all have George Patterson’s fingerprints all over. “There are literally millions of people around the world who have never heard of Dr. George Patterson, and yet have been discipled and/or trained as a follower of Jesus because of his work.”

—Dr. George G. Robinson, IV Professor of Global Disciple Making, Southeastern Baptist Seminary
 
 

 

 

This is an article from the May-June 2022 issue: George Patterson,1932-2022

Gaining Church-Planting Momentum During COVID-19

Movement engagements in every unreached people and place by 2025 (44 months)

Gaining Church-Planting Momentum During COVID-19

The social distancing and isolation related to COVID-19 brought great challenges to Disciple Making Movements around the world because movements thrive on ongoing and intensive personal interaction. But  the  Lord  encouraged  us that every crisis has a kingdom opportunity embedded. We have long believed that helping hurting people is part of being disciples as well as making disciples. Applying this principle in fresh ways demonstrated that the kingdom can still thrive in the midst of extremely bad news.

In East Africa, we faced a perfect storm that was more than just COVID-19. Prior to COVID we had severe drought in many parts of North Kenya and other places in East Africa. Then in October 2019, we experienced pouring rain and severe flooding in a week’s time. Between drought and floods, everything was affected because most of the people groups are nomadic. Any animals that remained from the drought were killed by the floods.

Then in December, we started seeing locusts for the first time in our lives. The locusts came and destroyed the remaining vegetation, the animals’ food and even the farms.

Toward the end of February 2020, COVID-19 hit us and right in the midst of movement activity came this series of challenges. By early March the situation was very depressing for many of our leaders. The government of Kenya was closing down the country. I had traveled to the northern part of the country at that time and got locked down  there  from  March until August.

One of the challenges was that we couldn’t travel to other parts of the country; we  couldn’t even engage with the people.
We started thinking,  “How  are we going to respond to this? We need new ways to do ministry, to
be able to engage.” We came up with three responses.

Our first response was prayer. In mid-March we called for prayer  among all our team members:  our  core team and our country leaders, representing all the countries where we work. We all started praying at the same time, using WhatsApp to distribute the prayers. We prayed that God would sustain the movement, because we realized that leaders and families were suddenly losing all their sources of income. Prayer was very key for us to keep the momentum. We all started praying, especially on Tuesdays and Thursdays and we called for fasting on Wednesdays. It was a whole day of fasting every week, which still continues today.

Second, we said, “We will engage with our team in ways that encourage them, because everybody is going through this.” We started sending texts and we assigned the leaders to their countries and regions and  started  encouraging them with Scriptures and asking them, “How are you doing? How are you going through this  situation? What are you doing to help?” We knew that if our leaders were not encouraged, that would affect the momentum of movement. So, we set aside Fridays for calling our leaders to encourage them. The people who called them were people they  did not expect. They would receive a call from somebody who had never called them before. The reason for calling was just to  say,  “We  are  in this with you and we want to encourage you.” That really helped us to stay together.

Then in April we started having Zoom meetings on Tuesdays and Thursdays with all our team. In those meetings we discussed the situation, which helped keep communication flowing. When we started Zooming, we began to grow closer through getting to see and hear each other.

Third, we said, “There must be some practical ways of engaging people during this crisis. How can we sustain what has been started?” (We  are   at the stage of sustaining movements. We went from starting  and  multiplying  to  sustaining.) Part of sustaining leaders, groups and churches was to help with income for pioneer church-planters since their income had disappeared. We asked, “How can we help them with food? Many families have run short of food; they cannot get access to food because Nairobi is locked down, and all our supplies to different places come there.” This led to something new. We started seeing the generosity  of disciples; they started sharing the small things they had with practical love. At this point it was not how much you could share, it was just sharing the little that you had.

Neighbors  started  giving  to  their  neighbors.  We started seeing groups multiplying because of the practical kindness that their disciples were showing. We started receiving amazing stories of people who had just enough food for their own families, maybe for a week, yet started sharing with families that did not have anything. And mostly, those they shared with were their Muslim neighbors. This love, shown at a time when everybody was going through the same difficult challenges, helped people to open up to hearing the gospel.

In May and June, we started asking for help.  Help trickled in and by December we were able to feed over 13,500 families (a family in our context has an average of eight people). Through this, each of those families were multiplying churches.

We did some analysis and reporting in December, as we came to the end of the year. We found that through people intentionally sharing—not only the gospel, but also sharing love—we saw multiplication of groups and churches. Any churches that had depended on meeting in a church building could not meet there. So, people started meeting in homes, and the meetings in homes started to multiply. In that area, the homes are very small; they could not fit many people. So, the home gatherings started dividing themselves into multiple homes. As a result, more neighbors, more people, and more Unreached People Groups were reached.

I looked at what has happened in the last 15 years of our movement in East Africa, and 2020 was the peak. We saw 1,300 churches planted in just that one year. This was amazing because earlier in the year, we had scaled down our goals by 30%; we said we’ll trust God for 600 to 800 new churches. But God took us way beyond that, as only he can do. I could hardly believe it, as all the teams presented their data for the year. I had to see the graphs and look for myself at people group by people group.

God did this through what we call the triangle of disciple-making: loving God, loving your neighbor and making disciples. Practical love was able to open people’s hearts to respond positively to the gospel. New people groups were engaged, new areas opened up and we are carrying on with that. I just came from meeting with 40 coordinators who have started processing this to determine how to build on this momentum for this year and years to come.

The Role of Learning New Technology

Before COVID-19, many of us in our context (myself included) were IT illiterate. Any mention of using Zoom for a meeting met a lot of resistance about bandwidth. I had tried a couple of Zoom meetings, somebody would have to call me and give me instructions on how to do it. Even knowing how to turn on the microphone in zoom was very difficult. During the first meeting we held you could hear all kinds of things in the background. It was very noisy, but at least we could see each other’s faces and that was exciting. We started learning platforms like Zoom, WhatsApp and others. Because of COVID we overcame that resistance, despite the challenges.

I was locked down for months in northern Kenya where the internet was extremely poor. I remember the first day of the basic DMM training. We had about 130 people joining from all over the world, and   suddenly   my   internet   stopped   working.  I couldn’t get any signal whatsoever. So, I got in my car and started driving around, looking for a signal on my phone. Finally, at a small airstrip, I found the only signal in the whole town. People stared at me, thinking: “What is this crazy guy doing with a computer in an open field?” It was embarrassing but I was willing to do it. By the time the signal allowed me to connect again, people were already in discussion, but they were happy I could make it back. I felt so bad, because this was the first day of the training, but we did what we could to learn and be creative and find new ways of connecting.

We started recording teachings and sending them to our teams. We could do Discovery Bible Studies with all our country leaders or all our coordinators on the same platform. When we started using Zoom, we actually kept growing. We started nine weeks of basic DMM training with 115 people from around the world. We had people from India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, South America and all over the place. People we’d never met continued for the whole nine weeks and we ran cohorts, some of which still continue.

We had many mission organizations and global teams bring most of their missionaries for first level training courses, second level training and leadership classes. That kept expanding way beyond East Africa. God used COVID-19 to connect us with others and become a greater blessing to the global body of Christ through our training.

We run a DMM Global Catalyst Camp every year. In October, we said, “Why don’t we try doing this virtually?” We didn’t know how it would turn out, but we had people from 27 countries join us for the three days of the catalyst camp. Those are some of the amazing ways God used technology to expand the boundaries of our ministry.

I expect this greater use of technology to continue. We are not looking back. We still prefer face-to-face for coaching and local relationships. But the way forward is using the new technology to reach people we could not reach in traditional ways. For example, last week I started mentoring a group of DMM catalysts on Thursday for one hour. It’s not me teaching, I’m just facilitating. How could I not do that, now that God has provided this tool? In the past I could only meet people in Kenya or around our area. Now I am talking to a team in North India and coaching a team in Panama City—places where I’ve never been. We’ve learned through all this that we need to be creative and make use of every opportunity (including new platforms and technologies) for extending God’s kingdom.

Two Lessons Learned, That We Can Carry into the Future

We’ve learned first that bad times can bring out good results, so we should not be discouraged by bad times. God has a way of bringing His own results in bad times. We look to God for the results because the results depend on God, not on the situations. That’s why we don’t allow the situations to take away what God has given to us.

Second, leaders need to be creative in facing challenges and problems. But that response should come out of prayer and dependence on God because the Holy Spirit will lead us.

In the book of Acts, we see that whenever the apostles or the church faced challenges, persecution or problems they always prayed. Sometimes we want to solve a problem we know is beyond us. As leaders, we pray to get direction from God for the next thing or for the next way to solve a problem. Even in the worst situations, the Holy Spirit can show a creative way forward.

This is an article from the May-June 2022 issue: George Patterson,1932-2022

14 Steps of Mobilization to Reach the Unreached!

14 Steps of Mobilization to Reach the Unreached!

How do we get there from here? How do we mobilize the Body of Christ to see a church established in every people group? George Patterson of Cultural Adaptation Training suggests the following steps, working backwards from final result to first step— 14 Links of Mobilization:

To disciple all peoples, mission decision makers, curriculum developers and career counselors must mobilize 14 sets of persons: six are in the field already; three sets are in the process of forming  on the field and five sets of those needing to be mobilized are at home.

Existing Workers on the Field

 

14. THE NEW NATIONAL CHURCH.

Wise mission planners, like military strategists, begin with long range objectives stated so clearly that each preparatory step is easy to see. Look ahead to see a national church in a currently reached or unreached field, obeying Jesus’ commands and therefore reproducing--often in tiny house churches—among its own people and across cultural barriers to an unreached people (Matt. 28:18-20). Keeping their limited resources or freedom in mind, reason backwards through preparatory steps, avoiding programs too expensive or electronic for national churches to reproduce. Before that, there must be:

13. KEY NATIONAL LEADERS.

For this reproduction, new “servant leaders”  on the regional level must mobilize other pastors—a skill acquired from disciplers who take personal, loving responsibility for others’ fruitful ministry; otherwise they become grasping and demanding. For this to happen we need:

12. NATIONAL PASTORS/ELDERS,

who mobilize others for ministry (Eph. 4:11-16)—a skill likewise acquired by being discipled on the job, not in classrooms. This will require:

11. POTENTIAL NATIONAL LEADERS.

Pastoral students, we find, are not simply “educated” but mobilized to edify the local body of Christ (Eph. 4:11-16) where trainers harmonize their teaching with other gifts (I Cor. 12-13). Balanced discipling relates the Word to the work in love—teaching in love to do the Word. In most pioneer fields formal training is impractical (“elder” types cannot leave their responsibilities; economically motivated youths respond, but lacking preparatory education, cannot assimilate the intensive input, and lacking models of well established churches, they cannot realistically apply it). Obviously this requires:

10. NEW CHRISTIANS.

We teach believers first to obey Jesus’ commands (Matt. 28:19-20)—believe, repent, be baptized, love, break bread, pray, give and disciple others (Acts 2:38– 47). Long indoctrination before loving obedience stifles mobilization for sacrificial ministry.

9. PRE-CHRISTIANS.

Converts must see missionaries model the loving relationships needed for further discipling: witnessing of Jesus’ saving death and resurrection in a way they can imitate with their family and friends. Before any of these results, there must be:

Potential Workers on the Field

 

8. MISSIONARY TEAMS ENTER TARGET FIELDS.

Teams that not only combine the needed gifts and cooperative spirit but screen out technology, equipment and methods which national leaders cannot imitate, afford and pass on.

7. CHURCHES AND MISSIONARIES FROM 2/3 WORLD.

We must join with emerging churches now mobilizing their own foreign missionaries who relate better to many unreached peoples than do Westerners. Cultural training never equals being born culturally close, with similar politics, race, language, economic and education levels, family size, rural/urban life style and world view.

6. BI-VOCATIONAL PASTORS AND MISSIONARIES.

Tentmakers can penetrate most remaining unreached fields. Like Paul, they need cross- cultural church planting experience, teams, formal commissioning (Acts 13:1-3) and employment (especially small business) that enables them to penetrate the working class first (Jesus, avoiding being crucified prematurely in Jerusalem, began with fishermen). These links build on:
 

Workers on the Homefront

 

5. MISSIONARIES IN TRAINING.

So missionaries, including thousands of bi- vocationals joining 2/3 world workers, need training for discipling leaders on the job, vocational skills and apprenticeships in small businesses.

4. MISSIONARY TRAINERS.

Considering all the above, more trainers must disciple missionaries on the job, reproducing daughter (or house) churches, involving 2/3 world workers and cross-cultural entrepreneurs.

3. MISSION ADMINISTRATORS.

Agencies, therefore, need more church-based teams (“midwives” accountable to home churches to reproduce daughter and granddaughter churches through relationships rather than programs) involving skilled disciplers of pastors/elders, workers from 2/3 world and businessmen.

2. HOME-BASE CHURCHES.

Mission program leaders, then, must plan sacrificial reproduction of their churches among an adopted people through balanced discipling of church-based teams, more partnering with 2/3 world churches and missionary businesspersons.

1. UNBIASED MISSION CAREER COUNSELORS.

Sending churches need counselors to plot career paths through all aspects of mobilization leading to unreached peoples. Otherwise, most missionaries cluster in fields already reached.

This is an article from the May-June 2022 issue: George Patterson,1932-2022

A Historic and World-Changing Life Well Lived

A Historic and World-Changing Life Well Lived

When the history of our times is written in the decades and centuries to come, the Church Planting Movements that are currently in the process of transforming our world will be recognized as the most powerful move of God since the  book  of  Acts. And when these future historians write about what led to this powerful move of God, one person will stand out as the conceptual source of these movements—Dr. George Patterson. Undoubtedly, many wonderful servants of God currently involved in CPMs all over the world have added to and refined to great effect what Patterson started with, but all these movement catalysts are standing on the shoulders of Dr.  Patterson and what he gleaned from his efforts  to start spontaneously multiplying churches in the remote mountains of Honduras in the 1960s. Literally millions of people have been impacted by the vision of church planting initiated by Dr. Patterson. That is why we take time in this issue of MF to honor him and to be reminded of the foundational principles of mission that Patterson garnered from the Bible.

Patterson was one of the first in our day to believe that the powerful move of God we see in the book of Acts could also happen. He has been proven correct by the 1,855 Kingdom Movements now taking place all over the world and impacting over 80 million precious souls. Please note that the latest number of 1,855 Kingdom Movements on our cover is a huge increase of 364 new movements just since our last issue of MF. Praise God for this remarkable progress! Each of those 364 new Kingdom Movements represents hundreds or thousands of new Jesus followers entering the kingdom  because  of  the  ground-breaking  vision  of disciple-making and church-planting that Dr. Patterson initiated so many decades ago. But this is only the beginning. One of the foundational ideas that he promoted was that the exponential growth of the gospel was something we can expect if we simply obey Jesus and what He has commanded us to do, along with some simple, biblical and reproducible principles.

 

In one sense, what Dr. George Patterson did was not terribly remarkable. He simply believed the Bible and did what Jesus has asked all of us to do in Matt. 28:18-

 

20. But the fact that he was one of the first people in 1,700 years to draw from the Scriptures the principles of exponential disciple-making and church-planting, that were there in the Bible all along waiting for someone to discover, is truly stunning and worthy of recognition. Certainly, there have been other people over the centuries, such as John Wesley, who have employed some movement principles, but Patterson stands out in his ability to articulate these principles from Scripture, put them into practice, and mentor others to employ them also.

Dr. Patterson demonstrated incredible courage and tenacity in pursuing his biblical vision of missions. He was willing to challenge 1,700 years of history, church tradition and entrenched thinking in order to find a more biblical and effective way of doing church. He was willing to endure the naysayers, critics and outright enemies of the gospel in order to relentlessly pursue the application of his biblical principles of mission  in the real world. He did not just come up with some great ideas, he developed his principles through many years of hard work on the mission field in Honduras.

Of all the great church leaders and reformers throughout history who accomplished so much, Patterson stands out in that Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, Carey, Taylor, on and on, did not recognize and put into practice the biblical principles of mission that lead to exponential movements of disciple-making and church-planting. In this respect, Patterson stands out as a major historical figure in the ongoing mission of the Church.

A Mentor Extraordinaire

Dr. George Patterson not only developed earth-shaking biblical principles of mission, he also demonstrated a unique ability to mentor and train faithful disciples  to put these principles into practice one generation after another. In other words, he practiced what he preached and proved through real world results that his book of Acts principles of mission worked in fostering exponential movements of disciple-making and church-planting. As you read through this issue, you will be introduced to the  incredibly  creative  and visionary methods of mentoring and training  that Patterson employed with great  effectiveness.  He used skits, audience participation and much more to create a learning experience that was powerful and life-transforming for anyone who had the privilege of being taught or mentored by Dr. George Patterson. His motto was  “mentor,  mentor,  mentor,” and  he did this as well or better than anyone  of his time.  For decades, he was one of the most popular of speakers in the "Perspectives on the World Christian Movement" course. You can look at the articles by Brian Hogan and Jay Judson to see the impact that Patterson’s mentoring had in their lives and ministries. He also regularly came alongside organizations like All Nations to help them implement the biblical principles of exponential disciple-making. Patterson’s focus on mentoring younger leaders guarantees that the impact of his life and vision will carry on long into the future.

The Spontaneous Multiplication of Churches
In 1983, I was a student at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon where Dr. Patterson  taught  prior to my arrival. I was taking an introductory course on missions. As part of that course, I was handed a big thick book titled, Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: A Reader. As I made my way through  the various articles, one article stood out to me, "The Spontaneous Multiplication of Churches" by Dr. George Patterson. It opened my eyes to the potential for the exponential growth of the gospel for the first time. It has been my goal to understand this strategy ever since. Then in the year  2000,  I  came across Dr. David Garrison’s booklet on Church Planting Movements, and I have been learning about and promoting this new strategy of doing missions ever since. So, if you wonder why I emphasize movements so much in each issue of MF, you will have to credit Dr. Patterson for getting me started. This article has been in the Perspectives Reader from the first edition until the latest. Amazon would not allow us to reprint this article in MF, but I suggest you get ahold of    the Perspectives Reader and read "The Spontaneous Multiplication of Churches" for yourself. Perhaps it will change your life too.


As the mission of the global Church moves forward, we owe Dr. Patterson a debt of gratitude for helping us to discover a more biblical and effective way to reach the world for Christ. We have much work ahead of us in order to reach the 7,400+ unreached peoples that Joshua Project lists, but thanks to Dr. George Patterson and many others who have followed in his footsteps, the remaining missionary task of fostering Kingdom Movements in all peoples and places, and how to get that job done as quickly as possible, is clearer than ever before.
Dr. George Patterson Resources
Websites
1. Paul—Timothy.net
2. BibleStorySkits.com
3. PeopleofYes.com
4. MentorandMultiply.com
5. MentorNet Articles—http://peopleofyes.com/ mm/06_MentorNet.html
6. Church Planting Dashboard—http://peopleofyes. com/jit-cp-dashboard/
7. TsunamiUnleashed.com—Coming soon. The move from multiplication to exponential growth of disciples, leaders and churches.
8. justobeyjesus.com
9. Pocket Guide to Church Planting https://allnations us/tr.ain-and-go/pocketguide-to-church-planting/

Pastoral training studies
http://www.trainandmultiply.com www.paul-timothy.net
Workshop Manual
currah.download/pages/workshop

Printed books, Available at Amazon.com Shepherd’s Storybook: For Training New Pastors of New Congregations, Anne Thiessen 2011
Come Quickly Dawn: A Training Novel, 2012
Church Multiplication Guide Revised: The Miracle of Church Reproduction Hardcover, 2013
¡Que venga el amanecer!: Una ficción educativa, 2017
Software
“Come, Let Us Disciple the Nations” is an interactive, electronic novel suitable for self-instruction and
as a textbook in a basic mission course. For MS Windows. http://paul-timothy.net/pages/dn
 

This is an article from the May-June 2022 issue: George Patterson,1932-2022

Cultural Difference and the Spread of the Gospel

Cultural Difference and the Spread of the Gospel
We finished the 2022 Ralph D. Winter Lectureship— held in person at Biola University and virtually. In the July–August 2021 issue of MF, I mentioned the topic of this was going to be Homogenous Unit Principle (HUP). Simply stated, it is that people like to become Christians with others who are like them without crossing linguistic, class or race barriers.
 
Since HUP was introduced some 60 years ago, some embraced and used it as an effective strategy to see the gospel flow into and through a population segment. Others felt it could become an unintended excuse to keep churches segregated or create disunity in the church. Some were trying the best they could to look through the eyes of a non-believing, non-church- goer. Others were looking from a “down-the-road perspective” of what should a local church look like as it matures and seeks to present a unified witness to a diverse world?
 
We must use both: to “see” from the perspective of the not-yet-believer, as well as try to understand what a fellowship might look like over time. As we seek to spread our faith, we all adjust our methods to fit other contexts. We call this: contextual-ization. The question here is: how should we adjust when we share our faith and gather as a church and seek to draw in others?
 
The presenters at the original consultation in 1977 shared through the lenses of anthropology,  history and ethics in addition to the biblical and theological interpretations and perspectives. Some of the material is quite engaging and stretching to our thinking—even though it is 45 years old! This is why I worked to put all the papers together in book form. At times, I found myself agreeing with points from all sides of the debate.
As I reflected on all of this, something stood out to me which is quite different today—at least in the West. That is the huge increase in the ethnic and racially diverse make-up in so much of our experience today. In the 1970s, while we had well-documented tensions and struggles with race, when you talked about diversity most people would think about broad categories such as Blacks, Hispanics, Asians and perhaps Native Americans. But there was little nuance within each of them.
 
This was reflected in the discussion at the Consultation itself, where illustrations were used about sub-cultures in the U.S. Early in the discussion, John R.W. Stott asked, in essense, or another way to say it; nothing is really meaningful without a context. If you are church planting in LA or New York today, multi-ethnic people within different multi-economic situations must be factored in.1
 
Naturally though, it is a challenge when you shift from a Western urban  “churched”  context  to  a  very different, often less culturally diverse culture somewhere in the world. People there may  have very limited—or even negative—exposure to the church. Some have estimated that 86%+ of the Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists of the world have not personally met any kind of Christian. In those kinds of situations, perhaps more than others, believers must pray, observe and learn in order to understand what might open them to Jesus and the truth. That does not mean we change the message.   It does mean that we seek to be as sure as we can that what we understand from our faith is understood and heard as “good news” that they might want to embrace.
 
More will be published in the near year from this event by http://www.ijfm.org and a book of original papers by William Carey Publishing (http://www.missionbooks org).. Contact me if you want more information.
Endnotes
  1. Alan Tippett’s archives, held at the St Marks Theological Centre, Canberra Australia, includes fifteen hours of discussion between twenty-eight participants, which was recorded during the 1977 Consultation. You can find more information, at: https://stmarks.edu.au/library/special- collections/the-tippett-collection/. We have those audio files digitized and transcribed at the Ralph D. Winter Research Center and Archives in Pasadena, California.

This is an article from the May-June 2022 issue: George Patterson,1932-2022

Come Quickly Dawn

Come Quickly Dawn

Become Holy by Nurturing the Fruit of the Spirit with Others’ Help (pp. 89–90, 92)

Julio groaned. “Leaping over Mount Silverado would be easier for me than to be holy. I can’t live with purity like you guys do.”
“You will soon, son.” Jethro clasped his arm. “When you were baptized, you died with Christ to sin and were raised with Him to new life. God is working in you, transforming you into the image of His Son. In His sight, you’re a saint.”
 
“A saint! Wow! Kiss my ring, guys! I’m a saint, Pastor Jethro? That’s crazy!”
 
“Scripture says you are. You’re a spiritual baby and you still dirty your spiritual diapers—a soiled saint, like all of us! Take heart, Julio; you’re growing and God watches your faltering steps with joy. Join a group that makes disciples as Jesus said, and you’ll grow faster than that papaya out there.”
 
We prayed for Julio and I exhorted, “Let’s deal with holiness in small groups just like we’re doing now and the Lord will grant victory. There’s tremendous power in a cell group that’s also a real church.”
 
Colombo asked, “How can a cell group be a real church, Tiger?”
 
“Just let your group do what God requires of a church. What more can God expect of your group if it follows His orders? Call it what you may, small group, cell, flock, house church, congregation or simply ‘Colombo’s Cluster’.”
 
Jethro sighed. “The word ‘church’ has been so abused! Define it, Tiger.”
 
“We know it means both the Universal Church and a local congregation, but the New Testament also uses the word for the closely-knit groups that met in homes in a city or area—the regional body. Church history mentions no buildings used solely for Christian worship until nearly three centuries after Christ.”
 
“Are buildings bad?” Colombo asked. “Have you read about that, too, Tiger?”
 
“No building is intrinsically good or bad; that depends on how people view and use it. Excess institutionalism and professionalism weaken churches, and buildings can reinforce those excesses. Common sense and financial reality forbid forcing all churches to build; it would kill church multiplication in our field.”
 
Roger clapped. “God has given ‘professor’ Tiger the gift of wisdom!”
 
“For sure!” Arturo agreed. “Let’s name him as a shepherding elder.”
 
“You’re joking! Me, a shepherding elder?” A cyclone of doubts assailed me.
 
“Tiger’s new in the Faith!” Pacho sputtered. “You forgot that, Arturo!”
 
“Does mere time produce spiritual maturity? Or living in the Spirit, obeying Jesus? Tiger’s grown more in a few months than most believers do in a lifetime.” Pacho pondered this, agreed, and they prayed to commission me there and then.
 
“In conclusion,” Arturo ordered, “all elders will lead a cell for new believers.”
 
… “Ahoy!” Julio called to me across the square that night; he and his grandfather Gerardo came bearing a treat—a bowl of berries! I tried some and they were superbly sweet. The old man used them to illustrate how to extend mentoring chains as the apostle Paul told Timothy to do. “Anna planted them and they sent out runners that started new plants. We give the surplus to our neighbors and tell them the gospel.” Gerardo drew a plant in the dust with his toe. “Jesus likened growth in His kingdom to that of plants.” He drew more plants. “Its creeping runners take root, sprout and new plants send out more runners. A church sends out runners, too, with its God-given DNA.”
 
Julio asked, “Can we multiply churches like this in the villages, Tiger?”
 
“We can if we train leaders the way Paul told Timothy to do it: one trains others who train still others at the same time. Jethro’s church multiplies that way. Leaders break the chain if they wait until every church can afford an academically trained pastor. There are never enough new leaders then, to keep multiplying.”
 
Gerardo remarked, “Inflated egos also wipe out the runners.” He rubbed out a plant with his foot. “I’ve seen plenty of ‘em! Proud leaders won’t share real authority with apprentices. They got to run things, loathe to let the work grow beyond their control. They just want their own flock to grow forever bigger and start no new ones. They’d win hundreds more to Jesus if they did.”
 
After I ate the last berry, Gerardo clasped my shoulder. “Tiger, I've been watching you. God will use you to extend His work. He gave you the vision. Others are too busy griping to step out, but you will surely lead them out of that darkness.”
 
They left and I puzzled over Gerardo’s prophecy that I’d extend God’s work.

Tiger Shuns Popular Trends that Lead Churches into Mediocrity (pp 280–283)

We returned on foot to Arenas to buy oil, and Fred looked like he was ready to cut and run back to the States. Such woes were routine for Gadget and me,
 
and Roy enjoyed the adventure, but  I pitied  Fred; he was sweating in spite of the cool air, clearly unused to physical exertion.
Back at the car, the oxen’s owner  came  to  say, “You gentlemen are soaked and shivering. Stay in our house tonight. You can’t cross the river yet, anyway.”
 
Ernesto’s two-room house had mud walls whitewashed with lime, a roof of palm fronds and glassless windows with rustic wooden shutters. His wife roasted coffee mixed with corn and raw cane sugar on an outside, earthen stove until the mixture was almost ash; the process was too smoky to do inside. The potent brew penetrated to our bones, and we stopped shivering.  I was grateful, but Fred spit the black stimulant back into the cup. “Bitter!”
 
“Add sugar, man!” Ernesto laughed. “No one can take that stuff plain!” He shaved sugar from a brown block into Fred’s cup.
 
“You call that sugar? It smells like molasses.”
 
“The best!” Ernesto pointed at an apparatus outside. “We squeeze cane with that ñongoté, and then boil it down in a round mold.”
 
“Ñongoté?” queried Roy. “How does it work?”
 
“I’ll show you; the rain’s quit.” Ernesto sat bouncing on the end of a pole while his ten-year-old daughter Rina inserted cane stalks under the pliers-like lever, squeezing out the sweet juice, and we all drank the raw beverage. To warm us, Ernesto built a small fire on the mud floor in the middle of the room. We tried to sleep on the floor but even with our exhaustion, we couldn’t ignore the floor’s unforgiving hardness, the smoke that stung our eyes and odorous emanations from an obese sow that accompanied us. Fred griped, “You’d think they’d at least get some decent furniture.”
 
“They have what they can afford,” I replied. “Poverty’s extreme in these villages, and yet they share with us what they have. Be grateful, sir.”
 
Roy affirmed, “I’m grateful; such hospitality to strangers warms my heart.”
 
The next morning Rina petted the pig and boasted, “She’s mine!”
 
“I’ll buy her from you,” Gadget teased. “She’ll make tasty bacon.”
 
“No!”
“I’ll pay to you ten times the value of a big pig, Señorita.” “No!”
 
“Let’s swap, then, Rina. My luxury car out there for your fat sow.”
 
“No!
Ernesto’s wife brought beans and tortillas. There were too few chairs for all of us, so we took turns eating. Rina watched for a while, fascinated by Fred’s red hair and freckles. “You’re awfully pale. You been sick? Your skin’s ugly.”
 
“Rina!” her mother scolded, “Don’t be rude! That’s the natural color of the gringos. Their skin lacks normal pigment, and they can’t help it.”
 
“Maybe if they’d eat chocolate or licorice…” “That’s enough Rina. Finish your tortillas.”
 
I told Ernesto, “We follow Jesus Christ, and it’s our practice to pray in His name for folks’ needs. Is there something you’d like us to pray for?”
 
“Oh, yes! Our corn. Animals got into it and ruined half of it. Tapirs, maybe. And my aunt who lives in the next village up the river is down with malaria.”
 
We prayed for these, and asked God to bless each family member; Ernesto thanked us heartily. Fred muttered to Roy, “I’m surprised how they welcomed your prayer so readily; it didn’t seem at all unusual to them. Most of the Americans I’ve been around would’ve been uncomfortable.”
 
“Not here, Fred, and not in most of the world’s major societies. They’ve escaped Western rationalism; Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and even many Communists respond readily to an offer to pray for them or their families.”
 
I asked Ernesto, “Do you pray with your family?”
 
“No. We’re rather out of touch with God. Haven’t been to a church for years; it’s a bit far to town. Your prayers are different from what I’ve heard in mass. You pray like you’re talking right to God, like to a friend you know.”
 
“I used to find prayer hard; my sins made it unpleasant to talk to God. But Roy here and his family led me into the Presence of Christ, and I discovered His forgiveness. He died on the cross for us, as you know, rose from the dead and promised followers forgiveness and new life. He called it being ‘born again’.”
 
“I’ve heard that, but never understood it.”
 
“He gives us a new, loving heart, a desire to obey Him joyfully and eternal life as part of His heavenly family. He’ll give you and your family the same assurance. We don’t earn this blessing by doing good works; it’s all by His grace.”
 
To illustrate grace, Roy related the parable of the Prodigal Son and other Bible stories. The entire family listened, their eyes reflecting intense interest. Fred started to expound the doctrine of salvation in an abstract way; those eyes lost their luster, and Rina followed her mother away to do chores.
 
The next morning Ernesto was all smiles when I offered to return another day to talk again, pray together, and have worship with his family and friends.
 
“We’d appreciate that very much, Tiger. Most of our neighbors, too.”
 
On our way again to Bat Haven, Fred remarked, “You were rushing things, Tiger, to offer to have worship with them on your next trip.”
 
“They’ll be ready for it, and we might baptize them.” Fred looked shocked at this, and I explained, “Where the Holy Spirit brings families and social networks to Christ, things can move lightning fast compared to where a traditional church like ours once was demands a slower speed. Don’t doubt the work of God in those folks’ hearts. If you do, such doubts become contagious and discouraging.”
 
“Wonderful!” exclaimed Roy. “I feel like I’ve stepped into heaven!”
 
“You’re blind then,” Fred growled. “I feel like I’ve fallen into hell!”
 
This dampened conversation until Fred remarked, “Few Americans are that receptive to the gospel, and I wonder why not.”
 
“Some are,” Roy replied, “especially among the poor. Fred, in America you’ve been trying to push ‘camels’ from the middle class through the needle’s eye, as Jesus put it. Rationalists say religion is for the poor and uneducated, and in a sense, they’re right. God wants to save everybody, but the poor respond quicker; Jesus said it would be that way. Poverty helps people face reality and trust in God; wealth lures people to trust in themselves.”
 
I asked Roy, “Is that why God allows so much poverty?”
 
“Widespread movements have always begun with the poorer working class, Tiger. It trickles up; poor believers’ children become the next middle class.”
 
“Did you notice how much easier it was to talk with Ernesto and his family about the Lord after we’d eaten in his home? Some Christians try to theologize too soon, before the Holy Spirit has awakened seekers’ thirst for God, and they act superior because they know Christ and theology; this deters seekers. The apostles never witnessed in a theological way; they simply related the Good News—the historical facts—and let the Holy Spirit convict and convince.”
 
“You dealt with the entire family as a unit,” Roy said. “Most Americans tend to view salvation as an individual affair, and aim for one to make a decision on his own, to receive Jesus as his personal savior.”
 
“You said ‘decision’ and ‘personal’—two enemies of evangelism; Scripture uses neither word in connection with it. Mere decisions rarely include repentance; most folks who merely make decisions fall away.
 
Faith is personal only in that one’s heart consciously embraces it, and not simply because one is a member of a social group; the word is fatal for a movement if we add the Western spin to mean private. God doesn’t see a person as an isolated individual, but part of a network. The apostles dealt with the networks of the jailer, Cornelius, Lydia, and Crispus. People repent more readily along with their friends and kin.”
 
“Very true,”  Roy replied, “now that I think about it. I came here to learn.”
 
“Well, I didn’t come as a pupil,” Fred grumbled. “I came to start churches.”
 
I told him, “If you’re looking for neglected fields, then you’ll have to travel a ways from Bat Haven. We already have churches in the villages nearby.”
 
“So you’ve got the area all sewed up, have you?” Fred sneered.
 
Folks smiled and waved as we drove slowly through a mountain village, and Roy waved back. “This culture fascinates me. It’s delightful, except the poverty.”
 
“It doesn’t impress me,” growled Fred. “I’m going to change things.” The stark contrast between the two Americans stirred anxiety in my mind.
 
“Wow!” Roy exclaimed. The sun goes down fast in these high mountains!”
 
“The brief twilight is not due to the altitude,” I explained. “It’s because we’re near the equator where the sun does not cross over the horizon at a slow slant as you’re used to in the north; it swoops almost straight down. The morning’s the same; dawn, once it makes up its stubborn mind to emerge, leaps up boldly!”

This is an article from the May-June 2022 issue: George Patterson,1932-2022

Principles Gleaned from 20 Years of Catalyzing Movements in Myanmar

Principles Gleaned from 20 Years of Catalyzing Movements in Myanmar

I had the honor of having Dr. George Patterson  as a teacher, mentor, prayer warrior and friend for 23 years. George was strong in the grace of Jesus and the way he modeled “behind the scenes” discipleship to catalyze and sustain house church movements where there weren’t any was quite revolutionary.

I knew God had supernaturally called me to preach His word. I became a pretty good preacher during my four years at Union University and I had preaching opportunities all over my native west Tennessee.

During this time my father, also a preacher, invited me to go on a mission trip to the Philippines. After the first trip, I realized that God wanted me to preach in closed countries and unreached peoples where there were no churches as Paul wrote in Romans 15:20. It was then that I realized that I had a problem, “How can I preach in a closed country where   preachers are regularly imprisoned?”   I knew how to preach very well and lead many to Christ, but I did not know how to make disciples.

I could not see how this would work until I met  Dr. George Patterson at a Perspectives class. Patterson’s challenges perplexed me when he said, “Preaching crusades don’t catalyze sustainable movements.” I quickly chirped back, “But I just returned from seeing thousands of Filipinos make professions of faith.” George kindly yet firmly pointed out that the Philippines was no longer predominately a pioneer field. I was  amazed  at not only George’s depth of content, but I was even more amazed that he bounced around the room dramatizing, like Tigger, as if the book of Acts was actually supposed to be happening. George invited me to move to Oregon and be trained by him, “If what I tell you doesn’t work to start churches where there are no churches, I will make sure you get your money back.” I realized that I probably would never hear another offer like that in ministry again.

Over several months in his “Mentoring for Ministry” class, Patterson showed me that greatness in the kingdom was found in John 3:30, “I must decrease so that Jesus might increase.” It is not enough to teach but I must train others to preach. The greatest in the kingdom passage found in Matthew 11:11 repeats John’s attitude of humility. George kept talking about “behind the scenes” greatness. In Acts 18, Aquila and Pricilla decreased, behind the scenes, so that Jesus could increase through the ministry  of Apollos. Patterson challenged me, “What is the purpose of preaching? After a long pause, giving me time to answer, he said, “The purpose of preaching is to make disciples. How many  different  ways can you make disciples?” He  helped me develop  a curriculum to make disciples in a decentralized multiplying network behind the scenes in a closed country. I ended up ministering in the “closed country” of Myanmar (Burma) for the past 20 years. We have seen at least 10 different branches of multiplication totaling tens of thousands  of  new churches with each network  baptizing  tens of thousands of new believers from Buddhist and Muslim backgrounds.

George modeled an informal theological education based on the Bible in an outline he called L.E.A.P. found in Luke 10:17-24. Christ outlined how to coach others in a Multiplying Movement. Not  only does Luke 10 describe how Christ trained His disciples to find a Person of Peace but Luke 10 also outlines Christ’s model for continuing to coach leaders behind the scenes in order to sustain an indigenous house church movement.

Christ and His leaders listened to leaders' reports behind the scenes. Coaching behind the scenes was modeled for me by George for a year and a half. He based this model on Luke 10:17–24 and trained me in a temporary Underground Training Church at Western Seminary. I actually received seminary credit for this course and later wrote a paper on what I learned. This simulation was not a game but merely had an element of a game in that a “judge” appointed two secret police to find the time and place of one underground house church meeting. I was a leader and it was revealed on judgment day that I was the one who invited the wife of a secret policeman, so then they were on to me and our network from the very first week of the two-month simulation. During this two months Patterson helped me plan for the worship meetings and we discussed the problems I encountered as    I learned  how  to  do  house  church  movements. I was blindfolded and tied to a pole before being “executed” with water balloons at ten paces on a cold February day in Portland, Oregon. This exercise broke me out of the typical ways Americans know how to advertise and do “church.” I learned more  in this leadership simulation than any book I have ever read on church multiplication movements.  Dr. Patterson and his small team of trainers also had me study movements with a computer game that he and Dr. Galen Currah developed called “Come let us disciple the Nations.” In this game, Satan would pop out and laugh at the player if they got the church multiplication answers wrong.

When I got to Burma, I listened to local leaders explain how we should help Buddhist Background Believers feel comfortable  worshipping  Christ.  I listened to “the Major’s” highly unusual gospel bridges for sharing truths of the Bible with Buddhists. I helped the Major  summarize  his  long gospel bridge presentation for  Buddhists.  Dr. Thom Wolf calls this the napkinization of ideas. We must help new leaders make everything easily reproducible.

The Major was the exact type of leader that George encouraged me to prioritize. The Major, a spry 68-year-old, was an educated responsible Buddhist Background Believer with a military career who wanted to reach his people for Christ but didn’t need a salary, like many pastors. On top of all that he already spoke English. Thank God for the British Empire and their influence on Burmese to know a little English.

Leadership Principles Learned:

1. Leaders Evaluate Multiplication of New Churches through Link Analysis Reports (L.A.)

These L.A. Reports help track and evaluate a movement’s quantitative and qualitative fruit. We got an outside independent assessment with the help of Dr. Bill Smith. You can read Drs. Patterson’s and Smith’s assessment on our team of coaches at the website http://www.Obedience.life We&nb.sp; used the 8 Commands of Christ as the 8 Marks of   a healthy church taken from Acts 2:37–47. Several years ag